La danse d'Action

A Code Lyoko fanfiction by Monsignor

"Do you want to dance?"

Aelita looks up from the notebook spread across her knees, and the pages and pages of history notes scattered across Jeremy's bedspread, and takes the end of her pencil out of her mouth.

"What?" she asks, baffled, sure that she'd misheard him.

The blonde boy points at the radio sitting on the end of his computer desk (it's 10:45 at night. Just looking at the digits makes Aelita want to curl up in a ball and sleep, but her French History final is two days away and she has a lot to catch up on). It's tuned to some instrumental station that Jeremy likes. He plays when he codes and when he studies.

"Do you want to dance?" he repeats, "To this song?"

Carefully Aelita listens. It's a piano piece, in gentle minor notes. "Why this one in particular?" she asks, partly to stall for time. Her cheeks are starting to heat up. She's wondering what exactly Jeremy is up to. She hopes that he's not a clone, or possessed, or something.

(But XANA's gone, she reminds herself, feeling the shock that she experiences every time she thinks of the program's demise. Three months after the deed has been done, it's still hard for her to reconcile with the idea that the supercomputer is off forever and that she is in fact free.)

Jeremy stands up from his computer chair, pushing it back in under the desk. "I've heard this song on this station before," he explains, "and I really wanted to dance to it, for some reason."

Aelita raises her eyebrow. Getting the urge to dance would be one of the last things that she would ever expect from Jeremy. "You are feeling okay, right?"

Jeremy scowls, more like his regular self. "If you don't want to," he says defensively, "just say so."

"No!" Aelita says loudly. "No," she repeats more quietly, putting down her pencil and moving a stack of notes out of her way so that she can get off the bed. It's not often that Jeremy acts like this, that he does something arbitrary and a little silly. And they missed the last school dance. Actually, for one reason or another, they've missed all the school dances, Aelita realizes; and suddenly she is eager to make up for lost opportunity.

When she looks up from shuffling her notes around his nearness surprises her. Jeremy's walked up to the bed (not far to walk, she knows, his dorm room is tiny; but he did it really quietly so that she didn't notice and he's right there, far too close for her brain to work as well as it ought) and he's waiting for her. His hand is outstretched to help her up. "Hurry before it ends," he urges, smiling at her now.

Quickly she takes that hand, and he levers her up from the bed. They stand very close to each other. Her cheeks feel like they must be glowing so she doesn't dare look him in the face, fixing her eyes instead on the collar of his sweatshirt. (He's taller now than he was just three months ago. A growth spurt, it's called. The boys all just shot up, without warning, and suddenly you can see their ankles and wrists all the time because their cuffs are too short.) They're not wearing clothes good for dancing, she realizes; him in that sweatshirt and jeans, her in her flannel pajama bottoms and an old blue sweater Yumi had given her. It's too big for her. They're both barefoot, too. In the pictures and movies that Aelita's seen in the year and a half she's been on Earth, dancing clothes are either very expensive and very formal, or very sparkly and very brief.

(On second thought, maybe it's good thing that they're not dressed for dancing.)

Jeremy reaches over and flips the light switch, which Aelita was not expecting. Now the room is lit only by the pale glow of the computer screen and a faint orange gleam of a streetlight from outside the window.

"You know how the hands go, right?" Jeremy asks, lifting his own. His glasses reflect the computer glow and for a moment it's like she can see code inside his eyes. (That's a really silly thing to think, she scolds herself, but the thought is still appealing.)

"Yes," Aelita whispers. She's seen on television, and silly chick flicks that she's watched with Yumi. She wonders how, exactly, Jeremy is staying so calm; she feels so many butterflies in her stomach she fears she might be lifted off the ground. Or melt. Either option seems pretty viable right now, here in the dark with Jeremy.

Slowly she manages to slide one palm up to Jeremy's right shoulder, and lifts up the other to his. She likes the way their hands fit together. It feels snug and warm, secure. It feels right. That gives her the courage to look up at Jeremy's face. "You know how the feet go, right?" she teases gently.

Jeremy smiles wryly. His left hand slips over her hip and now she can detect a bit of a glow on his face, too. "I apologize if I step on you," he says, and shifts his feet. Aelita forgets to tell him to watch out for hers, too, because she is too busy concentrating on moving with Jeremy.

Without the light, sound and smell and touch are somehow enhanced; more acute, and somehow heavier. Aelita can smell hot computer parts and the laundry detergent off Jeremy's clothes; she can hear the cascade of piano notes that are delicately, finely wrought into a ladder of notes; she can feel Jeremy's hand through her sweater, the thumb pressing a little harder than the rest of his hand is. Combined, it's all rather heady. Lyoko doesn't have senses like Earth and Aelita must still be getting used to them, because she can hardly keep her brain on straight at the moment.

It's a beautiful song. Aelita thinks that if she could see the piano while it played it might be swaying in time to its own music; a gentle undulation to follow the tides of the high and low notes.

But perhaps she thinks that because that is how she and Jeremy are dancing. He's guiding, and she follows, but it's not hard: it's the simplest dance step ever. The one that everyone knows. They sway and turn a little and Aelita keeps her gaze firmly on Jeremy's collar. Except when she glances up at Jeremy, every so often. Each time, he's looking down at her intently.

There's drop in the piano's pitch. The song plays on, intensely but softly. The tiniest hint of static in-between keystrokes. That's soothing. Aelita calms down a little, letting herself get caught up in the warmth of Jeremy's hand on her hip, the carpet under her feet, the surprisingly graceful movements they are making. They are dancing and Aelita wants it to go on forever.

"Aelita," Jeremy says, very quietly. He halts. The music does not; it picks up a little, entering a bridge.

"Yes, Jeremy?" Aelita responds, looking up. She's a beat behind him in stopping their dance, so she ends up even closer to him than before. Now in addition to the heat of his hand on her hip there's just the heat of him in general.

It's nice. To make a massive understatement.

His face has changed too, Aelita sees now. His jaw is a little sharper and lines around his eyes have deepened. Lines of stress and tiredness, etched there over the year and a half that they battled XANA. They scratched and clawed and sweated to beat him, and Aelita thinks – has always thought – that Jeremy was the deciding factor. You can't destroy a machine unless you have someone to attack the way it works. You can't destroy anything without a leader. Someone to arm you and direct you and always work to help you reach victory.

Because of the angle they're turned at, the light trick from the monitor happens again and Aelita sees code reflected on Jeremy's glasses, in his eyes.

"Yes, Jeremy?" she repeats gently. He looks worried, and Aelita lifts her hand from his shoulder to rest against his face. He closes his eyes and leans his cheek into her palm a little; his hand tightens on her hip. She feels impatient and takes a half-step even closer to him.

"You don't…blame me?"

Aelita blinks, puzzled. "For dancing?" she tries. "Well, you did ask."

"No. For…." He swallows, keeping his eye closed. "For all the things that went wrong. When I…. corrupted your code and I….kept letting the Scyphozoa get to you….that time I shut down your heart…" He shakes his head, frustration marking a line between his fair brows. "I guess for everything."

She's dumbstruck. "Everything?" she asks. "That's…" her voice trails off and she works to collect her thoughts. They're a little scattered from the feel of his fingers tight on her hip, and the curve of his cheek in her hand.

Why should he blame himself for those things? Now, after the fact, after it's all been done and fixed? And….everything?

"That's a bit much to blame yourself for, Jeremy," she says gently.

"I don't think so," he says, eyes still closed. "I keep seeing all this – all this data. From all those times. I get to thinking it all over….trying to figure out a different way, or a better way, or anything at all…."

"Does it matter now?" Aelita asks. "I'm here, right?" She strokes her thumb over his cheekbone and can tell that his blush gets deeper. "Yumi and Odd and Ulrich are all still here. William, we saved him. Come to think of it," as she does, "we saved the school a bunch of times, right? The whole world, really."

"I'm not talking about that," Jeremy grits. He opens his eyes and they're dark behind his lenses. "I'm not talking about the team. Or what we have or have not done. I'm talking about-"

"Yourself," Aelita says, understanding. "Was what you did enough?"

He shakes his head – just slightly, not moving her hand. "No," he whispers; she can barely hear him. The piano plays on. His voice is strained and the lines around his eyes that she noticed earlier are deeper. She's never seen Jeremy like this. "That's not it."

He lifts his own hand and takes hers from his face. He has both of her hands in his now. He holds her fingers in his own and stares into her eyes, but not romantically. Not even close.

Jeremy looks afraid.

"Was what I did for you enough?"

Aelita stares up at him, tears pricking in her eyes – a response to tenor of his voice, the look on his face, the way he's holding onto her hand like a lifeline….

He turns his face away from her. Blue monitor glow suffuses his face, turning his glasses to blank discs. "That's what I want to know," he finishes, not quite as steadily as she thinks he would have liked.

Aelita deliberates, blinking the tears back into submission before they can fall. She senses that Jeremy doesn't want an easy answer here; doesn't want to be comforted. He wants the truth, as clear as she can give it to him.

"It's not like you didn't make mistakes," she begins slowly. "You did some stupid things, especially in the beginning. You assumed too much about what you knew."

He grimaces.

"But you also found me," Aelita reminds him gently. "You gave me a name. Remember?"

He manages a smile. "Maya."

"You wanted to help me," she continued. "So you did." She wiggles her hand in his grip until she can grip back. "And that's all there was to it. All there is to it," she corrects herself. "You wanted to help me. You did help. You brought me here and you spent your time writing codes for weapons and transport and God knows what else I don't even know about, when you probably should have been sleeping." She beams up at him, feeling a light bubble of illumination swell in her chest. "You gave me wings, Jeremy."

He looks down at her. Yes, she thinks, he gave me wings, and she wonders at how long ago that actually was. Does an action taken in love last?

One way to find out, she decides. (Good, she thinks with relief, my brain must be functional again.)

Gently she takes her fingers out of Jeremy's. Then, before he can do more than begin to look distressed, she puts them on his shoulders and stands up on her toes.

(Careful, she tells herself. This is not the time to loose your balance.)

"Jeremy," she whispers. The code is in his eyes again. "Yes. It is enough."

He puts both hands on her waist. It steadies her as she leans forward.

Does an action taken in love last?

Aelita thinks it does. An action taken in love can cover over a multitude of mistakes. An action taken in love can say something that words never could.

So she kisses Jeremy.

And when his hands go tight on her waist and lift her up to him, she slides her arms around his neck, and knows that he's saying the same thing to her.

That Belpois boy. Always full of surprises.

I really like watching Aelita and Jeremy interact. You can always tell that they're basically on the same page, even though they have no problem disagreeing with each other. With the way Yumi and Ulrich blunder around like fools, it's nice that the smart kids are so much more stable.

Thanks for reading!