Dance Lessons by SLWalker
Summary: 2248 - A piece about mortality, life, fear, dancing... well, you name it. Very slice-of-life. Takes place before Fireflies of Scotland in the Arc of the Wolf. Contains spoilers for Forty-Eight.
Categories: Original Series Characters: Corrigan, Andrew (Corry), Scott, Montgomery (Scotty)
Genre: Family, Friendship, General
Warnings: Adult Language
Challenges: None
Series: Tracks of the Lion
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 5382 Read: 1314 Published: 18 Jun 2013 Updated: 18 Jun 2013
Story Notes:
This was written years ago, now. Posted here to make trekfan smile; I hope it does, in light of who gave Cor dancing to begin with. See what you did? ;)

1. Chapter 1 by SLWalker

Chapter 1 by SLWalker
The historical part of Cullera in Valencia, Spain was beautiful; the resort area, less so. Situated on the Mediterranean, it was the kind of place where the locals had obviously waged a non-bloody war to retain their history, and succeeded only in part. But the parts they had succeeded in retaining were beautiful.

Corry had been to Spain before; actually, when he was seventeen, he had sailed in a yacht race off the western coast, making it with his team to the semi-finals. The memories were pretty vivid -- the race, and then the party after they lost where they all found a quiet spot and got drunk sitting on the coast, then the memories became distinctly less vivid until he was back in Maine and trying to look like he wasn't hungover before his parents saw him.

He hadn't been back since then, but he wasn't sorry to be here now.

The first thing he decided was that he really liked Perez. He wasn't sure if it was instinct, or if it was because what little he knew about the man was all positive, but it only took him about two minutes to decide that this was the kind of guy who was worth hanging out with. The second thing he decided was that, despite the fact that it had taken some leaning and prodding and even a little badgering, it was probably a good thing for Scotty to be here, too.

Neither of them had been doing too well. It seemed like they had crawled at least part way out of the hole, and then news came from a very devastated Jerry Jansson that Joe Albright had been killed in the line of duty.

The last time either had seen Joe was when he shipped off after the Academy; the last time either had talked to him was a few quick letters more than a year ago now. But the funny thing about sharing a major event with someone was that even when you didn't talk for awhile, even though you lived such separate lives, you never quite lost a connection that was hard to explain, but impossible to deny.

Corry had slumped in the kitchen chair for probably two hours, just trying to process it. Trying to imagine that Joe was just... gone. It wasn't that no one died in wars. He knew they did. But it didn't fit, it didn't make sense; this was one of their guys, one of the Lady Grey's architects, one of their friends. It didn't help that he'd nearly lost Scotty to the same war only months before that.

Breaking that news to his best friend was even worse. There were still occasional periods of time where Scott would just go quiet and distant and almost impossible to reach, even though he tried not to -- times where he would seem to vanish, even if he was physically present. Corry knew that just because they'd finally managed to come to some conclusions and some stability that it would probably be a very long time before they weren't still struggling to get back to a normal, even life.

The expression he got back when he broke the news was more telling than any words would be; a flinch, not exaggerated, but subtle and then the resurgence of the same heartsick look that lived mostly in Scotty's eyes and reflected too well how Corry felt himself. It was a look that hadn't been gone for so long that Cor couldn't recognize it.

That was two weeks ago. They both wrote Jerry back; it was hard for Corry and he imagined it was pure Hell for Scotty. They wrote Joe's mother, which was even more torturous. And finally, both went to the memorial service; black-clad bookends, there because they were expected to be. The body wasn't there, and that was about the only mercy in all of it.

Now, two weeks later, they were in Spain because the Horizon Sun was finally back in orbit, because Perez had gone to quite a bit of trouble to track down a way to contact Scotty, who made it extremely difficult for people to find him while he was on medical leave, and because Corry was sure that if they didn't break this cycle of heartbreak for even a night, they might slip the rest of the way back into that damn hole that had come close to swallowing them all.

"You look like shit," Perez said to Scott, and that was when Cor decided he wanted to like the guy.

"Least I don't look like an asshole," Scotty replied, though it was half-hearted.

It was obvious that it was a rather time-honored greeting; Perez grinned at that, gesturing them into the foyer. "Come in, come in. Dinner will be finished in an hour."

The house itself was a neat mix of the modern and historical; historical construction, modern vidscreen and one heck of a sound system. There was some furniture, impeccably matched to the house, and a large open area of the floor which was completely clear of anything. Corry was pondering on that when the woman walked out of the kitchen, and then he couldn't ponder much of anything except, "Wow."

"My wife, Catalina," Perez said, with a good-natured sort of smirk, and that was when Corry realized he'd said it outloud.

She was stunning; long black hair with some natural curl, a figure that was classical, black eyes, black dress, lips painted deep red. And her smile was no less lovely.

"Yer... wife?" Scotty raised an eyebrow, though it was probably a good sign that there was a spark of definite interest. "Since when?"

"A few nights ago," Perez answered, flippantly. "I wanted to have the paperwork on her before inviting you over."

Corry was a little lost, but Catalina obviously knew what was being said. She tipped her head to the side, giving Scott a very careful once-over, then an equally careful walk-around (much to his confusion) and then she looked at her husband and commented deadpan, "I want a divorce, Cayo."

Perez laughed, hard; amazingly, Scotty laughed too, though he was turning red as he did and it was a bit more subdued. Corry's confusion must have shown; Catalina looped an arm through his, as natural a motion as breathing, and explained, "Cayo was telling Scotty about a dream he had; Scotty said that if I had a choice, I would marry him instead. Of course, that was many months ago. Now, it's obvious that I would have."

Corry grinned a bit. "Well, now that I'm here, they're both in trouble."

Catalina laughed, and it was a genuine laugh. "The token blond? I'm a lucky woman."

At that, Cor was pretty sure Perez was a very lucky man. By now, he firmly liked them both.

Perez dragged Scotty off to the kitchen, after all the introductions were made, and Catalina and Corry followed, the latter out of random curiosity. Perez had pulled out all of the stops; there was the makings of a massive meal in progress, four or five courses. The entire counter was taken up with food of just about every color.

"We had a lighter lunch so we could prepare this," Catalina said, sitting down at a small breakfast table off to the side and elegantly crossing her legs. Without asking, she poured a couple glasses of red wine from a bottle without a label, then handed one to Corry and the other to Scotty. "Then we can worry about which of you I should be married to."

Corry looked down into the wine glass, then tried a sip.

"This is good," Scott said, after a cautious sip himself, and Corry had to agree. Besides, when Scotty complimented a wine, that meant it really did have to be good. "Make it yerself?"

"I did," Catalina replied, with a grin that was just as charming as her smile.

Perez was busy preparing the food, but he was grinning himself. "Ah, see why I married her? No such woman should be on the market."

Catalina rolled her eyes, but there was no denying that she liked it. "You only succeeded because you're a fine chef and a fine dancer," she said, waving him off.

"Well, I could be both," Scotty chimed in, leaning on the kitchen counter in one of the very few clear spots. "With a few dancin' lessons."

Corry smiled to himself. While the tone still wasn't all that 'here and present', at least the couple had managed to provoke a little banter out of his brother; more than he could, of late, since he was still struggling to overcome a new grief on top of the old ones. Now he'd figured out why that area of the floor in the living room was wide open -- they were dancers.

"Oh?" Catalina turned her careful scrutiny back to Scotty, eyes twinkling. "A challenge that I can't resist." She took another sip of her wine, then stood, holding out her hand. "We have an hour; let's dance."

Not surprisingly, Scotty tried just about everything to get out of it. Not from the usual anxiety he seemed to face when confronted with the interest of a prospective date -- Catalina was married, after all -- but just because dancing had never been his strong suit and he was still limping from working earlier that day anyway. But between her charm and peer pressure from Perez and Corry, he finally gave in. A glass of wine probably helped.

Corry was a far better dancer; back when he used to prowl for dates, dancing was what he'd usually resorted to. Never any formal lessons or anything, but he got pretty good throughout high school and then here and there after. But as much as he wished he could go cut in, just to pick up the tempo and lose himself in the steps for awhile, the last person he had danced with was Abby and he wanted her to be the next.

Catalina was trying to teach a still somewhat reticent Scott a basic salsa, though slowly and patiently. For his part, he gave it a fair try; framed up with Catalina, once he got the basic steps down, it didn't take him all that long to put the rhythm, steps and music together, even with one side not up to par. Corry wasn't surprised by that, either. Music and mechanics went hand-in-hand, at least when it came to Scotty. He was much more amused that it was put to use like this.

So he just stood back and watched, sometimes grinning, sometimes smiling out of good cheer. Both felt good, especially after the past two weeks, never mind the time before that.

"Handsome," Perez said, standing in the kitchen door and only a couple feet away, watching. After about thirty minutes, the dancing lessons had gotten a bit more complex, though still not all that fast or intense.

Cor nodded. "She's a good teacher." Then he chuckled, "Wish I had a camera."

"Ah, she puts me to shame really, but it is almost impossible not to become better when you're dancing with her."

There was no denying the absolute devotion in Perez's voice; it made Corry smile and wince a little at the same time. Not because of Perez, just because he felt the same about Abby and she wasn't here. Not that she was much more inherently social than Scotty usually was; sometimes, even less so. "Obviously."

There was a long pause there, then Perez said, "She never dances, while I'm out there. Any man or woman here would dance with her, but she never dances."

Corry glanced over side-long, eyebrows drawn a bit.

"It seems like a crime against the universe," Perez concluded, shaking his head. Then he half-forced a grin. "Enough of this; we should be celebrating."

"Kinda hard, sometimes," Corry replied, though he didn't really do it to try to dampen the mood. He wasn't even sure exactly why he said it.

Perez took a breath and let it out, looking relieved that he didn't have to hold up any pretenses. "It is. If not for him, I would not be here; she would never dance again," he said, a faint edge of sorrow climbing into his voice as he nodded towards the dancers. Well, the dancer and the student. "He wouldn't be here, either, but is it still fair?"

"I don't know," Corry said, and he thought of Joe Albright. Killed defending a power station in a border colony under siege.

"A crime against the universe," Perez repeated, after a very long pause there where there wasn't anything either of them could say. Then, more genuinely setting aside the melancholy this time, he patted Corry on the shoulder. "Help me set the table; let them dance."

They maintained a bit of lighter talk as they set the dining room table, a large table obviously meant to someday be filled with a large family. Some of it comparing notes on their time at the Academy, some of it just getting to know each other. It eased the mood, at least for now; by the time they got back out to the living room, the dance lesson was reaching its conclusion.

By now, they'd picked up pace and were mostly on step; no instructions, just dancing. Scotty looked a little tired and was probably hurting some, but was pretty intently focused regardless. Catalina looked like she could dance for another several hours without getting winded. Despite the occasional misstep and an inevitable stiffness, though, they looked good.

"Beautiful," Perez said, aside to Corry, as he watched.

Corry smiled a bit. "Yeah, it is."

Catalina was still quite obviously the expert dancer; she didn't lead, exactly, but she was fluid and graceful and radiated strength. But Scotty was keeping up pretty well, even though there was only so much he could throw into dancing with a hip that still needed time to finish healing. Perez was right -- it seemed like it had to be almost impossible not to improve when dancing with someone like Catalina. Despite all that was going against him, Scott had matched Catalina in intensity, even if he couldn't quite match up in agility.

That made for something that wasn't perfect, but it was striking. Her coloring, his contrasts, and a crackle of some fire that wasn't based in sex, but burned regardless.

"Yes, dancing with her makes things better," Perez said, again, and this time it was obvious that he was talking about more than just skill. And equally obvious that he was pleased about it.

It ended too soon, really, even though it ended perfectly in time for them to go and eat dinner. Catalina leaned up slightly and kissed Scotty on the cheek, and he gave her a slightly breathless grin in answer. Then, they came back from whatever world that they had to have gone into in order to dance that way, and she looked at her husband with a bright smile. "A few more lessons, and then I will demand the divorce."

"Ah, a few more lessons and I will learn to make wine, so I will still be ahead."

"I can brew hooch, does that count?" Scotty asked, after a moment where he was realizing that he was sore and had picked his left foot up to try to ease it a bit.

"No, I had a still before the Sun," Perez replied, dismissively. "It's no substitute for a fine wine."

Corry raised both eyebrows. "Yeah? Well, I'm blond."

Catalina got that while the other two looked briefly baffled, and laughed, throwing her head back. "The blond wins!"

Corry chuckled himself, and with Perez and Scotty still looking like they had missed something (and they had), the four of them headed for the dining room.

Dinner had been incredible. Starting with a soup and a plate of grilled greens, and plenty of bread, then there was baked snapper, perfectly prepared, as well as steak, then a large fruit salad for dessert. Corry was so full by the time it was over that he could see why Catalina had put the dancing before the dinner; he wasn't sure he would be able to move for quite awhile, and doubted anyone else could either.

She had graciously bid them goodnight not long later, before heading out to hit the town with her girlfriends and proving it was only the males who were incapacitated; that left Corry, Scotty and Perez out on the balcony, trying to recover somewhat from the meal, and to drink rather too much of Catalina's home-made wine.

"This is really good stuff," Corry said, probably for the third or fourth time since they'd started drinking. He wasn't exactly drunk; the meal probably had a lot to do with that. But he was feeling pretty good, regardless.

"One of the finer pleasures in life," Perez agreed, looking off into the Mediterranean night. It was warm here, and there was still music drifting up even at this hour. "Despite certain people claiming that Scotch is somehow better."

"It is better," Scotty replied, drowsily. His glass was still half full, but between the dancing and the meal, Corry had a feeling he was going to drop out of the conversation and consciousness both. "This is good, though."

Perez came to the same conclusion and looked over. "There's a spare bedroom inside. Go, sleep. I'll make us all breakfast in the morning."

They hadn't been planning on sticking around Cullera all night, but then again, Corry hadn't been planning on drinking either. Someone had to be sober enough or awake enough to drive back to South Bristol from Augusta, and that wasn't going to happen tonight. "There's probably a hotel..."

"Nonsense," Perez said, picking up the bottle and refilling Corry's wine glass. "We would not have invited you, if we planned on kicking you out the same night."

"Scotty?" Corry asked, and was rewarded with silence. Sure enough, Scotty had knocked out, kicked back on one of the balcony chairs with his bad leg propped up on a small end table. "Well, I guess we stay," Cor said, mostly to himself, reaching over and carefully pulling the wine glass out of his brother's hand before anything could happen to it.

Perez grinned. "Besides, it would be a shame not to finish this."

They had finished the first bottle between the four of them for dinner, and had cracked open a second. Corry picked it up himself once he set Scotty's glass somewhere out of the way, eying it carefully. "You know... yes. Yes, it would be." He set the bottle back down, then saluted with his wine glass. "Thank you for dinner, and putting us up for the night."

"The least I could do," Perez replied, returning the salute.

"Thanks for sending his stuff back, too," Corry said, dropping his voice automatically, nodding his head towards Scotty. "I mean, when they sent him home."

Perez nodded at that, with an expression that was rather indeterminable. It didn't seem like he was really planning on saying anything more, but then he finally did, "Lucky to be alive. I have wondered..." He looked down into his wine glass, then shook his head. "...should I have gone?"

It was the kind of thought that had no real resolution. Corry knew that question way the Hell too well. "He would've never let you." When Perez looked over, he shook his head. "And he'd probably be right. I mean, everything I've heard is that you're a good engineer--"

"But not that good." It wasn't even remotely a bitter statement; more an admiring one.

"I don't think that many people are," Corry agreed, with a half-smile. "Could you have rewired those connections faster?"

"No," Perez replied. "Not that fast, let alone faster."

"So, I guess he was just the best man for the job," Cor said, but he knew when he did that neither of them would find it a comfort. And again he thought of Joey and had to knot his jaw for a moment to get the feelings that went with that thought under control.

It fell quiet; there was a light breeze that blew by, bringing with it the smell of the groves. Then Perez said, "Still, it would have been another crime against the universe if he had died. My wife could continue to dance, but he would never have learned to."

It was a strange feeling; kind of cold and filled with fears in the dark spaces. And even on a warm Spanish night, warmed by wine, Corry shivered.

"Tell me of the court-martial," Perez said, startling Corry from his thoughts. "You were a fresh-faced first year when I graduated."

Corry wasn't sure he could even find it in himself to talk right now, crowded with too much heartache. But after a few more sips of wine, he finally started, "Well, you remember Commander Barrett, right?" When he got a nod, he continued, "Since he was about to retire, he decided to go ahead and give his last year of cadets a hands-on final..."

It took a couple of hours and a few more glasses of wine to get through most of the story; it was strange and kind of wonderful that there were times when Corry laughed out loud at it. Strange and kind of heartbreaking that when he told Perez about the day they tested the guns Joey had made, he laughed until he cracked to pieces and found himself crying his eyes out. For Perez's part, he didn't make anything of it; after Cor got himself back under control, he finally choked out the explanation, no easier now than the first time he had to say it outloud.

They spent more time then, most of it Corry relaying stories about Albright unrelated to the Lady Grey, then continued on with maybe the best story Cor knew so far about his friend; the sabotage, the Wildstorm, the gale. Throughout the whole thing, he gave himself no quarter -- when it came to how he'd acted himself at times, he was brutally honest. And when it came to his crew, and Scotty in particular, he made sure that they were given the due they would never give themselves, not even in the privacy of their own thoughts.

By the time it was over, it was coming up towards dawn and Corry was certain he was drunk.

"That is a story," Perez said, taking a breath and letting it out, a sort of contented sound. "The best kind of story."

"Yeah," Corry said, though he wasn't quite sure how he felt. Kind of adrift. His eyes kept wanting to close, and finally he stopped fighting them. "Sometimes it seems like someone else's story, even though I lived it. Like it couldn't possibly be us who did this stuff, y'know?"

"But it was," Perez said, and Cor could hear the wide grin in his voice. "Bold defiance. Daring. The high seas." He paused there, then chuckled warmly, "Ah, to have been in such a story? That is life."

Maybe that was why it felt like someone else's tale. Corry had spent so much time lately flinching from death, or near-death, or loss, or fear, that he wasn't even sure sometimes he would be able to do anything without thinking of all the ways that it could kill him or someone he loved. It seemed a far cry from what, five years ago? When he faced the sea head-on, in absolute defiance of Starfleet, nature, mankind and the universe, all for the sake of the defiance itself. He was younger then and it seemed the natural thing to do.

"If that was life, what's this?" he asked, before he realized that he actually did. He couldn't make his eyes open, though.

The answer was long in coming, and he wasn't sure if he actually heard it or maybe if he just dreamed it.

"There is no pretending tragedy is any less than tragedy. Your friend, or my father, or the things that could happen to those we have as families. But all we can do is make it good, and if we die while we make it good, then that is not the worst kind of death.

"The worst kind of death is if we die before we can."

Corry wanted to reply, but he couldn't, even if he was only replying to words in dreams; he couldn't even nod.

But he could dream, and when he did, he dreamed of sailing.

When he woke up, he had the worst hangover in his life. Well, okay, maybe it wasn't the worst hangover he had ever had, but it was pretty bad. His eyes felt like they were moving in sockets made of sandpaper, and his head was throbbing persistently.

"Hnnnnn..." he said, probably not the most dignified thing.

"Water and coffee at yer left hand," Scotty said, from somewhere on his right. There was a hint of amusement in his voice. "Dunno how much it'll do for ye, but it's worth a try."

Corry groaned again; he could see the sunlight through his eyelids and he knew when he opened his eyes, he would probably just die right there. Finally, though, he cracked them open and then immediately flinched. "...what time is it?"

"Noon, local time. Round-about."

Corry counted the hours back; that meant it was about six in the morning in Maine. He pried his eyes open again and found the water, almost knocking it over, then drank the whole glass with his eyes closed again before he chanced a reply, "We gotta head home soon."

"Aye. In a bit. Hungry yet?"

"Not yet," Corry said, carefully feeling for the coffee before picking it up and cradling it, then taking a sip.

"All right. Well, when ye are, there's food in the kitchen." And with that statement, Scott retreated. Corry wondered a bit where the heck he was going, until he heard the music drift out from the livingroom. Apparently, back to his dancing lessons.

As much as he wanted to go watch, he didn't want to chance moving yet. So, he sipped his coffee and after awhile was able to properly open his eyes; the Mediterranean looked back, crystal blue-green and with a good westerly wind. And automatically, Corry imagined how he would tackle sailing this area.

"I bought a boat," Perez said, seeming to have appeared out of nowhere, standing at the back of the balcony. "A small boat," he added. "One sail."

"You did?" Corry asked, looking back with wide eyes and almost forgetting the hangover. Almost. "Really?"

"I did." Perez practically beamed. "Before you go home, would you teach me how to sail?"

Corry laughed, and for the first time in... too long, it didn't have any sorrow lurking somewhere under it. "It takes a lot more than a day to learn how to sail."

"I know. But, a beginning lesson would be good." Perez offered over another glass of water, still grinning. "Since my wife is still dancing with her other prospective husband."

Corry chuckled, getting to his feet and taking the glass of water. "Thanks. And I guess we better get out there while there's a fair wind."

It wasn't that all of the sorrows were forgotten, but at least for awhile they were set aside in a real sense. It had been the first time Corry had gone sailing since the year before, and it was fun to teach someone else how to do it. Even more fun because they almost capsized a few times while the still green-as-grass Perez was trying to figure out how a sail should be set, and how it doesn't take all that much to knock a smallish sailboat to its side in a strong wind.

But she was a good little boat, with a very long righting arm. And finally, the sails were set, and heeled over so far that she almost had her lee rail in the water, the boat made a very decent speed, too.

It wasn't a long lesson. Long enough to relay some of the most fundamental principles, and long enough to extract a promise from Perez that he wouldn't try sailing solo until he had many more lessons from whoever was able to give them. But Corry had no trouble imagining Perez entering his little boat into that race on the west coast of Spain in however many years it took him to learn; he also had no trouble picturing Perez on the coast drinking with the other yachtsmen when the race was over.

They couldn't stay any longer, and even as outright charming as the company was, Corry did want to go back to Rutherford Island. He had work in the morning, and he had a lot to try to absorb about this little trip of theirs, and he thought Scotty probably felt the same way.

Catalina extracted a promise from Scotty that they would someday dance together again, Perez chewed over what to rechristen his little boat as. After lunch was over, they all said their goodbyes. It was afternoon when they got back to South Bristol, though it had been early evening when they had left Spain.

A few extra hours stolen back. Corry made good use of them.

The first thing he did was try to get into contact with the people who had been with Joe when he had died. As much as it still hurt that he had, suddenly, more than anything, Corry wanted an accounting of those final moments; wanted to know where and how their friend had died.

The second thing he did was write Jerry again, this time not letting his own shock and grief get in the way of it. It was easy to keep flinching away from pain, especially this kind of pain; easy to put off the rare chances there were to soothe it. He had no delusions that fear and pain and grief were just things that could be wished away, but he was at least sure now that he could show some defiance back against them.

Just like he once had.

By the time it was all over, that left enough time for the third thing. Maine was beautiful in the summer; the sun was bright and warm, as the afternoon wore on. Corry felt like he had been away for far longer than just a day; when he was done writing letters, he stood on the porch and soaked it into his skin.

After awhile, and a shower and some painkillers, and whipping up a quick dinner for when Melinda and Aaron made it home, Scotty stepped out himself. Probably out of curiosity at whatever had drawn Corry out here to just stand in silence without so much as a cup of tea. "Ye all right?"

"Yeah," Corry said, and was surprised that he meant it. "It's a beautiful day."

Scotty nodded, looking across the Damariscotta. After a moment or two, he said, "Strange, though. Feel a bit like I was gone a decade and not a day."

Cor had to chuckle at that a little, given he'd just been thinking it. "Seems to be a common feeling, lately, doesn't it? Like we keep getting put out to sea and keep having to find our way back."

A shadow crossed Scotty's face, and Corry knew that he was thinking of Joe, and his mother, and probably a million other things, some that Cor understood and some that probably couldn't be. "So long as we keep makin' it back, I suppose."

Corry didn't wish that away. Just accepted it for what it was, and then decided to try his hand at a bit more defiance against it; something he had heard that was maybe a dream but was certainly wise, something he had once done naturally and could maybe learn to do again.

He turned to head back into the house, in order to grab a sleeve of crackers, and gave Scotty a bump with his shoulder as he did.

"C'mon, Wolf. Let's go sailing."
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