Within seconds, Dimitri saw his whole world crash.

He watched, frozen, as the bullet sliced through the air and hit her chest.

His Roza.

He had leapt after her, intending to…to do something, anything, to protect Rose, but he was too late. Watching Rose drop towards the ground, Dimitri's mind fell blank; he didn't notice the chaos around him. He didn't see the Guardians that moved in to restrain Tasha, nor did he know the terrified Moroi were pushing towards the doors, trying to escape. All he saw was his Rose.

Dimitri had never felt so helpless in his entire life, not even when he saw Rose on the ground cradling Mason Ashford's body in Spokane, or when Victor Dashkov's death had caused the backlash of Spirit to make Rose temporarily lose her mind. Sure, it terrified him, but he knew he could help her somehow. Now she was suffering from physical pain, and he was no doctor.

He didn't know what to do. He just stood there, arm outstretched, staring at the scene unfolding in front of him, but not processing anything. None of it made any sense to him. None of it mattered but her.


Lissa's scream shook him out of his revive. He watched Lissa reach Rose and catching her falling form, gravity sending both of them to the ground. A sudden jolt ran through him as his guardian instincts kicked in. He had to pull himself together. Lissa needed him. Rose needed him. Hell, he needed himself. Crossing the remaining distance in three big strides, he knelt by her, ripped off his jacket and pressed it down on the wound. Keeping the pressure steady, he turned to look at her face. His heart clenched painfully at the sight he saw.

Her usually radiant skin was now a deathly pale because of the loss of the blood that was dyeing his jacket crimson, and her eyes, God, her eyes. The usual spark in them was still there in her melted pools of chocolate, but it was dimming, fast.

"Stay with me, Roza," he croaked out, free hand brushing away the curls on her face. "Stay with me."

Dimitri suddenly found himself swimming in the endless depth of her warm brown orbs. It was a familiar, delightful feeling, like he was finally home. Floating around, he discovered awe, trust, relief, and so many other emotions. But those weren't what had Dimitri's breath caught in his chest.

It was love.

So, so much love.

After he was turned back, Dimitri shied himself from most of his feelings. All he felt was self-loathing and guilt. Guilt had robbed all of the space in his heart and mind; guilt for taking all those innocent lives, guilt for the immoral things he had done, and most of all, guilt for hurting Rose. He was suffocating, with no hopes of escape. Being the man who suffered quietly, Dimitri didn't want to drag anyone else in to the mess, so he built up a wall, blocking out his loved ones.

Throughout the past week, however, like a stubborn ray of sunshine, Rose managed to penetrate through the barely there cracks of his brick wall. Little by little, she cleared out a space in his heart and filled it with warmth. The guilt was still there, lurking in the shadows, but it no longer dominated him. He was beginning to feel again. She had taught him how to live.

When Rose had confessed she still loved him, he was overjoyed, of course, but there was still a part of him that remained doubtful. How could she love him after all these things he had done to her? How could she even forgive him? Dimitri was surprised Rose didn't run away screaming the moment Lissa's stake touched his chest. It made no sense at all; she had every right to hate him, so why didn't she?

Whatever doubt he had, however, all vanished the second he stared into her eyes.

He could see the love in them. It was so clear, so pure, so understanding, just like her. So beautiful. In that split second, Dimitri knew that Rose had really, truly forgiven him. He knew that she had forgiven him for all the things he had done in the past, no matter good or bad, simply because she loved him.

She loved him. The three words enveloped Dimitri like a warm blanket, and made him realize something. If Rose, the one person he had hurt so much, was willing to forgive him, why shouldn't he forgive himself? It was like what Rose said that night at the hotel; "If I let this stop me, if I do nothing…then that's the greater evil." If he continued to wallow in his past, that would mean he admitted defeat before the fight had even began. Feeling guilty over the things he had done wouldn't make them better; living with his head held high and fulfilling his duties as both man and Guardian would.

Letting out a deep breath, the burden was lifted off Dimitri's shoulders like a balloon floating up, up, up into the sky.

He was finally free.

Dimitri smiled and opened his mouth to share his newly found freedom with Rose, then snapped it shut when he remembered where he was. Using his other hand, he held tightly onto one of hers, as though he could pass some of his life into her. She was slipping away; he could feel it.

"No, no, no!" he silently prayed as her eyes slid close. The faintest smile had caressed her pallid lips, and she looked almost peaceful, or content, even. "I can't loose you!"

She was his guardian angel, his saving grace. She meant everything to him; he couldn't loose her. It tortured him to even think about life without Rose, yet, he couldn't do anything but watch helplessly while she was dragged closer to death as each agonizing second passed by.

Vaguely, he noticed Lissa pushing his hand away from the wound. Confused at first, he didn't oblige. Then, he realized what she was doing.

She was going to heal Rose.