Chapter Two: Until Dawn. . .

Golden rays of brilliant sunshine gleam on the clear windowpanes of the café, the early morning sun embracing all in its warmth. Alexander sits across from Natasha, a cup of brown coffee steaming, billowy wisps of white smoke floating in the air. The waitress is cute and young; a wide smile permanently adhered on her face. "May I take your order?" The waitress asks, notepad in hand, staring at Alexander.

"Yes," he says, taking one last quick glance at the menu. "I would like your breakfast special, with the bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast." The waitress scribbles his order down, turning to face Natasha now.

"And you?" she asks, pen in hand. Natasha looks over the menu once again, before finally deciding on a meal.

"Ah, I would like the pancakes, please." The waitress jots down the simple order, collects the menus, and leaves the two alone. People walk by the windows of the café, and Natasha stares at them as they pass, allowing Alexander to enjoy his coffee in silence.

"So," he begins, not sure if he wants to press the issue, but knowing that it could not, and most definitely would not, overshadow last night, decides to regardless. "Why hasn't anyone called, asking for where you were last night?" he does not wish to cause her pain, that sorrow in her eyes all too clear to him in a sickening manner now. "Or, this morning, for that matter."

She looks at him, her eyes pleading with him, begging for him to not care. He knows that he cannot stop caring. "Well," she answers, stalling for time. "That's a good answer, I wish I knew the answer." She laughs, a poor attempt at breaking the sudden tension that developed between the two. Biting her lower lip, she turns her head to the side. "Fine." she finally says after a few minutes. "If you really want to know." The look on his face sufficiently answers the question.

"My mother died giving birth to me, so I've only ever known my father. Most of the time, he's busy, so he doesn't really notice me. I've gotten used to it, actually." she's lying, and they both know it. Alexander realizes that pressing the matter would lead to only pain now, so he simply drops it. For the time being, in any case.

The morose conversation is cut short by the arrival of their food, warm and delicious looking. They thank the waitress, who laughs it off, and begin to eat their food. They eat slowly, having nowhere to go, and an abundance of time. The food is surprisingly good for a deserted café.

"Listen, I am sorry for asking that." Alexander tells her, setting his food aside for a moment. "My intention was not to hurt you. Although, what we want to happen and what happens are almost always two entirely different beasts." Sorry is often a word used, but rarely meant. Alexander means it; pain is something he dreads to inflict.

"It's okay," she says, staring out into the window. "You still haven't done any wrong. And, I know you will do something right." Alexander smiles, a soft smile full of hope, her words warmly resonating in his soul. "I believe in you."

Alexander and Natasha finish their food amid conversation, and after a brief dispute over who pays, Alexander pays for their food, citing the fact that he has much more money than her as the main reason he, and only he, should pay. Natasha sighs, still not accustomed to having someone do nice things for her. It feel weird, but at the same time, good. Natasha decides that she enjoys the warm feeling.

Leaving a generous tip, the duo makes their way out of the café, and out into the blinding sun. Shielding their eyes with their hands, the half-breed and his companion walk straight, the streets already starting to show signs of life. People going about their daily lives, on their way to work and school, walking their dogs, stopping for food and conversation.

"Where are we going now?" The green eyed girl asks, not minding their aimless walking, but wondering if Alexander has a destination in mind. He does.

"My house." his answer is concise and direct.

"Y-Your house?" she stutters, and Alexander laughs at her. Her face begins to turn bright red, all of the blood rushing straight to her checks. He leaves her behind, and a few people stare at her. "Wait!" she yells, chasing after him.

"Don't worry," he reassures her. "I'm not going to do anything wrong with you, or to you. I'm just really tired, and I figured you and I both could use the company." his answer puts her at ease, and she rather likes the idea. Her home is never a place she goes to voluntarily. "Correct me if I'm wrong." her answer is a playful smack to the arm, which is followed by Alexander muttering "oww" and walking faster.

They walk and talk, before Alexander stops to point out a large, towering building in the distance. The sides are entirely made of a mirror like glass, reflecting the world around it in its entirety. "I live there." he informs her, casually walking towards the lobby of the impressive building. It is one that leaves an impression, a stunning one for that matter.

The doorman casually greets Alexander, like a morning routine between two neighbors who see each other nearly every day. The lobby is a furnished room of gold and mirrors, reflections of the world around them imprinted upon the mirrors, the stainless steel of the elevator doors shining. Alexander presses the button that calls for the elevator, the steel door opening with a chime. Both step inside, while Alexander presses for the last floor. The trip up is a quiet one.

The last floor is a quiet and empty one, a small hallway of white rugs and walls, a single bright, white light illuminating the brief space. The air is still, and there is only one door on this floor. It is of a simple design, constructed of carved wood, a lion staring down an angel.

Alexander notices the confused look that Natasha has upon sight of the door, and decides to explain. "I used to desire to be like the proud lion. Such strong, fierce beasts that create their own destiny. After a while, though, I realized that nothing good comes from being a lion. Only pain and suffering. No bird will ever stay on the fangs of a lion."

Alexander fumbles around in his pockets, eventually pulling out a key chain, with two golden keys, and a pair of silver angel wings. He opens the door, ushering Natasha in.

Natasha gasps. The apartment is simply amazing, an elegant room of peace and beauty. "My sanctuary." he explains, smiling sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head.

The penthouse is framed by windows, a breathtaking view of the city. Giant constructs of light and steel loom in the distance, various hues of silver and gold, yellow and orange. The colors are distinct, clearly contrasting with one another. The sky, an enormous ocean of light blue, possesses huge clouds of white, which slowly roll past.

The color scheme of the room itself is simple and light; pastel blues and dirty white, melding together to coherently create an illusion of a peaceful sky. The only sky worth watching.

"It's so calming," she notes aloud, her gaze wondering over the place that Alexander calls home. Alexander steps forward, his mere presence filling his apartment with life and energy. An amazing combination of life and peace, the blue sky full of birds spreading their wings, seeking their dreams amidst the solace of freedom.

"Amazing. It feels like. . ." she pauses, various words and ideas forming in her mind, none truly describing the feeling that this place instills in her.

"Home." he answers for her, large degree of certainty in his powerful voice. "It simply feels like home, the place where you go to be surrounded by love and hope and warmth, but most of all, to not feel alone in this vast world." his voice is warm, his presence comforting. A soul screaming out to not be alone, screaming to feel loved, to be loved. But, also, a soul seeking to enjoy the absolute freedom of flight.

"Have you ever met a person that just screams at you?" he questions her, plopping down on his matte white couch, a question that has recently gained relevance.

Her emerald gaze fixes itself upon his obsidian stare, burning emotions hidden behind cool exteriors. "An amazing attraction that forces you to stay close to that person?" his simple questions continue. He smiles at her, and she can feel her heart race, a pulsing behind her head. His smile perfectly accentuates his handsome features. "Truly," he says, "An amazing feeling. It makes me feel alive. Makes me feel as if I'm not alone, that one person who needs me as much as I need her."

She strides over, her long black hair reflecting the light of the bright morning sun. It frames her beautiful face like a halo of silver. "You don't have to be alone anymore." she whispers, her face a mask of serenity and hope, as she gently caresses his cheek, her body close.

"I'm sleepy." he pulls her close, lying back down on the couch, Natasha's warm body next to his. For some reason, it just feels right. "I'm going to sleep." she moves closer, his arms draped over her back, her face resting against his hard chest. She falls asleep to the beating of his heart.

Natasha's eyes flutter open, the blinding white of the room forcing them shut immediately. "It's 3." A voice informs her, amusement clear in his tone. She manages to reopen her eyes, Alexander looming over her, his attire slightly different. A casual white v-neck clings to his body. "I'm hungry. Let's go out and get some food." he helps Natasha to her feet, while she rubs the sleepiness out of her eyes.

The trip down is a quiet and uneventful one, the streets full of life and people, the sun glaring down on everyone equally. The world looks absolutely breathtaking, no signs of death and pain imprinted on the faces of the people walking around them, just that sense of boredom.

A loud crash, the horrible wail of sirens, the screech of rubber burning, the scream of pain, the horrid stench of blood and iron. The unfortunate accident cuts through the simple peacefulness of the world around them, people running and shouting, surrounding the scene of the accident. Red blood stains the black tar, pooling around the two cars that had violently crashed. A red minivan, a family of four dead inside, has been speared by a white Honda. A young man climbs out of the Honda, his speech slurred and his world dizzy. He is forced to brace himself against the wreckage of the two cars, lest he fall on his face.

The man vomits, reality cleansing him of his drunken stupor, his eyes wide and fearful. People whisper, pointing at the young man, accusations and judgments already on their lips. The man shouts, "I didn't mean to! I never wanted to hurt anyone!!" No one cares, only interested in the deaths of the people before them, the crime he has committed, the sin and blood upon his hands. The motive pales in comparison to the action.

Alexander scoffs, amazed by the people around them, passing their judgments with ease. The joy, though hidden, that they experience because of this horrific accident pulsates all around them, a sickening, sadistic pleasure in their chance to deem the man before them a monster without ever having to know him, to know the way that he lives, to know who he is. A chance to think and feel without the fear of what others think, and feel. The crowd stares as the firefighters drive up, their large red truck unmistakable, flashing lights and the roar of the sirens.

The firefighter jump off of the truck, some wincing at the sight that so warmly greets them. With a coordinated ease, they set about accomplishing their job, the Jaws of Life ripping through the warped steel that served as the coffin for the poor family, all four lost to everyone.

"Let's go," Alexander finally says, as the lifeless, cold bodies of the family are exposed to the crowd, who gasp in horror and disgust, their predetermined reaction well acted. The young children look so peaceful, blood staining the otherwise simple look on their faces, a sharp contrast to the look of sheer horror and regret that taints the faces of the parents. They look so peaceful that it frightens Natasha, playing to the insecurities that she has long fought, the demons of her battered past. Would death have been a better alternative to life? Is feeling nothing better than suffering? "This is making me sick." Alexander's words break her confused thoughts, his critique of the crowd before him an opinion shared by very few. When a man has held the life of another in his hands, he holds a much better perspective on the nature of life, and of the escape that death ultimately proves to be.

Taking a firm hold of her hand, he leads her away from the crowd, the only ones to depart so far. "Death is sad. But, not for the petty reasons that most people think and feel." he criticizes, his distaste obvious. "Dreams, hopes, their very future has been robbed from them. But, they know no pain for this loss. I do not pity them. No, my pity is saved for the people who weep for this loss, and for the man who robbed them. The weight of this falls upon them the hardest. Blood cannot be washed away. I would know, I've tried. Eventually, I came to the sad realization that one simply has to live with the sins he has committed, for God will not release you of the weight."

A calm breeze floats by, the leaves rustling as the branches sway. The glorious sun hangs overhead, warming their bodies as well as their souls. Rain always did seem to rob one of their joys. Lunch proves to be a simple affair, of food eaten and words spoken. Night falls, a veil of inky black casting its shadow over the world.

Over the course of their aimless wandering, the duo finds themselves back where they first met, 'The Angel's Sin.' The sight of the failing red sign, valiantly attempting to shine, red coloring the world pink. Alexander cannot help but wonder about Natasha's life, and no attempt at contact? The sad state of affairs of this family frightens him; for he knows the pain that this has caused Natasha. Scars never fade, they simply stop hurting. And, some still ache. "When do you have to go home?" he must ask, even though he desperately wishes that he did not have to. The grimace that appears on her face does not escape his notice, sorrow painting her face painfully.

She looks away, afraid to make eye contact. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and her soul is not something to see under such conditions. Phantom pains assault her, physical scars and mental wounds, memories that carry the weight of agony on their back.

"I don't want to." she finally reveals to him, baring herself in such a way that nothing is hidden. The agony in her eyes makes Alexander want to weep, for it is always the beautiful souls that hide the most pain. "Don't leave, please." The 'me' goes unsaid. Sometimes, words unspoken have the most impact.

"I don't want to, either." The 'want' implies that he will, though. People tend to have this habit of doing things that they don't want to. "I have to, though. I really do." he tries to convince her as much as himself, an attempt that fails miserably. Everyone tends to fail at what they want the most, and Alexander wants nothing more for her to smile. "Here's my phone number," he gives her his number. "Call me anytime you need me, I'll be there as soon as possible." his promise needs not to be said, it is instinctually understood.

He leaves her now, his silent vow to always help her. And, he always keeps his promises. She watches him leave, a bittersweet smile gracing her face. With a heavy heart, she makes her way to her house, a few blocks away from the bar. Standing in front of the door, Natasha struggles to muster the courage to open it. Finally, after a few minutes, she is able to unlock the dirty, tagged door.

The indistinct sound of the television fills the house, and for a second, Natasha has hope. Perhaps her father has fallen asleep. She cringes at the sound of a heavy man rising to his feet, his heavy feet pounding the wooden floor, his balding gray hair a sad sight indeed.

"Whore," The man, her father, spits at her, his fat jiggling as he moves. "Where were you? I thought for a second that you had finally left. Imagine my disappointment when you walked in, anyway." she backs away, the stench of alcohol on his breath overpowering. Her father steps forward, his giant belly protruding from the rest of his body, an awkward sight. She steps back, and her father traps her in a corner, a cat playing around with a mouse. She whimpers, breathing harder, her heart pounding away in her chest, nerves igniting.

"Answer your father!" The obese man roars, as he brutally backhands her, the point of his knuckle cutting into the soft flesh of her unprotected cheek. The force of the blow knocks her to her knees, clutching her stinging cheek. Blood runs down her cheek, replacing the tears that are all too common place there. He looms over her, a hateful growl building in his throat, as he yanks Natasha to her feet by her throat.

He laughs, a carefree sound, like a child kicking a puppy for the first time and taking intense pleasure in watching the puppy whine. He hits her now, beating her with varying degrees of brutality and enjoyment, various bruises already forming on her pale, porcelain skin. The laughter hurts much more than the bruises, the knowledge that her own father could take so much pleasure in the pain that she experiences a demon that will haunt her forever.

"Whore," he hisses, hatred and anger vying for the dominant expression on his face. "Why were you born? I wish you had never been born, that you had been a miscarriage instead. A murderer in the womb, no? I'm sure your mother would agree with me." The mere mention of her mother causes Natasha to flinch, the realization that the woman who should have loved her more than anything else in simply another way to hurt her. Love transmogrified into hatred and pain is often the most heartbreaking, the one that leaves scars which will always pain her, for affairs of the heart are slow to stop aching. Sometimes, your first scars never fade.

Natasha hates the mention of her mother more than she despises her father, a nearly impossible feat. A blight upon her soul that shall never fade, a memorial to a woman long dead and gone, a desecration of what a mother should have been. She wishes to weep for the memory of this woman, who she never possessed the joy of knowing, for this is a memory transformed into a weapon.

"Why won't you die? Why do you cling to life when you have no reason?" he roars, questions that haunt him in his every waking moment. These are questions that he frequently asks, wishing she would just stop trying and fade away, like he hopes the pain will once she does. The sorrow of such questions is that until now, Natasha has lacked the ability to answer his accusations. A simple reason can motivate people to go to extraordinary lengths.

"Because I found a reason to live," she replies, her spirit standing strong, unwavering in the face of a man who desires nothing more than the death of his daughter. The greatest hatred is usually the one that should have been love. "That's all I need to keep going."

Her father blinks is sheer surprise, the routine of their lives shattered by that simple sentence. Never once had she ever uttered a single word while he takes his anger out on her, not gracing him with the worth of words that he would never listen to. She always suffers in silence. Hope is a strong emotion. Hope always brings agony, but endows one with the strength of will to get back up every time. An odd way to live, truly. The fat, pudgy man walks away, his interested in this broken by the response. Sitting back on his dirty couch, he takes a large gulp from the dark copper color of the Corona bottle that rests on the table next to the decaying couch.

Natasha reaches a shaky hand into her pocket, clumsily pulling out her phone. Flipping it open and scanning through her contacts, her eyes settle on Alexander's name. She calls Alexander, her body shaking slightly. Her father leaps to his feet, more agile than a man of his size should be, his anger a hungry beast howling for blood. He flings the bottle at Natasha, the glass shattering on contact with her shoulder, blood and stale beer staining the wall behind her.

Falling to her knees, she sobs and cries out in pain and horror. Alexander can hear her cries of pain, the sick laughter of her father. The phone breaks in his hand.

Shards of long, jagged glass easily pierce her flesh, ripping through skin and muscle alike. A macabre painting stands behind her, fresh blood contrasting with the old, brown blood and dirty white. Touching her shoulder with caution, pain erupts throughout her body, a hungry wolf biting into her.

For the first few seconds, the rush of adrenaline and the rapid beating of her heart wash away the agony, and she is screaming before she can feel the pain. She screams because she knows what comes next. Gritting her teeth, she ceases her wails of pain. She shall not grant him the pleasure of her pain.

He laughs, his great stomach bouncing as he does so, a hollow sound that lacks the euphoria which often follows such a display of barbarity. His joy is dead and gone, much like his wife, never to return. Only the memory of such things is left, that first experience which we hunt for, and never find again. Drained, he makes his way back to the couch, lying on it.

A loud thud, the wail of broken hinges, and the sharp crack of broken wood interrupt him. A young man stands in the doorway, his face a livid mask of frozen fury, the kind which only ends with broken people. The sight that greets him only adds to his immense anger, fuel on a blazing flame. His presence brings hope back to Natasha, who manages to smile at him.

Walking into the house, his haunting smirk exposes his elongated canines, as he expertly plays the part of a hungry, viscous fiend. "Who are you?" Fear taints the voice of Natasha's voice, a foreign emotion wrapping itself around his head, and his heart.

"Alexander. Remember it." his smirk never leaves his face, a condescending mockery of the man before him. "A dog should know the name of his master. The master? Not so much." The insult has her father bristling, rage overshadowing his fear. He steps forward, murder promised on his face. Alexander's fist has him on his back, the world spinning. "A dog with no fangs? Pathetic." his laughter is eerily similar to the laughter of her father before, as he beat Natasha, but strikingly different all at once.

"Why are you here!?" the fat man screams.

"Simple. She deserves better than this."

"Let's go," Alexander says, helping Natasha to her feet, wincing at the expression of pain. "Don't worry, I'll make it better at my house." he comforts her, the value of sentiment not lost on him. Glancing back, he says, "Die. No one shall weep."

At his apartment, Alexander brings her to his bathroom, pristine white walls, a marble sink reflecting light. Opening the cabinet while Natasha sits down on the toilet, he collects the necessary tools for the job. A roll of white gauze, a pair of silver tweezers, and Natasha must steel her nerves. Nervously gulping, she attempts to disconnect herself from the reality of the world around. She fails. Taking deep breathes, she wills Alexander on with her eyes.

He nods, peeling back the blood soaked shirt, the bare skin of her shoulder exposed to them both. Jagged daggers of glass are embedded in her skin, a mess of blood, loose skin, and muscle mass. A disgusting sight, yet one that Alexander knows all too well. Gritting her teeth to keep from screaming out, as Alexander carefully pours hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball, placing it on the counter for future use.

The tweezers grips the shards, and he quickly, but roughly, yanks them out, ignoring the hiss of pain and the blood that leaks out from the open wound. Renewed pain floods her body, an aching that spreads to her entire being, a burning sensation that ignites in the nerves, electric signals sent to the brain. Alexander allows himself a smile as he removes the last piece of glass, ignoring her whimpers, winces, and shaking.

Picking up the cotton ball, he gently swabs the open wound. After a brief spike in pain, the intense sensation slowly fades, a dull ache that is manageable. Wrapping her shoulders with gauze, Natasha finally relaxes.

Natasha breaks down, reality sinking in, bursting into salty tears. And, she weeps until dawn. . .