"Belikov, please. You have to come."

I set the phone back on the receiver and jump out of bed, gently shaking Rose.

"Rose, love, you have to get up. Please, Roza, it's time to get up."

She turns over to face me, gently rubbing her eyes.

"Dimitri, what's wrong?" she mumbles softly.

I quickly grab her coat and pull it over her bare arms. "No time to explain, sweetheart. You need to get Vasilisa. It's time."

Rose springs out of bed, grabbing my hand, and leading me out the door. The cold night air bites into my face, and I wrap my arms tightly around her waist. Rose is in only her slippers, while I was lucky enough to grab my leather boots. We both crunch through the snow, and I try to lift her to help her avoid thicker snow banks.

Their driveway has gone unshovelled, so I literally pick her up off of the ground, and set her on the porch step.

"Thanks," she whispers, threading her hand in mine. I stand behind her as she pounds on the heavy wooden door.

"Liss! Liss, you have to open the door! C'mon, Liss, it's time!"

Unfortunately, Christian appears at the door, bare chested and angry-faced. "What do you want, Rose?"

"Shut it, fireball, I need Lissa."

And, as if summoned, Vasilisa appears behind him. "Rose? It's two in the morning. Wha-"

"Liss. He called. It's time."

Her face instantly loses it's last burden's of sleep. She pulls her jacket out of the hall closet, kisses Christian's cheek, and steps into the night.

Rose and Lissa exchange a glance, a silent conversation, though one-sided. Rose takes her friend's hand, squeezing it once, before we quickly make our way to the garage.

Rose and I do not own a car, there's no need for one, except at a time like this. Fortunately, we can borrow the Princess's, and they both climb into the back seat of the compact car, handing me the keys.

My eyes flick to Rose in the rearview mirror. I want to tell her I love her, that I'll protect her, and Vasilisa, but I cannot. Not here, not now.

And we set off.

...

"Dimitri, are we almost there?"

I sigh, exhaustion starting to creep into me. Now is not the time. When your life is at stake, you don't give in because your legs are sore, because you're a little out of breath, because you haven't gotten enough sleep the night before. You fight.

As I drive, I can't help but wonder if Rose ever hears her own mentor's voice in her head at her weakest moments. I hear Galina's. Does she hear mine?

"We're almost there. You can sleep, sweetheart, if you need to."

But she shakes her head. "No, I'm fine. Lissa's practically asleep in my lap, though."

I chuckle softly. "It won't be much longer."

I can hear her soft breathing. "Dimitri?"

"Yes, Roza?"

"Do you think- Do you think it'll be okay? Do you think she'll be okay?"

I reach behind my seat, and I feel her shaking hand slip into mine. "I don't know, love. I hope so, God knows he deserves it. But... but not everyone can be as lucky as us."

She squeezes my hand. "I love you."

"I love you, too. We're here."

I pull into the driveway, the air around the small house far too quiet.

But I stop Rose before she can enter. Kissing her forehead, I say, "Stay here," before disappearing into the darkness.

At first, I hear nothing at all, but a loud scream bounces off of the walls, and I instantly tense. I bound down the basement stairs.

"Mikhail!" I scream, kicking open every door in the maze of rooms. "Mikhail!"

Another scream echoes through the building, and my heart seizes. I slam my shoulder against the last door in the thin hallway. It crashes against the wall, and the sight before me rips me apart.

"Mikhail," I breathe, and kneel beside his broken body.

He groans and turns over to face the ceiling. His nose is bent and twisted, blood pooling at his lips. Tears stream down his face, and his clothing is torn.

He gives me a heartbreaking, sad smile when he sees me, wiping his face with his sleeve.

"S-Sorry," he stutters, looking embarrassed at his condition.

"It's okay, Mikhail," I whisper to my old friend. "I understand."

He opens his mouth to speak, but a shrill cry interrupts him.

"You son of a bi-"

I spin quickly, and her voice cuts off when she sees me. But she doesn't stay silent for long. "Who the hell are you?"

"Sonya," Mikhail pants. "This is Dimitri Belikov. He's here to help you." He speaks to her sweetly, like he isn't the one who has tied to the wooden chair at the side of the room.

She struggles helplessly. "You said you loved me, Mikhail! I'm happy like this. How could you do this to the woman you loved? You lied to me. I hate you!"

"You aren't happy like this. You were desperate, you were under the Spirit's influence. This isn't you," I hiss at her. "Don't fall for this, Mikhail."

Fresh tears are spilling down his cheeks now, and I myself become desperate.

"Rose!" I shout as loud as I possibly can, hoping she can hear. Baby, I need you, I think, praying for her to come. The sweetest sound of her footsteps graces my ears.

"Dimitri?" She shields Vasilisa, and they both appear in the doorway. "Oh God, Ms. Karp?"

Sonya screams and jerks her shoulders, managing to break one of her wrist ties.

"Roza, hurry," I demand, rushing behind Sonya, trying to grab her flailing hands before she frees herself.

Rose hands Lissa the stake, and the Princess creeps forward. Her old teacher snarls, and Vasilisa flinches, but slowly steps forward again.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Karp," Vasilisa whispers, and forces the stake into her chest. Sonya lets out a blood-curdling shriek of agony. Mikhail sobs and grabs one of her hands, his tears streaking her palms.

"Forgive me," he murmurs, and Vasilisa throws more of her weight behind the stake. Sonya shudders in once more, and then a pure blast of white light throws me back against the wall. My head rings in a sharp pain, and I clutch my throbbing skull.

But as soon as the light appeared, it is gone, and the room is silent.

Rose pulls Lissa back, away from their teacher. I cannot hear a thing but the sound of my own heartbeat as it hammers in my ears.

Until Sonya breaks through the quiet.

"Oh God."

She bursts into tears.

Mikhail is instantly up from his place against the floor. "Sonya. Oh Sonya, please look at me."

She shakes her head, and bends over at the waist, her head buried into her knees. "I- I-"

"Sonya, please. Love, just look at me."

She cries harder. "Mi- Mi-" She shudders again. "I have hurt... S- So many people."

He kisses her cheek, kneeling before her. "I know. But I'm here, I'm here now, please, we can get through this together. Don't go, please don't leave me again."

I feel like an intruder on their intimate conversation, listening in on something so personal. But Rose crawls up to me on her hands and knees and sits in my lap, her head resting against my shoulder. I rock her gently, back and forth, brushing her hair from her face.

"It's over."

We both watch as Mikhail unties Sonya's wrists, and she launches herself into his arms. Even for a Moroi, she is much smaller than him, her waist rail-thin, her long, red hair tied high on her head. It's hard to believe she is only twenty-two years old. She is younger than Mikhai, by about four years, only nineteen when they first met. She was one of the youngest teachers the school had ever seen, barely out of school herself when she had been hired as an elementary school teacher for Moroi and their barely surfacing powers, since she was believed to have had a low control over all 'four'. It wasn't long after that her mental health had begun to noticeably suffer.

She's so young, too young to ever have to go through anything like this.

Mikhail picks her up off of her feet, supporting her weight, and we all slowly make our way from the house.

...

I pull up to the iron gates, Rose's hand intertwined with my own. She sits in the passenger seat, while Mikhail, Sonya, and Vasilisa share the back seat.

I hand the man my I.D. card. He stares at me once over. "Whose in the car?" he asks.

"Rosemarie Hathaway, Princess Vasilisa Dragomir, Guardian Mikhail Tanner, and Sonya Karp."

The Guardian does a double take. "Sonya Karp? Crazy Sonya Karp? I thought she went strigoi. That's impossible!"

I sigh, running a hand through my hair, listening to Sonya sniffle in the backseat. "She was brought back. Like Rosemarie Hathaway."

That in itself is an explanation all on it's own. But, of course, I am forced to stay put while the Guardian's swarm the car, pulling out Sonya Karp and taking her in for investigation. Mikhail watches her helplessly as she is taken away.

"Be careful with her," he mumbles, although the Guardians are too far away to even hear him.

He turns to me, giving me a short, sharp handshake before pulling me into a hug, clapping me roughly on the back.

"You will never know," he whispers, "how much this means to me."

I smile. "I understand completely."

He seems to have aged decades in one night. His shoulders slump, his eyes hold heavy bags. But his eyes hold the hope that had dimmed long ago. He embraces Rose next, then Vasilisa, shaking her hand, pledging whatever he can, whatever he can do to make it up to her.

Vasilisa just shakes her head, and tells him to treat her well, and to be patient. He swears by both, and gives her one last hug before trailing after the love of his life.

I feel a soft tug on my hand, and I spin to face my own (sort-of) girlfriend. My hands go to her waist, and her arms slip around my neck.

"Now I feel guilty as hell," she sighs, swaying gently in my arms.

"Guilty? Why do you feel guilty?"

She smiles softly. "Because," she explains. "The first thing she did was throw her arms around him and tell him how much she loved him and she kissed him like a million times on the car ride home. How much easier would your life have been if I would have done that when you first turned me back?"

I smile. "So much. But that's not who you are, Rose. You're so strong, so stubborn. You didn't need me, not like Sonya needs Mikhail. She's always been sensitive, and the darkness just made her emotionally unstable."

Rose snorts, laying her temple down against my chest. "Of course I needed you, Dimitri. I still need you. I still wake up with nightmares when you work the night shift and you're not home. And I think I know a thing or two about being emotionally unstable."

I frown. "You're still having nightmares? I thought you were over that. I'll stop taking night shifts, I swear. And you're not unstable, you-"

She just laughs and strains upwards, pouting slightly until I press my lips to hers. "Stop worrying about me. I'm fine, alright? They're just a few bad dreams. I'm a big girl, Dimitri."

"That doesn't mean I can't take care of you."

Hand in hand, we take Vasilisa back to her townhouse, before going back to our own small apartment. I open the door, allowing her to slip in first. By the time I get out of my boots and jacket, she's already under the covers, waiting for me.

I slide into bed, wrapping my arms around her waist, and pulling her to my chest. "Good night, Roza."

"Mmm. Good night."

I sigh in contentment. Rose had only been living with me for a short time. Two weeks ago, she had come to me in the obscenely early hours of the morning, admitting that she was having terrible nightmares that tortured her sleep. She was hoping to stay with me for the night, just being tired of waking up scared and alone. One night turned into two, which, eventually, led to her abandoning her own small apartment, and unofficially moving in with me.

I can hear her voice, thick with sleep. "Hey, Dimitri?"

"Yes, Rose?"

"I forgot to tell you. My Mom said that she was going to introduce me to my father, if I wanted. Do you think I should?"

I think of my own father. But then, I think of half of Rose, the half that Janine is not, and smile. "I don't know. What do you think?"

"I don't know. Do you think it's a good idea?"

"I've never met him, Rose. I can hardly give you advice."

I can hear as she exhales sharply, a thin laugh. "Really? Because I asked what he was like and my Mom told me to ask you."

I furrow my brow. "Ask me?" A blunt, sinking feeling in my gut begins to surface. "Rose? Rose, did she say what his name was?"

"Ibrahim. Ibrahim Mazar," she replies.

I choke.

Good God. What have I gotten myself into?


Looks like I did have another chapter left in me! This is just to tie up a few loose ends, that I suddenly thought of. I hope this didn't ruin the story for you guys...