The trees from my window looked like tiny plants just sprouting from the earth. Some even reminded me of broccoli but that was such an over used reference I chose to ignore it. I could make out thin lines of blue as rivers cut between the land and small bodies of water peaked out of the towering green masses. It was all natural and beautiful. It was times like this I wish I had a camera.

"How are you feeling?" Dimitri's gaze was constant and concerned. It made me feel like I had turned so fragile. In some ways I had.

I nodded, "I'm okay. Just admiring the scenery." I pointed out the window.

He smiled sweetly. "It is beautiful." His lean body relaxed into his seat as he stretched out his limbs. This flight had actually seemed longer than planned. "You should get some rest before we land. Never know when the next time you'll be able to just relax and just sleep."

"Without always being on alert." I laughed softly. "I know what you mean."

He wrapped his arm over my shoulder and let me lean on him. I rested my head on his chest and could feel his breaths come and go. The rise and fall of his chest was starting to put me to sleep. Just as my eyes closed I saw Lissa's face as we left Court. She was playing off a smile but I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. No matter how much we all tried to convince her that everything was going to be okay she just didn't believe it. I guess I wouldn't either if it were me.

I felt Dimitri begin to run his fingers through my hair. He was always so gentle and caring. I could feel it in his every touch. It was a constant reminder that I was not alone. He would always be there for me. To watch my back if I needed him and to hold me when things got to their worst. Dimitri...

"Roza." I felt a nudge. "Wake up. We're here."

My eyes shot open. It felt like I had only been asleep for mere minutes but according to the clock I had dozed out for almost two hours. Go figure. "Great. I'm up."

He chuckled, "I'll get the heavy bags. Please don't be stubborn." His eyes were even pleading with me.

"Fine. But leave me something to carry. You might make it way too obvious that something's going on." I rethought about it, "Or that you're babying me. And I don't want either getting into the minds of our team."

"I've already thought about all that, Rose." That was Dimitri. Always ahead of the game.

He had left me two bags to carry. Both relatively light and sizable. I hadn't noticed he had purposely made light bags and made them to look big and bulky. Smart man. I threw the thicker one over my shoulder and the other I gripped tightly on to as we unboarded.

The air was cool but the sun warmed my skin. It was getting darker but the sun was still just above the horizon. I would have prefered midday but we had Moroi with us to worry about. Wouldn't want Mia or Fabian to pass out on us. Both not so good in the heat. But I think Mia would have been able to handle it better than Fabian.

He was another Moroi chosen to come with us on the mission. He was tall and thin like most other Moroi men but his dark brown hair and grey eyes made him one of the better looking ones. He looked all neat and tidy but his shoes were the exception. They looked worn out and beaten. Like he had put them through alot. But there wasn't alot a Moroi could do at Court so it made me wonder what he could have possibly done to make them like that.

We were joined by two other Dhampirs and one Moroi. Penn and Sean were just two years younger than me but they came from some other part of the world. From their accents I would guess Germany. If I hadn't read their files I would have guessed they were brother and sister from how close they were.

The last Moroi with us was Cross. She was one of the more delicate looking girls but she had a bite to her Fire magic. In all we made for a random team but I could see where each of our talents would come in handy. Then again Dimitri would come in handy in any situation.

We made it to the hotel just fine. Three people shared a room. Of course Dimitri and I chose to stay together and since he was an extra he was sort of my shadow. That was the reason he came to begin with. Mia was our third. She seemed pretty happy to get the opportunity. We hadn't been hanging out as much and at times I even forgot that we used to hate one another. High school drama. Fabian also ended up in our room. Perfect.

There were two beds and we did the usual switching off. Two slept while one stayed on guard. Dimitri just stuck with me. He even let me sleep a little longer once the others were asleep. Fatigue is a bitch to deal with. Pregnancy had the worst symptoms and I was not looking forward to morning sickness.

It all made me start thinking about Liss and how she was handling it all with her responsibilities as Queen. My heart went out to her and I wished we still had the bond to communicate. So we could help each other through this. But there was no bond. No connection to feel how she felt or to see how she was doing. Once again I began to feel helpless and useless. I may be her Guardian but I was no use from a distance.

I was startled when Dimitri ran the back of his fingers on my cheek. "Time to switch off with Mia."

I grabbed the tips of his fingers and ran them over my lips with sift kisses. "Okay."

He smiled, "How are you feeling?"

"Tired. Hungry. Worried." I ran my fingers through my hair and swept it to one side.

He ruffled his brow, "What are you worried about?"

I shrugged, "Lissa. The baby. Everything really." I forced a soft laugh. "Guess it's just the pregnancy but I feel so fragile."

"In some ways I guess you are." He placed his hand on my stomach. "But you're strong, Roza. Don't doubt that."

It made me smile to be so reassured. Especially by him. He always seemed to know just what to say. I rested my hand on his, "Thank you." I planted a kiss on his cheek and we stood to get Mia.

She spun rapidly to face us with her hands clenched into fists as we woke her. "What!"

"Mia!" I had already had my hand ready to block her blow.

Her expression softened once she realized it was just us. "Oh. Sorry." She slowly got up from the bed and stretched. "My turn already?"

I nodded, "Yup. And my turn to sleep." I dropped into the bed. It wasn't nearly as comfortable as it looked.

She sat in the large chair, "Any coffee?" She rubbed her eyes and stretched out again.

I looked over at Dimitri who just sighed heavily. "I can make you some." He slowly made his way to the machine sitting on the counter just a few feet away and began making Mia her coffee.

"I'm going to crash out already." I yawned out the words so they were barely audible.

Dimitri smiled at me. "I'll join you in a minute."

I gave one last smile to Mia before I put my head down. I swear I must been so tired because I think fell asleep before my head hit the pillow. I just remember darkness. Then of course someone had to drop by. A light slowly began to emerge from the black. It hit me in a huge blast that it almost knocked me over. When the scenery finally settled I realized I was at Court. The garden by the church to be exact. Alexandra stared down at me with her innocent eyes. It was like she could see right through into me.

"She's really pretty, isn't she?", Lissa came floating out from behind me.

I nodded trying not to look like she had caught me off guard, "Yea."

"Almost like she's alive." Liss ran her hand over the statue's feet with care.

I wanted to reach out to touch the statue but something in me decided not to. I leaned against it instead. "What's up?"

She just smiled. "I wanted to see how you were doing. I've been trying to get a hold of you for quite some time now."

"We sleep in shifts." I shrugged it off.

"Oh. Well I'm just glad I caught you." She took a seat on a marble bench and patted the empty spot beside her. "Let's talk as friends."

I felt a genuine smile spread on my face. "Sure." I took my seat beside her and leaned back on the cement wall behind us. "How are you doing? Any problems?"

She shook her head, "No problems really. I've mostly been just from my room to meetings all day. I have an appointment tomorrow with Sonia." She rubbed her still flat tummy.

"That sounds extremely boring." I crossed my eyes as I drawled out the words.

She laughed out. "It kind of is. I miss our adventures."

I shrugged, "Well soon enough you'll be mommy and chasing around a little Christian."

"And you... I still can't believe it." She sighed out loud. "A baby."

I looked down at my own stomach. "I know. I'm still just getting use to the symptoms."

She looked puzzled, "Which ones are you having?"

"Just fatigue so far."

Lissa laughed softly, "Wait til you get the morning sickness." She stuck out her tongue like she had an ugly taste in her mouth. "It sucks."

"Ugh. I guess it comes with the package of being pregnant." I started twisting a small piece of my hair on my fingers.

She started playing with her ring. "You got to give a little to gain a little."

I scoffed, "I'd just rather it not be my lunch."

She burst out in light laughter. "Rose!"

I smirked, "What?"

"That's so gross." She shook her head.

"It's true! Where do you think the puke comes from?"

Liss covered her mouth. "Please stop."

"Sorry. I guess you're on a further stage than me." I automatically touched my stomach.

"Well yea!" She bumped her shoulder against mine.

We laughed until the air became silent again. I began to fiddle with my fingers. "Hey, Liss?"

She tilted her head slightly to look at me, "Hmm?"

"Can I... can I ask you something? In all seriousness?"

She nodded, "Sure."

I took in a deep breath and released slowly. It made me a little light headed. "Are you scared?" The words came out as more of a whisper than I intended it to.

She rested her head on my shoulder. "Always. But I have you and Christian and all our friends. I know I'll be okay because I have people I can count on."

I nodded, "But even with that you don't feel helpless or fragile?"

She paused for thought. "I suppose fragile. But than again I kind of am. Even more so now that I'm expecting."

"But I shouldn't..." I stopped to try to reword my thoughtless sentence before I accidently insulted my best friend. "I'm not built like that. I'm suppose to be a Guardian. A protector. Not the protected. I need my tough skin and fearlessness."

"You really think all Guardians are fearless?" She turned her face so that she was almost looking down on me.

"Yes! We need to be." I almost shot up from my seat.

She took my hand and patted it gently, "Rose." She gave me a concerned look. "All I am saying is that I am sure some aren't fearless. But instead they choose to overcome that fear with strength. A greater reason to fight than just not being afraid."

I sighed and sunk back down. Liss slowly released my hand. "It's really scary. Not knowing what might happen. Before I would have just jumped into any fight. But now, now it's not just my life I'm putting on the line when I step out into a battle."

She rested her head against my shoulder again. "But you have Dimitri. He will always be there for you." She smiled, "Just like how I have Christian."

I laughed softly, "I can actually admit that Christian is a big help in a fight."

She giggled into her hands. "Don't let him hear you say that. He'll get all cocky and start up with one of his macho man speeches." She sighed heavily, "I hate that."

"I think Dimitri already knows he's a bad ass." I rested my head on her's. "God, what are we going to do?"

She shrugged, "Think of baby names?"

I shook my head, "I haven't."

She lifted her head to look up at me, "Have you guys even started talking about the baby?"

"Yes, but we have time to plan. We're only six weeks." I laughed.

She gave me this are-you-kidding-me look, "You know there's only forty weeks in a pregnancy, right?"

I nodded, "So I heard." I had actually gotten that information from Sonia. I had never learned any baby or pregnancy stuff. I never felt the need to. But now I felt like I was so behind. "Which gives me thirty-four weeks to work with. Don't worry."

Lissa raked her fingers through her hair, "As long as you have it under control."

"That I do", I said nonchalantly.

She gasped, "Oh! What about Arabella?"

I pondered on it for a bit. "It's pretty. Run it by Christian first."

"I meant for you!"

I gaped, "Liss! You should be thinking for yours. I can handle my side."

She shrugged, "Just a small suggestion."

"I'll take it into consideration." I shook my head and laughed a little. I could hardly believe she was already thinking up names for my kid when she hadn't even found one for her's.


Lissa looked at me with a strange look. "Rose?"


I felt my body jolt itself awake. I sat up suddenly in bed. Mia was looking down on me. "What? What's going on?"

"It's time to get up. Dimitri went out to grab some food. He should be back any minute now." She sat down beside me.

"What time is it?" I stretched my limbs out.

She looked down at her light blue digital watch. I couldn't help but stare at how bright the color was compared to the usual black ones we used on missions. "It's almost six."

"Six? We were suppose to get up early to eat and then get on our way to find the rogue." I rustled my hair messily out of frustration.

She ducked her head down into her turtle neck, "Dimitri said to let you sleep a little longer." She put her hands up in defense, "Not my orders, they were his."

I shook my head in disbelief. "I cannot believe this..." I sat back on the bed and shoved the pillow on my face. I felt like I wanted to scream. This was already starting to aggrivate me. I didn't need to sleep in. Guardians don't sleep in. We wake up on time and get shit done! How could he wake Mia and not me? Why was this getting me so mad? I tried to inhale and exhale slowly. I felt my heart beats slowing down to a regular pace.

Then the door opened, "Hey..." I instantly heard his footsteps stop. He must have noticed I was trying to suffocate myself. "Rose? What are you doing?" He sounded bewildered.

"Trying to understand why you didn't wake me up on time." Just thinking about it was making me upset all over again.

I heard a puff of air escape his mouth, "You looked tired and I figured I could do the food run myself."

I threw the pillow back onto the bed and sat up straight, "So you assumed I was too tired and that I couldn't do my own job?"


I put my hand up to stop him. And he did stop. I shut my eyes to keep the perfect vision of his face out. I didn't want to forgive him right now. It wasn't fair for him to just assume that I was in no condition to do my job. I trained to be a Guardian. I knew damn well what I could and couldn't do. And in my mind he was definitely underestimating me. And I desparately wanted him to just stop. Stop being so damn careful, gentle, and perfect. I didn't need someone to baby me. I just thought he was here to watch my back. Not carry me on his...

"Um..." Mia cleared her throat loudly, "I can go if you guys want some privacy."

I pointed at her. "No, stay."

She sat down with a plop into the chair. "Okay then."

I stuck my hand out to Dimitri, "What did you get to eat?"

He handed me the bags. "Fabian asked for a grilled chicken salad, Mia asked for tacos, and I got us some burgers and fries." He said it so monotoned that it felt like he knew I was upset with him. As if it weren't obvious.

I handed out the food and just noticed we were missing someone. I looked around, "Where's Fabian?"

Mia nodded her head towards the bathroom, "He said he was going to shower and he'd be out soon but that guy has been in there for like thirty minutes." She shook her head in annoyance.

"Really?" I walked over to the door and knocked. "Fabian?"

"I'm almost done!" I heard the water still running.

I scoffed and walked back to the small table sitting in the room. "He said he's almost done." I made a face.

Mia giggled, "Told you. He's like a high maintenance chick."

That remark made me smile. "Great. Hope he doesn't take this long to do his hair." I ran my hand over my hair to smooth it back like I was really worried about how it looked.

Dimitri smirked and shook his head. He grabbed his burger and fries. He looked like he was about to grab mine but stopped himself. Guess he was starting to get the hint that I didn't want help with these little tasks. He slid my drink to me and then preoccupied himself with his meal.

I wolfed down my meal and my drink faster than it probably took Dimitri to get them. A new record if I do say so myself. But once we were up and packed and on our way with the missoin I felt like my stomach was still so hollow. Maybe it was due to the baby making a nest in there. I couldn't stop myself from picturing a tiny person building an actual nest inside my stomach. As weird as it sounds it was pretty funny to visualize. I shook it off and got my mind back on track. We were here for one person. And he wasn't too far from the hotel.

It took us about twenty minutes until we finally came to a halt. The grass surrounding us was dry and browned. It looked like someone had sucked the life out of all the plants. We all exitted the vehicle one by one. Dimitri stayed close behind me.

"Vhat is zhis?" Penn touched a blade of grass that quickly crumbled at her fingertips.

Dimitri kept a stone expression on his face, "This is Robert's work."

"Has to be." Fabian kicked at a small patch and it scattered into little pieces floating off in the wind. "The guy's gone insane."

I shook my head. Little did they know Robert was already ceritfiably insane. If they had met him before they would have seen it themselves. But no. In some way I knew it was all because of me. That's what pushed him over the edge. That's why he was going psychotic. Victor's death was probably more than he could bare. That was all he had left in the world and I took it. Without a batting an eye.

"Ve should get moving. It's going to be dark soon and I don't vant to be caught out in zhe open." Sean was leaning back on a tree that looked dwarfed compared to his size. He was thick set. His blonde hair was crew cut and done quite well. His board shoulders lead to a bulky chest that stuck out when he stood up straight. His waist was thinner then leading to his thick trunk like legs. He could have been a Dolph Lundgren copy aside from the facial features.

Penn nodded in agreement. "Let's." She was thin but muscular and tall. She dared to challenge Sean's height but neither of them compared to Dimitri's. Her blonde locks were a shade darker than Sean's lighter blonde. It was cut in a pixie cut style and slicked back. Her thick pink lips had a natural pout and her clear blue eyes could have possibly been the same color of a perfectly clear sky in the middle of the day. I couldn't be too sure because it had been a while since I last saw the sky during that time.

Cross just strode past us and started making her way into the wooded area. The trees were limp and decaying. She blended in quite well. Her long black hair was thick and the tips curved in at the base of her back. Her bangs were just passed her hazel eyes and sideswiped across them. She was so pale but unlike most Moroi her cheeks held a natural pink tinge and her black eyeliner made her lashes fuller than they probably were naturally. Just past her I could make out the building just on the outskirts of the wood line. Robert.

Before she was out of reach Dimitri caught her arm, "We have to have a plan." He turned to me and nodded. "Rose?"

I knelt down on a dirt patch and started tracing an outline of the perimeter. "Team one is Penn, Fabian, and Sean. You all take the east side and circle round. Spread out but stay within sight of each other. Mia, Cross, Dimitri and myself will head west through the fields. We'll be more exposed so if team one sees any movement don't hesitate to rush in."

Cross groaned, "And what if he is expecting us?" It sounded like more of a rhetorical question than a curious one. It sent a twitch of annoyance through me.

I tried my best to ignore it. "Then we'll just have to make due." I looked around at everyone's faces. They all had that look of concentration and focus already set in them. We were ready.

Dashing low in the fields felt quick. I could hear the earth pounding beneath my feet. The grass made me feel like I was just flying past as they seemed to blurr as my speed picked up. I could see Dimitri just a few yards to my right and Cross was at my left. I could barely see Mia beyond her. But just being able to see her made me relax. We were still okay.

Then I saw Sean burst out of the tree line and start racing towards us. He was on a straight track towards me. I tried to scan the grass in front of me but I still couldn't make out anything. My eyes were still trying to grasp something. Why would he be running at me in such haste unless...

The ground shifted beneath me and I went flying. Luckily I was still in an upright position so I was able to catch myself. I tucked and rolled as my feet made impact on the soft ground.

A hand reached out at me through the tall grass and I was abruptly shoved back. Robert slowly emerged from the stalks. "Rose." Malice dripped from my name.

My feet were fumbling beneath me and suddenly another pair of hands caught and steadied me. Dimitri. I turned to look back at Robert and he was gone again.

I grabbed his forearms. "He's in the field!" My voice came out as a harsh whisper.

Dimitri and I immediately went back to back. A loud rushing noise started lightly and then came up to a roar as a wave of water sliced right in front of my face. I could feel the cool mist as it shattered.

Mia ran to us. "Rose! Where's Cross?" Her face was flushed and a thin red line traced her left cheek.

I started looking frantically around us, "Cross!"

A large shot of fire went up just a few feet away. It lit the fields in an orange tinge. It had to be her. We started racing towards her. I could hear grunts and thuds from hits being landed. But who was winning?

We came out and saw a fierce battle between Sean, Cross, and Robert. Penn was on the ground gripping onto her stomach and rocking. She was in a great deal of pain. But I couldn't see anything. No blood or marks. Just the expression on her face gave it away.

I ran to her side and made her sit up, "Penn, what's wrong?"

She screamed out in an ear piercing shriek and started thrashing. Her arms flying at me like she was trying to swat me away. I jumped back so fast that I bumped into Mia who had been watching us.

"What's wrong with her?" She reached for her, "Penn?"

I pulled her back, "It's Robert. He's in her head." Mia was still reaching for her. I yanked her back to me, "We have to knock him out to free her, Mia. That's the only way."

She nodded. Her eyes filled with terror and disbelief. This was the first time she had ever witnessed anything like this. Her first field assignment. And it was this.

We ran back towards the remaining group. Dimitri had joined the fray. He was landing some big shots but there was something off about Robert. It was like he had... a shield.

My mind reeled back to when Victor and Robert had paid me a visit in my dreams. I wasn't able to even touch Victor because Robert had put up some kind of force field shielding him from me. I had given up trying in my dreams but now this was reality. This was full blown real life and there was no way I was going to back down.

I ran to Dimitri's side as he stepped back to assess the situation. I gripped onto his arm and pulled him to me. "It's no use. We have to get his guard down."

Dimitri was panting and sweat sat on his brow. He exhaled deeply, "Do you have any ideas?"

"Not yet." I looked around and spotted Cross down on one knee. She looked exhausted and her face was flushed. Just beside her Mia was building up a large hammer-like figure of water.

She lifted it high in the air and paced it just above Robert's head. His attention was turned on Sean who was throwing heavy hits that seemed to graze off Robert's outter extremities. Then it came crashing down on him.

I don't know why I was expecting that to do much but it didn't. He had just turned his attention back on her and was able to block out the brunt of the attack. Water splashed everywhere and dripped down his shoulder. It soaked his left sleeve. Then it struck me. Some had gotten through! Which meant there were gaps between his shield.


She lifted her head like it was full of lead and looked my way. She stood up to her feet and ran to me in a slight half sprint. She was definitely going to be out of this fight soon.

I steadied her as she reached me. "I need you to do something."

"Now? I don't think now's a time for favors." She wiped at the sweat running down her chin.

I shook my head, "This is important."

She nodded for me to go on.

"Wrap him up in fire."

She looked at Robert. "That seems kind of useless at this point, don't you think?"

"No. He has weak spots. And your flames will help expose them."

She gave me a confused look. "How would you know that?"

I pushed her ahead of me towards Robert. "Just do it!"

She took a wide stance and breathed out loud enough that I could hear it. A trail of fire started as a ring at Robert's feet and ran up until it reached the top of his head. He yelled out and I could barly make out his figure. But I could see him. He wrapped his arms around himself and curled up.


Like she knew what I meant before I even said it she whipped a large boulder of water towards him. Steam went up sky high as the flames were extinguished. Robert crumbled to the ground gripping his side in pain. Loud shrieks and screams came from his gaping mouth.

His gaze shot up to me and I could feel him trying to get to me. I had already gotten use to the feeling of being touch by Spirit that I could feel the strings of magic trying to attach itself to me. Panic shot up in me. From a distant echo I could barely make out that Penn had quieted. He was letting her go to focus what he had left on me.

I dropped to the ground. The world was starting to shape shift into something insanely impossible. The ground was opening up. I could see deep down inside of the void. Darkness was seeping out and reaching towards me. My feet felt like they were being weighed down by blocks of lead or cement. I was powerless to the darkness. I could feel myself falling. I gripped my head between the palms of my hands and tried to regain control.

"It's not real! It's not real!" I felt my magic boiling up in my chest. My panic was making it spread through me like shots of lightening through my body. "It's not real!"

I was blinded by a white light that made my skin tingle as it settled on me. I shut my eyes and waited to try to refocus. When I opened them again the light had dimmed significantly and I could see Dimitri's face. He was holding me up. I could see his mouth moving but I couldn't hear anything. I tried shaking my head to clear the cobwebs.

"Rose!" A loud ringing noise accompanied his voice as it finally broke through. "Rose!"

I grabbed his fingers that laid gently at the base of my chin. "I'm back." The words were hoarse and whispered but his smile told me he heard me.

He pulled me to my feet. "We've got business to finish up." He held on to my shoulders and examined me. "How are you feeling?"

I nodded, "I can do this."

We ran back to the group. I hadn't realized it but we had ended up a few yards away. Either I had traveled away from them when I was overtaken or Dimitri had taken me to safety.

Penn was up again trying to throw punches and kicks. They looked strained and weak but a few of them were landing. Robert was running low on his magic. And he was seriously wounded. His arms had blistered from the heat and about forty percent of his face was red and blistered. He didn't have much left for long both physically or mentally.

Mia was nursing Cross on the side lines by the dried grass. She was out of this fight for sure. She was sitting up but Mia was her rock. I think that's all that was keeping her from just falling back into the grass. Mia spotted us and gave a vague half smile.

Dimitri and I darted into the fight. Fabian was finally in view. I hadn't noticed him the whole time. He was throwing small stick shaped fire at Robert who was thrashing and screaming at him. Robert was weakening fast now.

My mind raced for something, anything, to help get this fight to a stop already. I couldn't afford losing any more people at this point. Robert could heal and regain his strength and come at us and we would be out. That was just not an option for me.

I pulled my magic up again. I got light headed but decided to push through. I can do this. I balled it up and looked back at Robert. He still had pieces of his shield up. I just had to do this right. I could see where Fabian's fire was being deflected. It had a X shape that covered the most of his legs, arms and chest. That was my target.

I pushed my magic into my hand and felt it burst out towards Robert's legs. Worst case scenario I would amputate his legs. But my intent was not to kill or maim him. I just needed him down. Enough time to get to him before he could put his guard back up.

In all shock and amazing luck it worked! Robert fell forward and ate a big faceful of dirt. Dimitri, Sean and I ran in and covered him. It was a pile of bodies on bodies. I grabbed on to Robert's arms and started binding them behind his back as tightly as I could. I could see that the thin rope was starting to cut into his flesh due to his struggling.

Sean lifted him up and threw him on his left shoulder. "Vhere do I store him?" His face was covered in sweat and he had large gashes on his right arm. It didn't seem to phase him at the least.

I nodded towards the vehicle we came in. "Just toss him in there. We have to get him back to Court." I leaned forward and tried to catch my breath. My body felt tired and weak. I could feel all my strength was drained. I needed some well earned R&R after this.

Dimitri stopped Sean momentarily. He pulled out a bandana from his duster's pocket. "Blind fold him. Just in case."

Sean nodded and continued on his way.

Dimitri turned back to me and slowly lowered me to sit down. "Are you alright?" His brow ruffled and beads of sweat ran into soft lines down his cheekbones to his chin then slowly dripping off to hit the dirt. I could make out the little muddy dots they made in the dirt.

I nodded absentminded. "I'm fine."

He gently stroked my stomach. "You're feeling okay?"

Blood rushed to my face. I could feel it make me blush and my cheeks burned, "We're fine."

He smiled slightly. "Just making sure." He press his hand to my face and the tips of his fingers were cool against my skin. It helped to soothe my blushing.

I fanned myself and took in a few deep breaths. "I just cannot wait to get back home."

We stood and walked around to help the others gain their composure. Aside from the small cut on her cheek Mia looked fine. Like she had just come back from getting her nails done. She was holding up Cross and helping her to get to the van. She sent a small smile our way when she saw us.

Cross looked no worse-for-wear. Probably exhausted from all the magic she used. Her bangs stuck to her forehead and her skin was completely drained of color. Her eyes were nearly shut. It had to be will that was keeping her awake right now. Although I didn't necessarily like her I had to give her props for her strength.

Penn was nursing Sean's wounds. She looked a little out of it. I was still pretty curious as to what Robert had made her see that she was thrashing around like that. It made my skin crawl. I could still see the wide mouth in the earth that threatened to swallow me up. I shivered.

When I reached the van Fabian was already sitting back taking a swig out of a water bottle. "Well that was eventful."

"Where the hell were you during the brunt of that fight?" I placed my hands on my hips and tilted my head so that he could see that I was annoyed.

He shrugged, "Running through a maze of field. I couldn't find you all."

I leaned forward and rested my arm on his seat, "You think you would have noticed the giant flame that Cross shot up to show us their location."

"I don't like what you're incinuating." His voice was lowered but I could hear the anger in his tone.

I cocked an eyebrow, "And what would that be?"

He half laughed, half scoffed. "Why don't you just go and makeout with your boyfriend, Hathaway."

That was a big mistake on his part. I gripped the collar of his shirt and tugged him out of the van. His toes scraped the ground. He was not heavy at all so I was able to hold him up with both my hands. "Want to run that by me again, coward?"

"You're insane!" He struggled under my grip.

A heavy hand land on my shoulder, "Let him go, Rose."

I didn't have to look to know it was Dimitri. "I don't know about that." I looked over to Mia who was standing just a few feet away, "What do you think, Mia? Should I let this smartass coward go?" I felt myself spit out the words like they were bitter.

She looked shocked, "Um, maybe you should, Rose." Her voice was meek. "We can let the Council deal with him."

I glared at him one last time before releasing him. He fell to the ground and scrambled away towards Dimitri. "She's crazy! You all need to have a better handle on her at Court! Try a leash."

Dimitri turned his burning gaze at Fabian, "Hold your tongue!" His eyes looked like they could melt Fabian. "That's your superior and my wife you are talking about!"

Fabian's face folded in on itself as he forcibly held in his next remarks. He took a few steps back.

Dimitri turned back towards me, "Now what's going on? How'd this start?"

"I simply asked where he was during the fight and he got all defensive." I kept my gaze on Fabian hoping that I could burn a hole through him.

He turned back to him, "Where were you, Fabian?"

He did the same little shrug, "Like I said, I got lost."

"And you didn't see me signal everyone over?" Cross was gulping down water and wiping her face with a wet towel Mia had provided her with.

Fabian's face grew sour, "Am I being interrogated?"

"You could be", Sean's voice was husky and thick. "I didn't see you vhen ve hit zhe tree line eizzer."

Penn nodded. "Nor did I."

He scoffed, "You all are speaking Mandarin. I will answer to a higher power." He crossed his arms over his chest. "Not some misfit group thrown together."

"You're useless." Penn turned her back on him. "In our country you vould have been left to fend for yourzelf."

He forced out a sharp laugh, "Vell then thank goodness I'm not in your country!" His sarcasm didn't run over well with Sean who was now inches from his face.

"You will not speak to my comrades or about my country like zhat." He snarled and Fabian coward under his gaze.

Dimitri pressed a hand on Sean's shoulder to ease him back. "Let's settle this in Court. Mean while, Fabian will ride with Robert."

"What!" He grew angry and tried to step up to Dimtiri. But he was instantly dwarfed in size. He took a step back. "You cannot do that!"

Dimitri shrugged, "We cannot let a possible threat sit with the rest of us. It's as much for your own safety as it is for ours."

He scoffed, "Yea, right." He gave me one last dirty look before he turned on his heel and started for the back of the van. He disappeared from sight as he climbed in.

"Asshole..." I muttered under my breath.

Mia leaned against the van, "Why was he assigned to come with us again?"

"His fire magic." I leaned against the van next to her.

She made a face, "I would have prefered that they had sent Christian."

I nodded, "Me, too."

Dimitri shook his head and laughed softly. "Alright. Let's get going."

The ride going back home was quieter than I expected. I could see Fabian huddled in the back corner next to an unconscious Robert. He didn't look pleased in the least. It made me smile inside. It's what cowards and deserters deserved. No matter what his excuse was to run away or wait it out until we had weakened Robert it wasn't going to hold up with Liss. He could have very well put the rest of us in danger just by sitting out the fight. He had been assigned to accompany us for a reason. We had needed his magic and he abandoned us until he saw fit to join in.

I felt Dimitri rest his hand on my thigh. He smiled lightly and the dim light made him glow. His white teeth peered out from between his soft lips. "I'm glad we got out of that safely."

I placed my hand on his, "Me, too." I sighed in relief and reclined my seat.

He brushed the back of his fingers over my cheek. "Get some rest, Roza."

Darkness took over my vision and was almost instantly replaced by light and green eyes. I felt my body jump. I was not expecting him at all.

Adrian smirked, "Bad timing?"

By Shadow Kissed Mori