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It was late when Alys was returning home from the Residence. With Ivan back at the Academy after a short break back in Vorbarr Sultana, Alys felt herself relax a bit at the prospect of not having to be constantly watchful of her son’s actions. Of course, there was always Gregor to worry about, but that’s why he had ImpSec.

“Take the long route,” she said to the driver as the groundcar made its way through the city. She rested her head on the side of the window frame, tired after earlier social engagements - a delegation from Beta had come to visit, and there had been some trouble between Count Vorhalas and Lord Vortala. Alys rubbed her forehead wearily and looked out of the window as the groundcar moved through the city.

A flash of light caught her eye off the side of the road. She sat up, her heart beating faster. She gripped the edge of her seat as another groundcar passed hers, obstructing her view. Another flash of light, closer this time, and she could see dark shapes moving in the shadows.

“Stop the car,” she said, her voice ringing clear in the silence. The driver, a young Ensign they had assigned to her recently, gave her a look but slowed down accordingly, stopping at the side of the road. Alys’s heart began to pound in her chest as she closed her hand around a stunner in her bag. Was she just being paranoid, or-

Although she was expecting it, the explosion still caught her off guard. Flames filled the street a few paces in front of them. She stumbled out of the car, the driver right behind her with his own stunner already out. For a moment, she watched with fascination as the flames began to grow, smoke spilling everywhere.

The sound of a plasma arc being set off shattered the illusion. She tried to flatten herself against the wall of a building and looked around. Several other cars had been damaged in the explosion. People were running around, and she could see armed men not too far away, shooting into the crowd. Someone screamed.

Beside her, the driver was talking into his wrist comm, his face grey. Too late, she fumbled for her own, but found it gone, left forgotten in her bag. She bit her lip. Getting back inside the car to get it would probably be suicide, but she needed a way to contact people in case the situation got worse.

Someone shot at them, and she realised that they’d been still for far too long. Dangerous. She ducked her head and walked briskly away from the general direction of the fighting. Their best hope now would probably be to go back the way they came and try to get to the Residence before anyone realised she was here. Unless, of course, she was the target of this assassination attempt, in which case she hoped ImpSec would show up sooner rather than later.

Another shot - this time with better aim, hit the driver in the side, and Alys prayed it was only a stunner. She gripped her own in her hand and ran to the end of the street as more people began to appear from seemingly all directions. 

She ran around the corner, and with her luck immediately collided into someone. For a brief moment she thought that was the end, before she spotted the two silver eye insignias. With a sigh of relief, she looked up.

It took her a second to recognise his face in the dark. "Simon?" she asked, her voice wavering only slightly. Maybe the assassination attempt hadn't been on her after all - she didn’t think Simon would be running about unless he was nearby during the initial explosion, and that certainly wouldn’t be an accident on the attackers’ part.

His eyes widened. "Alys? My lady, what are you-" part of the wall behind them exploded, cutting him off. Wasting no time, he took her by the arm and together they ran across the street and into an alleyway. 

Simon said something into his comm link and then turned to her, calm and cordial as always, only his eyes betraying his thoughts. "My lady, it isn't safe for you here." Alys noticed that he was still holding her arm.

"It isn't exactly safe for you either," Alys remarked. "Who is it this time? Cetagandans?"

Simon opened his mouth to reply, then stopped as someone turned around the corner. Alys acted on instinct, shooting the man with her stunner. The man fell to ground, his still-loaded nerve disruptor tumbling out of his hand. She could feel Simon staring at her in surprise, still holding onto her arm.

To think, she thought, that if I’d been a second slower, or if I’d left the stunner in my bag - she shook her head slightly. No use thinking about that now. She was alive, Simon was alive, and that's all that mattered.

"Run?" She asked, her voice higher than normal. 

"Run," he agreed, and they took off. She could smell the smoke in the air now, but could hear no more explosions. Simon turned another corner and she followed, lagging a bit behind. Dancing shoes were not meant for running through the city at night, she reflected.

"This way!" He hissed as they ran through the streets. Alys didn't recognise their surroundings, but she knew that Simon's chip had maps of the city on it, so he was probably going the right way. Still, she could have sworn that they were moving in the opposite direction to the Residence.

"Headquarters are closer," he breathed as though he had read her mind, and Alys nodded in understanding. The Imperial Security Headquarters would not only be closer, but probably safer for both them and the Emperor than them potentially leading assassins straight to his doorstep.

They ran for another minute, Simon leading her along a path only he could see. He finally stopped, and Alys took a moment to catch her breath and look around. It was quieter here, but people still wandered around in small groups, talking and laughing, unaware of what was going on nearby. She slipped her arm through Simon’s and they started walking again, careful to not attract any attention to themselves.

A few minutes passed, and the air began to clear. Still, Alys could not shake the feeling that something was wrong. Reflexively, she glanced back and saw a shadow reflected in a shop's display frame, some twenty metres behind them. 

Alys leaned into Simon. "We're being followed," she whispered into his ear, a smile on her face as though she was telling a joke, not fearing for her life. She clutched his arm tighter. 

Simon swore. He pulled her closer - her heart skipped - then turned a corner and pulled them both into a doorway. He opened it in seconds, and they slipped inside of what seemed to be an abandoned building. Memories of 18 years ago flooded her, and for a second she almost forgot where she was. She hoped Ivan was alright.

Simon closed the door just as quickly as he’d opened it, and the two of them settled against the door frame. Simon whispered something into his comm, pulled out his stunner, and put an arm around her. They stilled.

Outside, Alys could hear footsteps. She pulled herself closer to Simon and held her breath. For a long, agonising moment, she thought that they had been found, but soon the clunk of boots on pavement began to fade away. She breathed.

She hadn't noticed how tightly she had been holding Simon, or how tightly he had been holding her. They looked at each other, their bodies pressed together inside the doorway. Simon smiled slightly, and Alys couldn't help but notice even in the dark how the corners of his lips turned up, how close they were to hers-

"Alys?" She could feel his breath on her cheek. He moved fractionally closer.

She kissed him. It was messy, and the angle was wrong, but she didn't care. Simon opened his mouth and kissed her back, hesitantly at first, but getting more confident by the second as she did not pull away. Alys heard the stunner drop to the floor and felt an arm encircle her waist as her own found his hair and pulled, slightly. The answering groan only made her kiss him harder.

Eventually, they broke apart. Breathing heavily, she leaned forward slightly and rested her forehead against his. She gave him a smile, and he mirrored it with one of his own. She was about to kiss him again when he stepped back, carefully detangling their bodies.

"Reinforcements will be here soon," he said apologetically. Alys nodded, and straightened her dress with her hands. She could feel him staring at her in the dark, and she felt the urge to kiss him again. Instead, she took his hand with hers and squeezed it gently, not trusting herself to put feelings to words and hoped that would suffice.

He brought her hand up to his mouth and kissed it softly, then let it drop, but he did not pull away. They stayed there, breathing in the darkness, hands intertwined until ImpSec found them there a few minutes later.