Title: Angel of Mercy

Pairing: Richard Dunn and Sallie Graham

Summary: Richard remembers a moment from high school. Sallie decides to try and relive it.

She was peaceful when she slept. Her chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm. Her face was free of bags and wrinkles. Her lips were parted slightly, with only a stream of air passing through them. It was a welcome contrast to her daytime personality. What he wouldn't give to keep her like this forever…

Richard Dunn edged off of the bed, leaving the sleeping angel behind him. He was glad for the coziness of his trailer. It allowed him to go about his business without her being too far away from him. It would be a different story around noon. That was when she left to return to her own home. Sure, Quint was constantly buzzing in and out to keep an eye on her when he couldn't. But he didn't like the thought of her leaving his sight. Anything could happen to her.

He was rifling through the fridge when his trailer door opened. Quint stuck his head inside, glancing back towards the bedroom for a second. "How is she?"

"Same as usual."

Quint nodded, satisfied with the answer. They went about their daily routine. Richard made breakfast while his son set the table and checked in on their charge. She usually slept for most of the morning anyway. It made him feel better to know that she was being looked after, regardless of where it was.

The two sat down to breakfast. For a few minutes, there were only sounds of forks clanging on and scraping across plates. It didn't take long, however, for Quint to bring up the gossip he'd heard.

"I went to see Becky last night. She said that FBI guy showed up at her house to ask about Anna."

"I'm surprised he knew where she lives," Richard said. He kept his emotions in check. It didn't do him any good to show how annoyed he was. Let his words give him away…that was what he always did. It kept him out of trouble.

Quint was less skilled at it. His hand tightened around the knife for a second. "He's making her upset and I don't like it. She's upset enough. I mean, she just lost her best friend and this guy is making it worse."

"Hmm."

"I had to take over some more stabilizer. I don't know how else to help Becky, Dad. What should I do?"

Richard shrugged. "Son, if I knew how to help women, your mother would still be around." And there wouldn't be another one in my bed, he thought.

"Well I'm going to do right by Becky. I'm going to make sure that whoever killed Anna gets locked up. And then I'm going to have a talk with this FBI guy about sneaking around people's houses and prying into their private lives."

Richard chuckled. This Agent Morgan fellow had quickly become the talk of the town. His mannerisms were beyond strange, and the questions he asked always put people on edge. Even he had trouble maintaining his composure around him. Of course, there was no need to worry about him prying into the Dunn family drama anymore. They'd established the boundaries at the town meeting, when York tried to ask about him and Sallie.

"So, what are your plans for today?" he asked Quint.

"Not much. I was going to run a couple of errands, check on Sallie, then visit Becky again before I start my shift. Why? You got something in mind?"

Yeah, I do, Richard thought. He'd heard a rumor last night at the bar. Apparently Sallie had wandered over to the Milk Barn yesterday while York was talking with the Ingrams. It wasn't the first time she had done that, but that was enough to spark the agent's interest. One of Sallie's neighbors had mentioned seeing York drive by her house and stopping to look at it.

"Dad? You okay?"

"Quint, I need you to do me a favor today. I won't interfere with your time with Becky. But I need you to stay with Sallie today."

"Its because of that FBI agent, right?"

His son was always a quick one. Hot tempered, yes, but part of that was due to his ability to process information instantly. Richard had never been able to keep secrets from Quint. The boy would spot them immediately. "Yeah, that guy is making me nervous."

"Did he do something to Sallie?"

"No. Not yet, anyway. I've heard that he's been sneaking around her house. I'm afraid that he's going to try and question her. We all know that she's in no state to talk to anyone, and she doesn't know what happened the night her daughter was killed. I don't want her to fall off the wagon again."

Quint nodded and stood up, taking the dishes with him. "You got it, Dad. I'll make a quick stop at the Milk Barn and stay at Sallie's house until you're ready to come get her."

"Thanks, Quint."

His son grabbed two sets of keys off of the counter. Before he left, he turned back to his father. "You know, what you said earlier isn't true."

"Which part?"

"Sallie's in no state to talk to anyone. Anyone except you." He tipped his hat and shut the door behind him. There was the roar of his car engine, and then only silence.

Richard allowed himself to grin. Yeah, his son was a bright one. He had seen what was between him and Sallie before Richard even knew himself. He could see it now, of course. He felt like a fool for not recognizing it earlier.

For once, he just sat at the table instead of jumping up to start the day's work. There was something soothing about the silence, both inside and outside of the trailer. Everything was at peace. Somewhere, a federal agent was trying to stir up trouble and irritate the citizens of Greenvale. But it wasn't here. And for that, he was grateful.

"Richard? Where…"

His eyes snapped open. He hadn't heard Sallie get out of bed or walk into the kitchen. She was standing at the threshold, her eyes darting from him to the door and back again. He jumped up and guided her to the table. She was already disoriented, but she didn't fuss.

"Sallie, its early. Are you sure you want to be up?"

"Anna…where is Anna? I can't…"

"She's still away, Sallie. Would you like some breakfast? Quint is going to keep you company today, if that's alright with you."

"Mmhmm," she muttered. Richard angled himself while he gathered her breakfast so he could still have one eye on her. It was quickly becoming his routine. Sallie wasn't a suicide risk, but she was a flight risk. How many times had someone called to tell him that she was wandering around, delusional and confused? It broke his heart to see her like this, but he would do everything he could to help her heal and keep her safe.

She was still mumbling to herself when he sat back down. "Sallie?" He tried to break her out of her trance. "Can you try and eat some of this for me?" She continued muttering but broke it to nibble on a piece of toast. "That's it, dear. A little more. Good, good."

He gently coached her through the rest of her meal. By the time he had taken the dishes to the sink, she had given up on talking and just stared out of the window. It was such a contrast from the Sallie he had known his whole life. The pain she had been forced to endure was enough to put any person over the edge, though. He knew that. If something happened to his own son, he didn't know how he would react. His ex wife…well, she was still alive, and the split had been mutual to a degree. She hadn't been wrenched from him in a violent way. Sallie wasn't so lucky.

His mind went back to a time in high school. He and Sallie were both seniors, and the prom was rapidly approaching. She had no difficulty finding a date. One of the school jocks had asked her to go with him in the guise of a bouquet of roses in front of everyone in the cafeteria. He had simply asked a female friend. He had secretly wanted to ask Sallie himself, but he knew that he was out of her league. Besides, it was only high school. Who knew where they would end up after that?

Sallie, of course, had looked beautiful that night. She was easily the prettiest girl in the entire town. Richard tried to focus on his date, but it was hard knowing that the girl whose face had haunted his dreams was just a few feet away and she didn't notice him. He pushed through the night, laughing and dancing with his friends. It would be a lie to say that his prom wasn't enjoyable. He only wished that he'd had the courage to ask a different girl.

At the end of the night, everything changed. His date had gone to the bathroom, forcing him to sit out a slow dance. Or so he thought. Richard smiled as he remembered looking up into the face of an angel. Her blonde hair shone under the gym lighting and her blue dress fit her in all the right places. He barely heard her ask him, "Richard, what are you doing all by yourself? You should be dancing."

"My date's taking a break," he had managed to say.

She laughed. His heart melted. "Well then you'll have to dance with me instead." She grabbed his hand and hauled him into the middle of the gym. Everyone was staring at them. He didn't care. Here he was, dancing with the woman he'd wanted to be with all night, and she was the one who made it all happen. It was like a dream.

"You're not usually this quiet," she said. There had been a hint of playfulness in her voice.

He shrugged. "I've had a lot on my mind, that's all."

"Richard, I…um, I have something to confess to you."

He was sure she could hear his heart thumping. Why he was nervous, he couldn't say. He didn't know what he expected from her. She could be about to tell him that her shoes didn't match her dress and he wouldn't have cared. Just having her talk to him, confide in him, was all that mattered.

"What is it, Sallie?"

"Well, I know that I'm here with another guy and…well…uh…"

He chuckled. "Sallie, you're babbling. Just spit it out."

She laughed. It was a known trait of hers when she was nervous, to garble her words until someone calmed her down and she finally got it out of her system. "Richard," she said, motioning for him to move his head closer. He leaned in so she could whisper in his ear. "I think you're the most handsome man here tonight."

He had not been expecting that one. "Really? Well I'm flattered, but its not true."

"No, it is. I've always thought you were handsome but…well…now I know for sure." The music ended, but the two of them stayed in the center of all the dancers. Before he could react, she quickly kissed him on the cheek and melted into the crowd. He didn't know how long he stood there, grinning like an idiot with his hand to his face. It was still, to this day, one of his happiest memories.

"Richard…"

Her voice brought him back to reality. She was looking at him, pleading for something. He dropped the dishes in his hand and crossed the room in two strides. "What is it?"

"What were you thinking about?"

Her hands were shaking, so he took them in his from across the table. "It was nothing, Sallie. Would you like me to take you back to your house?"

"You were thinking about something…happy. What was it?"

She was coherent today. The least he could do was answer her. "I was thinking about our prom, when we were seniors." He squeezed her hands. "Its nothing important, Sallie. Don't worry…"

"I was the prettiest girl in town that night," she said, cutting him off. Her eyes glazed over as she remembered.

"That's right. You had a blue dress on and your hair was pinned up. All the girls were jealous of you, and the boys were fighting to dance with you."

"Yes…yes, I was the prettiest." She looked at him and smiled. "But…you were the most…handsome."

He shook his head. "No, I was just another one of the guys."

"No. You stood out. I remember…we danced together at the end. It was the best dance I had. I wish we had done it again."

Richard didn't know what to say. Usually when she talked about prom night, she talked about the gossip she'd heard and the compliments she'd received and the boys who'd tried to kiss her. Not once had she talked about their dance, their little moment in heaven when they were both eighteen. He had no idea that she still remembered their dance.

"You looked like an angel," she continued. "A bright light in a dark room. I…I wanted to dance with you all night."

"Its in the past, Sallie."

"Richard, can we dance again? Just like we did at prom?"

Where is she going with this? Richard wondered. "Maybe. First, you have to work on getting better. Can you do that for me?"

She stood up. He jumped up after her, afraid she would bolt from the trailer, but she just stood in the center of the room and held her hand out to him. Even in a tattered robe and messy hair, she looked like a goddess. "Please?" she asked him.

He sighed. "I guess there's no harm in it." He placed her arms on his shoulders and put his own on her waist, then began to sway to imaginary music. He thought of one of the songs in his jukebox, one of Sallie's favorites, and moved in time to the tune in his head.

Sallie had a different idea in mind. "No, like this." She lowered her hands to his chest and leaned against his left shoulder. His arms went protectively around her body. "I want to dance like this." She began to sway and he moved with her. It was much more intimate, much more dangerous. Richard found that he didn't care.

They moved like that for a minute. At some point, they stopped but remained locked in that embrace. Richard buried the memory deep inside of his heart where he wouldn't lose it. This was the Sallie that he remembered. This was the Sallie that he'd wanted to be with since he was a teenager. He knew that later, hopefully much later, she would return to the madness that consumed her daily. Right now, she was at peace. And that was all that mattered.

"Richard?"

"Yes?" he asked, his lips against her hair.

"Do you think Anna is really a goddess?"

He grinned. "How could she not be? Look at her mother. She is a goddess on Earth, so naturally Anna would be a goddess in Heaven."

"That makes you an angel," she said.

"No, Sallie. I'm just a poor sinner."

She shook her head against his chest. "No, no, no. You aren't poor and you aren't a sinner. You are an angel. My angel."

He planted a kiss against her forehead, soaking in this precious memory and locking her words away inside of him. Perhaps it was selfish, but for a second he was happy with the events that had taken place. Her tragedies had finally made room for him in her heart. Or maybe that room had already been there, and they needed to find a way to move in. Regardless, he was just happy that she was happy. He would do whatever it took to keep her that way.

"Richard?"

"Yes, Sallie?"

"I need to go find Anna's dress. Do you know where it is?"

Despite himself, he continued to smile and hold her close. "Its at your house. Would you like me to take you home? Quint will help you look for it. I can help later, if you'd like."

She took a minute to answer. "Not yet. Can we…"

He knew what she was asking, even though she couldn't ask it herself. "Of course, my dear. We can stay like this a little longer." She nuzzled in a little closer.

And so the angel held on to the goddess for another minute. Sorrow was kept at bay. Silence graced them with its presence. All was at peace.