He came back, just as he promised.
She stood slack jawed in her doorway, one leg still in the hall, her camera dangling precariously from the edges of her fingers. The room was glowing yellow, sunlight filtering sideways through the window and clinging to the edges of John's arms and hair and lighting him up like the angels in the pictures of her dusty childrens' Bible. He was so beautiful it hurt, a thud echoing somewhere under her sternum, but it was pain she had been waiting for.
The camera barely made it to a rest on the table top before she was hurling herself across the room, three long steps until she was in his lap and her arms were locked around his neck. He smelled like gasoline and dirt, her fingers tangling in the blonde swirls of his hair and holding him close, hard, feeling his hot breath against her jugular. There were a thousand questions in her head, a million words she could say, but she pulled back only to try and find his mouth with hers, to shut up her head, to reassure herself that this wasn't one of the many dreams she had had about him returning. She was a breath away, a beat from kissing him into reality when his hand raised and pressed against her collarbone, stopping her.
He almost didn't have to say it, really.
"I found the others," he said, and she felt so stupid on his lap all of the sudden, like she was trespassing on someone elses' property.
"And Number Eight, she ... we ..."
He said he was sorry before he dropped from her window, and she knew he meant it, that he truly didn't mean to hurt her. Maybe it was better this way, because she was human and easily hurt and someone - a girl like him could fight and be there at all times without jeopardizing him.
Still, she took every picture of him that she had developed and tore them to pieces until they rained down like snow.
There was so much of it she could probably make angels, but the brightest had already descended.
Sarah graduated. What had been anchoring her to Paradise snapped, the cords of her family finally recoiling and she took the earliest bus she could catch out of there.
She had two suitcases and a duffel bag. Paradise trickled out of the mirrors until it was just miles of road behind her.
Looking back only once, Sarah raised her camera to her eye and paused time. Goodbye.
It was just chance, really, that she saw her, that she even recognized her, that in the mass hubbub of the big city, that flash of blonde hair and that familiar swagger caught her eyes.
Sarah stopped, her camera lowering, her neck swiveling to watch a tall woman walk by her. Her mouth twisted, eyes slowly returning to the Nokia in her hand. There were thousands of blondes in Chicago, what were the chances - ?
Sarah dived after her, weaving through the herd of people moving in the opposite direction. In front of her, there was a tiny slice of space and she saw two long legs clad in black trod fiercely away from her. The blonde that had caught her attention was still curly, still long, trailing down her back in impossible waves. Sarah mumbled a few apologies as she struggled to catch up, not knowing exactly what was driving her. That part of her life had ended, remember? Sarah shook the thought away.
If it was her, that woman she had watched battle in a circle of blue on the football field of her old home, then that was just one more string leading her to him. Maybe she knew where he was, maybe she could take her to him and Sarah could try to convince him -
Her footfalls stopped. The people meshed together and the black body disappeared around a corner.
Sarah could feel her heart in her mouth, abusing the back of her throat.
She only cries sometimes, but it's in the safety of her dorm room when her roommate is gone. She pulls her knees to her chest and feels the tornado trapped in her ribcage tear everything apart.
She feels like throwing up afterward. Sometimes, she does.
All of her dreams are about him. She avoids sleep as long as possible, and tries to wake herself up before she sees him turning over his shoulder in the hallway to grin at her, but she always fails. She doesn't know if it's because she actually wants to torture herself of if she just can't help it at this point.
It's a month after she thinks she saw Number Six in the city when she catches herself like that for what feels like the hundredth time, tucked in the sheets of her bed with her forehead pressed against the wall, and she realizes with a tremble that she can't remember if John's eyes were green or blue.
She wants his pictures. They've probably melted into her floorboards back home by now.
The second time she thinks she sees her, it actually is her.
Sarah transferred schools. Chicago was too dishonest and it smelled like car exhaust all the time. She missed her clean, small town, so she found a new one. Leaf River, Illinois. It's quiet and the wind is soft and she's working for this elderly man who does photography for weddings and graduation parties.
It's not what she wants to do, but it gets her by. For now.
She's at the gas station, buying milk, when she sees her slung over a motorcycle, sunglasses peering out over the cornfield across the street. Sarah feels herself lock up, the milk nearly dragging her to the ground. Sarah swallows hard, sets the milk down and raises a shaky hand to her eyes, crooking over the sun to just make sure.
The motorcycle. The black clothes. The slope of her nose on her profile. It's her. It's a path.
Sarah lifts her camera. It's an impulse, like breathing, to capture the moment and store it away. It clicks as it catchers her, and when Sarah lowers the camera the woman is spinning around to glare at her. She can't see her eyes, shielded by black plastic, but she can read them from where she stands, can see the woman register her from the short distance separating them.
The heat is making ripples come off the ground, the smell of gasoline reminding Sarah too much of a worse time. She leans, scoops the milk from the ground and steps toward the woman, who swings her cape of blonde hair onto one shoulder and leans against her bike.
"What are the chances," she says, that thick accent that Sarah can't place slamming memories of the battle back into her brain. The monsters, the aliens, the churned up ground, John - she shakes her head, swallows.
What are the chances, indeed.
"You're sure this is all right?"
Sarah smiles tentatively from the doorway of her tiny kitchen in her tiny apartment. It didn't seem so small when she started renting it, but now that she's had another person in it for the first time, it suddenly seems so cramped. "Of course. It would be silly if you drove all the way to the next town just to pay for a room when you can stay here for free." Sarah watched the woman as she glided to the window, pulling back the blinds to peer out. Number Six was tall and slender, the muscles of her arms like rocks as they flexed under her skin. Sarah chewed her lip, absently touching her soft, frail wrists.
"Besides," Sarah continues lightly, spinning toward the counter to pour coffee. "You saved my life once, so I'm pretty much in your debt forever."
She glances up to see Six grinning crookedly from the window and something in her throat catches.
"Yeah, well, it wasn't just me, you know. If it wasn't for -" She halts, catching herself. Sarah gives a tired smile and moves across the floor, pressing a mug of coffee into Six's hands. She takes it, her eyes down, tongue licking slowly at her lips. "I'm sorry, I didn't -"
"Why aren't you with them?" Sarah catches Six's eyes, blinking as she notices how oceanic they are.
Six shrugs, eyes shifting to settle out of the window again. "We found all of the others and that was fine and dandy for awhile, but ..." She pursed her lips. "I'm a solitary creature, I guess."
Sarah frowns, brings the coffee to her lips. Her eyes rest on Six's throat as she drinks.
"I'm sorry for what he did to you."
Sarah's eyes jerk upward, locking with two endless orbs. She can tell that Six isn't normally sympathetic just by the way she eats the words so awkwardly, shifting somewhat against the window.
"It was a pretty dick move, honestly. Men are idiots." Her eyes flick away again. The sky is cracked at the horizon, the sun bleeding over the earth.
"It's been months," Sarah says, as if that makes the pain any easier. "I'm fine."
Oceans swivel to watch her but Sarah doesn't meet them, staring in the depths of her coffee.
Six doesn't have to say it for it to be known - Sarah's a terrible liar.
It's four hours later and Sarah has had far too many glasses of wine for her own good. Six insisted that she drink her pain away and for one night she would finally let lose, the way she should have months ago.
Six looks different in pajamas. Looser, more open, almost. The white of her t-shirt makes her hair look lighter, the blonde curls tossed over her head. Her neck is long and she smells like the wind. She wants to take her picture - Six is soft in the light, her lips pulled back in a smile as she twirls the wine bottle in her hand, eyes on the TV. The white of her teeth comes and goes, the smiles few and far between, but she's chuckling at Sarah's apparent buzz as she tries to make her way across the living room floor.
"Lightweight," Six says, the smile fading behind the crook of her hand. Sarah sits - falls, really, beside her, and they watch TV for a while in silence. Sarah's sitting too close, but neither of them say anything.
And then Sarah starts talking, her words slurring together and tumbling over each other as she tries to get it all out - I never thought he'd do that to me, I really thought he loved me, I never would have guessed, I would have put up with anything that came our way, I didn't care that he's not human, I loved him, I loved him, I loved him.
Six doesn't say much, but she watches her, eyes swirling, and Sarah cries.
Six helps her to her bedroom, tucks her in, sets a bowl beside her bed in case she gets sick.
Sarah watches Six hover in the doorway, her lip wedged between her teeth. And then she's gone and maybe it's the wine, but Sarah feels okay.
That night, she doesn't dream about John. She doesn't dream about anything at all.
When Sarah wakes up, her head throbbing, her apartment is quiet and she sits up fast, clutching the blankets. Did she leave? Sarah attempts to swing out of bed, a roll of nausea stopping her. She reaches blindly for the bowl, hovering over it for a moment. She really can't handle alcohol at all. She swallows, standing shakily, leaving the bowl on the edge of her bed as she waddles out into the living room. She relaxes, slumping against the wall, Six sprawled over the 70's couch.
Six looks different in sleep, too, like all of the strings making her so tense are limp now. One arm is above her head, a foot is on the floor, the rest of her just tossed on the couch like a discarded puppet.
Sarah makes coffee, the smell stirring the alien awake. Sarah watches as she rubs the sleep from her eyes, a loud yawn accompanying a symphony of bones popping as the woman stretches. She rubs her neck, blinking across the room with a faint smile at Sarah in the doorway.
"You look like shit," Six says calmly, standing.
Sarah winces, touching her forehead. "I'm never drinking again."
Something akin to a laugh chops past Six's mouth, the woman moving fluidly toward the other girl. Her grace isn't human, and Sarah feels her chest hitch when she remembers just what this woman is capable of.
Six takes the second mug and brings it to her lips, her eyes holding Sarah's over the rim.
"Four is an idiot, you know." Six takes a sip and lowers the mug, steam rolling past her lips, a hand extending slowly to touch Sarah's chin. The human girl freezes, suddenly very aware of the inches that separate them. Inches. "You're ..." Six drifts, her eyes faltering, and her hand falls.
Sarah's eyes are begging. I'm what?
Six sets the mug on the table. "I should go."
Six is on her motorcycle, her glasses in her hands, and Sarah is standing beside her, the wind weaving through her hair.
"I'll come visit you," Six says, eyes disappearing behind her sunglasses. "I promise."
Sarah doesn't know why Six would promise such a thing; even Sarah knows she's not like that. She doesn't make friends, she doesn't make promises, she doesn't visit.
"To make sure you're okay," Six finishes, starting the bike.
The engine drowns out Sarah's words. They hang there, in the dust the bike leaves as it drives her away.
The sunrises and sunsets are starting to blur together so much that Sarah doesn't know which is which half the time.
She thinks she sees John once at the mall in the town over and she curled her hands into fists so hard her nails punctured the skin. She took his picture even though it wasn't him.
That night, she dreamed of a certain blonde.
But it wasn't John.
She keeps her promise, too, and six weeks later she's in Sarah's apartment when she comes back from taking pictures at a cute, small wedding by a lake. Sarah nearly screams when she sees her, her camera flying through the air. Six blurs from her lounging position on the couch, Sarah's instinctive blinking making the movement too fast for her brain to handle because she's suddenly there, right in front of her, the camera nestled in her hands.
"Did I spook you?"
Sarah blinks hard, melting as she realizes she's not about to be startled awake. She swings her arms around Six's neck. For a long moment, there is no response, but then hesitant arms rest on her hips and Sarah breathes her in; wind and far away places.
"Take me with you." The words are whispered against a beating vein that carries the words inside Six's chest somewhere.
The woman touches her back. There's only a moments pause.
Sarah had a home all of her life up until graduation. She was in the same house, the same town, the same people, the same faces.
But now she's bouncing from hotel to hotel, taking so many pictures she can barely develop them fast enough. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Fe, even small towns with barely a dot on the map - Greensville, Hopper, Byron - they're all stored in her many cameras that she keeps in a small backpack, tucked within Six's bike.
"I'm going to make a book out of all of them," Sarah says when Six asks, running her thumb along one of Six leaning against a railing with her head back, eyes on the sky. They're at a restaurant and it smells like ribs and Six is next to her at the bar, eating a burger.
Six looks over her shoulder at the picture, pushing it aside. Behind it is one of Sarah, one that Six took. Sarah's in the middle of a laugh, her eyes small, reaching out, trying to take the camera away from the unseen blonde behind it.
"It'll say more than words ever can," Six says, the words filling Sarah's ears like water.
She dreams of oceans and blonde curls and drowning in all of these places.
They don't have a destination. They just go.
Sarah has never been so happy in her life, and Six laughs so much easier now.
Her mother calls her every day. We're so worried about you. Please come home and visit for a while.
Sarah leans her head on Six's shoulder. They're in St. Louis. The arch is a few miles ahead of them and they're sitting on the hood of Six's new car. She got rid of the bike because it was easier for Sarah to take pictures in the backseat of a four-wheeled contraption.
"I don't want to go back there," Sarah says against the woman's shoulder. "I'm afraid I won't want to leave."
Six frowns, her hand traveling across the girl's lap to rest on her knee. "I almost didn't come back to check up on you, you know, and I almost didn't take you with me."
"Because I'm human and you're a solitary creature, right?"
Six shakes her head. "Because I was afraid." Six glances down, Sarah's dark eyes peering up at her. "But I did, and now I'm, you're ..."
You're what? I'm what?
Six doesn't have the words, but Sarah's okay with that because she kisses her instead and that says enough.
Sarah didn't know how much she missed home until she climbed out of Six's car and there were her father's arms, wrapping around her and holding her so hard it hurt. Her mother is next, and then her brother, and then she's standing in front of them with her house, her home, standing behind them, and she turns to see Six leaning against the car door.
Her past and her future, entwined.
"S-Six, oh -"
Sarah is silenced with a pair of moist lips. She doesn't remember when her pants came off, but a hand is between her legs and she's wet and she's making too much noise. Six is chuckling "shh"es in her ear.
She comes loudly, her body a series of waves crashing on the shore, and Six's words are spoken so quietly, her human ears barely pick them up.
I love you.
Sarah falls asleep with her head cradled on Six's chest.
"I love you, too, Six."
She doesn't need a camera for this. She won't forget it.
Sarah dreams of her heart pumping sixes into her veins.
A/N: This is my first crack at these two, so please be gentle with the criticism, okay?
I really like this pairing and I'm trying to ease into it and see what works best. Anyway, hope you enjoyed it! Please review!