candygramme: (Jensen It's okay)
[personal profile] candygramme

“Oh, God, do they let just anyone audition these days?” The tall, slender teen who spoke was pitching his comment to be overheard by the young man a couple of spots in front of him, and it was obvious his comments had been registered. The other didn’t acknowledge the speaker verbally; he merely did a complicated twist and spin, grabbed his crotch in a pointed way and then turned back to wait, laughing with his friends and apparently completely unruffled. Jared sighed. The guy was a thorn in his side. They'd come up against each other earlier in the year in one of the local competitions, and Jared had been furious that the other had walked off with the grand prize. Admittedly, Jared didn't need the money, but that wasn't the point, was it?

They’d been waiting for hours under the Texan sun, and people were starting to droop, wondering when they would ever get to go inside and perform. Several kids had given up and left, but there were still hundreds waiting for their chance to show what they could do. Austin in June was oppressively hot, and it was already noon. Some of the hopefuls had been there since the night before.

The young man who had spoken fumbled in his sports bag and pulled out a bottle of water, taking a sip from it before offering the bottle to his companion, an older man, who waved it away. “No thanks, Jared, and you shouldn’t drink much of it either. I know it’s hot, but too much at once will make you heavy on your feet, and you don’t want that, today of all days.”

The kid, Jared, nodded and tucked it back in the bag. “Won’t be good for much if I have heat stroke though, Jeff,” he grumbled.

It was fortunate that at that moment a cheer went up from the huge crowd gathered around the lineup, and they all slowly started to move. As Jared watched, the ragamuffin kid he’d commented on a few minutes earlier gave a whoop and did a couple of somersaults as he headed along the sidewalk towards the theater and the welcoming shade.

“Showoff,” Jared muttered. “It takes technique as well as tricks to get onto a show like ‘Born To Dance.’”

Once inside, the dancers who were going to audition handed over their paperwork, received their numbers and were led to a waiting area. Jared’s companion wished him the best of luck and took his leave to go sit in the auditorium, and, for the first time, Jared felt the beginnings of jitters in his belly. In the row to his left, the kid he’d been needling was hugging a youngster in her teens. “Okay, short-stuff, go sit in the theater and wait for the best performance ever. It won’t be long now.”

“I am not short,” she grumbled. Then she flung her arms around his neck and gave him a smacking kiss on his cheek, hauling herself up onto her tiptoes to reach, while he made gagging noises and muttered about girl-spit being poisonous. “You don’t deserve me to wish you good luck,” she said, adding, “And anyway, Mom said I was to tell you to break a leg and she wished she was able to come, so break a leg, bro, but not really, okay?”

Laughing, he watched her saunter away and then settled back into his seat, limbs loosely draped, looking supremely relaxed. Jared wasn’t sure why, but Scruffy’s very presence irritated him. He looked so at ease, while Jared was feeling utterly queasy with nerves. Not only that, but he was dressed in rags, his tee had the arms ripped off it, and his jeans were so threadbare he could glimpse skin, while the grubby cap he wore announced that he was a Mavericks supporter. That in itself made Jared want to rip it from him and stomp it. Everyone knew that the Spurs could beat the Mavs with their laces tied together.

The scruffy young man suddenly turned his gaze on Jared and caught him staring. He could only drop his scrutiny and pretend that he wasn’t really there. Absently picking at an imagined spot on his pristine designer jeans, Jared tried to look as if he hadn’t been checking him out.

One by one, the hopeful dancers were called in to strut their stuff in front of the judges. It was amazing how rapid the turnover was. Each of the dancers went in — and then emerged just a couple of minutes later, either dejected or elated, depending on how good their performance had been. It seemed that there were only a handful that had received their golden ticket to go to Los Angeles for the weeding out process, and already his row was beginning to move forward, one by one filing into the auditorium to be judged. Jared fumbled for his music, found the disk and clutched it tightly in one sweaty fist, nerves at full stretch now as the scruffy kid with the Mavs cap moved forward in front of him, ready for his fifteen seconds of fame.

Jared was almost at the doors to the stage area when he heard the familiar whoop and Scruffy came rushing out waving his ticket. “Yes!” He punched the air, and a couple of other guys set up a cheer as they crowded in to high-five him and ruffle his hair. Their attentions ended up dislodging the offending ball cap and causing Scruffy to protest, while Jared huffed impatiently and curled his lip. As far as he was concerned, it would be a distinct improvement if they took it away and burned it.

As the little group walked away, he could see the girl who’d waited with Scruffy come running up to screech and hurl herself at him, almost knocking him back down onto his ass. “You did it! You did it! You’re gonna be so famous. I filmed it all on my phone, so Mom can see it when we get home.”

“Jeez, take it easy, Mack. You’re not a lightweight anymore, in fact I bet that’s why Mom and Dad called you Mack. You’re like one of those damned trucks, and you came pretty close to taking out my family jewels with your left knee.”

“Are you trying to tell me you think I’m fat?” The girl, fairly obviously by now Scruffy’s sister, reared up to her full height, bristling at him.

“Nope! Not at all, no way.” Scruffy was laughing as he backed down the hallway, just out of reach of her jabbing finger. “Just that you’re built like a Mack truck, that’s all.”

Still straining his ears to learn what Scruffy’s name was, Jared almost followed them, but, just then, he was called in to do his presentation and saw no more of them.

As he made his way down the corridor to the backstage area, one of the PAs took his music and whispered ‘good luck,’ then Jared was ushered to the wings where he watched the final moments of a young woman’s performance. She was doing a Latin American dance, and to Jared, she looked as though she was holding her torso too stiffly. He nodded wisely as he heard the judges commenting on that and giving her advice about letting herself relax. He hadn’t had much experience with ballroom, but he knew what it should look like. The girl left the stage, looking dazed but not too terribly unhappy. They’d told her to keep working and come back next year, so he guessed she would keep trying.


Taking a deep breath, Jared walked out onto the stage. His hands were sweaty, his belly was doing flips, and he could feel his knees tremble, but he devoutly hoped that the judges out there beyond the lights that prevented him from seeing the audience wouldn’t be able to tell.

“Tell us about yourself.” Bright lights meant that Jared couldn't see the speaker, although he'd been watching the show for years and knew instantly who the voice belonged to.

“Uh...” Jared wished he’d at least had one more sip of water. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth, and he swallowed a couple of times before he managed to respond. “I… I’m Jared Padalecki, and I’m a ballet major, but I love all forms of dance.”

“How long have you been dancing?”

He knew that the answers to these questions were on the form he’d filled out when he’d received his registration number, so it was obvious that the judges had been primed, but by now he was starting to feel a teeny bit more at ease. He thanked them mentally for not making him jump straight into his routine and guessed that they knew how nervous all the candidates would be.

“All my life, I think. I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to dance.”

“What are you going to dance for us today?”

“I... I thought I would like to show you my attempt at the Dying Swan. I’m a huge fan of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, but this is more from the original choreography.” He knew he was babbling and closed his mouth with a snap, hoping he hadn’t annoyed them too much with what suddenly seemed to be way too much like a lecture.

“Sounds great.” The voice didn’t sound annoyed, so there was that. “And cue music!”

Jared nodded, took a deep breath and sank down into his starting position. As the music he’d brought began to play, all nerves, all fear left him. He became the Swan, his body portraying the death of the creature that had loved and then been betrayed.

“Thank you.”

The music stopped abruptly, and Jared shook himself out of the zone, slowly remembering where he was, and moving forward to the edge of the stage to face judgment.

“I don’t think we need to see any more. What do you others think?”

“Come and get your ticket.” A woman’s voice this time. “That was utterly beautiful.”

Jared nodded, smiled and tried to say thank you, but at first nothing would come, so he pressed his palms together and bowed. Finally, he just left the stage and came down the steps to the side. He could see the judges now, all of them smiling at him reassuringly, and he finally found his voice. “Thank you so much,” he murmured as he took his plane ticket from the woman who was holding it out to him. “It’s been my dream for the longest time.”

There were brief, encouraging words, and then as the next candidate stepped onto the stage, Jared went back behind the stage to gather up his belongings and leave. As he was leaving the theater to drive back to Dallas and his room at the Morgan School of Dance, he reviewed the day. He’d done it. He was going to be a contestant on ‘Born to Dance,’ and what’s more, he was going to win it. The only fly in the ointment as far as he could see was the scruffy Mavericks supporter, and he’d have to be on his best game to beat him. It wasn’t the first time the two of them had gone up against each other, but this time it wasn't for some local dance contest. This was a national TV show, and Jared knew that this time he was going to win.

Jensen’s elation at making the cut for ‘Born to Dance’ faded swiftly in the face of everyday life. The show might be his (and his family’s) salvation, but callbacks wouldn’t be for another six weeks. In the meantime, he had to make his prize money from the last dance battle cover food for all of them, and his mom’s meds, until he could find a way to bring in more cash. Mackenzie helped as much as she could, but Jensen would be damned if he’d let her sacrifice her future. She did bring in money by tutoring other kids and somehow or other almost always managed to bring food home from the lessons. They just had to hold on for six weeks, until his stipend from the show started.

It was dark and the streets were deserted when Jensen went to work in the mornings. He never had been a morning person, but he did what he had to do. Fresh baked bread required someone to bake it, and although Jensen was pleased Mr. Beaver trusted him to do it, he wished it didn’t have to be at 4:30 in the morning. He was still half asleep and gulping down coffee as he combined the flour and water and set it aside to autolyse while he checked the board. The only special orders were a couple of cakes and a couple of dozen cupcakes, so he quickly mixed up the batters and got them in the oven before turning back to his bread dough.

The cakes were cooling, and a fresh pot of coffee was brewing by the time Mr. Beaver got in. Jensen covered the last batch of dough and set it aside to rise before joining Mr. Beaver at the small table in the corner. They chatted about the day to come as Mr. Beaver drank his coffee and Jensen tucked into the divine-smelling omelet Mrs. Beaver had sent for his breakfast.

“You have a birthday cake, a retirement cake and 2 dozen cupcakes for a kid’s birthday,” Jensen gestured with his fork to the cooling cakes.

“Thanks,” Mr. Beaver moaned in appreciation as he took a sip of his coffee. “I don’t know why it never tastes this good when I make it.”

Jensen shrugged off the praise and turned his attention back to his omelet. Mr. Beaver, as usual, ignored his silence and drank his coffee. Jensen enjoyed this time of day, still early and quiet without leaving him in his head too much the way the early mornings could. He finished off the omelet and checked on his dough, folding it a few times to encourage the gluten to develop. By the time he had the loaves in the fridge for their final proof, Mr. Beaver was slicing the tops off of the cakes to make nice even layers.

“The missus made those lemon bars your mom likes so much,” Mr. Beaver said as grabbed his jacket. “She packed some up for you to take. Don’t forget them.”

“Thank her for me, okay?” Jensen was grateful to the Beavers. He’d worked in the bakery for years, but since the accident, the older couple had really taken him under their wing. They’d even gotten his mom into a trial program that combined physical, speech and occupational therapies with experimental medication that really seemed to be helping. Her speech was noticeably better already and it had only been a few months. After over two years with little change, her progress was exciting.

Jensen carefully stashed the packet of pastry in his knapsack and headed home. The bell jingled as he made his way out into the street. It was still early, with the sun not yet peeking over the horizon, and he found his eyes drifting to the dance studio across the street, wondering if anyone would be training yet. It wasn’t the first time he’d envied the students who got to study there, and definitely not the first time he’d involuntarily paused to watch the ballet boy dance. He'd seen him at the 'Dallas Dance' contest on the previous Labor Day weekend, and wanted so badly to go and speak to him, but the malevolent glare he'd received had made him think better of that idea and make himself scarce. Still, Jensen loved to watch him, and not just because he was the hottest guy Jensen had ever seen — an impression that had only increased after he’d actually interacted with him at the audition the week before, even if it had all been negative — but because his dancing was just beautiful. As much as he might make fun of the stage dancers, he couldn’t deny the sheer elegance and seemingly effortless grace and artistry. Especially when it was the boy he’d come to think of as Nureyev — thank his mom for that one — performing.

He shook himself out of his reverie and continued on his way. He didn’t have time to dawdle or his mom would be late for therapy.

After a quick status meeting with his mom’s care coordinator, he left her to it. One of the occupational therapy technicians would bring her home and get her settled. It wasn’t really the tech’s job, but he and the whole care team helped out however they could.

He determinedly ignored the dance studio on his way back to the bakery. He needed to focus on his goals, not moon over some boy who probably didn’t know his name. Not that he knew the boy’s name either, but that wasn’t the point. When he got back, his bread needed a few more minutes, so he washed up the dishes and put the cupcakes and the cake Mr. Beaver had finished in the display case. Then he popped the bread into the preheated oven and restocked the front. Mr. Beaver had handled the few morning customers while Jensen was gone, but now that he was back, he made sure to handle everything, so that Mr. Beaver could focus on decorating the last cake. The bell dinged to admit a few regulars, who came in just as the bread was coming out of the oven. Jensen was pleased to see that this batch was evidently just as good as they’d come to expect. The day continued in this fashion, with lunch coming and going and then the schoolgirl Mr. Beaver had hired to work the counter helped with the mid-afternoon rush.

The rhythm was familiar to Jensen, and he found his mind wandering again, remembering how Jared was dancing near the window of the dance school. He was lost in thought, imagining what it might be like with music when Mr. Beaver interrupted him to ask if he’d take the bank deposit. Jensen checked his watch and realized his shift was supposed to be over twenty minutes ago, and sure enough, the line at the counter was completely gone. As he was cleaning up, Mr. Beaver pointed out a big smudge of flour that he’d obviously missed before he took his mom to therapy. Jensen grinned sheepishly and washed it off, dusting his hair out as well for good measure.

“Make sure you get pretty for that boy of yours,” Mr. Beaver teased. He’d noticed the way Jensen’s eyes were so often drawn to the studio across the street.

Jensen protested softly, “He’s not my boy.” And probably doesn’t even know I exist, he continued silently.

“Jensen’s always pretty,” Amber, the counter help, teased.

Jensen blushed and ducked his head, grabbing the bank deposit and his boom box before heading toward the mall in lieu of an answer. Hopefully he’d have a good night and a hat full of tips to pad his contingency fund with.

The alarm shrilled, heart-stopping pitch designed to awaken the dead. It certainly woke Jared, bringing him upright and out of the dream where he was... As usual, it had slipped away from him in that couple of seconds between sleep and consciousness. It had been nice, but it had already faded, leaving Jared muzzy and confused, cursing the dawn.

Grumbling, he stumbled from his room to the bathroom, where he took care of getting himself ready for the day. Fumbling himself into his practice clothes, he crept to the kitchen, hoping he was early enough that he could snag a piece of toast and a coffee before Jeff found him and dragged him off to the studio.

It was not to be. He was reaching for the coffee pot when the hand fell on his shoulder, and he found Jeff glowering at him.

“That will dehydrate you,” growled his mentor. “What are the first two symptoms of dehydration?”

Jared sighed. “Fatigue and loss of balance,” he replied, giving in and turning away to fill a cup with water.

“That’s right, and don’t you forget it.” Jeff pointed to the table where a dish of oatmeal and a plate of tuna was set out ready for him. “Just because you’re getting to have your fifteen minutes of fame doesn’t mean that you can screw up your training. If you want to be a dancer, you’re going to need to learn responsibility. You’ve only got one body, and I’m trying to make it into a dancer.”

The glass of milk beside the plate was soymilk, of course it was, and Jared hated the stuff almost as much as he despised tuna.

“If I have to eat protein in this quantity at breakfast, can’t I at least have a steak?” He knew the answer to that even though he was whining. It felt like he’d given up everything that was even slightly enjoyable when he’d moved to Dallas to really accelerate his training.

“Steak isn’t as easy to digest. You know that, Mr. Wannabe TV Star.” Jeff’s growl was no more than he’d expected.

Jared knew that Jeff hadn’t wanted him to enter ‘Born to Dance’ and that he was still angry that Jared had done so, even now, a couple of weeks later. He thought Jeff had secretly been hoping he’d fail, and that he was now driving Jared hard to punish him. He didn’t care. He was going to go on that show, and he was going to win it. Once he won, it would show everyone that he was someone worth knowing. Maybe his parents would come and see him dance. Maybe they would praise him. He’d like that.

He was hungry, and it didn’t take long before his tasteless meal was a memory. Refilling his water bottle, he went off to stretch and get ready for the practice session that would take up most of his morning.

Stretches over, he frowned at his ankle. It didn’t matter what he did, the Achilles tendon on his right leg was sore, and he knew that he had to get it treated right away, or he would end up being sidelined, just when he was finally making progress in his life.

Poking his head into Jeff’s office, he asked for someone to check it out and then sat, stoic and fatalistic, as he received an anti-inflammatory shot into the tendon. “Go spend a half hour in the sauna before practice, and afterwards we’ll ice it, okay?” Jeff was gruff as he spoke, but Jared knew that it was business as usual. Dancers were always flirting with the edge of pain. No dancer of any real talent was ever injury free. That was written in the dancer’s handbook as Rule 2 of the dance, with Rule 1 being to take it, suck it up and not make a fuss about it.

A spell in the sauna was not a hardship. Jared relaxed onto one of the benches, nodded hi to Damien, one of the junior class members, another resident at the school who was the sauna’s only other occupant, then closed his eyes and let himself sink into a reverie. He was always prone to sweating, and it wasn’t long before he was bathed in sweat, thirsty and ready to leave the fierce heat, wistfully thinking how nice it would be to go plunge into the pool that was alongside the sauna. That would have to wait until after practice, because his muscles were loose now and ready. The pool would destroy all the hard work he’d put into his stretches, so he contented himself with running his head and neck under the cold tap in the bathroom, and then headed up the stairs to the studio.

Exercises came first — practiced over and over until he could do them in his sleep. Today, Jeff was finding fault with everything he did, tapping his calf with his cane when he wasn’t satisfied with an arabesque, whacking his butt and yelling for him to keep it in during a plié and generally goading Jared to repeat the set over and over.

Jared sank into his zone and let the steps take him where they would, body lean and graceful, every line perfect from head to toe, until at last Jeff pronounced himself satisfied and permitted him to work on his routine for the show, complaining that he supposed if Jared was going to be a star, he’d damned well better do credit to his teaching.

The litany of complaint faded into the background as Jared saw the kid he’d decided was his rival emerge from the bakery across the street and make his way along the sidewalk towards some unknown destination, his head down and shoulders hunched in a way that would have had Jeff using that cane of his in earnest. Jared knew that the workday hadn’t ended, and idly wondered where he was going. Wherever it was, he still had that regrettable Mavericks cap on, and Jared would forever judge him for that.

Sometime later, Jared was in the process of winding down, gentle stretches and a jug of chocolate milk in his hand, he saw the kid return, jaunty now, no slouch in his step, and that was interesting in and of itself. Jeff noticed him watching and smirked. “Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that kid dance. Sloppy footwork. Thinks he can disguise lack of technique with tricks, but I see it, and he’d never pass muster in my school.”

Nodding, Jared headed back down the stairs for his lunch, praying that it wasn’t tuna again.

As it happened, lunch was pasta, and quite delicious. He was just clearing his plate for the second time when his phone rang. It turned out to be his father calling to tell him not to forget about his mother’s birthday later in the week. Once he’d delivered the order, he rang off without letting Jared speak, and Jared was suddenly back to reality. Sighing, he shoved his chair back, took his empty dishes to the sink and headed off to get his tendon iced.

It was towards the end of his afternoon practice when he saw the kid, who he’d decided to call Maverick, head out for the afternoon, this time in the direction of the mall that was at the end of the street. That reminded him that he had to buy something for his mother, although he had no idea what. As far as he knew, she had everything she could ever want in triplicate with gold leaf on it. He’d find something — he always did — but the idea seemed foolish to him.

A smack on the back of the head with the cane told him that he was daydreaming again, and shaking himself, he reapplied himself to his pas de chat, earning a grudging word of praise from Jeff. Male ballet dancers didn’t usually dance en pointe, but Jeff had felt that it would give Jared discipline to learn. He was doing well, he knew, but at the end of each session his toes would be bloody and bruised. He told himself he was lucky and that if he’d been a girl, this would’ve been his fate rather than an exercise he could put behind him sooner rather than later.

Later, limbs rubbery, showered and dressed in street clothes, Jared headed toward the mall on his own account, telling himself that he had to find his mother the perfect gift, and that he wasn’t just going to size up the opposition. As he reached the area in front of the mall, where the street dancers tended to congregate, he could see that they had gathered quite an audience. Maverick wasn’t dancing at that moment, and Jared could see him sitting on the steps up to the Mall entrance, chatting with one of the other guys there, face alight with laughter, for once his lamentable hat on the ground beside him rather than on top of his tousled head.

The younger kid finished his performance to a ripple of applause and coins being tossed, and one of the other kids called out to Maverick. “Your turn now, ace. Get up there and show us how it’s done.”

Still chuckling, Maverick rose to his feet and took a couple of steps towards the center of the plaza. Jared stopped, unashamedly staring at the other man as he took a breath and began to dance. He was a tornado of restless energy, whirling, leaping and spinning, his face joyful as he went through a routine that took Jared’s breath away. True, he didn’t point his toes, and sometimes he didn’t straighten his extended leg, but he was funny. His pretend pratfalls and mimed, larger than life gestures that were intended to convey the fact that he was overcome by beauty as a pretty girl tossed a few dollars into the hat soon had others contributing. By the time his dance reached its conclusion and he took a bow, he had quite the collection of cash spilling out over the sides. Scooping it all together, he thrust it into his pocket and bowed once more before picking up his backpack and heading out with a quick kiss, a leer and a smack on the ass for the pretty redhead in his group.

Jared watched him go, jittery, warm yet shivery and unused to the way that Maverick’s performance had made him feel. It was a long time before he went into the mall to find something for his mother that she might not despise.

Jensen didn’t often have trouble falling asleep at night. Usually he was so tired from his long days filled with constant activity, not to mention hard work, that he fell asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow. But tonight his head was full images of long limbs with perfectly clean lines gliding through unbelievably intricate movements with exceptional grace. Even Nureyev in his prime couldn’t hold a candle to him, and his mom had convinced Jensen that Nureyev was the greatest ballet dancer of all time. Confidence wasn’t a thing he often struggled with, but every once in a while, doubt crept in. The knowledge that most of the dancers who would be on ‘Born to Dance’ will have been training all their lives was intimidating if he let himself dwell on it. What on earth made him think he could possibly compete with them, with him?

Before he got too down on himself, he found himself remembering the look on the tall ballet dancer’s face as he’d spotted him lurking at the back of the crowd this afternoon, watching him dance. He was certain that had been respect and admiration in his eyes. On the heels of that, Jensen’s thoughts returned to the strength and beauty of the dance he’d seen that morning in the studio across from the bakery. He’d never had any illusions of his own sexuality, knowing from an early age what got his heart pumping. But thinking of his soon to be competitor that way was just inappropriate. And thinking about those strong limbs twined with his own, doubly so. Besides, he needed to get his sleep; he had bread to bake in the morning. But obviously his mind had other ideas. At this rate, he’d never get to sleep. Sighing with resignation, he reached his hand into his shorts and let his thoughts roam free.

The weeks passed quickly. Jensen’s mom made extremely slow, but steady, progress. She hardly ever used her wheelchair anymore, the walker providing enough support and a bench to sit on when she got tired. She always had been his biggest fan, and she was bursting with pride that he’d gotten on the show. He was worried about how they’d get along without him, but he’d done all he could to make sure they were prepared for anything. Besides, Danneel and the rest of his crew would keep an eye on things while he was gone. He knew that the Beavers would as well.

Nervous excitement pooled in his stomach as he put the last of his toiletries in his duffle. He had just finished latching his suitcase when Danneel bounded into his room. Danneel was the redhead who hung out with the crew, although she refused to dance in public. The two of them had known each other since pre-school, and she was the only one he'd ever confided in about his sexuality. Recently she'd let him use her as a diversion, "At least until Mr. Right came along." She'd come to take him to the airport, and she seemed just as excited as he was.

"Come on!" She slung Jensen's duffel over her shoulder while he grabbed the old, battered case. He hoped the thing made it there without popping open and strewing his clothing all over the plane. Or even the airport. He kissed his mom and sister goodbye, ignoring Mack’s surreptitious attempt to wipe away tears she’d never admit to shedding.

The butterflies had only increased by the time they reached the airport. Danneel parked her rusty old Civic and accompanied him to the terminal, inconspicuously guiding him through the unfamiliar process of getting himself and his antiquated suitcase checked in. He extracted yet another promise from her to keep an eye on his family and to let him know immediately if anything happened. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Danneel cry, but he could see the tears threatening as she hugged him tightly. She was still standing there watching him when he got through security, so he sent a wave and a smile her way and made his way toward his gate, carefully following the signs.

The Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is a creature with a life of its own. No matter what the hour, it’s packed with people scurrying to where they need to go. Jared knew the airport well and made his way towards Terminal A as soon as he’d checked in. There was, of course, nobody waiting to see him off, and he hadn’t expected it. Jeff had a class to teach, so Jared had taken a cab.

Golf carts driven by airport personnel with apparently murderous intent zipped by him as he strolled to his destination, and all around him there were people, most of them dragging roller bags and all of them getting in his way. Deftly avoiding a family of five with two screaming youngsters and a very sullen looking teenager, Jared climbed aboard the rolling walkway and headed towards his gate, arriving just as the pre-boarding call was announced.

There were already people boarding — a woman with a sleeping infant, an old couple who seemed very slow and unsteady on their feet. Jared shuddered. He would make sure he never got to that level of physical decrepitude. A couple of suited business types filtered through the first class barrier, and then the flight attendant began calling the coach classes for boarding by row.

He checked his boarding card. He was in row 18 and wouldn’t be boarding for a while yet. Idly, he hoped that he would fit into the cramped seats of economy class for what he knew was a three and a half hour flight.

Finally, he heard his row being called and hastened to be first to go on board. His seat was in 18B and in the middle of a bank of three. Sighing, he stowed his carry on and stood between the seats waiting to find out who would be his seatmates.

He was watching a flight attendant as he helped a young girl settle into her seat, and a deep voice behind him made him jump.

“Excuse me. I think I’ve got the inside seat there.” Turning swiftly, he found himself eye to eye with the guy he’d christened Maverick.

Wordlessly stepping out into the aisle, he watched the other man squeeze into the allotted space and smirked to himself as he realized that he was also going to find the journey rather cramped. As others filed in to take their seats, he prayed that the aisle seat would remain empty, but sadly that was not to be. A small, dark haired girl with a wide smile took her seat beside him, and he resigned himself to discomfort for the next few hours.

Maverick was tapping his fingers, and his knee was joggling in a way that implied that he might be nervous. Turning to look at him, Jared could see the beads of sweat standing out on his forehead, below the ubiquitous cap.

“You okay?” he asked, after deliberating for a few minutes,

“Not so much.” Maverick gave him a sickly smile. “I think I’m airsick.”

“We didn’t even leave the ground yet, man.” Jared gestured at the scene before them. Flight attendants were patrolling the aisles, checking that seat backs were upright and safety belts were fastened. “I take it you’ve never flown before.”

“No, and I don’t like it. I wouldn’t shut a tiny baby up in a space like this. It’s making me claustrophobic.”

Jared could sympathize, indeed he could, because even before they’d left the ground, he was starting to feel stiff and sore. He turned to look at his companion. Wide green eyes stared back at him from a face that was sprinkled with tiny freckles, and Jared felt a disconcerting lurch somewhere deep inside as he gazed. “It won’t be long, man,” he murmured in what he hoped was a reassuring way. Couple more hours and we’ll be there, ready to start dancing.”

The plane had begun to taxi out to the runway by this time, and Maverick gave him another tremulous smile. “I’m Jensen,” he said, holding out his hand.

“Jared,” responded Jared, taking hold and shaking it despite the clammy palm. “Although as far as I’m concerned, you’re Maverick.”

“Huh?” Jensen frowned. “Why Maverick?”

“That stupid hat,” said Jared, smirking. “Don’t you know that the Mavs pale to insignificance beside the mighty Spurs?”

“Hey, don’t be dissin’ a man’s head gear,” protested Jensen, reaching up to pull the cap off his head and stuffing it down beside him on the seat as if he thought Jared might somehow destroy it. “It’s lucky. It got me through the auditions. And besides, if you call me Maverick, I’ma call you Nureyev.”

“Yeah?” Jared thought about that for a moment. “I can live with that. But it’s the Mavs! They’re such losers!”

Jensen rolled his eyes and then jumped as the plane reached the runway and began to accelerate in earnest. “Oh, fuck!”

“It’s okay, man. You aren’t gonna die. It’s just taking off.” Jared smirked. “You didn’t think it was going to drive all the way to L.A., did you?”

“Shut up! I don’t...”

Jared could see that Jensen was turning pale and tried for a distraction. “So tell me about your dancing. I’ve seen you do your thing. Very entertaining, but you seem to use a lot of tricks and go light on the technique. How did you learn?”

“I didn’t really learn, so much as I just did it,” said Jensen, holding on to the armrest with a white knuckled grip. My mom used to love to dance, and when she was okay, we used to go watch it when we could. Can’t really afford lessons though. What do you think of when you say technique?”

“See, that’s all stuff like leg extension and knowing when to point your toes and that sort of thing. You need to learn to keep your head, shoulders and hips aligned and make sure that your arms and shoulders are kept in line when you’re dancing. It’s difficult for me to tell. Much easier to show, but not on a plane.”

“Do you think you could?” Jensen seemed to have relaxed a little, taking in Jared’s words very carefully, and his eyes flashed with excitement. “I’m gonna have to do all that shit to make it through to the top twenty, aren’t I?”

Privately, Jared didn’t think he stood much chance of making it through the week, let alone to the top twenty, but he grinned as he nodded. “Sure. I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. I’m going to have to get a grip on the stuff you do. They don’t just want classical dancers, there’s all the ballroom and hip-hop and so on. I’ve never done any of that.”

“Deal!” Jensen offered him a complicated handshake and then giggled when Jared appeared clueless. “Dude! Don’t you know the bro handshake?”

“Not part of my repertoire,” said Jared, feeling a little put out.

Jensen sighed theatrically. “Guess I’d better start there then.” He held his hand up, grabbed hold of Jared’s so that they were palm to palm and thumb to thumb. “Bros shake like this,” he said, slapping his palm against Jared’s. “It’s a sign.”

“A sign of what?” Jared frowned.

“Of belonging, man. Of being a bro.” Jensen peered at Jared dubiously. “Haven’t you been anywhere outside that studio of yours? What about your homies? Uh, your friends,” he added when Jared appeared confused.

“I... don’t... I’ve never really had time.” Jared hung his head. He was suddenly realizing how isolated he had actually been. “It never seemed to be a big deal to me. I just practice a lot, you know?”

“Well, stick with me, bro. I’ll make sure you go home educated,” said Jensen with a wink. “There’s more to life than pointing your toes, you know.”

“Now you’re starting to scare me,” said Jared, with a mock shudder. “My momma told me never to talk to strangers.”

“See, your momma was right,” said Jensen. “But it’s too late now. You’ve already drunk the Kool Aid.”

“I have not! Jeff would have a fit if I drank that stuff. I’m not allowed to put cheap food coloring into my body. It’s poison.” Jared made a face, and Jensen laughed.

“Just a figure of speech there. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” He patted Jared’s thigh and was about to say something else when the plane gave a little lurch and the pat became a grip of iron. “What the fuck was that? Did we hit something? Are we all gonna die? We’re gonna die, aren’t we? Oh, Jesus.”

“Calm down. It’s just a bit of turbulence — we’re not going to die.” Jared was doing his best to ease Jensen’s grip on him, sure that there would be bruises once he managed to get it released. Meanwhile, the little dark haired girl sitting beside them was giggling softly.

“You think this is funny?” asked Jared.

“It is funny. No doubt about it,” she said amidst chuckles, and at that, his lips began to twitch.

“I suppose it is, a little bit,” he said. “I don’t even know this dude really, but I think he just got me pregnant.”

The two of them collapsed into laughter, and Jensen looked between them, somewhat confused, which made Jared laugh even more.

“I couldn’t help hearing that you two are dancers.” The girl finally managed to achieve some composure. “Me too. I’m going to be on ‘Born to Dance.’”

“Hey, us too.” Jensen nodded. “Did you audition in Dallas?”

“Yeah. Second day.”

“We did the first day,” said Jared. “So hey, I’m Jared, and this here is Maverick.”

“Sandra,” she said. “But you can call me Sandy. I do mostly hip-hop, but some jazz and tap.”

“Wow, you’re an all-rounder,” groaned Jensen. “I just freestyle. Mostly popping, but with some locking.”


Jared didn’t have chance to say more, because Jensen broke in. “Nureyev here’s a ballerina. Wears a tutu and everything.”

“Hey!” Jared glared at Jensen, while Sandy collapsed into fits of giggles. “Don’t you be taking Nureyev’s name in vain! He was the best there has ever been.”

“Well, so are the Mavs,” retorted Jensen, sitting back in his seat with his arms folded, a smug expression on his face.

Their flight was uneventful other than Jensen’s brief panic when the plane was coming in to land, and they were soon collecting their bags from the carousel. Jensen was relieved to see that his suitcase had made it without actually bursting at the seams, and both the boys laughed when they saw Sandy’s case, which was bright pink with Minnie Mouse on it.

They made their way out of the secure zone around the gate and followed the signs to the exit, the three of them happily chatting as they went. It was Jared who spotted the man holding the sign with their names on and elbowed Jensen in the ribs.

“Looks like they got your name wrong,” he said, indicating the waiting escort.

“No. It’s right.” Jensen frowned as the three of them made their way over to him.

“Maverick starts with an M, not a J.”

“Shut up!”

The waiting man crumpled up his sign and tossed it into a trash can close by, nodded to them and led the way out to where a bus was parked, waiting. “I’m here to take you guys to the theater. There’s a rehearsal in an hour, so you won’t be going to the hotel ‘til later tonight.”

“Oh, wow,” murmured Jared. “Looks like we’re going for a baptism of fire.”

“Best believe it,” nodded the man as he slipped into the driver’s seat. “We don’t waste any time on ‘Born to Dance.’ If you can’t hack it, we want to know sooner rather than later.” He started the engine. “We’ve got a couple of other dancers to collect from terminal B and then we’ll be on our way.” With that, he pulled out into the traffic and headed out.

Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Masterpost | Amazing Art
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