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Nick sat bolt upright in his bed, sweat streaming from every pore in his body. His breath hitched in his chest, and a strangled scream from an already forgotten night-terror lodged in his throat. Nick reached over, and turned on the small light by his bed, his fast-beating heart slowing to it's normal rate as the warm light bathed him in it's glow, reflecting off the light sheen covering his body. Nick looked down at his sweat covered torso.
Nick sighed, and got up, heading for the bathroom. He needed a shower. Badly. He glanced at his clock on the way out. Two thirty am. Nick made his way to the bathroom, careful not to wake anyone up. Mind you, he probably didn't have much to worry about. Rachel and Kat were at their own home, and Philip was in Ireland. Nick briefly wondered if his holy friend was coming back over soon. It had been months since Philip's last visit, and Nick hadn't been too courteous. He was still angry at the priest for so many things, most of which he could not name.
'Maybe I'll call him in the morning...' Nick thought, as he closed the door behind him, and stepped over to the mirror. He mustn't have disturbed Derek and Alex, his dream hadn't gotten through to the psychics. They were still kinda pissed at him for last time, when his bad dream of flesh-eating, florescent-pink, giant bunny rabbits had rudely awakened them. Nick wondered what had been so terrifying in this night's dream. He stared at his reflection in the mirror, looking into his own eyes, trying to remember.........
Suddenly, he did, and didn't want to. Blurred images of his father, both imaginary and real, came flooding back to Nick in a tidal wave, and he was violently sick into the washbasin. When he finished, bent double from nausea, Nick scrubbed at his eyes, willing away the images of his abusive father, but they remained stubbornly put behind his eyelids. Nick cleaned the sink out, and ran for the shower, turning it on full heat, anything to take away the pain of the memories. The scalding water burned his back, the hot steam clogging his lungs, but Nick didn't care, furiously scrubbing his skin raw, trying to take away what his father did, what he couldn't forget.....
Finally, exhausted, Nick stumbled back to bed, still damp, and curled into a foetal position beneath his comforter, hugging his worn teddybear like a child, and cried himself to sleep.
......Down the hall, deep within someone's mind, it began to stir, feeding on the fear and pain, beginning to grow.............
Next morning, as Alex sat eating breakfast alone, she was surprised as Derek came into the room. Normally, he was the last one down, and Nick the first. Today, it was the other way round.
'Sleep well?' Alex inquired. The answer was a grunt. Derek wasn't exactly the world's happiest man in the mornings. Alex suspected her friend was part vampire, that was why. Alex watched Derek pour himself a huge mug of coffee, then tried again. She hated having breakfast in silence- usually she could talk to one of the others who were around. Oh, well, Derek would have to do.
'Have you seen Nick this morning?' Alex asked politely, wishing that her younger friend would appear pronto, and save her.
'Must have gone out early.' Derek muttered, and walked out the room, heading for his study. Alex breathed a sigh of relief. She looked across at the breakfast buffet. Nick's plate and Happy Face mug were still there. He wasn't up yet. Alex thought this odd. It was nine o'clock; Nick was usually up at the crack of dawn. Alex wondered if her friend was okay, and decided to check on him. It couldn't hurt.
Alex made her way upstairs, towards Nick's room, and gently knocked on the door.
'Nick? You okay?' There was no answer, so Alex quietly opened the door.
Nick was asleep in his bed, curled up like a kitten, tangled in the blankets. Alex laughed softly, and walked in. She shook Nick gently.
'Honey? Wake up!' Nick moaned, and half-opened one eye.
'Wassup?' he murmured. He was still exhausted from last night's experience, and the last thing he needed was to be woken up at the Godforsaken hour of....
'Nine? It's nine?' Nick was wide awake now. 'Why didn't you wake me sooner?' He literally jumped out of bed, running for the closet, and had pulled off his teeshirt before he realised Alex was still in the room.
'Uh....would you mind?' He asked, flushing. Alex shook her head, amusedly, and walked out the room.
When Nick appeared at the table ten minutes later, Alex was just finishing her herbal tea. Today's was a new flavour, Strawberry and Vanilla. She was quite enjoying it, it made a change from the awful Cherry she had put up with last week. Alex looked at Nick, and immediately noticed how tired he looked. She felt a pang of guilt for waking him up.
'Nick? Are you okay?' Alex asked, concerned. Nick nodded.
'Just a nightmare last night. I'm fine now.' he lied. In truth, he felt awful. The images from the dream had burned into his brain, and he couldn't shake them. The pain and terror he had felt was still there, below the surface. He hoped Alex couldn't pick it up. Thankfully, she didn't seem to, and she let him finish his breakfast without an inquisition.
In Derek's study, the Dutchman was nursing a bad headache. He was grumpier than usual because of it, and he had scared off the maid who had politely inquired about his health that morning. Derek had woken up with the headache, and he suspected it had stemmed from the dream he he'd had last night. He couldn't remember any details, just that it had been bad, and it's memory made him feel uncomfortable. Derek laid his head down on his desk, and tried to will the pain away. It felt like someone was inside his head, trying to break out with an electric drill........
......Inside, it moved contentedly, still relishing the feed it'd had last night. It was kept happy and sustained by the pain it was causing the holder, waiting until night fell when it could properly feed again.........
A week passed, and Alex was beginning to get a bit weirded out. Derek had been nursing a bad head all week, and was wondering about like.....well, like a bear with a sore head. Nick appeared constantly tired and haggard, the result of little or no sleep each night. The young man had become quiet and withdrawn, sometimes staying in his room until lunchtime. Twice, Alex had heard him walking about the castle at night, sometimes headed for the bathroom, where she would hear the shower run for hours, until the hot water ran out. Other times, Alex heard him go to Philip's old room, and would find him asleep in the morning in the priest's old bed.
Rachel had been no help; the doctor'd had a busy week at work, and had only come up to the castle once. It had been a dull week for the San Francisco Legacy House, not a haunting or a rampant demon in sight. With Derek in his study all day, and Nick in another world most of the time, Alex either cruised the Internet, or went shopping. By the end of the week, she had run up a huge phone bill, and had come to the end of her credit card limit. Alex was therefore overjoyed when her friend from high school, Maria, phoned, and invited her over for a long weekend at her home in Chicago.
As Alex packed, Nick appeared at her bedroom door, and hovered there, anxiously.
'How long are you going for?'He asked her.
'Just until Wednesday.' Alex replied. She paused in her packing, and looked at her friend closely. He looked even worse than before, and had large, dark circles under his eyes that were accented by his pale face.
'Nick, are you sure you're okay? I won't go away if you're sick.'
Nick looked slightly relieved. but then shook his head.
'No, go. I'll call Rachel if there's anything.'
'And Derek's here, too.' Alex reminded him, returning to her packing.
She missed the look of fear and panic that crossed Nick's face when she made that last remark.
...................That night, it decided to meet the ultimate challenge. He would see if the holder would be totally under his control, if he could truly feed tonight..........
That night, Nick lay awake, not even trying to sleep. He knew what was coming. He had been safe whilst Alex was here, but now that she was gone..... He started at the slightest noise, curled under the blankets, waiting, hoping against hope that he was wrong.
.......It now knew that it was unstoppable, as it moved the holder's body out of the bed, and towards the door. It had made a good choice, this holder was strong and trusted. But not strong enough to resist what he was about to do............
Nick looked up in terror as the door to his room opened slowly. Derek stood there, bathed in the moonlight. Nick tried to remain calm.
'Hey, Derek. Can I help you?' Derek strode into the room, toward the bed. Nick stood up, scared.
'...Derek?...' Derek lunged for Nick, grabbing at the younger man's sweatshirt. Nick tried to dodge out of the way, but his sock-clad feet slipped on the polished wood floor, and Derek grabbed hold of his wrists, forcing him up against the wall. Nick tried to struggle, but Derek had at least four inches and fourteen pounds on him. Derek held Nick's wrists high above his head, inspecting at the young man like a scientist might look at a new species of insect. Nick stared at the glazed look in Derek's eyes, and he was afraid.
'Derek? Derek, what are you doing? Derek?'
Derek suddenly made his move, and Nick started to scream as pain old and new lanced through him, invading his very soul.
When Derek left, hours later, Nick slumped to the floor, cold, hurting and alone, with not even the angels to hear and weep with him.
Late Wednesday evening, a very tired, and very cross Alex arrived through customs at the airport. Her plane had been delayed for four hours, and she was not a happy bunny. The thought of trying to grab a taxi this late at night was too much. Alex breathed a sigh of relief as she saw a familiar figure waiting at the airport exit.
'Rachel!' Alex hurried forward and hugged the older woman. Rachel smiled.
'How are you, sweetie? Did you have a nice time?' Alex grinned,
'The best! It was so wonderful to be away from that house for a few days!'
Rachel looked worried at this, and Alex immediately noticed.
'Rachel? Is everything okay?' Rachel didn't answer her, just stared at her hands, which she was anxiously twisting together.
'Rachel? What's wrong?'
Finally, Rachel looked up at the other woman. 'Let's go talk somewhere.'
'Fired? How could he fire them all?' Alex was asking incredulously. The two women were seated in a small bar on the docks. The bar was small, noisy and smoky, not Rachel nor Alex's first choice of a meeting place. But Rachel had insisted, she didn't want Derek's psi-powers finding them out.
'I don't know, Alex,' Rachel said, 'Derek just went berserk. He fired all the staff, maids, groundsmen, everyone!'
Alex looked worried.
'Derek doesn't go berserk. He may be a little eccentric at times, but he does not go beserk!'
Rachel went quiet.
'He did this time.'
Suddenly, Alex had a horrible thought. If Derek was behaving strangely, he could be a danger.......
'Where's Nick?' asked Alex 'Please, God, tell me he's at your house!'
Rachel looked on the point of panic.
'I don't know where he is! The maid said that he was still up at the castle! I tried calling, but no one will answer! And I didn't want to go up there myself. I'm ......I'm.......scared!' At this, Rachel burst into tears, startling the waitress who had just brought them their drinks. Alex grabbed the drinks from the waitress, then nodded to Rachel.
'Hormonal.' The waitress nodded understandingly, and walked away back to the bar. Rachel laughed.
'Hormonal?!' The two broke into sudden giggles, giving the confused waitress and even bigger headache. Finally. they calmed down, and Alex asked,
'She's on a school trip this week in Seattle, Science week or something.' Rachel replied.
Alex quickly downed her drink.
'Come on, let's go.'
When the two women arrived at the house, it was in complete darkness. Rachel looked up at the house nervously.
'Looks like no one's home.'
Alex glanced at her watch. 'Well, it is eleven forty. They're probably asleep.'
'Maybe.' Rachel looked doubtful as they walked up to the front door. Alex dug the keys out of her purse, opened the door, and the two linked arms before stepping inside.
Upstairs, in Nick's room, the young man was curled in a corner, trying to make himself as small as possible. The radio was on, playing the Beatles' song Blackbird. Although Nick was mostly unaware of the song, the melody drifted into his small world, and soothed him. Derek hadn't come in yet, and Nick was hoping he wouldn't arrive at all. That was completely improbable, but he could wish. This last week, Nick had retreated into the depths of his mind, like a frightened child, viewing the outside world as if it were on a television screen. He was aware of what was happening out there, what was happening to him, what had happened to Derek, but he had become completely detached. In the dark recess of his mind that he had taken refuge in, Nick was safe. No one could hurt him there.
Suddenly, Nick felt someone near him. It wasn't a physical feeling, more of a mental one. And Nick knew who it was.
'Alex!!' Nick yelled, coming out of his trance. He got up and ran for the door, but he stopped when he saw the other person in the room. Derek was seated in the easy-chair, looking at him, a cold, hard star contorting his handsome features. Shocked, Nick realised that Derek had been there all along, just watching....and waiting....
The Derek-thing moved towards Nick, just as the young man could feel Alex's presence coming closer. The feeling gave Nick strength, and something inside him snapped. As Derek reached for him, Nick screamed in defiance,
'No! No more!!'
Derek backed away slightly, shock passing over his face momentarily. Then his face contorted in a snarl, and he reached out again for the young man. But Nick ducked under the older man's arms, and ran out the door. Derek ran after him, shouting obscenities, suddenly aware that the two were not alone in the house. The being controlling Derek was both afraid and angry. Afraid that it had been discovered, angry that it had been interrupted. Then, suddenly, it knew what to do.
Nick paused in his flight, coming to rest at the wooden railings that surrounded the walkway on the first floor. He looked over, but he couldn't see Alex anywhere. The women had gone into one of the downstairs rooms, where a desk light had been shining. They were horrified by what they saw- books were strewn everywhere, papers lay ripped on the floor. The few ornaments that had brightened the room lay smashed. The girls turned as they heard the sound of shouting from upstairs. They clutched at each other, terrified by whatever madness they might find.
Nick was panicking. He couldn't see Alex anywhere, and he was terrified of what Derek would do when he caught up with him. But then Nick 'felt' the young woman again. Suddenly, Nick felt himself whipped around by an invisible force, and he came face to face with Derek, An evil grin was plastered to the precept's face, striking terror into Nick's very soul. Strangely, Nick was still aware of the song on the radio. The Beatles had just reached the chorus. Derek was also aware of the song, and his grin grew even wider. Derek spoke over the song, but the voice was not his own. It was thick, guttural and low, almost a growl.
'Black....bird....fly!!' With those words, Nick found himself hurled through the air, hitting and breaking the wooden barrier. He twisted desperately in midair, trying to break his fall, but the hard wooden floor rushed up and into him, throwing him into a deep, painfilled blackness.
In the study, Rachel and Alex heard the shouts and the crash, and ran out into the hall. Rachel gave a small scream as she saw the crumpled figure lying motionless on the floor. She ran to Nick, yelling frantically,
'Nick? Nick! Can you hear me? Nick!' Rachel turned to Alex. 'Get help! Quickly!'
Alex ran to the phone, as Rachel looked up at the stairway. Derek was standing there at the top, watching the proceedings with an emotionless face.
'Derek! What the hell happened?' Rachel asked. Derek shrugged, held out his hands in a gesture of innocence.
'I don't know.'
Rachel glared at him accusingly.
'We heard shouting. What's going on?'
Derek just shrugged again, and Rachel felt like slugging him.
'We had an argument. He didn't look where he was going.'
Rachel was about to say something else, but Nick let out a small moan, and moved his head slightly. Rachel reached out, and gently smoothed his tousled hair, which was fast becoming wet and sticky with blood from his bruised and cut face.
'It's okay, honey.' Rachel whispered soothingly.'It's gonna be okay.' Nick barely heard what she was saying, as he drifted in and out of consciousness, but he understood it from he tone of voice. He tried desperately to get his voice to work, to tell her that everything was not alright, that something was definitely very wrong. Nick squeezed his eyed shut in concentration, trying to find the strength to talk. Finally, he opened his eyes. They wouldn't focus, but he could look in Rachel's general direction.
'...Phi...Phil...'Nick swallowed, trying to force out the name. '...Philip...' Then he lapsed into unconsciousness again........
.....as halfway across the world, Father Philip Callaghan was sitting in the church office in his friend's parish in Ireland, thinking. Philip was taking over from Father Brennan for the week, whilst the elderly priest visited his sister in South Africa. He was trying to come up with a sermon for Sunday's service, and had so far come up with nada. It seemed as if all the ideas he'd had already been used, or they would have put the congregation to sleep. Well, most of the congregation, anyway. Philip may have been a priest, but he could still attract much female- and occasionally male- attention.
'Must be somethin' about being unavailable..' Philip thought. That had given him an idea for the sermon, when he heard someone call his name. No, he felt someone call his name. Philip rubbed at his eyes.
'Must be overtired.' he thought to himself. Then Philip gave a small cry as he saw a figure standing in the shadows. Philip could see no features, only the body of a young man. A short, young man that seemed maddeningly familiar...
Philip stood up from behind his desk, and approached the figure.
'Who are you? What do you want?'
The figure stepped out from the darkness. Philip gave a gasp.
'Nick?! What in the Good Lord's name are you doing here?' Philip's tone of voice changed from shock to concern, however, when he took in the younger man's state. His face was all bruised, like he'd been in a fight, and he had his arms wrapped around himself, like he was hurting deep inside. Tear tracks ran down Nick's face as he looked up at his friend.
'Help me, Philip. Please help me.'
Philip reached out towards his friend, deeply concerned, but his hand passed through Nick as if he wasn't even there. Nick's image shimmered, and looked straight into Philip's eyes, straight into his soul. Philip stared, shocked, as Nick slowly faded away, leaving Philip alone in the empty office.
Back in San Francisco, at the hospital where Rachel worked, Nick lay in a small, quiet room. Monitors beeped around him, and his body was swathed in cool, white bandages. Life-giving tubes invaded his broken body, unwanted but necessary intrusions on the healing process that refused to begin.
Derek and Alex stood by the bed, looking down at the small, broken form. Alex had been crying slightly, but Derek remained stone-faced, as if he didn't even care. Rachel had left a few minutes ago to check on Nick's medical records. She returned shortly, and popped her head around the door.
'Uh, Alex, hon? Can I have a word with you?'
'Sure.' Alex replied, with a nervous look at Derek. Derek gave a smile that was meant to be warm, but missed the point completely. Alex left the room, and the two women walked down the corridor. When Derek was sure that they were gone, he leaned down to Nick, and whispered softly in his ear,
'Say anything, and it'll be worse than before. Much worse.'
Suddenly, the thing that had taken over Derek doubled in pain as white-hot agony lanced through it's head. Derek was in there, somewhere, and he was trying to get out.
'I won't.....let....you!' the thing grunted. It concentrated hard, and sen the last remnants of what had been Derek spiralling back into the depths of the brain that the two now shared, even if that sharing was a little one-sided. Once again, the thing tried to hook into Derek's psi-powers, but failed. The Dutchman may have given up everything else, but that was unaccessible. The thing grunted again. He may not have been able to spy on the conversation that was going on down the hall, but he could guess what they were talking about. He would have to start thinking quick if he were to survive.
'Are you sure?' Alex was asking. She couldn't believe what Rachel was saying, didn't even want to think about what it meant...
'I'm positive.'Rachel said. 'There's marks on Nick that couldn't be caused by the fall. No way. The oldest is about a week old.'
'Just after I left........' Alex trailed off, horrified.
'There's more.' Rachel said, quickly. 'I was looking through Nick's medical file. Those unexplained marks? He had ones just like them when he was little.'
Alex was quiet for a moment. If Nick had told her about his father, she might have been able to figure something out. But Nick had only told Derek, and so Alex was at a loose end. Without being able to trust Derek, she and Rachel were on their own, unless...
'Where's the phone?'
'What do you mean, he's not there?!'Alex asked, furiously. The poor priest on the other end stammered an apology, but Alex had already slammed the phone down.
'What's wrong?' Rachel asked, worried.
'Damn Philip!' shouted Alex. 'He's just taken off! Didn't say a word, or leave a number, or anything!' Alex slowly began to calm down, and Rachel moved over to hug her. The two stayed like that for a while, silent, until Rachel finally said,
'What are we going to do now?'
Presently, the girls made their way back to Nick's room. If it was at all possible, the young man looked even worse than when they had left. Derek was nowhere in sight, but a young nurse was changing Nick's IV drip.
'Have you seen a man in here?' asked Rachel. 'About six foot tall, handsome, speaks with a Dutch accent?' The nurse nodded.
'He left about five minutes ago. Said he was going home as there was no point in waiting around here.'
Rachel and Alex looked at each other nervously. This was definitely unlike Derek. If a friend was ill, especially as hurt as Nick was, Derek would be the last one to go home.
The nurse left, leaving Alex and Rachel alone in the room with Nick. The two drew up easychairs alongside his bed, Rachel taking his hand, and the two settled in for one of the longest nights of their lives.
Early next morning, a battered whirlwind rushed through the hospital doors. The African receptionist who sat there looked startled as the wild-looking young man ran up to her, and asked in frantic voice with an Irish accent,
'Nick Boyle! My friend, is he here?' The nurse looked a bit flustered by the sudden outburst, but she bent to look at her computer records.
'Um, I'm not sure.' The nurse said. 'What was the name again?'
Philip heaved a sigh of frustration. 'Nick Boyle! Look, is Dr. Corrigan around here?'
The nurse looked relieved that she could help out.
'She's in room 239. Just down the hall. But you shouldn't disturb her...' Her words fell on empty air as Philip ran off down the hall. On reaching room 239, he burst in, startling the girls who had fallen asleep.
'What the...Philip!'Alex gave a delighted squeal as she jumped up to hug her friend. Philip returned the hug, then did likewise to Rachel who had followed Alex to the door. Philip looked over to the bed, and quickly crossed himself.
'Oh, dear Lord.' Philip walked over to the bed, and squatted down, so that he was level with Nick. Philip took the younger man's hand, stroking his hair soothingly with the other, and gently whispered,
'It's okay, Nick. I'm going to help you. I'm here now, it's all going to be okay.'
Not even a flicker of emotion passed over Nick's face. He just remained still, deathly white, unresponding. Rachel and Alex watched wide-eyed, then Alex asked,
'How did you know?'
Philip looked up. 'What was that, lass?'
'I said, how did you know? About Nick? We couldn't contact you.' Alex frowned.
Philip looked at Alex and Rachel for a minute, than turned away.
'Nick asked me.' he said, quietly.
'What?!' both girls asked, incredulously. Philip just looked at his unconscious friend, and continued to stroke his head, careful not to disturb the bandages there. Finally he said,
'I was in the parish office, when he just appeared out of nowhere. He looked like he'd just encountered all the hounds of Hell. He asked me for his help, then he just....disappeared. I got here as soon as I could. I......didn't think I should go to the house.' Philip finally looked up. 'Where's Derek?'
The girls remained silent for an uncomfortable moment, then Rachel spoke.
'Uh, Philip? We have something to tell you, and I don't think you're gonna like it.'
............Back at the castle, the thing in Derek's body and brain was working out a meticulous plan. It quite liked being here, and was not prepared to go away just yet. It had gradually been getting harder and harder to control the holder. It had chosen this one because of his strong character, but now that seemed to be working against it. And now that the priest was her.....suddenly, it grinned. All it had to do was convince the Legacy members that the boy's fall had been an accident, convince them that he was the real Derek Rayne. How hard could it be?
When Rachel and Alex finished telling Philip all they knew, the young priest paling considerably as they continued their tale, Philip thought of something.
'You know about Jonathan Boyle, right?' Philip asked, sure they didn't, as they would have mentioned it. Hell, even Philip wasn't meant to know; it was only because Nick had got really drunk one night, and Philip had been trying to put him into bed before the younger man passed out on the stairs. Nick had mumbled that Philip would have made a great father, wished his own had been that nice, then blurted everything out in a drunken way. In the morning, Nick hadn't even been able to remember how he got home, so Philip declined to bring the subject up again. But now........
From their confused stares, Philip guessed that Rachel and Alex didn't know about Jonny Boyle. Philip took a deep breath,
'Nick was abused as a child.' he said. Philip ignored their shocked gazes, knew that if he stopped now, he wouldn't be able to carry on. 'His father would get really drunk, beat up Nick's mother, then start on Nick himself. If he was really drunk, he did.....other stuff.' Philip flushed. He didn't know too many details- didn't want to know, but what he had knowledge of made him embarrassed and angry all at once. Philip tended to be very protective of the impulsive young man he thought of as his little brother. They may have had their differences, their relationship strained at times, but both cared very deeply about the other. Philip hated the thought that someone could hurt Nick in that way, detested the thought that someone that close to them could do it again.
Rachel stood and rubbed her eyes.
'I need a coffee.' she said. Alex stood up too.
'I'll come with you. Philip?' Philip shook his head.
'I'll stay here, if you don't mind.'
'Sure.' Rachel and Alex went in search of coffee, leaving Philip sitting by Nick's bed. The priest's mind was reeling, thousands of thoughts in his head, all fighting for immediate attention. Images flooded his mind; Nick at Christmas, smiling as he opened yet another present containing those thick woollen jumpers he loved to wear; Derek, laughing as he got another translation horribly wrong; Alex; Rachel; Kat; himself; smiling; laughing; crying; screaming. Finally, Philip gave a small yell of frustration.
'Dammit, Nick! Why don't you wake up?! Why won't you tell us what happened?!
Philip turned to the wall, and angrily slammed his fist against it. He leaned his head against the hard brick wall and closed his eyes, listening to the soft sounds around him, Nick's breathing, the beeps of the monitors, trying to quieten his thoughts. He heard the radio filtering through the walls from somewhere, and an idea struck him. Philip grabbed his hastily-packed bag, and brought out a cassette tape. In Nick's scrawled hand on the inlay card was the message,
Even a priest has to love this music!
Philip smiled. He had loved the tape, had been surprised that Nick's taste in music had actually been decent. He was even more surprised that Nick had actually spent time making the tape. Nick wasn't exactly the world's most patient and thoughtful person. Philip slotted the tape into the radio/cassette player, and turned it on. Soft soul music flowed out of the player, filling the room. The singer began, a young man with a beautiful tenor voice. Philip found himself singing along, feeling the words, wishing them through to Nick;
'Under the endless sky
Philip began to cry, feeling so helpless, remembering all the times, the good and the bad.
......Still fighting fire with fire? Still pretending to be a priest?........
...........I knew that collar was good for something. You'll have to let me borrow it sometime. Why, so you can dodge past police vans, or have women throw themselves uncontrollably at your feet? Cold. Icy..............
.....'Return to hell without thy hand'?! I made that bit up. But I believed it.........
The tears came more readily, now. He and Nick had been close; so close. That was gone now, buried with Julia, and deep inside, Philip knew it could never be the same again. Philip held Nick's hand, willing him to wake up, to tell him that everything was okay. Philip didn't know what to do- the girls were depending on him to think of something, Nick was relying on him, he was afraid of what Derek had become. Philip squeezed his eyes shut, feeling the hot tears fall down his face, burning a path down his cold skin. The song breached into the chorus as Philip vented his frustration in his helplessness;
'I'm not made of steel
Philip lay his head on Nick's chest, and cried himself to sleep. As his sobs quietened to soft breaths, Nick slowly, ever so slowly, opened his eyes. They refused to focus properly, but Nick could feel Philip, felt his pain. Nick gently lifted his hand and stroked Philip's thick hair in much the same way that the older man had done to him before. Although Nick was still scared, couldn't remember how he got here, why he was here, he knew that if Philip was there, everything would be okay. Nick closed his eyes and again slipped into blackness, but this one was pleasant and welcomed.
Hours later, Alex and Rachel, having gathered their thought, returned to the room. The two had sat in silence in an empty exam room, trying to get their heads around the whole thing. Although Nick's state of health was deeply worrying, they were also anxious about Derek. They girls had come to the decision that it couldn't be the real Derek Rayne. He wouldn't hurt a fly. The girls had no proof that Nick's fall hadn't been an accident, but they had their suspicions. They decided that they had to get back to Philip, no matter how unpleasant their last encounter had been. The girls had every faith that the priest would know what to do. They weren't completely helpless, but as the problem at hand involved two of their closest friends, their family, they were overcautious.
Alex walked into the room first, but what she saw made her stop dead. Rachel bumped into her, knocking both women further into the room. They stared, unsure of what to do.
Nick felt someone watching him, and he sleepily opened his eyes. He saw Alex and Rachel standing at the foot of the bed. He raised one finger to his lips.
'Shhh!' he whispered. 'Don't wake Philip. I think he has jetlag, or something.' For a moment, the girls just stood, staring at Nick in disbelief, wondering how such a drastic change in their young friend's health could occur in such a short time. Then they both burst out laughing. Partly it was relief, partly that Nick could be so worried about Philip's jetlag when he himself had been at Death's door only a few hours before.
At the sound of their laughter, Philip stirred, and looked up, bleary-eyed. Nick looked at Alex and Rachel reproachfully.
'Now look what you've done! I told you to be quiet!'
Suddenly, Philip wasn't as sleepy anymore, as he jerked upright to stare at his friend. Nick struggled to sit upright, but couldn't quite manage it. He looked up at Philip.
'Mind giving me a hand here, buddy?' he asked, quite cross by now. First of all he got stared at, then ignored, then laughed at, then the staring again. What the heck was going on here?
Dumbly, Philip reached out, and helped his friend into a sitting position, supporting him with the overstuffed pillows.
'Gee, thanks so much.' said Nick, sarcastically. Rachel came over and began to check Nick over. He winced at her hands probed deep cuts, bruises, and an assortment of shattered bones. Nick turned to Alex.
'So, what's going on here?'
Alex looked worried. 'You don't remember?'
Nick shook his head. Rachel took out a small penlight and shone it in his eyes, checking his pupils. She frowned.
'What's the last thing you remember?'
Now it was Nick's turn to frown.
'I dunno.' He was quiet a moment. 'I remember driving through the mountains.......Oh, Jeez, I didn't crash my car, did I?'
'No! Nothing like that!' Rachel assured him. Nick looked even more worried.
'It wasn't the jeep, was it? Or the 'copter? Oh, man, Sloan's gonna flip!'
Philip tried to calm him down.
'You had a fall, that's all.' he explained.
'A fall?! I had a fall?!' Nick was getting worked up now. He grabbed a newspaper from the nightstand, and looked at the date.
'Two weeks? I can't remember two weeks of memory?!' Nick was becoming hysterical. He was terrified. He couldn't remember anything of the past fortnight, and the painkillers he had been administered had worn off, doing nothing to stop the agony that was spreading through his body.
'What happened to me?' he screamed. 'Why can't I remember?!' Nick started tearing out the tubes and wires attached to him. Rachel and Alex tried to restrain him, but he broke free and struggled out of bed, ignoring the pain screaming at him from his broken arm and ribs.
'Alex! Call for help!' Rachel yelled. Alex dashed out the door, whilst Rachel and Philip tried to calm Nick.
'Nick, it's okay.' Rachel said soothingly. 'We're going to help you.'
Nick looked at them warily, seemed about to say something, when Alex reappeared with two burly orderlies, one of whom was carrying a tranquilliser needle.
'No!' shrieked Nick. 'Don't you dare!'
'Nick.' a calm voice invaded the panic. Nick turned to Philip, who was looking at the younger man calmly. Philip held out his hands to Nick, palms up.
'We won't hurt you.' Philip said. 'We only want to help you get better.' The calm Irish voice soothed Nick, who slowly backed up to the wall. When he felt his bare back touch the cool hardness, he slid down to the floor, and wrapped his arms around his sweatpants-encased legs. Then he began to cry.
There was an awkward and uncomfortable silence in the room. The Legacy members had never seen Nick cry before, not even during all the things he'd had to endure during his time in the organisation. Then slowly, so as not to scare him, Philip walked over, and squatted down next to Nick. The younger man clung to the priest, his body wracked by sobs. As he felt Philip's touch, memories flashed out at him, drowning him, and he knew. He knew about Derek, about what Derek had become, what he did. The pain of both the physical and psychological hurt invaded his very being, but here, in Philip's arms, he felt safe.
'Help me.' Nick whispered into Philip's shoulder. 'Please help me.'
When Derek awoke, the first thing he noticed was the silence. There was no sound whatsoever in the house on Angel Island. The second thing he noticed was that he was sleeping on the floor of the library, fully clothed, in the middle of a gigantic mess of ruined books and papers. Slowly, Derek sat up, wondering how the heck he had got there in the first place. The only clear memory he had was of grumping at Alex at the breakfast table. Everything after that was hazy and in pieces. Derek knew that something was wrong, he just didn't know what. And he had the strangest feeling, almost as if there was someone else in his mind with him.....
Derek shook his head,
'My Got, I'm getting paranoid.' he thought. Derek got up off the floor and wandered out into the hall. He was greeted by even more mess and mayhem out there. Shattered wooden railings littered the floor, and in the middle of the chaos, the oak floorboards were stained red. Shocked, Derek slowly bent to touch the stain. It was still damp, it hadn't been there too long. Suddenly, Derek reeled as a vision struck him.
He saw Nick slamming into a wall, struggling; then the young man crying; screaming; falling through the air. Derek could see no sign of Nick's attacker, only the feeling that the scenes he was witnessing were so familiar.............
A cold, uneasy feeling had settled in Derek's stomach. He wandered through the house, calling for the people who should have been there, but weren't. Derek was completely alone. Then, a thought struck him,
'Maybe Sloan'll know.....' Derek walked to the control room, and paused outside for the small lasers to run a retina scan on him, and allow him to enter. Derek walked forward.........and banged straight into the wall.
'Ouch!!' Derek yelped, rubbing his nose. 'My Got, that hurts!!!'
Derek tried for ten minutes, but he just couldn't get access to the room.
'Humph!! Derek muttered, as he made his way to the bathroom, calling the hologram every name under the sun. When he got there, Derek peered into the mirror. He didn't look any different. Okay, so he looked like he'd been dragged through a hedge backwards, but that was no reason to prohibit him access to the computer room. Derek wandered along the hallway to his study, hoping that the phone wouldn't attack him if he tried to use it. When he wasn't electrocuted by picking up the receiver, Derek quickly dialled a number, hoping that the other person had their phone switched on.