ARRRGH I AM SO SORRY! I hate the fact that I've gotten so behind on my work… but I promise I haven't given up on this story. This is my brainchild, and I will nurture it and let it grow!

And just to quote Monty Python: "No, I'm NOT DEAD!" XD

I would like to thank 3200Runner once again for being so awesome. ;)

I also want to send a shout-out to augmentedDREAMS. Here's your new chapter, dear. :3


Chapter Four


Anya stumbled back through the forest, up her driveway, and into the garage. She bent at the waist, attempting to lay her bike gently against the wall, but only succeeded in causing her knees to bleed a bit more and send a sharp pain into her legs.

"Fuckfuckfuckfuck...you know what, screw it." She finally just allowed it to crash to the ground, her aching knees and hands becoming worse.

She shuffled over to the wall, pressing the red button to close the garage, and shut and locked the door.

Her father sat at the kitchen table, a steaming cup of what she guessed to be tea sitting forgotten beside him. He looked up at her entrance.

"Where were you?" His eyes were dull, and Anya could see bags gradually appearing under his once-clear teal eyes.

Anya sighed. "I rode out to clear my head. I told you that…"

His gaze fell from her face down to her hands. "What happened?"

She clenched her hands unconsciously, the scrapes throbbing gently. "I fell."

Darian hopped up from his seat and took his daughter's hands gently into his own. "Jesus, Anya, what did you fall on? A tiger trap?" He took in a sharp breath when he saw her knees.

"Let's get you into the bathroom." He tried to help her hobble into the living room, but after watching her wince several times, he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the first-floor bathroom.

"No, it was- I fell on rocks. I… I heard a noise and freaked out… it was just a deer. But I wasn't watching where I was going and kinda crashed."

After setting Anya on the downturned toilet lid, Darian rummaged through the cabinets and found some gauze, cotton balls, antiseptic, and rubbing alcohol.

He pulled up the legs of her jeans, easing them over her shredded knees as she hissed in pain, and began to dab away at the caked-on blood with a warm washcloth.

"I'm just glad you didn't break anything. It looks like you just skinned yourself pretty good."

Anya watched him work in silence, gritting her teeth when the sting of the alcohol met her knees. She thought back to the trail, and how tame the doe had seemed. She even let me pet her… Though her strange nature could have been from how young the animal seemed, it still didn't explain why the young deer hadn't fled at the scent of blood.

I thought deer were naturally skittish…

She was pulled from her thoughts by her father laying a gentle hand on her shoulder. He looked concerned.

"Anya… I need to talk to you…"

Anya tensed. Oh shit… Here comes the pity party…

Darian scratched the back of his head with his free hand. "I know how much you dislike Ariana… and I know that she isn't the greatest with expressing her feelings. But she really does care about me, and if you'd give her a chance, she'll grow on you."

Yeah, like a tumor...

Anya growled lightly. "You're seriously still considering going through with this? After everything she's done?"

He's got to be joking…

Darian sighed. "I love her, kiddo. I've thought this through, and I think that this will be the best thing for you and the twins. To have a mother-figure to look up to."

She grit her teeth, trying not to scream into his face that the woman he supposedly loved was an utter bitch. She had no right to come into their house, smashing up everything that her mother had left behind, and attempt to squeeze herself into the mold of loving parent.

But she stayed silent, biting her tongue as she saw the emotions flash through her father's eyes.

"Dad…" She began. "I don't know if I can fully accept Ariana as my new mother."

Darian opened his mouth to speak, but Anya held up a finger to stop him.

"But I will try to get along with her for your sake."

A smile lit up his face, and he took his daughter's hands gently in his. "That's all I ever wanted, sweetie."

He hugged her, and she hugged back. But her face was filled with uncertainty and doubt.

Sorry Dad, but I still don't trust her…

~0~

"He's wrapped around my little finger, boss."

Ariana sat in her apartment, a lit cigarette clasped in her fingers. She took a drag, allowing the voice on the other line to respond.

"Ariana, don't get too cocky. The wedding still hasn't happened. Yet."

She smirked.

"Yeah, I know. But there's nothing to do now but wait."

She flicked the ashes onto the floor, watching the grey flecks sink into the moth-eaten burgundy carpet. She felt on top of the world at that moment; she was going to have a handsome and doting husband, a nice house, and a good job. What else could she ask for?

"The kids are still there. What about them?"

Oh yeah... there was still that...

"I could always off them. The younger two wouldn't be too much trouble. It's the teenage bitch I'd be worried about."

She took another drag, then choked at the response she received.

"You will not harm the children."

"W-WHAT?! Are you kidding me?! Why do you need them to-"

Don't you dare question my orders, filth! I can find another to do your work just as efficiently and leave you in the gutters where I found you. Understood?!"

She yanked the phone far from her ear to avoid losing her hearing. She trembled, hearing the utter fury in her master's response.

"I-I'm sorry, boss. I-I didn't m-mean to obj-ject, I s-swear…"

The voice quieted, uttering one last statement to her before hanging up.

"Do as I say, and you will be rewarded. And I don't just mean getting the honeymoon off work, either."

Ariana closed her phone, rubbing her temples gently.

"I can't believe it… it's finally coming together..." She grinned, her teeth seeming to sharpen in the light.

"And in a couple of months, he'll be all mine..."

~0~

The weeks before the wedding went by without any major incident.

Ariana constantly tried (and failed) to get closer to her soon-to-be step-daughter. Anya mentally berated herself to put herself out there for her father and tried to get involved with activities the older woman enjoyed; if worse came to worse, she could always shut down mentally.

But after the third time they went shopping and the woman shot off towards the lingerie and (shudder) exotic toys section of their local couples store, her poor teenaged mind couldn't take anymore torture.

Her father always thanked her for trying after every shopping trip, but Anya could see his attention drawing away from his kids and closer to his new wife day by day. He was turning into someone she couldn't recognize, a stranger in a familiar body.

It frightened her.

She dreaded the passage of time, the woeful wedding day getting closer and closer. She silently hoped that the apocalypse would happen and the wedding would be postponed indefinitely, or outright cancelled. That would be nice...

When she was fitted for her Maid of Honor dress, a horribly pink chiffon that ended at her knees with a giant ruffle on the left shoulder, she almost burst into tears. The saleswomen, seeing her watery eyes, cooed at her, thinking it was pre-wedding jitters.

It was actually she wished the ground would swallow her whole syndrome. Quite contagious.

Finally, after two whole months of worrying, Doomaday finally arrived.

Though Anya was ashamed to admit it, it wasn't too bad of a ceremony. They held it at night, with candles lighting the aisle, fresh jasmine and roses scattered about in small vases. It was a chilly summer night, so the temperature wasn't too bad.

Besides herself, Trey, Talia, and the bride and groom, there was only one other guest; a man with shoulder-length pale blonde hair, forest-colored eyes, and pale skin. He wore a grey suit and sat on the groom's guest side. He had only introduced himself as Joker, and said he was one of her father's friends from college; Anya had just gone along with it, wanting this night to be over as soon as possible.

As she stood at the altar, waiting for Ariana to seal her fate, Anya prayed to whatever God that was listening to stop this from happening. She wanted her father to be happy, but marrying her equivalent of a troll due to a mid-life crisis was not what she had in mind.

Maybe Ariana would somehow be sucked into a raging vortex as she was putting on her wedding dress? Then all of their problems would be solved and her dad could finally snap out of this funk he was in.

Unfortunately that didn't happen.

Ariana appeared at the end of the aisle, dressed in white, surprisingly. Anya had assumed she would be decked in a fluorescent pink dress. Shocker.

She tuned out the rest of the ceremony, especially the whole 'kiss the bride' schpeal. She had seen the harpy sucking her dad's face way too many times; she really didn't want to see it again.

The newlywed couple cut their cake, then moved to the small dance floor for the first dance, not that there was anyone else to clog the floor.

Anya and her siblings stood off to the side, watching the train wreck occur; the twins eventually began rubbing their eyes and complaining of being tired. Anya scooped them into her arms, noting her father's complete obliviousness, and carted them up to their room.

The "happy couple" had decided to have a small wedding in their own back yard. Whether that was currently a good or a bad thing, she wasn't sure. The neighbors were going to have a field day, that was certain.

She stripped them both, quickly pulling on their pyjamas, and kissed them goodnight, watching from their doorway as they fell into a deep sleep.

"Aren't they precious~?"

Jumping in fright, she whirled around to meet the smiling face of Joker. She gasped, placing a hand over her thrumming heart. You startled me, Mr. Joker."

He waved a hand dismissively at her. "Please, just call me Joker." Looking over her shoulder at her siblings, he chuckled. "They look so cute when they're asleep. Bet they're both unholy terrors when awake, though."

Anya clenched her jaw. "Perfect angels, actually. I raised them myself, when Dad was working."

Joker held up his hands in surrender. "Alright, I apologize. I was simply trying to create a conversation."

The girl snorted. "Yes, because insulting a person's family is the perfect ice-breaker."

That got a chuckle from the man. "This is a valid point. I do apologize." He placed a hand over his heart. "I believe I introduced myself earlier, but I will do a better job this time around."

He swept a leg behind him, dropping into an elegant bow. "My name is Mr. Joker Diamond. Your father and I were best friends in college, and he has allowed me to come and witness his marriage."

Anya blicked in shock. "Diamond... are you Blaise's employer?!"

He chuckled. "Ah, so you've met my head butler! Yes, Blaise works for me. A wonderful boy, a real trasure. He's really the only one that can get anything done in my house."

Anya blushed, her anger at the man quickly receding. "I'm sorry for getting so mad, Mr. D- Joker. There's just been so much going on today, with the wedding and all. My nerves really haven't been on their best behavior."

Joker shook his head, turning towards the staircase. "I understand completely. I can't say the same, since this is the second time I was able to see your father marry."

At that comment, Anya froze. "Wait... you saw my mom and dad get married?"

Joker nodded. "Yes, I even was the best man. Pity he didn't ask me a second time... Though I always thought your father would never re-marry."

Curiousity ate at her mind, willing ehr to speak. "Why is that?"

"He always claimed that Alyssa was his one and only love."

The next sentence he spoke almost broke Anya in two.

"I suppose he was lying back then, since he loves Ariana so much."


OMG HOW THE HELL HAS IT ALMOST BEEN A YEAR SINCE I UPDATED?! *Author freaks out while reviewers throw tomatoes at her* I am so sorry, you guys! I cannot believe I let the time slip away from me like that. I have not given up on Dark Eyes, my updates may be sprodaic and slow at best, but I will continue! Thank you so much for supporting me and hanging on to this dumbass' forgetfulness!

-Tenshi