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Man, I loved getting a chance to write in this fandom. Thanks to everyone who left such lovely comments for this fic, and thank you to deejay for the request! (I'm just now realizing I don't have any Miracles icons. Oh well.)

Discerning of Spirits
Paul/Alva. 2326 words. R. Spoilers for all of Miracles. Written for deejay in yuletide 2008.

The more Paul sees, the less he knows.

You can read it on the Yuletide archive here, or

i. ...a violation of the laws of nature by a particular volition of the Deity...

Paul dreams of trains. He still remembers the grinding, horrendous crash, still imagines the feeling of his bones shattered and rebuilt, although the last memory is faint. In his dreams, however, he is not struck by the train; he rides on it, he feels the bump of the tracks. He wanders from car to car. Sometimes the train is empty; other times, it teems with people.

Paul looks for Tommy, but never finds him.

Some nights, Paul finds someone else instead. Alva Keel, slouched in an aisle seat, foot tapping impatiently. He looks up when Paul approaches.

"I've been waiting for you," he says.

"I don't think I'm supposed to talk to you."

Keel just laughs, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "It's a bit too late for that, my friend."

They both ignore the view from the windows-crimson, pouring rain-and the bloodstain on Paul's jacket. Keel's smile is all Paul can see.



ii. ...or by the interposition of some invisible agent...

It's with a strange sense of relief that Paul watches Keel berate a wannabe-medium. He never thought, before working for Sodalitas Quaerito, that he would feel reassured when a case proved to have no supernatural influence.

"He hates that pedal-under-the-table trick," Evelyn murmurs, giving Keel a fond look. "We ran into it before, when we were just starting out. He says it's fools like these that give a bad name to real séances."

Paul smiles at her before looking back at Keel. Their gazes lock over the medium's shoulder. Keel stumbles over his sentence; his hands pause in the middle of a sweeping gesture. Paul's breath catches, but after a pause, Keel continues as if nothing happened.

Evelyn glances between them, a brow raised quizzically. Paul looks at his feet.

"Anything I should know about?" she asks. She sounds amused. "Did you two have another fight?"

"No." Paul still feels breathless. He remembers this feeling from years ago, when he was young and stupid. When he hadn't seen all that he's now seen. "It's nothing, Evie."

That night, Paul dreams of the train again. This time, he kisses Keel, ignoring the hot beat of blood against his hands. Keel's jaw is rough with stubble. The grinding shudder of the train makes Paul tremble, but Keel is solid, holding him up.

"I don't think this is supposed to happen," Paul says, but the words are swallowed up by Keel's mouth.



iii. ...an event that causes wonder...

I dreamed of a man named Paul Callan, Paul reads. Keel's desk lamp is the only illumination in the dim room; the sky outside is still dark, the hazy grey-blue of an early winter's morning. Paul's eyes burn, but he still strains to make out the most illegible of Keel's handwritten notes, hoping for some enlightenment.

"I really wish you wouldn't read those," Keel says from the doorway. He gives a thin-lipped smile in response to Paul's startled jump.

"You should wear a bell," Paul says, feeling oddly shaken.

"You should stop breaking into my office," Keel replies.

"The door wasn't locked." Paul glances down at the folders. The picture of the shattered windshield mocks him. God is now here. Paul is starting to think that's a lie. "Keel, I don't know what I'm doing."

"You're driving yourself 'round the bend, apparently." Keel sighs and takes off his coat, slinging it over the back of his desk chair. He's wearing the black turtleneck sweater again, Paul notices. "You're too impatient. The answers to all this will not come quickly, Paul."

Paul closes his eyes and leans his forearms against the desk, trying to ease the ache in his skull. "But I feel like we're running out of time. What is the 'darkness' that Tommy spoke of? Who are the other three people who have seen this message?" He has to laugh at himself. "What does it mean?"

Keel is silent a moment. "God gave Paul of Tarsus a particular psychic ability," he says at last. "An ability leading to the discernment of spirits."

"It may surprise you to learn this," Paul remarks wearily, "but I actually know quite a bit about Saint Paul. You remember the whole 'attended seminary' thing, right?"

"The discerning of spirits," Keel says more loudly, ignoring Paul, "involves determining whether particular manifestations are of God or the devil. Good or evil."

Paul laughs. It doesn't sound genuine, even to his own ears. "And you think I should be able to tell the difference, too?"

"Yes!" Keel slaps his hand on the desk. Paul snaps up, his headache forgotten. Keel's intensity is like the lash of a whip, sudden and inevitable. "Yes, Paul, I think you should be able to tell. I believe that you have that ability."

Paul shakes his head. "I'm not so sure. Keel, whatever it is you think I know..." He trails off. That's just it. He doesn't know anything.

Keel sighs; his shoulders sag. "All right." He begins to gather up the records and transcripts that Paul has scattered across his desk. "Why did you want to look at these today, Paul?"

"I've been dreaming," Paul tells him.

Immediately, Paul has all of Keel's attention again. "Yes?"

"In this dream... I'm on a train. There's--blood, everywhere, and I'm looking for Tommy, but he's not there." Some perverse urge makes him add, "Sometimes you're on the train with me, and I kiss you."

"Ah," says Keel. Paul watches, fascinated, as a blush slowly colors Keel's cheeks. He didn't even know it was possible to embarrass the man.

"What do you think that means?"

Keel clears his throat, busying himself with straightening the folders. "Trains are fairly straight-forward symbols, Paul. You know that as well as I. It's about momentum. You're on a journey that seems out of your control." He pauses. "Or your subconscious could be making a reference to the accident that, in a way, started you on that journey. Ever since speaking with Tommy for the last time, you have been preoccupied with thoughts of him, and how he saved you."

Paul nods slowly. "And the kiss?"

Keel is silent, but looks at Paul for a long, long moment. Paul meets his eyes, willing Keel to find whatever he's searching for in Paul's face.

The phone rings. Keel's mouth tightens; he moves to answer it. Paul listens to Keel's side of the conversation for a couple of minutes, then slips from the office while Keel's back is turned.



iv. ...in some way unusual, extraordinary, or contrary to our expectations...

The next morning, Keel is more bad-tempered than usual. Evelyn hasn't arrived at work yet, and Paul finds himself wishing she was there, just to act as a buffer. They have a new case--a woman who is hearing the voice of her dead child over a toy telephone--and as they research possibilities, Keel's thinly veiled barbs and his urgent need to find answers are grating on Paul's last nerve.

It's not until he bends to retrieve a book and finds himself a breath's-width from Keel that the other, stranger tension between them returns. Paul is caught in Keel's gaze, trapped, and the feeling of Keel's mouth on his is not the surprise it should be. What is unexpected is how real it feels, as Keel's warm press of lips cuts--just for a moment--through the confusion and doubt that have been plaguing Paul's mind.

He gasps into Keel's mouth, and Keel's hands slide up Paul's arms, clutching. He grips Paul hard by the shoulders, holding him still. Paul can't move away, but he can't get any closer, either.

The building's ancient heating unit kicks on with a whir and Paul twists his mouth away from Keel's, feeling suddenly ashamed. Keel releases him immediately.

Keel stares at him, his face unreadable for a moment until worry suddenly cracks it open, his mouth turning down at the corners. "Paul?"

"I," says Paul. He can still feel Keel's touch, his hot breath. "I don't understand this," he finishes.

"Ah." Keel straightens. "Right. I apologize, Paul. I should not have assumed-- your dreams-- that's enough to cause some, uh, strange stirrings. I understand."

But that's not it. The dreams may have something to do with Paul's preoccupation, but they have nothing to do with how Paul's heart is jackhammering in his chest.

Paul has heard Keel explain the unexplainable so many times. Ghosts, poltergeists, otherworldly intervention. But most of all, Keel's explanations remind Paul of the fact that sometimes, if someone wants something badly enough, they'll get it. For a tense, breathless flash, Paul is absolutely, irrationally convinced that this is his fault-that he's wanted Keel so badly that he made it happen. The return of logic does nothing to erase Paul's feeling of guilt.

"Keel," Paul says. He stops, wipes his mouth on the back of his hand and leaves it there, feeling like he's hiding his face but reluctant to lower his arm. "Alva, I'm sorry."

Keel turns back to his desk, begins shuffling papers. "It's nothing, Paul," he says. "A brief aberration, a moment of - of natural curiosity. I will behave no differently towards you, and - and I hope that you will feel comfortable doing likewise with me." He straightens, holding a stack of folders awkwardly in his arms. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some filing that I must finish."

Paul has no idea what can be said to make Keel understand, when Paul himself has no idea what's happening between them, either.

He leaves, wordless, to the sound of Keel opening and closing the file cabinets. He passes Evelyn on her way in, but can't summon up more than a shaken, wan smile in response to her greeting.



v. ...An act of God.

Paul goes to the bathroom to run himself a glass of water. He doesn't know what else to do. He can hear the ringing of the water in the pipes, so high-pitched it sounds like a distant siren, or a scream.

He takes a drink; the water is just slightly colder than room temperature. For a moment, Paul's mind flashes on true chill-a bathtub of ice, red digits counting down, the angry, fearful set of Keel's jaw-and out of the corner of his eye, he catches sight of something staring at him from the mirror.

Paul whirls to look. There's nothing there, of course. Just his own face, his eyes looking bruised and dark from too little sleep. It takes him a moment to realize he's shattered the glass. Shards litter the floor; one of the sharp edges has nicked his thumb. A single drop of blood falls to the porcelain of the sink.

He stands there for a full minute, watching the droplet ooze a smooth crimson line down white enamel, before someone knocks on the door.

"Paul?" Evelyn calls. "Are you okay?"

Paul clears his throat. "Fine! I'm fine!"

He turns on the faucet, washes the blood down the sink, and begins to pick up the pieces of glass. Silly, to think that it would tell him anything.



vi. "...people at all times tend to desire wondrous events, to be deluded about them, to fabricate them, embellish them..."

"We're not supposed to do this," Paul says.

They're no longer on the train. The room is dark around them, but seems strangely familiar. A faint red glow from the digital clock illuminates Keel's face, his naked body, the tangled sheets around them.

"Define 'this,'" Keel says. He moves against Paul, muscles flexing, his hands finding a perfect fit in the dip of Paul's hipbones. Paul gasps, shaking, and presses his face to Keel's shoulder. "Define it, Paul. Good or evil?"

"I don't know," Paul groans. "Damn it, Alva, I don't know--"

He wakes to a knock on the door.



vii. "...and come to believe in the absolute truth of the creations of their own passions and heated imaginations."

The memory of the dream dissolves with waking. Paul stumbles from bed, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He knows who will be at the door even before he answers it.

"I think you know why I'm here," Keel says. His face is serious, but beneath his grave expression Paul can see shades of anxiety, and perhaps a faint trace of hope. "I'm sorry to wake you." He doesn't sound sorry at all, he sounds impatient.

Paul can't help it; he smiles. "Come in."

Keel takes a couple of steps inside the doorway, then stops, turning the brim of his hat in his hands. "Listen, Paul, I--I just wanted to say something. Hear me out, please, and then I'll go." He takes a breath. "I am in no position to make demands, nor would I wish to, but whatever this is between us... it will not go away if we choose to ignore it."

"Maybe if we pretended we never met?"

Keel's lips twitch. "It's a bit too late for that, my friend. I--"

"You've said that before," Paul interrupts. For a second, he feels queasy.

Keel gives him a strange look. "Have I?"

"No, it's--" Paul shakes his head, the sense of déjà vu already gone. "Never mind." He plucks the hat from Keel's nervous fingers and hangs it on the peg beside the door. "There," he murmurs. "Stay a while."

"I thought you said you didn't understand this." Keel's eyes always study Paul too closely, cataloging every motion, every word, like he's some rare specimen. "Are you sure?"

Paul shrugs, feeling daring. "Maybe I don't have to understand it."

A breath, then Keel steps closer. Paul meets him halfway, already reaching out; his fingers trace the soft skin of Keel's neck, the line at his nape where dark hair begins to curl. Keel's cheek is smooth, freshly shaven. Paul raises an eyebrow, and Keel shakes his head, finally beginning to smile.

He is all Paul can see.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
dodificus
Jan. 2nd, 2009 05:03 am (UTC)
I missed this somehow, in the archive. But it's just exactly what I've always wanted since first watching Miracles.
sweetestdrain
Jan. 22nd, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it! (It's what I've always wanted, too, heh. Hope I did Paul and Alva justice.)
reccea
Jan. 27th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
This is brilliant and gorgeous. The tone of it captures the tone of the show, of Paul's dreams particularly, and Alva's voice is perfect.
dlasta
Mar. 29th, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is perfect.:D

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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did not catch sight of you yet
sweetestdrain
allowed to randomly offer accidental insight.
sweetestdrain.com

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