My heart pounded in my chest. I gripped my hands behind my back, the knuckles turning white, although I couldn't see them. I couldn't breathe, but stayed respectfully calm.
"Miss Hathaway, due to recent events, you have been released of all charges placed against you in this Court."
A breath was released from the gallery, and a sob, most likely from Lissa, and I immediately shot up out of my chair and wrapped my arms around Abe, who looks just as shocked and happy as I'm sure I did. "Thanks. Dad," I whispered.
I could feel him smile as he rested his chin on the top of my head. "My pleasure, sweetheart."
Freedom. I was free. Free from prison, free from Tasha. I shudder involuntarily. It was not something I wanted to remember. I could just imagine her, wild eyed, running towards me. The guardians had run her to the infirmary, but it was too late. She was gone.
Turning to the gallery, I saw all of my friends rush up to the gate and throw it open. Surprisingly, my mother was the first one through, throwing her arms around me. "Oh thank God," she whispered.
"Mom. Mom, really, I'm fine. Relax, okay?" I soothed awkwardly.
She pulled away and held my head in her hands, her thumb stroking my cheek. I smiled at her, but finally pulled away to face a hysterical Lissa. She practically jumped into my arms.
"Whoa, Liss," I laughed. "Slow down. Christian might get jealous."
Lissa laughed and hiccuped. "I'm so glad you're alright, Rose. I've missed you so much. I can't believe your finally free."
"I can't believe it either," I say truthfully. "I'll always be here, okay? Whether you know I'm there or not." She sniffled and nodded, giving me one last hug before stepping back to let Adrian through. He wrapped his arms around me, and I can barely detect the scent of cigarettes. The alcohol, unfortunately, is still strong. It's still his way to deal with stress. Better than nothing, I suppose.
"You had everyone worried, Little Dhampir," he murmured. I smiled against his chest and pulled away, just enough to get a good look at him.
"Thanks for everything, Adrian. I love you. I really do," I said, and I meant it. Adrian had spent endless hours of research, visiting me, waiting. I loved him, and I probably always would, but I couldn't be with him. I couldn't be with him when my heart belonged to someone else.
"No need to lie, Rose," he replied, sadness saturating his eyes no matter how hard he attempted to hide it.
I smile. "I'm not, Adrian. I do love you, I always will." I strain upwards, enough to give him a warm, sweet kiss. A goodbye kiss.
Turning again, I met Christian's face. "Hey, Fireboy. Miss me?"
Christian gave me a sad smile, still burdened by the loss of his only family member, his aunt, although he looked glad to see me. I felt guilty, and even more so since the Ozeras were even more socially rejected now that Tasha had gone crazy.
But Christian pulled me into a hug anways, conflicting emotions displayed in his eyes. "Of course I missed you. And if you tell anyone, I'll deny it."
"Tell anyone what?" I asked, in a false, innocent tone. He just smirked.
"That's my girl."
It was so strange, seeing all of my friends in the same room, crying and sobbing over me. Even if I had died, I'm sure the emotion would have been matched. It still hadn't sunk in that I had been only hours away from being executed. And I had wanted to die. I guess it took death to realize how much you have to live for. The crowd started to thin out, and I saw one person who I had never expected to be here.
Excusing myself, I stepped away from my friends to approach her. "Hey," I said lamely. She gave me a small smile.
"Hey." Tucking her hands into her jean pockets awkwardly, she appeared so much younger than how I had seen her while at the Court. Although her hair hung loose around her shoulders, and she wasn't wearing any makeup, she still looked small and afraid.
"How have you been?" I asked.
She shrugged. "Okay, I guess." I sigh and we sit down beside her on one of the long, wooden benches.
"Really? How are things with your dad?" I froze, realizing what I had just said. Not her biological dad.
She seemed to notice, too, but didn't say anything. "Alright. I mean, we kinda talked about it a little while ago. He said whatever happened, he would always be my dad."
"And what about your mom? I mean, are you...okay?" Mia's had been killed in a strigoi attack when we were on Christmas break last year, and I was wondering how she felt about her now that she knew the truth.
Mia sighed. "I kind of hated her for a while. I can't believe what she did to my dad. But, I still love her. She was still my mom." I nodded.
"Yeah, I understand. If you ever need to talk..." I drifted off, knowing she would understand.
Surprisingly, she laughed. "Imagine that. A year ago, I would have never believed you would be giving me therapy sessions."
I laugh too. "Well, times change. Obviously." We both lapsed into silence. Finally, she squeezed my hand and stood up.
"Go," she said with a tear-stained smile. "Your friends are waiting for you." I look up to see everyone watching me, joy and relief written over their faces.
"Yeah, but I don't want to leave my friend alone." I look pointedly at her. She smiled again.
"I'll be fine, but you might want to go before they start crying again."
I give Mia a quick hug and return to my other friends. And family, sort of. They led me from the court, and for the first time in months, I saw the world outside of my cell, outside of the courtroom. Everything was bright and beautiful, much more so than I had remembered. Lissa chatted on like nothing had changed, like we had been having a normal conversation for months.
"Liss," I whispered when we were out of earshot from everyone else. "Where's Dimitri?" It hurt to think that he wasn't there, that he didn't want to come.
"Oh my God!" she cried. "I totally forgot! He's still in the infirmary! He was seriously dehydrated after... you know. They wanted to watch him. He was supposed to be released today, but he said that if he couldn't make it in time, he wanted me to tell him what the verdict was! And I've been with you! I completely forgot."
I smiled. "I'll tell him," I offer, grinning widely. Lissa smiles back.
"You better hurry. He's probably going crazy waiting. Room 208."
I bid everyone goodbye and take off running. My legs are slow and thin from months of being confined in a tiny cell, but I still push forwards, enjoying the exercise. The infirmary is across Court, and I am panting by the time I reach it.
My heart was pounding, I could feel my pulse in my ears. He had told me he loved me. I hoped that it wasn't just in a moment of desperation, a moment of trying to comfort me, that he really felt that way. I remember our conversation, when I was still locked away in my cell.
"I'll leave you two alone," Tasha said, and disappeared around the corner.
Dimitri stood tense, his hands buried in the pocket of his jeans. I tried to control my shaking body.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, my voice much softer than I had intended.
"I came to see you," he said simply. Trying to push as much of my old attitude as I could hide behind, I roll my eyes.
"Yeah, I got that. Why?" I snap, gaining some of my confidence.
"Because I needed to see you," he replied, avoiding the glare of my eyes. I growled. This wasn't going anywhere.
"Well," I say sharply, "you need to leave. I don't want you here." He flinched at my words, but didn't reply.
"Leave. Now," I demand. If he didn't want me to visit him, I wasn't about to let him see me. Petty, but I didn't care.
"Roza," he whispered. "I'm sorry." He bowed his head as sort of a goodbye and began to walk away. Something broke inside of me.
"Sorry?" I cried out, although I had told him to leave. "You're sorry? I loved you! I still love you! And you were just using me! All along, you never loved me! I was just something for you to use! To throw away! I was stupid enough to believe you loved me, and I was stupid enough to actually think you would care about me when you came back!"
He spun around, fire burning in his eyes. He looked so much like the old Dimitri that I wanted to throw my arms around him, then run away. He was 'the Russian God' for a reason.
"You don't believe that!" he yelled. "You've always been able to read me. You know that's not true! You don't understand!"
"I don't understand?" I screamed. "You don't think I understand what it's like to have something...wrong... be apart of you? Have it control everything you do? You don't think I understand what it's like when it's gone? When you realize how horrible you were? I've felt that, Dimitri. I know what it's like. But you know what? That's over for you. I have to deal with it all alone! For the rest of my life! As long as Lissa keeps using Spirit, I'm going to have to deal with that! At least you chose to be by yourself. You pushed me away. I have to do it alone."
He stepped forward and grabbed my wrists through the bars, jerking me towards him. Before I could even move, his lips were on mine. Although it was an awkward kiss between the iron bars of the cell, it was still warm and wonderful, elecricity shooting through us. Shock made me rear back, but he held me fast, pushing his lips firmly against mine.
Finally, he broke away, but still cupped my face, his forehead resting against mine. "You won't be alone," he whispered, and for the first time in a long time, I felt whole.
Room 208! I skittered to a stop and ran into the room to find the bed...
Empty. I cursed under my breath and spun to meet a very surprised looking nurse.
"Can...can I help you?" she squeaked.
"Where's the patient who was here? Mid twenties, he's about six and a half feet...maybe a little taller..." I motion with my hands, reaching above my head.
"He was just released," the nurse said shakily, watching me with a concerned expression that I'd come to know so well. I thanked her and ran off, unsure of where I was going. There was two entrances to the infirmary, and I chose the other one from where I came. I skidded around a corner and halted.
A tall, dark figure was walking quickly down the hall, about to leave the building. My heart raced and my breath was laboured, but I still managed to call out for him.
"Dimitri!" My voice echoed down the hall.
He spun at the entrance. Although I couldn't see him clearly, I knew his eyes had widened, I knew his muscles had tensed. I knew him.
"Roza," he breathes, his whisper being carried down the corridor. It was only my name, but it held so much emotion that it broke my heart. I started to run.
I was tired and panting, my legs aching, but I charged down the hall. He was the only thing that mattered. I haulted before him, unable to move, to breathe.
"You're free," he stated. I could only nod in response.
"I love you," he whispered, and wrapped his arms tightly around me, and kissed me so deeply, I surely would have collapsed if he hadn't been holding me. Finally, I slipped my hands around his neck, and he lifted me from the ground, bringing me to his height.
"I love you," he murmered again. "And I'll never let you go again." He pulled me even closer, his hands gripping me so tightly I was sure I would bruise.
"I love you, too," I replied, smiling, and brought my lips down on his again.
And we departed the infirmary, his arm tightly around me, my fingers rubbing the dark bruises that stained his wrists, as if I could heal him, as if I could take away the pain.