TITLE: "Midnight Angel II: Sabryn" (1/1)
CATEGORY: V, WIP, Krycek/Other (No slash) SPOILERS: None
TIMELINE: Occurs before the events of "Biogenesis," but in the winter of '99.
ARCHIVE: Yes, with my name and all headers attached
DISCLAIMER: Although the other characters are of my own creation, Krycek technically belongs to Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen, and Fox. No infringement intended.
SUMMARY: What price do we pay to keep our secrets?
NOTE: This is a sequel to "Midnight Angel," available at the eXpositions web site: http://www.aliens.mcmail.com/isadiadem/
For Allison Elizabeth, with love. Special thanks to my beta girls, Ginny & Diadem.
He rais'd a mortal to the skies, She drew an angel down.
--John Dryden (1631-1701)
Sweat-damp sheets spilled onto the floor next to her, illuminated by the soft blue glow of her lap-top computer. Her eyes half-closed with exhaustion, Sabryn typed a silent communication to a friend she'd never met. Although she'd once sworn never to set foot in a chat room, boredom and insomnia had months ago led her to a conversation with a man who could sympathize. Now, alone in a one on one conversation with her friend, over instant messaging, she didn't feel quite so lonely. Although he only knew her as "Lailah," he knew more of her secrets than she could count.
Lailah: I met a man last week...
Strgazr73: you're up early. dreams again?
Lailah: How'd you guess?
Strgazr73: i'm no amateur. who's the guy?
Lailah: I don't know how to explain it.
Lailah: I was a complete idiot and nearly got myself killed no doubt...but he was just *something.* You know what I mean?
Strgazr73: i've got an idea. you seeing him again?
Lailah: No. It was just one of those things...but I've been thinking about painting him. Is that crazy? I talked to him for less than ten minutes, and haven't stopped thinking about him all week.
Strgazr73: i know the feeling all too well. lucky i have work to distract me.
Lailah: But, don't you work with her?
Strgazr73: we were talking about you. where'd you meet this wonder stud?
Lailah: He followed me home.
Lailah: I know what you're going to say, but it wasn't like that. Honestly. He was nice. I think he just wanted someone to talk to. He was going to leave, but I wouldn't let him.
Strgazr73: where's that brother of yours? if you were my sister, i'd throttle you.
Lailah: Nothing happened.
Strgazr73: you're damned lucky.
Strgazr73: does he know about you?
Lailah: No, and before you ask, I'm not planning on telling him. No need to scare him away. Besides, I doubt I'll ever see him again. It was just a fluke thing.
Strgazr73: probably a good thing.
Lailah: I know there's a woman in your life...but do you ever get lonely?
Strgazr73: all the time. everyone does.
Lailah: Alex said he wasn't lonely.
Strgazr73: that's his name?
Strgazr73: hmm. what else did he tell you?
Lailah: Not much. Told me this silly story about himself, like he was trying to impress me. I just had the feeling he didn't really want to tell me anything personal. Maybe he's married or something.
Strgazr73: i think you should steer clear of him. sounds like a loser.
Lailah: You're probably right. God knows I've had enough stress without having to worry about some cheating jerk.
Strgazr73: my offer still stands...i'd still like to meet you.
Strgazr73: i'm sorry. i scared you again.
Lailah: No, I just...I like this anonymity. I think it might be too weird to meet someone who knows so much about me. My only friends that know as much about me as you do think I'm a freak.
Strgazr73: you're no more of a freak than i am. which isn't saying much......
Lailah: =) I think I'm going to crawl back into bed. Thank you. I always feel better after talking to you.
Strgazr73: glad i could help. g'night.
Sabryn closed her lap top and sighed. Her friend was right. It was best that she just forget her visitor from the other night. He wasn't coming back.
Tossing her sheets out of the way, thankful they'd dried of the perspiration she'd shed during the night, she settled back and stared at the lights dancing across her ceiling. She had to forget Alex...along with the sinful dreams of him that made her sweat far more than her usual nightmares.
Saturday morning's sun flooded the loft like a broken dam, waking her from the only sleep she'd had all night. Without curtains on the massive wall of picture windows, she had no need for an alarm. Yawning, she stumbled out of bed and hurried to the bathroom to shower and change her clothes. She didn't bother with her hair, other than to pull it away from her face with an old scarf. Dressed in a ratty pair of sweat pants and a clean T-shirt, she slipped on her shoes, grabbed her bag, and headed out the door.
The deli around the corner was her only stop before heading to the 6th Street Shelter. She pulled a plastic-wrapped sandwich from the cooler, along with a bottle of berry-flavored iced tea. As she stood in line to pay for her purchases, she couldn't help the urge to look over her shoulder. She could feel someone's gaze on her. Yet, as she turned around, she had to look down to see the person standing behind her.
The little girl stared up at her with big brown eyes, twirling a sandy ringlet around her finger. Holding her mother's hand with barely the grip of two fingers.
"Amanda, it's not polite to stare."
Sabryn flinched a moment before she realized the woman wasn't talking to her. The girl's name was Amanda. She looked down at the little girl once more, only to see the child quickly avert her gaze.
"Ma'am...can I help you?"
Her attention torn away from the child, Sabryn blushed and moved up to the register. The same familiar teenager she saw every day rang up her bill.
And just as always, she reached into her wallet to pull out the $2.25...only to realize she didn't have enough. She'd forgotten to stop at the ATM machine. Then again, it didn't really matter. She didn't have any money in the bank. She'd spent every penny from her last painting sold to pay for the rent on her apartment. Unless she sold another painting fast, things were going to get very desperate. She would have to--
No. She refused to even think about that. Turning a pleading look on the cashier, she said, "Do you take checks?" He shook his head, pointing to the sign on the register. "Sorry, no checks."
"I'm sorry, I just...I'm short by a dollar and eighty-five cents. Is there any way you can put me on a tab?
"No, I can't--"
"I come here every day. You know I'll pay you back." Behind her, the woman with the little girl--Amanda--tapped her foot impatiently.
"I'd be glad to help you, but my boss isn't here and I don't want to get in any trouble."
Just as she was about to give up and return her food to the cooler, Sabryn started as someone brushed past her and tossed a five-dollar bill onto the counter.
"Keep the change. Maybe next time you won't be so rude to your customers."
Sabryn swallowed heavily, staring up at her generous benefactor. "Alex." He barely glanced at her. Grabbing a package of peanut butter crackers from the nearby rack, he turned around and headed back out the door...leaving Sabryn and the cashier staring after him.
Quickly recovering from her surprise, she picked up her lunch and hurried after him. He was nearly to the end of the block by the time she caught up, breathless and clutching her side.
"Will you slow down! My legs aren't as long as yours."
"I didn't know I was supposed to be waiting for you."
"Well you could at least give me a chance to say thank you."
"I didn't do it to earn points with you. You were holding up the line and I'm in a hurry."
She stopped walking, staring at the back of his head. But as he kept walking, she couldn't keep her gaze from drifting lower. She swallowed heavily, watching the way his jeans molded so nicely to his ass. My, my. There was no denying he was a handsome man. The first time she'd seen him, she'd been more intimidated by his looks than she was by the gun in her hand.
His piercing green eyes looked far more deadly than any man-made weapon. But for all of his masculine beauty, he was the most aggravating man she'd ever met.
"Well thank you so much for being so concerned about me, Mr. Spy!" When he didn't stop, she clenched her fist so hard she squished her sandwich. Taking a deep breath, she started after him once more.
"You may not care about manners, but I do. Where I come from, when someone does you a favor, you give them your gratitude."
Finally, he stopped. Turning slowly, he pinned her with his lethal gaze. "No one's stopping you."
"Oh, for God's sake...thank you. I truly appreciate what you did and I intend to pay you back."
"It's not necessary."
"Well it would make me feel better."
"You don't owe me anything."
She regarded him carefully, finally noticing the way he never really met her eyes. "Did I do something--I get the feeling you don't like me."
Something akin to a laugh escaped his lips as he started walking once more. "I don't like anyone."
"Then why did you kiss me?"
"Momentary lapse in brain function."
She felt her mouth drop open. "Excuse me? Who the hell do you think you are? You can't just kiss me like that and then act like it's all my fault. If you'll remember right, I tried to stop you and you wouldn't let me."
"Do you always talk this much?"
"In fact," she continued, "this was all your fault. You're the one who followed me home. I should have called the cops and had your ass hauled off the jail for...for...stalking."
He turned so fast she almost slammed right into him. "Yes, you should have, Sabryn. And if you know what's good for you, you'll walk away right now."
Crossing her arms, she stared up at him unblinking. "Why should I? Is Dr. No going to get me and subject me to all sorts of mind-blowing tortures?"
His voice was a barely audible, flesh-caressing whisper. "No, honey, but I just might."
Standing there on shaking legs, shivering slightly in the brisk winter breeze, she watched him walk away. Not even daring to follow.
Folding the wool blanket with absent-minded motions, Sabryn stared out the window at the slowly setting sun. The pile of laundered pillows and bed clothes next to teetered precariously, but she barely even blinked.
"Girl, what planet are you on?"
Sucking in a sharp breath, she turned to see Olivia picking up a couple of pillows that had fallen to the floor.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was just thinking."
"Certainly not of this task, if the smile on your face was any indication."
Lord, she could feel her cheeks blazing. "I, uh...I didn't realize I was smiling."
"It's a man, isn't it?" Olivia leaned her hip against the table and tilted her head to the side, sending a cascade of tiny braids falling over her shoulder. "I know that smile. Doesn't matter who's wearin' it."
"Just thinking about the Brad Pitt movie I rented the other night."
"Uh-huh...and I spend all my time daydreaming about Tom Cruise, too." She grinned, scratching her temple. "Well, actually, I do. But I don't smile like that."
Sabryn set down the last blanket and took a deep breath. Although Olivia was a friend, they weren't all that close. They knew very little about each other, outside of the shelter, and Sabryn wasn't accustomed to talking about herself. But she needed to talk to someone.
"I'm in trouble, Livie."
"What kind of trouble?"
"I met a man--"
"Yep, that's trouble."
"No, you don't understand." She licked her lips, trying to decide how best to word what she wanted to say. "I'm not good at dealing with this kind of situation. There are just things about me that...that I would be scared to tell a man like this. Things about my past."
Olivia nodded, obviously aware that she wasn't going to get anything more out of her. "And you're serious about this man?"
Sabryn had to laugh. "No, of course not. He's arrogant, rude, ill-mannered, impatient, secretive--"
"You like him."
"That's not what I'm hearing."
"Then you're not listening very well. I just--" She rubbed the back of her neck, trying to ease the ache that had suddenly developed. "I'm trying to think of the future. If not this man, there is sure to be some man who will want to know about my past, and I have no idea what to say."
"If you love him, and he loves you, then you'll tell him. It's as simple as that."
"Maybe you're right."
"Of course I am. I'm always right."
Sabryn grinned, picking up the stack of linens and taking them to the nearest cot. As she started to unload the stack, one by one on each bed, Olivia followed with the accompanying pillows.
"So, who is this arrogant man?"
"A friend, Livie. He's just a friend."
After a dinner of cold, leftover pizza, Sabryn sat on her bed surfing the web. She was bored out of her mind. Her internet friend wasn't on-line, and she'd had her fill of fan fiction for the week. There was nothing on TV, and she refused to call her brother without something to discuss. He'd just tell her he told her so...he'd said she couldn't handle living alone. Well, she could handle it just fine. She just needed a little entertainment.
She briefly considered going down the bar where she'd once seen Alex exiting, but she didn't have any money and he'd made it clear that he didn't want her around. She didn't need to be told twice. Still, it didn't stop the slight hurt she'd felt at his words. Why did men always have to be so rude?
In the end, she closed down her computer and went to bed. Silently praying for a peaceful night's sleep, she settled under the covers and closed her eyes. Yet, when sleep finally came, the peace didn't last for long.
She is running, the cool spring air whipping her hair out behind her and plastering her nightgown to her thin legs. Ahead of her, her brother laughs menacingly, holding her teddy bear just out of reach, daring her to catch him. Dried wheat stalks, brown and mottled black from the winter freeze, cut into her bare feet, pushing woody slivers into her numb flesh. She is crying, but more out of frustration than fear or sadness. Her brother is a bully, but she cannot tell her mama, or she'll be nothing but a big baby.
Johnny races up the hill, cackling evilly, taunting her with the threat of throwing her precious bear into the creek. The pale, smiling moon is high in the sky. She has never been out this late in her papa's fields and the dense black velvet shadows frighten her senseless. She still believes in the boogie man, and if not for her need to feel like a big girl she never would have pestered her parents into letting her camp out with her brother.
If only she hadn't cried....
Reaching the crest of the hill, her ten-year-old brother takes one look at the ratty stuffed animal is his hand and pitches it into the water below. With the sodden plop, she screams. Scrambling past him, she darts into the water, unaware of the change until she is already ankle deep.
The creek is warm. Steaming hot, like bath water, on a chilly April night. The damp edge of her nightgown brushes her skinny leg and she shudders. Behind her, she can hear Johnny's laughter come to a sudden halt. And there is no noise. It's as if God turned down the volume on the world. Pulling her dripping teddy bear from the mud and clutching it to her chest, she stares up at the night sky with trepidation.
The warm water under her, combined with the sight above her makes her want to wet her pants. She calls for her brother, but no sound leaves her throat. She tries to spot him behind her, but he is lost in blinding light. She tries to move, but is frozen in place. Out of nowhere, something hits her hard in the chest, knocking the wind out of her, slamming her to the ground, splashing water all over her and soaking her clothes. And yet, she doesn't stay down.
The last thing she hears is her fearless, domineering brother, screaming her name in utter terror.
Sabryn awoke with a scream, doubling over in her bed with the urge to vomit. The dream was always the same, and she never remembered it all, but it always left her with the same feeling--inescapable fright. Her stomach clenched, and every muscle aching, she climbed out of the wet mass of sheets and made her way to the bathroom. Once in the darkened space, she lowered herself to the cool floor and struggled to control her pounding heart. Leaning her forehead against the cold porcelain toilet, she fought her nausea with the same determination as a hangover victim. No one else she knew had such powerful nightmares...then again, they weren't just dreams, were they?
Memories, struggling desperately to break free from the tangled web of her mind.
At the age of seven, she'd faced something so horrible her mind was afraid to remember it all. For years afterwards, she'd been taunted by class mates, shunned by potential boyfriends, made a laughingstock of her small town, and treated as a liar by her own family. All for a moment she couldn't recall. That April night, Amanda Megan Pruitt died...and Sabryn Jaegar was born.
When the sickness passed and she could stand once more, she slipped off her baseball jersey and got into the shower. The chilly water slid down her flesh, washing away the last tired traces of the night. Cleansing her of the ache as well.
Minutes later, dressed in an old pair of jeans and a T-shirt, she turned on the coffee pot. She readied her canvas and began to draw. Ignoring the darkness outside, before the dawn. Sweeping her gaze across the canvas, seeing the complete picture in her mind. And when the outline was done, she began to paint.
Her eyelids were drooping by the time the light began to fill her apartment. She painted long into the morning, unaware of anything but the canvas, resigning herself to cold coffee once she added the finishing touches. With a thinned bit of red, she signed her name at the bottom and stood back to survey her work.
She stared into Alex's eyes, smiling slightly at her choice of color. The Phthalocyanine green caught every nuance perfectly. Standing in shadows as mysterious as his gaze, reaching forward with a beseeching hand, he looked as if he might step right out of the painting.
She laughed softly. "And wouldn't I shit if he did just that." With one last glance, she set down her paint palate and set about cleaning her brushes. It was becoming a beautiful day...and as she stared absently out the window at the street below, she caught a glimpse of her subject staring up at her building as he leaned against the street lamp across the way. She had to blink to make sure her eyes weren't deceiving her. Was that really Alex?
"Huh. Will wonders never cease." Without wasting time, she picked up her keys and headed for the door. "Doesn't care about anyone, my ass."
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Comments appreciated: Isahunter@aol.com