Title: A Candle for Sister Madeleine
Author/pseudonym: Merri-Todd Webster
Pairing: Er, this is really a gen story, I guess (how'd that happen?), but so was "A Candle for St. Nicholas," to which this is a sequel.
Rating: PG for language
Status: New & complete.
Archive: Yes to DitB, of course!
E-mail address for feedback: lonchura@yahoo.com
Series/Sequel: Sequel to "A Candle for St. Nicholas".
Disclaimers: I've written too many fanfic stories to be clever about this any more. <sob> Chris Carter, 1013, Fox.
Notes: Well, this baby was drafted not more than a couple of weeks after "St. Nicholas". And it has sat around waiting since that time. I thought about it in the shower yesterday, worked on it during my long boring evening at the reference desk, and voila! Many thanks to MJ for looking at it both back then and last night, and to Alicia for detailed beta back in 1999.
Warnings: Religious themes.
Summary: Alex makes a friend when he tries to be a responsible driver.

A Candle for Sister Madeleine
by Merri-Todd Webster
(25 July 1999 -
16 May 2001)

My first thought was, Bozhe moi, I really am going to hell. I've run over a nun.

It was a grey, muggy day in August, and I was leaving a meeting in New York. I was in such a hurry to get to the airport and catch my flight to Tunisia that I didn't wait for the elevator. I ran down fourteen flights to the lobby, well ahead of the old men who'd been giving me orders, and sprinted down the block to my car like OJ Simpson in that old commercial. Only to find a goddamned fucking ticket on my windshield. Believe it or not, even I'm not immune to a parking ticket, and I'd have to pay the goddamned thing. I could easily find out who wrote it and kill him, but that kind of behavior attracts too much publicity. And when you're working for the world's biggest conspiracy (and trying to save the world behind the scenes and make your fortune in the process), any publicity is *bad* publicity.

Anyway, I burned rubber pulling out into the street, swerving into the flow of traffic without looking where I was going. I was driving one of those big American-made gas-guzzling boats we all have to drive, which I hate--gimme a Jeep, for Chrissake--and as I said, I wasn't looking. I was thinking about

Tunisia and the phone calls I had to make. So I whipped the motherfucker around a corner and thud! Something black and white flashed past my windshield, somebody yelled from the sidewalk, and I drove my foot through the floor, jumped out, slammed the door behind me, and thought, Bozhe moi, I really am going to hell. I've run over a nun.

She was a pile of cream and black fabric with a white face and one thin wrist and a splatter of blood. I whipped out the cell phone and called 911 as fast as I could. Then I knelt and tried to make sure she was okay. God, she was young. Only in her twenties. Face as white as powdered laundry detergent. Erratic pulse in her throat and gargly breathing.

The paramedics said she had a broken arm and maybe a couple of broken ribs besides. They didn't seem to think she was in bad shape, but I followed the ambulance anyway. By this time, I couldn't make it to the airport on time even if I broke the speed limit all the way there. Tunisia would have to wait.

I sat in the waiting room, eating expensive chocolate from the hospital gift shop, drinking Coca-Cola, and reading women's magazines while waiting for news. Women's magazines, I am certain, exist to brainwash women so they won't take over the world. Personally, I'd be just as happy if they did. A world run by Dana Scully, for example, would be clean and well-organized, unlike this dump that called itself a hospital. I was there almost two hours before this young doctor with bad skin came out, his surgical mask

hanging down over his chest just like you see on TV.

"You're waiting for news about Sister Madeleine?" He eyeballed me skeptically. I hoped my gun wasn't showing through my overcoat.

"Yeah, I'm... the driver that hit her." I shrugged, half-embarassed. "She was alone, so I came along."

"Well, she's got a broken wrist and some cracked ribs, along with some scrapes and all that, but she'll

be fine." The look on his face said clearly, You can go now, your liberal guilt has been assuaged.

I licked my lips. "Can you tell me something about her, Doctor?"

He sighed. "Her ID says Sr. Madeleine Dupree, Benedictine Sisters of St. Hildegard. We've notified the convent and they're sending someone down to stay with her. She'll be out in a couple of days." He started to turn and walk away.

"Would it be possible for me to see her?"

Black eyebrows speckled with dandruff crawled right up into his hairline. "Yeah, I guess--if you can wait another forty minutes, hour, till she comes out of the anesthesia."

I waited. Ate more chocolate and found out my mother was right when she said that stuff goes right to the hips. I could feel it collecting right under my holster. Or maybe I was just hosting some new kind of alien. Finally, a nurse with no lips came out and told me I could see the sister.

When I was at Quantico, my roommate had a bad habit of telling people his sexual fantasies. Whether

they wanted to hear it or not. He told me in elaborate detail one time about his fantasy of undressing a helpless nun and making her scream with pleasure. I thought it was pretty perverse even then, but now--I remembered it, when I saw her lying in the hospital bed, and it was downright degrading. I mean, I'd seen her in her habit, dressed like a nun should be, even though she was laid out unconscious in the street with her wrist flopped back at an unnatural angle. Now I was seeing her in a hospital gown that wasn't much thicker than paper, tubes sprouting out of one arm, a cast on the other, and too much of her skin exposed--face, throat, collarbone, arms. She had very white skin and short straight dark hair that was damp with sweat.

I went up to the bedside and took her good hand, the one that wasn't in a cast, with my good hand. "Sister? I'm so sorry. I was the one who hit you. I wasn't looking. I'm really sorry...."

Her eyes opened, tracked the sound of my voice, and focused on my face. Sort of. They were smoky gray and not quite right. She looked at me and said, in a weird slurry voice, "The angel of death has green eyes?" Her eyes closed and she drifted back to sleep.

I went back to my New York place, but I couldn't sleep. I called Strughold and told him I'd be a few days late. I didn't tell him why and he didn't ask. I went to a tiny Orthodox church not far from the apartment and lit the biggest candle they had before the icon of St. Nicholas. It was kind of a shitty icon, I'm sorry to say--I know that's blasphemy or something, but I've said worse things, all true--so I left them fifty bucks in the iron box by the candles and hoped they'd take the hint. I wound up sitting in the dark church all night, thinking about what the sister had said. Sure, she was drugged out of her mind, but sometimes the truth leaks out under the strangest circumstances. The angel of death. She didn't know how true that was. Mine is the last face a lot of bastards see before they exit this life and head--maybe--for another. But is that all I am?

The next day I went back to the hospital hoping to see her. She'd been moved to a semi-private room on the fourth floor. I climbed the steps, hoping no one would see me, and knocked on the door before I went in.

"Sister Madeleine?"

She was lying in bed, awake, and she had her veil back on. I was relieved to see that. There was another, older sister sitting at her bedside, knitting like Madame DeFarge; she must have brought Madeleine her veil and the heavy nightgown she was wearing.

"Sister Madeleine?"

"That's me." She fumbled with her unhurt hand and found the little remote that raised up the back of the bed.

"Sister, I'm... Alex Krycek. I came to apologize for hitting you yesterday."

To my complete and total confusion, she smiled at me. "Come in! Sit down. Alex, this is Mother Ursula, my superior at the convent. They told me you brought me in yesterday."

I sat down on a skimpy little chair Mother Ursula shoved toward me. I didn't want to sit too close to the older woman--she was really scary. "I'm really sorry, Sister. I was running late, had gotten a ticket, turned the corner without looking.... I have no excuse for what I did, really. I'm just glad I didn't hurt you worse than I did."

Sister Madeleine laughed. *Laughed*--a cheerful, healthy, girlish laugh. "So am I! If you'd broken my

other wrist, I'd be completely out of commission, but a music teacher can get by on one hand. Sister Moyra can play the piano for me for a few weeks."

I felt myself flushing and couldn't believe it. I'd injured this woman out of sheer carelessness, incapacitated her for her job, made extra work for some other poor sister--and she was making light of it. She was actually grateful I hadn't broken her *other* wrist.

I felt like shit.

She was either really crazy, I decided, or really holy. But in the stories my grandma used to tell me, about the Orthodox saints, there wasn't necessarily a real big difference between insanity and sanctity. You could be crazy and holy at the same time. Maybe that was true for Catholics as well--look at Francis of Assisi.

We chatted inanely for a few minutes until I was squirming under Mother Ursula's eye. Then I excused myself and went and found the billing office.

"Listen, don't argue," I said to the girl behind the window. "I caused her injuries, and I'll pay for her treatment. You still take cash, don't you?" I paid the estimated amount and gave her a phone number where she could leave a message to let me know if there was a balance.

Then, on impulse, I went back up to Sister Madeleine's room. I hit the jackpot this time--St. Nicholas must have been looking out for me. She was alone, no roommate, no Mother Ursula with eyes too much like Scully's. It looked like she was dozing, but I went and knelt by the bed. "Sister Madeleine?"

I got the spacey, sleepy look again, then she shook her head and tried to sit up. "Mr. Krycek...."

I put my hand on her arm. "Sister, I know you can't give me absolution or anything, but I need to tell you something. I just need you to listen. I need you to pray for me. Believe me, I'm not on the side of the angels, unless, like you said, I'm the angel of death."

She looked puzzled, but not frightened, and I rushed on. "My soul is trash, but I'm trying to keep some really bad sh--stuff from coming down. Stuff like the end of the world as we know it, and God would have nothing to do with it. I need you and the other sisters to pray for me, every day. I'm not even a believer, not really, but I need this."

My throat thickened up and my eyes burned. I realized I was... going to cry. Hadn't done it in so long, I'd forgotten what it felt like. I looked up again when she put her hand on my head.

"Why do you need this, Mr. Krycek? And why do you say that you're such a bad person?"

For a few minutes, it was like the two of us were the only people in Manhattan. Everything was silent except for the sound of my voice as I choked out the things that had been bottled up for so long. All the whoring, the lies, being a hired gun, the people I'd killed--none of them innocent, but that didn't make me less guilty. I was careful not to name any names, not to talk about the big lies or the big truths, not to say anything that would make her a target. I laid my head on the hospital mattress and cried, and her thin light hand stroked my hair. It was a long time before she said anything.

"I will pray for you, Alex Krycek. But you have to promise me something. You have to pray for me in return, and you have to pray for yourself. Ask God to help you, and he will. Will you do that, Alex?"

The tears scorching hot trails down my cheeks hurt worse than anything since losing my arm. "I swear I will. I swear it. Every time I pass an Orthodox church, I will light a candle for you and remember your name to St. Nicholas."

"Then we have a deal." Her fingers moved around the side of my head and came to rest, barely, on my cheek. I looked up. Her eyes were much clearer than I remembered from before, clear and sad.

"You know that I can't formally give you absolution, because I'm not a priest. But I can tell you this: God has already forgiven you, Mr. Krycek. He's just waiting for you to forgive yourself."

She leaned back in the bed with an exhausted sigh and closed her eyes. I turned my head, kissed her hand, and left without saying a word.

That night I flew out for Tunisia. Before I left, I did three things. First, I looked up the address of her convent. They run a school with special arts programs for kids whose parents can't afford the really pricey private schools. I wrote them a check for six figures, which, judging by the paint job on the building, is more money than all of them together have ever seen in their lives. Second, I assigned surveillance people loyal to me--and only me--to watch the convent and make sure Sister Madeleine remained unharmed. Permanently. And finally, on the way to the airport I stopped in my favorite little church and lit a candle to St. Nicholas, for Sister Madeleine.



Merri-Todd Webster <lonchura@yahoo.com>

He cared passionately for the English countryside, and lived there in the late 1930s, keeping a village shop, a goat and a notebook.
   --Timothy Garton Ash, speaking of George Orwell in _The Guardian_

Archived: May 18, 2001