Dear Readers, I've been working on this story for the past few weeks and have decided to take the plunge and share it with all of you. It's my first VA fanfic so please be kind. :) I'm from Australia, so I'm not overly familiar with the geography of America. As such, instead of trying to pretend to know (and potentially messing it all up later), I've decided to cart the gang over to Australia. That way, I'll be more certain of the accuracy of locations and other seemingly minute details (e.g. weather), which I'm aware can make or break a story. But for the first part, they will be in New York, so please forgive if I have messed up any of the details.
I hope you enjoy reading, and before we start, most of the characters in my story belong to Richelle Mead (you know the ones). I have invented a few of my own, you will recognize them as they pop up. Happy Reading. :)
Rose's Point of View
'Welcome back!' Lissa threw her arms around me, knocking the air out of my chest. I let out a small grunt as I felt her body slam into mine, 'Oof! I've only been back for 2 minutes and you're already out to kill me,'
Her twinkling laugh resonated through the semi-empty airport. I had just returned from visiting my parents in Scotland for the Christmas period and had flown on the red eye flight back to New York. It was the only flight with seats still available, especially on such short notice during the busiest time of the year. Lissa had called me whilst I was away, insisting that I return before the New Year. She said it was an emergency, and wouldn't let anything else on. I didn't know what was so important that it couldn't wait a few more days. Besides, Mum, Dad and I were going to spend New Years in Spain. Whatever Lissa had planned for, it better be good – I was sure those hot Latino men wouldn't have any problems helping me temporarily forget Dimitri.
I knew I would miss Lissa terribly over the holidays but I had opted to spend the holidays with my parents instead. Lissa and Christian had planned a getaway to some remote mountain ski lodge and the idea of spending long nights seeing Lissa and Christian cozying up to each other in front of a fire whilst a snowstorm raged outside was not my idea of fun, especially because I knew I would get dragged into their lovemaking sessions. Lissa wasn't good at blocking me out when her emotions are raging. So partly because I needed a major break from the two lovebirds, and partly because I rarely get to see my two busy parents, I decided to pay them a rare visit.
It was my first Christmas with the two of them, and it was surprisingly nice. I touched down in Edinburgh on the 15th of December and was welcomed by a strong gust of the North Wind. I hadn't expected it to be that cold so Dad took me took me on a shopping spree the next day. The Christmas sales were on so I had an absolute ball buying clothes. It's great having a rich Dad, who is trying to make up for years of neglect. I think I went slightly overboard because Mum wasn't impressed with the number of shopping bags. We didn't stay in Edinburgh for long because Dad wanted to show me parts of Europe so we embarked on a whirlwind tour of London, Paris, and Rome.
For someone who hated history at school, I was amazed at how interested I was in soaking up all the history and culture of each city. It's true that history is best learned in vivo. I was so caught up with traveling that I almost forgot about Dimitri. Almost, being the functional word here. In Paris, I couldn't help but wish he was with me. I was in the renowned City of Love, surrounded by lovers, engulfed by flashing lights, and my heart couldn't help but yearn for Dimitri. How could I not? It was Paris after all. In Rome, I wished he was with me because I knew how much he would have enjoyed visiting the churches. I could almost hear him give me a lecture on European history as I strolled through the many cathedrals. In Edinburgh, I went on one of their famous ghost tours. I spent most of it trying to suppress a smirk as I felt sorry for the humans; it was probably a good thing they weren't aware of the Strigois. Strigois would make the ghost tour look like a walk in the park. Dimitri would have appreciated my jokes about it. In London, my thoughts wistfully drifted to him as I pub hopped with some new found friends. Dimitri would've called me reckless for going off with strangers, but would've joined me anyway. He would say that he's looking out for me, but secretly I knew that he reveled in the thrill of spontaneity.
'Welcome back, Punk,' Christian called out as he strode through the airport's sliding doors, with Eddie beside him. Eddie was dressed in the usual Guardian attire – black shirt, black slacks. His black sunglasses were propped up on top of his head and he wore his usual casual grin as he spotted me.
'Yeah nice to see you too, Firefly,' I shot back at Christian, knowing the nickname irked him. It was too girly, he once complained. I had smirked to myself in self-satisfaction – it was the exact effect I was going for. Lissa rolled her eyes in exasperation; I shrugged, she was going to have to get used to our bantering. Eddie gave me a tight hug as Lissa bossed Christian to carry my luggage to the car.
'So what's so important that I have to fly back immediately?' I asked as we strode out into the cold wintery night. I breathed in the cold air and smiled. As much as I enjoyed Europe, it was good to be home.
'Geez Rose, did you bring some rocks back or something?' Christian interrupted as he heaved my luggage into the car. Alberta easily lifted the other two and slammed the boot shut, giving Christian a bad scare. Christian made a face behind her back and I laughed out loud, 'someone needs to spend some time at the gym,'
'Someone needs to stop buying crap,'
'Well, someone's not getting his Christmas present if he keeps whining!'
'Guys, lay it off! It's only been half an hour since Rose arrived!' Lissa complained. That managed to shut Christian up; I smirked triumphantly at him.
'Anyway, what is so important that I couldn't visit Spain?' I redirected my attention to Lissa.
'I'm throwing a New Year's Eve party!' she said excitedly. I stared at her blankly for a minute. She made me give up some hot Spanish men for a party? Don't get me wrong, I loved parties, hell I was the life of every party, but if I had to choose, I would've chosen Spain.
'You made me give up some hot Spanish men for this?'
She looked hurt and I immediately felt guilty. 'I suppose they're always going to be there,' I added quickly, trying to make her feel better as we all piled into the car. Alberta drove and Eddie sat in front; whilst I squeezed in the back with Lissa and Christian. I could feel through our bond that Lissa was hiding something from me.
'Okay, spill it. It's not just a New Year's Eve party is it?' I crossed my hands in front of my chest. I knew she couldn't hold on to terribly exciting news for long because she was soon gushing excitedly, 'Christian and I are getting married!'
'Shut your mouth, the flies may get in,' Christian joked. I must have stared agape at Lissa for minutes.
'Married?' I repeated stupidly. When did all of this happen?
Lissa nodded excitedly as she showed me her ring, 'He asked me to marry him on Christmas Day! So we decided we'd have a New Years Eve plus engagement party,'
'Wow!' I said, looking dazedly at her ring. It was beautiful and extravagant. Christian must have spent a lot on it, not that he had to worry about money; none of the Royal Morois ever worried about money. 'Congratulations,' I said soon after, trying to sound as enthusiastic as possible for Lissa. She grinned at me happily, and joy and utter love was flowing through our bond. It wasn't that I wasn't happy for Lissa; I was more than happy for her but her engagement only made me more aware of how painfully alone I was.
'We're getting married in June,' Lissa continued, unable to contain her excitement. I didn't blame her.
'Have you got the rest of your wedding planned out or something?' I teased.
She giggled, 'No, but we know we're going for a pre-wedding trip to Australia!'
'What?' Of all the places… And what was a pre-wedding trip anyway?
'Australia; there will be plenty of tanned, hot surfer boys for you. I'm sure it'll make up for the Spanish men you're missing out on right now,' Lissa teased.
Christian hooted loudly and Eddie snorted as he tried to suppress a smile. I blushed furiously; I wasn't even thinking about the men. 'Whatever,' I said in annoyance, 'What is a pre-wedding trip? Why Australia anyway? Don't they have like kangaroos and crocodiles? Do you think fighting Strigoi is not a challenge enough for me now or something?'
'Christian and I have decided that instead of having a honeymoon, we'd go on a pre-wedding trip. It's really just so that we go when it's summer in Australia. That way, with extended daylight hours, there will be less Strigoi around to worry about. That way, we don't have to bring a whole heap of Guardians with us; besides, the more Guardians we bring, the more we need to convince to not report back to the Queen,'
My best friend was going to do something highly illegal. I couldn't believe it. What happened to Miss Goody Two Shoes? She had been hanging out with the boys too much. I knew that they were interested in practicing offensive magic and would occasionally meet up to discuss new techniques, but this was the most concrete plan I had ever seen them put into place. And it didn't sound good to me.
'And don't be silly,' Lissa chided, 'Kangaroos don't bite and there won't be any crocodiles where we're going,'
'Well, you know how Adrian and I have been practicing Spirit…'
Adrian. 'Where the hell is he anyway?' I asked, noticing his absence for the first time.
'You'll get to see him soon,' Lissa said impatiently. Why didn't he come? I wanted to ask but decided to let Lissa continue with her story. 'Anyway, we've been trying to find someone who can teach us offensive magic and there aren't many people, who can, or rather, dare to,'
I looked at her questioningly. She wants to practice magic on her pre-wedding trip? It was still weird calling it a pre-wedding trip. I didn't know of anyone who did something like that. 'The current laws mean that anyone caught teaching offensive magic will be persecuted,' Lissa said what I had already known. Tatiana had made what was already a ridiculous law even more ridiculous over the past year in a bid to continue trying to highlight to the mostly self-absorbed Moroi population the difference between them and the Strigoi – i.e., Morois aren't as banal as the Strigoi to attack.
'So,' Lissa said dramatically, 'Adrian, Christian and I tried to look for a place we could go to so we could learn offensive magic and it appears that the laws in Australia are actually still quite relaxed. Offensive magic isn't taught in schools, but there's no law that prosecutes anyone who teaches or learns it,'
'Why are you so obsessed with learning offensive magic anyway?' I yawned sleepily; flying takes it out of me, 'You have us to look out for you,'
'I'm just trying to make your job easier for you,' Lissa said irritably, 'Besides, I want to be able to contribute,'
'Surely, it can't be good for you,' I wasn't quite sure about the whole Australia trip; surely she could have picked somewhere better, like Hawaii or something, 'Why would you practice offensive magic on your pre-wedding trip? Surely that can wait; aren't you guys meant to be loved up and all? You know, spend some quality time together?'
'Christian and I thought it would be a good excuse to get away from everything without raising too many suspicions,' Lissa explained. Gee, she was keen.
'So you're going to have Adrian with you on this pre-wedding trip thing?' I stressed. I couldn't think of any less romantic.
Lissa chuckled, 'Not only is Adrian coming with us, the whole gang is; and that includes you,'
'Doesn't sound very romantic to me,' I mumbled. Lissa heard me.
'Don't rain on my parade, Rose,' Lissa sulked, 'Besides, Christian and I will make sure that we spend a good amount of time together; you don't have to worry about that,'
Christian pulled her in for a kiss and I instinctively looked away. I wasn't worried about them not spending enough time together. I was more worried about how I would cope having to be around the lovebirds all the time. There was another reason for my reluctance to leave. Dimitri. Sure, he's all loved up with Tasha, and probably going to become a father any day now, but secretly, I still lived for the days when he and Tasha visited us in New York. Okay, so they've only visited us once in New York since Graduation but that's beside the point. Since graduating from St. Vlad's, Lissa had wanted to learn more about politics and decided to head to New York, convinced that was where she would learn the most. Naturally, as her assigned Guardian, I followed her and so did Christian. I didn't complain; I needed a distraction after Dimitri decided to drop the bombshell on me.
'But what happened to studying?' I asked, grasping for a reason to stay.
'We've been in New York for over a year, Rose. I haven't learned anything about Moroi politics. It's great in terms of learning about human politics, but not Moroi. I should have stayed at Court,' Lissa said dejectedly. I patted her back encouragingly. I knew she felt bad for dragging us across the country to pursue her dream. We all shared an apartment and though I had never heard Christian and her fight, I knew that cracks were starting to form in their relationship. Christian always thought Court would be the best place for Lissa if she wanted to get into politics; but Lissa couldn't stand the bitching and the competition between the Moroi girls. So now, instead of dragging us across the country, she was going to drag us halfway across the world. Great, I thought.
'It was my idea to go to Australia,' Christian confessed, 'Lissa, Adrian and I have had a long chat about this. We know that it's a lot to ask from you guys to come with us; we know that it's a massive move and it'll be hard for all of us; but at the same time, we think that this is a rare opportunity for us to really up our battle skills,'
'What about going back to Court to learn politics?' I persisted.
'I can always learn politics anytime. Christian's right. This is a rare opportunity for us,' Lissa explained. But what about me, I wanted to ask but decided to keep my mouth shut.
'How long are we going there for?' I asked quietly. I could already feel my heart start to sink.
'3 months,' Lissa replied and I nearly choked. 3 months was a long time. 'It's a long time, I know,' Lissa echoed my thoughts, 'and if you really don't want to come, I can always request for a replacement for the 3 months,' she must have sensed my reluctance.
'Of course not,' I said, trying to inject as much enthusiasm into my voice as possible, 'I go wherever you go, remember? And if that's what you want, then… I'm sure it'll be fun for me too,' I tried to take comfort in the fact that there would be a lot of hot Australian men for me to feast my eyes upon.
She grinned happily at me and gave me a big hug as Alberta pulled into the secure car park spot of our apartment. Alberta, Eddie and I hauled my luggage into the lift whilst Christian and Lissa decided to take the other lift – I had a lot of luggage.
'Ah home!' I exclaimed as I flicked on the lights. I rushed to my beanbag and promptly plopped myself on it. I smiled contentedly as I sank into it. Eddie chuckled as he chucked some nachos into the microwave.
'You're a God send, Eddie! I'm starving,' I cried, jumping out of my bean bag as Christian and Lissa strolled in. I felt Lissa's nerves through our bond and knew something else was up. I decided that I'd wait until morning before asking her; I was dead tired and hungry. The microwave beeped and I gave a small cheer. Eddie brought the plate over to the dining table and I promptly stuffed my face with nachos. Lissa only picked at it. I wasn't too concerned; Morois didn't need much food anyway.
'Okay, I'm off to bed! See you in the morning!' I announced after Eddie and I devoured the nachos. It wasn't the healthiest of meals, but it sure tasted good.
'Uh, Rose,' Lissa started testily, 'I have something to tell you,'
'Can it wait? I'm dead tired,' I said, yawning loudly. I planned on visiting Adrian, but it would have to wait until morning. Lissa, Christian and I shared an apartment; whilst Adrian lived next door to us with his two Guardians – Peter and David – and Eddie. Mia and Ayeshah, Lissa's Moroi friends, lived together a floor below us; and Alberta, Katie and Tanya lived next door to them. Katie and Tanya were Mia and Ayeshah's Guardians respectively. Mia had insisted on not having a Guardian, but because she came to New York with us, Tatiana insisted that she have a Guardian.
'Well… Your room is kinda occupied,' Lissa said nervously.
I snapped out of my sleepy haze quickly, 'What do you mean by, 'kinda occupied'?'
'Well… Tasha and Dimitri are here for the engagement…'
I felt my heart stop.
'And they're staying in your room,'
I looked at Lissa in disbelief. Seriously, couldn't they have stayed in a hotel or something? Where the hell was I meant to sleep? Does she mean they're in there sleeping now? That's my bed they're in, I thought angrily. A part of me was thrilled at the idea of having Dimitri in my bed. Alas, he wasn't in it with me!
'So where the hell am I going to sleep?' I demanded. Eddie cleverly excused himself to do the dishes.
'You can sleep in our room?' Lissa said sheepishly.
'It was my fault; it was a last minute invitation and all the hotels were booked out,' Lissa added quickly, 'you know, because it's New Years and all,'
I let out a yell of frustration. Welcome home, indeed! Could this night get any worse?
Dimitri's Point of View
'Pack your bags, Dimka,' Tasha sang as she sauntered into the living room. I was flicking through the TV channels, trying to look for something interesting to watch. I looked up at her quizzically. She looked like she was in a good mood.
'We're going to New York!' she announced happily. New York? I felt my stomach sink. It could only mean one thing. We're going to visit her nephew, Christian Ozera. And visiting Christian meant visiting Lissa. And visiting Lissa meant visiting Rose. Ah, Rose. The cause of all my sleepless nights.
'Aren't you going to ask why?' Tasha interrupted my thoughts. I smiled patiently at her, knowing that she would tell me soon enough.
'Christian just asked Lissa to marry him!' she bubbled enthusiastically and I couldn't help but be shocked by this latest piece of news. But he's just a boy! I wanted to say, but decided to keep it to myself. It must be lovely to be young and in love. It must be lovelier to be with the one you love, I thought bitterly.
'Wow, congratulations!' I tried to inject as much enthusiasm into my response as possible. It was clear that Tasha was more than excited about the impending nuptials of her nephew. To me, it only meant that I was bound to see Rose more often and the thought was as thrilling as it was horrifying.
I remember the day I left her. It was her Graduation and she had beamed happily at me as she received her Promise Mark and was assigned to her best friend, Princess Vasilissa Dragomir. She had never looked so radiant and my heart overflowed with pride and love for her. Naturally, she was the best in her class. She liked to attribute her success to the extra training she undertook with me; but she was born to be a Guardian. I couldn't think of anyone who deserved the Promise Mark more than she did. I knew that she and her friends had planned to attend a party that night and she had more than once hinted that she would love for me to be her date. And there was nothing that I would've wanted more. I would've loved to hold her in my arms, twirl her around her dance floor and for once, kiss her in front of everyone.
Instead, I decided to follow my head instead of my heart. Guardians never fell in love. It was an unspoken code. What was the point of falling in love when it wouldn't amount to anything but rejection by society at large and possibly bureaucratic retribution? She was young, her career had just started, and she was full of hope and optimism. If I let myself love her, she will face ridicule and may potentially lose her position as Lissa's official Guardian. I couldn't take it all away from her just because of something as selfish as love. So I did what I thought would be the best for her. I left her.
Until this day, I could see the hurt, confusion, anger and betrayal in Rose's eyes when I broke the news to her. She had demanded to know why I had been stringing her along all this time, only to leave her when she was finally 18, finally a Guardian. I tried to tell her that it was because she didn't need me anymore, that she was good enough to stand on her own, that I had trained the best Guardian there ever would be in a long time. She saw through my guise and called my bluff. She knew, she always knew. So, with the heaviest of hearts, I told her that she was just an infatuation, some girl who caught my eye whilst I was at the Academy. I told her that I was lonely, that I needed someone to distract me. And that, that was all she was. I told her I never loved her. It was by far the hardest thing I had ever had to do, but it had to be done.
I could almost see her heart break as I said those cruel, unforgiving words. I was certain she was going to call my bluff again. I tried to sound as convincing as possible, I had to. I had to convince her that she was better off without me. Her lip had wavered slightly as she struggled for control. As soon as I said those words, I wanted to take them back. I wanted to hold her tight and beg her for forgiveness. I wanted to tell her how much she really meant to me, how much I loved her, how I couldn't see a future without her. Instead, I wore my sternest expression as I willed myself not to cave. For a second, I thought she was going to cry but thankfully she didn't. I didn't think I would be able to continue my facade for much longer if she did.
'And you were just an older guy, plenty of them out there,' she spat at me before turning on her heels to leave. That's my girl, I had thought to myself. She was always a fighter. I knew her bravado was to prevent people from getting to her. I knew underneath it all was a vulnerability that only a privileged few were allowed to catch a glimpse of. Her words had stung, but I was more worried about her. I wanted to reach out to comfort her, but knew that it wasn't my place to anymore. So, I convinced myself that she would be fine, that she was strong enough. It was the only way I could ease any of the guilt and regret I felt.
'So why are we going to New York?' I brought my attention back to Tasha who was, by now surfing the internet for engagement gifts. Christian's engagement was exciting news, but it still didn't explain why we're visiting New York. The Christmas-New Year period was the worst time to visit. I was sure there wouldn't be any hotels available.
'For their engagement party of course!' she said incredulously, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Her eyes never left her laptop screen.
'But it's New Year's Eve soon, how are we going to find any accommodation?' I tried not to sound desperate. I wasn't sure if I was ready to see Rose again. Tasha and I had visited New York shortly after Graduation and Rose made herself rather scarce at that time but the few glimpses I caught of her seriously tested my willpower to stand by my decision. It was as if she had grown more captivating in the few weeks after Graduation. I didn't trust myself to think about how much more beautiful she had grown over the past year.
'Oh don't worry Dimka; you're such a worry wart. Lissa's offered us to stay in Rose's room. Apparently, she's away for the holidays with her parents,'
Rose's room? I felt a lump rise up behind my throat and I felt the increasing need to talk a cold shower. I took comfort in knowing that Rose wouldn't be there, but Rose's room. It would smell of her. That intoxicating combination of soap, shampoo and moisturizer that she always wore. I prayed that I wouldn't be caught out.
I became Tasha's Guardian after I resigned as Lissa's. Tasha always made her feelings clear to me and initially, I thought it would be a good idea to try and make things work with her. Not long after, it was evident to both of us that my heart just wasn't in it. Amicably, we decided to stop being involved romantically and remain friends. The thing I loved about Tasha was that she was such a compassionate and understanding person and I was guilt-ridden for weeks after we 'broke up'. Amazingly, she read me like a book and immediately demanded that I stop feeling guilty. I never told her about Rose as I didn't think it was necessary. She had tried to set me up with a few of her friends before, but I always told her that I was too busy worrying about guarding her to be involved with anyone. In truth, my heart already belonged to someone else. I had just chosen to let her go. I often oscillated between praising myself for being unselfish and cursing myself for being a total idiot. I think total idiot is currently winning the tally.
'Congratulations!' Tasha squealed as Lissa opened the door to the apartment she shared with Christian and Rose. Lissa was glowing with excitement. It must be pretty exciting for her to get engaged. Lissa showed us to Rose's room and I hauled both Tasha and my luggage in. We were only staying for a week, but Tasha seemed to have brought her entire wardrobe with her. She insisted that she needed all those clothes.
I quietly surveyed Rose's room whilst Lissa and Tasha chatted excitedly about the party. Tasha was gushing over the ring that Christian had bought Lissa. I was sure it was beautiful but I couldn't bring myself to be as fascinated with it as Tasha was. I was more interested in Rose's room. A part of me felt like a creep, like I was intruding on an extremely intimate part of Rose's life that I had no right to be in. But a part of me couldn't help but feel thrilled at the prospect of being granted the privilege of staying in her room. I was right. Her room smelt exactly like her and it made me go weak at the knees.
Her room was neat and practical. It wasn't what I imagined a girl's room to be like. I had expected a room full of teddy bears and pink paraphernalia; instead, neutral tones of brown, white and black dominated most of the place. Her Queen sized bed sat in the middle of the room and I felt myself start to entertain thoughts of Rose in bed. Quickly, I distracted myself with photos that she had pasted beside her full length mirror. They were photos of herself with her friends. I spent a while gazing at them; she had grown more beautiful than I had thought possible. Most of the photos were of her partying. A particular one that I liked was one that caught her in mid-laughter. She had laughter in her eyes. I smiled wistfully to myself, she was so beautiful.
Then I saw a photo that made my insides turn cold. It was a self-taken image, with Adrian Ivashkov kissing Rose's cheek and Rose was grinning into the camera. I felt a sudden need to rip the photo off the wall and tear it up. There were other similar photos of Rose with her arms around Adrian but that was the only one of the two of them in an intimate pose. The green eyed monster within me reared its ugly head. I hadn't seen it in a while. You left her remember? I tried to rationalize with myself; she's free to date whoever she wants. But no matter what I tried to tell myself, I couldn't help but feel a familiar animosity towards Adrian. I raked my hands through my hair in frustration as I tried to calm myself down.
'What are you still doing in here?' Tasha opened the door to Rose's room suddenly, cutting through my thoughts, causing me to jump. I felt myself blush, as if I had been caught doing something illegal.
'Oh I uh… Was just having a look,' I gestured lamely at the photos. Thankfully, she didn't notice my awkwardness. She came over to have a look and gushed over how much Rose has grown and how beautiful she was, as if I needed reminding. Lissa came over to explain each photo to Tasha, and I excused myself. I was lost in my own thoughts about Rose. It was as if her presence permeated the apartment, despite her absence. There was no escaping my demons, I realized, I might as well get used to being in a living hell.