Genre: AU/ Dancing/ Drama/ Romance
Summary: Ohno is a professional ballroom dancer. He teaches at his own dance studio, but it's in danger of going out of business. The only way he can restore it is by winning at a dance competition, but his long-time partner bailed out on him. One day, Ohno comes across Nino, a street performer who has the making of becoming a great dancer. The only problem is that Ohno has to teach Nino how to do ballroom dance. It's a story about trust, equality, and learning to walk in another person's hard shoes.
Author Notes: How was everyone's holidays! I kinda got carried away with my new game, that's why I didn't update as soon XD But here I am. I'll try to update once a week, because I have all the chapters written out. Truly. It's just the editing and touch ups I need to fix. Anyways, there is a character trait to Nino that I added. Even though it's not true in real life, it's part of the story. I hope it won't be a problem. Also, this chapter is slightly longer. Enjoy!
Chapter 2 - Sugar Push
Nino glanced down at the business card. Ohno Satoshi. So that was his name. The man who caused a fuss at the bistro and gave him the death glare even though Nino was only doing his job. Nino recognized him even before Ohno handed his business card. He could tell automatically by the man's voice when Ohno approached him. Ironic how they end up reunited even though they both remember Ohno's last words since they met.
Still, Nino was quite surprised in Ohno's change of tone. It was calm and rather soothing. But judging from his expression, Ohno looked anything but soothing.
"What do you mean no?" Ohno asked, sounding mortified. "You have wonderful dancing skills! With a bit of training, you'd make a fine ball dancer."
"I have no interest in ballroom dancing," Nino sighed. He grabbed his bag that he left on the side of the curb and began walking away.
Ohno followed him. "Okay, I'm sorry I was an ass yesterday. I was just having...a rough day."
Nino let out a small chuckle. "You had a rough day?" They arrived at Nino's bicycle chained to a bike rack. "Look, man. I'm glad you think my dancing is good, but I don't have time for classes."
"I understand. But let me make your worthwhile."
"I don't care," Nino grunted. "I'm not going to be your student, and I won't join some dance competition that I know I'll just flop anyway. Those kind of dances are not my style, so I won't do it."
Nino started peddling away, but Ohno quickly came around and braced his hands on Nino's bike handle to stop him from riding any further. Nino frowned at him with annoyance, but Ohno stared back with determination. Despite the cold wind blowing, Nino detected a certain flare in Ohno's eyes.
"The winner for the competition gets 500 thousand yen."
Nino's mouth parted slightly in shock before he gulped. He was aware that dance competitions involved money prizes, but he didn't knew this particular event was a big deal. Nino never took the time to look up what's happening in the dancing community. He never had the time. Street performing were the only events Nino has ever done in front of a live audience. He never went to dance school or had private lessons. He has never been judged in front of experts, and he has never thought of learning ball dancing.
Nino thought it was stupid.
"That's a lot of money," Nino nodded. "Splitting it in half would be more than enough for me...and going after my dream."
Ohno grinned. "So? Will you join me?"
Nino sighed. "It sounds really good...but no matter how much money you throw at me, I'm not going to dance some uptight style."
He could see Ohno looked offended, but the older man didn't snap at him.
"I'm sure you can find another partner who's willing to dance with you," Nino said kindly. "Someone who likes ballroom dancing. But I won't do it. I prefer a more expressive style. With feeling."
"With feeling? But-"
"If you excuse me, I have to go to my other part-time job."
Nino swerved his bike handle, and Ohno released his hold. He could practically feel Ohno's eyes searing into his back as he rode off. Throughout the entire trip, Nino couldn't stop thinking about him even as he arrived at the ramen shop. The business card was still in his pocket. He parked his bicycle outside and pulled out the card. According to the address, Ohno's studio was not too far from his apartment, but there was no point in going.
Nino threw it away.
Ohno had to jog to keep up with him. A little workout was fine with him; he was willing to get Nino to be his partner no matter what. There was just no one else who could do it. Ohno knew what he saw at the street performance. He saw a man who loved dancing more than anything. He saw a young soul trying to find his place, and Ohno wanted to help. He hasn't felt this strongly about anyone since Mitsu Dan. This time, however, he wasn't going to fail.
He will find a way to get Nino into ballroom dancing.
When Ohno found the ramen shop, he walked inside and found the restaurant packed. Nino was inside the kitchen helping the chef cook the noodles. He didn't even see Ohno enter but still called out "welcome" like a good employee. Ohno took the only seat available in the back. After the mistress took his order, Ohno glanced back at the kitchen. He couldn't take his eyes off Nino.
Even in a small kitchen, Nino flowed gracefully. The fair skinny man weaved and circled around the chef to reach for the food and other utensils. Ohno noticed the way he communicated with the chef and the mistress. They exchange very few words, and yet they worked efficiently. Nino knows how to work with others, Ohno could tell. When Nino entered into the dining area to deliver the food, Ohno watched his footsteps. It was as if Nino memorized where the chair legs were, stepping in and out of the way. Ohno smirked.
There's a ballroom dancer inside Nino, but he just doesn't know it.
Suddenly, an elder customer from the bar area shouted. "What the hell was that?!"
Immediately, Nino approached the angry man. "Is there a problem, sir?" He asked calmly.
The senior citizen pointed an accusing finger at him. "I heard you chatting with the chef. What the hell were you saying?"
Nino looked startled, and the chef arrived. "It was nothing, sir. I was just asking him how to say something in Korean."
"Exactly!" The old man roared, glaring back at Nino. "Why the hell are you speaking Korean?!"
Since the senior was so loud in a small restaurant, the ramen shop fell silent as everyone listened in. Ohno frowned slightly at the situation, but he too remained quiet. Nino looked tense and made nervous glances back at his boss.
"Well, sir, it's because...I'm half Korean," Nino answered. "He asked me how to say garlic in Korean-"
"You're a damn Korean?!" The old man barked, slamming his palm down hard on the counter top. "Are you telling me a Korean immigrant served my ramen?!"
"Sir, I was born here-"
"Silence!" The old man slammed his hand again. "How dare you trick the chef to hire scum like you!"
"Hey," a middle-aged man next to him spoke up. "Let it go. He's only doing his job."
"This is supposed to be an authentic Japanese restaurant, no?" The senior continued to rant. "If I'm going to eat at a Japanese restaurant, in Japan, with Japanese customers, then I demand to be served by Japanese only!" The man pointed his finger at Nino. "How dare you take a job that a young Japanese man need. I think I saw you in the street once. You were dancing for extra cash, I bet. Probably spreading your Korean culture and tarnishing our own! If you come here to dance in the streets, why don't you go back to Seoul!"
"Sir," the chef spoke. "I can assure you, my employee is a citizen of Japan. Please calm down or-"
"Or what? You'll kick me out?!" The old man raged. "I have been a customer for 10 years! I've practically brought you customers, Ken! I came here because I wanted the best noodles made by the hands of my people. We are a dying race, and it's filth like him who comes to our country to soil our blood with their own. If you don't fire this man," he pointed at Nino again, "I will tell all my friends, your loyal customers, to never come here again!"
Whispers and murmurs spread across the tiny restaurant. A small family in the corner got up and left; the father made apologetic nods to the mistress and kindly paid before he left. Ohno could see the other customers were also looking uncomfortable. Soon, they started to look upset, but not at the old man's outrageous tantrums. He saw people glancing at Nino with a different look. Before, they smiled at Nino for bringing them their food, but now it was almost hateful.
Ohno was speechless. He has heard of anti-Korean people in Japan before, but he's never met one in person. Or seen one in action for that matter. He admitted he's not an avid fan of pop culture, but Ohno never held grudges against those who love to dance, pop or not. To him, he didn't care for ethnic backgrounds. But clearly he was from a younger generation than the senior citizen.
Nino stared back at his boss; his eyes begging to save him somehow. The chef looked torn as well. The old man slowly got up with a stern frown on his face. The senior was about to leave as he picked up his coat, but Nino quickly blocked his path.
"Wait," Nino said softly, almost painfully. "Please...don't hurt Ken's business. It's the most important thing to him."
The old man only scrunched his nose at him.
"Nino," the mistress whispered to him. "What are you-"
Everyone watched as Nino unfastened his apron and fold it neatly. He turned to the mistress and offered his apron. Ohno could see the mistress and the chef were both shocked by Nino's decision. The mistress was nearly on the verge of tears. Ohno also spotted a small trace of anguish in Nino's expression. It was a look of someone who has seen the same troubles over and over again. Ohno felt his throat tightened not with sadness but pity.
"Thank you for everything," Nino said. "From this day forward, I won't work here. I'll be off now."
As Nino walked out the door, the old man grumbled under his breath. "Good riddance."
No one said a word to the senior. No one had the courage. Ohno wished he could have stood up for Nino, but the atmosphere was strong and tense. Even if he did said something, Ohno didn't want to cause more commotion. Ohno felt sick with himself. Even when he saw someone who needed his help, he couldn't speak up. When the old man left, the restaurant went back to normal. The chef and mistress, however, looked deeply saddened by their lost.
When the mistress came at last with his food, he asked her. "Madam, that young man who worked for you, how long has he been working here?"
"He worked part-time for us for nearly three years," she answered, setting his bowl down.
"What was he like?" Ohno asked.
"He was a great worker," the mistress nodded. "Never have I seen such a passionate man. He has big dreams." Ohno's mind wondered back to when he saw Nino dancing in the street. "A bit stubborn at times and with a heart of a child, but whenever we called him, he would always come to help us."
"And yet he easily left," Ohno pointed out.
The mistress lowered her gaze. "My husband and I dreamed of opening this restaurant years ago. I guess he didn't want to see us lose our dream because of him." She made a sad smile. "That's the kind of person Nino is."
Ohno's mouth gaped slightly in awe. From what Ohno understood, Nino was someone who would sacrifice his well-being for others. But not just any stranger like Ohno, Nino has to get to know the person first. Unlike Mitsu, she would steal everything precious to Ohno. At that moment, Ohno's heart immediately went out to the young street performer. He had to have Nino as his partner.
Without even eating, Ohno quickly got up and pushed a reasonable amount of cash into the mistress hand. "Thank you."
And he ran out the door.
Nino's bike was gone, but Ohno took off in the only direction he suspected Nino would go. A street corner to perform. It was a wild guess, but sure enough he saw a group dancing on the sidewalk where a crowd gathered. Among the audience, Ohno saw a young man with his bike watching the street performers. Ohno recognized the man's jacket and knew it was Nino.
He placed his hand on Nino's shoulder.
Nino glanced over his shoulder. "You?"
Ohno gulped before he spoke. "Can I ask you a question?"
Nino furrowed his brow a bit.
"What is your dream?" Ohno asked.
The audience cheered as the street performers pulled off another trick combo, but Ohno's attention focused on Nino. The young man before him also didn't break eye contact. Even in the night with glaring street lights and flashing billboards, Ohno saw a definite spark twinkling in Nino's eyes that seemed to outshine everything else.
"I do want to go to school...but a dance school in America," Nino confessed. "One day, I'll become a pop dance choreographer for super stars all over the world." Nino's eyes were becoming glossy. "I want to be the best there is so that no one will judge me for what I am...but for who I am."
There was more to this man than Ohno originally thought. He took everything back of what he used to think of street performers. This one was different beyond measures. There was a strong determination to prove himself, and Ohno immediately sympathized.
"I was there at the restaurant," Ohno said. "I saw everything."
Nino turned his gaze away as if ashamed.
"Let's prove them wrong," Ohno said, decisively. "Enter the competition with me. Let's show them there's more to a person than what he is."
"I...I appreciate what you're saying. But I told you," Nino sighed. "Even if the prize money can get me a ticket to America, ballroom dancing is not my style. It's just so...uncool."
Ohno tried not to roll his eyes. How was he going to convince this young sport to his side? His eyes wandered back to the street performers. No doubt, the group was dancing to a pop song, but Ohno noticed their dancing could be traced back to a classic jazz move.
An idea struck him.
Ohno pulled out his business card again but quickly wrote down a different address. "Meet me tomorrow night at this place."
"The Morning Flash?" Nino read out loud.
"If you ever have a change in mind, come to this club," Ohno said. "And I'll show you what we're capable of..."
The next day, Nino went store to store looking for work. Now that he didn't work at the ramen shop, all he has left was the bistro. But he was given lousy work schedules there, and Nino has been trying desperately to see if anyone was willing to hire. As if by some cruel twisted fate, all the store owners turned him down before he even introduced himself. Nino saw the look in their eyes the moment he walked into their store. He could sense it. They knew he was a hafu.
He suspected the old man was at fault, but any customer from the ramen shop at that time could have spread rumors. Deep down, Nino suspected this would happen. Nino was used to discriminated behavior ever since he was a child. The worst kind were those who completely ignored his racial mix and tried to conceal it. All he remembered was bowing his head apologetically until one day he came across street performers. The notion to dance inspired him. In a way, it was his only form of truly expressing himself. His anger, his frustration, and his dream.
One day, he'll show them all. He wasn't a punk half-blood with no dignity. If only someone would listen...
After another failed attempted to get an interview, Nino slumped on a bench nearby a theater. There were flyers and posters stapled on a tack board at the entrance. The front doors opened and a herd of children exited the building while holding hands with their mothers. Majority were girls in tights and carrying their ballet shoes.
But there was one boy in the crowd also holding ballet slippers. Nino watched as the boy bowed to the instructor goodbye with a huge smile on his face. Even someone as young as a child can enjoy ballroom dancing.
Nino pouted and reached inside his pocket. He still had Ohno's note from yesterday. Nino had wanted to go to a pop dancing school for so long. But every time he signed up, he left either because it was too expensive, the school was too full, or the other dancers ignored him when they found out he was only half Japanese. That's why Nino wanted to save up his own money and travel to America to learn the style he wants and be surrounded with people of different ethnicity. Maybe in America, he wouldn't be discriminated as much here in Japan. That was what he hoped at least.
If only he had the money...
"The winner for the competition gets 500 thousand yen."
"Damnit," he grunted. Nino crushed the note in his hands and pinched the bridge of his nose.
Perhaps he should check out the nightclub. It wouldn't hurt just to see what the place was like. Maybe he could even get a job there. If he runs into Ohno, he'll just tell Ohno he's only interested in finding work and not dancing ball.
Later that night, he went to the Morning Flash, but he immediately felt out of place. He thought it was fine walking into a club with jeans and a sweater, but everyone dressed in formal attire. Everyone looked rich and classy, the type Nino hates the most besides racists. It was always the rich empowered people who would look down on him. Now he was walking into their very lair. Nino turned around and started heading for the door.
Someone grabbed his shoulder. "There you are!"
Nino turned his head and saw Ohno dressed in a fancy waistcoat, a red shirt, and suit pants. Obviously, Ohno fitted the setting, and Nino shrugged the man's hand off.
"I changed my mind coming here," Nino mumbled. "I'm leaving."
"No, no! You just got here," Ohno smiled, taking Nino by surprised. "I saved us a seat. Come on."
It seemed that Ohno wasn't bothered by Nino's sense of fashion and ushered him towards their table. The club wasn't what Nino expected a modern club to be. It reminded him of the 1920s music nightclubs. There were round tables for the guests with low lit candles in the center. A stage was at the front with the main spotlight. Nino spotted instruments stationed at the side, but the musicians were on break before the next act.
The nightclub was extremely stylish.
"I never knew such a place existed," Nino said, still looking around in awe. "I thought places like this only exist in movies."
There was a distinct smirk on Ohno's face as he took the opposite seat. "It is quite the hidden treasure. But I don't come here for the food. I come here for the performances."
At that moment, the announcer appeared before the stage and took the center microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, let's give a round of applause for the exquisite Aya!"
The audience applauded as a beautiful woman walked down the stage to the microphone. Her dress was a short creamy-colored one piece that sparkled with tiny studded crystals. A few single men in the audience howled at her, but Ohno politely applauded. The music strung up a slow melody as Aya began to sing a slow sweet melody.
"Ah," Ohno sighed. "Some nights they show dance performances. Perhaps they'll show that later."
Nino sulked. "I...I get what you're trying to show me."
"You're trying to show there's another world than what's out in the streets," Nino said, leaning across the table with his elbows on the clean sheet. "And I admit it is nice. But look at me compare to you...compare to everyone here. I don't belong here, and I don't want to be a part of it. I don't want to join these people because I know they won't accept me. I don't want to be confide in a style where I am expected to behave properly. Keep your head down, follow these rules, and do as you're told. No. I don't want to be like that."
"That's not why I invited you here," Ohno said. "You're looking at the people here in general, but I want to show you that ballroom and pop are almost the same-"
"We may derive from the classics, yes, but we are not the same," Nino said, heatedly.
"Every dance style have their rules and counts just as much as ball," Ohno fired back. "Once you get used to it, you'll realize it's fun."
"At least we're not restricted to a certain form," Nino defended. "Believe me. I would love to dance that will win me a huge chunk of cash so I can get the hell outta here, but you will never convince me what is fun or not. With pop dancing, there are no restrictions. I can dance however I want it to be. Ballroom dancing is just rigid movements, sore feet, and fake emotions. They're all the same."
"Aren't you being a bit discriminate yourself?" Ohno narrowed his eyes.
Nino sucked in his breath. "What do you mean?"
"How would you know what ballroom dancing is when you never even tried or seen a performance?" Ohno questioned. "How can you say you don't want to be judge by others when you judge something you don't know yourself?! Take it from me, I'm not the biggest fan of pop dancing, but that doesn't mean I ignore the great artists out there. Many pop artists caught my attention, and I applaud to them. And ballroom dancing has their amazing feats as well. A great dance can win the hearts of many, after all. I'm sure you'll see it if you only give it a chance!"
Aya had finished her solo, and the audience cheered. No one heard Ohno's rant, but Nino could feel his heart pounding as he stared irritably at Ohno. He wondered how long they glared at each other. Two men from two different worlds, both who wouldn't back out from a stare off. But the more Nino thought about Ohno's words, the more he begun to realize Ohno was right. He was being hypocritical. This only infuriated him even more, and he stood up.
"Where are you going?"
"Away from this place," Nino grunted. But Ohno quickly grabbed his arm. "Let go of me!"
"Wait right here," Ohno said urgently. The man practically forced Nino to sit down. "Just stay here for a moment."
Nino was about to protest, but Ohno took off towards the stage. Nino watched Ohno talking with the musicians, curious as to what the man planned to do next. He saw the group exchange nods and handshakes. The audience seemed to notice Ohno's negotiation as well. Some even pointed at him and whispered behind their hand.
Suddenly, the drummer boomed up a lively beat. The atmosphere immediately changed since the previous performance. Tension was building. Something great was about to happen, and the audience seemed excited. Even the light mechanics could taste the excitement, and new headlights zigzagged across the stage. Nino felt his heart beating with the drums. They were fast, deep, and rhythmic. The type that gets the blood pumping. The announcer standing at the side looked confused, and poor Aya, who remained on stage, looked confused as well with the music number change.
That's when Ohno walked up on the center stage. Nino watched intensely with everyone as Ohno tapped the rhythm against his leg with his finger. Suddenly, trumpets blared. The lights shined brighter, and Ohno made a grand entrance. It was a swing number but different. It was louder, faster, and more...playful. The audience boogied in their seats and smiled.
And Ohno became a different person. Nino has never seen footwork like the man on stage. He moved with the fast paced drums. His legs and arms looked so much longer, and there was nothing sloppy with his actions. At the same time, there was nothing rigid with his movements. Then, Ohno turned his attention to Aya. The songstress looked absolutely baffled as Ohno suddenly took her hand.
Nino's mouth hanged open as he watched the two unlikely couple perform an impromptu dance in front of a live audience. Ohno did most of the work twirling her, directing her, and tipping her low. And yet somehow, they read each other perfectly. Even Aya looked surprised. Nino saw a smile spread across her face. Nino assumed she had previous knowledge of dancing if she worked here, but there was something different.
It was like contagious magic. They were...having fun.
Nino watched Ohno swinging to a beat like there was no tomorrow. There was no restriction, no sense of procedure steps to follow. Ohno danced purely out of feeling, and Nino noticed it. Despite the fancy get-up, the lights, the beautiful gal, and the music, Nino watched a ballroom style come to life before his eyes. The rhythm, the heat, the pounding of his heart. Everything felt alive. And the one that gave this dark club some light was Ohno.
The music ended and the audience gave a standing ovation. Ohno and Aya held hands and bowed low to the cheering crowd. It was indeed a lively performance. Nino got up and slowly headed for the exit. His heart was still booming to the beat, and he felt a warm flutter inside his stomach. They looked like they had a lot of fun on stage. The songstress enjoyed the sudden dance, and Ohno showed him a brighter side to ballroom dancing.
Nino stepped outside into the cold just to calm his body from heating up. Soon enough, Ohno quickly follow after him.
"Hey, why did you leave?" Ohno asked, sounding sorry and slightly out of breath. "Did you not like it?"
"No, I...I did liked it," Nino confessed. "It was...amazing."
"And? What do you think of ballroom dancing?" Ohno said, his breathing slowing down. "Do you still think it's lame?"
"...perhaps you're right," Nino replied. "Maybe I am too quick to judge something before I even try it."
He turned around and faced Ohno. The man with the fancy clothes was smiling at him and puffing out white smoke from his hot breath into the cold.
"I...I want to know more," Nino said. "I'll be your partner for the dance competition."
Ohno made the biggest smile that seem to diminish the cold away completely. "Thank you, Ninomiya."
"Call me Nino."
end chapter 2!
To Chapter 3 >> http://arashiforyou.livejournal.com/55209.html
for those who are curious (or figured me out) the movie "The Mask" inspired the dance scene at the bar. the music playing is called "Hey Pachuco." If you know what i'm talking about, then you know where i got this scene from. for those who don't, here is the scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqjq2s_bHPA
of course, the dance scene in this story is not as crazy as the one in the movie. here's a better example of a more realistic dance to that song http://youtu.be/It1zwilUSho?t=3m11s (it ends at 4:00)
i'll keep doing this in future chapters. if there's a dance scene in this story, i'll try to find a clip or a video with that same dance style, so you can visually see it. how's that? :D
also! just like Mitsu Dan, I have nothing against Koreans! XDD it's all part of the story. so i hope it's not a big issue that i made Nino a hafu :3