Girard knows all the reasons why male humans and female halflings getting together is a Really Bad Idea. He's heard all the obscene jokes, seen most of the bathroom graffiti. It's complicated. Not as though she were an elf, an Outsider, or even an Orc, for Loki's sake — for some reason that he's never fully grasped, demi-humans of the same size are fair game, but other cross-relationships are considered gross and weird, or at best the subject of skeezy bar-room jokes about what one partner is the perfect height to do. He can imagine what the others would say — Kraagor's quiet disapproval, Dorukan's jokes, Lirian and Soon exchanging that Look of theirs that says 'Oh dear Gods what do the Chaotics think they're doing now?'. He wonders about the physics of it all, too — probably nothing a simple Potion of Heroism couldn't take care of, but still, imagine if he accidentally hurt — *eeaargh*. Repressing a shudder, he imagines what his parents would do, he imagines what her parents would do — hells, the nights have been so long on the Order's latest trek that he's even given some thought to the prospect of unappealingly short and furry-footed children with extremely unfortunate hair.

So many bad reasons, and only one good one, and it's dancing in and out of the firelight before him right now. Serini, Serini, rich brown eyes the colour of the last autumn leaves and a laugh that crackles like greenwood thrown on a bonfire. It's Harvest festival tonight, or at least it would be in sensible places where there actually *is* a harvest, and she's teaching anyone who wants to learn a dance from her home village. She says it brings good luck for the winter, and that's something the Order needs pretty badly right now.

'That's it, over, under and through!'. She skips, clapping, under the outstretched arms of Lirian and Dorukan and goes spinning around the fire, giggling and twirling in time to Kraagor's drum. Her face is glowing despite the cool of the evening, one shoulder of her orange dress slipping crooked and thick dark curls leaping and bouncing around her head. Girard can't take his eyes away.

He watches the pretty, laughing girl, dancing in the firelight with her friends. But in his mind he also holds the image of Serini as the woman who, when Soon has woken the entire camp with his nightmares, always mysteriously seems to be 'awake anyway, I don't need to sleep much, tee hee!' and to have a pot of his favourite tea on the fire. Who taught Dorukan how to darn his own socks (aparently it wasn't covered in wizard school), and who once loaned her entire share of the party's loot to Girard himself for some much-needed spell components and then 'accidentally' forgot to ask for it back. Layered on top of that, he thinks of her as she was the night they stormed the stronghold of the dreaded Baron Pineapple. Slipping halfling-quiet from shadow to shadow in the moonlight, tumbling locks and knifing assassins and smiling like a feral child when at last she held up her daggers dripping with yellow juice.

Serini, Serini, kind and sweet and wild and vicious, brave and beautiful and always and forever Serini. So many bad reasons, and only one good one.

Lirian collapses into the leaves beside him, dizzy and exhausted, and autumn-leaf eyes are crackling at him from across her tousled blonde head.

'Look, Draketooth, I broke the elf! Now, for the last time, you sitting there sulking all night, or are you dancing?'

That all depends,' he grins. 'You asking, Toormuck?'

The look on her face is his answer, so he takes her hand, pulls himself to his feet in one long graceful motion, and slowly begins to dance.

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