Disclaimer: Sabrina, the movie version with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond, does not belong to me. The characters are full of inspiration, intelligence, and intrigue that I cannot help but borrow them a short while. I heartily enjoyed the movie. The events of this story are mine, but the characters are definitely not.

Author's Note: For Mr. Hathaway and b8kworm. I kept wondering about what would happen had Linus not gone as far as he did with Sabrina in the movie. So, instead of asking Sabrina to come and discuss business the afternoon David wanted to talk with her, he does not call her, thereby allowing Sabrina and David their discussion. To me, sacrificing your own happiness for another's is ultimate.

Summary: He watched her from his moonlit table on the terrace, watching as he let her go again. Never imagining that he could be holding her if he only gave her the chance to say she loved him, too.

Rating: PG-13

Archive(s): Mine. Anybody else, email me; I like to go visiting.

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Title: Moonlit Table On The Terrace

Author: Lumina Placid Moon
Email: luminapm@hotmail.com

Once upon a time, Linus Larabee knew the intimacy of loving a woman. Once upon a time, he had foregone work for two days of head spinning pleasure and acting not on business profits but on the awestruck smile of a woman. Once upon a time, he had lost all semblance of control and followed his heart.

Curse the fact that everything had been caused by a merger obstacle and his need to remove it.

*****

He remembered that night so vividly - he sat on the terrace with his Scotch Whiskey, bathed in the cool moonlight and wondered just what he had done. She was only an innocent bystander caught in the relentless tug-of-war pace of fortune five hundred companies. With a guileless smile, she had insinuated herself into his life, into his heart.

Yet, her heart was not for him; it beat for David, the charismatic younger brother. Never one who needed glib, sweet nothings for charming the ladies, Linus was doomed to failure. Sabrina Fairchild was in love with David, always had been, and he could not allow himself to ruin her happiness.

On that fateful night on the terrace, Linus had made the decision to give Sabrina who she always wanted. All that mattered was her happiness. Forget the impending merger; forget David's engagement; forget that he was ripping out his own heart.

So, he had made the arrangements - two one-way tickets to Paris for Sabrina and David, an apartment worthy of a Larabee, and an account to match. All he needed of David was to make Sabrina happy; David's obvious fascination with her would do the rest.

Off the couple flew, and Linus cleaned up David's mess: ended the engagement to Elizabeth, kissed goodbye to a billion dollars as the merger fell apart, and nursed the unfamiliar sensation of unrequited love.

He sincerely wished them all the joy in the world but could not prevent himself from wanting love to go to hell. For what it was worth, he lost a love he never had a right to and love for his brother left him with weeks of careful business maneuverings.

Then why was he sipping excellent champagne in a Parisian gallery, trying to escape at the first opportunity? Well, suffice it to say that David had blown it: Don Juan that he was, he had left Sabrina within a month for better and more sophisticated territory.

He had cursed his brother to the devil so many times that his mother had resorted to flying five time zones away in an effort to remedy the situation. In the end, David continued as he always had and Sabrina was induced to accept the capital to start a photography enterprise.

She wrote him after things had settled down, graciously acknowledging his initial efforts to prevent the relationship, if only to save her from heartache - her actual words. She told him of her future endeavors with the capital, committing herself to a repayment plan of five years, plus interest. Lastly, she had closed with her regrets concerning the merger.

An impersonal letter, but it was all he had of her besides a handful of pictures during his abortive courting period. So he fancied he could smell her perfume or hand lotion on the stationary. He must have made a piteous sight, however he was confident that the privacy of his apartment would hold.

Nobody knew of his secret love for Sabrina. David was blind to everything without long, shimmering hair, breasts, and a stunning smile - to put things crudely. His mother rarely spared him a second glance to ascertain any heart conditions. After all, he never gave away an iota of what he was feeling while he spent those days with Sabrina; why should that change now that she had been gone for weeks?

The media did their best to fit a photo shoot into his schedule, intending to include him as one of the world's richest bachelors during the first year of Sabrina's payoff plan. That did not pan out, but they obtained a picture nonetheless. His mother had shown him the article amidst a flurry of surprise and he had feigned interest until her departure.

He had recognized the picture instantly - it was from the cottage at the Vineyard, of him standing before the many windows of the breakfast nook. It was from that magical time he had spent with Sabrina and, sure enough, the photo's courtesy rights boasted her name. He had stared at that captioning all through the night with his nightly drink for company, wondering against his will about her life.

Was she happy? Did she find another man to replace the disaster David was? Did she realize her dream of a career in photography?

He never thought he would find the answers to his questions.

*****

In the third year of the repayment plan, just as he surfaced from a weekend of atypical drunken stupor, the invitation arrived at his personal address - his apartment in the city - postmarked France. He had alternated between insane curiosity and helpless resentment. In the end, he opened the envelope.

He, personally, was invited by the Gallerie de l'Art de la Photographie in Paris to view one Sabrina Fairchild's debut work. He was encouraged to bring his checkbook and requested to reservez s'il vous plait by ten days time.

The invitation boasted a day in about six weeks for which he could easily clear his schedule. He could not explain why he delayed, especially since he burned to see Sabrina again. Just to see her, nothing more, a mere glimpse.

He never verified his invitation, but the day before the event, he found himself in an airplane flying east to meet the sunrise, irresponsibly ignoring the next two days worth of appointments and meetings. Very simply, no one knew he was over the Atlantic Ocean; everybody expected him in his apartment's lonely bed at this hour of the night. Some may hazard a guess at burning the midnight oil; anywhere but the actual.

As inconspicuously as he left New York City, he slipped into the crowd of well-dressed money pushers, blending into the press of people as easily as he walked along the outskirts of the suite of rooms. The night was only halfway through and most of the framed still images were sold; a telling sign of her success. As he read the prices each sold item had gracing its frame, he silently calculated her growing bank account and whole-heartedly applauded her achievement.

He followed her about the gallery, champagne flute in hand, as she moved through those gathered. Her smile and laughter followed accordingly to well wishes and congratulations. Her voice he longed to hear but he refused himself the pleasure; surely it was enough to simply see her glow from the safety of his self-imposed anonymity along the walls.

A variety of languages washed waves over him: the mainstay of French, a hint or two of German, some Italian and Greek, an utterance or five of Japanese. Clearly, she had attracted international acclaim; Linus toasted with the crowd.

Then, he saw the man who stepped forth from the crowd and greeted Sabrina with comfortable familiarity. Reality slammed into Linus's chest as she accepted the kisses he placed on either check all the while forgetting the custom of the country he visited. Opportunity found, the thought of escape suffocated him and steered him towards the door.

That was where the single candid photograph stopped him. It was of Sabrina, with her eyes closed, lips curved slightly into a mischievous grin. Her face was tilted upwards as though she waited for her lover's kiss. Linus had to have it; cost was not a problem.

He waited impatiently for the manager, wondering in the meantime what he would give to know what or whom she thought of at the time of exposure. He would never know, of course, because already the manager was here and carried the disastrous news that this image was not for sale. A small obstacle really, and Linus had the blank check signed and tucked between the glass and lower corner of the frame by the time the manager found Sabrina and brought her there to resolve the situation. Linus was long gone.

Had he remained, he would have seen the shocked pleasure his generosity moved within her. She had frantically searched the guest book to verify his presence, knowing full well he had not responded to the invitation. Seeing his simple message of, "Best wishes in all you do" had Sabrina rushing outside and finding naught save shadows.

Well, that was weeks ago; his check had never been deposited and Linus waited just shy of agitation. Separated by an ocean, both knew that he would be making sure she endorsed the check for the amount of her choice. He never expected she would hand deliver the picture to him.

*****

The night was warm and rare in that he was at the estate rather than spending the down hours in his apartment as he habitually began to do. It was his mother's annual birthday gala; he was within doors while David was outside and playing the carefree man, recently returned from abroad, with ease. Things were better this way since neither man could look at the other as they once did - David for the merger's loss, Linus for the fact that David was whom Sabrina had always wanted.

Gentle knocks preceded her entrance and Linus saw her through a cloud of disbelief. She greeted him with an awkward smile while one hand gently held the brown paper wrapped picture. The other hand nervously played with the sleeves of the chic dress suit she wore. Years of etiquette forced Linus to rise from his chair where he had cradled a glass of his usual poison, Scotch Whiskey, while he waited for the fireworks to commence.

"Hello, Sabrina." His voice sounded hoarse to his own ears.

She smiled again, reflexively to put him at ease. "Hello, Linus." She glanced out the window quickly, turned back, and said, "Mrs. Larabee said you were here."

Linus nodded. Again, politeness directed him; he motioned to the beverage bar. "May I get you anything?"

"Umm - actually, I just wanted to give you this -" She placed the package on his desk. "- and return this. I don't want it."

He eyed the folded check. So, this would be the close of that transaction. He could not accept it and used his glass to gesture a refusal.

"No, you earned it. Keep it. Use it if you ever need to."

"You know I won't."

He agreed with her silently. If anything, her pride and independence would not allow her; it was something he loved about her.

He compromised. "Keep it and we can consider the capital paid back in full."

"Thank you, but -"

"I don't care what you do with it, Sabrina, just take it." His interruption shocked them both as the harshness of tone hung strangely in the air between them. Linus finished his drink and poured another.

Back to her, he asked again, "Sure I can't get you a drink?"

Just like that, he returned them to the familiar lanes of civility his interruption exited. Again, she declined but she did sit across his chair.

"Is Paris still everything to you?" Congratulations, Linus, on how awkwardly you asked.

Sabrina merely smiled as he joined her seated form. "Yes. Paris will always be home for me. How did you like it?"

"I stayed long enough to attend the gallery."

"If you had reserved your invitation, I would have gladly shown you around."

He frowned into his glass as his heart tumbled in his chest.

"Linus?"

He managed to focus on her face when he replied, "I know; I didn't intend to come."

"Oh." She chewed her lip but plunged in with her question anyway. "Why did you? Come, that is."

The million dollar question. He knew the answer, he did but was not ready to tell her or anybody, for that matter. He had evaded the speculations and questions about his absence easily yet, somehow, he felt an obligation of the truth towards Sabrina.

"Linus, why did you come and not even say hello?"

He set the glass down on a side table before he was tempted to throw the object, if only to relieve his frustration.

"I came to see if you were happy." He smiled ironically. "As long as you've been spying on - David - I've been watching you. I can't count how many hours I watched you in that tree." He pointed out the window where he had an unimpeded view of her tree. "How do you think I recognized you when you came back from Paris a woman, having lost all hint of the girl you were? Even David didn't know you."

Here Sabrina gasped; her mouth covered by a delicate hand in sudden waking of knowledge from the heart. His blank check reared its presence in her mind: she was priceless to him, it told her, utterly priceless.

Once started, the words tumbled from Linus's soul to its inevitable conclusion. "I knew you because I loved you even before you left. I saw what you hid beneath the glasses and your hair, and I found beauty. But you had eyes only for David. As much as I wanted you, Sabrina, I couldn't make you happy. I'm sorry that I confused and manipulated you."

Then, rather than look at Sabrina, Linus returned his attention to the neglected glass.

*****

However, Sabrina was not the only one who heard his spill of words. In the hallway stood Mrs. Larabee in search of her eldest son who usually came out at the party's close to see their guests off. She stood with tears in her eyes, guilty for never guessing why Linus had taken to working overnight in the office since Sabrina's temporary return from France. She, like so many, had assumed he was trying to reclaim the lost revenue from the failed merger.

She understood why Linus drove his own car; in his own way, he held himself responsible for the doomed relationship between Sabrina and David. In deference to Mr. Fairchild, he tried to ease any conflicting emotions the man may have. In the same vein, it explained why he stayed more frequently at his apartment and avoided the estate, which was Sabrina's home as much as it was his.

*****

Knowing he had to give Sabrina time to digest the confession that, once started, left him helpless to cease it, Linus rose and approached the painting on his desk. Carefully, he divested it of its protective wrappings and saw her beloved face, eyes closed and dreaming of pleasure. He missed how Sabrina, too, rose and watched him; he traced the line of her photographed jaw with reverence.

His whisper filled the room: "I would give everything to know if you thought of me when this picture was taken. Everything."

Then, the fireworks began, coloring the sky in brilliant primary colors and shook Linus from his reverie. "Sabrina, you'll have to excuse me. David will be gone by now and it's time I play host. You know your way around."

With that, he left the room, never glancing at Sabrina focused as he was on the floor. He even missed his mother's presence in the hallway as he gently closed the door after him and leaned heavily against it.

Once Linus had gone, Mrs. Larabee immediately entered Linus's office and studied Sabrina's still stunned expression.

Sabrina's words were hushed. "He loved me all this time. He sacrificed himself for my happiness; I never knew."

"That makes two of us."

"I've been such a fool."

"Sabrina, you know Linus," Mrs. Larabee said, trying for sympathy. "If he doesn't want anyone to know, good luck trying."

They laughed together, knowing the convicted truth even as they knew nothing could be done. For as long as Linus refused to forgive himself for his duplicitous actions against Sabrina, he would never be happy with her. No matter how much she told or showed him otherwise, he would never feel worthy of her.

Long into the night, mother and lover talked, sharing their best memories of Linus who excused his mother's absence with deftness. It was late when Sabrina exited the house, walking along the stone lined walkway to the garage. He watched her from his moonlit table on the terrace, watching as he let her go again. Never imagining that he could be holding her if he only gave her the chance to say she loved him, too.

A chance to tell him that David had been a replacement for Linus all along because David had been safer. David would never be able to break her heart, indeed their break in Europe had been mutual and friendly. On the other hand, Linus with his unfailing faith in marriage, he could have undermined her sense of self with one night of infinite pleasure.

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© RK 17.Mar.2004