I put a tentative hand on his shoulder and gave a light squeeze.
He whirled around to face me, smacking my hand away with a crack, and snapped,
"I said don't touch me, Rose."
I took a staggering step back, the air freezing in my lungs. The cold inflection and chilling tone were too close, frighteningly familiar, and I was instantly transported back to that house, that room, that bed. The only thing able to break the memory was an angry huff behind me that was quickly followed by the furious voice of Sydney.
"Don't you talk to her like that!"
I caught Dimitri's wary look before turning to see her myself but her piercing gaze was locked onto him alone. It was as if the rest of the world had zeroed in on the two of them and her simmering rage. I still couldn't breathe, confused, and jilted all at once. Dimitri started to raise his hands in a placating way toward her, recognizing her anger as dangerously uncharacteristic, but she took another breath and laid into him.
"I had to follow her around St. Petersburg for weeks cleaning up all her Strigoi messes - looking for you." She pointed at him. "I was trapped on a train with her for days - looking for you." She took a stomp in the gravel toward him and both he and I held very still. Yet, something was stirring inside me, welling toward my throat like a giant ball. "I got stuck in the middle of nowhere Siberia - looking for you." She jabbed her finger into his chest and Dimitri stiffened but didn't move.
"Sydney," I choked on her name, the ball too tight and too big in my throat. The flush of tears started to fill my nose and burn my eyes. Horrified I tried to tamp it down. But this was still so painful and heartbreaking to remember that I couldn't stop the flood of emotions that started to overwhelm me. Because if there was anyone in this world that had an idea of all I'd suffered through - it was Sydney. It was a humbling realization and didn't help curb the tears flooding my eyes now.
She lowered her hand and unflinchingly glared up into his face as she seethed, "I went to your funeral. I sat with your family. I had to watch her mourn you knowing she still wasn't done. That she'd still have to keep looking for you."
Dimitri paled before her, his dark eyes sliding closed for a moment and we all took a breath together. But Sydney wasn't done. She crossed her arms over her chest and cracked the beat of silence,
"And it doesn't matter what kind of kinky taboos happened between the two of you while you were a monster." We both tensed and I frantically started to try and blink the tears back. Dimitri's jaw clenched simultaneously with his fists. Sydney gave him a mean smile. "It's not that hard to piece together. I was told they had to pick her up off the side of the road, mostly dead and covered in bite marks. And you can not stand to have her touch you in even a supportive way."
"Sydney," I croaked again trying to get her to stop. But this blooming, desperate part of me also didn't want her to. Wanted her to keep hurting him like he'd been hurting me. Wanted her to defend me and support me as no one else had about this - especially Lissa. Not that it mattered, I was basically invisible to her but very, heartbreakingly visible to Dimitri. He shot a single, agonized, look at me as she took a breath in her chastising.
"You don't talk like that to someone that abandoned everything, risked everything, was prepared to forfeit her life for your own. A life that no one in your entire world thought was worth saving. A life that wasn't worth that much sacrifice." She took a step back and apprised him up and down with a cold, disgusted glance. "And yet here you stand. Saved."
There were several beats of deafening silence between the three of us before Dimitri swallowed and quietly said to her, "I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
She gave him another judgmental glare and then turned abruptly in the gravel before she stormed off. I slumped with weariness, watching her go, and then felt his eyes on me. I dropped my eyes to the ground unable to look at him. I didn't know what would kill me more if he looked devastated or angry. So instead I swiped at the tears on my face with a sniffle and turned to go in the opposite direction of Sydney. The moment my back was to him he called out in a wavering voice.
I shook my head and rubbed my neck as I continued to walk away. Conflicted. Confused. Heartbroken. But more than anything grateful to the friend that I had taken for granted. Grateful to the girl that was willing to stand up for me in the face of so much baggage and danger. But there was something more there too. The passion in her voice had solidified one thing. Whatever debt she owed Abe had to do with something so similar it hurt her to witness it with me. Because no one could give a speech like that without speaking from experience.