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|After Alex was certain Lissa would be all
right, she went back in to check on Philip once more. He
was sleeping, and Alex's heart turned over. Oh,
little brother, she thought, if there's any
justice, both Reynolds and Hitchcock will die slow,
From Philip's room, Alex continued downstairs. Rachel was still sitting in the study, her arms wrapped tightly around her waist. She looked up as Alex entered, asking very softly, "Is Lissa okay?" Alex nodded and Rachel continued, "Good. I put my foot in it, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did. . .twice over. My God, Rachel. . .I can't believe you told her that she imagined what happened with Michael! Why on earth would Lissa imagine that?" Alex replied, her temper starting to rise once more. Rachel sighed, nodding as she looked at her feet again.
"I know, that was really stupid of me. And having to tell Derek. . .oh, that part wasn't especially enjoyable, either. I'll never forget the look he gave me, Alex. It was like he had never seen me before in his life," Rachel answered, rubbing her temples with her fingertips.
"Well, the good news is, Lissa doesn't hold a grudge long for this type of thing. She's already starting to calm down. The bad news is, Lissa doesn't hold a grudge, but she does have a long memory. Now, things were strained between the two of you even before she was shot, so it's only fair to warn you. . .lay off," Alex said and Rachel nodded.
"I will. What about apologizing to her, or should I leave her alone altogether?" the psychiatrist asked. Alex sighed and sat down beside the older woman. The truth was, she really wasn't sure about that.
"I wish I knew, Rachel. But I think the best thing you can do is leave her alone. If she approaches you, fine. I know you're skeptical, but what happened was real to Lissa, and it was real to Philip," Alex answered finally.
Once more, Rachel nodded, murmuring, "I don't think I'll ever forget the look in her eyes, Alex. Back when she first woke up from her coma, I told Derek that when her fury finally exploded, it would be devastating. I never guessed that some of that fury would be directed at me."
"Lissa was holding back, Rachel. . .it's when she doesn't hold back when you should worry. Are you all right?" Alex asked and Rachel nodded, sighing. Alex continued, "Okay. I just checked on Philip. . .he's asleep. Probably a combination of medication and exhaustion. Where's Kat?"
"She's upstairs, helping Maeve and Shelagh pack. You know, I never realized until Maeve left how much I would miss that girl. Kat was so happy to see her. . .she missed Maeve so much," Rachel sighed. Alex nodded. They all had.
. . .
After concluding his conversation with Nick, Derek walked to his daughter's room. As he had told the younger man, he wanted to tell Lissa about the trip. He knew she would try to talk Nick out of taking Philip. . .would try to talk her way out of the trip. Derek couldn't allow that. Lissa's future, and the very future of the Legacy, depended on this trip to the mountains. Derek could feel that.
Before reaching Lissa's room, he peeked into Philip's bedroom. . .the young man was sleeping soundly. As he had when Philip was a small boy, Derek whispered in Dutch, "I love you, son." He had come so close to losing Philip. . . but the words were still easier to say when the boy was asleep. After a moment, he continued to Lissa's room, where he gently rapped on the door, calling, "Lissa. . .it's me."
The door opened and his daughter looked at him miserably. She sighed, "I'm sorry, Dad, I was very childish." Derek put his arm around her shoulders, leading her back into the room. To his relief, nothing was broken, and all of the pictures were secure on the wall.
"Perhaps. . .but at least you didn't tear your room up in a rage. I must confess, when I heard the door slam, I was afraid you knocked some of the pictures from the walls. However, this is not the case. Are you all right?" Derek asked and Lissa nodded with a rueful smile. She sat down on her bed and Derek sat down beside her.
"You're talking to the wrong person for confessions, Dad. . .he's just down the hall. Probably asleep, though," Lissa said. Derek smiled, relieved by the flash of humor, and the young woman continued, "I'm sorry. She just made me so angry!" This was said through clenched teeth.
"I know, sweeting. . .I know. I've seen the way you try to stay patient with Rachel, and it's starting to impair your recovery. Nick has offered to take you to his mother's cabin in the mountains, and I accepted his offer on your behalf," Derek said, still holding his daughter's hands.
"Dad, I would dearly love to get away for a few days, but Alex needs my help. We lost a lot of ground on the Morton investigation by going over to George's this afternoon, I still have to do my taxes for last year, to say nothing of recording the events while we were on the other side. I still haven't done that, and. . ." Lissa began, but Derek silenced her with a finger against her lips.
"Elizabeth, my sweet daughter. . .enough. I will take care of your taxes. Give your journal to Alex, and she will enter your observations into the Legacy database. She's worried about you. . .like all of us," Derek told his daughter. Lissa sighed, closing her eyes, and Derek went on, "Good girl. After Maeve and Shelagh leave for the airport, Nick will take you and Philip to Christine's cabin."
Lissa's eyes flew open and she said, "Dad, I'm not so sure that's a good idea. The ride is gonna be really bumpy, and the last thing Philip needs is to be bounced around. I mean, he's still healing!" Though the words were true enough, there was another reason behind his daughter's eyes, and this time, Derek cupped her face in his hands.
"I have already thought of that, sweeting. The cushions are still in the Range Rover. You will ride up in the front seat with Nick, and Philip can have the entire back seat to himself. All right?" he asked. Once more Lissa closed her eyes, and nodded. Derek kissed her forehead and continued, "Good. . .because I won't take no for an answer. Get some rest, little one. . .the three of you will need to get an early start." Lissa nodded, looking more than a little lost, and Derek left the room. He had some work to do.
. . .
It didn't take a psychic to figure out what Derek was doing. . .Lissa knew what her father was up to. What was more, the very fact that Derek's machinations were so blatant told Lissa just how concerned her father was. This wasn't just about allowing Lissa to heal, but about healing Lissa's relationship with Philip. She had hoped no one else noticed, aside from Alex, but that was a foolish hope, of course.
C'mon, Lis, you are absolutely hopeless at disguising your emotions. . .you should know that by now! she thought, rising to her feet. The ex-cop paced back and forth in her room, consumed with enough nervous energy to power the control room alone for a year. I gotta work out, she thought, I gotta get rid of some of this tension, or I'll never get to sleep.
With that in mind, Lissa left her room and headed downstairs to the gym. During the last week, she had taken to keeping her CD's with a beat in the gym. She really wasn't paying attention. . .which was how she ran full-tilt into Rachel. Both women exclaimed at the same time, "I'm so sorry!" They stared at each other, unsure of what to say or do. Lissa was still angry, but she couldn't carry a grudge.
However, it was Rachel who spoke first, saying softly, "I am so sorry. . .I need to watch where I'm going. Is your shoulder okay?" Lissa nodded, trying desperately to think of what to say. Rachel evidently had the same problem, for she fell silent, staring at Lissa anxiously. After a moment, Rachel added, "I am so sorry, Lissa. . .I should have never said what I did. That was un-called for."
Lissa stiffened, but replied quietly, "Yes, Rachel, it was. It's over and done with, but you have to understand. Things have been awkward between Philip and me because we have no idea how to deal with each other, not because I'm angry with him. If you think I'm angry with him for that choice I was given, then you don't know me."
She looked down the hall, collecting her thoughts, then looked back at Rachel. She continued, "I wish you could understand that I would have given up my life, my family, to save Philip. The way I see it, I got off pretty lucky. I'm not a cop anymore, but I still have my family, and I still have the Legacy. And Philip is alive. . .he's alive and he's on the road to recovery, and that makes anything I gave up worth it. Are you understanding what I'm trying to say?"
"Yes. I'm afraid I forgot how much you love Philip. No, don't look away from me, Lissa! You're the woman who stated, quite bluntly, that your feelings didn't matter. . . that only Philip's happiness mattered to you. I know you love him. And there's no shame in that," Rachel said. She paused, then touched Lissa's right shoulder, adding, "I know you're on your way to the gym for a work-out, so I won't keep you. But please, accept my apologies."
"If you'll accept mine for losing my temper," Lissa replied. What else could she say to such a lovely apology? Rachel smiled and Lissa said, "Then no more will be said about this. I gotta get to the gym. . .if I don't lose some of this nervous energy, I'll never get to sleep tonight."
"I'll talk to you later, then, sweetheart. . .and there's no need to apologize," Rachel answered, then slipped lightly up the stairs. Still startled by the conversation, Lissa continued to the gym. She flicked on the lights and headed for her CD player. She needed something *loud.*
. . .
Nick encountered Derek on his way back to his room, and asked, "So how did Lis take it?" Derek smiled faintly, and Nick sighed with relief, adding, "Good. . .and what about the news that Philip will be with us?" Derek smiled ruefully and led Nick toward his office.
"Her reaction was the same as yours. She insisted that the ride would be difficult for Philip, with his injuries, but her objections went deeper than that. Just as, I'm sure, your own objections go deeper," Derek replied and Nick didn't bother denying it. The older man continued, "And of course, she put up some resistance to the journey at first."
"Yeah, but you were expecting that, Derek. I mean, let's face it. . .when it comes to Philip, Lis is transparent. Let me guess at her reasons. . .Alex needed her help, they were still working on the Morton case?" Nick asked. Derek rolled his eyes and Nick continued, laughing, "I know my little sister. So, are you worried that she gave in too readily?" Derek shook his head thoughtfully.
"No. . .and the idea that she saw through me doesn't worry me, either. Lissa is stubborn, yes, but she isn't foolish. And she wants the awkwardness with Philip to ease, just as much as he does. I don't know what's causing this tension, Nick. . .but I do know that if it isn't dealt with, the entire House will suffer," he replied.
"Well, I'll do my best," Nick said quietly. He was obviously disturbed by something, and after a moment, Nick continued, "Derek, what happened between Lissa and Rachel? I mean, Philip and I heard Lissa's door slam, and Rachel looked like she had been hit with a ten-ton truck. Did they have some massive argument or something?"
Derek was unwilling to tell his young friend about the argument, so all he said was, "Yes. . .they argued earlier. When you, Philip, and Lissa return, she and Rachel will have to work that out. I'll see you in the morning, Nick." The younger man nodded and Derek headed to his office. There was still the matter of Randolph Hitchcock. According to the latest correspondence, he was in Italy. . .
. . .
Alone in the gym, Lissa punched and kicked at the punching bag to the beat of Survivor's 'Rebel Son,' a song which reminded her of Nick. At last, exhausted by the exertions, Lissa went back to the bench and sat down. She mopped at the sweat on her face with her towel, sighing.
A soft voice said, "Miss Elizabeth, I brought you some orange juice." Lissa jumped nearly a foot into the air, sinking against the bench once she realized it was only Duncan who approached her.
"I'm sorry, Duncan. . .I thought I was alone. Thanks. I need something to drink right now," the young woman said as the butler put the tray down beside her. Lissa picked up the glass and took a deep sip. She said, closing her eyes with a sigh, "You're welcome to join me, Duncan."
"Thank you, Miss Elizabeth. I thought I might find you here. . .when you were a child, you went to the library for your solace. I thought it likely that you would come here now, to. . .dissipate your frustration," Duncan replied, sitting down beside her. Lissa opened her eyes and smiled.
"You were always aware of a lot more than you let on, Duncan. It amazed me, really, how you always knew exactly when to bring Philip and me cookies. And that time when he fell down the cellar steps, you were in his room with the first aid kit before Dad even got up to the main floor. To you, we're still those two children, aren't we?" she asked.
"In a manner of speaking, Miss Elizabeth. I do look at you and see the little girl who made Father Philip smile again after his parents were killed in that plane crash. I kept watch over him, too, in those early days. I look at Father Philip, and I see the little boy who didn't complain about holding a little girl's hand," Duncan replied.
He paused, studying her features intently, then continued, "But I also see the woman and the man whom you have become. I see the priest who doesn't feel that he does enough. . .and I see the woman who fears that her best isn't good enough. I have spoken too freely. . .I apologize, Miss Elizabeth." Lissa began shaking her head as the butler rose to his feet to leave, and grasped his wrist.
"No, don't apologize. And don't leave. I. . .you're right, about me, and about Philip. I don't understand, Duncan. . .he has made a difference to so many people. Why does he persist in thinking that he has to be perfect? I mean, why hasn't he ever accepted that his grandmother was wrong about him?" Lissa asked.
Duncan took his time answering. . .and when he did, it was as an observer of human nature, rather than Derek Rayne's butler. The man said slowly, "Father Philip is a good man, who has made a difference to many people. But he still sees the child who allegedly caused the deaths of his parents."
"I hope for Nuala Ryan's sake that we never cross paths- I rip her lungs out for what she did to Philip! Duncan, do you remember Thomas and Maeve?" Lissa asked impulsively, shaking her sweat-soaked hair from her eyes. When Duncan nodded, Lissa requested, "Tell me about them. . .please?"
"Very well, Miss Elizabeth. The first time I met them was at Dr. Rayne's graduation from boarding school. Thomas carried Michael on his shoulders, and Father Philip was cradled in Maeve's arms. She adored him, you see. . .she adored both of her sons, but Father Philip was special to her, since he nearly died at birth," Duncan replied.
"Yes, I remember hearing that," Lissa murmured. The butler favored her with an irritated look, and Lissa smiled apologetically, saying, "I'm sorry, Duncan, I didn't mean to interrupt you. Please. . .continue." Looking slightly mollified by her apology, the butler laced his fingers together and rocked back on the bench.
"Thomas was a tall man, taller even than Dr. Rayne. He had coal-black hair and bright blue eyes, with the kindest smile anyone could ever hope to see. He loved his sons, and made no secret of that. His eyes lit up whenever Maeve entered the room," Duncan explained.
The butler fell silent for a few minutes, and Lissa didn't push. At last, he continued, "She had long black hair and blue-gray eyes. Father Philip has his mother's eyes. She loved to sing. . .she would dance Father Philip around the room when he was small. And her eyes blazed when her mother spoke ill of him. . .which, I'm afraid, was often. Nuala Ryan never forgave Father Philip for his difficult birth. And for that, Maeve never forgave her mother."
"Mama hated Mrs. Ryan. . .I know she never forgave her, either, for the way she treated Philip. You should hear some of the remarks Mama made about Mrs. Ryan in her diary. . . nasty. Very nasty. And I've only gotten as far as the afternoon Dad told us about Aunt Alicia's death. Tell me more about Thomas and Maeve!" Lissa invited.
. . .
Fiona smiled wistfully as Duncan told Lissa about Thomas and Maeve Callaghan. Winston said quietly, Lissa once said that hers and Philip's lives were destined to intersect, over and over again. She doesn't realize how true that was. I know you're thinking of Alicia's service.
Fiona nodded, wincing at the memory. Nearly twenty- two years had passed, and the pain of losing her sister was still there. The grief had finally started easing, just before her own death. She and Alicia were together again, but that didn't ease the pain she had felt at the time.
There had been very little of her younger sister to bury, so a memorial service was held instead. Lissa, who had been very close to Alicia, was inconsolable, and Fiona blamed herself. She knew Derek had the Sight, Fiona herself had the Sight, among other abilities. . .she should have realized that Lissa would inherit abilities from them both.
As the mourners filted past the gravesite to pay their last respects, Maeve had stopped in front of Fiona. Her friend's eyes were filled with tears and Maeve had dropped her seven year old son's hand to embrace Fiona. Maeve had whispered, "I am so sorry for your trouble, my dear Fiona. Our prayers will be wi' you durin' this terrible time."
Fiona had smiled through her tears, then Maeve dropped to her knees to hug Lissa. The child clung to Maeve, though she obviously didn't remember the woman. Maeve had whispered, "You take good care of your mum, Lissa Marie, and your aunt Molly. They both need you somethin' terrible."
"I will," Lissa had answered in a quavery voice. Maeve released the little girl, tears streaming down her face, and rose to her feet. Seven year old Philip, who had been silent at Maeve's side, stepped forward and hugged Lissa, too.
She doesn't remember that. Thank God she isn't aware of that memory. . .Alicia was like her second mother. I was so grateful to Philip for hugging her, Fiona said, returning to the present as she watched her child.
<And just a short while after that, Philip lost his own parents in a plane crash. Call me paranoid, Fiona, but I don't think that crash was an accident at all, Winston said. Fiona nodded. She had thought of that as well.
Yes, but we have no way of proving it. The timing of the crash, so soon after Alicia's death. . .I don't like it, Winston. It doesn't matter for the momennt. . .look, Lissa and Duncan are leaving. We should leave, too, Fiona said. Winston nodded and the two ghosts disappeared.
. . .
Derek was the last to go to bed. . .he had heard from most of the Legacy Houses around the world. No one could verify Randolph Hitchcock's whereabouts, not for certain, but Derek also knew that the other precepts would not give up. Nor would Derek, not until his family was safe.
As had become his custom in the days following his daughter's release from the hospital, he went to Lissa's room first. She called, "Come in," when Derek knocked on the door. He entered to find her in a nightgown, her hair wet. You'll not hurt her again, Randolph, Derek thought, I will never allow you to hurt her again.
Lissa smiled, seemingly unaware of his dark thoughts, and said, "I just got out of the shower. . .I was really tense, so I worked out for a while in the gym. Then of course, I smelled like a men's locker room, and I didn't want to go to bed all sweaty and icky."
"You don't need to explain yourself to me, Elizabeth. I know you," Derek replied as he sat down on the bed, and Lissa smiled. The man continued in a halting voice, "I didn't tell you this before, Lissa. . .I was afraid of hurting you even more. . .but I'm very proud of you. I'm proud of the five years you served as a police officer, and I'm proud of the dignity in your departure."
Lissa bit down on her lower lip, but answered, "And I'm proud to be your daughter. God, look at me, getting all maudlin! I'm sorry." Derek just smiled and gently cupped her face in his hands. Lissa took a deep breath, closed her eyes, then exhaled. She opened her eyes again and said, "Better. I should go to bed. Got a long day tomorrow."
Derek nodded, kissed her forehead, then rose to leave her room. But Lissa said, "Dad?" Derek turned back and Lissa held out Bear to him. She asked, "Could. . .could you give that to Philip? I know he's sleeping. . .but would you mind?" Derek smiled, took the bear from her, and departed.
-As he walked down the hall toward Philip's room, Derek reflected on his conversation with his daughter. I was more right than I knew, he thought, she does need to get away. That protective wall is coming down too fast, and it will make her too vulnerable. She only becomes sentimental when she's feeling fragile.
Derek slipped into Philip's room. . .his godson was sleeping peacefully, pillows placed on either side of him to make sure he didn't fall out of bed. Very gently, Derek settled Bear against Philip's left arm, and the young man moaned in his sleep. However, he put his arm around Bear and drew the stuffed animal against his side.
The sight moved Derek. . .his godson holding Lissa's teddy bear. He started to touch Philip's hair, but pulled back at the last second. Instead, he left the room, his throat aching from the lump which was lodged there.
. . .
The next morning found Lissa up and moving at five thirty. She hadn't slept very well despite the work-out, and since the others wouldn't be up for another half hour, she decided to pack once she had her shower and dressed. Finally, at six am, she went downstairs, to find Nick in the foyer with his bags.
"Hey, kiddo. . .you're up early. Maeve is bringing her bags down, then she and Shelagh are leaving for the airport," Nick said. Oh. Those are Shelagh's bags. . .duh. I should have realized that. I don't think Nick would carry a bright yellow duffel bag! Lissa thought.
"I wish Maeve would change her mind about us accompanying her to the airport, but she's just as stubborn as I am, I'm afraid. And she's made up her mind that they're leaving the same way they arrived. Well, at least she gave in about Derek providing the transportation this time. Getting her to agree to that took forever!" she told him. Nick grinned unexpectedly, and Lissa rolled her eyes.
"Hey, are you sure that there's no blood tie between you and Maeve? Or is it just because you raised her? Because, as you say, she's a rather. . .tenacious young lady!" the ex- SEAL teased. Lissa thwacked his forearm with her right hand, shaking her head. Nick winced, laughing, and continued, "You can do better, kiddo. . .that barely stung!"
Lissa merely smiled, picked up Shelagh's yellow duffel bag, and dropped it on Nick's foot. It carried her hair dryer and make-up kit, among other things, and Nick winced. Lissa smiled again and said very sweetly, "You can't say that 'just stung,' Nicholas dear!" The former sailor glared at the young woman, and Lissa starting laughing.
"I will get you back for that, Elizabeth Marie, just see that I don't," Nick said through tightly clenched teeth. The young woman made no reply, as Maeve raced lightly down the stairs with the rest of the baggage. Her smile had died as soon as she saw her younger sister's face.
However, all Maeve would say was, "I stopped by Kat's room to give her a kiss. We said our good-byes last night, but I. . .well, you know." Lissa nodded and Maeve hugged her, murmuring, "I will miss you, sister mine. Shelagh and I will call as soon as we get in, and Derek can call you on your cell phone. You are taking it with you, aren't you? Or does the cabin have a telephone installed?" Lissa looked at Nick, who shrugged helplessly.
"I really couldn't tell you, kiddo. . .it's been a good fifteen years since I was last up there. But Lissa will be taking her cellular, just in case we run into trouble," he told the girl, and Maeve nodded in satisfaction. That, apparently, relieved her mind.
"It's not that I don't trust you to take care of my sister, Nick. . .but Lissa has this bad habit of trying to protect the men around her. I'm sure you've noticed that tendency as well. I just feel better if Derek has a way of communicating with you three," Maeve commented.
Lissa rolled her eyes and said, "I would do the same for you, Maeve Philippa Jeanne, and you know it! Besides, how could I not try to save my father's life?" Maeve looked away, and Lissa put her arm around her sister, adding, "I know you love me, Maeveen. That's never been an issue."
"You've taken care of me for as long as I remember," Maeve said quietly, "and I'm off in Ireland when you need me most. That's not right, Lissa! I'm having fun with the kids when you're putting yourself in the line of fire to protect your father. I'm trying to keep my temper with Mrs. Ryan when Philip is being beaten half to death!"
Maeve's voice had risen in pitch as she spoke. Lissa looked away, trying not to wince at the pain in her sister's voice. They had never discussed this. . .but maybe they should have. Into the silence, Philip said quietly, "You were where you were s'posed t' be, Maeveen. There was nothin' you could have done." Lissa looked up, startled by the sound of his voice, and her friend smiled faintly at her from the stairs. Lissa decided not to ask how he got there. She didn't think she wanted to know.
Instead, she looked back at her sister and said quietly, "Philip's right, Maeve. . .and you were there when you were needed most. I couldn't have pulled our plan off without your help, honey. But now, you're needed back in Ireland. I won't tell you that I won't miss you, because I will. Very, very much. But I also know that those munchkins of Shelagh's miss you, and they miss their mother," Lissa told the girl. Maeve sighed, closing her eyes.
"I know. . .I know they need me," she replied, opening her eyes. Lissa smiled at her sister proudly and hugged her with her right arm. Maeve responded with a bone-crushing embrace of her own. Lissa utilized every bit of self-control to keep from gasping aloud. Instead, she held her sister as tightly as her right arm, her good arm, would allow. God, why didn't saying good-bye get any easier? This was as hard as the first time she had told Maeve good-bye.
But she said none of this to her younger sister. Lissa only said, "That's my girl. Nick and I can load your bags while you wait for Shelagh." Maeve nodded, then pulled away. Lissa took Maeve's hands, saying, "I love you. Be safe, little sister." She kissed Maeve's forehead, then released her before she could break down.
. . .
As Lissa and Nick carried the bags out to the car which would take them to the mainland, then to the airport, Maeve turned to Philip, saying softly, "I'll miss you. I would ask you to take care of my sister, but she'll be taking care of you. Philip. . .what happened? Why are things like this?"
Philip would have sighed, but his ribs hurt too much. He still wasn't totally enamored of this idea. . .which he had heard upon awakening, but Derek had convinced him that this could help to repair Philip's damaged friendship with Lissa. The young priest really hoped the older man was right. However, Philip could only tell Maeve, "Thin's changed between us, when she came for me. Neither of us know where t' go from here. Hopefully, we'll figure it out while we're at the cabin." Maeve looked disgusted.
"That's pretty lame, Philip. Why did they change? Why is Lissa acting the way when she did when she. . .?" the teenager began. Her eyes went very, very wide and Maeve breathed, "So that's it. . .she's acting the way she did when she remembered the dreams." Philip looked away and the girl said, "You finally found out, didn't you? You finally found out that Lissa is in love with you, and that's why things are so strained between you." Philip straightened, ignoring the stab of pain. Of course! Now I see it!
"That. . .yes. I finally. . .you knew? Have you known all along?" Philip asked, leaning heavily on his walker. Maeve shrugged, and the young priest glared at her, continuing, "That's not an answer, Maeve. Have you known about this all along, even back when you asked me t' go t' Lissa's hospital room all those months ago?"
"No. . .I didn't know until Lissa freaked out about remembering her dreams. She admitted it to me then, because I couldn't understand why she was so upset. I realized then why she would never approach you after Mass. . .she also told me that Bishop Douglas had asked her to keep an eye on you because of that witch who killed herself. A lot of things made sense to me then. How did you find out? She didn't tell you, did she?" Maeve asked.
Philip sighed, wincing at the pain which resulted from even that simple movement, and replied, "Not precisely, no. Lissa. . .she told you about the price she paid in order t' save me?" Maeve nodded sadly, and Philip continued, "That was part of the price, also. . .sayin' why she would do it."
"Oh no! And now Lissa is afraid that you hate her. . . damn, this is messed up! That scuzzbag Hitchcock has a lot to answer for. Ooooh, if I ever get my hands on him, he's dead, dead, dead!" Maeve fumed. Philip controlled his desire to smile, and the teen continued after a minute, "So, what are you going to do about this situation?"
"I don't know, Maeve, I really don't know. . .until you said somethin' a minute ago, I wasn't even certain what the problem was. I was thinkin' that Lissa was angry wi' me. Now I see that I had things confused. I just don't know what I'm goin' t' do about it," the priest admitted with a sigh. Maeve looked at him sympathetically.
"So that's why you, Nick, and Lissa are going to that cabin. . .if I know Derek, he probably figured out at least part of this, and he's trying to put things to rights between you and Lissa. Good luck," she said.
"Thanks. . .I'll need it," Philip muttered as Shelagh approached with her bags. More loudly, he said, "Call us when you get in, and then I'll call you when we get home from the cabin. That way, I can speak wi' the children, and reassure Joseph that I really am fine."
"Got it. Shelagh, give me that bag, and I'll take it out to the car," Maeve said. Shelagh handed the bag to the teenager, who put her hand on Philip's left shoulder. She whispered, "You don't need luck, Philip. . .you need faith." She kissed his cheek, then went outside with the last bag.
. . .
Shelagh looked at her young brother-in-law. . .there were dark circles under his eyes, and Shelagh made a mental note to speak to Lissa or Nick about that. She didn't approve of this trip Derek had planned for the three of them. Philip needed rest, not to gallivant all over the countryside! However, she had no say in the matter.
Officially, at least. Shelagh said, "Make sure you sleep in the car, Pip. . .you're still recoverin' and I don't want the children t' lose their uncle so soon after losin' their father. I'm not very happy wi' Derek. . .you need t' rest, and you can't get that bouncin' around in the back of that Jeep. I'll have a word wi' Lissa before I go."
"You were the one who wanted things t' improve between us," Philip pointed out with a ghost of a smile. Shelagh glared at him, but the young man continued, "Derek is doin' what he thinks is best, for both of us. He feels guilty for not protectin' Lissa and me from Hitchcock, even though it's not his fault. Don't take this away from him."
"You're a sweet lad, Philip, truly you are. Only a nine-fingered shitehawk wouldn't love you," Shelagh sighed, shaking her head. Philip's smile broadened and the young widow leaned forward to kiss his forehead. She whispered, "I will miss you, Philip. Take care of yourself."
"I will. . .Nick and Lissa will see t' that. And are we discussin' any particular nine-fingered shitehawk, or just shitehawks in general?" Philip teased. Shelagh threw back her head and laughed aloud. Yes, he would be all right. That wry sense of humor was already returning. Philip continued, "Meanwhile, I have t' figure out what t' do about Lissa. I feel like the total eejit."
"Follow your heart, Pip. Don't let this ruin somethin' that has lasted for over twenty years. Childhood friends are so rare. . .don't let this one slip away because of pride, or fear. Lissa would never do anythin' t' hurt you, Pip. Never," Shelagh said earnestly, hoping that she could help to build a bridge for them.
"I know. If it had been anyone except Lissa. . .well, maybe Alex. . .but anyone but those two, I would be afraid. But I'm not afraid. Have a safe journey, Shelagh. Give my love t' the children," Philip said. Shelagh nodded, kissed his forehead again, then joined Maeve outside.
. . .
At last, amid much tears and laughter, Maeve and Shelagh were bound for the airport in the Luna Foundation limousine. Lissa stood on the front steps of the castle, waving until her good arm hurt and the car was long out of side. Then Nick put his arm around her waist.
"She'll be all right. What about you?" he asked softly and Lissa nodded, wiping at her face. Nick could see no evidence of actual tears, but he didn't comment on the motion. Instead, he continued, "Well, I think we need to finish our own packing. Is your bag ready to be loaded?"
"Yup. . .it's in my room. Let's get Philip into the Range Rover first, then put the stuff in. Sound like a plan to you?" Lissa asked and Nick nodded. The ex-cop said, "Then let's do it. . .we're burning daylight here." Nick grinned, releasing the young woman, and she went inside the house.
. . .
It took the boy long enough to figure out what was going on, Winston muttered as Lissa raced lightly up the stairs to her bedroom, I wasn't sure he would ever realize what was troubling Elizabeth! Fiona looked at him with a wry smile and Winston continued, I suppose I should be grateful that he even figured it out at all.
Enough of that, Winston. . .Philip is a priest. Besides, it took you how long to figure out that Anna was in love with you? Fiona asked with a mischievous smile. Winston rolled his eyes, and Fiona continued, Uh-huh. So leave Philip alone. The boy has a lot on his mind.
Huh! I was starting to wonder if those blows with the baseball bat did more brain damage than we thought, Winston said. Fiona responded with a reproving look, and the man continued, I'm not talking about him realizing how Elizabeth feels about him, Fiona! I'm talking about realizing that her discomfort comes from what she was forced to admit. Philip should have realized that weeks ago!
Philip has been healing, Winston. And besides, that's not the only revelation he will need to deal with. . . there's still the matter of my granddaughter. Michael made him forget, but Philip's body is almost healed. He will remember soon. And when he does. . . Fiona said, and let her voice trail off. Winston nodded and fell silent.
. . .
Less than twenty minutes later, Nick, Philip, and Lissa were on the road and headed for the mountain which had belonged to Nick's mother. Before the trio left, Derek had made triply sure that Lissa had the medication and painkillers for Philip in her handbag, along with the instructions on their usage. Lissa smiled to herself.
In the back seat, Philip was sound asleep. As Derek had said, the cushions and pillows remained in the Range Rover, and while he was obviously in pain, Philip was as comfortable as they could manage. He made no complaints, but Lissa could read the pain in his eyes.
Nick said quietly, "He's okay, Lissa. . .they would have never released him from the hospital otherwise." The young woman nodded, settling back in her seat. Strangely, some of her tension had eased as soon as the House disappeared from their sight. Not all. . .but some.
"I know. . .it's just that I don't think Dr. Murray would have released Philip from the hospital if she had known what Dad would do. I mean, come on! He hasn't been out of the hospital for twenty-four hours and now we're taking him to your mother's cabin? Nick, he will be in a lot of pain all the time we're here!" Lissa answered.
"He's been in pain for the last two weeks, Lissa. On top of the physical injuries he sustained, he's been worried sick that he's going to lose a friend. Not to death, but to something which neither of you will talk about," Nick replied bluntly. Lissa glared at him.
"That's between me and Philip, Nick! I'm totally aware that my father had you bring the two of us up here so we can mend our relationship, but there are things going on here that you don't understand! I'm doing my best, dammit, so don't push me!" she retorted, careful to keep her voice low.
"I am *not* pushing you, Lissa! You'll know when I'm pushing you!" Nick retorted. The young woman shook her head, and Nick said more gently, "I'm sorry. It's just hell to watch two people I care about in this kind of situation. I know you still care about each other, and I don't think things are like this just because of your decision."
He had said 'decision,' rather than 'sacrifice,' and Lissa softened because of that. She said quietly, "I will always care about Philip, Nick. But things happened, things which are too difficult to explain. I don't know if he and I can work things out. . .I honestly don't know if that's possible. I think he wants to, and I know I do. . .but beyond that, I don't know what's going to happen."
"I'm not asking you to be psychic, kiddo. . .I know you can't turn it on and off. I don't even know what I'm asking. All I want is for things to go back the way they were," Nick replied and Lissa just smiled sadly. She glanced into the back seat. . .Philip murmured something, but didn't awaken.
"They can't, Nick. Maybe Philip and I can heal things between us. . .but things won't ever go back to the way they were. We can only go forwards, not back. If nothing else, I've learned that in the last few months," Lissa said softly. She leaned her head back, closing her eyes briefly, and murmured, "And for the most part, I wouldn't want to go back. The recent past holds nothing for me, Nick. Nothing."
"Just the distant past. . .when your mother was still alive, and your only problems stemmed from your step-father's neglect, rather than his abuse," Nick observed and Lissa nodded. She didn't bother denying it. Nick continued after a moment, "You know, he isn't going to disappear if you turn back around. Besides, that has to hurt your shoulder."
Lissa hadn't realized that she was twisted halfway around in her seat until Nick said something. She looked at him, then looked back at Philip. After a moment, she gently pulled the edge of the blanket up under his chin, fighting the urge to touch him. None of that, Lissa Marie, she told herself sternly, behave yourself!
At last, she turned in her seat to look at Nick. His eyes were on the road, but she knew he was listening. Lissa said, "I know that. . .in my mind. But I'm still afraid." Nick released the steering wheel just long enough to squeeze her right hand. The ex-cop added with a sigh, "I know it's irrational, but I'm afraid we'll lose him for good. And most of all, I'm afraid that he will never forgive me."
. . .
Never forgive her? What the hell is she talking about? Nick kept his eyes on the road, but ran her words through his mind. Lissa was afraid that Philip would never forgive her. Why? What had she done? And Nick knew that Philip was afraid she would never forgive him.
This is nuts,em he realized, end Derek was right to send the three of us off. This isn't just about making sure that Lissa can heal properly, away from Rachel's fussing, it's not just about healing their relationship.
Something major had happened while they were between life and death. . .it wasn't just Lissa's decision to leave the police force, it went deeper. A lot deeper. Nick said softly, "Lissa, sweetheart, tell me what's bothering you. Tell me what happened when you brought Philip home."
Lissa drew a deep breath, but whatever she might have said, Nick would never know. Philip moaned softly in the back seat, and Lissa once more twisted in her seat. She swore under her breath, then said, "I need to wake him up, it's time for his medicine. Find us a place to stop for sodas, okay? Water would be best for him, I think."
"You got it," Nick answered, irritated with Philip. However, the momentary irritation was banished by guilt and concern. He spotted a Baskin Robbins, and asked, "You feel like getting some ice cream as well?" For the first time since their departure, a smile lit his companion's face.
"Yeah! I'd love that!" Lissa replied happily. Nick smiled back at her. Her eyes sparkling with laughter, Lissa turned in her seat and gently touched Philip's knee. She murmured, "Philip. . .Philip, wake up. It's time for your medicine." In the rear-view mirror, Nick saw Philip's eyes slowly open. They were squeezed shut an instant later, pain creasing his friend's face.
"Just lie still, Philip. . .we're stopping at this Baskin Robbins. You feel up to eating some ice cream?" Nick asked as he pulled into the parking lot of the ice cream franchise. Philip eased his eyes open again, very very slowly, and focused on the building in front of them.
"I think so. Where are we?" Philip asked sleepily. Nick grinned, hearing in his mind those same words spoken by his child-self years earlier, but after a moment, his smile died. He and his mother had gone to the cabin after a particularly bad argument with his father. His hands tightened on the steering wheel at the memory, but Lissa gently rested her hand on his forearm.
"Halfway between here and there. Did you sleep well?" she asked, and Nick's smile returned. She sounded just like a mother, and the ex-SEAL again thought about how sad it was that Lissa had no children yet. He knew she would make a wonderful mother when the time came.
"My ribs hurt, but I'm okay, I think. How long did I sleep?" Philip asked, very carefully sitting up. A spasm of pain crossed his face, but he didn't cry out. Nick pulled the Range Rover to a halt and shut off the engine. Lissa was unbuckling herself, so Nick went around to the back to help Philip out of the vehicle.
"About thirty minutes or so. . .not that long. Easy there. . .the last thing I need is to carry you into some hospital," Nick replied. Philip smiled weakly as he carefully slid from the Range Rover. Nick put a supportive hand under Philip's left elbow, asking softly, "Okay?"
"Uh-huh. . .oh," Philip began, then caught his breath. He closed his eyes and Nick started to speak, but Philip continued after a moment, "I'm all right. Just need t' move real slow. How many steps t' the door?" Nick looked ahead, trying to figure out the answer to Philip's question. Lissa joined them, once more massaging her shoulder.
"About twenty paces. . .take it slow and you should be fine," she commented. The young woman eyed them both with a mixure of wariness and concern, then asked, "Nick, do you need any help?" The ex-SEAL shook his head and Lissa continued, "All right, then I'll go ahead and get the door."
"Thanks, kiddo," Nick replied, if for no other reason than to irritate her. Lissa rolled her eyes and darted ahead. Nick grinned. . .there were times when she was sooo predictable! Not for the first time, it occurred to him that they were playing a game. However, for the first time, he stopped to consider the implications. Following his hunch, Nick glanced at Philip. . .the young priest was smiling faintly at the exchange between Nick and Lissa.
With that discovery, Nick realized that there was a way he could help his two friends re-establish their camaraderie. With that in mind, he said as he gently propelled Philip through the doors, "And they say chivalry is dead. They've obviously never met you, Miss Liss."
An amused smile crossed the young woman's face, and she replied, "Chivalry, huh? Where's your coat of arms, Sir Nick? And your broadsword?" Nick laughed and moved a little too quickly for Philip. While his friend didn't cry out, Nick realized that the priest was in pain. . .his entire body had stiffened. Lissa noticed as well and asked, "Philip, are you all right? There's a booth right beside the door."
"Could I sit down? Now, please?" Philip asked very, very softly. Nick looked at Lissa appealingly, and together, they helped him sit down at the booth. Philip closed his eyes, leaning back, and Nick remained standing. At last, Philip opened his eyes and said softly, "I'm okay. Just give me a few minutes t' rest, and I'll be fine."
"Can I get him something?" a pretty, red-haired young woman asked, emerging from behind the counter. She was no more than twenty-one or twenty-two, and the name-tag pinned to her blouse read 'Katy.' She eyed Philip with concern and Nick smiled at the almost-maternal expression in her eyes.
"A glass of ice water, if it's not too much trouble. It's time for his medication, and I don't think soda or tea would be a very good idea," Lissa requested. The young woman named 'Katy' nodded once and headed back to the machines behind the counter. Lissa continued, "Is it normally this quiet? Or is it just early?"
"Just early. . .besides, it's still fairly early in the year. Here you are. . .medication was mentioned. Have you been sick?" Katy inquired, bringing the ice water to the table. Philip accepted it with his left hand, and it seemed that Katy was as observant as she was pretty. She commented, "You weren't ill. . .you were injured."
"An enemy of my father's ordered a hit on him. Except, the would-be assassin chose a baseball bat, rather than a gun, to carry out the hit," Lissa answered grimly. Katy looked horrified, and Lissa continued, "Thank you so much, Katy. . .how much do I owe you for the glass of water?"
"No, Lissa, I'll not allow you t' pay for it! I have money wi' me!" Philip replied determinedly. Nick looked at his feet, then looked at Katy. He winked at her, and she blushed. This should be good, Nick thought, I don't think Philip's in any condition to challenge Lissa!
However, it was a moot point, for Katy said firmly, "No charge! My great-grandfather would roll over in his grave if he knew I charged a fellow Irishman for a glass of water! Especially one who had been injured so badly! No charge. . . truly." Lissa smiled, her eyes lighting up.
"Thank you. Nick, why don't you order first? I'm still trying to figure out what I want. Hey, no comments from the peanut gallery!" she said, laughing. Katy laughed with her, her eyes moving from Nick to Philip with more than a little appreciation. Philip blushed this time, lowering his eyes.
"Damn, you spoil all my fun! Do you have any soft serve. . .uh, never mind, I see the machine now. A chocolate ice cream cone, soft serve, regular cone," Nick said. Katy grinned and returned to the counter. Nick continued, glancing at Lissa with a mischievous grin, "See? I know what I want. . .made it real easy for her, too!"
"There's a first time for everything, Nick," Lissa replied dryly. Katy laughed as she handed the ice cream cone to Nick, and Lissa winked at her, continuing, "Me, I'd like a a scoop of mint chocolate chip in a dish. Philip?"
"Just vanilla in a dish. . .I don't feel up t' anythin' exotic at the moment," Philip admitted quietly. Katy nodded and Philip murmured to Lissa, "and you will let me pay for this, Elizabeth Marie Anne."
"In your dreams, Philip Joseph. Nick, sit with him. I'll pay for this," Lissa said as Katy carried the two dishes to the counter. The ex-cop joined the younger woman, drawing out her wallet. Nick sat down in the booth with Philip, still grinning. Philip just shook his head as he finished his water. . .there was nothing else he could do.
. . .
"Philip just got out of the hospital yesterday," Lissa confided as she paid for the ice cream, "but I don't think his doctor would have allowed him to come home if she had known my father would send the three of us out the very next day." Katy looked at her sympathetically.
"Sounds like your dad has a King Arthur complex," she said. Lissa looked at the other young woman, who laughed and continued, "You know. . .sending knights out on a journey. I'd say you and Nick were both in the military. . .not so sure about Philip. A teacher, maybe?"
"Nick was a SEAL," Lissa confirmed with a smile, "and I was a cop for over five years. You're sort of right with Philip. . .he's a scholar, but he's also a priest." Katy's jaw dropped and Lissa laughed in spite of herself. She continued after a moment, "We've been friends for years."
"Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, and Sir Gawain," Katy observed. Lissa shrugged with a rueful smile, and Katy continued, "So why did your father send the three of you out? I mean, I'm no doctor, but Philip is obviously in no condition to be travelling. What was he thinking?" Lissa hesitated, and the younger woman apologized, "I'm sorry, that's none of my business."
"It's okay. Things. . .happened while Philip was in a coma, things which strained our friendship. Dad sent us out to. . .oh, heal our emotional wounds as well as our physical wounds. I have a colleague who was just about to drive me batty with her hovering," Lissa admitted.
Katy was silent for several moments, then said quietly, "A sort of emotional Holy Grail." Lissa thought about that, then nodded. Katy went on, "God be with you, then. Better get that ice cream over to him before it melts." Lissa nodded and joined her two friends in the booth.
. . .
Nick had hoped that the quiet conversation between Katy and Lissa, whatever it was about, had relaxed his little sister at least a little bit. However, as she sat down beside him in the booth, Nick noticed that she was still very tense. Hell, he thought, it's only the first day! Give her time. However, Nick had never been the most patient of men, even under the best of circumstances.
And these hardly qualified as the best of circumstances. Nick glanced across the table at Philip, who was carefully spooning the ice cream into his mouth with his left hand. His attention was directed at the melting sweet, but Nick knew he was in pain. . .could tell it in the bowed, tense shoulders. Once more, the fury began building within Nick. . .fury at the one who had hurt Philip so badly.
In the last two weeks, the fury had been pushed away by relief and gratitude. Philip's time in the hospital had given the two young men time to rebuild their friendship. And Nick was grateful that he had that second chance.
A lot of things had become clear to Nick during those dark hours when Philip's survival was a question. First and foremost, in the Legacy or out, Philip Callaghan was as dear to Nick as any brother ever could be. Secondly, whatever issues that remained between them could be worked out. Thirdly, the next time Randolph Hitchcock messed with a member of Nick's family, the bastard was dead meat!
"You know, glaring at your ice cream won't change anything," Lissa said quietly. Nick jerked at the sound of her voice, and she continued, "In fact, keep glaring at the way you have been, and it'll probably melt even faster." For the first time, Nick realized what she meant, and laughed.
"Sorry, kiddo. . .I was thinking," he replied. A dark brow shot straight up, and Nick laughed, continuing, "I was thinking about the drive ahead. We've still got a way to go. No, Philip, don't hurry. We're in no rush, take your time. The last thing I need is you getting sick because you ate the ice cream too fast." This time, it was Lissa who laughed.
"Oh, that sounds just like something my mother would say!" she giggled, the mischief completely transforming her face. Nick stared at her, stunned. . .it had been only a few weeks since he last saw her truly smile or heard her laugh out loud, but it felt like a lifetime. Lissa continued, controlling her laughter, "Sorry, but that struck me funny."
"Don't be sorry. . .it sounded like something my mother would say as well. You know, Lis, you never talk about your mom. Is it because. . .well, because she never told you the truth about Derek?" Nick asked hesitantly. The smile died slowly from Lissa's face, replaced by a thoughtful look.
"That's part of it," she admitted, "but you know, we've been so busy these last few months. I've been playing catch up, and keeping busy with our work. And plus, I really wasn't sure if you would be interested in hearing about my mother. I mean, I was afraid I might bring back bad memories for you." Nick looked at her, confused.
Lissa continued, smiling faintly, "I mean about what Jonathan did to you and Christine. I was afraid when I talked about Mama, I might bring back some bad memories for you." Nick looked at Philip, who raised his left hand helplessly, and then he looked back at Lissa.
"I. . .look, hon. I live with those memories every day of my life, just as you live with the memories of what your step-father did to you every day of your life. I appreciate that you want to protect me, but it's okay. I can handle it. And I. . .I'm curious about your mother," Nick admitted. Lissa finished off the last of her mint chocolate chip ice cream, her brow furrowed.
"I'll tell you what," she said at last, "I'll tell you about her some time in the next few days, if you promise to stop glaring at your ice cream. You'll scare poor Katy if you keep that up!" Nick laughed and agreed, giving the young woman behind the counter a smile. Once a shy smile was returned, Nick turned his attention back to his ice cream, still fuming over Randolph Hitchcock's disappearance.
. . .
He's starting to approach meltdown, Fiona observed to her companion, if someone pushes Nick, even a little bit, he'll really lose it. He hasn't had any outlets for his anger these last few weeks. . .it's just a matter of time before the poor boy completely loses it.
As long as Elizabeth and Philip aren't caught in the explosion, Nicholas can blast anyone he likes. It's not healthy, to keep that kind of rage locked up inside of him. What was Elizabeth thinking? Winston asked.
Fiona jumped to her daughter's defense, saying, All she told him was to control his temper. She never told him to submerge it! Winston sighed and Fiona's anger left her in a rush. She continued more quietly, And bickering won't help those children. Winston, what can we do?
don't know, Fiona. . .I honestly don't. I want to see the rift between Elizabeth and Philip healed, but I don't know of a way to do it. I suppose all we can do is watch. If I try to inhabit Philip again, the way I did in the rectory. . .he might hurt himself, Winston commented.
I thought of that as well. Winston, I can't just stand by while my two children are in such pain! I can't do that! I gave birth to Lissa, I dried her tears when she fell, I loved her. . .I still love her! I didn't give birth to Philip, but I loved. . .I love him as much as any mother could love a child. I can't stand by and do nothing! Fiona replied, hating the desperation in her voice. Winston shook his head sadly and Fiona turned her attention back to the three young people. Something was about to happen.
. . .
After about thirty minutes, they were all finished with their ice cream and ready to leave. Nick gently eased Philip from the booth, as Katy came around the counter to help, if it was needed. Lissa smiled at the other young woman, who returned the smile as Philip grasped the booth for support.
"Take care of these two lunks, Lissa. . .and good luck. I have a feeling you'll need all the help you can get," Katy said with a mischievous smile. Lissa laughed as Nick helped Philip from the ice cream parlor, both moving slowly.
"Thanks, Katy, but I think I can handle those two. Just to make sure they stay out of trouble. . .uh-oh. Uh-oh, I don't think I like the way this looks!" Lissa said. She gave Katy a quick nod and ran out of the Baskin-Robbins toward the Range Rover. There were two young toughs who looked like they wanted to start trouble. And Lissa was afraid Nick would give them all the trouble they could handle.
Nick had known the boys were trouble as soon as they swaggered out of the neon green van. They had an attitude Nick recognized. He had hoped his protective stance would warn the kids off. . .instead, the young thugs headed toward them. Shit, Nick thought, I'm not even gonna have time to get Philip into the Range Rover!
"Oooh, whaddawe got here? Loverboys!" one of the thugs sneered. Nick released Philip and stood in front of his friend protectively, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. He knew what would happen. . .he knew they would go after Philip, and when they did that, Nick would beat the shit out of the first one who lunged for Philip.
However, out of respect for Philip, the ex-SEAL said quietly, "Why don't you boys move on? We're leaving in just a few minutes, so there's no reason for any trouble." His hand automatically went to his belt, to the gun he carried. One of the boys just laughed, and out of the corner of his eye, Nick saw Lissa approaching.
"Oooh, a threesome? No tits, but great legs. Maybe we should forget these two. . .she looks like she'd be a lot more fun," a second boy said, eyeing Lissa with something less than respect. Nick's fury threatened to explode, but Lissa's eyes had narrowed in a way he recognized.
"Nick, Philip, I'm sorry about the delay. I'm ready to go," she said quietly. Nick was totally unprepared for the dark rage in her eyes. Or her reaction when one of the boys laid his hand on her posterior as she walked past him. Despite her still-healing shoulder, Lissa grasped his wrist, twisted his arm behind his back, and threw him face first into the Range Rover. She snarled, "Get this, asshole. . .I don't play with ill-mannered little boys!"
One of the other boys lunged for the ex-cop, his fist raised. As Lissa released the first boy, Nick grasped the wrist of the second boy and told him in a low, deadly voice, "Harm one hair on my sister's head, and I *will* kill you."
With the first boy eyeing Lissa with newfound respect, and the third boy looking as if he wanted to run away, Nick could concentrate on the boy who had tried to hit Lissa. The ex-cop had stepped in front of Philip protectively, her arms folded over her chest.
"Leggo!" the boy cried out, struggling to get free, but Nick had his wrist in a vise grip. Lissa looked at the two remaining boys and pulled out the keys to the Range Rover. She half-turned to unlock the car, and it was then that the first boy lunged for Philip. However, Nick released his captive and moved quickly to intercept the kid.
"Dumb move, asshole," Nick snarled, grasping the boy's shoulders and throwing him into the Range Rover, "in my neighborhood, it's real bad form to hit a priest." Lissa quickly helped Philip into the Range Rover, then stood in front of the open door protectively. Nick slammed the boy into the jeep again, adding, "And it's really, really bad form to mess with an ex-cop."
"Come on, guys, let's go. . .I don't mess around with cops or priests. That's inviting bad karma, come on!" the third boy said. Nick released the first kid as the other two began backing away, disgusted. They were just overgrown children with nothing better to do. Little Kat had more intelligence, more maturity than these brats.
He walked to Lissa, wanting to make sure she hadn't reinjured herself when she threw the kid into the Range Rover. Her eyes widened as she cried out, "Nick! Behind you!" The ex-SEAL spun around, catching the raised knife just seconds before it plunged into his back.
Nick had had enough. He applied intensifying pressure on the boy's wrist until the knife clattered to the ground. Lissa looked at Nick, then looked at Philip, then closed the back door of the Range Rover decisively. She walked to the curb, arms wrapped around her waist. With Philip and Lissa both safe for the moment, Nick let his fury explode.
He slammed his fist into the kid's gut, doubling the thug over, then followed that with a devastating clip to the jaw, knocking the boy backwards. Nick couldn't see the boy clearly through the crimson, but still hauled him to his feet. He said hoarsely, "You made two mistakes, asshole. . . pawing my little sister and rushing my friend. He just got out of the hospital. . .I'll be damned if some two-bit little punk like you puts him back in!"
"I wouldn't advise that, boys. . .I'm quite capable of using this," Lissa said in an icy voice. From her position on the curb, she aimed a small pistol at the two other thugs. They had pulled out knives of their own, as Katy emerged from the Baskin-Robbins. She looked like a fierce warrior queen as she joined Lissa on the curb.
"The police are on their way. . .I saw everything," the girl said. Nick nodded as he returned his attention to his captive. Katy continued, "That took a lot of guts, Nick. . . holding back. I know you must have wanted to beat him to a pulp. . .if someone did that to one of my friends, I would!"
"I might yet, Katy girl, but only if he pushes me. Lis, you okay? The shoulder bothering you?" Nick asked. Lissa shrugged, but he saw her wince. That flamed Nick's anger and he told the boys, "See, Lissa there was shot in the line of duty. She took a bullet in her left shoulder a few weeks ago. The girl knows how to use that pistol."
"I thought she looked dangerous when she came in," Katy observed with a wry smile. Lissa returned the smile, her eyes glittering, and Nick briefly felt like an outsider. After a moment, Katy said, "You know, if Philip mushes his face against the window any more than he already has, he'll disfigure himself. Don't tell me you locked him in?"
Lissa shrugged and replied, "It was the only way to keep him from getting hurt again. He scared the hell out of us while he was in the coma." However, she stepped off the curb. She paused, then asked, "Can you use this?"
Katy made a face at the gun, replying, "Not really, but I'll cover you anyhow." Lissa clicked the safety on and handed the gun to her new-found friend. Nick began relaxing, a little bit. As Lissa started for the Range Rover to unlock the door, the boy on the ground leaned in her direction. It was the barest of movements, one that should have never attracted Nick's attention. . .but it did.
Nick didn't have time to scream a warning. . .just kicked the blade from the kid's hand. The thug screamed in pain, a sound which nearly drowned out the sound of his wrist snapping. Lissa backed away from the Range Rover and Katy rushed from the curb, drawing the older woman from the two. Perhaps she feared another attack from the two remaining boys, or perhaps she had seen that Nick's control had just about snapped. Whatever her reasoning was, her action kept Lissa out of the line of fire.
Which allowed Nick to finish the job. Ignoring the whimpers and screams, the ex-SEAL hauled the boy to his feet and shoved him into the Range Rover. He hissed, "I told you to leave her alone! I told you that if you tried to harm her again, I'd kill you. What, did you think I was lying? I could easily kill you. . .Lissa is an ex-cop, and you know, cops protect their own. All I have to do is tell the cops that you tried to attack her. That's it."
"Don't kill him, Nick, he's not worth it. And I hear the sirens. . .they'll be here in another minute or so. Come on. . .we have to get to the cabin sometime tonight," Lissa said in a soft, even voice. Katy said nothing, her blue eyes shifting from Lissa to Nick, then to Philip.
"I warned them, Lissa, to leave you two alone. I kept my cool after Philip nearly died. . .nearly exploded a few times, but I kept it cool. Then this prick and his little buddies attacked you and Philip twice within my sight. I can't do anything to the bastard who tried to kill Philip, but I sure as hell can do something to make sure these brats never pull something like this again!" Nick snarled.
"We're here now, son. . .let us deal with it," an unfamiliar voice said. Nick released his captive, and an older man took the barely conscious thug, saying, "I think you should see to your friend. . .he doesn't look too good." Nick frowned, then he looked into the Range Rover. Omigod,he thought, Philip!
"Officer Watson, these three jackasses were harassing my customers. Miss Rayne is recovering from a gunshot wound to the shoulder, sustained while in the line of duty, and Father Callaghan was badly injured when an enemy of Miss Rayne's father took out a hit on him," Katy said.
"Rayne? As in Derek Rayne? Is that your father, ma'am?" the officer asked. Lissa bobbed her head once and the officer continued, looking at the three boys, "Of all the women in the Bay Area, you three morons had to choose Derek Rayne's only child. And a priest, too?"
Lissa unlocked the door to the Range Rover and helped Philip out of the vehicle. He said in a low voice, his face very pale, "If the two of you ever do somethin' like that t' me again, I will forget that I'm a priest and do some very permanent damage t' your persons." He buried his face in his hands, seemingly unable to catch his breath.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time, Pip," Lissa offered. She didn't touch him, but she had relaxed a little bit. Great, Nick thought, it takes a near-brawl to get Lissa to relax a little! I'll have to remember that for future reference! Katy put a supportive hand on Lissa's shoulder, still looking worried, and the ex-cop said, "Thanks, Katy. . .you were a big help."
"Glad I could. . .take care of these two oafs. They need all the help they can get," Katy replied. She turned her attention to the cops now hustling the three thugs away and said, "I can give you a statement, officers. . .I saw everything through the window of the store." However, Nick began shaking his head immediately.
"I need to tell them how it started, Katy, but thanks," he replied. The first officer came back, the cop whom Katy had addressed as 'Officer Watson,' and Nick said, "My friend Philip and I were leaving Baskin-Robbins while Lissa finished up her conversation with Katy. These three jerks approached us and started getting hostile. . ."
. . .
"Dr. Rayne? Mr. Sloan is on line three," Duncan said, appearing in Derek's office. Derek sighed, but nodded, and picked up the phone. He had been expecting this phone call, ever since William Sloan had taken over the London Ruling House. That had been the day after Lissa came home from the hospital, the day she cleaned out her desk.
Derek said, "Yes, William, what may I do for you?" There was a soft chuckle, and Derek smiled in spite of himself as he recalled William's reaction to the news about Lissa. To say that his long-time colleague was stunned to learn that Derek had an adult daughter. . .well, 'stunned' didn't quite describe Sloan's reaction!
"I wanted to let you know that we're still keeping an eye out for Hitchcock here in London. Derek. . .he doesn't want to be found, but it's not up to him. I can't help thinking that under different circumstances, Elizabeth might have been my goddaughter. And I know how precious your godson, how precious Philip, is to you," Sloan replied.
Derek bowed his head, even though the older man couldn't see him, and after a moment, Sloan continued, "How are they, Derek? How is Elizabeth, and how is Philip? I know he'll be coming home from the hospital soon."
"He came home yesterday. . .but I had to send him away," Derek said. There was a shocked silence on the other end of the phone, and Derek added hastily, "I didn't mean it like that! William, ever since Philip awakened from his coma, his relationship with Lissa has been very strained. Due to what happened. . .well, you've read my report and the interviews with Philip and my daughter. And then last night, Lissa overheard a rather insensitive remark made by Rachel."
"What did Dr. Corrigan say?" Sloan asked with the barest hint of exasperation. Derek hesitated, then told him. There was a brief silence, then Sloan exploded, "Of all the idiotic things to say. . .Dr. Corrigan should be grateful that Elizabeth didn't strangle her on the spot! Derek, I apologize for my earlier reaction. . .you did the only thing you could under the circumstances."
"I'm worried for them," Derek admitted softly, "Nick is with them, of course, and they will take care of Philip, as well as each other. And as both Lissa and Nick pointed out to me, Philip really shouldn't be travelling. . .but I need that team back, William. This was the best way to prevent the rift from growing wider."
There was another long silence, then Sloan said quietly, "Derek, I swore to you when I learned of Hitchcock's most recent treachery that I wouldn't harm him. But the more I hear, the more I think that my oath will be very difficult to keep. That man killed one Legacy member, and has tried to kill several others since."
He paused, then added even more quietly, "Fiona was an extraordinary woman. . .beautiful, brilliant, and aside from keeping your only child from you, one of the finest members ever to grace the San Francisco Legacy House. Patricia was furious when I told her that Hitchcock was responsible for Fiona's death. . .they were very close, remember?" Derek nodded with a smile. Yes, he remembered very well how close Patricia Sloan had been to Fiona. Aside from Maeve Callaghan, Patricia had been Fiona's dearest friend.
"Give my best to Patricia and the children. I'll keep you apprised of the situation here," Derek said. Sloan assented and hung up. Derek slowly replaced the received in its cradle and picked up a picture from a newspaper clipping which he had framed years earlier. It depicted Jonathan Boyle, Fiona, Philip, Lissa, and Derek. . .neither Lissa nor Philip were smiling, though Fiona was.
"You smiled so much, my friend," Derek murmured, "and yet, there was such pain in your eyes. Philip was just a child, but even he noticed it. Lissa is much the same, I fear. Her smiles have grown more frequent since she arrived at this House, and the pain in her eyes has lessened, but it's still there. There is something she hasn't told me yet, Fiona. . .something that hurt our daughter deeply."
He set down the picture, gently tracing the outline of his daughter's childish face. She had been nine or ten at the time, it was a very short time before Fiona's death. Derek continued, "I don't know what Lissa hasn't told me. I only pray that she can trust me with it one day."
. . .
She can't even trust Philip with the truth about her feelings for him, how can she trust Derek with the truth of what that bastard did to her? Winston exclaimed. He and Fiona had been dividing their time between the House and the Range Rover carrying Nick, Philip, and Lissa.
Derek has no way of knowing, Winston. And can you blame him? Would you want to even think about such a thing happening to Marina? Fiona asked bluntly. Winston looked away. The truth was, he wanted to kill Reynolds. Again.
No, he admitted grudgingly, I wouldn't. Dear God in heaven, there are times when Lissa's screams still haunt me! It must be twice as bad for you. . .no, the pain must be a million-fold for you. Fiona nodded, her mouth drawing into a tight line. Her dark eyes flashed with fury, and Winston found himself fearing his companion.
William Reynolds should give thanks to God that another took his life before I rejoined you here. Because if he was still alive, I would take the greatest pleasure imaginable in literally scaring him to death for what he did to my child! Fiona replied grimly.
I. . .I am certain that you would. Anna crossed the Veil to warn Derek of danger to Lissa, and God only knows what Lissa would do in order to protect Cassandra, Winston replied. Unexpectedly, a mischievous smile lit Fiona's face and she turned sparkling dark eyes in his direction.
Truth be told, Winston, you really don't want to know what my little girl would do to protect her baby! Don't ever make the mistake of thinking that women, that mothers, are weak or wimps. If Reynolds had messed with my daughter while I was still alive, I would have killed him. If someone ever harmed my granddaughter. . .well, you saw what Lissa did to Arkady, because of Philip's tumble down the stairs, Fiona said. Winston nodded, smiling in spite of himself, and his companion continued, That's nothing compared to what she would do to someone who hurt Cassie. My daughter takes no prisoners where her child is concerned.
Yes. . .I've noticed that. I think Derek is all right, shall we rejoin the children? Winston asked. He really didn't want to leave his son. . .he was so proud of Derek. . .but he needed to check on his grandchildren. And despite his words to Lissa in the Peruvian cave, Nick was just as much his grandchild as Philip and Lissa were. He did love the boy. Fiona didn't reply and Winston looked at the woman. Her eyes remained focused on the framed picture on Derek's desk, and her expression was sad.
I should have told him, Winston. I should have told Derek the truth long before I died. I should have made sure that he could take custody of our little girl if anything ever happened to me. God, how could I have been so stupid, Winston? How could I have condemned my baby to life with that monster? Fiona asked, her voice raw with anguish.
Winston was at a loss. At last, he said awkwardly, You were afraid, Fiona. You were afraid that you would lose your child. After Anna died, I shut my children out, except to train them in the Legacy. Marina is a nun now, and Derek has a very hard time allowing others into his heart. That is my other Legacy to my children, Fiona. You were wrong to keep the truth from Derek, yes. . .but you also left your daughter a Legacy of love. Come now. The children need us. Fiona nodded and they disappeared from the House.
. . .
It only took fifteen minutes for Nick, Philip, and Lissa to give the police their respective statements. Philip had done very little talking, mainly because anyone who paid any kind of attention could tell that he was in pain. Finally, after reassuring the officers that they would be fine, wouldn't need an escort, and yes, they would take good care of Philip, the trio set out once more.
Wanting to relieve the tension which had cropped up once more between Philip and Lissa, Nick asked, "Hey, Lis, what was your favorite television show when you were a kid?" Lissa looked at him, frowning, and Nick continued, "You did watch tv when you were a kid, didn't you? I mean, I know you spent a lot of time at the House up until you were ten, but surely you watched some tv when you were a kid!"
"Of course I did, nitwit. . .your question just came out of the clear blue, that's all! Um. . .well, what time period? I watched Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers when they were on, I watched the Muppet Show all through its run," Lissa replied. Nick smiled slowly.
"The Muppet Show, huh? I'll bet Kermit the Frog was your favorite character!" he teased and Lissa rolled her eyes heavenward. Nick continued, "Not Kermit the Frog? What about Miss Piggy?" This time, Lissa giggled outright and Nick asked, "Not Miss Piggy either? C'mon, tell me!"
"I did like Kermit, and I did like Miss Piggy. . .the 'Pigs in Space' skits were always a lot of fun. . .but my favorite was the Swedish chef, followed by Fozzie the bear, and the mad scientist's assistant. Oh, I liked Animal, too. As I got older, I even liked the Hecklers," Lissa replied.
Nick laughed aloud, saying, "Pigs in Space, huh? From the girl who actually liked Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers, that shouldn't surprise me. Next you'll be telling me that you liked 'Captain Power' when it aired a few years ago!" Lissa smacked his shoulder, suppressing her smile.
"As a matter of fact, I did! And what was wrong with Buck Rogers or Battlestar Galactica?" she asked, her eyes twinkling. Nick simply shrugged, still grinning. Lissa's smile turned almost wistful as she continued, "I've seen all of the Muppet movies, too. Loved 'The Rainbow Connection,' from the original 'Muppet Movie.' When I was at the parochial school after Mama died, I would sing 'The Rainbow Connection' to myself. Sister Lourdes, the principal, convinced me to sing in the choir after she heard me sing that."
"I didn't know you sang! Sing it for us!" Nick exclaimed. Lissa looked at him in frank disbelief, then shook her head vehemently, her dark curls swinging around her face. Nick cajoled, "C'mon, honey, if your principal in school thought you were good enough to sing in the choir, then you're definitely good enough to sing for us!"
"But that's different! I didn't know the people I sang for. . .I know you two, and if I hit one bad note, you'll never let me live it down! Besides, I was twelve years old at the time. . .my voice has changed since then," Lissa protested. Nick froze. . .'if I hit one bad note, you'll never let me live it down,' she had said. Had her goddamn step-father done that to her as well?
However, before he had a chance to ask the question, Philip said from the back seat, "Please, Lissa. . .sing for us. I know you can still sing, I've heard you singin' t' Kat when you thought no one else could hear you. Please?" Nick could only look into the rearview mirror and smile gratefully at his friend, before returning his attention to the road and the young woman sitting beside him.
There was a long silence, then Lissa began singing, "Why are there so many/songs about rainbows/and what's on the other side?" While her voice was untrained and she probably would have never made it as a professional singer, there was a sweetness in her contralto voice. She went through every verse she could remember, and Nick glanced over at her several times. There were tears in her eyes, and the ex-SEAL could only guess at the reason for the tears. Maybe, he didn't want to know.
When she finished the song on its 'la-da-da-da-da-da- dooo,' Nick was silent briefly. Then he said, "Elizabeth Marie Anne, don't you ever say that you can't sing again. Right, Philip? Philip?" The two glanced into the back seat and Nick smiled. Lissa's singing, and the motion of the Range Rover, had lulled Philip to sleep.
Nick looked back at Lissa and said quietly, "You see? Philip agrees with me." The young woman just looked at him, shaking her head and smiling. Nick squeezed her shoulder and said, "It's gonna be okay, kiddo. . .wait and see. You know, you have a lot of movies to catch up on. I hadn't really thought of it until now, but there were a lot of movies you missed while you were in a coma."
"Maeve told me about her favorites. . .Independence Day and Twister were tops with her. Thanks, but no thanks. I deal with the end of the world every day in the Legacy, I don't need to see it on the screen!"
"Hey, ID4 was a kick-ass movie! Don't knock it 'til you try it, kiddo. We'll rent that when we get to a video store, I'm sure the cabin has a VCR. You definitely need to see the new Muppet movie. . .ummm. . .probably Dragonheart, since you're something of a mystic," Nick replied.
"I've already seen the Muppet Treasure Island, Nick. It came out in February of '96, I was shot in the summer of '96. Hello, McFly, is anyone in there???" Lissa retorted. Nick responded with a dirty look, and Lissa continued, "And do I get any say whatsoever in what we're watching?"
"Uh. . .a little bit. But you are watching ID4, Miss Liss, there is no way you are getting out of that! I think you'll like it, Lis. . .I really do. Trust me?" Nick asked. Lissa hesitated, then nodded. Nick grinned, his eyes all but disappearing. They were gonna have some fun tonight!
"I will probably regret this, but yes, I'll trust you. Does this cabin of yours have a microwave? We might as well get some popcorn and sodas, since you're determined," Lissa said with a sigh. Nick responded with a mock-hurt look and the young woman continued, "Give me a break, Nicholas. . .I'm a lot of things, but naive ain't one of 'em. That look might work on Rachel, but it won't work on me!" Nick just laughed, now looking for a video store.
. . .
Thank you, Nicholas. . .I was starting to worry about the child! Now, if they can just keep Philip from backsliding as well, things will be fine, Winston said. Fiona, who had seen ID4 in the movie theaters when it came out the previous summer with Maeve, looked at him.
Oh really, you think? she asked in a perfect imitation of the Will Smith line. Winston glared at her and Fiona laughed, clapping her hands with delight. She chortled, You should see your expression, Winston! You look so funny! Please, don't tell me that you were moping around the Legacy House when ID4 came out last summer!
No, as a matter of fact, I was in the movie theater with Nicholas and Alexandra when they saw it. Uh. . .not the late tsar and tsarina. Our Nicholas and Alexandra. They tried to convince Derek to go, but of course he said no. It's my own fault, of course. . .I worked too hard, and now Derek feels as if he must as well, Winston replied with a sigh. Fiona regarded the man compassionately. He had made as many mistakes with his offspring as she had with hers.
Well, at least you're having some fun now. Was Anna with you? Fiona asked. Winston's eyes lit up when she spoke his wife's name, as they always did, and he nodded. Fiona's heart wrenched when she saw his expression. I was such a fool, she thought, marrying a man I didn't love. So stupid of me. So very stupid of me.
Yes. . .yes, Anna was quite enamoured of that young president. Said that he reminded her of Derek at the end of the movie. He was more like Philip at the beginning. . .it gave her hope for Philip eventually believing in himself. She worries about that boy, you know, Winston said and Fiona nodded. Yes, she worried about her godson as well, just as Derek and Lissa worried for him.
Once a mother, always a mother. So, what do you think? Will Lissa like Independence Day?m Fiona asked. She thought her daughter would, but Winston was showing signs of melancholy. While he certainly had reason, they could never finish their task here if he was feeling guilty or anxious. Winston returned his attention to the youngsters in the car and his eyes softened as they fell on Lissa. Had he been alive at the time of Lissa's birth, and had Winston known that Lissa was his grandchild. . .
In that respect, Fiona, you were right to keep her from us. I would have taken Elizabeth away from you, and tried to mold her in my image. But my death was part of the process which drew you and Derek together, Winston said. Fiona looked at him quickly and Winston said, I can read your mind as well. Look. They are stopping.
. . .
"I won't ask if you and Philip will be okay, Lis. Any particular requests, since I'm making you watch ID4?" Nick asked. Lissa started to shake her head, but a motion from the back seat caught her eye. Philip was still asleep, but as she watched him, a memory came back to her.
Slowly, she returned her attention to Nick, saying, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a request. See if you can find 'The Empire Strikes Back' along with the other movies." Nick frowned, but only for a moment. He nodded and walked into the video store.
Lissa turned her attention back to Philip, fighting the urge to stroke his hair back from his forehead. That would only wake him up, and Lissa didn't want to explain what she had been doing. So she contented herself with simply watching him sleep. He looked so young. . .so sweet. . .so very vulnerable, it made Lissa's heart ache.
"I don't know if you'll ever forgive me for admitting that I love you, Philip. I know you're trying to get past it, just as I am. But if losing your friendship is the price I have to pay for your life, then I would do it again. I love you so much, Pip. So, very much," she whispered. Lissa sighed, resting her head against the back of the seat.
"I don't think I'll ever understand the why of it, Pip. Why I had to give up my career, why I had to admit that I love you. Michael told me that in time, that one day, I would understand. But you know, that scares me. I don't want to know why. . .because if I'm right, someone I love will have to walk away from something that means everything to them," Lissa continued after a moment.
Nick was now emerging from the video store, with a triumphant expression on his face. Lissa smiled in spite of herself. Dear, dear Nick. So full of bluff and macho swagger, but there were few friends who were truer. All she had to do was remember the country-music-hating Nick putting in a Garth Brooks CD to know that. Nick got back into the Range Rover, and they were off once more.