Title: Angels Among Us
Characters: Sylar, Tammy Wilcox, Peter Petrelli, Claire Bennet
Warnings: Religious themes (treated respectfully)
Word count: 2,250
Setting: Less than a week after Brave New World, Post-series, part of Departed, But Not Forgotten (Dearly Departed and New Target).
Summary: Tammy finally gets the spiritual peace she's been looking for since her daughter, Jackie, was killed four years ago.
Notes: Written for heroes_contest prompt, "Demons". Beta read by means2bhuman.
"That's him?" Tammy asked Claire in a hushed whisper. Claire nodded.
Sylar sat Peter's dining room table, resisting the urge to pick at the wood and be as tiny and inoffensive as possible. It was one thing to deal with Peter, it seemed – they had a history and things were complicated. It was another to deal with Claire – she had survived Sylar's assault and he had tried to apologize. It was far more upsetting, oddly, to deal with this total stranger whom he'd wronged without even knowing she existed. So many people fell into that category. He might not be the person he used to be, but that didn't mean that person hadn't ruined the lives of many who might want to hold him accountable.
Tammy's first steps were tentative – no doubt looking him over, inspecting him and finding him wanting. He looked down, bowing his head, unable to continue facing her. He felt guilt chase through him, making his skin flush with warmth and then chill. His fingers twitched on the table's edge – so much for resisting the urge. He heard the scrape of a chair; the sound grating across his nerves as she sat down, a jingle and thump of her purse being placed on the floor next to her. She settled in, sitting with him rather than standing and railing or otherwise refusing to join him at the table. He raised his eyes, lips thin, face pale.
Tammy was in her late 40s – white, dumpy, and short, with long, auburn hair in a simple, conservative style, held back by small clips. Her outfit was similarly unassuming – it matched - orange and yellow, unaccountably sunny given the somber purpose of her visit - but nothing fancy. She wore a small Star of David on a thin necklace and a plain wedding ring on her left hand. She looked weathered and kind of tough, like her life had not been easy, but that she'd held up under the load. Sylar swallowed and blinked, knowing he was the cause of some of that burden.
"They say you're the one who killed my da-" Tammy took a deep breath and cleared her throat at the catch. "My daughter, Jackie … Jacqueline. Is that true?"
He nodded. "Yes." With an effort, his eyes met hers. She deserved that much and more. He thought his own mother and how she would have felt to have lost her only son when he was a teen. He wondered if Tammy had any other children, but it seemed rude to ask. It wasn't his job here to ask the questions, but only to answer for his sins.
Such a simple question, and yet it almost broke him. Looking back on his life hurt. One of the blessings of what Matt had done to him was that it had given him years to come to terms with what he'd done, but it didn't mean he was okay with it. He drew in a deep breath, shutting his eyes briefly before meeting hers to answer, "I thought she had an ability that would make me unstoppable."
Tammy was silent for a long moment, before saying, "Like Claire?"
"Yes. I …" He shrugged. "Claire was the one I was really after."
"Claire said you had killed other people." Her eyes were sharp, intelligent, and piercing. He felt exposed. There were none of the standard excuses to trot out – no Petrelli or Company interference, no self-defense, not even an ability that Jackie didn't deserve and should have defended better from a predator like himself.
Sylar's eyes darted towards the entrance to the kitchen, wondering how much they had told her. Peter and Claire both were quietly sequestered there, out of sight but not out of hearing, by agreement of everyone involved. "Yes."
"Don't you know that's wrong?" Tammy said, voice rising a little in judgment.
Sylar bowed his head quietly, willing to take whatever he got. "Yes."
"Did you know it was wrong when you did it?" This time her voice held curiosity and confusion.
"I knew," he said, voice small and sad.
"Then why?" She pleaded with him, leaning forward and putting her hands on the table before her.
"They had something I wanted. I knew it was wrong." He lifted his face, eyes wet. "But I was able to take it from them and so I did."
"Can you … still?"
He regarded her, making sense of her question. "Yes, but I don't."
"Why is that?" She put her hands together, elbows out to either side as her eyes bored into him.
Sylar drew in a deep breath, eyes going to the entrance of the kitchen again, this time for a different reason. Her questions were more personal than even Peter's had been, striking unerringly to his heart. "It was … empty. I had all this power and it didn't mean anything. I didn't matter, except as someone feared, hated, to be used. I wanted … I wanted to be more than that." He sniffed, pulling in his arms close to his body and tilting his head in an unconscious vulnerability. "All I ever wanted was to be special. To be … somebody special."
Tammy looked at him for a very long time, not quite a stare, while Sylar tried to huddle into himself. He wished he could crawl off and stop existing, as he thought about all the other people out there who had reason to hold him accountable for his past. Finally she said, "Jackie was special to me." His eyes flicked up to hers and he nodded shallowly. She continued, "She would have been nineteen now. In college. Maybe married. I'll never go to her graduation – not from high school, not from college. I'll never go to her wedding." Tammy swallowed roughly, tears beginning to spill from her eyes. "I'll never give her advice about her husband. I'll never hold my grandchildren." She sniffled. "I'll never have any. I can't make cookies with her anymore. I don't have to argue with her about the laundry or leaving the cabinet doors open when she puts away the dishes. I'll never have her again. You see that?"
Sylar felt a tear trickle down his cheek. He nodded and ducked his head to hide his face. Peter's grief had been expressed much more physically. Honestly, Sylar thought that was easier to take.
Her voice quavered as she continued. "I can't introduce her to any of my friends. When people at work ask me if I have children, or they ask me about her because of her picture on my desk ..." She put her hands over her face, unable to go on. Sylar looked back and forth across the room, not seeing what he wanted. Peter's apartment was not exactly replete with amenities. He stood and walked out, quickly getting a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom, cursing himself for not having made sure there were tissues on hand – for either of them, although he hadn't expected his own reaction. He offered it to her. She looked at his stricken face, then took the roll. A few minutes later, after he'd taken his seat again, she asked, "How many others did you do this to?"
He looked away guiltily. "A lot." He didn't even know how many, which was revolting.
"Did you go to church as a boy?" He nodded. "Did your parents … was there some reason …?"
Sylar shook his head, his voice rough for this answer. "It's not anyone's fault but my own. I was greedy. I didn't care. I didn't care enough not to do it."
She sniffed a few more times and asked plainly, "Have you asked Jesus Christ for forgiveness?"
He blinked at her, mind blank as the gears locked up at what for him was a jarring segue. Finally, knowing he had to say something, he blurted, "I haven't asked anyone to forgive me. I- It's unforgivable." He hadn't even asked Peter for that. The best he had was an acknowledgement that he'd changed, which was the most he felt he deserved. He'd done so many horrible things.
"Nothing is unforgivable," Tammy said, a sudden flood of new tears cascading down her cheeks, causing her to unroll more toilet paper. "Jesus … He can take anything." She looked up at him with new fervor. "When it hurt me the most, knowing my baby was gone, I would pray. I would pray to Jesus and lay it all on him." She shook her head. "It's too big for one person to handle. You have to give it up to Jesus. You know it's wrong. You know He'll save you. Do you want to be saved?"
"Uh ..." Sylar swallowed, throat dry. Two memories dominated his mind – locking himself in the closet and scrawling pleas to an indifferent deity, and telling Angela that he believed in blood, not God. He cast a glance at the entrance to the kitchen, then back to her. "No one's ever … saved me. Not … not for me. They always had," another guilty glance in Peter's direction. He didn't want to sound ungrateful, but … "reasons."
"Jesus Christ will save you," she said firmly.
He looked away, shaking his head in denial and dismissal. "I don't believe in Jesus."
"Son, Jesus believes in you!" Tammy said stridently, snapping Sylar's attention back to her in an instant. Her expression was determined, her face full of life and hopes and dreams and motivations as much of those of any special. Sylar had too long dismissed those not anointed with abilities as beneath him. They weren't.
"S-son?" he stammered, shocked that she of all people would refer to him as family.
She stood up, pushing herself off the table. "You are a son of the Lord! It doesn't matter what you've done, you are still one of God's children!" She walked around the table towards him, voice strong and steady now. "All these years, I've been praying and begging Jesus to explain to me what kind of person could do a thing like you did. You are lost, Sylar! Lost! Let me show you the way … please." She extended a hand towards him, open, palm up. "If you don't believe in Jesus then believe in me, because I am here. You can see me. You know me. I testify I was sent here to find you, to save you, and to lead you back. Jesus sent me. He sent me through my love for my daughter, because you are too important to lose. You, Sylar, are special."
He stared at her in shock, his hand finding hers by instinct or divine design, he knew not which. She went to her knees immediately, his hand clasped between both of hers. He wasn't familiar with whatever evangelical tradition she followed, but he knew what was required of him. He pushed his chair back and joined her on the floor, his memory now reminding him of the baptism he'd been given into the family of specials in the carnival. Then another connection and another, tumbling on one another so fast he couldn't keep track of them all: Peter's name, his own of Gabriel, Angela's, numbers and dates of religious significance, Noah collecting up specials, was his exile in Matt's nightmare world some parallel of a biblical tale? He didn't know. He'd never studied the Bible with the attention Virginia (the Virgin!) had wanted him to. "I am not worthy," he whispered, trembling because he could feel her faith and certainty through her skin, the truth of her words striking deep. Was it possible that everything that had happened to him had some deep, hitherto denied, religious significance?
"But Jesus died for you! He died for all of us. There ain't nothing my Jesus can't take on. You, Sylar – you have to finish your journey of becoming a good man. You know what you did was wrong. You know that your soul is starving for love. Feel my hands!" She gripped his with surprising strength. "Know that the love of Jesus can be yours forever. Open your heart to Him, Sylar. Let Him carry your sins. Let Him forgive you." Tears ran down her face anew and Sylar found himself joining her. She whispered, "Ask him to save you."
He hesitated, tears rolling down his cheeks, remembering how lonely and frightened and devastated he'd been in that closet, begging for forgiveness. He didn't understand God's silence then. And he didn't now. This wasn't about God, he realized, his hands gripping hers in return. God didn't have to be part of this. It had to do with people forgiving him – people, starting with Tammy. "Save me," he whispered back. "Forgive me," he added, voice shaking, for Tammy would not believe her god had the capacity to forgive him unless she, herself, possessed it. It was the marvel of humanity.
"He does! He does!" she cried out, rocking back and forth, finally hugging Sylar, pulling him close to sway back and forth on the floor next to Peter's dining room table. They cried on each other in relief and newfound peace.