The first time he sees her, dim light of the bar shining softly on her, he cannot look away. She is seated at the bar, nursing a glass of amber liquid, face unreadable. He knows that she's a dhampir, but is also well aware that she isn't a guardian. He glances at her neck when he reaches the bar. No bites, she isn't a blood whore.

"Everyone does that." Her high alto voice is darkly amused.

She was trained to be a guardian, he realizes. He hadn't seen her eyes move, and he knows that his assessment was subtle. "Does what?"

She looks at him, sips her liquor, and considers him. "They look at my neck, wondering if I'm a blood whore or not. Most are Moroi men, of course."

"I'm sure." He keeps his tone neutral, still assessing the young woman.

She laughs, then finishes her drink. With the same motion, she beckons for a refill. The bartender pours whiskey for her. He takes Dimitri's order next, and a moment later gives him vodka.

The woman tilts her glass to him, taking a sip. He mirrors the action, taking the seat beside her. "So," he begins. "Who are you?"

"Rose. You?"

"Dimitri Belikov."

She nods, considering. "I've heard of you. They say you're quite the guardian."

He shrugs. "I do what I need to do to stay alive."

Another laugh escapes her lips as she sips her drink. "Don't we all."

"What brings you to court? You're not a guardian."

She frowns at his observation. "No, I'm not. I'm here to visit some friends, and my mom."

"Your mother lives here?"

A strange expression crosses her face. "For now. She is my friend's guardian, and they live here most of the time."

He nods. "So your mother is a guardian, but you aren't?"

A dark laugh. Another sip of whiskey. "Yes. I was going to be… but I'm not. I have a good job though, for what it's worth. Still…" She sighs, finishing the drink and motioning for a refill.

Taking a swallow, she looks steadily at him. There is pain hiding in the depths of her eyes, and anger. "Have you ever done something you knew was right but everything that came from it sucked?"

He finishes his own drink with a bitter laugh. "Of course."

She gives him a wry smile as his drink is refiled. "But you didn't get kicked out of school for your choices."

He assesses her. Assesses her words. Realizes who she is. "What's your last name?"

She laughs sipping the whiskey. "Hathaway or Mazur, depending on my mood."

"I've heard of you."

She shrugs, tossing her long dark hair over one shoulder. "Everyone has, but none of them know me. No one bothers."

Head cocked to the side, he studies her. He studies the way she holds herself, the way her dark eyes flash with emotion. "I'll listen, if you'll tell me."

She flashes him a genuine smile, slipping off her stool with a graceful movement. Drink full, she beckons him to follow her. He follows. His eyes travel the length of her body as she walks, tracing her curves. She is entrancing to watch.

They sit on a couch in the corner of the bar. He wonders briefly if the seat is clean, but pushes the thought away. When in a bar, it's better not to think about the furniture.

She tells him her story, and he listens. She and the Dragomir Princess ran away from school at fifteen, lived on the run for two years, and were returned to school at seventeen. While Vasilisa was kept at the Academy, Rose was not. She was sent to live with her father, whom she had never met before.

He hired the best trainers and tutors money could buy, but she never stopped worrying about Vasilisa. The girls, now young women, share a psychic bond, which enabled Rose to see and feel everything the Princess endured at school.

She tells him about Victor Dashkov, who was killed a day after kidnapping the princess. Rose had called the school with frantic pleas for them to save Lissa. It took them hours, and discovering the wounded Lord Christian Ozera, to believe her. In that time, Lissa was tortured. Rose doesn't forgive the school. She believes that she should have been there.

Afterward, Rose's mother was reassigned to Lissa. Rose was briefly reunited with her friend that Christmas, but they were forced apart again after the holiday break.

She talks about the attack on St. Vladimir's. She saw it through her bond with the princess, but could do nothing at all to help. Many died, including some of Rose's close friends.

"I should have been there to fight back," she hisses, draining her glass. "She shouldn't have been alone."

"Didn't you say that she had Christian Ozera and Adrian Ivashkov to help her through everything?"

She shrugs. "Yeah, and she still does, but I was supposed to be her protector, and they forced us apart. I could have protected her faster."

He nods. "Yes, I think you would have."

"So comrade, what's your story?"

"Comrade?"

She giggles. "You're Russian aren't you?"

He laughs, taking a sip of his vodka. He tells her about his life. He tells her about his family and friends. He tells her about Ivan Zeklos, the Moroi he guards.

Afterward, she tells him about the work she does now. He listens, fascinated by her life. She has travelled much of the world, working on somewhat questionable business deals with Moroi, dhampirs, and Alchemists. Her father is as infamous as her mother is famous, and she benefits from both of their positions.

"Why are you here tonight?" He asks after a few more drinks.

"Lissa just had her first baby last month. I just met her. She's beautiful…" Her voice trails off, anger and sadness mixing together.

"You wish that you had been here?"

"Yeah."

"Why were you away?"

"Because, as much as she and I want to be in each other's lives, we have our own lives now. We still see each other. We still hang out. We still care. But… we're both twenty-two now. She's married, a mom, and a leader on the Moroi council. I work on shady business deals throughout our world. We aren't the same people any more."

He understands that feeling. "I feel that way whenever I return home. I love my sisters, their kids, my mom, and grandmother, but I don't feel part of it anymore."

She nods. "Why are you here tonight."

He shrugs. "I wanted to get away for a bit. I stayed because I enjoyed the conversation."

"Me too."

They smile at each other.

She yawns, reluctantly checking her watch. "Time to go, I think."

Checking his own watch, he agrees. They stand, walking on somewhat wobbly feet to the bar. She hands the bartender two hundred dollar bills. "That should cover both our bills, and you can keep the change."

"Thank you miss," the bartender says.

She smiles and winks at him. "Any time."

Stunned, Dimitri walks with her to the door. "You didn't have to pay for me."

She laughs. "Pay for me next time."

He smiles as she looks at him. "Alright, I will. Can I walk you back to where you are staying?"

"Such a gentleman," she teases. "I'd love the company."

They walk across court to the permanent residences. She stops in front of one of the larger houses, ready to go inside. "Can I see your phone?"

His look of confusion is met by a laugh. "So I can enter my number."

He complies, handing her his cellphone. She types in the phone, dialing a number. The phone in her own pocket rings as she holds his phone. She hands his back a moment later, ending the call.

"Now we have one another's numbers." She hesitates. "Would you like to come in?"

"I would," he says, regret in his voice, "but I have to wake up fairly early tomorrow. I could see you after my shift, if you want."

"I'd like that." Her smile is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.

He thinks that she will just go inside, but instead, she hugs him. He returns the embrace, enjoying the feel of her in his arms. Tilting her head up, she reaches for him. Unthinking, he bends to her, following her lead. Her lips are soft, and she tastes like whiskey.

They pull apart, breathless.

"See you tomorrow comrade," she says with a laugh.

"See you then," he agrees.

As she disappears into the house, he wonders where this will lead.


AN: I have vague notions of continuing this, but it's intended as a one-shot. If I do continue, it won't be for a long time. Hope you liked it!