"Milady," Xerxes bowed his head and gave a regal bow, "My I have this dance?" Perhaps he would have blushed if only it weren't for the fact that Alice had recently commandeered Oz to the other side of the ballroom to teach her how to dance. A manservant cutting in on his lady's dance was most distasteful and forward.

But Oz made his lady too happy, the rat fink! And then left her for the chain! Of course it was the manservant's job to assure his lady was dancing. Mistress Shelly had never explicitly stated that she was not to dance with him, only that she was to dance all night to uphold the illusion that she was indeed fending off marriage proposals left and right.

He was simply being a good manservant.

He knew somehow he was quite wrong, but really, with the smile that graced her lips and the curtsy accompanying the, "I thought you'd never ask, Xerxes." he dismissed any other explanation. He was simply making his lady happy.

"Milady, it's quite improper for a manservant to cut in on his master's dance!" She responded with a sharp smack to his face.

"I do believe I told you the day I came out of the abyss that our relationship was no longer like that!" He would only accept this from her. Only she was his master; even above Lady Shelly in all respects to him.

The words were too clear that day he found her.

Running towards him, she barreled into him, sobbing but holding tightly to him. He had failed as her manservant. She had been sent to the Abyss, and could not save her. Alyss could have sunk her claws into him and she could have been gone for ever. He had pushed her away softly, and pulled out a hanky. He was relieved- too relieved. He should have relished his freedom from her, but in the end, he had spent most of the twelve years looking for her.

"It is not proper for a master to cling to her servant, Milady. People will mistake it for weakness." She slapped him. It was the first time she ever had.

"I put up with that before, Xerxes! I said you had been through more and I was childish! Now, however, I have seen the Abyss. Like you, I survived the Abyss. No longer, Xerxes." He had bowed his head before looking at her seriously.

"Do not be so intrigued by me, milady. Blackness does not suit you." he had received another smack.

"Don't belittle me, Xerxes. I am perfectly capable of making up my own mind."

"Yes Milady."

"Forgive me, milady." He looked up at her, coldness in his eyes. Coldness had to replace the warmth when he wanted nothing more that to hold her close to him for all eternity. The world could fall apart- Alyss could rule it all, Damnit! - But Sharon was his, but was also not his. "I must take my leave. I offer my sincerest apologies for my effrontery."

He turned and left the ballroom, waiting until he turned the corner before he ran to the balcony. He hit the large marble railing that looped around the precipice he stood on. Damn propriety! Damn the world around them! She was his!

But she also was not.

Every time that thought had come to him it made him feel helpless. It made him feel joyous. It made him happy. She was his.

But it also made him angry. He would grow enraged. It hurt like a dull knife twisting in his heart. But she also was not his.

He had heard it was bittersweet. He had heard it hurt, and he had heard it was beautiful. He had heard it was slow until they could touch, and then it was fast. He had heard it was addictive, but every taste he had of it made him want no more of it, but it also held him too enraptured. Love was bittersweet. Love was improper.

And she was his.

He could feel her body pressed against his, warm and sweet. He had memorized that smile, bright and cheery. Her hand in his, trusting and faithful. Two lumps of sugar and a hint of cream in her tea. Beautiful.

The accusing glare of manservant whenever he had smiled too warmly at her in front of the nobles.

He was no doubt too far below her. No man other than himself could have her, he would see! Her light footsteps, he could almost hear them, so vivid were his memories.

"Xerxes?" She took his hand. She squeezed. "What are you thinking?"

"Two lumps of sugar, with a hint of cream." he responded, not opening his eyes. Damn impropriety. He bent down and lightly brushed his lips to her forehead. "And that's just perfectly mine. Sleep well, milady." and he turned and walked away before she could make sense of it.

Love was bittersweet.

Love was blind.

But mostly, love was bitterly beautiful.