"Going to get busy around here," Stasia said.

"Get busy?" Hellboy asked, eyebrows raised.

Stasia laughed softly. "I mean it. We'll be thick with soldiers and archaeologists once the word of all this gets out. I only hope the museum lets me stay on to lead the dig."

"They will. They'd be idiots not to."

"And all of the people you have to answer to are Rhodes scholars, I suppose?"

Hellboy frowned. "Not quite. But they'll keep you on. They'll realize no one else is suited to the work. This is your dig. I have faith in you."

She squeezed his fingers. "I know you do. I always know it. In the hard times, it helps. I just wish you didn't have to go."

The moment she said those words, Anastasia blinked, and a tiny sound came from her lips, as though she'd surprised herself. Hellboy felt a tremor pass through him, and suddenly he didn't seem to be able to breathe right. He cursed himself inwardly for being a fool, tried not to speak his thoughts aloud, and failed.

"What if I didn't go? What if I stayed with you? The BPRD's going to assign a few agents to stick around for the duration. I could arrange to be one of them."

Her smile filled him with bittersweet tenderness. Anastasia reached up and touched his face. She rose up on her toes and pulled him down, and they shared a soft, brief kiss. Then Stasia laid her cheek against his chest. He heard her sigh.

"Do you have any idea how wonderful that sounds to me?"

"I think I've got an inkling, yeah."

Stasia hesitated, as Hellboy had known she would. They knew each other too well. Wistful, he took hold of her shoulders and moved her out to arm's length, gazing down at her.

"I feel a 'but' coming."

She nodded. "Yes. You are aware we're being watched, I presume?"

Hellboy glanced around, saw where Stasia was looking, and narrowed his eyes to focus on the lone figure standing far above them on the lake rim, staring down. His father, no doubt with brow furrowed in concern.

"He's a little overprotective, huh?" Hellboy asked.

Stasia shook her head, gaze intensely sincere. "Not at all. He loves you. He's meant to look out for you, isn't he? Your father?"

Hellboy studied her face. "So, you were about to say?"

Her smile illuminated her entire face, but her eyes were full of sadness. "We've been down this route before, love. Those who do not learn from history..."

"Are doomed to repeat it," Hellboy finished for her. The truth of it settled in. She was right. If he stayed, they would be inseparable for a time--months, maybe years--but all of the old ghosts would still be there to haunt them, and eventually Hellboy would have to withdraw from Stasia, for her sake as well as his own.

"Do you remember that day in Paris?" Stasia asked, her eyes moist and her voice cracking.

Hellboy didn't have to ask her which day. "Of course I do."

"I've never stopped feeling the way I felt that day. I don't think I ever will. It's a gift you gave me, and I cherish it."

"Even though it hurts?" Hellboy asked, trying to memorize the way she looked at that moment.

"The pain's part of it. Comes with the territory, doesn't it?"

"Yeah," he said. "I guess it does."

The sun shone on her hair, the cool autumn mountain breeze whipping it around her face. "I'm going to miss you terribly."

Hellboy traced a finger along the line of her jaw, then he shrugged.

"No worries. I'll see you in another five years."