This has been lingering on my hard drive for nearly a year and a half, mostly ignored. So, here you go. Hope you enjoy.

*happy*
Em

*******

Prodigal Son
by EmilyluvsRoswell

Disclaimer: Me no own.
Category: Jim Valenti POV.
Summary: Post-Departure. A very brief glimpse at the former sheriff's thoughts…
Spoilers: Thru season 2.
Rating: PG.
Author's note: I actually wrote this a few weeks after Departure aired. Originally there was going to be more to it, but since I can't really recall what that was - and since this portion stands alone - I'm calling it done.

***

She called me Dad.

I don't know why it made such an impression. It was just once. Afterwards, she said it sounded a little too weird. Still, at the time I thought it meant something. That my taking her in when she had no place to go, making her part of my family - loving her like my own - counted. I guess I was wrong.

I've been wrong a lot, lately. I used to think I was a good judge of character. Prided myself on it. As a lawman, you have to be able to look a person in the eye and take their measure. Determine whether they're up to mischief. Seems I've lost my touch. Maybe they were right to take my badge, after all.

I was wrong about Max. He was my first real mistake. I hounded that poor boy and his friends, so sure his shy demeanor masked some hidden agenda. That he was a threat. And all he wanted to do was stay alive. At least back then. Lately I've been wondering if there's something else there. Maybe the beginnings of the leader coming out of his shell. But then I'm probably wrong about that, too.

My being wrong about Hubble nearly got Max killed. Never saw that one coming. How did I miss the crazy gleam in that old alien hunter's eye? How could I not see that he was dangerous? My dad missed it, also, all those years ago, and he paid for it in everyway possible - lost everything he had. Looks like what they say about history repeating itself might be true. Except I still have my son.

Kyle. I almost lost him last year because of Pierce. Deputy Fisher. Another I missed. But Max gave me back my boy. Gave him back to me in more ways than one. Funny thing is, I thought Tess had a hand in that, too. In making Kyle see us as more than just a guy and his old man. She made us a family again in a way we hadn't been since Michelle left.

Except it was all an act. Never knew a con could feel so damn real. Never knew a lie could give you so much.

I had to report her missing this afternoon. As her legal guardian, I get to play that part. Called Hanson and told him she'd been gone since last night and no one knew where she was. He told me it hadn't been twenty-four hours yet, but that he'd make an exception. Seeing how it was me asking.

Max reported his jeep stolen.

Didn't take them long to find it, burned out by the side of the highway, laying on its side. No body, of course, but that didn't change the verdict. It wouldn't. Not in Roswell. Not with me no longer wearing the badge.

I just watched our new sheriff take a seat in my living room to talk to my son. Watched as Kyle looked him in the eye, without even blinking, and said he hadn't seen Tess since yesterday afternoon. Saw him pale appropriately as Hanson told him what they'd found, what they'd concluded. I even saw him tear up.

He's a better liar than I am, my son. Never thought that would make me proud, but it does.

We're going to have to mourn her. Hold a service, wear a long face. Don't know that I'm equal to that - to grieving for Alex Whitman's murderer - even if it's just to maintain the façade. Can't imagine any of them are. Not Isabel or Michael or Maria. Certainly not Max. Or Liz.

Another mistake. Thinking Alex could have ever taken his own life. Not believing that his friends, of all people - these friends, of all people - would have seen the signs. That's one I can't take back - can't change. His parents will live with that falsehood, and that's on my head.

Liz knew the truth, could see the spectre of it. Somehow through all this she saw clear through the fog. I wonder if she'll forgive me for being so blind.

But then I'm not the only one asking that question today.

Don't know how to right the wrongs. They're starting to add up - to multiply. They say you need to learn from your mistakes, but the truth is that, even if you do, you only face a whole new set of choices the next time out. The stakes just keep getting higher until you lose big or drop out of the game.

Think I'll go visit my old man today. It's been a while…

***

END