A/N: please don't kill me! right when i finished the chapter, my computer decided to restart and install updates before I could save an install the damn updates! That thing is so annoying. Anyways, here are my comments: rummage sales are really fun as well as typewriters, vintage and red are in this season, Gaelic Storm is amazing, this is just a transition chapter (ergo the shortness), and llama beanies are amazing and sometimes itchy. Enjoy!

Chapter 14


Lissa wouldn't calm down. She felt nervous, excited, and anxious all at the same time. She talked excessively like she always does when she gets excited about something. I felt bad for Christian, who had his ear talked off. He nodded, shook his head, smiled, and chuckled at all the appropriate moments to make her feel a little better.

"Liss," she kept talking to Christian. "Liss," I said a little firmer. She started moving onto another topic and finally, I shouted, "Lissa!" She turned around, a little shocked. Thankfully, she went quiet. "It's okay; you don't have to talk your poor boyfriend's ear off when you get a little anxious. You're going a little over-board. Calm down before you have a heart attack or make me remove your voice box."

She smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry, to you especially Christian," she patted his shoulder, "but I just can't help it!" she started fidgeting with her fingers and twiddling her thumbs. "The queen isn't exactly that fond of me, and living at court is making me a little nervous."

Ever since her public embarrassment from Queen Tatiana, her self confidence has plummeted. She always second guesses herself. Even though that сука ("sooka". My first Russian curse word! –Courtesy of Adrian) would move heaven and earth to get her there, Lissa still felt like she had so much to live up to because of what we did over two years ago.

She and Christian settled into an easy conversation while I turned to my preferred company. "So, any last words of wisdom before throwing me to the sharks?" I asked Dimitri. "These are my last few moments as an off duty guardian. Any words on what to expect in my first year?"

He looked like a guardian on duty, as always. His black slacks made him look taller and his black v-neck t-shirt fit him perfectly, accentuating his perfectly chiseled torso. I forced my eyes up to his face, where a famous half smile greeted me.

"Rose, I really don't have much advice to give to you. You've experienced most of what is to be experienced, despite being a student. You are focused—most of the time—driven, and very serious about what you do. I can't imagine a better guardian than you." I smiled at the compliment. They used to come on a rare occasion, but now a little more often. I took in every one of them.

"Uh, I can think of a better one," I noted. "His name rhymes with…well, his name is Dimitri." Is there something that rhymes with Dimitri?

He looked skeptical. "Yes, because I'm the very epitome of a good guardian: letting myself be taken by the strigoi and hurting you. I think that's a double hit."

I shrugged. "What can I say? My bad-ass strigoi radar runs full time. Maybe you should get one. It gives you a couple moments' notice to get your ass into gear instead of being a sitting duck. Maybe you should do a little meditation; get in touch with your inner Chi. It raises the awareness of your surroundings." Hurray for random Google searches!

"Maybe I should," he conceded. "Maybe you should consider loosing the cocky attitude before someone believes you are conceited."

I rolled my eyes. "I am conceited, and you love my cocky ass. Second guessing myself isn't something I do; I go with my gut instinct most of the time and fair just fine. All the same, you love my spontaneity and cockiness."

His arms wrapped around me, feeling colder than usual, and leaned in closer to my face. "Of course I do, and don't you ever second guess it." His lips brushed mine for a moment and I smiled to myself. He left it way too open.

"Would you be willing to say that in front of a minister?" His uncharacteristically shocked expression made me laugh. Hard. He rolled his eyes, but smiled nonetheless. "I'm sorry," I gasped. "I just wanted to see the look on your face," I chuckled again. "You didn't disappoint."

"I'm glad I amuse you."

I loved being with Dimitri this way. We didn't worry about labels or anything that involved our public relationship. Being with him felt so easy, so comfortable. It felt that way until I heard what sounded like a cat dying; which was actually Adrian singing.

"I'm all alone," he wailed, "There's no one here beside me." He swung his head over to me dramatically. "But you gotta have friends!"

"Oh, shut it Adrian!" I pushed him away. "Be quiet before you cause someone to go deaf." Despite the fact that without Adrian I would've never found Dimitri, I still wanted to murder him half the time for annoying the hell out of me.

He slung a lazy arm around my shoulders, smelling of cloves and heavy alcohol. "What?" he yelled deafeningly in my ear. I winced and shoved him hard.

Glowering, I retorted, "Very funny Adrian." Before I could beat him to a pulp for bursting my ear-drum, the pilot called for us to board the plane. While Lissa continued to talk Christian's ear off (despite my efforts to calm her), I muttered about Adrian's elaborate, mysterious murder all the way to my window seat. Dimitri took the seat next to me.

"The only people you are permitted to murder aren't people—they're monsters. So don't go planning Ivashkov's mysteriously inexplicable death." He sent me a sidelong glance, saying don't do anything stupid that could ruin what we've worked for. He returned his eyes to his western novel.

"How many times have you read that one?" I asked him. There are only so many western novels in the world and I'm fairly certain that he possesses all of them.

"The number escapes me," he answered. Either that or he is just too lazy to search for the number at the moment. I decided to take advantage of his distracted state to find out some answers that he's avoided giving me this week. Ever since we've come out of the closet (so to speak), we've felt a tremendous weight lifted off of our shoulders. We felt that nothing was keeping us apart; yet he still kept some things to himself.

"So who are you guarding now?" I asked. That was the question that had been bugging me. I wanted to be close to him while we were at court, but that would be dangerous to Lissa. So I didn't know which one I wanted more: having him close to me but putting Lissa in danger, or not having him close to me and keeping her safe (just putting me through agony). Then again, how was that any different from under the daily basis that I take away her slight depression or slight anger.

He either wanted to keep it from me because it's a person who I like and wanted to keep it a surprise, or it was someone I loathed and wanted him to stay the hell away from or is just keeping it a secret so I don't kill somebody. My guess is the latter.

"I'll give you ten guesses." I heard a bit of grudge in his voice and I just knew.

"Please tell me you're joking," I said flatly. I chanced a glance down the aisle at the traitor. "Doesn't this place us in the same situation that we faced with Lissa?"

Dimitri didn't change his expression when he turned the page in his novel. "He is aware of the situation, which is why I agreed to guard him."

I could tell what was running through his mind. I'm not sure how acutely aware he was on Adrian and I's agreement before I left, but he wasn't about to risk anything. "I never really took you for a 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer' kind of guy." I took him for the 'keep your friends close and kill your closer enemies' kind of guy. He was very close to killing Victor Dashkov when he threatened to enlighten everyone in court about our interlude.

Talking to him made me forget that the plane was taking off which made the inevitable headache that much worse. I slapped my palms to my temples with a gasp. "Son of a bitch," I gasped.

Dimitri seemed to know that I was talking about the headache, not Adrian. He put his book down and hovered over me. "Rose?" His voice sounded a little panicked, which meant he was a mess as to what to do.

Figures started to appear in my vision and I whispered sternly, "Go away." The silhouettes dispersed and cleared my vision, but it only dulled the headache a little bit.

"Roza," he whispered, "are you alright?" He rubbed my back and ran his hand over my hair (he did it almost obsessively now). I didn't want to open my eyes because of the lights in the cabin. I tried to hone in my pain, but a whimper escaped my lips. He held me into his side. "Just sleep it off. I'll wake you when the plane lands," he whispered tightly.

There was a tremulous note to his voice. I could tell then and there how much it tortured him to see me in pain and not be able to do anything about it. He couldn't bear not being able to control the dangers that surround me. He hated seeing me in pain, and would take it on himself if he could. It agonized him to no end when it was something inevitable, unavoidable, and incurable.

I took his advice and fell asleep. I didn't dream or anything. Just blackness surrounded the dream. The pain didn't recede, but having Dimitri's arms around me made it a hell of a lot easier. He relaxed me without even trying. When he spoke to me, my mind cleared. When he touched me, all tension dissipated. I loved that about him. I wondered if I had the same effect on him. Everything seemed so much easier around him. Ever since my first break-down with him after I woke up, I've never felt like I had to be perfect for him. God knows I'm far from it, but Dimitri used to make me want to try anyways. Now I feel like he loves listening to what is on my mind. He doesn't mind listening to my banter or my revelations. I trusted him enough to be able to tell him anything and everything. Lissa, not as much anymore, but I do try.

When I felt myself stir, I realized I wasn't on the plane anymore. I had myself lying on a very soft bed with very soft sheets wrapped around a hard and warm body. I barely opened my eyes and squinted upwards. Dimitri had an arm wrapped around me while staring out the window, where the sun was on the rise.

He looked beautiful. I know it sounds odd to say that about a man, but seeing him shirtless with the suns morning rays lighting up his dark eyes, giving his brown hair gold highlights, and making his skin glow made him look god-like.

"I thought you were going to wake me up when the plane landed," I mumbled. He looked down at me with soft eyes and an easy smile.

"You were exhausted. You needed your sleep, so I carried you to our new bedroom." I loved his terminology. Ours. "You've been passed out since you first fell asleep."

"And you haven't gotten any sleep at all," I argued. "I think you've been up longer than I have and yet you are still up." I ran my hand across him bare chest. "You should sleep." He just looked at me as if I was the sun itself. His expression made me smile.

"I'm not tired." From the expression on his face, it looked like he would rather just watch me all night.

"We'll have to fix that," I muttered to myself. I got out from under the covers and found myself braless in one of Dimitri's black, v-neck guardian t-shirts. I didn't mind at all. I hope he didn't mind if he never got his shirt back. "Is it hot in here or is it just me?" I asked, fanning myself with the shirt.

"It's actually quite cool in here," he said, half understanding my drift.

"Well, I guess we'll have to fix that, too." I quickly pulled the shirt off. Dimitri didn't smirk, grin seductively, or even stare at my exposed body. He gazed at me admiringly. He didn't look at me as a piece of meat or a disposable pleasure; he looked at me like I was a meaningful pursuit and a beautiful person.

I flung my leg over him to straddle his torso. He stared into my eyes. His eyes didn't roam anywhere else. Slowly, I lowered my lips onto his and cupped my hands around his neck. I felt like someone had lit a fire in me, and I think Dimitri felt it, too. His hands roamed down my sides and held onto my hips. They wrapped around me as he twisted himself until he hovered over me. He reached his hand down and hooked my leg around him. Our kiss grew more heated and we lost ourselves in each other. We were more than happy to.

After we'd finished, we both passed out. We whispered 'I love you's' as we held each other, drifting off into a blissful sleep.

I was a little surprised to wake up later alone, but I heard Dimitri doing something not far from the bed. I turned over and saw him unpacking some of his bags on the floor, sitting criss-cross. His hair was slightly a mess. He wore loose work-out pants and a t-shirt, looking relaxed as ever. I crawled out of bed and slipped on the t-shirt I quickly discarded earlier. He looked up and smiled at me.

"Hey," I greeted. He opened his arms, inviting me to sit with him. I complied and sat between his legs, letting him wrap his arms around me. He kissed my temple and I closed my eyes.

"Did you sleep well?" He asked me.

"Yes. Did you?"

"Yes, actually, thanks to you." I blushed slightly. Blushed? Weird.

"Anytime," I said honestly. He continued to touch my hair. "Do you like touching my hair?" I asked with playful sarcasm. I don't think he'd stopped touching it since the plane ride.

"Now that I can do it freely, I don't think I'll be able to stop. Not that I want to, but it's so beautiful." He murmured a few words in Russian that I didn't understand. They sounded like gentle and kind words. He began sorting through his things again which were very few. I got up from his lap and took a look around. The bed was huge: a head-board made of intricately carved wood, the comforter and sheets were made of the softest white cotton, and the carpet of the richest red. The two end tables matched the wood of the head-board. To the right of the bedroom was the bathroom blocked by double doors. I stepped through them and found a very luxurious bathroom. Marble floors, granite countertops, and a shower with two heads decorated the room. The tub (whirlpool, of course) looked big enough for at least three people.

"How'd you manage to get the digs?" I asked Dimitri. "This seems a little much for a couple guardians who aren't going to be around much." He probably would be, with Adrian here most of the time, but I would be at college with Lissa come fall time. Another door in the bathroom led to a huge closet with mahogany shelving.

"This room was made to accommodate Moroi," he called from the bedroom. "This was the only room I could get that was big enough for the both of us." Ah, the bed, I realized. I'm guessing guardian housing here isn't that much different from back at the academy: a twin bed, a desk, and a small closet.

"Which side of the closet do you want?" I asked him, walking back into the room, picking up my bags containing clothes.

"Preferably the one you don't occupy," he said vaguely. I guess it's his way of saying he really doesn't care.

I shrugged and just started putting my clothes away on the left side. It's not like I owned that many clothes anyways. I found on one shelf there were already clothes waiting: casual and formal black guardian outfits. They reminded me of my duty and why I was here. I closed my eyes and sought out Lissa. She was still sleeping; dreaming.

"It's almost sun-down. The Moroi here won't be up for another hour or two," Dimitri said from the closet entrance.

I turned to look at him. He leaned casually against the door frame and crossed his arms. "So where's Lissa?" I asked. "Are we doing anything today?" Guardians don't get days off so easily.

As I continued putting away my clothes, he explained, "There's a luncheon today welcoming the Moroi that are staying here. A lot come during the summer to take advantage of the festivities. We will both be on duty there. After that, you will be guarding from the east garden outside. Our shift ends around six or seven. Then we switch with the day shift."

"How do you know all this? Is there a guardian news-letter or something, or am I just really uninformed?" He seemed to know everything that was going on.

"They explained it after the flight yesterday. That headache took a lot out of you, so I decided to inform you later." He was pampering me. He is always spoiling me or taking care of me. Why wouldn't he let me take care of him? I felt like I had to be strong and just suck up to the downs of being a guardian, but he always contradicted that idea with little things like letting me sleep in, getting me out of trouble, or helping me sneak around.

But I couldn't do those things anymore. I was a guardian now. Lissa's life was fully in my hands. I protected Lissa for two years, but it feels different this time. We don't have our own schedules, I have other people to watch out for, and I felt like people were expecting something of me. During those two years of guarding Lissa, all I focused on was keeping her safe. Hopefully, it won't be that much more difficult.

"You okay?" Dimitri asked. I was startled when I saw him standing right next to me. "You zoned out and had a very pensive expression on your face. What's on your mind?" He ran his fingers along the length of my arm.

"I guarded Lissa on my own for two years. The only thing I was guarding her from was the academy's trackers, but now there is so much more danger to it. Moroi are being targeted so much more now. I feel like everything has changed since then. I don't want to say that I doubt myself, but I'm just not as sure as I was a year ago." I'm not sure how well he would understand what I said. Did he ever feel my uncertainties?

He took me by the shoulders to force me to look at him in the eyes. "Roza," he said thickly, "you are the most amazing guardian. You've already had so much experience in the field. You've beaten me at least twice, and that's saying something." His cockiness made me smile. His utmost faith in me gave me the little strength I needed to feel more confident. Then he said something a little more passionately. "You are perfect," he told me heatedly.

I didn't believe that one bit. I was far from perfect, and everyone knew that. My judgment sucked for a while, my manners are terrible, and my language and terminology aren't always the best route to take.

He continued to explain by saying, "You are perfect for me," he cupped my cheeks and I looked into his dark, passionate eyes. "If you ever lose faith in yourself, know that I will always love you, no matter what." Our lips were too close.

I pressed my lips teasingly light to his. He pressed back tenfold and had his arms around me in no time at all. He slipped his hands slightly under my (his) shirt to grab a hold of my hips and I wrapped my legs around him. Until that moment, I'd forgotten I didn't have any underwear on. He carried me off to our bed, where we entertained ourselves until the sun went down.

We finally got dressed for the day after much procrastination. Dimitri became a little bit annoyed with my slow pace.

"Rose, you can't stay in bed all day. You need to get dressed. We have to leave here in five minutes and you need to look ready," he chastised me.

"Procrastinate now, don't put it off," I told him. Despite the fact that he was slightly annoyed, he had to smile at that. As it turns out, I was ready in the given five minutes. My new suit fit me perfectly and I wore my hair up.

"Ready to go?" He opened the bedroom door. I gave a nod and walked through the doorway.

And so my first day as an official guardian began.