Their Love

When exactly did Demitri fall in love with Anya? Not Anastasia – just Little Orphan Anya?

This is set during the "Learn to Do It" Montage, just before they board the Tasha. A deleted scene, if you will. Demitri's Point of View.

We stopped for the night in a town so small the name wasn't worth remembering. We managed to find a hotel room with two small mattresses.

Guess who got the floor.

We had a late start in the morning, but we scrounged for breakfast in the town's marketplace. It was palatable. Perhaps for the first time, I noticed how accepting Anya was. I had written her off as a spoiled brat, yet she complained less about the tasteless gruel than Vlad did. I smiled vaguely as I watched her feed Pooka a few bites of the stuff. At first he turned up his nose, but he soon realized it might be all he was offered for a few more hours. I chuckled at the sight of the soon-to-be-Grand Duchess spoon-feeding a mutt his gray breakfast.

Anya glanced my way while scratching Pooka's ears. "Yes?" she asked playfully, wiggling her eyebrows in that annoyingly attractive way of hers.

I covered with a careless, "Nothing." For good measure, I added: "Just wondering when you wanted to get started memorizing the names of your 'relatives'."

Anya groaned dramatically. "There's no way I'd remember all those names even if I'd grown up as the Grand Duchess!" she protested. "Surely I don't have to know every single one!"

"If you want to get past Sophie, you will," Vlad cut in, finally pushing his breakfast away when he could stomach it no longer. (And he had a considerable stomach.)

"So, your highness," I smirked, rummaging through my bags for the family trees. "Maternal or paternal?"

By sunset we had left the tiny village and covered a considerable amount of ground. We had made it to the port of the Tasha with a little time to spare. Anya begged for a few moments to herself – just a few minutes to breathe some fresh air. We had traveled on a very crowded bus, and the summer heat had been stifling. I agreed, but only if she promised to be back before the departure of the ship. She had barely given me a yes before she disappeared into the crowd. I called after her slow down, look out, and for the love of God be careful, but Vlad touched my arm gently.

"Do not worry. I will stay close behind her. She will be safe," he promised, squeezing my shoulder gently and giving me a sly wink. I rolled my eyes as he stealthily followed Anya through the crowd.

I turned to the bustling port. Commerce flourished loudly in every available inch of space. Sellers hawked their wares loudly. Some sold food, some sold textiles, some sold books from far away lands. My eye was drawn to a sheltered area where a tiny woman was offering various commodities. I ordered a black coffee to keep me awake.

And like a flash, I knew what I needed to do. Anya had nothing to wear for her meeting with the Empress' cousin! I could have kicked myself. Appearances were everything – how could I have forgotten that?

Because you know, said a tiny voice in the back of my mind, that she is beautiful enough without a new dress.

Nonsense. It doesn't matter whether she is beautiful enough for the Grand Empress, he scolded himself.

But you do not deny that she is beautiful, the voice said persistently.

Of course not. Why would I think anything else? I lo- I grimaced mid-thought. I wasn't allowed to think about that.

Why deny it any longer? the voice whispered. Say it. Say it. You are…

"Fine, I'm in love with Anya," I muttered. An old man near me glanced in my direction, but he hadn't heard. I almost wished he had. Someone needed to scold me for my misplaced affections. Anya surely would. I could just imagine her face if my secret were to get out. I laughed mirthlessly. Her face would first contort into confusion and then into laugher. And if on the off chance that my advances were taken seriously, she would spurn me without a second thought.

I looked around cautiously, then checked my watch. Vladimir and Anya were no where to be seen, and had plenty of time before the Tasha departed. I closed my eyes and imagined her, just for a moment.

Summoning her picture in my head was embarrassingly easy. Any time I was not at her side, I imagined her there, just to quench the uneasiness. The habit had developed at first simply because she was a lot of money. But sometime recently, it had simply been because I missed her. I missed the homey scent of her hair, the sparkle of her eyes, the restless rustle of her clothes. I needed them beside me at all times. The moment she was in my sight line again I could relax – just a bit – but until then I had to force myself to breathe.

I hadn't a clue as to when or why these feelings started. All I knew is that every time I turned around, they were stronger. Like this morning: sharing her breakfast with a dog when she barely had enough to eat for herself. It was little things like that that made me adore her.

I was startled out of my reverie when the train whistle blow loudly. I started violently, fearing that the train was leaving without us. But no – it was just a warning whistle. I righted my upturned chair, muttered an apology, and set off, cursing myself, to find Anya's new dress.