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There's no such thing as Genies .... right?
Continued from page one...
Ama left Philip's room in a depressed huff.
Granted, he has assured Her that he wasn't turning Her down because She was unattractive, but he had still turned Her down. And he had run out of the room, too!
"Why did they ever have to come up with celibacy?!" Ama demanded Havenward. "There were plenty of good priests when I was his age who could have sex!" She sniffed pitifully.
She stood aimlessly in the hallway outside the study for a moment, then She spotted the piano. A split-second later, She was sitting on the bench, dressed in a 30's style torch-singer's dress and wailing, "IIIIIIII ain't got noboooody."
Derek woke from his doze and lay in bed, frowning. He looked at his clock and frowned. 1:30 AM. Who in the world was playing the piano and singing at this hour? It didn't sound like anyone he knew ... Curious, Derek got up and headed downstairs, tying the belt on his robe as he went. The music continued, and he went through the doors of the study with a frown that turned into a wide-eyed gaze of surprise.
There was a woman sitting at the piano, dressed in a slinky sequined gown, her hair arranged in a pretty cascade of curls from a pair of flower-shaped clasps. Derek stared at her in wonder and confusion, especially as she looked at him and stopped playing. "Oh," she said, her gaze brightening from the tearful one it had been when he first saw her. "Hi."
Derek shook his head. "Who are you?"
She tossed a set of curls over one shoulder and batted her lashes at him. "Just your average piano-playin', blues-singin' gal that shows up in the middle of the night," she answered. Before Derek could react with more than a stupefied stare, she stood and swayed towards him. "Wanna dance?"
Behind her, the piano started playing on its own, and Derek took a step back, then stopped as he realized he was dressed in a tuxedo. Without ever having moved, she was in his arms and they were starting a waltz. Derek looked down at her, surprised, and found that there were no pupils in those large, thick-lashed eyes. They were bottomless, jet-black, but somehow they seemed warm instead of frightening. Still ...
He halted the dance, stepping away from her. "Who are you?" he asked again.
She stopped as well, hands on her hips, pouting becomingly at him. "Geeze!" she cried, sniffling. "One guy runs away from me and you won't even dance with me?!" As before, her eyes misted and she looked perilously close to bursting into tears. "I just wanna have some fun!! I'm free, I'm in a beautiful castle with three gorgeous guys, and I can't even get one lousy dance." The tears became fully visible and she wiped them away as they fell. "My life sucks!"
Derek stared at her, at a loss. On the one hand, he wanted to tell her not to cry, but on the other, he wasn't about to get close to a possibly demonic presence. Not that she looks demonic, he reflected. I don't get any sense of danger from her, just ... upset, emotional and ... tipsy?
Finally, he said, "Look, I don't know who you are, but ... tell me what you're doing here."
But she kept sniffling, tears falling down her cheeks. Confirmation of her otherworldliness came with the fact that her eyes didn't get red, nor did her nose. Still, she was crying, and said piteously, "Oh what do you care? You won't even dance with me! You ... you mean ole goat!!"
The petulant tone of her voice was familiar. Yes, Derek thought with a mental nod. Definitely tipsy. But how in the world do you get a spirit drunk? And who is she?!
"I want to help you, if I can," Derek said. "But you have to tell me who you are "
He stopped when he realized that his last words had come out as a sharp bleat. He frowned and blinked in surprise, at which point it occurred to him that he was no longer looking down at the woman ... he was looking up at her. And why was everything black and white?!
"What's going on?" he demanded, only to have it come out as another bleat.
The woman blinked and stared down at him. "Oh," she said, her eyes widening. "Oh my." Then, unexpectedly, she started giggling. Derek glared at her, slowly becoming more and more clearly aware of the change she had somehow produced. By Gott, he was a goat!!
Aggravated, the precept took a few steps forward and demanded an explanation, emphasizing it with a head-butt against her legs. The motion threw her off balance and she stumbled back, then fell, landing on her bottom. Fortunately, she seemed to be laughing too hard to feel any discomfort. "Oooh my, oh my!" she gasped. "I forgot about that one. I guess you really are a mean ole goat! A Billy-goat ... or should that be a Derek-goat?" she asked, laughing hard enough to produce tears or change hers, anyway.
Derek let out a furious bleat and Ama shook Her head. "Oh, I'm sorry," She said, genuinely sympathetic. "I forgot what happens to my magick when I'm drunk ... um ... let's see ..."
She tried to concentrate on the reverse spell, but every time She looked at the indignant expression in those topaz eyes, She just started laughing again. Finally, the sight proved too hysterical and She fell backwards, too weak from laughter to even roll on the floor. As the magick had been set up, as soon She became incapacitated even by laughter She was transported back into Her bottle. Derek watched her disappear with an irate bleat.
She landed on the futon with an 'umph' that was covered by laughter. The image of Derek as a Billy-goat just kept coming back to her. Still laughing, She somehow managed to stop Herself from sliding off the futon. Of course, so much laughter left Her throat dry, so She reached for the glass that had been left on the table.
"Ooooh, no you don't!" exclaimed a familiar voice, and Ama wiped enough tears from Her eyes to see Her Reflection glaring at Her from the mirror across the room. "You've had quite enough already, young lady!" the Reflection huffed. "If I wasn't in here, I'd throw all that away!"
Ama stood and made a face at It. "Oh, ppphhhhhhhtttt!!! on you!" She returned. "You're such a spoilsport! Just cause I can get plastered and you can't!"
The Reflection gave Her an indignant glare. "Ex-squeeze me?" It demanded. "Have you looked at me? You're a mess! You're all rumpled and ... why do you have goat-hair on you?!"
Ama blinked, then started giggling again. "I made a little boo-boo." She started laughing harder and corrected Herself, "Or a little bleat-bleat."
The Reflection stared at Her, then rolled Its eyes. "Never mind," It said. "You just need to lie down and sleep this off."
But Ama's good humor had been restored, especially after She defiantly took a swig of the drink. "Why?" She asked. "I'm having too much fun ... well, kinda. I mean, I haven't seen Nick yet. Or I've seen him, but I haven't seen him."
The Reflection shook Its head vehemently. "Nuh-uh! No way!" It said. "You are staying here! Have you forgotten what happened the last time you got drunk?" Ama frowned, indicating just such an event had occurred, and the Reflection prompted Her. "England, 1593? You hated how tight and itchy your dress was at Shakespeare's premiere, so you decided it would serve the men right to know how it felt? You replaced all the women in the show with stage-hands, and poor Will had to keep doing his plays that way ever after!"
Ama pouted. "Well, it worked out. I mean, the critics loved it ... and I thought Larry made a really cute Juliet. Besides, he wasn't that mad he wrote Midsummer Night's Dream with me as the model for Titania."
The Reflection raised an eyebrow. "He used you as the model for Puck, hon."
Ama scowled at her. "Oh shut up," She said, and grabbed a blanket from the futon.
The Reflection frowned at it. "What are you gonna do with that?"
Ama smiled. "It's a throw, isn't it?" She replied sweetly, and tossed the material over the mirror. From beneath the layer of cloth came a muffled protest, and Ama smiled, absently draining the last of the drink. "Nicky," she purred, "here I come!!"
Nick came downstairs, ready for almost anything. The goat standing in the middle of the study still managed to surprise him, though.
"What the hell?!" he muttered, and took a cautious step into the room.
To his surprise, the goat turned towards him and advanced, bleating imperiously. Nick frowned and said, "Where'd you come from?"
The goat bleated again, and gave him a look that seemed strangely familiar. Nick stared at it, then, hardly believing he was saying it, said, "Derek?"
The goat jerked its head up and down, then bleated again. Nick blinked, staring, then couldn't help himself. He started laughing. The goat glared at him and Nick quickly stifled his laughter. "Sorry. But what happened to you?!"
Before Derek could answer, another voice sounded from the doorway. "Nick?" Alex said, stepping into the room. "What's going " She stopped, eyes widening at the sight of the goat. "Oh ... my ... gawd ..." She turned wide eyes to Nick and said, "What..?!"
Nick paused, trying to figure out just how to put the news of their precept's transformation. "Um, Alex, honey, this is gonna sound weird, but ... I think that's ... ah ..."
Alex frowned, then somehow guessed, perhaps through some piece of intuition. "Derek?!" she gasped.
Derek bleated an affirmative.
Alex stared at him, then, slowly, her lips pulled into a smile. The goat glared at her and lifted its chin, letting out a very soft bleat of warning. Unfortunately, that did the trick. Alex started giggling, then quickly stopped, raising her hands in apology. "Sorry. But what in the world happened? You weren't reading one of those ancient texts out loud, were you?"
Nick snickered and Derek's even-more-amber gaze turned to him, piqued. The ex-SEAL bit the inside of his cheek and gave his precept an innocent look. Goat or no, Derek didn't buy it.
Once more, the questioning was interrupted by a familiar voice, this time Rachel's. "Alex, Nick," the psychiatrist said, coming down the stairs. "What's going on? I could have sworn I heard " She stopped, frowning sleepily, as she looked between them to the shaggy gray-haired goat standing in the study. "Why is there a goat in the castle?"
Nick and Alex looked at each other, then at the goat. The goat did the same, then it's gaze went to Rachel. "Beeeeeehhhh!" it exclaimed.
Rachel blinked, then looked back to Alex and Nick for an explanation. The two exchanged another look, then Alex said, "Ah, Rachel ... the goat is Derek."
Rachel raised an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
"The goat is Derek," Nick confirmed.
Rachel looked from him to Alex, then said, "Ah, guys, April Fools was last month."
Alex sighed, then struggled against a laugh as Derek bleated again. "Rachel, this isn't a joke. It really is Derek. Somehow, he got turned into a goat."
Rachel's mouth quirked and Nick said, "I wouldn't recommend laughing, Rachel." But he couldn't resist adding, "I hear goats sometimes bite."
Rachel nodded solemnly, still not believing it, and said dryly, "Of course. It's just that if Derek got turned into anything, I'd expect it to be an a"
"Um, Rachel," Alex said quickly, trying not to laugh at the nearness of Rachel's comment to her own thoughts. "I know it's hard to believe, but we're serious. It is Derek. It really is."
Rachel stared at her, started to protest again, then stopped as the goat started smacking one hoof into the floor. What's more, there was a pattern to it. "What is it doing?" she asked.
Alex frowned, unsure, but Nick's eyes widened. "Ah, you're not gonna believe this," he said, "but ... I think it's Morse Code."
The two women stared at him. "You're kidding," Alex said.
Nick shook his head. "Nope."
To confirm the theory, Derek bleated again. Rachel was still looking uncertain about the validity of all this, but Alex was ecstatic. "Great!" she said. "Now we can ask him what happened!"
Nick nodded. "You two stay here with Derek, I have to get the code book and some paper to write on."
Alex nodded, while Rachel just stared at him. "What do we do in the meantime?"
Nick smiled mischievously. "Just don't let him eat your robes."
He was out of the room before Derek could do more than give a furious bleat. Still chuckling to himself, he headed for his room. He briefly considered waking Philip, but figured if the priest was tired enough not to have woken at all this noise, he needed the sleep. (In truth, Philip had woken at hearing the piano, but upon recognizing the voice, had quickly set himself to falling back asleep. Especially when he heard a goat soon after.) Nick shook his head at the image of his precept, and opened the door of his room.
And stepped into a spacious tent.
There were rugs and pillows everywhere, as well as a few potted trees ... and a very under-dressed woman lying amidst a pile of pillows a few feet before him. Nick stared at her in surprise and felt his jaw unhinge. She was beautiful, that was for damned sure, but who the hell was she? And what had happened to his room?!
He started to back towards the door, but felt cloth at his back instead of wood. He turned and stared again. The door was now a tent-flap, and beyond it, he saw as he lifted a corner of the cloth, was a desert. What in hell?!
"Ohhhh, Mr. Boyyyyyle!" called a voice from the middle of the tent. Nick turned to see the woman tossing a lock of curly hair over her shoulder and batting her lashes at him. "Would you like some ale? Maybe a few grapes?" she asked.
Nick swallowed and took a step towards her. "Who are you?"
She batted those long lashes again and smiled seductively. "The girl of your dreams, who else?"
Nick shook his head. "The girls in my dreams usually have names."
The woman frowned at him, pouting every so slightly. "What, does every guy in this castle play hard to get?" she exclaimed. "All right, if you really want to know, my name is Ama-na'lisa-ter'ist'ianea-lona Gibra'itiphana-la'linit-kepal." She smiled again and patted the cushion beside her. In literally the blink of an eye, Nick was seated there, dressed in an outfit out of Arabian Nights, and she was stroking a hand through his hair. "But you can call me Ama."
Nick stared at her in surprise, both at the transportation and at the name. "Ama," he repeated. "... Kat's friend? The genie?"
She nodded and stretched out beside him, the fingers of one hand still tangled in his hair, and the other moving to trace slow circles on his shoulder. "Mmmm-hmmm." She smiled brightly at him and leaned closer. "Now do you wanna play?" Nick frowned, thoughts whirling, and stood up quickly, which left her in an undignified heap on the pillows. She scowled. "I guess not," she muttered.
"Were you the one who turned Derek into a goat?" Nick demanded.
Ama blushed. "Well, yeah but ... that was an accident!" She recovered her poise and batted her lashes again. "I do much better stuff on purpose."
Nick shook his head. "I'm sure," he said dryly. And blinked as he found himself back on the cushions beside her. This time, however, there was a platter of grapes in her hand, and she offered them to him with a smile. Nick sighed and stood again. "Look, I can see you're a very nice ... ah ... genie "
"Djinni," Ama corrected him.
"Right. Djinni," Nick said. "But, ah, aren't you supposed to be granting Kat's wishes?"
Ama frowned. "Kat's asleep," she pointed out, as if he was being particularly dense.
Nick sighed. "Right. But what I meant was ... well ... why are you ... ah ..." Ama frowned, confused, and he shook his head. "Never mind. Look, I really ... have to go. And you have to turn Derek back."
The Djinni's expression started to turn into a tremulous pout. "You know," she said, sniffling, "I'm beginning to take this personally."
Nick started to answer, only to be interrupted by a knock sounding distantly, then Alex's voice saying, "Hey, Nick you in there?"
Before either the ex-SEAL or the Djinni respond, Alex appeared in the tent, having stepped through what was once the door to his room. The researcher stared around her in shock, then looked at Nick and said, "What the holy hell is going on here?!"
Ama looked at her and then threw her arms into the air before collapsing back into the pillows. "All I want is some fun," the Djinni wailed Havenward. "Is that really so much to ask?!"
Alex stared at the reclining Djinni, then turned to Nick again. "Who ?"
Nick gave a small smile, despite himself, and said, "Alex, say hello to Ama."
Alex's eyes widened. "Ama?" she repeated.
Nick nodded, while Ama sat up and glared at the darker woman. "Do you have any idea how long it's been since I had a date?" the Djinni demanded.
Alex floundered, then shook her head and muttered, "Probably as long as it's been for me."
Ama heard her, and sniffled pitifully. "Really?" she asked, then suddenly appeared standing in front of Alex and pulled the other woman into a hug. "Sister!!"
Alex staggered a bit, pulled off balance, then awkwardly patted the Djinni's back while giving Nick a half-amused, half-bewildered look. It echoed the one on the ex-SEAL's face.
Then the Djinni pulled back and said solemnly, "Well, we can both have fun, then!" Alex frowned, then looked at Nick, who looked equally confused and wary. Ama snapped her fingers and a very tall, very attractive, very bare-chested man was standing beside Alex, who found herself dressed in an outfit similar to Ama's.
The man smiled down at her charmingly, and Alex blinked in surprise. "Ah...," she said brightly.
"Alex, meet Jamal," Ama said. She smiled brilliantly and made a shooing motion at the two. "Now, go have fun!"
Before Alex could get out more than another stammer of surprise, Jamal had swept her up into his arms and started for the tent-flap. "Ama," Alex called, struggling in Jamal's arms. "Really, that's okay, I don't " She pushed feebly against the brawny shoulders and finally said directly to the man, "Put me down, damn it!"
Jamal frowned at her, confused, then said, sounding hurt, "Do you not like me, mistress?"
Alex stared at him, then looked to Nick for help. Unfortunately, the ex-SEAL seemed preoccupied with Ama or rather, in avoiding Ama. Alex turned back to her carrier and said, "It's not that. It's just that I really would like you to put me down." Still frowning a bit, Jamal complied. Alex straightened the flimsy fabric of her outfit and said, "Thank you" before heading back to the center of the tent. Jamal followed obediently behind her.
"Listen," Alex said as Ama turned to face her. "I ah appreciate the effort, but I really "
"Nick? Alex? What's taking you so "
The Legacy members, Djinni and Jamal all turned towards the tent-flap as Rachel stepped into the tent and nearly stumbled in surprise. "Come on in!" Ama called happily. "The more the merrier!"
With a twinkle now visible to Nick and Alex, Rachel's clothes became similar to Alex's and Ama's. The only difference between the three seemed to be in color Ama's attire was emerald and amethyst, Alex's was ruby and dark wine, and Rachel's was royal blue and sapphire. Nick had to admit they all looked good, though that appraisal, obvious in the tilt of his lips, only won him a glare from Alex. It probably would have gotten the same reaction from Rachel, but at the moment she was still trying to figure out what was going on.
Ama lifted an eyebrow as the psychiatrist looked from her new outfit to each of her companions. "Do you guys have homing signals or something?" the Djinni asked curiously, apparently impressed with the group's ability to follow one another into trouble. Alex had to admit she had a point; it was almost uncanny.
Rachel finally got her voice back and squeaked, "Would someone tell me what is going on?!"
Ama waved a hand and approached her. "We're having a party!" the Djinni replied. Then, wrapping an arm about Rachel's shoulders, she asked solicitously, "How long has it been since you had a date, honey?" Rachel stared at her, her mouth working silently, and Ama waved her hand cheerfully. "Never mind! You got one now! Linal!"
Another man appeared next to Jamal, equally handsome and bare-chested, but this one looked at Rachel worshipfully. "Ah...," Rachel managed.
Ama grinned. "Ain't they, though?" She pulled away and promptly placed herself at Nick's shoulder, gazing at him appreciatively. "Not as cute as Nick, though," she purred, and the ex-SEAL resisted the urge to close his eyes in resignation. Lord only knew what she'd do then. "Now, you two go and have fun!"
Again using that as his cue, Jamal picked Alex up, this time followed closely by Linal. Both women let out surprised squeaks, though Alex's was a bit more irritated. "For the last time," Alex exclaimed, "I don't want a date! Mmmph!!" This last came as Ama made a small motion and a grape found its way into Alex's mouth, effectively silencing her. The woman's eyes narrowed and she spat the fruit out unbitten. "Hey!"
Rachel was making similar protests, especially since Linal's idea of sweeping her off her feet had been to throw her over his shoulder. She gave Nick a pleading look, and the SEAL raised his eyebrows. "What do you expect me to do?" he asked pragmatically.
Both women scowled at him and he let out a small sigh as he disentangled himself from Ama. The last time he'd faced a guy that much bigger than him, he'd gotten thrown into a wall. Make that the last several times; he seemed to have a bad habit of confronting guys that much bigger than him. If he didn't know better, he'd say someone out there liked torturing him.
This night just keeps getting better, Derek thought sourly. First I get turned into a goat by a drunken spirit of some sort, then my team seems to find this fact incredibly amusing, and then, as if that weren't enough, they go and disappear just when we're about to be able to communicate!
The precept frowned (as best as a goat can) and stamped his foot irritatedly. This would never have happened to my father! Or Sloan! ... I wish it would happen to Sloan!
He amused himself with that thought for a moment, and had to concede that the situation was vaguely funny. Finally, however, he started getting worried. Nick haring off was one thing, the ex-SEAL seemed to have a habit of doing that; but for first Alex and then Rachel to seemingly vanish after they went to look for him was another. I swear when this is all over and things are back to normal, I am taking a vacation!
He heaved a sigh and headed for the study doors, automatically calling for his team. "Nick! Alex! Rachel! Where are you?!" Which of course came out as something like, "Beh! Beh! Beh! Beeh baaah beh!"
The precept shook his head. There was nothing for it but to go look for them ... if he could figure out how to manage the stairs on four hooves. I am definitely taking a vacation.
By the time he reached the top of the stairs, Derek was cursing steadily ... which made for some very interesting noises in goat-speak. Finally, though, when he had caught his breath, he saw that the corridors were empty. And all of the doors were closed. A few more choice "beh"s were said at that, and he looked in the direction of Philip's room. He had the feeling he was going to need some back-up.
Philip had finally managed to fall asleep when he heard the first scratching at his door. Waking up a bit more, he listened, frowning, and heard an irritated-sounding bleat join the noise. He lay in place, still half-asleep, then resolutely shook his head and pulled a pillow over it.
Ama watched with a confused frown as Nick headed purposefully for his companions as Jamal and Linal bore them towards the tent-flap. "Okay, you two," the young man said, placing a hand on each one's shoulder. "The ladies would prefer not to party right now, so put them down."
Both men turned, Alex and Rachel still in their arms. Alex managed to wiggle out of Jamal's grip, but Rachel had to peer over her shoulder to see what was going on. Jamal and Linal both frowned down at Nick, muscles flexing ominously; Ama was too perplexed to do more than watch. Linal made no move to put Rachel down, and Jamal's attention shifted to Alex, who had taken a few steps back to stand by Nick. Jamal reached for her and Alex side-stepped; Nick automatically stepped in between them and pushed Jamal's hand away. "I don't think so, buddy."
Jamal's frown deepened and he grabbed Nick by the lapel of his vest. Deftly, Nick twisted away and landed a solid blow to the man's solar plexus. Or it would have been a solid blow, if the man wasn't a) so big and b) a magickal construct. As it was, it hurt Nick's hand more than it did Jamal.
The ex-SEAL shook out the stinging hand and looked up and up at Jamal's frowning face. The construct grabbed his shoulder again, this time the grip unbreakable, and raised a large fist. Nick was vaguely aware of Alex moving to grab something from a nearby table, but didn't realize what she was up to until she came back into his line of sight behind Jamal, a silver grape-dish in her hands.
Unfortunately, when she hefted it was exactly when Ama got back into the swing of things to protect 'her' man. Jamal vanished, leaving Nick to stumble a bit as he was released ... and then a bit more as a rather heavy grape-dish whistled through the air that had once been the position of Jamal's head and smacked into Nick's forehead. The ex-SEAL blinked, heard far-off pleasant chirpings, and then hit the ground.
Alex and Ama stared at him and then each other in dismay, then both rushed forward. "Oh my god!" Alex cried, dropping quickly to her knees to check on her unintended target. "Oh, Nick, I'm so sorry!"
Rachel, still held firmly by Linal, tried to turn more to see what was going on. "Alex? What happened?!" she demanded, then beat a fist against Linal's shoulder. "Put me down, you ... you big ... oaf!!"
Complying with both her demand and Ama's wave of dismissal, Linal let Rachel go. Left off balance by the sudden disappearance of any support, the psychiatrist stumbled backwards and landed on her bottom on a floor that was softer than she expected. Then she realized, both from the feel of the fabric under her hands and Ama and Alex's sympathetic cries, that it wasn't the floor she had landed on it was Nick.
A very unconscious Nick, with a nasty-looking bruise already forming on his forehead. Good thing, Rachel thought vaguely, or he'd be real unhappy about where I landed ... I think.
The strange ebony-haired woman was looking at him with a definite pout. "Damn," she said. "I'm just having no luck tonight."
Alex and Rachel stared at her. "You ?!" Alex repeated, stunned. "Excuse me, but I just KO-ed my friend with a grape-dish while he was trying to rescue me from your idea of a date, so you'll forgive me if I'm a little less than sympathetic!"
Ama blinked, the pout turning into a tremulous lower lip. Tears gathered in the bottomless dark eyes and She whispered, "I'm sorry. I just wanted everyone to have some fun."
A tear slipped down her cheek and Rachel's maternal instincts kicked into overdrive. "We know," she assured the woman. "But um well, next time maybe you can be a little less ... aggressive?"
The woman sniffled, tears still glimmering, and said in a small voice, "Okay..."
"Okay," Rachel echoed, pausing to give Alex a small glare before continuing. "All right, first things first. Let's get Nick comfortable he's going to have a doozy of a headache when he wakes up, he might as well not have any sore muscles too. Agreed?"
"Agreed," Alex said, and the other raven-haired woman nodded. "The pillows?"
Rachel nodded in agreement, and turned to the stranger. "Will you help us move him?"
The woman frowned, as if it was a strange question, then said, "Why help?"
Rachel blinked and found, when her eyes opened again, that they were all sitting in the pillow-strewn center of the tent. Rachel stared from Alex to Nick to the woman, and then back to Alex. The dusky-skinned researcher gave her a This surprises you? look, then turned to Ama. "Okay," she said. "Next order of business you turn Derek back."
Rachel gave Alex a stunned look. "That really is " She stopped and shook her head. Well, duh, Corrigan; no one started up old MacDonald's farm, did they? "Right," she said instead. "Derek."
The woman looked at her mournfully. "I don't know if I can. Yet!" she added hastily, at the furious expressions on both women's faces. "I kinda have trouble with magick especially reversing it when I'm ..." she shrugged, blushing, "...you know."
Alex and Rachel exchanged a look, then looked back to Ama. Alex finally managed a stunned, "You're drunk?!"
Ama scowled at her. "Weelll!" she protested. "I haven't left my bottle in a hundred years, I got over-enthusiastic so sue me!"
Rachel frowned. "Bottle?" she repeated.
Alex suddenly realized Rachel had missed Nick's introduction to the strange woman. Oh boy. Rachel's just gonna love this ... So she started a bit hesitantly, "Uh, Rachel..."
Derek glared at Philip's still-closed door for a full minute before turning and heading down the hall. For whatever reason, his friend the priest hadn't come to investigate what was going on; Derek just hoped it wasn't because he had gotten turned into some kind of animal.
What would she have turned Philip into?, the precept found himself wondering. A goldfish? Or maybe a puppy? ... An Irish-setter?
A mild snicker (bleat) escaped him, then Derek turned his attention to finding the rest of his team. They had gone to Nick's room Gott willing, they were still there. Now all he had to do was figure out how to get to them. And how to convince the ... whatever she was ... to return everything to normal.
The precept allowed himself another sigh. I cannot believe I got turned into a goat!, he thought to himself again as he reached Nick's room.
He hadn't been able to get the door to Philip's room to open, thanks to these damned hooves, and he wasn't about to try to get Kat to help him. a) He didn't want to possibly place her in harm's way, and b) ... well ... it was bad enough having the grown members of his House see him like this!!
However, it seemed Fortune was in a better mood than She had been earlier, because the door to the ex-SEAL's room was ever so slightly ajar. With a thankful heavenward look, Derek pushed the door open, stared in shock at what he saw ...
... and then started running.
Having settled Nick on the pillows, Alex and Rachel were still trying to think of something to jump-start Ama's magick into a reliable enough mode to turn Derek human again. Ama, in the meantime, was dreamily watching an unconscious Nick. She was stretched out on the pillows a bit away from him, her chin propped up in one hand; her other hand absently scratched the chin of a tiger she had created a couple of minutes ago.
Rachel and Alex's startled reaction to the beast's appearance had been greeted by the Djinni with an innocent look and the protest that she needed something to cuddle to make her feel better. The two mortal women had exchanged a What have we gotten ourselves into this time? look and then returned their attention to other problems; it seemed they were getting very good at that.
That lasted all of five more minutes.
Ama had released the part of the spell that disguised the entrance to the room, leaving the outline of the door clear in the tent-flap, and all three women looked up as the creak of door-hinges sounded. The door swung open, revealing the corridor beyond it and a very surprised looking goat.
Ama frowned in confusion as the tiger pulled away from her ministrations, licking its lips with a supremely cheerful, anticipatory gleam in its eyes.
"Derek!" Rachel's voice came a millisecond behind Alex's in greeting. Then the transformed precept suddenly turned with all the agility of his new shape and bolted away from the door.
The two women frowned, then their eyes widened as they saw the tiger get up and head for the door. They exchanged a look that went from startled to horrified, then raced after the beast.
Ama realized what was happening a second after they did and started scrambling up out of the pillows, tripping over a few of them in her haste. "Ohhh!" she moaned, running after her friends and pet. "I knew I shoulda fed him earlier!"
Philip got up with a sigh. The strange sounds had gone away, but sleep eluded him; finally, he decided to go see exactly what was going on. After all, it certainly couldn't be any stranger than that dream (It had to have been a dream, he assured himself) of a tipsy spirit trying to seduce him.
So telling himself, he headed for the door of his room and resolutely opened it. Looking down the corridor to his right, he saw only closed doors. There, ya see? All's quiet. He was about to look to his left when he heard a sharp bleat and a brush of air against his leg. Frowning, he looked down. And saw a goat.
The animal had apparently run right past him, and was now half-way into the bathroom. With a frown, Philip closed the door behind him and looked at the goat's disappearing tail. "Now, where'd you come from?" he asked, and paused as a loud thump sounded on the bedroom door. He started to turn and open it, when the goat stuck its head out of the bathroom door and bleated loudly at him.
Philip frowned, then sighed; at this point, he was too tired to even question the goat's presence in the castle. "Well, all right," he said. "You can stay but ya have t' be quiet. I've had a looong day."
The goat's response to that was a loud, incredulous sounding bleat.
Philip shook his head. Great. Not only am I seein' a goat in my bedroom, I'm puttin' human characteristics to it's voice! Father Callaghan, it's time you took a break!
He took a few steps towards his bed, vaguely hoping the goat didn't decide to keep him company, then heard voices coming from outside his bedroom. Two of them were familiar Alex and Rachel. And the third ... Philip's eyes widened and he whirled back to the door and yanked it open to stare in dismayed surprise at the three women who looked back at him.
Alex and Rachel, all right, seeming a bit winded, and dressed in a manner he had never seen or imagined before. Even especially!! in a dream! Which this had to be, because that ebony-haired, ivory-skinned woman was looking up at him as well, dressed in a similar fashion and with one hand securely in the ruff of a very large tiger. A tiger that was regarding him with a frustrated scowl, as if he had deprived it of its meal.
The goat gave a sudden fearful bleat and the tiger started forward, only to have the woman drop a sharp smack on its head. "I said no!" she told it, in that voice that was becoming etched in Philip's dazed mind. The tiger sat down obediently, but still licked its chops thoughtfully. Philip looked from it to the dent that he had just noticed in his bedroom door, and put the two together rather accurately for the state he was in at the moment.
The woman spirit dream! smiled prettily at him and said, "Sorry about the wake-up call, sweetie. Hope he didn't bother you too much." Then she batted her lashes at him and said, "I don't suppose you've changed your mind?"
Philip stared at her, then looked again at the tiger, the dent, the goat, and then at Alex and Rachel. Alex was frowning at the woman, her hands on her hips, Rachel was shaking her head and absently trying to adjust one slender shoulder-strap of her scarce top. At about that point, Philip's brain decided it had had quite enough tonight, thank you, and asked him to give it a break and pass out. Philip obliged.
Alex, Rachel, Ama and the tiger all watched in surprise as the Irishman suddenly toppled backwards. The tiger gave his foot a curious sniff, while Alex and Rachel turned accusing eyes to Ama.
The Djinni looked back at them with a wide-eyed gaze. "Hey, don't look at me!" she protested. "I didn't do anything! To him," she amended at Alex's raised eyebrow.
Rachel and Alex both shook their heads and moved past the tiger, who had shifted its gaze back to Derek who was wisely staying in the bathroom. Kneeling by Philip, Rachel checked his pulse and gently pried open one eyelid to check his pupils. Alex watched her with a worried frown.
After a moment, Rachel looked at her and said, "Well, he's out cold, but he's not hurt." She frowned and looked down at the young man. With the way his head had hit the ground... He might not have a concussion, but "I don't think Nick's going to be the only one looking for some aspirin when he wakes up, though."
Alex nodded, looking sympathetic. "Well, I'm sure Ama can magick some up. Can't she?" she asked, looking over at the Djinni pointedly.
The Djinni gave the dusky researcher a wounded look, and Rachel sighed. "That's it," the psychiatrist muttered to herself. "I'm getting Katherine a dog."
* * *
Randolph Hitchcock checked his watch for the fifth time and smiled to himself. 3:30 AM. Everything was set, his men would be in position by dawn, and then they would attack. He really should get some sleep, as his soon-to-be victims no doubt were doing, but he was too wound up with excitement.
He took out the picture he always kept in his wallet. It was the same as Derek had, of the three of them together on the day before that fateful trip, but on his copy, the figure of Derek Rayne had been torn off, leaving Randolph and Alicia. Even if Alicia's gaze was still looking elsewhere.
Soon, my love, Hitchcock promised the smiling photo. Soon we shall have our revenge. He settled into the seat of his truck and closed his eyes, smiling as he clutched the photo to his chest, next to the holstered gun.
© 1997, Grace N. Corujinha1@aol.com
Title and border graphics by Kristin: Siocaine@aol.com
Disclaimer and Author's Note: All PtL characters and the concept of the Legacy are property of MGM and Showtime Entertainment. The Djinni of the Bottle however (though not that legend) is my creation. And speaking of Ama ... just think Fran Drescher, minus some of the nasality. Oh and the spelling of "Haven" is intentional. ;-)