It's my least favorite day of the year. It's the day I loathe above all others. It's the day when all I want to do is hide in my room or ride as far as my horse will take me and not return until it's over. It's the day whose coming I dread with all my Mazoku soul.

Mother's birthday.

My mother's love of glitter and show and shine seems to multiply tenfold on her birthday. It's amazing she hasn't gone blind by now from all the jewels and shimmering fabric she surrounds herself with. And the parties! They start at dawn and go on until midnight without a moment's pause, and there's virtually nowhere in the castle one can go to escape, especially if one is her son. Long ago I hardened my resolve and trained myself to handle her extravaganzas. Over time I simply started to… tune them out.

This year, however, things are different. This year I have to sit on the sidelines and watch him through the crowd as he moves amongst the gathered guests, smiling and laughing and being his normal cheerful, friendly self.

I watch as he takes yet another young lady to the floor to dance and have to bite my lip in frustration. He should be dancing with me, damn it! I'm his fiancé, but he's barely looked at me all evening and has been paying all his attention to those simpering, overdressed girls who only want him because he's the Maou and has a pretty face.

As I watch him move across the floor with her, I have to sigh. There's no denying it; he's a very good dancer. Günter's lessons must have been some good after all. He's graceful in his steps, and he holds his partner so delicately. My stomach twists as yet again I wish I could be the one he held so. But he would never want to dance with me. After all, I am, as he so often says, a "guy", and it would be "wrong". I wonder if he knows how much he hurts me when he says things like that?

I sit brooding for a few more minutes before finally deciding to escape. I don't know where I'll go, but anywhere is better than here, watching him smile at someone who isn't me. I stand, flipping my hair out of my eyes with a flick of my hand and ignoring the girls nearby who swoon at the gesture. But just as I'm about to leave, there's a gentle hand on my arm. Irritated, I turn back to see who it is, and my heart nearly stops. There he is, smiling at me with so much tenderness it makes me fall in love all over again. No matter how much he might smile at other people and no matter how much that might aggravate me, I know he never smiles at them like that.


His smile widens as he offers me his hand. I look at it, dumbstruck, then shift my gaze back to those beautiful dark eyes of his, which shine with an emotion I'm almost afraid to put a name to. "May I have this dance?" he asks, his voice pitched low enough so that only I can hear. My heart does a somersault behind my ribs.

Gingerly I slip my hand into his, and my skin seems to tingle when he wraps his fingers around mine. He leads me out onto the floor before putting his arm around my waist and drawing me close, much closer than he held any of his other partners. The rest of the world seems to fade into the background as my free hand comes lightly to rest on his shoulder, and we begin to dance.