"I was going to tell you sooner, I really was!" Netta was sobbing, holding Rowan in her arms like she would never let go. Around them, the murmurs of their fellow students got louder and louder as speculation gathered pace. "But you seemed so trusting, so innocent ... I couldn't bear to spoil it, not yet."
"But didn't you realise I wouldn't have cared?" said Rowan. "I knew there was something different about you. It wouldn't have made me hate you, it wouldn't. But I would have liked to know the truth. Now you've lied to me ... that's what makes me sad."
"And I'm sorry, I really am." She sniffed, wiping her nose on her sleeve. "Give me time to explain and I'll make it up to you! I'm not really one of them, not any more. I'm just like you now."
"But he said you were one of his people. And you confessed: you said you weren't human." Rowan was puzzled. First one thing, then the other - ballerinas were known for mood swings, but saying you're another species and then changing your mind? That was going a little too far. Maybe she was on drugs.
"I used to be one of them," said Netta, slowly so that he could keep up. "But I came here and I broke away. I didn't want to stay with them any longer. They were too cold and harsh; they didn't feel, they didn't have the colour in their lives I had seen in the lives of humans. Yes, I wanted to dance, but I didn't want it to be my whole life!"
"So you left them ... to come here?"
Netta nodded. "There were auditions for the company. I saw the dancers and knew this was a way to make myself fit in, so I went for the post. Of course, I got it, but I never told anyone of my differences. Over time I sort of melded with this world; I ate the food here and drank the coffee people made for me, and I became more human."
It was too much to take in all at once, so Rowan pressed his fingers against his temples and tried to work it out in his own mind. When at last he felt like he'd succeeded, he turned back to the dancer and said, "So you made yourself human?"
"In a way. But I could still hear and feel the music, in the same way that you can, and I still had the gift of tapping into the Dance. It's a gift that all our people have, but humans don't. Except you, Rowan, you're different."
Alekzander stepped in. "And so you see, she does not belong here. She is one of our people! Do you think these other dancers," here he indicated the rest of the company, still staring at them in fear and wonder, "will want her now that they know what she is? I doubt it."
"You know very little about humans, then," said Will, stepping forward. He stood with his back to Netta, facing the intruder. "I stand here with them. I'm not letting her leave, even if she is some creepy alien dancer."
As one body, every other student did the same. "And neither will we. Netta is one of us now, not one of you."
Netta started to cry again. "I don't deserve this," she whispered to Rowan. "Do they know what they're doing? They're stuck with me if they do this: I'll never be able to go home again."
"Of course they don't know," Rowan told her, laughing slightly. "No one has told them. But they're willing to take a risk for you, since you mean so much to them." Will looked at him and smiled. "Thanks, old friend," Rowan added.
"You're welcome," said Will. "When I heard what she said, and when Alekzander appeared - it all made sense. I know where you've been every night!" He laughed softly, becoming serious quickly. "But I mean it. We'll stand with you, whatever happens."
Turning to Alekzander, he spoke his challenge. "Come and get her now!"