Sarah pulled on her jacket and made her way across the room to the door. Though she didn't have a clue where to go, she began walking anyway. It was nearing 2 o'clock and her surroundings slowly changed from familiar to foreign. These were streets she did not frequent, homeless people she could not call by name, dark alleyways and doorsteps where men gave her looks which made her slightly uncomfortable. She continued on, praying the whole way that her efforts would somehow lead her to Sky.
Her prayers were not answered, and she soon found herself backed up against a brick wall with one man's hand on her cheek and another's wrapping around her hips. They were saying something about giving her a good time. If it hadn't been so late, if she had remembered to eat dinner, if she wasn't so worried about the way she'd wrongly accused Sky, what in the world was I thinking anyway, she was certain she could have defended herself. But, as it was, she was frozen in shock and disgust, and one of the men was now sucking on her neck and pressing his body flush against hers. Tears filled her eyes as she struggled to regain her composure and began pushing at the man's shoulders. His friend merely laughed and caught her wrists, squeezing them until she almost whimpered in pain.
In the next moment, he fell to the ground. Her wrists were suddenly free, and she used them to smack the other man off of her. He staggered sideways and received one hard punch in the gut, which dropped him to the ground. It was only then that Sarah realized the identity of her rescuer, and her eyes widened. Sky finished both men off with a few kicks, spat on them and turned toward her, his shoulders rising and falling wildly due to his manic breathing. His face was menacing, and she would be lying if she said she wasn't afraid. Sarah closed her eyes and slid the remaining distance down the wall. She landed on the ground, legs weak and tears rolling down her cheeks. The feeling of that man's lips refused to leave her neck, despite the impulsive rubbing motion she kept trying.
Her eyes were squeezed shut as she tried to remove the past ten minutes from her memory. When she opened them and looked up, Sky was standing before her, his breathing back to normal but hands tightly clenched into fists.
"Did they hurt you?" he asked in a low growl. She quickly shook her head.
He looked as if he didn't quite know what to do.
"May I please walk you home?"
She swallowed, still trying to erase the man's face from her mind, and nodded at him. He tentatively held out a hand, which she stared at for a long moment before taking hold. He gently and easily pulled her up, immediately placing both hands at her elbows to steady her. She remained perfectly still, her own hands resting gently on his forearms, and did not wish to move.
Then, his arms were around her shoulders, and she was pulled into his chest, and she tried to bury her face as far inside as she could because there she would be safe. Sarah tried to hold in the sobs but they escaped, and she cried all over his crisp shirt and tie, and he didn't care what the hell she did to his shirt as long as she was right there. He found his chin resting on top of her head, and he tightened his grip as much as he could, believing that he could hold her that way for the rest of his life.
But one must always wake up from even a good dream, and Sarah eventually stepped back from him. Her cheeks were streaked with tears and her eyes were pink and her hand flew immediately to the second button of her shirt which, like the first and third, was now unbuttoned and, God, Sky thought, she doesn't have any idea how gorgeous she is.
"We really should get moving. This is no place for respectable people." He said it quietly, and she noticed that he categorized both of them as respectable. Two days ago, he considered himself a rat and her a self-important snob. This evolution meant something, but she was too tired to inspect it.
"What are you doing here, anyway?" He asked as they began to walk.
"I, um, was looking for you." She stared at the ground as she walked next to him. "…Because I'm confused."
"You and me both. You were right to want to stay away."
She stopped walking. He did too.
"No! I was wrong. I was dead wrong. You told Nathan he won! You gave him one thousand dollars! I don't understand why. I shouldn't have accused you of using me."
"But I did use you!"
"Not in the way I thought you had."
"Well… I'm sorry I got you drunk."
"I'm sorry I called you a heathen."
"But I am a heathen!"
"I can help with that," she said with a grin. They had resumed their walk, and were approaching Times Square.
"I bet you can," he answered, and caught hold of her right hand with his left, gently intertwining his fingers with hers.
"Sky, can we keep … well, can we start this thing over? I think I'd like to spend some time with you," she paused. "If possible."
"I know I'd like to spend some time with you. I can't think of anything I'd rather do." His direct, unashamed answer caused her to blink a few times in shock.
"I'm not expecting this to be a surprise to you, but I've never spent time alone with a man before. Unless we are discussing Uncle Arvide."
"Or your old man?"
"Well… no. My father is … well, he's out of the picture. He was … he had some problems. Drinking problems." She was staring at the ground, and did not meet his eyes.
"I'm sorry. Is that why you got into your line of work?"
"Yes, and no. I always wanted to find something for myself where I could help people, possibly help people to not experience the things I experienced as a child. I'm not sure this is the best way to go about it, but it was the most accessible."
"Your father … I know you may not want to talk about this, but … what was he like?" Sky asked the question softly, carefully, wanting an answer but only if she were willing to give one.
"Well, I'm told he was a very nice gentleman when he was sober. All I remember are the … the beatings, and the yelling, and the –- Alcohol really does a number on a person, doesn't it?" she finished with a question, still looking at the ground.
He was quiet, and there was fire behind his eyes but, as she was not looking at him, she did not see it.
"No disrespect to you or your father, but I have discovered that alcohol doesn't create feelings which were not already present. It simply magnifies the things we already feel. With you, that was … fun, and laughter, and spunk, and love. With him, it sounds like a lot of anger. Anger which was misdirected at his daughter."
"Daughters." She mumbled it so quietly that he had to strain to hear.
"How many sisters do you have?"
"Two. They're younger."
"You do have that oldest-child-confidence. I recognize it, being the leader of the pack myself."
"How many siblings?" she asked, looking up at him, relieved the conversation had steered away from her.
"Two brothers and a sister. Had a third brother, but he passed."
"I'm sorry. I can't imagine what that would be like."
"It was bad. I always told him not to pick fights. Answer them when they come and when they mean something, but only a fool would pick one."
They had arrived at the mission, and it was still full.
"Do you want to go in?" he asked. She nodded, then hesitated. Sarah glanced down at their hands, still intertwined, and looked back up at him. He lifted her hand up to his mouth and placed a kiss on the back of it.
"I am both grateful and proud to have a doll like you on my arm, Sergeant."
She smiled, and it reached her eyes and shined out brightly. She opened the door and they entered, overhearing Society Max's monologue about his recent shortcomings in a crap game. The couple made their way to the back row and sat down.
It was another hour before the meeting broke up and everyone scattered. Sarah had fallen asleep on Sky's shoulder. This went unnoticed by him, as he was enthralled by Uncle Arvide's retelling of the story of David and Bathsheba. The king had made a terrible mistake and sinned against a married woman, then conspired to murder her husband. In the end, he got what he wanted—the beautiful woman—but he had an empty heart because of his actions.
Sky knew the kind of regret David might have had, the regret of a man who had taken advantage of a woman, a man who had not respected her boundaries and her honor. He glanced down at Sarah, asleep and content, and marveled at the universe. This crazy, rotten, magical universe where a skunk like him could end up with a sweet, fiery, lovely woman. What a wonderful world.
As the gamblers stood and dispersed, Sky remained still. He would be happy to stay seated in that wooden chair all night if it meant he could be with Sarah. At the very least, he'd wait until the room had cleared before taking action. Arvide approached them and sat on Sky's opposite side. He glanced at the sleeping Sarah and gave Sky a small smile.
"Thanks for bringing her home."
"I was glad to."
"Thank you also for making good on your marker."
"That I will always do."
"Did you enjoy the meeting?"
Sky was silent for a long moment.
"About David and Bathsheba. He sinned and was still forgiven."
"Yes. He sought the Lord, and the Lord heard him. We all make mistakes, and none of us deserves forgiveness. That's why it is often hard to accept."
"Tell me about it," Sky mumbled to himself.
"But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
"1 John 1:9."
"How is it you know the Bible and not the God behind it?" Arvide asked it in the most uncondescending manner Sky had ever heard.
"I read the bible when I'm in a hotel room, which is almost every night. It's a good book. But in my line of work, believing it would only hold me back."
"God does not hold us back. He sets us free."
"I need to discover that for myself... I believe it could be possible."
"I'm happy to hear that. I daresay Sarah will be glad to help you."
Sky smiled, a big one, at the mention of her name. "I hope so."
"But for now, she should probably get to bed."
"Of course." Sky reached over and lightly touched Sarah's cheek to wake her. Groggily, she opened her eyes and lifted her head from his shoulder.
"I—I'm so sorry I fell asleep!" she said, cheeks immediately flushing with embarrassment.
Sky shook his head. Arvide stood.
"Sarah, let's turn in. Sky, thank you again for your help tonight. I look forward to seeing you soon." With that, he winked at them and headed down the hall to his dorm.
Sarah and Sky rose from their seats and faced each other.
"Thank you, Sarah," he almost whispered, toying with the fingers of her hand while she watched, sleepily amused.
She smiled, gave his hand one last squeeze, then turned and followed Arvide down the hall. Sky watched her go, remaining where he was until he heard her distant door click shut. Then he made his way out of the mission.