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Until Next Time

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One, two, three, one, two, three…

Right, left, left, right—wait, shit.

You exhale in a deliberate and irritated manner and once again raise your hands against your invisible partner. Focus.

One, two, three, one, two, three…

Right, right, left, right, right, left...or, did it start with left and then go right? Damnit, now you’re even more unsure. Sighing, you drop your hands and run them over your face exasperatingly. The ballroom never seemed bigger, and you’ve never felt smaller; dancing was such a graceful thing to watch, and yet it’s beauty has slipped from your grasp. For the third time in the last thirty minutes.

Perhaps it’s time to give up.

“Maybe you should attempt dancing with a corporeal partner, first.”

You practically jump out of your skin at the sound of a warm low voice, and whirl around to see Prince Xander nonchalantly leaning against the ballroom’s door frame.

Embarrassed, anxious, and incredulously flustered because how long has he been standing there, you apologize for not working, for not sweeping like you are supposed to be doing. The room was empty, and no one could see, and—

You’re interrupted by a chuckle and close your lips. You feel heat rising up through your neck and pooling in your cheeks. Xander has a hand raised as to wave off your worrying, and he, in the dignified manner he’s constantly upholding, strides over towards you. The heels of his boots prominently click against the reflective floor.

As he comes closer, he outstretches a gloved hand, much to your mortification.

“Here, let me—“

You protest that, no, that’s okay, you don’t need a partner, you’re managing just fine without one, he doesn’t need to bother himself with this.

“Oh, it’s no bother. I want to.”

That makes your cheeks warmer.

“Besides, with all due respect, you could use a bit more polishing on some…technicalities.”

And now you’re a cherry.

He leans down so that you meet his eyes (Gods, those eyes), and you feel your heart thump like a racehorse in your chest at such a proximity. He holds out his hand expectantly, raising a brow.

...You really can’t say no to his majesty.

Gulping, you slowly settle your hand in his, and it’s almost engulfed by his covered palm. He gently pulls you closer and closer to him until you’re nearly pressed against his broad and strong chest. You feel even smaller. Not in a lonely way, however. In a...protected way.

A strong arm wraps around your waist, but not before guiding your free hand up towards his shoulder.

“Okay. I’m going to start counting now. Try to follow along, all right?”

You tentatively nod, wanting to crawl into a hole but also not.

The two of you are now moving. It’s not exactly graceful, but it’s also not insulting to the art. Xander certainly helps in maintaining dignity, but unfortunately for you both, you have two left feet, and even while you stare at your toes, it doesn’t stop you from stepping on his every once in a while.

“Look at me,” he says, and you already know you should be, but that’s an intimidating feat. “It’s rude to stare at your feet instead of your partner.”

Well, you can’t argue with that. You gaze upwards and you’re met with a gentle encouraging smile. You feel warm. Maybe a little sweaty. You silently rejoice in the fact that he’s wearing gloves.

“There you go.”

Yeah, okay…maybe you were starting to get a small idea of how a waltz is supposed to go.

You feel a shoe underneath yours. Maybe not. Blushing, you apologize, your eyes resuming their time staring at the floor.

“That’s okay. Don’t look down. Try to follow my lead.”

The hand holding yours pulls you forward as he steps backwards, left while he steps right, backwards as he steps forwards. After a few minutes of continuous success, he gives you a slight smirk.

“See? You’re getting the hang of it.” He quirks a brow. “Want to try something a little different?”

You hesitate, thinking his words over as he guides you in another circle; left, right, forwards, backwards. Decision made, you shrug. Sure, if he thought you were ready.

“You’ll be fine.”

Suddenly, your spun around, gracefully and deftly. You land back into Xander’s arms before you properly process what’s happening. Startled, you let out a small giggle. You feel silly, and apologize for being a bit clumsy. Xander only smiles wider, and shakes his head.

“Nonsense, you’re doing fine. Stop apologizing so much.”

You’re almost about to say sorry once more before stopping yourself. This brings out a warm chuckle.

You’re not sure when, but Xander stops counting entirely and instead begins to hum a cheerful tune. This brightens your mood entirely, and because of your love of music, you begin to hum along. You’re clumsily following his notes, out of tune and out of rhythm. But it’s fun. It’s calming and peaceful.

At this point, Xander has forgotten about teaching, and only goes with the flow of the song he hums and his dancing. The mood has changed from a lesson to fun little afternoon. The two of you now laugh whenever a mistake is made, and no apologies are given. You feel light, and energetic.

You and Xander burst into giggles and laughter as he spins and dips you seamlessly. Once he pulls you upright, you’re laughing so hard you almost instinctively press your face into his shoulder to stifle a snort. You feel his arm curl around your shoulders and keep you where you are. His chuckles rumble within his chest.

It takes longer than it should have, but you eventually catch your breath and your laughter stops. You smile and sigh, feeling your body relax.

Wait, hold on, you’re still holding him—

He’s still holding you—

In the midst of these thoughts, the prominent click and creak of the ballroom door opening throws you into an adrenaline rush, choosing “flight,” instead of “fight.” Scrambling and flustered, you push Xander away, and nearly jump almost ten feet from him. Felicia’s face peeks out from the other room.

“Your highness, forgive me for interrupting, but Lady Elise is requesting assistance. She—“ her expression is one of exasperation. “—she broke another weapon.”

Xander’s eyes briefly flash towards you before he clears his throat and straightens his back.

“Ah—yes, of course. Thank you, Felicia, I’ll be there right away.”

He turns to you again with a smile, and you jolt, bowing your head as low as it will go. He nods his head in return.

“Until next time,” he says gently.

Oh, that. That was nice to hear.

Blushing furiously, you rush to grab your broom and dustpan, nodding and whispering a quiet yes.

You back is turned to him as he exits, but you can hear the clicks of his heels slowly diminish until you hear the door click, creak, and then slam shut.

It’s painfully quiet. Weirdly enough, you still don’t feel as small or lonely.

Begrudgingly, Until next time, was all you were going to think about for the next week.