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27 December 2009 @ 11:59 pm
Miracles Fic: Sins of the Father Part 2  
Written for Sweet Charity and smallfandom Big Bang 2009
Crossposted to miracles_fanfic


Title: Sins of the Father Part 2
Pairing/Characters: Alva, Paul, Evelyn, OCs
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Series
Summary: Alva and Paul return to Amish country for a new and dangerous case
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ

Part 1


"How was Philadelphia?"

Paul scrubbed his face and waited, hoping Alva would answer Evelyn's question on the speakerphone. When Alva also seemed at a loss for words, Paul finally chimed in.

"Let's just say I think we've established that Bryant Hazeldon was more than capable of rape and leave it at that."

"Okay, now I don't envy you guys," Evelyn said. "And here I thought I got the short end of the investigation looking into a suicide."

"What did you find out about Grace Thorne?" Alva asked.

"She moved one county over, which is why I couldn't find her at first. Apparently she didn't want to run into anyone she knew. She got a room in a house for unwed mothers run by a local charity and had her baby at the nearby county hospital. The charity only lets new mothers stay in the house for three months after they give birth, ostensibly to make room for other pregnant girls, but from the people I talked to there who remembered her they said it didn't seem like Grace had anywhere to go. She killed herself just a week shy of Meredith hitting three months old."

"So even the people who took her in rejected her in the end," Paul said mournfully. "How did she die?"

"She jumped off the roof of a building," Evelyn answered. "A six story one so she wasn't taking any chances. She didn't want to risk surviving the fall."

"Shunned by her once insular community, rejected by her sole remaining family and suffering the dual trauma of rape and murder along with an unwanted pregnancy?" Alva shook his head, looking pained. "It's a wonder she didn't take her own life sooner. The poor creature had to have been completely destroyed."

"It seems the only reason she lasted as long as she did was for Meredith's sake," Evelyn said. "In my digging I managed to find a copy of the suicide note Grace left behind." Her voice shifted as she began to read.

'Elizabeth,

I am not certain Gabriel will even allow you to read this since I have been shunned, but as my sister - my sole blood relation - I wanted you to know that I am leaving you my sole possession in this world: my daughter Meredith.

While I could not follow the church's teachings to forgive the man who hurt me, I have forgiven Meredith for the means of her birth and hope you will do the same. Raise her as your own and never tell her how she came to be. I cannot bear the shame and the pain and I would not wish that upon this innocent child.

I am sorry I am not strong enough to remain here, but I know if I stay I will only taint my baby with my sin and my grief. With you and Gabriel she will have a chance to grow up in the church, to marry and to know love. I can only offer her pain.

I know it is the greatest sin to take one's own life, but perhaps it is the punishment I deserve for taking the life of another. If you are never able to forgive me please know that I forgive you and Gabriel. It is the last gift I can give you before I die.

Take care of my baby and help her to forget I ever was.

-Grace'

Paul buried his face in his hands, aching with the echoes of pain in the words of a woman dead nearly twenty years.

When he finally uncovered his face, he saw Alva looking equally affected. A long moment of silence passed where even Evelyn didn't break the somber quiet, waiting on the line for them to recover and speak again.

"I hope she found the peace she deserved," Alva said quietly. "Not the punishment she felt she'd earned."

"I hope we can bring Meredith some peace as well," Paul added. "If anyone doesn't deserve to be punished, it's her. She's blameless in all of this."

"Indeed," Alva agreed. "We may have been brought into this case by the Wolcotts, but it appears that it's Meredith who most needs our help."

^

Paul mostly pushed his dinner around his plate at the diner. They'd come to eat after talking to Evelyn on the phone and Paul found he had little appetite despite how long it had been since he and Alva had lunch in Philadelphia.

Their interviews there had left more than a bad taste in his mouth, he was unsettled. So much anguish had been caused for so many by one man's misdeeds and a society that refused to step in and halt his downward spiral.

As he placed his fork on his plate and pushed it away, he looked up to find Alva hadn't eaten much of his meal either.

"This case…" Paul let out a weary sigh. "It's turning out a lot less pleasant than we might have suspected."

Alva gave up on his dinner as well, fussing with his water glass for a few seconds before responding.

"I admit to a bit of callousness when I first got the call." His voice was abnormally subdued and Paul took special notice as it wasn't like Alva to share his personal thoughts. "I knew a young man had been hospitalized, yet I was excited at the prospect of hunting down this entity. I put his injuries out of my mind and focused on the thrill of the hunt. The game was afoot! Nothing else mattered."

"Only now we know more happened then just a few cracked ribs."

Alva steepled his fingers in front of him. "We know… We know so much more than when we first arrived and yet we are still nowhere! We still have no idea if the entity causing these so called accidents is the spirit of our suicide Grace, the spirit of the murdered Bryant or an entity that's just attached itself to a most unfortunate choice of nubile victim."

"The question is, how do we find out?" Paul asked.

"Perhaps," Alva said. "We could perform tests, gather more information, question more potential witnesses and narrow it down to two options and perhaps even one in time if we're lucky and can find sufficient sources of information. Or…" He paused a moment, looking thoughtful. "We could take a different tack and ignore the question altogether."

Paul just blinked at him, his forehead creasing in confusion. "Ignore the question? What do you mean?"

"I mean we address all three scenarios," Alva told him. "We perform two exorcisms - one for Grace and one for Bryant - and if Meredith is generating poltergeist activity we do all that we can to alert the Albrechts to the kinds of situations that can lead to it flaring up."

"Like letting Meredith mix with the tourists," Paul said.

"It may well be that with keeping her away from temptation - or rather keeping temptation away from her - the activity should cease. If the energy is indeed coming from her she likely has a very small window in which to fear. Once she's married - which is likely soon given the standard ages for marriage in the Amish community and the fact that they are compelled to marry within their faith - I believe the activity will naturally come to an end."

"You hope," Paul corrected.

"Hope is for those without facts to back up their theories," Alva countered. "I prefer to base my vision of the future on empirical data and experience."

As Alva pulled out his wallet to pay the check, Paul stared at him across the table.

"And when that fails?" Paul asked, eyeing Alva as he checked the bills and laid several of them on top of their check. "What then?"

Alva rose and waited for Paul to join him. "I suppose that's the time you would tell everyone to pray."

^

It was well after midnight when Paul and Alva made their way down the lane leading to the hidden half of Albrecht farm - the more decrepit side.

There was enough moonlight to see by, but they still walked carefully to avoid stepping in the horse excrement that marred the dirt road.

"Are you sure we need to be in this barn?" Paul whispered. "Malcolm got hurt in the newer barn at the main farm."

"The rape had to have happened here," Alva answered. "The main barn burned down and the barn raising to replace it wasn't held until after Bryant Hazeldon died."

"Yes, but we have no reports of activity in this barn," Paul said as they approached it.

"Well then, if I'm wrong?" Alva turned to look at him. "We'll just have to do all this again a second time at the other barn."

"Great, four rituals instead of two," Paul huffed as Alva opened the barn door as quietly as he could. "We're going to be here all night."

Their feet creaked over the wooden floor and they both turned on their flashlights to see by since moonlight didn't help in the windowless structure.

Hay bales surrounded them along with farm equipment. Up above was the hayloft, reachable by a simple wooden ladder.

They pulled out their books from their jacket pockets and opened them up.

"You take English, I'll take Latin," Alva offered.

"What about German? Isn't that the language Grace spoke first before English?"

"I'm saving the German for next," Alva explained. "Bryant's first on my list. If there's any chance we're dealing with more than one spirit here? There's no way Grace is going to depart if Bryant remains here with her daughter."

"Fair enough." Paul opened his book and trained his flashlight on it. "English it is."

They took up positions at opposite ends of the barn, reciting the same words in different languages, imploring the spirit of Bryant Hazeldon to depart.

When they finished, they looked up at each other.

"Notice anything different?"

"No, but then it's altogether possible that success would lead to no visible change as well. Still…" Alva pocketed his book and set up his flashlight on a hay bale to illuminate the space. "Best to cover all bases." He pulled out a glass bottle of holy water and opened up a bag of crushed dried sage in his pocket to draw from. "Go ahead with the English for Grace while I spread this around. Then we'll do the Latin and German together."

"Right." Paul started reading and glanced up from time to time as Alva did a circuit of the floor, sprinkling holy water and tossing sage over each area. When he finished the circuit he climbed the ladder and began to do the same in the hayloft. "The time has come, Grace Thorne…" Paul spoke aloud, "…for you to leave this world behind…"

A rattling sound made him pause and he looked around to realize the tools in the barn were shaking against the wooden walls.

"Paul…" Alva paused up in the hayloft. "I think we've answered the question of who we're dealing with."

The rattling grew louder and the whole structure started to shake almost as if the earth was quaking beneath their feet.

"And she's not happy about the idea of leaving."

Alva began to speak briskly in German and all Paul could make out was Grace's name amidst the harsh and low sounds of the language falling from Alva's rapid tongue.

Tools began to fall from their hooks to the floor with a great clanging noise and boards complained as they strained, bending under the force of the shaking.

"Keel! We need to get out of here!" Paul shouted.

When Alva didn't move, Paul ran towards the ladder.

The volume crescendoed and there was a deafening crash as the barn collapsed on top of them.

Paul saw an avalanche of wooden boards coming at him, then saw no more.

^

Paul came around to feelings of pain and pressure, reacting before he was aware enough even to try to remember where he was and what happened.

By instinct he shoved what he was buried under aside and started coughing at the dust and dirt it stirred up in the air. He could only move his right arm, but he managed to push aside enough to discover he could get free of the debris.

"Keel… Oh God…" he murmured as memory returned to him. "Keel!" he called out. "Keel! Can anybody hear me?" Only silence answered him and he froze, panicked. Alva had been on top of the hayloft and he'd likely been the target of Grace's ire. If she pushed Malcolm for what he did to Meredith, what had she done to Alva for trying to send her away?

Pain sliced through him as he tried to pull free and he realized his shoulder wasn't just pinned, it was dislocated. He'd done it once before and Poppi had set it for him. It had been an incredibly painful process and he'd almost blacked out, but in this case having his shoulder pinned would help him shift it back into place on his own.

He gritted his teeth and aligned his body, hoping after so many years he remembered what Poppi had done, and then tugged his body to the side.

His scream tore through the night. If anyone was nearby, they would have heard it.

After a moment of harsh breathing he finally used his right arm to dig his left free, tugging his legs loose as well. He had a bad gash on his knee and when he put his hand to his temple his fingers came back sticky with blood.

Since the roof had caved in moonlight illuminated the space just enough for Paul to make out his surroundings somewhat. He was in what appeared to be a cellar below the barn floor. He could see parts of the floor about ten feet above him and shards of what remained of the roof and beams above that.

The hay loft lay in a pile in the cellar a few feet away, reduced to rubble.

Guessing at where Alva had been, Paul started to dig with both hands only to cry out as his shoulder rebelled at being used. He dug single-handed, holding his injured arm close to his body, quickly huffing and puffing with effort to find the other man.

He heard the clink of glass, an unusual sound amidst the wooden debris, and followed it to the side a little to find a chunk of broken glass had fallen off the pile.

Emboldened by the discovery, Paul ignored the pain in his shoulder and dug there, finding more shards of glass that likely came from the holy water bottle Alva had been holding when the building came down.

Paul froze when removing a board revealed several bloody fingers. Digging out frantically he uncovered a hand bleeding profusely where broken shards of glass stuck into it.

"Oh, God…"

Trembling, he placed his fingers on Alva's wrist, a whispered prayer on his lips.

There was a pulse.

Paul pulled out his handkerchief and plucked the glass out, wrapping Alva's hand first in the white cloth and then in his scarf.

He dug with renewed frenzy, not even trying to hold back his anguished vocalizations of pain as it ripped through his shoulder. He finally uncovered Alva's head, marred by a gash along his hairline. His eyes were closed, but he was breathing - slow and shallow.

Paul had already used all he had on Alva's hand so he dug out the rest of Alva and searched his pockets for anything they could use. They'd left their cell phones in the car - no service out here anyway - but there was a handkerchief which he pressed to Alva's forehead, trying not to panic at how quickly it became soaked with free-flowing blood.

They needed help; he needed to get Alva to a hospital. But as Paul gazed around him there seemed no way out at this level and no way to get up to floor level to get out of the building.

"Hello!" he yelled. "Can anybody hear me?"

His heart fell as the silent night swallowed up his plea.

^

After yet another circuit of the cellar, trying fruitlessly to find a way out, Paul returned to Alva - still frighteningly still amidst the rubble. He'd at least found what looked like old horse blankets as he searched. They were fraying at the edges and kind of smelly, but thick and he layered all he found on top of Alva's supine form to keep him warm.

Paul checked Alva's hand and found it was still bleeding badly, as was the gash on his head. He feared if they didn't get help before morning he'd bleed out. Yelling hadn't drawn any attention at all. Clearly they were too far away from the main house to wake anyone there.

He sat down on the floor beside Alva, taking the pressure off his injured leg, and said another round of prayers - silent and with hands clasped in piety.

He quickly finished up when he heard Alva stir.

"Alva? Can you hear me?"

He hovered directly above, putting himself in Alva's line of sight.

"Paul…" His voice was weak, but Paul felt a flood of relief at his name on Alva's lips.

"Try not to move. You're hurt." He gestured around them. "Grace brought the barn down on top of us."

Alva shifted ever so slightly then halted abruptly, letting out a gasp of agony. His good hand went to his ribcage as he grimaced.

"It appears," he gasped out, his breathing clearly labored, "that Grace wished the same damage upon me that she inflicted upon Malcolm Wolcott."

"Your ribs?"

"I'm afraid so." Alva looked up at him, his face creased with strain at the pain. "I don't think I can get out of here under my own power."

"I don't think we can get out of here period," Paul lamented. "We're in the cellar below the barn and it's too deep for me to climb out."

"No doors?" Alva asked.

"Barred on the outside apparently," Paul explained.

"The ladder?"

"Shattered."

Alva tried to look around only to hiss at the pain of it.

"Nothing to climb on? No hay bales?"

"The bales of hay are busted, like everything else. I can't find anything that can get me high enough to climb out. Most of the wood is in pieces so nothing strong enough to hold my weight."

"Perhaps if I help…"

"Alva, you shouldn't move!"

"Clearly it must be bad if you're calling me by my first name," Alva tried to josh, but as he tried to prop himself up his head lolled and he collapsed back to the floor, eyes fluttering closed.

"No!" Paul tried slapping Alva's face, but he couldn't roust him. "No…"

He let his head fall forward when there was no response at all. He made sure Alva was still breathing and took some small comfort in the soft exhalations against the back of his hand.

With a sigh he steeled himself to go try to break down the cellar door with his good shoulder. It would hurt like hell, but that was nothing compared to how he'd feel if he let Alva die in here.

He hadn't wanted to admit how important Alva had become in his life, convincing himself Poppi was where his family lay, but Alva had become part father figure, part brother in arms and someone for whom Paul risked things he never would have before. His future might be uncertain, but Paul knew his path was with Alva.

^

"Paul…"

Alva's voice was weak, but it cut through the silence of the dark barn and Paul rushed to his side.

"I was afraid I'd lost you," he admitted breathlessly, clasping Alva's good hand in relief, not caring about showing affection to the always standoffish man.

"Not quite so fortunate," Alva managed, clearly in a lot of pain. "How long have I been out?"

Paul squinted at his watch in the dim light. "It's been about two hours since we arrived."

"So not much hope for any farm hands to arrive until at least 4AM," Alva mused.

"Unfortunately," Paul agreed. "I keep yelling, but no one seems near enough to hear."

"There is someone who is near," Alva said to him, catching his gaze with a meaningful expression. "Someone who we know can hear us. And we need to talk to her."

It took Paul a moment to figure out what he was talking about. "Grace? You've got to be kidding! She's the one who did this to us!"

"Have you a better idea?" As Alva waited for his response, Paul could only let his head hang. "Then brace yourself," Alva warned. "This may get worse before it gets better."

"As in?"

"Well, there's still more barn that could fall down upon our heads." Alva gestured to the shattered remains of the barn above them.

"Point taken." Paul settled himself above Alva's head and torso to protect them. "I'll shelter you as best I can," he said.

"You should get as far away from me as possible," Alva countered. "Once I start talking I'm going to be the target of her retaliation."

"Exactly." Paul met Alva's gaze, adamant. "Which is why I'm not going anywhere. Now… Start talking."

Alva tried to take a deep breath but winced, his ribs clearly giving him trouble, but he steeled himself and began to speak, raising his voice.

"Grace Thorne… We are not here to harm you or your daughter Meredith." Silence. "We know what happened to you in the hayloft eighteen years ago; we know why you took your own life." A few metal tools clanked and Paul stiffened, ready for them to come at him. "We don't fault you for wanting to protect your daughter, but you've gone too far, Grace!"

A few metal tools took low swipes over them as they crossed the cellar, clanging hard as they hit the opposite wall.

"Not helping," Paul chided.

"Remember what you wanted for yourself, Grace? A good Amish husband? A family of your own?" The board started rattling overhead and a few already loose boards clattered down from the remains of the barn roof. "You had your whole life ahead of you and Bryant Hazeldon took it away." Paul braced himself over Alva as a slew of boards fell on them, hitting Paul on the back where he covered Alva's head.

"Hurry!" Paul cried.

"Your daughter is old enough to want these things now!" Alva called out. "She wants a good man for a husband, to take her place in the Amish community, to have a child of her own. But she can't! Not while you keep protecting her from all men! There's not a man in your village who will ask for her hand while the threat of injury hangs over anyone who shows an interest in her! Even if you only target the English boys and not the Amish ones, no one will believe she's not haunted. She'll be alone, like you were, and I know you don't want that for her - that pain, that loneliness, that separation from family."

"That's all we want," Paul chimed in. "For Meredith to be safe and happy - to have the life you were never able to have! Let us help her!"

The rattling ceased all at once and the barn grew deathly quiet save Alva's rasping breath, the effort at speaking clearly exacerbating his injuries.

Then with a distant creak, the cellar doors opened.

"What was that?" Alva mumbled, unable to see.

"She must have unbarred the cellar doors from the outside," Paul said excitedly. "She's showing me a way out." As Alva's eyes started to flutter closed, Paul laid his palm on Alva's cheek. "Alva! Stay awake! I need to go get help!" When Alva didn't respond, he shook him gently. "Alva!"

Panic swelling in his chest, he struggled to his feet, limping on his injured leg as he made his way through the rubble to the open cellar doors.

He knew the main house was just over the ridge, but every step was torment.

Gritting his teeth he headed out as fast as he could limp.

Alva needed him; he wouldn't let him down.

^

As Paul clambered to the top of the ridge he saw a light approaching: a lantern.

"Hello! Who's out there?" he called out, all but collapsing on the grass.

The lantern grew near and it was then that Paul realized there was no one carrying it. He blinked, thinking his eyes were playing tricks on him because of his head injury. The lantern settled on the grass about eight feet away and a white shape appeared out of the dark night behind it.

It was Meredith in her nightgown, barefoot. Her hair was out of her bonnet, streaming down in pale blond tresses over her shoulders. She clearly had come abruptly, not even putting on a coat against the chill of the night.

"Mr. Callan?" She put her hand to her mouth, astonished. "What are you doing here?"

Paul propped himself up enough to talk to her. "My friend and I were in your barn, doing a ritual to try to stop all the accidents, and the barn came down on us."

"Oh my!" Meredith exclaimed, shocked as she turned her gaze to the barn below the ridge.

"Keel… He's hurt and can't get out of the cellar," he told her. "We need an ambulance and I think a fire crew to help get him out."

"There's a phone…" She glanced off in the distance. "I can get there faster by horse. I'll take one from the stables and ride to the phone to let them know to come help your friend."

"How did you know to come out here in the middle of the night?" Paul asked, bewildered.

"The lantern," she pointed to it. "It lit itself and woke me floating by my bedside. It gave me such a fright at first, but I got up and reached for it. It made me follow it outside. I was scared, but for some reason I didn't think it would lead me into danger."

"You're right," Paul told her. "Because it was your mother who carried the lantern. She's the one who helped us in the cellar. She's been here all along, Meredith, protecting you from harm."

Meredith forced a smile. "You mustn't say that in front of my aunt and uncle - or anyone in our community," she told him. "Our beliefs don't allow for such things."

"But you want to believe she's with you," Paul filled in.

Meredith nodded, bowing her head. "I could never believe she would abandon me completely. She loved me too much for that; I know it in my heart. She only wanted what was best for me." She gestured to the lantern. "Keep the lantern with you. I'll go fetch help."

She ran off into the darkness in the direction of the stables and Paul let out a long breath.

He gazed down the ridge, seeing how far he'd come and how far back he had to go to get back to Alva.

The energy that had driven him to climb the hill, to get help, was gone now. He had little left to spare, yet Alva was down there alone. He had to make it back.

The lantern rose in the air, bobbing alongside him as if it meant to lead the way.

"Thank you, Grace," he said to it and it bobbed a bit more as if in response.

Knowing it would hurt - especially his injured shoulder - but be a lot faster than walking, he moved to the edge of the grassy ridge and lay down, starting himself rolling.

His body was bumped and bruised by rocks hidden in the tall grass, pain jarring him with every impact on his shoulder and his knee, but he was at the bottom of the ridge in seconds rather than long minutes.

The lantern bobbed by his side, having followed him down.

He dragged himself to his feet, set his eyes on the barn and dug his fingernails into his palms as he started the painful process of walking back to stand vigil by his partner's side.

^

"Alva?"

Paul staggered back into the cellar, almost falling down the stone steps as he struggled to stay upright.

There was no answer.

He trod carefully, keeping an eye on the lantern as he went. The barn was still a tinderbox with all the loose hay and wood so having a flame - even if it was ensconced in a proper lantern - was worrisome.

When he finally got to Alva his hand had bled through handkerchief and scarf and was dripping down onto to the planks he'd fallen on. His head wound was still wet with blood as well, not closing up at all.

Paul scrambled to his side and sat next to him, placing his hand on Alva's cheek to find it disturbingly cool. Heart beating a tattoo in his chest, he held the back of his hand to Alva's lips, waiting breathlessly until he felt a slight exhalation there.

In the far distance he could hear sirens wailing and relaxed just a little, knowing help was on the way.

Paul took hold of Alva's injured hand to apply more pressure to the wound.

"You're going to be all right," Paul said aloud. "You're strong, one of the strongest men I know. You won't let this beat you." The scarf in his hand was so soaked with blood it dripped faster as Paul held it tight. "You're probably one of those people who believe that even people in a coma can hear what's said around them." He tried to make it sound light, but the anguish and worry in his voice were apparent even to his own ears. "So I'm only going to tell you this once. You tell me I'm important, that I have a role to play in all this. But you're important too. No one cares about all this like you do. No one's trying as hard to make sense of all of this like you are. No one's out there looking for the signs like you are. Where the church is turning a blind eye, you keep looking. That's not something to take lightly. So you're important, Alva. You should know that." He fell silent for a moment, watching heavy hearted as the blood spilled from his friend's body and he grew paler by the minute. "And you're important to me."

The sound of a horse's hooves outside grew closer and then stopped, accompanied by a loud neighing sound. A voice called out from just outside the barn: Meredith.

"Mr. Callan?"

"Meredith? Don't come too close!" he called back. "It's dangerous!"

The lantern rose up of its own accord, shining right above them, finally hooking itself onto a nail on a remaining beam to illuminate the barn.

"They're coming! I can see them!" Meredith told him.

The sirens grew louder and then he could hear vehicles pull up outside and the sound of feet stomping around in the dirt.

"Hello! This is the Fire Department!" a male voice shouted out. "Anyone in there?"

"Two of us! We're in the cellar!" Paul shouted back. "You can get in through the cellar doors on the side. My friend's hurt bad! He's unconscious and needs to be carried out. He's lost a lot of blood."

"Stay put! We're on our way!"

Paul bent his head and said a quick prayer of thanks and then a second asking that they not be too late.

Two firemen in hard hats rushed in through the cellar door carrying bright flashlights.

"Bring the gurney down! We'll make a path for it!" the one closest to the exit called out then set about moving the debris to make room for them to bring it through and carry Alva out.

The one closest to them crouched down beside Paul and Alva.

"He's got broken ribs," Paul told him. "And I haven't been able to stem the bleeding from his hand or his head - it's been over two hours."

"We'll take it from here, sir," the fireman told him, looking reassuring. "We need to get you to the ambulance as well." He gestured to Paul's bloody leg."

Paul relinquished Alva's hand as two other men came in and worked to put Alva in a collar and on a backboard as a third replaced the handkerchiefs with wads of gauze that were quickly stained red as well. Working in concert, they lifted Alva up on the gurney to carry him out.

One of the firemen tried to take Paul's arm to help him rise, but he shrank back.

"Not that arm. I dislocated my shoulder."

"Is the other one all right?" he asked, switching sides.

"Yes."

The fireman took Paul's good arm to help him rise. When Paul tried to stand and follow the gurney out his body gave out on him and he all but crashed into the fireman assisting him.

"Sir, are you all right?" the fireman asked, his voice sounding oddly far away.

Paul struggled, but his vision grew dark, his head pounding at the temple, and the last thing in his sight was the still lit lantern swaying overhead even though there was no breeze.

^

Paul woke to a soft white bed, the drugged haze of pain medication and the familiar face of Evelyn standing over him in a hospital room.

"Evie…" He managed a small smile for her, trying to look encouraging.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," she joked kindly. "Otherwise our insurance company claims handler is going to think I've got a thing for him." She gave Paul's arm, the one not in a sling from being dislocated, a gentle squeeze. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I got hit on the head - again," Paul moaned. "And then some. How's Alva?"

Evelyn's face darkened. "He was in surgery for a couple of hours. He's still in recovery."

"How long have I been out?"

"I got the call six hours ago and jumped in my car. Thankfully Matty was already visiting my mother so I left right away."

"What did the doctors say?" Paul asked, concerned. "He lost an awful lot of blood."

"They stitched up his hand and his head, but the worst of it was the internal bleeding," Evelyn told him. "It seems he broke some ribs and one of them nicked his lung."

"Oh my God," Paul murmured, his voice hushed.

"By the time they got him on the operating table one of his lungs was about half filled with blood. They said they were able to save it in time, but it's going to take a while for it to work at full capacity again."

"Do they think he'll make a full recovery?" Paul could barely get the words out. "I mean with the loss of blood, the head injury…"

"I asked," Evelyn hand slid down Paul's arm to grasp his hand. "But it's like everything else: wait and see."

"And pray," Paul added.

"Trust me," Evelyn said. "There's a lot of that going on. Gabriel Albrecht found me in the hallway when I was asking a doctor about Alva. He said they spent the whole night praying once Meredith woke them with the news and they've got the rest of their community praying for yours and Alva's recovery."

"Wow, that's unexpected." Paul blinked in surprise. "I mean, we did kind of trespass on their property and destroy their barn."

"They're good people," Evelyn said thoughtfully. "When I talked to him I really felt like he was worried about you both, in his own gruff way, and not at all concerned about if you were going to sue the farm for your injuries or anything."

Paul let out a sigh, letting his head fall back into his pillow. "We just wanted to help."

"I think he knows that." Evelyn nodded. "Do you want me to call Father Calero for you? I didn't think to ask him to join me on the drive here; I left in such a hurry."

"No, it's okay…" Paul paused for a second. "On second thought, yes. Call him and tell him I need everyone at St. Jerome's to pray - for Alva. If one community can pray for him, why not two?"

"You know," Evelyn managed a wry smile, "when Alva hears about all these people praying for him…"

"Let him fuss," Paul said, squeezing her hand. "I'd like nothing better than for Alva to be well enough to make a big deal out of all of us praying for him to get better."

Evelyn let out a little sigh, sadness slipping past her optimistic expression.

"I'd like that too."

^

Paul's rosary dangled from his hand, catching a ray of sun from the window and sparkling against the white sheets of Alva's hospital bed.

He finished another round of prayers and lifted his head to take a break. His head still hurt as did his shoulder and his knee, but at least the crutch the hospital had given him helped him walk without too much trouble.

For a moment he sat pensive, near hypnotized by the regular beat of Alva's heart monitor. Not only had he lost a lot of blood by the time the ambulance had gotten them to the emergency room, but Paul knew from experience concussions could be tricky.

Where he had just a butterfly bandage near his temple, the gash on Alva's forehead had taken a dozen stitches - his hand, seventeen in all. Paul hadn't wanted to know how many were underneath the bandage on his knee and he wasn't compelled to look at them anytime soon.

He couldn't help but beat himself up over not realizing Alva had been bleeding internally. He should have at least guessed that the reason Alva was having trouble breathing was that one of his lungs had been punctured and it was slowly filling with blood. He had said his ribs felt broken after all. Paul shuddered at the idea that Alva could have suffocated there if they'd had to wait for dawn to get help.

Surgery had repaired the damage at least as much as the doctors were able. The rest, they said, was up to Alva.

He was strong though, Paul knew this. If anyone would fight to keep going, it was Alva and his unquenchable search for knowledge. There was too much left unknown for him to quit now.

He stared at his placid and still pale face and realized how rare it was for him to see Alva at rest. He looked younger somehow, as if the strain of life aged him during his waking hours. Or more likely, the tension of a possible looming apocalypse.

Paul took a deep breath and readied his rosary, preparing for another set of prayers when the beeping sounds coming from the heart monitor changed, sped up.

Worried, he pushed the button for the nurse to come then clasped Alva's uninjured hand in his, the rosary draping over their joined hands.

Alva's eyes started to open, just barely, and Paul tightened his hold on his hand.

"Alva?" he whispered, full of hope.

The process was agonizingly slow, but Paul watched as Alva's eyes opened, focused and then turned to him.

"Paul…" The word was more air than sound, a mere movement of his lips, but it was enough for Paul to smile in relief. Alva was back.

"I guess it was my turn to be the one worrying and your turn to be the one in the hospital," Paul teased, fighting back a deep gratitude that threatened to expose itself via his watery eyes.

Alva tried to huff out a little chuckle, but it made him cough. Paul squeezed his hand in sympathy for the pain the cough appeared to cause, almost wincing in his behalf.

"I guess that means…" Alva forced out, breathing still rough, "Evie's the one worrying about the insurance."

At that Paul couldn't help but let out a laugh, throwing his head back and enjoying the release of so much tension and worry.

"Yes," he said finally, still chuckling. "For this week we have Evelyn Santos starring in the role of Alva Keel. She has been wrangling the insurance company and the doctors on both our behalf."

"Are you all right?" Alva asked in a rare show of genuine concern.

"Me?" Paul shook his head. "I just got a few scrapes. You're the one who could have died."

"I prefer to think of it as both of us surviving," Alva countered. "We are both indeed still here."

"And so is Grace," Paul pointed out. "Only now Meredith knows she's here."

Alva looked thoughtful for a moment. "The Wolcotts asked us to find an answer as to what happened. I believe we have found them their answer. Don't you agree, Paul?"

Paul looked at Alva closely, trying to scrutinize his subtext.

"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?" he asked.

"I'm suggesting we both continue surviving," Alva replied. "Live and let live."

"Or live and let be dead," Paul mused, cocking his head. "But I think Meredith should have final say in the matter. It's her life we're affecting."

"And she is the next of kin," Alva added. "Fair enough. It's Meredith's decision. We can try again to send her mother away or we can walk away and choose not to interfere further."

^

"Ah, the mail!"

Alva held out his hand to Evelyn who'd fetched the stack of mail from their mailbox as he reclined on the couch in his office - his compromise with mother hen Paul who wanted him to recuperate in bed not at work.

"Not a chance," Evelyn said, sorting the mail into the inbox on Alva's desk. "You're supposed to be resting not working. I'll take care of these." She plucked one out. "I think this is what you were waiting for though."

Evelyn carried the envelope over to hand to Alva. Alva showed the envelope to Paul, sitting in a chair beside him where they had been going over the reincarnation files to look for potential follow ups. The post mark was from Pennsylvania.

"I'd say it is indeed."

Alva opened the envelope and pulled out a folded piece of paper. When he unfolded it Paul saw a separate piece of paper that looked like a check slip out. Alva glanced at it, his eyebrows went up high, then he put it face down on his chest so Paul couldn't see it.

Alva settled in to read the letter aloud, as Evelyn stood nearby and Paul sat listening intently.

'Mr. Keel,

I understand it is your organization that the Wolcott family hired to look into their son's accident at our barn, so I am writing to ask you to do something for me.

I know that my mother's spirit hurt you and for that I am sorry. But I know deep in my heart she was only trying to protect me. The fact that she brought me to you that night, waking me from a sound sleep to guide me to Mr. Callan, shows that she was sorry for what she did.

I have made arrangements with my aunt and uncle to no longer work the tours. I will do more chores at the other farm to make up for the tour work I had done for them previously. They've hired a local boy - a schoolmate of mine named Jakob - to help with the tours in my absence. He is a sweet and pious young man so he has nothing to fear here, trust me.

There will be no more incidents like with the Wolcotts. Between me staying away from the tourist boys and me talking to my mother to convince her I didn't want her hurting anyone, I think they're over and everyone is safe.

Within a year or two I will likely be married and this will no longer be a problem. I am certain once I am happily in a family of my own my mother will no longer feel that I am alone and need to be looked after. I will have a good man to look after me and I will entrust myself to him.

So I ask that you give me this one boon - that you not return to try to send my mother's spirit away. I did not get to have her with me in life so I feel this is a second chance to have her with me in death. To have her near comforts me. I feel her love and it makes me happy. Please don't take that away from me.

When I pressed my aunt and uncle for the truth about my mother they told me the story behind how I came to be. I understand now why they refused to talk about my mother all these years, but I am grown now and felt I was ready for the truth. I had already suspected much given the rumors surrounding the family, but it still made my heart ache to hear of my mother's pain.

When I spoke to her your Ms. Santos told me about Bryant Hazeldon and I asked her to take me to see his family.'

Alva paused and looked up. "Evie…"

"She already knew the rest of it," she capitulated. "She had a right to know the whole truth. So I took her to Philly to meet Mrs. Hazeldon."

"If she knew the rest, then that's closure she would have needed," Paul said. "To see the other side of where she came from."

Alva merely nodded and returned to reading the letter.

'Mrs. Hazeldon was very kind, but she is not of my world. I do not think that any good would come of us meeting again. She did wish to offer me some 'compensation' as she called it, for the grief her son brought to my family. I could not, in good conscience, take her money so I asked her to make the check out to you. This should be enough to pay for the medical bills you endured on my mother's behalf and, I hope, enough to convince you to not return and do the ritual to send my mother away forever.

I beg of you to accept this check and to forget about my family. We appreciate your help, but we have no further need of your involvement. We only wish to be left in peace.

May God shine down upon you and your good works.

Sincerely,

Meredith Albrecht'

Alva looked up from reading the letter, smiling.

"Evie?"

"Yes?"

He handed her the check with a flourish.

"Would you please arrange to deposit that check?"

She and Paul both smiled in agreement with his decision as Evelyn plucked the check from his hand with equal flourish.

"Gladly."

^

"That poor girl…"

Camille's teacup went almost forgotten in her hand and she put it on the coffee table almost as an afterthought.

Alva and Paul sat in silence in the Wolcott's living room in Connecticut, having told their tale and given Malcolm's mother the explanation they'd asked for.

Malcolm himself had born the tale, staring at the floor in silence the whole time.

"Mom?" he asked quietly. "Can I…"

"You can go, Malcolm," she told him. "I'd like to have a word with these gentlemen alone."

Malcolm nodded to them both by way of farewell and Paul and Alva did the same, Paul noting how hastily the teenager left the room.

"Are you satisfied with the results of our investigation?" Alva asked.

"I'm not sure that's the word I would use," Camille admitted. "But yes, you've answered the question we had about what caused it. I just had no idea the story behind the spirit would be so sad."

"Spirits rarely are the result of happy fulfilled lives," Paul pointed out quietly.

"I would imagine not." Camille rose and crossed to a lovely rosewood secretary desk, opening up a drawer with a key and removing a checkbook. "I have one final question to ask you." She settled down back on the couch opposite them and turned her gaze to both of them. "Is there any reason for us to fear this spirit might seek out Malcolm? To harm him again?"

"In my expert opinion," Alva said, using his most confident voice, "there is no reason to think Malcolm is in any danger. As long as he stays away from Meredith and Albrecht Farm he should have no further encounters with the spirit of Grace Thorne. She exists only to protect her daughter and Malcolm is not a threat all the way here in Connecticut."

"You have nothing to worry about," Paul assured her. "Your son is safe."

Camille let out a long breath. "That's a relief. Harrison had originally wanted to sue the Albrechts, but given Malcolm's role in what happened…" She paused for a second. "Well, let's just say there will be no lawsuit. Everyone is best served by just forgetting this ever happened."

"Agreed," Alva told her. "A wise move, I'd say."

She opened up her checkbook and wrote out a check, handing it over to Alva. "I may not fully understand all you do, but I'm happy to support it. Thank you."

Alva didn't even look at it, he just pocketed it.

"Thank you, Mrs. Wolcott." He rose and the rest of them followed suit, Alva shaking her hand first then Paul. "We'll see ourselves out."

Walking down the front walkway of the Wolcott family home, Paul nudged Alva with his elbow. "How much was the check for?"

"I have no idea."

"You really didn't look?"

"No." Alva turned and gave him a little smirk of a smile. "Meredith's check more than sufficiently covered our expenses for this case - including all the medical bills - so whatever Mrs. Wolcott gave us is merely icing on the cake."

Paul stopped him, rolling his eyes, and reached into Alva's jacket to pull the check out. Alva merely huffed in a good-natured fashion at the intrusion and went to open up the car.

Paul looked at the amount on the check, eyes widening.

"Keel? We are definitely not taking the bus for our next case."

"Well, it's good to see things are back to normal," Alva said, getting into the car as Paul did the same.

"What do you mean?" Paul asked, putting on his seatbelt.

Alva chuckled as he started the car.

"You're back to calling me Keel."

^

The chess match was well under way when Paul asked the question he'd been avoiding for weeks.

"Did you ever want to go back - to the barn I mean, after you got out of the hospital?"

Alva looked up, brow furrowed. "Why? We agreed that the best course of action for all involved was to not attempt to exorcise the spirit of Grace Thorne."

"Not for that…" Paul ran a hand through his hair. "You lost a lot of blood there - a lot. And I just figured you had to have wondered…"

Alva's eyes lit up in understanding. "You thought perhaps I'd go looking for evidence of hemography in the hopes that there would be a message amongst the rubble written in my own blood?"

"Well," Paul vacillated. "Yes."

"Hmm…" Alva analyzed the board and moved one of his chess pieces. "The answer is I did not. I have no desire to go back there, nor do I believe that I would be one of the few whose blood formed words on its own." He glanced across the board. "I was serious when I said you were special, Paul. And it wasn't an overestimation. There are precious few people like you in the world. As much as I wish for greater importance in the grand scheme of things, I am merely an observer, a recorder if you will, of those mystical events that happen around me, but not to me."

"You figured if they saw something like that in the barn they'd tell us," Paul guessed.

"Essentially." Alva pointed to the chess board. "It's your move."

Paul stared at the board for a while then moved a piece.

"So you don't want it to happen to you or you just believe it won't?"

"Does it matter?"

"For the sake of my question it does," Paul pointed out.

Alva sat back for a moment, thoughtful. "Wanting to be special, to be different, is often a double edged sword as you well know. You yourself were graced with the gift of healing after what were likely mortal injuries in your car accident, yet the cost was the life of a young boy." Paul bristled, yet Alva continued. "The problem with inviting such special treatment is that one never knows what the gift comes wrapped in, what perils might accompany the blessing one hopes for. Your studies in the church showed you that saints were blessed with miracles by God, yet they tended to die horrific deaths as martyrs."

"And seeing as how the God is Nowhere people met horrific deaths…"

"Precisely." Alva moved a chess board piece. "I, for one, still believe it's a time to keep one's head down and that includes metaphysically speaking."

"But if I'm like a beacon to all this spiritual energy, like you said before, aren't you putting yourself in more danger by being around me?"

"Some risks we choose to take on," Alva explained. "There is investigation and there is foolhardy behavior. I intend to pursue the former and hopefully avoid the latter. And yes…" He fixed Paul in his gaze. "You are a lightning rod for the storm to come, but if I'm going to be of any use, I can't hide in a bunker and pray for the rain to pass."

"You're a brave man, Keel," Paul said, moving a chess piece.

"Ah, but that's vastly preferable to a stupid one," Alva said, beaming. He moved a chess piece then lifted his hand from it with an air of finality. "Checkmate!"

^

Most of the able bodied Amish men and women in the community had come out to help with the barn demolition. They'd hooked yoked horses to the frame and pulled the last of it down then set about removing the debris.

Children helped, those old enough to be careful with stray nails. They carried small pieces of wood to put in piles, separating it from the tools and other debris in the pile.

Meredith worked alongside her aunt and uncle, carrying as much as she could in each trip. As she went to carry part of a broken beam, she fumbled it, its weight too much for her.

"No, no!" Jakob rushed over and took the beam from her arms. "That's too heavy for you. Let me take it." The teenager lifted the beam in his strong arms. "See, I can handle it. I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself."

"Thank you, Jakob," Meredith said shyly. She picked up a smaller portion of beam - one she could handle - and they walked off side by side to deposit their burdens on the appropriate pile.

As they headed back for more a young girl passed them, using her apron to carry smaller pieces of wood, mostly thin planks. When she dumped out her load onto the pile she frowned. Her nice white apron had been stained a rusty reddish-brown. She tried to rub it away and most of it came off, dried as it was.

She looked down to the wood pile to see what had gotten on her and she found one of the pieces of wood had the same color on it. She cocked her head looking at it, confused, since it had letters on it in the same shade as her apron stain.

"H-E-L-P U-S," she spelled out.

"Look out!"

One of the older boys came up behind her with a big armload of wood and she quickly got out of the way as he dumped it on top, burying the plank she'd been looking at.

"Come on," her father called out to her. "No standing about! Get back to work!"

"Yes, Father!" She hustled back to fetch more wood, obedient to her father's wishes.

At the bonfire that night no one noticed a plank with dried blood on it when they threw it in the fire. No one noticed the words going up in flames. No one saw the message.

The flames licked at each letter and then consumed them, leaving only ash behind.

^^
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 31st, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
Confession
This was written for deejay's winning bid at Sweet Charity. It's horribly late, but she's been wonderfully patient with me - so much so I figured she more than earned this being so much longer than the original offer. Miracles has so few novellas in the fandom, I figured this was my chance to increase my offer to her and gift the fandom with a rare long piece.

In an attempt to get external help kicking myself to finish this I signed up for the Small Fandom Big Bang Challenge at smallfandom. Being a small fandom fan I'm grateful that someone decided to give the small fandom fen a chance to big bang even if their fandoms didn't run any of their own. They don't provide art, which technically keeps it from being a proper big bang, but since I felt the story deserved it, I went out and found my own artist to create cover art for the piece.

Art Credit: Bigbang cover art by a_blackpanther (Thank you so much!)

This was a rare ficfinishing that I didn't get done during the round I signed up for it in, but I attribute that to it being so long. Another one I signed up for - Mile Mountain Road (a Numb3rs fic) - also didn't get done because it was too long to finish in a month. (Just when I thought I was almost finished I realized the muse meant for that to be just the prologue for a far longer epic H/C fic. /headdesk/)

AFAIK everything in this story is fictional so even though there may be tours out there with similar names I had no real people or place or businesses in mind when I wrote this.

I was very bad about posting Miracles fic this year, in favor of putting my Miracles efforts towards finishing this super long piece. I hope to be forgiven for my absence and to return to writing short Miracles fic more frequently in the year to come.

/waves to all the Miracles fen out there/

Very special thanks to artist a_blackpanther and betas sailorhathor and melissima for their assistance with this fic.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
Killa: paul alva dinerkillabeez on January 1st, 2010 11:57 am (UTC)
What a wonderful gift! This was great. Like watching an episode, with lovely, meaningful dialogue and the characters portrayed just as they were in the show. I love all the attention given to the original characters (particularly Meredith and her mother), and the way their story impacts the SQ team. The chess scene at the end was particularly lovely, and made me smile. Absolutely true to the show. You should be very proud of this! And I can only imagine deejay will enjoy it. Your Alva is terrific.
Karen: bh mitchell smilebyrons_brain on January 1st, 2010 11:58 am (UTC)
Woohooo! miracles fic I can't wait to read it!
BiP: Jericho: Jakeboysinperil on January 1st, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
Absolutely absolutely lovely, and makes me miss the show so terribly. I can see this in my head, though, and it's a lovely episode.

I need a Miracles icon. Will have to use Skeet instead.