In which Naj is introduced to a wide variety of dancing.
Coming down from the garden stairs, Nica spotted movement in the scaffolding just above the stage. Travis was realigning lighting and straightening cords along the heavy beams. She wondered if he had only just woken up to take care of it, but let the thought go. He was working on it and that was what mattered.
She hadn’t realized her steps had slowed to watch the pup. Naj had slowed as well and she took the opportunity to gesture to the man on the catwalk. “That’s Travis, he does a lot of the lighting for our shows. If you have any interest in learning to do that, he’s actually a good teacher for the technical aspects of stage work.”
Nica didn’t add that it was one of the few areas in which Travis showed any discipline or gravity. She liked that the pup was light-hearted, it helped boost the whole nest.
Travis. The wolf. He was one of the dancers Naj was finding it easier to remember. Probably because of his own time in the rafters. Perhaps he would have an affinity for the work up here as well as the wolf.
“I just might have an interest, at that. “a’parn’ei.”
He eyed the metal walkways, trying to connect this perspective with the much lower vantage point he’d had as a serpent. It was disconcerting, to be both familiar and unfamiliar with the space, but as far as he could tell, it would offer neither help nor hindrance to him, so he let it go.
As they moved further downstairs, Nica took advantage of the tight space to lean in to Naj as she spoke. “The stage is open for general practice until three. Most people will work on the dances they intend to perform that night, but it’s also an excellent time to test a performance on the stage to see how it fits the space. When someone is working with the lights, it can also be a good time to see if you’ll need any special consideration with the lighting for your performance.”
She held the handrail as she stepped down to the second balcony, leaning against it as she stood a moment to consider the stage. No one was currently dancing, as an impromptu meeting seemed to be happening in the center. Nica fell silent as she watched the exchange, which mostly seemed to consist of Emily patiently saying something, to Marie bouncing in place as she animatedly talked with her hands in return. Lena and Nat were watching the conversation silently, following the points back and forth as if it were a tennis match.
The group broke apart when Carrie interceded. The short blonde’s charming smile never wavered and whatever she said left the group laughing as they moved off stage.
Knowing the fox, it was probably at her husband’s expense. Matthew’s good natured scowl as he joined Carrie on stage confirmed Nica’s theory. The wolf seemed to enjoy being overly serious and she suspected he did it more now to play up being Carrie’s straightman than from any actual dour mood on his own part. As the pair of them posed in various places on stage and began discussing where to start their dance, Nica turned her attention back to the serpent at her side.
“My favorite part of practice time is simply watching everyone. I often will sit at one of the tables and offer suggestions, since I can offer the audience’s viewpoint. It also gives me an idea of what sort of show we’ll be putting on at any given time.” She glanced at the clock over the bar, nodding when she confirmed it was only a little after noon. “I’d actually like to watch the rest of practice today to see where the nest stands currently… You’re welcome to join me if you like.”
“a’Parn, eija. I would like that very much.”
She nodded with a smile. “I thought you might.”
Nica settled in her chair, looking over as Naj did the same. Whatever she’d been about to say was derailed by the overhead lights flashing off, then back on.
She leaned over to quietly explain, “The flashing lights mean we’re about to start a rehearsal piece, potentially several in a row – we don’t often do complete run-throughs of the night’s show, as we put on several a night, but sometimes we do a few in a set if we need to see how the songs pace together.”
Naj simply nodded and took his seat, facing the stage without a word. He would not interrupt this for the world. Intellectually, he knew this was merely a practice, nothing serious, but he still brought to it every ounce of gravity and respect he would for any performance. These were his nestmates, and how their footfalls sounded, his heart would follow.
Travis flashed another light to signal he was ready and the music started with a jaunty beat as Abba’s “Does Your Mother Know” filled the air around them. Matthew and Carrie started at opposite ends of the stage, each tapping one foot in time to the music, before Carrie started across the stage determinedly. Then stopped dead.
The music shifted abruptly, an all too familiar rift, with a counterpoint of shouts and groans.
“Chris!” Matthew stalked across the stage toward the soundbox, fists clenched, the warm musk of alpha wolf rising. His words were a low growl, ground out from between clenched teeth. “What are you doing? We are trying to practice.”
Chris just grinned, holding up a finger. “Wait for it…”
Carrie was right behind her husband, small hand wrapping around his very muscular arm. “Chris, you know better. We voted as nest, no more Rick Rol-”
But it wasn’t Rick Astley. In a masterful, unlikely blend, the auto-tune vocals layered over the classic pop beat.
“Dog goes woof, cat goes meow…”
More groans, but a squeal of glee covered it all. Marie burst from behind the curtains, arms flailing like a mad muppet, screaming something about “her FAAAV!” as her tail whapped everyone in her path. Nica stared, torn between bewilderment and amusement. Just as she decided to do something—she didn’t know what– the music cut to a halt.
Kain scooped Marie up by the waist, tail still happily circling. He turned on Chris, leaning against the soundbox, grasping his side, gasping out “Worth it! Worth it!”
Video transcript: Happy April Fool’s! When I saw the update day fell on April Fool’s, I couldn’t resist. I did, however, restrain myself, largely because I was straying into spoiler territory. So, you’re welcome, or I’m sorry. Whichever. Either way, I promise real dancing next week, and none of this *queue Rick Astley and Yvlis*