Part Three

Nearly twelve hours after being wheeled into the OR, Philip Callaghan was taken to the recovery room and Dr. Justin Mackintosh went to the waiting area on the fourth floor to speak with the young priest's 'family.' He had been told by Adrian Tyler during post-op that the kid's blood relatives all lived in Ireland...the man who waited on the fourth floor was the priest's godfather, Derek Rayne.

Justin knew Rayne by reputation, and had treated the man's daughter, Lissa, in the past. The elevator stopped and Justin headed for the waiting area. There were five people grouped huddled...a man in his forties. At a guess, Justin thought, I would say that's Derek Rayne. I see a resemblance to Lissa. In addition, there were two young people, a white male and a dark woman; a blonde-haired woman, whom Justin recognized as Dr. Rachel Corrigan; and a little girl, Rachel's daughter Katherine.

The doctor said as he approached the group, "I'm Dr. Justin Mackintosh...Father Callaghan is in the recovery room. He's comatose, but stable. If there are no complications from the surgery, he'll be moved to a private room in ICU. Father Callaghan sustained two fractured ribs, broken bones in his arm, and internal bleeding. We've set his arm and stopped the bleeding. It's his head injury that worries us, as well as possible complications."

"I'm aware of the danger, Dr. Mackintosh...my daughter spent more than a year in a coma as a result of a gunshot wound to the head," Rayne said and Justin nodded. He knew about that case. Everyone knew about that case, actually. The older man continued anxiously, "What is the prognosis, Dr. Mackintosh? Will Philip pull through?"

"That will depend on him, Dr. Rayne. We found no damage to the brain and the skull during the CAT scan, but it's still iffy. He may make a complete recovery...he may suffer complications. However, before the attack, Father Callaghan was in excellent health. He's also very young, so that will help," Justin answered.

The young man sitting beside Derek Rayne rolled his eyes, but the doctor merely smiled. Justin was thirty-nine nd his kid brother was older than Philip Callaghan. Besides, the kid looked even younger than twenty-eight. Rachel Corrigan asked, "When can we see him, Justin?"

"Soon. You must know...Father Callaghan's chances depend not only on his own will to live, but having a united family. Are you understanding me?" Justin asked. He noticed the young man looking down at his feet, obviously guilt-ridden, and the doctor continued with a sigh, "I guess not. What I'm trying to say is, focus on him. More importantly, focus on the good times with him."

"He needs our strength, not our guilt," Dr. Rayne said softly and Justin nodded with a smile. The philanthropist continued, "That's what my daughter told Nick just before the ambulance brought him and Philip here...something which she repeats fairly often, just so we don't forget it." Justin grinned. He was glad to hear that.

"Good for her. Speaking of Lis, has she been resting at all?" the doctor asked and Rayne nodded. Justin continued, "I'm glad. Lissa is a good kid, but she has a bad habit of pushing herself too hard, especially after being injured. It drives both Adrian and me nuts."

"That's a bad habit which runs in the family," the young man murmured, smiling for the first time. Rayne glared at him, amusing the others in the group. After a moment, the young man continued, "If we stick together, and we don't let Philip give up...what are his chances, Dr. Mackintosh?"

"Assuming no complications set in, I'd say he has a very good chance. But don't overwhelm him...don't tell him that you can't live without him or whatever. That's a load of crap, and a burden he doesn't need," Justin replied bluntly. He added more gently, seeing the stricken expression of the young woman, "Just speak your heart. That's the best advice I can give you. Just speak your heart."

"Thanks, Justin," Rachel said. Her daughter looked up at him, obviously terrified for the young priest, and Justin wished he could give the little girl better news. But he didn't believe in false hope...that wouldn't help these people, and it wouldn't help Philip Callaghan.

"You're welcome, Rachel. Dr. Rayne, I would guess that you want to tell Lissa?" Justin asked and the other man nodded. Justin continued, "Listen, for what it's worth, I do understand. I've got a few kids myself...if something like this happened to any of 'em, I'd be bustin' some heads. Our prayers are with you all, Dr. Rayne."

Justin nodded to the small group, then walked away. He headed to the nurse's station and dialed a number. On the third ring, his wife Lauren answered. Justin said, "Hey, Laur...can you put the munchkins on the phone? I have this overwhelming desire to hear their voices. No, I'm fine. I just finished talking with a patient's family. Yeah, exactly, my least favorite part of the job. I hope so, Laur. I really hope he'll pull through. For everyone's sake."

It was agreed that the others would remain in the waiting room, while Derek updated Lissa on Philip's condition. He found his daughter sleeping, and the anthropologist decided to wait until she woke up naturally. She needed her sleep more than she needed the update. However, only a few moments after Derek stole into her

hospital room, Lissa murmured, "I'm awake, Derek. Do you have any news about Philip?" She opened her eyes as she spoke the priest's name and looked at Derek. The anthropologist smiled ruefully as he sat down beside her.

"We just spoke with Dr. Mackintosh...Philip is out of surgery and in recovery. If no complications arise, they plan to transfer him to a private room in a few hours. So far, his condition is stable, but he's still comatose. For now, we play the waiting game," Derek replied.

Lissa allowed herself a half-smile, then continued, "How are the others? Nick, especially...how is he dealing with it?" Derek sighed, running his hand over his eyes, and Lissa went on, "I thought as much. Let's wait until Philip is in a private room, then send Nick to me."

"You did mention that you had a few ideas for Nick's investigation into the beating," Derek commented and Lissa nodded. There were dark circles under her hazel eyes, and Derek gently brushed her cheek with the back of his hand, saying, "Until then, rest. Have you slept much?"

"About six hours. Adrian is keeping me doped up, the jerk! I told him that I would be fine, but he insisted. Big lunk," Lissa muttered. Derek stifled his smile and gently stroked his daughter's hair away from her eyes. She sighed deeply and smiled at him. She took his hand and held it. Father and daughter were silent for several minutes, then Lissa asked, "What about Alex and Kat? How are they?"

"Better than Nick...but Alex and Kat's relationships with Philip have never been as strained as Nick's. I suppose that goes without saying, however. Alex is just worried about you and Philip...she doesn't have the additional burden of guilt which Nick has taken for himself. And Kat is terrified of losing someone else she loves," Derek replied.

A half-smile touched the corners of Lissa's mouth as she replied, "Are you sure Nick isn't really a Rayne? There are times when he's just as bad about assuming guilt for himself as you and I are, if not worse." Derek laughed softly and Lissa continued, looking very pleased with herself, "There, I made you laugh...and I wasn't even trying! Aunt Molly would be very proud of me!"

"Your aunt is proud of you no matter what you do, Elizabeth Marie, as you well know. And your sense of humor is one of the greatest gifts from your mother," Derek replied. Lissa's smile faded a little when he mentioned her late mother, and Derek continued, "I know you're still angry with her, Lissa...but she had her reasons."

"Just as Reynolds had his reasons for abusing me, Dad. It will take a little more time before I completely forgive Mama for not telling me the truth. She robbed me of having a father who truly loved me. If I hadn't been shot, hadn't been in that coma, who knows how much more time we would have spent apart!" Lissa replied.

"Philip would say that even being shot had its silver lining," Derek observed and Lissa laughed. Derek grinned, but his smile abruptly faded. He whispered, staring directly into Lissa's eyes, "If he doesn't pull through, Lissa, if we lose him..." His daughter squeezed his hand once more, her dark hazel eyes filled with compassion.

"Don't think that, Dad. Don't think that Philip won't make it. He's tough and he's stubborn, and he's been through far too much to quit now," the young woman replied, the tenderness in her eyes giving way to steely determination. Derek smiled weakly, kissing her forehead.

Rachel was at a loss...Kat refused to go home. Instead, she remained on Alex's lap, trying to comfort her friend. Derek was still in Lissa's room, telling her the

news. And Nick was staring at his feet, his guilt written oh so clearly in his eyes. Rachel didn't know what to do.

At last, she told Alex, "I need to take a walk. Let Derek know when he leaves Lissa's room." Alex nodded and Rachel rose slowly to her feet, heading for the elevator. Inside the car, she pushed the button for the second floor, the location of the recovery room.

The recovery room was empty except for the night nurse,a young man in his mid-twenties, and a fragile-looking figure in a nearby bed. Rachel's heart turned over. Dear God,that can't be Philip! The nurse looked up and said, "Dr. Corrigan, hello. How can I help you tonight?"

"Hi, Kurt. Listen, a colleague of mine had surgery earlier and I promised my friends that I would come check on him. Do you think I could...?" Rachel began. Kurt nodded,smiling, and rose to his feet. The psychiatrist returned the smile and said, "Thanks, I really appreciate it."

"Sure, Dr. Corrigan. I couldn't believe it when Dr. Mackintosh told me that somebody beat up a priest...and with an aluminum bat? What's this world coming to, Dr. Corrigan, when a priest is beaten in his own church?" the nurse asked, shaking his head as he led Rachel to Philip's bedside. The psychiatrist couldn't answer...she was too stunned by Philip's appearance.

At last, she whispered, "Dear God...what monster did this to him?" There were several stitches in his forehead,his right arm was immobilized, and instead of the normal oxygen tubes, an oxygen mask had been placed over Philip's face. Rachel picked up the chart at the foot of his bed and read it. She whispered, shaking her head, "Oh, Philip...you poor boy. Is he still stable?"

The man nodded and Rachel gave a soft sigh of relief. Well, that was something. The psychiatrist continued, "Could you give me a moment alone with him? I promise to not upset him." The nurse hesitated, then nodded, and Rachel said, "Thanks...I appreciate that." Kurt walked away and Rachel turned her attention back to Philip.

She said, "I don't know if you can hear me, Philip. You're far from us, and trying to find your way home again, but hopefully, you can hear me. So listen. We're not going to let you down...we will not give up on you. You've put yourself at risk for my daughter many times. So rest, Philip. We have a battle ahead of us."

About an hour after Rachel returned to the waiting area, Adrian Tyler joined the small group and said quietly, "Father Callaghan has been moved to Room 420, it's just down the hall. So far, so good. We've done what we can...now it's up to him." He didn't add, 'and you,' but there was no need.

"Can we see him?" Derek asked, rising to his feet. Adrian nodded, and the Legacy precept looked at the others, trying to decide who among them should stay with Lissa. Derek adored his daughter, but he needed to be with Philip. I need to be with him, as much as he needs me, Derek thought, returning his attention back to Adrian Tyler.

"Yes. Don't worry about Lissa, I'll keep an eye on her. I do need to tell you a few ground rules...there can only be two visitors in to see Father Callaghan at a time. He's comatose, but you don't want to overwhelm him," the young doctor answered and Derek nodded.

"All right. Nick, would you like to stay with Lissa? I know she wants to talk with you," the precept suggested. The young man started to protest, then obviously remembered their earlier conversation about Nick's investigation. The younger man's eyes lit up and he smiled slowly. I didn't think you'd have a problem with that, Derek thought.

"I'll stay with Lissa. You go see Philip. Kat, would you like to come with me or go with Derek?" the young man asked. The little girl hesitated, clearly trying to make a decision between her two injured friends. Nick gently suggested, "Why don't you go with Derek, kiddo? I really need to talk to Lissa. Grown-up things."

Kat made a face at him, but she took Derek's hand willingly. Rachel started to protest, but the little girl said, "Philip needs me, Mom. Please, Derek, let me see Philip?" Kat looked up at Derek appealingly, but he could do nothing without Rachel's approval. He looked at the doctor quizzically and she nodded after a moment. Kat smiled and held tightly to Derek's hand as they headed down the hall to Room 420. The precept was aware that the hand-holding was as much for his benefit as it was for Kat's.

Nick slipped into Lissa's room and she immediately said, "They've transferred Philip to a private room?" Nick nodded as a reply and Lissa continued, sighing deeply, "Well, thank God for that! Sit down...you and I need to talk." She sounded so much like her usual self, Nick had to laugh.

"You're being bossy, Elizabeth," he observed and Lissa merely smiled. There was a sadness in her hazel eyes, however, and Nick continued, "Are you all right, kiddo? I don't mean your shoulder...but are you all right?"

Lissa's smile became wintry as she replied, "Oh, I'll be fine, Nicholas, once we catch the bastard who tried to kill my best friend! And make no mistake, Nick...I will help you, so forget about shutting me out. What's the plan?"

"Derek said he thought I should talk to you before I made any plans. I wasn't sure if you'd be up to it, but I can see that I was wrong. Trying to shut you out of the investigation would be very hazardous to my health. I'll bow to your expertise here, kiddo...you're the cop," Nick replied. Lissa rolled her eyes and motioned him to sit down.

The closer Derek and Kat came to Philip's hospital room, the tighter Kat's grasp on Derek's hand became. He had told her as they started walking that normally, little girls her age weren't allowed into hospital rooms...but Derek would make sure no one tried to stop them.

Derek had looked very sad as he added, "You were right when you said that Philip needs you. He does. He needs us all, but mostly, he needs you. Do you know why, Kat?" She had shaken her head and Derek continued, "Because you never ask more from him than he thinks he can give...and because he never doubts that your love for him is unconditional."

Mom had once said that 'unconditional' meant that it was free, that it wasn't earned. So, Kat thought as Derek opened the door, that means that Philip knows that I love him just because. But Derek loves him just because, and so does Lissa, and so does Alex. Why doesn't he know that?

They were now at Philip's side, and Kat gasped. Her friend was very pale...his mouth and nose covered with an oxygen mask. There were several ugly stitches in his

forehead. There was a strangled sound from beside her and Kat looked up at Derek. He reached out to touch Philip, but drew back. Kat released Derek's hand and backed away.

It seemed as if she had been all that was keeping Derek upright, for he dropped to his knees. He moaned the young man's name, gently stroking Philip's hair. Kat backed away even more, unsure of what to do. It seemed Derek had totally forgotten her existence, for he began crying...deep, gulping sobs. Kat stood back, her heart in her throat, but after several moments of watching Derek cry...Derek, who had always been so strong for her and her mother...the little girl could endure no more. She ran forward and put her arms around Derek, whispering, "Don't cry, Derek, please don't cry...you'll scare Philip!"

Seeing Philip so helpless and still in the hospital bed had been like a kick to the gut, and Derek hadn't expected to break down so completely. But his self-control had been un-ravelling all day long, from the moment he had received the phone call from Nick.

Images of Philip as he grew up flashed through Derek's mind...Philip as an infant, cradled in the arms of his mother Maeve...Philip at seven, an impish little boy whose ntics made everyone laugh...Philip at ten, protecting Lissa from her step-father's rage...Philip at eighteen, graduating from high school. That wasn't the young man who now lay in the hospital bed. Oh yes, he had the same features and the same brown hair which was a little too long, but this wasn't Philip.

Derek wasn't even aware that he had broken down until he felt Kat's arms go around him, her piping voice breaking through his anguish. He heard her say, "Don't cry, Derek, please don't cry! You'll scare Philip!"

Kat's words slowly brought him back and Derek looked at the obviously-frightened child. The precept wrapped his arms around the little girl, drawing her close. Kat returned the embrace, murmuring, "He just needs to know the way home, Derek. He'll be all right once he knows that."

Derek cleared his throat, then whispered, "Of course he will, Katherine. Let me apologize to Philip, and then you can tell him all about your day at school. I think he'd like to hear that." Kat nodded, blinking back her tears, and Derek hugged her tightly, trying not to break down again.

You never guessed he would react that way, did you? Even Derek Rayne has his limits, young Philip, a voice said from just behind Philip Callaghan. The young priest turned to face the source of the voice, but had to close his eyes. The light surrounding the source was far too bright.

Who...who are you? Philip stammered. It was un-nerving enough, seeing his still body below him, but hearing that voice behind him...well, Philip was almost glad he wasn't awake. Or whatever he was. The young man continued, What happened? One minute, I was in the office...and now I'm here? Where is here? Heaven? Hell? Purgatory?

None of the above, actually. You've done nothing to warrant Hell...that moonlit swim with Ellen hardly counts, this companion said. He...at least, Philip thought his companion was male...continued, You asked where you were. This is a place very much like your magical place, where you found Elizabeth after so many years. As to what happened, that's a little more difficult to explain.

I'm listenin', Philip replied, trying not to look at Derek, Kat, and himself. He could actually see all of them, not just that particular trio. He could see Lissa and Nick in a hospital room; as well as Alex and Rachel waiting outside Lissa's room. What happened to Lissa? Philip thought to himself.

Very well. Quite simply, you were attacked by a demon, which used a teenage boy as a host. The weapon of choice was rather crude...an aluminum baseball bat. Which is why you are now comatose with fractured ribs, a ruptured spleen, and various other injuries, his companion replied. Philip felt his surroundings tilt. The other grasped his shoulder, adding, I'm sorry, I've been accused of being blunt. Elizabeth was shot while protecting her father. I am 'Michael.' For the first time, Philip could see his companion. He was a tall, husky man with dark skin and eyes, about fifty or so, with great white wings.

It took Philip to understand, then he asked, Michael? The warrior angel? Truly? Michael nodded with a smile, bowing slightly. The young priest continued, I don't understand...why is the warrior angel my companion?

What, don't you think you warrant having me as your companion? Haven't you realized yet, Philip, that you are a warrior? You have been from the moment you were conceived, you know. But you would have no way of knowing that. I do, however. I know everything about you, Philip Joseph Callaghan...everything, Michael replied.

Philip turned away, trembling. Everything? Dear God, he was so unworthy! Michael continued gently, Unworthy? Perhaps. But that is for the Lord to decide, Philip, not you. And why are you unworthy? Because of Ellen? It's time to see Ellen's fate, dear boy. The picture of Lissa and Nick hanged...revealing Ellen chained to a burning rock, screaming. Philip looked at Michael, who said, It's not because of the suicide. The poor souls who take their lives out of despair and desperation...this is not their fate. Nor is it the fate of poor Rafe, who saved Elizabeth.

Then why? Why is this her fate? Philip whispered, looking away from that horrible sight. Ellen was wearing the same white dress he remembered from that night when he told her that he would take his final vows. I should have never left her alone, should have never kissed her...Dear God, forgive me for bein' so weak! Philip thought.

He forgave you a very long time ago, Philip. This is her fate because she set out to tempt you, to draw you away from your chosen path. And when she failed, she killed herself. Not out of despair, Philip...to punish you. You turned away from her, and she killed herself to make sure you carried the guilt alone. She never cared for you! Michael said bluntly. Philip shook his head and the archangel continued, You know it's true, Philip. Think of Elizabeth or Alexandra. Would they have killed themselves?

Lissa and Alex are strong. The strong are s'posed t'protect the weak...it's my fault, not Ellen's! Philip exclaimed. Michael shook his head, and the priest could feel the archangel's sadness. Philip ran his hand through his hair, trembling. What if it was true? The young priest couldn't bear to think that. Had he really endangered his relationships with Derek and Nick, because of a woman who cared nothing for him? Philip couldn't accept that.

Philip, if passion flared between you and Elizabeth,but you chose to return to the Church and Elizabeth later died, do you think this would be her fate? No! Michael stated. He paused, then added, You were correct when you said that the strong must protect the weak. But you are not responsible for that weakness.

You sound just like Derek, Philip muttered and Michael threw back his head and laughed. It was a booming sound, which nearly threw Philip to the ground. However, the archangel once more grasped the young man's shoulder, keeping him upright. The priest added, Well, you do! That sounds like somethin' he would tell me. I s'pose you heard him at Julia's memorial service?

Thank you for the compliment. And he was quite right. It's one reason why the Lord loves you so, Philip. You truly would forgive Lucifer himself if he went to you for absolution. However, your inability to forgive yourself is starting to annoy the Father. But, that's not the issue. Be silent and watch, Michael replied.

Philip started to protest, then realized his attention was being directed back to his hospital room. The priest looked away from his still body...that was too un-nerving. Instead, he concentrated on Derek and Kat.

Derek stayed with Philip for ten minutes, his arm wrapped around Kat as she told the comatose young man about her day at school. The precept found himself smiling as Kat talked about her teacher, Miss McHugh, and about the pictures she would draw when Philip got better.

Finally, he said, "I think we should go now, Kat. Alex and Nick will want to see Philip as well, and probably your mum, too. And you'd like to see Lissa before you go home, wouldn't you?" Kat nodded eagerly and Derek said, "Then we should say good-night to Philip. You'll see him tomorrow."

"Promise?" Kat asked and Derek nodded. Yes, he would make sure that Katherine could visit Philip when she liked. Derek wasn't certain how he knew, but he was certain that Philip could sense Kat's presence. The little girl hesitated, then asked, "Would I hurt Philip if I gave him a kiss?" Derek shook his head and Kat wriggled as close to the young man as she could, then kissed his hair. She whispered, "G'night, Philip, sleep tight. I love you."

Derek blinked back tears and murmured, "Wait for me outside, Kat." The child nodded and departed. Derek turned to his godson and straightened the sheets around Philip's shoulders, whispering, "I will return, Philip. I love you, my son." He bent over and kissed the young man's forehead, stroking the soft brown hair, then left the room as well.

Nick and Lissa talked for ten minutes, as Lissa explained her ideas for the investigation. Nick cut the conversation short when he noticed she was starting to tire. He said, "You've given me a lot to think about, kid. But right now, you need to rest. And I need to see Philip."

"Call me 'kid' again and I'll smack you," Lissa said around a yawn. Nick laughed and the young woman responded with a dirty look, but sighed, "However, I am tired. You can get started on what I've told you about the parish?"

"Oh yeah. Get some rest, hon," Nick replied. Lissa nodded and Nick kissed her cheek, then left the room. As he departed, Derek and Kat came down the hall from Philip's room. Nick's heart sank...Derek's eyes were red-rimmed. God, is it that bad? However, he only said, "Lissa has told me what she can about the parish. I'm gonna get started in the morning. I'm on my way to see Philip...how is he?"

"The same. Is Lissa still awake?" Derek asked and Nick nodded. The precept continued, "I had hoped so. Rachel, this young lady is getting very tired, but she'd like to say good night to Lissa first. Would that be all right with you?" Rachel nodded and Derek gently propelled Kat into the hospital room where Lissa was resting.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Rachel. I need...I need to see Philip. Alex, do you think you can convince Derek to stick around until I get back?" Nick asked and the young woman nodded. Nick leaned over and kissed Alex's cheek.

"Yeah, I think I can arrange that. Say hello to Philip for me. I...I'm not sure I can see him right now. I can't be strong for him," Alex confessed. Nick nodded, understanding. He didn't know if he could be strong, but this visit to Philip's room was absolutely necessary.

"I will, Alex. And Philip will understand. He always does," Nick replied. Alex nodded and Nick headed toward Room 420. It had been over fifteen hours since he found Philip lying unconscious in the church office. And while he was afraid of what he would find, he needed to see his friend.

He quietly slipped into Philip's hospital room and winced. However, Nick had seen worse as a SEAL and he ambled across the room, sitting down in the chair beside Philip's bed. He took his friend's hand, holding it gently, and said, "Hey, Philip...it's me. I just wanted to come in and check on you one more time before we went home for the night. It ouldn't surprise me at all if Derek comes back later, but Alex and I will make sure he rests. But I didn't come here to talk about Derek..."

The television hadn't stopped running the story. For the last twelve hours, there had been regular updates on Father Philip Callaghan's condition. Randolph Hitchcock sat back, his eyes narrowing as once more, an image of the young cleric flashed across the screen.

To his annoyance, there had been no interviews with Derek Rayne. Then again, that young soldier, Nick, would get in the way of any reporters. Hitchcock flicked off the television, disgusted. He began pacing in his hotel room, trying to figure out what came next.

It had been such a stroke of genius, sending the demon after Philip Callaghan...but now Hitchcock didn't even know how Rayne had taken the attack against his godson. Derek would be devastated, the former Legacy member knew, but he wanted more. Hitchcock wanted to see Rayne's suffering with his own eyes. And nothing less was acceptable.

Part Four

In Philip's hospital room, Nick said, "We've had our share of problems, starting with your first departure. I wasn't angry just because you left the Legacy, but because you left us on account of that bimbo Ellen. Dammit, Philip, she never cared about you, why couldn't you see that?"

Nick brought himself under control with difficulty. He whispered, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, you don't need this. It's just...I don't think you realize how much you mean to us. You're like my brother! So listen, and listen good. We will not allow you to give up. That's not gonna happen!" Nick paused, wiping his tears away with the back of his hand, then added, "I gotta run, Philip. But I will be back. I let you down when you needed me most. I won't let you down again, I swear it!" Nick gave Philip's hand a gentle squeeze, then rose to his feet and left the room before he broke down.

He let me down when I needed him? What in heaven's name is he talkin' about? Philip asked the archangel at his side. The young man was trying desperately to ignore Nick's tears, but it was impossible...Nick never let down his guard like that! Never! Not even before Philip's first departure from the Legacy had Nick let down his guard so completely. It shook the young priest.

The seraph looked annoyed and replied, For someone so bright, Philip, you can be very dense! Nicholas means your initial departure from the Legacy, which was precipitated by Ellen's death. To whom Elizabeth refers as 'the demon bimbo,' a singularly appropriate term. Your childhood friend is a very dangerous young woman, Philip...more dangerous than even her father realizes, I think.

Philip smiled in spite of himself and said, Yes, I remember her sayin' that. I sometimes wonder how she came by her irreverence, because she certainly didn't get it from Derek. I don't understand, though, Michael...Nick didn't let me down, I let him down, I let the Legacy down. Where did he get this insane notion?

Elizabeth hides her soft heart and tender soul behind an irreverent tongue, Michael observed, like Nicholas. But she wasn't meant for him. They are too much alike. Philip, Nicholas believes that if he could have broken through your wall of guilt and pain, you would have stayed in the Legacy.

But that's not true at all! If Derek couldn't break through, what makes Nick think he could? How could Nick think such a thin'? And if Lissa isn't meant for Nick, then who? I hope you have someone good in mind for her...she's been through hell, and she deserves t' be happy! Philip said bluntly. To his surprise, Michael threw back his head and laughed again. Once more, the shockwaves from the seraph's laughter nearly threw Philip to the ground. Michael grasped the young priest's shoulder, keeping Philip upright.

Oh, my dear boy...yes, the man we have in mind for Elizabeth is fine indeed! He will make her very happy, when the time comes for their hearts to unite. They will know sorrow and joy, but they will have each other, and they will have their children, the seraph replied. He paused, then said gently as his brown eyes grew sad, Remember, Philip, Nicholas was abused by his father. As you'll recall from your own experience, abused children often blame themselves for the abuse. Need I continue?

Philip stared at the archangel uncomprehendingly for several moments, then everything fell into place. He murmured, shaking his head with self-disgust, How could I have been so stupid? Jonathan Boyle did t' Nick what Reynolds did t' Lissa...he undermined Nick's self- confidence, made him think that whatever went wrong in the lives of those he loved, that somehow he was responsible.

Close enough...Jonathan was unaware of what he was doing to Nicholas. I'm afraid the same can't be said of William Reynolds. Who, by the way, is paying dearly for what he did to Elizabeth, both emotionally and... Michael began. A strange expression crossed his face, as he concluded, Both emotionally and physically.

Philip was certain that the abuse heaped on his childhood best friend was far more devastating than any of them had been told thus far. And the young priest was equally certain that he knew what kind of abuse it was. However, Michael continued before Philip could ask any more questions, Enough of that, Philip...direct your eyes to Elizabeth's room now. Philip turned his attention back to his hospital room...except it was no longer his, but Lissa's. The young man watched in silent fascination...

Kat quietly slipped into Lissa's room. Much to the child's relief, Lissa was not only unattached to wires and tubes, she was sitting up in bed. The little girl ran to the bed and crawled up beside Lissa. Her friend exclaimed, "Kat! Oh, sweetie, I'm fine, don't worry about me."

Kat threw her arms around Lissa's neck and hugged her as tightly as she could, until she heard Lissa's muffled gasp of pain. Kat pulled away, realizing that she had bumped Lissa's left shoulder, the one which had been hurt. She whispered, looking down at the bedcovers, "I'm sorry, Lissa, I didn't mean to hurt you." She released her friend, resting her head on Lissa's good shoulder. Kat stared at the bandage which covered Lissa's bad shoulder. She thought about asking Lissa what it felt like, being shot, but decided not to.

"It's okay, baby, I'll be fine. What about you...how are you doing?" Lissa asked, gently stroking Kat's hair. The little girl settled herself on the bed beside her friend and wondered to herself why Lissa didn't have any children. She would make a great mom, Kat thought.

"Derek and I just came from Philip's room," she replied. Lissa's eyes darkened, and the little girl continued, "Derek is really scared, Lissa...while we were in Philip's room, he started crying. Not really quiet, but..." Kat paused, frowning as she searched for the right words.

"Like his heart was broken?" Lissa asked softly and the little girl nodded. Lissa added, "Sweetheart, I need you to do something...help Alex and Nick when you're with them. Your mom and I will look after Derek. That's our job."

Kat nodded, grinning, and said, "I will, Lissa." They were silent for several moments, then Kat asked, "Lissa?" The policewoman tilted her head to one side, and the little girl went on, "It was really scary, seeing Philip. There are tubes everywhere, and it's like he's dead. But he's not."

"I'm sure it was scary, Kat. Nick was so scared at the cathedral, he was almost crying. And I'm afraid for Philip, also. He's very, very special to me, and he's been my best friend since I was five years old. No one knows me better than Philip does, not even Derek," Lissa answered.

Kat was silent as she considered what her friend had said, then slowly asked, "Lissa, what would you do if you could help Philip? Would you do anything to save him?" She looked up at Lissa as she asked the question.

"Kat, do you remember when you told me about Senephra, about how frightened you were of the ritual which would free her? But you were more afraid of her hurting Philip?" Lissa asked and Kat nodded. Her friend continued, "I would do anything to save Philip, no matter how terrible. Because, honey, a world without Philip just isn't as beautiful."

For the first time, Kat realized that Lissa would literally kill anyone who harmed those she loved. Her friend smiled ruefully and added, "Sorry, sweetheart, I didn't mean to scare you. But if there's anything I can do to bring Philip back to us, then I will do it...or die trying."

"Don't talk like that, Lissa!" Kat gasped. Her friend looked at her, startled, and the child continued, "Don't talk about dying! I don't want you to die! I don't want either of you to die!" Despite Kat's best efforts, her eyes filled with tears and Lissa drew her close.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," Lissa murmured, kissing Kat's hair tenderly. Kat wished she could stop crying, but she had tried to be brave for too long. Lissa whispered, "That was a very thoughtless thing for me to say, Kitten, I'm sorry." She continued rocking Kat, who sobbed into her hospital gown. Lissa murmured, "We all love Philip, Kat, even if not all of us can admit it. But we love him, and he loves us. So what we have to do is pray really hard that this is enough. Okay?" Kat nodded, clinging to Lissa.

Outside in the waiting area, Derek sat quietly in a pale green chair while Rachel paced silently. God, how she hated waiting rooms! She had spent enough time in waiting rooms after losing her husband and son...

"I don't know if he'll make it, Rachel," Derek said quietly, interrupting Rachel's thoughts. Alex was at the end of the hall, waiting for Nick to emerge from Philip's room, and the psychiatrist looked at him sharply. Had he read Philip's chart? Derek continued, "He's so..."

"Derek, you've told me yourself not to underestimate Philip, that he's stronger than he appears. Remember what you've told your daughter and mine...we have to have faith!" Rachel urged. She hated herself for the platitude- she knew how serious Philip's condition was.

Derek looked at her and replied simply, "Faith has need of the whole truth. We aren't getting the whole truth, Rachel. Dr. Mackintosh told us what we could handle, but it wasn't the whole truth. Philip's condition is far more serious than he...or you...have admitted."

Rachel inhaled deeply, but Derek continued, "My godson may die, Rachel. His injuries are severe...a ruptured spleen, bruised kidneys, broken ribs. They tell us that the internal damage has been repaired...that it's the head injuries which are the greatest concern. But we don't know how long Philip was lying in that office, unconscious and bleeding internally, before Nick found him. We don't know how much of that bleeding put a strain on his heart."

Rachel at last answered, mindful of Nick and Alex heading in their direction, "Derek, you're right. We have no way of knowing if Philip will recover. But dammit, you cannot give up on him, not now when he needs you so much! No self-respecting parent gives up when their child needs them most. I know you wouldn't give up on Lissa!"

Derek looked up sharply and replied, "I said nothing about giving up! That will never happen, Rachel! Never! I didn't give up on him when he left the Legacy, and I will not give up on him now. But I must prepare myself...must at least contemplate the possibility of losing Philip, forever."

"Why?" Rachel challenged, her hands curling into fists at her sides. Derek gave her an unreadable look, and Rachel continued, exasperated with this stubborn man, "Why must you prepare yourself? Derek, you can't even think that Philip might die. You can't allow him to sense your doubt. Philip has a hard enough time believing in himself, you know that!"

The door behind them opened and Kat emerged from Lissa's room before Derek could reply. Nick and Alex joined them a few minutes later, and Rachel noted Nick's wet cheeks. Kat said quietly, "I'm ready to go home, Mom. Lissa says that she'll be okay, and that she'll take care of Philip."

"And he'll be in good hands," Alex said, dropping to her knees as she held out her arms to Kat. The little girl ran into Alex's arms, hugging the researcher tightly. Alex returned the hug and said, "I don't know of anyone who can take better care of Philip, especially since she's also here. She'll make sure the doctors do right by Philip."

"Yeah," Adrian Tyler admitted wryly as he joined them, "if only to keep her quiet! But really, that's not why we'll take good care of him, Katherine." He was kneeling beside Kat and Alex now, his blue eyes serious. Kat cocked her head to one side, and Adrian continued, "We'll take good care of him because that's our job, and because if we don't, our daughters and sons will be very upset with us."

"How come?" Kat wanted to know. Alex rose slowly to her feet, resting both hands on Kat's small shoulders. Rachel watched the young doctor in silence, remembering his statement earlier...'my daughter is gonna come unglued.' Hmm, Rachel thought, I wonder...?

"Well, you know, Father Callaghan likes kids a lot...and they like him just as much as he likes them. My daughter is just a little bit older than you are, and she thinks Father Callaghan is the second most wonderful man in the world...after me, of course," Adrian replied. Kat laughed and Adrian ruffled her hair, continuing, "Now, why don't you go on home, sweetheart? We'll take good care of Father Callaghan and Lissa. I promise you."

"You promise?" Kat asked and Adrian nodded solemnly. Kat considered this, then said with equal solemnity, "Then I'll go home with Mom. But you better take care of them." Adrian smiled at her gently.

"Sweetie, I'm gonna tell you a secret, which everyone in the hospital knows. The third reason why we're gonna take real good care of Lissa and Father Callaghan? It's because no one wants to get on Dr. Rayne's bad side," Adrian replied. Kat looked at Derek, then back at Adrian.

"No, you don't want to make Derek mad," she said seriously. Derek grinned in response, his first genuine smile all day. Kat yawned and said, "I'm ready, Mom." Alex released the child, allowing Kat to hug Derek and Nick, then Rachel took her daughter's hand and they left the hospital.

Adrian Tyler excused himself, saying he had another patient to check on, leaving Nick, Alex, and Derek alone in the hallway. Nick said quietly, "We should probably say good night to Lissa." Derek nodded, looking exhausted, and the trio headed into Lissa's hospital room.

She was sitting up in bed, watching the news, and said quietly, "Ever so often, the media does something which makes me forget about the obnoxious stunts they pull. They're doing a good job. They're doing a good job. There's been some nice interviews with the kids from the parish school. Maeve's best friend, Kim, was on. I should call Maeve, let her know what's going on. And Aunt Molly as well."

"We'll call them both," Derek promised her, "You need to rest." Lissa turned her face away from the television, her dark eyes filled with sorrow and an emotion that looked like anger. However, she said nothing, only returned her attention to the news. Derek looked at Nick and Alex helplessly. I'll handle this, Nick thought.

The former SEAL said, choosing his word carefully, "I think Lissa is rested out, Derek. At least, she feels rested out...she's been sleeping on and off all day. I think there's something she needs to talk about. And...maybe, if she talks about it, gets it out of her system, she'll be able to sleep. Am I close, Lis?"

Lissa smiled gratefully and said, "Yes, Nick." The ex- SEAL smiled as he sat down at the foot of the bed, while Derek took the chair and Alex sat down on the heater. Lissa sighed, then said, "Nick, when you start your investigation, don't tell anyone about your suspicions."

"Yeah, that was sort of my plan anyhow. I don't want the kids thinking I'm looney tunes," Nick acknowledged. He looked at her for several moments as she fell silent, then asked, "What else is bothering you, Lis? It goes beyond this investigation, I think...something else troubles you."

"You don't want them to know you're looney tunes just yet, you mean," Lissa teased, a flash of her old spirit appearing, and Nick laughed. Derek and Alex exchanged a glance, and Lissa continued, "But you're right. I want the three of you to promise me something. I want you to promise that you'll look after each other."

"You got it, Lis...once we're done here, we're taking Derek home and making sure he gets some sleep," Alex replied. For the first time since they entered her room, Lissa smiled. Derek started to protest, but Alex said, "Hush, Derek, this isn't up for debate! Philip would tell you the same thing."

"That's right," Lissa said, "and how can you be strong for Philip, Dad, if you're barely awake and haven't eaten in days? How many times have you told Philip and me the same thing, that our effectiveness is gone when we're tired and weak?" Derek sighed, but nodded in acknowledgment, and Lissa continued, "Nick, I want you to be careful, too. I know about that temper...keep it in check. I know you're angry.

I am, too. But busting heads won't help."

"It'll make me feel better," Nick muttered, but added hastily when he saw Lissa's eyes darken, "but I'll behave. I know what you're like when you're angry, Lis...I'm not dumb enough to incur your wrath." Lissa merely smiled and Nick asked, "So, do you have any words of wisdom for Alex?"

"Alex is a female, and therefore, she doesn't need the words of wisdom as much as you stubborn, macho males do," Lissa retorted, making Alex smile. She continued more seriously, "I do need to talk to her, however." The two men nodded, each kissed Lissa, then left the room.

Once the two men were gone, Alex asked softly, "You ok, Lis?" She left her post beside the window and sat down on the bed beside Lissa, taking her friend's hand. The younger woman sighed, closing her eyes, and Alex continued, "I'll take that as a 'no.' What can I do to help?"

"I wish I had an answer for you, Xan. I know you want to help, but I don't know what...I can't think of what to tell you. I'm afraid for Philip, and I'm worried about my father, and Nick is barely controlling himself. I feel so damn helpless! And I feel out of control, which scares me even more!" Lissa blurted out in a rush of words.

"We all feel helpless...but you're probably the most helpless of all. Nick has the investigation to keep him busy, Rachel has Kat and her patients, Derek and I have research...but you're stuck here, with nothing to do but think. You let everyone else lean on you, and that's the only contribution you can make. But you don't have anyone to lean on...at least, you don't think you do," Alex replied.

Lissa smiled, then said, "I remember something that happened when I was about six. I was in the study with Mama and Derek, when Jonathan Boyle came in and asked anxiously if anyone had seen Philip. Dad went on full alert, and the adults began searching the House, top to bottom."

She turned off the TV, then continued, "Anyhow, I started to go into the library, when I heard Philip crying for help...the longer I walked, the louder his voice became. He had found the vault and fallen down the steps. I started screaming, and didn't stop 'til Derek found us. Later, once we were sure that Philip was ok, Dad asked me how I had known where Philip was. I couldn't answer him."

"You just knew...you followed your heart," Alex said softly, and Lissa nodded, her dark eyes growing unfocused. The researcher started to speak, then shook her head. No, she would let Lissa finish her story, in her own way, and in her own time, without any questions from Alex.

At last, the young cop said softly, "Yeah, I guess I did. But where he is now, Alex, I can't reach him. There's nothing I can do, nothing!" She hit the bed, unthinking, with the clenched fist of her left hand. Lissa's face turned white with pain and Alex leaned forward to help her friend, but Lissa shook her head. She whispered, "I'll be all right in a minute, Alex. I can be so damn stupid at times!"

"You're frustrated. Anyone would be. Your best friend, whom you love very much, is in a coma. No, Lissa, don't try to deny it...I know how you feel about Philip. Your father is in the process of becoming a nervous wreck, and Nick is about to go off like a Roman candle," Alex replied.

"Yeah, that sums up the situation," Lissa admitted with a sigh. Alex just squeezed her hand, and after a moment, the young cop continued, "Xan, answer me truthfully. Have you ever forgiven me for wanting to surprise you when we came back from Peru?" It took Alex a moment to figure out what

her friend meant, then the researcher gasped.

Once she could speak again, Alex replied, "Lis, there is nothing to forgive! I was never angry with you for wanting to surprise me. I just thought at first that it was Derek being Derek again. But I was never angry with you. In fact, I could even understand the other angle of it. Nick told me over the phone that Julia was dead. And you didn't want any more parallels between her death and your abduction."

Lissa nodded, some of the worry lines eased from her face. Satisfied, the researcher continued, "Now, as I was saying before we got sidetracked...you are not stupid. You don't always think, but you aren't stupid. And there's something else you aren't...that's alone. I'm here for you, Lis. If you need to talk, I'm here. The way I figure it, I've got eight years worth of listening to do. Okay?"

Lissa nodded, the barest hint of a smile appearing. Relieved to see even that tiny smile appear on her friend's face, Alex kissed her pale cheek and said, "Then get some rest, hon...I'll see you in the morning." Once more, Lissa nodded, then Alex left the room silently.

Well, it's about time! I was starting to wonder if that girl would ever break down! Michael observed with some irritation. The archangel shook his head, sighing, The child is as obstinate as her father! And before you ask, Philip, no, that is not a compliment!

And her grandfather, too, Philip pointed out, trying not to smile. Michael snorted and possessed by an imp he couldn't name, Philip asked, Don't you like Winston? I've heard he could be quite charmin' when he chose t' be.

Humph! If you think men who neglect their children are charming, which I don't. Make no mistake, dear boy...in terms of the fight against Evil, Winston Rayne was a warrior of the highest order. But as a father, the man was incompetent. By some miracle, Derek emerged more or less intact. Not unscathed, no...but intact, Michael said.

Not unlike Lissa, Philip commented. Michael looked at him, and Philip explained, I mean, she went through hell when she was a kid...sorry...but she didn't allow it t' destroy her. And Derek hasn't allowed his father's neglect, Winston Rayne's passion for the Legacy, t' destroy him.

Very true, young one. There are traumas of which Elizabeth has not yet spoken, traumas which continue to scar her heart and her very soul. But the time is not right for you to know about these terrible scars. And while it's true that Winston redeemed himself somewhat by helping Elizabeth

in Peru, he has far to go before he makes up for what he did to his own child. But that is in the future. Watch... watch and learn, Michael replied, then fell silent.

After Alex left, Lissa closed her eyes, but sleep evaded her. She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling, thinking about the events of the day. It had started out so well, with the trip to the museum. She had been so busy since her return from Peru, Lissa hadn't had a chance to visit the Winston Rayne Collection...until that morning. And then, disaster struck. God, how can this be happening? I'm a

cop, Lissa thought, cops get shot, that comes with the territory. But dammit, priests are not supposed to be beaten, especially not in their own church!

No, that was not supposed to happen. And yet, it had. Lissa had been shot through the back of her left shoulder, which could have meant her death...but she was more or less fine. Philip...Philip was in a coma. He had severe internal injuries, and there was still a chance he would die.

Tears slipped from her eyes against her will...tears for Philip, for her father, for Kat, for Nick, for Alex, for herself. For the people who loved Philip, who feared that he wouldn't return to them. Lissa had told her father not to even think that Philip would die...but how could she say that, when she feared the exact same thing? If they were to lose Philip...she couldn't bear that thought.

Lissa hadn't felt this helpless since her partner Kerry was killed, over four years earlier. The old feelings of terror and helplessness returned, along with the memories of dragging her wounded body to that of her lifeless partner. Dammit, why couldn't she do something? She began crying softly. I love him, she thought, we all love him, don't take him from us, please don't take him from us!

Neither Alex nor Nick were surprised when Derek fell asleep on the way home. Nick said very quietly as he drove, "I was wondering when that would happen. I'd swear Derek has been running on adrenaline all night. I don't think he even got something to eat while Lissa was sleeping."

"I don't think he could have eaten, even if he tried," Alex admitted, "I don't think any of us could have eaten if we tried." Nick shook his head and Alex continued, "But we really should eat something. We have to stay strong."

"Yeah, I know. I'll try to eat something when we get back to the castle. Alex, when I get my hands on the asshole who put Philip in the hospital, so help me God, I'll..." Nick began, but his voice trailed off. To his surprise, Alex didn't chastise him for his language.

"Get in line, Nick, Derek will have a few things to say to the culprit...all of us will. I think even Kat will have a few things to say," Alex replied and Nick laughed in spite of himself. Yeah, he could just imagine! After a moment, however, he no longer felt like laughing.

"There's something which doesn't feel right about this situation, Alex, and I will find out what that something is. One other thing...if it comes out that Hitchcock was behind this, I don't give a damn what Derek says...I will rip that fucker's heart out!" the former SEAL retorted.

This time, Alex did gasp, "Nick!" However, that was all she said. Nick didn't reply, and after a moment, Alex continued, "First things first. And Nick, if you're right, there might not be enough of Hitchcock left after Derek's finished with him." Nick inclined his head and the two young people fell silent as they approached the castle. Alex is right, Nick thought, if Hitchcock is responsible for the

attack on Philip, Derek won't leave enough of him to ID!

Randolph Hitchcock had gone to the hospital after the most recent update on Philip Callaghan's condition. He was very careful, of course...if Rayne saw him, Hitchcock would be detained. Rayne is no fool, he thought, he knows I'll make him pay for what he did to Alicia...to me.

Hitchcock's eyes hardened, but he slipped past the overworked receptionist at the front desk without much difficulty, and headed for the elevator. A quick glance at the map of the hospital told him that the intensive care unit was on the fourth floor. That was his destination. Once he arrived on the fourth floor, Hitchcock approached the nurse's station and asked with his most charming smile, "Excuse me, could you tell me which is Father Callaghan's hospital room? I'm a friend of his father's." A blatant lie, since Randolph had hated Thomas Callaghan...had hated the entire family.

"Now what would an enemy of Derek Rayne want with Philip Callaghan?" a voice behind Randolph said. He turned to face a rather tall man in his middle thirties, with sandy hair. At his side was a young woman, with long black hair and coal-black eyes. The man continued, "I'm Sergeant Zachary Grayson

and this is Detective Alessandria Horowitz."

"I knew Philip's parents quite well...I just wanted to make sure the boy was all right," Randolph replied with an uncertain smile. A look passed between the two cops, and Randolph continued, "Perhaps I should come back another time. Give Derek my best, please." Sergeant Grayson nodded, his eyes as cold as ice, and Randolph walked quickly to the elevator, swearing under his breath. Damn police! I'll make them pay as well! He had other plans to make now.

The sun streaming into his room awoke Derek at six. He was still fully clothed, and Derek deduced that Alex and Nick had gotten him upstairs without waking him. I did need the sleep, Derek realized, Alex, Nick, and Lissa were right. Not that I will tell them...they wouldn't let me forget.

"Oh, good, you're awake," Alex said and Derek turned in the direction of her voice. Nick was holding open the door as Alex carried a tray of food into the room. She went on, placing the tray in front of him, "Here's breakfast...I've talked to the hospital, and Philip is still stable. Lissa is being a pain in the butt, but Adrian thinks that's a good sign. I'll tell you everything while you eat."

Continued on the next page...

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