To Speak As A Child
A MILLENNIUM fan fiction
JMM & Mandi
"The joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and
Grace held her hands against the earphones, pressing them even closer to her ears. The beat pounded through her bones and she rocked in time to it, crouched in a near foetal position with her elbows resting on her knees. Lights and shadows flicked by her through the checked thin woodwork of the walls around her. She could see the wood bend and shudder as the stairs over her head let down a rain of dust as someone heavy pounded up them. She closed her eyes, and held her hand over her nose and mouth.
The music so completely blocked out any other sound she had to scramble to escape when the flimsy door flew back as if exploded off its hinges. She flinched from the hand that reached down from above and hauled her into the light. The hand held her shirt in one knotted fist under her throat, holding her inches off the floor. Her head banged up against the panelling, stinging tears to her eyes. She felt the cold hard end of a pistol shoved painfully under her jaw, and forced her eyes open.
"You don't know do you?" he said. His voice started as an urgent whisper, rising with every syllable until he was shouting. "You think you can just hide away in your dark little hole and no one will find you. No one will bother you. You think so, don't you?" With every 'you' he pounded her against the wall. "You don't know! I know." He ripped the headphones off. His voice dropped to a desperate conspiratorial whisper. "I know how they come in the night, how they can hide in the smallest shadow. Only I know. Only I can save you. You have to believe me. They are out there. I know it."
"Say you believe me. Say it!"
"I believe you, Daddy." She could barely get the words out, the gun pressing against her throat making a knot where her voice should be.
He moved the gun away by a centimeter, and she drew her first breath for what seemed like several minutes. He let her slide down the wall until her toes touched the floor. "I'm doing my best for you, you know that, don't you?" His eyes changed, seemed to soften as they focused on her instead of the visions inside him.
"Yes, Daddy," Grace whispered.
"My beautiful little girl," he crooned, nearly wept. The hand holding the gun went to her temple and brushed back a stray fragment of hair. He tucked it behind her ear. "My pretty one." He kissed her forehead. "You're growing up so fast. You're going to break all the boys hearts one day soon, aren't you?"
"Yes, Daddy," she agreed. Then at the steeling hardness growing like shards through his eyes, "No, Daddy. No I wouldn't. Honestly, I wouldn't. I- I-"
He slammed her back against the wall. "JUST like your mother! If I had a lick of sense I would keep you locked up in that little hole you seem to like so much." He let her go as if she'd suddenly turned into something soft and squirmy in his hand, brushing her off with disgust.
"No, Daddy. No Daddy, really. I wouldn't. Daddy, please."
"Get out. Get out of my sight." Grace stared at him. She slid away from him, along the wall, until she turned and ran for the door. "GET OUT!" he called even as the screen door slammed behind her.
"Dad, do tattoos hurt?"
Peter Watts clicked up the screensaver on his computer to hide the images on his monitor and looked up at his fifteen year old daughter. His eyes narrowed as he drew his thoughts away from the gruesome murder case he'd been studying. "Yes, they hurt," he said, his voice darkening in a 'why do you want to know' undertone.
"'Cause Jerry said they didn't, or only at first."
"You're not going to get a tattoo, Taylor."
She pouted prettily, not really upset or surprised that he guessed her game so easily, scouting his opinion without actually asking permission. "Please, Daddy. They're cool. Everyone's getting one."
"Not everyone. I don't have one."
She tossed her head at this piece of illogic. "You know what I mean. Just a little one, like a butterfly... or a rose."
Peter barely suppressed a shudder. "No."
"Oh sure, make me the outcast!"
"Taylor..." he warned. Taylor raised her hands, gesturing surrender. He took a deep breath after she left and clicked up the screen he'd been working on. With a frowning eyebrow, he noticed a photo clip in one corner and enlarged it to fill the screen. Identifying marks, it listed, with accompanying photos, rose with thorns tattoo encircling right wrist. His fingers traced the photo on the screen as his eyes closed briefly in pain.
"Promise me something," Grace whispered.
"Mmmm?" Jeff Turner lay on his back staring upwards. The light from the campfire lit the underside of the leaves of the big arching maples above them. Though the night was still, the light made it look like the tree was reaching down to him, creeping towards him.
"Promise me you'll take me with you when you go."
"What?" Jeff turned and looked at Grace, blinking a couple times to focus on her.
Grace pulled the corner of the blanket they lay on around her shoulders, feeling the evening chill for the first time. "You got that look. I know that look. You're planning on going. I can tell." They were mostly off the blanket spread over the grassy ground between the roots of the maple, and Jeff rolled over and started pulling on his pants and boots again, giving her the rest of the blanket.
"Is that why you slept with me? So that I would take you with me-"
Grace wrapped the blanket around herself like a toga. Hurt lined her voice as she spoke. "I slept with you because you wanted me to-"
A shot cracked through the night, followed by a hollered "Yee-haw!" Another shot.
They scrambled to their feet. "Todd! You idiot!" Jeff was still pulling on his jeans as he hobbled/crashed his way back to the fire. His friend Todd aimed a rifle somewhere over his head, waving it unsteadily with one hand, the other occupied with a half empty beer. Jeff swatted the gun aside. "You moron! What the fuck-"
"You 'bout done there, you two?" Todd asked swayingly. "I saw a possum, I think. Could be a 'coon. Something moving up there anyway."
"Are you totally fucked up, you moron? We were under that tree!"
Todd looked like he was seriously considering the consequences for a moment, until his face creased in a wicked grin. "That woulda been funny, heh? A possum come falling out of the sky just as you'n Grace-"
"Shut up, you moron," Jeff said, but couldn't hide the embarrassed grin in his voice. He ripped the beer out of Todd loose grip and finished it off himself. "Do you have to shoot at everything that moves?"
"Well, that's not much," Todd sneered drunkenly. "This whole town is dead."
Neither of his friends had any response to this. Grace looked at Jeff, who pointedly did not look at her. Grace got herself a beer, and plopped down by the river's edge letting her feet float in the water. She fell back against the grass, sighing heavily. The blanket fell open in suggestive places, but she didn't care, hardly noticed. The summer's heat still lingered late into September and the night air was heavy with it.
"We may as well be dead," she said, as if to herself. "What difference would it make to anyone?"
Jeff caught Todd staring at Grace's exposed breast, and poked his friend in the ribs with an elbow. Todd jumped and pushed Jeff away. Jeff laughed at him. "Go ahead, man. I don't give a shit."
"Naw, man, I couldn't," Todd said. "She's your girlfriend."
"She's not my girlfriend."
Grace had rolled over to watch this exchange and these words brought her to her feet. "You could at least wait until I was out of earshot before talking about me behind my back." Fuck you, her eyes said. Fuck you Jeff Turner.
She let the blanket fall open to her waist. "You want this?" she teased Todd.
Todd barely managed to nod as he stared. He looked up at his friend who shouldered the rifle and sighted down the barrel. "How much your old man pay for this thing?" Jeff asked.
Grace spared a glare for Jeff, but led Todd off to the spot she'd left barely minutes ago.
"Promise me something."
Peter was still working a short time later when Erin spoke, standing with two cups of coffee in her hands, leaning against the doorway to his office. His gaze was drawn away from the case he was still reviewing. A teenage gang of girls beat another to death for the crime of being unpopular.
"I heard about her," Erin said, distracted from what she was about to say, by the words she could read on the screen.
He clicked off the monitor and turned to face his eldest daughter.
"Promise you what?" Peter asked, ignoring her comment and knowing better than to promise up front.
"Promise me you'll give me your honest opinion, but only on the question asked."
Peter had an inkling what was coming. There was only one subject between him and his eldest daughter right now. Erin handed him one of the cups. Erin leaned back against the doorframe, sipping her own, and raised an eyebrow at her father.
"That will stunt your growth," he replied, indicating the coffee with one eyebrow.
Erin lazily stood and uncoiled to her full height, only an inch or two less than Peter. "I certainly hope so," she smiled.
"What's the question?"
"Promise me, first."
He hesitated a second, then said, "I promise."
She gave him a handful of brochures, universities that she was considering applying to. He turned them over and over in his hands as if he was studying them, but he really didn't see them.
"USC San Diego has a very good psychology program, Stanford for computers and Princeton - business. I've narrowed it down to those three, for now." She shifted in her chair. "I talked to the FBI recruiter the other day. He said the best degree to get before going into the FBI was either psychology, computers or business."
Peter's expression became guarded, and less than pleased. "He's right," he admitted. "And any one of them will give you a good start on something else if you change your mind."
"I'm not going to change my mind, Dad. And you promised."
"Four or five years ago you were going to be a Navy pilot."
She laughed. "That was more than ten years ago, Dad. Just after we saw Top Gun the first time."
"Then those flying lessons were for nothing?"
"I learned to fly," she said, her face lighting up. "That wasn't for nothing."
Peter looked down at the pamphlets again. He swallowed hard against something stuck in his throat. "Stanford," he said, "if you want my opinion." He handed them back to her.
"San Diego is cheaper," Erin said.
"Stanford is closer," Peter replied.
This time Erin swallowed, looked down, then back up at her father. "I still have to take my SAT's."
"You'll do fine," he smiled confidently.
Erin's gaze shifted to the screen behind him. "Don't you think you should let me know what I'm in for?"
"No," Peter said, finally.
"You can't protect me for the rest of my life," she said with some asperity.
"I can sure as hell try," he said, turning back to the computer.
She came up behind him and linked her arms around his neck, and kissed him on top of his bald head. "I'll apply to all three," she said, "then decide."
Peter acknowledged this with a nod, his attention already falling back into the case on the screen. Erin stuck her head back in the room, remembering something she meant to mention earlier. "Can you or Mom talk to Chelsea, when you get a chance? Something's been bugging her for days now."
Peter's eyebrows drew together in concern. "What about?"
Erin shrugged. "I don't know. She won't talk to me about it."
To be Continued