Title: Missionary Position
E-mail address: email@example.com
Date: August 2005
Disclaimers: No infringement of the following characters and situations is intended.
Warnings: may contain slash, H/C, violence, m/m hanky panky, drug use, nudity, coarse language, dodgy research, supernatural and religious themes, adult themes
Spoilers: Season 1
Summary: third part in soap/series
He was easy to spot, a lanky young man running up and down a crude and dusty soccer pitch with a pack of half wild children of various ages, shapes and hues, all chasing a ball with the sort of bloodthirsty zeal that made Keel think it might have been a goat’s head, just for a moment.
The young man’s hair had grown long, almost to shoulder length, and the skin of his bare back was such a rich copper brown that it raised again small nagging questions about unknown ancestry, or perhaps it was simply that only madmen and the occasional Briton wandered about in the midday sun. He certainly looked fit, psychically and spiritually, with only the white lines of scars upon his back and side as evidence of past hardships.
His head whipped around, without needing to be told, and their eyes locked for a moment. Then he whipped the ball over the heads of the kids, past the ancient tree stump that served as one goal post and finished the game, to the grizzling of the children, but he ignored them, trotting over with an easy grace that made Keel’s mouth go dry, again.
Paul didn’t stand on ceremony, ignoring Keel’s proffered hand and enfolding him in a warm and dusty embrace. They held each other like that, for a long while, long enough for everyone in the village to realise that these two men were old friends and they needed some alone time.
“You look well,” Keel offered in characteristic understatement. In truth, Paul looked golden, the very image of the god Apollo, if one fell easily into such flights of fancy.
Paul wanted to reply, but couldn’t quite get out the words “Why? Where? How?” as they all seemed to tumble together, jamming up in his brain as the words tripped over each other in their race to get out.
“Oh, you know me,” Alva explained. “I hear word of a young missionary who sometimes bleeds and occasionally heals and often has visions, and I just had to come down and see for myself. And here you are.” He glanced about the tiny, dusty little village. “When you go to ground, Paul, you don’t muck about.”
Paul shrugged. “You said I should keep a low profile.”
“Not low enough. If I heard about you, others will have, too.”
“Are you saying I should move on?”
“No, just, be careful. Where on earth did you learn to bend a ball like that? When I knew you it was all baseball and basketball.”
Paul laughed out loud, and they fell to walking beside each other, as if no time or distance had passed between them.
“They only play soccer down here.”
“Football,” Alva corrected.
“Football,” Paul corrected himself. “And it’s a long time between Sundays, I needed a hobby. I thought you were going to ask about whether or not I can heal people.”
“Can you?” Alva asked, unable to keep the pointed interest in his voice.
“Yes. Sometimes. Most times. I guess Tommy was really sick, or not doing it right, because it knocks the stuffing out of me, I won’t deny that, but I can do it, with no lasting ill effects, that I know about. I get myself checked out by the regional doctor, just in case.”
“And what does he think of your gifts?”
“He’s a local, or local enough to understand that there’s a place for both. There’s not a lot of money here, so if what I do works, and it saves lives and medicine, he’s not one to argue. He’s pretty cool, actually. He’s taught me a lot, about this place, these people, their traditions. It’s helped me. There are a lot of tricks to the trade, you know, the shaman thing, to help shake it off. “
They’d arrived at the door of the little wooden church that was Paul’s home and office, for whichever religion he was practising that day.
“Alva, why are you here? Now?” He could sense that he wasn’t being told all of it, that Alva would have endured all this travel before now to find him if he had just missed him. Alva had been very faithful to his promise to let Paul go, and yet now, here he was. He looked older, tired, thinner, haggard, even.
Carefully, Paul placed his hand on Alva’s chest, knowing the truth already.
“Alva,” he murmured, a catch in his voice. “You’d better come in.”
Paul paused and crossed himself, then led the way past the bench pews through to the back rooms, which bemused Alva, just a little, because the backroom resembled more of an exotic apothecary than the Spartan rooms of a young missionary that he had expected. Dried herbs hung in bunches along the walls, melted stubs of candles sat squatly on shelves and a mortar and pestle and a large copper pot and kettle stood ready on a rough hewn work bench. The doctor was very definitely in.
“I hope you hide all this stuff when your superiors drop by for a spit inspection, Paul, because I’m pretty sure the church still takes a dim view of witchcraft.”
Paul grinned, forgetting for a moment why they were there, just pleased like a young pup to show Alva the progress he’d made in accepting who and what he was. Then he sobered, stoking the fire in his stove until it was unpleasantly hot and humid in the stuffy little room.
“Is that necessary?’ Alva asked, pulling at his shirt collar.
“It’s for me. For later. Now, just lie down.”
He indicated a rudimentary cot which at least sat below a crucifix, so Alva knew Paul hadn’t entirely gone native. Not quite yet. Paul was busy washing his hands and face, then he kissed the silver crucifix that hung from the chain around his neck, then rubbed some sort of grease onto his hands.
Keel expected to recoil from some rancid animal smell, but it was pungently herbal instead, and it almost burned as Paul very gently teased up Alva’s shirt, knelt down beside him and pressed his hands to Alva’s flesh.
Alva felt a warmth surge through him. He smiled up into Paul’s eyes, touched again by the love he’d sacrificed, and Paul was telling him it was all going to be all right. And then Paul just simply crumpled backwards.
That’s when Alva knew what the fire was for. Paul was shivering, convulsing with chills and fever and Alva drew him onto the little calico cot, wrapped the thin sheets around him and held him tight under the chills subsided and Paul could be left alone to sleep.
Paul woke with a start, then relaxed when he heard a familiar voice soothing him, familiar hands lifting him and pressing a cup to his lips.
“What is it?’ Paul asked groggily, sniffing at the brew.
“Tea. Oolong. Lack. Now drink.”
The cup was pressed to his lips again and Paul didn’t have a choice but to swallow. It wasn’t too bad, or too hot. In fact it was just right, and he drank the rest gratefully before sinking back on his sweaty pillow.
“Three days. I was very…concerned, but everyone assured me you were all right. You will be all right?”
Paul made an effort to push himself upright.
“Should be. And you?” he asked.
“Fit as a fiddle,” Alva beamed.
The doctor held the scans up to the light again and squinted at them, as though this time he would see something different. He set them down again, palpably disappointed.
“I don’t know how to explain this, Mr Keel, but the cancer has gone. Completely gone. It’s a miracle.”
“I know,” Keel concurred, half smiling a secret little smile.