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The Lesson

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Dancing lessons are requisite at the Sentinel. Girls apparently aren’t, not after the number of unplanned pregnancies experienced by the young women imported from the nearby Smithfield College For Young Ladies to serve as dance partners reached an all-time high the year Frank Underwood was a freshman (grunt, plebe, what have you).

“You shorties will dance as ladies,” laughed Sgt. Maxwell, dividing the class of male cadets into two lines. How it smarted to be passive partner, Frank thought, eyeing his taller classmates with emnity.

“We’ll switch things around,” promised the gruff sergeant. But so far, after almost a full semester, things remained status quo and Frank and his roommate Tim were dancing backwards, guided through waltzes, sambas and foxtrots by their jeering and sometimes, frankly, leering classmates.

“They dipped me all night,” Frank complained to the quiet Tim, rubbing a hand along the small of his back.

“It will get old, soon,” assured the sensible, delicately built young blond. He looked fragile but Frank knew better.

“But the Governor’s Ball is in a month,” Frank continued, pouting. “We’ll be expected to dance with women. All of us. And all we know are the ladies’ steps.”

“You’ll think of something,” yawns Tim, turning off the light.

*

It’s only a day later, or a night later to be more precise. Frank’s found an old record player in the library’s basement, the normal basement, not the tunnel-like chamber where he and the other Riflemen rendezvous to practice their harmonies. He sets the needle down onto the record, testing how far the sound carries. It seems safe.

“Come with me,” he later whispers into Tim’s ear, waking his best friend with a start.

“Frank, it’s two in the morning,” the sandy blond groans, turning over except that Frank’s got a grip on the boy’s elbows, twisting Tim until he slips boneless to the cold floor. “All right, all right.”

That’s the good thing about Tim – he’s easy going, mellow, a perfect counter balance to Frank’s angry drive. It’s no coincidence that they become friends on that first day, after Frank cusses out the drill sergeant. Frank gives Tim energy and Tim soothes him right back.

“You lead first,” Frank urges, turning on the record player and placing his left hand on Tim’s hip, the other snatching his friend’s hand and lifting it. “Perfect,” growls the short, stocky brunet, stepping backwards in time with the music, forcing Tim to lead. It’s a simple box step first and Frank starts the song again and again until Tim’s got it, crisp and swagger. An odd expression flashes across Tim’s face –worried, perhaps and perhaps a little bit excited.

“Don’t you want to lead, Frank?”

Frank blushes but he pulls Tim close until their hips touch, until both become aware of their mutual excitement. “I’d follow you anywhere,” growls the future President, pushing forward to risk a kiss.