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A Change of Heart

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"Hey! You buying a ticket or what?"

The gruff voice jolted Dimitri out of his rose-induced daze. Slightly above him was the train ticket agent, looking down at him through iron bars.

Dimitri opened his mouth to answer, but the words caught in his throat.

The station clerk raised his eyebrow and leaned forward. "I said, are you going to buy a ticket for the train? It's planned to leave soon."

"I…" Once again, Dimitri's tongue froze and he clenched his hand a little tighter. He was a con-man, never without a plan, and here he was, completely at a loss. That never happened…until she showed up, that is.

Despite the line, the clerk eyed the rose in Dimitri's hand. "Some lass give that to you, then?"

Dimitri looked down at his flower. A single rose, simple and elegant, but it wasn't just any rose now. Aña—no, Anastasia gave it to him only a few nights prior. But the name-change in his head was enough to remind Dimitri of the impossible nature of his fantasies, and his brief smile fell.

Noticing the change in mood, the station clerk's next words had a hint of sympathy to them. "She not love you anymore?" He asked.

"Not that, I don't think," Dimitri answered, slowly pushing the flower back into his most accessible pocket. "Just out of my reach."

"Ah." The clerk nodded sagely and scratched his mange of a beard. After a brief pause (the line of customers behind Dimitri were starting to get antsy, but he didn't seem to care), the ticket agent proclaimed, "Well, what are you waiting around here for?"

Dimitri blinked in surprise. "What?"

"You heard me." The clerk straightened his back and crossed his thick arms. "I can see it in your eyes, bonhomme. You're in love with the girl, and she with you, if that rose is any indication."

Dimitri adjusted his cap with shaky hands and tried to form a proper sentence. "I can't do that to her. She's noble. She deserves a prince, not some lowly kitchen boy."

"And you're just going to run from her? From her love? Pathétique! Would she thank you for leaving her on her own, as alone as you? No, you run back to her right now. Be the homme you are and show her you're worth it, and so is she." He sniffed, and cast a glance both behind him and at the growing line behind the shocked man in front of him. "We train people can't stand you lot. You romantic types always have it decided, but once the train starts, oh, no, that's when you think to get off. When it's moving. No surprise you get killed."

Something clicked in Dimitri's mind, and his face broadened into a silly, toothy grin. The ticket clerk huffed in satisfaction and made shooing motions with his hands. "Go on, off with you now. Try not to die before you tell her you love her, you hear?"

He hoped the love-sick fool had heard him, because that man was gone in a flash. The clerk shook his head, covered his sad smile with his usual mask (it wouldn't do to cloud his mind with memories filled with regret), and called out, "Suivant!"