Your Alina and Aleksander have completely morphed into the Ben and Jessie version. Also some part of me feels like Netflix Aleksander's frustration with Alina is because their 'relationship' isn't moving fast enough for him. Like that whole 'I will relax when I have Alina' bit. I kind of wanted someone to tell him to slow down, maybe Ivan (I feel like he's a bro for some reason and seems to be in a good relationship himself). He's very old-fashioned that way and doesn't seem to have noticed that he's coming on a little strong. I wanted to ask if you think show Alina was actually starting to develop feelings for him or was just overwhelmed by hot he was. It is still the first season. Show could go literally anywhere from here. They might ditch their romance entirely and focus on the enmity. It's not what I want. But it's early days yet.
This is an old ask, apologies for getting to it so late! I’m kind of tickled that you think of Ben and Jessie when you think of my Alina and Aleksander, since for a lot of the book-based stuff (like OoT) I don’t really! At most they’re hybridized, but I kind of picture fanart versions of them when writing book!verse. A couple of modern AU concepts I have, like the Hollywood AU, were written with the actors in mind, though!
Also love that Ivan is in a good relationship himself and therefore potentially in a position to dole out advice, aw. ♥️ I don’t think “Kirigan” is the type to take unsolicited advice, unfortunately. Even when he needs it.
I do think Alina was starting to catch feelings, but I think her feelings were sort of “early dating stage” feelings — I really like him, he’s hot, I can smile with him, he’s a great kisser, let’s see where this goes. And there’s the added attraction of the similarity of their powers, the fatedness there. Meanwhile, Aleksander was like “I have finally found my soulmate after 1000 years of waiting.” Who could blame him from coming on a little strong?
But their future conflicts are going to be more poignant if there’s real truth to the idea of “We could have had this, all of it,” so I do think she had genuine feelings for him, even if her acting on them so quickly was maybe motivated by the idea of shaking off Mal once and for all.
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when there is nothing left to take away
“Miss Starkov, stay at the end of the class. I need to speak with you,” Kirigan said from the doorway of the practice-room.
Anyone else might have been described as “popping in” but Kirigan was physically incapable to moving any way that wasn’t devastatingly graceful. He wasn’t in one of his extremely fancy suits which he wore with the same apparent disregard as his usual, around-the-ballet uniform, just the slim, dark jeans and black kashmir hoody that meant he’d come from teaching a class or choreographing a new piece. Alina had been startled the first time the director walked into one of her classes and started teaching with far less formality than Madama Morozova always demanded but she had not let her surprise prevent her from paying attention to every last remark he made and how; she knew many other members of the company complained that Director Kirigan was impassive, implacable, impossible to read, but since her parents died and she’d been left to fend for herself in the foster care system, Alina had learned to observe even the smallest gesture, the slightest change in someone’s tone. She found Director Kirigan quite expressive, if you knew to watch the angle of his jaw and the way he moved his left hand, if you knew to keep looking at his eyes obliquely when he was focused on someone else. If you understood the length of the pause before he offered a critique was as important as the remark that would follow; he was a man of great restraint, immense control and Alina suspected she alone grasped how much he needed that restraint and how much it cost him. She had not seen him dance, except for the videos they shared like some sort of contraband, but she thought she had a sense of what it would look like from the way he stood near a window and the way he took a breath before Yori lifted her and then set her down.
“Of course,” she nodded, catching Gen’s inquisitive glance and Yori’s more noticeable mouthing What gives, Alya? that she shrugged off. She’d know soon enough and then she’d know if it was something she wanted to share. The class began and she let herself drift into the exercises, the necessary adjustments between this moment and the next to achieve what she wanted and then to surpass it. As it often happened, they were done before she expected, her body still ready to seek the next position as everyone else took long slugs from water bottles and threw towels around their sweaty necks. She took a few minutes to become still and watched the other dancers walk out of the practice room, Gen and Yori at the back of the pack, almost certainly trying to offer her some moral support while getting a glimpse of Kirigan’s approach. It didn’t work. Alina waited alone for a few minutes for Kirigan to come. She looked out the long window at the city lights coming on, the inky twilight of the early winter falling slowly and then all at once.
“Miss Starkov,” Kirigan said as he walked into the room. Something about the length of his stride, his eyes taking in the mirrored wall, told her that whatever else he wanted, right now, he wanted to dance and he was not allowing himself to acknowledge that desire.
“Yes, Director? You said you wanted to speak with me. I hope I haven’t done anything wrong,” Alina said, the words slipping out before she could stop them. She had followed every rule of the Grisha Ballet though she might have bent some, when it came to the hour they were supposed to retire. Compared to the other dancers, she had virtually no formal training and couldn’t resist the urge to try to make up for it by practicing longer and harder than the rest.
“What? No, you’ve done nothing wrong. That’s not why I asked you to stay,” he said. “I have a…proposal, I suppose you might call it.”
“A proposal?” Alina repeated. The word, with all its romantic connotations, hung in the air between them. She had never imagined anything of the sort, though if she admitted it to herself, she had sometimes woken from a dream of a slender, bearded, dark-eyed man holding her, of her name said with breathless adoration Alinochka, milaya, moya dusha…
“An opportunity, a joint venture,” he clarified stiffly. “I have been monitoring your progress since you arrived—I have rarely found anyone with your degree of innate ability at such a late date. The majority of the Grisha dancers have been training with us since they were children, sent by community ballet schools and dance academies, screened and recruited. The Grisha Ballet must have the best dancers in all Ravka. I still cannot understand how you were missed—”
“I was not in the position to attend a ballet school,” Alina said. It was better to speak first, to keep from offering something he would withdraw. “I was an orphan, in the foster system. There were no extras for children like me.”
“Oh. That explains a lot,” Kirigan said, but not snidely, as some of the other dancers had responded when the truth of her past made the rounds.
“So, if that changes anything, I understand,” she said.
“It changes nothing except that it may make my offer more appealing,” he said. “Winter break is coming and the rest of the company will be going home to spend time with their friends and family. I know you have been invited to go with Gen and also Natty and if that is what you want, you must go. But perhaps you would like to stay here. With me.”
“With you?” With Kirigan and who else, if everyone else had gone home? Alone with him in the practice room but in the commissary? Would he invite her to his quarters, an apartment in the old East Wing? David, who assisted him in set design, had occasionally been asked into the study, a place he described as “like if your whole aesthetic was a shot of espresso and Army field encampment,” but even he had never seen the most private space, the sitting room and bedroom and bath they all knew had to exist, based on old blueprints Belka had dug up.
“I have created a new ballet. A ballet I think can only be danced by you, Miss Starkov,” Kirigan said.
“But why me? I don’t have the training, the background the others so,” Alina said.
“Tell me why you dance, Miss Starkov,” Kirigan said. “Tell me as if you spoke to a friend, not to the artistic director, Kirigan, the founder of the Grisha Ballet.”
“Because it makes me visible. To myself, to people around me,” Alina said slowly, articulating it to herself for the first time. “I have spent my life being small. Dancing is the best way to be allowed space, light… the ballet is the most beautiful way to feel alive, to be alive. Because, I guess, because it’s magic.”
“That’s why, Miss Starkov,” Kirigan said. “You are special. You are the only person here who would have thought that, felt that, and thinking and feeling it, would have simply told me. Who trusts dancing enough to trust me with the truth. I’d already seen you dance and I recognized the look on your face when you finally stop. I’d seen it in the practice mirror myself.”
“You’re sure,” she said.
“Miss Starkov, I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. A very long time,” he said and the look he gave her made her remember when she’d seen his first name, engraved in a brass plate on his office door. Aleksander Kirigan. Aleksander.
“I’ll stay,” she said, adding. “I don’t have anywhere better to be.”
“I shall see that is true,” he said. Then he smiled and he almost looked young. “Run along, mustn’t have it said I kept you from your dinner. Yelena made kalya tonight, that’s your favorite.”
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