Hello readers!

For the who-knows-what time, I want to thank you all for being here, sticking to the story, supporting me and giving me constrictive criticism. I appreciate all of you (yes, those of you who never said a words are very much loved too :)). It's been awesome, so thank you all! Also, I want to thank my parents, who'd brought me this far… Just kidding! Thanks guys, hope you've had a good time reading this story.

And now, I'm glad to present you the new and last chapter of Till Death Do Us Part. Tada!!!


Chapter 26 – Till death do us part

Amanda was standing in Lisa's guestroom, where she's been staying since she sold her own apartment, in front of a full-size wall mirror, scanning her appearance from the toes to the top of her head. She was looking at a stranger, who had nothing to do with her. A year and a half ago she wouldn't have recognized that stranger, she wouldn't have believed it was, in fact, her own reflection staring back at her with those empty, frozen eyes. How had she become what she was seeing in the mirror in such a short period of time? No, it didn't take her only a year and a half to turn into this lifeless, tortured creature. It took her an entire minute. The same one that took her to realize her that her little boy was dead.

And now, right before Amanda was about to take a significant – if anything was that in her life – turn, that would change everything, the memories of her old life were coming down on her, haunting her as they became more and more vivid in her mind. The life, in which she had a son… In which she had a career that she enjoyed and was successful in… In which she was in love to loss of sanity… In which she was happy. She'd had so much back then. Had she appreciated all of it, when it was hers? Did she appreciate what she had now?

She had Charlie and he was wonderful to her. Still, sometimes Amanda couldn't help but compare him to Shane and the feelings they had shared. There was no similarity, not even one tiny bit. And as much as she tried to deny it, some small part of her was desperate to find at least one insignificant resemblance. And yet, even though Charlie couldn't arouse the same emotions in her, he was caring and loving, he was there for her at the most difficult times and helped her go through them. She didn't want to fight alone anymore; she was tired of being strong and independent.

Amanda checked her appearance one more time, taking in a deep breath. She wasn't enthusiastic about her decision; there was no excitement or anticipation about the future or what this decision was going to change. She wondered whether it would've been different, if her relationship with Shane hadn't ended. Could anything be different at all?

She cursed under her breath, realizing she was thinking about another man, when she was about to start a life with Charlie. For some reason, the betrayal felt even worse when it was Shane she was thinking about. Of course it was him, it always was. It was like he refused to leave her alone, no matter how much she tried to banish him from her thoughts. Charlie didn't deserve it. He'd been so good to her, supportive and protective… He deserved a better chance at happiness. He deserved someone, who could return the joy, affection and warmth he had to give.

"But I don't want anyone else, Mandy. I want you," He'd said when she voiced her concerns. All of her attempts, all the reasoning and excuses were in vain. His heart had chosen her, to Charlie's great misfortune. It hurt Amanda to know that he was well aware of the fact that she would never return his feelings completely.

Still, he wanted to bind his life with hers. If it was enough for him, it must be for her as well. She didn't love him – true, but with him the baggage wasn't as heavy. He wasn't as connected to her previous life as Shane was. His very existence and every fiber of his body didn't remind Amanda of the past. With him it was simple, there was no heavy history and painful wounds to prove it. It wasn't as emotionally demanding.

She smiled bitterly at herself.

Life had hurt her. Life had burned, crushed and cut her over and over again. Life had hit her from every direction, it had betrayed her when she'd least expected it. Life had attacked and tortured her and then left her thrown on the ground in complete darkness and loneliness. Life had ruined her. And despite all of it, she still had the ability to feel pain.

Her thoughts still came back to Shane over and over again, as if asking to agonize her until she could take no more. She still craved sensing his touch, hearing his voice, seeing his smile… And it hurt more than ever. It hurt for Charlie, for Shane, for her… It was surreal, how much pain a thought could inflict. Thoughts about Shane were always entwined with memories, which could never exclude Taylor. It was way too much to bear. She had to end it. Today.

And then, as if according to a predictable and outworn script, the door burst open in a sharp movement. Amanda's heart stopped, along with her breath, as soon as she saw the reflection of who entered the room in the mirror.

"You are not marrying him," Shane stated firmly from the entrance of the room.

"What are you doing here?" She managed to choke out eventually, when she overcame the shock enough to regain her ability to speak. After over a year of not seeing him, Shane seemed more like a hallucination than anything else. She wasn't sure she should be even surprised, though. Somehow, it made perfect sense he appeared in that exact moment. He always showed up and turned her world upside down. And still, it felt surreal to have him in the same room with her again. As if it couldn't really be happening.

"You think I can just stand and watch you getting married with someone else?" Amanda didn't dare to turn around and look straight at him. She could barely bear the eye contact through a mirror. She felt her heartbeats fasten as the blood rose to her face. He hadn't changed much from when she last saw him, except his hair, which was shorter than she'd ever seen on him, and the look in his eyes was furious fire, fierce like never before.

"Oh, so what are you going to do about it?" She tried to use the acting skills she once used to have and give her voice an indifferent tone. Amanda knew he didn't do anything wrong and didn't deserve this attitude, but she honestly didn't know how to deal with his presence otherwise.

"Stop you, before you make this stupid mistake." She watched him stepping a little closer, feeling her knees begin to weaken. She couldn't find her voice for a long moment.

"You think you can barge into my life like this after so long and announce what I can or cannot do?" Amanda said at last. His gaze was even more penetrating than she'd remembered.

"I would've stopped it before, if I'd known about this." Even after so many months of not hearing his voice, it didn't sound any less familiar. His entire being didn't feel any less familiar to her. Could he ever become a stranger to her? Or at least a distant acquaintance? He just kept coming back into her life, whether it was an actual meeting, a simple Valentine's Day card, or only a haunting memory.

"What do you know?" Amanda asked at last, knowing he was certainly misled. "How did you even get in?" She wasn't sure she wanted to know the answers to her questions. It would do no good to anyone anyway.

"Lisa let me in." His voice softened slightly and as much as she wanted to move her eyes away from him, he seemed to be holding her gaze under his own control.

"Of course she did…" She should've known it was Lisa's doing the moment he'd entered the room. Not that she had been thinking much at that moment. Amanda wanted to be angry, to scream, to blame her friend, to order Shane to leave… But she couldn't.

"Don't do this. She only wants you to be happy, she did it for your own good."

"What did she tell you?" Amanda sighed with defeat, knowing there was no point in arguing with him about it.

"That you decided to compromise on less than what's best for you… That you chose him because it's easier… That you gave up on happiness… That you're about to make a huge mistake you would regret terribly…" With each statement he took a step closer to Amanda, which caused goose bumps rise on her skin. She wasn't sure whether it was anticipation or fear.

"I'm not getting married, Shane." She swallowed back the lump in her throat. "I'm moving to Europe." There was a flash of shock and horror in his eyes and then it was replaced by determination, which was definitely not foreign there.

"You can't do this," He declared confidently.

"You don't get to decide this for me." What right did he have to even say this kind of things to her? He wasn't a part of her life anymore; he hasn't been for a long time. "You don't have any right to –"

"I've stayed away all of this time," He cut her off. "Because I hoped it'll be better for you. I let you go when you decided you wanted nothing to do with me, because I knew it would be too difficult for you to be with me. I didn't fight…"

"You've never let me go," Amanda protested. "Not entirely. You keep reminding me of your existence, time after time… But it'll end tonight." She tried to put as much determination into her words as she could master.

"So you're saying you would've forgotten me, if you didn't have any actual reminder?" Shane took a few more steps towards her and she could barely control her trembling body. "I don't need you to be with me to live," He stated quietly. "I just need you be happy." His jaw muscles were tense, his eyes filled with raw sincerity. "I can let you go… only if I know you're happy without me." By that point, Shane stopped right behind her; so close that she could feel his body heat. "Tell me the truth, Amanda," He said in a low voice, placing his hands on her partly-exposed shoulders. His touch wasn't even electric, like she remembered it, it was plain burning. Burning with such intensity it felt like it could melt her skin. Or heart. "Do you love him?" As much as he tried to hide it, his voice gave away the pain in him as it broke slightly. Amanda couldn't make herself reply, as her throat closed against her will. "Do you love him?" Shane repeated, his voice just above a whisper at her ear. He watched her eyes in the mirror, as if searching for an answer to his question in them. "You're about to go away with him, to live across the world… with him. Why do you look so miserable? Aren't you excited about your new, promising future?" His voice was sarcastic, almost harshly so, but she could tell it was a disguise to his hurt.

"I don't get excited anymore, Shane." It was the purest truth, but her voice still trembled slightly as she spoke. "And nothing's promising to me anymore." Amanda felt his arms sliding around her body, a shiver shooting up her spine at the touch and her eyes closed involuntarily, as he brought his lips to her neck.

"Does he make you feel the same way I used to?" She could feel the vibration of his voice against her back from his chest, hot breath heating up the skin of her neck. It was hopeless, but she still fought for her self-control. "Or still do..?" Her words weren't needed; he knew everything without her saying aloud one syllable. Amanda's treacherous heart hammered with enough force to tell Shane the truth. "I know you still love me." His statement was full of confidence.

"No, Shane, it's over between us," She replied quietly, which was all she was capable of.

"It can start over again." He closed his eyes for a moment as he breathed in her scent, moving his nose to her dark hair. She wondered whether she looked and smelled the same to him, or was she too different for him to even recognize? He loved the woman she used to be. And she was nothing like that woman anymore.

"No," Amanda finally managed to say, taking his hands off of her. "It's over forever."

"Am, why are you doing this to yourself?" He didn't replace his arms around her, but seemed to get even closer behind her, if it was even possible. It's been so long since she'd been called this way… Last time he said this he was begging her to believe him in the courtroom. She didn't believe him. There, everything about Shane connected to Taylor in the end. It was what she dreaded the most. "We both know you don't love Charlie." His voice was even lower than before. "I think even he knows it."

"I love him, Shane." Amanda thought about her gratitude and all the warm feelings she had for Charlie to sound as convincing as she could manage. However, instead of pushing Shane away, this statement worked like adding explosive into the fire of his emotions, causing a powerful blast. He spun her around furiously and crashed his lips to hers in a wild kiss. A freezing cold shiver spread across her body, but was immediately replaced by a wave of burning heat that seemed to melt its way to the core of her bones. And then her heart took off, its beats becoming too rapid to count.

Amanda couldn't find enough strength to object and soon she found herself responding to the kiss, as if controlled by someone else. In fact, the breathtaking mixture of emotions was so consuming, that she knew she was controlled by Shane's will at that moment. She felt weakness in her whole body, but he kept kissing her without mercy, almost desperately. His hands, from an almost painful hold on her arms, moved to cup her face and then into her hair. His movements and touch were almost brutal with the passion they expressed, but never strong enough to cause her physical pain. She could feel his body against hers, his chest moving faster than normal at the pace of his feverish breathing and her thoughts were swept away in a blur, completely erased from her mind.

The year and a half suddenly meant nothing but the longing towards each other, the eagerness of their bodies and souls that the time had grown in them. Suddenly, a year in a half was nothing. Suddenly, a year and a half was way too long… And just before her arms wrapped around him, Shane pulled away.

"Repeat it," He demanded, his voice harsh and low, but the emotion evident behind it. He wasn't even trying to hide it anymore. Amanda knew what he meant, but didn't speak. She just tried to get her breathing back in order, taking long intakes of breath. "Look at me and repeat what you just said." His hands were on either side of her neck and he stared into her eyes fearlessly, but she didn't break her silence, trying to gather some strength to repeat her statement. "Don't try to fool yourself, Am, you love me. You know it as well as I do." There were surprising softness and gentleness in his voice and touch. She felt her body on fire again as he pressed his lips to hers once more, this time for a short and delicate moment. It felt less like he was trying to prove something this time. It felt more like something he just wanted to do. "As much as I love you. I always have and always will. Whatever happens, it can't change this fact, Am," He whispered, caressing the side of her face with his fingers. "Don't take the chance of being happy from yourself. Don't take it from both of us."

"I can never be happy again, Shane," Amanda said at last.

"If you're with me –" She didn't let him finish.

"Especially if I'm with you."

"Why?" His eyes looked so broken, that her heart squeezed painfully.

"Because of everything we've been through."

"It can only make us stronger, Am. We can get over everything together, there is nothing that can break us apart."

"But it already did. What happened to us, Shane, it broke us apart. It broke us. And now it hurts too much… You're too… connected to my previous life… to Taylor. It's too much."

"I didn't kill him. I've proven it."

"But I didn't believe you, Shane."

"I forgave you." He sounded more desperate than she'd ever heard him before.

"You only think you did. There was just too much between us that we can never forget. You'll always be a part of the time when my son was alive and of his death… I don't blame you for what happened to him, but I'll always remember that day, when I look at your face. And you… Somewhere deep down inside, you'll never forget I didn't trust you."

"Am, it's over. We couldn't do anything. We would've done anything to prevent this from happening, but we couldn't. And neither of us will forget anything, but we can forgive and move on. Together."

"Not together. Shane, I won't survive a single day with you, when everything about you reminds me of Taylor." The memory was already burning both in her brain and heart.

"You're just scared." His voice lost some of its softness. "You're scared to be happy again. You think you can live in constant misery from day to day, because you don't want to betray Taylor's memory. It's not a crime to love, it's not a crime to smile and it's not a crime to be happy, Amanda. At least as much as you can possibly be. I'm sure Taylor wouldn't have wanted his mom to suffer like this, to exist without living."

"You have no idea what I've been through…" It sounded like an accusation, for some reason.

"You didn't have to go through this alone, it was your choice. I've always been there, waiting for you. For months I hoped you would appear in my doorway… And you never did. Don't make the same choice again."

"Shane," She wanted to stop him, but he ignored it and continued, every word of his pulling her willpower farther away from her, like a magnet.

"More than anything, Mandy," It sounded so strange to hear him call her like that, unnatural. "You're afraid to have a reason to live and actually enjoy it and then lose everything again. So it's better not to risk it, right, Mandy? It's better not to be happy at all!" He was driven by desperation, anger, love… Everything together. Multiplied again and again.

"Yes, it's better." Amanda took a step back, finding herself pressed to the cold mirror she'd been staring in. "This is my choice, Shane. Respect it." She stepped aside, slipping away from his touch and made her way to the exit.

"I can't, Amanda. Please don't do it." He pleaded. "I love you."

"I love you too, Shane," She heard herself saying, tears filling her eyes. But her decision was final. "You can be happy without me, Shane. You will be, because you deserve it." She looked at him over her shoulder. "With me it's not possible, but you can build s new life."

"Not without you. Never." Amanda took a deep breath in and continued her way to the door.

"It isn't your burden, Shane," She said without turning around. She loved him more than anyone or anything in this Goddamn universe, but she needed to set him free so he could have a chance in happiness and she – a chance in surviving.

"It isn't yours either." There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. "It's not too late."

"Yes, it is." And with that she walked out of the room, leaving only pain and emptiness behind.

She left. She left to another country with another man, to start another life. And the worst thing about it was that he could do absolutely nothing about it. He was helpless, as if tied down and chained in unbreakable hold. There was no hope anymore and Shane had never experienced pain similar to this. There something too terminal about the situation. Irreversible, like death, only worse.

He wanted to scream with his all might, to try to stop her again, to hold her in his embrace and never let go. But there was no point. She had made her choice. Again. He was furious and pained and suddenly he couldn't fight the impulse of anger, as his fisted hand flew to the mirror in front of it, loudly shattering it to a million pieces. The tiny shards of glass cascaded to the floor, along with all of his hopes and desire to live. Blood poured out of the cuts in his skin, streaming down in red paths all over his hand. He didn't feel them. The pain was just too insignificant compared to the agony his heart was burning in. Compared to what she made him feel today it was nothing.

Just like his life from now on. It was meaningless. Empty. Nothing.

Amanda could barely see her way out of the room because of the tears that were blurring her vision. At last, she forced herself to leave and the moment she closed the door behind her, her heart sunk at the sound of a breaking glass. Amanda knew it was the mirror that collapsed without coming back into the room. She could see in her mind's eye the blood on Shane's hands, as the glass sliced his skin. Leaning with her back against the closed door in exhaustion, she closed her eyes and took a calming breath. They were so close, yet the distance between them could not be bridged. That thin door between the room and the hallway was like an eternal force field that separated them, forever.

The sound of the shattering mirror rang in Amanda's ears for long moments afterwards. It was like the last desperate attempt to bring her back. Or a powerless cry of pain at the realization he had already failed in that attempt.

Amanda looked up to the ceiling, trying to keep the tears from falling down. She wanted to be strong, she didn't want to cry or break down again. She wanted to be at least a little bit enthusiastic about the future ahead of her. But all she could feel was pain and sadness. It was as if she'd heard her heart breaking and not the wall mirror. Maybe it was.

What seemed like an eternity ago, Shane and she were ready to swear they would be together till death does them apart. They wanted to vow in front of God and everyone they knew. They were sure that only death could separate them. They were right. It was death that had broken them apart after all. No one has ever said it would be the death of either of them. Taylor's death was more than enough to pull them away.

Amanda's life was over, she'd lost everything. She had to hold on and survive for all those people that loved her. She couldn't ruin them the way Scott Wayne had ruined hers when he killed her baby. Perhaps one day she would be able to mend a few pieces of her broken life. But not with Shane. With him it was too much… Too many memories, too much pain, too many wounds… Too much love.

But without him she didn't stand a chance. Without him there was no purpose to fight for, no reason to try. Without him she had no life, not even the pieces. Without him she had nothing. And he was worth all the pain and fear and all the efforts in the world.

He was worth dying for. More than that, he was worth living for.

Amanda turned around and opened the damned door, which had been the only barrier between them. In fact, it was so much more than just a door that opened.

He was still standing where she'd left him, in front of the shards of the broken mirror, just like she'd suspected. He turned around the moment the door opened, tears in his eyes and blood on one of his fisted hands. Amanda seemed upset, wild and breathless, when she flew across the room and practically collided into Shane's body, throwing her arms around his waist. For the longest moment he didn't move, frozen at the unexpected touch and the meaning behind it. But the next moment he breathed out and his arms wrapped around her shoulders by themselves, tightening the embrace every passing second.

And then she finally burst out crying. Mixed feelings filled her and she couldn't tell the difference between them anymore and name them separately. But at that moment, held in the familiar embrace, feeling the warmth of his body and his gentle shaking as he cried with her… Right there, with him, nothing mattered but the emotion she recognized among the countless others. It reminded somewhat the feeling she remembered as joy.

"Damn you, Shane Stone!" He laughed through tears and pressed her closer to himself, kissing the top of her head with trembling lips.

No, not even death could force them apart.




The end.

This is it.

Yeah, I can't believe it's over either. Hope none of you felt disappointed by the way everything turned out. Please, share your thoughts about this chapter and the entire story with me. I know I've asked you to do so every time, but you can understand why it's so much more important this time, right? So, pleeeeaaase! Be nice and talk to me. :D

Also, there are some sketches for a sequel and I'd really like to know your opinions on that account. Just say YES or NO to a sequel (if you feel like saying more on the case, it'd be great too).

Till next time, everyone!