Notes: The characters aren't mine and this story is! I randomly got the idea seemingly out of nowhere and realized it would go wonderfully with the prompt A gentleman can live through anything at 31 Days on Livejournal. Merry Christmas!
Ahiru was many things, but shy was not generally one of them. And she had never been shy around Autor at all. Open and opinionated was what he had come to expect from her.
So when she came to see him that late November evening and then sat in the living room, nervously shifting and with her gaze wandering between random small talk, he was bewildered. And after it had gone on for several minutes, he was impatient as well.
"Ahiru, is there something you particularly want?" he asked at last. "You've inquired as to how I'm doing three times now."
She started, swiftly turning red. "I have?" she said. "Oh. I'm sorry."
She wrung her hands in her lap. "Autor, you know the town Christmas party?" she ventured.
Autor raised an eyebrow. "Yes, of course," he said. "It's one of the most anticipated events in town." Even he attended, though he declined to participate in the dancing or other such merry-making. He remembered when he had gone to the Christmas parties years before with his parents. Part of him missed those times. And perhaps that was why he went to the parties even now, although he tried to make himself scarce when he did.
Ahiru shifted again. "Well . . . I wanna go," she said. "And I was kind of hoping . . ." She went a deeper red. "That I could dance with Fakir," she mumbled.
"Does Fakir know this?" Autor asked, crossing his arms.
"No. . . ." Ahiru looked up at him. "Autor, you know how to waltz, don't you?" she said hopefully.
Autor frowned. "Barely," he said. "I've never been very good. Dancing just isn't for me."
"But you know the basic steps and stuff," Ahiru said.
"Yes," Autor said. "It's a very simple dance."
"Will you teach me?" Ahiru blurted, leaning forward on the seat.
Autor started. "Teach you?" he said in disbelief.
"Please?" Ahiru begged. "I know ballet, but it's not like a waltz, and they're waltzing at the Christmas party and . . ."
Autor leaned back, pushing up his glasses. Teaching Ahiru anything was really quite nightmarish. He had already tried to help her with her failing grades in the required English class they had to take. The experience had been nerve-wracking for them both.
Though in the end, Ahiru's grades had marginally improved. . . .
"You know I'm a harsh teacher," he said at last. "And you would have to stay dedicated through the last lesson. You would also need to review the steps on your own between lessons and after we're done."
Ahiru nodded. "I know!" she said. "I'm willing to try. Please, Autor?"
Autor sighed. "It's against my better judgment, but alright."
Ahiru leaped to her feet. "Yay!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands. "Thank you, Autor! When can we start?"
"Right now," Autor said.
He stood as well and walked over to the cheery girl. "Now, to waltz you have to get into this position." He took her left hand and placed it on his upper arm near his shoulder, then drew his right arm around her waist and took her right hand in his left hand. Both of them went a bit red.
"Okay," Ahiru said, studying their position. "So . . . um, now what?"
"I step forward with my left foot," Autor said. "You have to step backward with your right."
"That sounds easy enough," Ahiru said.
And the first step proceeded without a problem.
"Now, I step forward with my right foot and you step backwards with your left," Autor directed.
Ahiru stepped backward and stumbled. "Whoa!" she exclaimed.
Autor stumbled with her, frantically fighting for balance. His glasses slipped down his face.
Yes, this was definitely going to be a nightmare.
Autor had one positive thing to say about Ahiru's waltz attempts—she was keeping her promise of remaining dedicated. No matter how often she tripped, stumbled, or assaulted Autor's feet, she was resolute about learning the dance. But after two weeks of evening lessons, Autor was exhausted. The time they both toppled to the floor, landing in an awkward position with Ahiru sprawled across him, was the final nail in the coffin.
"I'm getting better, aren't I?" Ahiru said hopefully at the start of the third week.
Autor leaned back in the plush chair with a sigh. "You trampled on my feet five times instead of fifteen," he said. "Yes, that is an improvement."
Ahiru flushed. "I'm sorry," she said. "I really am working hard, Autor! I've practiced just like you said. And I never forget a lesson!"
"I am aware of that." Autor rested his head against the velvet back of the chair and closed his eyes. "Perhaps you'll actually be ready for the dance next week."
"Yeah. . . ." Ahiru sounded hesitant. "Um, Autor? I read about another kind of waltz that's faster. And it said it even uses ballet for the feet positions or something!"
"The Viennese Waltz," Autor mumbled without really thinking. Then it registered and his eyes flew open. "Ahiru, you're not thinking . . . !"
Ahiru looked down. "Well . . . Raetsel said that there's fast dances at the party too," she said. "And I got worried wondering what would happen if Fakir and I tried to dance to one."
"Ahiru, I can barely dance the Standard Waltz," Autor said. "I'm sorry, but if you want to learn the Viennese Waltz, you'll have to ask someone else."
"Oh, that's okay!" Ahiru said, looking to him again. "I'm really grateful for how you've been helping me, Autor. It means a lot."
Autor colored. "I'm glad I can be of help," he said.
Suddenly thinking of something he asked, "Did you tell Raetsel about this?"
Ahiru started. "She knows I want to dance with Fakir," she said. "I told her I was taking lessons from someone, but I didn't say who."
"I'd rather it didn't get around," Autor said. In case it doesn't end up working out, he added to himself. Aloud he amended, "Since it's only a few steps above the blind leading the blind."
"I won't tell anyone!" Ahiru said. "But I think you've been doing great!"
"Of course," Autor said. "You don't have anyone else's dancing to judge mine by."
Ahiru made a face. "Well, yeah, sure," she said. "But I think that makes it even more special that you're trying to help me—since you say you're not very good, I mean."
"I hope it won't be a mistake," Autor muttered.
"I'll do my best!" Ahiru assured him.
"Yes, I know you will," Autor said. That was one more thing that had to be said for Ahiru—when she put her mind to something, she gave her all.
He just prayed she would not embarrass herself when the time came to dance with Fakir.
The evening of the Christmas party started out clear and starry as people made their way to the cultural hall, but by the time the last guests were arriving gray clouds had begun to cover the sky. Ahiru stopped and turned, looking up at the sight.
"I wonder if it's going to snow," she said. "It's so pretty, but so cold!" She shivered.
Fakir grunted. "It's just cold," he said, pulling a hand out of his pocket to open the door for her.
She blinked up at him. "You don't like the snow, Fakir?"
"It's alright," Fakir said. "I don't have much use for it one way or another."
Ahiru stepped inside the warm and well-lit building, her mouth opening in an awed gasp at the large Christmas tree that stood in the middle of the floor. People were clustered around it, each other, and the buffet table, carrying on assorted conversations.
Autor was trying to stay away from all of them. He was standing near a window close to the corner, slowly sipping a cup of punch. As Ahiru reluctantly tore her gaze away from the tree and glanced around for him, his glasses reflected the light off of the tree's many bulbs.
"Autor!" Ahiru called as she hurried over to him. "Do you like the snow?"
Autor raised an eyebrow. "I fail to see what that has to do with anything," he said.
Ahiru shook her head with impatience. "It has to do with it because I want to know!" she declared.
"The scientifics of snow are quite fascinating," Autor said, becoming more animated. "Particularly how no two snowflakes are alike. It's incredible!" He cleared his throat and sobered. "However, aside from scientific study, I don't particularly care for it, no. Snow seems to be an excuse for adults to act like children."
"You mean like snowball fights and putting snow down people's shirts?" Ahiru said.
"Yes, exactly," Autor said. "Or on their heads." From the way he said it, it was clear that someone had done that to him.
Ahiru winced. "Oh, I'm sorry, Autor."
"It's of no consequence," Autor said. He looked from Ahiru to Fakir. "You're late," he noted. "I was starting to wonder if you weren't going to make it."
Fakir shrugged. "Ahiru couldn't get her hair to go right," he said.
Ahiru whirled to pout at him. "You couldn't find your shirt, either," she said. Though Fakir preferred not to dress fancy outside of school, he was at least wearing clothes that were not ripped or torn.
"How do you lose a shirt?" Autor asked dryly.
"When it goes through the wash with a bunch of Ahiru's clothes," Fakir muttered.
"You said it was because it was at the back of the closet since you never wear it," Ahiru said.
Fakir rolled his eyes. "That too," he said.
Autor regarded him in amusement.
"Autor, why don't you join us?" Ahiru offered. "You're here all alone."
Autor flushed. "It's alright," he said. "I've attended by myself for years." He glanced at the punch in the glass, swishing it around. "And I certainly don't want to be in the way."
"Raetsel and Hans and Charon are here too," Ahiru said. "They came on ahead." She reached for his free arm. "Of course you won't be in the way!"
Autor hesitated. "I . . ." He looked to Fakir, silently asking if it was alright.
Fakir grunted. "You're family," he said. "Come on."
Ahiru tugged on Autor's arm. Still surprised, Autor allowed it and slowly walked with her.
"The others have to be around somewhere," Ahiru said. "Come with us and we'll look! And we'll eat and stuff!"
Autor finally smiled. "Alright," he said.
Fakir walked with them, shaking his head in vague amusement.
Autor lingered with the group throughout dinner and then afterwards. He was still somewhat amazed by how welcomed he was among them. The adults seemed to share Fakir and Ahiru's feelings that he was part of the family. He knew now that he was indeed biologically related to Fakir due to his mother referring to Fakir as his cousin during the time he had been dead, but he also knew that it did not matter; he had been considered part of the family before that.
When the dancing began Hans promptly turned to Raetsel. "Shall we?" he said.
She smiled. "Of course!" Mischievously she added, "I would have asked if you hadn't."
As they stood, Ahiru looked hopefully to Fakir. "Can we dance too, Fakir?" she asked.
Fakir raised an eyebrow. "They're waltzing," he said. "You can't waltz."
"Yes, I can!" Ahiru said. "Please, Fakir?"
Fakir frowned. "Why do you want to do something like that?"
"Because it would be fun!" Ahiru said, tugging on his arm. She had been afraid he would not go for it, but she was still determined to try. Especially after how long she and Autor had been working on her skills.
"There's not anything wrong with it," Autor said. "As long as you can waltz, Fakir."
"And Raetsel said you can!" Ahiru declared.
Fakir looked back and forth between them. "Just what kind of a conspiracy is this?" he demanded.
Charon hid a smile. "What harm could it do? Why not dance with Ahiru, Fakir?"
At last Fakir sighed in resignation. "This is stupid. It'll be a disaster. But alright." He stood, pushing back his chair. Ahiru leaped up from hers.
Charon watched as Ahiru held out her hand and Fakir, blushing furiously, took it. "Can she really waltz?" he wondered.
Autor pushed up his glasses. "We'll soon find out," he said.
Fakir looked awkward as he and Ahiru got into position. Ahiru blushed but looked excited. Fakir stepped forward and Ahiru stepped back. As the dance picked up its pace Ahiru managed to not stumble—at least not as much as she could have. She narrowed her eyes in concentration, hoping to straighten out her steps.
"How can you waltz at all?" Fakir said, stunned.
Ahiru smiled brightly. "I learned so I could dance with you!" she said.
Fakir regarded her in surprise. "You did? From who?"
Ahiru looked down, a bit guilty. "I promised I wouldn't tell. . . ." She shot a quick, questioning look towards the table.
Fakir followed her gaze to Autor, who just crossed his arms and smirked, looking pleased.
"Was it Autor?" Fakir asked.
Ahiru caught sight of a slight nod. Autor suspected the conversation topic and was telling her it was alright to tell. At least, she hoped that was what he was trying to let her know.
"Yeah, it was," Ahiru admitted.
"You're not doing . . ." Fakir winced as Ahiru stepped on his foot. ". . . Too bad," he finished with a grimace. "How many times did you do that to Autor?"
Ahiru glared at him. "I don't know!" she said. "But he said I got good enough so I was only doing it about five times."
"Five times?" Fakir repeated. Dread began to creep into his heart.
Fakir escaped to their table as soon as the dance ended, while Ahiru bounced over to talk with Raetsel and Hans. Autor smirked in greeting.
"So, how are your feet?"
Fakir grunted as he sank down in the nearest chair. "Probably sore," he said. "They feel sore."
"Not as sore as her teacher's." Autor pushed up his glasses. "I hope you plan to dance with Ahiru more, if she wants." He sobered. "This means a lot to her."
Fakir looked to Autor in surprise. Autor shook his head in exasperation.
"Think about it, Fakir—Ahiru would have to be very dedicated to focus on learning to waltz even as well as she has. And it certainly wasn't so she could dance with me."
Fakir colored a bit, frowning as he mulled this over in his mind. "She wanted to dance with me?" he said, still not fully believing.
"Of course she did!" Autor retorted. "Really, Fakir, sometimes you still appall me."
Fakir glowered, about to reply when Ahiru suddenly appeared. "They're going to dance again," she chirped.
Fakir blinked, turning his attention to Ahiru's innocent, hopeful face. Slowly he smiled, getting to his feet. "Okay then," he said. "Come on."
After all, he decided as he led the thrilled Ahiru back to the dance floor, what were sore feet compared to Ahiru's happiness?
Charon shook his head as he watched. "That boy," he said, a fond smile coming over his lined features.
Autor hid a smile behind a smirk. "Sometimes," he mused, "Fakir makes me proud."
Charon glanced to him. "It must have taken a great deal of patience to teach Ahiru how to waltz," he said.
Autor continued to watch the couple on the dance floor. "A gentleman can live through anything," he said, not allowing the softness in his eyes to be seen.
He had already decided that it was all worth it. And when Ahiru caught him alone after the party, chastely kissing his cheek with a whispered Thank You, he determined it all the more, even as he blushed.
Of course, he tried to convince himself his cheeks were red because of the snow that had started to fall.