Chapter 2: Note: I got some great feedback from your reviews, so I am going to run with them. This chapter is a bit disjointed, but I hope you enjoy it.

Rose had suspicions that Abe and Tasha were keeping the other vampires away. After all, the most talented guardian in a generation didn't just walk away, no matter how colorful her record. She also avoided major vampire hot spots but sometimes it couldn't be avoided.

On the bright side, Rose had become quite adept at duel wielding stakes, though she preferred charmed crossbow bolts and her garrote/wire saw, courtesy of Abe. With strigoi infesting cities like rats and dhampir blood being their number two preference, it was common for Rose to seek out the gym or to be found practicing her skills training with martial arts instructors.

With Yosemite behind her, Rose was honing her skills at a gymnastics school. At first, despite her martial arts training, Rose was more uncoordinated than an inchworm on vodka. However, a lack of fear of injury and her impressive endurance helped to increase her skills. She was no professional gymnast by any means, that took years even for a dhampir. However, the fact that she was there just because of a desire to learn a new skill actually endeared her to the other gymnasts. She wasn't another competitor, so the other gymnasts, both male and female, lowered their guard.

The best part though was the moment when she let go and flew through the air, having to trust herself that she would catch the bar. It was just fun; something training at the academy had seriously lacked.

Her dismount was a non-regulation tuck, roll, and flip, but again, it wasn't like she was competing. No sooner had she gotten her bearings on the ground then she was swept up again.

"Welcome back Maz!" Jack, the gym owner, picked her up and swung her about in a hug. "How was the climb?"

"Rocky," Rose shrugged, giving him a half smile. "Didn't fall, lived to tell the tale, came back to bug you. Mind letting me use the boys equipment for a few?"

"Yeah, go for it."

Rose saluted and went off to the parallel bars.

Night was an interesting time. Rose still found herself awake and on edge. Nightmares came more easily in the night, along with the ghosts. She was getting better at controlling them but sometimes, after a particularly hard dream, they were there.

Many of them were actually pretty awesome; one, a middle aged ballerina who helped Rose with her stretches, also liked to screw with strigoi when Rose was trying to sleep. Another, a WWII veteran, liked to sit and chat or watch tv while critiquing her pushup form.

The one who never appeared was Mason. He had successfully moved on, though it was dreams about him that often brought her shaking in the middle of the night. That was how she met the veteran; he knew a lot about PTSD. Then there would be the dreams about Strigoi Dimitri. Tonight had been a repeat of her escape from Russia mixed somehow with the day she decided to leave court forever.

"Rose, I really don't think we should be talking about this." Lissa had said for what felt like the hundredth time.

"What the hell do you mean? They are my nightmares about my experiences!"

"Which you only had because you selfishly left me to go on a murder spree in Russia. If you had just stayed where you belonged, there would be no nightmares to have. Now, stop talking about it. You are hurting…"

Rose stood up, "Who Lissa? Who am I hurting? Dimitri? I haven't spoken to him since the coward pushed me away and hid behind your skirt. You? I see your nightmares whenever you have them, never complained; I always comforted you without question. However, when I need something…"

"Get out now!" Lissa ordered. "You are being selfish and I have more important things to deal with than a dhampir's tantrum."

"Like what? All I asked was to talk...what have you asked me to do? Right, just die for you."

"That is what you are for!" Lissa yelled at last.

"Yeah, I guess so." Rose gave an exaggerated bow and left Lissa's room.

Rose left and took a long walk around court. Her best friend in the entire world was just...one of them. All around her Moroi dismissed the dhampirs as either nothing or objects for sex. We are disposable, Rose thought. Her life, the lives of her race, it was all for the Moroi. "They come first."

In a way, the Moroi should be thinking that about the dhampirs. Without Rose's race, the moroi would become extinct from strigoi attacks. Hell, with her race they had become weak. The moroi had magic, they could reproduce, and yet they relied on the dhampirs. The dhampirs were the limited commodity, the laws of economics stated that they should be more highly valued. Instead, they were just...slaves. But, if they were just slaves, then why in the hell was she still fighting for her captors?

The dream transformed and Strigoi Dimitri was drinking from her while dream Lissa shrugged and told him not to drink all of "it" because she would need "it," meaning Rose, later. It was on nights like this that Rose couldn't tell who was less human, the undead or those who only valued the life of their kind.

If it weren't for the few decent ones, like Tasha and her father (though calling him decent was a stretch) Rose would have said to hell with their entire race.

Rose got out of bed and went down the hall to the communal bathroom. Hostiles were actually pretty nice places to stay, especially when a person didn't have many possessions. She splashed water on her face and looked in the mirror. Her tattoos were still there, along with a few new ones. The pattern wasn't hard to do, and Rose liked keeping track. This tradition had started out as a way for the moroi to see who the better guardians were, but the dhampir had made it their own. Her promise mark, once a mark of devotion, now came to mean something new. It was a promise to herself to live.

"Screw it," she muttered, turning away from the mirror. There were still three more hours to dawn and she was going to get some sleep dammit.