As promised, the third and final part! Thanks to everyone who reviewed and/or favorite'd: I was so happy to see that people enjoyed the story :) Enjoy the rest and Happy Halloween! (keep your peepers open for dead princes ;) )
Serena came to in the dark. It was so dark that the only thing she was sure of was the hard floor beneath her. She anxiously bit her lip and whimpered at the sudden sting of pain. She felt her lips with her fingertips; something slippery and metallic-smelling came off onto her fingers. The skin felt ragged and torn.
An impatient sigh made Serena jump. She wailed and curled up into a ball, willing her nightmare – and its leading man – to just be over so that she could wake up in the normal world, where she didn't go to college parties, and where she wasn't assaulted by dead people.
"You allowed him to fulfill his promise," a woman's voice said, floating out of the dark. Serena winced and looked up; though she was relieved that it was not Diamond's voice whispering at her, this voice seemed to belong to someone more dead than the demon prince himself.
"His promise?" Serena asked, her voice faltering. "What promise?"
A faint glow pulsed in the darkness, quickly materializing into an ivory and silver oar. The oar, emanating a weak light, illuminated a gloved hand, a bit of ruffled skirt and a wisp of dusky hair.
"He promised to return to the world of the dead in exchange for your kiss, which you willingly gave."
"I did not willingly give him anything!" Serena snapped heatedly, feeling for the first time a bit of warm blood rush to her cheeks. She immediately shivered and clutched at her arms, for she did not realize until that moment how cold she really was.
"It was enough," the female voice said shortly.
"That shouldn't have even happened," Serena said furiously, rubbing her arms in hopes of warming herself up, wishing for a parka instead of her flimsy angel dress. "He's dead, he shouldn't be here. This is the world for the living!"
"On this night, the River Styx runs dry. The dead don't need the Ferrier to reach the world of the living," the woman said defensively. The oar seemed to glow a little brighter for a moment, showing a pair of vibrant green eyes in a pale face, before the light shrunk down again to a feeble glimmer.
"But…this is a one-time thing, right?" Serena asked hopefully. "Drought or something? This won't happen again."
A dry, emotionless laugh filled the black space around Serena, and her heart sunk down to her stomach.
"On this night, the River Styx runs dry as the mortal world dies. The gates open for Persephone's passage and the dead who remember the living may pass through for one night before they are called back again," she repeated, as though Serena were a dolt for missing a terribly obvious point. Something tickled at the edge of Serena's half-frozen consciousness. An oar, a ferry, the dead of ancient Greece buried with two coins, coins to pay the Ferrier…
"But why does he remember me?" Serena asked tearfully. "Why me?" She could practically hear the Ferrier's shrug of indifference.
"Why not you?" she asked philosophically. "He loved you desperately in life, did he not? He died for you. Are you so surprised that he would cling to a beautiful memory in the gray hazes of Asphodel?"
"Can't you stop them?" Serena demanded. "Can't you keep them from coming through?"
"The Ferrier can do nothing on Samhain," the woman said. "And I should not be asked to. It was you that gave a kiss and sent him back with a revived memory that he will hold fast until the Styx is barren again."
"Does that mean-" Serena began in a trembling voice, the meaning of the Ferrier's words become vividly – and horrifically – apparent.
"You may rest easy for now, Princess Moon," the Ferrier interrupted, her voice not sympathetic, but coolly amused. "The River runs dry but once a year."
Darien had finally found Serena huddled in a dark corner of Sam's apartment, shivering and pale. He was frantic, having turned the apartment upside down, trying to find his lost girlfriend. He was disturbed by how he found her; her normally rosy skin was devoid of color, her lips were bloody, and she was staring blankly at a wall, repeatedly moving her hands over her arms. His touch seemed to revive her, and when he got her to tear her gaze away from the wall and to him, her blue eyes immediately filled with tears and she threw her arms around Darien's neck without a word.
Never before had she noticed how warm he was. Never before had it occurred to her that beneath Darien's skin beat a heart, and that life rushed through his arteries. She had never noticed life before, not in that way anyways, not until Darien's hands had reached into the cold, dark place where Serena had sat, begging the Ferrier and her oar to find some way to keep certain ghostly princes in the realm of the dead, and pulled her back to the living world.
There were repeated assurances from Serena, that she hadn't accepted any drinks from anyone, that no one had touched her, that her lips were only bleeding because they were terrifically chapped. Serena knew that Darien was never fully convinced that she had only been crying because she couldn't find him at the party, that she was so anxious to have lost him in the crowd. She didn't blame him; she knew that he could sense the supernatural webs of aura left on her body by the ghost prince and the ferrier sailor scout, magical traces that one did not normally pick up at a college party. But Darien had said nothing more, and instead took her home immediately, swearing that there would be no more Halloween parties for the two of them.
Serena rubbed her arms as she moved down the hallway. Even the thick knit of her sweater wasn't enough to keep the house's chill from settling on her skin and into her bones. She sighed, catching a glimpse of the clock on the small table in the hall; it was only seven. Darien would take an hour, maybe two, trick-or-treating with Rini before he returned. By then, the supernatural gloom in the house would be gone and the jack-o-lantern would be relit. Nothing would seem amiss.
The kitchen light was on, though Darien had turned it off moments ago. Sitting at the table was a pale man with white hair and a red suit. A horned mask sat on the tabletop, next to one long, colorless hand. He was staring at the doorway expectantly.
"Serena," he said, a smile curling around his face as she entered the room. She gave him a resigned nod, and then went to the cupboard for some tea. The man remained seated at the table, quietly watching as Serena settled into her typical routine for that particular night. She had long ago learned that Halloween was somewhat more bearable when she had something hot to drink.
When she sat down at the table, a steaming mug in one hand, Diamond leaned forward eagerly.
"Serena, I have a beautiful memory; I remember that you kissed me. Does that mean you love me?"