Disclaimer: I do not own Kyou Kara Maou!
A single drop of sweat, heavy with salt and fear, trickled down a smooth cheek. Lips, pressed firmly together, trembled as their owner fought the urge to gasp. Muscles tensed as they were forced into new, unexpected positions, and the room's unbearable tension was clearly taking its toll. Hands gripped silky cloth, pulling the room's two occupants closer. Breaths mingled, warm and moist, huffed silently against smooth skin. Then…
The blonde noble startled, his green eyes growing wide, and jerked backwards, releasing his prisoner. The black-haired boy tumbled to the floor, yelping in pain as he landed awkwardly on his back, and glared up at his fiancé with baleful eyes. Black eyebrows descended, giving the boy a thunderous look.
Wolfram von Bielefeld regained his composure with terrifying speed, hiding his surprise behind an upraised nose and a scornfully tilted eyebrow. "Yes, Your Majesty?" he sneered, brushing imaginary dust off his sleeve. He folded his arms.
His Majesty, the Maou of Shin Makoku, soul-descendant of the mighty king Shinou and strongest maryoku-user currently in existence, continued to glare. "There's no use playing haughty," Yuuri complained, folding his legs underneath himself gingerly. "You definitely tried to grab my ass that time. I only agreed to dancing lessons with you on the agreement that I would remain unmolested."
"Hmph!" Wolfram tossed his hair. "You're an idiot. Dance is seduction. You practically agreed to be my bed-partner when you took my hand as dance-partner."
Black eyes expanded with shock and Yuuri leapt to his feet, gesticulating wildly in a manner most unbefitting of royalty. "B-b-b-bed part-partner?" he stuttered, helplessly.
Sneering lips curled into a lascivious smirk. "What's wrong with that? We share a bed, don't we?"
"You're blushing, Majesty." Wolfram sounded delighted.
Yuuri spluttered a little more, then jumped to his feet, his hands clenched into fists. "That's too much, Wolfram!"
"Too much? My my, I really must watch my conduct around you. You're such a delicate creature."
The blond stepped forwards with a sudden forcefulness that brought him scant inches from the king. He took one of his stunned fiancé's hands in his own, uncurling it gently to stroke the sensitive palm. Yuuri froze. The smirk grew. "Yuuri," Wolfram purred, drawing the hand to his mouth. Black eyes followed the movement passively, with a dazed compliance. Lips parted; a hint of warm breath brushed against fingertips. Wolfram tilted his head a little. "Yuuri," he whispered again, peering up at the other boy through his lustrous fringe.
Yuuri snatched his hand back, retreating from the blond with alarming alacrity. "Wolfram!" he snapped, hiding his fright behind irritation. "Cut it out!"
"Wimp," Wolfram taunted, not without affection. "If you don't get the hang of basic, harmless flirtation, you're going to be eaten alive at the Midwinter Ball."
"I'm not a wimp!" Yuuri's tone turned defensive. He ruffled his messy hair thoughtlessly, digging his spare hand into his pocket (safe from amorous Mazoku princelings). "I just don't see why every vaguely formal occasion turns into a massive match-making jamboree. I'm not even sixteen yet!" He was almost pouting.
"Quit whining. The Maou must be urbane and charming, courteous and accommodating to his guests, whilst at the same time remaining lofty and untouchable. That means batting your eyelashes, laughing at their jokes, and dancing!" As Yuuri's shoulders slumped, Wolfram rolled his eyes, offering. "Why not think of it in this way?" he suggested, with brittle brightness toning his voice. "I am fulfilling my promise to protect you. Teaching you to avoid the bear traps set by bosom-toting sluts and pretty-faced boywhores will, in the end, save you from having to face my wroth if you cheat on me. Fair?"
Yuuri's throat bobbed as he gulped. Wolfram's eyes were drawn, catlike, to the movement, and he couldn't help noticing that Yuuri's high collar was unbuttoned and the merest glimpse of a collarbone was visible if one really, really concentrated on the pretty pink flush suffusing its way down the young king's neck…
Belatedly, Wolfram realised that the awkward silence meant Yuuri was waiting for him to answer a question. He straightened up, fussing with his cuffs to cover his distraction. "Yes," he stated, firmly, entirely unaware of what he had just confirmed/agreed to/decided.
It was clearly something quite good. Yuuri's face lit up and he bounded forwards, catching Wolfram in one of his brief, impromptu embraces. "Huh? Really? You don't mind? That's great!"
The blond was too surprised to return the hug, and by the time he realised it was happening, Yuuri had pulled away again. He blinked as his fiancé smiled winningly.
"I'll be sure to explain to Conrad that you've given me complete permission to learn dance steps from him, and that you've promised there will be no jealous repercussions from you! See you later, Wolfram!"
Wolfram watched him skip away in a whirlwind of energy. He scowled, then let out a growl of frustration and set the wall-hangings on fire. Curse that wimp and his delectable neck!
Yuuri trotted through the myriad of grey stone corridors, nodding and smiling as he was greeted by his subjects. Away from the stuffy room and the pressure of Wolfram's piercing gaze, not to mention his wandering hands, the young king was wondering whether his actions had been a little rash. After all, Wolfram was only trying to help his king not make a fool out of himself, even if his motivations were a little on the cloudy side. Yuuri couldn't quite believe they were entirely innocent.
Inwardly, he shrugged. Whatever. It wasn't his way to overthink things. He was certain Conrart would be more than happy to teach him a few basic steps- they could work it into their early training sessions perhaps. That would certainly be more consistent than taking up the precious moments Wolfram could spare him. Yuuri congratulated himself. After some deliberation, it was clear that he was making the right decision.
Now, to find Conrart…This was never a difficult task, his chief protector had a peculiar instinct for knowing when Yuuri was looking for him…
"Good afternoon, Your Majesty."
Speak of the devil! Yuuri jogged up to the tall soldier, flashing him a toothy grin. "Good afternoon, Man-Who-Named-Me," he retorted, teasingly.
Slim eyebrows raised in amusement. "As long as I refer to you by your official title, you will persist in reminding me how close we are?"
"Something like that. Are you busy?"
Conrart 's eyes flickered over Yuuri, making one of his split-second assessments of the Maou's mood. "I…" he hesitated, then bowed his head slightly. "I am not so busy that I cannot attend my king."
Yuuri grabbed his arm. "Fantastic! Follow me, we need to go somewhere private."
At the questioning tone, Yuuri paused, ceasing to drag his retainer down the way he had come. "No you're right, even if Wolfram has promised, there's no point risking anything." With that, he performed an abrupt about-face and marched off in the opposite direction, a mightily-confused Conrart in tow.
A large hand slid slowly down his back, skating smoothly over the silk of his suit. A lean, muscular arm tensed, pressing him easily forwards into a body made hard by years of combat. In return, he rested one hand on a broad shoulder and allowed the other to be taken in a sword-calloused grip. A booted foot lifted, the movement light and elegant, and nudged itself between his legs as its owner pushed his torso forwards, forcing the smaller male to arch backwards.
Black met hazel. Noses brushed. The two men nuzzled cheeks as the smaller was dipped slowly, his hips pressing up into his partner's as he was skilfully manipulated, his pliable body entirely subject to the older man's whim. The black-haired youth gasped, his skin flushing at the contact, and gripped his partner reflexively closer. The soldier smiled, gently, then drew the boy upright with startling suddenness, tossing him effortlessly into a chorus of spins that took them across the room until, with a smooth flick of his arm, he brought his companion to rest, lain limp and exhausted in his arms.
Yuuri laughed breathlessly, clinging onto Conrart for dear life. "That," he declared, "was some lesson!"
Conrart chuckled. "It was my pleasure. Your Majesty is extraordinarily light on his feet. Your footwork was excellent for a beginner, though I fear I will be unable to have you leading the steps before the ball." The half-human drew his king upright, his own breathing entirely unaffected by their three-hour hardcore class.
Small hands waved dismissively. "With any luck, I'll only have to dance a couple of times- once with Wolfram, then half a dance with someone else, then I can spend the rest of the evening restraining Wolf from killing my second partner." Yuuri stretched; pleasantly surprised by the amount of exercise he seemed to have taken. Traditional Mazoku ballroom was reminiscent of Latin style dance on Earth- some frenetic and wild, some restrained with a sultry sort of swing. Being the Maou, he was expected to be able to fumble his way through some of the steps, and Conrart's teaching would hopefully see him through.
He would even be able to take a lady's hand- the gender roles applied to Mazoku dance were reversible, apparently. He had decided to steer well clear of Lady von Spitzberg, just in case.
"Conrad, you're a marvel!" Yuuri complimented his friend, reaching his arms over his head to further stretch the muscles. A draft of cool air wafted against his stomach as it was momentarily bared to the world.
The king looked at the soldier, whose eyes darted up to meet his from where they seemed to have been focused on Yuuri's shirt hem. "My life has been an interesting one," Conrart responded. "There are many things I have been privileged to learn throughout the course of it."
"You're too modest! I can't do even half the things you can! You'll have to teach me all of the things you know."
Conrart startled a little, slight enough that Yuuri wouldn't have noticed had he not been looking for it, then covered it by crossing the room to pick up his sword belt. "Ah, but Your Majesty still has the edge on the baseball field."
"And you claim the prize for everything else. Lunch?"
It may have been the young Maou's imagination, but he was certain that when they left the room, Conrart's breathing had been affected by their session after all.
Yuuri faced the double doors into Blood Pledge Castle's main ballroom. The pleasant pastel blue seemed to mock him with its serenity. To say that he was a little nervous would be akin to suggesting that perhaps Gwendal might be a tiny bit prickly if you didn't know him very well.
The black-haired boy sighed. He was still incredibly inexperienced when it came to royal functions- his so-called advisors had all breezily told him he would be fine if he 'was himself', advice that led him to have serious doubts about their sanity. If he 'was himself', he'd be spilling wine and tripping over dress hems and accidentally proposing to people left, right and centre.
Absently, his twitching fingers traced 'Justice' on the wooden door. Never before had retreating into his alter ego been such an attractive proposal. It was a pity he still couldn't do it on demand. The maryoku-using Maou that shared his heart and mind would have absolutely no trouble with a room full of terribly important strangers and easily-toppled objects.
He was officially doomed.
Well, better to get it over with. He tugged at various bits of his outfit, ran a hand through his hair, donned his best smile, and entered with a flourish.
The orchestra immediately halted their piece to perform what could only be the national anthem, and hundreds of sets of eyes swivelled to fix on the slight figure at the top of the stairs. The room drew in a collective gasp.
Yuuri squirmed inwardly. Shunning the official royal dress had been a brilliant idea two weeks before the party- why did it seem like such a godawful one now?
Instead of the familiar school uniform, Yuuri was clad in a perfectly-fitted black tailcoat, stiff white shirt, white waistcoat and seamed black trousers. His black shoes had a military shine and a white bow tie rested neatly under his chin. He had briefly considered having a kimono made, but any chance to impersonate James Bond was not to be sniffed at. Besides, the look in his tailor's eyes when he had tried the first rough-cut of the outfit had convinced him that he'd made the right choice.
Now, he wasn't so sure. In a room of brightly-decorated Mazoku nobles, he resembled a raven that had been shanghaied by a rogue band of peacocks and parrots.
Yuuri faltered, halting at the top of the steps and staring out over the ballroom, fighting a rising sea of panic. All those eyes…all those split-second judgements being made…and the horrible, torturoussilence…
Yuuri's eyes darted to the source of the exclamation. Attired in shining white military regalia, Günter was hurrying through the throng towards him, his violet eyes bright with unshed tears.
Oh no. Surely he hadn't got it that disastrously wrong?
Günter halted several steps below the king, his hands clasped in front of his chest. "Your Majesty…you look…you look…"
"Is it that bad?" Yuuri whispered, urgently, feeling heat rise insistently in his cheeks.
"You look…SO MAJESTIC!" Günter sobbed. The silver-haired noble bowed his head, his shoulders shaking with his customary overwhelming emotion. He offered his hand upwards. "May I have the honour of escorting you, my king?"
As Yuuri took the offered hand, a solitary clapping arose from near the back of the ballroom, upon which the entire assembly erupted into enthusiastic applause. Yuuri leaned on Günter as he felt his knees go unashamedly wobbly, grateful for the support. "Thank goodness! I thought I'd made some sort of awful mistake!" he confided, quietly.
"How could Your Majesty think such a thing? Your garments are so pure, so refined and elegant, so befitting such a mighty and benevolent king!"
Yuuri chuckled nervously. He was always embarrassed by Günter's elaborate praise, not least because he was pretty sure he would never in his lifetime live up to it.
When the pair reached the last step-but-one, the Maou held up his hand for quiet, his lips twisted into an awkward smile. "Ahem, thank you everybody!" he called, hoping his voice would be heard by all. "I am honoured and gratified by the warmth of your welcome and I hope you all enjoy this splendid party! Now, on with the music!"
The orchestra struck up under another round of applause. A surge of people swept forwards to speak to the Maou, but most were content to return to their previous activities, aware that the night was long and there would be plenty of opportunities to hijack the young king for a genteel chatette. Yuuri clung onto Günter to keep his footing. There was a firm chance he might be swept away otherwise, but after the initial rush, the crowd settled enough for him to engage in more intimate talks with his subjects. Günter left him to continue party supervision, with a starry-eyed promise to return.
The array of names, faces and costumes was vast and dazzling, dizzying in its intensity, and entirely fascinating. For the most part, the boy simply listened and smiled, nodding along as he was informed whom was descended from whom and what roles people had played in the wars and who owned which fiefdom…and my, wasn't the chandelier sparkly? All those lights…
"Wine, Your Majesty?"
Yuuri startled out of his trance to see a smirking Conrart proffering a tray. Lady Whatshername of Whodoyoucallit fluttered her fan at the soldier's approach, batting elaborately decorated eyes in his direction. "I declare, Sir Weller, you have never looked more dashing."
A brunette head bowed in acknowledgement of the compliment. Yuuri had to agree- Conrart's dress uniform consisted of a scarlet uniform frock coat, brocaded heavily with gold and set off by creamy breeches and tall black boots. Medals adorned his chest and a light rapier replaced his usual longsword. He looked like he had stepped straight from the officer ranks of the eighteenth century British army, pristine and majestic.
"You are too kind, my Lady," Conrart answered the quivering bustle. "And may I be permitted to say how radiant you look this evening?"
The massively over-feathered fan thwapped him in the chest. The woman tittered girlishly, plucking at violent magenta sleeves. "One must make an effort, mustn't one? It is not every day that His Highness throws such a magnificent party."
"I do my best," Yuuri stammered, more than a little distracted by the richness of Conrart's uniform.
More girlish laughter met the quiet comment and Lady Whatshername dipped the tiniest of curtseys, begging pardon to take one of the glasses from Conrart's tray and her leave.
Yuuri sagged happily against Conrart. The enormity of it was becoming a touch uncomfortable and the friendly face was extremely welcome. Conrart deposited his tray on a nearby table and offered his arm for the king to take.
"How are you enjoying the festivities? That was quite an entrance you made, I thought Wolfram's jaw was going to drop off his face. You've definitely silenced any complaints that you aren't distinguished or respectable enough."
Yuuri ducked his head against the soldier's sleeve. "Thank you, Conrad. To be honest, I just couldn't face another day in my school uniform."
The two processed about the proceedings in comfortable quiet for a while, exchanging very short words with a few more of the guests. Yuuri felt a lot better now that he had Conrart to cling to- both physically and as moral support. There was something mysteriously pleasing about being directed by this strong presence, something about being subject to the whims of his tall, handsome retainer. He was more than aware of several sets of envious eyes that followed him, coveting his closeness with the charismatic Sir Weller…
The Maou froze. The familiar enraged tone locked his limbs in position and his brain, on autopilot, began to search for one-size-fits-all excuses. He turned, dropping Conrart's arm like it was on fire. His mouth assumed a fixed grin. "Ah, Wolfram, don't get mad, I can explain…"
He trailed off.
Wolfram was storming towards him through the crowds of nobles, his face flushed with fury, his eyes narrowed. Conrart tactfully backed away from the king at his brother's approach, consequently leaving Yuuri undefended from potential assault. Luckily, Yuuri's slack-jawed stare was enough to halt Wolfram before he descended on the Maou in a fit of jealous temper. Folding his arms, Wolfram tossed back his fringe with familiar pique, nose in the air. "What are you looking so gormless for, you cheating wimp?"
"Wolfram…You look incredible," Yuuri answered.
Wolfram startled. "What?"
Yuuri smiled. "You look incredible," he repeated. "Really, you do."
The flush in pale cheeks deepened and Wolfram turned brusquely away, hiding his embarrassment behind irritation. "Stop trying to fool me," he hissed, "You stupid wimp!"
The Maou took a step forwards and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Wolfram," he said, softly, "I wouldn't lie to you, you know that."
Muscles tensed beneath his palm. But Yuuri was right. Wolfram's dress uniform was similar to his daily attire, but it was creamy white with long tails hanging from the fitted back. More like a frock coat, it had wide lapels of a deep indigo and the lining was the same rich blue-purple. His breeches were the same creamy material as Conrad's, though his tunic had less decoration. The simplicity suited him, his fussy, frilly necktie replaced by an indigo cravat. The sword belt normally clinched around his waist was absent. In its place hung a sash of white material, from which hung a light sabre akin to Conrart's rapier.
Wolfram turned to face him, Yuuri's hand slipping from his shoulder. He was smiling, a little awkwardly. "You haven't brushed up too badly," he commented, after a moment of silence. He lifted gloved hands to fuss with Yuuri's tie, tugging at his collar. "You still can't get these properly stiffened, though."
Black eyes rolled skywards. "Must you criticise me at every…available…opportunity…" Yuuri's voice tailed off a second time as he became aware of a growing silence around them. The Mazoku nobility had backed away from the couple and now surrounded them in a wide circle, the cleared space conveniently positioned right next to the orchestra. The composer caught Yuuri's eye and struck up one of the better-known Mazoku dances.
Yuuri glanced at Conrart, who shrugged unhelpfully. He then turned back to Wolfram, who looked to be arriving to the same conclusions as he was.
"Well," Yuuri declared, after a moment's thought. "I guess this is where the king leads the first dance, right?" He offered a hand to Wolfram. "Want to see if you can make me look good?"
Wolfram hesitated, his eyes lowering briefly, then reached out to clasp the offered digit. "I can't have my fiancé looking like a fool," was his abrupt response.
"Yes, yes." Yuuri ignored the words- he knew the blond would need more than conventional torture methods to get him to admit to softer feelings- and rested his free right hand on Wolfram's shoulder. He stepped closer and, with unusual daring, used his left hand to wrap Wolfram's right snugly about his hip. Eyes, now inches from his own, bulged slightly. "You'll, er, have to do the actual leading," Yuuri told him, apologetically.
The blond stood frozen. Yuuri's willingness to be so intimate with him in public appeared to have shocked him, but he was quick to recover. He tightened his hold, unknowingly copying Conrart's teaching style to force Yuuri closer still. "Of course I'm leading- you're far too weak," Wolfram teased, then launched into the steps before Yuuri could argue.
The Maou recovered enough to respond to Wolfram's physical demand. It was weird. Wolfram was practically the same height as he, which made the hold he had learned with Conrart feel a lot more intimate. Looking his partner in the eye…Yuuri fought a blush and glanced to the floor, only to find that Wolfram yanked him out of step for a half-beat.
"Don't look at your feet, wimp," the blond hissed. "You'll make mistakes if you look down."
Hundreds of eyes followed the royal pair as they performed their first official dance. More than one noble lady sighed unhappily into her fan as she observed Lord von Bielefield's possessive hold on the Maou, or how His Majesty reciprocated every gesture, following the fiery lord's lead with the deference of a dance partner and the defiance of a lover. More than one doting mama flushed happily as the king relaxed in the embrace of his fiancé, content to be led, for once, content to submit to the formidable third son of Cecilie von Spitzberg. More than one sycophantic young male inwardly congratulated Master Wolfram on his skilled romance traps, or mourned the loss of an opportunity to pursue either of the couple.
Yuuri, meanwhile, was praying frantically that he wouldn't stand on Wolfram's foot.
This was much more challenging than dancing with Conrart. Wolfram was forceful- he demanded Yuuri's body to behave according to his will, where Conrart had drawn the king into the steps as an equal. He supposed that Wolfram's way was more passionate, considering the increase in energy expenditure, but it left little room for Yuuri to reach out and enjoy himself. Well, he could but ask…
Trying to conceal his actual motive from their watchers, Yuuri took advantage of a shift in direction to nuzzle his cheek against Wolfram's, desperately hoping the blond wouldn't jerk away.
Wolfram tightened his grip in response and began to move backwards. Yuuri let his body go limp and allowed himself to fall gracefully to his knees, pointing a leg out behind him and looking up into Wolfram's eyes. This was a complicated but impressive little move that Conrart had imparted to him, that Wolfram was apparently more than capable of. Right, now that he had the blond's attention…
"Wolfram! It's not a duel, for goodness sake, can't you lay off a bit and just enjoy it!" Yuuri whispered, urgently. He half twisted his body as he was slowly drawn across the ballroom floor, flexing his muscles in preparation for the final moment of the move.
Green eyes flickered. "No. You're mine, and it's about time I demonstrated that."
With that, Wolfram halted and drew Yuuri to his feet with a flourish. The Maou undulated his body as he was brought up from the floor, arching his back as his hands were raised above his head and he was spun in three dizzying circles before being yanked back into Wolfram's chest as the orchestra finished the song with a deafening crescendo.
Panting, feeling the chest beneath his cheek heave with exertion, Yuuri wondered if it was the heat, the exertion or the confession that was making his head spin. Wolfram had never asserted himself in such a way before- rather he had stated a case for supposed infidelity on Yuuri's part against a fiancé to whom he owed a duty of ownership. Wolfram's bold affirmation was, this time, a statement of his claim proprietary rights. The Maou wondered why it made his heart beat so…
A hand came under his chin to lift his head up. As the astonished audience broke into applause around them, Wolfram looked down at Yuuri with an unreadable expression. "I suppose you know," he uttered, calmly. "That to share the first dance with his fiancé at an official ball is an ancient symbol of commitment made by the Maou in pledging eternal love to his intended?"
"You've just made that up," Yuuri replied, leaning into the touch.
Wolfram's eyes flickered again, and softened. "Yes. But it's a good story, right?"
"It needs a happier ending."
Wolfram lowered his head, the brilliant blond of his fringe mixing into Yuuri's shining black locks. Their breath mingled as their foreheads brushed, their skin equally damp with sweat. Yuuri squirmed at the sensation, unintentionally wriggling closer into Wolfram's hold.
"Yuuri…" the Mazoku lord whispered. Yuuri shut his eyes- he could taste those words, taste the longing in them.
"As you wish, Your Majesty."