Back again in the SGA fandom after quite a long time, but jeyla4ever left this prompt over at .com/sga_beya and it turns out I couldn't resist! So this one's for her. :)
Disclaimer – I own none of the Stargate franchise, or anything to do with Dancing With The Stars... that belongs to BBC International and MGM.
John still couldn't quite believe he'd agreed to do this. Okay, so it had technically been an order, but he was pretty sure he wouldn't have been court-martialled for refusing to follow it. It wasn't like following this order was integral to the continuation of the space program, or a matter of life and death. In fact, by doing what he was about to do, it was about to become a matter of life and death for his dignity. But Woolsey had ordered it, and Elizabeth had laid out all the benefits and that cool, calm way of hers, and John had agreed.
What an idiot.
So now he, Colonel John Sheppard, decorated airman and top NASA astronaut, was on his way to meet his dance partner for Dancing With The Stars.
Her name was Teyla Emmagen, but John knew very little else about her. He'd never seen the show, ever, so he had no idea what she looked like or what her specialty was. He'd been told by the show's producer that she had made it to the final of the competition the last two years, but that she'd never won, so John assumed that she was pretty good. Unfortunately for her, he was also pretty positive that he'd be an appalling ballroom dancer.
Oh lord, why was he doing this?
It could be worse, he supposed as he parked his car in the lot outside the dance studio he was meeting Teyla in; he could be Rodney. His friend Dr Rodney McKay was also one of the 'celebrities' on the show, and John could think of no one less co-ordinated, or who would look worse in sequins.
He was going to have to wear sequins. John wondered if there was a way to ensure that no one he knew ever watched the show.
One of the assistant producers was waiting for him by the entrance of the studio, a small camera crew standing behind her. That was another thing John was going to have to get used to – being shadowed by a camera crew. According to the producer, the crew would film about an hour of rehearsals every day, and there would be various 'confessionals' scheduled throughout the week, which were like mini-interviews. John was about as keen on that side of the show as the dancing – he wasn't exactly an open-up-about-your-feelings kind of guy.
John greeted the AP and the crew and followed her into the building, trying to ignore the cameras pointed at the back of his head and concentrate on what the AP was saying.
"This is where you'll be rehearsing every day for the next ten weeks; Teyla will set your schedule, but you have the studio booked out for the entire ten week block," she was saying as they walked up the stairs. "The crew will be here a couple of hours a day – they'll tend to switch around what time of day they get here, to get a mix of emotions, but they'll always give you an idea of when they'll arrive."
The studio was a private one belonging to a local theatre, and located over their props warehouse so it was bound to be pretty private, which John was grateful for. The AP used a swipecard to get through the doors at the top of the stairs and then handed the card to John, who pocketed it. There was a short corridor and another set of double doors with glass in them, through which John could see the studio.
It was as you'd expect – light wood flooring and floor to ceiling mirrors on two sides, with a bar running at hip-height along one wall. There were two windows set pretty high in the wall, so there was plenty of natural light but no way anyone could see in. A low bench sat against the wall next to the doors.
And on the bench sat Teyla.
Teyla Emmagen was a petite woman with caramel-coloured skin, honey-blonde hair and a wide, welcoming smile. She was wearing a floor-length gypsy skirt with a wide belt and a plain white vest top, and she stood up when John walked in, smiling at him. John gave her his patented half-smile back, noting that she was so tiny she barely came up to his shoulder.
"Colonel Sheppard, it's a pleasure to meet you," she said, walking over to him with her hand outstretched. John noticed that there was another camera crew in the room, in the far corner, and he tried his very best not to think about them or the ones behind him by the door as he shook Teyla's hand. She had a very tight grip.
"The pleasure's all mine," he said, keeping the smile in place. And it wasn't exactly a lie – let's face it, if he was going to be forced to spend ten weeks dancing with someone, there were far worse people to be dancing with. "And call me John."
Teyla's smile widened and she took a small step back, assessing him. John tried not to squirm under her gaze and took the opportunity to have a look at her; yes she was small, but the muscles in her arms were well defined and John was willing to bet she was hiding a four-pack under that vest top.
Teyla cocked her head to one side. "So, have you ever danced before?" She asked him.
"No," John answered. "Well – when I was ten my Mom made me go to a ballroom class. After two hours I threatened to run away from home and she never made me go again."
Teyla raised an eyebrow but John could tell she was trying not to laugh. "Ah."
John shrugged. "I promise not to threaten to run away this time, if that helps."
Teyla grinned at that. "Well, this is just a chance to get to know one another, and talk about how things are going to work," she said.
John nodded. "Okay, well... I'm John; I like college football, ferris wheels and anything that goes faster than two-hundred miles an hour," he said with another smile; the one he thought of as his 'charm' smile. It was like a reflex – if there was a pretty woman nearby, John had to charm her... it had been the same since he was a kid.
Teyla narrowed her eyes slightly but she was still smiling, which John took as a good sign. "Well we are going to be starting off quite slow, I'm afraid," she said. "This week we are doing the waltz."
John bit back a groan – he remembered the waltz from when he was ten. It had been awful... why did they have to be starting with that? "I apologise in advance," he quipped, trying to hide his dismay.
Teyla laughed at that, and John couldn't help but grin in response. He already felt surprisingly comfortable around Teyla, and if it wasn't for the camera crews still present in the room he'd be feeling pretty good right then. However, they were there, and they only served to remind John that in six days' time he'd be waltzing on national live television.
The next little while was spent chatting about the competition and how it worked; John hadn't realised that Teyla actually choreographed all of their dances as well as teaching them to him, and he made a mental note to keep grouching to a minimum, considering all the work she was having to do. There were a variety of different styles they might have to dance – waltz, Viennese waltz (what the difference was John didn't know), foxtrot, samba, tango, Argentine tango (again, no idea), paso doble, cha cha cha, jive, rumba, quickstep... and if they got to the final, they would have to do a freestyle show dance. As they got through each round, the producers and judges would tell them which dance to do the next week. They would rehearse every day but try to keep the hours flexible. Teyla advised John on what to wear to rehearsal and what to bring in the way of food to help keep up his stamina (cue a joke about stamina) and then tried to assuage his concerns about sequins.
Just when John was starting to feel relaxed, Teyla hit him with the proverbial two-by-four.
"Shall we start now?"
John blinked at her. "Now? As in right now?"
Teyla nodded and stood up. "Just the very basic step – to give you something to think about before we start properly tomorrow," she said. "Take off your sneakers – you can't dance in those."
John glanced over at the cameras and grimaced... but he supposed he would have to get used to them being there to digitise his humiliation. He toed off his shoes, took a deep breath and stood up.
Teyla led him to the centre of the room and turned to face him. "You probably know that a waltz is danced in three-time?" She said. John nodded.
"Good – give me your hands."
John blinked stupidly for a moment and then snapped out of it, holding out both his hands. Teyla placed hers on top of his and squeezed his fingers gently, giving him an encouraging smile. "For each bar of music in the waltz, we take three steps," she said. "To start, you are going to step forward with your right foot, and I will step back with my left to compensate; make sure you shift your weight onto your right foot."
John looked down at his feet, noticing for the first time that Teyla was barefoot. He took a step forward, and Teyla took a step back.
"Good – now step to the left with your left foot," Teyla told him. John did what he thought she meant and Teyla did the same opposite him.
"Finally, bring your right foot in and put your weight on it." John did that, and then looked up at Teyla, who was smiling. "That's one bar – next you do the same thing, but backwards and starting on the left."
John looked back down. "So – step back on your left foot," – John did – "step to the right with your right foot," – he did that – "and bring your left foot in. Perfect." John brought his feet together and smiled a little at the praise.
"As you can see we have formed a square with our two bars; that is the basic step of the waltz," she said. "Let's try it again, and keep going."
John repeated the steps, almost as slowly as before, with Teyla reminding him of the steps for the first few bars and then starting to count "one two three, one two three" as they carried on. After a minute or so she stopped, and smiled at John.
"Very good," she said, smiling. "Now, let us try it in a dancer's hold."
At least this was something John knew. He kept hold of her right hand in his left and stepped a little closer, placing his right hand on her hip. Teyla looked amused. "Almost," she said. "But we have to be quite a bit closer."
John's eyes widened as Teyla took his right hand and placed it on her back – and far up her back, just under her shoulder. Then she stepped up to him – so close he could feel her hips brushing by his – and placed her hand on his arm.
"Keep your elbow up," she told him. John adjusted, and Teyla nodded. "Good, now let us try the steps. Two bars in – one two three, one two three –"
It was different, in the dancer's hold; it felt so much more intimate and... dance-like. John had to really concentrate on the steps because he was so close to Teyla that if he mis-stepped he'd tread on her feet. They did the same simple waltz step as before, over and over until eventually John didn't really need to think about the steps, which left him free to think about other things... like the sound of Teyla's voice and the feel of her up against him.
John hurriedly concentrated on the steps again.
After a few minutes Teyla stopped and pulled away from John, smiling up at him. "Very good John – clearly those two hours of ballroom you took as a child did you good," she said.
John smiled, embarrassed. "I have a feeling it's going to get a lot more difficult than that, right?" He said.
Teyla's smile widened. "Yes, but you'd be surprised at how people struggle with even the simplest form of the waltz, so well done."
Well, it didn't make John feel better about the sequins or, well, any other part of the show, but Teyla seemed so earnest that he started to hope that he wouldn't make as big a fool of himself as he'd dreaded.
The camera crews were packing up, making plans to go and get a drink, and it reminded John that he'd agreed to meet Rodney this evening. He walked over to the bench and put his shoes back on. "So, er, do you need a ride somewhere? I have my car outside," he said to Teyla, who was slipping her feet into sandals.
"Thank you for the offer, but I actually live very close to here," Teyla told him.
"Yes, I share an apartment with two other dancers who are also professionals on the show – Jennifer Keller and Ronon Dex," she said. "Ronon is my partner."
Teyla bent to pick up her bag then, and John was glad for the opportunity to school his features. So she had a boyfriend. Well, it was hardly a surprise – John had upgraded Teyla from 'pretty' to 'beautiful' in the last hour, she was nice, funny, obviously a great dancer and did everything with the kind of grace last seen on the silver screen. He was just glad he'd found out now, instead of not knowing and starting to get any ideas. That would have been a Bad Idea.
They said goodbye to the crew and walked out together in companionable silence, and stopped just outside the building.
Teyla smiled up at John. "So, nine a.m. tomorrow?"
John nodded. "Yep, see you then," he said. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, John – it was nice to meet you," she said. "And do not worry – it will not be as bad as you think."
And before John could think of anything to say, Teyla disappeared round the corner of the building.
John was halfway through his scotch on the rocks when Rodney slid onto the stool next to him at the bar. "Why are we doing this?" He demanded without so much as an 'hello'.
John shrugged. "I was ordered to," he said. "And you were stupid enough to make a bet with your sister."
Rodney groaned. "I still can't believe she was right," he said.
"I still can't believe you haven't learned that Jeanie is always right."
The bartender came over, and Rodney gestured to John. "I'll have what he's having," he said.
"No he won't; he'll have a beer," John said quickly.
Rodney glared at him. "Shut up Sheppard – I want, no need a scotch."
John shook his head. "Rodney, you know full well that if you drink scotch tonight you'll be hungover for most of tomorrow," he said. "Have a beer."
Rodney kept up the glare for a moment before turning to the bartender. "Two beers," he ordered.
John rolled his eyes. Dr Rodney McKay was the smartest guy he knew, but he was also the dumbest. He'd known Rodney since they'd worked together on a NASA project five years ago and somehow – John really didn't know how – the two of them were friends. In fact, if pushed, John would say that Rodney was his best friend. Not that anyone could push him that far to admit it. But they'd been through a lot together, good and bad, and though John thought Rodney was a complete idiot for betting against his sister about a math proof and agreeing to do Dancing With The Stars if he lost, he was glad that he wasn't alone.
John still found it funny that the two of them actually passed for 'stars', to be honest. John was an astronaut, yes, but that didn't have the same kind of prestige that it had carried in the sixties and seventies. But he'd been involved in a high-profile rescue mission about a year ago and had become something of a 'media darling' since then. It had helped that his Dad was one of the richest and most influential people in the country – when they'd heard that there were some problems with familial communication in the Sheppard clan, the media had been all over him.
When the invitation to appear on Dancing With The Stars had been issued, it had only taken five minutes for NASA's public liaison, Elizabeth Weir, to convince the Director Richard Woolsey that it would be fantastic for the public image of the space program. The order had come hours later.
As for Rodney, not only had he had recently won a Nobel Prize for Physics, shared with his sister Jeannie Miller, but he had also been a part of the same rescue mission as John in what would have been a behind-the-scenes capacity if it wasn't for John's willingness to share the limelight. He'd become very big on the lecture circuit, and had his pick of professorships at the world's top universities. He'd had absolutely no intention of competing in the show when the offer had come, but had very foolishly taken his sister's bet. Now here he was.
Here they both were.
"So, how did it go?" John asked Rodney. "How's your dancer?"
"A slave driver," Rodney said shortly. "She wants me there at eight tomorrow – eight! She has some kind of medical background and she has all these crazy ideas about optimal rehearsal times during the day. Plus, she gave me a whole new diet, because she says with all the exercise we'll be doing I'll end up losing loads of weight, and that I have to be careful what I eat so that I'm properly nourished or something."
"Well it's not like you do any exercise now Rodney," John said. "She's probably right."
Rodney scoffed. "Whatever – I'm not giving up doughnuts."
John rolled his eyes. "So what's her name?"
John recognised the name straight away. "She lives with Teyla – Teyla's my dancer. Teyla Emmagen."
"Oh – really?"
"Yeah, and Teyla's boyfriend lives with them too," John said. "Ronon something. He's a dancer on the show too."
"What's she like?"
"She's... nice," John said. "She seems fine. We're doing a waltz this week."
"We're doing a foxtrot," groaned Rodney as the bartender placed two beer bottles in front of him. He looked forlornly at John's glass. "I really want some scotch."
John raised his glass in a toast. "To foxtrotting," he said.
Rodney raised one of his bottles. "To getting voted out in the first week," he replied.
John clinked the bottle with his glass. "I'll drink to that."