Takes place after the events of Death of the Necromancer-- the end of Nicholas and Madeleine's stay in Adera. I didn't cut it because it's so short; let me know if I should.
"Honeymoon's over," Nicholas said incautiously as he surveyed their belongings all packed into trunks, and immediately repented of it: she still hadn't addressed his offer to marry her.
She threw him a look from across the room. "I suppose," she said.
"My offer stands, by the way," he said coolly.
"What offer?" she tossed back, sitting on the end of one of the trunks and fanning herself.
"To get married," he said.
She stared at him for a long moment, then looked away, rolling her eyes. "Wouldn't that be a ridiculous thing to do?"
"Why?" he asked, stung.
She gave him an incredulous look. "Do you actually want me to?"
He crossed his arms over his chest. "Why don't you want to?"
"You think I need that?" she asked. "You think I'm so eager to become a Valiarde?" She must have seen something in his face, because her expression went blank for a fraction of a moment before she adopted a false-melodrama expression. "I'd have to change my name. My career is all under Denare."
It was pointless, Nicholas thought, to become offended by this. He had been joking. Hadn't he? She hadn't really meant to refer to his unfortunate ancestry. She certainly hadn't intended any disrespect to his mother. And she hadn't said anything he hadn't said a hundred times. "I suppose," he said. "It would complicate things." Why was he offended? It bothered him that this bothered him.
"You should take my name," she said.
"Except you hate the Denares," he said. "You've never even introduced me."
She sighed. "This is true. Maybe we should just both take another name."
"I can't have Alsene back," he said. "I told the Queen I didn't want it."
"Oh damn," she said dryly, "my fondest ambition, dashed."
"Like we need that kind of attention," he snorted.
"We get plenty," she said.
"The Queen offered to marry me," he said suddenly. "She didn't think she was too good for me."
At that Madeline sat straight up. "She what? When did this happen?"
"Just after Doctor Octave was killed," Nicholas said, somewhat satisfied at the shock on her face. "When Fallier took me to the palace. When the Queen heard who I was she said she might be required to marry me for dynastic purposes."
Madeline frowned. Nicholas managed not to smirk at her obvious discomfiture. "And you turned her down?"
"Of course I did," Nicholas said, allowing himself to sound ridiculously smug. "I could never be unfaithful to you, my darling."
"You're an idiot," Madeline said.
"Besides," Nicholas went on, frowning seriously, "she was far too young for me."
Madeline threw her shoe at him.