The Preparation, 4

For a surgeon of her caliber, opportunities for unbroken rest were rare. Sabrina had learned in medical school to take advantage of any chance to sleep that came along. The rules of sleep were simple, she'd been told. Close your eyes and clear your mind, sleep was sure to follow.

She had perfected the art of sleep with the proficiency that she had perfected surgery. Still, the last thing Sabrina believed as she fell exhausted into bed near midnight was that she would get even a moment's sleep. She fully expected her mind to be filled with dark thoughts and frightening nightmares, and that each hour 'til morning would pass in agonizing wakefulness. It was an unexpected gift to awaken and discover that she had slept quite peacefully.

Loathe to break the spell, Sabrina fought her mind's determined attempt to re-examine all the ramifications of the devastating announcement that had been made only hours earlier. She kept her eyes tightly closed, yet despite all her efforts a kaleidoscope of images played helplessly through her mind. Like wind-blown leaves, Sabrina saw the many faces of the people in her day-to-day life. She saw her handpicked surgical team, each one so gifted and willing and funny. She saw the servants, most of whom she'd known all of her life and who, even now, put her family's wellbeing before their own. She saw her colleagues, arrogant to a fault but brilliant and dedicated. There were faces that repeated and brought a particular pain as they tumbled about her consciousness: Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg (her teenaged crush), Jericho Jacks, John Creasy, her first husband Julian Luna. Each of them played a role in opening Sabrina's heart to the possibility of a "forever" kind of love, the kind she'd found with Jack.

Jack. He was nothing and everything she had hoped for her future. If anyone had told her teenaged self, Sabrina smiled wryly, that she would happily choose a husband with such a strong personality, she would have scoffed. And then laughed until she cried. The Cassadines (like most old-world European families) was a patriarchal system. Males of the family held all the power. The women were inconsequential. Stefan, as much as she adored him, was no different. Oh, he was more enlightened, Sabrina conceded, but vestigial traces of centuries of a patriarchal system still resonated inside him. His sons, seen by many in the family as too modern and "American", were no less comfortable taking the reins than the generations of Cassadine men before them.

Sabrina had spent her entire young life in the midst of such men. And that had been enough. She made a promise to herself that in her personal life she would always be in control. And with a single notable exception, she was. Until the fateful day her adopted country came calling on her skills.

What a turn her life had taken.

Sabrina rolled over and went in search of her husband's warmth...and found only empty bed. "Jaaack," she murmured sleepily.

"Yeah, babe." The softly uttered reply wafted from the far side of the darkened bedroom.

"Come back to bed. I miss you when your side is empty and cold," Sabrina complained, shying away from the spot Jack had departed.

"Right." The doctor could hear the quiet bemusement in her husband's voice. "You miss my body heat, 'Bri. Go back to sleep."

Rather than heed his words, Sabrina pushed herself up into a seated position. "Come back to bed." Her words were not an entreaty but a demand. Jack had been virtually silent on his feelings about the devastating pronouncement the world had received. Oh, he had answered Sabrina's questions and bolstered her sometimes faltering emotions, but the exchanges were all superficial. Left to his own devices Jack would lock away his thoughts and feelings in order to provide for Sabrina a silent wall of support. Over the course of their marriage Sabrina had learned to simply demand access to that part of Jack that (before meeting her) he had grown unaccustomed to sharing. He had fallen too easily into the role of protector. It was a role that carried over even into his personal life and intimate relationships.

"I was hoping you'd stay asleep a little longer."

Sabrina's sleepy yawn was cut short. She flipped on the light beside the bed. Jack sat gazing at her from across the room. He was fully dressed. "Jack? What is it? Has something happened? Has the Undersecretary called again?"

Jack shook his head. "No one called... I need to go and check on Kim."

"I am sure my brother has someone closer in place who can locate her first," Sabrina offered carefully. Despite years of marriage, Jack's daughter was a subject she normally treated much the same way Faith treated the subject of Laura Spencer - with studied silence. "It would be easier for you - and safer that way," she added. All the latest news reports were filled with images of violence and looting and just general lawlessness in the face of the world's abbreviated future. There was already talk of a national curfew which Sabrina suspected was a thinly veiled attempt at house arrest.

"He offered."

The simple reply -and refusal- was hardly unexpected. Frankly, Sabrina sighed, she would have been thrown by any other response. "Then be careful out there, Jack." She beckoned him nearer. "Come hold me before you go."

Jack climbed onto the bed and pulled Sabrina into his arms. She twisted about until her back was pressed against his chest, then pulled his arms even tighter around her. "Promise me you'll get back," she said. "I don't want to know what the end of the world feels like alone."

"I promise I'll get back," he vowed.

Though she knew that it was an impossible promise to make, Sabrina chose to cling to her husband's words. Jack tenderly nuzzled her cheek then held his lips against her skin as if to imprint the feeling in his memory. "I love you, babe. I'm gonna be back."

Sabrina squeezed her eyes shut and willed the tears not to fall until he'd gone.

 

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