Disclaimer: Psychonauts and all related characters, etc. are property of DoubleFine Productions. I'm only borrowing and I promise I'll play nice, so please don't sue.

Two to Tango

The first time he meets Milla Vodello, he walks into her office to find her levitating near the ceiling, changing a lightbulb. Her office is the equivalent of a dark closet with only one narrow window (overlooking the parking lot) that she's already opened as far as it will go. It lets in only a bare minimum of light, although her flashy, more-than-likely polyester clothing more than makes up for it.

She hasn't noticed his entrance, so he takes a moment to watch her and make an attempt at figuring out how to approach her--besides with a ladder, that is. Finally, he gently clears his throat and says, "You know, you could just call the janitor and have that taken care of."

She jumps and nearly hits the ceiling, startled by his sudden appearance, and then tilts her head back to look at him. Her long dark hair sweeps down towards the floor with a sudden cascade of perfume and she smiles. She is beautiful in an exotic, South American sense, and something in her demeanor suggests that she already knows this without needing to be told.

"I...ah, I haven't found my phone yet, darling." Her smile doesn't falter as she looks him up and down.

He ignores her scrutiny, peering into one of the many boxes scattered around the room and frowning at the chaos inside. "Yes...I can see why."

She gives up on the lightbulb and floats gracefully down towards the floor, although her three-inch heels still don't make contact with the tile. "I'm sorry about the mess; I've only been here a few minutes and haven't had a chance to unpack anything." Somehow, he doesn't think unpacking would help. "Oh--" she stops and extends a white-gloved hand. "Milla Vodello. I just transferred--"

"--from Rio de Janeiro. Yes, I read your file." She looks momentarily baffled and perhaps a little annoyed, but he shakes her hand anyway. "Sasha Nein. And if I'm not mistaken, Agent Vodello, you're my new partner."

She pauses and gives him another sweeping glance before smiling again and finally pulling her hand away. "Well. It's a pleasure...may I call you Sasha?"

"If you must."

There's an awkward silence, and he's about to leave with an excuse and a promise of meeting her again once she's had a chance to properly settle in when she points at one of the bare, off-white walls. "By the way," she says, "do you have any idea who my neighbor is?"

He leans back out into the hallway. One glance at the door next to hers, which is plastered with fliers for a variety of armed forces, tells him all he needs to know. "Agent Oleander. He's been here for several years now. Have you met him?"

"Briefly. He seems a little..." She trails off, shrugging.

"You'll get used to him," he says, smiling a little. "I wouldn't worry; he's mostly harmless so far as I can tell. Although I wouldn't mention 'little' around him too much."

She laughs and invites him to lunch, which he politely declines, although he does help her unpack some of her things in hopes that some sense of order might come from it. Unfortunately, it doesn't, and even more unfortunately, this turns into something of a theme with her.

As if the glare from the spotlights isn't bad enough, cameras are going off constantly, leaving him a little dizzy and almost blind from the spots in front of his eyes--and that's with his sunglasses. Sasha finally ended up excusing himself from the crowd almost half an hour ago, claiming he had "official Psychonauts business" to wrap up. He'd then retreated to a safe distance and tried to look busy, hoping he wouldn't be bothered any more than he already has been.

Milla is, of course, still in the center of the crowd, smiling widely, her green eyes sparkling in the light. He had, of course, expected this from the moment the press had descended on them immediately following their capture and arrest of one of the world's most wanted psychic terrorists. He'd remembered from her personnel file and the notes left in it that she loved the camera, but still...nothing could have prepared him for the reality of it. They've been partners for only three weeks, and he knew that this was going to happen sooner or later, but he'd really been hoping to postpone it for as long as possible anyway.

When the press finally leaves them alone two hours later, she's still smiling, although her face is flushed and she looks a little exhausted. "Are you all right?" she asks, looping her arm through his. He tenses up at the unexpected contact, which only makes her frown. "You seemed a little tense earlier."

"I'm fine. It's been a long day and, well..." He motions to the grass the press had trampled in their rush to get their interviews. Milla nods.

"I understand, darling. Not everyone loves the camera, after all." She smiles at him again and somehow manages to make him not mind that they're two hours overdue to report back to headquarters.

There are times, though, when she seems to hit on his last nerve with absolutely uncanny accuracy. In the past three months he's lost his temper only twice (a fact he's not proud of in the least), and both times at her. She, of course, has an almost vindictive temper of her own and has snapped right back at him, although sometimes she just settles for staring at him in stony silence until he can't stand it anymore and demands to know what's wrong, which almost always sparks an argument. They can go for days without speaking to one another--Sasha locks himself in his lab and pretends to be very, very engrossed in whatever experiment he's working on, and Milla...well, he has to admit that he doesn't know what she does in some of the long stretches between assignments when they're mid-argument, but she disappears for days on end, too.

Three times he's brought up the possibility of a transfer, for both or either of them. Truman Zanotto, a senior agent of slightly lower standing than Sasha, just lost his partner to their base of operations in London, and although he and Sasha have never gotten along all that well, he thinks Milla and Truman might be a good match. Meanwhile, there are several new junior officers who he thinks might make good partners for him--they're all quiet and controlled and basically everything Milla isn't.

Each time he mentions it, though, Milla rejects it. "It's not that I don't like Truman, darling," she says, "I do, but I don't think we'd work well together. Not like you and I do."

She has a good point, he has to admit. And when he finally gives up and takes his case directly to Ford Cruller, that's exactly the response he both predicts and gets.

"Sasha, I put you two together because I thought you'd make a good team. And you do--you two've solved more cases and stopped more emergencies in the past four months than anybody around here can remember. Besides," he says, snickering a little, "I was hoping she'd lighten you up a bit. You need a sense of humor."

"It only interferes with the task at hand," Sasha answers, shifting a little uncomfortably in his chair. "It's better to focus on the mission, don't you think?"

Cruller waves a hand at him, rolling his eyes. "Whatever. Look, if you two really can't work this out, let me know, and I'll transfer one of you. I'd hate to do it, but I will. That good enough?"

He nods. "That's fine. Thank you, sir."

As he stands to go, Cruller stops him. "Listen, Nein. I know she's not what you're used to. I knew that when I assigned her. But she's willing to give you a chance, so just try, you hear me?"

"Of course. I'll...do my best." Privately, though, he wonders how long it will be before he's back in Cruller's office, filling out the appropriate paperwork for a transfer.

He's been looking for Milla everywhere for hours now--she's not in her office, not in his office (she's been dropping by unannounced and uninvited lately, and no amount of discouraging remarks seems to stop her), and not loitering by any of the coffee machines. When he finally finds her she is, to his surprise, huddled in a back corner of the cafeteria with Oleander and Truman. Truman is staring at his relatively untouched plate of food, half-heartedly shuffling some peas around with his fork every now and again. Milla is watching him with concern; Oleander looks thoroughly bored, occasionally stirring his coffee via telekinesis.

"Milla," Sasha begins, sliding into an empty seat across from her, "I've been looking for you. Didn't you hear--"

"Not now, darling," she says, not even bothering to look up at him.

He stops and stares at her. "Milla. We have an assignment--"

"We've saved the world twice already this week, Sasha; it can wait a few more minutes." Sasha blinks, caught off-guard by her flippant attitude, while Oleander snorts into his coffee. She just turns her attention back to Truman. "Darling, I really think you should go home. I'm sure Cruller would understand..."

Truman absently pushes some peas all the way across his plate and onto the table. "No, no, I'll be fine, really." Sasha notes that at the moment he certainly doesn't look fine; his clothes look like they've been slept in, his dark brown hair is stringy and unwashed, and there are prominent circles under his normally bright blue eyes.

Milla frowns at him. "Well, if you'd like, maybe Sasha and I could--"

"We can't," Sasha interrupts, casting a pointed glance Milla's direction even as she glares at him. "We already have an assignment."

She starts to argue, but Truman puts a hand on her wrist and stops her. "Really, Milla, it's okay. This is probably better left to the police anyway."

Sasha raises an eyebrow. "Police?"

"Zanotto's wife ran out on him and took their kid with her," Oleander supplies helpfully, although he still looks rather disinterested. "Police are calling it a kidnapping."

Truman stabs something that might have been chicken in a former life with his fork, slowly shaking his head. "I thought Christine was okay with it--you know, the whole psychic powers thing. I mean, she knew I was psychic before we got married, so I just thought... But lately Lili's been showing some signs of being psychic too, and Chris just...panicked, I guess. I don't know what the hell she thinks she's doing."

Milla smiles and squeezes his hand. "I'm sure things will sort themselves out, darling. But I wish you'd let one of us help you."

"No...more psychics would probably just make things worse. The police'll find her eventually." A few more peas slide off his plate and down onto the table.

"Yes, but we could find her faster, and maybe what she needs is someone to explain things to her...I might be able to, if--"

"If you didn't already have another mission," Sasha reminds her pointedly. Her frown deepens.

"Whatever it is, I'm sure you're capable of handling it alone. Do you think you could--"

"I'd rather you were with me," he says, absently smoothing out a wrinkle in his jacket.

Beside him, Oleander snorts and picks up his coffee cup, peering into it. "World need saving again, Nein? What is it this time--terrorists holding somebody important hostage with a psychic death ray again?"

Sasha doesn't blink as he answers, entirely matter-of-factly, "Hardly. Agent Cruller has made some contacts recently that are believed to have some clue as to the current location of one Nicholas Harper. Milla and I have just been asked to follow up on this and, if possible, find and capture Harper."

Truman's fork slips, dragging across the plate with a high-pitched squealing noise that nearly drowns out the sound of Oleander choking on his coffee and spitting it out all over the table. Sasha calmly scoots away and hands him a small stack of napkins to clean up the mess with. Milla just looks at them all, confused.

"I'm sorry...who's Nicholas Harper?"

Oleander ignores the napkins and blinks at her. "You mean you haven't heard?"

"No...should I have?"


Truman sets his fork down and sighs. "Nick was in our class--" he motions to himself and Sasha-- "back at the academy. He was a friend of yours, wasn't he, Sasha?"

"I suppose you could say that."

"Yeah, well, whatever you'd call him...he was one of the best in the class. Maybe even better than Sasha if he was having a good day. But Cruller ended up kicking him out during his last year. Said he was too unstable. Nick...didn't like that. I think if he wasn't crazy before that, that did him in--he took off and no one saw him for years."

"Until...?" Milla prompts, both eyebrows raised.

Sasha clears his throat and jumps back into the conversation. "Until approximately two years ago, when he developed a sudden interest in psychic terrorism, tried to stage a hostile takeover of headquarters, and killed my last partner, putting himself near the top of the list of our most wanted criminals." She turns and stares at him, green eyes suddenly very wide.

"Forgot to tell her about what happened to Elizabeth, eh, Nein?" Oleander says, snickering. He sobers up after a few seconds, however, finally starting to mop up the spilled coffee. "That was the same night I ended up with the glass eye. Wasn't pretty, I can tell you that much."

Milla is still staring at Sasha, so Truman smiles at her weakly. "Don't worry. So far as we can tell he's not cursed or anything. You're probably safe."

"Oh, good."

Sasha stands, motioning towards the door. "And now that you've been fully briefed--more or less--I believe that we've had the jet waiting for us for over half an hour. We should have been well on our way to Shanghai by now."

"Just a minute." Milla turns back to Truman. "Are you sure you don't want us to--"

"I'm sure, Milla. You've got your work cut out for you already--just go and don't worry about me. And yes," he adds, seeing the look on her face, "I'll go home. Thanks."

Apparently satisfied, she wishes him good luck and then stands, following Sasha out of the cafeteria. When they get out into the hallway, she clears her throat gently. "You...you never told me about Eliza--"

"It was in my file," he says coolly, "which I assumed you'd read. Clearly, I was mistaken."

She stiffens, her normally graceful step faltering a little. "Some of us like to learn these things from a person, not a file, darling."

Sasha stares at the room--it's no bigger than Milla's office, really--and wishes, for the fifth time that week, that he would have thought to bring cleaning supplies with him. Milla breezes past him, peers out the dingy window (the curtains are tattered, moth-eaten, and falling down), and tries a few of the lights around the room, only to find that all but one of them are burned out or broken. "Well," she says, trying to sound cheerful, "it's better than the last hotel we stayed in, isn't it?"

Sasha turns on the light in the bathroom and peers inside. "There doesn't appear to be any cockroaches in the shower, so yes."

She smiles and picks up the phone, shaking the receiver a few times to get a clear dial tone, and then starts to call the last of Cruller's informants while Sasha makes a thorough inspection of the room. It's a routine they've fallen into over the past week, which has been spent following false leads and generally worthless information, all while living out of dingy hotel rooms in some of the worst parts of the city and pretending that they're not starting to get on one another's nerves more than usual.

"He's going to meet us at the market down the street in a few minutes," Milla announces after a brief conversation, hanging up the phone. "Although I don't know if he'll have anything useful to tell us."

"Per usual," Sasha mutters, lifting up the mattress and inspecting it for bedbugs. She sits down on the room's other bed--the springs groan and the bed sags down almost to the floor--and waits patiently for him to finish.

"At least this is our last lead, darling. If it doesn't turn up anything useful, we can go home."

"And we'll have completely wasted our time." He drops the mattress back down and, having finished his inspection, motions to the door. They leave and head back out into the noisy and crowded Shanghai streets. On Monday, when they'd first arrived, Milla would loop her arm through his and walk right by his side in hopes of warding off any possible muggers looking to pick on a couple of "tourists" if for no other reason. By Wednesday she settled for just resting her hand on his arm. And now, on Saturday, she walks along beside him but doesn't touch him at all. Sasha doesn't particularly mind; it's good to have personal space again.

Their informant has nothing of particular interest to tell them, just a few clues they've already followed and found to be dead ends. They look at one another, sigh, and return to the room to gather their things and arrange for a flight back to headquarters.

On the way home, Milla gets a phone call--Truman has finally given in and asked the Psychonauts for help finding his wife and daughter, and he wants her help, specifically. Milla takes one look at Sasha and then accepts the offer on the spot. They return to headquarters, she leaves with hardly a goodbye, and Sasha locks himself in his lab for the entire two and a half weeks she's gone, reveling in the peace and quiet while it lasts.

"You forgot the maps?"

Milla pulls her head out of the glove compartment and glares at him. "I didn't forget the maps, I just forgot the one map we happen to need, darling." Her voice is cold enough to put a chill in even the humid mid-August air. "And you'll have to excuse me if I didn't think in advance that, oh, perhaps we'd be out in the middle of nowhere when we were supposed to be in Indianapolis."

Sasha takes a deep breath and digs his cigarettes out of his pocket, leaning against the side of the car. The passenger side door is open and the keys are still in the ignition, causing the car to beep in alarm with annoying regularity. It's not helping him concentrate.

"Considering that you knew we would be going to Indiana," he shoots back, matching her icy tone, "I fail to see why you would neglect to bring a state map."

She slams the glove compartment shut, rips the keys from the ignition, and starts glaring at him, forcing him to turn and acknowledge her. "Take I-90 to I-71 to I-70--it's not that hard and doesn't need a map. Now, this was supposed to be a simple mission in the city, not a mad chase through the cornfields! That's why I have a map of the city, but not of the rest of the state." As if to prove her point, she waves the Indianapolis map in the air.

"They're soybeans, actually."

She stops, map frozen in mid-air. "What?"

"The plants in that field over there," he says casually, motioning to the wide green field on their left with his cigarette. "They're soybeans, not corn."

She stares at him for a few long moments, then makes a frustrated noise and gets back into the car, slamming the door. She's only in there for a few minutes, though, before the heat forces her back outside. Sasha puts out his cigarette and turns to her.

"If you're quite through, I'm going to try and reach Agent Cruller. He may be able to get a fix on our location, in which case the mission may not be a total loss."

"Oh, good," she answers, not looking at him. "Be sure to tell him that you think it's my fault for not being perfectly prepared for everything like you are, won't you, darling?" He just ignores her as he carefully unwraps a piece of bacon and waves it in the air and then starts having what appears to be a very involved conversation with his right ear. An Amish farmer riding by in a horse-and-buggy stares at him with very wide eyes, then shakes his head and hurries on ahead. Milla snorts and waits for Sasha to finish.

When he does, wrapping up the bacon and putting it back into his pocket, he doesn't look happy. "According to Cruller we're about fifty miles south of the Michigan state line."


"And," he continues a little testily, "considering that our suspect was last seen heading for Kentucky, we're of absolutely no use to the rest of the Psychonauts at the moment. They're scrubbing the mission and sending Morry and Leopold in to handle it."

"Oh." She stops, considers this for a moment, then sighs. "So...we should be going back, then?"

"So it would seem." He briefly debates lighting another cigarette, but in the end just gets back into her car, slamming the door without really intending to. She gets back into the driver's seat and puts the keys in the ignition but doesn't start the car.

"Did he give you directions?" she asks quietly.


"That's...that's good." She moves to turn the key, then hesitates and looks over at him. "Sasha, darling...I'm sorry."

"So am I." Although he doesn't look at her and his voice is completely neutral, they both know what he means. She starts the car and slowly pulls back onto the main road. Aside from a few brief conversations about which road to take and which way to turn, they spend the rest of the ride back to headquarters in passive-aggressive silence, and Sasha files a request for a transfer as soon as they get back.

They haven't spoken for almost four days. Headquarters has graced them with a few days of leave, giving Cruller time to process Sasha's transfer (grumbling about it all the while, of course) and assign them both new partners, although Sasha still hasn't told Milla about that. He likes to assume that she can guess what's going on--she's perfectly intelligent, after all--or that he'll tell her later, after their tempers have both died down a bit. In the meantime, he has work to do.

On the fourth day of their not speaking to one another, he's busy analyzing test results from his latest experiment when someone knocks at his door. "Come in." The door slides open and he continues, "You'll have to forgive me; I'm a bit busy at the moment and--"


He turns around just as Ford Cruller closes the door. "Oh, sir, I wasn't expecting--" The control panel under his right hand beeps and prints out another string of test results. "If you'll excuse me, this should only take a minute--"

"Put the test results down, Sasha."

Sasha pauses, surprised by Cruller's unusually solemn tone. He sets the results down, a little reluctantly, and pulls up a couple of chairs. Cruller sits down gratefully--lately age has been starting to stoop his shoulders and standing for too long can be uncomfortable, although he doesn't like to admit it to anyone. He starts to say something, but Sasha cuts him off.

"Sir, if this is about my request...I'm sorry, but you can't talk me out of it. Obviously our differences are starting to affect the missions, and I think we can all agree that that could easily jeopardize everything. I've tried, Agent Vodello's tried, but our differences are irreconcilable."

"Oh, I know I'd never change your mind, Nein," Cruller says, shaking his head. "No, the transfer's still going through, just like you asked. I'm actually here about something else."

He looks back at the test results wistfully. "If this is about the Indianapolis mission, sir--"

"It's about your father."

Sasha's head snaps back around to look at Cruller so fast he nearly pitches out of his chair. "My father?"

Cruller nods and takes a wadded-up communiqué out of his pocket, unfolding it and smoothing out as many of the wrinkles as he can with a touch of reverence. "I just got this on my desk about an hour ago." He hands it over and Sasha takes it but doesn't look at it yet, still waiting for him to finish whatever he has to say. "He died yesterday, Sasha. I'm sorry."

Silence descends as Sasha reads the letter once, then twice, then calmly folds it up and places it on his desk. "I...I see."

Cruller nods slowly and then stands up to leave, although he does pat Sasha's shoulder sympathetically (if a bit awkwardly) as he turns towards the door. "I'll extend your leave a few extra days if you'd like. I'd give you more, but we've been picking up some unusual activity on the monitors lately, so...you know. But if you want to head home and stay there for a while, I'm sure Truman could handle whatever's going on. Especially if he's got Milla with him."

Sasha just shakes his head, reaching for a cigarette. "No, that won't be necessary, thank you."

"Well...all right then. Let me know if you change your mind." The door closes and then Sasha sits there for a long time, unmoving, lit cigarette burning down unnoticed in his hand.

Even the best-kept secrets spread fast at Psychonauts headquarters, and in the next few days a whole parade of people stop by Sasha's lab to offer their sympathy and, in some cases, various types of food (Milla explained this to him once as some sort of odd ritual people do for their friends when something significant happens to them, but he still doesn't understand it and probably never will). Even Truman drops by briefly to tell Sasha how sorry he is, although he doesn't stay long, mumbling something about how Lili has a cold and then fleeing the room. Sasha's father died on Wednesday, he found out about it on Thursday, and by Friday evening it seems as if almost all of headquarters has been to see him. Everyone, that is, except for Milla, who is still conspicuously absent. Normally this wouldn't bother him in the slightest; she's too loud and flamboyant and energetic for him to put up with right now, but strangely enough he finds himself noting her absence and wondering where she is.

He gets his answer at around midnight on Friday when, long after everyone but the skeleton night shift crew has gone home or is off on assignment, someone knocks on his door. Putting the experiment he'd been working on aside for the moment, he goes and answers it.

Milla is standing in the empty hall, fidgeting nervously and staring down at the floor. She's wearing a trench coat and has a suitcase slung over one arm, and her hair is a bit askew, as if she's in a rush. She looks up at him when he clears his throat, although she doesn't smile.


"Agent Vodello."

"I...ah, Morceau called me yesterday."

"Oh, did he?"

"Yes...he told me about what happened." She steps forward suddenly, as if she's about to hug him, then thinks better of it and takes a few steps back. "I'm so sorry, darling."

"Well...thank you," he says. "But if you'll excuse me, I'd much rather be alone at the moment. Besides, it looks like you're on your way out the door already; I wouldn't want to delay you."

"Oh, this is...I'm moving into a new office, actually. One with a window overlooking the courtyard and everything." She offers him a faltering smile. "These are just a few things I'm taking home with me."

"Ah. I see." He wonders idly if she knows about the impending transfer, and if he should tell her. In the end, he hopes that she does and doesn't say anything about it. "I hope the new office suits you. Please excuse me."

He moves to close the door, but she takes a step forward and puts her foot in the way. The door starts to close, then flies back open again after it hits her shoe. He raises an eyebrow at her, hoping his surprise doesn't show on his face.

"Milla, what--"

"Sasha, I know you don't want to talk to me, but..." She starts rummaging through the suitcase, keeping her foot firmly in front of the door the entire time. "I just wanted to stop by and...and give you this." She finally pulls out a rumpled plane ticket from some obscure pocket and, after hesitating for a moment, presses it into his hand. He looks at it and then back at her, bewildered.

"Go home," she says softly. "I talked to Cruller--you've got an extra week of leave if you want it. There's no return ticket...call me whenever you're ready to come back and I'll pay for it. Or you could, if you'd like." She smiles at him, weakly, and then disappears down the hall before he can say anything. He stares after her long after she's disappeared from sight, then returns to the lab, setting the plane ticket on top of the letter Cruller gave him.

For a few minutes he goes back to his experiments like nothing ever happened. But then the simulation reports all start to blur together and turn dull and uninteresting. And then the lab's complete and total silence turns oppressive. Finally he gives up, throws a few things into a suitcase, grabs the letter and the ticket both, and calls a cab to the airport on his way out the door.

While the plane flies over the Atlantic he thinks of her more than he does his father, struggling to figure out what made her do this for him, but he can come up with no logical answers, which in the end doesn't particularly surprise him.

When they stop for a layover at Heathrow he finds a phone, calls headquarters, and cancels his request for a transfer.

He returns to headquarters a week later, paying his own airfare, although he does call Milla to thank her for her generosity. She sounds glad to hear from him, makes a few polite inquiries about whether or not he managed to settle everything and if he's doing all right (he has and he is, thank you), and offers to pick him up at the airport. He thinks about this for a few seconds, then accepts.

He meets her out in the airport parking lot (she is, per usual, fashionably late) and they drive back to headquarters, making occasional small talk about the unseasonably warm November weather and what's been going on since he left (Truman's divorce is finalized and he's also won custody of his daughter; Leopold broke his ankle in a skiing accident while on vacation in Vermont; Milla has finally finished redecorating her apartment). When they arrive, she helps him with his suitcases, and then Oleander drops by and invites them to dinner, so they sit in the cafeteria for a while and make even more small talk.

It's late when they finally leave, and Milla walks him back to his lab in a companionable sort of silence. Halfway there she stops and loops her arm through his, tentatively at first, but she smiles when he doesn't stiffen or pull away.

"I'm glad you didn't take the transfer, darling."

"It...seemed like the logical thing to do."

And that's all they ever say on the matter.

Christmas Eve

On second thought, he thinks, this may have been a mistake. Of course Milla had invited him, and it would have been rude of him not to come, considering they're partners and--he supposes--friends. But he never paid Christmas any particular attention and was also never one for parties, so why he thought it would be a good idea to mix the two and Milla in all together, he honestly has no idea.

He sighs and continues his wary circulation of the perimeter of Milla's living room, looking for the exit onto her balcony so he can catch some fresh air (the apartment reeks of perfume and something he hopes is eggnog) and a cigarette. The loud colors on the walls--she painted them herself--are nearly giving him a migraine besides, and the music is doing him no further favors.

He's halfway to the balcony doors when Oleander spots him and, as a way of getting himself out of a conversation with a pair of Milla's dancer friends--they nearly outnumber and definitely out-weird the invited Psychonauts in the room; no small feat--insists that he be introduced to them instead.

"Morry," he half-shouts, struggling to be heard over the general noise, "I really don't think--"

"Just shut up and get over here, Nein," Oleander snaps. "I've gotta get out of here before somebody steps on me again."

Sighing yet again, Sasha allows himself to be introduced, giving Oleander a chance to escape out onto the much-coveted balcony. Although he has to admit, the two young women (one is named Geri and the other is Gigi, but he has no idea which is which) are fascinating, from a purely psychological standpoint. He's never seen such textbook examples of severe delusional psychosis outside of an insane asylum. Unfortunately, Milla's party is neither the time nor the place to study them, and they disappear into a gaggle of their friends within a few minutes. He starts towards the balcony again, this time trying to think of some sort of excuse that will allow him to leave early without hurting Milla's feelings.

In the midst of all this, the telephone rings, although only a few people hear it above the general din. Oleander, back from the balcony and on his way out the door, is one of them. "Vodello! Phone!"

Milla excuses herself from a conversation and answers it, trying to ignore the fact that half the room is now staring at her. After a few moments, her normally cheerful face sinks into a deep frown and she takes the phone into the kitchen, where it's quieter and there's more privacy. Sasha, mildly concerned, follows her as far as the doorway and waits.

"Of course," she says to whoever's on the other end, her voice ringing slightly hollow, as if in shock. "Of course...we'll be right there. Yes." She hesitates, then asks, "Is it...? I see. All right. Goodbye."

She hangs up the phone and turns to him, somehow not surprised or offended that he followed her. There are tears in her eyes. "We need to go back to headquarters immediately. It's Agent Cruller."

End Part One