Title: The Smell of Rain
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Category: Movie-fic, "Sabrina"
Summary: "Do you remember a rainy afternoon we spent together?" Flashback.
Disclaimer: These characters were created by Samuel Taylor, made famous by Billy Wilder and brought to life by six wonderful actors, in two delightful movies. This fic is based on the Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond version. I most definitely do not own these characters.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
Notes: I finally wrote it.
"Do you remember a rainy afternoon we spent together?"
She asks it as if all the nothing they had between them were nothing, as if they had a lifetime of memories to share. He thinks this beyond ironic, but her soft voice, as open as her nature, draws him in.
Do you remember? He can count on one hand the number of times Sabrina has crossed his path, yet this one time she's prompting him to recall isn't one of them. Something stirs at the back of his mind when she mentions David's lesson--impressions of loud, cracking thunder and the sharp smell of incipient rain, of turning on a lamp to shed light in the middle of the afternoon, the sky grown dark as twilight.
Linus begins to remember.
It was a rare afternoon, one where he was home, working, instead of the office, working. He'd just begun to build the Larrabee empire on the foundation of the small kingdom his father had left, and there was little time for anything else. Even then, he realizes, he was beginning to earn his reputation and he cringes again from the sting of Sabrina's words.
He remembers now. He remembers walking into a room, intent on finding a folder of papers his mother had left for him to peruse. Before he had the chance to turn on the light he heard a small whimper. He knew who it was. There was only one person who would make that noise--the chauffeur's daughter, who, despite Fairchild's efforts to curb her, still tended to pop up in the oddest spots. It wasn't strange to see her perched in a tree, as he'd occasionally seen her, but to see her in the house was another matter. Fairchild was old-fashioned enough to instill in his daughter the ancient concept of separation of master and servant, and for the most part, she adhered to it. He wondered why she was here, now.
He flipped the switch that lit the lamp up and in the consequent shadows it took him a moment to place her in the room, until he reminded himself he was looking for a child and glanced down. She looked up at him, from the floor next to a sofa, cradling her hand, her eyes large and moist in her face. She said, her voice trembling, "I was struck by lightning."
She didn't say anything else, just looked up at him, those brown eyes set in her tiny drawn face, and Linus felt something flutter in his chest. He'd seen her on the grounds, a tag-along behind her father, but he'd never really paid attention to her. She was simply the chauffeur's daughter. He'd had no reason to.
He wasn't even sure if he knew her name. It was something unusual, that he knew. He'd heard it enough--Fairchild was quite proud of his little girl--he should be able to remember.
She was still looking at him, a scared, crumpled, wide-eyed child, expecting him to do something. He had no idea what. This was out of his league, to take care of a six-year-old girl who was mutely staring at him, with unblinking eyes. He looked back, unable to think of anything to say. He didn't know how long they stayed that way, until thunder sounded with all the noise and fervor of an avalanche of boulders rumbling and tumbling to a crashing heap.
She recoiled, and her gaze broke from his, darting frantically toward the window, where rain began to pelt, sounding like so many pebbles thrown against the glass. Linus moved, looking toward the window himself, and Sabrina, that was her name, nervously glanced back at him.
Of course, she had no reason to trust him and every reason to fear him, alone in this large house, with the wind rattling against the house outside and the dark threatening shadows of this room inside. No reason, except that he really didn't want her to be afraid, of anything.
He said so.
She again said nothing, just held his gaze, her small shoulders moving up and down, her breathing dangerously close to hyper- ventilation. He was sure that if his hearing were any better he would have heard her heart beating faster than a bird's.
"Come on," he said, and motioned to her. "Stand up, Sabrina. Sit on the couch."
He tried to keep his voice as soothing as possible, but he was too used to giving commands and he could still hear that harshness in his tone.
She did as he asked and primly sat on the edge of the couch. Linus felt the corners of his mouth twitch. Something her mother must have taught her before she died. She looked equally at home, perched there, as she did sitting in a tree.
He sat down in front of the desk that occupied the space in front of the large windows and they went back to staring at each other.
He said, forcing his tone softer, "Tell me what happened."
Her eyes grew even wider, and he wondered how that was possible. He could see the uncertainty there, her reluctance to speak to him. Her chin trembled, but she said,"I, I tried to turn on the light, b-but it hurt me." She paused, then continued with utmost certainty, "It was lightning."
Just a little shock. She'd be all right. He smiled at her as reassuringly as he could and asked, "Does it still hurt?"
She shook her head.
"Where's your father?"
She drew a deep breath. "In town, with Mrs. Larrabee and David."
He narrowed his eyes at her familiar use of his brother's name then let it go. What was she supposed to call him? Mr. Larrabee?
He said, "You can stay here, until your father gets back."
She nodded. Strangely, she didn't take his comment as permission to wander the house, but stayed on the sofa. She was quiet enough that if he hadn't known she was there, he would have felt he was alone.
She only left the sofa once, to browse along the bookshelves in the room. When she sat down again, and he saw the spine of the book, he was amused to notice that it was far out of her age group, but as long as it kept her occupied.... He spent the rest of the afternoon alternating between watching her and examining the reports Maude had left him.
Occasionally the thunder would rumble and he would look up to meet those wide eyes again, and he would see her face tighten, but she never screamed or cried. Eventually the storm passed over, the thunder stopped, and he heard the wheels of the limo trundling over the pavement outside. He looked up from his printouts at Sabrina, whose concentration was solely on the book. He said, "Your father's home."
She looked up at him, gave him a slightly quavery smile and slid off the couch, carefully placing the book on a nearby stand. She whispered, "Thank you, Linus," and slipped out the door. He sat behind the desk, the reports forgotten. When he heard Maude Larrabee's voice ringing through the halls, calling his name, he flinched.
That had been ages ago, he thinks, and wonders how he ever forgot, and then wonders why she remembered. It was so long ago, she should have forgotten.
He tells her she was brave.
She tells him she was afraid of him.
This twists in his gut. To have his suspicions confirmed in that voice, soft with remembered fear...he doesn't like it. He doesn't like the way she's so gently brutal in her honesty, the way it tears into his heart. He has one, after all, no matter what anyone else says. When he tries to laugh it off, it sounds weak in his ears.
She's no longer that little girl. She's a woman now, but she hasn't lost the innocent ability of a small child to cut with a careless remark. She's no longer six, and he's no longer thirty- one, but the years haven't made much difference. She may have come back with all her long hair cut, and an air of sophistication as fresh as the smell of rain, but she still makes him feel out of his league.
He doesn't like it.