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All I Want for Christmas

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The good thing about Mack's was that it was the sort of place where no one cared all that much if a bit of blood seeped through your shirt. Even if that blood was smoking.

Patton Burgess took another sip of his drink and grimaced. The bad thing about Mack's was everything else. Like the food, the cleanliness - or lack thereof - and the company.

It was two weeks to Christmas, and he ought to be home with his wife. Unfortunately, dragon eggs waited for no man, and he hadn't been able to wait.

But the whole drawn out business with Chalize was finished now, and he'd been able to take care of some other business while he was in the area, the product of which still jangled softly in his pocket.

He looked glumly down at his stew for a moment. It was vaguely evil looking.

"You look like a man with a lot on his mind."

Patton looked up instantly, his hand automatically going to his weapon.

The Sphinx sat in the chair opposite his. Mr. Lich faded into the shadows behind him.

Speaking of the company.

It took a great deal of effort to pull his hand away from his weapon. It took even more effort to smile. "Nothing compared to what you're dealing with, I'm sure." Running two opposing secrets societies must be quite the headache, he was certain. He certainly hoped so, at least.

The Sphinx looked concerned. "I, however, am not injured."

Which was a shame. Patton waved it off. "Had a bit of a run-in with a treasure hunter here. I was hoping to do business with him. He, unfortunately, was more interested in claiming my head." All true. None of which had anything to do with his wounds, which were courtesy of certain ghostly knights with cursed weapons and still refused to heal, but all of it was true.

"Do you have any idea what he might have been after?"

Patton shrugged. "I'm sure you've heard the rumors of the Society reemerging." Rumors he had started, naturally.

The Sphinx's dark eyes grew a shade sharper. "I have. I haven't been able to find any evidence, however."

Of course not. Patton was careful to keep his voice light. "Well, maybe he just didn't like me."

The Sphinx actually chuckled. "That's hard to imagine."

Patton grinned. "Isn't it? So what brings you out this way?"

"You, actually. There was a mission I was hoping you would undertake at Wyrmroost."

Normally he would hear the mission out, but after Chalize, Wyrmroost was right out.

"Sorry. I've been away too long."

A flash of disappointment crossed his face. "Very well." He stood to go. "Wish Lena a merry Christmas for me."

Her name in his mouth tempted Patton to jump across the table and try to strangle him. He could pretend the treasure hunter had enchanted him. He might get away with it.

Instead, he just raised his glass. "Happy holidays to you as well. Take a break for once. You look like you need some rest." Not exactly sleeping the sleep of the just, was he?

The Sphinx smiled before making his way out the door. Lich followed.

Well, there was no way he was eating after that. He shoved the stew away and headed up to his room.

The chronometer was still safe behind his locks and wards. He breathed a sigh of relief before pulling his second treasure out of his pocket.

He'd paid for it, fair and square, before it had turned into a fight. The sapphire shimmered in the dim light. The silver links of the necklace it was set in looked like waves. Better yet was the thrum of magic running through it. The bearer, it was said, could breathe underwater. He would have to test that before he got home.

It was a gift fit for a queen and perfect for Lena.

He might not be able to avenge her death, but he could give her everything else.