A.N: Hey guys!
Firstly let me thank you for all the reviews it means a lot to me, you know that right?
Anyways nobody cared about my rambling si I just wanted to thank Megan again for her hard work in 'Betaing' my work.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything (unfortunately) it's all the fantastic Richelle =D
Please don't forget to review and tell me what you think ( or ill send Dimitri gone strigoi on you lol)
"Well good morning to you too sunshine!" I said reaching for a sugar coated donut that was on the table.
Lissa always knew I was a sucker for sweets and sugar in general, it was always easier to have your way with me when I was full of it.
Lissa blushed slightly feeling embarrassed to have jumped on me like that. "Sorry," she said with a rueful smile.
"It's alright," I chuckled. I really did feel better when I was with her. "What can I do for you?" I asked before inhaling almost half of the donut. I didn't realize how hungry I was before sitting down at the table.
"It's Christian," she simply said and I could feel the pain, sorrow, and guilt radiating from her in huge waves.
I did my best to swallow as fast as I could without chocking and took the opportunity to quickly glance around the room. Like the previous days Christian was nowhere to be found. I knew he was doing it on purpose to avoid Lissa and he was doing one hell of a job. With the exception of the little chat we had the day I came back, I haven't run into him again. I was pretty sure he was coming to the commons very early or very late to avoid any of us.
"Awww Lissa come on." I said once my mouth was empty. "I know the situation is pretty messed up but he just needs some time…give it to him." I said even surprising myself. Who would have thought I would ever take Christian's defense? Not me! "Sending me to talk for you won't help that's for sure, the guy can be pretty stubborn" I added before taking a sip of my coffee. "I mean if I could help by beating him up or something I would but I don't think it would work." Oh my god I really sound like Abe right now don't I? I added to myself as that was still a part of the story Lissa didn't know about.
She knew I met a man, well mobster boss, named Abe but at the time I related her the full adventure I didn't know Abe was my father. I decided to wait before telling her since I needed to figure the whole Victor plans before and because I was not sure if it was really my place to say. My mother and him did their best to hide it to everyone maybe there was a reason. However, I did tell her almost everything else and she would know it all eventually. It was the secrets that almost destroyed our friendship and ultimately almost cost her life. I just needed a little more time.
"No it's not that," she said shaking her head. "Well Christian always had some trust issues.. And I certainly didn't help with that," she said biting her bottom lip trying her best not to cry.
"Ok…." I said confused.
"Well he needs someone to talk to and even if he never said it out loud he…" she smiled. "He trusts you and he loves you. Please Rose….help him get better." She added going full force sad puppy on me.
I looked at her for a little while in silence. It was true that our little group were the only people Christian was talking to. He thought Adrian was a useless alcoholic, he was not close to Eddie and he certainly couldn't talk to one of his 'students'. I had to admit it, I was the only one left and even if I would rather get stabbed than admit it out loud I wanted to help him. He is a good person and I knew how badly it hurts when you have nobody to confide in.
I nodded still thoughtful, "I'll go meet him at his training session after class." I said since he invited me anyways.
"Thank you Rose," she said and I could feel relief radiating from her.
Classes went pretty well. Eddie accepted me like I never left and he didn't try to question my absence because he knew only too well why I left. It was nice to be with him to do small talk, it was like before…sort of.
"So what are you going to do now?" Asked Eddie as we exited our last class of the day. Calculus, also known as torture 101 for me.
"Now as in the next few hours or now in the future since I came back?" I asked knowing that even if I was not going to give full details to Eddie, I could at least give him a very small and vague resume of where I went.
He seemed to seriously ponder my question." Well not that I don't want to know your plans for the future but I'd rather you talk to me on your own initiative." He said nicely. "I was more concerned about the next few hours."
I chuckled. "Well I wanted to go and see one of Fire boy training sessions." I said evasively.
"Oh yeah that's good! I went twice myself to show them some movements you know," he said smiling. "He is actually doing a pretty decent job I can even imagine him as a teacher," he added and I could hear in his voice that he was as surprised as I was. "Do you want me to walk you there?"
I nodded grateful. Even if Eddie changed after all the horror we faced he still had some of his carefree laugh and the faint glint in his eyes, that almost made me think we were going back in time…before Spokane.
We were maybe half way to the junior gym when Alberta met with us, she had a folded piece of paper in her hand.
"I was looking for you," she said to me after acknowledging Eddie's presence with a nod. "Are you doing something important?" She asked but her voice was saying 'I need to talk to you alone'.
"Well Eddie was just walking me to one of Christian Ozera training sessions," I said resting my hand on Eddie's shoulder.
"Oh I can walk you there!" She said jumping on the opportunity. "I really need to have a word with you."
I nodded, "Thanks Eddie," I said patting his arms. "I'll see you back in the dorm," I said smiling to him hoping it looked genuine enough. I had the irrational fear that she would announce that Dimitri was on his way, it was stupid as she had no way to know that but I just couldn't help it.
"Yeah see you later," said Eddie squeezing my hand. "Guardian Petrov," he said with clear respect before walking away.
"He is going to be a good guardian." Alberta commented while watching him retreat.
"He knows what to expect outside….he saw it first hand." I said watching Eddie too. "It is a huge advantage but also a weakness," I simply added concentrating on Alberta again.
She looked at me startled but didn't comment. "I've got your training schedule for the next two weeks here," she said handling me the piece of paper as we were walking side by side.
"Thanks" I said putting it in my rear pocket. I really didn't care who I was training with really…it was not my Dimitri. "That's…That's what you wanted to tell me?" I asked honestly surprised as it could have been said in front of Eddie.
Alberta cleared her throat. "Well that and something else too." She added and she was getting more uncomfortable by the second.
I stopped to face her. "Uh huh." I said as an invitation to continue.
"Well since you have been reintegrated the Alchemists did a report of your time in Russia. At least what they know about your time there." She said nicely quickly glancing around to be sure we were not spied on since the alchemists were more or less a well kept secret.
"I see…" I said simply not really knowing how much they knew and what did they share with her.
"They told me about your kills and I needed to talk to you about getting your Molnija." She said slightly frowning when she saw the relief on my face.
"It's not necessary you know," I said sincerely. I really didn't expect to get any marks, hell I didn't even expect to make it back.
"Well yeah but still I think you deserve them however we can't give you a mark for every kill since some well… can't officially be attributed to you," Alberta said business like.
I nodded not really knowing what I should say anyways.
"So, based on their official report, 5 strigoi in St Petersburg and 2 near Baia are attributed to you." She said with clear admiration in the voice. "They added that semi-officially you probably took down around 15 strigoi. But you can only be marked for 7 and I'm sorry about that."
"I said it's no biggy, it's not the marks that make the quality of a guardian." I said simply. I would have 9 Molnija and the big battle one before graduating, it was clearly enough to impress any guardians but deep down I never felt lesser of a guardian than I felt today.
"You have grown so much Rose," she said but it was not clear in her voice if it was a compliment or not, she seemed clearly saddened by that. "Ok I can arrange it for tomorrow after class then?" She asked before quickly looking at her watch.
"Yes that's fine by me." I said trying to show some interest. "Thank you." I added not really knowing what I felt thankful for.
"I'll see you later," she said padding my arm before rushing away I guessed she was scheduled for security.
I shook my head before entering the gym where Christian was talking to a little group of approximately 8 moroi.
"Well well well if it isn't the great Rose Hathaway!" Christian said but he seemed genuinely pleased to see me there. "Did you came to share some of your moves with us?"
I heard some muffled 'wow' and 'awesome'.
I chuckled. "Well not today, I just came as an observer," I said pointing to the bench. "Maybe next time," I added winking to Christian and sitting down.
"Well fine you'll see how we can kick ass too," said Christian before concentrating on them again.
The lesson was pretty good actually and I had to recognize that Eddie was right, Christian was a very good teacher, pretty hard but clear and fair.
When he dismissed the group one of the young boys, I thought he was maybe 12 and one of the fire users like Christian turned around to face me.
"Excuse me can I ask you a question?" He asked directly to my attention. The others were looking at him in a awe. They were clearly thinking he was just so brave to talk to badass Hathaway ( apparently it was the nickname they gave me behind my back).
"Of course you can!" I said trying to smile as warmly as I could, I didn't need to scare the kids.
"If you had only one piece of advice to give us what would it be?" He asked as the 8 students and even Christian looked at me eagerly.
I thought for a little while. So many pieces of advise were crossing my mind. "Well…" I ran my hands through my hair. "No matter how ready, how strong you think you are, never be over confident because that confidence, that pseudo strength could be your fatal weakness." I said trying to sound nonchalant but I could see that Christian understood only too well.
As soon as the students left I stood up and went to meet Christian.
"So buddy how are you doing?" I asked with a small smile.
He looked at me and I could see his eyes widen as if he understood something. "Ah I get it, she sent you to try to set things right. I told you I don't -"
I stopped him by bringing my hand on his mouth.
"Stop right there Christian that's not why I'm here," I said before taking my hand from his mouth.
"Oh?" He said simply.
"Well I'd like to think we're friends and even if I would never say it out loud in public I missed you." And it was true he was my favorite smartass. "You've been so good at playing ninja and hiding that I didn't get a chance to even talk to you."
He nodded slowly.
"How have you been doing?" I asked resting a hand on his shoulder.
"Let's go to my room," he said picking up his bag from the floor.
We walked back to his room in silence and as soon as we walked in he gestured me to the armchair as he took off his jacket and sat on his bed.
"So how have you been?" I asked again.
Christian looked at me "I bet you know that already Rose." He smiled "Don't tell me you didn't slip in Lissa's head while you were away. I know you enough to be sure you couldn't abandon her."
'Avery is not Rose' I remembered him saying, How it warmed my heart to realize he was on my side.
I just smiled. "I guess trust is something that needs to be gained." I said to him. "And I'll prove that I trust you." And I really did, except for Dimitri, he was the only person I had ever trusted with my life. I started to relay to him everything that happened during the last 5 weeks only leaving the same details aside than I left out for Lissa.
Christian stared at me for a little while thoughtful and I could see no judgment in his eyes just understanding.
How could he understand? I thought a bit troubled, I couldn't even understand myself.
"It's terrible isn't it?" He asked nicely.
"What is?" I asked confused.
"To realize that strigoi or not you still love him? It's hard isn't it? You start to hate yourself for that. You know it's evil that stands before you and you hate yourself for not hating him completely…you think you are bad because you love that strigoi to some level." He said, his voice breaking.
"How can you…" I started to say. I wanted to say how can you know that? but I realized that he was the only one able to understand me.. His parents they were strigoi before being killed. "You still love them right?" I asked uncomfortable as even to Lissa he never openly mentioned his parents.
He nodded. "Yeah I still love them. I hate them for voluntary going strigoi and I hated myself for years because I couldn't stop loving them." He said in such a way I realized it was the first time he acknowledge that fact out loud.
I looked at him as my eyes filled up with tears. I was about to say something I didn't say anyone, not even to myself.
"I'm ashamed." I said barely louder than a whisper.
"Why?" Asked Christian anxiously coming to kneel in front of me. "There are no reasons for you to be ashamed. You are so brave and strong! Don't think you failed anything or anyone because you didn't."
"If he had given me the right answer I'm not sure I would be here today." I whispered looking down at his hands on my knees.
"What do you mean?" he asked so caringly that I was scared to crush the friendship we were creating, to see the disappointment in his eyes.
"When I was on the edge of the bridge ready to kill myself he…" I took a deep breathe as Christian squeezed my hands to encourage me. "He begged me not to do it. When I asked him why he didn't want me to die he said because he wanted me but… I can't help to think that I might have decided differently if he had said that he loved me…Maybe, maybe I would have joined him."
Christian then did something I wouldn't have expected in a million year, he hugged me tightly and I hugged him back. I knew that from now on we would be friends, very close friends. I was probably the only one who could understand that part of him and vice versa
"You shouldn't feel bad Rose… after 10 years I still long for my parents Strigoi or not," he said still in the hug.
After a while we parted a bit embarrassed.
I chuckled drying my tears. "You know I came to check on you and you comforted me."
"Believe me, you comforted me too." He said sitting back on the bed. "It's nice to know that someone can understand that part of you that you thought you had to keep hidden."
I looked up. "You know Lissa would never judge you right?" I tried.
He sighed. "Rose you promised," he said simply. "It was nice to have just some you and me time. You are my favorite annoying smartass."
"So you are fire boy.. So you are." I said sincerely. "And I know you …at least I think I do and I'm sorry but I'm just trying to understand here ok?" I tried raising my hands in surrender.
"What do you want me to explain?" He asked with a sigh of clear rendition.
"You know that Avery controlled Lissa's mind pretty much the whole time right?" I asked rhetorically.
Christian nodded, "yeah I do." He said calmly.
"And you know that she probably kissed Aaron under influence." I added resting my elbows on my knees.
"See that's the problem," he said still very calm. "The 'probably' and 'pretty much' clearly states that it was still a bit her. Things started to get messy even before Avery came into the picture, and she only managed to control Lissa after making her drink." He sighed, "I mean she let herself become influenced for whatever reason when she could have just confided in me." He said and I could see the deep hurt in his eyes.
I just looked at him not saying anything, what could I say when I knew he wasn't wrong.
"Don't get me wrong, I don't blame her for trying to be part of the royal game, if it's what she wants to do but you see I don't play their game, I never did." He said as he was just stating a fact, trying to keep his feeling in order.
I couldn't help but snort because it was also Christian's anti-social behavior that lead him to gain the 'strigoi-wannabe' nickname. "Sorry," I said blushing.
"Nah don't be, I'm proud of who I am as you are proud of who you are Rose." He said sincerely. "And I've seen... I've seen that you and…Belikov were ready to sacrifice everything to be together, just to make the other one happy. You left everything behind to find him but you see," he bit his bottom lip thinking, "I'm not sure I could make all the compromises that need to be made for her." He said simply
"I… it's-" I started taken aback.
"I'm not saying that I don't love her more than I thought I could love, because it would be a lie," he said quickly. "But sometimes love is not enough and we're barely 18, who is to say we are made for each other?"
His last words wouldn't have hurt me more if he actually slapped me. It made me think of Abe and what he said to me, I could still hear him clearly in my head like as if he was beside me 'Oh Rose you are young. You've barely lived. Everyone thinks their first love is the only one they'll ever have.'
"I just need some time to figure it out before it's too late and before we're only good to hurt each other. Before we make choices for the future that we can't take back. Can you understand that?" He asked and I could see he was actually yearning for my comprehension.
"Sadly I do" I said in a breath, I couldn't help to think that it was the forbidden love that I shared with Dimitri that made him fall and shattered my heart. "It's just….sad."
"I just need time to figure it out even if it will be hard, even for myself to realize that." He said and I saw the anguish in his eyes and it was now my turn to jump for my seat to hug him tight.
"Even if you decided not to get back together with Lissa, I need you to know that you'll always have a friend in me okay?" I said standing up. I needed to go, curfew was getting closer and closer.
"You too Rose. We have so much more in common than most people. Life….Life didn't spare us. "He said awkwardly, he was like me, pretty much disabled when feelings were concerned.
"Eat breakfast with us tomorrow.. Please." I asked with the full force of my sad puppy eyes. "Avoiding her won't help you decide you know."
He looked deep into my eyes before nodding. "You're right, I'll meet you there. Save me a seat," he said before kissing my cheek as I exited.
I was walking back to my room still stunned I never thought Christian and I could become so close but all the battles we fought side by side, Victor, Spokane, the campus, and now our shameful love for still 'living' or dead strigoi. We were friends for life now, I was sure of that.
I was about to enter my dorm when I heard Adrian's voice behind me.
"Oh I finally found you," he said with his usually laid back grin.
"Hello Adrian." I said actually happy to see him. I liked his company, he was always so carefree.
"Always stunning I see," he said giving me a quick hug.
"You too," I said. His black eye had totally faded and he was as gorgeous as ever.
"I wanted to give you that." He said handing be a black folder.
"What's this?" I asked curiously.
"The essay you asked for about why I'm dating material," he said seriously. "Just so you know I never worked as seriously or as hard on something in my whole life."
I looked at him mouth wide open probably looking like a complete idiot.
"I'll see you tomorrow." He said seeing the matron approaching. He quickly kissed my forehead before rushing back toward the guest pavilion.
I looked at the folder stupidly. I really hoped he gave up on me. For now I was still stuck, Dimitri was still half alive somewhere probably organizing my assassination but a promise was a promise. I could hear Abe in my head all over again, our little chat back in Baia.
'I'm never going to be involved with anyone again. Not after Dimitri,' I had said
'Oh Rose you are young. You've barely lived. Everyone thinks their first love is the only one they'll ever have.' He replied
I groaned. "Shut up old man," I whispered walking back to my room