He knows the stereotype of the idanseur/i, but he can never really believe that his hero would be the way he is, to be abhorrent, like he is. It is true, the popular view is that to enjoy watching men dance is to enjoy men, and it is true, also, that Roxas fits that particular stereotype as uncomfortably as a ballerina in her first pair of pointe shoes. He accepted that he was gay years ago, but can not yet let anyone know, for fear of ridicule, for fear of losing what little love he has managed to hold onto within his life. He doesn't want to watch his mother make that disappointed face, to watch his sister look at him sidelong, to see all the knowing glances from people at school. He knows what those who frequent the ballet would think of him if they knew that he watches the men far more than he pays his attentions to the prima ballerina; ballet is no longer a sexual thing, this is true, but he's supposed to enjoy the dance first, the women second, and the men finally. He does not.

It's not like Axel is the next Nijinsky, either. He's imperfect, stumbling occasionally, and the theatre in which Roxas goes to watch him is merely a large room, the unsprung floor putting stress on joints already overworked by years of training. Roxas is thirteen, his burgeoning sexuality lying heavy on him like a thick cloak of misery, and Axel is seventeen, going through what will be his final growth spurt, gangly and awkward, elbows and knees never where he expects them to be, and more often than not, he falls if he tries to stretch fully, the force of his movements surprising him. Roxas watches anyway, watches how those hands with their long, slim fingers support his partner, that red hair pulled back tightly, keeping it out of the way. No matter how often Axel falls on his own, he never drops his partner, and Roxas longs for those hands around his ribcage, holding him safe and protected, keeping him close to that body which is all lean tension. Axel is pale skin, green eyes flashing with humour, anger, transferring all of the emotions he feels through to the audience, red hair French-braided close to his head to stop it from flicking around, willowy, strength hidden in fluidity and grace. In every performance, Roxas is asked how he thought it went, and can not answer that the only person he saw, for three hours, was the gangly redhead at the back, tripping over his own feet, but smiling at his partner like they were really in love.

Roxas gets into ballet because his twin sister is a dancer – by the time they're fourteen, she is the prima ballerina of her little community centre group, and suddenly everyone's talking about proper schooling, about sending her away to be beaten with sticks by unforgiving French and Russians, taught by those too injured or weak to dance professionally, too old to be seemly, too old to be flexible. Roxas has been watching Naminé dance since she was seven, and he can see her skill, certainly, see how she's improved, how much she loves it, and how hard she is willing to work to achieve everything simply via expression through her body and feet. But when she dances with Axel, who at eighteen, has finally grown into his height, all he can do is wish that he'd taken the offer of dance lessons, so he could be ien travestie/i with him, pressed close, ien pointe/i, fluid movement and lean muscle. He stops going to watch her dance, and the closeness between them slips away, so that when she has to go to New York, Roxas doesn't go with her, to help her settle in. He says goodbye at the door and watches the one person who has always been there for him slip away, off to step into her destiny, her skill, her passion. He turns back to his math homework, staring at the algebra until the letters look like numbers.

He doesn't go back to watch the ballet, too aware of the hole left in the icorps de ballet/i by his sister's absence, and anyway, he has no excuse now, no reason to be there. He doesn't need people telling him that he's weird for wanting to watch something beautiful, which seems so effortless but which is paid for in bloody toes, broken toenails, aching muscles, damaged joints. Ballet is his metaphor for life – those who look like they're floating along are often struggling in some other way, he knows this. He no longer watches the popular kids at school with envy, just wonders what the price is, how much it's costing them, and how long they can last. Dancers usually retire at thirty, thirty-five, and he doubts that the popularity his schoolmates wrap around themselves so carefully will last any longer than that. For now, he keeps his head down and ignores those who catcall him, asking where his sister is, asking if he's a dancer, a fag, someone else they can hate and ridicule. He pays them no attention; they'd all adored Naminé and are simply angry that she's gone, in New York, surrounded by men in leotards, being given the best tuition imaginable, and they're left with her skinny brother, who doesn't talk, doesn't act up, and doesn't stand out. They don't know that he's stood in his twin's shadow for so long, her passions are his, her loves are his, albeit in a completely different way. They don't care that it's a simple defence against being noticed for anything other than what he chooses to reveal.

They visit Naminé in the spring, and she's thinner, dark circles under her eyes, but a huge smile on her face as they watch her rehearse from the gallery, her movements taking on a different strength now, adding more grace and agility to her body. She's in the middle row of a line of girls, all slender, all looking tired, but she shines out, smiling, so clearly in love with everything she's doing. She's not the best, not by a fair amount, but she's not the worst, either, and she glows with happiness. Roxas has to close his eyes for a second, because they're prickling with tears; he's missed her, he really has, and he thinks that maybe some of his love for dance has had nothing to do with Axel, but all to do with his glorious sister. When they meet for a quick coffee before her next class, her hands are still quick and expressive, she leans into his side, and he takes the emotional support she gives even as, physically, he holds up her tired body.

"I've missed you." she whispers as she kisses his cheek, and she sounds so sad, like she's losing him all over again, that he grips her tightly, feels her shoulder blades against his palms.

"I'll visit soon."

He stares out of the back window at the ballet school, Naminé long since vanished into another class, and their mother doesn't say a word, just lets him realise what he let go of when he spent his time resenting her.

The next week, he goes to watch the ballet rehearsal – technically he's there to update Naminé's old teacher on her progress – and he watches, but there isn't the same love there, now. He waits and waits, but there's no flash of red hair, no glint of eyes, no tiny blonde girl, poise perfect and smiling back at the tall figure who holds her. Roxas doesn't know where Axel went, and doesn't stop to ask. It is, after all, none of his business. The pianist is the same, the dancers, the children scattered around, warming up on the barre behind him. The new prima ballerina needs some work, slightly wobbling ien pointe/i, but she's only thirteen, and she'll get there. She can't spend too long up there anyway, not yet, for fear of damaging her ankles. So there's nothing exactly wrong with the scene, it just feels like there's two enormous holes there, two people missing who were so integral to the idea of ballet. No one else seems to notice it, though, so maybe they were only integral to his love of ballet, his idea of it. Maybe he's never really loved ballet at all. He watches until the end of rehearsal, then leaves, wondering why it feels like he's leaving behind shades of something he could once have loved.