Dimitri Belikov was well liked by his colleagues. He did his job, not just efficiently, but excelled at it, was respectable and down to earth, you could always rely on him, whether it be for work or something personal, was always polite and helpful, held the doors open for his female colleagues, and somehow he seemed to have mastered the art of keeping Rose Hathaway in line. Yes, all in all, Dimitri had many friends, and a lot of respect, amongst the guardians of St. Vladimirs.

But he had secrets. Not big secrets of course, he was just a very private man. His colleagues knew little about him, except that he was russian, had some sisters, and that he'd been reassigned to the Academy, then to the Princess, after his charge had died. Nothing specific, just the most basic details. They didn't even know his sisters' names. They were unsure as to whether his charge had been a Lazar, or a Szelsky.

Dimitri also liked to keep to himself. He was asked, and politely refused, to join Yuri's weekly poker game on Thursdays. He never asked if someone wanted to watch a movie with him, and never invited himself, like everyone else, to someone else's screening, no matter how much he wanted to see that particular movie. He trained on his own nine times out of ten, only agreeing to join in with someone other than Rose very occasionally. He would normally eat breakfast, lunch and dinner alone, with a book, unless specifically invited by someone, to join them.

Dimitri's colleagues were, of course, perfectly happy to leave him to himself, thinking that was what he wanted. They all accepted him being anti-social, thinking he prefered his own company, and didn't begrudge this preference, because he was a good man, treated everyone with respect and kindness, and was entitled, if he wanted, to keep to himself. They thought he was happy by himself. No-one realised that, in fact, Dimitri was incredibly lonely.

No-one realised that the charge he had lost, had been his best friend, the closest thing he had to a brother (and was a Zeklos). That he kept himself apart because he was terrified of being hurt that way again, of losing someone else. No-one could tempt him into opening up. To make stronger bonds of frienship. To be a little more sociable and join in. No-one, that is, except for Rose.

Once again, no-one realised this. Not a single person realised, that on the occasions when Rose was able to wheedle and beg her way into Yuri's poker game, Dimitri would always ask to play too. And only if Rose played, never without her. That on the weekends, when some people were too lazy to go to commons for lunch, prefering to make a sandwich in the kitchen, and eat it in one of the lounges, Dimitri would invite himself to sit with Rose, not waiting to be asked.

No-one knew that Rose was the only person on campus that Dimitri would ask to see a movie with. That she knew the full story behind the death of his charge, and that his loss was the reason Dimitri kept to himself. That she knew more about him, his childhood and his family, than all his colleagues combined. Naturally, Rose's hold on him, his trust in her, and her appeal to him, was what he wanted most to keep secret. Thankfully, no-one knew any of this. Well, nearly no-one. To the few who were not oblivious, it was actually the least secret of all the things, he wanted to keep a secret.

"I swear to God," Alberta said to Yuri and Emil one Saturday afternoon, as they watched Dimitri walk into the lounge they were sitting in, eating lunch, walk over to Rose and sit down, without being invited. Not that Rose minded. "If he doesn't stop wasting his time and do something about that, I'm going to give that boy a good, hard kick up the backside."

Her two campanions nodded, in agreement. The three of them were old enough to be both of their parents, and had enough life experience, as well as relationships, to recognise when two people had genuine feelings for each other. It was only that knowledge that kept them from confronting Dimitri. Although Emil was very close to just sitting him down, and having a little talk with him. It would be uncomfortable for the boy – and yes, considering how love-sick he was, he was just a boy – but he'd be happier in the long run if he took Emil's advice. There was a very obvious solution to their problem, - Dimitri asking for a reassignment - but neither of them seemed to have suggested it.

"You'd swear it was the biggest secret of the millenium," Emil said, in his thick, Romanian accent. "He acts the same way as my sixteen year old nephew did, when he didn't want his mother to know that he liked their neighbour's daughter."

Yuri rolled his eyes. "Kids today, huh? Everyone has to have a star-crossed relationship, there's absolutely no solution at all, no way to be together, they're all so misunderstood. I second the backside kicking Allie."

Really, considering how comfortable and open he was around Rose, Dimitri practically told the three of them himself. It was ironic that, had he just opened up a little more, told some less secret secrets, they probably wouldn't have seen the difference in his behavior, towards them, and towards her. His biggest secret would have been safe. Maybe he should have just told more anecdotes about his childhood. Just to throw them off