Title: may you find some comfort here
Written for: disanddat at livejournal - who 'brought' me at Summary: in the arms of an angel, may you find some comfort there.
Rating: PG15
Pairing: hints of Max/Tess, Max/Valenti and Tess/Valenti
Word Count: 1402
Warning: angst.
Note: Set after Surprise (2x03). :)

You stare down at the petite girl in you arms and wonder how much it took to break her; to make her become such a frail mess. Max drives your car through the desert night and the ride is bumpy – and she shakes in your arms.

You'll never look at her the same, you know that much.

Bruises mar her pale skin and dry blood flakes in her hair. Max healed her before you all left the power station – but she was still too weak to stay awake, and he didn't have enough power to heal her fully (which seems so unrealistic to you; he's healed bullet wounds but he can't heal some bruising?).

She whimpers softly and you wonder what she's thinking; what she might be dreaming of. Max sighs beside you and god dammit if you don't feel like you've failed these kids. You're the town sheriff for christ sake – you're supposed to protect them! You want to reach out to him – to both of them – and say you're sorry; sorry for hunting them last year, sorry for letting them get hurt so badly by people like Whittaker and Pierce and Hubble – but you stay silent and stroke her dirty hair instead.

"We should be just outside of town soon," Max murmurs after a long silence. "Maybe you should call Kyle? He must be worried."

You're sure he would be if you weren't the sheriff. You're late home most nights – Kyle's probably already asleep, or maybe he'll still be up watching football recaps on ESPN. Either way, you're not going to call so you shrug off the idea.

She whimpers again and you both tense up. You can see Max's knuckles turn faintly white on the steering wheel, but he doesn't so much as glance away from the road. You must be starting to get into town now though, because light from street posts flood the car and you can see Max's face – tight, taunt and looking like he's ready to kill.

How did these kids get so fucking broken?

You've seen it in all four of them; Michael and Isabel included. That look – that fucking jaded, cynical look. You suppose it comes with the package – being alien. They're true outcasts; and as weird and wrong as it is you want nothing more then to take Max and Tess and drive them away from this shithole town, tuck them away somewhere safe where no one can hurt them again.

The car slows and you realize your home. The lights seem to all be off – so you suppose Kyle has already crashed out on the couch. You sigh softly, watching as Max climbs out of the car and stumbles around to your side, popping open the door so you can slide out with Tess cradled in your arms. You grunt your thanks as you both make your way to the front door, where he silently takes Tess from your arms so you can unlock it. You glance at them out of the corner of your eye and realize just how right they look together. A perfect picture of perverted melancholy; with blood and bruises and dark brooding eyes – and that thought might just haunt you to the grave.

Kyle doesn't even stir as you quietly enter the house, leading Max into the bedroom that was once your son's, but is now Tess's. He lays her on the old bed, her dirty blonde hair forming the perfect tainted halo around her face. You shift uncomfortably as Max stares at you in silence for several moments.

"We should run her a bath," he says finally; and you exhale silently at his words as the moment was shattered blissfully. "Clean her up. I don't think she'd appreciate waking up tomorrow smelling like death."

You chuckle at his words but he shuffles awkwardly with downcast eyes when he realizes what he's said. You point him towards the bathroom and watch him leave before you start to take off her clothes. Her tee is ruined, stained with dark blotches of blood. But you fold it perfectly and leave it beside her bed; who knows, maybe she likes it and maybe she can fix it because sometimes material possessions can be fixed – and even if you can't fix her, maybe helping her out by giving her a chance to fix her belongings will make things a bit better. You shuffle her out of her jeans too – leaving her in her cotton panties and bra. You swallow deeply, looking over her bruised and battered body.

Fuck pretty much covers it.

Max comes back in after a moment – and you see him falter at the doorway when he sees her. But he covers well, and simply strides over and scoops her back into his arms, close to his chest. You feel kind of useless now, but you follow them down the hall to your bathroom. The water is still running slowly as Max slips Tess into the bath. The room smells like the vanilla salts you know Tess uses – and you barely resist a smile as you realize Max has noticed that about her.

Max turns off the taps then and turns back to you to ask for a cloth. You nod and bend over to grab one from the cupboard under the sink – you can feel Max's eyes follow you which makes you feel awkward and old. But when you turn back with the cloth, Max is watching Tess and cradling her tenderly.

You stand gawkily in the bathroom door for long minutes, watching Max slowly run the cloth over Tess's limp body. Eventually you move slowly over to the toilet and turn down the lid so you can sit and wait. Max doesn't say anything and neither do you and the silence is comfortably deafening.

His hands are slow and deliberate as they move the cloth along her body. Flakes of blood turn the water murky red and you barely resist the urge to gag at the sight before you. You notice that some of the bruises blotching her skin are gone and Max's eyes are drooping. A glance at your watch tells you it's well after one in the morning and he's done a lot of healing tonight. With a frustrated sigh, you gently push Max aside and lift Tess out of the bathtub; remembering to yank out the plug and watching the dirty water wash down the drain.

Max leans against the wall as you prop Tess up on the toilet seat and rub her dry with a towel. She's starting to whimper in her sleep again so you whisper a few nonsensical words of comfort in her ear as Max squats down beside you and holds her hand. After a moment, you finish drying her as best as you can and Max carries her down the hallway, you on his heels.

You take Kyle's football jersey out of the closet and slip it over her while Max holds her up. You remember Kyle complaining about her wearing it but you're sure he wouldn't mind her using it right now.

Max slides her into the bed between the cottons sheets before yanking off his shoes and slipping in next to her. Now – for the first time this evening – you feel like you're really intruding on a private moment. Your breath hitches in your throat as Max curls up beside Tess and after a long second, you turn to leave.

"Sheriff?"

Max's voice startles you and causes you to jump slightly before you turn back to look at him with a face of solid indifference. "Sheriff, do you mind staying here tonight? Please."

This is wrong – that's the first thing that pops into your mind. You don't say a word though because you don't actually want to say anything; you just want to stay and hold them tight and kiss away their pain and you just want to run, run from the room and the house and this fucking shithole town. But you don't hold them or kiss them or run away; you just slump down on the hard floor beside the bed and close your eyes and listen to the two teens sleep a sleep without peace. You were never very good at comforting people anyway.