-- Fifteen Months Later --


"I've got a little job for you."

Now, as everyone should know, hearing this was not a good thing by any means. I stood there waiting
for the Official to continue. Alyx was leaning against the desk, her back to the Official, counting
to ten sotto voce.

At ten the Official said, "The two of you will be going to Kanvia."

Alyx turned slightly to look at him. "Piotr?" she guessed.

"Yes, and he has requested your assistance. And since the two of you work as a team, and the Keeper
has trained you to deal with Fawkes here, I think it's safe enough for you both to go." He handed
Alyx a thick envelope. "Everything you need should be in there. Just drop by the Keep before you
leave to get the counteragent."

So that's how we found ourselves in a Kanvian airport with armed soldiers staring at us. Okay, so
we weren't exactly inconspicuous. Alyx especially. I was in black slacks, shirt and leather jacket.
Alyx was in black leather pants that left little to the imagination and a black top that, while it
had a collar and shoulders, had only a small swath of material along the bottom leaving her back
completely bare. She carried her jacket with her bag. We'd traveled only with carry-ons.

It had taken two more surgeries and six months of painful physical therapy, but Alyx had finally
gotten full use of her arm back. The scar was barely visible now, under the impressive black and
silver winged dragon she'd had tattooed over it. Okay, so I guess I had mentioned the resemblance
once too often, but it looked great and somehow it fit.

It was a member of the Royal Guard who came up to us. Even I recognized him. Alyx smiled up at him
and said in Kanvian, "Vasily, it's good to see you." And much to his embarrassment she kissed him
on the cheek.

"Madame, please," he said taking her bag from her. "It's good to see you well."

Believe it or not, I understood every word. Alyx had been trying to give me language lessons for
months, with little success. Oh, I had mastered some simple words and phrases, which we would use
to pass on information we didn't want others to understand. Code in Yiddish always drove the bad
guys nuts.

For this trip, she'd given me a choice: she could 'echo' the translation of the language through
to me, which would mean I could understand but not speak, or she could do a 'memory dump' into my
head, which would give me the language for a few days. I'd both understand and be able to speak in
Kanvian until it faded. I opted for number two. It had left both of us with temporary headaches,
but was worth it since I didn't have to depend on her to be understood.

Vasily led us to a car and opened the door for us. "Is everything all right with Piotr?" she asked

"Yes, Madame. Everything is well. Were you not told why you were coming?" he asked.

"No, Vasily. Just that Piotr requested our help. We caught a plane and left, literally," I answered.

"Ah, that explains things."

It did? We stayed awake through the entire two hour drive and arrived amidst a party of some kind.
Vasily informed us we were a bit late due to traffic on the way, but not to worry. Alyx slid her
jacket on and zipped up. Vasily escorted us into an ornate, decorated ballroom that held about
three hundred people. Alyx took one look and stopped dead. She turned to Vasily with a nasty look
and said quietly, "You've got to be kidding me?"

He shook his head at her and escorted us to seats near the front. We looked very, very out of
place, as everyone else was dressed very formally. As we sat, I turned to Alyx and asked, "What's
going on?"

*I am soooo going to kill the Official when we get back.* she said into my mind.

Okay, so maybe I was being a little thick-headed, log it off to jet lag. *What?*

*Piotr didn't ask for our help, he invited us to his wedding. The Fat Man is a dead man,* she

Wedding? I was at a wedding? Granted, it would explain all the decorations and...the priest. Next
to me, Alyx started to laugh as quietly as she could. I slouched down in my seat. This was almost
as embarrassing as the incident that ended with me working for the Agency. The two of us sitting
there like a couple of thieves, in the middle of a state wedding.

I agreed with Alyx. The Fat Man was a dead man. Alyx had finally managed to get the laughter under
control when she made the mistake of looking up at the raised dais. Piotr was looking down at us
with a single raised eyebrow.

She shook her head at him and began to laugh again. I chuckled. It was funny. She managed to get
herself under control again by the time the bride came down the aisle.

We sat through the wedding, which was fairly short by royal standards, and were then escorted to
the reception by the patient Vasily. We joined the receiving line near the end, and when it was our
turn Piotr said, "Your choice of attire was quite creative. I take it you were expecting to be

"Our boss failed to inform us that this was an informal request," I answered, shaking his hand.

"Informal request, my ass," Alyx said. "He all but told us we'd be working, and nothing else.
Forgive us?"

"Easily done," he said, taking her hand. He leaned forward and kissed her soundly on the lips. "Ah,
I missed your company."

"My company or my protection?" she said with a smile.

"They were separate things?" he replied sardonically.

Alyx turned to Piotr's bride and gave her a kiss on each cheek. "Misha, I am so happy for you."

The poor woman looked shocked. "Ari...Alyx, I don't know what to say. When Piotr told me the truth
about you, I felt so guilty for the way I treated you..." She fell silent.

"Misha, I promise you there were and are no hard feelings. I understood completely. I wish I could
have explained then, but..." Alyx shrugged.

"Yes, I know. Now I do, any way." She smiled.

Alyx said. "We're holding up the line. We'll go steal a couple of seats and get out of the way."

"Alyx..." Piotr began.

"I know Piotr. You take good care of her and the baby, or I'll have to come back," Alyx mock

"How could you know that?" was Misha's stunned question.

It was Piotr who answered. "Misha, she always knows these things. Haven't you learned that yet?" He
gave Alyx another quick kiss and then we moved on.

We found some seats at an out of the way table and watched the happy couple enjoy their day. I
wondered if Alyx envied them at all. I'll have to admit I had thoughts running through my head that
normally would not have crossed my mind. And they all involved weddings. Alyx tapped me on the arm
and I leaned over to hear her over the music.

She gave me a kiss and then said, "Stop thinking that. I like things just the way they are."

"Are you sure? I mean look at them. They..."

"Are not us," she finished, moving to sit on my lap. Wrapping her arms around my neck, she
whispered in my ear. "They're mere mortals. Let them enjoy the time they have."

I wrapped my arms around her waist, pulling her as close to me as possible. "And we're not?"

She laughed. "I've 'died' twice now and you can ask me that?"

Okay, so she was right about that. I just wanted to make sure that she was happy. "Alyx, I..."

"You are talking to much. I am happy, Dare. With you. With my life. Even the days we're being shot
at. And that's all that matters." She paused, licking her lips. "If you want trappings, make it a
soft bed and time alone. 'Cause that's all I need and we work too damn hard for anything else."

She was right, but... I shook my head. I'd deal with it later, when the distractions of the moment
-- her -- weren't taking over what little thought I was capable of. For now I was willing to simply
enjoy the fact we had some time alone without having to worry about what dangers were around the
next corner. I had every intention of enjoying the next three days to their fullest.