One-two, three-four. One-two, three-four.

"Miss, may I cut in?"

He ignored her pronounced "no" as the man in the purple scarf, while he stepped aside, gave Alfred one of the most grateful looks he thought he had ever received.

He smiled a hero's smile down at her -- she was a pretty thing, decked in gothic elegance from her shoes to her hairbow. "Hey, I'm not that bad; give me a chance first, huh?"

He barely gave her a chance to answer as he brought her close, one hand on the small of her back and the left cradling her right. She made a strangled sound that sounded like a nonverbal complaint, but nonetheless, when he started dancing, she followed his steps and even set her hand on his shoulder.

One-two, three-four. One-two, three-four.

He felt cold metal brush the nape of his neck and gave a laugh. "Ah-ha, I see how it is!" But he did not retreat, and was scarcely surprised when the metal did not leave, but at the same time did not press. Time to tread carefully.

Each step was measured and all of his movements were carefully evaluated (Arthur would laugh if anyone ever said that Alfred was capable of thought before action), to keep that blade away from the tissue underneath his skin.

She glared up at him all the while, sharp blue eyes through sand blonde bangs. He kept her gaze effortlessly, lips in a perpetual smile.

One-two, three-four. One-two, three-four.

His arm went to circle her waist and he dipped her down, to alarm from the shorter woman -- he felt her grip the back of his neck in reflex to keep from falling, pressing the handle of the blade hard against the bone there. Not that he would drop such a pretty girl (heroes didn't drop their damsels), but he didn't blame her for not trusting him.

He had to laugh at her reaction, to an intense glare in response as she remembered to level the blade again, once she was confident she would not fall. "So, what's your name?" he inquired as if it were a joke.

"What's yours?" she bit back, voice as harsh and as beautiful as a Russian winter.

He laughed again, bringing her back up. "Alfred," he answered. "Now can you tell me?"

She grimaced and he felt her hand twitch like she was considering stabbing him right then. "…Natalya," she eventually grated out.

"Beautiful name," Alfred complimented, fingers absently tangling in the bow at her back. She continued to frown -- hardly a surprise.

One-two, three-four. One-two, three-four.

Something in her peripheral must have caught her attention, then, because at that point, she broke eye contact for the first time since they had begun to dance. He watched as her eyes widened, and couldn't help haphazardly turning his head to peer at whatever had gotten her so bothered. The man in the scarf from before was chatting amiably with Yao, though seemed to be standing a little too close for comfort, as evidenced in Yao's facial expression.

The tensing of her knuckles against his skin alerted Alfred and he quickly looked back to her just as she drew her weapon back.


His hand snapped out and caught her wrist, effortlessly halting the knife in its tracks. His other hand went to restrain her opposite wrist, and he held her at arm's length, grinning even as she balked at him.

"That's pretty mean, don't you think?" Alfred felt her trembling in his grasp, anger in those cold winter eyes. "An 'excuse me' would have worked just as well!"

She scoffed and stamped on his foot; this coerced a wince out of him, but not much else, and he continued to grin. The taller of the two maneuvered so that Natalya's back was facing the pair of Yao and the other, and Alfred forced her hands to her sides. A chuckle escaped him -- he leaned in close to her face. "Thanks for the dance…" He angled his head towards her ear, teeth within scraping distance of the sensitive skin. "…Natalya."

Alfred let her go with a small push, quickly backing away and disappearing into the crowd, a smile on his face as he left the young woman to her own devices.

Arthur would never believe him about this.