by "Nickette"
This story is a colloboration between two pre-established P:TL fanfic writers.
We sincerely hope you enjoy our "take" on "What If ...."!

Continued from the first page...

Mitchell walked in and began to clear the dinner dishes. He noticed with worry that most of the food had been left in their serving trays or untouched on the individual's plates. He silently went about his tasks as quickly as he could, knowing that his presence had helped cause a silence around the table. He could only hope that the team would soon be back to their usual selves.

Philip rose as Mitchell walked out. "Thank you fer dinner," he said, "an' fer lettin' me stay. But, as soon as I know that Nick's alright, I'll be on my way." He began to leave the dining room but was stopped by Derek's rising in front of him.

"Philip," Derek said, softly. "I think it's commendable that you're defending Nick this way. And, who knows, perhaps you and Nick are right and the rest of us are wrong. But, do you really think that encouraging Nick to obsess about his father right now is the right thing to do? Given the circumstances, wouldn't it be best if we moved past this incident and helped him concentrate his efforts elsewhere?"

Philip saw and understood the logic in those words, but couldn't bring himself to doubt Nick's sincerity -- no matter how convincing Derek could be. "I understand what yer sayin', Derek," he answered. "An' I appreciate what yer tryin' t'do. I just don't know if I wanna take part in it. I don't want Nick thinkin' that I doubt 'im too!"

"I don't think that, Philip," came a soft voice from the doorway. Everyone in the room (including Mitchell, who had entered with a tray of coffee and dessert) turned to see the young man leaning against the doorframe. He was paler than usual but his eyes were clear and his face was set in it's

usual "business-as-usual" look. He walked in and joined the others at the table, sitting at the opposite end from Derek. "I appreciate your believing in me," he continued, "but it really doesn't matter. I know what I saw ... and I know what happened. Whether anyone believes me or not isn't going to change that; so, let's just get to work. I can't stay up in that room any longer or I'll really go outta my mind."

* * * * * * *

The next day, Alex, Nick and Philip were all at separate computer terminals while Derek was in the library, exploring the histories of the deceased ex-members -- as well as the remaining living members -- of the San Francisco House as it had been over 20-some-odd years ago. Rachel had received a call during the night that Kat had a case of the flu and so she reluctantly left in the morning to be with her daughter. Nick regretted that he was physically unable to go with Rachel to be with Kat; spending time with a young, innocent child who looked up to him would have helped his confidence immensely right about now.

Derek was making notes from the old Case Log books that were kept during Cord McAllister's era. He had asked William Sloan to try to provide him with copies of the ex-member's Journals, but nothing had arrived yet. He continued to pour over the photographs he had found from that time period, trying to connect all of them to any one case in particular. Looking back at the

picture he had shown Rachel a week ago, he realized that there were only five out of the nine of them still alive -- William Sloan, Felix Black, Arthur Peterson, Miranda Boyle and himself! Others had come and gone during that era -- Randolph Hitchcock having been one of them! -- but the nine members had been the core of the group back then.

* * * * * * *

Alex sat at one of the terminals in the Control Room going through old Legacy cases that might connect all the members who had died recently. Although they had worked on many different cases together, there was nothing within the files that she could find that would indicate a danger that could have spanned the decades. She began to re-concentrate her efforts by printing out the medical records of the three recently deceased ex-members -- William Davis, Cord McAllister and Monroe Starr.

* * * * * * *

Nick found it extremely difficult to concentrate as, one-by-one, he pulled up and printed the files of Felix Black, Arthur (he remembered him as "Art"!) Peterson, William Sloan and Derek Rayne. He had viewed his mother's file as well, but chose not to print that one. It was personal and not meant to be read by his associates! As each file appeared on his screen, a memory connected to his childhood surfaced -- even when viewing Sloan's and Derek's! -- and he found his body aching more than it previously had.

* * * * * * *

Philip busied himself at the terminal next to Nick in the Control Room by retrieving and printing any articles or news clippings he could locate on the deaths of Davis, McAllister or Starr. Information was scarce since all three had died of what appeared to be "natural" causes and he began to wonder if this whole case weren't just a rouse on Mr. Sloan's part; a way to keep Derek and the group busy until something better came along.

Philip knew that this wasn't the proper way he should be thinking; but he found it painful watching Nick barely speak to anyone; barely eat anything; and, in general, barely able to move without feeling some kind of pain. Try as he might, Philip couldn't let go of the anger he felt toward Derek, Alex and Rachel for their disbelief; he also understood (a little better) Nick's anger towards his leaving the Legacy and that feeling of betrayal; he also understood how alone Nick must feel.

* * * * * * *

That evening, everyone had gathered in the library to discuss their mutual findings and to compare notes. Mitchell provided all of them with a healthy supply of coffee or tea, cakes and cookies and then left them to their work, relieved that they were once again behaving as usual. They were sitting in their usual spots around the table: Derek at the head, Alex to his left with Nick beside her, and Philip on Derek's right; only Rachel was missing.

Derek took control of the meeting by placing the picture he had been staring at most of the day on the table so that they could all view it. Derek noticed, with some trepidation, that Nick had paled slightly and looked quickly away from the photo. He moved it closer to Alex and Philip and then

stated, "This is a photo of the members of the San Francisco House at the time period we're investigating. I began going through the Case Log books that we kept at that time, but didn't find a definitive connection between any of the cases as it may relate to the recently-deceased." He paused, then turned to his left, "What did you find out, Alex?:

He noticed that Alex had gone slightly pale herself. She looked at him and the look in her eyes said everything she couldn't verbalize -- the fact that she recognized Jonathan Boyle in the photo as the man she had seen in the vision she had detailed earlier! He nodded his silent understanding and she began, "Well, I couldn't find anything in the computer files that would link the deaths with previous cases either, so I printed out the medical histories of the three in question. From all indications, all three men were in top physical shape; no history of heart disease or prior heart problems. But, I really can't tell by reading the medical terminology whether or not a sudden

heart attack would be feasible."

"But I can," Rachel said from the doorway. She walked in and sat in her usual seat next to Philip.

"How's Kat?" Nick asked, clearly concerned. "Is she alright?"

Rachel smiled, glad to see Nick interested in something -- anything -- other than the accident he'd had. "She's fine. It was just a 24-hour bug. She really wanted to come out here and see how you were doing, but I thought that we'd all be a little too busy for company right now."

"Glad you made it," Derek said, trying to once again steer the conversation back to the business at hand. They had lost several days of investigation due to Nick's accident and, although he would never regret giving that time to Nick, he felt as though they were behind and should now push forward. He looked at Rachel and asked, "While we continue going over our findings, could you look over the medical records and see if there's anything that would support sudden heart failure in either Davis or McAllister?" Rachel nodded that she would and took the file from Alex. "Alright," Derek continued, "what did you find out, Philip?"

"The only articles I could find on Davis, McAllister or Starr were very vague," Philip answered. "Basically, all that I could find were the death notices and a slight mention that each of 'em had spent their life's work in charitable events. I could keep diggin', but I don't think there's goin' t'be anythin' else in the newspapers since their deaths at least appear t'be either natural or accidental."

Before Derek could turn to Nick to follow-up on his portion of the investigation, Rachel broke in, "Well, looking over the medical records here, there's no indication whatsoever that any of the three had any ailments that would indicate heart failure. All had excellent blood pressure, they were at or near their correct weight and had all had regular check-ups."

"What does that mean," Derek inquired, "that any kind of heart attack or stroke would have -- or could have -- been caused by an outside source?"

"No," Rachel explained," it just means that, for the shape these men were in at their last physical, it was highly unlikely that they would suffer any kind of heart failure or related illness. It's not impossible -- when it comes to the human body, nothing is medically impossible -- that the heart failure or failures could have been natural; I'm simply stating that their past histories don't support the conclusion that it was completely 'natural' either."

Everyone sat in silence, absorbing what Rachel had said. 'Perhaps there is somethin' t'be investigatin',' Philip thought. As they sat around the table, he could feel his anger toward Derek, Alex and Rachel lessening. His heart still went out to his "chosen brother" because he knew that forgiveness towards the three would be a long ways away for Nick. He finally voiced what

everyone was thinking, "I guess that's a clear indication o'why we should be doin' this investigation; things aren't quite as 'natural' as they appear."

Finally, Derek turned to Nick, who was preparing to hand out the copies of the files he had printed. "What did you find out, Nick?" Derek asked him as he reached for the offered folder of papers. He opened it and looked over the stapled packages of the surviving Legacy members from the time period in question. He spread them out before him on the table, something already beginning to trouble him about what he was seeing.

Nick handed the folders out to the other three around the table and then opened the one he retained. "I printed everything that was in the database on those Legacy members still surviving connected to the San Francisco House during that era." He paused as he cleared his throat and then stated, rather smugly, "Your dossier is on top, Derek. I also printed Sloan's, Felix Black's

and Art Peterson's. But, reading 'em over, I'd have to agree with your conclusions and with Alex's ... there's no set case that connects the deaths of Starr, Davis or McAllister -- with you, Sloan, Black or Peterson."

Derek was staring at the four files he had spread out in front of him while Nick spoke. 'Something is missing,' he thought, as he only half- listened to his youngest associate. 'I can't put my finger on it, but something is wrong with these files.' He cleared his throat and looked up at

Nick. "Are you sure there's nothing else. Did you print everything in the records on all the members of the Legacy House during that timeframe?"

Nick immediately thought of his mother's file; but surely Derek hadn't expected him to print that one! As far as he was concerned, his mother had never been an actual "member" of the Legacy anyhow -- she had only been a researcher, secretary and file clerk until she married his father. "Yeah," Nick answered, with a slight hesitation in his voice. "I printed everything I could find on the four members. Why -- what're ya lookin' for?"

Derek tried to focus on what might be missing -- he knew there was something. He sat silently, scanning the four files spread out in front of him, trying to piece together what was bothering him. His eyes moved towards the part of the table in front of Alex and Philip to the picture he had placed there. 'Miranda', Derek realized, 'Nick didn't print his mother's file!' He looked up at Nick and their eyes locked. He could tell Nick knew what he was about to say and he saw the young man shake his head.

"No," Nick verbalized to the unstated question. Everyone turned to look at him, hearing the anger and sharpness in his voice. Although Nick was still in a weakened and precarious situation from the auto accident, the strength in his voice amazed the group. They looked from Nick to Derek and back wondering what the unspoken question had been that Nick felt so compelled to answer so vehemently.

Rachel glanced again at Derek and saw the stern, set look in his eyes. Trying to defuse a potentially explosive situation, she gently asked, "What's going on?" She turned towards Nick, "What's wrong?"

"Nothin'," Nick snapped glaring at Derek. "Derek thinks I missed something, but I didn't!"

Derek sighed, hoping and wishing to avoid yet another confrontation with Nick -- particularly so soon after the ex-SEAL's accident -- but there was work to do and it couldn't be avoided. "You didn't miss something ... you left it out," he stated as matter-of-factly as he could.

Nick was becoming agitated and stood, pushing his chair in. His hands were wrapped tightly around the back of the chair as he tried to control his voice as he answered, "I didn't leave anything out. Everything we need is printed, Derek." His voice almost took on a pleading tone as he continued, "Let's move past this and just keep goin' ... alright?!"

"No," Derek stated simply, "if you won't print the file, then someone else will." He softened his voice and commented, "Besides, you don't know, Nick, it could be relevant somehow."

"It's not relevant!" Nick shouted back, totally losing control of his temper. The force that he used to project the words caused a sudden pain to occur in his ribcage and he wrapped his arm around his side, wincing.

Philip saw the look of anguish and pain on Nick's face and had had enough of this conversation -- whatever it was about! He was still quite worried about his friend and felt a rush of anger toward Derek for once again upsetting him. He interrupted the tension-filled moment by saying, "Whatever is goin' on here, I think there's been quite enough of it." He turned to Derek, looking to the Precept to be the more responsible of the two. "Is it worth all this shoutin' back 'n forth, Derek?"

Derek appreciated what Philip was trying to do; however, as Precept of the House, he also had a job to do -- and that was to run an investigation with all the facts in front of him. He looked at each member seated (or standing, as in Nick's case!) around the table and then replied, "Nick did

not print Miranda's file." He pointed his finger to the beautiful young woman in the photo that still laid on the table in front of Alex and Philip. "This is Miranda ... Miranda Boyle -- Nick's mother! -- and he didn't print her file."

Philip and Alex both strained to see the woman in the picture that Derek had pointed to. They both noted the resemblance Nick had to his mother. Likewise, they immediately understood Derek's point that something had been missing ... and they understood Nick's point of why! Philip looked at Derek with an apologetic expression and then sighed as he looked at Nick -- still standing behind his chair but now with his head down, unable to meet anyone's eyes.

Nick stared down at his hands as he gripped the chair in front of him as tightly as he could. He knew that they were staring at him -- waiting for an explanation, an outburst or both. He decided to give them what they wanted ... both! "She was never really a part of Legacy," he screamed out to everyone seated around him. He stared at Derek as he continued, "She's not a part of this ... she couldn't be! She ..."

"She is a part of this, Nick," came a familiar voice from the doorway of the library. "Unfortunately, she is a part of this."

All five members of the Legacy House turned to see William Sloan standing in the doorway, briefcase in hand. He placed it down, took off his overcoat and handed it to Mitchell who was standing respectfully behind the Head of the London House. Behind Mitchell, they could barely make out two other men, waiting to also enter the room.

Overcoming the shock that everyone else was feeling, Derek rose to greet William. The other two men walked in and he immediately recognized them -- Arthur Peterson and Felix Black! He also realized that this was far more serious than he had originally thought. He shook hands with each of the three and motioned toward the table where his group was now seated. "We were just

discussing the investigation into the deaths of our former members."

Felix Black chose the seat across from Derek and Arthur Peterson sat next to Rachel. William Sloan walked over and stood beside Nick. Derek had told him about the young man's accident, but he was shocked that Nick was up and moving around, judging the injuries from the way the young man looked. The three former members had also overheard the last portions of the conversation in the library and he knew that what he had come to do was certainly not going to be easy.

He placed a hand on Nick's shoulder and asked, "How are you? When Derek told me about the severity of the accident, I figured you'd still either be in the hospital or at least up in bed."

Nick gently, but firmly shrugged off Sloan's hand. He resented this man immensely because of the conflict between Derek and the current Head of the Legacy. "I'm fine," he answered briefly, pulling out the chair to sit down. The fact that Sloan, Black and Peterson were here now meant that this was going to be a lot more serious of an investigation than he had first assumed; and it meant the tie to his mother was inevitable!

Recovering from the surprise of meeting Derek's former Legacy associates, Alex picked up the conversation where William Sloan had interrupted it. "Mr. Sloan," she started, "you said that Nick's mother is involved in all of this? Should I go print out her file for us?" She saw the hurt-filled look Nick shot at her and tried to avoid his eyes as she rose to go to the Control Room.

"That won't be necessary," Sloan answered, solemnly. He continued standing beside Nick and once again placed his hand on the shoulder -- firmer this time so as not to be dismissed by Nick. "Part of the reason I'm here is because I have some rather ... difficult ... news." He looked at Derek and their eyes met. He could see that Derek suspected something had happened to Miranda and he nodded his head subtlely once. He watched as Derek hung his head.

Nick looked up at Sloan waiting for him to continue. His heart began to race as he felt fear -- true terror -- grip his stomach and turn his blood cold. Noting the expression on the older man's face, he bluntly asked, "Is she dead?" Alex took her seat and reached out, placing her hand on Nick's arm -- which he quickly shrugged away. "Is she?" he pressed.

"No," Sloan answered, sitting down next to the young man, but keeping his hand on his shoulder in a gesture of comfort. "But she is in a coma. She was involved in a very serious car accident two days ago on a coastline road near Boston. I had asked Felix to monitor news reports, etc. that might involve any of our remaining members while I had this House investigating the deaths; he came across the clipping about the accident."

Derek saw that Nick was sitting in stunned, yet relieved silence. "How is she?" he asked, clearly concerned.

Felix cleared his throat and answered this question, having been the one to discover the clipping to begin with. "William and I stopped off at the hospital to see her before having the plane take us to Texas to pick up Art." He looked across at Miranda's son, who was looking up at him. "I wish I had good news, but the reality of the situation is that she's in a deep coma; the doctor's are just not sure if she'll pull out of it or not."

Philip dreaded prying into such a painful area, but asked, "Was there any news on how the accident happened? I mean, obviously, yer thinkin' this is all connected t'the other tragedies ... right?!"

"Right," Felix continued. "It's William's feeling, and I concur, that these deaths and now this 'accident' are a little too convenient. Miranda supposedly drove her car off a small embankment and into the ocean! According to witnesses that had been on the road just before the accident happened, she had been driving sporadically." He once again glanced at her son -- 'So like her in physical appearance,' he thought. "I knew Miranda pretty well, and she was always a safe, sensible driver. I just can't believe that she'd lose control like that."

The five current members of the Legacy House had all paled during Felix's statement of how Miranda Boyle's accident had occurred as they recalled how identical it sounded to her son's accident! Sloan, Peterson and Black could tell something was clicking with the Legacy group and they waited silently for one of them to speak.

But it wasn't someone speaking that they heard ... it was someone exploding! Nick rose from his chair so suddenly that it fell backwards and crashed to the floor. He faced Derek as he shouted, "I told you! I told you and you didn't believe me!! Now look what you've done!"

* * * * * * *

"Nick, sit down," Derek commanded coldly. Nick ignored him, instead bringing out all his anger and grief toward the Precept.

"I won't sit down! My father's come back to kill my mother and me! Knowing him, he probably killed your friends too, and you could have stopped him! This is your fault for not believing me ... your fault for not helping me stop him!"

"Don't be stupid, Son," Sloan said quietly. "Just sit down, and think this over rationally."

"I'm not your son!" Nick whirled on the man, startling him. The younger man turned back to the others crowded round the table. "Don't any of you believe me?" he asked quietly. There was an embarrassed silence as the Legacy members looked at one another nervously, each unsure of what to say.

"I do," Nick looked up at Philip, who was staring at his friend, a serious look on his face. Nick gave him a grateful glance, then glared accusingly at the rest of the people.

"What will it take to convince you?" he asked. "Three deaths, my mother in a coma, and my father driving my car off the road aren't enough for you; what more proof do you need?"

"Nick, you only thought you saw your father," Derek said, gently. "It just isn't possible ..."

Nick gave a disgusted sound. "He was there. Is that so hard for you to believe?"

"OK!" Rachel cut in. "Suppose that really was your father; why on Earth would he try to kill you?"

Nick fell silent. "I don't know." He stood, head bowed, staring down at the floor; he could feel the others looking at him. The thought that his father had returned just felt so right, he knew it was true. Then Nick thought of his mother, lying in a cold hospital, so far away, and a tear ran

down his cheek. He brushed it away angrily, ashamed that he was acting like this, being so awful toward his friends -- but he couldn't help it. Nick thought of his argument with Derek the day of the accident, and suddenly realized how much Derek must be hurting over the death's of his own friends. He felt a sickness in the pit of his stomach as he realized that he had been so wrapped up in his own pain that he had forgotten to think how Derek must have been feeling; Derek had lost three life-long friends -- what right did Nick have to be so self-absorbed?

Grief, anger and shame overwhelmed him like a flood, and he fell forward to his knees, tears streaming from his eyes. His body wracked with painful sobs that jolted and pulled at not-yet-healed wounds. The others stared at him awkwardly, unsure of what to do. None of them had ever seen Nick cry before -- not even when Julia died. Even Philip was uncertain of what to do.

It was Alex who moved to kneel beside her youngest partner. She reached out, wrapping her arms around his shaking shoulders. Nick leaned against her, suddenly needing a human touch, the horror of the past few days too much to bear. He could hear his father's voice in his head, "Only women and babies cry", but he didn't care any more. Alex gently stroked Nick's tousled hair,

comforting him like a child, making soothing noises in her throat. As she held him, Alex once again had the vision of Nick's crash -- stronger than before -- and she could clearly see Jonathan Boyle, sitting in the car, taunting his son.

"I'm sorry, Nick," she whispered. "I'm so sorry."

* * * * * * *

Nick gratefully took the mug of tea from Mitchell. "Thanks," he murmured, still embarrassed at his earlier outburst. Mitchell smiled kindly, before leaving the room. Derek took a sip of the coffee Mitchell had provided for him.

"Shall we proceed?" he asked politely, looking meaningfully at Nick. The young man flushed, remaining quiet. Derek continued, "I don't think we can avoid this; the deaths are linked in some way, and that link is with a member of the Boyle family, either Miranda or Jonathan. Now, if -- and I mean if -- Jonathan has come back," Derek held up his hand as Nick looked up quickly, "then every one of us could be in danger. There appears to be no reason behind these killings, and a killer with no motive is very dangerous indeed."

"I was wonderin' ... couldn't this all be one massive coincidence?" Art spoke up for the first time. There was hope in his voice, as if he really didn't want to believe that his one-time friend had come back for an evil purpose.

Nick looked at Art, wishing that it could be "all one massive coincidence"; that he had only imagined Jonathan in the car, but he knew it wasn't. "Sorry," Nick said, shaking his head, "but that just isn't possible."

Sloan threw down the file he had been reading. "I can only see one link between everyone," he said apologetically. "And that's Miranda, somehow."

Nick looked about to protest, but Derek interrupted before the young man could speak. "Nick, we've listened to your point. Now, you may not like what we have to say, but listen anyway."

Nick nodded silently, but Philip pushed in. "Now, wait just a bloody minute! I think we need t'pay more attention to this Jonathan-idea! If he's back, shouldn't we be concentratin' on why he's here, and how t'get rid of him?"

"I agree," said Alex quietly. "We need to sort out that idea first; handle one thing at a time."

Sloan sighed. "They're right; that needs to be our first priority."

Nick made a relieved sound. "Thanks."

Sloan looked sideways at him. "So, sometimes I think you might be onto something, Kid; so sue me."

Art looked at the others, confused. "I don't get it ... why would Johnny try to kill his family?" I mean, he loved 'em ... right?"

Derek spoke up quickly, noting the uncomfortable look on Nick's face. "I don't think we knew everything that was going on with Jonathan; there appears to be a side to him we never knew about ... a not-very-nice side."

Art nodded, letting the subject drop, but Sloan pushed Derek. "What do you mean? This isn't a time for holding out on us, Derek." The Dutchman shot Sloan a warning look, but the London House Precept ignored it, instead turning to Nick. "What does he mean? I wouldn't ask if I didn't think it was important."

Nick looked straight ahead, face tight and pale. "You know he had a drinking problem, right?" Sloan nodded slowly, and Art and Felix sat forward expectantly. Nick took a deep, shaky breath, "Well, sometimes he ... when he was drunk ... he ..." Nick bit his lip, unable to go on. It had been hard enough to tell Derek and even harder recently to tell the others. It had taken anger to force the truth out of him those times, but now, being watched by everyone, in pain and frightened, Nick just couldn't voice the words.

"I think we can all guess, Son," Felix said quietly. Nick just looked down at the table top, suddenly ashamed of what his father had done -- what he had been. 'It wasn't your fault!' a tiny voice screamed at him from his mind, but he couldn't help feeling that, deep down, he was to blame for his father's brutality -- somehow.

"Isn't it possible that Jonathan is just trying to finish what he started?" Alex put in suddenly. "I mean, that would be a perfectly feasible explanation."

"It would be," Rachel put in, "but what about Monroe Starr and the others? Why would Jonathan be after them?" There was silence around the table as each person thought about her words. Yes, why indeed would Jonathan try to kill his friends? Alex's explanation was possible for Nick and Miranda, but the others? There was just no reason!

Mitchell appeared to take away the empty mugs that had held coffee and tea. As he turned to leave, he politely asked, "Would you like me to turn up the heating, Sir?"

"What?" Derek said, absently.

"The heating, Sir," Mitchell repeated. "It's gotten very cold in here." Derek frowned; Mitchell was right, it had gotten cold.

"Yes, thank you," Derek replied. Mitchell gave a stiff little bow, moving to the heating controls in the corner of the room. The others heard him give a puzzled exclamation.

"What the..."

Philip called over to Mitchell. "Is anythin' wrong?"

Mitchell turned back to them. "The heating appears to be fully on already. It must be faulty; I'll go find one of the caretakers to fix it."

Mitchell walked to the door, carefully balancing the full tray of mugs. But, as soon as he touched the handle to the closed door, a spark of electricity jumped up his arm, causing him to cry out and drop the tray. The mugs shattered, crashing to the floor heavily.

"Are you okay?!" Derek jumped up, hurrying over to the butler.

"Fine, Sir," Mitchell said, looking at the door suspiciously. Cautiously, Derek reached out to the door handle. There was no spark of electricity, but the lock was jammed.

"Let me try," Nick said as he walked over; but he, too, couldn't get the door open. "What the Hell is going on here?" he asked.

"Oh, come on, Nicky! You've watched enough horror movies by now to know that the bad guy is just playing with you!" Nick turned to the room, recognizing the voice, but not wanting to.

"Who said that?" he asked, fearfully.

"What?" Philip looked at him, confused. "None of us said anythin'."

"Going crazy, Nicky?" the voice was soft, gloating. Nick paled more than he had earlier, now resembling a small ghost himself.

"Didn't any of you just hear that?" Nick pleaded.

"Nick, what're you talking about?" Derek was irritated; the door still wouldn't budge, and now one of his people was acting psychotic. He hoped that it wasn't a side effect of the knocks he had received to his head; the doctors had mentioned that Nick might hallucinate.

"Derek thinks you're ill, Nicky."

"I'm not ill!" Nick said, truly fearing that he was going mad.

Derek looked at him, confused. 'Did I just think out loud?' he wondered.

Nick moved to the center of the room, turning in circles, searching the dark recesses of the room. "Where are you?" he cried. "Show yourself!"

"Nick ..." Philip moved beside his younger friend. "Nick, are you alright?"

The voice began to laugh, echoing around the room. Nick clapped his hands to his ears. "No!" he shrieked. "Go away!" The voice grew louder, but still only Nick could hear it. It filled his head, making him cry out in pain.

"Nick!" Philip grabbed his friend's shoulders, shaking him. "Stop it!"

"Can't you hear him?!" Nick yelled. "Oh, God, can't you hear 'im, Philip?!"

"This is such ... fun!" the voice said through it's laughter. Derek looked at Nick, shouting at a non-existent voice, and then suddenly the pieces clicked into place. He strode into the middle of the room.

"Jonathan! Jonathan Boyle! Show yourself ... now!" he roared.

Nick's hands fell from his ears as a misty shape began to form in one of the vacated chairs, legs slung up on the table top, arms crossed on his chest. "Pleasure to see you all again," Jonathan smiled cruelly at the stunned people.

* * * * * * *

Jonathan clapped his hands sarcastically. "Oh, well done, Derek! And how long did it take you to figure out it really was me?!"

Derek gritted his teeth. "Who else is this sadistic, to torture his own son?!"

Jonathan sat up suddenly, pointing at Derek. "Don't push me, Rayne," he said, his voice low and dangerous. Then his expression changed and he looked over at Nick, who had moved close to Philip. Alex had joined them, her hand firmly clasping Nick's.

"Good to see you again, Nicholas," he smiled. Nick remained silent, staring at his father with a mixture of fear and hate. Jonathan stood up, waving towards the table, where the seats were now empty. "Do join me," he said, jovially.

"We're fine where we are, thank you," Sloan said.

Jonathan's face hardened. "That wasn't a request, William." He stood up, and the Legacy members could see that he was not yet fully there, his form still somewhat translucent. Jonathan swept his arm out.

"Sit down!" All of a sudden, the people found themselves hurled painfully into their original seats. Alex still didn't let go of Nick's hand, and Rachel fumbled to grab a hold of Philip's arm. Philip placed his hand over hers, all the while staring coldly at Jonathan.

"You're probably wondering why I've called you all here," Jonathan said, then began to laugh again. "Hoooo-boy!" he said, still chuckling. "Wish you could all see your faces!"

"I don't think there's anything funny here, Jon," Felix said, quietly.

"Ah, shaddap, Felix!" Jonathan complained, and they could all see that -- even in death -- Jonathan was slightly enbriated.

"What do you want, Jonathan?" Derek asked, barely containing his anger at the treatment of his friends.

"Oh, that's a very good question." Jonathan said, voice dripping malice. "That's a very good question indeed; one worthy of an answer." He looked at Derek with a self-satisfied smile. "Very worthy indeed."

"Would you just get on with it?" Nick spoke up suddenly. "Just get it over with, and leave us alone!"

"Wish I could, Nicky," Jonathan grinned. "But not quite yet. You see, I have a little ... business ... to deal with first."

"Business?" Philip quizzed.

"Yes," Jonathan beamed. "You'll like this, being the devout priest you are; I'm here to do Lucifer's bidding." There were muted gasps around the table, and Jonathan revelled in the shock that passed between the other occupants of the room.

"Why?!" Art questioned. "After all you've done for the Legacy, why?!"

Jonathan shrugged. "I was in Hell anyway, might as well make the most of it."

"So, what was this ... deal ... you made, then?" Nick asked. "You sell your soul for thirty pieces of silver?"

"See, you still haven't lost your wit, boy." Jonathan sneered. "Didn't I get rid of that for you?" Nick fell silent, squeezing Alex's hand even tighter.

"It's pretty simple really," Jonathan continued. "I promised to comeback and kill you all off. Three down ..." he made a show of counting the people seated at the table, "... eight to go. Oh, and let's not forget the faithful butler," he gestured at Mitchell, seated on the couch in the corner,

"Or, our dear Miranda."

Nick didn't make a sound, but clenched his jaw, fighting the urge to fly at his father and wipe that smug grin off his face.

"I'm afraid I rather botched Miranda's 'accident'," Jonathan said, apologetically. "Seems she's tougher than I thought." Jonathan caught Nick glaring at him. "Oh, I didn't really mean to kill you then -- just scare you," he grinned, baring his teeth. "What I have planned wouldn't have been

any fun if you hadn't have been here!"

"Jonathan padded around to stand behind Nick, leaning forward. Nick closed his eyes, smelling that all-too-familiar smell of his father's alcohol-drenched breath smothering him as he softly whispered, "And we all need our fun now, don't we ... Nicky?"

* * * * * * *

The manifestation of Jonathan's spirit continued to take on a more solid mass as it circled the table of Legacy members. He hated each and every person seated around the table -- even the ones he didn't know ... there was the Priest (imagine his son a friend of a Priest?! -- NEVER!) who was acting so compassionate toward 'Nicky'. There was also that pretty, young black

woman (and why couldn't Nicholas ever go after a fine lady like that?!) who hadn't let go of Nick's hand since he first appeared. Then there was that blond bitch ... the 'doctor' (and yet a fellow alcoholic, he knew!) who thought she could spout some psycho-babble at him and he'd disappear into a puff of smoke!

There were also the others ... the reason he had made his devilish pact with The Dark Prince -- there was Derek Rayne (now Precept -- big surprise -- of the House!); William Sloan (head of the entire Legacy organization, no less!); Felix Black (retired from the Legacy and making a quiet living in a small village on the outskirts of London); and then there was the 'good-ol- boy', Art Peterson (also retired and running his ranch in Texas). He hated them all and was glad to be there in Satan's service!

Then there was Nick! He had hated the kid even before he was born. For Miranda's sake, he had tried to be a father to the boy; but, every effort was met with obstinance on the part of the child and he found himself sinking deeper and deeper into a well of despair, drink and eventual disaster. In the

end, he had given up and allowed the forces of darkness to take him completely. But, as he spent time in the inferno of Hell, he realized that -- in giving up -- he had allowed "the little bastard" to win! Yes, he hated him most of all!

He continued circling the group, relishing in the fear on the faces of the females at the table. 'Ah,' he thought, 'so like Miranda's moments of terror before I helped her plunge her car off the road and into the ocean.' Going after Miranda had been the hardest part of his deal with Lucifer. He

remembered he had pledged to kill every member of the Legacy he had worked with during the time period before his death -- and that did include Miranda

-- but when it came time to actually kill her, he felt a slight regret in his heart.

He had loved the beautiful, young, dark-haired woman from the moment he first laid eyes on her. She had come to the San Francisco Legacy House -- recommended by the Boston House -- to do some research, filing and paperwork for the group. She had been the last member to join the group that ended up staying together for nearly ten years. He remembered her happy, exuberant personality as she would tease, flirt, laugh and smile with all the men in the House. He had always particularly loved the way she tossed her head back whenever she laughed.

Jonathan glared at the young man sitting across the table from where he now stood -- he looked so much like Miranda. "He doesn't look very much like his father -- does he?," a nurse had once commented during one of their many trips to the Emergency Room when Nick was a child. That had been one of the worse things for Jonathan to live with ... the fact that Nick didn't "look like his father."

Nick raised his head and met the hateful gaze of his father -- and defiantly returned it. This man had the nerve to try to kill his mother! Nick found a new hatred for "his old man" welling within him. If Jonathan were here to kill someone seated around the table, then he secretly prayed that it would be him. He had suffered at the hands of this man his entire life and he was tired -- tired of being abused, both physically and mentally; tired of having to lie to friends, family and physicians when he was a child about the marks on his body; and tired of feeling like he was unlovable and

unable to love.

Jonathan's anger and wrath began to grow as he saw the defiant look in Nick's eyes. 'Why didn t you just die,' he thought. 'You would never just die!' He remembered, however briefly, that there had been times, when Nick was a child, that he had actually liked the kid -- after all, the boy had a fair amount of intelligence, he was a natural when it came to physical activities and he did resemble the woman Jonathan loved.

But the majority of the time, Jonathan hated Nick! His job with the Legacy was hard enough -- both physically, emotionally and mentally -- without having some snot-nosed, stubborn, smart-mouthed kid in the way. Miranda had doted after the boy and was always trying to protect him ... which would only serve to increase Jonathan's anger ... and his violence. In the end, he had

regretted not forcing Miranda to "get rid of it" when there had still been time!

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'Well,' Jonathan thought, with a hint of pride as he looked into the eyes of hatred, 'at least I taught him not to show fear!' He finally broke his stare with Nick and continued circling the table. It gave him a slight sense of satisfaction (and anger!) to see Nick flinch as he again walked behind him. 'Maybe the bastard still has a few lessons to learn after all,' he thought again. 'And I'll enjoy teachin' 'im!'

* * * * * * *

Derek could see the fear on both Alex and Rachel's faces and, for their sakes, he had to at least try to reason with this apparition. "Jonathan," he called to the form as it continued making it's way around the table. "Whatever has brought you here has nothing to do with my Legacy group. Let them go. You have William, Arthur, Felix and I ... we're the ones you're here for ... right?! Let the rest of my people go."

His four members looked to him with an appreciative yet firm expression in their eyes; they made it clear that, even if Jonathan Boyle should agree to Derek's request, they would not go without him! He felt grateful for their loyalty but too concerned for their safety to care. He tried again, "Jonathan, you have the four of us. What more do you want?"

Art Peterson could remain silent no more -- there were women's lives at stake here ... not to mention the kid! He had always had a soft spot in his heart for Jonathan's boy; the kid was always polite and his heart had went out to the child he had been; it had always seemed like the kid was just a little too accident-prone for his own good. Art knew he had to do something to get

them out of this situation. "Why, Jonny?" he asked, point blank. It gave him a chill to see Jonathan stare at him, but he continued, "After all those years o'fightin' Evil and tryin' t'live right. Why would y'all make such a heinous deal with the Devil now?"

Jonathan had liked Arthur Peterson at one time. In the "old days", Art was one of the guys that Jonathan had gotten along with best ... and he didn't get along well with too many people! He enjoyed "ribbing" Arthur about his "good ol' boy" talk and his "rope 'em, ride 'em, or shoot 'em" philosophy of life. When he had first made his pact with the Prince of Darkness, the two regrets he had were that Miranda (of course) and Arthur Peterson had to be part of that deal. But, in thinking back now, was Arthur really the "good ol' boy" who could be trusted that he seemed to be?! Jonathan doubted it!

"Because," Jonathan answered, "when I was burning in Hell for my crimes against Satan, I realized that I had been wasting my life with all that righteous bullshit! And I also had time to reflect on my so-called 'friends' and how much I could count on and trust them ... or should I say 'the lack thereof'. One of the four of you betrayed me -- Cord, Matthew and Monroe are now in the clear! -- so, in a sense, I'm still fighting for justice, Arthur." He could see by the looks on the faces of his former associates that they still didn't understand why he was really there -- what had made him make such a dark deal. 'Why doesn't the guilty party just confess,' his mind screamed.

He glared at each of his four ex-partners seated around the table. 'I'm just gonna have to spell it out for them,' he realized, 'just like I had to with Matthew, Cord and Monroe. At least Miranda had known why he had come back to seek revenge! How stupid could these others be?! To think, I used to put my life in their hands!' He circled the table once more and then stood behind "the Priest" and closest to Derek and the head of the table. "One of the four of you know why I'm here," he stated coldly and matter-of-factly. "Confess now and the death of the others will be quick and merciful!"

The four individuals in question looked at one another, each trying to read if any of them might understand what Jonathan was saying; it was clear that none of them did! Art cleared his throat and again spoke to the manifestation that was Jonathan Boyle. "I'm sorry, Friend, but I just don't

think yer makin' much sense t'any of us. What're we suppose t'be confessin' too, Johnny?"

Jonathan's anger flared and Arthur Peterson's 250 pound body was catapulted out of the seat and flown across the room into the wall. The crash made the pictures that hung on the wall nearby fall to the ground and Mitchell came running. He, too, was picked up and tossed across the room. The elderly butler hit his head on the opposite wall where he sank to the floor and laid unconscious. Arthur was already rising to his feet, preparing for whatever Jonathan might throw at him next. He slowly walked back to the table and took his seat.

Rachel began to rise, wanting to check out Mitchell's injuries, but was stopped when Jonathan Boyle looked at her and, with an acid tone replied, "I don't think so." He watched as Derek put his hand on the doctor's arm and shook his head once to her, indicating that she should stay put -- at least for the time being. No one at the table had liked what just occurred but, for one individual, it had been too much.

Nick rose and turned toward the form of his father. Anger and defiance were written all over his stance and his stare. "Enough!" he shouted. "You want to do this? Then start with me!" His voice calmed a little, but remained steady as he continued, "Your problems have always been with me, so let's just get on with it. If you're here to end someone's life, then just finish what you've always started ... DAD! Have the guts for once to finish the job!"

Before Jonathan could respond, Derek rose from his seat and shouted, "Nick ... this isn't the way!" Jonathan watched with interest as the two men stared at each other. He had never realized how alike Nick and Derek were ... they were both extremely secretive, stubborn, and natural leaders. He watched now as the older man reasoned with Nick. "Sit down," Derek continued, much calmer. "You're outbursts aren't going to solve anything. You're not doing anyone any good this way." He watched as Derek then sat down and, after another moment's hesitation, Nick did the same!

'How touching,' Jonathan thought. 'So, the little bastard does listen to authority after all -- pity it was never mine!' He placed his hands together in a clapping sound. "Well done, Derek," he said aloud. "I have to admit that I'm impressed ... someone finally got Nick to obey authority!" He turned to Nick and then asked, "Or was it those three years you spent in the SEALs, Nick? What was I doing wrong? Didn't I hold your head under water long enough? Did I not hit you hard enough? Didn't the ...."

"... Why don't you get to the point, Jonathan," William Sloan interrupted, noting how uncomfortable Nick was becoming and afraid the young man was about to blow. "You said you've got a reason for making your deal with the Devil? Well, I for one would love to hear what it is!" He paused, making sure he had Jonathan's full attention and then continued, "After all, you never did answer Arthur's question -- what are we suppose to confess to?!"

'How smugly diplomatic of William,' Jonathan thought, realizing what Sloan was up to. 'And isn't he being awfully gallant trying to protect Nick?!' He walked over behind Arthur to face both Nick and William. Seated side-by-side, he thought about how alike these two men were in always thinking they were right; and yet, how different they were in their cultural styles.

At last, he decided that he must tell them -- it was time; waiting for a confession was obviously not going to work! He circled the table once more and stood once more behind "the Priest" and closest to Derek. "One of you," he began dramatically, "is Nick's father ... and I want to know which one!" He watched the stunned expressions cross each of his former associate's faces, trying to observe the guilt that might cross there as well. He also noted the shocked look on the faces of the two women. But no one's face was more stunned or shocked than Nick's himself!

This irritated Jonathan even more. "Oh, c mon," he said aloud to Nick as the young man met his gaze. "You had to've at least suspected I wasn't really your father! Why the Hell would I've nearly beat the life outta my own kid every other week just for makin' a little noise in the house?! I mean, what kinda monster did you think I was?! Surely, you had to've wondered why I did it to you?!"

* * * * * * *

Felix Black was not like Jonathan Boyle or Arthur Peterson with their boisterous and brave personalities; he was not like William Sloan, Cord McAllister or Derek Rayne with their natural leadership skills; he was more like Monroe Starr and William Davis -- a quiet field worker who kept his thoughts, feelings and impressions pretty much to himself. But he could keep quiet no longer! He saw the look of anger and anguish on Nick Boyle's face and recalled the times he had taken the young boy and his mother to the ballgame. He remembered encouraging the "natural-born athlete" to get involved in the neighbourhood Little League games and the times he spent

working with the kid on his batting.

Now, not only was Jonathan insinuating that this young man was quite literally "a bastard", but he was also defamating Miranda's character by implying that she was a "loose woman"! Like every other man in the San Francisco Legacy House during that era, he had fallen in love with the beautiful and bright young lady from Boston. She had such a warm, generous smile and her laughter was like music! Felix had taken Miranda out several times (prior to her marriage to Jonathan, of course!) and had enjoyed a close relationship with her during her pregnancy and after the birth of her son. Now, here was the man who had been blessed with the gift of her love, daring to insult her!

He could keep quiet no longer and exclaimed, "How dare you!" at the top of his lungs. He recoiled as the shape of Jonathan Boyle turned toward him, but he stood his ground. "How dare you insult not only Nick, but Miranda as well!" he continued. "You were blessed with her love, Jonathan. How could you even think such a thing?!"

Jonathan stared long and hard at Felix Black, assessing the man's outrage. 'Is he upset because he truly cared about Miranda', he wondered, 'or is it because he's the guilty party?' His memory flashed to the images of Felix dropping Miranda and Nick off after a ballgame (and the way Miranda lingered by the car, leaning in so seductively!); of Felix teaching Nick the proper way to hold a bat and work on his swing (like any natural father might do!); of how often Miranda would take Felix's hand during dinner parties and smile a special (lovers?!) smile.

He quickly advanced on the small-framed man seated at the table, grabbed him by the throat with one hand and easily lifted him high in the air as he pushed against Felix's windpipe. "So," he said, with satisfaction yet hatred in his voice. "It was you! I would've never guessed it was you, Felix! You seem much too timid for Miranda's taste ... but then again, they do say to watch out for the quiet ones."

Everyone seated around the table could tell that Felix was struggling to breathe. Nick, Peterson, Sloan, Philip and Derek had all simultaneously tried to rise out of their seats to stop Jonathan Boyle, but found that a force was holding them there. Despite their struggles, they were helpless! "I don't think so," Jonathan's voice acidly replied, knowing the attempt the others were trying to make to stop him from doing his duty. "I've waited Nick's entire lifetime for this ... and no one will deny me the pleasure of killing his natural father!"

"NO!" Nick screamed just seconds before they all heard the sickening snap of Felix's neck. Jonathan turned towards "his son" as he released his grip on the lifeless body and it fell with a thud to the floor. Both Rachel and Alex felt tears stinging their eyes ... both from fear and from helplessness. Jonathan moved to stand behind Arthur Peterson and face Nick. "You're one sick sonofabitch, you know that?!" Nick said, with amazing calm in his voice. "You were an alcoholic who couldn't live with what you did to Mom and I, so now you're lookin' for other people to blame for your own warped personality problems. God ... I wish you were right -- I wish I weren't your son!"

'I know him better than he thinks I do,' Jonathan thought to himself. 'Pity that he isn't my son ... I would've been so proud!' He moved towards Derek's end of the table, but continued to match Nick's gaze. "I know what you're trying to do, Nicholas, but it's not gonna work! You think that by incurring my wrath you can buy your friend's lives ... but you can't!" He watched satisfactorily as Nick's expression confirmed that Jonathan had caught on to what Nick was trying to do. Jonathan continued, "But, believe me, 'Son', I won't forget about you! What I have planned for you is far worse than anything I'm gonna do to your friends ... you can count on that,'m boy!"

Philip could stand no more -- no more humiliation at Nick's expense; no more cruelty with threats of death and accusations of misconduct; no more allowing this travesty of Evil to prevail! He rose from his seat and began his Latin incantations to banish the Demon before them. Unfortunately, Jonathan was not a demon but a manifested servant of Satan, and he turned to the Priest and laughed. "You think you can get rid of me that easily, Father?! Well, I understand now why you've thought of leaving the Priesthood, my friend; you're not very good at it ... are you?!"

With that said, Philip was thrown across the room into the bookshelf behind him. As he shielded his head and body as best he could, a rain of books -- many of them heavy volumes of religious material! -- fell down upon him. As he tried to crawl out from beneath the rubble, he silently prayed for God's intervention, hoping that his prayer would be answered ... and soon!

The answer came when Nick rose from his seat, leapt over the table and attacked the manifested form of Jonathan Boyle. The solid apparition fell backwards, unprepared for the blows that it received from the ex-SEAL. Nick then strategically placed his body between that of Jonathan, Philip and the table where his friends and associates had sat. The others had simultaneously risen from their chairs and stood huddled together (with the women behind the men!). Although Derek, William and Arthur wanted to make a move to help Nick, they knew that it would more than likely prove to be more dangerous than helpful and so stayed put ... for the time being!

'Well, Nick, you finally had the guts to make a move on me after all,' Jonathan thought as he picked himself up. He watched as the Priest also rose and Nick insistently motioned him over to where the others now stood. "So, now it comes down to you and me!" He grinned with as much malice on his face as he felt in his heart for the little prick that dared to stand up to him! "Too bad you hadn't felt this compassionate before I killed your biological father, Nick; then you wouldn't've had to die an orphan!"

But, Jonathan's evil laughter caught in his own throat as a new thought occurred to him. 'Wait a minute. He didn't try to stop Felix's death!' It didn't occur to him that, even if he were right about not being Nick's father, that Nick himself might know who was! He stared past Nick at the remaining three associates he had worked with. "It wasn't Felix ... was it?!" he asked as the realization dawned on him. "It's one of you!" His wrath began to grow again.

The effects of that growing anger came in a swift and furious assault aimed directly at Nick. The young man was propelled across the room by an unseen force and ended up crashing into the corner. Before he could begin to rise, the figure of Jonathan Boyle was upon him, delivering blow after blow after vicious blow -- both with his fists and with his feet. The best Nick could do was to curl his body into a fetal position, trying desperately to protect the tender organs from the brutal onslaught his body was receiving.

From their vantage point across the room, the Legacy members could see the toll the beating was taking upon their friend and associate as they watched blood begin to spatter across the wooden panels in the room. Derek would (and could!) stand no more and stepped forward, shouting at the top of his lungs, "STOP!" He stood his ground as the Thing that was Jonathan Boyle turned towards him and took a few steps in his direction.

"Do you have something to confess to me, Derek?" the evil voice asked. "Are you now ready to sacrifice your life in order to save the life of your son?!" The being stared at Derek, sizing up his competition; he began remembering the way things used to be ... remembering the romance Derek'd had with Miranda prior to their romance and marriage; remembering how often and

tenderly Miranda would mention Derek's name or ask about him at the end of a gruelling assignment; remembering that Nicholas now worked for and with Derek. "So," he continued as he began to approach his rival, "you're the one?!"

The others unconsciously stepped back, leaving Derek to stand before Jonathan Boyle. Rachel longed desperately to go to the corner and check on the all-too-still figure lying there in a small, but spreading, pool of blood. Alex felt tears flowing down her face -- tears of fear for Nick ... and tears of worry for Derek! Philip felt useless; he had never felt so angry, so concerned and so helpless in his life. Arthur Peterson was angry ... angry at Jonathan for his implications of Miranda's character; angry at his killing all their long-time friends and associates; and angry that Jonathan could abuse his own son so thoughtlessly. William Sloan was watchful, waiting for the

moment that he himself could take a stand.

Derek psychologically prepared himself -- either for extreme pain or for death. But, there was no doubt in his mind or in his heart that he had to protect Nick ... at any cost! Nick was not only a friend and an associate, but he was also Miranda's son -- and, yes, there had been a tenderness (and even a love) between them once ... long ago. Besides, as Precept of this House, Nick was under his protection; he'd be damned if he would allow Jonathan Boyle to hurt Nick ever again! He might not have known about the abuse years ago, but now that he did, he would not stand back and permit it to continue!

"I'm waiting to hear your confession, Derek," Jonathan said, as he stood squarely between Nick and Derek. "I want to hear you Iit ..." He nodded at the still form of Nick, "... I want him to hear you admit it ... before you die -- and before he does!"

"There's nothing to admit," Derek stated calmly. "Nick is your son, Jonathan; if he weren t, Miranda would have told you -- told one of us! -- long ago! What I don't understand is why you would you think that he wasn't?" Anger began to get the best of Derek as he thought about what life as a child living with Jonathan's suspicions must have been like for Nick. "You had the gift of Miranda's love and a son by her and chose to throw it away! Now you want to blame us for that! If you want to kill me, then do it! But, don't do it for the wrong reason Jonathan!"

Noting the slightly confused expression that was on Jonathan's face, William chimed in, "Derek's right, Jonathan ..." and he smiled at Derek as he added, "... and you know how much I hate admitting to that!" A tension filled laugh escaped nearly everyone in the room except for Jonathan -- and "his" unconscious son. Sloan continued, as he moved to stand next to Derek. "If Nick weren't your son, Miranda would have told the natural father. You're here simply to do Satan's work, Jonathan. Don't try to redeem yourself in your mind that you're doing it for a noble reason!"

Derek turned to Sloan and smiled, thinking, 'Touché, William!' He then faced Jonathan again and continued the thought, "He's right. Perhaps this is the only way you can justify such a heinous deal after you've fought evil your entire lifetime, Jonathan, but that doesn't make it true!" The bewildered look on the apparition's face encouraged Derek as he asked, "Why, Jonathan? Why would you even think Nick isn't your son? Did you really think that all those years? Did you use that as an excuse to drink -- to abuse him and Miranda? Why did you bother all those years to fight evil beside us if you went home every night to succumb to it?!"

The words -- and potential truth behind them -- that both Derek and William spoke began to affect Jonathan. His strength and resolve in the physical world began to fade. He knew he had failed ... at least temporarily ... in getting a confession. 'But,' he thought, erhaps if I leave them

alone a while, the guilt will overcome the responsible party and I will get my confession -- and revenge -- when I return.' He looked at his three ex-associates and then one last time at the still form in the corner. "I will be back to end this," he vowed. "Don't even attempt to leave this room, because it will be impossible!"

* * * * * * *

As the figure of Jonathan Boyle faded from sight the entire group rushed to the corner where Nick lay. Gently, but firmly, Derek and William turned the young man over onto his back; a slight gasp escaped almost everyone's lips as they saw the condition of their friend. Behaving far more professionally than she felt, Rachel motioned for them all to stay back as she began a slow and thorough exam of the unconscious patient. The fact that he had suffered injuries recently was not going to help matters and it slowed the examination process considerably.

The others didn't need to be told how serious the injuries were ... they were written on both Nick and Rachel's face during the examination. Although the ex-SEAL didn't regain consciousness during the examination, it was clear by his movements and facial expressions that he was wincing in pain when Rachel probed certain areas of his body.

Alex could stand no more and walked over to the now-stirring figure of Mitchell near the doorway. Arthur Peterson joined her and, together, they managed to get him seated at the table. Neither Alex nor Arthur wanted to distract Rachel from her more serious patient at the moment, and so they helped Mitchell themselves -- Arthur by using his handkerchief to wipe off the dried blood at the corner of Mitchell's temple. They asked him simple questions: "What day is it?" "What's your name?" and "How many fingers am I holding up?" just to make sure that he was truly conscious, and were satisfied that the concussion was probably mild.

"We need to elevate his head ... Rachel said as she glanced at Derek, Philip and Sloan, "... at least, slightly. And, it goes without saying -- we need to get 'im to a hospital ... fast!"

Derek and Sloan looked at each other. "I don't think that's going to be possible, Rachel, William answered for the both of them. Jonathan's power had faded just before he left, but if he warned us not to try to leave the room, I'm sure there's a reason for it."

Looking at the pale and bruising face of his friend, Philip stated, "Well, I'll give it a try an' see what happens." He began to walk toward the door but was stopped by Derek.

"No," Derek said firmly as he rose, ready to pursue Philip if need be! "Don't even try it, Philip."

Philip turned toward Derek and looked once more at his friend. "We can't just let 'im lie there an' die, Derek!" he said, exasperated. "Nick wouldn't leave any one of us lyin' there without at least tryin' t'get us some help. How can I do the same?"

Derek walked over to Philip and placed a hand on the young Priest's shoulder. "I know how you feel, Philip ... and this is difficult for all of us. But, William's right; Jonathan warned us for a reason. If you tried to get out of here and got hurt, what good would that do Nick -- except to make him feel guilty if he ever found out? No; unfortunately, we have to wait. We just have to do whatever we can for Nick from here."

With that, Derek walked back over to his fallen comrade, took off the tweed jacket he was wearing, balled it up and -- with Rachel's help -- placed it under Nick's head. William then took off his own suitcoat and placed it over Nick's chest and shoulders. Both Philip and Arthur stepped forward, offering their own jackets as well.

"Should we at least get the kid up off the floor?" Arthur Peterson asked, feeling awkward and powerless. "I mean, it's mighty cold down there, and I don't think those few puny coats are gonna do much t'keep the kid warm. I could probably lift 'im up'm self, if ya want."

"No," Rachel answered, kindly. "Unfortunately, it would be too dangerous to move him right now, but you could get me that pitcher of water on the table and some kind of cloth if you don t mind."

"Comin' right up," Arthur answered cheerfully, glad that he could be helpful. He picked up the pitcher, walked over to the group surrounding Nick and placed it on the floor beside the "pretty lady doctor". He then unbuttoned his cuff and tore a section of his shirt sleeve off! As he handed

it to the doctor, he commented, "I didn't see any napkins or cloth lyin' around anywhere; I hope this'll do."

Rachel took the shirt sleeve gratefully, dabbed it in the pitcher of water and began to delicately wash off the bloodied and bruised areas of Nick's face. She was also hoping that the coolness of the water would begin to combat the already-started fever that indicated critical and infected injuries. Nick stirred slightly from the touch of the cool cloth, but the movement was momentary.

"Is he wakin' up?" Philip asked, anxiously. Philip hadn't waited for a response; it wasn t necessary -- he knew that Nick wasn't regaining consciousness yet. And, he also knew that it was probably just as well. He leaned closer to Nick and softly said, "Everythin's gonna be fine, Nick. Just hang in there a while longer; it's gonna be fine." He then walked over to where Alex and Mitchell were sitting, under the guise of helping out; but silently, as he sat beside Mitchell and looked at his bruising wound, he prayed to God that his comments to Nick weren't just assurances, but that they would be fact.

As Rachel continued to sponge down Nick's feverish body, Derek and William eyed one another. With a nod of his head, William indicated that he wished to speak to Derek alone. The two of them rose and walked to the farthest corner of the room -- away from the rest. Staring long and hard at Derek, William asked, point-blank, "Is Jonathan right? Is 'someone else' Nick's father??" Sloan watched as Derek's face displayed the shock he felt.

"What're you implying, William ... that I am?!" Derek felt his face flush with anger. There were many times that he and William Sloan did not see eye-to-eye or agree on business matters, but what William was asking (and implying) now was not business related, but personal! In his anger, he snapped back, "I wasn't the only one who spent time with Miranda before she married Jonathan; all of us fell in love with her at one time or another -- didn't we?!"

"Yes," Sloan thought, "I guess we did." He continued his stare at Derek, however, not giving an inch. "I wasn't 'implying' anything, Derek; I was asking you. Jonathan will be back and we should be prepared to deal with him ... for Nick's sake if for no other reason! He must have a reason for doubting Miranda ... I simply wondered if you knew anything about it."

Derek stared at William Sloan incredulously. 'Gott damn it,' he thought, 'he really thinks I'm Nick's father!' He took a deep, calming breath and replied, "So, you don't believe what we just said to Jonathan ... that he was making up excuses for his monstrous behaviour?! You really think that one of us is Nick's father and not Jonathan?!"

Sighing, Sloan replied, "I'm not sure what to think, Derek. Jonathan and I had been close for a while just after he and Miranda got married. He adored her and seemed thrilled when he first learned they were expecting a child. But, something in him did change shortly before Nick was born; he became distant -- cold -- and whatever it was that changed him then made him the way he is now. I wasn't accusing you, Derek," he said more softly. "I was asking you. My main thought is, we need to find a way to resolve this or more people -- and more specifically ... Nick -- is gonna die!"

Arthur had gotten up to assist Rachel in her observations and treatment of Nick, so Philip silently joined William and Derek's conversation. "Whatever the truth is," he said simply to the two men before him, "we need t'find a way t'get rid of this spirit. Incantations and holy water aren't gonna do much good right now ... even if I did have 'em with me."

The men stood in silence, each lost in their own thoughts ... thoughts of Nick's condition; of Miranda lying in a hospital room thousands of miles away fighting for her life; of how they could free themselves of Jonathan's spirit before he ended up killing another one of them; and, also, of the accusations Jonathan had made!

* * * * * * *

As the hours passed, each person in the room took their turns standing vigil beside Nick's motionless, feverish body. They took their turns trying to cool the raging fever that was overtaking him minute by minute; and, as they leaned over their friend and associate, they would speak words of comfort, support and encouragement.

Arthur Peterson rarely left the young man's side. He would sit a little ways off while the others would take their turns looking after Nick, but he found it difficult to be far from the injured young man. He thought back at all the times he had seen the boy years ago -- so timid and yet so defiant. 'Damn,' he thought to himself, 'why didn't I read the signs? Why didn't I realize what Johnny was doin' to the kid and put an end to it?? Why didn't Miranda tell any of us what he was doing?!"

* * * * * * *

Leaving Mitchell for a few moments, Alex moved to be beside her fallen partner. She looked down at the battered and bloodied face of her friend and tears welled in her eyes. She recalled all the times she had gotten angry at Nick for silly little things he would pull; him and his strange sense of humour! She also remembered how many times he stepped in harm's way to save her. The tears overflowed as she rose to rejoin Mitchell at the table.

* * * * * * *

Rachel felt thoroughly helpless. She knew enough about medicine to know that every minute Nick spent lying on the floor was costing him dearly. She looked into the eyes of those around her and saw her own fears mirrored there. 'Kat,' she thought, suddenly. 'If he dies, how will I explain it to Kat? She'll be devastated!' And, with her own tears threatening to overflow, she

thought, 'And, so will I!'

* * * * * * *

William Sloan took his turn sitting beside Nick. He pulled the protective coats closer towards the young man's heart, trying to keep him warm and hoping to break the fever as he thought about his encounters over the past few months with the ex-SEAL. He had been so hard on him ... demanding more and more and more from him. 'But surely he understood it was because I saw

the potential in him to be better than Jonathan,' he tried to assure himself. 'Surely he knew that I pushed him because I respect him!'

* * * * * * *

Philip spent the most time with his chosen brother. He prayed over his still form and would lean down every few minutes, whispering words of encouragement and hope. As he used the cooling cloth to try to bring down Nick's fever, he thought of all the times the two of them had gone out -- in their "younger" and "wilder" days -- to the bars; and, how often he had held a cold cloth to his friend's head after a hangover! He smiled to himself, wishing for those careful days to return.

* * * * * * *

Derek could feel himself falling apart inside! As Precept of the House, he had to remain outwardly calm and collected; however, not only had he recently lost some dear friends, but he was now being forced to helplessly watch as one of his member's life was slipping away. And, it wasn't just any member -- it was a person he had known since childhood. He thought of all the

times Nick and he would argue ... taking different approaches and sides on a case ... and wished he had told Nick more often how much he respected him for standing up to authority and expressing his own opinions. He wished Nick knew how proud Derek was to have him as a member of the team; and, he prayed he'd get the chance to rectify the oversight and be able to tell him!

* * * * * * *

Nick lay, unable to move, on the cold floor. He could hear the voices of his friends but could not always make out the words they were speaking. He knew they were worried and saying words of comfort, but he found he was unable to respond in any way. Each time he tried to push himself to open his eyes -- or even simply move a part of his body -- a fresh wave of pain would wash over

him and he would feel himself slipping farther and farther into the darkness; however, one thought kept pushing him forward, towards his friends and towards life ... he wouldn't let Jonathan win! Not this time ... not ever! He continued to struggle to regain consciousness and hoped he'd be able to help those that he loved and cared about before it was too late!

* * * * * * *

To the others, it was clear that Nick's condition continued to worsen as time wore on. They were unaware of his valiant and continuous efforts to wake up and help them with their impending task to try to rid themselves of Jonathan's spirit. Derek, Philip and William argued constantly, nerves beginning to overcome logic and common sense, as they tried desperately to think of a way to banish Jonathan forever. Alex found it difficult to even look in Nick's direction; when she had touched him, she had felt his suffering and couldn't bare to think of what life would be like without him if he died!

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Rachel had once again taken a break -- she needed one both physically (from positioning her body awkwardly on the floor in order to care for Nick) and emotionally (she felt completely drained as she watched the young man she cared so deeply about slipping further and further away!). She walked over and made a cursory check of Mitchell and was pleased to discover that his

concussion was indeed mild, just as Alex had assumed it was. She joined Derek, William and Philip as they discussed and rejected theory after theory on how they might be rid of Jonathan Boyle's malevolent spirit. Finally, she re-joined Arthur Peterson, who steadfastly remained close to Nick.

"Kid's not lookin' too good," he said, needlessly as she approached. "Isn't there somethin' I can be doin' fer 'im?" She could tell that Nick held a special place in Arthur's huge heart and, secretly, wondered to herself if there were a "special" reason why! She shook her head, feeling too overwhelmed with emotion to speak and watched as he hung his head down and softly said, "It's gonna be fine, Partner. You just hang in there, ya hear?!"

"Isn't that touching," said the voice of Jonathan Boyle a split second before he began to physically appear. "Maybe you have something you want to confess to me ... Tex?!" Jonathan Boyle said as he approached Arthur Peterson and the still-unconscious Nick. "I have to say," he continued, "that if he is your son, Art, he doesn't look very much like you ... he's got a much smaller build than you do, for one thing!"

Arthur knew Jonathan was taunting him into -- what, a confession? action? he didn't know -- and he responded by rising and standing between the approaching apparition of Jonathan and the unconscious body of Nick. "Yer not gonna touch 'im again, Johnny!" he declared. "I got nothin' to confess to you, but I sure as Hell am not gonna just stand here and let you lay another finger on Miranda's boy!"

'So,' Jonathan thought happily, 'at last I have my victim.' He glared at Arthur Peterson with renewed hatred in his eyes. "Confess, damn you," Jonathan shouted at Arthur. "I want to hear you say it before you die!" He began to envision in his mind how he would reach into "good ol' Art's" chest and pull out his still-beating heart! "Admit it ... it was you!" he shouted.

Both William and Derek then stepped forward and stood beside Arthur. Jonathan stopped his advance and scowled at the three of them. They were up to something; he could sense it! 'But, they can't cast me out forever,' he thought with satisfaction. 'I'm working for Lucifer now ... the greatest power on Earth!' He looked at the three of them and knew that the time had come. In a voice that shook the room (and practically the entire House!), he shouted, "LET THE TRUTH BE KNOWN!"

* * * * * * *

The sound of Jonathan's voice was what finally brought Nick out of his semi-coma state. His eyes shot open through pure fear -- not for himself -- but for his friends whom he was powerless to protect. Jonathan, perhaps sensing something, glanced around the others to the still form on the floor, but Nick shut his eyes again before the spirit could see that he was awake. Jonathan looked away again, and Nick half-opened his eyes, keeping his breathing slow and steady, watching the scene unravelling before him.

Arthur, William and Derek still stood in front of Jonathan, united against their former colleague. "We've been talking," Derek told the spirit calmly. "None of us are Nick's father; if any of us had been, we would've known."

"Then one of you is lying," Jonathan said, simply. He looked straight at Art. "And I know which one of you it is."

Art unconsciously took a step back. "It isn't me!" he protested, shaking his head vehemently. "I wish to God Nick was my son, but he isn't! Johnny, he's yours -- why won't ya believe us?!"

Jonathan made a disgusted sound. "We've been through this, Art! One of you had an affair with Miranda, and I want to know who is was!" Jonathan moved, very quickly and very suddenly, grabbing Art by the front of his shirt. "I know it was you, Art!" Jonathan said softly. "Why don't you just own up to it 'Partner', and make it easier on everyone else?" When Art didn't reply,

Jonathan made a frustrated sigh. "Look, if you confess, I promise to kill everyone very quickly ... they won't feel a thing! I tell you what, I'll even let the women and the butler go now! And, just for good measure, I'll even throw in the Priest!"

"You'll do no such thing!" Rachel was indignant. "We're staying here!"

Jonathan shrugged. "As you wish." He closed his eyes suddenly, as if in pain, and he let go of Art, who stumbled back. Jonathan turned toward Philip, furious. "What are you trying to do, 'Father', kill me?!" he yelled. Philip, who had been chanting Latin exorcisms under his breath, took a surprised step back. Then, seeing the effect it was having on Jonathan, he started up again. Jonathan winced in pain, and quickly Derek and William joined in the chant.

" provincio ad abyssum tibi paratum ..." "Jonathan let out an angry roar, and the three fell silent.

Jonathan grinned at them. "Guess it didn't work, boys! I was sent by Satan -- nothing you can do is going to get rid of me ... unless one of you knows something the others don't!" Then Jonathan turned to Mitchell, a disgusted look on his face. "Oh, God, it wasn't you, was it?!" He then laughed cruelly.

"I know who it is," said a quiet voice. They all turned to the corner. Nick was standing there -- with some difficulty -- leaning heavily against the wall. His breathing was laboured, and blood was again running freely down his face and body from the newly-opened gashes.

"Oh, pray tell!" Jonathan said, gloatingly. "And just who do you think it is, you little bastard?"

"Well, you see," Nick smiled secretly, "Mom was always very friendly with the postman ... maybe you should ask him."

Jonathan glared at the young man. "That's ludicrous!"

Nick's smile disappeared. "So's the idea that one of these guys is my father! Why don't you just believe it? As much as I hate the idea -- you are my father!"

Jonathan faltered. He couldn't believe that, even after the beating, Nick was still standing up to him! It used to be that Nick wouldn't even come near his father after they had had an encounter, but now to defy him like this -- now that took guts! "You ... I ..." he stammered, lost for words and unsure of himself.

"Face it, 'Dad', you're just a puppet," Nick said calmly. "Satan is just using you to get rid of us -- of 'The Legacy'. That's the real reason you're here. He's using you!"

"No ... no ..." Jonathan's face grew hard. "That isn't true!!!" he yelled. He tipped back his head, flinging his arms wide. "If none of you will tell me," he screamed, "I'll just kill you all!" With his words, the entire House began to rumble, rocking gently at first, then shaking as if an earthquake had hit them. Books began to fall from the shelves, the windows shattered inwards, and furniture began to be toppled over. The people in the room were sent sprawling, crying out in pain as books and shards of glass assaulted their unprotected skin. Nick, however, remained on his feet, clinging to the bookcase. He ignored the glass stinging his skin, instead glaring at his father.

"No more ..." he whispered. Then, louder, "NO MORE!!!" Jonathan turned to him, the House stopping its movement. The people on the floor looked on, fixated, as father faced son in the final showdown.

Jonathan stared down at the smaller man. He began to wonder now if he ever really knew Nicholas. "You said something?" he inquired, mockingly.

"What happened to you?" Nick asked, shaking his head. "Why the Hell'd you become so evil?"

"The 'evil' was growing in your mother's womb," Jonathan replied. "Everything would've been fine if it weren't for you. God, why didn't she get rid of you like I told her?!"

Nick, pale-faced with anger, unleashed his wrath on his father. "It wasn't my fault! It was you -- you and your goddamned drinking! It was your mess, not anyone elses! Do you know what it's like, to hear your mom crying every night; living in fear of what might happen? God, I thought of killing myself so many times, but I couldn't do it ... I couldn't leave mom like that! Do you know what that's like ... to live with that fear?! Do you?!"

Jonathan remained silent, staring at Nick. "And, I could never tell anyone," Nick continued, his voice quiet and pain-filled. "I could never tell anyone; not because they wouldn't listen, but because they wouldn't hear. No one hears what they don't want to know. I tried to tell people; the social workers, the doctors, my teachers ..." he gave a bitter laugh. "I even tried to tell Derek once, but you'd broken my jaw and I couldn't talk. I just couldn't believe that this great man everyone talked about -- the one who saved his colleagues lives on countless occasions -- would be the same man who, every night, would come home and beat his wife and kid. What about that

oath you took, 'Dad'? The Legacy Oath? To protect against evil? To fight on the side of good, and not to give in, even when the odds are stacked against you? What about that? You might have kept that vow when you were here, but you sure forgot to bring it home with you!"

Silence hung thick in the room. Nick, having said all he had to say, leaned back against the wall, never taking his eyes off his father. Jonathan stared back, speechless. A cold feeling had grown in his stomach, the feeling that everything the kid had just said could be true. "Oh, my God ..." Jonathan whispered. "What have I done ..."

At that moment, a great rumble filled the air, and the ground beneath Jonathan began to crack. Brilliant red light burst forth from the gash, illuminating his terrified face. "No!" he shrieked. "No, not yet! I'll kill them ... I promise! Just give me some more time! Please, no, don't...!"

But it was too late. Jonathan's form elongated, twisting, as he shrieked in agony. He began to slide into the deep hole, screaming all the while. "Nooooo.......!!!" The light disappeared as the gap closed swiftly, cutting off Jonathan's screams, then all was silent once more.

* * * * * * *

The room was in shambles! Mitchell stood up from his hiding place and looked around distressed thinking of the hours ... the days! ... it was going to take to clean this place up. Alex observed the plaintive look on the kind-hearted butler's face and walked over to him. "Don't worry about all

this, Mitchell," she assured him, "we'll help you take care of it in a day or two. Right now, I think we better get you upstairs and to bed."

"Yeah," Arthur chipped in, coming over to help Alex escort Mitchell to his room. "Why don't ya let us wait on you for a change there, Partner?!" He smiled back at the others. "I'll come right back and so that we can get Nick here to a hospital." With that, Alex, Mitchell and Arthur Peterson left the room.

For once, Nick did not object to the idea of going to the hospital ... he could use the rest ... and he could also use the time alone! Nick felt devastated ... and not just because of the injuries he had sustained -- Jonathan's accusations about his parentage had upset and affected him more than anyone would have guessed or realized. He had always wondered as a kid why his father was so cruel; why his father chose to drink instead of share his pain and anguish with his family; what Nick had done that made him so unlovable in his father's eyes?! Now, the question had been asked ... but no real answer had been given!

He sat awkwardly in a chair, trying to adjust his body in some -- any! -- comfortable position and found it impossible. Rachel continued to hover over him, trying simultaneously to keep him still and quiet as well as trying to wrap or dress his wounds. He secretly wished, however, that she would quit fussing over him. Philip, also, would not leave Nick alone, asking every two seconds if he was "alright" or if he "needed anything". 'Yeah,' Nick thought, 'to be left alone!'

Derek and William both looked exhausted ... and they were! Derek had walked over shortly after Jonathan's spirit left forever to check on Nick's condition. He could tell that not only was the young man in great physical pain, but emotional and psychological anguish as well and walked away, giving him time. Now, both he and William walked over to assist Rachel in getting Nick to the front door for his trip to the hospital.

* * * * * * *

Arthur, Derek, Philip and Rachel took Nick to San Francisco County Hospital. It took only a cursory look at the beaten and bruised patient for the nurses to immediately admit him and get a bed for him. The doctor on call took over an hour giving Nick a thorough examination and ordering a battery of tests. Arthur manned the phones, calling every 20 minutes to keep Alex, Sloan and Mitchell updated on Nick's condition.

Hours later, the four were allowed to visit Nick; "but only for a few minutes," the doctor had stressed, "I've given him a sedative and I don't want him fighting it. It looks like he's been through enough of a fight for one night!"

"Amen to that!" Arthur exclaimed. He chose to hang back, allowing Derek, Philip and Rachel to go in to visit Nick; he felt he'd be more useful calling Alex and William and letting them know that Nick would indeed be alright. As he entered the phone booth, he silently said a prayer of "thanks" to God for the way things had turned out; and, he remembered to say a quick prayer for Miranda as well.

* * * * * * *

Entering the room, the three Legacy members were shocked at the amount of equipment Nick was attached to! If the doctor hadn't assured them that he was going to survive, they would have doubted it by the look of the equipment in the room and the condition of the patient lying so still in the bed.

As they quietly approached, Nick opened his eyes and tried to focus. Before he could speak, Derek quickly said, "Nick ... don't try to talk right now; the doctor wants you to rest. There's going to be plenty of time to talk about everything later!"

Nick shook his head in what appeared to be disagreement. He struggled and finally got out the one word that would mean something to his companions ... "Journal". Derek and Rachel exchanged puzzled looks, but Philip leaned in toward his friend and asked, "Are ya askin' us t'bring you yer Journal?"

Nick nodded and closed his eyes. His body had begun to ache once again -- the blissful numbness of the medication was starting to wear off! -- and he longed for the promised sleep to come. He heard Derek say, "I don't think you need your Journal right now, Nick; but we'll bring it to you as soon as your able to write in it." Only a portion of that answer was heard by Nick as he drifted off to sleep.

* * * * * * *

Arthur Peterson sat in a seat at the San Francisco Airport. William had offered him a plane ride back on the Legacy jet, but he had declined saying that he didn't care for those "itty bitty planes". The truth of the matter was, he wasn't going home to Texas -- at least, not just yet! He was headed to Boston and Miranda's bedside. He knew he wouldn't be able to rest until he had at least let her know that she was no longer in danger; let her know that her boy was gonna be just fine; and let her know that, if she ever had anything to share with him ... well, her secret would be safe with him!

* * * * * * *

William Sloan made one last trip to County Hospital to check on and say "good-bye" to Nick before he returned to London. As he entered the young man's room, he noticed with amazement that Nick was already sitting up in bed and writing furiously in his Journal. "Well," he said as he approached the bed, "it looks like you're gonna be well enough to get out of here pretty soon. I guess it's safe for me to leave." He smiled at Nick and was pleased to see the smile returned.

"You're heading back to London, then?" Nick asked. Sloan nodded and Nick closed his Journal and stretched out his hand to the older man. "I'm glad you stopped by before you left; I wanted a chance to say 'thanks' ... thanks for everything!"

William nodded and said, "Take care of yourself. Don't push it and don't let Derek push you, either!" He joined Nick in light-hearted laughter knowing that Nick would appreciate his once again "sparring" where Derek was concerned. He then shook Nick's hand one more time and headed to the Lobby to meet Derek. "Ready to go," he told Derek as he approached him. "Keep me posted on how he's doing, alright?"

Derek nodded and then asked, "Are you stopping off in Boston to see Miranda before you head back?" The two men stared long and hard at each other; finally, Sloan nodded that he was. "Give her ... my best," Derek stumbled. "Tell her ... tell her I'll watch out for Nick; she's not to worry

about him." Sloan stood once again staring for an extended period of time at his friend and then nodded that he would. With that, he turned and left for the private airport where the Legacy jet stood waiting.

Once en route to Boston and alone at last, William Sloan pulled out his own Journal and began to write his thoughts and impressions on what had happened over the course of the past week:

Well, as I suspected, the death of my comrades from that era in the San Francisco House were connected; they were caused by my one-time friend and associate, Jonathan Boyle! How ironic that it would be Jonathan to turn to the Dark Side and now do Satan's work when he had once been so obsessed with being righteous. He was always the head-strong and courageous one of our group. Little did we realize the personal demons he was struggling with. But we should have!

I think back on those days ... the days before he married Miranda ... and realize now that he had been a different man -- more at ease, carefree and jovial. It was after the marriage and after Miranda's announcement of her pregnancy that he had changed!

But, why? Why did he suspect one of us ... his friends ... of being Nick's biological father?! Surely he didn't really believe that! It still doesn't make sense to me. And yet, I can see in Nick Boyle's eyes, the doubt -- the wonder -- the uncertainty. And, even more disturbing is the fact that I not only see it in Nick's eyes, but I see it in Derek's ... and yes, in mine ... as well!

I love Patricia with all my heart. But, Miranda was my "first love". She was so friendly, warm and beautiful that we all fell in love with her when she joined the San Francisco House. I think back on those few, rare "dates" Miranda and I had and remember how naïve -- how innocent and loving -- she was! Even now, I don't believe she ever meant to date all the men within the House ... it just happened that way. She was "too nice" to say "no". We all felt that Jonathan had been damn lucky to have been the one she finally chose to marry.

But, thinking back to the days after the marriage, I realize that she had changed too. She was so distant -- so sad and dejected -- whenever I visited her after Nicholas was born. Was Jonathan abusing her too? Nick certainly implied as much! Damn it, if I only knew ... only knew why ... Jonathan suspected that Nick wasn't his son!

The only hope of ever getting an answer to this question lies 35 minutes away in Boston. Soon, we'll be landing and I'll head to the hospital. All I can do is pray that Miranda will wake up; that she will still have her memory of things past and present; and that she'll finally put to rest Jonathan's accusations!

* * * * * * *

Nick was finally alone again. Derek had stopped in and spent nearly 2-1/2 hours with him, discussing every topic from sports and the weather to movies (as if Derek ever went!) and music. Pretending to be exhausted, Nick finally convinced Derek to leave. He could tell that the Precept had touched on every topic but the one he wanted to, but that was fine with Nick ... at least for now!

He picked up his Journal once again and re-read the entry he had started before Sloan walked in earlier in the day:

Part of me feels like this isn't over yet! I don't believe he'll be back, but his memory ... what he did and what he said ... is going to be a lot harder to banish than he was. I wish to God I could talk to Mom! But then, just thinking of him in that car with her ... the accident ... none of it makes any sense!!

As he read the words he had written, he felt himself beginning to relive the whole terrible ordeal again and had to push back the memories and pick up the pen in order to continue forward instead of going back. He wrote:

Sloan stopped by to say he was leaving. It could be my imagination, but I feel like he looks at me differently now; not because I think he "believed Jonathan", but simply because the accusation ... the doubt ... is "out there" now. At least, I think that's why! I feel like I don't know anything any more!

The worse part about all of this is that some of what "Jonathan" said did make sense. After all, he hadn't been all bad. I remember playing basketball out in the driveway with him sometimes; I remember the first time we had a "serious talk" about girls -- when I was in the 5th Grade!; I remember when Mom had the flu and he made dinner for her and I and then took care of her the rest of the night; and I remember opening my eyes and seeing him watching me from the doorway as I drifted off to sleep many different nights.

So, why would he do it to his own son ... or his wife?! Why would he come home some evenings and start drinking until he started hitting?! Why would he toss me across the room and start beating on me simply because I made too much noise "tapping my pencil on the table while doing my homework?!" Why would he scream at Mom and starting hitting her because she "made carrots instead of corn?!" I just don't understand!

There's so much about my childhood I've tried to block out. Hell, I don't even call my mother now because the sound of her voice brings back so many painful memories! But now, seeing the way Sloan ... and even Derek ... look at me, I can't help but wonder! I do remember how close she felt to them; and, I remember how melancholy she would get and how she would talk so affectionately about her "dear friends". God ... did she have an affair with one of them?! And, if so, which one?!

But, in all honesty, I can't think about any of that now! I just want to concentrate on getting out of here and getting things back to normal -- whatever the Hell that is! The only question is ... between Derek and I ... can things ever be "normal" until we're sure of the truth?!

* * * * * * *

It was 2:45 A.M. and Derek was still wide awake, staring out the window of his office. His thoughts continually shifted from Nick to Miranda to Jonathan and to those days in the past. He had sat up most of the evening, sharing bits and pieces of his past with Rachel; but she had left hours ago and his mind still couldn't find any peace. He reached for his Journal hoping that, if he put everything down on paper, it would alleviate some of his repressed thoughts and feelings. He wrote:

William phoned to say that he was leaving Boston a few hours ago. He had stayed with Miranda only a short time because she is still comatose; the doctors aren't sure when -- or if! -- she'll ever regain consciousness. I suppose I'll have to tell Nick this tomorrow when I visit him ... but I'm not looking forward to it. William said that Arthur Peterson was arriving just as he was about to leave. So, apparently, all three of us can't let go of Jonathan's accusations!

I visited with Nick for nearly three hours today, but couldn't bring up Jonathan or the accusations he had made. There's so much I feel we need to discuss! But, the way he looks at me, I know he must be trying to figure out if Miranda and I did indeed have a relationship. I need to explain to him what that relationship was ... and why it ended. I just don't know how; I wasn't even able to discuss it with Rachel this evening ... how will I ever be able to discuss it with Nick?!

Looking back over this Journal, I realize now that there will be no resolution to all of this ... not until Miranda wakes up -- if she wakes up! -- to confirm or deny Jonathan's accusations! Until that time, I must attempt to continue my relationship with Nick as it has always been ... as his Precept, his mentor and his friend. But, I do agree with one thing that Jonathan had said ... it is time to let the truth be known!

THANKS: Of course, we would like to identify ourselves ... Alyssa Joffe and Sherri Smith! Further, we would like to thank everyone who is connected with Poltergeist: The Legacy (actors, writers, crew, distributers, producers, etc!). We would also like to say a very heartfelt "Thank You" to Clarianna for maintaining this Website! Last, but NEVER least, we would like to thank you for reading our work -- both collectively and individually! Without you ... what's the point?!