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Of Sequins and Scalpels

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"Unacceptable, try again."

Helen sputtered. "What?"

Nikola Tesla, her partner for this rigmarole, smirked as he walked away to grab a water bottle. "Unacceptable. You can do better. Try again."

Hands on hips, Helen rolled her shoulders. "And what, exactly, is unacceptable?"

He didn't even look at her as he reeled off his list. "Your heel turns are on the balls of your feet, you're leading with the balls of your feet not your heels, you're slouching, not spotting as you turn, no rise and fa--"

"Fine!" Helen interrupted, already sorry she'd asked. "Fine. One thing at a time?"

Nikola looked at her and nodded, drinking his water all the while. "Frame first." Grace enveloped the man as he strode across the dancefloor, and Helen couldn't help feeling a touch awkward. Give her a list of symptoms and she could run, a scalpel and she'd fly, but the waltz? She felt like a newborn foal on stilts. "Wha--?"

"You have a long neck, Doctor Magnus," he explained, gently placing his hands on her, "and while in hold your head should be tilted back and to the left, like so." With the softest push to the underside of her chin, he moved her head back. "Keep your shoulders down," he added, arranging their arms.

"I'm trying," she said through gritted teeth,

"Try harder."

Forcing each breath through her nose, Helen held herself like the posable mannequin Nikola treated her as, counting threes in her head as she waited for the torture to end.

"Better," he murmured. "Now, I'll count us through the routine. Remember your feet, and--" He winked, "-- follow my lead."

They didn't so much as dance as stutter through steps, but Nikola, possibly in love with his own voice or really just that passionate about the waltz, explained each figure. He held her through each turn, and by the end of their morning session she almost trusted him not to let her go.