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.
Chapter 3 - Spotting
Ohno had Nino's back against the wall with Nino's feet propped up with a box. The street performer scrunched his face in agony as Ohno grabbed Nino's toes and purposely bent them as far down as they could go. Nino's foot was nearly a complete arc like a pretty ballerina, except Nino felt anything but pretty at the moment.
"Ah! Stop it!" Nino cried out. "You'll break my toes!"
"I can't believe how stiff your feet are," Ohno grunted, allowing Nino to relax. "It's even more shocking when you told me you never learned basic ballet forms. How do you manage dancing on the streets?! How can you ever dance when your feet aren't flexible?"
"I am flexible," Nino grumbled. "I was able to get your attention the first time, didn't I?"
"How often do you stretch before you perform?" Ohno asked.
Nino pouted. "I do the basics. Hamstring stretch. Reaching for the toes. Stretch my arms. Basic."
Ohno frowned. "Show me."
Ohno stood up while Nino moved the box away for more leg space. He watched Nino spread out to a V and lean towards his left foot, and then Nino stretched towards his right. Ohno studied him closely and noticed a fatal flaw. Nino would stretch but not to his full potential. Nino's hand barely reached his ankle. It looked rather lazy.
As Nino reached towards the center, Ohno came behind Nino and pushed his back.
"Ahh!" Nino yelped. "Stop it! No! That hurts!"
"How can that hurt?! You barely have your back bent over!" Ohno shouted. He quickly sat down in front of Nino with his legs spread out. "You're suppose to stretch like this."
Ohno took a deep breath and reached forward as far as he could until his chest almost touched the polished wooden floor.
"That's impossible!" Nino gawked. "I'm not a freaking ballet dancer!"
Ohno pulled back, feeling slightly disappointed. "Then, we've got a lot of work to do."
Throughout the entire day, it was nothing but basic stretching and aerobic work. Ohno realized that Nino excelled in flexibility and balance. It was the perfect combination for hip hop dancing that requires an immense amount of vigorous movements. Good street performers have to maintain control, and Nino definitely has that talent. But Nino lacks in basic strength and endurance skills. Something vital to ballroom style dancing.
Ohno made Nino do extraneous workouts. Other times, he would make Nino do splits for long minutes until Nino give in. He forced Nino to prop his leg up on a ballet barre, and he would push Nino's back until Nino begged him to stop. He showed Nino a basic ballet spin technique. Nino would spin and spin until he had to excuse himself to the bathroom. Of course, Ohno didn't want Nino to tear a tendon or pull a muscle. Each training session's purpose was to teach Nino how to manage his body's durability. Still, Ohno felt he became more of a drill sergeant than a dance instructor. Ohno didn't dare teach Nino any dancing yet until Nino learns to hold his body properly.
For the past three days, Nino would come to his studio alone. They would stretch until Nino cried out to stop. Then, they would proceed to more aerobic workouts. It had been awhile for Ohno to instruct endurance lessons, but it was refreshing for him. Nino, however, was looking fed up. Ohno noticed it was the same look his previous students would have whenever he yelled.
After one week, Nino came to the studio looking rather slump and grumpy.
"Good morning," Ohno greeted as usual.
Nino just threw death glares at him.
Ohno raised an eyebrow. "Well, nice to see you too, sunshine." Still, Nino didn't say a word. "Fine then. Let's begin stretching."
"If I have to bend over one more time, I swear I'll kick you with my twisted ankle," Nino growled.
This time, Ohno frowned back. "What's up with you?"
"You! That's the problem!" Nino yelled. "For the past week, it's been nothing but me walking out that door feeling sore and broken! I've learned zip about ballroom dancing!"
"Of course we can't start dancing yet," Ohno said, raising his arms up and then dropping them with a loud 'slap' on his thighs. "You are a beginner at this. There is a big difference in pop dancing than what we're doing. You have to maintain endurance and-"
"I have endured!" Nino snapped. "I've stretched my damn legs all over this studio. I've spun like crazy until I puked my breakfast, and where are we going with this?! Aren't we suppose to win your dance competition? Shouldn't we be working on a routine already? It's your damn studio you want to rescue, don't you?"
Ohno felt a twisted flutter in his stomach. He never told Nino about his debt problem. His voice was quieter. "How do you-"
"You forgot?" Nino smirked rather mockingly. "You practically yelled about it at the bistro restaurant. Remember? Where we first met? I was the waiter with the ugly face you never wanted to see again."
"I was wondering why no students were coming here," Nino nodded. "And then yesterday, I remembered what you said to that woman. Maybe I should find her and have her teach me to dance."
Ohno's eyes flashed wide open with anger and a trace of fear. "No! Don't even think about getting involved with her."
"And why not?" Nino demanded. "Because you don't want to admit she might be a better teacher than you? A better dancer than you?"
"Nino," Ohno walked towards him urgently. "I forbid you from seeing her."
Nino glowered at him. "You know why you don't have any students?"
Ohno searched his eyes for an answer, but he couldn't respond back.
"It's because you don't care for them," Nino answered. "You say you're doing this for me, but really...you only care about yourself."
Ohno wished he could shout at Nino's face, but Ohno's throat was tight with frustration and regret.
The younger man turned around and headed for the door.
But he already left.
Ohno sat alone in his office. He turned off the studio lights and only his office ceiling light bulb beamed down on his depressed slouch. He wondered when he lost himself while training Nino. He only wanted to push Nino to his limits so they can do their best for the competition. Ohno strived for perfection. But then Ohno realized he just wanted to win the competition. Nino's dream touched Ohno, but he quickly forgot about it when they entered his studio. He would drag Nino's broken body to the dance floor just so he could pay off his debt. He lost sight about what Nino wanted and his feelings.
"Maybe I should quit," Ohno sighed. "What's the point in keep this place? It's not going to last long anyway...and neither will I."
Ohno sorted through old files in his office until he came across a few forgotten photos. They took them during the time he first opened his studio. It seemed a lifetime ago. Back then, he had a few fans wanting to be taught by him, and they took a photo outside as a memento. All of the students in the photo left one by one. Ohno couldn't remember the last time he saw his students smiling and thanking him for his teachings.
But the photo showed they had fun. His students were happy being with him. He did remember the joy of watching his students dance on stage. At one point, he loved teaching others to dance purely to see their smile. But then his life took a different turn, and everything changed forever. He slowly became more negative and harsh on his students. His bitterness led him to a change in shoes as well. He wore the thick-soled shoes that made him a few inches taller because he wanted to feel on top. He became greedy and sought out only perfection than emotion.
And it started all because of...
Ohno quickly got up and grabbed his coat. He hurried outside, wondering where Nino would go this time. He glanced down at his watch and thought he might still be at his part-time job at the bistro. Ohno jogged his way to the restaurant, but when he stepped inside, he didn't spot Nino among the staff.
"Excuse me," Ohno approached the hostess.
"Is Nino working today?"
"Nino?" She titled her head. "Nino...oh! I'm sorry, he doesn't work here anymore."
Ohno felt his heart sank. "He doesn't? W-why?"
"A week ago he talked to the manager and said he quit," the hostess shrugged. "Something about finally following his dreams or something."
Immediately, Ohno started to feel regret. Nino dedicated his time to learn ball dancing; he went so far as to quit his jobs to have more time at the studio. Ohno never felt so guilty and went back outside to search for him. It was getting late, and Ohno searched almost every corner for street performers, but no one was dancing today. If only he knew Nino's address or his phone number, but this only reminded Ohno of his selfishness. He never bothered to get to know Nino a little more. Ohno was so caught up in coaxing Nino to get into ball dancing and training him like a guinea pig until the day of the competition.
"What would I do when it was over?" Ohno mumbled to himself, walking aimlessly down the sidewalks. "Would I forget about him like another dropout student? I probably would have..."
Ohno was about to call it quits when he heard a shrill scream up ahead.
"Someone!" A woman screamed. "He stole my purse! Someone stop him!"
Ohno could see everyone parting away from the criminal running towards his direction. Rather than making a heroic act, Ohno didn't want to get involved and parted away as well. He couldn't afford getting into a fight. What if the thief had a knife? It scared him to even think of his blood spilling. His health was very important to him. But even as the criminal ran past him, Ohno saw someone chasing after the thief. He turned his head to see who was playing the hero.
Somehow, he wasn't surprised to see a blurred Nino.
Ohno's eyes widen, and Nino zoomed past him without even noticing. Ohno didn't even bat an eyelid as he went after him. Nino's fast running speed surprised him, but Ohno kept a trained eye on them. A few meters ahead, he saw them turn a corner and Ohno followed. The alleyway was tight, but Nino kept pursuing the thief as Ohno dragged behind to keep up.
Finally, the thief ran into a dead-end. Nino bravely approached the thief while Ohno peered from behind a brick wall. He watched closely as Nino called out with a strong voice despite their recent sprint.
"Hand it over," Nino said with his hand out. "You've got no place to run."
"Hmm," the thief chuckled. "You're right. There is no place to run...for you."
As if they were waiting in the shadows, more thugs appeared. The gangsters surrounded Nino, and a few dragged iron baseball bats across the asphalt. Ohno's heartbeat raced like a nervous rabbit, and he quickly pulled out his cell phone to call the cops.
"Hey, I know you," one of the thugs pointed at Nino. "You're that Korean runt from the ramen shop."
"So what?" Nino dared.
"I gotta admit, you did a civil duty by quitting that job," the thug laughed at him. "Lately, there's been too many damn Koreans here."
"Get this, guys," the thief spoke up. "He tried being a hero and take back the purse."
"What will he do afterwards?" Another chuckled. "Confess to the old hag like in those cheesy Korean dramas?" The man puckered his lips and fluttered his eyelashes.
The others started laughing.
"Saranghae!" Another mocked.
"He'll probably die later from cancer or some shit," someone chortled and the rest followed.
"Maybe he committed incest as well!"
"Shut up!" Nino shouted. "I am Japanese as well!"
"So you deny your other heritage," the thug said with a crooked smile. "I won't blame you though."
"No, I just-"
"No one cares what you think, hafu!" The thief shouted. "Go back to Korea and eat your disgusting spoiled food."
"First, give me the purse," Nino continued to persist. "You are the ones being disgusting. Stealing from an innocent bystander for you own personal gain. You have no idea how important it might be to her. Rather than money, it could be holding precious memories and dreams. But what would you pathetic scums know about it. I bet you don't even know what hard work is because all you do is steal."
Nino was no match. He was outnumbered and weaponless. The gangsters swung their iron bats and a few threw punches. Yet, he was able to dodge a few and defend his own. Ohno watched with his mouth gaping open. There it was again. The spark. The amazing fast footwork Ohno first saw when Nino danced in the streets. Except this time, it was different.
Nino spun fast, avoiding fatal blows to the head. He would leap away from danger and bend low. Ohno felt the corner of his lips turn up. Nino didn't look dizzy every time he spun around. Even as he took a few hits, he endured through the pain and fought back. Almost skillfully, Nino evaded another incoming baseball bat to the head by dropping low. His movements flowed. His posture was upright and balanced. There was strength.
But he was still outnumbered.
Nino got knocked down to the ground, spewing flecks of blood from his mouth. The thief stood over him with a pipe in his hand. Without thinking, Ohno raced forward even as the iron pipe slammed down hard on his back. He collapsed on top of Nino whose eyes widen with shock when he realized who took the blow.
Ohno grunted, feeling faint from the powerful strike. He couldn't find his voice but glanced down at him. He saw Nino looking scared as well as confused.
"The old man wants some too?" The thief shouted. "Fine then!"
"This might be it for me," Ohno thought.
He waited for another hit, but police sirens rang through the alleyway. The thugs got scared and scattered into the dark like roaches. Only a few came to a halt when the police shined their flashlights on them. The crooks kept their hands up as the police made their arrest. An officer escorted Ohno and Nino away and wrapped them in thin safety blankets. A paramedic came to treat Nino's wounds since he took the most beatings. Ohno reassured the medics he was fine but just a sore back and a light headache.
While the police continued their work, Ohno and Nino were left alone on the curb. Despite the cold chill of the night, Ohno felt surprisingly warm next to Nino.
"Why did you do it?" Nino finally spoke, sounding tired and frail. "Why did you take the last blow? What did it matter to you?"
Ohno had a difficult time swallowing since his throat felt so dry. He glanced up and watched the police walk back and forth.
"Because...you are my only student," Ohno answered. "I didn't want anyone to hurt you."
He could feel Nino's eyes on him.
"You were right, Nino," Ohno sighed. "I did care about myself more. I wanted nothing more than to win the competition, get my business back, and press it on MItsu's damn face. I realized I do have a lot to learn about letting go of my pride." He turned to face Nino. "I'm sorry I wasted your time. I'm sorry you had to quit your job for me. I should have been more thoughtful of your dedication"
Nino looked utterly bashful as he lightly bit his lower lip before looking away. Ohno's lips twitched up, and he drew his safety blanket closer.
"I...I want to apologize as well," Nino spoke. "I should have been more patient. This is all still new to me, and I guess I was so eager to get started right away. I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. I got frustrated...and I spoke out of line. I'm sorry."
"...you were amazing back there," Ohno nodded back at the alleyway. "You certainly showed them even for a bit."
Nino made a small smile. "Someone taught me those moves."
There was calm and warm atmosphere between them. Even with his lip cut, Nino's smile was earnest and grateful. The last time Ohno saw someone smile at him like that was his first students in the photo. It was something worth maintaining, more so than body posture. Ohno reached out and wrapped his arm around Nino's shoulder.
"If you're still interested, tomorrow we can start a dance routine."
"...I'll be there."
end chapter 3!
To Chapter 4 >> http://arashiforyou.livejournal.com/55357.html
have you guys noticed the chapter titles? they're dancing terminology. (i've done some research!)
Spotting is the technique dancers use when they spin for a number of turns. To avoid dizziness, the dancer would have their head and eyes oriented at a fixed point every time they spin around. The body would spin at a steady speed, but the head would quickly spin and then stop to reorient. That was the idea Nino was doing when he fended off those bad guys. He was "spotting" :D
here's a video example of that technique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88bsYB9i6Mc
the next chapter they'll being dancing. i promise!