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"When we dream, it's of the wind, blowing cold and hard, and when we wake up, we still live in a house of cards." 'House of Cards,' by Mary-Chapin Carpenter
The ghost floated lightly around the house. Actually, she didn't think of it as floating. She really hadn't figured out the whys and wherefores of her existence. . .just that she seemed to return to the land of the living in some form at particular times.
It took little effort for her to realize that she had returned to the Legacy House where she spent so much time while alive. It took a little more effort to discover that she had been away from the living for nearly twenty years. This House had changed. . .some of the people within this House had changed. The purpose had not. Her purpose was unclear, but her daughter's presence was overwhelming. Fiona Summers Reynolds took a deep breath. Her daughter. . .her sweet little Lissa, who had paid for Fiona's deception. The time for atonement has come, Fiona thought.
. . .
After two weeks in the hospital, it was finally time to go home, for which Philip Callaghan was very grateful. Though most of his caretakers had been of the matronly kind, a lot of attention made Philip nervous. That was probably why Dr. Murray asked specific nurses to check on him.
Dr. Theresa Murray. . .the only young woman who had attended him during the last few weeks. . .entered the room with a wheelchair and said with a smile, "I have your release papers right here, Father Callaghan, and your godfather is pulling his Range Rover around to the front entrance."
Philip looked at the wheelchair doubtfully as he accepted the release papers and signed them with his left hand. He asked, "I s'pose that's necessary?" Dr. Murray nodded with a wry smile and Philip continued with a sigh, "I was afraid of that. Are Nick and Lissa wi' Derek?" Dr. Murray nodded, making a face at Nick Boyle's name.
"Mr. Boyle is, and waiting outside. I'm surprised that he hasn't barged in already. . .he's made it very clear that he doesn't like hospitals," the young woman replied, rolling her eyes. As if by cue, Nick Boyle appeared in the doorway behind the doctor, and Philip grinned.
"You're sprung, Philip! Derek's waiting downstairs for us, let's go, let's go, let's go!" the ex-SEAL said with a grin as Philip carefully lowered himself into the wheelchair with Dr. Murray's help. Nick continued, "And I don't believe in barging in when there's not a reason to barge in, Dr. Murray. Philip is in no danger."
"That's certainly a matter of opinion, Nick," Philip murmured, though only loudly enough for Nick to hear him. His friend snorted with suppressed laughter, and Philip continued, "What about the others? Is Lissa at home wi' them, then?" He suppressed the pain that flickered in his heart when he thought of his childhood best friend.
"I think she and Alex are helping George settle into an apartment. Kat, Maeve, and Shelagh were hanging up pictures which Kat drew for your homecoming. And we won't get into the argument between Cook and Duncan over what to serve for dinner!" Nick laughed as they left the room. Dr. Murray said nothing, just walked beside Philip as Nick pushed the wheelchair toward the elevator.
Philip grinned, replying, "Duncan should stay out of Cook's territory, he knows better than that!" They had reached the elevator and Nick neatly wheeled the chair around, so that they would face Derek when they arrived on the first floor. Philip closed his eyes against the pain which ricocheted through his ribcage at the movement.
"This isn't the Indy 500, Mr. Boyle. . .Father Callaghan is still recovering," Dr. Murray said primly. Nick flashed the woman a dirty look, but put his hand on Philip's shoulder apologetically. Dr. Murray added more gently, "Besides, Dr. Rayne would be very displeased if Father Callaghan needed to spend more time in the hospital."
The young priest murmured as the elevator stopped, "That is a massive understatement." Nick laughed and the tension eased as the elevator doors opened. Philip saw Derek immediately, and though he had known that Lissa had other responsibilities, Philip was still disappointed.
However, Derek looked anything but disappointed. In fact, the dark hazel eyes lit up when he saw Philip and the older man said, "It's time to go home. Are you ready?" The young priest nodded and Derek continued, "Then, Nick, take Philip out to the Range Rover. I'll be along in a minute." Nick nodded, wheeling Philip out to Derek's Rover.
. . .
There was silence for a few minutes while Nick carefully maneuvered the wheelchair through the automatic doors. Despite his frustration with Dr. Murray, the last thing Nick wanted was to cause Philip more pain. Every spasm of pain, was reflected in Philip's expressive face.
"How is she, Nick?"
The words were spoken softly as Nick rolled the wheelchair to the curb. He had been waiting for the question. . .every day for the last two weeks, Philip had asked the same question. And Nick always gave him the usual answer, "She's okay. . .quiet, but okay."
However, today, Nick replied, "Not good, Philip. She keeps trying to put things in the past, and go on, but. . ." Nick's voice trailed off. He shook his head, continuing after a moment, "You know, it's not that she mopes. Moping isn't Lissa's style. . .but some of the passion is gone, some of the fire. She'll be all right, I think. . .but right now, she feels like her heart's been ripped out.
"She will never say so. . .the last thing she wants to do is draw attention to herself. Sympathy is like poison to her at the moment. . .we try to treat her the way we normally would. Well, aside from her injured shoulder. Except for Rachel." Philip turned his head to look Nick, frowning, and the ex-SEAL explained with a sigh, "Rachel has been making a fuss over Lissa. Last night, she said that she really admired Lissa for sacrificing her career to save you. I think you can imagine how Lissa reacted."
"All too well. I told her, Nick. . .I told her not t' do it. My God, Nick, how do I act now? How do I behave toward her? The woman gave up her career, her very future, for me! How do I make it up t' her, for puttin' her in that position?" Philip asked. Nick shook his head and turned the chair so that he could look at his friend.
I'd better put a stop to this right now, em he thought, before Philip says that to Lissa and strains their relationship even further. The look she gave Rachel last night could have frozen over an erupting volcano. He placed both hands on the armrests of the wheelchair, his eyes boring into Philip's. His friend tensed, ever so slightly, and pain flickered in the pale eyes.
"Philip, you did not put her in that position! You didn't give her the choice, you tried to stop her. And as to how you act toward her. . .I don't know. I do what I can, but you have a different sort of relationship with her. It's up to you, brother. . .how are you going to handle this?" Nick asked softly, and Philip closed his eyes with a sigh.p
. . .
Inside the hospital, Derek waited as Dr. Murray wrote the prescriptions for the pain-killers and medication Philip would need. The instructions for their use would be on the bottles, and Derek would make sure those directions were followed to the letter. At last, Dr. Murray said, "Your godson is very lucky, Dr. Rayne. I've known doctors who had patients die with less severe injuries."
Derek accepted the prescriptions, which he would fill on the way back to the castle, and replied, "My godson is an extraordinary young man, Dr. Murray. Thank you for taking care of him." The young doctor nodded with a smile, then Derek walked out to the Range Rover, where Nick was helping Philip from the wheelchair. He smiled as his two 'sons' became good friends again.
However, his smile died as he approached, hearing the conversation between the two young men. Philip sighed, "I wish I knew how t' answer you, Nick. But I don't even know how t' act around her, don't know how t' treat her. Ever since I woke up, Lissa has been so quiet. Not cold, just reserved. And I don't know if I can breach that wall. . . you yourself said that she needs time and space. I know how much bein' a police detective meant t' her. How do I make things up t' her, then?"
"Philip," Derek said, "I'm not happy about the pain which this choice has caused my daughter. . .but I am happy to have both of you alive." The young man nodded, closing his eyes. Derek placed a gentle hand on his godson's left shoulder and added, "It will be all right, Philip. Trust in God, and in Lissa, and in yourself."
. . .
"Things will be fine, Lis. I know, you can't go back to the way things were before this happened. But, two people can't have the kind of relationship which you and Philip have, and not recover from this," Alex Moreau told her former college roommate as they headed home.
"I wish I could believe that, Xan," Lissa Rayne sighed, rubbing her hand over her eyes wearily. The older woman glanced at her companion quickly, and Lissa continued after a moment, "I really wish I could believe that. But too much has happened lately, my decision to leave the force notwithstanding." Alex rolled her eyes with a deep sigh.
"Lissa, honey, relax. I know, that's easy for me to say. I'm not in your shoes. But now that the shock has worn off, Philip is gonna be fine," the researcher answered. She was the only person, aside from Philip and Lissa, who knew about the other part of Lissa's decision.
"Xan, what if he thinks I'm no better than Ellen?" Lissa asked softly. Alex had to pull the car off to the side of the room, her friend's question had startled her so much. Once they were safely on the shoulder of the road, Alex turned to look at her friend, astonished by Lissa's question. She means it!
"We cannot be talking about the same Philip Callaghan, Elizabeth! The Philip I know would never be stupid enough to mistake you for that bimbo! Granted, he's a male, but he's not an idiot. Okay?" Alex asked. Lissa nodded with a rueful smile. Satisfied, Alex continued, "Lissa, honey, don't underestimate him. . .that's very, very dangerous."
. . .
Bless Xan, Lissa thought as the journey got underway once more, I don't know if I could have gotten through the last week without her. Ever since Lissa's return home from the hospital, Alex had kept her busy, kept her mind occupied. Nothing physical. . .she was still recovering from her shoulder wound.
There had been leads to follow up, interviews to conduct, and research to be done. Lissa's father had only asked once if she was all right. . .after she assured him that she was, the subject wasn't raised again. He did, however, make sure she did the exercises for her physical therapy. A slight smile teased the corners of her mouth.
She couldn't count the number of times her father had come into the gym, supposedly to ask her about a case she and Alex were working on. However, Lissa knew that he had already asked Alex about that case. . .he wanted to make sure she was doing her exercises. He was her father. . .that was what he was supposed to do.
And as for Nick. . .while she exercised, he would put in one of her favorite CD's and turn up the volume as loud as she could bear it. Never an ethereal CD, like Loreena McKennitt or Clannad, but one with a driving beat.
Nick wasn't very good at expressing his feelings, but the sight of the ex-SEAL, who hated country music, putting in one of her Garth Brooks CD's as she exercised, had touched her deeply. And both Maeve and Shelagh had come in to do exercises with her several times. Lissa knew how lucky she was in her family. . .oh, yes, she knew.
Now, she thought, if only I could get Rachel to shut up. . .before I strangle her! Rachel hadn't realized yet that Lissa had her own ways of dealing with the consequences of her decision. That was how Lissa looked at the choice to leave the police force. . .it was a decision, not a sacrifice. If she thought of it as a sacrifice, it hurt too much, and made her sound like a martyr. And Lissa Rayne was no martyr. She had made a decision, she would live with the consequences of that decision. Period.
. . .
The drive home was mostly silent. . .an easy, companionable silence. There was no need to talk. . .and as Derek glanced back into the rearview mirror at his godson, he was certain that Philip lacked the energy to conduct a conversation. Derek didn't mind it, actually. Didn't even mind the weakness of the smiles.
Just the fact that Philip was alive, healing quickly, and coming home. . .that was more than enough for Derek. He had come so close to losing Philip, forever. There were a few documents waiting for him at the House. . .Derek knew that Philip would need to keep busy, without moving around much. That had been part of the reason for Derek's insistence that Philip recuperate at the Legacy House, rather than at the rectory. But only part of the reason.
At the rectory, Philip would try to go places and do things. . .which would be unwise, since Philip was still healing from internal injuries. When Derek pointed this out to the bishop and Father Quinlan, who had insisted that they and the other priests could take care of Philip at the rectory, they were forced to agree. But there was another reason. . .Derek wanted him close by.
And now, Philip was in the back seat of the Range Rover, his head resting against a pillow, covered with a lightweight blanket. Before leaving the castle that morning, Derek and Nick had put pillows and blankets into the back of the Range Rover, so Philip could be at least moderately comfortable on the ride home. Derek knew that his godson was still in pain, whether Philip was willing to admit it or not. However, the young priest hadn't protested when Derek and Nick gently arranged the pillows and blankets around him.
Philip had changed in the last few weeks, ever since regaining consciousness. He was still the gentle, compassionate young priest, but he was even more gentle with the others in the Legacy. Derek hadn't left his godson's side after his awakening. . .while Nick carried Lissa back to her room, with Maeve carrying her sister's IV bag, Derek remained with Philip. Lissa had assured him that she was all right. . .and that she knew he needed to be with Philip.
Philip had slept for another eighteen hours following his first awakening. With the exception of Rachel, none of the Legacy members left the hospital that night. Nick and Alex remained in Lissa's room, while Rachel took her exhausted, but happy, daughter home.
Derek had almost fallen asleep when he heard Philip moaning. The young man's eyes were open, and the pain reflected in those pale eyes sent Derek to the door, crying hoarsely for a nurse. It was Dr. Murray who came instead, and she quickly examined Philip. She said, "It's all right, Dr. Rayne. . .it's almost time for his medication. I hope you don't have an aversion to needles, Father Callaghan."
"He doesn't. . .don't worry about that, Dr. Murray," Derek said firmly. Philip didn't like the things, but Derek was certain that his godson was in too much pain to quibble. Under his oxygen mask, the corners of Philip's mouth quirked into a small smile. Derek smiled back, tenderly stroking Philip's hair. Up until Philip's brush with death, it was something Derek hadn't done in over fifteen years.
"Very good," Dr. Murray replied and injected the medication into Philip's left arm as gently as she could, adding, "the medication should take in just a few minutes. Hopefully, we can lose that oxygen mask in a few days. . .we want to make sure you can breathe on your own first, okay?" Philip closed his eyes, then opened them again, and Dr. Murray said, "All right. Dr. Rayne, look after him. . .don't let him talk too much. I imagine there are things which you both need to say. . .but he needs to rest."
"I'll see that he gets it," Derek had replied and the doctor had smiled, then left the room. Derek said quietly, "You know, you gave us all a terrible scare, Philip Joseph." That smile quirked once more, and Derek added, "If you were twelve years old, I would be tempted to ground you for life, but I can't blame you for this. I know who did this to you, Philip. . .and he will pay."
Philip had closed his eyes and Derek continued, "I know, 'vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.' But I don't think God will disapprove in this case. . .I protect what's mine, Philip. And Randolph Hitchcock will not get another chance to hurt you, or Lissa. Never again." Philip's eyes opened and Derek continued, "Yes, he was responsible for the beating. As well as other things, but that matters little."
Philip slowly moved his left hand, until he could cover Derek's hand with his own. The effort exhausted him, but the precept didn't move his hand away. Instead, he took Philip's hand and squeezed it, adding, "There are so many things I must tell you, Philip. Things which should have been said a long time ago."
For a third time, that smile quirked under Philip's oxygen mask as he said very weakly, "Heard. . .you. I. . . know." Derek didn't understand, not right away. Philip repeated, his hand tightening on Derek's, "Heard. . .all. . . of you." He closed his eyes again, exhausted.
"You heard us," Derek whispered, "you heard every word we said to you?" Philip's only response was a weak smile. Derek didn't know what to say. He understood what Philip was trying to do, of course. . .trying to spare Derek the difficulty of saying the words again. This time to his conscious and alert godson. And so Derek had said nothing in response. . .nothing at all.
As Derek thought back on that conversation now, he realized that his godson had told Nick and Alex the same thing. He had heard what they said while he was in a coma. They didn't need to say it again, not if they were uncomfortable doing so. Derek said quietly, breaking the silence, "Alex said it again, didn't she?" Philip raised his head, blinking sleepily, and Derek repeated, "Alex said it again. . .what she told you while you. . ."
Philip smiled and answered, "Yes, she did. Told me quite firmly that I was t' shut my mouth and listen. I'm not stupid enough t' ignore the boss lady when she's in that mode. So I did what she told me t' do, and listened." Nick grinned and Philip continued, "After Dr. Murray gave her okay, Kat crawled up ont' my bed one day last week. She was very careful about not touchin' my ribs or my arm." In spite of himself, Derek laughed out loud. Philip grinned, adding ruefully, "Rachel wasn't too pleased wi' her, though."
Derek said, "Katherine has a mind of her own. . .she made up her mind that she, Maeve, and Shelagh would hang those pictures up in your room, and nothing would dissuade her. I wonder if Alex and Lissa are home yet? I know they were helping George to settle in his new apartment, but the settling-in process should be finished by now." His companion to his right rolled his eyes expressively.
"Don't count on it, Derek. . .I saw the stuff they were carting over to George's new place. I doubt if he'll use half the stuff they took to him, but you know Alex and Lis when they get into their mothering modes," Nick replied with a laugh. Derek smiled. . .yes, he did know. The ex-SEAL continued, "And besides, who needs mothering than George? Aside from Philip, of course."
"I keep trying to tell her to take it easy, but every time I try, she gives me a look. You know the one I mean, I think," the precept answered. Nick nodded, the grin broadening until his eyes were no longer visible. Derek continued, "I shouldn't complain. My daughter and my godson are alive, and healthy, and well on the road to recovery. You *will* rest, Philip." This was said with a stern look.
However, his eyes softened when he discovered that Philip had fallen asleep in the back seat. His head rested on the pillow which had been placed against the window. Nick said softly, "We'll take good care of him, Derek. All of us." Derek nodded and returned his attention to the road.
. . .
"No, no. . .that should go here!" Kat Corrigan laughed happily as she and her friend Maeve Reynolds taped pictures to the wall in Philip's bedroom. Kat couldn't remember being this happy in a long time. Maeve was home from Ireland for a visit, spring would soon be here, and Philip was coming home from the hospital. He had almost died, but he was all right now. And in just a few more minutes, he would be home. Kat looked at Shelagh, Philip's sister-in-law, and said, "Shelagh, tell Maeve that the picture should go on the wall right here, not over there!"
"Maeve, Kat drew the picture. . .it should go where she wants it. Philip shan't mind, no matter where you put it," Shelagh replied, smiling. Her accent was much thicker than Philip's, and Maeve said that was because she hadn't been out of Ireland very much. Kat and Maeve had done a lot of talking since Maeve's return two weeks earlier.
For the first time, Kat learned why Philip seemed so sad sometimes. . .his grandmother had hurt him very badly. When he was a little boy, younger than Kat was now, his mom and dad had died in an airplane crash. That was bad enough, but his grandmother had told Philip that it was his fault! Kat had been angry when Maeve told her about this, but her friend had also told her that there was nothing she could do for Philip. Aside from love him, which Kat already did.
Maeve said, glancing out the window, "Put it wherever you like, Kat! They're home! Derek's Range Rover just pulled into the garage!" Kat pointed to a spot over Philip's bed, and Shelagh swung her up into her arms. Kat taped the picture to the wall, then all three raced downstairs.
. . . p"Philip. . .wake up, we're home," Nick said softly, putting a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder. Philip moaned softly, his eyes flickering open, and Nick repeated, "We're home. . .and there are three beautiful ladies waiting on the front steps for us." Beside Nick, Derek smiled, though his eyes were anxious. He's worried about Lissa, Nick thought, but she's with Alex. She's in good hands. Philip started to sit upright, but all the color drained from his face, and he sank back against the pillow. Nick added, "For God's sake, Philip, be careful!"
"Just give me a moment. . .I'll be all right," Philip answered softly, closing his eyes. After a moment, he slowly sat up and removed the pillow from its place against the window. Satisfied that Philip wouldn't do anything rash, Nick released his shoulder and opened the car door.
Derek was already out of the car and opening the passenger door. Nick joined him, and together, they helped Philip from the Range Rover. Nick found himself wishing that they had a wheelchair. Perhaps his guardian angel was listening, for the door to the castle opened and Duncan emerged with a wheelchair. The butler said as he joined the three men, "I spoke with Miss Elizabeth this morning, before she and Miss Alex left for their errands, and she suggested it. It's old, certainly, but sturdy."
Nick laughed softly as he and Derek eased Philip into the wheelchair, saying, "Lissa never fails to amaze me. For that matter, neither does Maeve. . .where did you find that, Maeveen?" The teenager just smiled as she placed a ramp over the front steps with Shelagh's help, but didn't reply. Kat raced down the steps toward Derek, Nick, and Philip.
"Philip, you're home! We've got your room decorated, and Lissa just called, she said she and Alex will be home soon!" the little girl blurted out. Philip smiled and exchanged a glance with Nick. The ex-SEAL rolled his eyes, but stopped the wheelchair. He swung Kat into the air, then placed her carefully on Philip's lap. . .watching his friend's face for any sign of pain.
"I'm fine, Nick. Kat wouldn't do anythin' t' hurt me," Philip said gravely. The little girl looked from Philip to Nick, then a radiant smile crossed her face. Philip returned the smile and said, "Since you were kind enough t' decorate my room, I thought it only fair that I give you a ride." Derek had covered his mouth with his hand. . .his hazel eyes danced with laughter. Nick just shook his head and pushed his baby sister and his brother into the house. Inside, the entire staff was waiting, and they burst into applause.
"Welcome home, Father Philip. . .you gave us all a terrible fright. Dr. Rayne told us the hit which Mr. Hitchcock ordered against you," Duncan said as he closed the door behind Shelagh and Maeve. He walked around in front of Philip and added, "Dr. Rayne would be lost if anything ever happened to you, Philip, and so would everyone else."
"Thank you, Duncan," Philip replied simply. He didn't say anything about the familiarity. Nick realized that it was because Duncan had known Philip since he was Kat's age. After a moment, the young priest continued, "Thanks t' all of you. Cook, I understand you have a feast planned."
"That I do, Father Philip, but don't you worry about eating all of it. I'll worry about putting some meat on you later," the woman replied, smiling broadly. The door behind Nick opened once more, and Cook added, "But I haven't given up hope of putting some meat on you, Miss Elizabeth! You are entirely too thin, and there's no reason for it!" Nick turned to face Lissa and Alex.
Lissa smiled faintly and replied, "I'm perfectly healthy, Cook, thanks to those lovely cookies you sent with Duncan when I was in the hospital." Cook's eyes widened. Nick struggled against a smile. Nice deflection, Lis, he thought, now Duncan is in real trouble!
. . .
It was a mean thing to do, and Lissa apologized to Duncan with a glance. However, the butler just winked at her and patiently endured Cook's berating as he led her and the rest of the household staff from the foyer. Nick burst out laughing, saying, "That was cold, Lissa!"
"It got the job done, didn't it? Welcome home, Philip," Lissa replied, nodding gravely to the young priest. He smiled at her shyly. . .there was no hatred in his eyes. It was evident to Lissa that he still wanted to be friends as well, but how was that possible?
"Thank you, Lissa. . .I'm very glad t' be home. Nick and Derek told me that you and Alex were settlin' George into his new apartment. Hello, Alex," Philip said, smiling warmly at the researcher. Alex left Lissa's side to give Philip a gentle hug, which Philip returned. He added, "How is George doin' in his new home?"
"I'll tell you everything later, Philip. . .most likely over dinner. Right now, however, I believe the ladies would like to show you what they did to your room," Alex replied. Kat jumped down from his lap, and Shelagh and Alex helped him from the chair. Maeve paused just long enough to hug Lissa, then followed Shelagh, Alex, Philip, and Kat upstairs. The young woman watched them go. . .no matter what happened to her friendship with Philip, she didn't regret her choice.
. . .
Nick excused himself, saying that he need to check on a fax which was supposed to be arriving from the Seattle Legacy House, about George's appearance a few months earlier. His departure left Derek and Lissa alone in the foyer of the castle, and Derek studied his daughter intently. She looked tired. . .there were dark circles under her eyes. Several times, she massaged her left shoulder, which was still in a sling. However, Derek didn't ask if she was all right. Instead, he said quietly, "You look tired, sweeting. . .I thought you told Dr. Tyler that you would take it easy."
Lissa smiled ruefully and answered, "I wasn't doing anything really strenuous, Dad. George wouldn't allow it." Derek smiled, a thrill zapping through him when she called him 'Dad.' He hadn't really gotten used to it in the last two weeks. Lissa added, linking arms with him, "C'mon. . . I'll tell you all about it on the way upstairs."
. . .
Fiona watched her godson's homecoming with interest. So my little girl knows, she thought, Lissa knows that Derek is her father. Not all is lost. Fiona listened to the conversations, and realized why she had returned to this world. I will fulfill that part of my destiny after my death, she thought, there's a poetry in that, I think. I won't let you down, little one. I promise, I won't let you down.
After Philip had finished thanking Kat for the drawings, and Maeve and Shelagh for helping Kat to hang them up, Shelagh said, "I think Philip needs t' rest, m'girls." The young priest smiled at his sister-in-law gratefully, and Shelagh winked at him before continuing, "Maeveen, I would suspect that your sister wishes t' have a word wi' you."
Maeve started to protest, then looked at Philip intently. She said finally, "Okay. . .I've been behaving myself today, but I should probably go see how her day has been. C'mon, munchkin, let's go hear all about the fun Alex and Lissa had." Kat nodded, but first ran to the bed to kiss Philip and very gently hug him. Once that was taken care of, she joined Maeve. The older girl swung her up into her arms and carried her from the room.
Philip said softly, "Thank you, Shelagh. . .I am gettin' tired, and I'm sure Cook wouldn't be happy wi' me if I fell asleep durin' dinner. You can see t' Maeve and Kat. . .I'll be fine." Shelagh glowered at him, and Philip held up his hands in surrender with a smile. He eased back against his pillows, wincing. Shelagh removed his shoes and placed them under his bed, then drew the covers up to his waist.
"Let me fuss over you! I spoke wi' the children earlier. . .they asked me t' give you their love. Philip, I know you're tired right now, but when you're feelin' a little stronger, could you talk wi' Joseph? The poor lad is feelin' terribly guilty. . .you know, because of what he said t' you at Michael's funeral," Shelagh said hesitantly.
"Of course! If you could get me the phone, I'll call him right now," Philip replied. Shelagh put her hand on his mending arm, and the pain nearly overwhelmed him. Shelagh placed her hands on his shoulders, and Philip struggled back from the darkness. He whispered, "I'm all right. . .just give me a minute. I hate this. . .I hate not bein' able t' move, I hate bein' treated like a piece of fragile porcelain. And I really hate this wall that's come between Lissa and me, but I have no idea how t' break it down, or even if I can."
"Shhh. . .just lie back. I know, I've been worried about you and Lissa these last few days. Not that the lass has been behavin' like a ghost, but I know what bein' a policewoman meant t' her. I also know what you mean t' her," Shelagh replied. Philip opened his eyes to look at his sister-in-law, and Shelagh asked softly, "You didn't really think that I wouldn't see how Lissa feels about you?"
"I didn't realize it. . .the signs were right in front of me, Shelagh, and I didn't see them! The dreams, the way she never approached me after Mass. . .the signs were right there in front of my face, and I didn't see them!" Philip replied, his voice barely above a whisper.
"You can't see all things, Pip. . .you're a priest, not God. Not even an archangel. How do you feel about this? Knowin' how Lissa feels about you. . .how do you feel about that? Do you feel the same about her as you did before?" Shelagh asked, her sapphire eyes level with his, and Philip looked away. How did he answer that?
After a moment, he replied, "I can't feel the same as I did before, Shelagh. I always knew that Lissa loved me. . . we've known each other since we were children, we were best friends! But for the first time, I have an idea how deeply her love runs. I don't know what t' feel! She gave up her career, her future, for me! As unworthy as I am of that sacrifice, she made it. And she did more than just that."
Shelagh said quietly, "Philip, you're in danger of alienatin' Lissa if you keep that up. Dr. Corrigan has put her foot in her mouth several times already. Stop thinkin' like that. . .stop harpin' on the past, it does no good." She paused briefly, evidently reading Philip's frustration in his eyes, then continued, "You want t' know what t' do. Be there for her. Don't be sayin' all the time, 'you shouldn't have done it.' She did it. It's done. And don't be referrin' to her decision as a sacrifice. She hates that. Says it makes her feel like a martyr, and that's one thing which Lissa Rayne will never be."
Shelagh took a deep breath, then added, "Enough of that. You need t' rest. I'll see t' the girls. Just rest." She leaned forward to kiss his cheek, then left the room without another word. Philip lay back, closing his eyes. How could he sleep, when there was so much to think about? Within five minutes, he had drifted off.
. . .
Fiona was sitting on air, on top of Philip's dresser as her godson talked with Shelagh, and smiled approvingly. Good for you, Shelagh, she thought, Philip needed to hear that! Now, if only you could talk some sense into my daughter, we'll be fine.
It isn't Elizabeth who concerns me, Fiona. . .she has a legitimate reason for concern, a familiar voice said and Fiona glanced at Winston Rayne. Her hatred of him had mellowed to an amused annoyance over the years. He wasn't a bad man. . .he had made mistakes, but Fiona couldn't pretend to be perfect, either. Winston's choices had hurt his son, just as Fiona's choices had hurt her daughter.
Winston, I should have known you would turn up like the proverbial bad penny! But I thought you would be taking some time off, after helping Lissa in Peru. And didn't you make a bargain with Lissa? Fiona asked with a mischievous smile. Winston just glared at her, and Fiona's grin broadened at the sight of that glare.
I am stating a fact. If Rachel Corrigan persists in this fantasy that Elizabeth is angry with Philip for the choice she made while Between, Derek will be forced to take drastic action,Winston replied.
Let Derek and Lissa deal with Rachel, Winston. You know, you really should go torture Ellen. You can't pass into that place, but that doesn't mean she can't see you. Take Alicia with you. She does that quite often. Technically, I'm Philip's only godmother, but my two sisters seem to have adopted him as well, Fiona replied dryly.
Molly and Alicia remember Philip as a child, back before his battleax of a grandmother tore out his heart, Winston replied, his voice growing rough. He stared at the sleeping young man for several moments, murmuring, I've never forgotten how it hurt when Maeve asked Derek to be that boy's godfather, instead of me. I saved her. . .I saved them both. But when I saw Derek's expression as he held Philip, I knew that Maeve was right. Where did the years go, Fiona? When did that tiny infant become a grown man?
Fiona smiled sadly and answered, When did my ten year old daughter become a woman? Children grow up, Winston. They grow up to become precepts haunted by the events in a Peruvian cave, priests shattered by betrayal, policewomen forced to make a devastating choice. My daughter would make the same choice again, of that I have no doubt. . .but her heart is breaking. You know what I mean, Winston. . .I remember your fury when Rachel turned against Derek after learning of the mistake which killed her mother.
She regretted mentioning that, for Winston's cobalt eyes flashed with rage. He replied tightly, Oh, yes. Elizabeth was far too gentle when Dr. Corrigan asked about her coldness, but your daughter is obsessed with fairness. Doubtless something which you and Derek taught her.
Fiona didn't take offense, because she knew he loved Lissa. Instead, she replied quietly, Actually, Winston, my daughter's obsession, as you put it, with fairness is a result of what my husband did to her. You know that as well as I do. I remember how you wept each time he harmed her. Each time he. . . Fiona couldn't continue. She pressed her hand to her mouth, trembling at the memory.
Forgive me, Fiona. I didn't mean to upset you. Dinner will be served soon. I'm not sure if Derek will let Philip sleep. Personally, I believe the boy needs his rest far more than he needs food. Cook seems to agree. . .she is making chicken noodle soup, Winston said softly. Fiona nodded, blinking back tears.
Derek will probably have soup sent up to Philip once he awakens, then. I have a terrible feeling, Winston, about dinner. I think we should stay put, until everyone has gone to bed, she replied and Winston bobbed his head once in agreement. Fiona continued, For now, I just want to watch my godson sleep, then I'll go check on my daughter. I've missed both of my children so much, Winston. An understanding look passed between the two parents, separated from their children by death and so much more.
. . .
Contrary to Fiona's supposition, Philip did eat with the rest of the family that night, at his request. Shelagh and Maeve were leaving for Ireland the next morning, and Philip explained that he wanted to spend more time with them. Nick and Derek helped him downstairs, Derek trying not to fuss over his godson. It wasn't easy.
The men found Lissa, Alex, Maeve, and Shelagh in the study with Kat and Rachel. Alex was the first to look up, and she smiled, saying, "I'm glad you're joining us for dinner, Philip. . .but just don't over-do it, okay?" The young man nodded with a smile, and the group walked to the dining room together. There was one place at the table which had only a bowl, a soup spoon, and an empty glass. That was obviously where Philip was to sit.
Shelagh was placed on one side of Philip, and Maeve on the other. Derek took his place at the head of the table, with Lissa on his right side and Maeve on his left. Rachel sat at the other end of the table, with Alex sitting on Lissa's other side, and Nick placed between Alex and Rachel. Kat sat across from Nick, between Rachel and Shelagh.
Dinner was a little strained, though Lissa and Alex talked about their afternoon helping George settle into his new apartment. Rachel kept glancing at Lissa anxiously, and Derek could feel his daughter's tension. At last, after Alex finished telling a funny story about George's reaction to a VCR, Lissa asked calmly, "Is there a problem, Doctor?"
The temperature in the dining room had just dropped a few degrees. Derek saw both Nick and Alex glance at Lissa nervously. Maeve seemed to move her chair closer to Philip, while Shelagh moved a little closer to Kat, as if to shield the child. Rachel looked nonplussed at the use of her title, rather than her given name. However, she replied in an equally calm voice, "No, honey, what makes you ask that?"
"You keep looking at me as if I'm about to shatter into a thousand little pieces. My shoulder is fine, Rachel. . . I'm not a masochist, I don't like being in pain, so I'm not over-exerting myself," Lissa replied. Her voice was level, but Derek could see that even Nick heard the undercurrents.
Rachel didn't reply, but her eyes strayed to Philip, who was watching Lissa. Derek saw his daughter's mouth tighten as Rachel looked at Philip, and a moment later, there was a splintering sound. Everyone at the table gasped as Lissa's water glass shattered. Lissa looked at the glass, stunned, then muttered, "Oh, my God. Dad, I'm so sorry! I'll go shopping tomorrow for a replacement."
It took Derek a moment to comprehend what his daughter was saying, then he asked, "You have telekinetic powers?" When Lissa nodded ruefully, Derek continued, "But. . .why didn't you ever tell me about this, Elizabeth?"
"I don't use them that often, Dad. I haven't used them since Peru," Lissa replied. Now, there was a ghost of a smile edging the corners of her mouth. Derek remembered what Rafe had told him about Lissa pushing Victor Arkady down the stairs, and his eyes widened.
"You. . .you used your telekinetic abilities to knock Arkady down the stairs in his compound?" he asked and Lissa nodded, her smile broadening. Derek looked at Philip, whose expression had changed from anxious to awed. Nick, Alex, Rachel, Kat, Maeve, and Shelagh looked lost.
"Yup. Actually, what I did while Grandfather kept Rafe from interfering was forced Arkady out of the room and into the hallway. I didn't think of knocking him down the stairs until I saw the rug he was standing on. I used my abilities to pull the rug out from under him, and down he went," Lissa replied, now grinning like an impish child.
There was a moment of silence, then Alex threw her head back and laughed. Nick joined in, then Shelagh, then Maeve. Rachel stared at Lissa, her mouth hanging open in shock. Philip was just grinning, and for a moment, the wall between Derek's godson and daughter was gone. Kat said plaintively, "Lissa, who's Arkady and why did you want to hurt him?"
Lissa turned her attention to the little girl and replied gently, "Sweetheart, Arkady is the man who had me kidnapped, so he could hurt Derek. He's also the man who sent Senephra here." There was another moment of confusion in the little girl's eyes, then Kat gasped.
"So that's why you made him fall down the stairs? 'Cause Senephra hurt Philip?" the budding psychic asked and Lissa nodded. A look passed between the pair, then Kat smiled. Derek wasn't entirely sure what had just happened, but he was certain that his daughter would never tell him. Nor would the child seated beside her mother. Kat said after a moment, her voice filled with awe, "You meant what you said in the hospital. . .you really would do anything for us."
"You betcha, munchkin! Don't you ever forget it! Alex, would you like to come shopping with me tomorrow?" Lissa asked, directing her attention to her former roommate. Derek held up his hand before Alex could reply, and both young women looked at him.
"There is no need for that, Elizabeth. . .there are more glasses in the cupboards. Besides, Cook would never believe that you broke that glass without touching it," he replied. Lissa acknowledged this with a smile, and the rest of dinner continued without difficulty.
. . .
After dinner, Nick helped Philip back upstairs, while Kat and Lissa helped Maeve and Shelagh to finish packing. The two psychics would go back and forth between the two rooms, passing each other in the hall. During one trip, Kat stopped Lissa and the former cop dropped to her knees.
The child asked softly, "Lissa, do you hate Philip?" Lissa stared at the little girl, stunned. Hate Philip? Where on earth had Kat gotten an idea like that? Lissa frantically went over the last week in her mind, trying to figure out if she had said or done anything that would make Kat think that she hated Philip.
"Sweetheart, I could never hate Philip! Why do you ask that? Do you think I've been mean to him?" Lissa asked and Kat shook her head hard. Lissa sat down in the corridor and pulled the little girl into her lap with her right arm. With Kat happily snuggled against her body, Lissa asked, "Why did you ask me if I hate Philip, honey? Did I do or say something which made you think that?"
"It was something Mom said before she left earlier. I didn't hear what she said, but it made Shelagh really mad. I was afraid you hated Philip because you can't be a cop anymore," Kat replied, looking up at Lissa anxiously. Rage threatened to overwhelm the young woman, but she fought it back. It's time for me to bring this to a stop, she thought, I don't care about hurt feelings!p
"I don't hate Philip, Kat. . .I could never hate him. I know, I've been a little quiet lately, but I'm trying to sort some things out. I didn't mean to scare you. Listen, tell Maeve that I'll be back in a few minutes. I need to talk to Alex for a few minutes," Lissa replied. She was afraid if she talked to Rachel right now, she would blast the older woman to kingdom come.
"Okay. . .you're not gonna fight with my mom, are you?" Kat asked anxiously and Lissa shook her head. She didn't want to talk to Rachel right now, much less argue with her. Satisfied, Kat got up and kissed Lissa's cheek, then went to Maeve's room. Lissa rose to her feet and headed downstairs.
. . .
"I'm really worried about her, Alex," Rachel said in the study as they waited for Derek, who was in his office, "and the incident at dinner just proves my point. She's suppressing her anger." Alex looked at the older woman, trying not to roll her eyes.
"She's controlling her anger, Rachel. I lived with Lissa for two years. . .I know the way she thinks, and the way she reacts. Yeah, she's angry, but that's not an inappropriate reaction," Alex replied.
"Of course anger is an appropriate reaction. . .she's lost what meant the most to her. But the way she's dealing with it. . .it un-nerves me. I tell you, Alex, I'm not sure if Lissa will ever forgive Philip for putting her in this position," Rachel said. There was a burst of harsh laughter from the door to the study, where Lissa stood.
"Forgive Philip? Pray tell, Doctor, what has Philip done which requires my forgiveness?" the young woman asked in a low voice. Her eyes were flashing dangerously, and Alex swallowed hard. She recognized that look. The storm was about to hit. Lissa continued, "I will tell you this once more, Rachel, since you obviously weren't listening the first time. Philip tried to stop me. . .tried to tell me not to do it. But I was given a choice. I made my choice."
"By the archangel Michael, you say," Rachel said quietly, "but you had passed out from the pain. You were imagining Michael, imagining the whole thing. Lissa, there was no need for you to give up your police career. I. . ." Her voice died at the pure rage in Lissa's eyes.
"I imagined it, did I? Then why did Philip wake up when he did? Think what you like, Dr. Corrigan, your opinion on this matter is of no interest to me. Let's return to the matter of forgiveness, shall we?" the former police detective replied. Derek had appeared in the doorway behind his daughter, but Lissa didn't seem to notice.
Derek looked at Alex, who shrugged helplessly, and Lissa continued, "As I said, what has Philip done which requires my forgiveness? Can you forgive Katherine for her friendship with Senephra, when that friendship nearly destroyed her? Can you forgive Nick for throwing himself into a forcefield to save Kat, even though that resulted in you both being knocked unconscious? No, Rachel. . .Philip has done nothing to need my forgiveness. The person whom I have to forgive is the person who doesn't think I can ever forgive Philip. I expected better of you, Rachel." With that, Lissa spun on her heel and strode from the room, past her stunned father.
Rachel looked at Alex helplessly, but the researcher responded with a scathing look of her own. Rachel lowered her eyes, bright red spots staining her cheeks, and Alex told Derek, "I'll check on Philip and Nick, then see to Lissa." The precept nodded, and Alex left the room.
As she went to the stairs, Alex could hear Derek ask, "Rachel, would you like to tell me what that was all about? Why my daughter said the things she did?" Alex smiled grimly. She would have liked to hear Rachel's answer, but right now, there were other people who needed Alex.
. . .
Fiona was staring at her former lover and the resident psychiatrist for the Legacy, her mouth agape. At last, she said, I can't believe she said that. I can't believe what she just said. Winston shook his head in disgust and pity. Fiona repeated, I don't believe that woman!
<I do,> Winston answered with a sigh, I'm afraid I do, Fiona. I'll believe just about anything of the woman who blamed my son for my misdeeds. Thank God Philip didn't hear her, though. . .he would have been devastated. Let's go see about him. . .Alexandra will take care of Elizabeth.
Don't you want to stay, and see Derek put Rachel in her place? Fiona inquired as Derek sat down a few yards away from Rachel. Winston cocked an eyebrow, a smirk appearing, and Fiona admitted, All right, I agree. . . there is no need for us to stay, since Lissa has already taken care of Dr. Rachel Corrigan. Then to Philip's room we go. With those words, the two ghosts returned to Philip's room, where he and Nick were talking quietly.
The door to Lissa's room slammed, and Nick jumped. Alex poked her head into Philip's room, saying, "Let me handle this, guys. . .Lissa is in an irritated state at the moment, and I learned how to deal with that while we were in college." With that, she was gone again, and the two young men looked at each other, mystified.
"What did she mean by that? Things were pretty tense between Rachel and Lissa at dinner, but I thought Lis was helping Maeve and Shelagh pack," Nick commented. Philip shook his head, frowning thoughtfully. Nick bit his lower lip and added, "I wonder if I should go see what happened?"
"I'll be fine, Nick, if you want t' see about Rachel. I'm feelin' pretty tired anyhow," Philip replied and Nick looked at him quizzically. The young priest added, "I'm sure, Nick. It's okay." Nick smiled and squeezed Philip's left shoulder, then left the room.
After Nick left, Maeve appeared, asking, "Philip? Are you okay?" He smiled and motioned her into the room. Maeve continued, "Lissa and Rachel had a massive argument. . .I was packing in my room when Lissa slammed her door. She's really angry. I figured I'd better take a break, and come see you." She sat down on the bed beside Philip.
The poor child doesn't want to get caught in the crossfire, Fiona observes, she loves both Rachel and Lissa, and though Lissa would never put her in the middle, Maeve wishes to hear nothing that would turn her against Rachel. I often wish she was my daughter as well.
Starr is a good sort. . .I think that's the reason why Maeve is nothing like her father. I still don't understand why that man isn't in hell, where he belongs. He deserves to burn for what he did to Elizabeth, and for what he threatened to do to my son and my grandson, Winston replied, his eyes growing stormy. Fiona didn't answer immediately. She was watching Philip and Maeve together. Sweet little Maeve. The child had been well named.
I don't know, either. Perhaps there is something which the Father wants him to do, as part of his penance. I can't imagine what that might be, damn that bastard to the fires of hell for all eternity! Oh. My daughter was so right to name that child 'Maeve.' Lissa doesn't remember Maeve Callaghan, but she gave her little sister the right name, Fiona replied and Winston nodded.
I agree. You miss her, don't you? the man asked compassionately. Fiona nodded sadly. Like Winston, she was caught betwixt and between. . .not condemned to hell, because she never removed herself from God's grace, but not quite to heaven, either, because of the mistakes which had hurt her daughter so terribly. Maeve had made no such mistakes, aside from dying when her two little boys needed her, and not protecting her youngest from her mother.p
Yes, I do. . .and the only mistake Maeve made was in not specifying Derek as Philip's guardian from the start. But if I know my old friend, no one wept more than Maeve at what that battleax did to him. Winston, we've done what we can here. . .I can't watch any more. I want to go see about my daughter. Alexandra will take care of her, but I have to see about my little girl, Fiona said. Winston nodded and the pair left the room. Maeve would take care of Philip, at least until he fell asleep again.p
. . .
Admittedly, slamming the door behind her was a childish thing to do, but it made Lissa feel a little better. Peevishly, she hoped they had heard it all the way downstairs. Lissa closed her eyes, sinking to the ground as she replayed the argument in her head.
I should have never blasted her like that, it was counter-productive, but dammit, she made me mad! Lissa thought, rubbing her temples wearily. There was a gentle knock on the door, then Alex asked softly, "If I come in, you won't throw anything at me, will you?"
Lissa lifted her head and replied with a half-smile, "You're in no danger of being brained, Xan, come on in." The door opened and Lissa's former roommate slipped inside. Lissa looked up at her friend and sighed, "I really blew it, Xan. Blowing up was major-league counterproductive."
"Wrong again, kiddo," Alex replied, sitting down on the floor beside Lissa, "because if you hadn't done it, I would have. She had no business saying that, no business whatsoever. Especially the part about you imagining Michael. It was real to you, and that's what's important."
Lissa looked at her friend sharply, saying, "You don't believe me, either? Hell, maybe I did imagine the whole thing, I don't know. But if I did imagine it, then why does Philip remember it as well?" Alex put her arm around Lissa's shoulders, drawing the younger woman closer.
"I never said that I didn't believe you. . .I never said that you imagined it," the researcher replied. Lissa closed her eyes and rested her head on her former roommate's shoulder. Alex gently rocked her from side to side, continuing, "You know Rachel cares about you. She just doesn't think sometimes, that's all."
"I know. I'm sorry for getting angry with you, I knew what you meant. Dammit, Xan, how did things get so messed up? Philip still wants to be friends, I still want to be friends, but how can we? It isn't just the thing about my leaving the force. . .how can Philip be friends with a woman who's in love with him? He's my friend, *and* my parish priest," Lissa said. Alex hugged her gently and the two young women fell silent. Lissa slipped her good arm around Alex's waist, sighing, "It's a long way from Broussard."
"That it is. . .but the location doesn't matter, kiddo. I know you're not angry with me any more for those letters, but I'm gonna make you this promise right now. I'm not gonna let someone hurt you like that again," Alex replied quietly, her dark eyes growing solemn.
Lissa smiled and answered, "I know, Xan. I know that. I love you, too." Alex smiled in spite of herself, then drew Lissa into a tight embrace. Nothing more was said, the two friends just held each other, Alex softly humming a song her Creole grandmother had taught her years earlier.
. . .
Rachel was in no mood to talk, Nick discovered, aside from telling Nick that Derek wanted to see him in Derek's office. The young man tarried, concerned about his friend, but Rachel said very quietly, "I'm fine, Nick, don't worry about me. . .just see what Derek wants."
Nick nodded, though he was still worried. He said, "I'll come back and see you when I've talked with Derek, Rach." The psychiatrist merely offered him a faint smile, then Nick left the room. He walked back upstairs to Derek's office. Something major was going on here.
Derek was pacing, but stopped when Nick entered and said very quietly, "I need your help, my friend. For the past week, I have watched and waited, hoping that I was wrong." Nick nodded, understanding, and Derek continued, "Lissa. . . Rachel said something tonight that infuriated Lissa. Nick, until tonight, I had never seen my daughter truly angry. I'm afraid that Rachel's hovering is impairing Lissa's ability to heal, something Rachel doesn't seem to understand."
Nick asked quietly, "Look, would you like me to take Lis to my mom's cabin? I know Alex has been trying to keep her busy, but I think the quiet will do her good." Derek looked up and smiled. For the first time, Nick realized this was what Derek had been hoping for.
"Could you, Nick? Get an early start tomorrow morning, and drive to Christine's cabin," Derek suggested and Nick nodded. That was along what he had been thinking in terms of the time, and Derek continued, "There is one other thing. . . I want you to take Philip with you."
"Uh. . .I'm not second-guessing you here, Derek, really I'm not. But is that a good idea? I mean, the ride is gonna be bumpy, and that's the last thing Philip needs. The awkwardness between him and Lissa aside, the bumpy ride is gonna leave Philip in so much pain. . ." Nick began.
"That's why I want you to take the Range Rover," Derek interrupted. Nick looked at his friend, who continued, "It already has cushioning. I know things will be uncomfortable for Philip and Lissa, but this House cannot afford more tension. I need that team back, Nick."
The young man nodded. He had been feeling the strain, they all had. Perhaps Derek was right. . .perhaps being at the cabin was the best thing for Philip and Lissa's relationship. Derek continued sadly, "I will miss his birthday, but we can celebrate it again when the three of you return. And Nick? Let me tell Lissa about this?"
"You're the boss. We'll leave tomorrow morning, after Maeve and Shelagh have left for Ireland. I'll take care of them, Derek. . .I promise," Nick said. Derek nodded with a faint smile, and Nick left the room. I don't know if this is such a good idea, he thought, but it may be the only way to knock down that wall between Philip and Lissa , he thought, but it may be the only way to knock down that wall between Philip and Lissa.