It was morning now, though you'd never know by looking at most of the second floor of the One Night Stand. It was dark in the apartments, with the exception of Alex's room, where a single small window allowed sunlight to shine down on his bed. However, the rays didn't meet their accustomed face. They instead fell upon the face of a peacefully sleeping woman. No birds chirped, since it was winter, and they'd all decided to head for warmer climates. The sun, however, was surprisingly clear for winter, and soon woke the woman.
The first thing Frankie felt was the cool, comfortable sheets. The second thing she felt was shock at the fact that she was waking up in the bed of an absolute stranger. She sat up, drawing the sheets up to cover herself before she realized that she was fully clothed. The owner of the bed was nowhere to be seen. She looked around, groggily, trying to remember where she was and why, since the obvious answer wasn't the case. She wasn't a morning person, though, so this process would take her a long time.
The bed was simple, utilitarian, and comfortable. It looked almost new. Hanging from the wall above the head of the bed was a simple crucifix, made of wood. It looked as if it had suffered some slight burn marks, but was otherwise not unique. There was no mirror anywhere in the room, which struck her as something of an oddity, but she shrugged it off. In fact, there wasn't much of anything in the whole room besides the bed and the crucifix. There was a night stand, on which sat a small digital clock. What looked like a tarot card was propped up against the clock, etched with the figure of some sort of fairy. A few books were stacked haphazardly in a corner, surrounded by, for some reason, wood shavings. There was a closet, the door of which was hanging open. She could see several pairs of black leather pants and white t-shirts, as well as a few other assorted black articles of clothing. Was this guy a goth, or was he into something... else? None of the leather was studded, and she didn't notice any flails or anything like that, so she supposed he was probably just a bit of a pessimist. Or a biker.
The night before suddenly came back to her, and she sighed. Russell had tried to show off his toughness again, but this time he'd messed with the wrong guy. She sniffed to test her damaged nose out, only to discover both that it still hurt and that she couldn't smell anything. She certainly didn't feel any sympathy for Russell, no matter how badly he may have gotten his ass whipped.
She groaned quietly as she stretched her muscles. She sat up, and was surprised to find that she even still had on her old trench coat. Whoever the guy was who'd helped her with her nose, he was either thoughtless, or an extreme gentleman in an age where gentlemen tended to keep their heads down. He could also just be completely unattracted to women, but she tried not to jump to conclusions. After all, there was always the real possibility that he just wasn't attracted to her. It wasn't like she was irresistible or anything, but she'd begun to believe that all men in the big city were jerks, serial killers, or rapists. It was nice to discover that she was wrong, about this at least.
Now that she was awake, the emptiness of the room surprised her. The room was more than big enough to accommodate a few more luxuries, but the owner either wasn't in the room often enough to care, or just didn't put much stock in decoration. What that said about his personality, she didn't know. In fact, she knew very little about him, other than the fact that he didn't like Russell. She didn't even know his name. All she knew was that his stare had been more... intense than any experience she'd had in years. There was something in his eyes that made her feel... She finally decided she didn't know what it made her feel like.
But she intended to find out.
Frankie opened the door, and stepped out into the hallway. It wasn't much, though it looked well-kept at least. A single light hung overhead, casting a harsh light on the hall. The hall ended at a door to her immediate left, and stretched on to the right for a few feet before coming to another door. There was yet another door set in the wall she was facing.
Faced with three doors, she decided to try the closest. She simply stepped across the hall and knocked. There was no answer, so she knocked again. Nothing. Then she noticed a little button on the side of the door. It was, she realized, a doorbell. A little lost for anything else to do, she pressed the button. There was no immediate response, so she turned to leave.
The door suddenly opened, and she turned to see a beautiful younger woman, probably a teen, tying the sash on a black bathrobe which covered surprisingly little. Through the open door, Frankie couldn't make out much, because it was pitch-black. The light from the hall illuminated the edge of a bed and a few stray pieces of black clothing on the ground, but not much else. The woman, whom Frankie now recognized to be the bartender from the night before, yawned and rubbed at her eyes. "Do you have any fucking idea what time it is, Alex?" the woman asked grumpily.
"Um... About ten," Frankie replied.
The woman's head jerked up and her eyes opened as she realized who she was talking to. "Whoa. Sorry. Thought you were my brother, comin' to bug me about something." The woman smothered another yawn. "Sleep well?"
Frankie nodded, still caught a little off guard. "Yes, thank you. Oh, and thanks for letting me sleep here in the first place."
The woman shrugged. "Didn't bother me. Not like you slept in my room or anything. I would've let you, but it was occupied last night."
At that moment, a man appeared behind her from within the shadows of the bedroom. When the woman noticed him there, she turned and gave him a deep kiss, actually pressing him up against the doorframe. Frankie averted her eyes.
Once the kiss finally ended, the man stumbled off down the hall, looking tired and dazed, but happy. He spared a glance back at them with a grin before opening the door and leaving. Frankie watched him go, surprised. She glanced at her hostess to see her mouth wide with a satisfied smile.
"Nice guy," the woman said as she saw Frankie looking at her. "Met him last night."
"I... see," Frankie managed. "Well, I just wanted to thank you for your hospitality. You won't have to worry about me showing up to cause trouble at your club any more."
The woman blinked. "Trouble? That prick you were with caused the trouble. Nah, you drop in any time. Drinks are on the house for the girl that finally got Alex to say more than two words at one time." She smiled. "Hell, even I can't do that most days."
"Uh, yeah..." Frankie was having a little trouble following the conversation, especially after that display with the strange man that had just left. Why couldn't she look that good in a simple bathrobe? She realized with some exasperation that she was getting jealous of a woman whose name she didn't even know. She was being silly. And besides, she didn't want the woman to catch her staring. "I'll try to drop by sometime."
The woman nodded, suppressing another yawn. "Gre-aaaaaa... Great... Oh, by the way, what's your name?"
"Francine Douglas. You can call me Frankie."
The woman smiled again. "And I'm Ann, since you obviously didn't know, and that guy last night is my brother, Alex. I'm sure he'd love to see you again; you seem like a girl who could get rid of that iron rod that was in his ass when he was born. Hope I see you around." Ann yawned again. "G'morning," she said, and went back into her room, closing the door behind her.
Frankie frowned at the door. Ann had kept calling her a girl. Frankie was twenty-eight, and Ann looked ten years younger, but Ann had talked to her as if Frankie were the younger one. Of course, teenagers were notorious for thinking they knew better than everyone else, but that attitude was usually tempered slightly. Still, when you were as beautiful as Ann, Frankie supposed, you tended to believe the world revolved around you. Frankie wished she were that confident.
She realized now that she didn't know which way to go in order to get out. The man had gone to the right, but that could be a bathroom for all she knew, and intruding on that wouldn't be the best idea. She decided to try for the closest door, the one on her left. She walked up to it, trying hard to convince herself that she wasn't being nosy, and turned the knob. It was locked. Fine, she thought. I'll just go the other way, then, and you can keep your secrets. She kicked the door for good measure, turned, and walked to the other door.
The room on the other side of the door was a surprise, for a few reasons. For one thing, paintings hung on the walls, paintings of all sorts of different styles. One could have been a Picasso, judging by the style and even the stroke, but it wasn't any painting she'd ever seen before. There was one modern art painting, full of ugly green streaks and sharp angles, and it was off in a corner where it couldn't hurt anybody. Also, the room was filled with books. Books were piled precariously on the floor here and there, and there were three bookcases brimming with them. Almost all of this was on the right side of the room, from where she stood. That side had a nice, comfortable feeling, right down to a fireplace and a hearth. There was a rocking chair there, and a big, ugly, comfortable-looking brown couch. The only thing that spoiled the image was the lack of candlelight; an electric chandelier in the center of the room illuminated it all.
The left side of the room was much more modern, although some of the paintings and stray books looked to have wandered to that side when nobody was looking. In the center of that side was a black leather couch, set right in front of a rather large entertainment system, complete with stereo speakers, a CD-changer, a huge big-screen TV, and even a video game system. A computer was sitting on a desk in the corner. The whole side of the room looked to be everything you could desire if you wanted to be up-to-the-minute, and had a comfort of its own, but Frankie immediately preferred the right side.
And so, apparently, did Ann's brother, Alex. He was sitting on the ugly brown couch, his back turned to her. By his posture, she assumed him to be reading, and deeply into the book if he hadn't heard her enter. Of course, only a moment after she thought that, he said in a cool, calm, deep voice, "Good morning."
Frankie was, for a moment, struck mute. A memory came back to her of the night before, of him bringing a wet cloth to place on her bleeding nose, of her crying as he held her to his shoulder. She didn't remember when or where she fell asleep. He must have placed her in his bed and slept in this room. She was inordinately grateful, but all she could manage was a blunt "Hi."
Alex smoothly rose to his feet and turned to face her, all in one motion. She saw his eyes, and her jaw almost dropped. Just as his sister was impossibly beautiful, so was he. His beauty was, of course, more masculine, and he looked about twenty-five instead of eighteen, but he still seemed almost delicate. Of course, she only had to think about the power his punch had contained to realize that he was not delicate at all, but while she stared at him, it seemed to her that he stood so carefully that he wouldn't have broken through a spider-web. His face was almost enough to make her drop to her knees in awe. His jacket was off now, and his lean form was only emphasized by the white t-shirt he wore. "Hi," she managed again, lamely.
Alex bowed his head as if she'd just curtsied. "I was worried that you might have been distraught after last night, but I see you are well enough," he said with an accent she couldn't quite place. He glanced down at the bloodstains on his t-shirt and asked, "Your nose. Is it healing?"
Frankie couldn't take her eyes away from him, but she sniffed again, carefully. She nodded. "It... It doesn't even hurt as much as it did when I woke up. You must be a doctor or something." She expected him to roll his eyes at the lame remark, but he only continued to stare. "Uh..." She couldn't think of anything to say. "I..." He continued to stare at her, and she blurted out, "I met your sister."
His beautiful face was slightly marred by an expression of annoyance. "I thought you might have. I apologize for her, since she would never apologize for herself. I hope she didn't embarrass you too much. She can be... coarse at times."
Frankie shrugged, not really wanting to say anything bad about his sister in their own home. "She's... well, she's very frank." That was the safest thing she could think of to say without suddenly changing the topic. "And she's very pretty."
Alex nodded. "Yes. She gets that from both sides of our family, although physically she takes more after our father." He shook his head, as if annoyed again. "How boorish of me, to have held you up with conversation when you doubtless have other plans." He walked up to one of the doors leading from the room, opened it, and turned back to her. "I shall escort you downstairs."
Like a true gentleman, Alex allowed Frankie to go down the stairs first. As they walked down, she almost slipped on the old wooden steps, but he caught her by the shoulder. He didn't take his hand from her shoulder, instead helping her keep her balance the rest of the way down. The hand's presence on her shoulder actually made her legs even more unstable, and she gave thought to intentionally falling so that he would have to carry her down, but dismissed the idea.
They reached the bottom, and he took his hand from her shoulder, much to her disappointment. He opened the door for her leading into the now-deserted first floor. The club looked a little shabby without anyone in it, but she figured somebody probably came by to clean it up before it opened. Alex walked beside her until they reached the exit, which he opened for her as well. She stepped outside, and after a moment's hesitation, Alex did too, squinting in the morning sunlight.
"Well," Frankie said, after a moment of awkward silence, "Thank you for taking me in for the night. Russell... well, he's made one mistake too many. It's about time somebody slapped him around. Maybe that'll teach him a lesson."
"You're not planning to-" Alex cut himself off.
"Go back to him?" Frankie shook her head. "No. He never hit me before last night, but I should have known he would sooner or later. He's not going to get within ten feet of me again." She waited for Alex to show some reaction.
"It was my pleasure to help you," Alex replied. "I will look for you around the club... that is, if you ever come again."
"Oh, I'll be sure to come here again," Frankie quickly replied. "It's a nice place. I just wasn't with nice company. Next time, I'll come alone."
"Until next time, then," Alex replied. He reached down, gently took her hand in his, lifted it, and kissed it, his eyes on hers the whole time.
"Yeah," she managed breathlessly. "Til then..."
"So," Ann greeted Alex as he came through the door from the stairs, "how'd it go?"
Alex raised an eyebrow. "I escorted her to exit, and she left."
Ann placed her fists on her hips and put on a long-suffering expression. "Please tell me you at least gave her a kiss or a hug or a compliment, or something."
Alex shrugged as he took off his blood-stained shirt, walking past her into the hallway. "I told her that I'll see her the next time she came to the club."
"That's it?" Ann asked incredulously, following him into his room. "That's all you said?"
Alex didn't even bother to try to get her to leave as he took off his clothes to prepare for bed. She wouldn't have listened anyway, and he had long since gotten used to it. It was, as the saying went, nothing she hadn't seen before. "That's it."
"Did you at least do that hand-kissing thing?"
"Of course. Why?"
Ann smiled. "Alex, nobody does that anymore. Women today think it's romantic."
Alex shrugged as he sat on his bed. "There you are, then. I kissed her hand. Are you happy now?"
"When will you be, then? When I can walk up to some random person, say 'Make love to me,' and expect results?"
"Well, not quite. I was hoping more for 'Let's fuck like bunnies'."
Alex stared at her for a few moments, and finally shook his head. "Good morning, sister," he said, and went to lie down on his bed.
Ann stared at him, sleeping in direct sunlight just to prove he had some humanity in him. He was stubborn, at least as stubborn as she was. One day, he'd loosen up. She yawned. "Good morning." She shut the door and went to her own bed.
"You Think You Know What You Feel,
But It's Just A Trap.
The Darkness Sees All."
-Chapter 4, Verse 9 of Destinations, by Adrian Tepes