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Lyrical: Chapter 20


I can’t help myself.

I thought I’d got a lid on my emotions around her.

I fucking haven’t.

And by the brief flash of pain in Pen’s eyes, she thinks all this hate I feel is aimed at her.

It isn’t.

It’s aimed at me.

I fucking hate myself.

I hate myself for watching Pen unravel her soul and cut herself open at Grim’s club and not doing anything to stop it.

I hate that it wasn’t me who climbed into the cage and fucking choked Malik Brov for putting his hands and lips on her.

I hate that I let her believe I would ever consider making a deal with the bastard.

I hate that I didn’t chase after her, that I didn’t check in with her at any point this past week to see if she was okay.

I hate that Zayn did, that he was the first to chip at the walls encasing her heart.

I hate that I’m still torn when it comes to her.

I hate that nothing is clear as it was, that I don’t know what the fuck to do.

But mostly, I hate that she’s here now hurting again, because I can’t seem to get over my fucking self and really tell her how I feel.

So I let my steps do the talking. I leave my face a blank mask, because even though I’ve always been able to read Pen’s expression to see her innermost thoughts, Pen’s gift is not just expressing herself through dance, but reading us in the same way. I dropped dance the moment she left us, refusing to open myself up to anyone like that again. I didn’t want anyone else to be able to read me.

Just her.

Just Pen.

Just Titch.

Coming back here was a means to an end. We have a goal, an end in sight. That’s it. That’s all. Except now it’s so much more than that. Now, I’m faced with Pen on a daily basis and reminded of all the things I want. That I never stopped wanting.

And I hate myself for that too.

Kate Bush sings about being hurt by someone unintentionally, reflecting my growing thoughts about Pen’s decision to walk away and how none of us acted. Pen hurt me. I hurt her. We were fucking blown apart from the events of that night three years ago and all that pain was echoed once more in the way she danced at Grim’s club.

Now I’m an open wound. A goddamn mess.

Slamming my feet on the floor, I let my emotion seep into the boards. My steps speak for themselves. I don’t think my feet have ever moved this fast or with such intention. Pen watches me, struggling to hide the emotion on her face as I move around her in a circle, slamming my feet against the boards, ripping up all the rules of tap and making this dance my bitch. She flinches with every step, her jaw tightening, her eyes glassy.

Both of us are oblivious to the other dancers in the room.

There is only us.

There has only ever been us.

And I fucking hate that she walked away from what we had.

I hate that I let her. That we let her.

Kate Bush’s words fuel my ire, they move my feet. I should’ve run after her. I should’ve done something. She was right to be angry at me. I saw the disappointment in her eyes after we left Grim’s club. I felt the accusation, her hurt, because it was warranted. I did nothing that night, just like I did nothing to stop her walking away three years ago.

I let my anger, my jealousy, my disappointment and hate rule me at Rocks. I was a kid who’d never loved anyone before Pen, nor since. She broke us all and I wasn’t man enough to do anything about it at the time. Every one of us had felt that hurt before when other girls had used us to get to Jeb, but we never loved them like we loved Pen. So I was selfish in my anguish. I wallowed in it for months, then I threw myself into doing shitty things because hurting other people made me numb. I didn’t want to feel anything. But I’m different now. Things have changed. Something’s gotta give because she’s the Ginger to my Fred, always has been and it’s time I’m honest with myself, with her. Fuck hiding. Fuck hating. Fuck Xeno and his goddamn inability to see sense. Fuck Jeb.

Fuck him most of all.

There are no words to describe my next steps, only feeling. I move through all the usual tap sequences, but none of them are enough to really portray all that I’m feeling. So, I do what Pen did Friday night. I push the boundaries, I do it for her, for Titch.

My girl.

Our girl.

I rip open my fucking chest and let her see the mess she made of my heart.

Pen’s jaw tightens as she watches me, and this time instead of showing me every last emotion like she did on Friday, she holds onto that beautiful mask she’s an expert at wearing these days and begins to move instead. Like mine, her steps begin angry too, and we counter each other. Two people head to head, like boxers in a ring. Opponents. Enemies. Adversaries.

Every step is a punch to my gut, an uppercut to my chin, a slam to my cheek.

Anger fills her once more, just like it had at Grim’s club and I’m reminded of the way she’d bent over in front of Zayn, how her perfect, rounded arse and pussy had been on display for him. I had to will myself not to get up and snatch her away from the fucker and knock him out. I’ve never been jealous of my friends and their relationship with Pen when we were kids. We all loved each other, we wanted to share the most precious thing to us, at least in the end we had. But that night, I both wanted her and wanted to protect her from my best friend. I thought he was going to hurt her, but he didn’t get a chance. She didn’t need me to step in because she fought for herself.

My girl. My fighter. My Titch.

Pen is a warrior. She’s courageous and worth a million times more than any of our sorry arses. She lambasted us, blasted us apart and not one of us has been the same since that night. Even Xeno, who’s still trying to deny he feels anything for Pen. The motherfucker refuses to acknowledge what he feels. He lied to my face when I confronted him. He said that he didn’t give a shit about Pen, but I know different because you can’t kid a kidder, and this kidder is done kidding himself.

Right now, as Pen dances before me, I let her see what I truly feel in my steps as I read her own. For someone with no formal training in tap, she’s amazing. I mean, I’ve had no formal training either but my absolute love for tap as a kid made me determined to get every step perfect. There have only ever been two obsessions in my life. I’m dancing one of them and looking at the other. I might have given up dance when Pen walked away, but being back here with her has changed shit. Call it muscle memory, but I’ve easily fallen back into dancing again as though I never stopped. Coming back, being here at Stardom Academy, seeing Pen again has revived my heart in a way that scares the shit out of me. I’m a great dancer, yes, but only because of her, because of Pen. She brings out the best in me, always has.

For the briefest of moments I look over at Sasha who’s watching me closely. I’ve been training with her in private since starting here, and whilst I appreciate her assistance, and admire her talent, I’m not interested in her in quite the way she’s interested in me. There’s no doubt that her little display earlier was for me. She’s pissed that I turned her down and by the end of this dance, I think she’ll understand just who it is that occupies my heart and soul.


I can admit that now.

A loud crack of Pen’s toe-cap hitting the board forces my attention back to her, back to the only woman who’s ever ruled my heart. Her moves match mine, mirroring me, or at least she tries to, and her tenacity to keep up with my steps does something to me. In dance she’s never afraid to push past her limits, to make mistakes and learn from them. She was always the beating heart of the Breakers, and I’m reminded of that right here, right now. My steps falter, and the anger falls away as I allow myself to feel something other than hate.

She notices.

And her footwork changes too, her steps altering, becoming heavy, delayed, sombre.

Tap isn’t her first love and she trips a little over her feet trying to transition from a complicated sequence of steps through to a shuffle ball change. Correcting herself, she moves into a cramp stomp to the left then switches to a bombershay ending in a low foot slide, bowing to me. My throat fucking squeezes alongside my bloody heart.

She’s saying sorry. Emphatically, with her body, her whole fucking soul.

Her face might not be giving anything away, but there’s no denying her steps or the meaning behind them. So I do the same because I can’t deny my feelings a fucking second longer.

Stepping into her space, my right foot reaches between her open stance and I tap a softer sequence that has me leaning into her. It’s not easy to express softness in tap like it is for other dances, but it is possible. Leaning in, Pen’s close enough that I can draw in her scent, that intoxicating mix that I’ve never been able to identify but is so perfectly, unashamedly her. It’s like a drug. Heady, enthralling. It makes my stupid cock twitch in my pants. It makes me want to fucking kiss her, right here, right now, in front of everyone. Pen’s eyes meet mine and a million emotions are portrayed in them. She has opened up and has allowed me to see right into the complexities of her.

She’s the defiant little girl beneath that oak tree, bruised and battered but never beaten.

She’s the woman with secrets that weigh her down, but will not end her.

She’s the dancer that inspires passion in others.

She’s her. She’s Titch.

And just like that, I’m a goner.

Hook, line, and fucking sinker.

She’s captured me like a fish on a goddamn rod and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I’m hers again. There’s no doubt in my mind. There’s no fear, no pain, no anger, no fucking question. I’m hers if she’ll have me.

The music stops abruptly, snapping us both out of the moment and into the room once more. Neither of us make a move to walk away. We simply stand facing each other, our chests heaving, our breaths mingling. Sweat trickles down my back, sticking my t-shirt to my skin. The air vibrates with tension and the rest of the dancers remain silent as though they too understand the significance of this moment.

I lean towards Pen, my eyes closing as I press my cheek against her own, my shoulders drop, my arms reaching for her, my fingers digging into the skin of her back as I crush her to my chest.

“Titch,” I breathe against her ear.

“York,” she mutters back.

Her name is worshipful on my tongue, my name a mixture of relief and hope—but also fear—on hers. The fear worries me. I’ve seen too much of it in her as of late and I need to know the source. I was blinkered before, telling myself I didn’t care. But I do. I fucking do.

Zayn was right. He said out loud what we’ve all been thinking. Pen might have betrayed us. She might have walked away, but there’s more to it than that.

Much, much more, and we were too fucking stupid not to see it.

My grip tightens, and I feel her arms close around me as a deep sigh releases from her chest.

“Well, thank you both. What an intelligent display of hate versus love. Two sides of the same coin. However, that’s it for today,” Sasha interrupts, her voice sharp. “We can pick this up in the next lesson.”

Around us the other dancers begin to murmur, but none of them walk away, too enthralled by what’s happening between me and Pen. They want to see what happens next, just as much as I want to experience it.

Not able to help myself, I press my lips against her ear, revelling in the way her body shivers in my arms. I should pull away, but I don’t. My lips drag over her cheek before resting against the corner of her mouth. She doesn’t move, in fact her fingers grip hold of me tighter and I can’t help it, a smile pulls at my lips.

She wants me as much as I want her. Zayn might have got to her first just like when we were kids, but I was the one who brought her into the fold. I was the one who found her beneath that oak tree. I’d known from the moment she slipped her hands into mine that she would be ours. I didn’t fucking hesitate then, and I refuse to do so now.

With that memory swirling inside my head, I kiss her roughly, hungrily. She gasps, her lips parting with the sound, her body pressing harder against mine as I grasp the back of her neck and tug at the strands of hair there. She whimpers, her tongue stroking against mine and I take that as an open invitation to continue. So I do. I kiss her desperately, not giving a shit who’s in the room with us. Not caring about the surprised laughter or the shocked gasps.

Not giving two single fucks.

My tongue laps into her mouth as I haul her against my chest, lifting her off the floor. She might still be the same height as she was when we were teenagers, but fuck she’s all woman now. I want to explore every sexy, curvy, inch of her.

“My Titch,” I mutter against her mouth.

“I think you should take this somewhere else,” Sasha interrupts, but I barely hear her over the rushing and pulsing of blood in my ears. Pen, however, pushes against my chest and unlocks her lips from mine.

“York, we should go,” she whispers, her cheeks suffused with heat, and not just from our kiss.

Pressing a kiss against her forehead, I lower her to the floor, but keep an arm latched around her shoulder so that she’s still pressed against me to hide my erection as much as her embarrassment.

Locking my gaze with Sasha, I nod. “Yeah, and I was thinking we could practice some more.”

“York!” Pen hisses, pressing her forehead against my chest and groaning.

“This is my studio, and just like the rest of the students have, I’d like you both to leave.”

“That might be an issue…” I allow my voice to trail off and my gaze lower to where Pen’s so tightly pressed up against me.

Sasha shakes her head, rolling her eyes. “Fucking horny teenagers,” she grouses, giving me the death-glare over Pen’s head.

“I’m not a teenager,” I counter, smirking. She wouldn’t have made a pass at me if I was, and she fucking knows it.

“Then stop acting like one. Now, get out of my studio and be thankful that I’m so impressed by your interpretation skills today that I’ve decided not to chuck you both out of my class for good.”

Pen turns in my arms, her cheeks suffused with pink. I can’t help it. I grind my dick against her back, silently telling her that I’m all man now. She chokes on a laugh and the sound of joy in her voice, however brief, makes me harder. I’ve dreamt about that sound for years.

“I apologise, it won’t happen again,” she says.

“Hmm,” Sasha responds, flicking her gaze up to mine.

“I wouldn’t count on that.” I smirk again, winking at Sasha who rolls her eyes.

“Fucking children,” she mutters, before turning her back on us both.

Taking that as our final cue to get the fuck out of her studio, I grab Pen’s hand, and pull her along the hallway, ignoring the stares and whispered comments of the other students we pass by. Clancy’s standing by the doorway that leads up to the stairwell of our flats. She sees us coming and with a huge grin plastered across her face, pushes the door open.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she grins, winking at Pen.


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