'The last mile of the run is always the toughest', Nick thought as he rounded the trail he used to get back to the Legacy House. He had successfully managed the entire run without doing too much thinking. The only thought he focused on now, nearing the end of his run, was that stopping would feel good today, but the shower would feel even better!
It was one of those dreary, rain-filled mornings where the air itself even seemed too heavy to be coaxed into creating a soft, gentle breeze. As he took those last lumbering strides of his 15 mile run, Nick began to wish that the sky would just open up and pour instead of its empty threats to. Although, he had to admit, the day did fit his mood -- DARK! Today was going to be difficult -- more difficult than he had first imagined.
As he stepped into the entryway of the Legacy House, he took a quick glimpse around to assess whether anyone had risen yet. Thankfully, it looked as if all was quiet and he turned to start up the stairs to his room and the longed-for shower. But, as he walked past the hallway, he saw Derek sitting in the parlor, alone in the dark with what appeared to be a cup of coffee in front of him. Momentarily debating whether to leave the Precept to his thoughts or to interrupt, Nick chose the latter and stepped into the doorway of the study.
"I'm surprised you're up this early," he commented as he leaned on the doorframe. "Is somethin' up?", he asked, hoping a case had developed.
Derek, looking slightly disheveled and not quite himself, glanced up at the sound with a concentrated look on his face. Focusing in on the young man in the doorway, he quietly answered, "No, nothing's up. I woke up just after you went out and couldn't go back to sleep."
"Oh, hey, I'm sorry about that," Nick replied as he entered the room and sat on the sofa opposite Derek. "I thought I was pretty quiet -- no different than usual. I didn't mean to wake you, Derek."
Staring into his half-empty coffee cup, Derek quietly commented, "It wasn't you, Nick .... it's the day." He looked up then and tried to meet his younger associate's eyes -- which were quickly averted upon contact. "Nick, we need to talk about ...."
Nick rose quickly and snapped, "Yeah, well, I'm gonna go hit the shower. I guess I'll see you at breakfast." With that, he strode out of the room, trying to control the sudden rise of anger that had risen within him.
Normally, Derek would have pushed a conversation with Nick; but today wasn't exactly a "normal" day. This minor confrontation was exactly what he thought might happen -- and hoped wouldn't. He knew Nick would not have forgotten what day this was and he knew that it would be difficult for everyone -- particularly Nick -- but he had hoped that there would not be a friction between them over it. Apparently, that hope had been futile.
Nick reached his room, opened the door and slammed it shut, not thinking -- or now caring -- who he might disturb. He had thought that the run would help him put the day into perspective; that it would help ease the anger he felt as he rose in the morning and remembered the events that transpired one year ago today. But, seeing Derek downstairs just now made all the pain and anger flood back into him like a tidal wave. 'Damn him,' he thought as he stripped off his clothes, tossed them on the chair and headed for the shower. 'Damn him!'
Alex heard the slam of a door from her room, but it did not wake her; she had risen about 15 minutes beforehand. Today's date had been on her mind as she drifted off to sleep and had caused her a restless night. Although she hadn't heard either Nick or Derek rise earlier, she had no doubt that they had already had a conversation -- confrontation? -- of some sort. She knew that today would be filled with tension and just hoped she would be able to get past her own pain in order to help two of the men in her life that she cared most about.
The slam of the door down the hall startled Rachel out of a sound sleep. Immediately, she got up and headed toward the door to go down the hall to check on Kat. But, as she approached the door, she became oriented to her surroundings. 'I'm at the Legacy House,' she remembered as she put the robe she had grabbed back down on the edge of the bed, 'and I didn't bring Kat with me last night.'
Then, in a wash of memory that drove her sleepiness away, she remembered what had prompted her to spend the night at the Legacy House last night -- today was the one-year anniversary of Julia Walker's death! She had thought about the events that had happened just over a year ago quite often this past month; after all, that was when the members of the Legacy had become her and Kat's "extended family". And, just recently, she had marked her own loss of two loved ones -- Patrick and Connor. She had spent that anniversary date alone with Kat going to the park, having lunch and even treating her to a movie. She had kept the mood light (as much for her own sake as for Kat's) and shed her own pain-filled tears in the privacy of her bedroom late that night.
But, the anniversary of Julia's death -- she knew -- would be different. It wasn't that Nick hadn't ever faced death or losing someone he cared about before; more to the point, it was the fact that Julia's death had been caused -- at least in part -- by his friend and mentor ... Derek Rayne. For Nick to face Julia's death was one thing, Rachel knew; to face Derek, was quite another.
Shortly after hearing the slam of the door upstairs, Derek began to hear the sounds of water running followed closely by the soft sounds of footsteps from the other two occupied rooms. So, the day had begun as he had feared it would -- with tension and apprehension, anger and guilt. He rose from his seat and headed into the kitchen where Mitchell was preparing breakfast. On his way, he began to hope that a case -- any case -- would come up early in the day that he and his colleagues (particularly Nick) could get lost in.
He placed his cup in the sink and quickly left the kitchen, barely acknowledging Mitchell's cheery welcome and information that breakfast would be ready shortly. He walked slowly up the stairs to his room to change. He felt very old today; like he had aged rapidly overnight. In his mind, he remembered ....
Entering his room, Derek sat down on his bed wishing that the day would pass quickly, yet knowing that it wouldn't. Solemnly, he began to dress.
Nick turned off the shower but stood stationary -- alone, naked and vulnerable -- as memories washed over him like a tidal wave. Memories of Julia and him together, of how Julia tried to quietly push him for some kind of commitment, how he loved to torture her by flirting with other girls, of that fateful trip to Ireland, and of life after Julia's death.
All these memories pounded in his brain much harder and hotter than the steaming water that had beat upon his still-red skin. He closed his eyes to the pain, trying to drive each memory -- each thought -- out of his aching head. But, with every attempt to push them away, the memories rushed forward faster and stronger, refusing to be denied or buried any longer.
Slowly exiting the shower and beginning to dress, he wondered how he was going to face the rest of the day, how he was going to face Alex or Rachel, and most especially, how he was to face Derek again. The anger over Julia's untimely demise had passed -- eventually subsided -- during the past 12 months; however, now that the one-year anniversary of that date had arrived, that original anger was back ... and with a vengeance he didn't think was possible.
His mind raced with how he could avoid any kind of serious confrontation today. 'It would have been better if I had just gone away for a few days,' he thought to himself as he sat on his bed debating whether he should go downstairs for breakfast or not. He had really thought -- actually counted on -- his own pain-filled past and his more recent SEAL conditioning to have helped him steel his emotions about today. But, it was apparent that this was not to be the case.
As he sat there now trying desperately to control his welling emotions, the image of Julia -- eyes wide, frightened and soulless -- hanging from that unholy scarecrow post kept forcing it's way into his brain. "Damn you, Derek," Nick said under his breath. "You just had to have it your way and only your way, didn't you!?" Wrestling with his volatile anger, Nick rose to head downstairs for what he knew would be an interesting breakfast with the "group".
Alex had jumped in the shower located off her room and was in the process of getting dressed when she heard the water down the hall stop. She could tell that it was from Nick's room; living under the same roof with someone for as long as she had lived with Nick, she had naturally learned his habits. She knew that Nick had been in the shower for a longer time than usual and that was not a good sign; in fact, it was an indication of what kind of mood he would most likely be in. 'How am I ever going to help him and Derek through this,' she wondered as she began to comb out her long hair.
Her own feelings of loss, guilt and remorse spread through her as she remembered that it could have been she and not Julia who had gone on that fateful trip to Ireland a year ago. She walked over to the window and gazed at the dreary, cloud-filled sky. As she stood there, past memories rushed back to her as ....
'What a day this is going to be,' she thought.
Rachel had showered and dressed quickly, hoping to get downstairs before Derek and Nick ran into one another again. (She had correctly assumed that the slam of the door earlier meant that Derek and Nick had already had words.) Though her mind was racing with all the "right" things she should, could or would try to say to Derek and Nick to help them through today, she knew that it would not be easy. Both of these men were strong -- sometimes too strong for their own good -- and they would each be defensive in their own way.
She recalled all the nameless patients she'd counseled about losing loved ones, feeling responsible for others' demise, etc. over the years of her psychiatric counseling, but today would pose a whole new challenge to Rachel's techniques. These weren't nameless patients but friends. She headed out of her room and toward the stairs.
Derek finished buttoning his vest as he headed for the door of his room. He found that he was exhausted already and wished (not for the first time that morning) that this day was over with. His emotions had run quite a gamut this morning -- anger, guilt, sorrow and remorse -- just to name a few. He heard Rachel's door open and close and sped up in order to join her in the hallway. He was counting heavily on Rachel's psychological background to help both he and Nick get through this day.
His biggest regret was that Philip was not here today. He knew that, although there was a constant friction between Philip and Nick, there was also a very close bond between the two young men; deep down, they were like brothers. He wished Philip were here today to comfort Nick -- and to counsel him. More than ever, Philip's absence from The Legacy was keenly felt.
Mitchell had just finished putting the last of the breakfast items on the dining room table when he heard the sound of footsteps heading down the stairs. 'Perfect timing -- as usual,' he thought to himself. He had noticed that Dr. Rayne had seem pre-occupied this morning -- more so than on other mornings when the Legacy members were involved in some casework -- and decided that he should stay in the kitchen and out of the way.
Quite often he felt that the members of the San Francisco Legacy House were very troubled individuals -- no more or less than in other Legacy Houses, but troubled just the same. They seemed to work very well as a group, but each had their own distinct personalities and abilities. Mitchell strongly felt that Dr. Rayne is definitely a leader in every sense of the word. He is strong, generally unyielding and decisive. He runs the House with a perfect combination of an iron will and heartfelt compassion.
The thing that Mitchell finds most impressive about the Precept of the San Francisco House is that he is so knowledgeable about antiquities. Others within the Legacy envy Derek Rayne his background (with his father, Winston, having been quite an infamous "ghosthunter" himself), and Mitchell felt privileged to have been assigned recently to this House as he had a secret passion for antiquities himself.
But, of all the members of this particular House, Alexandra Moreau (known as "Alex" by her friends) is one of Mitchell's favorites. He has worked in other Houses over the years -- most notably the troubled Montreal House -- and has found that many Legacy members are cool and aloof. However, Ms. Moreau is always bright, cheerful and warm. She has a sparkling personality that is combined with stunning beauty and a quick, insightful intelligence. He had been told that both she and Dr. Rayne have unique psychic abilities, but Ms. Moreau appears to be a very "down to Earth" sort of person.
Mitchell knows another member of this House is Father Philip Callaghan, but has not yet had the pleasure to meet him. There are several priests throughout the Legacy that work in and through some of the Houses, but Mitchell has met only one of them. Rumor throughout the servants within the Legacy Organization is that Father Callaghan will either stop being a "father" or he will leave the Legacy for good. But, as far as Mitchell could tell, this hasn't occurred yet. In fact, he has overheard the San Francisco members speak often -- and fondly -- of "Philip".
Dr. Rachel Corrigan is the member of this particular house that puzzles him the most. Although he knows -- as with priests -- that there are several doctors (both medical and psychiatric) as members of the Legacy Organization, Dr. Corrigan seems not to really want to be a part of the Legacy. In his own observations, Mitchell believes that Dr. Corrigan's greatest tie to the Legacy is through that of her beautiful and bright daughter -- Katherine ... called "Kat" or "Kitty Kat" by the others of the House.
Mitchell enjoys the times that Dr. Corrigan brings Kat out to the Legacy House with her. Usually, it is during the middle of a dangerous case or serious mission, but he enjoys the young girl's charm and exuberance just the same. She is always polite, very inquisitive and generally the neatest of the individuals who reside in or visit the House.
And then there is Nick Boyle. He had been "warned" about Mr. Boyle, whose ex-SEAL background is quite often the talk and rumor within the Legacy Organization. Mitchell feels that many of the things he has heard about Mr. Boyle (things like his being uncooperative, argumentative and dangerous -- just to name a few!), are simply untrue or unfair. Yes, he is a very head-strong and opinionated young man, but he also has a very compassionate and intelligent side to him as well.
Mitchell particularly likes the way Mr. Boyle interacts with Kat -- as though he is a big brother or an overgrown playmate. However, Mitchell has noticed that Mr. Boyle and Dr. Rayne occasionally don't see eye-to-eye on matters. But, again, isn't that what probably makes the San Francisco Legacy House one of the best in the Organization -- the fact that the team works as a team, and aren't afraid to question authority?!
Yes, Mitchell enjoys working out of the San Francisco House very much and has gotten to know it's occupants and inhabitants quite well in the past few months. Troubled souls or not, they are fine, strong individuals and he has insight into who they really are. Because of this knowledge, he knew that he would be better off by staying out of sight on a dark and overcast day like today.
Father Philip Callaghan entered the small parish he was currently working in and knelt before the alter to light another candle for his friends back in San Francisco -- he had lit one already during his morning prayers. Although he was the one currently in Ireland where Julia had died, his thoughts all day had been in San Francisco and with Alex, Derek and especially, Nick.
As he lit three more candles, he prayed that his friends would have the strength they would need to get through this day; he prayed for Alex, knowing that she had felt so alone, lost and guilty when Julia died; he prayed for Derek, knowing the guilt he carried daily over Julia's untimely death; he prayed for Nick, knowing that his pain and anger wouldn't allow him to see anything today other than "Derek's guilt"; and he prayed for himself and the guilt he himself felt at not having gone in Julia's place.
Rachel and Derek reached the top of the stairwell at the same time and briefly nodded to one another as they headed down to the dining room. Each felt that awkward moment of silence -- trying to allow the other time to speak. Finally, Derek spoke with as much authority and calmness as he could muster, "Nick is going to need your help today. He seemed distant this morning after he came in from his run."
"Yes, I know," Rachel replied. "I heard his door slam. What I want to know right now is -- how are you?" She watched Derek as he poured both of them a cup of coffee.
"I'm fine," he replied as he handed her the cup. "It's Nick I'm worried about. He and Julia were very ... close. I think today will be extremely difficult for him."
"And for you," Rachel interrupted.
"Yes, well we all have our own demons we struggle against, Rachel. But losing someone you love, well, I don't have to tell you how difficult that is. I think Julia is the only person Nick has ever truly loved."
"And she loved him," Alex replied as she walked quietly into the room, poured herself a cup of coffee and began to select entrees from the breakfast buffet that Mitchell had prepared. "I've been remembering all morning how much she adored him -- and how close she and I were. I really miss her. I know I had trouble getting up this morning; I can't imagine what Nick must be feeling."
Derek stared at the plate he had just prepared for himself from the breakfast buffet; he had suddenly lost what little appetite he had. Alex's words had stung -- even though he's certain she hadn't meant them to. He glanced up to see Rachel staring at him as she placed her plate down and took the chair next to him at the table. She quietly and gently reached out her hand and squeezed his in comfort.
As Alex sat in the seat opposite Rachel and next to Derek, she caught Rachel's comforting gesture toward Derek and immediately regretted her words. "Oh, Derek," she said as she touched his other hand gently. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you're not hurting as well. But you know how I feel. I've never believed that you're to blame for Julia's death. I know you would never have intentionally risked her life. It just happened."
Despite the comforting touch and words of the two women seated next to him, it did little to ease Derek's feelings. He mustered as much of an authoritative voice as he could and replied, "The fact can't be changed, Alex. I sent Julia in a dangerous and unknown situation without thinking of the consequences. I have to live with it. It's Nick -- and our relationship -- that I'm concerned with now."
"I understand that, Derek," Rachel replied. "But it doesn't do you any better to repress your feelings about what happened to cause Julia's than it does for Nick to repress his."
"Rachel," Derek answered crossly. "I asked you to stay here last night in order for your to help Nick today, not to psycho-analyze me or my feelings. Is that understood?"
Alex, having sat silent during Derek and Rachel's conversation, felt that she might be able to ease the growing tension in the room by expressing her thoughts. "I think the best thing we could do today would be to come up with some kind of case -- research, anything -- that would keep Nick, and the rest of us, occupied."
Derek slowly nodded as he took a sip of his coffee, but Rachel immediately countered. "I disagree. Look, I've counseled hundreds of patients who have had to deal with feelings of loss - remorse - guilt, and the one thing in common I've found is that they can never truly help themselves until they face their feelings. So, I don't think a manufactured case or research project would be in Nick's best interest -- or Derek's."
"I realize that, Rachel," Alex commented. "But, you know Nick. He has a really hard time dealing with his feelings. He's a very private person. I just think we should find the best way to get through today and worry about the rest another time."
Rachel looked to Derek for help in expressing her viewpoint, but found he was sitting there silently, staring into his coffee cup. She replied, "Yes, I do know Nick -- we all do -- and, knowing him I don't think ...."
"... that he'd like you three talkin' about 'im when he's not in the room," Nick's voice interrupted.
All three Legacy members seated at the dining room table turned to face the young man who had just walked in the room. Immediately, they could notice how ill-at-ease and rigid he stood in the doorway. His face was set hard, but the pain and rage that were consuming him was evident in his steel-set eyes.
He stood there in awkward silence, not sure if he should exit the room, get a cup a coffee and join them (although food was unthinkable at this point), or allow the rage building within him to explode. He watched as Rachel got up from her chair at the farthest side of the table and slowly walked toward the breakfast buffet.
"Nick," she said, her voice trying to sound calm and compassionate. "would you like me to fix you a plate?"
"No," he answered curtly. He walked over and poured himself a quarter-cup of coffee and leaned against the sideboard. "I'm not really hungry right now."
Like Derek earlier, Nick stared into his coffee cup as if he'd find some kind of magical solution to all life's problems inside. He found that he could not look at his three associates -- 'friends' a part of his mind tried to remind him -- without feeling the anger and pain within him well up until it was nearly uncontrollable.
Alex rose from her seat and walked up to Nick. She touched his arm and left her hand there until he finally looked up and their eyes met. "I'm so sorry, Nick. I know how hard today is; I miss her too. But we have to go on -- just like we have been -- facing each day as it comes."
Nick heard her words and knew that they were true. He had handled Julia's death fairly well during the past several months. No, he had never forgotten -- and the nightmares were always there as a reminder -- but he had learned to deal with it ... and with Derek. But, today ... today was different somehow; today made it seem more real, more permanent.
His eyes averted from Alex as he tried to search for a reply. Just at that moment, Rachel broke in, "Of course none of us expect this to be easy, Nick. It wasn't easy on Kat and I when Patrick and Connor died. It wasn't easy on Derek when he watched his father die. Death and loss are never easy. But, Alex is right about having to go on. I think what we need to do is to talk about this -- get it out in the open and deal with it -- in order to move past it."
Derek had known for several months now about Nick's history with his father. Nick had shared it with him while they had been working together on a case. He had told him about the abuse, the degradation, the humiliation -- and Derek knew that Nick's ability to open up at all would be very difficult; but that it would be even more difficult to do so in front of others. He turned his chair in the direction of the sideboard and replied, "Rachel, if Nick doesn't want to talk about it right now, then I don't think that he should. I think it's best if everyone just drops it for now and that we get on with the day."
Although Derek had just expressed the feelings that Nick himself had -- that he didn't want to talk about Julia and that he just wanted to get on with the day -- the fact that it was Derek ... the person Nick held responsible for Julia's death ... who had suggested it, made him explode.
He slammed his cup down on the sideboard rattling the other dishes laid out for the buffet and walked over to the table to face Derek. "You'd really like that, wouldn't you?" he snapped. "It would make things so much more convenient for you, wouldn't it? It always has to be your way, doesn't it, Derek?"
Derek knew that Nick was on the edge and, although he wanted to help the young man back safely to solid ground, he also knew that he had to exert authority over him; now more than ever, Nick needed strong guidance. In the sternest voice he could, he replied, "Yes. I think that my solution in this matter is the correct one for now. We have a research project that we need to do and I think we should all sit down and discuss it."
"So, now it's 'you're way or the highway', Derek?" Nick asked with malice in his voice. "You sound a lot like Sloan now, ya know."
This comment was meant to sting it's intended victim, and it did. But, this was what Derek had waited for -- Nick's emotional release -- and he wasn't going to give in to the young man's anger. To do so wouldn't do either of them any good. So, he moved his face close to Nick's and replied, "That's right. In this case, that's exactly right, Nick. We have work to do. this isn't the time or place to have a discussion about events that took place a year ago. We can't change things; Gott knows if I could, I would. So, let's move on now, shall we?"
With that, he began to eat the food that had already grown cold on his plate. Although he had no appetite to speak of, he was trying to calm the atmosphere by taking control of the situation. Following his example, Alex returned to her seat and so did Rachel.
Nick stood next to the Precept in silence. His pain and anger couldn't -- wouldn't -- allow him to see that Derek was trying to help him. All he saw was the man he blamed for Julia's death sitting at a table eating eggs and ham. Trying to control his welling emotions, he walked behind Rachel and stood with his hands on the chair next to her, debating whether to just sit down and forget his feelings or to explode. Once again that day, he chose the latter.
"Alright, Derek," Nick replied. "Then you can just go ahead and 'get on' with things if you want to -- but you can do it without me."
Derek continued to pick at his food as he said, "If that's how you want it for now, Nick -- fine." He turned to Alex and continued speaking, "I'd like you to pull that file we've been putting off connected to the occurrences at the Golden Gate Bridge. I think today would be a good day to review it."
Alex, taking her lead from the Precept she has trusted her life with on more than one occasion replied, "Sure, Derek. Maybe this time, we can figure out what's going on."
Feeling totally ignored, Nick's anger rose within him all the more. His grip on the wooden chair in front of him was so strong that he could feel the intricate detail marking his skin. "Fine," he spit out. "I'll just go up and pack. I should be out of here in an hour or so." With that, he let go of the chair and began to walk past Rachel.
This reaction was not what Derek had anticipated. He had hoped to snap Nick into wanting to work on a case. Or, if Nick needed to, to allow him to go off by himself and deal with his emotions. But to leave the Legacy?? No, this is not what he intended. Before he could respond, he heard Alex say, "Nick, wait."
Nick stopped just behind Rachel and stared at Alex, waiting for her wisdom to reach him. He felt himself acting -- reacting -- out of control, but couldn't seem to stop the train wreck that was taking place within his heart and emotions.
"Look, I know you're really upset right now. And angry," she reasoned. "But if you're talking about walking out ... leaving the Legacy ... well, Nick, you're just not thinking straight right now. I know you don't want to do this."
"Alex is right, Nick," Derek said with compassion lining his previously-hardened voice. "You're not thinking clearly right now. If you don't want to help with a research project today, that's OK. You don't want to talk right now, fine. But you can't really want to leave the Legacy, Nick."
Nick's mind heard all the right answers -- all the right words -- and yet his heart would not let go of the pain, the anger, that had built to such a crescendo this morning. "How do you know what I want?" he yelled at Derek. "Did you know what Julia wanted? Did you care?? Do you ever stop to think before you make decisions, Derek, or do you just make them and to Hell with the rest of us?!"
With this, Derek himself exploded, "That's enough! I don't think you know what the Hell you're saying right now. I know that you're hurt, and angry, but decisions -- especially difficult ones -- come with my job. I make them and then I more than anyone have to live with the consequences."
"Not in this case," Nick responded, voice still raised. "I have to live with this one too, Derek. And I'm just not sure I can anymore."
Over the sound the raised voices, no one in the dining room had heard the ring of the doorbell, or Mitchell's entrance into the dining room. But, with this sudden (and more than likely, brief) lull in conversation, Mitchell took the opportunity to clear his throat loudly and announce, "Excuse me, but there's a visitor here to see Mr. Boyle, Dr. Rayne and Ms. Moreau."
This sudden and unexpected interruption brought all four of the Legacy members to their senses as they gazed at Mitchell. "Who is it?" Derek inquired, trying to regain his composure.
"I'm Janine -- Janine Walker," a familiar-sounding voice said from behind Mitchell. "I'm sorry I didn't wait in the hall, but I heard the shouting and curiosity got the better of me."
"My Gott," Derek whispered as all faces turned toward the voice. The introduction by the "Walker" name had been unnecessary. It was obvious that she was a "Walker" -- in fact, she looked very nearly like Julia Walker.
But, no one in the room was more speechless -- or captivated -- at that moment than Nick himself. 'She looked just like Julia', he thought. "You're her twin, aren't you?" he asked aloud. Flustered, he looked to Alex for help, "Remember, Alex, she went a few years ago to the Middle East or somethin' to visit her twin sister."
"It was the Orient," Janine replied. "And you must be Nick." She walked toward him and extended her hand. For Nick, it was magical when their skin touched, and Janine seemed to feel it too for the smile on her face broadened. "I would have known you anywhere by Julia's description of you. It's a pleasure to meet you at last."
"Likewise," he managed. But the events of the morning were already too much for Nick and he had to pull out a chair and sit quickly before his knees buckled and gave out. "You look so much like Julia ...."
"... except the hair is short," she finished. "Well, we were identical twins, except for a few slight differences like ...."
"... like you're wearing blue jeans," Nick said, "and Julia hated blue jeans because she thought they were ...."
"... too confining," Nick and Janine finished at the same time. They both smiled at one another at having finished the same thought at the same time -- 'just like you and Julia use to' his mind screamed -- but Nick's smile suddenly faded.
"I'm sorry," he said as he stared at her. "It's been a really hard mornin'."
"I understand," she replied. "In fact, it's sort of the reason why I'm here, this being the anniversary of my sister's death and all, I just felt that I needed to be with the people she cared most for."
Derek had finally recovered his ability to speak and he did so now, "Janine, is it? I'm sorry, but I don't really remember Julia telling us too much about you. How is it that you came here today?"
Rachel saw the flash of anger Nick shot at Derek and quickly intervened before another explosion could take place. "Janine, would you like some coffee, tea, anything?"
"Yes, I'd love a cup of coffee," she replied as she took a seat in the chair opposite Nick and next to Alex. "I take it ...."
"... black." Nick answered.
"Yeah -- black," Janine confirmed with a grin. "Good guess, hot shot." Seeing the stricken look that immediately crossed Nick's face, she quickly apologized. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't think. Julia had told me that she use to say that to you all the time and, well, it just felt so right. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Nick just nodded that he understood and Janine turned to face Derek. "Dr. Rayne, do you mind if I call you 'Derek'?"
"Well, Derek, to answer your questions, when I realized a few days ago that the anniversary of my sister's death was approaching, her life -- everything she ever told me about you, Nick, Alex, the Legacy -- everything came flooding back to me and, well, here I am. I took some time off at the museum I'm working at in the Orient, flew here, took a ferry and a cab and thought it would be best if I just showed up on your doorstep. I didn't come to start any trouble or to stir up any past emotions. On the contrary, I thought all of you might appreciate hearing from an 'outside', but informed, source just how much all of you meant to Julia."
Another lull in conversation took place, and Alex took the opportunity to say, "Janine. I remember Julia showing me pictures of the two of you when you were children. And, Nick reminded me that she had gone to the Orient to visit you quite a while ago, but it was my understanding that something -- I don't know how to say this -- but that something tragic (for lack of a better word) happened between you two. So, to be perfectly honest, I'm a little confused and surprised you're here."
Janine took a sip of her coffee, clearly uncomfortable. She began slowly, "Well, it's true that there was a problem between us the last time my sister and I saw each other. To make a long story short, just because we were twins, didn't mean we thought alike. Shortly after we had gotten together during her visit with me, we had a terrible fight. After the argument, Julia left and we hadn't seen or spoken to one another since; so, I guess, Alex, you could call our last meeting together 'tragic'. I'm just sorry that I never had a chance to tell her I was sorry; a chance to say 'good-bye'. I thought maybe coming here -- being with the people who meant so much to her -- would help you and me get through this. But, if I'm imposing ...."
"What did you two fight about?" Nick interrupted.
"Excuse me?" Janine asked, clearly caught off-guard by his interruption.
"I was just curious," he replied. "What Julia and you would have fought about. She had a real stubborn streak sometimes." He smiled at the memory of their own arguments -- many of them planned and staged by one or the other. Picking fights and arguments could be quite an aphrodisiac for Nick and Julia.
Janine's smile answered his own as she replied, "Well, so do you; at least that's what she told me. Basically, our argument was about the choices we made in our lives. You're right, Julia could be stubborn -- and passionate -- about her choices. And so can I. Julia thought that I was wasting my time in and abilities in the Orient. But, I followed my passion for knowledge and antiquities there the same way she followed her passion to the Legacy ... and to you."
Derek could tell that Nick was captivated by this woman; he had to admit that the resemblance -- even the pattern and manner of speech -- were uncanny. Still, he felt that he needed to gain control of this situation and remarked, "Well, Janine, whatever has brought you here, you're welcome to stay as long as you'd like." Derek felt himself relax as he noticed that Nick looked at him with the friendliness they use to share. Clearly, this had been the right response and he began to feel better about the day, even as he heard the sound of thunder and the onslaught of rain outside.
The four Legacy members and their guest had moved into the parlor to continue their conversation, allowing Mitchell time to clean up the morning dishes. Although Alex, Nick and even Derek, seemed comfortable in their conversation with Janine, Rachel felt an unease that she couldn't quite put her finger on. She watched the others as they each took turns asking and answering questions.
After a few minutes pause, Rachel decided to join the conversation. "How long do you plan to stay here, Janine, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Not at all," she replied cordially. "Unfortunately, I'm here only for the day. I need to head back first thing tomorrow morning."
"What?" Nick asked, clearly distressed by this answer. "I thought you were gonna stay a while. You know, get to know Julia's friends and all that?"
"Well, I'd love to Nick," she answered. "But, unfortunately, life does go on, and I have to 'go' with it. But, I'm here now, so let's just enjoy that, shall we."
A moodiness seemed to settle over Nick after that. Both Alex and Derek continued their conversations with Janine -- mostly remembrances of events spent with Julia and questions about the sisters' shared past -- but clearly things had started to turn for the worse again.
Janine, having noticed Nick's mood swing, suggested, "You know, I'd love to spend more time talking with all of you, but I was wondering," she looked to Nick, "if you'd mind if we spent some time alone."
Immediately, Nick seemed to brighten up. "Sure," he replied enthusiastically. "I can drive us over to the City or ...."
"Well, I'd really like to see the gardens here, if you don't mind," she commented. "Julia told me how beautiful they were and that the two of you use to spend a lot of time there. I'd really like to see them. And, even though it is raining, but I don't think we'll melt. Besides, that's why God invented umbrellas, right?"
"I'll go get one," he said, as he rose to leave the room. "Be right back."
Alex had gone to the computer and printed off the material they had in the Legacy database regarding the Golden Gate Bridge disturbances. Derek had given her a fantastic ideal on how to keep busy today. She walked back into the parlor with her horde of materials and began to spread them out on the coffee table.
Derek had settled into the big easy chair in the room, feeling exhausted and yet exhilarated for the first time that day. He had picked up the newspaper from the tabletop in the hallway and began flipping to the business section -- something he enjoyed reading but found so little time for.
But Rachel stood uneasily at the window staring out at the departing figures as Nick and Janine walked around the corner of the building -- her hand on his arm with the umbrella shielding them -- as they headed toward the gardens. "There's something not right here," Rachel voiced aloud. Seeing Derek and Alex both glance up at her, she continued, "I can't put my finger on it, but it all feels -- I don't know -- too convenient somehow.
"So," Derek said as he folded his paper and smiled mischievously at Rachel, "the 'supernatural' skeptic has now become the 'reality' skeptic?"
Rachel smiled, happy that Derek felt like joking today; she hadn't expected to have this kind of day -- not even with all her preparations this morning on what to do or say. And, that was probably one of the things eating away at her. But she remarked, in her most serious voice, "OK, cut it out. You know what I mean. Things were headed in a really bad direction until this 'Janine' showed up. Now, suddenly, Nick is off arm-in-arm with Julia's twin sister and everything is right with the world again. I just don't like it."
"Well, Rachel," Alex interjected. "It is natural that Nick would be drawn to her. I mean she is the spitting image of Julia. Not only that, but she has a lot of her personality as well; she's sweet, warm and obviously attracted to Nick too."
"But that's what I mean," Rachel tried to explain. "She shows up here without ever having contacted anyone this entire year regarding her sister's death and bang, there's this 'spark' and attraction between her and her sister's old boyfriend. I don't know. It just doesn't feel right."
Alex closed the file she had been reading and leaned forward as she said, "Look, I'm not going to begin to debate why she didn't contact anyone sooner about her sister's death. There could be a hundred-and-one reasons why she didn't call or visit sooner. And, as far as the attraction to Nick goes, well, I have always been attracted to my sister's boyfriends. Sometimes, just because they were her boyfriend."
"Alex is right," Derek interjected. "I don't know why Janine's here either, Rachel; and I felt skeptical at first. But I have to admit, it has helped Nick. And right now, that's more important to me than any 'ulterior motive' she might have."
"Well, I still don't like it," Rachel commented as she walked back to the window and gazed out, hoping to see the two returning from the garden.
Nick and Janine walked for a while in through the gardens, admiring the beauty and serenity of life despite the rain that poured overhead. Nick noticed Janine shiver once or twice and moved closer to her with his body. He immediately could smell the gentle breeze of her perfume -- 'Design', he remembered, 'just what Julia use to wear.' His mind drifted off to another time ....
"... I'd really love to see it," Janine finished.
"What?" Nick asked, suddenly aware of the young woman beside him. "I'm sorry, I was just remembering ..... never mind. What did you say?"
She smiled at him and repeated, "Pay attention, Hotshot! I said, Julia use to tell me about this spot on the island that you to use to go to -- a special place, she called it. I said that I'd really love to see it, if you don't mind taking me there."
Nick stood motionless and expressionless for a moment. So much of this seemed unreal somehow. Whenever he looked at her, despite the short hair and the blue jeans, all he could sense is that he was with Julia again; and it made him wonder just how fair this was to Janine.
"Well?" she asked, interrupting his thoughts again. "Would you mind taking me there. I thought we could go for the drive, hang out, talk, whatever. I'd really like to see someplace that was special to you and Julia."
"No," Nick said. "I don't mind takin' ya there. But ..... I'm not really sure how to say this, so I'm just gonna say it. I don't know how fair this is to you. I mean, you remind me so much of Julia. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sayin' that that's a bad thing or that I don't realize you're Janine. I just ...."
"Nick," she said as she touched his arm and moved closer to him under the tiny space of the umbrella. "You don't have to explain anything to me. I know how you feel, and I know you loved my sister. I just want to spend some time with you -- just you and me. So, what do you say ... Hotshot?"
Alex had gone to the control room to do further research on the Golden Gate Bridge disturbances. She was relieved to have something to do today other than to referee confrontations between Derek and Nick. As she sat at the computer waiting for some files to download, she remembered the conversation (or lack thereof) that she had had with Julia right after she had returned from visiting Janine in the Orient.
Looking at the file that had finally appeared on the screen, Alex pushed her thoughts away and began to concentrate on the research in front of her. She was glad that Janine was here now -- for whatever -- purpose and that she was helping Nick get through the day.
Rachel and Derek heard the front door open and close and waited expectantly for Nick and Janine to enter the parlor. After a few minutes had passed and no one came through the doorway, they both rose and walked to the entrance hall. Janine was standing, looking very much like a drowned rat, brushing her wet hair out of her eyes with her fingers. She turned and smiled at the two of them.
"Pretty useless, huh?" she remarked. "I didn't realize just how wet I really was until I looked in the mirror."
"Where's Nick?" Rachel inquired, noticing that the young man was nowhere in sight.
Janine gave up on her hair and turned towards Derek and Rachel as she answered, "He's upstairs grabbing his car keys."
Derek looked suddenly concerned and remarked, "You're not leaving already, are you? I thought that we might have more of a chance to get to know you."
"Well," Janine replied, "I do have to leave some time this evening. I'd love to stay overnight, but I just don't think it's possible. But no, I'm not leaving just yet. I asked Nick to take me for a drive around Angel Island."
"What about lunch?" Rachel interjected. "Mitchell will be preparing lunch in about an hour. Will you two be back for that?"
"I doubt it," Nick answered as he bounded down the stairs and joined Janine, Derek and Rachel. "We'll be gone a couple of hours at least."
"So," Rachel continued, "what about lunch? I mean, you have to eat, right?"
Something about Rachel's questioning -- or perhaps it was her attitude in whole -- bothered Nick and he snapped back, "No. Actually I don't have to eat."
Derek, hoping to avoid a confrontation between Rachel and Nick now, broke in, "How about you, Janine? Would you like to wait to take the drive after lunch? Or maybe you would like to take something with you. I could have Mitchell prepare a picnic-style lunch. And I must insist that you two come back in time for dinner, OK?"
Janine appreciated Derek's efforts and faced him with a warm and friendly smile. "It's a deal. And the picnic lunch would be perfect, if it's not too much trouble. In fact, I could do it myself. Just lead the way to the kitchen." Nick gave Rachel one last hard glance with a 'say anything and there's gonna be trouble' look to it as they headed to the kitchen.
"Alright, what's up?" Janine asked Nick as they drove in silence. He had been fairly quiet ever since the two of them entered the kitchen area and during the past half-hour of their drive. "I can tell something's up, Hotshot. Give."
"It's Rachel," Nick answered tensely. "I wish she'd just leave things alone sometimes, ya know. I mean, it's like she's implying that we shouldn't be alone together or somethin'. Like I'm gonna do somethin' to ya. I don't know. I just hated the innuendo."
"Or maybe she thinks I'm gonna jump your bones, Hotshot," Janine said mischievously. She saw Nick's stunned look and couldn't hold her laughter. "Lighten up, will you? It's OK to be attracted to me, Nick -- if you are. It's no sin. You loved Julia and I do look just like her."
The rationale that Janine was giving him made Nick's head spin. She was so like Julia it was almost frightening. She even thought and spoke like her! He couldn't help the attraction he was feeling towards Janine -- he knew that -- but he didn't want to be unfair to her anyway.
Almost reading his thoughts, Janine continued, "Look, Nick, like I told you in the garden. You don't have to explain anything -- and I mean anything -- to me. You feel what you feel and that's OK. I know you know I'm not Julia, but that doesn't mean you have to be afraid of me -- or of yourself. OK?"
Nick didn't respond but continued to stare straight at the road. Suddenly, Janine said, "Hey, aren't we almost there?"
Once again, Nick felt a sense of deja vu ... it was really as if this were Julia telling him how to drive -- as usual! But then he realized, she was right! He glanced over at her as he pulled the car off onto the side of the road and said, "How'd you know? I mean, sure, Julia was great at describing stuff, but there's no way you could've known this was the place."
"Well," Janine admitted shyly. "Actually, I didn't have a clue that it was. It just seemed like you were so lost in your own thoughts, that I thought I better bring you back to reality. I had no idea I'd be right. Man, this place really is gorgeous. Let's get out."
"But it's still raining," Nick protested.
"And we're already a couple of drowned rats," she replied with a smile. "So what's the difference. We can eat in the car later. Right now, I want to go sit out on the rocks and talk -- like you two use to. OK?"
From the comfort of his bed, thousands of miles away in Ireland, Philip dreamt about his friends in San Francisco. Although he had worried -- and prayed for them -- much of the previous day and evening before falling asleep, a pleasant, peaceful feeling overtook him as he drifted in slumber. He was no longer worried about how they had survived the anniversary of their dear friend's death. Instead, he slept contentedly, feeling as though prayer had somehow been answered.
The rain had stopped shortly after Nick and Janine made it to 'his and Julia's' spot. Tossing pebbles in the water, Nick sat tensely next to her on one of the bigger rocks close to the shore. Unable to stand the silence any longer, Janine took his arm and said, "OK. We really need to talk now, Nick. Straight up and honest. I walked in on something this morning -- what?"
Nick stiffened and threw one more rock. Then he turned to Janine. 'So like, Julia,' his mind screamed again. He turned toward her and answered, "Yeah, ya did. Derek and I don't always see eye to eye about stuff -- we never really have. And Julia's death is just one of those issues. That's all."
"No," Janine snapped loudly, stunning Nick with how angry her voice sounded. "That's not all. Don't lie to me, Nick. I picked up enough of the conversation to know that you were willing to walk away from your life -- here and now -- over it. So what's the problem? What great sin did Derek commit? What did he do to you??"
The hammering of the questions caused Nick to snap, "You wanna know what he did? Really?? Well, in case you didn't know it, Derek is responsible for your sister's death!"
"What ... he killed her? He hung her body on a scarecrow post?? What?" she screamed back. "Tell me! What did he do that was so wrong? Come on, Nick, don't cop out on me. Tell me! Think about it -- focus -- on what exactly you think he did."
Nick could barely contain his emotions any longer -- anger and pain came flooding out in a wave of emotion as he shouted back, "He separated us. He sent her off on her own and she got killed. I wasn't there to protect her because he separated us. Don't you get it?!"
"So," Janine commented, much more calmly. "Who do you really blame for Julia's death ... Derek, or yourself?"
The truth stung, and stung hard. Not one to express his emotions or feel the sting of tears often in his life -- in fact, he hadn't even shed one tear when Julia had died -- felt the moisture of his own tears running softly down his face. It hadn't been Derek he had blamed all this time; well, not totally. He had blamed himself as well. The reality of it knocked all the wind out of his body and he hung his head.
Janine moved closer to Nick and held him. She could feel his emotional outpouring from the shaking of his body but did nothing to calm it; it was best for him to finally let it go. As the waves of shaking subsided and eventually came to an end, she quietly asked, "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," he said, voice still laced with emotion. "Yeah, I am. For the first time in about a year ... I really am. And now I know, I owe Derek and apology. As hard as it is to let Julia go, I guess that it was just meant to happen. Neither Derek nor I could've stopped it, could we?"
"Nope," Janine answered. "Not if it was God's will."
They sat together in silence for another hour and then got in the car to head back to the Legacy House. Lunch had been forgotten and gone uneaten, but both could feel an appetite coming on. It would be nice to have a hot dinner waiting for them when they arrived.
Alex had re-joined Derek and Rachel in the parlor. She could smell the delicious signs of dinner being prepared from the kitchen and realized she had worked straight through lunch. She also realized that Nick and Janine were not in the room. "Where's Nick and Janine," she asked Derek.
"They went out for a drive somewhere; I'm not sure where but it was here on the Island somewhere. They're suppose to be back for dinner, but then you know Nick. Who knows." He smiled as he made this remark. It had been good ... great actually ... to see Nick behaving like his old self before he left with Janine.
"Yes, well," Rachel began again. "I still don't like it. And, quite frankly, with all the strange things we deal with every day, I can't believe you and Alex are taking this woman at such face value, Derek. I just don't understand."
Derek sighed as he responded, "Rachel. If I thought for one minute that Nick were in any kind of danger from this woman -- or than any of us were for that matter -- I would take steps to prevent that danger. But I don't. According to Alex, Julia did have a twin sister named Janine. She showed up her today and she's helping Nick ... she's helping him, Rachel ... get through a very difficult day. Coincidence, Act of God or a trick of the Devil, I'll take it right now."
"I suppose you're right, Derek," Rachel began, "but ...."
"Excuse me, Dr. Corrigan," Mitchell said very sharply. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I've called out for you several times. Miss Katherine is on the phone for you. She'd like to speak to you right away."
"Of course," Rachel commented as she headed into the for the phone located in the parlor. "Thank you, Mitchell." And to the cheerful voice over the phone, Rachel said, "Kat, baby? Hi Sweetheart! Is something wrong?"
Kat's voice over the phone commented, "No, Mommy. I just missed you. I thought maybe now that it's not raining, you could come on home and spend the rest of the evening with me -- just the two of us. I like Emily, but I want you to come home now, Mommy."
Hearing her daughter's plea made Rachel's response harder, "Listen, Kat, Mommy needs to stay out here a while longer. Remember, baby, we talked about this. Mommy was staying out here last night and today to help Derek and Nick. Well, I'm still here helping them with a personal problem."
"But they don't need you're help anymore, Mommy," Kat responded matter of factly. "Everything's gonna be OK now. I just know it is. So you don't have to stay there tonight. You can come home to me now and we can have that 'game night' you promised me."
Rachel was stunned by her daughter's pure and honest words and replied, "What do you mean they don't need me and everything's going to be OK? How do you know that, Kat?"
"I just know, Mommy," Kat replied, sounding a little annoyed now. "I just know that Nick feels better now that he has that other lady to talk to and that everything's going to be alright. So, are you coming home?"
Rachel glanced at Derek and Alex, who had been staring at her during the phone conversation. She saw their puzzled looks and knew in her heart what she must do. "Yes, Sweetheart, I'm leaving now and I'll be home shortly." With that, she hung up the phone, briefed Derek and Alex on Kat's assurances that everything was going to be alright, reluctantly agreed with it and left for the evening.
As she drove down the road, she noticed Nick's red mustang heading back toward the Legacy House. They each waved at the other as they passed and she once again prayed that her daughter's "second sight" was right and that everything truly would be alright.
The conversation at dinner was light and carefree. Topics such as Oriental antiquities, the lack of interest young people have in museums and other such items were the topics that took the three Legacy members -- Derek, Alex and Nick -- as well as their invited guest, Janine, through the main course of dinner.
But, as Mitchell brought dessert and the hour grew late, the conversation had taken a turn toward the more serious. Suddenly, Nick said, "Derek. There's something I have to say and I just don't want to put it off any longer." He looked at Alex and Janine.
Alex immediately sensed something coming on and asked, "Should Janine and I leave the room? Do you two need a few minutes? We could take our coffee and dessert into the parlor or something."
"No," Nick replied quickly. "I'd like you to hear this too, Alex. It needs to be said."
Derek stiffened. All through the day he had allowed the apprehension and tension to exit his body; but now, unsure of what Nick had to say, he could feel them creeping back in. "Go ahead," he said calmly to Nick. "Say what you need to say."
Nick swallowed hard and looked at Derek. "I'm sorry," he replied loudly and clearly. "I blamed you for Julia's death, and I was wrong. You weren't responsible ... neither of us were." He paused and then finished, "I just wanted you to know that I knew that. And that I don't still blame you, Derek. I wanted you to know that I'm really sorry for bein' so hard on you; for blaming you."
A heavy and relief-filled sigh escaped Derek's body. Again today, the anticipated had happened! He couldn't believe that Nick was sitting in front of him and apologizing to him; that Nick had forgiven him for sending Julia off alone the day she was killed. This was more than he had hoped for and all he could think to say in response was, "It's alright, Nick. I understood how you felt. I blamed myself too. And I am sorry that this has caused you so much pain." He turned to Janine, "I'm sorry to both of you."
Janine smiled at Derek and took Nick's hand as she said, "Well, I accept your apology. We both do, right, Nick?" Nick nodded his head as he looked at her. She squeezed his hand and remarked, "And I hate to skip dessert -- especially when it looks so delicious and decadent -- but I really should start heading back to the City and the long trip ahead of me I have. Could you drive me to the ferry, Nick?"
"You're not leaving already, are you?" Alex protested. "I mean, we've barely had any time with you, Janine. I'd really like to have more time with you. Couldn't you possibly stay longer?"
"I'd love to," Janine replied with regret in her voice, "but unfortunately, I can't. Believe me, Alex, I'd love to spend more time ...." she glanced at Nick, "... a lot more time with all of you, but I must leave tonight."
With that, everyone walked to the hallway. While Nick pulled the car around (for it had started to pour again), Janine hugged Alex and Derek and said her good-byes. "Please," Derek said, "try to find a way to come back to us again. And next time, stay for a longer visit."
Nick walked in the door to escort Janine to the car. "And," Alex finished, "next time don't let this guy monopolize your time." They all laughed as Nick helped Janine into the car and they started toward the ferry dock.
Standing by the passenger door of his car at the ferry dock, Nick felt an emptiness overcome him. He opened the door and leaned down to Janine. "Do you really have to go?" he asked. "I mean, I know you've got obligations out there, whatever they are, but isn't there some way you could stay. I really don't want to lose you. Not now."
Janine smiled as she took his hand to stand up beside the Mustang. She had known in her heart it would be like this and summoned every ounce of strength she had as she replied, "Look, Hotshot, I have to go ... and it has to be tonight. Believe me, if I could stay with you .... Well, believe me, I would."
She saw his eyes cloud over as he grabbed her in a hard embrace. "I can't let you go," he whispered in her ear. "I can't lose you -- not tonight." The agony in his voice was too much for her to bare and she felt the sting of tears spill out of her eyes and down her face. She pushed herself away and looked in his eyes. The pain radiating out of them drained what little strength -- what little will power -- she had left and their warm embrace turned into a passionate kiss.
Locked in the embrace of a lover's kiss, Nick unbuttoned Janine's blouse, slipped it from her shoulders and allowed it to fall on the floor of his bedroom. How and when they had made it back to the Legacy House -- and without being seen by the others -- was not a mystery to be solved within Nick's mind right now. All he could think about was that she hadn't left him -- she was with him, here and now -- and that's all that mattered.
The only thoughts consuming Nick's mind were about how much this felt like being with Julia -- the smell of her perfume; the touch of her skin; the way her breasts swelled during their kisses; the deep, soulful sighs she made with every caress; even the way their tongues touched. All of these things were so familiar to him and his passion swept them both away.
As they fell in bed together and their bodies moved as one, Nick's mind tried to remind him that this was Janine and not Julia; but his body -- her body -- told him differently. Every touch, every sound, every movement was Julia. He closed his eyes and allowed the familiarity of their lovemaking carry him away, again and again; as they came together, nothing on Earth mattered to Nick anymore. Logic and reality had no business here. He was with Julia ... Julia ... again -- even if it was for one last time -- and he would treasure this gift ... forever.
As she heard Nick's breathing finally calm into a deep, resounding sleep, Janine prepared to leave. There was no need to write a note to Nick; he would understand. Besides, what had to be written, had been several hours beforehand (when Nick was just barely asleep).
Now that his slumber was peaceful and deep, she knew that she must go. With tears shining in her eyes, she leaned over his still form and stroked his forehead ever so gently as she said, "I know you can hear me, Sweetheart. I need you to know that I would have married you. I want you to know that. I want you to know ... I love you, Nick. I always have ... and I always will."
Derek was awakened by a sudden and brisk chill in the room followed by the sound of rustling papers. He sat up and stared at the table across the room. Upon it lay an open Legacy Journal and the pages of it were flipping as if by some unseen breeze. Quickly, he looked to the nightstand beside his bed where he had put his own Journal before drifting off to sleep, and found it was still there.
He got up cautiously and crossed the room to the table that held the Journal, which now laid stationary. He gingerly picked it up and immediately the image of Julia Walker flashed in his mind. The image turned from Julia into Janine and back to Julia again. He looked at the writing and knew it to be Julia's writing -- and Julia's Journal.
He turned to the final entry, which was dated one year after her death -- this previous evening. It read:
As Derek returned to his bed, Julia's words turned over and over in his mind. He knelt beside his bed and prayed, thanking God for this day!