The One with MORE Carson and Dallas!
Practice ends a little earlier than expected, so I text Dallas to see what she’s up to, then hop in the shower. By the time I’m out she still hasn’t replied, so I jump in my truck and swing by the new apartment she shares with Stella.
I don’t see Dallas’s little car. I do see both Stella and Ryan’s vehicles. Interesting. Maybe we should go to my place after I find her. We’ll leave those two to do… whatever they’re doing.
Sure enough, I catch sight of her car on my next stop. All alone in a nearly abandoned parking lot by the fine arts building. I pull my truck into the space next to hers and jump out. There’s one door that’s left open at all hours that students come and go through. It’s off around the side of the building and is mostly where the smoker’s hang out. But the dancers and actors and singers have rehearsals at all kinds of crazy hours, so they all use it after hours.
Once I’m inside, I head toward the dance rehearsal spaces from memory. Down a couple hallways, and then off to the right. As I get closer, I hear music, and I know without seeing her that it’s got to be Dallas.
The music is soft and pretty, but there’s an ache in it, a rawness that Dallas always seems to be attracted to. When I’m almost there, I hear her curse, followed by her stomping footsteps, and the song pauses, only to start over at the beginning.
I’ve just made it to the open doorway when she takes her starting position. She’s sitting down with her elbows on her knees and her head hung low.
Slowly, she starts to breathe, letting her whole body move in exaggeration with it, and I imagine it’s timed to the beat of her heart.
This heart is tired and old.
She stretches and twists her body, like she’s slept too long and it’s painful to wake up. Then she rolls gracefully to her feet.
This heart is charcoal and cold.
Her hand pulses over her heart before she does a single spin and ends with her arms wrapped around her middle, shivering.
I know this is what she loves, and God knows she’s brilliant at it. There’s such an effortless beauty to her movement. But she embodies the emotion so completely that it’s hard for me to watch.
The song talks about giving up and giving in, and even as she spins and jumps, she looks moments away from collapsing, from folding in on herself. And this pit opens up in my stomach, and I have to grip the doorjamb hard to keep from interrupting her. I want to pull her into my arms and take away whatever hurt lets her dance like this. I don’t want her to know that kind of grief.
She stretches one leg up behind her. An arabesque I think is what she calls it. But I’ve only ever seen her do it about waist high. This time she pushes it higher, her body tense and still, and I can’t help but marvel at her control. She’s so fucking strong. She starts to lose her balance, and her leg jerks, she hops to try and save it, but it’s too late.
She drops her leg and groans in frustration and digs her fingers into her hair. I take that as my cue to step in and say, “Hey.”
She looks up and gives me a brilliant, albeit tired, smile. It almost completely pushes out the vulnerability she’d had in the dance. Almost.
I cross toward her, slipping off my shoes first so I don’t mess up the floor with my boots. “That looked hard,” I say, referencing that last move.
She frowns, and I wish I hadn’t said anything. “It is. I’ve done it before. At the conservatory this summer. But I can’t seem to get it here.”
I step up in front of her, pushing aside some hair that’s stuck on her forehead. “You’ll get it.”
She shakes her head. “I should have worked harder to keep all the gains I made there. I’ve been lazy. I let myself go.”
“Hey, stop that.” I slip my hand around the back of her neck, underneath the curtain of her hair.
She tries to pull away, saying, “I’m all sweaty and gross.”
I hold tight, refusing to let her slip away. “Sweaty, yes. But I don’t find you the least bit gross.” To prove my point, I dip my head and drag my lips over her collarbone, pausing at the curve between her neck and shoulder to taste the salt on her skin.
Her hands find my waist, and she grabs hold of me, anchoring herself. And that’s what I want to be for her. Always. I want to be the thing that keeps her steady and strong and still.
“Thanks,” she murmurs. And I’m not sure what exactly she’s thanking me for.
“How high you can get your leg isn’t what makes you a great dancer, Dallas. It’s part of it, sure. But I promise… when that music plays, people aren’t watching how perfect your technique is. They’re watching you dance as if you’re holding your heart right there in the palm of your hands, offering up everything you’ve got to the music. I may not know much about dance. But I know that that… what you were doing there before you stopped? That was fucking gorgeous.”
She slumps wearily into me, but her arms wind tightly around my middle for a hug. I return it, squeezing her a little tighter than I probably should.
When she pulls back, I smile and say, “Why don’t you try it again? With me here to help you keep your balance this time?”
She laughs. “You’re going to be my barre again?”
I step far enough away to give her space, and after a deep breath, she closes her eyes and begins lifting her leg. She gets it to the usual spot with no problem. Then after a few seconds pause, she starts to push it higher, her upper body angling forward a little more. When I see her start to strain, her center faltering, I step up and steady her with my hands on her hips.
“You got it. I won’t let you fall.”
She takes another deep breath, and with me still holding her, she lifts her leg even higher, so that her foot is as high as my shoulder. I get distracted by the length of her legs, which in my defense, are pretty damn amazing.
And after nearly thirty seconds watching her hold that position, I lose the last of my self control and let two fingers trail from her thigh to the sensitive area behind her knee.
She jumps, and I slip my other hand from her hip to her stomach, cradling her.
“So this is why you wanted to help,” she says, slightly out of breath.
“My intentions were entirely gentlemanly.”
She lowers her leg to the floor, and when she straightens her body, I’ve still got my hand low on her belly and she looks at me over her shoulder.
“You know your legs are my weakness. Once I start thinking about how they feel wrapped around me, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”
“You know, if you took up dance, you could be my partner. It’s pretty common in duets for the male dancer to hold the female with her legs wrapped around his waist.”
She gives me a sly smile, and whatever patience I had left goes out the window. I pick her up by the waist and slam my mouth into hers, and she wastes no time curling her legs around me.
Against her lips, I murmur, “I think I’m going to need to practice this move a lot.”
She laughs softly, her breath fanning over my mouth. “Practice does make perfect.”
(SWOOON. I MISS THESE GUYS SO MUCH. I LOVE THEM).