No picket fence, no minivan, but twenty years after the final showing of Swan Lake, Lily and Nina are living in a suburb of San Francisco. The house is anything but palatial. Then again, they don't need a lot of space – they have an entire studio now. Home is where they retreat at the end of the day, where they go to curl up and relax. The setting sun throws painted shadows through their living room, and when the wind blows strongly out of the west it carries the salty tang of the sea with it.
In a relationship like theirs, there are several anniversaries to celebrate. Nina's the one who keeps track of the day they met, while Lily prefers to celebrate the final performance of Swan Lake – and everything after it – with ice wine and chocolate-covered strawberries in memory of that glorious night.
The big one, the anniversary of their wedding, falls just a few months later, but it's a year younger than the other anniversaries, now the nineteenth whereas the rest are twentieth. It took them a while to get that arranged; they'd proposed to each other at Kyle's wedding reception, both of them planning to surprise each other. The entire wedding party had laughed uproariously at their synchronicity. Nina and Lily were less amused when they found out they'd both approached Thomas to ask for an advance on their pay to buy the rings; he'd known both of their plans and hadn't seen fit to enlighten either of them.
Still, he'd wished them well and gave them a handsome wedding gift – a week's honeymoon in an exclusive hotel on the beach in Half Moon Bay. By then, he and the best two dancers in the company had settled into a partnership of sorts. Thomas would do anything for the good of the company, and in the case of Nina and Lily, all he needed to do was show genuine respect for their talents. Even Lily eventually admitted that he had his decent moments, which Thomas promptly warned her to keep to herself lest his reputation as a ruthless bastard be damaged.
Even better, by the time they got the wedding planned and organized, Erica Sayers had finally accepted the fact of her daughter's relationship enough to attend. She and Lily would never be best pals, but they're civil to each other, even friendly as long as they're not forced into close proximity for too long. After all, they both love Nina with an intensity that can be frightening.
The first ten years of Nina and Lily's marriage were largely blissful. Of course being an official couple set them apart from the other soloists, though the others gradually came around. Veronica found it difficult to sustain a grudge when Lily and Nina both largely ignored her, having better things to do than quarrel with her. They shared the role of prima ballerina between them, which Thomas played up for public relations purposes and Lily played up for shock value. Lily, whose surname had changed three times before she was eighteen, had taken Sayers as her last name when they married, and she thoroughly enjoyed showing off her rings to correct people who assumed she and Nina were sisters.
Then came the accident. Nina's career had been on the wane, Lily stepping into her place with the effortless, artless grace that was so integral to her style, when all of it ended one night with a wrecked limo and a shattered ankle. Lily would never dance en pointe again; her future was abruptly stolen from her. During the months of physical therapy and the emotional roller coaster of dealing with the death of a lifelong dream, Nina had been by her side every moment. It was her turn to be supportive while Lily pieced herself back together, and she did it with all the strength and surety Lily had sensed in her back when they met.
They'd been smart about money and had more than enough saved to move to California, where the salt-tinged air and the golden sun were balms to Lily's wounded heart. Kyle hired them both for his dance academy, and no one else in the area could boast of two New York Ballet principal soloists teaching their students. When he retired they renamed it the Sayers School of Dance and expanded to include more than just ballet. Three nights a week the hallways rang and echoed with the snappy beat of tap shoes, and Sunday afternoons bewitching music floated from the studio where belly dancing lessons were taught.
Nina and Lily were both careful and lucky about whom they rented studio time to, as well as who they invited to join them in the venture, and they did well for themselves as teachers. Lily could only dance demi-pointe, so she taught the younger students, instilling in them a love of ballet. Nina took the older students who were ready to refine that love into a quest for perfection. Between them they began to turn out students who succeeded in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
In almost a decade as instructors, Lily has seen Nina's black swan side emerge only once into the light of day. That was when a furious stage mom made the mistake of belittling her daughter's slow progress, and dared to blame it on Lily as well when she tried to intercede. Nina had arrived at the sound of raised voices and delivered a scathing rebuke that left the woman pasty-faced with shock. She'd ended by banning the woman from the premises, which the angry mother had protested by insisting her daughter's lessons were paid in advance. "Oh, your daughter is welcome here," Nina had replied, her voice low and cold. "She has more maturity, grace, and tact than you do, and she's a pleasure to teach. You're the one who's banned, and if I find out you're taking this out on your child when you should be encouraging her…" She'd trailed off, but Lily wasn't the only one who'd seen the red glint of wrath in her eyes, and the woman had finally left contritely.
Other than that, the black swan has been a part of Nina, tamed enough to come when called and to withdraw when dismissed, yet wild enough to give a fierce passion to Nina's dancing, an undercurrent of power taking the perfect control to new heights. She uses that to inspire her students, and they worship her almost as much as Lily's classes adore her.
It isn't a perfect life. There's no such thing, all couples argue from time to time, and working and living so closely intertwined makes any conflict inescapable. There's no challenge they can't overcome together, though, and both of them believe that so strongly that their quarrels rarely last more than a day. They have a rule – it's Nina's rule really, and she's persistent when she wants to be – about not going to bed angry, so while there are a few times when they stay up 'til sunrise arguing out an issue, most things are resolved quickly.
After all, they've come through so much together that most of the things people argue about are inconsequential by comparison. What's Lily's ridiculously expensive coffee or Nina's borderline-obsessive neatness compared to facing down the black swan and banishing each other's nightmares?
So anger dissolves into shared amusement most of the time, and acquaintances envy the strength of their relationship. Always it comes down to this: no matter what, neither of them will give up on the other. Once upon a time they were both broken, and now they've healed stronger than before the break. And at night in their moon-silvered bed, time has no dominion, and the connection between Nina and Lily is as magnetic as ever.
~ Fin ~
Author's Note: Thank you all for reading and reviewing and sticking around until the end. This story turned about to be about 5 times as long as expected, but I loved every moment of writing it, and I hope you had just as much fun reading it.