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fic - rhythm emotion part 2 [misc] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - rhythm emotion part 2 [misc]
Title:  Rhythm Emotion
Part:  2
Note:  I'm a bad person for contemplating dragging out the posting of part 2 since LJ said the fic was too long for one post.  Trying to squeeze more post mileage out of a single fic is not cool.

Rhythm Emotion
Part 2

Day -110

Duo waited around casually for the last of her students to leave before he turned to ask the question he'd had on his mind since seeing her this afternoon.  "So, did you get any good flirts in yesterday with Upstairs-Guy?"

Hilde gave him a slightly odd look, but she seemed to understand the question just fine.  "I went upstairs to ask him a perfectly innocent question on whether or not we were bothering him with all of our music and stomping down here."

"And it was very considerate and neighborly of you," Duo agreed patiently.  "It was also an excellent opportunity for you to impress him with your fine consideration and neighborliness."

She had admitted as much yesterday, so she didn't fight it very hard.  "Yes, well."  She paused for a dramatic sigh.  "I won't be trying that again."

He winced in sympathy.  "Ooh.  Girlfriend?  Wife?  Jackass?"


He suppressed a snicker, though poorly.  "Wow, that sucks.  What are the chances?  I mean, I get that you could ask a dancer out and he might turn out to be gay.  But random programmer guy upstairs?  That's rough."

"Tell me about it.  Oh well.  I can still look at him."

"Oh, so I guess he let you down nicely, then?"

"He was quite polite about being uninterested.  Didn't just whip out the handy gay excuse like he could have.  Actually, he probably wouldn't even have said anything about that if I hadn't asked him."

"Wow, you asked him if he was gay?  Because he wasn't interested in you?"

She elbowed him.  "Oh, hush you.  It wasn't like that."  There was a pause accompanied by the return of that odd look from earlier.  "He just... Well.  A ping finally went off on my gaydar.  Let's just say that."

"Huh."  He took a moment to digest that information.  "He doesn't really strike me as... Well, not that you can... you know.  You just outright asked him?  What if he was totally in the closet or something?"

"Oh, come on.  You've met him.  Does he really seem like someone who'd be that uncomfortable with himself?"

"Well, he does wear yellow house slippers in his office without any self-consciousness, so... maybe not."

"And I did kind of apologize for being so forward.  And you know what he said?"  She laughed.  "He said, if you can't out yourself to a couple of dancers, who can you out yourself to?  But then he apologized for the stereotyping.  He's a real sweetie."

Day -100

They ran into each other again in the hallway outside.  "Hey, working late again?" Duo asked, locking the door to the studio.

Heero tugged the strap of his messenger bag into a more comfortable position across his chest.  "I could say the same for you."

"Me?  Nah, I don't consider this work."

"Because you enjoy your job?  By that metric, then I'm not here working either."

Duo turned and took in the bag that probably held a laptop containing the results of the day's labors.  "Well, okay, but I'm not 'on the clock' right now.  I'm just dancing for myself."  On a technicality.  He usually came out at night to 'work', prepping for a class, rehearsing for the upcoming shows.  It typically ended with some personal time, though.  Dancing at home was not an option for him, and he figured it was probably likely he'd have to dance his way out of his little personal problem.

"I write code for myself sometimes, too."

"...What, because it's just so awesome, you can't help yourself?"

"Sometimes."  Heero chuckled, settling casually against the wall.  "If it makes you feel any better, I don't understand the first thing about dancing."

"No, really?"  Duo could wrap his head around the concept, but only by defining 'dancing' in the way he knew most non-dancers would.  For him personally, dancing was just like talking, expressing himself with the movements of his body instead of his words.  There wasn't anything to understand about it.  He just did it.  "Never gone clubbing?  Didn't rock out as a kid?"

A bemused shake of Heero's head was the response.

"Didn't take a girl to the prom?"

"Oh, well I suppose, but I don't really count that."  He shrugged.  "She coaxed a basic box step out of me, but that's about it."

"Heh."  Ballroom dancing.  Now there was something Duo had never felt compelled to master.  It could be fun, but his body wasn't quite tuned to its particular motions, and he was okay with that.  "Oh.  Wait, I thought you were..."

"Gay?  Hilde told you?"

"Uh.  Yeah."  Duo's discomfort was smoothed over by the quirk of Heero's lips.

"I didn't have it all figured out until I was in college."

"Oh.  So now you're all... out and stuff?"

The quirk became a full-blown crooked smile.  "Yes.  I don't have any rainbow flags hanging on my walls, but yes."

"You know... this is probably a really weird thing to say..."  It had been on his mind since Hilde had brought it up the other day, and he figured he might as well just get it out of his system.  What was the harm?  Heero probably already thought he was a basketcase, anyway.  "But I always sorta... yanno... sympathized with the whole gay experience.  I'm sure it was probably absolutely nothing compared to what real gay kids went through, but... I mean, as a guy dancer, everyone pretty much just assumes you're gay, yanno?  And even if they don't, well, dancing's 'gay' anyway, right?  And I knew all those guys were full of shit, and I knew none of it was true, and that I could out-athlete any of them, and hell, I even got along with most of them, but even still, it annoyed the hell out of me sometimes.  So I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I didn't have that level of protection."

Heero nodded understandingly.  "Double whammy, huh?  Got teased for being gay, and for being a dancer."

"Ah, well... technically there's nothing wrong with being a dancer.  If I'd danced hip-hop, there wouldn't have been any problems."  He busted a couple of quick moves.  "I'm told I'm pretty fly for a white guy."

Heero's lips pressed together for moment, as if he was suppressing a snicker.  "I agree, but that's just my thoroughly unprofessional and unqualified assessment."

"Heh.  Thank you."  He sketched a quick bow.  "But, you know, contemporary's just one step away from ballet, and only gay guys like ballet, right?"  He tagged the question with a slight roll of his eyes to make clear what he thought of the idea.

"I don't know enough about ballet to have an opinion, I'm afraid.  I think I have one gay friend who might, though."

"Just one?  Bah, there goes that popular misconception."

"Well, we can't all be sugar plum fairies."

A small laugh burst out of Duo.  "At least I managed to avoid the cheerleader route.  Some guys, some schools, cheerleading's the only option for them if they want to get even close to dance.  And I bet a lot of guys would rather just not dance than do that, no matter how legitimate of a sport it is.  Stigma is stigma.  So they never really get the opportunities they need to develop."  Extracurricular classes like his could help, but weren't nearly the same as serious training.

"I'd be interested in seeing the unemployment numbers among the gay community."


"It seems like there are so many jobs out there that only gay men would be interested in.  Surely there must be enough positions open for everyone to fill."

Duo laughed again.  Their programmer neighbor had quite the droll sense of humor.  Probably useful.  There were many days when Duo was sure he would have been in trouble with the guys that razzed him, if he hadn't been able to laugh things off.  A good sense of humor was as much a self-defense mechanism as anything else.  "Well, you can't have my job, sorry."

"I don't know how you got it.  Affirmative action?"

One last chuckle.  "No one else wanted it, I guess.  Lucky me."

"Not all luck, I'm sure," Heero rebutted with another smile.  "In my thoroughly unprofessional and unqualified opinion."

"I thought you didn't watch me."  Duo's accusation had a teasing lilt to it.

"I didn't stalk you.  But when I happened to glance your way, I might have seen something that warranted a second glance or two."

"Oh...."  There was just something odd about that statement, or the way it made him feel, that made him hesitate.

The tone of Heero's words was somewhat unrepentant, but the expression on his face conveyed a faint apology.  "I'm sorry, did I make things awkward again?"

"Huh?  Oh, no.  You'd think I'd just be used to it, that's all.  I'm a performer, aren't I?  I perform for people.  In front of people."

"That doesn't mean you have to put everything out on display for people, though.  I'm sorry for intruding on a private moment."

"No, it was... uh.  Unintentional.  Not a problem."

"...Alright."  Heero pushed himself off the wall and straightened his bag again.  "Good night, Duo."

"Yeah.  Good night."

A good night for brooding, perhaps.  Duo was quite comfortable with the idea of putting everything he had into his dancing.  He had to, if he wanted to be as good as he knew he could be.

He was quite comfortable with the idea of dancing in front of other people.

Logically, that meant he would be putting everything he had out there, in front of other people, if he wanted to succeed.  Why did that leave him feeling uneasy?

Day -45

Duo was digging irritably at a spot between his shoulder blades when he heard the front door to the building open.  Hilde opened the door shortly thereafter, which wasn't surprising since he had asked her to help out today.  He hadn't quite expected their neighbor to stick his head in after her.

"Yeah," Hilde said, answering something Heero had asked her in the hall.  "This little stinker strained something last night."

Something about that statement compelled Duo to defend himself.  "I didn't strain anything.  I just... slept funny.  And it hasn't gone away yet."  As if to prove it, he stretched the offending muscle in his back and produced a wince.

"This isn't one of those sports where you just fight through it, I assume?" Heero asked innocently.

"'Fighting through it' is for people who spend most of their time with both feet on the floor," Duo answered dryly.  "One cramp at the wrong time, and you could be face-planting, and taking your partner with you."

"What happens when you sleep funny the night before a performance?"

"Mmm, therapeutic massage," Hilde sighed.  "Preferably from a handsome young lad with talented fingers."

Duo snorted.  "Well, I don't happen to have one of those at the moment, so calling in a favor from a friend works just as well.  Uh, to help teach the class, that is."

"I beg to differ," Duo thought he heard Heero murmur, but he could have been wrong.  Heero moved on to his next question before Duo could contemplate it over-much.  "What happens if you get a cramp during a performance?"

Hilde answered.  "Well, if you're taking care of yourself properly, you'll be less likely to get a cramp, or be injured or whatever.  You stretch first, of course, don't go past your limits.  Really doesn't take much to end your career, or at least knock you out for the season.  Keep yourself properly hydrated.  Don't be one of those anorexic types.  How you can have the energy to dance without eating anything, I don't know.  Generally, you listen to what your body is telling you.  That's gotta be like rule number one.  Listen to what your body is telling you.  You can't dance properly if you're not listening to your body."

Duo concurred.  It really was one of those basic lessons drilled into a dancer.  Right now, his body was telling him that he'd slept poorly last night.  After he'd woken with a knot in the back of his shoulder, he'd tried to relax and will it away, but the attempt was futile when the forced insomnia left him dwelling on his little problem, which was hardly relaxing.  His clock was ticking down, and he was still no closer to finding his answers than when he'd started.

Day -1

Duo jumped a little when he heard the knock at the door.  He looked up, and found their neighbor's face in the window.  A moment later, the studio door opened, and the man himself made an appearance.  "Hi.  I was passing by.  Figured I'd knock this time so I didn't surprise you.  Sorry if I surprised you."

There was a moment's worth of silence before Duo let out a weak laugh.  "Hey.  Hi.  Uh, no, sorry.  Just wasn't expecting anyone tonight, I guess."

Heero smiled encouragingly.  "So you can get lost in your own little world, even when you're not dancing, hm?"

"Well, I was just..."  He trailed off vaguely.  He was just dancing.  Sort of.  Brooding.  Panicking.  Being angry and frustrated and depressed and generally rather negative.

He was the recipient of a piercing blue gaze for a couple of seconds before Heero blinked and became the mild-mannered programmer he was familiar with.  "So... classes are over for the year, huh?  Will I be seeing you next year?"

Good lord, an innocent question unleashed directly into the very heart of the matter.  Duo tried to will away the deer-in-the-headlights feeling he got by plucking a casual response out of the air and throwing it under the bus.  "Um, I'm not sure yet, yanno?  Depends on what opportunities come up in the next few months, that sort of thing.  Might see me tomorrow.  Kids have gotta pick up some of their stuff."

"I went to your recital tonight."

"What?  Really?"

"Yeah.  All these months, being upstairs... Figured I should get to see what it was all about.  I was pretty impressed by your class.  Hilde's, too."

"Oh.  Well.  Thanks.  They put in a lot of hard work."  It would have been nice to see Heero there.  Maybe it would have been like a nice little island of calm in the middle of all the young, nervous dancers and camera-wielding helicopter parents.  Maybe it could have helped Duo keep from overanalyzing things, studying all of the young dancers from his class and the others, picking out the ones that looked like they had the passion and the drive.  Trying to identify what it was that made them different from the others.  Trying to identify what made them different from him.

"Sad that it's over?"

Duo caught a 'huh?' on the end of his tongue and aborted it.  The question caught up with him, and he realized his attention had drifted away in an obvious manner.  Tonight of all nights was a terrible time to talk to him.  He felt tight in his chest, like he couldn't get a decent deep breath, like he knew that his entire life was going to change in the next two hours before midnight, and there was nothing he could do about it.  He'd tried his damnedest, but apparently things just didn't work that way.

If he hadn't figured it out after three hundred sixty-four days and twenty-two hours, two more hours wouldn't help him.  He threw in the towel with a little hitch in his breath.  Suddenly worried that he wouldn't be able to keep it together, he started to say whatever he needed to say to kick his visitor out, but the words never made it out of his throat.  He thought at first that he was just getting choked up, but it turned out that other words just cut in line and came out instead.  "Hey.  You're a problem solver, right?"

Heero regarded him carefully.  "I like to think so.  Do you have a problem?"

A bitter chuckle erupted out of him.  "I think so.  Yeah, I think so.  I think... I'm having a little mid-life crisis, you see."

"I see."  He shut the studio door behind him and moved to Duo's side.  "Need to talk it out a bit?"

"If... if you don't mind."  He sighed explosively and paced over to the wall to slump against it.  He stayed silent as Heero sat down as well, unslinging the messenger bag from over his shoulder and setting it down beside him, and in so doing, signaling his comfort with staying for a while.  Duo still didn't say anything for a minute as he stared at the wooden floor, trying to gather his thoughts into some sort of coherent whole.

Heero waited patiently for him to begin.

"I..."  Duo got up abruptly and paced some more.  He always thought better on his feet.  Or so he'd thought.  Fat lot of good it'd done him these past twelve months.  "Last year, I tried out for this part.  I didn't get it.  Whatever, no big deal.  But... the reason I didn't get it was because... because I wasn't really into it, I guess.  No, that's not right.  I mean, I wanted the part, I was serious about it, and my audition was solid, except... I wasn't in the zone, I was thinking too hard about it, my head wasn't in the right place... However you want to describe it.  And it showed."

"Everyone has their off-days," Heero suggested softly, after watching Duo pace for a minute.

"Everyone has their off-days," Duo repeated agitatedly.  "But I'm having a lot more off-days than on-days, and that's... that's just unacceptable!  I used to be able to lose myself in my dance like that."  He inserted the obligatory snap of his fingers.  "And these days, it's like the slightest thing can pull me out of it.  If I could even get in to it in the first place."

"So... what you're trying to do is... get your groove back?"

"Yes!  Or at least figure out where the hell it went!  At least then, I'd have something I could do something about.  Or not, maybe.  It's a bit too late for that now, I guess."


"Because!"  He finally stopped pacing to look at Heero a bit wildly.  "Because... because I didn't do all the stuff that I've done, just to be a mediocre dancer.  Because if I can't get back in the groove... Last year, I promised myself.  I made myself a deadline.  I gave myself a year to figure this out.  And if I couldn't figure it out by then, then I'd put myself out of my misery -- put my dance out of its misery! -- and quit.  If I can't do it right, then I shouldn't even be doing it at all."

"And... time's up?"

"Time's up!" Duo exclaimed, putting himself back into motion again.  "It was tomorrow, one year ago.  Time is up."

"Seems a bit... hasty."

Duo barked out a sharp laugh.  "Okay, so I'm a bit dramatic.  What do you expect from a performer?  I mean it, though.  If I can't..."  He dropped suddenly to the floor and buried his face in his hands.  "I don't want to drag this out.  I don't want to keep going, thinking 'maybe this time...' and just being disappointed over and over again... or even worse, just not caring anymore!  It'd be one thing if I didn't know what I'm missing.  But I know it's in me."

"Tell me about it.  Explain it to me, this thing you're trying to recover."

Duo stared at him for a few heartbeats, long enough for it to click that Heero wasn't just asking for clarification.  He was just trying to help Duo think his way through the problem.  Duo almost laughed, but heck, what did he have to lose?  Might as well make his last two hours as a dancer pass with a bang, not a whimper.

And yet when he opened his mouth to begin, he knew it would be a hard-fought bang.  He didn't even know where to start.  Maybe Heero had the right of things.  How could he find what he was looking for, when he couldn't even describe it?

Heero, sensing his loss for words, asked him some basic, simple questions, and slowly, Duo moved toward his answer.  It was an intangible thing, the kind of thing a person only thought about after the fact, because when he was in the middle of it, he wasn't thinking, he was dancing, in the ultimate harmony of body, mind, and heart.  His highest goal as a dancer wasn't to stun the observer with feats of technical prowess, but to draw the observer in to that synchronized state, to be a part of it and feel it for himself.  He really couldn't explain it much better than that.  It just somehow wasn't as immersive without that extra little oomph.

After some probing, Duo was forced to concede that not every dance had to achieve that state of nirvana.  All of his performances, maybe, but maybe not all the ones in-between.  Those others may have lacked that vital spark that elevated the dance to the next level, but it wasn't as if he was tripping over his own feet and missing his cues.  It even made a kind of sense that a machine couldn't be run at maximum output all the time.  It wasn't much, but it was nice to be able to cross at least a few instances off the list, and trim down his goal to a no-less-ambitious but still-technically-smaller size.

Sensing the onset of unproductive frustration, Heero suggested that perhaps he was thinking way too hard about things, and threw out some tangents that evolved into reminiscing, joking around a little, and chatting about all manner of relevant and irrelevant things.

Duo was on his feet, demonstrating something to Heero, when he realized that he felt great, awesome, unstoppable, and for the first time in a long time, instead of over-analyzing it, he opened himself up to it, and found that all was right with his world, like the beating of his heart was synced to the rhythm of the universe, at this time, in this place, with this--

It was like that one innocent thought triggered a series of rapid-fire realizations, so quick and comprehensive, it was as if those realizations had always been there, waiting in the wings, waiting for stars to align.

It took Heero a moment to think that maybe Duo's leap into a graceful sprawl on the floor had been unplanned.  It was nearly midnight now, yes, but surely Duo hadn't meant to quit dancing quite so literally.  Concerned with the way Duo wasn't moving, but not quite confident in his assessment, he called Duo's name out softly.

Duo lifted his head suddenly, a stricken look on his face.  They stared at each other for a couple of seconds before Heero shook off the surprise and started to ask what was going on.

The threat of words seemed to spur Duo into action.  He bounced to his feet as quickly as he had tumbled and plastered on a grin.  "Well, gosh, look at the time.  It's late.  So sorry to have kept you!"

Heero was understandably confused, but got slowly to his feet in response.  "Duo, are you--"

"Yeah, I need to be going, too!  Bet you didn't wander in here tonight, expecting to be caught up in some weird therapy session, anyway!  Thanks, but you've probably got to be on your way."

This was clearly a dismissal, and Heero wasn't quite sure whether or not he wanted to cooperate.  Scratch that, he was sure he didn't want to cooperate, but he wasn't sure Duo would let him do otherwise.  He was handed his messenger bag and guided to the door, scarcely able to get a word in edgewise as Duo apologized loudly about the hour, and then he was on the other side of the door and it was shutting behind him.

Duo glued himself to the wall beside the door, invisible through the window from outside, until he was certain that Heero had left the premises.  Only several minutes after the front door shut did he allow himself to slide down to the floor and run a shaky hand through his bangs.  His whole world had just turned upside-down, but he felt there was one thing he could be certain of -- there would be no dancing his way out of this one.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
lavendarlizard From: lavendarlizard Date: September 11th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
...a head smack in mid air... *snicker*


turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: September 13th, 2012 06:58 am (UTC) (Link)
If you ever watch dancing, sometimes they leap and fall to the ground and you have that moment where you're kinda like, ummmm did they mean to do that? O_o But then they twirl their way out of it and it's okay.
lavendarlizard From: lavendarlizard Date: September 13th, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I've seen that. ^___^ When you don't "know", it looks scary. I've seen parents pop out of their seats during kid performances. They always look sheepish sitting back down.

Hm. If my kid had ever been in dance, I probably would have been one of them. O.o

That scene always makes me wonder if Duo went home and slapped himself for being so blind for so long. ^___^

turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: September 14th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC) (Link)
You know what sport puts me on the edge of my seat?  Speed-skating.  There's just something not right about people with huge knives strapped to their feet.  Followed by men's gymnastics, I think, because when they're on the floor, a lot of times they do a roll out of a tumbling pass when you expected them to land on their feet, or on the parallel bars, when they catch themselves with their armpits. (who thought that was a good idea?)

I think Duo went home and then stared blankly at his ceiling for a good long while. ^^' After it finally sunk in, I think he would have been more frustrated than slap-happy.  All the clues had been sitting right there all this time!  My first version of the scene had Duo going through this at Heero's place, rather than already having thought through it.  I rewrote it because it was a little too comedic.  Duo spent a bit of time ranting at himself, sort of like, 'Seriously, body?  Seriously?  I've been dancing my ass off trying to figure this out, and you knew all this time?!  You could have saved me a lot of grief if you'd just been horny like all the rest of the teenage guys!  WTF!'

Edited at 2012-09-14 04:13 am (UTC)
4 comments or Leave a comment