dancing on air

Was the White Swan not corrupted in the end?

Ivan's people were – are – good with the fine arts, Natalia will give them that. She has seen, listened to, touched their work, and although she will grudgingly admit that, yes, Roderich's and Ludwig's people could do much better; her brother's people's works are nonetheless beautiful. The ballet, she loves especially. She likes seeing the slim girls leap across the stage and twirl like there's no tomorrow, because they make brother happy, and therefore they make her happy.

She has learned to dance ballet; she has taught herself how to dance ballet, if only because Ivan loves the sight. She has the right form for it, he says, because she is tall and willowy and beautiful, with large expressive eyes – or at least, he would add softly with a hint of fear and wistfulness altogether, eyes that used to be expressive. But she is nonetheless a wonderful dancer, because she her dancing is expressive and wild and passionate and sexy, and that's what Ivan says, and so she believes him.

Yekaterina dances to please their brother as well, despite her complaints that it absolutely kills her back, although she is chaste and pure in her movements, her body moving with a mild grace Natalia could never hope to achieve. And Ivan lauds her performance, saying that Katyusha, that was just wonderful and You are a fantastic dancer. And Yekaterina smiles and accepts the compliments with a half-smile and a shy giggle, because don't we all play parts?

Sometimes when none of them are really fully sober Ivan puts his arms around both of them. You two are just so wonderful, he would croon. I am so, so proud to have you two as my sisters. So different and yet so beautiful...

Natalia would like to take her brother up on that point.

She is beautiful, yes, she knows this. One could make a drinking game over how many times she's been called that in her lifetime, what with her platinum hair and the curved frown that adorns her intelligent face. Her sister is beautiful as well, but she is surrounded by a childlike innocence exemplified by one of two things: either the placid smile or the salty liquid always threatening to spill over onto smooth cheeks.

But don't we all play parts?

One could contest that if one said Gilbert and Ludwig were the most extreme cases of sibling difference, they obviously hadn't met Natalia and Yekaterina.

Natalia is straightforward and no-nonsense in her movements, following her brother's every move like a faithful lapdog. She will never hesitate to tell her brother how much she loves him, despite the fact that Ivan hates that. Because Ivan will love her in the same way she loves him – eventually – and he's just going to have to keep being reminded of that fact.

You're insane, Eduard had spit out once, both in shock and horror. Not even Ivan deserves what you put him through.

Yes, perhaps she was insane.

But then again, it ran in the family, didn't it?

Everyone says Yekaterina is the nice one of the Slavic siblings. The approachable one. The cute one. The poor girl who always has to fix her siblings' screw-ups, time and time again, becauseYekaterina is not insane. Natalia can only agree so much.

Yekaterina is different from her. The Yang to her Yin, Yao might have put it. Or as her own brother would have put it, the White Swan to her Black.

She remembers Swan Lake – a classic; her brother had loved it. He had taken the two of them to a special showing in Moscow back when Tchaikovsky was still alive. Natalia had clapped wildly, because she had thought the story of love gone awry was beautiful. And she'd especially loved the characters. There was the prince, the charming, handsome man – Ivan.

The Black Swan – passionate, wild, beautiful, in love with the prince. Herself.

And the White Swan – pure, chaste, uncorrupted. Yekaterina.

But was the White Swan not the Black Swan's sister? Was the White Swan not corrupted in the end?

Her sister does not show that – is that not where they differ? In the way they show their love? Yekaterina is a good actress – she has to smile for the world and assure them that there's still some kindness left in their broken family. But it's there. Natalia can see that in the way she talks to her brother, the way her eyes light up and her smile widens. The way she clenches her fists every time Ivan approaches the trembling boys Natalia hates and he likes, every time he approaches that pretty man from the East, every time his tone when talking to America is anything vaguely resembling nice. She sees it, because Natalia knows that she was bound to rub off on her sister eventually.




Yekaterina laughs like there's no tomorrow. Silly girl, she would chastise her younger sister. Vanya is never going to love you, do you not understand?

The unsaid words hang in the air, Yekaterina's eyes widening for a split second, the mask cracking, but she stitches herself back together in a way that's so familiar to Natalia already. Because, Natasha, you know he's going to love me.

Remind me to never ever re-watch Black Swan again.