Disclaimer: Regretfully not mine.

A/N: Written for Challenge #022 'forgiveness' at the ygodrabble Community on LiveJournal.

Regrets and Retribution

© Scribbler, December 2010.

The cuffs were solid and heavy, but not metal. Some kind of durable plastic? Valon concentrated on small things, because the big things threatened to chew up and spit him back onto the pavement. His attention went to the flickery blue lights, muffled sirens and scuffle-thump of boots around him.

Someone bent close. They sounded like they were underwater. He stared blankly. Man or woman? Impossible to tell. The face was just a smear topped by the darker blotch of a hat and a neon splash of hi-vis vest beneath. Eventually whoever-it-was left. Valon's eyes dropped to his hands, rubbing one knuckle against the edge of the cuff. The skin was red and sore. The discomfort was grounding. If he could still feel things, there was still hope. It was when you stopped feeling that you were really screwed.

Feeling, hearing seeing, smelling – a sensory overload of violence and regret. His brain fired off unwanted replays of rage, begging, hot salty tears and smoke in his throat. The crunch of bone against metal would stay in his head forever. It wasn't like punching. He'd thought it would be. If he'd known the truth, he wouldn't have picked up that pipe. He would have just left it behind the dumpster.

Or would he? He hadn't exactly been Mr. Rational. Maybe part of him knew it would plague him afterwards – a perpetually looped noise like biting into an apple and then throwing it to splatter on concrete. Maybe that part was setting him up for the guilt because it knew what he was doing was wrong.

"Turn the other cheek," Sister Mary Catherine said the first time she caught him fighting. And the second. And the fourteenth. And the twenty-ninth. "If you sink to the level of people who see violence as the only way to solve problems, you become just as bad."

"So you're saying I should take it while they beat the crap out of me?" he'd asked, incredulous.

"No, I'm saying you should walk away."

"But if they're dissing –"

"Just walk away."

"But if they wanna rumble, I can't –"

"The Lord will fight for you; you have only to be still." She'd smiled, ruffling his hair. "Exodus 14."

Nobody ruffled his hair. Nobody ever touched him unless it was a smack for being late, flunking school, talking back, or just existing in a way they didn't like. He'd tried to make her understand. It wasn't just fighting for himself anymore. Living with his dad, Valon was used to picking his battles, but for her; for her precious tumbledown church –

"Love your enemies; pray for persecutors."

"But –"

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. I can keep going."

"More bible stuff?"

Her laughter was like snowfall on hot skin. "Yes, more 'bible stuff'. I am a nun. It's required reading."

Valon wasn't religious. Her world wasn't his. Her rules weren't his. Yet her simple kindness offered a glimpse at something so different and wonderful: someone who actually cared – about him – and wanted nothing in return. He wanted so badly to please her, but he also wanted to protect her. He was the kid, but she was the naïve one.

She'd promised it was okay if he slipped, as long as he repented. She knew he meant well underneath it all. He always apologised, she always forgave him, and they were fine until the next time some punk tried to make trouble and he had to do the wrong thing to do what he thought was right.

Valon couldn't apologise this time. Sister Mary Catherine couldn't hear anyone anymore, and though not an expert, he was pretty sure 'thou shalt not kill' was one of those big sins you couldn't come back from. Still, he bent his sweaty head against the cool plastic cuffs and spoke his first words in hours.

"I'm sorry."