~10~

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I wake feeling queasy, but manage to keep the contents of my stomach from spilling out.  I luxuriate in the warmth of North's sleeping bag and send out a silent thank you to him once again.  I allow myself a few minutes to daydream about dancing last night while Mr. Blackbourne, no, Owen, played. I grin as I recall the text messages from him.

There's no denying it any longer.  I am drawn to this patchwork family of theirs.  Each and every one of them have found a way into my heart, and I am irrevocably changed by it.

My watch beeps, signalling that it's time to get up.  It's a lot colder outside of the sleeping bag than I had anticipated, and I suck in a hissing breath, trying to acclimate.  I roll everything up and tuck the bedding away into a tight crook between two branches.  I sling my backpack over my shoulder as I descend carefully, aware that my stomach is just one jarring moment away from emptying itself. I rejoice when I reach solid ground without getting sick. 

I wash up as best as I can and pull my hair back into a tight ballet bun.  I stretch for about ten minutes and then head off in the direction of the dance studio.  It's still early, and now that I have my own set of keys, I'm hoping that I can use the faculty restroom before anyone shows up for rehearsals.  As trudge through the snow, I swear I catch a whiff of Irish Spring.

***

After we're done for the afternoon, I take another quick bath and throw my hair into a neat double french braid.  This morning was perfect!  I always knew that I was a fast learner, but I didn't ever have the opportunity to explore exactly what that meant for ballet before today. 

I was taught the entire first act of the show in the first two hours, and after that, the Corps de Ballet all came in, and we did all of the Snow scene, both as the Queen and as Clara.  I'm practically vibrating with the excitement from it all.  The director was impressed with my retention, and he said that at this rate, I'll have the entire show mastered before we even get into costuming!

I step out into the lobby and am greeted by a smiling face and a pair of piercing blue eyes.

"Oi, Trouble what the fu-" Gabriel looks around at the loitering younger dancers and blushes slightly, "fudge is your hair doing up?"

He turns me around and begins unbraiding my hair.  "It's been up all day, let your scalp breathe for a bit."

He runs his fingers through my hair again, and Blair mouths he's cute, to me from behind his back.  He finishes and takes my hand in his, intertwining our fingers, and pulls me outside and to his car.  For once, the sun is shining, and that, combined with my elation from a good rehearsal has me almost giddy.

"I know you only have about three quarters of an hour before you tutor those boys, so Luke sent lunch along with me."  Gabriel holds out a hamper that is wafting the most mouth-watering smells, and I fold him into a bear hug.

"Thank you, Meanie!"

He rolls his eyes at the nickname and swats me on the backside, causing me to yelp.  "Thank Luke, Sang.  That fucker can cook!" 

I grin and pull out my phone to send a message of gratitude, and Gabriel sets up an impromptu picnic on top of his trunk.  There's a salad with berries in it, and a steaming zucchini casserole that is oozing with melted cheese and garlic.  He hands me a smoothie and we clink our cups together in a ridiculous toast and dig in.

"Oh, fuck me," Meanie moans around a bite of the squash and my eyes blast wide when someone behind me giggles.  I whip around and see Blair getting into her blue station wagon, and she shoots me a thumbs up before taking off.  Gabriel smirks and I feel my cheeks heat with a blush.

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