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I was waiting to die. My adoption papers I held close to me, and now, even if it had seemed so important before, it didn't appear to matter now if Vladimir found out about the sibling thing. I didn't know if the papers would survive the blaze—again, it didn't seem to matter. I wasn't thinking about Galen or Vladimir, actually. Or my family, birth or adopted.

No, my thoughts were centered on one person only. I was thinking of Sebastian, and how if I got what I wanted in terms of my family, I could never have him. But if I had him (which was about as likely as me growing wings and flying, mind you), then I couldn't have my family.

So the easiest thing was just to burn.

And that sounds so stupid in hindsight, I know. It sounded stupid even to me at that moment, but I was getting rather depressed. The whole happy face façade had been horrible. I had only been trying to make it nice for Vladimir, because, as Sebastian had pointed out, it wasn't about us and our feud. This—all of it—was about Vladimir. It was not about me, or Galen, or Jordan, or Sebastian. It was for Vladimir.

I wondered idly about the judging tomorrow. Tomorrow was Saturday, and the day people in fancy suits came and looked at the artwork and gave it a score. I wondered how Vladimir would do, or if the judging would be postponed because of the fire.

I also wondered about how my funeral would be. I mean, who would claim me as their daughter? And who would claim my belongings? I hadn't ever made out a will or anything.

I almost laughed at myself just then. I seemed so… detached, if you will, from everything. And I was detached. I mean, not every girl could think about dying as calmly as I was. I didn't know why I was so detached, but did later. I was giving up. I was realizing that everything that I'd done recently was me striving to make things right, whereas almost my entire life before that had been just an act.

"Just an act," I said out loud for my ears only. "Just an act, for all the people." Of course, what I was acting this way for I didn't know. A defense system? Possibly, and that was the likely answer.

I laughed. "Who the hell am I kidding?" I asked myself. I swear, that smoke was getting to me. As I laughed, my laughing degenerated into coughing. My coughing grew more violent. I knew it was the smoke, and now I could clearly see the flames licking in the doorway.

And then… there was a shape in the doorway. I was slowly losing consciousness, and didn't recognize him. I knew it was a him. I stopped coughing long enough to whisper, "Sebastian?" I didn't think he heard me, but my voice was suddenly gone from coughing. My throat felt raw and dry from the smoke, and I desperately wanted water.

And I suddenly wanted to live.

I grew angry at myself. Who the hell was I, to want to do away with my life? I had it pretty well off, didn't I? I could make everything right, if I only had time. I could be strong and get hurt sometimes. It built character. My coughing resumed, and I grew angry at that as well. I wanted to live.

The shape in the doorway had moved forward, and it was the person that I had most wanted to see. I tried a smile at him, then nearly blacked out. I didn't let myself though. I needed to tell him…

"Sebastian," I tried to say. I could hardly hear my own voice, but my throat was parched and the roaring of the flames was drowning out more noise. "Sebastian…" I coughed again, a weak noise. I got even angrier at myself for showing such weakness. I was strong, and would be strong.

He had a face cloth on, and I could tell it had been damped with some liquid to protect against the smoke. He tried to take it off but I held a hand to his face and with that motion, told him to keep it. "Sebastian," I finally whispered. He nodded, those damned green eyes that I loved so much showing in them the fire, though I couldn't tell if it was that he was worried about me or that it was just the reflection of the actual flames. I fancied that it was the second, and managed another whisper. "I'm so sorry." That hadn't been what I wanted to say, and as I opened my mouth again he put his hand onto it, bidding my with a husky whisper into my ear not to talk until he got us out.

Sebastian lifted me gently and I pressed myself into his chest. I felt safe, even though we were in the middle of a blaze. Belatedly, I remember my papers, still pressed to my own chest. I held them tightly with one hand and cradled my burnt hand, the one I had touched the flames with. I could feel the skin blistering and I couldn't really move my fingers. I thought. I didn't know what was reality and what wasn't anymore.

Sebastian told me that once. That I was having a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy. It had only made me angry then, but now I saw the truth in that statement. I felt indebted to him for that little bit of wisdom.

As he pushed past the door, past the flames still trying to push their way inside, I blacked out. I didn't know what happened from then on.

I woke lying on a soft bit of grass. I kept my eyes closed because they hurt from the smoke. I was cold, but I didn't want to be warm. Because warm would be like a fire, which I was not ready to go back in. It was like an epiphany for me—I actually did have a good life. I had been acting like a spoilt brat for most of my life, and I didn't want to be like that. I had been acting like the stereotypical rich bratty girl, used to getting everything she wanted and indeed, expecting it to be so. I hated that.

What right did I have to act like that? No one liked me like that, hell; I didn't like me like that. It was ridiculous.

I became aware slowly of something pressed over my face. I would have panicked, but figured that that would be bad for my already abused lungs. Then I realized that it wasn't restricting my breathing. It was an oxygen mask, and my right hand was wrapped in some clean white gauze. It was the hand that I had stupidly touched the flames with, and it must have been burned.

But… that had been the hand that I was holding my papers with. So, where were they? I opened my eyes and they smarted from the smoke. I could see an orange glow off to my right, and knew that that would probably be the house burning.

Sebastian. I needed to see Sebastian. And Vladimir. But Sebastian first.

I needed to tell him, and thank him for… well, saving my life. I wouldn't have gotten out of there by myself. I didn't have the motivation.

I started to sit up and got a massive headache. Suddenly there was a hand at my back, and I looked over into Galen's worried blue eyes. "Hey, take it easy Stormy."

I smiled at him. "Where's Sebastian?"

His brow furrowed. "Why?"

I narrowed my eyes in confusion, and my smile slipped off my face. "What do you mean, why?" I was attempting to talk through the oxygen mask and it wasn't working very well, but I knew that the oxygen was good for me.

"Well, I didn't think you'd want to talk to him."

"Why not? He saved my life." I finally just removed the damned oxygen mask and placed it to the side, finally managing to sit up straight.

"I don't think he wanted you to know that." Galen was hesitant, and I was getting more and more confused.

"Didn't want me to know that he saved my life? What's going on, Galen?" I demanded, coughing a little. Damned smoke.

Galen held the oxygen mask back up to my face, but I pushed it away irritably. "I don't know. Rayn, you should be resting…"

I grinned a little at him, but then it faded. "Don't call me Rayn. Call me Slava. Where's Sebastian?"

Galen sighed. "Have you told Vladimir about our adoption?"

I gave him a look. "I haven't exactly had time. Where's Sebastian?"

"Then why did you give Vladimir those papers?"

I stood, looking around for Sebastian. "What papers?" I asked distractedly.

"Our adoption papers. Unless those are some other official looking papers that he's holding and looking at in confusion."

"Deal with that, would you please?" I had just seen Sebastian standing looking off into the night.

"Rayn—Slava, whatever—you want me to… tell Vladimir…" Galen stuttered out, but I had already walked away, heading for the solitary figure. I left Galen stuttering behind me.

I walked quietly and slowly over to Sebastian. I knew that he could sense me standing near him, and I didn't say anything. I wanted him to make the first move, and I was scared. With my dismissal of the spoilt rich girl Rayn, I was becoming more timid than accusatory. I didn't know what to think in that matter, but put it away in my head for later thinking. I had something to tell Sebastian.


"No." I said quickly. "No, Sebastian. I'm not Rayn."

He turned to me, confusion evident in the lines of his face. "That doesn't make any sense."

"I does, it does," I almost whispered, my voice husky and low from the smoke. "Sebastian, I'm adopted, but that's not what I need to tell you."

His brow furrowed slightly. "Adopted?"

I nodded. "Please, don't talk about that. Can I just… have my say? Please?"

He nodded back at me. There was an expression on his face that I didn't want to place. If I had tried to place it, I think it would have fallen under the category of sadness, but…

I took a shuddering breath. "Sebastian, I know that this is going to sound weird, and wrong, and I'm going to seem like a complete and utter walking contradiction, and I hate that, but I've been trying to change, and—"

"Just say it." It was definitely sadness on his face. "Say the word and I'll leave you alone. I'm sorry for coming in there tonight—I know you would have gotten yourself out fine on you own, and I'm sorry for the tango, that was way wrong of me. I know that you just want me to leave you alone, and I will. I promise."

A small, sad sounding laugh escaped my mouth. I looked up at him with a somewhat disbelieving, wry smile. "And I thought you were good at reading people."

He narrowed his dark green eyes at me. But he didn't say anything, and I carried on. "Sebastian," I said, tears pricking at my still painful eyes, which wasn't helping, "Sebastian, you idiot, I love you."

His expression was priceless. Then it fell, and he turned away from me. Again. "No, you don't. You want to make me think that you… anyway, don't you remember that you hate me?" his voice was bitter and cold. And he still wouldn't look at me.

"Look at me." I demanded softly. He turned slightly, and I knew that he was indeed looking at me, but out of the corner of his eye. "That was why it hurt me so much the first time, but that doesn't matter now."

"It doesn't matter?" Sebastian couldn't have known that he carried a note of hope in his voice. I almost smiled.

"No. I made a mistake in claiming to hate you all these years. Ten years is too long for a childhood argument to go on."

He smiled a bit of a crooked smile at me, just a quirk of his mouth really. "Have I ever told you how sorry I am for saying those things?"

I looked at him in almost amusement. "Sebastian, you saved my life tonight. And no, I wasn't going to pull myself out of the flames by myself."

He didn't say anything at that, not questioning or even looking at me strangely.

I bit my lip, suddenly hesitant. "Do me a favor?"


"Kiss me."

Well, he did. After I had to almost forcibly pull him down so I could kiss him. He was still somewhat tentative around me, but it was a good kiss.

It was a great kiss, and we didn't break. Actually, it was one of those Princess Bride kisses, and that made me very happy. I smiled against his lips, but then got very annoyed when I heard my name shouted.

"What the hell, Slava?" Ooh, shit. Vladimir. I waved a hand at him, and then reluctantly broke away from my kiss with Sebastian, who looked like Christmas had come early. I grinned shyly at him. "Really make you that happy?"

He let out a silent laugh, rubbing his lips gently. "You have no idea. What he shouting about?"

I winced. "I told you that I was adopted."

"So why is he yelling at you?"

I sighed. "Because I'm his sister. Look, it's a really long and complicated story—I have to sort this out."

As I turned away and began to walk to Vladimir, who was doing a good imitation of a fish out of water, with Galen trying to remain inconspicuous at his side, Sebastian took my gently by my uninjured left hand and touched my lips with his again. I smiled once more at him softly, then walked over to Vladimir.

"Slava…" his expression was a mixture of furious anger and disbelief. "Rayn."

"Call me Slava, please. It's my name."

"I don't care. When were you going to tell me?" Now he just sounded defeated.

"I meant to tell you tonight, I swear I did—"

"Of course you did. Galen said that you've known since the girls talking thing. That was two weeks ago! And you've known for years that you were adopted! When were you even going to tell me that? Why do you always keep me in the dark?"

"I was scared."

That shut him up. "Scared of what?"

"I can't even explain it." Sebastian had followed me and was standing at my back, a welcome warm presence. I took a breath. "I don't know what I was scared of, Vlad." I bit my lip, then switched over to my Russian, despite the fact that it was probably horribly delivered. "I am Sladislava Vassiltchikov, and I am your sister."

Vladimir snorted. "I'm not laughing at you—really."

I gave him a calculated expression. "Then what are you laughing at?"

He covered his laughs. "You just said that you were rabbit."

"I did not!" I was indignant.

His laughing died, and was replaced with an expression of mild hurt and great disappointment. "But what would I have done, to make you so mad at me?"

"I said scared, not mad. And nothing. I can't explain it, Vlad!" I almost groaned in frustration, and then Sebastian put a warm hand on my lower back, reminding me that I had already solved one of my problems tonight. And I had been rescued from a fire. So my night hadn't been a complete waste, but… if I could only sort this out.

"I don't understand, Slava…" Vladimir's voice simply trailed off. I don't know how I expected him to take it, but I had been hoping that it wasn't like this,

"I don't understand either, Vlad." Which was a complete lie, but I didn't really care right then. I could feel a sob starting, and I tried to disguise it as a cough. Of course, my abused lungs weren't about to let me get off that easily, and I started coughing violently. I was more annoyed than anything, but my annoyance melted away as I saw dark green eyes in my own watering sight.

"Are you all right?" I nodded.

"Let… let's just get back to the hotel. Please." I managed. I started to walk to where the parking lot was, even though it was filled with flashing lights and sirens. Vladimir was still looking at me with an unreadable expression, but I was concentrating on just walking to the car. I don't know where my limo went, but Sebastian ended up commandeering a car from someone and driving us back to the hotel.

Sorry about the sharp cut-off. I wasn't supposed to be writing, and really wanted to end this chapter. the next will be better, promise.