Series: Star Trek XI RPF
Disclaimer: This is not real. No matter how much my plotbunny enjoyed writing this, these are real people and their lives are their own.
Summary: Zach is an instructor at the prestigious Los Angeles Ballet Academy when he gets a new student. He's got three months to teach actor Chris Pine the basics of how to move like a ballet dancer, and during the process they discover more than they ever expected.
A/N: I have never taken a ballet class in my life. All information gleaned in preparation for writing this fanfiction was taken rather audaciously from the glorified halls of Wikipedia. As such, if anything does not sound right, it is purely the author's fault and she apologizes beforehand. Also, I have no idea how long it actually takes to learn anything in ballet – so if this happens in a much shorter timeframe than would be considered wise, or even possible…it's fanfic, and I take liberties ;)
It's in the Touch of Your Hand
He's been doing them so long it's like breathing. First position. Fourth. He moves flawlessly between them without thinking, his hand not even resting on the barre. Rising to en pointe, he breathes deep and even as he supports himself on his toes. It's only warm-ups, but already Zach can feel all his worries falling away, as the lure of the dance calls to him. He wants to move already, but knows his muscles need to be stretched first.
"Zachary!" His name cuts across the floor, breaking his concentration and he lowers himself back to first position. Rolling his shoulder, he slips through the bodies surrounding him as they continue to follow the instructor's lead through the warm-ups. There's a slight twinge at the highest point in his roll, and he grimaces in frustration. That lift he was practicing with Julianne on Wednesday did not go as planned – and it looks like he won't be able to start trying again for at least another couple days.
But that train of thought abruptly halts as he arrives at the door. The academy's director looks relaxed and fatly-pleased with himself, which should immediately set Zach on alert – but he's distracted by the blonde standing off to the side, and all thoughts of the director's mood leave him.
The blonde looks young, at least a couple years Zach's junior, and he's staring around at the students warming up around him with huge eyes – eyes the brightest, clearest blue Zach has ever witnessed. Interesting.
"Yes, director?" he asks.
The man waves his arm in a broad gesture, the cascade of fat jiggling. Long ago, Zach stopped viewing the man as weak and ineffectual – the director had been a great dancer in his time, and is a stern taskmaster still. "This man is from a silly movie studio, and he wants to learn to dance." The words are accompanied by a snort of amusement – at least, Zach can read it as amusement from long exposure to the man. To the actor's untrained ear, it probably sounds like disgruntlement, as most expressions should.
He can't help his own raised eyebrow at the words. This isn't the first time that some actor thinks they can learn to dance in only a week's time. Zach regards the blonde critically.
In response to the scrutiny, the man pulls himself up straight, looking Zach straight in the eye – beautiful, and defiant. No cockiness, no laziness. Zach can't help but smile at the expression in those blue eyes.
Turning back to the director, Zach nods. "I'll see to him, sir."
With that, the large man turns away, dismissing them. His obligation to the blonde has been fulfilled, and his attention is fully on his dancers once again. Zach smiles at the slightly distraught expression on the younger man's face at the clear dismissal, and decides to take pity on him.
He grasps the blonde's upper arm, giving it a conciliatory squeeze as he pulls him out the door. That studio is not the proper place for private lessons, not while the advanced class is beginning their practice for the afternoon.
"Here, we'll go to one of the private practice rooms," he murmurs, watching the blonde's reactions with interest. The blue eyes flash to him, full of questions that he does not voice – instead, he just nods and follows Zach silently through the hall. Knocking once, Zach waits a moment before he opens the door. He slips inside, flipping the light switch as he makes room for the blonde to come in after. Smiles to himself as the those eyes get huge.
"This is a private practice room?" he asks, taking in the studio with interest. To the layman it would appear much too large for two men to fill by themselves.
Zach laughs, patting the younger man on the shoulder. He's gratified to find that there's no flinching on the other's part – he's used to touch, craves it sometimes, and it'd be frustrating if he had to rein in his natural impulses. "If you're serious about this, then we'll be using a lot more of this space than you'd think."
Those blue eyes harden a little as they flash to him again. "I'm serious," he says, stiffening as he speaks. Then he seemingly forces himself to relax, holding out a hand. "Chris Pine. Aspiring actor."
"Zachary Quinto," he replies, shaking Chris' hand. The palm is warm, and calloused. "But everyone but You Know Who just calls me Zach." For his effort he earns a smile. "So Mr. Aspiring Actor, what are you here to learn?"
Zach watches as Chris rubs the back of his neck, a chagrined smile making an appearance. "I have a role in one of those disgustingly sweet romantic teenie-bopper movies. My character is supposed to be this great dancer – but the problem is, I'm not."
"Isn't the studio supposed to cover this kind of training, then?" Zach asks, curious despite himself as he crosses his arms over his chest.
A shake of the head. "Nah, the director said they'd just have a stunt double do the complicated bits. Something about cutting costs that way."
Tilting his head to the side, he regards the enigma before him. "So why didn't you just go with that?"
"I wanted it to be convincing," Chris says, a bright light shining in his eyes. "I don't wanna rely on some guy I don't know to get the role correctly. I know I can't do the really tricky stuff, but there's months before shooting actually starts. I have time to learn the basics."
Months? He was expecting a week, maybe two, to get the guy to at least walk like a dancer. But unlike the sprinkling of starlets that they usually get flowing through the Los Angeles Ballet Academy, this one is serious. Zach smiles to himself, and nods.
Tapping one of Chris' deltoids, Zach glances into those blue eyes. "How long do we have? And how much did you want to accomplish? If you want to do any of the fancy lifts by yourself, you'll have to build a lot of muscle in the right places." He's got good muscle tone, but it's in the wrong places – it's obvious that it's from weight lifting, and not from work that builds muscle. It's there to look pretty, not be functional.
"Three months," he answers as his eyes glance down at Zach's finger, still resting on the shoulder muscle. "And I don't need the big stuff. I know it must take a ridiculously long time to learn everything. I just want to feel comfortable with the moves, and so I can make a warmup look second nature, like I've been doing them forever."
Realistic, given the time frame. Zach nods, satisfied as he hesitantly stops the touch. "That, we can do." Then he moves to the barre, grasping it firmly in a hand. "This piece of equipment will become your best friend. We need to work on the way you stand."
The next morning Zach is doing his stretches at the barre while he waits for Chris to arrive. He knows when their practices are supposed to begin, but he still doesn't know if the other man will arrive on time. On a bench close by rest a pair of ballet flats – not pointe shoes – that Zach requisitioned from supply earlier.
A minute before nine, a whirlwind enters the studio. It's Chris, dressed in a pair of loose fitting sweatpants and a comfortable tee, looking wild-eyed and hyper as he arrives at the practice room.
"Sorry I'm late, but traffic, and then –" he says, contrite. The expression on his face is enough to surprise a chuckle out of Zach.
He shakes his head, bringing his working leg down from an arabesque. "You're not late. It's fine." Glancing down at Chris' shoes, he sees a ratty pair of Converse – the same pair the blonde was wearing yesterday. "Just change your shoes, and we can begin."
A pause, silence as Chris just looks at him for a moment. Then a huge grin breaks out on his face, crinkling pleasantly around the edges as he drops down on the bench. "So, what's wrong with my shoes?" he asks, and Zach can pick up what appears to be a teasing tone rolled into his voice.
Blushing, Zach watches for a moment as Chris pulls off what appears to be much-loved as well as much-worn footwear. And hastily changes his answer. "Nothing's wrong with them. But any type of tennis shoe is bound to scuff the floors."
Chris laughs as he awkwardly pulls on the flats. "So, that's how it's gonna be? They're comfy, and I know they're dirty as hell. You can be honest with me."
He lets a half-smile appear. "Okay, the director would have a conniption if he found out you were walking around in those things."
Those bright blue eyes rise to meet his, and Zach is surprised when a real smile is coaxed onto his face to answer the one lurking on Chris'. "That's better. I'm a big boy, I can take it."
He can't help but laugh, and shakes his head. Waving Chris over, he answers with, "Then come on, let's see how much you remember from yesterday."
Springing from the bench, Chris moves up to the barre and grasps it in one hand. He takes in a breath, then pulls up. Zach reaches out with sure hands, and corrects Chris' posture minutely. A hand on the hip, here, shifting the pelvis so his center of gravity is just a little forward. A smoothing of the other hand over the shoulder, relaxing the muscles just so until Chris is standing correctly. Glancing up, Zach sees a cocky grin hidden within blue, and he smiles in response.
"Not bad, right?" Chris says, not fazed in the least by the minute adjustments. "I practiced at home afterwards."
Chris' breath smells like apples, and suddenly Zach realizes how close they are. And where his hands are. He has to force down a blush as he backs away a fraction, keeping his eyes on Chris' laughing blue ones.
"Very good," he replies, shifting his feet into first position. "Posture is essential to your success as a dancer – if you're not standing correctly, then you can hurt yourself with the movements. Also, it's critical for some of the steps later on."
"Makes sense." Then Chris glances down at himself, at his hands resting at his sides and his feet shoulders width apart. "But I've never actually seen a dancer stand like this on the stage. Isn't there supposed to be more to it?" Then his eyes take in the position of Zach's feet, and his chin juts forward. "Kinda like the way you're standing."
He chuckles, and grasps the barre gently. It's no longer necessary for him, but he wants Chris to get in the habit of relying on it for now. "That's actually what we're working on next. This is the first position of the feet."
Keeping his posture correct, Chris shifts so he's mimicking Zach. With his hand on the barre it's easy to get his heels touching – but his feet don't seem to want to turn out completely. He grunts, staring down at the V shape they are creating instead of Zach's straight line. A snort, as Chris' toes shift inside the slippers. "That looks like it should be a whole lot easier than it actually is."
"The point," Zach says, trying to hide his smile as he replies seriously, "is to get as close to the straight line as possible. It'll come – that's why we're practicing. You need to learn these first, as everything else is based off of them."
Then he shifts his feet, so they are still turned out in a straight line – but there's about a foot of space between his heels. "And this is second position."
Chris looks at him, an eyebrow raised skeptically, and then inches his feet apart. He crows in delight as he even manages to turn them the tiniest bit further out. "I'll get this," he mumbles, and it seems to Zach almost as if he's speaking to himself. But then his eyes lift, and they crinkle around the edges. "Even if I have to chop my feet off and re-attach them sideways."
"That shouldn't be necessary," he states, liking this aspiring actor even more. "You just need to learn how to move – to breathe."
Progress comes in bursts, in stops and starts, but always forward. Zach watches as Chris improves every day, getting down the positions of the hands and feet until they look natural. He's still a little off on the transitions between positions, but even that is improving each time he works on it.
Zach smiles as he grasps the offending arm one more time in his hands. It always seems to be Chris' left hand that doesn't want to be graceful. "You start here," he says, holding Chris' arm in first position, curved and settled at his navel in a graceful pose, "and the motion is from the shoulder flowing down through to the fingertips." He can feel Chris' arm go lax in his, following and memorizing the movement as Zach shifts the arm to third position – the same smooth curve, just raised upward, above and slightly forward of Chris' head. "See?"
"And this is what you've been doing," he continues, moving the arm back to first and doing an abrupt jerk to third. His hands, on the smooth skin, are gentle as always. As a junior instructor at the Academy, he has a lot of practice teaching others what the correct movements feel like, and he uses the same techniques to train Chris properly. But somehow, when he's touching this man, it feels different. His fingers want to linger just a moment longer, to experience that shiver of electricity that Zach always feels whenever they touch.
It makes things…awkward. And exhilarating, even though Zach tries not to be distracted as they work every day. It would help if Chris hinted either one way or the other – but the blonde is focused on the work, on absorbing as much as he can about dancing and everything that surrounds it in the limited time he has available.
His single-minded intensity is utterly fascinating. It reminds Zach of himself, when he was training for a performance. It astounds him, because none of the other actors that have stumbled through these halls have cared nearly as much.
Chris nods enthusiastically as Zach's fingertips fall away – as he refuses to let them linger too long – putting his arms back in first position. And Zach watches with a satisfied smile as Chris moves them to third, smoothly and full of grace. Even placing a slight flourish at the end, a twist of the hand.
"Here?" he asks, looking at Zach with smugness in his eyes. He knows he did it right.
Zach can't help but smile at that expression. "Of course, you big oaf." Then he makes a decision, knowing Chris is ready to go forward once again. His own hands return to first, and his foot shifts on the ground – leg straight, toe pointed out as his working leg creates a 'D' on the floor, then returns to first position.
Snorting his disdain, Chris mimics the ballet move. As Zach suspected, he has no trouble copying the movement. His foot progresses confidently through the half-circle, returning to his comfortably turned out first position. So Zach immediately ups the ante, making another half-circle – but this time, lifting his working leg to the side and sketching the oval in the air. They've done a few movements with the working leg up, but this one requires extra balance and strength; especially if the leg is kept suspended, as Zach does when the movement is finished.
He manages to get it mostly down, only having to shift his supporting foot minutely to keep his balance. It causes Zach's lips to spread in a half smile, as a furrow appears between Chris' brows. Determination like that means he'll have it down by tomorrow.
Zach nods, letting a bit of his pride show as he watches Chris go through it again. He's surprised when, while his leg is still shifting through the air, Chris asks, "What's this one called?"
"Rond de jambe en dehors en l'air," Zach replies, the French easily slipping off his tongue after years of practice.
The other man's face has this adorable squishy expression as he stumbles in an attempt to repeat the phrase. "Round de jambs in doors in air?"
He can't help but laugh at Chris' pronunciation, holding his side as the laughter folds him over. When he finally gets enough air and stands straight once again, there's a huge grin on Chris' face. "Close enough," he says with a return grin, which comes easily and he can tell reaches his eyes.
And the happiness wants to continue to burble out, though laughter is not enough. Compelled, he rises to en pointe, stabs his working leg high in the air, sketching a grand rond de jambe with his pointed toe.
Chris' eyes widen in surprise, appreciation clear on his face as his own foot stills in its movements. "How the hell do you do things like that?"
A smile, but instead of responding he just changes to fifth position and executes a pas de poisson. Sometimes he just can't find the words.
"So, how is it that you're a teacher here?" Chris asks, his eyes intent and focused as they watch Zach.
"What do you mean?" Zach replies, reaching forward to adjust the location of Chris' working leg in retire position. He raises an eyebrow, and tries to avoid meeting those blue eyes as they're so close to his own.
"I mean, you're young – only, what, twenty eight? How did you get your position so quickly?"
He can't help but meet Chris' eyes for a second, as understanding dawns. Zach shakes his head, and corrects Chris' assumption. "I graduated from the Academy a couple years ago, and I wasn't good enough to go into dancing professionally."
Immediately, he can see Chris' face fall as horror replaces the interest that was there. The working leg drops from retire, slipping automatically into first. "You weren't good enough to go pro? But your dancing…." And here the younger man seems at a loss for words, stumbling for a moment before he finishes with, "You're amazing! I can't believe that!"
Flattered despite himself, Zach lets a lopsided smile show. "Thank you, but if you think I'm good then you haven't seen some of the students here. They…they move like they're born to be on the stage." The look he gets from Chris is loaded with skepticism, and Zach forestalls any further protest by tapping the blonde's working leg on the thigh. They need to practice this pirouette until Chris gets it down.
"And it doesn't matter, anyway – I've never really been happy on the stage," he explains. "Always felt more comfortable in the classroom. So I became a junior instructor here."
A pause, barely noticeable but evident to Zach – who has spent too much time recently cataloging Chris' habits. His working leg is back up, and he's in demi-pointe as Zach walks him through the first stages of his pirouette. "You're a junior instructor? Not a full one?" And it sounds like Chris tried to hide the hurt that comes out in that simple question.
Zach is glad that it's the part of the spin where Chris' back is to him, so the flash of pity that travels across his face is not visible to the other man. He'd suspected that, from the things Chris had said, the younger man had assumed that he'd been given the attention of one of the senior instructors at the Academy, and Zach'd just gotten his suspicions confirmed. "Yeah," he says it quietly, then offers as consolation, "Eventually, I'm going to be in charge of the younger classes. Even though I'm not the best dancer here, I'm one of the best teachers they have – which is why the Director paired me with you."
Apparently mollified, Chris nods and puts his attention back on the spin. Zach keeps his touch soft and sure as he pulls the other man back to face him. He's not prepared for the look in Chris' eyes when the blonde is watching him again.
"Thank you," that delicious voice says softly, Chris' eyes open and honest. "I know it was stupid to think otherwise, and I actually find I don't care as much as I thought I would. I wouldn't want any instructor but you."
And Zach finds himself the focus of bright blue eyes, as a blush dusts across his cheeks. The honest admission makes his heart flop inside his chest, and he gulps. Not able to find words, he nods and gives Chris a half smile – but he can't meet those eyes, not without revealing how much that simple sentence means to him.
So instead he rests his hands back on Chris' hips, and they begin the practice once again.
They're on the bench, legs stretched out before them. There's barely a breath of space between their thighs, and Zach has to fight back the urge to cross that divide by shifting closer. Pretending to ignore the fact that their shoulders bump together as he does so, he hands the water bottle back to Chris.
"You've learned all the basics," he says, scratching at his hairline with the fingers of his other hand. "And in no time at all – there's still a month and a half until your shooting starts, right?"
Chris nods, squirting a stream of water into his mouth. Zach finds himself blinking, unable to look away. "About. Plenty of time to practice, and get everything perfect." Then his brow furrows, and Zach follows the line of his sight down to his toes – the toes that Chris is flexing, then stretching, methodically.
"Hey," the blonde asks as he stretches his feet to the fullest. "What about that fancy foot stuff? You're always on the tips of your toes, but you never tell me to go there."
Zach chuckles, and flexes his own feet next to Chris'. "Pointe work is complicated." And it's typically only done by the ballerinas, though more often now it's called for in the men. Zach knows because he wanted to learn everything and anything to do with ballet, and because the only way to teach his female students was to be an expert himself. "It requires incredible strength in the legs, back and abdominal muscles to hold yourself aloft for any length of time."
The man beside him shrugs, then the glint in his eyes turns challenging. "Are you saying I'm not strong enough to do it?" A joking flex of his thighs, which Zach has to admit do harden admirably well – just not quite as well as his own.
He bumps his shoulder against Chris', intentionally this time. "You might be." Then he turns serious for a moment, considering. "Actually, you have been able to balance securely in relevé without any problems. And learning how to do everything while en pointe will continue your practice of form and motion."
"See?" Chris crows, his eyes glistening in triumph. "No reason not to teach me, right?"
Shaking his head in wonder, again, at this man, Zach can't help the smile that lights his face. Then he leaps to his feet and – grabbing Chris' hand – brings him down to the shoe fitter in answer. They spend the remainder of the afternoon together, getting the supplies and explaining to Chris how to prepare his shoes so that he will be ready to begin pointe work in the morning.
The next morning, instead of a whirlwind flying through the studio door, there is a subdued breeze. Zach has his heel up on the barre, stretched forward over it in a warm up, and has to lift his head to witness the arrival.
His brain literally stops all function, as his eyes take in the sight. It's Chris, always Chris – with one key difference. All the time that they've spent together, Zach hasn't seen the man in anything but those same loose sweat pants and comfy tee. He still has the tee on; but to go along with the new shoes, Zach had gotten Chris a pair of tights.
Apparently he hadn't thought of the consequences of his actions. Because the skin tight fabric clings in all the right places, highlighting Chris' thickly muscled thighs. Zach has to physically pull his eyes away from the juncture of those thighs, forcefully reminded that his own tights expose just as much.
There's a blush on Chris that flows all the way down his neck. Even so, he gives Zach a cocky grin and does a pirouette from demi-pointe. "So, what do you think?"
He gulps, his warm-ups utterly forgotten with one glimpse of that delicious ass spinning before him. Zach shakes his head to clear it, letting his leg fall back to the floor as he tries to formulate a response. Giving his lopsided smile, he settles for a version of the truth. "It suits you."
The grin he gets in response tells him he chose right, and Chris has an extra hop in his step as he drops his equipment on the bench, and then makes his way over to the barre. And takes his customary position in front of Zach, facing the mirror so he can watch himself as they practice.
Zach can't help but stare, fascinated, as Chris' ass flexes in front of him – he barely registers the fact that Chris' leg has been raised and now rests on the barre, mirroring Zach's position of just moments before. He forces his eyes to look away, meeting Chris' eyes through the mirrored glass.
Somehow, he makes it through the warm-ups, but he is mostly in a daze as he tries desperately to keep his eyes at chest level or above. There would be nothing worse than Chris catching him looking, even though the peeks that Zach hasn't been able to avoid will be fuel to feed his fantasies for years.
It gets easier when the warm-ups are completed, and they are facing each other once again. His eyes are easily on Chris' face as he watches the other man roll his shoulders. It's obvious the blonde is excited to start, and the mood is contagious – Zach can't help the smile that crooks one corner of his mouth.
"Okay," he begins, settling into first position, one hand resting lightly on the barre. "You already know how to perform a elevé to demi-pointe, and the first step in learning en pointe is to carry it that one step further." As he speaks, he rises in demonstration. His upper body appears to keep perfectly still, as his feet rise of their own accord – he stops when he's in demi-pointe, balanced easily on the balls of his feet with his heels suspended off the floor.
Chris nods in understanding, a smile of anticipation on his face as he also rises. His elevé is not as smooth as Zach's, but it's strong. Once there, his eyes meet Zach's expectantly.
With a smile, Zach continues. "Then from here, you will simply want to roll further –" and he demonstrates, slowing down the process so Chris' intent eyes can pick up the entire movement. Not that there's much to it, at least that would be visible to the eye. "The most important part is actually your posture – you must be pulled up to keep as much weight as possible off your toes."
His hand firmly holding the barre, Chris tries the little roll that's necessary to shift himself to en pointe. Zach can tell he achieves it for the barest moment before his feet collapse beneath him, and he falls back to flat feet with a curse.
A hand reaches out, of its own volition, and his fingertips brush against Chris' shoulder in response to the sharp flashing in the other man's eyes. The anticipation is still there, but hidden behind that spark of rekindled determination. Zach grins as he meets those bright blue eyes, and nods in understanding – it's a lot harder than it looks, and now Chris knows.
"Again," Zach says, his voice full of command.
"I have a surprise for you," Zach tells Chris, as he watches the other man move through one of the basic routines he'd been taught. Chris finishes his Sissonne and freezes in place, looking over his shoulder at Zach with a curious raise of his eyebrow.
A half-smile on his lips, Zach tries to ignore the longing that shoots through him whenever he looks at the blonde. He can't have, will never have, and Chris will be gone in a couple of weeks and hopefully the torture will stop once they are no longer in contact. "You've got all the basics down, you're more than ready to play a convincing ballet dancer in your film – what would you say to having a little fun before you go?"
There's a pause for a heartbeat, as something Zach can't quite interpret flashes through Chris' eyes. And then the blonde nods, dropping out of the steps of the routine and into first position. "What did you have in mind?"
Zach can feel his eyes narrowing, as he tries to piece together what was behind that expression, and fails. He walks up to Chris, stopping a comfortable distance apart, and grins at the other man. "How about learning a partner's routine?"
The grin plastered on Chris' face is huge, and it makes the effort Zach went through well worth it. He'd called in that favor Julianne owed him for messing up his shoulder weeks ago, but he knows he's not going to regret it. Especially after Chris, in his excitement, executes a tight pirouette – that ends with his hands firmly grasping Zach's upper arms, and all Zach can see is blue eyes.
But while he might be unable to think after Chris' unexpected actions, the blonde certainly doesn't have any problem with the proximity. "You really mean it? I'm ready to start partnering?"
"Definitely," he says in reply, and those hands fall away, Zach's skin tingling after the brief contact. "The piece I have in mind is something from the Nutcracker, and you should be able to pull off everything required."
"That's awesome!" Chris exclaims, and if anything, his grin just gets bigger.
There's a funny little flop in Zach's belly, and his smile is a reflection of Chris' enthusiasm. The man just has such passion for everything he does; it makes him a joy to be around. But Zach stops his train of thought before it can continue.
"You'll learn your part this week, then next I'll have your partner come in and you can practice moving together," he explains, as he steps, backwards, across the practice floor until he hits his mark.
As always, Zach does the first run-through slow, explaining step by step exactly what is expected of Chris. It's the most basic of the dances with partners, something that first year students are able to accomplish.
And even though most of his attention is focused on the movements of his body and his detailed explanation, he can't help but be aware of bright blue eyes watching him intently.
Monday finds Zach being the one running late, for once. Internally, he curses as outwardly he laughs at a joke Julianne made as they step into the practice studio. But Zach's not really paying attention to her, instead his eyes are finding Chris – already in the studio, and Zach can instantly tell he's nervous and fidgety as Chris freezes in his warm-ups at the barre.
Smiling reassuringly at Chris, Zach lays a hand on Julianne's shoulder and draws her forward. "Chris, I want you to meet Julianne," he says by way of introduction. "She's the student that was responsible for my shoulder injury when you first arrived."
Two eyebrows rise, as Chris' eyes shift from meeting Zach's to admiring the slim woman beside him. Zach can't help the bite of jealousy that rushes through him at the appreciative length of that gaze. He can't deny that Julianne is attractive – if you're into girls – with her willowy form, and the long hair that's more blonde than Chris'. It's even worse when Julianne shoots him a biting look, then gives Chris her cherubic smile, extending a small hand.
"One slip up, and he still can't stop teasing me about it," she comments with a tinkling laugh. Her response has Chris relaxing immediately, and he has on his winning smile as he shakes her hand.
"Don't worry," Chris replies, "I won't let it influence me. You're obviously well skilled, if he was giving you a private lesson in lifts. I'm honored to have you as a partner."
The young ballerina dimples prettily at the compliment, and Zach has to hold back another bristle. This is going to be more trying than he thought.
His eyes are critical, watching the pair go through their routine. Zach's focus is on catching any slight hesitations, any missed steps that throw either of them off the beat. In the week that they've been practicing, both Chris and Julianne have been responsible for bungles that end up in one or both landing on the floor.
But not this time. The two are finally, finally in sync, and Zach can feel a grin threatening as he holds his breath. They might actually pull it off, and he doesn't want to distract them. For once, it's easy to keep his attention on the whole of what's happening – instead of watching Chris' face, or trying not to glare daggers at Chris' hands on her hips.
He's tried to shove down his irrational jealousy, but it's not worked very well. The only thing he can be grateful for is that he's been able to keep his feelings inside, instead of making things between the three of them awkward. And what's helped is that both Chris and Julianne seem content not to take it beyond harmless flirting. Nothing outside of these doors, nor any indication that either wants it to extend further. But Zach can't help if his heart clenches every time his two pupils flirt – no matter how many times he tells himself it's irrational to wish that Chris would treat him that way.
The music swells, reaching its crescendo, and then plummets to the bittersweet chords of the finish. The dance ends with Chris supporting Julianne's prone body, her arms falling gracefully over her head in "death." Zach jumps up from the bench with a cheer, his fist in the air as he rushes forward.
Chris has barely enough time to pull Julianne back to a standing position before Zach arrives at the pair, and envelopes both of them in a hug. In his happiness, Zach places a kiss on Julianne's forehead – and is turning to give Chris one as well, when his brain kicks back into gear and he realizes what he's doing and to whom.
A pause for a heartbeat, before he settles on giving them both an extra squeeze inside, and then Zach releases his pupils and steps back. "That was perfect! Just perfect!" His heart is still beating crazily at the thought of what he was about to do, and he's floored by the huge grin Chris gives him. But there are questions in Chris' eyes that Zach tries to ignore.
"That was…" the actor begins, and then stumbles at a loss for words. His grin turns into something pleased as he continues and his eyes lose their questions in favor of warmth, "Perfect."
Julianne giggles, and in that moment Zach can't be angry at her anymore. "Of course, silly!" Then she pushes against his arm mischievously – like a little sister, no longer flirting but more as family. "I told you you'd get there eventually!"
Instead of answering, Chris sticks his tongue out at the slim girl, causing Zach to smile despite himself. Shaking his head in amusement, he claps Chris on the shoulder.
"Again!" he says, pushing the blonde gently towards his mark.
He's sitting on the bench, watching Chris go through some of the steps in the routine by himself. Julianne is back in her regular classes, and it's just the two of them today. Chris is graceful, now, flowing from step to step with confidence. It amazes Zach, if he stops to think about it, how much the man has learned in only three months.
And it chokes him up, when he thinks their time together is over. This was the last time that Chris will barrel through the practice room door, just this side of being late with an apology on the tip of his tongue. The last time he'll see those brilliant blue eyes, at all, much less flashing with triumph as he gets a movement that was causing him special frustration. And it saddens Zach more than even he expected it to.
The man before him stops his pirouette with a sigh, and walks over to stand before Zach. A moment's hesitation, before a hand is extended before him, palm out – expectant. Zach looks up into blue eyes with confusion in his own, raising an eyebrow in question.
"You know the ballerina's part, right?"
He nods, and accepts the hand – is pulled lightly to his feet with no effort on Chris' part. The blonde goes and restarts the song, meeting Zach in the center of the floor in their starting positions.
Then the music begins, and there's no time for thinking. There are just the steps, the music and the breathing. But Chris' hands, when they join together for a spin or a lift, are gentle and tender – almost reverent. In a way they never were when he and Julianne were going through the steps. They bring tears to Zach's eyes, tears he tries to ignore as he focuses on the steps of the dance. But he can't help wishing he could communicate with just touch alone.
A spin, and then Chris' strong arms are around his waist, dipping him down as Zach's hands flow forward dramatically as the music ends around them. They both hold the position afterwards, breathing hard from the exertion – Chris' breath tickling against Zach's collarbone.
Folding his hands back up in one graceful movement, Zach wraps them around Chris' neck – expecting to be pulled up to a standing position, and released. Instead, when he lifts his head from the dip, he finds himself staring into two unguarded blue eyes.
"May I touch you?" Chris asks, those eyes urgent and asking something Zach never expected to hear.
He swallows, then answers. "You already are."
Chris head falls forward to rest on Zach's shoulder, and Zach can feel the vibrations of his laughter through the chest brushing against his. Then a mumbled, "Why the hell not…"
And one of the hands supporting him shifts, leaving the small of his back to rest against his cheek, brush through his hair. At the same time, soft lips against his in the faintest of touches. Zach feels like his heart's going to stop at the softness of it all, the tenderness that he never expected, and he returns the kiss without any hesitance.
His bottom lip is captured and suckled, then their tongues twine in a long, slow dance. There's no urgency to the kiss, even though Zach would expect there to be. They take their time to explore each other, learn each other, and Zach can't help but moan as his fingers move from Chris' neck to twine in his hair. After a moment that seems to last forever they separate, and Chris' forehead rests against his as they try to regain their breath.
Zach can feel a smile on his lips, even as a question escapes. "How did you know?"
He watches, mesmerized, as Chris' eyes dart down to watch his lips move. And then the hand supporting his hip gives a squeeze, the other covering Zach's where it's buried in Chris' hair. And Chris' eyes are back on his, and Zach can literally see the blonde drink in the sight of him. It makes his heart tighten in his chest. "Your hands. The way you touched me. I always hoped, but… I could never be sure, you know? Not until I saw you with Julianne. When you touched her, there was gentleness there, sure, but…" and here Chris' eyes glance away as a blush stains his cheeks. "But it wasn't the way you touch me."
Leaning up, Zach places a tender kiss on the corner of those delicious lips. "No, it's not."
Chris' smile is hidden as he buries his head in the crook of Zach's shoulder. There's silence for a moment, and then Zach feels a nose nuzzling against his neck. A heartbeat later, and he's being pulled to his feet in one swift motion – a motion that ends with both of them standing, pressed together from thigh to chest.
"Does that mean you'll have dinner with me tonight?" Chris asks, his eyes focused on Zach's lips again as he waits for his answer.
He laughs at the question, letting his hands fall to rest gently on Chris' hips. The movement causes Chris to groan, and the hand on Zach's waist pulls him even closer – and his eyes fall closed as they grind together. His lip slides between his teeth as he holds back an answering moan, and Zach surprises himself with his reply. "Only if we end up at either your place or mine afterwards."
Chris' lips on his again, and the kiss is just deep enough to leave him breathless. "I think that can be arranged."