TITLE: "Midnight Angel III: Human Touch" (1/1)

AUTHOR: Isahunter

RATING: PG (Language)

CATEGORY: V, WIP, Krycek/Other (No slash)

SPOILERS: Patient X

TIMELINE: Set in the winter of '99, but in this story the events of the episode "Biogenesis" never occurred.

ARCHIVE: Yes, with my name and all headers attached

FEEDBACK: Isahunter@aol.com

DISCLAIMER: Although the other characters are of my own creation, Krycek technically belongs to Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen, Fox, and the wonderful Nick Lea. No infringement intended.

SUMMARY: When does loneliness become too much to endure?

NOTE: This is a continuation of the "Midnight Angel" series, available at the eXpositions web site: http://www.aliens.mcmail.com/isadiadem/

For Ginny, who's never seen a Krycek ep but still loves him anyway. Special thanks to Diadem, my cheering section extraordinaire.

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The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it, is the root of all evil in the world.

---Max Born (1882-1970)

She tip-toed down the stairs, her bare feet crowned with toenails painted a garish purple, looking disheveled and exhausted. Still, there was a sly little smirk playing about her lips and a glitter in her eyes that he was coming to know all to well. Stuffing her keys in the pocket of her paint-spattered jeans, she glided across the deserted street and headed straight towards him. A woman on a mission. He wasn't sure whether to stand his ground or head for the hills. She was nothing but trouble. So why the fuck couldn't he stay away from her?

"Why, Alex, I do believe you're spying on me." She looked absurdly proud of herself after that comment. "May I ask why?"

"You ask a lot of questions about me. I have a right to be suspicious."

"Oh, I see. You think I want something from you. State secrets and government intrigue. Or could it be that, just maybe--shock, horror!--I'm just trying to get to know you? To make a friend?"

"I don't need any friends."

She nodded, licking her lips. "And that explains why you're standing in front of my apartment this early in the morning."

Christ, did she ever stop talking? "I was walking past and saw the light on. I was just curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat...quite literally, in fact. My cat was killed when he was trying to find mice in our neighbors field. He ate poison and died." She examined her fingernail a moment, before meeting his gaze once more. "You just happened to be walking past my apartment this early in the morning?"

"I had business."

"Spy business. Sounds like fun. Can I come along some time?"

This really had been a mistake. True, he'd had business in the area, but he'd had no excuse for stopping here. Not really. He'd told her the truth when he'd said he was suspicious of her, that he wondered just what compelled her to ask so many questions about him, but that wasn't everything.

It wasn't just her that was a mystery to him, it was his attraction to her. He'd been with plenty of women more beautiful than her. More exciting, mysterious, intelligent, powerful. But they'd all wanted something from him.

They'd used him. Maybe it was that more than anything that kept him coming back to Sabryn's door. She seemed, for all intents and purposes, innocent. And some masochistic part of him wanted to prove once and for all that she wasn't.

"I don't think you want to play the games I play," he said finally, chewing on the corner of his lip.

"And how do you know what I want? You don't take the time to get to know me. You don't seem to like me, anyway."

"I never said that."

She shook her head, muttering under her breath, "Talking to you is about as confounding as consulting a Magic 8-ball."

"You're going to freeze to death if you keep walking around barefoot in the middle of winter."

Looking down at her feet, she winced. "Damn it. I didn't even realize." With a smile, she added, "I was painting you."

"You were what?"

"Painting your portrait. It's really strange, because I've never done a portrait before...at least not a real portrait. I've painted my dog, and my cat...before he died. But I never painted a person before. I don't even know what compelled me--"

She rambled on, totally unaware that he'd stopped listening to her. "Show it to me."

"Hmm?"

"Show me the painting."

She suddenly flushed bright red. "Oh...ok." Alex followed her up those stairs once more, glancing quickly at the street around them, not even completely sure what he was looking for. And glad he didn't spot it. It took him a moment to recognize the pounding of his heart and ringing in his ears as panic. It was an emotion he hadn't experience in a very long time. He waited impatiently as she unlocked the door, flexing his right hand in and out of an involuntary fist. A habit it was useless trying to break. When she opened the door and he caught sight of the wet paint, the smell of fresh acrylic, he let out his breath.

He wasn't quite sure what he'd been expecting. Some cultures believed that taking one's picture would capture their soul on film. But he wasn't superstitious enough to think the same could happen on canvas. He hadn't been preparing himself to see a pitchfork and a pair of horns. And yet, it shocked the hell out of him to see what he did.

She hadn't painted him dressed in black like Death come alive, nor had she placed a gun in his outstretched hand. Instead of painting him as the spy and murderer that he was, she pictured him as an ordinary man. Standing in foggy shadows, like those of a dream. Reaching out for someone, with almost hopeful eyes. Wearing pure, unsullied white. Innocent. Clean. Human. He had to fight the urge to laugh. Hell, she didn't know him at all.

Even so, she had to trash the damned thing. His face was easily recognizable, and he no more wanted it trapped on canvas than he wanted to see it on a surveillance video.

"You have to get rid of it."

"What? This took me hours."

"What the hell possessed you to paint me anyway? Torch the damned thing."

"Over my dead body."

He stepped past her, standing just before the painting. "The eyes are all wrong, anyway. Too blue." Completely ignoring her shriek of protest, he stuck his finger in the wet paint and smeared a squiggly line across his own angelic face.

"You asshole!"

"You're just now beginning to figure that out?" He grabbed the damp rag below the easel and wiped the paint off his finger. "Believe me, I just saved you a lot of trouble."

"You can't just walk into someone's home and destroy their hard work."

"I do whatever the hell I want to, sweet heart."

She looked like she wanted to hit him, with every ounce of her soul, but to her credit she didn't make a move. "You know I can just repaint it. I'll do it over a million times if I have to."

"You stubborn little--"

"And don't you forget it."

Slamming the door shut, she stalked over to the kitchen. A quick inspection of her bread made her wrinkle her nose, just before she threw it in the garbage. "I'm hungry. Did you want something to eat?"

"Like what?"

"Well, at the moment, macaroni and cheese is all I have." He should have grabbed the remains of the mutilated painting and left. Walked as far away from her as he could, and never looked back. Against his better judgment, he stayed.

"Macaroni and cheese, it is."

She eyed him with something related to disdain. "Are you sure you don't want Filet Mignon, Mr. Spy?"

"You said it was all you had."

"I was just making sure you didn't want me to go to the market or something."

"You don't have any money."

"That's right, so if you've come up here looking for your five dollars, you're going to be disappointed."

"I told you that you didn't owe me anything."

"Then what do you want? Surely you didn't come up here just to destroy my painting?"

He was silent for a long time, casually making his way to the only sitting place in the apartment. And when he lowered himself onto the bed, and met her stare with half-closed eyes, he could almost hear the sudden intake of her breath.

"I think you know exactly what I want from you." It was a remark meant to startle her, to take some of the bravado out of her smug expression...but it was her response that truly provoked shock. In Alex.

"So why don't you take it? I'm not afraid of you." Suddenly without words, he settled back against her pillow and watched her work. As she ran water in the pan and opened the box of pasta, she completely ignored him. Letting him do as he would. And God, it was almost erotic. She was daring him to take her. All he had to do was seize what she'd offered. Grab her, throw her down on the squeaky bed and fuck her senseless. Hell, make her speechless. That'd be a first. Staring at her over the length of his supine body, he couldn't help but grin at his own arousal.

And it finally dawned on him. The girl made him feel alive. For the first time in years. She made his breath quicken, his heart race. Not just the thrill of the hunt, or some sexual gratification. She made him feel human by her very defiance. Sure, maybe she was using him, and he was definitely using her...but this time it wasn't malicious. It wasn't life or death. He just wanted her.

The tension drained from his body, slipping away like a tremulous shiver. His head sank into the softness of her pillow, surrounding him with the scent of her mint shampoo. And yet that wasn't all. He could smell her, every little nuance, warm and spicy against his skin. He breathed in deeply, wanting to drag that smell down to the depths of his soul. That musky, earthy scent that was so sexual...and so pure all at the same time. He had to fight the growl that burned in his throat. Tried to ignore the feel of her sheets against his touch. The sound of her soft sigh as she waited for the water to boil was almost enough to make him scream.

How long had it been since he'd been in a woman's bed? He couldn't remember if it had ever happened. Parked cars, couches, beaches, public rest rooms...hell, he'd even fucked a woman in a Russian tanker ship. He scowled at the memory. But not once had he ever been in a bed like this. Even so, it was so easy to imagine himself here, legs tangled with hers, slick with sweat, bed-springs squeaking a rhythmic protest as he pounded himself into her over and over again. Her head thrown back in ecstasy, her fingernails digging into his clenching ass, her lips parting for one single word--

"Alex?"

Snapped out of his reverie, he met her bored stare. "Yeah?"

"Do you want salt and pepper?"

He hadn't realized she'd finished so quickly. Sitting up, he scooted back against the headboard, despite the objection of his too-tight jeans. "No, I don't."

She handed him the bowl, full of steaming bright-orange macaroni, barely giving him a chance to grasp the dish before she moved away. Sitting carefully on the end of her bed, out of his reach, she tentatively took a bite. A moment later, he did the same. Whoever would have thought he'd be sitting here with this girl, eating food he hadn't tasted since his childhood?

Taking his second bite, he glanced up at her and found her staring at his hand. With the bowl in his lap, and his right hand wrapped around the fork, his left hand was immobile at his side. As it almost always was. Covered in a black leather glove.

Sabryn quickly averted her gaze. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stare."

"I've gotten used to people staring."

She chanced another look at the prosthesis he wore. "Would I be rude in asking when it happened?"

"Almost three years ago."

"There is a man at the shelter who lost his hand in an industrial accident. He was right-handed, and had to learn to do things all over again. And even though it's not supposed to be legal, he lost his job because of it." She licked her lip. "Did that happen to you?"

"No. My arm was cut off in Russia, to save me from medical experimentation."

She raised her eyebrows. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry. All you had to say was you didn't want to talk about it."

"Fine. I don't want to talk about it."

Her eyelids drooping, she sighed heavily and lay down across the bottom of the bed. Picking at her food with the sharp tines of her fork, she gave him a bored look. "You're one of the strangest people I've ever met, you know."

"The feeling's mutual."

"Still, I like you. You're interesting...in a stay-out-of-my-business, I'm-a-top-secret-spy-man sort of way."

He shook his head, biting back the little smirk that tugged at his lips. "Why were you up so early this morning?"

She yawned, her eyes growing moist in the corner. "I don't sleep much."

"Nightmares?"

"All the time...well, when I'm not dreaming of you."

"Me?"

She blushed, laying her head down on her arm. "Nothing too exciting." He had a feeling that was an understatement. She wouldn't meet his gaze with those sleepy eyes.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I've always had the same dream," she whispered, fighting to keep her eyes open. "And it still scares me every time."

"A dream about what?"

"Mmm...it's starts out in my daddy's field, with my brother Johnny..."

"And?"

This time, she didn't open her eyes again. Breathing deep and even, she was fast asleep on the end of her bed, lying so close that he could have nudged her with his foot. Her hand was still curled around her fork, her food sitting forgotten in front of her. A tiny wisp of her hair blew up with her every exhalation.

Alex watched her for a moment, waiting for the moment when she would return to lucidity once again, but that moment didn't come. Careful of the squeaking mattress, he eased himself off the bed one limb at a time. Extracting the fork from her fingers, he picked up her bowl and took the dishes to the sink. And once he was sure she was still sleeping, he set to work.

Starting with the night stand by her bed, the most dangerous of places considering where she lay, he began searching her apartment. Moving with deft silence, with stealthful movements that barely made a sound. She slept on undisturbed, completely unaware that her life was now an open book. He wasn't even sure what the hell he was looking for...but his attraction to the girl made him suspicious in the least. And he was about to set himself up to be ambushed. If she had secrets, he wanted to know about them now. He was determined to be one step ahead of the game.

He flipped through her magazines carefully, looking for any hidden papers or documents. Picking up the prescription bottles on her night stand, he found two different sedatives and something for nausea. She kept a box of chocolates in the top drawer, along with an unopened box of condoms. He had to chance a look at her face with that last revelation. At least the girl was smart. At the very bottom of the drawer, he found a worn picture of a little girl holding the hand of a man dressed in a suit. They were both smiling, standing in front of an old barn. Holding a scruffy teddy bear in her other hand, the girl looked to be about five or so. And she looked an awful lot like the woman sleeping on the bed behind him. Flipping the picture over, he read the names written on the back. Steven and Amanda Megan. With one last glance at the picture, he put it away and moved on.

A search of the cupboards produced nothing out of the ordinary. They were almost bare. In the last drawer, next to the phone, he found an address book. It was almost bare as well. Most of the numbers written down were for pizza and Chinese food delivery. She'd written down the number for the shelter she volunteered at, and several art galleries in the area. But the only personal numbers in the whole book were for an Olivia Jordan, and Johnny...her brother. The sudden emptiness of her life filled him with unexpected regret. He almost felt guilty. But like so many times before, he refused to let the emotion last for long.

He quickly searched through the cases of paper back books. From the looks of things, the girl did a lot of reading. Everything from Dean Koontz to romance to Calvin and Hobbes. Her video collection was nearly as impressive. At least she was well entertained in her own company.

His last search took him to the area of the loft that served as her bathroom. Her medicine cabinet was neat and orderly. Several tubes of toothpaste. Antacids. Emotrol for an upset stomach. Deodorant, tampons, shampoo, soap, floss, fluoride rinse. Nothing out of the ordinary. No birth control pills. The cabinet next to the sink obviously made up for her lack of a dresser. Her clothes were neatly folded and stacked, next to a colorful array of towels. The silky little bits of fabric that passed for her underwear caught more than a moment of his attention. But just as he was about to close the cabinet door, he heard the soft sound of a whimper coming from the bed.

He froze for a moment, sure that she was awake, but when the sound persisted, followed by the rustle of sheets, he knew what was happening.

Stepping out of the bathroom, he caught sight of Sabryn, lying on her side at the end of the bed. Just as before, but this time her hands had a violent, white-knuckled grip on the sheet below her. Her hair was spread out beside her, tangled across her face. Her chest rose and fell rapidly, fueling the eerie little cries that escaped her parted lips.

Alex stood motionless, knowing it was best not to intervene. The chances were she would keep on sleeping and not even remember the dream. But the sudden piercing intake of her breath, followed by a wrenching sob, was too much for him to ignore. Stepping closer, he reached out with his right hand to brush the hair from her face. Her eyelids fluttered, lashes sweeping his flesh in rapid spasms. Pulling the damp strands from her forehead, he let his fingers trail across her skin, unaware of his own soft murmur until she finally opened her eyes.

She twitched below his touch, before settling back to the mattress and letting out a shaky breath. Swallowing heavily, she closed her eyes once more. Seeming to fight the moisture that clung to those long lashes. And before he could move away, she grasped his hand and held on tight.

The strength of her grip. The warmth of her hand. The rapid pulse beating under his finger tip. The softness of her skin and the light perfume of her body just inches from his. Her touch, so human and welcoming. It was enough to make his chest ache. To bring an awful, tight, crushing, collapsing pain to his lungs. He couldn't breathe, and yet...and yet the air around him tasted so fucking sweet.

She turned her head and looked up at him, a slight smile curving her lips. "You have nice hands...I mean...a nice hand."

When he didn't say a word, she continued. "Not callused, like my dad's. Not a worker's hand. But not really soft either. Strong. Determined. Long fingers...you know, they call these artist's fingers. Funny. I'm the painter, and my fingers are short and clumsy. But your fingers...your hand...there's just something beautiful about it."

His fumbling brain finally found a moment of clarity. "I should go."

She acted as if she hadn't heard him. "Thank you. It was nice to wake up to a comforting face."

Sitting up carefully, she pushed her hair over her shoulder and took a look around. From him to the loft, and then back again.

"Well, if you have to go, I won't stop you." Scratching the back of his neck, he nodded and headed for the door. Just as he'd opened it, and flipped the switch so it would lock behind him, he heard her say, "And if you were looking for my journal...it's on my lap top, Alex."

END.

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