Author's Note: I'm updating the story after a whole eternity but I don't have fans who'd kill me if I didn't do that in a week's time so I guess I can afford it. Thanks to White-Tyger, Sises and Instant-Ninja, no matter that I couldn't comprehend his review as the silly girl that I am.

Sorry if there are any brutal errors but, alas, I couldn't get anyone to beta-read my story. Whatever. I hope you'll like that one and PLEASE, leave a review, I'd be grateful.




Crystal rushed in the kitchen and found Angel leaning on the stool with crushed expression on her face. The girl regained her composure when she saw the artist. She continued with the whole pose of "Ice Queen", trying not to show her feelings. Right now Angel wanted to scream and cry, to tear her apart. She saw some dose of fear at the bottom of the brown eyes. Now everything was clear. The trust between them was broken forever and it wouldn't be the same. And it was all because she didn't listen to her inner voices that were warning her against such a rapid decision. Her heart was in ache that such a beautiful friendship would end in that absurd way.

But now she had something else to think of. That drawing was meant to be finished and Crystal wouldn't let her stupid mistake screw everything up. So, she needed a compromise. Otherwise, all that time of recovery would be a waste of time. She would sink back in the world of alcohol and wild nights that were going to kill her one day.

Crystal sighed and started her speech carefully.

"Listen, girl. It's been hard time for you and I didn't make it any easier for you either. I'm not proud with myself. I thought I could help you but obviously I'm not in a good shape to help anyone. I tried, believe me, I tried. I'm sorry. I guess that so many years without female companionship had taken their tolls. I want you to know that I have never been after your body. It just… happened. But you shouldn't pay for my mistakes and for the ones I have done in my past." She stopped for a moment in order to be sure she had caught Angel's attention. Fortunately, she was looking at her with slight surprise and expectation. "But there is something more. I hate not to finish things and I definitely want to finish that drawing. And I need you for that."

"What do you want me to do?" Angel crossed her arms and stared at Crystal with bewilderment. The latter one sighed with relief. At least she wasn't being bitchy.

"Well… I offer you a compromise. Come here every day. You'll be just my model. We'll work all the time. I won't make any physical contact with you. If you want, we even won't talk. You may go out for your lunch break. In the meantime, you can stay with Darren and Erick. They have a free room and when those guys attacked you they offered to let you live there. I'm sure they won't mind…" Angel looked thoughtful. All this made sense and they both would be able to work in peace. But something was bothering her. She wasn't sure yet she could trust in Crystal's claims. After all, the same woman told her she's not interested in sex but turned out to be especially vulnerable.

"How can I be sure you'd fulfill your promise?" She asked with slight distrust.

"You can't." Crystal stated bitterly. "As long as you think of me that way, you'll never be sure. It's all so stupid. I'll tell you only what I said in the day we met. If that drawing turns out to be unsuccessful, I'll lose much more than you. I'll never screw my chance up again. So… let's cut all the crap. What do you decide? Do you stay or do you go?"

Angel sighed and turned her back. So what if Crystal tried to attack her? She wasn't the same shy and scared girl anymore. She was released of her fears and if someone tried the same thing on her once again she'd be prepared to fight back. Nothing would threaten her if she stayed at Crystal's home. But at the same time she couldn't bear it any longer. That compromise sounded reasonable.

"OK. Just modeling and drawing." She turned back and smiled for first time in days.

"Good." The relief ran through her body. Probably not all was lost. "I promise I won't disappoint you. Let's go and talk to the boys now."

They returned to the evening room, with visible calmness. Crystal talked most of the time. She had completely eased her nerves and her face had grown emotionless. The distance between them was apparent. When they heard her plea Darren and Erick frowned a bit. Obviously they had hoped a lot that if both women being roommates they could become more than that. But they couldn't refuse and if they did, Angel would find some other way to get off here.

The girl went to pick her things up. In the meantime Crystal and the two men were chatting for nonsense though everyone knew what was going on in their minds. It was all so weird. Juts like the night when Angel was almost raped. For a moment she felt pity for that unhappy creature always forced to move away from the place she had grown used to like a home. But, after all it was Angel's decision. All she could do was respect it.

The young woman finished her packing for less than ten minutes. She must have been in too much hurry to leave. Crystal felt hurt. She wasn't supposed to but the whole rush affected her. "Bloody hell! I should have never started the damned drawing. That way I would never know that girl… But no regrets can turn back time."

Darren, Erick and Angel headed towards the front entrance. Their hostess followed them. The sadness had grabbed her by the throat and she decided not to talk. Before he left Darren turned to her.

"Hey, Cris! Don't forget to come tomorrow. It's an important day and I'll kill you if you miss it."

His photo exhibition was going to take place tomorrow and his agent considered it as one of the highest steps in his career. She smiled weakly and nodded.

"How can I forget. This is all you've been talking about for ages. Don't worry, I'll be there first and I'll leave last." She winked with pathetic attempts to look cheerful. He noticed her mood and nodded with quiet sympathy.

"Night, Crystal."

She closed the door and went to the dining room to drink some more wine. Maybe it wasn't so bad that the girl was gone. Crystal would have time for herself and didn't have to put up with someone else's presence. Yes, Angel did her a favor by going away.

She drank from her glass and tried to relax on her chair. But the unusual silence soon got on her nerves and she switched the CD player. The new album by Therion was brilliant and was supposed to make her relax but…

In that moment Crystal Sky realized she had never felt so lonely… and empty.

It was barely seven o'clock in the evening but the spacious room of the gallery was already crowded. The humming and the bustle around could affect the nerves of the sensitive ones. But that night Darren Graciel felt especially aroused and nothing could darken his happiness. It could appear silly but he was a sociable person and loved sharing his art with the others, in hope that they would understand it and that it would leave a special memory in their minds. That's why he always has been fond of the high attendance. There were so many people and so many chances that there will be at least ten or maybe more of them who would go without the usual feeling of boredom. With some stronger emotion that would make them restless and keep them awake.

He sighed and looked around with feeling of slight satisfaction. It seemed that he had made some people think over the abstract photographs in black and white, considering the looks on their faces. At least that was some relief. Who knows why… but he had the feeling something wonderful was going to happen that night. Darren smiled with the idea but he decided not to hope too much. At least they both would be here. He was going to do his best to make them talk to each other.

The man sighed and leant against a wall while drinking some champagne. Sometimes that overprotective side of his was an irritation for everyone, including himself. He wondered whether it wouldn't be better if he just let the things be the way they are. If certain events are meant to happen they don't need anyone's interference. But something inside of him couldn't take such a simple explanation. People could be so ignorant when it comes to their happiness and they just needed someone to show them their way.

So, Darren couldn't help but being the Good Fairy who helps everyone in trouble. That was in his nature. Especially when it came to Crystal Sky who was his ideal for little sister. She deserved the best life could offer to her and she would get it, even if it took some interference. He hoped that Angel was the right choice and that she wasn't another Caroline with better mask. Well, his most special talent he was proud with was his ability to judge people and get to know who they were just after few words or conversations.

The girl was just too pure… and shocked of everything that was happening around. The whole affair would take some time… but he was sure that plan would work.

Just then he noticed his two favorite women getting closer to each other without even knowing. Angel was watching carefully one of his photos (that was her way with things; always observing and keeping all details in her mind; he had never known more curious person). At the same time Crystal was moving uneasily through the crowd, looking for him most probably. Without taking notice of her model's presence she bumped into her and he could dare he heard some laughter from their side. But they were too far away so it was probably a figment of his imagination. Whatever, they were together at a place different from Crystal's improvised studio.

He smiled mischievously and got lost among the crowd.

Crystal felt slightly embarrassed by that sudden encounter with Angel. When she saw how many people attended the exhibition earlier that evening she was sure they wouldn't come across each other. That would be for best. The drawing was almost done and the less time they spend together the better results there would be. So, she had no idea what to expect. "Silly me!" she cursed herself. "Of all people in here, how could I fall on just the one I wasn't supposed to look at when she's out of my house. I can't believe it!" She groaned mentally though on the outside she remained calm and smiling. Who knows what she could expect of Angel and her various moods. Crystal definitely didn't need more scandals and ugly scenes.

Fortunately the girl just laughed slightly and greeted her with unexpected vividness.

"Hey, what a night!" She exclaimed and tossed her hair aside. The artist sighed with relief and smiled back as she leant against the wall near the big black and white photo. "Quite overcrowded, isn't it? I expected it to be some small event, with the closest friends and some important clients.

"Well, he's already pretty famous in these artistic circles. His last exhibition was a real hit… so… I guess everyone wants to see the follow-up." Crystal began explaining just in order to have something to talk for, in case some tension showed up.

"I can tell." The girl looked around with glitter in her eyes. She acted like nothing had happened between them. Was she drunk? But anyway, who cared. "And that reminds me… where is our beloved host? Is he hiding?"

"Honestly, I have no idea." Crystal shrugged and scanned the crowd but he was nowhere to be seen. "You'll never believe how shy he is when it comes to exhibitions. He always tries to cover himself up somewhere."

"Darren Graciel? Shy? Are we talking about the same person?" Angel stared with bewilderment and sarcasm.

"Heh, darling, believe me, I know him better than you do." Crystal sighed and winked at her companion. "That is just a pose hiding his true emotions."

"Oh, really?" Angel's sarcastic tune grew. "How terribly sad! So, actually that loud and extroverted person remains the same shy, vulnerable and fragile boy? Oh… that's such an unbearable tragedy." Crystal couldn't help but laugh. "That is supposed to melt the ladies' heart, right? And I was wondering why there are so many women in here."

"Too bad that the star of the show had already found the lady of his heart?" She leant closer and whispered it in her ear. They both burst in laughter and hit each other slightly. These jokes finally melt the remained ice between them and they turned in the old Angel and Crystal before the anniversary evening when everything changed. Was it really happening? Were they about to forget…?


"Come on, let's go to find Darren before his shyness suffocates him." Angel grabbed her by the hand and they dashed across the room. If one happened to be looking at them they'd say that the two women were like an old family couple. Well, Crystal would never want to hear about it. She cringed with fear at the idea of "growing old together" even when she was younger and more optimistic. No woman had the slightest chance of winning her heart if she had the greatest misfortune to slip that little but lethal phrase. Well, Caroline knew that pretty well and, as she herself feared age more than anything, didn't do that mistake. Unfortunately. Aging and life after fifty was something they never discussed. By that time it was quite hard for Crystal to believe in her lover's weaknesses. She always appeared too… invincible.

"What has gotten into me?" She bit her lips insecurely. "Why I can't stop thinking of her that night? Something bad is going to happen…" It was weird but she almost felt the presence of the cold perfume and the typical flavor that one certain person was emanating. How absurd it would be if they met again. That cold, distant ghost. Has she changed? What has she been doing all these years? Was she sorry for anything? Caroline Graciel wasn't young anymore; she was entering a stage of her life when most people begin to rethink their lives. What did she have behind? Did she ever think of the lonely girl she picked up, used, abused and threw out?

"Why, Crystal, you've been drinking too much lately. You are again in one of those self-pity moods. "Oh poor me, poor old me! How cruel life is!" Besides, why should you care about HER life? Did she did the same thing for you ten years ago?" How good it was that she still had her inner voice to remind her of certain facts. "Don't worry, darling, have fun and enjoy your friend's work. She would never show up here; you know how she and Darren feel for each other."

Out there Darren suppressed his smile of "evil genius". But who knows why the doubts weren't merciful to him either and something stopped him from fully enjoying his evening. Some anxiousness began shaking his mind… and that was not typical for his calm nature. Something bad was about to happen. Just like Crystal he was thinking of a person he hadn't seen for ages. Hasn't Aaron hinted something when they were talking the day before? He didn't need any surprises but what if…?

The man chased away the unpleasant thoughts and regained his composure just in time to meet his friends coming to greet him.

"Hey!" Angel laughed merrily and grabbed him by the elbow when they approached. For some strange reasons the girl who was usually shy and quiet felt quite talkative that night. "Where do you hide that we can't tell you how great everything is?" Crystal just smirked by her side. "Seriously, Darren…" Angel went on with eyes full of sparkles. "I haven't been to many exhibitions and I may know nothing about art but I'm really impressed with you. Everything's so… strong. It's so powerful and…" Her friend smiled; that was just the effect he wanted.

"I could agree with you, my dear girl." Some velvet-like but at the same time icy-cold voice with fake French accent interrupted her emotional speech. "My brother has always been… how did you say it… impressive? But I'm afraid he has certain inclination to being too cheesy and melodramatic. It always hurts your work at some extent. If you were an artist, you'd probably be aware of that, Miss."

Angel turned around with indignation and met the magenta eyes of one of the most beautiful women she has ever met. Tall, with silver-blond hair, aristocratic features and enigmatic radiance, pale smooth-looking skin and easy though a little stuck-up manner. She was dressed in an elegant black dress that wasn't covering a lot from her perfect body. The stranger wasn't young; Angel could tell it by the tiny wrinkles near her eyes but her appearance was giving very faint clues about that. She looked like the perfect ice queen. There was something about her… Some maturity and knowledge, something very sophisticated. But Angel felt she was going to hate her. She appeared too much like a dangerous storm, a beauty that could kill.

Was that the sister Darren didn't get on well with? He never talked about her so anything was possible.

There was another younger woman next to her, a lovely brunette at her early twenties, dressed in gothic style. She was of no interest for her, though.

The girl also felt the sudden tense in the air. She glimpsed at Crystal and got stunned with the sudden change in her expression. Her thin lips trembled; her hands began shaking vigorously.

As for Crystal… The phrase "my world is collapsing" was too mild to explain the state of her mind. She couldn't move or say anything at first, too shaken by the unexpected encounter. The breath at her lungs got both frozen and set on fire. Mixed emotions struggled inside her chest and her vision blurred with madness. Was that really she?

That isn't happening. That isn't…

Unfortunately that was the bitter truth. She was still there just like she remembered her in the last day of their affair: mocking, tempting devil, without a single white hair or hint of failure at her cat gaze. Moreover, the bitch appeared even younger and more beautiful! The heavy explosion of hatred, anger, hurt, confusion and… some deeply hidden terror struck her like an A-bomb. For a moment it appeared as if she had gotten blind with strong feelings; that she was cut off from the entire world and was faced up with her worse nightmare. There she was! Proud, productive, fruitful, successful! And what about her ex-protégé and unfortunate mistress? Everybody knew what her results and reviews were! Crystal felt the unwanted tears that were about to stream down her cheeks.

"Why…?" She was asking herself that question for millionth time and was on the verge of getting hysterical.

Suddenly she realized her nails were deeply dug at her palms as she was furiously trying to regain composure. Damn, why was the room shaking? She was sick and hazy; her skin got when the blood rushed in the head. At first Caroline hadn't noticed her because Angel had attracted her attention but now the violet eyes were fixing her with bewildered and somehow amused expression. Even after such a long time that bitch was so capable of reading her emotions as if she was entering directly her brain! That reminded her of the old but not forgotten scene of their first meeting. Then the sensation of having almost telepathy contact with another human being appeared to her a sacred bliss. But now… it was an invasion in her tightly protected inner world; a mental rape. And that got her even angrier. Who the hell did she think she was? She had no right to be here, not now, not ever.

Did Crystal feel attracted for her?

No! You know why, don't ask me… I want to kill her!

Oh, yes, that was quite right. Then what was that sorrow and pain waking up in her? Just as the song. "Old loves die hard, old habits die harder". Were there any remains of the wrecked, broken feeling she used to call love?

I won't let her do that again!

"Caroline…" She forced herself to utter.

"Caroline, what the hell are you doing here?" Darren's irritated voice echoed through her head as if in some dream.

"Oh, Crystal? Crystal Sky? Oh, I simply can't believe that!" Caroline laughed nonchalantly and kept on teasing her ear with the disgusting fake French accent. "It's been a whole eternity since I last saw you. I heard you had left New York. You were the least person I expected to see in here."

"I can tell the same about myself." The artist clenched through her teeth. Her malice almost turned the blond woman on. Crystal caught Angel's confused gaze but now she didn't have time for her. Her senses have already gone wild with the madness.

"Darren, dearest, didn't you recognize your sister?" She turned her purring voice to him, neglecting her. "Aaron called me and informed me about your success. He asked me to come around and support you. An important figure like me…"

"I'm not a little boy!" He cut her off. "I'm a photographer with established reputation and definitely not a freshman in order to need your oh so precious support!" Her brother mocked her accent and for first time Angel saw real malice in his eyes. "I told you what I think of you and you have no reason to be here. Tell Aaron about that if you please!"

"No one could tell that better!" Crystal joined him, feeling at more ease. She was going to attack before that bitch realized it! "You are unwanted in here. And don't talk to me as if you had suddenly forgotten all about me, all about us, as if nothing has happened at all. I'm not in the mood for such a pathetic theatre. At least have a little respect for your brother. But, oh, wait a minute, I forgot that the word "relations" isn't written in your dictionary." If the poison in her voice were visible she'd drown the whole room in black liquid.

"Oh, Arianna, just as I told you." Caroline addressed the gothic woman next to her. "Why do you two have to be so rude? I came here in peace and hoped you'd have buried the past." She looked at Crystal almost seductively and slowly ran her elegant fingers down her shoulder. "Don't tell me you still hold grudges because the things between us didn't work out. Get over it, sweetheart. You are already too mature to act like a teenager. Don't tell me you haven't got your morals and that you haven't learnt your lessons." Then she laughed at her infuriated expression and patted her. "What a shame on you! You're back in New York and you haven't called me. We could have remembered the good old times together."

Both Darren and Crystal were shaken by her unbelievable cynicism. The woman pulled away and glared at her with loath.

"And you dare say that to me after…" She stopped and nodded her head. "There is no point in explaining it to someone like you. You'll never understand."

"Honey…" The girl who Caroline called Arianna suddenly crossed their little scene obviously feeling slightly threatened and uttered the stupidest thing she could think of. "Won't you finally introduce me officially.

"Oh, how rude I am. And I expect my brother and ex-lover to behave properly! This is Ariana, my model, protégé and also a great friend of mine!" She fluttered eyelashes lustfully.

"Enough, Caroline!" Darren hissed under his breath and grabbed her by the hand. "Leave!"

She pulled away roughly and for first time that evening they saw anger in her eyes. She shoot him with a glare full of contempt and despise. All masks were undone and there was no reason for her to be polite.

"Don't you dare touch me again, you pathetic idiot!" She squeezed her lips in disgust and wrapped her arm possessively around Arianna who had a strange look of satisfaction on her face. "You could have achieved a lot more if only you were a bit more reasonable. My support was far more precious for you than you can imagine."

"Let's say that unlike Crystal I wasn't blind for your true nature, my darling sis." He replied with unnatural calmness. The man knew that would drive her insane. He knew her quite too well. "My path is good enough for me without your help. So, please… Cut the whole drama! I don't need you spoiling the evening."

"And I definitely don't need to know who your next whore is." Crystal pretended to be tough but inside she was shaking and was on the verge of breaking down. The pain was too much to bear. She hadn't realized she had her arm tightly wrapped around Angel's waist. The girl was staring in bewilderment at everyone around her but no one tried to explain. They had completely forgotten about her presence.

"Ha! Crystal, you just proved you'd always be a loser. You think you can insult me. But why should I care for your accusations based on pointless anger. Face it, darling, why are you mad at me? You think I'm guilty for all your failures in life. That's such an irresponsible thing of you to say! Remember that it was all up to you. You just lacked of enough talent and will power. So, honey, get a life because I'm…"

Crystal slapped her harsh across the face, just like in a quite distant night and pushed her hard. Caroline almost fell as her ex-lover made her way through the crowd and hissed at her ear "Go to hell, bitch!".

She had to get out… Out… as soon as possible.

Or she'd do something monster-like in her rage and helplessness. No matter what was said or done, Caroline had won again! That devil was perfectly capable to humiliate her and get the best of her dignity. Crystal's body was trembling with the uncried tears and waves of unreleased fury. She had reached the point of bursting out. That would happen sooner or late. Caroline was just the catalyst.

The woman went out and hid in a corner where she covered her face, cursing herself for being so weak.

Inside the devil in the black dress regained her composure on the high heels (with a little help by Arianna) and grinned seductively at Angel. That was the second time she bid attention to the stranger girl. Obviously she had thought that they both are in love relation and that was proved by her next words.

"See, my little girl? You still have a lot to learn about art… and women. You must always pick up the best. What you saw right now…" She nodded at the direction of the entrance. "That was just a proof what lack of quality means."

Then Angel felt the same fury that made Crystal attack that hypocrite bitch. But now she had no time to follow her example. Her friend needed help. Obviously Darren thought the same.

"Excuse me!" She bit her lips and passed by her on the way to the entrance. Caroline's brother followed her but before leaving he grabbed her by the hand one more time and hissed with bared teeth.

"Stay away from her! You caused her more than enough troubles. You'd better also stay away from me. You ceased to be my sister ages ago and nothing can change that!" He was gone before she had the chance to throw a sarcastic reply.

Angel was looking around when she stormed out of the building in search for Crystal.

Let's hope she hasn't done something stupid. She was usually calm but when she was losing her mind with strong emotions the results could be disastrous. And she didn't need hurting herself just because of that bitch's disgusting statements.

Probably it would be best if she came back to Darren in order for them to organize their search. Crystal was nowhere to be found. Just by the time she was about to get desperate Angel heard quiet weeping. Who knows how she had caught the sound on the bustling street? That didn't matter. She followed it by a blind instinct and in the next moment she found her target. Damn, the evening wasn't meant to end that way.

Crystal's fingers were buried at the edge of her hair; she was crying silently behind them. She was trying to control herself but that seemed impossible; her whole being was collapsing. Angel's softened heart was struck with something more than compassion and pity. For first time she was fully exposed to her friend's inner world and she saw too many dark corners there. Too much anger and pain, too much insecurity and instability… that she had the strange desire to share.

God, this is madness. What am I doing?

She went to the weeping woman and barely touched her shoulder.

"Crystal? Calm down!"

That bare touch woke up weird reaction. Crystal pushed her away roughly and revealed her red, puffed face and eyes full of malice and craziness beyond description. Angel felt basic fear and stared at her puzzled.

"Get away from me!" She yelled sobbingly, ran away as fast as possible and threw herself in the nearest free taxi.