Spies Like Us

A/N: Airwolf belongs to Bellisario and Universal, Stargate: SG-1 is the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. Airwolf is AU (moved ahead about twenty years). Stargate is 4th season. (Haven't seen anything beyond "Point of No Return". As for what I've heard about a Daniel-less 5th season - auggh!)

"The Russian Stargate facility was set up in a decommissioned experimental power station on the Siberian Plateau, at 97 degrees E longitude, 72 degrees N latitude, near the Kuybyshev Airbase." Okay. The Russian city of Kuybyshev (a.k.a. Kujbysev) does exist, and probably does have an airbase. However, it's at 50.09 E, 53.12 N, not that far from the Volga River. The coordinates given for the Russian facility, in contrast, place it very close to Pol'kino, almost on top of the Cheta River, off the edge of the Siberian Plateau - and in the middle of a swamp. Go figure. (Then again, Airwolf put Polk County in west Texas when it's actually in east Texas.) So I'm futzing a little with geography here.

~*~*~*~*~

"And as you can plainly see, Dr. Jackson," Dr. Baklan Naberezhnyi stated in fluent English, eyes cold, "This facility is not in use."

Daniel gave the dark-haired Russian science officer a polite nod, trying not to pay too much attention to the way Dr. Svetlana Markov fidgeted, or the way Naberezhnyi's military escort glared at his and Sam's Marine escort. And vice-versa. The Russians were visibly armed, if only with submachine guns; after all, they were supposed to be guarding the 'Gate here. The Americans weren't supposed to be armed; supposedly, they were only doing a friendly inspection. Just a formality. After all, the Cold War was over, and everyone trusted each other. Right?

He'd have bet his last Egyptological text that Major Channing's men were carrying enough high explosives to turn this building into a black pit in the taiga.

Try not to think about it. The Siberian Plateau facility certainly looked disused. Cold, dusty, echoing with emptiness. He especially liked the spider-webs over the 'Gate chevrons. Nice touch.

And he didn't believe a second of it.

"Are we done here?" Major Channing murmured, face expressionless.

As in, do I get to blow the place up? Daniel hid a grimace. What was it with military types and things that went boom?

"I'd like some time to look at the 'Gate itself," Sam said neutrally.

Right. She didn't trust the spider-webs either.

"Certainly," Svetlana said easily. "We may speak of our investigations on its substance, yes? A most curious crystal, indeed."

Oh, good. Pick Sam's brain for anything the Russian government hadn't had the chance to find out yet. Even he could see that coming. "Dr. Naberezhnyi?" The linguist smiled winningly. "Since this facility is empty, you don't mind if the rest of us... poke around a little?" He waved a hand toward the maze of pipes leading off into darkness. "I didn't get a chance to see what was back there last time."

"Very little." Naberezhnyi's smile never wavered. Or warmed.

A year ago, Daniel might have missed the stillness in Svetlana's gaze, the slight shift of foot from heel to toe, as if she were getting ready to run - or rage. "Supplies," the Russian astrophysicist agreed. "Paperwork. Old soccer balls."

Supplies. In an unused facility. Right. "Oh, I could do with boring, trust me." Daniel shrugged, heading that way at a fast walk. "So you play soccer here when it warms up? As warm as it gets here, anyway... is it dusty, or more muddy? I haven't been in Russia that much. Officially."

Not that he expected to find anything. Dr. Naberezhnyi, whoever he was, was no dummy. But who knew? Maybe he'd annoy his Russian hosts so much they'd try to shoot him, and Sam and the Marines would shoot back, and everybody could get back to plain, honest, open hostility.

I really have been around Jack O'Neill too much....

~*~*~*~*~
"We're going to be found," Michael Archangel murmured coldly, hand on a throwing knife. "Officially, Naberezhnyi's not KGB anymore. Nor even FSB. But...."

"Yeah." Stringfellow Hawke watched the other way down artificially-dusty rows of boxes and equipment, sharp ears tracking the mingled Russian-American group stalking toward this section of the Siberian facility. Their Russian-issue cold-weather jackets, essential to even a late summer visit to this frozen piece of Earth, blended nicely with the shadows, and they were both skilled at silent moving, but there were too many people, and not enough empty space. One wrong move, and they would be seen.

Damn it, there weren't supposed to be any Americans here!

Hell of it was, there wasn't supposed to be anyone here. Not if the Russians had been adhering to their agreement about the Stargate.

Archangel didn't believe they were. His lovely, efficient staff had noted a distinct gap in the satellite coverage the Firm had access to; a gap that correlated all too well with this facility. A facility none of them would have known existed, if they hadn't tapped the SGC computers.

A facility the Joint Chiefs would have no reason not to let the Firm see... if this installation was truly off-line.

Apparently the President and the Joint Chiefs, with significant help from a certain Senator Kinsey, had decided that the man who'd consistently denied them a fleet of Airwolves could not be trusted with the knowledge of such a delicate project as Stargate Command. Oh, the Firm could know all they wanted about the Hivemind; wreckage from their aborted invasion was scattered all over the planet, it'd be hard for Firm agents to miss it. But the Firm hadn't been let in on one scrap of data about the numerous other alien threats out there.

String hoped Kinsey slept very poorly at night. Cutting Archangel off from need-to-know data was a good way to shorten your life expectancy.

Targeting?

A feathery rustle in the back of his mind; innocent query, with just a touch of predatory interest.

Airwolf.

We're okay, Angel, String answered silently. Feeling his breath slow involuntarily, as the echo of Michael's anxiety eased; they knew Caitlin would bring the Lady in, if they needed her. One way or another, they'd make it out of here.

Of course the goal was to get out without a shot fired. This far into Russia, they'd had to strip Airwolf's armament to the bare minimum to keep enough fuel on hand to run for the border. They had a few minutes of 30 mm, max; just enough to dissuade pursuit, not enough to blow it from the sky.

And breaking into someone's facility was so much more effective when they never realized you'd been there.

Which was why Archangel was here. He read Russian, a skill the rest of Airwolf's pilots lacked. With his help, they'd gotten in, found the pertinent files, scanned them, and were now hoping to be gone before anyone had a chance to notice so much as a ghost on the radar.

Or at least, that's why Archangel had said he was here. Not that String was convinced. Plenty of Archangel's angels spoke Russian. It wasn't as if they didn't know who flew Airwolf.

But Michael hated being lied to. And when he was, Archangel, being Archangel, always wanted a better look.

Archangel would kill to keep them from being discovered, String knew. They both would. Even an American. Rules of the Game.

"So - let me get this straight - anyone can use their head, but only the goalie can use his hands?"

"Da." Naberezhnyi sounded thoroughly, totally frustrated.

Not that uncommon, when dealing with the owner of that innocent voice. String's ears pricked up. What the hell is he-?

Never mind what Dr. Jackson was doing here. String might not read people the way Archangel could, but he'd seen the archaeologist under fire. The pilot almost smiled. "This way."

"Hawke-"

"Trust me."

And the spy was a gray ghost at his side, blond brow lifted over the dark side of his glasses. "Unnerving," Michael murmured.

Makes two of us, String thought, guiding them through the maze of dust and pipes just ahead of scattering bunches of armed personnel. The idea of Archangel trusting anyone, let alone him....

Yet it was almost reflex by now. For both of them. Airwolf touched parts of the mind that didn't think, didn't hesitate - only ran a running calculation of threat/non-threat.

Trusting a fellow pilot was not a threat. No matter what the rational mind might say.

Even when that fellow pilot was about to do something theoretically insane.

String listened, using Airwolf's presence to ground him as he spread senses wide to find precisely where his targets were. One more second... they've split up...Naberezhnyi's backing up...Marine major's feet shuffling, turning to keep an eye on him-

For a few seconds, Dr. Jackson was out of any enemy - or friendly - view.

Just long enough to lunge out of their quiet alley in the boxes, grab a shocked archaeologist by mouth and shoulders, and drag him in with a quick "Shhh!"

~*~*~*~*~
Grabbed in Russia - never live it down - Jack's going to skin Channing alive - Sam!-

Daniel jabbed an elbow back at the man holding him, felt it slide past ribs, bit back an ancient Egyptian curse as another pair of hands grabbed on. "Are you out of your mind?" a vaguely familiar voice breathed. "They'll see he's gone-"

"Not for a second. Daniel." An intense blue gaze met his; eyes he'd last seen surrounded by dark face-paint, in a meadow in Colorado. Familiar eyes, even though someone had worked a subtle magic with makeup to shape the cheekbones to more Russian lines. "Dr. Jackson," String said, low and intense. "We need your help."

The covert pilot? Here? Why? And who was that with him? Not Dom, this time. Worrisome. "String?" Daniel mouthed.

The pilot nodded. Daniel took in the heavy Russian jackets, the native uniforms; the silenced pistols each carried, less-subtle counterpart to black-painted knives meant for a quick death. "You're not supposed to be here-" the archaeologist started, low and indignant.

"Now, there might be the understatement of the decade," the blond stranger murmured. He cocked an ear toward the sound of stomping boots, motioned them back and around a corner temporarily out of sight. "Strictly speaking, we're not here. And we'd prefer to leave here still not having been here. If you take my meaning."

"Why should I help you? Who are you?" But Daniel moved with them, keeping almost the same level of silence. They were good.

"We don't have time for that," the blond said coolly. Another dusty corner; another shred of Russian uniform, walking just the wrong way to catch sight of them. How on Earth were they managing that? "Need to know. You don't."

"Make time." Daniel glared at the two spies. "I won't tell anyone who you are."

The blond smiled without humor. "Don't promise what you can't keep, Dr. Jackson."

The archaeologist stopped dead in his tracks. For a second, half-dark glasses were out of sight, the blond mustache cast into shadow by one of the flickering bulbs overhead, leaving the tan face younger, almost familiar....

"But why didn't she promise?" A rare, blinding instant of rage at the piano; a younger Daniel stifled it in horror. How could he be mad at Mother? "Why didn't she promise she wouldn't leave me?"

"Because you don't lie to your people in the Game," the teenager said bluntly, fingers pale on the cover of the keys. Spots were fading off his fingers, but they still twitched with the urge to scratch. "Because you don't promise what you can't keep."

"Michael?"

The blond stranger blinked, taken aback.

Daniel swallowed dryly. He could still be wrong, he could.... "What's a piano?"

"Dr. Jackson, I know perfectly well you play the...." Michael's voice cut off; he swayed a step back. "Daniel?"

Firm hands grabbed them both, tugged the two taller men out into the main corridor. "Talk later," String bit out. "Walk."

~*~*~*~*~
Provide air support?

Caitlin O'Shannessy patted the side of her console absently. "Give 'em some time to work the problem, Angel. They get into trouble, they'll call."

Camouflage netting extends time needed to respond to pilot hazard. A breath of worry; an internal shift, as if Airwolf's AI settled back on mental haunches.

"Yeah." Caitlin eyed the reflective layer over the windscreen that damped their IR signature, pictured the net's external shadow-pattern of grays and greens that would make any stray observer think a covert helicopter was just another stand of Siberian taiga. "But if we have to come in there blasting, they're gonna be shooting already. You know that."

Reluctant agreement. Yes.
Large concentrations of known hostile forces in area.
Kuybyshev Airbase active.
MiG flights within range to present tactical difficulties.

Oh, yeah. It'd be fox and hounds all the way back to U.S. airspace if they got caught. The Lady was fast, but anybody could get boxed if there were enough MiGs playing. They'd have to slam-dance through low-level maneuvers, feint and double and dive through cover like a gray fox into tangled cypress swamps. And even that might not work if the Russians had their act together and luck broke the wrong way.

Marella already had the codes to lock them out of the Firm's systems if Archangel went down. Not to mention the signed orders that would put her in charge of Archangel's section, spiking Zeus or Apollo's Committee wheel before it could grind over them all.

And none of that was what was really tying her guts in acid knots.

Potential for off-world danger if Russian Stargate activated, Russian forces contacted Jaffa/Goa'uld/immature symbiotes.

"Makes me squirrelly too, Lady." Archangel hadn't told them everything. That was a given. Plenty of stuff on the Goa'uld was need-to-know; and they didn't need to know. Not unless it shot at them.

Or tried to take them over....

Caitlin shivered despite Airwolf's heaters. Those files Michael had lain out, down to the last gruesome detail. Archangel was sure as hell no angel, but he'd never send an agent into danger he wouldn't face himself.

And the thing that had infested Sergeant Rebecca Courtland was something Caitlin never wanted to face. Ever.

Medical data indicates alien species, Goa'uld, attaches to critical nerve junctions, Airwolf noted. Substantial overlap between attacked neurons and neurons involved in neural link.

Meaning if one of them were infested, the Lady'd be the second to know.

Files indicate Sgt. Courtland able to temporarily resist Goa'uld takeover.
Known difference between Sgt. Courtland and other infested SGC personnel: minor empathic link.
Known differences between Sgt. Courtland and Airwolf pilots: major empathic links, internal shielding, access to Airwolf Bethancourt protocols.
Bethancourt protocols successfully tested, Hivemind invasion.
High probability pilots would be temporarily resistant to Goa'uld takeover.

Meaning they might fight it long enough for Airwolf and whoever wasn't jumped to pump them full of sedatives, then raid Area 51 for a Goa'uld-killer. Maybe. "Rather not find out the hard way, Angel."

Yes. A hug of fur and feathers; like snuggling up against a friendly falcon. Positive outcome: return intact pilots to current base of operations.

Eagle Lake. Where a certain gruff Italian would be waiting as soon as he'd finished off his latest Hollywood stunts. "Already invaded Russia enough for this year," Dom had said when Archangel first laid out the job. "With Sinjin heading out for the Company, somebody's got to mind Le. You kids have fun."

Oh yeah. Sitting in broad daylight in the middle of Siberia, half a mile from a classified-beyond-Top-Secret facility, waiting for your partners to get discovered. Or worse. And hoping you'd be able to sneak back out without getting shot at. Or shot down. Real fun.

The ex-cop grinned. Sure beats midnight stakeouts.

~*~*~*~*~
Trust Daniel to get lost in the middle of a search party. Sam scanned dispersed Russians and Americans alike, searching for a familiar, distracted face. Major Channing hadn't even noticed Daniel wasn't in sight.

That's why the Colonel made sure you were along.

And she'd lost him too. Damn it, it just wasn't good to split up SG-1. They all knew how each other thought; knew what each was likely to do, in a hundred different environments. This was foreign, potentially hostile terrain where Daniel spoke the language. Of course he was likely to wander off at the merest whisper of anything that might prove their suspicions.

And if Teal'c and the Colonel had been along, that wouldn't have been a problem. One of them would have hared after their errant archaeologist, dragging him back by the scruff of the neck from whatever he'd managed to fall into. With both parties in the dragging complaining all the way. Though Teal'c's complaints were more a certain stiff line to his lips, and a slightly-crooked eyebrow at the hapless anti-survival instincts of a certain too-bright Tau'ri.

But Dr. Markov had distracted her with a technical question, which - according to the agreement they had with Russia - Sam was supposed to answer. Yet given that they thought the Russians were cheating, she wasn't supposed to answer too much.

And in the middle of figuring out what to tell and what to gloss over, Daniel had vanished-

No. Sam stifled a relieved sigh. There he was with a pair of Russians; one tall and blond, one shorter, maybe an inch over her height. No blood, no obviously broken bones, no signs of coercion of any sort. Thank god.

Then she caught the dazed look on Daniel's face - the swift sweep of determined blandness over gentle features as blue eyes noted the others about him - and felt her stomach drop toward her combat boots. Oh, boy.

But nothing happened. The blond Russian only exchanged a few rumbling words with Dr. Jackson, gave him a curt, polite nod, and limped off with his lean, wary-eyed companion.

Limped?

Slight. But it was a limp; same side as that dark-covered eye.

And no one she'd seen here limped. No one.

"Dr. Jackson?" Now Major Channing noticed Daniel'd been out of sight; she could see the Oh shit! on his face, followed fast by Still alive, maybe O'Neill will leave me some hide after all. "Everything all right, sir?"

"Ah... yeah. Everything's fine."

And Sam's heart lurched. She might not be a linguist, but she spoke pretty good Daniel. Fine meant I hurt, but nothing blew up in my face, so let it go.

Trouble. Definitely trouble.

She waded through the crowd. "Daniel?" She wasn't the colonel, but she could still pack are you okay and do I have to shoot someone into that one word.

He gave her a dazed blink, followed by a shy smile. "Ah... we should finish up here, right?"

Translation: something important happened, but I can't talk about it here, Sam thought fast. Damn. Damn it all. "Yes. Yes, we should."

Her gaze slid toward the two Russians heading for the door out. Crossed Naberezhnyi's.

Naberezhnyi, who was also frowning at that limp.

Sam glanced away. Tried to keep it casual.

Daniel, what have you gotten us into?

~*~*~*~*~
It cannot be him.

Dr. Baklan Naberezhnyi shepherded the American inspection team out of the Siberian Plateau facility, thinking furiously. Of course the Americans meant to doublecross Russia. Had they not always, from the time of the Great Patriotic War? Sending their soldiers into Mother Russia, as if the Revolution were no better than those devilish Germans! Of course their agreement to share data and technology was merely a sham, meant to grant the United States the upper hand when those alien horrors invaded once more. He had FSB's less-classified reports on Senator Kinsey; he knew the man would permit no less.

Which was why they had allowed this inspection in the first place. How else could his team of biologists gain access to a former host? They had so many tests to run, to determine how best to slay these Goa'ulds; so many, many tests.

A shame. Major Carter seemed an intelligent woman. But the motherland - the planet! - came first.

It could be that the Americans had learned of their plans. He had held them secret as he could, kept the full knowledge to only his superior and his team. Even the soldiers who would help him take Carter would only know this woman had disappeared into the wilds of Siberia. No one should know. Yet... American spies had learned far darker secrets.

But would even Michael Archangel be so brazen as to investigate the Russian Stargate facility himself?

No. Of course not. Send a Deputy Director into the heart of Siberia? That would be foolish.

And Archangel was many things, but never a fool.

No, it was merely an idle thought, stirred by one more injured Russian soldier. A bad memory, dragged to the surface of his mind by the echoing walls. Without the regular personnel at hand these walls vibrated with the Siberian winds, echoing with the screams of those who had died here when the Extreme Measures Protocol was unleashed. Those of the American SGC might know many things, but they would never know that the non-persistent nerve gas they knew as Substance 35 had actually been developed by one of their own people.

Vladimir Rostoff. For over twenty-two years, a loyal Russian. Husband, father; one of the chief microbiologists at the Sverdlovsk facility... before he had slain the others.

For over twenty-two years, a traitorous American Firm agent. It was enough to make a man weep.

Vladimir Rostoff, who with his stolen neurotoxin and his family disappeared in a single night, extracted by that black fiend Airwolf.

Airwolf. Naberezhnyi's mouth watered. Ah, there would be a prize; perhaps the equal of any craft Russia might spirit through the 'Gate. Fast, armed; with sensor and computer capabilities even the most conservative estimate placed as decades ahead of anything in the Russian arsenal. Even the Americans had not created another.

Archangel was no fool, true. Yet the Firm's Deputy Director had been known to be... impetuous. From Rostoff's extraction, to the faked and then true death of German agent Maria von Furster, to his arrangement with the pilot Hawke....

Could it be?

No. Not possible.

And yet....

It would do no harm to keep the Americans watched, surely. Nor to ask the local air command at Kuybyshev Airbase for news of any - unusual incidents.

For if Archangel - or Airwolf - were here....

The situation could become very interesting, indeed.

~*~*~*~*~
He wants me to meet him. Meet them, Daniel thought, drumming fingertips on the tape-mended edge of the truck seat's padding. For once, he wasn't upset that their Russian "hosts" had once more kept him and Sam from travelling together. Sam would have wanted him to talk, and he....

Gods. He wasn't sure what to think, much less what to say.

Michael wants me to meet him. Here. In the middle of Siberia. Alone. Do I look like an idiot?

But a couple of stressed-out Marines would be noisy as a couple of bears, and Major Channing would never leave his men, and Sam wouldn't help him sneak off to meet with a spy on general principles. Especially not this spy.

Catastrophe in a white suit, Jack had called him. Michael Coldsmith-Briggs, Deputy Director of the Firm - whatever that was. A man who could make NORAD nervous just by showing up. Who supposedly hadn't been "in the field" in years.

Michael Wolfe. A teenager who'd shown him how to stroke music out of ivory, or break into cookie jars. Who'd held him as he cried in the night; no harsh words, no soothing lies. Just a careful, silent presence with a box of tissues; a warm arm to lean into until dawn.

A spy.

What was a Deputy Director doing in Russia?

Should I meet him? Why? What does he want?

The thoughts chased themselves through Daniel's mind as they drove through fading afternoon sun. Lurched and jostled, like the trucks down the winding road back to the small village of Iablan - which did, in fact, have the apple trees it was named after; small orchards of cold-hardy varieties that could have taken a Maine winter without flinching. Of course, he'd been assured by the head orchard-grower this morning, these varieties had been developed in Russia. There was no truth to those rumors of seeds exchanged with strange American travelers in Georgia. None.

"Of course not," the linguist had replied innocently. Showing not a hint of impatience as their Russian hosts escorted the American team through every potential point of interest in this small settlement, from the orchards down to the small, cranky methane generator run off the leavings from the sheep byres. Nice sheep, actually, as far as sheep went; some white, others shades of brown or black, some with patchy patterns that almost matched the locals' multicolored sweaters.

It'd been a delaying tactic. Of course. One more in a series of delays on their way to check the Russians' 'Gate; one more chance for their hosts to sweep evidence under the rug. One more straw on the backs of Sam and the Marines alike; used to action, the rest of the Americans were distinctly... twitchy.

Daniel didn't feel twitchy. Annoyed, yes; he really, really hated to be lied to. And Naberezhnyi and his crew were lying. Through their teeth.

But the people of Iablan weren't lying. No more than the usual Russian boast of how their country was better, more beautiful, than any other in the world.

He wouldn't go that far. It wasn't Abydos, or Colorado. It wasn't home.

But yes... yes, it was beautiful.

And if some of the seeds for the trees, even some of the seedlings, had come from other places... still, they'd been nurtured here. Grown here, despite all Siberia could throw at them, cared for by people as stubborn and enduring as the taiga itself.

People. Gods, he'd missed people, their last, whirlwind visit to the Plateau. Svetlana and her crew hadn't been people to him, then; just another cold group of military minds who'd looked to use the Stargate for their own purposes and gotten in way over their heads, killing people in the process. Forty-seven human lives; researchers, soldiers, any hapless innocent cook or records-clerk on the base, all wiped out in a strangling instant of panic and nerve gas. Not to mention whatever might have happened to those alien living-water entities they'd experimented on.

But Sachinich of the Siberian orchards, his stout, skeptical wife Elizarek, six-year-old strawberry-blonde Maluchka of the missing two front teeth, who was so proud of the parti-colored lamb she had found nestled in straw one cold February morning - they were people.

Daniel pressed a cheek against the chill glass window of the truck, thinking. The folk of Iablan were people. People he could understand. People he could have spent a lifetime getting to know, instead of the weeks or days or - gods help them - hours he usually had on SG-1's first-contact missions....

I'm lonely.

Loneliness that had cut like a knife, that instant he'd recognized Michael.

It shook him, still; the intersection of past and living present. Things just didn't work that way. Academia, Abydos, Nick, his parents... the past abandoned you, always. Cast you out, to make your way as best you could. Or die.

He'd considered dying. The past cut like an endless ribbon of razors; shattered shards of memory and happiness, slicing deep the moment you stopped to catch your breath. The past was best covered over, fled from, left to weathering time. The past couldn't save you.

The past didn't send in a covert helicopter to pull you out of a tomb raider's clutches.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Rough jar of glass against skin. Their trucks were stopping.

Daniel sucked in half-warmed air, composed his face as the first Marine exited his truck. Noted the scattered small groups of villagers on the stone-lined street, all of whom just happened to have rugs to beat out, festival gear to polish up, or gossip to exchange before nightfall within a casual glance of the Army-olive vehicles. Of course. Nice to know some things are a human constant.

"So what are they saying?" Sam asked in an undertone, catching her breath after staying one stubborn step behind Major Channing.

"Oh, look, the Americans are invading again," Daniel answered wryly.

"They think we're an invasion?" Channing's brows were a low, dark bar. His finger twitched, trigger-ready.

"No... it's a figure of speech...." Gods, he wished Jack were here. Things seemed so much clearer when Colonel O'Neill was on the case. So much more... black and white.

"You never lie to your people," Michael's voice echoed out of memory. "Everything else is shades of gray."

"They're just curious," Sam backed him up. "I mean, look around you, Major. This is... a bit of a backwater. We're probably the most exciting thing to happen all year." The astrophysicist grinned. "No wonder they're grabbing the chance for a party. I don't know how you're going to tell them you can't have even a cup of vodka, Daniel."

"I'll figure something out." Iablan was a backwater, with most people his age in traditional peasant garb, even if some of the teenagers had more modern styles. It wouldn't be that easy to blend in if he wanted to slip away. Not now, at least. Maybe later, after full dark; the American lines of his cold-weather gear wouldn't be so noticeable then. A quick study of the local gait, shift his Russian to the right accent... he should be able to pass. Especially given the party-

Oh. My. Gods. Daniel licked his lips, felt the wind bite them. I'm going to do this. I'm actually going to do this.

Why?