A/N: xxdarknessxfallsxx here... It has been such a pleasure to have joined in with the creation of this amazing story. I want to take a moment to tell Swan's Catastrophe how absolutely wonderful she is for dreaming this up, and then having the courage to ask me (and I imagine in a very small voice), "I want this story to be really dark and sexy, will you write my smut?" From there, collaboration began until this final chapter, which we are SO proud to give you. It has been so much fun writing for this story, and I love it just as much as all you readers do. I'm sad that it's over! However, I know it won't be the end of Swanxxdarkness ficlets.

Until next time, then

Chapter 25: The End

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end

- The End, The Doors

This couldn't be happening.

My lover wasn't lifeless in my arms, he didn't have a huge hole in his chest, and his eyes weren't closed because he was dead.

The more I tried to deny the red, wet, reality all over my clothes and lap, the more tears fell from my eyes. Reed's alabaster skin was a sickly gray now, instead of the smooth white it was when he was alive. The longer I sat with his corpse in my arms, the heavier he felt and the colder it seemed outside. I wouldn't move, though. I couldn't leave his body to be just another casualty on this graveyard battlefield.

I heard footsteps approaching from behind… a handful of Shepard's demons remained alive after the fight was over. Sole survivors, perhaps. They made a half-circle around my backside, and I would have been nervous if I actually cared about anything in the living world. Actually, to my surprise, they folded their hands and lowered their heads to give Reed some form of respect. When I glanced up at the few, I didn't see Shepard among them.

"Our leaders may have fallen, but we won the battle. We owe this demon, Reed, a proper burial now that he has proven himself to the race," one of the demons declared to the others.

My grip around Reed's corpse tightened at the mention of a burial. I didn't feel ready to let him go- but it seemed silly to cling to a dead demon body. I could hold onto Reed metaphorically in my heart; my time with him had been short, but I would miss him until I died. Besides, it was important to me that Reed saw a proper burial, and I know he didn't want to end up one of the hundreds of corpses piled in the junkyard like fellow members of his race. I glanced up at the demons standing around behind me.

"Reed didn't do all of this to prove himself to his race." My voice sounded fiercer than I felt. "He did all of this so that he would have a future, and so other demons like him would have the freedom to do whatever they wanted with their own lives."

Instead of ignoring me, the handful of demons regarded my speech.

"Reed is dead," I stated harshly, gesturing toward his body. "But you have a future now. Don't waste it."

How could I say this to these demons, and at the same time know that these words would be hard to follow myself? Finding a future without Reed seemed impossible right now.

The demons nodded before gently removing Reed's corpse from my arms. It took everything in me not to clutch at him and never let him go- but I eventually did. The demons rose and headed towards the more vacant part of the cemetery. I watched as they put the man I loved in to the ground, and when they finished burying the remainder of their dead, the demons nodded their heads towards me before fading in to oblivion.

I was alone in the graveyard.

I glanced down the rows of headstones. The wind blew, rustling up the fallen leaves and sending an icy chill up my spine. I shivered, and realized that this was where Reed and I first met. How ironic that it'd be the same place we said goodbye.

After staring silently at Reed's burial place for what seemed like hours- telling him in my mind all of the things in death that I could never tell him when he was alive- I forced myself to walk away.

I knew I walked the entire way home, but if I tried to remember any of it, I knew I'd come up blank. By the time I reached my front door, I was so exhausted- emotionally and physically- that I could hardly keep myself standing.

When I reached for the doorknob, it turned of its own accord; the front door swung open to reveal a dark figure in the doorway.

For one wild moment, it felt as if my heart would jump out of my chest. This time, for joyous reasons.


He somehow came back!

Before the thought could fully form, the figure stepped from the shadows into the glow of the porch light.

It wasn't Reed.

It was my mom.

"Welcome home, sweetie," my mom greeted with a bright, happy smile.

That- that pure love and cheerfulness that radiated from her- was what sent me over the edge. Right then and there, I burst into tears, unleashing all of the feelings I'd been holding in since I watched the light fade from my demon's eyes.

How bittersweet my tears tasted as I clung to my beloved mother, only wishing for my demon to materialize.

Reed's POV

Reed woke up with a start. He was dead; he definitely remembered dying, remembered seeing Hayley's face crumple when she realized the he wasn't going to magically heal from his wounds. Reed remembered darkness- and yet, here he was. Not dead.

No, instead, Reed found himself standing before the demon elders. Again.

Lilith, in all her naked glory- save for the boa constrictor- rose an eyebrow in Reed's direction. Clearing his face of any unruly emotions, Reed schooled his features into a mask of boredom and slight admiration.

"Elders, summoning me twice in the same year? I'm honored, truly," Reed drawled.

Abaddon grinned, showing off rows of sharp, shiny, teeth.

Lilith chuckled lightly. "You are aware that you're dead, aren't you?"

Reed widened his eyes in mock surprise.

"You're kidding? I was wondering what that giant hole in my chest was from... Dying, hm? Now it all makes so much sense."

Lilith didn't take well to the sarcasm and barred her teeth at him; Reed blandly wondered if the demons could hurt him, even though he was dead.

"Anyway," Samael began, "You died by sacrificing your own life for that of an innocent." Samael paused, waiting for Reed to break in with some sarcastic comment- when Reed made no sound, he continued. "You have proven to the elders that you still retain some of your humanity." Samael declared.

At that, Reed felt as if ice was starting to form in the pit of his stomach. This wasn't sounding too good.

"Because of this," Amy said in her soprano-high voice, picking up where Samael left off, "you have been granted a boon by both the demon elders and the seven archangels."

That surprised Reed, so much so that he was sure it showed on his face before he could return his features into an indifferent mask.

"What sort of boon?" Reed asked wearily.

"The demons have agreed that you should be allowed to have a second chance- however, the angels thought your selfless qualities would prevent you from being a good demon- and we sure as hell weren't going to let those suck-ups turn you into a heavenly slave... so we compromised," Abaddon said with a smirk.

"And this compromise would entail?" Reed prompted. He could hardly believe what he was hearing.

"You will be mortal," Lilith replied in a peeved tone. "Stripped of all of your demonic powers, your appearance will be altered slightly to allow you to better fit in with the humans. You will grow old like the humans, and you will die eventually as all mortals must."

Reed stared at the elders open-mouthed.

They called that a boon? He was seven hundred years old, damn it, and now they were making him human. Of course there was the plus of being able to see Hayley, but...human?

"I know what you're thinking." Lilith said with a small smile. "But rest assured young one, we will be watching over you- and we might even decide to grant you a few more boons if you please us."

"I don't think I can survive pleasing you people more than once- especially now that you're making me human," Reed muttered. But his words held only half of the bite that he was capable of. He wasn't dead anymore. He would be able to see Hayley again!

The thought brought warmth to every part of Reed's body- and maybe a small grin to his face despite the indifferent mask.

"It is done," Lilith announced, orange eyes gleaming. "Farewell, Reed. I hope to see you soon."

"Not too soon," Reed replied with a curt smile.

The demons smiled at Reed in return.

"We'll see," they all said together. Which was way creepy.

With a flick of Lilith's finger, Reed found himself back in the graveyard- alive and human.

He frowned down at himself, wondering what he looked like as a human. He hoped Hayley would be able to recognize him. And with that thought, he began walking in the direction of Hayley's house.

Hayley's POV

It had been three days since Reed's death and I still couldn't find the energy to get out of bed. I stared up at the ceiling mostly, at all the LED light stars; I couldn't find the will to gaze at the real things only a few feet away through my window. The only force that kept me eating and drinking was my mom's soothing voice. Every morning, the smell of her breakfast would wake me from my slumber, and every evening, her company would ease me to sleep. I was happy that things in my house were back to the way they were before my mom's cancer, but there was a black hole in my universe of stars- a black hole named Reed.

Every waking moment, Reed was in my thoughts. Every dream I had, Reed was there. Everything I looked at reminded me of him somehow.

I was driving myself insane with longing, and I knew my mom was getting worried about me, but I couldn't force myself to put on an act.

Reed was gone. Dead.

Even with my mom home again, I felt hollower than ever before, and this emptiness grew every day. Today (when I was in one of my semi-lucid states), I convinced her to take a "me" day and pamper herself. Honestly, it was just an excuse to get her out of the house, so she wouldn't be there to see me cry like an oversized baby. I think she suspected as much, but she agreed anyway.

So now, here I was, lying on the couch, feeling and probably looking like shit, while I watched Titanic for the third time today. Joy.

And believe me, the irony was not missed on this girl: two people from completely different worlds falling in love, deciding to be together… only to be broken apart by the death of the sinfully gorgeous-looking male in the story. Oh yeah, I could definitely relate to Rose.

Only Reed hadn't frozen to death. (Could demons even freeze to death?)

No, he'd practically had his heart torn at and then had to suffer a slow, agonizing death.

And Rose thought watching Leo sink to the bottom of the ocean was bad...some girls have all the luck.

I was midway through my rant to the T.V. Rose about 'why the hell she couldn't just scoot the hell over so they could both lay down on the damn floating door,' when the doorbell rang.

Just what I need, I thought bitterly Some damn Jehovah's Witness to see me all red-eyed and snot nosed.

With a sigh, I made my way to the door and threw it open without bothering to look in the peep-hole.

"Look, whatever you're selling- I'm not interested, so just-" I froze mid-sentence when I saw who was standing on my porch.

"Well," began a familiar and sarcastic voice, "only if you're sure you don't want to buy anything, I'll leave you alone. Just to let you know though, Panacea and Human Souls are being sold at the lowest price of the season," Reed said with a smirk, eyebrows rising up and down repeatedly.

For a few moments all I could do was stare silently. He was still as pale as alabaster, his hair was still the color of newly fallen snow- his eyes were different. They weren't red anymore, but they weren't any one color in particular either- as I stared, they changed. It was like a bunch of color crystals were shoved into a glass and mixed around. The outcome was hypnotic.

"Reed?" I said, my voice cracking as teas sprang in my eyes. "Is it really you?"

Reed's face lost all trace of laughter and he gave me a solemn smile. "Yeah. I'm...human now." He opened his mouth to say something else, but I had already closed the distance between us and began smothering him with kisses. I hugged him tightly, as I close as he could get to me, and rejoiced in the feel of strong, powerful arms wrapping around my waist to squeeze me even closer.

"It's really you," I said, staring up at his face in amazement. "You're alive. You came back!"

Reed's hand came up to cup my cheek and he smiled, leaning down to kiss me softly. I sighed at the feel of his lips against mine, at the way he nipped them lightly before exploring my mouth with his tongue.

He was really here. Really with me and not dead.

"I love you," I said before I could stop myself. "I love you so much."

Reed kissed me more fiercely, before pulling away to nuzzle my cheek.

"I love you too, Sparky."

I looked up at my demon-turned-human and smiled. My face must have said, 'you do?' Because Reed chuckled and repeated the words until I laughed.

"So what do we do now?" I asked.

Reed's hands trailed down my spine until they cupped my butt. "I kind of liked where this was going…" he said against my ear, his warm breath sending shivers through my body, and his words sending a tingling sensation through my belly and other places.

"Hm," I said teasingly. "I don't know if we have time- my mom could be back any minute."

I took a moment to repeat that sentence in my head. We, Reed and I, and my mom were all in the same sentence; my universe of stars was whole and happy at last. I glanced up at Reed.

His eyes had darkened, turning from teal, to cerulean blue, to black. I kinda liked this new, always-changing-eye-color thing. His hands skimmed around the front of my shirt as he nibbled lightly at my throat, his teeth scraping the soft flesh there. I felt my heartbeat quicken in excitement as my back came up against the front door.

"I think," Reed said between kisses, "that we've got all the time in the world."

I smiled at him before pulling him closer to me- if that was possible. I liked the sound of spending forever with Reed. He smirked against my lips, then reached behind me to open the door and bring us both inside.

Yep, all the time in the world- with Reed- was looking really good right now.

The End- for now ;)