Dimitri should have declined being his house's representative for the White Heron Cup. Annette and Ashe have wished him luck, so has Ingrid, though there was an understanding pity in her words. Mercedes and Dedue gave encouraging words to help with his nerves, though they only reminded him how terrified he was. Sylvain wouldn't stop teasing him and Felix would snicker whenever Dimitri's dancing skills were mentioned. This will surely end in disaster, so why hadn't he declined?
As Dimitri stepped into the courtyard, dusk was settling, and Byleth's warm, soft smile greeted him. Ah, that's why. Byleth. Dimitri cannot help himself from trying to do everything in his power to see Byleth pleased with him. When Dimitri would say 'no,' it would always turn into a 'yes' if it was Byleth who asked him. Curse his professor.
"I'm not surprised that you'd insist on practicing at this time of day, well night, but you do know you will have to perform in front of people." Byleth comments as Dimitri steps closer.
"Yes, I know that, I just- I would rather improve away from the eyes of others." Dimitri can already feel heat beginning to rise in his cheeks.
Byleth crosses his arms, "It's good the guards have taken a liking to me at least. Well, we shouldn't waste time. Show me what you can do."
Dimitri can feel his shoulders tighten as he straightens his posture, "I- Now?"
Byleth nods, "I assume you can hum whatever song you've heard at previous balls."
Dimitri sighs but then takes the stance he learned years ago, arm settling on the waist of an imaginary partner. He knows no melody fully from memory, but bits and pieces he's danced to before come to mind. His humming is far from in tune but it is passable, just like the steps he displays. He never excelled when it came to dancing, he simply did his best to be adequate, to not step on anyone's toes. Dimitri honestly finds it easier to dance in a ballroom full of others dancing along with him. Everyone's focus would be on their partners, he could simply focus on not bumping into anyone. He didn't have to worry about all of their eyes watching him and his every move and misstep. But during the White Heron Cup, so much attention would be on him. This shouldn't bother him. He is a prince and will someday be a king, he can speak in confidence, he has stared death in the face, yet he cannot stop the churning in his stomach and drying of his mouth when he thinks of performing with all of his peers studying his every stride.
Dimitri froze, his dancing coming to a halt, when he feels warmth grip his outstretched palm, a hand sliding to his shoulder. Dimitri's partner is no longer imaginary, Byleth stands looking up at him. "You're too rigid." Byleth states with ease, as if their closeness is not something to take note of. The hand on Dimitri's shoulder slowly runs down his arm. "Relax, Dimitri." Has Byleth's voice always been this soothing? Dimitri can feel the tension leave his muscles, but his face burns. Having Byleth here like this feels so natural. But strain quickly returns to his form when he can hear footsteps from around the corner. He pulls himself away from Byleth. The guard rounds the corner, only glancing at the two for a moment as she continues past them until she is fully out of sight.
"Is something wrong?" Byleth asks, there's a concern in his voice Dimitri never wants to hear again.
Dimitri takes a deep breath, he needs to remain calm, no one saw what happened. "My apologies, Professor, but that was... inappropriate."
Byleth raises an eyebrow, "Are professors not allowed to dance with their students? Manuela would not stop saying how much she was looking forward to-"
"It is improper for men to dance together." Dimitri is surprised by how suddenly his voice turned firm.
Byleth is silent, eyes wide. His face falls, but it isn't long for him to recompose himself, "Oh, I see... I should be the one apologizing then."
Dimitri's heart sinks into his gut, "It's alright. You clearly didn't know the implications."
"Still, I'm sorry." Byleth steps away from Dimitri and takes his stance. "You'll have to watch me." While it is similar to Dimitri's, Byleth's is calm, his form isn't the definition of formality, but it was also far from coarse. Byleth doesn't hum but, from the timing of his movements, it's clear he has a rhythm he's following in his head. Each step is precise but carries no strain or stress. Byleth seems so free. Dimitri cannot take his eyes off him. So confident but unrestrained, this dance isn't to impress others, yet it impresses Dimitri nonetheless. It is simply a dance to enjoy himself, a dance without worry, a dance that was unburdened.
Byleth lets his arms fall as the dance comes to an end. He looks to Dimitri, "What can you take from that and apply to yourself?"
Dimitri snaps out of his trance, "Like you said, I need to relax. Though, I'm afraid my nerves won't allow that."
Byleth's kind smile returns to his face, "You're a strong man, Dimitri. I've seen you overcome many things. I know you can do this, and do this well. I promise I will be there every step of the way."
If Byleth believes in him this much, then Dimitri may actually have a chance at winning. "Thank you, Professor."