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After the Dance

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She had cried when Dennis and Marlon auditioned, their connection and the fearlessness with which they expressed it punching the breath out of her.

It wasn't that she hadn't seen the potential, hadn't known that Dennis at least was capable of expressing his deepest emotions through dance. But there had been a reason she'd warned him of opening himself up too much when it came to Marlon, who'd proven himself a talented dancer but otherwise not much different than the hundreds of "regular guys" Karen had taught over the years. Yet there they were, the two of them, circling each other on stage, confirming everything she'd seen in them during that audition.

She cried again, tears of pride for her students, for the gift of two young men who allowed themselves to be vulnerable with each other. Tears also for herself, for the bittersweet knowledge that Marlon had outgrown the puppy love for his teacher, even if he himself didn't know it yet. He soon would, though, of that she was sure as she watched in the darkness of the wings, one of the few people close enough to see that he, too, was crying, eyes locked with Dennis. Dennis, who hadn't been able to look away from Marlon for a long time now, and Karen was glad for him, glad her assistant and favourite student would no longer have to hide his longing, at least not from the object of his affections.

No one else noticed, no one except Karen, whose life sometimes felt as if it had been spent watching young people grow. To her it was crystal clear, though, the way Marlon's gaze tracked Dennis during the afterparty, the way their arms brushed with what she could only call intent. They'd been comfortable in each other's space before, ever since the audition, but things had been strained after she'd asked Dennis to tutor Marlon again, doubtlessly because Marlon had somehow managed to step on Dennis's feet, emotionally speaking.

Shaking her head ruefully, Karen was once again reminded why she'd chosen to stay away from such entanglements, had poured all her love and devotion into dance, into poetry and teaching. It had been her choice, and she was content with it most of the time. Still, she couldn't completely suppress the pang of loneliness she felt when she caught sight of them melting into the darkness of a half-hidden corner.

Marlon's wide eyes gleamed white as Dennis touched his cheek with careful fingers, following the long-gone tear tracks. His voice was too low for her to make out, but his words made Marlon swallow and nod shakily, his own hand rising to rest on Dennis's broad shoulder as it had done dozens of times before. Yet never like this, never as a prelude to a kiss, their mouths meeting in a dance not too unlike the one they'd shared at the audition or tonight on that stage.

Smiling, Karen turned away, leaving her students to their own devices.