Title: Shadow of the Day
Character(s): Tess, Jeff Parker
Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Roswell ~ this is all for fun and I profit from nothing.
Author's Note: This is the first story in a non-related series I'm creating as a thank you for some of the amazing authors and friends I've made through the PA. This story is dedicated to martinigrl . You've loved Tess longer than I have and you've made me see her in ways I've never dreamed. I hope you enjoy this.
Summary: Can a single act of kindness balance the scales? What exactly is needed to cleanse the black from a soul?
Like a prince had come and found you
Picked you up and crowned you in the land of the blind
And I wanted to believe you
The lies that I could see through
But I never got between you and the ghost in your mind
Yeah, the ghost in your mind.
~ Ghost in Your Mind, Black Lab
Jeff Parker wiped absentmindedly at the sweat on his brow and cursed under his breath. Agnes was taking her sweet time serving the packed tables at his restaurant and the multitude of hungry customers were noticing.
It didn’t help matters that Jose had picked the start of the busy tourist season to come down with the flu, leaving Jeff himself stuck on grill. Aside from Agnes (who on a good day was less than dependable) most of the new servers were untrained and seriously unprepared for the hordes of UFO freaks that swarmed down on Roswell every summer. His wife Nancy had even pitched in by taking orders and running out sodas and Blood of Alien smoothies, though she had refused under penalty of death and grounds for divorce to put on the silver and green uniform that the Crashdown waitresses were famous for.
Jeff grinned to himself as he flipped burgers and dunked space fries and Saturn rings into the deep fryers while imagining his wife in bobbing alien antennas and nothing else.
Someone coughed politely from behind him.
“If that’s you Amy with the keychain order, just drop ‘em on my desk and I’ll run the cheque down later.”
He turned his head over his shoulder, “In case you didn’t notice, we’re really busy…”
The words died on his lips as the kitchen as the sounds and the smells of the café evaporated in front of him. The customers vanished before his eyes, fading away like the mist in the morning.
He realized he was all alone and the hectic afternoon had become night. The lights were dimmed, the sign on the door was turned to CLOSED and the grill that moments before had enough pounds of beef spitting grease on it to increase the percentage of heart disease in Roswell’s population ten times over had magically become clean and cool.
Jeff put down the spatula he was still holding and rubbed at his eyes, wondering if his past teenage experiments with recreational drugs were catching up with him. He wandered into the dining area and sat down at the nearest table.
“What the hell?!” he half muttered to himself.
“You’re not going crazy, Mr. Parker.” The amused tone was female and came from nowhere; an eerie echo that froze his form solid until she materialized in front of him. His spasms jerked the chair and he had to slam his hand down on the sticky tabletop to keep from falling over.
She was young, with platinum ringlets and eyes that burned like blue flames. “Cross my heart and hope to die.” The young woman seemed sad to him, faded and forgotten like an old corsage on prom night. There was still a beauty about her being, but the weight of unknown worlds hung upon her slight frame and made her appear years older than she was.
Solemnly she traced her fingers in an X pattern across her chest. She gave him a smile; soft, small and wry. “Normally I would find little fantasies like yours about your wife amusing and just a tad bit strange, but I just really don’t have the time.”
“Do you remember me?”
For a moment he was clueless and than it came to him. Liz had written about her often, in her journal. First she had been the new girl his daughter had worried about since she had been so enamored with Max. Eventually she had become part of his Liz’s inner circle and had spent many nights at the Crashdown. At the time, he had just assumed they were all kids, hanging out and having fun, not having secret meetings to discuss ways to avoid the FBI and alien hunters and all the other crap he’d been oblivious too.
He still hadn’t reconciled his conscience with the guilt he felt. Liz had done a great job of hiding the truth from him and Nancy over the years. But as excuses went it was a poor one and it didn’t make him feel any better. Jeff knew he never would have figured out on his own that aliens had landed but felt he damn sure he should’ve realized there was something more to Max Evans. He hadn’t overreacted at the mere mention of his name for nothing after all. They had all just seemed so innocent - kids to his eyes. But in fact Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess weren’t even from this galaxy and he, the father of the year, hadn’t suspected a thing.
“That’s not really your fault Jeff. I – all of us, did everything we could to distract you, Maria’s Mom and the even the Sheriff sometimes from the truth.” Tess maneuvered her body into the chair directly in front of him and propped her elbow on the table, cupping her chin in her hand. He wasn’t sure what was more unnerving; the idea that she was somehow reading his mind or how apparition like, how alien she appeared. The furniture and murals, the plants and silverware all seemed so vital and real compared to her slim form. He kept waiting for her to fade through her seat into the tiled floor.
“This is crazy. I can’t be talking to you, you’re dead. Liz wrote about how blew up the military base!” Jeff screwed his eyes shut and counted to ten hoping this episode of batshit crazy would be over when he opened them again.
Sadly, that was not the case. Still she remained ~ young, beautiful and the very opposite of what his brain classed as dangerous and evil. Jeff supposed that was part of her chameleon like nature: the ability to blend, adapt and keep her true colours hidden to everyone in her environment.
Hell, even Jim had been taken in by her. He brought her into his home and treated her like a daughter. And then Alex had died and this young woman had become something else.
Tess the betrayer.
Tess the murderer.
And, the part he was really having trouble with, was the fact that she should be dead.
Not sitting in front of him looking like a pale ghost at a mad tea party.
“You’re dreaming, Mr. Parker. I’m still dead.”
For the life of him, Jeff couldn’t think of a way to reply to that comment. This whole scenario was all too crazy to comprehend. Maybe he really was dreaming. After all, speaking to a dead teenager who had some alien DNA and possessed the ability to alter perception, did fit into the realm of screwed up shit the brain creates while at rest.
Or he was having the strangest acid flashback of all time.
Tess shimmered and shifted and for a nanosecond became lost to his eye.
“I don’t have much time. The powers that be showed me a small loophole, one I’m hoping can help balance the scale a little.”
Jeff swallowed and tried to find his voice. “Can you actually atone for murder?”
Her blank gaze gave nothing away. She was a perfectly carved statue, a show of alabaster and what looked to him like indifference. He erupted at her lack of emotion.
“Or do actually care that you killed him? Are you even capable of that?”
Jeff didn’t try to hide the anger in his tone. Alex had been apart of his daughter’s life for years and Jeff had witnessed first hand the anguish and trauma Liz had gone through. Remembering Liz’s pain overrode his fear and his eyes challenged Tess to respond.
She glowered in return, refusing to be cowed by his rage.
“One of the things that everybody seems to forget is that I wasn’t raised like the others ~ Max, Isabel and Michael. They were brought up to be human. The Evan’s showed them what love, trust and compassion was. Hank Guerin showed them cruelty, hatred and cowardice.”
Tess leaned forward and in the muted glow of the café her eyes seemed to spark like lightning.
“I was taught what it was like to be alien.”
Jeff broke his gaze first, not wanting to become trapped in the depths of her otherworldly eyes.
“But that doesn’t matter. I’m paying, every day, every moment for Alex’s death. If I could take it back I would. But I can’t.”
Liz had mentioned in diary about the manipulative nature of this creature, so he wasn’t immediately won over. But still, underneath her tough pose and careless tone, he sensed something in this girl that craved peace and forgiveness. Even through all the blackness and insanity of his dream, she had a tarnished light about her. Small, slanted and struggling to get through the dark, but a light none the less.
Tess reached out her hand and Jeff jerked back instinctively. Her story may have tugged at something inside, but Claudia Parker’s boy wasn’t a fool. She might look like an innocent school girl but he knew from his own daughter’s words just how dangerous Tess could be.
“Look, I get one, just one shot at this.” The cool façade was gone and each was syllable short and clipped.
“A chance for what,” Jeff demanded in kind. “I don’t understand what’s going on here and I don’t know why you’re in my dream or if this is even a dream. What the hell is this?”
“What do you want?”
Tess rubbed her forehead wearily. She opened her mouth and tried to speak, closing it abruptly when nothing came out. Jeff could almost see her brain trying to pick and choose the words that would make him understand, make him see.
“A few years ago your daughter showed me mercy when everyone else was ready to throw me to the wolves. It was more than I ever would have done for her while I was alive.”
Jeff knew immediately what Tess meant. In Liz’s journal he had read her entry about the night Tess had returned with baby Zan and most of the army base close behind. Isabel, Maria and most of the others had wanted to see her burn at the stake. But Liz, who had more reason to loathe Tess than anyone had cast her vote to save her life.
“Unlike the rest of my broken four square, I’ve always know what I was. And I’m the only one who has ever really remembered how it was back on Antar. How we lived, and how we loved.”
“How we died.”
Images flashed over his eyes; an alien landscape beautiful and eerie, a sky filled with unrecognizable stars, a city that gleamed like a futuristic silver Oz ~ glowing, cool and so technologically advanced his human mind could not fathom the marvels it was viewing,
He started to shake and felt his knees buckle. Reading Liz’s journal had prepared him for the sensation of receiving flashes but the actual experience made him disoriented and left him feeling vulnerable.
He shrank away when again she tried to touch him.
The glass dome covering the peach pie exploded behind him.
Tess vibrated pure frustration and conquered the space between them with quick grasp of her hand. Jeff struggled against her hold, felt her nails bite in his skin and fought against the tide of images that overwhelmed his senses, before succumbing to the rush.
“Don’t fight me Jeff.” Tess tried to sound reassuring but he was still terrified. “Just sit back and enjoy the ride.”