They were almost out, almost free when a group of Strigoi jumped out of a side passage. One grabbed Celeste, whilst another reached for Ms McCormack. I barely noticed this though, not when a third Strigoi had Dimitri.
"Dimitri!" I screamed.
This couldn't be happening; Dimitri was strong, he was a god. I had always thought that he was invincible but this was proof that he wasn't. I felt panic and fear creep through me, I couldn't lose Dimitri, I wouldn't, not after everything had become so perfect. We were finally on our way to solving our problems, to being together and I wasn't about to let go of all that. I wanted to save him, to run and kill the Strigoi myself but I was rooted to the spot, stuck watching as the Strigoi sank his fangs into Dimitri's neck.
"No!" I screamed, jerking upright in bed. It was just a dream, a nightmare that had haunted me since the night of the attack. It had been months and it hadn't turned out that way but I couldn't shake the dream. Dimitri hadn't been killed or turned, he was fine. My gorgeous, badass mentor boyfriend was fine; he had spun around at the last minute and staked the blonde bastard.
A knock on my door dragged me from my thoughts. I sensed through the bond that it was Lissa; she was excited but also a little nervous. I hurried to the door worried that something was wrong.
"You're not even dressed yet!" Lissa exclaimed.
"Good morning to you too, Lissa. Why the hurry anyway?"
"Your trial is today, remember?"
"Shit." The fear and anxiety that came with the dream had made me forget about the trials entirely. "They're today."
It had been more a statement than a question but Lissa nodded and told me to get dressed. I didn't have time for a shower so simply threw on some clothes and pulled my hair up so that it wouldn't be in the way. It would also show off the tattoos that I had already earned, two molnijas and a zvezda.
We walked quickly across campus, praying that we wouldn't be too late; Dimitri was going to kill me.
"How could you forget about the trials, Rose? You've been looking forward to this for months."
"I know," I replied quietly, not really knowing what else to say.
"So what happened?" Lissa paused and then I sensed the realisation dawn on her. "You had the dream again, didn't you?"
I nodded silently. Lissa had finally worked out the connection that existed between Dimitri and me. It had resulted in me telling her everything, including the night when Victor had kidnapped her, all of the secret, stolen kisses, the cabin, everything. She had at long last guessed when we returned had return from the caves on the night of the attack. As soon as we were over the wards we were sent to get checked out but I didn't leave Dimitri's side. We were sent away from the clinic when Doctor Olenski saw that we were alright but I still wouldn't let him leave. I hugged and clung to him, relieved that he was alive. We sat talking for a long time and when Lissa finally came looking for me she saw us. We weren't kissing or anything but she saw a closeness between us that was unmistakable. She was angry that I hadn't told her and demanded answers. I felt bad and it all came tumbling out; we stayed up late and it felt good to talk to her.
"You should have said. I thought it had stopped." Lissa sounded worried.
"It hasn't, it never did."
"Does Dimitri know?" I shook my head. He too thought that the dream had stopped and I hadn't corrected him because I didn't want him to worry.
"You have to tell him!" Lissa frowned.
"Hathaway!" Stan shouted as we arrived. "Nice of you to join us. Get in there now!"
"Good luck," she smiled, hugging me. "Not that you need it."
"You're lucky you aren't one of the first ones," he growled. "People were even making bets about whether you'd show."
"Really?" I asked cheerfully. "What kind of odds are there on that? Because I can still change my mind and put down my own bet. Make a little pocket money."
Stan glared at me before following me into the waiting area that was adjacent to the stands. I saw Dimitri waiting nearby and wandered over to him.
"Where the hell have you been?" Dimitri asked, his face showed anger but his eyes, I had learned that they were the place to look for his real emotions, showed relief that I had showed up.
"Relax, comrade, you really think I wouldn't show up for my own trial? I mean I know I'm good enough to do this blindfolded and it's kind of unnecessary for someone as awesome as me but really?" I grinned. I refused to let on that I wasn't quite as confident as I was trying to sound. I was a good novice, but I was still a little worried. The memory of the attack and the near loss of Dimitri didn't make me feel any better either.
"I was beginning to wonder," he replied.
"And waste all your awesome training? Nah, don't be stupid." I tried to hold my grin, but just seeing him alive made my heart clench. I had come so close to losing him and I would never forget that. My cocky smile slipped just a little, but nothing got passed Dimitri, especially when it came to me.
"What's wrong? And don't lie to me, I know that something is."
"It's okay. I'm dealing with it," I replied, not bothering with lies. There was no point when he could see right through them.
Dimitri looked briefly around the room and then took my hands in his. He only said one word, but it took all I had not to tell him then and there, "Please."
"Later," I said, squeezing his hand. He let go, and we returned to our official teacher student roles. I doubted that anyone would think much of a mentor comforting his pupil in the moments before her trial, but it was better to be safe than sorry, especially this close to graduation.
"You're going to do brilliantly today, Rose." Dimitri smiled. "You'll show them all how it's down."
"Of course I will, look who I had as an instructor!" I grinned at him. I was making a joke, but I really did appreciate everything that Dimitri had done for me.
"I had nothing to do with it."
"That's bullshit and you know it. You're the only reason I'm even here; you got me back into school, you trained me up, you saved me in the field experience," I paused and then lowered my voice. "You kept me from going crazy with Lissa's darkness."
"You could have done most of that on your own. You're strong, Roza, and you are going to be an amazing guardian."
"If I get through this trial that is!" I grinned, lightening the mood. I knew that if I listened to much more of Dimitri's encouragement and faith then I wouldn't be able to keep that promise of resisting him until I graduated.
"Rose, good luck," a voice said behind me. I turned to see my mother standing there.
"Mom? What are you doing here?"
"Did you honestly think that I wouldn't come to watch you?"
"I don't know." I admitted, feeling a little guilty. But what was a girl supposed to think when she had barely spoken to her mom her whole life.
"I couldn't miss this." She smiled. "So, Belikov, any last minute words of wisdom?"
"None that you couldn't give, Janine," Dimitri told my mother with a grin. He placed a hand on my shoulder and smiled softly at me. It was the smile that I loved, the one that he saved just for me. "Good luck, Rose."
I imagined that I might have received a hug and perhaps been called Roza if my mother hadn't been standing there. I was a little upset but I didn't have time to dwell on that because they called my name.
"Shit, that's me."
"Keep calm and focus, Rose." My mother said as she quickly hugged me. She didn't even bother to tell me off for swearing. I looked to Dimitri but he simply smiled; he had faith in me.
The trials passed in a blur and I didn't have any major problems. In fact, I got so into it that I didn't even realise it was over until Alberta, grinning, told me so. I was led off the field where saw my mother and Dimitri waiting. Alberta had to go but quickly congratulated me.
"Was that it?"
"Rose, you were out there for almost an hour." My mother laughed.
"But you were amazing. That was probably one of the best trials this school has ever seen." Dimitri grinned. I saw the pride on his face, but there was respect and love there too.
"I'm so proud of you." My mother said, showing the most emotion I had ever seen her show.
"So what happens next?" I smiled, realising that I had done it. I had made it through school, through my trials and I was ready to graduate.
"Now you become a guardian." They said in unison, both grinning. I grinned back and allowed them to lead me away.
The tattoo ceremony came later and I looked forward to it. It was the first time that I would receive a tattoo under happy circumstances rather than the sad ones attached to my others. I stood in line with the other novices (I couldn't yet think of us as official, graduated guardians). The ceremony was long and we were required to stand but I was not bothered as this was how I intended to spend the rest of my life. My name was finally called and my score read out. It was higher than the rest of my class by a large margin, thankfully though she didn't read out my academic grades which would have taken away some of my awesomeness. I walked up to the tattoo artist and sat in the seat. He sighed audibly when he saw my already crowed neck and there was a light chuckle from the spectators in the room. Luckily, the guy managed to fit the promise mark in on the nape of my neck, curling around the other molnija marks like an embrace. When the process was finally complete, I was shown the mark and sent to rejoin my classmates. I stood and looked into the audience, searching for him. I met Dimitri's eyes, brown orbs filled with such immense pride and awe, and grinned. I had finally done it, I was a guardian!