For the Yuletide gift fic exchange.

Iris believed herself to be a faith healer; the truth was she was a telepath. Post "Iris", she is making a new life for herself.

Iris liked to sit in the church when no-one else was there, or at least no-on who was close enough to interfere with her moment of meditation. The gentle play of light from the candles and the coloured patterns cast by the stained glass, the scent of flowers and wax and polish, and the hushed silence made for a calming presence.

She was still becoming used to her telepathic powers and sometimes it was overwhelming to be surrounded by other people. She always felt a pang of guilt when she accidentally overheard someone's private thoughts – sometimes, someone's prayers.

Her faith had been shaken by the revelation that she was not a healer – and, worse, that her uncle had been using her to trick people into giving him money. Toby Logan had shown her that she did still have a gift; it just wasn't the one she thought it was. He was in a position to know, being a telepath himself. She was not a complete fraud, and that knowledge had sustained her as the rest of her life threatened to come crashing down around her ears.

Telepathy wasn't as immediately beneficial to others in the way being a healer would have been; though, she quickly realised, mind-reading could have its uses. Toby was certainly using his gift for good, not least when he'd helped her, both saving her life and uncovering the truth about her talent.

She'd since found a legal guardian from within the Church, someone who could give her the protection she needed until she was undisputedly of age. There were still other legal issues to resolve, though these were being taken care of by people far more capable in those areas than Iris was. People she trusted - and, thanks to her gift, knew they were worthy of her trust. She'd fired two lawyers and one accountant on the basis of what she read in their minds.

There were also the issues around her faith; many of those who genuinely felt she had healed them continued to laud her publicly even as others criticized her, despite the fact she had been an unwilling and unwitting pawn in her uncle's scheme. She repeated herself often; she had never meant to deceive anyone. And one of the major tenets of the Christian faith was forgiveness, and she never hesitated to remind those who still condemned her of that.

Iris had thought a lot about her past experiences. Maybe she had helped heal some of those people. She had always thought of herself as merely a conduit for God to work through in order to heal people and perhaps, while she had been deluded about the precise nature of her gift, He had, on occasion, still chosen to use her to do His work.

Perhaps she'd given some people hope and that had helped them recover, their spirits buoyed so that their bodies were better able to use modern medicine to heal. Perhaps other people had just needed someone to be there for them, to know they were cared for and loved; to feel that God truly was there for them.

It was unwise to underestimate how important that sense of belonging was, that need for connection. Iris was increasingly aware of how often people felt lonely and afraid, regardless of their faith - whatever form it took - or lack thereof.

She was planning on becoming some sort of therapist or counsellor, possibly even a psychologist, for she was more determined than ever to help people. Toby's friend Ray Mercer was such a person, according to the occasional emails she exchanged with Toby, an expert in matters of the mind. Ray had helped Toby to understand his gift, though he lacked it himself, and that was something Toby was would always be as grateful for as she was for Toby's support when she'd most needed it.

Since she was a telepath, she hoped she could do even more good than Ray Mercer, able to couple her training and learned expertise with her natural, God-given talent. For what better way to help people than by being there for those who admitted they needed someone to listen to them?

She would see - or more accurately, hear - through the deceptions and the white lies her clients would admit to, and so be able to gain a deeper understanding of their real problems. The ones they could barely to admit themselves, let alone voice aloud. Their deepest fears and emotional wounds would be laid bare before her and she would understand and, God willing, she would help them. It was a solemn responsibility.

Her faith had not deserted her; she'd merely stumbled a moment before righting herself on the path she believed had been chosen for her. It was ever her mainstay despite her difficulties.

She steepled her hands in prayer, her eyes closed.

Dear Lord, she prayed. Thank you for this moment of peace. Please bless Toby Logan, without whom I might still be walking the wrong path. Let him do your work without being overburdened by his gift. Help me as I strive to help others. And please, if there are others like us out there, watch over them. Let them embrace and accept this gracious gift. Help me and Toby find them, or help them to find us, so we can support and teach other.

And if that is not yet Your will, let them find someone like Dr Mercer, who will be a much needed friend when they discover and while they hone their talent. No-one should be alone, afraid of their gift, or ridiculed for it, and while You watch over us all, we allneed a human touch. Your teachings tell us how we must stand together, and love our fellows, and I pray that I can reach out and help those who cannot themselves. Amen.

A smile spread over her face as she opened her eyes, comforted by this unburdening. Iris tucked one strand of hair behind her ear and stood. It hadn't been easy, adjusting to her new circumstances but she was never alone in doing so, and gift or no, would never be so.