FanFic - Other
"State of Grace"
Part 1
by Irene Shafer
Disclaimer: the usual; I bow down to the great and powerful Katim's and company, by whose good graces I mangle these characters. . .
Summary: post-Destiny; all ye who be unspoiled, beware. . . Think 'the day after' and let me take it from there. . .
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
"Make me a witness
take me out
out of darkness
out of doubt

I won't weigh you down
with good intention
won't make fire out of clay
or other inventions

will we burn in heaven
like we do down here
will the change come
while we're waiting

everyone is waiting. . ."

Witness, Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan

She hadn't planned it, this day of all days. To get out of bed. To shower and put clothes on. To leave the sanctuary of her room and go and face the world. But here she was. One foot after the other, moving almost without her bidding. Heading through town. Heading towards the one person who might least want to talk to her. And yet here she was.

Knocking on the Valenti's door. Maybe if I run really fast, I can be gone before the door opens. . .

The sheriff answered it quickly, though, his expressive face haggard and shell-shocked, a look she was pretty sure he could see on her's, as well.

"Miss Parker. . . Didn't expect to see you today," he said softly, with a slight and tired smile. And she knew what was he was thinking. What the last thing he'd known was. How the world had been ordered when last he'd checked in on it. 'Where's Max?' His eyes seemed to say. Like he'd never expected to see them separated again. Like she had. . .

She physically bit her cheek, hoping the sudden stab of pain would keep the tears from restarting. That it would keep her from giving in to it all over again.

That wasn't why she was here. Not directly, anyway.

"I'm not intruding, am I, Sheriff," she asked, hoping her voice didn't falter, but then glad that it had, seeing the way her tone stilled whatever heart-wrenching question the man had so clearly wanted to ask her. "How. . . how's Kyle feeling today? I was. . . I was hoping I could see him."

Valenti's smile was soft and suddenly warm. She knew he didn't completely understand what was going on here -- the unasked questions, the unresponded answers -- but the man's sensitive soul bade him hold his tongue. For which she was grateful.

"Sure. . . I'm - I'm sure he'd be happy to see you, Liz," he said, stepping awkwardly aside, motioning her in. It took her a moment to adjust to the sudden darkenss of the Valenti living room - all the blinds were draw tight against the day's sun and the only break in the gloom was the glow of the television across which the manic movements of two of the American League's finest flew. Kyle sat slumped on the couch, hand glued to the remote, dressed in the same clothes he'd warn the day before. At the museum. The gaping hole in his worn grey t-shirt seemed to jump out at her, its ragged edges hauntingly familiar. He made no notice of her and his father, unsure of how to handle it, opted to play host.

"Something to drink, Liz?" He asked and she nodded, grateful to have something else to focus on for a moment. She was also grateful that he'd dropped the formal 'Miss Parker' that seemed so much the reminder of tensions past. "Coke, OK?"

". . .um, sure, Sheriff. Coke's fine. . ." She gave him a faint smile.

He had turned to leave, after a glance at his silent son, but then stopped, placing a worn hand on her arm, moving her a few steps away.

"Liz," he began quietly and with clear difficulty. "I. . . this has been weighin' on me for a while now and I. . . I just have to say it." He sought her eyes, seemed relieved to see them fixed on his. Continued. "All these months. . . when I thought. . . When I was watching you all. . . I know how scared you all must have been. . . I'm just sorry I made . . . what you had to do any - any harder than it had to be. . ."

For a moment, she couldn't speak, so utterly taken aback by the statement. By the admission. Over the past few days, Sheriff Valenti had proven, in both word and action, that he was a man to be trusted. And respected. Now, more so than ever.

She felt a warmth and a feeling of gratitude deep in her chest, and once again, the tears threatened to flow. She bit her lip, managed to keep all but a stray back and then took a deep breath. "What's important, Sheriff, is that you were there when they. . . when we needed you. . . Without you, Max would be dead. . ." She trailed off, thrown by her own words. Not having intended the mention.

"Without Max, Kyle would be dead." Valenti's tone was matter-of-fact, but his hands were still shaking. She took one in her own, hoping to steady it, and held his gaze for a moment.

Then, with a barely preceptible nod, he went off to the kitchen and the sodas.

And Liz turned back to the couch. And Kyle. Who, it turned out, wasn't as unaware as she'd thought.

There was a dry cough and then a question. "So, Liz. . . where's Spaceboy?. . ." "Kyle. . ."

"No, hey, I really want to know," Kyle said, finally turning to look at her. He seemed oblivious to the obvious pain on her face at the question.

Liz stood at the back of the couch, a hand toying with a cotton Indian blanket draped there. "It's . . . it's complicated."

Kyle's laugh was quick and bitter. "That's a big 'duh', Liz. . ."

"Look, Kyle, I. . . I didn't come here to talk about. . ." She trailed off, couldn't even say it.

Now Kyle was grinning. Big. Wide. Forced. "You didn't come here to talk about the Man of the Hour? The Source of All Things Great and Groovy? The Bringer of Life and Maker of Mystic Silver Handprints?"

Kyle raised his t-shirt up to his collar bone, revealing a neatly defined, solid silver print -- dead center on his chest. "Lovely, isn't it? I saw your's last fall and I've been wanting one ever since. . ." She stood staring at the handprint, for a moment almost surprised. Like she' d forgotten there would be a. . . a that. And that she'd had one, too. And that Kyle had seen it. . .

She forced herself to look away from that perfect silver print, images of her own experience filling her head. And there was also a sharp little pain that served as a reminder of how things had changed. How everything had changed. There was a saddened part of her that wanted to pull Kyle's shirt up and out of the way so she could put her own hand over the print there, to touch what Max had touched. To touch him. . .

"Kyle, I came because I'm worried about you," she said slowly. "I really think we need to talk. I know what you're going through."

Kyle was all animation and energy now. It was scarey. "Hey, but of course you do! You're one of the healed, too!" Kyle bowed low in mock religious zeal. "Halleluyah! We have been saved!"

"Stop it!" Liz said through clenched teeth. Dropping onto the couch next to him, she grabbed his hand and looked him dead in the eye. "I know what you're doing." Kyle's expression grew suddenly deadly serious. "Tell me, Liz. What am I doing?"

"You think that if you make this whole thing a joke, you won't have to really think about what happened. How you almost died. How Max saved your life. How Max is. . . how Max is an alien."

"Bingo! Give the little lady a prize!" he shouted, all grins again. She shook her head, frustrated. "And just what do you get from that?"

". . .um, I get to continue in my delusion that the world is a normal place?" He winked at her. "How ya doin' in yours, by the way?"

She grit her teeth and willed herself not to respond. Meanwhile, he was patting his pockets as though looking for something he'd misplaced. "I had another one around here somewhere. Now where is it?"

"Another one 'what'," she asked, carefully.

"Another delusion. . ." He grinned. "What was it again?. . . Oh, yeah . This is the best one: I get to not think about how the guy who stole my girl away from me is the same guy that saved my stupid life. And the same guy that put my dad in danger." He got up and moved to the window, pulling the blinds out of the way for a moment to stare out into the heat of the morning. "And I'd rather not have to think about how all this has been going on for months now and no one bothered to tell me. Not Max, not you, not even my Dad." He spun to face her now, his expression stark and pained. "You couldn't trust me, Liz?"

"Oh, come on, Kyle. Of course, I couldn't. You, of all people!"

His reaction was so extreme, Liz's could see, immediately, that she'd hurt him. Too late to take it back.

Kyle stood there, stunned and silent and looking suddenly like a lost little boy.

". . .They were scared, Kyle, of what people would think and do. Scared of what would happen if the wrong people found out." She choked as an image she'd lifted from Max's head floated into view - the smug, almost disinterested expression on Pierce's face as he'd spun the dial on that machine and fed so much current into Max's head, he'd felt his fillings begin to vibrate out of his teeth. . . Her face was wet as she continued.

"Have you ever been that scared, Kyle? Scared for your life? Scared you were going to die. . ." Kyle slumped to the floor against the window, his expression blank. A hand absently played with the ragged hole in his t-shirt. Once again, she'd blurted out the wrong thing. Having another good day, aren't you, Liz?

"Kyle! I'm sorry -- I'm so sorry. . ." His eyes seemed to be staring at nothing and his voice was a whisper when he finally spoke. "I forgot. . . Oh, God, I forgot. . ." He closed his eyes against some sort of pain. "Oh, God, oh God, oh God. . ."

It took her a moment to realize what he was talking about: he'd seen 'it', too. "When he. . . when he touched me -- " Kyle broke off, wet his lips, continued. ". . .I got this . . .this rush of images. I saw you and how he .. how he feels about you. I felt it," he glanced to Liz, met her eyes briefly, looked away. ". . .and then I saw this place. . . It was all white and cold. . . and I felt. . . I felt something sharp. . . here." He touched his chest, right about where that incision Liz had seen on Max's chest had been. "I. . . I felt his fear. Shit, I felt his terror. " The tears were flowing freely down his face now. "I. . . I knew the feeling. I was . . . I was already feeling it. . ." Kyle's hand was at his chest again and he closed his eyes against the memory. "Shit, shit, shit. . ."

Liz was kneeling at his side, a hand on his arm. "Ssssh, Kyle. It's OK. It's gonna be OK. I swear."

Kyle shook his head. "Is it? Is it OK, Liz? Can it ever be OK again?" ". . .of course, it can," Liz said, quietly, but her tone was unconvincing. She turned to sit next to him with her back to the window.

"Lookit, Kyle. I-I don't have it all figured out yet, I may never have it all figured out, but I can tell you the important stuff right now: You're alive. I'm alive. . . And because of your dad, Max is alive. And Michael and Isabel, too."

Kyle shivered. "How do they do it?. . . How do they go on and live their lives as though. .. as though things are normal? When there are people out there that want them dead?"

"Now you understand why I couldn't say anything. For the longest time, they didn't trust anyone. And they would have gone on that way if I hadn't. . ." She trailed off, unable to complete the thought.

" . . .if you hadn't gotten shot." He took her hand, squeezed it. She nodded, her head against his shoulder, comfortable in the sudden and implicit support she found there. "Yeah. And then they had no choice. Max. . . Max always trusted me. But the others. . . That took a lot longer. . ."

Kyle took a deep breath. "OK, Liz. I gotta ask this. . . Why did you come here today? I mean, really? I would've thought Wonder Boy would've come here himself. To make me swear an oath of secrecy or something. Did he send you to do the job?"

"No, that's not it," she said softly. But she hadn't thought of that. Did she still need to ask? "Come to think of it, Liz, why aren't you and Max off somewhere? I saw the way he feels about you. Shit, I felt it. . ." He shivered. "If I felt that way I'd never let you out of my sight."

"It wasn't. . . it wasn't his choice, Kyle." She was crying softly now. "It was mine. . . I walked away from him." She could feel him shaking his head. "I know you didn't just dump him. . ." he said in disbelief.

And suddenly, she couldn't hold back anymore. She'd been numb since she'd left them all on that ridge. She hadn't let herself think about any of it: of what happens next or how she felt or even what she was going to do the next time she saw him. And seeing him would cut her like a knife. Nope. She'd focused herself on everyone else. Alex and Maria were just as numb as she was and none of them was much into conversation right now. But Kyle - now there was someone she could help. Because she'd been through it before. And now here she was needing his help. Because, in spite of everything she'd done to him - he was offering it.

He put his arms around her, rocking her gently as she cried. "It's complicated, Kyle. I. . ." "You said that before." He stroked her hair. "I can handle 'complicated'." "It's not just complicated. There's this whole destiny thing going on. . . I don't have a place in it. I can't get in the way. . ."

"Did Max say that?" he asked, protective. "Did he tell you that you were in the way?" She shook her head once, her cheek on his shoulder. "He wouldn't say that. He wouldn't want to hurt me. But it's true."


She smiled now. Laughed. "Thanks, Kyle." "I mean it. What did Max have to say to this?"

"I. . . I didn't let him say anything. There was nothing to say."

Kyle laughed softly. "You're amazing, Parker. You know that? You spend all this year trying to work out how you can be with this guy, including messing with my head --" He broke off. Grinned apologetically. "Sorry, I hadda work that in there. . . And then when you've got what you want, you 'step aside'. Are you really that noble?"

Liz felt the tears coming again. Didn't want to let them. Stopped. "You know what I really want, Kyle?"

"No, Liz. What's that?"

"Nothing. I want - no, I need some 'nothing' right now." She held him tighter. "Can't we just leave the talking and figuring out for later? Right now, can't we just be?" He kissed the top of her head softly. "Sure, Liz. I think we've done enough talking for a while. And I'm not ready to do anything but 'be' at the moment, anyway."

She'd come over there to help Kyle and ended up needing help herself. Kyle who had every reason to hate her. Kyle who needed her more than he needed anyone else right now - because she alone knew what he was going through. In spite of everything. And he was the one helping her. It was almost funny. Liz looked up, saw Sheriff Valenti watching from the kitchen doorway, and returned his soft smile of relief. She still had pain. Kyle still had questions, but for now this was good enough. . .

"and when we're done
soul searching
as we carried the weight
and died for the cause
is misery
made beautiful
right before our eyes
will mercy be revealed
or blind us where we stand"

Witness, Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan


Index | Part 2
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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