A/N This is the End. Happy or not - find out and let me know if you like it!

Thanks so much to all those who were supporting me in this, reading my story. It means the world! Love u all!

Disclaimer: Do not own SM.


Chapter 15

It was hard to breathe, so painful, agonizing and excruciating she didn't even want to. The torment in the chest was no better. The agony was spreading slowly all over her body, breaking every little obstacle on its way.

Was it even worth fighting?

Every single blow resonated within her.

She was trying to protect herself out of pure instinct. She didn't want to die just because someone else desired her death, so she struggled against it and fought for her sister's life.

But now - that she was being beaten - seemed like a perfect time to give up.

Darkness was consuming her.

Consuming her.

Slowly.

Peacefully.

No more.

She welcomed the oblivion.


The woman opened her eyes slowly, almost involuntarily. She still found it hard to breathe, the ghost of suffocation followed her this past nine months, refusing to let her be. Every night she saw one and the same dream and nothing helped her. Even those things that made every other fear and harsh memory go away.

She felt soothing caress on her arm. Not saying a word, she just hugged the man tightly, nuzzling his chest and neck. They had talked about that dream countless times, he tried to comfort her every way he could think of, but to no avail.

He saw his own fault in the state she was in, but he could not change the past, he could not prevent losing people she subconsciously loved, the only thing he could actually influence was the present day and creating their future together. And he was working hard on keeping her as safe, satisfied and happy as possible. And, according to her, the only place she could relax was his embrace. So he just tightened the hold on her and brushed his lips against her temple.


She stirred to the light. It was everywhere. Bright, warm, piercing light. She snuggled into the man's chest, endeavoring to keep it at bay for a few more minutes. But it was too strong and she finally succumbed and woke up. The sunshine was pouring through the windows and flooding the room with glowing.

She lied back for a moment staring through the windows. It was her fantasy, here she was safe from the reality, far away from problems, twisted plotting, games. But they still haunted her.

The man of her dreams was still sleeping. It was quite a surprise since usually he woke up earlier than her and only several minutes later she, sensing the lack of his presence, opened her eyes, welcoming the new day. However, here he was, facing her. He looked so relaxed in his sleep, even a little younger. His hair is a glorious mess. And it was so tempting to hug him, kiss him, wake him up and not leave the bedroom any time soon, but she knew he needed his sleep, more than even her. Even now he was constantly on guard, looking out for her, making sure she was alright. Seldom was he relaxed around friends and family.

Slipping out of bed, she found the man's shirt on the nearby chair and shrugged it on. She made her way to the vast bathroom. She stared at herself in the gigantic mirror above the sinks. It was her ritual. Every morning the woman spent in that house she looked at her reflection and asked herself if she looked any different. On the outside - no, but inside she was a whole different person. She felt different.

Her fiancé was still sleeping, so she left him and headed for the kitchen to cook breakfast. The woman took her iPod from a table and plugged the headphones in. She slipped it into the breast-pocket of the shirt.

Music always made her feel happier and safer. But not nearly as much as he did. So whenever it was impossible to see him, she turned the music up loud and escaped the fears that still followed her despite countless attempts to get rid of them.

She draw, cooked, created new projects - she tried to do something - anything - every moment. Being busy also allowed to escape too deep thoughts. This morning was not an exception. And slowly she forgot about the nightmare, thinking only about the good things that were about to come.

When the man entered the kitchen, the smile was shining brightly on the blonde's face, she was dancing while cooking. The man sat on one of the stools, he was leaning on the breakfast table, his head supported by his steepled hands. When the woman noticed him, he looked both amused and bewildered. It was not very often that she cooked especially since she moved in with him after the proposal. She froze, flushed, but then gathered herself and pulled the headphones out of the ears, her knees weak at the sight of him even after almost a year of being together.

«Good morning, Miss Kingston. You are very lively this morning,» he said.

«Why, Mr. Shields. You don't like me this way?»

«I love you every single way I can get you. Now, though…. Barefoot, in our kitchen, in my shirt… Yeah, I love you most like that,» satisfied grin appeared on his face, making him look even more irresistible.

«Shouldn't that be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?»

«We'll work on that, surely. Maybe even after breakfast? Instead of it?»

«No, not yet. You are rushing things a little. Remember, we are not married yet? And we are meeting our shrink today, so it's dangerous… you know, to get sidetracked,» Serena smirked.

«Sidetracked?» he murmured amused. «Anyway, why do we need a shrink? We could talk things through without a third party, just you and me. That's what we do there - talk,» Darien was still very much opposed to the idea of using help from a psychotherapist. He found it very hard to open up in front of a stranger in a unfamiliar room, though it was nothing like those offices shown in shows. Thank God for small mercies.

«You know why, Darien. When there are just the two of us, we do not concentrate on the things that matter mostly. You are worried too much about me, you try to support me when unnecessary and we get distracted by comforting each other and end up in bed. Just admit it, we need a person to guide us. Darien, I want our marriage to be based on love and respect, on happiness that I feel when I am with you and leave these fears and destructing emotions behind, in the past, where they should be. I don't want to take them with us. Please?»

Darien looked in her eyes obviously undergoing an inner fight with himself about it.

«Sure. Of course, I will do it,» Darien sauntered toward Serena and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her neck. «What are you making?»

«Omelet and pancakes.» He smiled against her neck and nipped her earlobe.

«You for desert?» Serena giggled and poked him with her elbow. «Hey! That hurt!» He clenched his side shamming pain.

«Pantywaist,» Serena muttered disapprovingly.

«Pantywaist?» he uttered in disbelief. Suddenly Darien bent down and scooped the woman over his shoulder. «You'll have to finish cooking later, wench. I have a lesson to teach you.»


Dr. Gabit's, the psychotherapist's, office was a relatively short ride from home. Though it was the third time they visited, it sill felt as if this was their first attempt.

A friendly receptionist ushered them into Dr. Gabit's grand office. The room was the palest of green with two dark green couches facing two leather armchairs. Dr. Gabit was standing near the sitting area. Wearing black pants and a pale-blue shirt, he looked laid-back, his bright blue eyes seemed to miss nothing. The man was in his fifties, an honored and respected doctor, he was well known for working wonders.

«Serena, Darien. Welcome,» the men shook hands and the good doctor ushered the couple toward the couches.

Looking relaxed, but in control, Dr. Gabit took place in one of the armchairs and picked up a notepad. To support Serena, or rather himself, Darien reached across with his hand, found hers and squeezed it reassuringly.

«So, is there something you'd like to talk about specifically or shall we just continue?»

«Both, I guess…» Serena shot a quick glance at the shrink, as if looking for a kind of encouragement. «I… keep seeing that dream...»

«Tell me about your dream, please.» Dr. Gabit smiled kindly at the woman, expecting her to start.

«It's just a repetition of the last moments in the library. While listening to Mr. DeVeene's story I was floating somewhere far away. Seldom was I thinking about the coming death or the story of his relationship with our birthmother. Actually, I was thinking about loosing the chance with Darien and I regretted not talking to him, not saying goodbye, about the fact that my own mother didn't want me and gave me away. I thought, I was not worthy of love and attention. I had been fighting inside, brain versus heart, there was so much I still wanted to do! Panic took over me, but the moment I heard Mina's voice, so confident and calm… I just could not lose her, now that I have found her. And so when the killer pointed the gun at her, I… lashed out at him. He was quick to response. He started beating me, hard, not taking any prisoners. And I fought back as hard as I could, but there was a moment when I thought 'What for?' and not finding an answer I gave up, sinking into the darkness. The last thing I heard was a gunshot and shouting.»

Raising Serena's hand to his mouth, Darien gently brushed her knuckles with his lips.

«Darien, why don't you tell us your side of the story?» Darien glared at the doctor quite menacingly, obviously not feeling up to opening up in front of a stranger. Still, he remembered promising Serena to do his best.

«I… came to the function to meet Serena. Mina and I had had an agreement, she wanted to help me with pursuing Serena…»

«Mina is your ex-wife and Serena's sister, right? Didn't you feel it was quite a strange agreement?» Darien didn't like the question, considering it a lot more private than was required and yet he answered.

«Mina and I have never been involved romantically… or any other way for that matter, nor were we friends… However, I do know her pretty well, I knew she was genuine offering her help. I didn't see any other choice but to agree.»

«Ok, please, go on.» The doctor made a note and looked up at the couple again.

«Mina was giving her «if you hurt her, I'll have your balls» talk when I met an old friend of mine. And then Mina just went away, saying that Kun, a friend of Serena's, and I will be able to find her in the library. She didn't give us any specifics. I just had to find Kun among 300 people and then the library in the three-storeyed mansion. It was then that my security advisor called and warned me about the threat. I rushed to the building, not really caring about finding anyone. I didn't realize Nick was fallowing me, I didn't notice Kun who somehow joined us, we didn't really speak, I was so worried, I probably could not! We separated in the house, each taking a storey to explore and find the fu… I am sorry, damn library. Some of the rooms were locked and I couldn't help but wonder if Serena and Mina were behind one of them. I was leaving for the next floor when a door opened and I saw Mr. DeVeene leaving one of the rooms. I guess, he didn't notice me… It was… just suspicious. Yes, it was his house and he could go wherever he wanted, but it looked wrong. I was going to stop him when I heard a gunshot. I thought, I'd died a thousand deaths, but I rushed there. Serena was on the floor, unconscious, and I was not even sure she if she was alive. Mina was fighting the killer. I attacked him.»

«What did you feel seeing Serena and Mina like that?»

«I was scared. And guilty. I thought it was my fault. I didn't succeed in protecting them. I felt rage, anger.» Darien's voice dropped and harrowed look crossed his face. «I was scared that I could not save Serena, that I came too late. I was taken over by violence, I was beating the killer till someone dragged me away. Then I took Serena and run towards my car. I needed to get her in the hospital as quick as I could and there was no chance I'd let anyone else take her or call an ambulance. I suspect, people were watching me carrying her, but I didn't care even when the photos came out on TMZ. I just wanted her safe and sound, alive..."

«Baby, I am fine, it's ok…Hush…» Serena tried her best to calm the man down.

«Serena, what you did was so brave and yet incredibly stupid. He could have killed you.» The anger radiating from him was almost palpable.

«I did what I thought was the best.» Serena whispered.

Dr. Gabit was observing the interaction with calm interest and he never stopped taking notes. He glanced up at the couple, thinking it might be the time to interfere.

«Serena, you came to sense only in hospital, right?»

«Yes. I think I heard some of the conversations in the hospital room, but I am not quite sure…»

«What did you hear?»

«I think, doctors…. There was a lot of terminology. And then I heard, I believe, Kun and Zoi. They were talking about Mina…. That she's… gone. And they sounded so.. unaffected by this… »

«How did that affect you?»

«I didn't want to hear any more. I thought, what I did was not worth it. That my outburst was… useless. I had just found someone really special to me. We were so different and I saw it from the life she lived, people she was close to, people who were around her. And I sensed that our world outlook could not be any more unalike. But when I met her… it just clicked. She's like my counterweight. She could really irritate me, I didn't understand her reasoning. Nevertheless, I needed her to balance me. She had everything I was lacking. I was not fully conscious but I literally felt darkness absorbing me… I wanted it to.»

«Do you feel different now?»

«Yes. But in my dreams I am still being taken over by blackness over and over again.»

«What's different now?»

«Everything the same. Sometimes it's as if she has never existed in my life. But everything's changed…. When I woke up in hospital, Darien was by my side….»


Flashback

Serena opened her eyes. She was in the clean, sterile environment of a hospital room. It was dark, only a sidelight shining dimly, and all was quiet. Her head and chest were aching, her arm smarted and she noticed the IV attached to it. The woman turned her head slowly, trying to avoid the pain, a man was sitting beside her and leaning on the bed with his head on his folded arms.

«Darien…» her voice barely a whisper.

Serena reached out and run her fingers through his dark hair. The man instantly awoke, raised his head, alarmed.

«Serena…» his voice relieved. He grasped her hand tightly and held to his heart. «Stay still, I'll call a nurse.» Standing, he reached for a buzzer on the bedside.

A nurse dashed into the room not half a minute later. She was a red-haired woman in her late thirties.

«Miss Kingston. My name is Kelly. Do you know where you are?»

«Yes. Hospital.»

«Good. I'll let your doctor know you're awake. How do you feel?» Kelly's voice was filled with sympathy.

«Sore. Thirsty.»

«I'll check your vitals and then fetch you some water, deal?» Serena was not sure she had it in her to speak, so she nodded.

The woman watched the nurse wrap the blood pressure cuff around her upper arm. And then glanced at Darien, who was sitting in the chair. He looked dreadful. His hair was a mess, it seemed that he hadn't shaved in days, his shirt was wrinkled. He didn't look his usual ideal self.

When nurse Kelly left, the man looked like he wanted to say something, but failed as a blonde woman bustled into the room.

«OMG, Serena! You scared the hell out of me!»

It was Mina. The one and only. Very much alive. Holding a glass of water for her, obviously stolen from the kind nurse. However, Serena couldn't help but remember the conversation between two men. They said Mina had been gone… Was her mind playing tricks? Or did she misunderstood? After all, they did say it quite calmly.

'And I wanted to die just because of that…'

«Mina? What… happened? How are you?»

«Small sips, Serena, careful. I am perfect. Apparently, you lost consciousness and missed all the fun. But I am the best sister ever, so I am gonna tell you every single thing!» Mina's eyes narrow at Darien. «Andrew's brought you clean clothes. Go change… You can't win my sister's heart looking like hell.» Darien didn't even flinch and continued looking at her impassively. «For heaven's sake! Darien! There is an army of security outside that door! Chill! She's safe here! Nothing is gonna happen in the next fifteen minutes.» Darien sighed and without so much as a word stalked out of the room radiating disapproval. «At last! So… the details…»

«No, Mina, please, no details. Just the basics. I… I am not ready to hear this all…»

«Ok. So, Darien rushed into the room the moment you seemed to lose it and he almost killed the killer. Ironic, isn't it? My insane father is caught, thanks to Arthur Shields. has been taken into custody. Also, the real detective Kou is here. He has found our real family and the second killer who is now in prison along with the person who wanted us dead. Nothing to worry about.»

«Oh… I guess, I'll have to know the details after all… but not now… I am tired.»

«Sure. You want anything?»

«I am starving.»

«I'll let Darien know. He'll do anything for you. He really loves you, you know…»

Serena made an incoherent sound, pretending to fall back asleep.

She was not ready.

End of flashback


"How often do you see Mina now?" Dr. Gabit's calming voice seemed to occur out of nothing.

"Rarely... She's heavily pregnant with her first child, gone to build her new family with Kun, the man who had proposed to me. And I am getting married too, to her ex-husband. We kinda switched.» Serena giggled like a school girl making Darien roll his eyes. «So I do understand how hard it is to meet as often as we'd like to... But I can't help but wonder if we repeating our mothers' destiny in a way? But at least they knew each other, experienced the sisterhood. We did not have such an opportunity."

"And what about your relationship with Darien? Can you say you have managed to accept his love and, what's more important, your own feelings?"

" It was hard for me. The relationship between us all seemed to be so complicated! But Darien was patient. He showed me, repeatedly, what he felt, he took care of me, he still does, he's the only one who really kept me strong. And though we felt the instant attraction to each other, I guess we both agree that today it is so much more. And, in a way, we are thankful to all those complications, because when you go through difficult times, it really makes you stronger as a couple. It does for us, anyways. Our love today is a deeper emotion. Sounds cheesy, I know but that's what it feels like."

"So today you are not questioning whether or not you are worth it?"

«Oh, I do. Because frankly, it does feel surreal, but I am not questioning his feelings, or mine for that matter. I just allow myself to feel happy and… hope for the best.»

«Today, as a couple in process, what really matters to you?»

Without even looking at each other, Serena and Darien answered in unison:

«Family.»

«It's expanding, isn't it?»

«Yes.» Serena's smile was a bit sad. «Mina and I won't be able to know our biological father, I can't meet my biological mother, but our grandfather is still alive. He is old and has suffered several strokes, so we are using every opportunity to spend time with him...»


Flashback

The living room was filled with people. Lots of people.

Darien had carried Serena in the room and placed her on the couch. Several blankets at her feet, two pillows supporting her back, a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows right at her side.

Everyone instantly stopped talking and were looking at them with silent interest.

Serena had used to shy away from every type of attention, but this time her own curiosity was at peak. She was catching every gesture, every word and could not blame others for doing the same.

Darien sat by her side, not wishing to leave the woman alone even for a second. It seemed like he didn't care whether or not Zoi, whom he had met in the hospital, was eyeing him with rightful suspicion of a caring brother. But Serena did see that Zoi actually approved of the man.

Darien had insisted on Serena's staying at his house to recover fully before she «made whatever necessary decision» she had to. He had been hoping that by that time Serena would have decided to never leave him. And now, a little more than a week later, he was almost sure he'd win her, so it was hard to find a more contented man.

Kun, on the other hand, behaved anxiously. However, Serena could not get the reason for it. Later Mina told her that she was pregnant. If hadn't been told, Serena would have never guessed since Mina was her usual bouncy, chirpy self. Surprisingly, Andrew was nowhere to be seen.

Despite Mina and Serena's efforts to hold in check the number of guests, Lita and Neph were unable to skip the meeting. Not that they even considered it.

Jade could not believe his father's intrigues but eventually he and Raye chose to dissociate from Mr. Daniel DeVeene and showed their support to Mina and welcomed Serena to the family. So, naturally, they came to the gathering as well.

Serena was shocked at the space of the living room. Even with all those people in there, it still gave the impression of being enormous. Perhaps, it could even accommodate twice that number comfortably.

Andrew entered the room, leading a tall black-haired man with him. The man instantly tensed , sensing the looks of nine people. Andrew took on his impassive poker-faced demeanor, and his composure helped the guest to overcome the first impression.

«Detective Kou.» Andrew said and the girls couldn't help but giggle as the image of the quite shortened in his height blond man in a henchman clothes appeared in their minds.

«I am sorry, detective. The ladies here have gone through quite a lot, their reaction is caused by nerves, don't pay attention to them.» Darien looked disapprovingly at the four women. «Would you like something to drink, detective?»

«No, thank you. I am here just to tell you some of the details of the investigations. And then I have to report back to my original client.» As all the people looked at him expectantly, Mr. Kou proceeded with the narration. «First of all, I'd like to let you know that not your biological father, nor anyone from his family had known about you 'till recently. Apparently, Ms. DeVeene has come across the correspondence between her mother and my client's father. She tried to find some information, but as my client is a very influential and private man, Ms. DeVeene didn't succeed. He never knew about the affair and, most importantly, about the two girls. His son died early in a car accident and, desperate to have a successor, Mr. Leshchev adopted a new-born child, a boy. He was brought up here, but visited Russia every summer, he referred to Mr. Leshchev as grandfather. The man loved the boy and trusted him completely. The boy is now a grown-up man, his name is Alan. Yes, Ms. DeVeene, the same Alan you're thinking about. At the time you dated he didn't know about the relation between you two. However, recently Mr. Leshchev has been feeling unwell and when he was informed about the young Ms. DeVeene, he wanted to know whether she is indeed his granddaughter. He told about his suspicions to Alan and then hired me. I followed Ms. DeVeene to the resort and there found out about the existence of the second girl. Unfortunately, I must tell you that two of the several murder attempts - the incidents with Ms. DeVeene's car and the shooting, that is - were created by Alan for he didn't have the desire to share the inheritance. Later, though, he decided to marry Ms. DeVeene, supposedly, getting rid of her later. And that's why he attended the masquerade ball, to ask for the second chance. When Mr. Leshchev heard about this, he suffered from a severe heart attack. He survived but is still weak. He invites the ladies and the members of their families to visit him in Russia whenever you please. He also asked me to let you know he begs for your forgiveness and is willing to do whatever it takes to earn it…»

End of the flashback


Dr. Gabit glanced at the clock and then turned his attention back to the couple.

«I am afraid, our time is up. My last question for today is What would you like your life together be in, say, five, years?»


Serena was standing in the kitchen of their new house, looking in the window while she was waiting for the water for tea to start boiling. The woman sensed familiar hands encircling her and her slightly showing bump - their second child - in the warm loving embrace. Not a word was said. They didn't need them. The couple watched five kids of different ages playing in the meadow, the women, who were keeping an eye on them, were sitting at the table, drinking juice and chatting animatedly, their husbands a little further away, near the pond, most definitely talking fishing. Or sports. It was hard to tell.

It was the perfect, ideal picture, she wouldn't be able to imagine this all if asked in her wildest dreams, however it was not a fairy tale. It was the real life, her life.

And it was so much better.

The end