She closed her eyes. Her face was calm but her chest said otherwise, her lungs pushing and pulling violently at her chest.

"My little princess," I whispered, then let her go.

Immediately she backed out of my arms, her eyes snapping open. Her eyes bled tears of black makeup, the lines running down her pale, pale cheeks.

"Would the White Swan not do anything to stop the jealous Black Swan? Hm?" I asked sharply. "Would she just let it take over? Let it ruin her?"

She looked away, her lips trembling.

"When you are the White Swan, you must fight for what is yours. Don't you see?" I stepped up close to her once more, my hands clasping each of her wrists.

We both looked down at our hands. The warmth from her skin rippled up my arms and down my back.

"Love," I said after a moment. I looked up into her eyes. "Love is what holds the White Swan together. Without it, her desire to live will flee from her soul like roaches from the light."

She returned my gaze steadily, her eyes red and moist.

I raised her arms, holding one above my head. Slowly, automatically, she followed my lead and twirled under my hand, her soft ballet shoes tip-tapping after her.

A smile spread across my lips.

I slung out my arm and she twirled after it. An instant later, we were dancing.

...

The man at the piano played the song over and over. I knew it by heart.

I could feel the music rising inside of me as the tempo grew stronger and the magificant Black Swan pranced tauntingly just out of my reach.

"You want what is not yours!" I shouted, standing up from the benches. "It is not love that you desire, but revenge! Revenge for what you never had, revenge for all the times you were rejected! Seduce the prince and claim him as your own!"

My eyes darted back and forth, taking in the glory of her dance, feeling passion and desire flare to life. All watching eyes fell under her spell.

The man who danced with her spun her and lifted her and twirled her as though he was the one controlling her, but it was the other way around. She had him. She had him.

...

"How- how was it?" She asked breathlessly, sweat dotting along her forehead.

"Much, much better. Very good job, Nina," I smiled and handed her a rag.

She wiped her face and mouth. As she did so, I took another rag and gently smoothed it over her thin shoulder blades and across her chest.

She recoiled from me, stepping back and clutching the rag to her chest.

"Thomas," She whimpered, her voice shaking. Her eyes wide. Her body covered in goose-bumps.

I sighed and wiped my chin with my fingertips. I looked around the room. The only people in the room were me and her, and the endless reflections of ourselves in the mirrored wall. I stared at my own reflection for a few moments until she turned around, alarmed. Seeing just the mirror, she turned back to me with unease.

"Come," I spread out my arm. "Let us get away from here for a while, hm? You could use a bit of fresh air."

She hesitated only for a moment before stepping up into my arms. I wrapped my arm around her quivering shoulders and we walked to the doors in silence.

...

Something about her drew me in. As if I were the prince, and she my princess.

...

She got in my car and we left the theatre. She said nothing as we drove except a quiet mumble about her mother waiting for her at home.

I took her to an expensive Italian resturant and we got a table right away. She seemed unsure of herself outside of the theatre. As if she didn't know what she was supposed to do.

To make conversation, I asked, "Have you eaten here before, Nina?"

She looked up at me with wide, innocent eyes. "No," She answered softly.

I stared at her for a long time in silence before asking, "Have you eaten at all today?"

When her lips trembled and she avoided my eyes, I sighed, looking around the resturant. "You dancers are all the same, thinking you must starve yourself to stay thin."

She said nothing.

I slid my chair closer to the table then leaned across it, taking her hands.

"Nina,"

She raised her eyes.

"You are a beautiful swan," I told her gently. "You do not need to worry about your appearance," I raised her boney hand to my mouth and kissed it firmly.

I felt her shiver, so I let her go. She put her hands in her lap, looking down.

"Are you two ready to order, or do you need a minute?" The waiter asked, appearing at our table.

"Yes, two garlic lobster pastas, and a bottle of your finest Champagne," I told him, handing him the menus.

"Thank you. I'll be back shortly with your Champagne." He walked away.

I watched him for a moment before turning back to Nina.

"Do you like lobster?" I asked.

She shrugged, her thin shoulder blades pulling at her skin. "I've never had it before."

"Never?" I smiled. "It is quite good. It's very juicy and sweet, much like you."

She blushed and drank some water to hide it.

I glanced around the resturant before sliding even closer to the table. "Did you take my advice the other day?" I asked in a low voice.

A terrified expression flickered across her face.

"It's okay," I said. "There is nothing to be ashamed of."

I reached my hand under the table, finding her knee. I rubbed her leg gently.

"Relaxation is key..." I whispered as she trembled under my touch. "To a good performance..." My hand travled to the inside of her thigh, and I felt her muscles spasm. Suddenly she grabbed my hand and shoved it away.

I looked up into her eyes, seeing the fear. I sat back in my chair.

We stared at each other in silence, my eyes playful and taunting, her eyes fearful and nervous.

She flinched as the cork was pulled from the champagne bottle. "Here we are," The waiter announced, pouring the bubbly liquid gold into our glasses.

"Leave the bottle, please," I told the waiter. He nodded and walked away. I picked up my glass.

"To dancing," I raised my glass.

She raised her own, and we clinked them lightly together.

I took a small sip of the champagne, relishing the burning rush of bubbles against my tongue, and shuddering under the cold fire of alchohal as it traveled to my stomach. I sighed happily and set down my glass.

Nina put hers down without taking a drink.

I looked away as if I hadn't noticed. It was going to take quite some time to removed the stiffness from that dead bird.