When All Hope Fails


"I'm sorry, Your Majesty," Conrad murmured quietly as he walked down the corridor with Yuuri at his elbow. The double black was doing his best to keep up with the larger man's strides.

"That's Yuuri, right? You're my godfather. You named me," he said, smiling up.

It was evening now and the party had been going on in the ballroom for less than a half hour. The ground floor walkway leading up to the elaborately decorated room was lit up with sconces. The magic fire within flickered a soft, soothing aquamarine color which helped illuminate the garden setting to the left of Conrad and Yuuri. Music spilled into the garden area. A few couples noticed and chatted merrily while making their way for the castle interior where the dancing was about to begin.

"I'm sorry that I had to take you away from Mother's Spring Extravaganza. She holds it each year and all the nobles attend." He gave a polite shrug at the end of the statement.

"It's fine," Yuuri chuckled. He placed his hand behind his head and added, "I know that I don't always keep up with my paperwork, but I didn't realize that Gwendal needed that last document signed today…as in right now." He laughed sheepishly as they passed a column.

There was something. He stopped, rested his palms on the railing, and leaned forward to get a better look into the garden. "Wait…" he said over his shoulder at Conrad and his godfather stopped, too.

The double black pointed his finger to a lone figure standing by the rose bushes. It was a blond wearing a blue uniform. He was picking a rose and then just as quickly hissed an "ouch."

Yuuri laughed at him. "That's just like Wolfram, I guess…"

Conrad stroked his chin a little. "He has grown up a lot over the past four years. I was surprised when he decided to grow his hair out."

Yuuri nodded and looked at the slim figure who was, at the moment, standing with an annoyed look on his face and a sore finger in his mouth. The wind blew against Wolfram and his blond bangs fluttered in the breeze while the rest was tied up neatly against the nape of his neck with a dark blue ribbon.

"Lord Wolfram von Bielefeld!" a woman's voice called out. She was wearing a cream colored dress with a navy shawl studded in pearls. Her hair was cherry red and draped down in the back in an elaborate French braid with a sea of graceful curls gracing it. She waved her handkerchief at him while her golden eyes glowed appreciatively.

Wolfram sighed and his head fell forward. Oh, not again he groaned inwardly.

"Oh, my," Conrad said and chuckled a bit. He took Yuuri by the arm and tugged him back to hide them both behind the column.

"What's going on?" Yuuri asked, eyes wide and curious.

"This may take a moment," the soldier said, not bothering to banish the amusement in his voice. His eyes cut slightly down at Yuuri who, in his opinion, needed to see this. It was a part of Wolfram that Yuuri didn't notice or maybe "comprehend" would have been a better term. And it was definitely something that Wolfram tried to keep hidden from prying eyes.

"Thank you for agreeing to see me here. I'm glad you got my message." She smiled prettily at him.

Wolfram raised his head and gave her a wary look. "The only reason why I agreed to meet you here…at this moment…in this place…" he glanced around briefly "…is because your father's negotiations with our monarch is nearing completion…" He swallowed thickly before saying the next line that he knew to be a total lie. "So, my assumption is that he…or you…need something, Lady Alicia."

The woman walked towards him with ghostly steps and said coyly, "While it is true that having a series of market fairs throughout Shin Makoku will, in my father's opinion, strengthen internal relations in the kingdom and improve the local economies…" She stopped only five paces away from Wolfram. "That's not…exactly…why I've asked you to come." Alicia turned her head to one side and looked into emerald eyes that seemed to draw her in.

It felt so good to have him there with her—all to herself, alone in the garden.

Wolfram sighed and took a sudden interest in his fingernails—buffing them against his chest. It was too dark to really examine them, but it gave him something to do. And, after all these years, it became a kind of habit in these situations. Why were people so persistent?

"Is there a problem?" Yuuri asked innocently of Conrad. "She could have come to me or asked you. Wolfram wasn't anywhere near the negotiations. He was too busy."

Conrad had to restrain himself to keep from laughing. Sometimes, Yuuri was really too innocent for his own good. Even as a part of the cultured nobility, everything in Alicia's body language spoke volumes in terms of what she really wanted. "Well, Yuuri," he said, picking his words carefully, "I wouldn't be too concerned. Wolfram has been going through this kind of situation since his Coming of Age party all those years ago."

"Going through…what?" He scratched his head.

There was a short laugh this time. "You'll see…"

"I hope I'm not being too forward," she said with a slight smile and another step in Wolfram's direction. The breeze caught her red hair and she smiled into it, enjoying the fragrance of the flowers. Her golden eyes brightened.

Wolfram glanced at her and his shoulders slumped a little. "Since you haven't told me anything, you couldn't possibly be too forward," the blond said diplomatically and offered her his arm. "The ball is under way, and I know that we will be missed if we stay out here too long."

A vixen's smile slowly spread across Alicia's features. She folded her arms instead of taking Wolfram's. Her face peered at his with more determination. "Since when are you afraid of what people will say?"

Wolfram's arm lowered slowly to his side and, unconsciously, tensed up—the hand becoming a fist. The blond shook his head "no" and turned away from her. He knew where this was going. "I think we should pretend that we never met here…and leave…" It was almost said as a growl.

Her face twitched a bit at that but her smile remained. "So, you will not even allow me the chance to tell you my feelings for you?"

"No," Wolfram said quietly, turned, and made his way for the castle.

Yuuri and Conrad ducked back further. Now, there was no way for them to leave without Wolfram noticing. His vision was too keen and he was very well aware of his surroundings thanks to his military training—quickly scanning the garden and the castle walkway to see if anyone had chanced upon them.

"Please, Lord Wolfram von Bielefeld!" Alicia pleaded with anger mixed into it. She followed him step for step. A tiny hand caught his shoulder and she forced him to stop and look at her. "I would be a much better match for you than Yuuri Heika."

"Oh!" Yuuri gasped and covered his mouth with his hand. Now, everything had clicked into place.

Green eyes narrowed at her dangerously. "Do not say that again. I am the fiancé to the king. And I do not appreciate anyone…"

"Willing to offer you love." Her blue shawl dropped to her elbows, showing off her petit frame and narrow shoulders.

"Stop saying that!" Wolfram barked, but Alicia stood her ground. Her golden eyes twinkled. The blond ex-prince was the fiery soul that everyone spoke of. She liked the challenge, and she liked him being willing to push back when she pushed.

"Then, the rumors are true," she practically laughed at him.

"Rumors?" Yuuri said, turning up to stare at his godfather's shocked expression.

"Yuuri Heika doesn't love you…or want you… Am I right?" She quietly circled Wolfram who was now rooted to the spot. The horrible woman had dared to say to him what others had only whispered behind his back. Yes, he knew of it, but it didn't help matters.

"Then, choose me!"

Wolfram frowned deeply, eyebrows pushed together. "You've got to be kidding me, woman. I have no intention of marrying anyone other than Yuuri."

She smiled and reached a hand for his face but Wolfram turned away. Then, she went on with "I'm not asking you to." Alicia approached again with the hopes of wearing him down. "I'm simply saying that, in time, you will grow to be so alone and so miserable that you will want someone who is willing to comfort you…someone…who understands your pain…how long you've suffered…" Her small hand reached out. She touched his face this time, turned it towards her, and saw something in his emeralds that confirmed her guess. He felt all of that—and more. "And… I could comfort you in every possible way…asking for nothing in return."

It broke the spell.

Wolfram stepped away from her touch and laughed bitterly. "Oh, you'll want something… You're kind always do." Wolfram placed a hand on his hip. "Why do you think that I've been alone since the day I came of age? Do you know what that revolting party was like?" He grimaced at the memory. "I had to spend the whole night avoiding my own guests because they were trying to slap me! To force me to marry them because I was The Demon Queen's son and I have a handsome face."

Alicia gripped her shawl tightly and readjusted it. "That's the price we pay for the high status we hold."

Wolfram tilted his head to one side when she said that. "Didn't you ever want someone to love you for who you are? To be with you because you were the person most precious to them?"

Alicia stared levelly. "Fine words… But, you're not living that way now, are you?" There was a calculating look that came with it. Yes, she'd show the arrogant, mighty Lord Wolfram von Bielefeld something he needed to know. "If the rumors are true, the only reason why you sleep in Yuuri Heika's bed is because you sneak in there. He doesn't want you. There's no part of him that does. And you spend each day being his pathetic little stray dog…following…hoping you'll get a scrap of affection from him."

"Alicia…" was growled from the back of Wolfram's throat as a warning.

"You only prove my point by talking like that," she threw back at him. "And I've watched you the whole time I've been here." Her tone had switched now, a kind of faux pitying tone that noble women had skill and practice using. "He tolerates you at his side and cringes when you speak. So, tell me… Which is worse? To be hated or to be tolerated?" She reached a hand out for Wolfram's shoulder. He shrugged it off.

"Is this the future you really want?"

"I know my future!" Wolfram barked. "And no one can tell it to me better… Certainly, not you!"

From his hiding place, Yuuri smiled a bit. He had faith in Wolfram. His "Wolf" wouldn't take this from anyone. Certainly, this was what Conrad wanted him to see. Conrad, on the other hand, had watched what he'd assumed to be a simple "confession of feelings" that would be quickly and politely dismissed deteriorate into undignified behavior and name calling. The thought of where this could lead made his blood run cold.

"What would it be, then?" she asked tartly and Conrad smacked his hand over his face. He was right. This would not bode well.

Wolfram crossed his arms defensively and glared back at her. "You are right in that Yuuri Heika doesn't love me. I've known it all along."

Yuuri's jaw dropped and he found himself suddenly leaning against the column for support. He said…that…? But…

"I haven't mentioned 'fiancés' or 'marriage' to him in a long time because I know how this will turn out.' Wolfram went back to the shrub and took a pink rosebud, twirled it between his fingers, and then picked at the tightly spiraled petals—tearing them and letting the shreds fall. "I will stay by Yuuri's side until the day comes he no longer needs me. And, by the looks of the admirers who come to these events, that day is not too far off." Another piece fell away from his fingers. "Yuuri, the wimp, will find someone…someone kind, quiet, adoring, sweet, understanding…"

"Female…?" Alicia suggested. "I've heard that part, too."

Wolfram shrugged a little. "Everything that I'm not…yes…" Another piece fell away. "Of course, no one needs an ex-fiancé around the castle or a former 'accidental fiancé'—as they call me in the village because Yuuri never knew that a slap was a proposal of marriage to begin with."

"My point exactly," Alicia said, sounding sincere this time. "Even if this place is your home."

Wolfram frowned at that. "Home…is the place I choose…" For me, 'home' will always be Yuuri's side.

Alicia clutched her shawl tightly. "I understand…"

"So, as I see it, I have three choices."

"Only three?" she chuckled, a bit glad that the two of them had found a way to speak freely.

"Three only," Wolfram confessed. "The first is suicide."

Yuuri gasped and Conrad jerked in his brother's direction, about to interrupt everything when he heard the words "But I could never do that."

Another piece of rose petal dropped. "Even though falling on my sword or setting myself on fire would give me an honorable death and Yuuri would be free to marry, I couldn't end it in such a petty way. I would go down in history as 'the beautiful but unloved shadow of Shinou' because I'm sure that Günter wouldn't record it any other way. That man's too over the top." Then, he smiled almost to himself and added, "Besides, I want to see Yuuri become a great king. I want that more than anything."

Alicia pushed a red strand of hair behind her ear and nodded dumbly. Clearly, she had not planned on what was supposed to be a "shallow" Wolfram von Bielefeld to think this much into detail.

"My second option would be to die by placing myself into danger. If I could be transferred permanently into commanding the border patrols along the human lands, I would have more than ample opportunity."

From his hiding place, Yuuri cringed and Conrad steadied him by placing a hand on his shoulder.

"But, by doing so, I would be endangering my comrades because I would be a better target for assassination as a member of the noble class, the son of the ex-Demon Queen, and the ex-fiancé of the reigning Demon King. I could also be targeted for kidnapping and my troops would be facing more danger than usual." He sighed and said "not that they would mind, though. My troops and my private guard…they do care about me…sincerely…"

"Unlike your own fiancé…" Alicia reached out a hand to comfort him but Wolfram saw the motion and turned away.

Yuuri leaned against the column with his face in his hands. "What have I done to Wolfram, Conrad?"

Conrad whispered back, "My brother internalizes everything. I had no idea he felt like this."

"My final choice would be to return to the Bielefeld Territory and resume the running of my lands and estate." He smiled weakly—a look that Yuuri could see from where he was hiding. "Truth be told, this is my only option—exile. I have to live, to be there for Greta, my daughter, and watch over her throughout her life." He tore away another piece of the flower. "I'm sure Yuuri will let me see her occasionally…maybe send her to Bielefeld from time to time…or I'll come here…briefly…"

Alicia's smile returned. "Then, all I have to do is wait…"

"What?" Wolfram turned slightly, giving a sidelong glare. She just wasn't getting it. And Yuuri knew that expression only too well.

"There will be no 'us,' Alicia."

Her grip on her shawl tightened once more. "Just give me a chance. You'll see that I can please you. It's all I'm asking."

Wolfram shook his blond head in frustration. "We're not a couple!"

She frowned. "You sound like Yuuri Heika, if the rumors be true!"

He turned to her, squared his shoulders, and then… his expression changed. At once, all of the emotion drained out of him. Wolfram's face softened. He could see it now. He really could. Images of wasted years, wasted hopes. Moments. Sneaking into Yuuri's room. Waking him up in the morning. Straightening out his crooked collar. Banter with Yuuri about weddings. Once, he even asked for a cake.

Yuuri never brought up the ceremony. Never. I always did, he whispered to himself.

At the time, Wolfram realized, he just never understood because he didn't want to.

"What is it?" she asked, growing concerned.

"Is this what I did to Yuuri all that time? I kept insisting that he'd love me…with enough time and enough demands? Was this why my heart and loyalty were never enough?" He peered at Alicia's face in a way that made her squirm—a hopelessness mixed with realization. "That was it…isn't it? Even now, I keep saying 'no' and you keep saying 'yes.' But it will never be 'yes'." He rested the heel of his hand against his forehead. It was clear now. Painfully, painfully clear.

Alicia wasn't sure what to do. She simply stood there, fidgeting.

"Thank you, Alicia," Wolfram said as a sigh, his head still lowered. "You've given me the chance to see the truth. I've kept this farce up too long. Yuuri needs to be free."

The woman pulled her hair over he left shoulder and began to run her fingers through the curls, trying to unknot them. She said quietly, "This was not my intention. Please reconsider. I only wanted to be with you…even if only in private." She reached out to touch Wolfram's blond hair—to push it out of his eyes.

The shredded remains of the flower fell on the grass.

He was weak in this moment, and she still had a chance. Her gold eyes narrowed at her prey. "If you're going to be thrown away…unloved and unwanted…what harm could it be to…?"

"Wolfram!" Yuuri said, coming out from behind the column, much to Conrad's surprise. He simply gaped at the double black from where he stood.

"Oi, Wolf!" A cheerful wave followed it.

The blond lifted his head at the sound of his name, large green eyes filled with tears.

"Hello, Alicia." Yuuri greeted her casually over his shoulder as he came in between them. "It's a fine night and we need to go back to the party." He looked at Wolfram's face and placed his palms against it—rubbing away tears with his thumbs. "Wolf, I think you've been standing next to the flowers for too long. The pollen has made your eyes water." In his typically cheerful Japanese way he continued with "I think the three of us can go now."

Before Wolfram knew it, he could feel Yuuri taking him by the hand and leading the way back into the castle.

Each step was torture, walking towards the castle and seeing the outline of Yuuri's back ahead of him.

"Yuuri," the blond said sadly as they continued on, "I think there's something I should tell you…later on…"

Yuuri stopped walking and said without looking, "Me, too…" The hand gripped his tightly. "But, give me your word, Wolf, that you'll tell me your news later…"

"I suppose…" Wolfram agreed "…it can wait awhile…"

It can wait forever, Yuuri thought as they passed the guards and entered the heavy wooden doors.

"Oh, and speaking of messages," the double black continued, "I have one for you." He motioned politely to the red haired woman. Then, onyx eyes cut in Wolfram's direction. "And if you, Wolfram, could tell everyone inside that I'll join them in a minute?"

The blond nodded, secretly glad to be away from Alicia, and left, discretely rubbing the tears from his left eye as he did so.

Yuuri smiled politely and Alicia pretended to be respectful as the door closed behind Wolfram. However, there was a part of her that was furious to see Wolfram go. Still, she managed to keep her lips curled upwardly when she looked at the double black and she gave him a little curtsey right before he started to speak.

"I have the impression that you're fond of my fiancé." He had a slightly sheepish way of saying it. It felt odd to say those words out loud. That was for sure.

Her eyes widened. The "clueless wonder" actually noticed?

"And while I encourage everyone to be friends here…" He took a breath and let it out. It was time to say it. "Wolfram will be by my side until the day he chooses to leave me…" Then, his usually naïve smile became a determined one. "And that's a day…I'll never allow."

Yuuri made a gesture to the door, the doorman opened it, and Alicia went in with a bewildered look on her face. This was certainly unexpected, but there was no way—if the rumors were true—that he actually meant it.

"I've been looking for you everywhere!" said a voice behind him. And, in the next second, Yuuri found himself crushed to Lady Cheri's ample bosom. This time, she had managed to do it one handed with a glass of champagne that had a black ribbon dangling from the stem. Conrad, who was standing a few paces behind them, laughed. His mother was certainly an affectionate person.

The double black was released and his face pink—breathing hard.

"I'm so happy to see you," she gushed and placed a friendly hand on his shoulder. "Have you seen my Wolfie anywhere?"

Yuuri's face twitched a little and he threw a guilty look at Conrad whose face reflected the same.

"He is here, isn't he?" Lady Cheri said cheerfully, but her motherly instinct told her that something was amiss. She took a sip from her glass and watched Yuuri closely.

"Yes, he's inside," Yuuri said and tried to give her a reassuring smile. He watched her take another sip when a thought occurred to him. "Can I have this?"

"My drink?" Lady Cheri seemed surprised that he would want it. She had brought it from her suite—a simple gift from an admirer who had come to the ball tonight.

"No," he said quietly, "just…this…" He tugged at the ribbon.

Slightly confused, she unknotted the black silk strand and handed it over to Yuuri, who accepted it gratefully with both hands. It was only a decoration and she couldn't possibly understand why a king would give it such reverence.

"Excuse me," Yuuri murmured to them both and disappeared through the door.

The room was packed with nobles and their extended families. The musicians were in fine form, playing a waltz while many of the men had crowded around the drinks table, laughing loudly over a bawdy tale told in hushed tones. Gwendal, arms folded against his chest, glared at their behavior but allowed it. Nevertheless, he took a few steps away so as not to be associated with them. Günter raised a disapproving eyebrow, too, and continued to chat with some of his von Christ relatives. Greta was making a grab for another cookie to eat. And Anissina was busy explaining to her brother why she didn't want to return to their lands for a family meeting because her latest experiment was about to be unveiled.

The second he stepped into the room, Yuuri could hear voices saying "Heika! Oh, Heika?" over the sound of the music. He gave polite smiles and nods in their direction but kept on going—looking for the corner where Wolfram would be. The blond soldier always chose the same place which was right next to a hanging tapestry that Günter was so fond of putting up to hide the door to a cleaning closet—which he found unsightly.

At first glance, it looked like Wolfram's arms were folded against his chest, much like Gwendal. But, Yuuri knew that the blond was really hugging himself. His emerald eyes were dim and he seemed to be remembering something sad. Yuuri could easily guess what it was.

"Wolf," Yuuri said cheerfully as he approached.

"Hm?" It snapped him out of it. The blond ex-prince seemed generally surprised to see his fiancé. "What are you doing?" He looked out a bit worriedly at the crowd. "You should be out there…mingling with the guests. Your business will never be over with the nobles and, politically, it would be a good idea to keep a closer eye on my uncle and some of his cohorts."

Yuuri laughed, "Your uncle has cohorts?" He pushed his hands into his pockets and stood casually.

Wolfram cracked a grin. He had spoken a little too honestly too quickly. "Since they're much older than me, I suppose they'd be 'cronies,' but it would be in bad form to describe them that way." He lowered his head a little in doing so. "'Associates', then…I suppose…"

"Wolf, I want to talk to you," was said in his ear and a hand grabbed Wolfram's, leading him behind the hanging tapestry with Shin Makoku's crest on it. The thick material made a heavy "flap" going back into place. The hinges of the closet groaned as Yuuri opened the door inwardly.

The hand tugged a certain reluctant blond along.

"Yuuri!" Wolfram griped loud enough to get attention. "People are going to notice…"

Yuuri chuckled uncomfortably at that. Yes, he knew that some of the guests would notice. That, in part, was why he did it. "I wanted to…"

Green eyes narrowed at him in the veiled light that streamed in from the ballroom. "Did something happen? Or is there something you need?"

Yuuri tilted his face to the floor. Eyes down. "There's something…I…"

An uncomfortable silence followed.

Wolfram's wrong. He doesn't have three choices. He has only one.

Wolfram tapped his foot impatiently until he realized that Yuuri was struggling with what he needed to say. His heart softened a little with that. Later on, he, too, would struggle with what he needed to say—to give Yuuri one final message. It would be something along the lines of "I'm sorry for chasing you…for forcing myself on you and calling it 'love.' It won't happen again. This I promise."

Cautiously, Yuuri looked up and saw in the thin patches of khaki light the curve of Wolfram's face closing in on him. The expression was concern and a kind of protectiveness that he'd come to associate with the blond. "Yuuri…I'm your fiancé after all. You can tell me anything, of course."

"I…I know, Wolfram…"

"Anything…" he repeated with more emphasis.

Yuuri nodded at that. "Fine, then…"

Wolfram smiled thinly, head cocked beautifully to one side. In this moment, Wolfram was the ideal bishonen. He could almost picture a perfect background of twirling pink roses. He was ideal in every way with a god's features and a heart that couldn't be matched by an earthly soul. Utterly and totally desirable.

"I want you to turn around."

"WHAT?!" Wolfram's voice carried now and a few of the party guests were starting to linger somewhere near the tapestry.

"You heard me," Yuuri said, feeling himself flush, heat rising into his cheeks.

Now, Wolfram was a comic version of his former self: mouth agape, eyes too wide, arms spread out awkwardly, throbbing nerve on his forehead…

The double black watched and laughed on the inside. When it comes to affection, you're as afraid as I am. All this time, I thought you were the knowledgeable one…sophisticated. But, you're not. Or am I so important to you…that you're afraid to make a mistake…?

It gave Yuuri more confidence. "Just turn around, Wolf."

With a shaky nod, he did it and felt a hand stroking his hair. Wolfram's heart began to beat wildly. This was bold, Yuuri or not. He'd never dreamed it would happen. Then, he felt his hair being freed and his long blond hair spilled down onto his shoulders, the ribbon sliding away against the nape of his neck in a silky stream.

A slight pressure. There was a hand on his shoulder.

Yuuri peeked around. "You okay, Wolf?"

"Ummm…yea-yeah…" He took a hard breath for courage. "Of course, I am…"

Yuuri rested his head on Wolfram's shoulder, smiling inwardly while the other was still shaking. "If you're fine, why are you trembling, Wolfram?"

Green eyes flashed at him. That was the only answer he was going to get and Yuuri knew it.

"I just wanted to give you this," Yuuri said and showed the black silk ribbon he'd hidden in his pocket.

"A…ribbon…?" Green eyes blinked at it.

"Yes," Yuuri went on, "I thought it would be nice if you started wearing this from now on instead of the dark blue one that you usually wear." The double black pocketed the blue ribbon that smelled like Wolfram's hair—a mix of jasmine and sunflowers.

"Y-u-u-r-i," Wolfram groaned, defeated.

"Something…?" He said gently while scooping up the blond hair and stroking the strands at the nape of the neck. There was a soothing, calming feeling about fingers sliding against his hair.

Wolfram forced his mind back to the situation at hand. "You don't understand our customs. The black ribbon…the fact that you've tied it on me…" The voice sounded more and more miserable with each word it uttered. "You don't understand the symbolism. It won't mean anything to you, but it does to us. And it will cause you more trouble than you ever bargained for." He could feel the strands being tightened and the ends of the ribbon made into a small, well-formed bow.

"And what does it mean…?" the double black asked as if he didn't know.

"It…implies a relationship…a bond…that we don't have." Wolfram sighed before adding, "Please take it off…for your sake. Save yourself the embarrassment."

Yuuri grabbed Wolfram's shoulders and turned him around. "To be honest, when I gave it to you…I knew what it meant."

Emerald eyes widened again.

"I can't promise that I'll be perfect. I guess, a part of me is still growing up and I'm not ready for anything other than this." He took Wolfram's hand and laced fingers. "Be patient with me…please?"

"Are you saying…?" Wolfram asked incredulously.

"I'm saying that I want you by my side until the day comes that you choose to leave me behind." Then, he leaned his head against Wolfram's shoulder. "And, then, I'll come for you." Black locks rubbed against a blue clad shoulder. "Because, that's the way it is with us."

For a moment, Yuuri could feel arms wrapping around his shoulders and a soft cheek pressing against his. "Yuuri…"

Wolfram wiped his eyes and suddenly noticed a lot of shadows passing in front of the tapestry. Stunned, Wolfram let go of his fiancé.

"They know we're in here. You're doomed…" Wolfram groaned. His body wanted to crumble inwardly, close the door, and hide for the rest of his life. "My reputation was destroyed long ago, but yours… It will look like I corrupted you."

Yuuri watched him out of the corner of his eye in amusement. Yes, their relationship had changed—for the better.

"It's fine. I don't mind." And with that, he took Wolfram's hand again, walked forward, and pushed back the tapestry.

"I hope I wasn't too rough with you," Yuuri said loud enough for the meandering guests to hear, which got some gasps, a shocked look from Gwendal and an amused giggle from Lady Cheri who was pretending to sip the last of her drink. Wolfram put a hand to a red, burning face—following meekly, but straightened up quickly enough when he saw Conrad smiling at them.

They ended up on the edge of the dance floor. The blond took in the room—suddenly realizing that there were party guests, including his Uncle Waltorana, who had noticed the black silk ribbon and were discussing it openly. The noise level escalated to almost a deafening roar. Wolfram could make out bits of conversation such as "…wearing black…," "…favored by Yuuri Heika after all…," and "…really a couple…?"

Alicia gave a heated glare and stormed out the back door all alone, demanding to the doorman that her carriage be brought to her at once.

"Please dance with me," Yuuri said in Wolfram's ear with a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I'm not the best dancer in the world, but I want to show off your new ribbon." And, with that, he took his hand and they joined the group of twirling dancers.

Both blue and black.

Each step, coming closer to each other.

They danced all night long.