Author's Note: I have been inspired. You are all so kind to me. I'm surprised any of you are still out there! All of your support has really helped push me onward, I appreciate it! I'm happy that you guys are excited for Abe, because I am too. I've enjoyed writing with him in my other story and I am excited to be able to do so again. Thank you for all the support! It's late, I'm tired and wrote all of this in one day, so please go easy on me. Once I progress far enough along and need to stronger refresher I'll go back and edit it to make it better. But until then, please forgive me! Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Warnings: Language, OOCness, Unbeta'd.
Word Count: 5,616
Lissa does such a better job talking to people again this time around. She is more open and honest with our classmates - less afraid, than the first time around - and her natural charm won them over easily and immediately. We are both quick to make it seem like we weren't gone for two years and while people still look at me in fascination and awe, they also seem to be able to easily forget and treat me like I'm one of them. I am proud to be a Guardian, it was always what I was meant to be and I enjoy my job, but sometimes it's nice just to be like everyone else for a moment.
In school, we could all be classmates. It was easy to forget in ten-minute spurts that we were still segregated between dhampirs and Moroi, and royals and non-royals. In passing and faded moments, we were all students of St. Vladamir's Academy.
We chatted when we made it to class with our classmates around us while being sure to keep close to one another while still being sociable. I was laughing and joking with some of my fellow dhampir in the row ahead of me, all the while in the back of my mind I was planning out where I would be able to easily gain access to the internet to be able to make that email account before Abe tries to gain access to it. And that is assuming that the message was even left on Abe's phone. For all we know, he doesn't have that number yet.
And I don't have a backup plan to somehow prove my lie. I'm just lucky that no one thought to ask me why I was still taking classes when I didn't technically need to anymore, seeing as I was supposed to have graduated at this point. I wouldn't be able to answer that aside from the fact that I hadn't thought of the lie when I was first brought here so Kirova sent me off to class without even realizing I am already promised.
Something tells me that isn't going to fly well with anyone.
Thankfully class starts and everyone falls silent so that they can avoid getting into trouble and it leaves me to drone out and try and plan out the closest, safest access to the internet without someone being able to easily figure out what we were doing. I can feel myself growing increasingly anxious as this class drags on. I can't even bring myself to pretend to listen to the teacher talk about whatever it was that didn't even stick with me the first time around.
I must have been jiggling my knee while anxiously watching the clock by the door because Lissa reaches over and places her hand over my knee and presses down on it to keep it from moving. I force myself to stop tensing up and whisper, "Sorry," and try to focus on the lesson again. She nods in understanding before pulling her hand away.
I watch as the minutes tick by trying not to think about what could happen. If they don't investigate me and just trust that since I'm promised now someone must have passed me, then am I able to stay with Lissa as I am, or will I be forced into the same position that Dimitri is in. I mean, at this point, he's her personal Guardian but it's pointless having him follow her around everyone. So he was placed into the school's registry to help keep the school safe seeing as his Moroi isn't able to leave without him.
Once the bell rings I jump from my seat, grab Lissa's hand and rip her from her own chair as we sprint from the room. We only have a finite amount of time before we have to get to class and I've got to be fast. We sprint down the hall as fast as I can manage to drag Lissa along without physically dragging her across the floor all the way to the library. I drop her in a nearby chair and set to work on getting online and going to make that email.
Meanwhile, Lissa is panting in the chair, sunken into it like her bones have turned to jelly. She holds at a painful stitch in her side and stares at me as I work. Had the situation not been important, and had she enough air in her lungs to breath, she probably would have been able to tell me just how much she didn't appreciate that. Although the mental images do paint a pretty funny picture.
I snicker a bit, feeling only a bit bad, as I quickly make the email, glad that there aren't enough terrible old knee breakers as a dad that the name was already taken and was able to put my mom's name down as the password. A quick glance at the time shows me that we are probably going to be late as I still have to write out an email for Abe.
Thinking fast, I create an email to send to this address and quickly type out:
If you're reading this then you got my message. As I said, I am Rose Hathaway. I am the spawn in which your fling with my mother created. We haven't met in my life, which is unlucky for you seeing as I'm a real gem, but I need your help. Something has happened that I can't go into detail about as of yet, but I need you to do me the biggest favor in the world; get proof of my promising at St. Belstiva and have it emailed to me at -.
Look, Zmey, I don't have a lot of time, but I really need you to be a dad. Trust me, I'm a real joy to have in your life and your gonna be so happy that you started this relationship off right. We can hash out any dirty laundry we might have later, but I really need your help now. I'm stuck in a predicament that I need your help getting out of. If you have questions, contact me from my email.
Please just do this for me, old man, and I will explain everything later,
I sent the email and wait for it to appear in its own inbox before quickly logging out and shutting down the computer. The bell rings not a second later and Lissa's eyes widen in fear as I race over to her and pull her from her chair again.
"We are already late," Lissa complains as we sprint down the hall to our next class.
"Sorry!" I call back, not slowing down even as the stitch in her side acts up again. "Hopefully Abe will get the message before this all blows up in my face. Here's to hoping!" I cross my fingers on my other hand and hold it up over my head for her to see before pushing myself to go faster, dragging my Moroi behind me like the dead weight she is. "You need to work on your cardio, Liss."
"Oh, do I know it," she heaves behind me. "Wait, you have a different class than me!"
I stop and she runs into the momentum in which her small body was moving kept her going until she ran into the back of me. We both stare at each other as I try and remember what class we were supposed to be in right now. We just had Animal behaviors so next is...
"Oh, you and your stupid Smart Math," I grumble as I drag her down the next hallway to her Calculus class.
"That... doesn't make... sense," Lissa tries to retort though the lack of air in her lungs. I stop outside her classroom and practically kick the door open and push her inside before sprinting to my dumb math class. I can feel her embarrassment at being late on her first day back and no doubt being chastised for it by the teacher in front of the others. I'm late too and get called out in front of the class as well, which I take with grace. I mean, I didn't throw a chair or call the teacher a name, so I think that comes across as gracefully.
I keep my cool, though and act like I wasn't bothered at all and pretend to listen in class. I zone out a bit, wondering if Abe has gotten my message or if he got to read the email. I know that it hasn't been all that long but I'm starting to get more and more riled up as time goes on. I just want this portion of this to be out of the way. Then, maybe I can convince Kirova, seeing as I'm a Guardian, not to force me into bitch duty like my poor Russian eye-candy and have to watch over all the annoying kids in my school and let me just keep passing off as a student - sort of. I don't need to go to classes, necessarily, but I would like to remain with Lissa. At all times, preferably.
Once class is over, Lissa and I meet up again and go to our 7th period. We try and act like we aren't anxious for the end of the day and pray that we hear back from Abe soon. Once our final class is over we end up outside like last time. She steps close to me, making sure to keep her expression light and open but her voice low as she looks around at our classmates chatting around us, excited for having finished up the day and have free time to themselves.
"Do you think Abe has responded?" She asks.
"I don't know," I answer, scratching at the back of my head. "I'll have to check my email once I get to my dorm. Have you thought about what you're going to do about your room? Share it with you-know-who?"
Lissa looks torn. "I don't know. I really don't want to go through that. Maybe I should try and get a room with you. I don't know, though. They may still think that we are a flight risk."
"You could always convince Kirova that we aren't," I inform her, raising an eyebrow as I scan the area around us, keeping an eye out for Mia and She-who-shall-not-be-named. A part of me is hoping that Lissa is going to be right and that her apology has brokered us peace with Mia, but I am very aware that it would probably be too easy and nothing ever is with us. Or for us, for that matter.
Lissa glares at me. "I told you I don't want to compel Kirova. I really like her despite it all."
I raise an eyebrow at her. "I heard you before. And besides, as I've told you, you can be quite charming without the need for compulsion. Just talk to her. I honestly don't want you to have to deal with that either. I mean, if we stay in the Moroi dorm she could still get to our room easily, and she usually struck while you were out anyway, but I would just feel better being there with you."
Lissa nods slowly. "I know. I would rather you be there too." She runs her hand through her pretty blond hair. "I am stronger. I can do this, I know that I can. I just..." she hesitates for a moment before admitting, "I don't want to go at it alone."
"You aren't alone," I tell her firmly, reaching out to take her hands. I spare a moment to scan the area again before turning back to her pretty green eyes. "No matter what you end up deciding. Whether you ask Kirova to let us stay together or not, I'm always going to be with you. I'll spirit my way into your mind if I have to," Lissa smiles faintly at that, finding comfort in that like I knew she would, "and every moment I can be with you, I will. No matter what."
Her love for me blossoms in her chest and she can't imagine being with anyone else in the world but me. She loves Christian and our friends and misses her parents and brother, but I'm like her soul mate. And she is mine. No one would ever understand me as she does. And she feels the same way about me. Christian and Dimitri are the loves of our lives, no doubt, but we are each others' soul mates. If I have nothing and no one else in the world, I will always have Lissa. No matter what. No matter the time or the distance.
"Thank you," Lissa says softly. "Thank you, Rose."
I offer her a sideways grin. "Anything for you, Highness."
She rolls her eyes as someone says, "Rose?"
We both look over to see Dimitri. The happiness flooded into Lissa's chest made me sad. Seeing him hurt me. I wanted so badly to reach out and touch him, but I knew that I couldn't.
"Guardian Belikov," Lissa says fondly, smiling at him sweetly. I am watching in real time as he falls for her sweet charm. His eyes soften at the sight of her and he bows his head politely.
"Princess Lissa." His words were even, and calm, but his dark eyes watch her expression carefully. Her green eyes widen a fraction of an inch at him saying her preferred name before her smile brightens considerably, feeling like somehow they had gotten closer than before.
"Please, just Lissa is fine," she says up at him. Dimitri doesn't look like he's ready to commit to that yet. No matter how close Guardians and their Moroi are, there is usually still a level of professionalism to it. Lissa relents deciding that she would take Dimitri agreeing to at least address her by her Americanized name, she would be willing to take this as a victory for now. "Baby steps then."
"So, what's up, Comrade?" I ask, giving Lissa's hands a squeeze before letting them go and turn to my Russian Guardian God of a future husband.
Dimitri looks down at me, frowning. He's still not particularly fond of the nickname. It'll grow on you, just wait. "You are late for practice."
I stare at him, feeling like my brain is short-circuiting. "Late? But..." I had to stop myself because if I finished what I was going to say with, "I'm a Guardian," makes me sound like anything but that. It would come out like a whine than a statement, I'm sure of it. I know that we were supposed to be training, but I figured once he learned that I wasn't a slacking novice he wouldn't feel the need to put me on lockdown. But I guess not. The shackles stay on as far as he's concerned I guess. Nevermind that at this point I've killed more Strigoi than he has.
Then again, I bet he's still better than me, even now. As good as I was, and as good as I can be, he was always just a little bit better. And I am always learning more from him.
"Well..." Lissa says slowly, trying to offer me an olive branch, "thank you for staying with me, Rose. I'll let you two go. I need to think a bit before I go speak with Headmistress Kirova." She gives my arm a squeeze before tipping her head to Dimitri and heading off toward the cafeteria.
Together Dimitri and I head for the gym in about two beats of silence before I have to admit, "I thought that when you learned that I was a Guardian that I wouldn't have to go. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to just blow you off."
He seems surprised by both my honesty and my sincerity. Rude. "It's fine," he says slowly. "And while I don't have to worry about teaching you, I should at least see where your skills are. Especially since we are going to be working together for the foreseeable future."
That makes perfect sense and is so completely logical and Dimitri-like I'm surprised it didn't just occur to me when I left class. I mean, Dimitri and I would train with each other all the time. It was one of those things that we just never stopped doing, even once we got to Court. Whenever we could, we would go to the gym and spar with one another, or just work out. So I don't really mind this.
"Well then..." I say slowly, keeping up with his longer strides easily enough, "then I suppose you and I should get better acquainted." Whoa, down girl. Reign it in a little bit. "If we are going to protect Lissa, I mean." My flimsy attempt at a recovery.
"Sure," Dimitri says slowly, but then we lapse into silence.
The gym comes into view when I feel the pull. Through our bond, I feel this overwhelming feeling of sadness and pain. It's so sudden, so powerful, I don't even think twice before jumping into her head to see what was going on.
"You can have the Academy, but not the window seat."
Lissa is in the attic of the chapel and standing before her as wonderful and handsome as she remembers is none other than Christian Ozera. Her feet had led her to the chapel as a way of comforting herself here at St. Vladamir. Even though so much time has passed, she still can't seem to break the feeling of comfort that this place brought to her. And she forgot about Christian being up here. She did now associate this place with him, but for a brief moment, forgot that he would be up here waiting to reenact this moment, whether he knew it or not.
And she missed him. She was so preoccupied worrying about what was coming and what they needed to do that she also had to come to the reality of standing across from the man she loved and accept that he didn't love her. And Lissa was now in the exact same position I'm in with Dimitri. She has no idea how Christian fell in love with her and how she could ever recreate those events so that he would.
It's lucky for her this bond only works one way because I'm pretty sure Christian was crushing on her almost from the very beginning. She doesn't have to worry about a thing. He'll be tripping over himself to be with her before she can even worry her pretty little head. I'm sure of it. Hopefully, he doesn't set fire to a building full of orphans this time just so he can save them and get into her pants.
Oh yeah, and maybe those two chuckleheads can not have sex while I'm asleep and vulnerable. My mind unprotected. Now that would be a crazy twist of fate I'm sure we could all get behind!
"Christian," Lissa says. For a moment, that sardonic smirk on his face twitches, not having expected her to know his name. I mean, I get it. He's Christian Ozera, social pariah, and she's Vasilisa Dragomir, prestigious, pretty and princess. The only way she could know of him would be through negative rumors, no doubt. And they were. She only originally knew of him because of his parents.
Little did that little creep know that she was madly in love with him now. Pretty, sweet and lovely Vasilisa was in love with dark, dangerous and sarcastic Christian. What a story.
He recovers quickly, though with a, "Don't worry. I won't bite. At least, not in the way that you're afraid of." And that cynical laugh. Lissa doesn't like that laugh. She doesn't like the self-loathing and self-deprecating side of Christian. She knows that it's a shield to protect himself from the harsh reality of the world around him - i.e. people just suck - but she, and I, both don't want to hear him joking about something that really does bring him pain, even if it is to try and keep people at a distance so they don't hurt him.
The sadness in Lissa's heart increases and she wishes she could reach out and hug him tightly in her arms and never let him go.
"I'm sorry," Lissa says, her hand over her heart as if to keep it in her chest. "I didn't see you there."
Christian walks around the junk piled up ceiling high so that the two of them could stand before each other. "Oh, don't mind me, just taking in the scenery." He gestures around the cluttered room like it was the most extravagant paradise. Lissa's eyes follow the motion but return to his face easily enough. His blue eyes find her's and he asks, "So what is the illustrious Dragomir Princess doing here? Don't you have parties to go to? Lives to destroy?" He meant it to be snarky. He meant it to keep that distance between himself and others. But when Lissa's face twists into a look of pain at his words, he immediately looked like he regretted it.
Yeah, stop being a punk, jerk.
"I'm not that girl anymore," Lissa says softly, wrapping her arms around herself.
Christian looks like he's not certain whether he believes her or not. I don't think Lissa was bad at all, but she did often think about whether she was a good person to those around her because that sort of thing was important to her. She thought that Andre was the greatest and when she came to learn that he was flawed just like everyone else, it opened the door to a lot of introspection over the years. She knows, especially as a Queen, that she can't be friends with everyone but she was always striving to at least be both fair and kind. Even if her judgments couldn't be in all regards.
I don't envy the work she's put in, but I sure do admire it. Lissa is definitely my Queen, no matter what, but she is also my hero.
Christian shrugs his shoulders. "I suppose time will tell with that, Princess. But I suppose that we are going to have to discuss the elephant in the room." She gives him an odd look, not understanding. "Visitation rights," he says, gesturing around the room. "I'm assuming you're here for a reason, well, so am I. This place has been my hideout for a year now."
Lissa couldn't help herself. "I have been coming here before I even left, my claim is more solid."
Christian shakes his head. "Squatters right, Princess. You left it, and now it's mine." He gives her a look through long, dark lashes that makes her breath hitch and she has to look away. "Besides, I got to stay here so that people don't think I've turned Strigoi. Yet."
Lissa draws her eyes back up to him, pity and sadness clutching at her heart. It must have shown on her face because the snarky look on Christian's falls to stare at her with a slight crease between his brows.
"I'm sorry, Christian," Lissa says softly, taking a step closer to her love but forcing herself to wrap her fingers up in the fabric of her shirt to prevent herself from reaching out to touch him. "I am so sorry that you have to do something like this, all because of the actions of your parents. I'm sorry that you have to spend each and every day doing everything you can to prove that you aren't them. People are so cruel, and I wish I was strong enough to have said something sooner." She captivates him with her big, sad green eyes and says, "I am so sorry if I was another one of those people that fed into your pain."
Whoa Liss, laying it on a little thick there. I think he just had an aneurysm. I don't know if anyone ever apologized to Christian for the blatant discrimination of his parents have chosen to become Strigoi that others had forced upon him. Plus if I know Lissa as well as I think I do, I'm pretty sure she's batting those long lashes and her cheeks are turning red and she just looks so genuinely kind that it's impossible not to be captivated by her.
Christian looks away, not really knowing what to think about how she was talking to him - you know, like a person rather than a stain on our society, the special treatment. He takes a few moments to consider before looking at her. "Can I ask you something?"
Lissa stares back at him. "You want to know what I did for blood?"
He looks surprised by her pinpointing it immediately and I have to roll my eyes. So I'm not the only one who's using my knowledge of what's to come to get me ahead in conversations. Oh man, if only I had retained anything from class, tests wouldn't be the worst. Oh wait, I probably won't even be taking any tests of being a student much longer. Aha! There is justice in the world!
"You and Rose are the center of the rumor mill right now," Christian points out as if we didn't already know. "Everyone it talking about each and every little thing that they can dissect. Why you left. How you got out. Where exactly you went. How you got to Siberia, so on and so forth. Trust me, I think I've heard it all, and no one was speaking to me about it. But that was the thing that no one talked about." He looks into her eyes, burrowing into her soul with the intensity. "So what is it? What did you do for blood?"
Lissa hesitates, wanting to stick to the story that we discussed, but also knew that Christian wouldn't believe it if she said that she was able to live off of junkie humans. Although she was kind enough to consider what I said about living off the generosity of other Moroi, she decided that she would say that to anyone else who asked. This was Christian. She trusted Christian, even right away. He guessed the truth and never spoke a word to anyone else about it. He was a true friend right from the beginning. Even if I couldn't see it originally.
In this regard, I don't mind her telling him the truth. He would probably figure it out sooner or later. I mean, she doesn't need to go full on torture to get her to spill the beans to him. He just has to bat those ice blue eyes and Lissa melts under the pressure. I'm going to need to be careful about what Lissa and Christian talk about when I'm not there to be able to slap her across the face when she starts drooling too much.
"Rose gave me her blood so that I could survive. She happened to have fed me the night we were captured," Lissa admits, stepping closer and reaching out to touch his arm. "Please, don't tell anyone. Please keep it a secret between us."
Christian analyzes her words and seems to realize she told the truth, for he nods somberly, knowing what it means if he were to spread such a thing around. But he wouldn't be Christian if he didn't crack an unnecessary joke. "I mean, it's going to be tough keeping this from all my friends, but when the Princess Vasilisa Dragomir begs for your silence, you have no other option but to obey."
Lissa rolls her eyes, smiling up at him. "Thank you, Christian. And please, call me Lissa."
I pull back into myself to see Dimitri standing before me, his hands on my shoulders. We are just outside the gym when I suppose I stopped walking. At least I made it further than last time.
"Rose? Are you okay?" Dimitri asks, looking concerned.
I try not to read too far into it. "I'm okay. I was just in Lissa's head. She seems to be adapting to school life well. She's made a friend."
Dimitri looks at me skeptically. "In her head?"
I rub at my forehead, not used to being able to jump back and forth again. It had been just long enough for me to have started to forget the full force of this feeling. While I have significantly more control over it now that I did before, it's like reworking an underused muscle. I'm going to need a bit of time to be back in the full groove of it.
"Yeah, it's part of our bond. I can feel her emotions and hear her thoughts and when she's feeling something strong enough she can pull me into her mind. That's what just happened." A little, innocent lie. If someone is hiding around in the shadows listening in, they don't need to know that I have control over it. Not yet, at least. "She's okay, though. Just startled was all. But she's good now."
"Can you keep going?" He asks and looks genuinely concerned about whether I would be okay or not. I miss the gentleness and care. I miss this look on his face, where he feels he can let his hair down a bit - metaphorically speaking - and show his softer, more doting side. Dimitri's nature is made up almost entirely on protective instinct. He can't help himself, it's who he is. Growing up in a household full of women with a deadbeat Moroi dad who liked to beat his mother has unleashed this fierce protectiveness that has become such a powerful driving force in both his job and his personality that it's hard to ignore. And it's hard not to see even behind the stoic front he puts up.
"Yes." I smile up at him. "Thanks."
"If you are sure," he says, before pulling back and leading the way inside. I follow. I go straight for the locker room, happy to finally change into some actual training clothes instead of my jeans and t-shirt that I've been wearing all day. Still gross. And when I meet up with him in the main gym area, he's also dressed down in sweatpants and a t-shirt.
"Oh wow," I say, admiringly before I shake my limbs out, pretending to start warming up. "You aren't even going to take me to dinner before we get to the fun stuff? And by fun stuff, I mean throwing each other around these ugly blue mats until one of us cries."
Dimitri lets out a little laugh, not having expected that. He controls himself quickly enough but there is a playful sparkle in his eye. "I need to know the strengths and weaknesses of my partner. This is a good bonding exercise."
"Sure, kick the crap out of one another. Just yell, 'Rose Hathaway is a goddess amongst us mortals,' as your safe phrase."
Dimitri's lips curl and I am very aware that it is cheating that I know his sense of humor.
"What about your safe phrase?"
Oh my god, the things I would do to this man. And what an opening that was. I couldn't fall back to sultry Rose's reaction and had to mentally switch gears to sassy Rose and hope that she's on top of her game today. "Mine will be, 'The collapse of the KGB is a government coverup. They hear all, they see all'."
Dimitri rolls his eyes. He has to turn his head away to stop the smile that was spreading across his face. He takes a moment to control his expression before informing me, "The KGB collapsed in 1991."
I stare back at him. "Need I repeat myself? Government coverup."
Dimitri shakes his head. We continue stretching and warming up our muscles. I'm sure this is going to be an experience, for both of us. Because if there is anything I know about myself and Dimitri, it's that we are both competative by nature. We don't like to lose. This is great when it's us against others, and damn near terrifying when it is against each other.
"Don't forget your safe phrase, comrade, you're gonna need it." I stretch my arms above my head.
Dimitri gives me a flat look, despite the sparkling in his eyes. "We shall see, Rose."