A/N – I just realized Blake's name is used in Step Up 2. Blake is not Blake Collins, they are different people.

Disclaimer – I do not own Step Up

MSA was like a haven, away from all the noise and the fighting and the reality of the cold, cruel world.

Sometimes, I hated Baltimore, or at least the part of it we lived in. It was nothing but gangs and violence, even when it came to dancing. I had barely made it out of my crew alive. That's when MSA found me.

I loved the diversity of the school. How so many different artistic talents could fit in one school never ceased to amaze me.

It was the harmony of everyone in every moment, despite the constant musical cacophony that made me fall in love with MSA, and it changed my life.

And it led me to the rest of my life.

Nora, Lucy, and I were standing along the sidelines with some of the other dancers while watching a class. Lucy looked out the doors and turned to us. "Um, hello! Who is that?" she asked.

We looked over and saw a giant, unfamiliar guy our age in a janitorial uniform and shrugged, walking away. Lucy followed.

"Come on, he is fine" Lucy kept talking. I rolled my eyes. He looked bulky and very ungraceful. Too big and too rude, by my guess.

"Don't you have a boyfriend?" Nora turned on her and asked.

"Yes, and my boyfriend would appreciate my good taste" Lucy defended. I rolled my eyes, biting my lip to keep back the come-back she had practically handed to me.

Nora and I didn't reply as we went through the routine across the floor. As we ran through the dance, I felt my heart fly. Dancing was my drug and my freedom.

When we were finished, Nora and I slowly walked around. "Hey" we turned to see the guy in the janitor's outfit watching us. Nora smiled and turned around to watch with the other dancers while I only glared. He was new and our age, so he must be the kid that ruined the auditorium.

I huffed as a red strand of hair fell into my face. My hair was really long, so sometimes it was hard to tie it back, and my fringe didn't help.

We all clapped happily when class was over. Nora and I went over to the bench to towel off. "So, we'll see you at rehearsals, okay Andrew?" Nora greeted her partner for the showcase. He grinned.

"Okay" he nodded.

Then, Blake, my partner, came over as well. "Hey Tara" he greeted, giving me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Hey Nora" he added shyly.

Blake had the biggest crush on Nora, but since she already had a boyfriend, he refused to say anything. We all knew her boyfriend was a dick, but never said anything. It was her life, after all. "Hi Blake" she smiled wide.

"We'll see you at practice" I said. Blake nodded and headed out with the rest of the class.

"Hey baby" just when my day was looking up, Brett walked over and kissed Nora on the cheek.

"Hey" Nora greeted happily.

"Hello Tara" he nodded to me. He wanted me to like him, I know he did. But there was something about him that made my skin crawl.

"Hey Brett" I smiled slightly before walking towards the door.

"Wait up Tara" Lucy laughed. I sighed but stopped so Nora and Brett could catch up.

"Hey, guys. Is that our new janitor?" Lucy asked, looking back at the big guy again. I rolled my eyes.

"Nope" I told her.

"That's the guy who trashed the theater" Brett explained.

"Really?" Nora asked in surprise.

Lucy turned and looked at him as we kept walking. "Oh, I love a man in a uniform" she said.

"Lucy come on!" I stepped back and grabbed her arm to pull her along. I looked over and crossed gazes with the guy. We stared at each other for a second before I turned away, pulling Lucy with me.

After stopping at our lockers - during which I refused to look at Nora and Brett - Lucy, Nora and I headed to our next class.

"Oh, my god, can you please stop thinking about the senior showcase for just a second, please!" Lucy pleaded, seeing that we were both distracted.

"Sorry" I grinned.

"It's not just that! It's everything" Nora insisted.

"Nora! Tara!" we turned to see Miles coming over with a CD. He handed it to Nora. "Look, I got a track for the showcase. It's the same tempo, same rhythm as the track you got now, but I really believe this will take your routine to the next level" he explained. I smiled at him.

"Hey little Mama, how are the kids?" I rolled my eyes at the joke.

"Which ones?" I asked dryly. Miles laughed and threw an arm around my shoulder, his black skin a striking contrast to my pale, freckled skin. "Speaking of kids, when are you gonna come by and help me out with my junior intermediate class again?" I asked him.

"I dunno Tara, I'm a music guy. I make the tracks" Miles deflected.

"Miles, what do you mean, the next level?" Nora snapped, walking away. We followed after her, Miles trying to back track.

"No, Nora, listen. Wait. Not that it's not already at the next level" Miles attempted to save himself, but Lucy couldn't be bothered.

"Quite while you're ahead" she told him. "Stop. And you" she turned on to Nora and I. "I need you to stop and take a breath. You're starting to make me nervous."

"I know, I'm just stressed" Nora sighed.

"What's your excuse?" Lucy asked me.

I laughed. "Girl, I have no time to be stressed. I have classes as a student and classes as a teacher, plus the showcase…"

"Okay, okay, we get it, overachiever. Listen, Colin's playing Saturday night. You haven't been there forever" Lucy said, trying to persuade us to come with her.

"Hold on, hold on. Who's Colin?" Miles asked. I was surprised he didn't know about Colin, Lucy talks about him often enough.

"Lucy's older boyfriend" Nora explained with a sour look.

"Yeah, he's sophisticated. A real man." Lucy bragged, rubbing it into Miles' face.

"Sophisticated? A real man?" Miles repeated doubtfully. "His butt's gonna be surrounded by a lot of real men when he goes to jail. Watch. I mean, how long have you had your license – six months, seven?" Lucy looked pissed, and I couldn't exactly blame her.

"Okay, I am very mature for my age. Thank you" Lucy snapped, offended. She walked away, miffed.

"That's great" Miles called after her. "That's so perfect for the witness stand."

"Lucy!" Nora followed Miles down the stairs after Lucy. I couldn't take the tension, so I stayed back. But before I continued down the stairs, I heard music and laughter from outside the open window.

The janitor-kid was dancing with a couple of guys outside to The Choice is Yours by Black Sheep. I could easily recognize the song, because it was on the radio a lot.

I could feel my body moving to the music as I watched him dance. I had to admit, I was impressed. He was good. Rough, but good.

And then, he looked at me. I quickly stepped away from the window. I was still pissed he destroyed the theater.

I shook my head, trying to shake the thoughts of him. Hell, I don't even know his name.

Blake and I were trying to practice a bit while Nora waited for Andrew. We stopped when we heard a heavy thunking noise. We stopped dancing, and Nora looked up to see Andrew walking… with crutches… and a boot on his right foot.

"Andrew!" I cried, pulling away from Blake.

"Oh, my God, what happened?" Nora gasped.

"Came down on my ankle wrong in class today" Andrew explained nonchalantly.

"Are you okay?" Nora asked. I wasn't sure which she was more worried about, Andrew or the showcase. Sometimes, it was hard to tell with her.

"Yeah, it's just a sprain" Andrew assured her. "Doctor says I have to stay off of it. I'm really sorry."

Nora collected herself after a minute and said, "For what? It's not your fault."

"I know, you guys. It's just that the showcase means a lot to all of us, you know? Maybe you could find someone to rehearse with in the meantime." He suggested.

"I'll do it" Blake immediately offered. "I'll work with you, Nora"

"What about Tara?" Nora asked.

"Gonna leave me high and dry, huh?" I teased Blake. He opened his mouth – to say what, I don't know – but I interrupted him. "Don't worry about it. You two have great chemistry, you'd make better partners anyways" I assured them.

"Are you sure?" Nora asks, but I can see the tension leaving her shoulders already. I nodded. "Yeah, don't worry about it. I'll figure something out" I was lying through my teeth, but I didn't have the heart to stress out Nora, or deny Blake the chance to dance with his crush.

"You two should practice, I'll… figure something out" I told them.

And I tried. I looked, desperately, for another partner. And, it seemed like everywhere I went, the janitor kid was there. I don't know how it kept happening, but I couldn't stop bumping into him.

Finally, I'd had enough. "Jeez, are you freakin' everywhere" I snapped when I had turned the corner only to find myself standing in front of the janitor-kid once again.

"What?" he asked dumbly.

"It' like, no matter where I go, there you are! I'm getting sick of it! Why can't I be free of you?" I demanded, slightly hysterically.

"What do you have against me?" he asked, as if I had offended him.

"You wrecked the theater. How inconsiderate is that? What kind of person destroys someone's future like that? What kind of person would willingly destroy something so beautiful, something in which so much work and effort had gone into?" I ranted.

"Hey, listen…"

"No. I'm not gonna listen to you try and defend yourself. I don't care. I'm just sick and tired of seeing you everywhere" I stopped ranting. It's not like he cared, and I didn't feel like making any more of a fool of myself.

Instead, I walked away.

"He only has a bad sprain. She needs someone to rehearse with until he gets better." Nora insisted on asking Brett to help me out. He was a jerk, I could tell, but I couldn't shoot Nora down. I needed a partner.

Seems like Brett didn't want to work with me, either. "Nora, you know all the stuff I have going on with the labels and everything" he shot her down.

"How come Miles can find the time to help us out?" I snapped. Brett was a flake, and hopefully Nora was starting to see that.

"No offense to Miles, but he's not involved in every aspect of the music as I am" Brett told us.

"Look, all we need is somebody, Brett, to rehearse with just for a couple of weeks" Nora pleaded.

"I wanna help you. You know I do. I'm just so close with my music, I gotta give it everything I have right now" I wasn't sure if Brett was just that dedicated, or that selfish. "Look, you're gonna do great. You always do."

"Yeah" Nora huffed. I shook my head, but stayed out of it. I looked around, and saw the janitor-kid mopping the floors. I wanted to growl, but instead I looked away. I could feel him watching me, but I refused to look back at him.

Brett walked away, and Nora turned to me. "Can you believe him?" she demanded. "It's not like I'm asking much."

I shrugged. "Honestly Nora, I'm not sure we're gonna find anyone. Maybe you should just drop me. You and Blake can dance, and I'll figure something else out" I suggested, tired of problems and trying to figure things out as quickly as possible.

"No, I'm not gonna drop you! Tara, you're my best friend. I'm not gonna let you fall. We'll figure it out" Nora promised. I sighed, but nodded nonetheless.

"Whatever you say, Nora."