A/N: Not much to say this time around. But I updated, eh, EHH?

All right, see you at the bottom, yeah? :)

Disclaimer: I do not own the Step Up franchise, nor any of the characters from it. I do, however own the plot and characters you don't recognize.

Three A.M. struck with the annoying chime of the grandfather clock that remained silent for many months, even Luke had pronounced the pendulum clock worthless. But how it chose this ill-fated moment to announce its revival was beyond comprehensible and all around uncanny.

The dynamic within the House of Pirates changed significantly long since the club ended for the night. They congregated in the living room, the air thick with tension and stifling, soon learning it was exceedingly difficult to ignore the crisp, white envelope on the coffee table. Ultimately, their efforts of containing their sentiments at this nightly assembly were thwarted by the inanimate object.

The moment Jacob reappeared with a miserable Amara staggering in tow, the entire room full of dancers had erupted into heated conversation. The ex-mute-still disoriented-groggily ambled across the room where Jason had stretched out in the worn recliner and silently climbed into his lap. The graffiti guru was well aware that he was the focus of several pairs of curious eyes and some knowing smirks but merely shrugged and allowed the somnolent girl to curl up against him. His mind was elsewhere anyway.

Moose drummed his finger on his knee negligently as he weaved in and out of the passionate controversy. He tried to make a valiant effort to contribute his thoughts and concerns, but he couldn't concentrate at this point. The Pirates were doing so well since their victory at the World Jam. The club's business was thriving, every night seemed better than the last as it was always filled to full capacity. Julien and this Sunni Park, to much of his aversion, displayed a sudden enthrallment with their reputation and wanted nothing more than apiece, he concluded.

Alongside of him, some sixth sense made Camille tilt her gaze towards Moose. As she suspected, he was uneasy. Then her eyes wandered about the room and could not help but notice the Pirates expressions were also very strained. How could one girl cause such an erratic stir in the atmosphere? There had to be some sort of history between them, managing to subdue this normally lively group.

Camille reached over and patted his idle hand reassuringly. The corner of his mouth turned upward but his eyes were leveled on Aja who poked at the envelope inquisitively. "Whaddya thinks' inside?" He addressed the crew in wonderment.

"A letter bomb?" Shonnie offered with a tilt of his head.

Everyone turned to stare at him.


Jason quirked a delicate brow. "You don't get the concept think before you speak, huh?" He retorted, deadpanned, though fatigue underlined his tone. Amara snorted faintly and burrowed deeper into the warmness that was his body, hiding a cynical smile she was itching to aim at the younger boy. The graffiti guru's heartbeat fluttered unsteadily beneath her cheek and she sprawled out more unladylike on top of him to disregard her own hammering heart.

Shonnie yawned. "It's like three in the morning; I'm brain dead right now."

"As opposed to-" Amara sneered but Jacob slid her a shooting glance, and she halfheartedly bit her tongue then shut her eyes to steer clear of anymore eye-reprimanding.

Now wasn't the time for juvenile backbiting, they had a more important issues that needed to be dealt with. The Pirates' leader began to pace back and forth, rubbing his chin, and muttering to himself quietly. Apart of him wished, Luke hadn't gone to California with Natalie, feeling suddenly ashamed he could not handle the newfound responsibilities. He was always the first mate of the Pirates, nothing more or nothing less.

However, he promised.

He promised Luke he would have everything under control during his absence. He owed it, not only to him, but also to the Pirates as a whole. Jacob could not abandon them, not as if he would anyway. They were his foundation, his purpose, no, his family.

That word sounded stronger to him.

"Uh, earth to Jacob?" One of the Santiago Twins whistled, then muttered something to his brother in their native tongue as to which he nodded mutely.

The Ugandan halted abruptly and casted them both a quizzical glance. As did the others. "What was that?"

The other twin answered instead, brows furrowed. "The girl said the envelope was from Julien. Something about speeding up the process."

"It's a check," Moose interjected, and all eyes were swiftly on him. He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly then continued, "She said Julien sent half of the down payment…or something like that, I wasn't really listening…"

"Down payment?" Anala made a face. "What are we, a car?" Her eyes were bright with an emotion the crew was unable to identify. She snorted, possibly to ease the tension swallowing her or to make herself feel less threatened by the situation. At this point, it was difficult to put into prospective. "Sounds kinda sketchy, if you ask me."

"It would have been cooler if it was a letter bomb," Shonnie sighed disheartened and almost instantaneously, a cushion sailed through the air to smack him right in the face. The boy grunted, the pillow falling to his lap then swung around to glare at Jason who was deliberately looking off to the side. "It was just a thought, jeez! Honestly dude, Blue's rubbing off on you or something!" Amara's eyes snapped open and in reprisal, she gave the double finger salute whilst baring her pink tongue to him. The graffiti guru closed his eyes, feigning indifference towards both parties but he was smiling lightly.

"You hafta admit, that was a pretty dumb thought." Moose said coolly, exchanging a subtle grin with Camille when he nudged her shoulder with his own. She giggled gently before resting her weight against him in gratification. She was pleased she was able to rid herself of the emotional confusion that overwhelmed her just days ago. Happy, all smiles and tremendously giddy. As it should be, she thought steadily while another soft smile touched her mouth.

Shonnie just glowered at all of them.

"So… what's gonna happen now?" Vladd asked, propping his elbows on his knees then leaned forward. The robot dancer wasn't exactly thrilled about Julien's proposal of rejoining the Pirates. He wished there was something he could do to prevent it, but wishful thinking only went so far. His pale-green gaze shifted to Jason's tranquil form. His eyes were still closed yet he was lightly teasing the tips of his fingers through Amara's wild, shadowy tresses. Unconsciously, her cerulean eyes reached his and the girl smiled, a real smile that softened the frequently hard lines of her face and made her look more endearing.

Vladd felt a bizarre stab of pain in his chest as he watched her. Was she strong enough to withstand the presence of Sunni Park? He figured Jason hadn't told her about their intimate past, maybe fearing she would want nothing more to do with him. The graffiti guru did, however, confined in him, disclosing all the gory details of their heated encounters. The possibility of either person driving Amara away for good weighed on him heavily. He sighed, defeated, and leaned back in his chair feeling drained.

"We sleep," Jacob continued evenly, "It's late, and we can figure this out in the morning-or should I say, afternoon."

Moose pushed to his feet, pulling Camille up alongside of him. This was all too chaotic to deal with at this ungodly hour. He was tired, sore and sleep would do him some good.

"We hafta get back to the campus," Camille whispered from his side, stretching cautiously, and wincing as she worked muscles that had been stiffened for being seated for so long.

"Damn, I forgot about that," The curly-haired boy mumbled. He turned to his crewmates whom were preparing to retire for the night. "Yo, Cam and I are just gonna head out."

"Nuh, uh." "No way!" "You gotta be kiddin' me…" The Ticks chimed in at once and shook their heads in unison.

"You guys can take the extra bed upstairs," Legz murmured drowsily as he rolled to his feet. "I mean, its too late for you guys to be on the street." The rest of the Pirates made various noises of agreement.

"All right, you guys twisted my arm," Moose relented with a chuckle. Unexpectedly, he swept down upon Camille, seized her by the waist, and lifted her high in the air. "Whaddya say, Chameleon? Sleepover? We can paint each other's nails, have sexy pillow fights or figure out of I'm an autumn or summer, or whatever!"

"Moose!" She braced herself against his shoulders and laughed in delight as he swung her around in a circle. The thought of them sharing a bed together brought back heated memories of their fiercely passionate kiss and she knew she was blushing. She prayed that everyone, including Moose, would attribute the heat in her face to the warmth of the room and the energetic movement. "Your making me dizzy and I'm gonna throw-up on you if ya don't stop!"

He set her back on her feet, grinning wildly when she swayed for a brief instant bit righted herself. "I'm sorry, honey. I'm just sooo excited to sleep with you!"

The room quieted and some of the Pirates and Camille casted him an uneasy glance, but others sent him sly smiles and gestures. Moose caught the meaning of their gazes then sputtered, "Ugh! Get you're minds outta the gutter! Y'all know I didn't mean it like that, jeez! We're going to sleep-sleep, ya nasties. Goodnight."

"Jacob, you can't be friggen serious!" Mya's abhorrent cry filled the speaker-room. Fiery sparks reflected in her emerald-green eyes as the color was heightened in her face caused by her vehemence.

The Pirates around her made an intrepid attempt to continue the debate of Jacob's outrageous notion of allowing Julien and Sunni to join their house for the upcoming event. However, it was palpable no one could follow-through, all far too curious to see where her outburst was heading.

Jacob's expression was stoic. "I know you may not agree with my decision, considering what Julien has done to us in the past. But ask yourselves…what more can he do to the Pirates?"

"He's basically paying us, guys," Moose restated ascetically. Then comprehension struck him with a force that rocked his nerves. He frowned, "I mean, if Julien wanted to try something he wouldn't be so discreet about it. We all know he likes to go out with a bang."

"Sooo…because someone waves a pretty little check in our faces, we bitch out, and welcome back the guy who's been tryna take us down for years with open arms? Are you fucking kidding me?" The Latina shot back then shook her head in repugnance.

"She has a point," Anala murmured, fiddling with the bandages that covered her hand. She was just as angry as Mya but managed to contain it this time. However, ultimately, Jacob wouldn't just decide something on sheer instincts alone. He wasn't that stupid. "We could never trust Julien…like ever but Jacob wouldn't do anything that wasn't beneficial for the Pirates."

"Except this God damn stunt." Mya derided again.

"You know," Camille reflected briefly. She had been quiet majority of the meeting considering she wasn't exactly a Pirate per say. Overstepping her boundaries was her biggest concern at this point. However, she already made her voice known and there was no retracting the beginnings of her pronouncement. "You guys could just not take the money…"

"Yeah! Excluding this month's rent, you guys have what? Five, ten grand left from the prize money. Not to mention, all of you have steady incomes and the club is bringin' in a shitload of business. I guess we're well off without Julien's help, right?" Moose added, then appealed to his fellow dancers for their agreement.

"Wrong," Amara sniffed condescendingly, gauging the dancers' attention. They couldn't tell what she was thinking as an impenetrable mask shadowed her features. "Try two grand left and you and I both know that's barely enough," she retorted, tone sharp and steady. Her intense cobalt eyes raked the faces of her crewmates for a long moment.

They had to prepare for the inevitable because Julien could be a very unconventional character to deal with. Pleasant, manipulative and borderline narcissistic. But the truth of the matter was, the money was running out. And in three months tops, there was the possibility of facing financial troubles with the bank yet again.

"Jesus, Mars! Will you at least try to look on the Brightside…for once?" Legz muttered with a incensed grimace. "Not everything is as black and white as you make it seem."

The ex-mute didn't seem the least bit perturbed. "So we have jobs and the club is pulling in a little bit of more money, so what? We all know that isn't enough. As bad as this sounds, Julien could be a lot of help to us." Amara's gaze shifted to Jason for a split second, but he was avoiding her eyes, staring down at his hands. She sighed then threaded her fingers through her hair in frustration. "Look, I know its not really my place to say anything after I basically ditched you guys; I wasn't there for the World Jam or when the bank took the Vault away. But we have to face the reality of the situation and realize, we need this money…badly."

"So that's it then?" Terence questioned sourly, "Take the money and let Julien and Sunni join the crew?"

Folding his arms across his chest, Jacob leaned against the wall. They all listened attentively as Amara meticulously explained the major flaw they had overlooked. There was no choice on the matter, was there? He finally answered with a great sigh, feeling emotionally heavier. "Yes…it's our…best option right now," he looked to the Pirates to be sure he was making the right decision. None verbally objected but they didn't look too pleased by the devastating outcome. "However, not at any cost do we let our guard down. We don't have to like them nor do we have to enjoy their company. Our main focus is to put on a great performance at the telethon and for the children. And nor Julien or Sunni are going to distract us from our goal, understand?"

The Pirates were uncertain for a brief moment. Jacob was right. The children were far more important than any feud that lingered between the two houses. The dancers' aspiration was to perform at their absolute best at this philanthropic event. Gone were the faltering and dispirited expressions of the crewmates and in their place were faces of determination, novelty, and hope. As they often did, the pseudo-family began to work themselves up into their rambunctious house's chant as bravado won over the need for the simplicity of words. The ambiance visibly lightened, any traces of apprehensiveness lost in their high-spirited cries of self-claimed victory.

Choosing not to join in, Moose decided instead to grasp Camille's hand tightly in his palm and in return, her animated coffee-brown eyes sparkled with understanding. She knew he had to do this, but it was just finally confessing to his parents about his double life that had her concerned for him. The unknown outcome sent her heart hammering in her chest. The curly-haired boy half-smiled and whispered a hushed thank you then spared Jacob an impish look, "Well then, that settles it…I guess we're dancing with the devil."

"Hm, the devil indeed."

Oh snap, lol. Thank you for all the lovely reviews you beautiful people. You guys are super duper awesome! Please leave me a review and tell me what you think of this chapter. I hope it wasn't too boring and realistic.

Also, I have a supernatural fanfic in the making for Step Up. Its very different from my usual writings and I'm very apprehensive of posting it because this category isn't very known but its building slowly. I've had this idea for months and have been planning it since Christmas. I have the plot, the characters and everything ready. I even have a prologue written and I was wondering, would YOU want to read it? So in your review, tell if your interested it would be greatly appreciated! :)

Love, peace, and tranquility!