The next twelve hours were the longest of my life. Everything else that had once seemed wrong- my mother abandoning me, Lissa's depression, Mason's death- seemed trivial compared to how I felt right now. Without Dimitri, my life was shattered. What was the point of living without him?
All around me, novices were huddled in groups with their friends, buzzing with the night's excitement. It was the first time many of them had seen a Strigoi and they were all eager to tell their version of the night's events. Most of the discussions were hushed.
A gloomy air hung over the hall as people remembered the Moroi and guardians who hadn't been so lucky. Suddenly, I felt the urge to leave.
I knew the smart thing to do was to go to my dorm or Lissa. Through the bond, I could feel her calling me. She was worried, concerned, and scared. Normally, I would have hurried to her side but at the moment I couldn't bring myself to care. She didn't need me and I just wanted to be alone.
So, I went to the chapel. It was the middle of the day. At this time, it would normally be deserted, but not today. It was full of people- crying and praying.
I ignored them and made my way to an empty pew near the back. There I sat and relived the scene that I couldn't get out of my head: The blond Strigoi grabbing Dimitri and pulling him to the ground. And then his fangs sinking into his neck.
I shuddered and attempted to push the scene from my mind. Dimitri couldn't be dead- and he definitely couldn't be Strigoi. He was too good, too pure. He couldn't be gone now after everything we had been through. I closed my eyes and found myself kneeling.
I had never been religious, and I had never prayed but this seemed as good a time as any. I desperately tried to put my feelings into prayer and came up with nothing. No words could describe how I felt at this moment. Finally, I gave up and curled into a ball. I heard a hoarse cry and realized it was my own. Even with the pain that was coursing through me, I realized something. I couldn't live without Dimitri. There was no way I could live without him. No way I could go on in my classes, and graduate and live my life like nothing was wrong. No way could I survive when my heart was shattered like this.
I didn't know how long I had been sitting in the chapel- it might have been hours, days, weeks, even months. I was beyond caring.
I felt Lissa's feelings through the bond seconds before she entered the chapel. Although she was still concerned for me, I could feel her elation and satisfaction through the bond. There was something else- guilt?
Her feelings puzzled me and I looked up questioningly as she came closer. "Rose, he's okay! They found Dimitri!"
I blinked at her, afraid to believe what she was saying. Through our connection, she relayed a series of images that took away my doubt- Dimitri entering the infirmary. He looked pretty beat up, but he was conscious. And then he looked normal. The scars and bruises that had marred his skin were no longer visible and he was sitting up.
"You healed him?" I asked incredulously. Dimitri had been hurt so badly and healing him must have drained her. Yet, she was still standing here. "How?" I whispered hoarsely.
"I've been practicing with Adrian, Rose. I barely felt anything and Dimitri's okay! I know I shouldn't have, but I knew how much you cared about him and-"
"Thank you," I whispered, cutting her off. I looked up and her with as much gratitude as I could muster. Surprise flooded me. I knew that Adrian and Lissa had been practicing, but the extent of her power amazed me.
She smiled back and I could feel her pride and satisfaction through the bond. He'd want to see you. She added
I nodded, and jumped to my feet. Excitement coursed through me at the prospect of seeing Dimitri again.
I raced to the infirmary, barely noticing where I was going and who I was bumping into. None of it mattered- not when Dimitri was waiting.
Dr. Olendzki smiled when she saw me, "Hello, Rose."
"Where's D- Guardian Belikov?" I asked.
"He's still healing, and I don't think he's up for any visitors right now."
I glared at her. She was average-sized for a Moroi and I could easily push past her. Just as I was about to, my mother entered the room.
Despite everything that had happened, she was still poised and in control. I envied how composed she was. "May I see Guardian Belikov?"
Dr. Olendzki nodded and stepped aside. I scurried after my mother, ignoring the warning glance the doctor shot towards me.
When I caught sight of Dimitri, I froze. He looked as much of a god as ever. His soft, dark hair had almost completely escaped his ponytail and was now tucked behind his ears. No scars or bruises were visible on his skin and for a second it seemed as though the night's events were only a terrible dream.
His deep brown eyes caught mine. They were filled with tenderness and concern. The air between us was electrified and it was a wonder that my mother didn't notice it. But then again, when had she ever noticed anything?
She was the first one to break the silence, "Well, Guardian Belikov it's good to see you well. You gave us quite a scare." She had no idea how true her words were.
Dimitri inclined his head respectively, though his eyes never left mine. "Thank you Guardian Hathaway."
My mother glanced between the two of us and nodded, "Well," she said brusquely, "I have to get going." Maybe she did know more than she let on.
When she left, I rushed to Dimitri's side. "I was so worried," I whispered, "They didn't know where you were and I was so afraid. I thought you were dead, or worse-" I broke off, unable to continue.
Looking into his eyes, I saw that I didn't need to. He understood, just as he always had. "It's okay, Roza," he murmured, "I'm here now. Didn't I tell you I always would be?"
I nodded and let him hold me as I cried, the night's sorrow finally catching up to me.
Eventually I looked up and I saw that a single tear ran down his cheek. I opened my mouth to ask him what was wrong, but his mouth met mine in a kiss that was fierce, yet gentle and more passionate than anything I had ever felt before.
When we broke apart, I looked up at him questioningly. I knew what we were doing was wrong- the doctor could walk in on us at any moment and the feelings we had hid since last fall would be revealed.
"Tonight, as I lay there on the floor I realized how easily things could change. I realized how easily I could lose you and that scared me. For my whole life, I've guarded Moroi and put their interests before mine- and that's what always seemed to be the right thing to do. But there's a point in life where you have to choose."
"And you chose me," I murmured.
A tiny smile played on his lips, but his voice was serious. "Roza, I realized how much you meant to me. I can't put any Moroi's life over you- not even Lissa's. Pretending that I can is useless." His eyes met mine, "One you graduate, I'm going to ask to be reassigned."
I opened my mouth to protest, but I realized that he was right. If we were Lissa's guardians we would put each other before her and she deserved someone who would look out for her whole-heartedly.
"I'm going to be asked to be assigned to the Court. That way, we can be together." He added.
I glanced at him and couldn't keep from smiling. This was going to work. He would always be close by. In a secure place like the Court, a guardian's schedule was flexible. We could spend far more time together like this than we ever could if we were both Lissa's guardians. Most importantly, we wouldn't have to hide our relationship. We would no longer have to lie.
"I love you," I murmured.
"I love you too, Rosa. Always and forever," he promised.
Then we kissed and I couldn't remember being happier.