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  B L a C K   W i D o W   II   by Susan F  
 

.

Her fingers traced his jaw and he swallowed his suddenly dry throat. It felt as if she were tracing a trail of fire down his body, everywhere she touched. He found himself shivering in reaction as she slowly moved against him, in tune with the slow sultry music.

"I-" he started to speak, only to have her put her finger over his lips and then replace it with her lips.

Their lips met, melded, the tip of her tongue touched his bottom lip, seeking entrance. He moaned and gave it to her, feeling the friction it created as he joined in……

Nick woke with a start and looked around his darkened room, the sheets down about his waist and chest covered in a fine sheen of sweat. He was shaken by his dream and tried to pull himself together even as a knock sounded softly at his door.

He remembered the last time he had felt like that. Damn, he wished he could have seen the woman’s face…

"Come in." he made himself call out as, firmly pushing the memory and dream aside, he watched Sara come in and look at him curiously.

The look turned to one of concern as she noticed the state he was in.

He shook his head at her silent question and pulled the sheet back. He didn’t feel like talking about it and got up.

She took his cue and looked at him teasingly "Cute shorts, Boyle."

He looked down at them, his boxers, and gave her a mock lecherous grin "Thanks. Now you have the secret all of my admirers have been begging for, briefs or boxers. Give me a minute?"

She was already dressed in her gray sweats, ready for their usual morning run. She shrugged and sat down. Usually it was her that was running late (no pun intended) and he that usually made himself comfortable on her bed.

He grabbed his own running apparel and went into the bathroom to change.

Sara stared at the rumpled sheets and covers and decided to return a favor he had done for her - more than once, she thought dryly.

Nick came out and found her finishing his bed, smiling as he remembered that first day and that he had also made her bed after she had had a nightmare. The smile faltered.

"Ready to run?" She asked as she straightened and faced him " We have about an hour, maybe two before the others wake up. Don’t forget about the fair and Kat this afternoon."

Nick nodded and followed her out. He had almost forgotten about the fair.

He needed to run. He needed to get some clarity. He needed, he thought moodily, to get a grip! He had told Sara that he was okay with being so close to Pier 3. And he had promised the kid.

--- 

"Oh, man," Sara groaned as they returned to the house over two hours later. They were both covered with sweat and breathing hard.

Nick looked at her and smiled apologetically. He had killed them with his pace – and she had kept up, seeming to know what he was going through and determined to go through it with him. Just like Julia used to.

They started up the stairs. They had to take showers before it was time to go to the Control Room. They were up the stairs and at their respective doors when Nick called to her.

She looked at him, eyebrows raised, "Hmm?"

"Thanks. For this morning."

She shrugged and smiled softly "No problem, Nick. It was nothing."

"No, it wasn’t." he told her "Anyone else would have given up on me after the first couple of miles and stopped."

Her smile faded and she told him how she felt, "You would have done the same thing for me, Nick. But, you’re welcome."

The edge of his lip curled up in a half smile, and then he went into his room.

---

Derek watched as the two youngest members of his House entered the Computer Room. He had just had a long talk with Rachel and listened to her take and suggestions on the case both she and Alex were working on. So far, all three of them highly suspected the mansion haunting was a fake. They just had to prove it so she and Alex could return.

Actually, he thought with a self-humorless smirk, he only listened. Rachel hadn’t given him a chance to speak until she had finished what had ended in her tirade about being sent on a wild goose chase and missing Kat’s Spring Break.

He chuckled as the two went to their usual places.

"Good morning." He greeted them as he got down to business "Reports?"

Nick started downloading news articles, while Sara downloaded and then read through their emails and postings.

"The haunting Alex and Rachel are looking into is still making headlines," Nick reported back "Boy disappears near Austin, Texas, Ritual killings in New York.. Just the usual."

Derek looked at Sara, only to look up as Kristin entered through the hologram-wall.

The phone call she had gotten had obviously lasted longer than he had expected. He would talk to her about the content of the conversation when the team was finished with the meeting.

The women quietly nodded to each other. They didn’t exactly hate each other, but they weren’t the best of friends either.

Sara looked up at the screen as her report scrolled up "Nothing out of the usual unusual for us. Other Houses are already looking into the major ones. So far, a quiet day."

She knocked on her terminal and picked up the coffee Nick had brought her. Thank goodness for caffeine.

"Umm," she took a quick sip and then looked at Derek "Wanna go to the fair with us?"

Her Precept looked at her, the other members looking at them both. He, go to a fair? He couldn’t even remember if he had ever been to one.

"I don’t think so. A fair is not my kind of scene."

"Have you ever been to one?"

He looked at her again, then gave up the pretense of keeping a straight face and smiling at her tenacity "No."

"Well then," she asked with satisfaction "How do you know it isn’t your scene? You might like that medieval thing they’re doing today."

Nick snickered, but let her go on. Was she serious? Did she really think Derek would actually go to one of those things? It was cool for them, but Derek?

"Women, dancing, ale, eating, being merry…a new part of the fair to entice the adults. Done any of that before?"

She was grinning teasingly at him, but instead of being insulted, Derek found the idea intriguing. Why not? Hmmm…

"What about Kat?" he asked.

Sara smiled "Kat will be fine. I plan on hanging out with her and we don’t expect you to stick with us. We’re planning on using Nick to win all of the cupie dolls we can hold and ride the rides until we beg for mercy."

Derek chuckled at the visual she had conjured up in his mind. Then, teasingly and surprising everyone except Sara, playfully murmured,

"Women…"

"All right, I’ll go." He said, surprising the others "What time?"

"Noon. Jeans a must, shaving optional, and suits are out. Kristin?"

The other woman looked at her, a little surprised that she would be asked. Sara was genuine in her invitation too.

"Okay."

Sara nodded with satisfaction. Maybe, just maybe, she thought, they could start to find a common ground. Having fun always seemed to work for her.

"Is that all you can find?" Derek asked them both, finishing up with business.

"That’s it." Nick answered for both of them.

"Then why don’t we call this a day? If anything should turn up, we all have our phones and pagers, right?"

Right.

Derek dismissed them, with the promise he would meet them all in the foyer at noon.

The others left; Nick immediately stopping Sara when he was sure they were out of earshot from the room and chuckling at her ‘coup-de-gra’.

"I can’t believe he said yes." He admitted with an admiring look "You are one powerful babe."

Sara laughed and turned to Kristin. She had extended the invitation in hopes of finding some kind of middle ground with the other woman. She knew she couldn’t go on with the insult-trades they often exchanged if Kristin was going to stay at the San Francisco House—or even in the Legacy. They had to find some other way to communicate with each other. One with better results.

Nick realized the same thing and was glad Sara had suggested the other to go. He just hoped they wouldn’t regret it. His encounters with Kristin, so far, hadn’t been of the stellar kind.

"Remember," Sara reminded her before she left "Straight up noon, okay?"

For once, the woman’s expression wasn’t tinged with sarcasm and she even winked in response before going up the stairs "Got it. See you then."

Sara then turned to Nick, "How about you?"

He still couldn’t believe she had been able to get Derek to go, or the way Kristin just acted, and looked at her with a ‘should-I-ask’ look "What?"

"Do you mind being used for a cupie fest?" she asked him teasingly, still enjoying her coffee.

He grinned and chucked her under the chin "Not at all, kid. Lead me on."

She gave him a sassy come-hither look that was all play and a mimic of an old movie they had seen the night before "Don’t tempt me big boy."

He almost choked on his laughter. The minx!

Sara’s smile suddenly turned to a concerned frown.

"What?" he asked, his smile fading.

"Are you comfortable with this? With Pier 3? I know it’s a little late to ask, but I wasn’t sure I really had a right…"

He looked at her, knowing exactly what – or who- it was she was referring to. He had told her about Karen a few weeks ago.

"If anyone has the right, Sara, you do." He told her with a half smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes "But, she’s gone and I can’t avoid it forever. And yeah, I’m okay with it. Really."

Which meant, she thought as they went downstairs to finish their usual morning routine, he would face it. Whether he really was okay with it or not.

Sara gave his back a concerned look as he led the way. There was no telling how he would feel once there. Saying and doing, she knew from personal experience, were two totally different things. Even for Nick Boyle.

---

Nick got off of the bike and took off his helmet, putting both his and Sara’s on each handle and locking it so it couldn’t be moved or tampered with. He heard the noise of the fair and saw the people milling all around. It was already getting crowded. Derek, Kristin, and Kat, all in Derek’s car, parked near them and got out.

He looked at the water. The pier was still a few blocks away. He was glad Sara had suggested the bike. He would have felt closed up in his Mustang right about now.

"Ready?" he asked, smiling in hopes of seeing the worried expression Sara still wore turn into a smile of her own.

Her lips curved up, her gaze telling him that she was there for him "Yeah."

Kat approached them with an excited grin as she took both of their hands "Let’s go ride the Ferris wheel first. See if we can see the house?"

Both adults knew they wouldn’t be able to, but Kat’s enthusiasm was infectious and they couldn’t resist. Derek and Kristin joined them, also enjoying Kat’s reaction to their surroundings. Derek looked at Nick and knew the struggle the young man was feeling. He decided to help Kat and rubbed his hands together in anticipation.

"Care to join me?" He asked, looking at Kristin "The Ferris wheel sounds like fun."

"You two can catch up." Nick grinned at them as he challenged both Sara and Kat "Wanna race?"

"Go!" both Sara and Kat yelled as, without giving him an answer, they both took off toward the ride.

"Cheater! Get back here and play fair! Come on, Kristin!" Nick offered before he too took off. Derek thought they all looked like kids given a free day-pass from private school and looked at Kristin. She was still beside him.

She smiled ruefully and admitted her dislike of fairs "I have been to one before. Didn’t like it. But, I thought it would be good to spend some time with the others."

Derek nodded, understanding. Then, grinning like Nick, gave her the same kind of challenge, "I’ll race you."

"Hey!" was all he heard as he took off in a run of his own. He wasn’t going to be the damper of this party.

The Carnie at the target range watched them as the first two Legacy members passed, her brown eyes memorizing everything about them.

--- 

"Oh, man!" Nick laughed about an hour and a half later as they started to pass that booth and the Carnie inside "That was fun! Did you see Derek?"

Kat giggled, "Yeah, and I saw Kristin too. They’re having fun."

Sara smiled and stroked her hair "What about you, kiddo?"

Kat’s eyes sparkled. She didn’t even have to say how much fun she was having.

Nick looked at the booth behind them, seeing Derek and Kristin. They were both trying to shoot basketballs through a couple of too-small hoops to win a prize.

Sara had had a good idea going when she had invited them. And, he admitted with a look at the water, he had gone for a full 2 hours without having thought about Karen.

Sara placed her hand in his and squeezed it gently.

"Thanks." He murmured before turning to the booth they were at. A shooting range.

"Can I get something to drink?" Kat asked Sara.

"I’ll take her." Kristin was suddenly there and offering "I can use a drink myself."

Sara nodded and watched them go. It wasn’t until then that she realized Nick was still holding her hand and decided to just let it stay there. It felt good. How good, she wasn’t going to admit, but it did feel good.

"Win your girl a prize." The woman that was running the booth came up to them, drawing Sara’s gaze to the game they were at. She was going to correct the woman about calling her Nick’s girl but Nick squeezed her hand and pointed to the prize. He was obviously having a good time.

She rolled her eyes and pointed to a teddy bear, brown and fuzzy and wearing a leather jacket that looked remarkably like the one Nick was wearing "That one."

"Wouldn’t you like a bigger one?" The woman asked as she gave Nick an appreciative once over "He looks like he could win it for you."

Sara looked at Nick, smiling when he just shrugged bashfully and shyly released her hand. Poor Nick, she thought humorously. Face demons, ghosts, and other paranormal what-have-you's and he was afraid of giving her the wrong idea. She grinned at him impishly and decided to see if she could make him even more uncomfortable.

"I’m sure he could. Big strong man that he is. Cute as sin, too."

Nick actually turned his face away and she giggled, the woman running the booth giving him another look-over and agreeing before he turned back and gave them both a mock scowl.

"Do you want the bear or not?" he tried to sound threatening as he studied and then picked up a pellet gun and thought to himself; Only a centimeter off. Not bad. The way Sara was making him feel and the struggle he had at keeping it hidden? Bad. Didn’t she know what she could do to a man?

Thankfully, she must have decided to spare him because she gave him a simple answer and waited "The one with the jacket."

Nick looked at the bear and noticed what it was wearing "Cute, just like mine. A souvenir?"

Sara just smiled and looked to her left.

Hey, she thought as she looked toward the guardrail by the water. She could swear that was Kat, but where was Kristin? "I’ll be right back. I’ll take the big one too – if you can manage it."

Nick smirked and pulled out a couple of bills to give to the carnival woman

"Known her long?" the carnie asked him as soon as Sara had left "Seems to be a nice girl."

Nick looked at Sara’s retreating back and answered part of the question before putting his elbows on the provided arm rest and taking aim "Yeah, she is."

The Carnie eyed him and then the woman that had just left. She would do nicely. Very nicely.

"Is she your girlfriend?" she asked him casually "I didn’t see a ring."

Nick spared her a humorous look. The woman was obviously a busy body. He couldn’t fault her for it, even half suspected most carnies were for the distraction property it served for their customers.

He leaned and started to take aim.

"Kat?" Sara approached the girl that still faced the water, with her back against the older woman’s "Where’s Kristin?"

Both Kat and Kristin had found Nick and now stood behind him as he finished his game. Kat looked at Kristin and then looked toward the pier’s railing, "There’s Sara."

Kristin looked and saw Sara touching a girl’s shoulder. She’d bet Sara thought the girl was Kat

"The girl looks like you." She said " Let’s go catch her before she scares a mother."

"Kat –" Sara reached for the girl, only to step back in embarrassment when the girl turned and looked at her curiously. It wasn’t Kat "Ooops, sorry. I—"

"What?!" a woman suddenly at the girl’s side snarled at her viciously "Did you think you could replace me?"

Sara’s head whipped up, shocked. She didn’t need to be told who it was she was looking at. She knew.

The girl continued to stare at her blankly, as if in a daze.

The woman approached Sara.

"You thought he would forget about me? You bitch!"

Sara raised her arm instinctually, warding off the woman’s attack as the other swung at her.

"Whoa, lady, watch out!" a clown on stilts lost his balance behind Sara, falling right at her.

Sara felt Karen’s brutal blow and knew she was falling into the water. The crowd saw the clown plow into her and then follow her into the water below. No one saw the girl or woman.

-

Nick had just finished his game and looked for the Carnie to give him his prizes. Instead, they were set on the table next to him. He picked them up and looked at Kat.

That’s when he heard the screams.

He shoved the two bears in Kristin’s arms, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

He rounded the booth, saw Sara falling and screamed her name.

Her head hit something hard. It took only seconds for him to make it to the pier’s edge and, unmindful of everything except getting to her, he jumped in.

The world around Sara exploded in a painful burst of light and then darkness. She realized then that she was under water and sinking fast and that her head had been busted open. Her body felt like lead.

Under water, Nick swam for what seemed like forever, trying to hold his breath as long as possible as he searched. He ended up having to resurface, his lungs burning.

He choked on some water as he treaded it, his gaze and voice frantic because he couldn’t find her and, unlike the clown who was already being helped up, she had yet to surface. "Sara! Sara, where are you?!?"

Sara saw a woman in front of her under water, brown eyes glaring with hatred. Sara closed hers and willed Nick to get to her. Her thoughts drifted right past the danger she was in with the succubus—as a matter of fact, her mind even started to fade around the woman’s presence, concentrating fully on the one that searched for her above.

Nick – help me….

Nick stopped his thrashing and let his gaze scan the water. He felt her.

There.

He dove under the water.

-

Kristin held the bears Nick had given her to her heart. Derek came to a sudden stop beside her, demanding to know where the other two were. All she could manage was to look at the pier with horror. Derek picked Kat up and started toward the Pier. Could Sara hold her breath that long….?

Nick broke the surface with Sara clutched to his side. Derek looked at Kat and saw Kat’s wobbly smile of relief. She hugged him reassuringly and hung on. Derek moved closer.

He then let Kat down as he scanned the water, feeling her tight hold on his waist. Then Nick broke the surface.

-

Nick held on to Sara and used a side stroke to try and get to shore, his heart practically pounding through his throat as her head lolled against him.

"Come on, Sara," he urged her between strokes "Open your eyes for me. Say something!"

Sara felt disjointed even though she heard him. All she could manage as she fought the feeling was to whisper his name.

He hugged her with relief. He couldn’t help it; when he was searching for her and couldn’t find her, he thought of Julia, and felt the same helplessness. At least, he thought, he had been here for her, unlike Julia. Thank God!

They made it to the pier. The local paramedics were already attending to the clown.

Sara started to come around and slowly shook her head to clear it "Wha--? Ouch. Nick?"

His arm tightened under her rib cage and drew her closer in a relieved hug "Right here. Do you think you can make it up on your own?"

She held on to his arm, treaded water, and looked up. She felt dizzy but wouldn’t let that stop her, "Umm, yeah."

Then she turned to look back at him, seeing the residual fear he had felt for her in his gaze.

"It’s okay, Nick. Really." She tried to assure him.

His foot was on the rung of the ladder running along the pier’s side, so he used his other hand to touch her cheek and told her raggedly "It better be, Logan. You better be."

She smiled back at him, gently wiping the wet hair out of his eyes. He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. He had been so scared –

"Sara? Nick?" Derek called down to them as he tried to spot them from above "Do we need to lower a board?"

Nick blinked and turned them both toward the ladder "No, we’re coming up!"

Then he looked at Sara "Ready?"

She nodded and started to climb. It wasn’t until she cleared the ladder and put both feet on the pier's surface that she fell, the dizziness and nausea she felt at the climb overtaking her and making her pass out.

-- 

"Will she be okay?" Kat asked Derek worriedly as Kristin handed her the dolls and went forward to help.

She watched as both Nick and Kristin went to Sara’s side. She hugged the bears and looked at the other medical people quickly converging on them. Sara had to be okay!

Sara stirred, feeling hands gently probing at the back of her head as well as her shoulders. She moaned and tried vainly to brush the hands away "I’m okay. Just help me up."

"Ma’am," a young medic tried to council her against such a move "It would be better if–"

Sara grabbed Nick’s hand and started to pull herself up.

He helped her but was listening to the medic.

"I’m fine." She said, even if her head did feel like a million drums were beating inside "I–"

Nick helped her to stand but wouldn’t let her move any more than that, his gaze raking her form critically as he came to his own decision of her well-being.

"We’re going with them, Sara. They’ll check you out at the hospital and then we’ll go home." He told her with a look that told her no amount of arguing was going to change his mind.

She sighed and looked at Kristin "Where’s Kat?"

They both looked at a spot behind them, seeing both Derek and Kat and the worried expression they both wore. Kat smiled tremulously and waved.

"Tell her to hold on to the bears." Sara told Kristin before Nick started to guide her to the ambulance "And that she can give them to me when I get back to the house. And tell them that I’m sorry I messed things up for them."

Kristin looked at her, her relief at Sara being okay evident "You didn’t ruin anything."

And then to Nick "I’ll take the bike back. Call us, okay?"

Nick nodded and led Sara to the ambulance promising to call them with an update as soon as he heard the doctor’s prognosis.

The doors of the ambulance closed behind them and they sat on a small bench-like seat huddled together. Sara had refused with a look to lay in the gurney and barely tolerated the medic’s touches as they did their own preliminary check and diagnosis.

--- 

"I hate hospitals." Sara groused six and a half-hours later as she lay down in her bed and regarded her ceiling "I always leave there feeling worse than I do going in. Next time we come home and let Rachel patch me up."

"Rachel wasn’t here." Nick smiled as he put his hands behind his head and lay down beside her. He didn’t want to leave her. He still remembered the accident and the emergency room – and the doctor’s orders for her to take it easy but not to sleep for the next 8 hours. He remembered the numb feeling he had had when the doctor had finally come out into the waiting room to give him his prognosis -that Sara had a concussion and a couple of bruised ribs that were going to turn her stomach a nice purple color by morning.

He wanted to keep an eye out for her himself.

He turned on his side and faced her, trying his best to make her smile, "Come on, Logan. Stay in bed for now and we can go to dinner later. I’ll take you to wherever you want to go."

Sara turned to him, smiling at his effort. She was tired. And felt guilty.

"I’m sorry," she told him "I know I scared you…"

Nick touched her cheek, remembering the fear he had felt and not denying it. It was something he couldn’t put into words – having seen your best friend fall into the same pier you had killed your lover succubus in, was --- well, bizarre-- even to his standards.

But Sara understood and just lay there.

"I’m sleepy." She told him, only to look down at her ratty clothes and sit up "I want to take a shower."

Nick sat up too, grimacing at his own clothes. He did too.

"Then that’s they plan, Boyle," she grinned "Get cleaned up and then go eat. I wonder if the others have eaten yet."

He shrugged and started toward the door "I’ll ask them. We could take Kat if they have."

Sara agreed. She felt like she had ruined the girl’s day and really wanted to make it up to her "Deal. Hour sound good?"

He winked at her and left. She pulled off her shirt and headed toward the bathroom. She felt dirty and the beginning of a headache coming on. She figured a long hot shower would do the trick to both.

She didn’t remember getting into the shower, didn’t even remember the sharp stab of pain she felt within her mind.

-- 

Nick whistled as he approached her door, frowning when he saw the door wide open.

"Sara?" he called out to her, not hearing the shower or any other movements from the bathroom. He walked in and stood in the center of the bedroom. Nothing was amiss.

But he knew.

"SARA!" he exploded out of her bedroom and out into the hall. Sara was gone. He sounded the alarm.

-- 

"Are you sure you haven’t seen her? Yes, thank you."

Kristin hung up from yet another useless call, only to shake her head at Derek. No one on her list has seen nor heard from Sara Logan.

Nick cursed and dragged his fingers through his hair "What now, Derek? She’s nowhere to be found!"

Derek looked at the younger man before asking, "You think its Karen?"

Nick returned his gaze, clenching his jaw before answering tightly "Yes, damn it. And she’s got Sara. I’m going out to look for her."

Derek nodded. It was a good plan – and give Nick something to do instead of standing there feeling helpless.

"Go. Kristin and I will stay here and continue to make phone calls. I’ll have an APB put out for her."

Nick left, practically slamming and cursing everything he touched. It was his fault!

Kristin looked at Derek, "You sure that was such a good idea?"

"Yes, I do. He just may be able to find her." Then, he picked up the phone. There was someone that needed to be called first, above all else. He was thankful that Krissy, Rachel’s live in sitter, had been able to pick Kat up. The girl would only have been frantic about Sara and he felt the younger woman would be equally upset about causing the girl any kind of harm.

-- 

"Where are you, Sara?" Nick rubbed at the bridge of his nose almost six hours later. It was dawn and he had been to every motel and hotel he could think of, knowing Karen would need to feed. He shuddered to think how Sara would eventually remember and take the news of her possession – but first, he had to find her. They had to get through this.

He pulled up to the Foundation’s driveway, the light from the skyline lighting his way as he stopped the car and approached the front door.

The door swung open, a frantic Phillip meeting him there. He had obviously been called about Sara.

"You didn’t find ‘er?" he asked once he realized Nick was alone.

"No."

Phillip looked at his friend, at the obvious distress he was in. He backed up and let him enter.

"Where’re the others?" Nick asked him once they had entered and shut the door.

Phillip nodded to the front sitting room and followed Nick in.

Derek looked up, saw the two men’s expressions, and knew without even having to see if Sara was with them that Nick had been unable to find her.

"Where’s Kristin?" Nick asked, noticing her absence.

"I told her to get some rest. We may have to take shifts."

Nick nodded his understanding even as he knew, no matter how insistent Derek would become, that he would not be sleeping - much less relaxing - until they had Sara back, safe and sound. Just then his cell phone rang. He jerked it out of his pocket and put it to his ear "Hello?"

Sara sobbed, unable to do anything else as she looked at the carnage around her. She looked at the blood on her hands "N-Nick?"

He inhaled sharply at the sound of her voice "Sara, where are you?"

Tears ran down her cheeks and she looked around. She saw the body on the bed and trembled even harder "I – I don’t know! Oh god, Nick, what’s –what’s happening to me?"

He closed his eyes and tried to stay steady for her "It’s okay, Sara, I’ll come get you. Where are you?"

The body on the bed, already precariously on its edge, tilted and fell in front of her. She saw the eyes and dropped the phone as she sobbed. What had she done?!

Nick sprinted up the stairs, the phone still to his ear, to the Computer Room, all the while trying to get Sara to pick the phone back up and talk to him. All he heard was her cries.

"Stay with me, hon." He begged her as, once through the holographic wall, he instigated a trace "Oh, god, just stay with me."

The main screen came to life, already tracing a path to where the phone connection with Nick ended. He turned around and rushed passed the others "I’m coming to get you, Sara. Do you hear me? I’m coming!"

He wasn’t sure if the others followed him in their own vehicles as he tore off in his own. All he could think of were Sara’s cries and, like with Julia, he hadn’t been there to help her. The line went dead. He pressed on the gas.

--

The Police and an ambulance were already there on the scene. Nick left his car running as he jumped out and ran through the policemen to get to her.

"Sara!" He called out to her as one of the policemen caught and then tried to restrain him "Let me go!"

Another man came to him, a paramedic, his voice steely as he faced Nick "Are you Nick?"

Nick’s gaze shot to the ambulance " Yes!"

The paramedic signaled for the cop to release him and then led him over. Nick barely recognized the fact that Derek’s voice was behind him and speaking to the cop that just released him. He needed to see Sara.

"Nick!" she gasped as soon as she saw him, shaking as he took her into his arms. It was the most the medics had heard her say since they had originally found her, curled up in a fetus position, on the motel room’s floor.

Nick pulled her tightly against him and buried his face in her hair. She wasn’t the only one shaking at the moment.

"Is she okay?" Derek asked from behind him, making him realize their situation and the ones around him. He looked at Sara, saw the fear in her eyes, and looked at the medic that still sat beside her. He knew they would have to go back to the hospital, to get Sara checked out.

He turned to look at Derek.

"Go with her. The others will follow you. I’ll take your car and find out more here."

Nick climbed in to sit beside her. He wasn’t about to do anything else.

--

Hours later, Nick stood outside the hospital room Sara was in, waiting for them to say it was okay for him to rejoin her. They had brought a rape specialist in - a doctor the Legacy had, on a number of occasions, had worked with - and were now examining her. He felt a tear slide down his cheek and wiped it away. They thought she had been an unwilling participant in whatever had happened in that hotel room.

If they only knew.

"Mister Boyle." the doctor came out and regarded him. He straightened and met the doctor’s gaze, somehow placing her name as Theresa Lars. The doctor shook her head in sympathy, at a loss. She took him gently by the arm and walked to the side, where they were sure not to be disturbed.

"I’m not going to lie to you, Nick." She told him, unable to soften the blow "There are signs that Sara has been – an unwilling participant – of whatever happened in that room. Fortunately, and you will see what I mean in the weeks to come, there are no signs of her having been directly involved. The samples taken from the crime scene were the John Doe and another woman's."

Nick looked at her. His whole being ran cold. Karen had made Sara watch.

"There are rope burns on her wrists." Theresa went on "And they found her without any clothes on, bruises along her back and stomach that, according to her chart, weren’t there this afternoon.

"And she is in shock."

Nick looked toward the room and then back at the doctor "Can I see her?"

Theresa nodded and watched him go. Seeing his obvious distress and Sara Logan’s obvious state of shock and physical abuse, she was still at a loss to say what had happened to her patient. She suspected, and felt sorry for the woman that now lay in that room, that only Sara knew for sure – and would have to relive it when it was time to make a statement to the police. She went to start the checkout process. She was used to the fact that none of the Luna Foundation’s personnel ever stayed the night. Having been with Sara, even with what the woman had been through, she knew that the young woman would be no exception.

--

Sara walked through the front doors of the house and hugged herself. She was cold and numb.

Derek Kristin and Phillip came out of the sitting room. Sara took one look at Phillip’s face and felt the tears fall.

Phillip went to her, holding her gently. He didn’t need to say anything. He just held her, feeling her shake helplessly in his arms. He looked at the others and then started to take her to her room. He didn’t miss the lost look on Nick’s face. He knew his friend felt responsible for what happened to her tonight and that, maybe, in Nick’s mind, Sara also held him responsible.

Sara was in no shape to walk and Phillip picked her up in his arms, careful not to jolt her.

"Give us a few minutes." He told Nick and the others "Let me get her in bed and comfortable."

Nick could only nod, his expression bleak.

Derek went up to him, "You know she doesn’t hold you to blame, Nick. She’s just hurting."

Nick looked at where Phillip had stood with Sara seconds before.

"It doesn’t matter," he told him "I am to blame."

And before the Precept could stop him, the young man turned around and left. Derek suspected he would prowl the grounds. He knew that, no matter what, Nick would not leave Sara anytime soon -- especially until Karen was stopped.

Sara slept for twelve hours straight.

She woke up to find both Phillip and Nick asleep on either side of her bed. She studied Nick’s features. He was exhausted, even in sleep. There were small purplish bruises underneath his eyes that told her that, even now, he was not getting any rest. She sighed and carefully got out of bed to go to him.

She remembered, and closed her eyes the memory of what Karen had done to her.

She gently touched his cheek and then kissed it. She would let both of them sleep; she had put them through so much already.

She, on the other hand, had to get ready. She looked down at the sweat pants and T-shirt Nick had dug out of his trunk for her at the hospital. She didn’t have time to change.

So, barefoot but careful not to wake them, she left the room and headed toward the Control Room.

Karen would be coming soon. She could feel it.

Nick stirred and touched his cheek, his gaze intent as it swept the room. Phillip was still in the chair he had fallen asleep in but the bed was empty. Phillip blinked as he too came awake.

"It’s okay," Nick told him when he noticed Sara’s absence "She’s still here."

Phillip gave him an odd look, probably wondering how he sounded so sure. He couldn’t explain it himself, but he was sure. He stood up and nodded for Phillip to follow him.

--

Both Derek and Kristin looked up from their work as Sara entered.

"It’s okay." She told them humorlessly "it’s me. What’ve you got?"

Derek tossed the book he had been reading down on the table, his usual calm demeanor shattered as he growled, "Every thing we could get out hands on that was about or on the subject of succubi but not a damned answer!"

Sara gave him a small humorless, but sympathetic smile. It was obvious her Precept felt powerless. She couldn’t blame him; she didn’t quite feel like herself either "You’re trying too hard, Derek. Have either of you crossed referenced the material with transference?"

Kristin looked at Derek, than at Sara "We crossed referenced with possession –"

"No." Sara shook her head "It’s not a possession. She’s trying to put herself –mmmgh!"

She clutched her bruised stomach and stumbled back against the wall.

Karen was coming.

Nick and Phillip entered the Computer Room.

"Sara -!" they both started to reach for her, only to have her press herself up against the wall to avoid their touch.

Her gaze locked with Nick’s, her voice strained "You’ve got to lock me up. Set up parameters –"

She gasped again. She couldn’t help it and in blind pain, grabbed and squeezed Nick’s wrist as she gritted her teeth.

Nick looked at Phillip.

"Go." The priest told him "I’ll set up the perimeters. You take care of Sara."

Nick took Sara by the waist. She managed to look at Kristin, grinding her out one word before Nick led her away.

"Transference."

"God, Sara, you’re burning up." Nick helped her into his room and on to his bed.

Sara looked at him, and he sucked in his breath. She was burning up – she was burning for him. And, as hard as he tried not to, he felt himself respond.

"You’re not kidding." She choked out before curling up into a ball away from him. She had seen the look in his eyes. "You – better – leave. Lock the door!"

That was why he had brought her here, because his room was equipped with heavy dead bolts that the other rooms weren’t.

Now, he looked at her, shaking as much as she was. He didn’t want to leave her alone-.

"Damn you!" the room suddenly exploded in a cyclone of red heat and anger as Karen suddenly appeared before the bed and glared at them both.

Sara gritted her teeth and launched herself at her.

"No," she yelled back, on the attack "Damn you!"

Karen caught her easily by the throat, at the same time flicking her hand toward an already charging Nick. Sara flinched as he was thrown back and slammed into the far wall.

"Leave him alone!" she gasped as he slumped to the floor, out cold "I thought you loved him!"

Karen’s eyes burned as, ignoring him for the moment, she lifted Sara off of the floor – still holding her by the neck – and slammed her hard up against the wall behind her.

"What is wrong with you?!" the succubus demanded "Don’t you see what I’m offering you? What I’m offering him? Of course I love him. He just doesn’t know what’s going on!"

Sara clawed at Karen’s hand, choking and her feet kicking helplessly a good foot or two off of the floor.

"We can both love him." Karen went on "For eternity. And he would accept it!"

The bedroom door opened and Phillip was there, fighting against the demonic wind to try and get through the doorway.

Karen looked at him and then gleefully back at Sara.

"I’m hungry, Sara. Come with me or I take your precious priest!"

Sara kicked the wall once more and then went still, remembering what Karen had used her for and weighing it against the danger Phillip was in. No contest.

"Okay."

She closed her eyes as Karen’s being surrounded and then entered her. She barely heard Phillip’s cry, as, in an instant, they were gone.

--- 

She woke up the next morning, still dressed, but in the second twin-sized bed that was in the motel room. She looked over at the other bed and felt a tear trail down her cheek.

She remembered everything -- including the blank spaces that had been there from the first time she had seen Karen at the fair, and the possession that had happened beneath the water.

Now, she remembered what had happened last night.

Karen had used her at a backwoods bar to seduce her intended victim and, unlike that first time, had took her form once they were in the motel room. Sara still didn’t know how Karen had managed it, but she remembered that the poor man didn’t even realize that there were two of them.

She continued to look at the body as the scene continued in her mind’s eye.

Karen had handcuffed her to the bed. The cowboy never knew what hit him until it was too late. Karen had enjoyed herself with his body and then fed off of his soul. Sara shuddered as she remembered what happened during and after the succubus’ ritual feeding.

Karen had just finished with her victim and, with a slow smile that chilled Sara to the core, turned to look at her "Now, it’s your turn to feed."

Sara pulled against the cuffs and screamed against the gag just remembering, just as she had then, when Karen had, gracefully and without thought to her nudity, got up off of her victim and approached her.

"I’m going to give you a part of me. That’s why I had to take him this time. You’re not strong enough for what I want you to have yet." The succubus had said.

Sara broke out in a cold sweat, somehow knowing what would happen.

Karen touched her cheek "Ssshhh, it only hurts at first."

She had closed her eyes – just as she did now –

"It’s okay." The succubus continued gently and in stark contrast to what was going on around them. Karen lifted her herself up and straddled her.

Sara had opened her eyes. She opened them now.

"Karen, don’t do this." She had tried to whisper against the gag.

Karen had smiled, almost motherly, and removed the offending rag.

Sara had opened her mouth to scream.

Karen also had opened hers and let the mixture of her and her newest victim’s life force explode into Sara’s. The force of the transference was so great that Sara’s body arched upwards. Karen continued the transference and held on.

Sara didn’t know how long the process had taken. She had passed out.

Now, she looked at the night table beside her, at the phone sitting there. And then she screamed.

--- 

Nick drove up to a scene mirroring the first, except he saw Sara already speaking to the police – and obviously more coherent.

He got out of the car and went to her.

"Thank God!" he breathed as she went into his arms and returned his embrace. He closed his eyes and inhaled the scent of her hair. She was still alive!

"Excuse me," the policeman that had been talking to her interrupted them by clearing his throat "But I suggest you get checked out, Miss Logan. We have your statement."

Sara turned to him and nodded, thankful that Nick kept her in his embrace "I will. At home. Call me if you find out anything."

He told her he would and then watched as the two left. He felt sorry for her. She was a good kid. He wouldn’t wish what she was going through on his worst enemy. He half suspected that she hadn’t revealed everything that had happened, but he let it go. He knew Sara Logan and the Luna Foundation. He had learned long ago that there were some things that could not and should not be explained. He had a bad feeling that this was one of those times.

Nick took off his jacket and put it around her shoulders, bundling her into the passenger side of the car. She accepted it for the emotional comfort value. She was now immune to the cool weather outside. Her new senses immediately picked out his scent and body heat. She could already feel the Call Karen had initiated within her, just by the smell of him.

Nick got in and started the car. She tamped down on the feelings and watched him put the car in gear.

He looked at her before backing the car up. She shook her head.

"Not here." She said, "Just take me home, Nick. I wanna go home."

They made it to the house an hour later.

"Sara, thank gott!" Derek was the first one at the door as they got out of the car and approached them. The others were close on the Precepts heels – all of them.

Sara hugged her precept and almost cried when he returned it tenfold. She could tell he could sense the change within her and knew just by his emotional display that they had had no luck in finding an answer.

She stepped back and looked at the two women.

"Did you come back because of me or because your seminar was finished?"

They tried to put up a brave front but Sara saw right through it and smiled sadly. Rachel and then Alex went to her and double ganged her with hugs.

"Okay, you two. You’re going to make me cry if you don’t stop." Sara finally managed to say after she cleared her throat and gently stepped out of their embrace. She didn’t have to ask how much the others knew.

She looked at her Precept, getting silent support, and then at Phillip.

"Don’t even think it, Callahan." She mock warned him "No confessions of the heart."

He gave her a gentle smile "I’ll save it until later."

She smiled and turned back to Derek "We’ve got work to do."

They followed her in as, taking the lead, she entered the house and then the Control Room.

"I remember this from New Orleans*" she told them almost an hour later and in the same outfit Nick had given her two days before "What she did to me is very similar."

"But the differences?" This question from Derek.

"I’m aware of what’s happening." She answered him frankly "I’m still alive. And, to a point, I am able to resist her."

"You resisted her in Nick’s room." Phillip said, remembering "Until I showed up."

He was standing next to her, his hand on the small table her computer keyboard was on. She put her hand over his, feeling the small leap in his heart rate that, with Karen’s instincts, told her that Phillip was reacting to her as a man, not priest. She pushed back her guilt at having seen it and made herself deal with his.

"It’s not you fault, Pip. Put it out of your mind."

He closed his eyes and nodded, gently extracting his hand from hers. He would deal with his guilt later, on his own. Right now, they had to concentrate on her.

Sara put her hand in her lap, again squelching the succubus’ influence.

"Another difference," she went on despite the fact she wanted nothing else but to cry "is that we – shared – something, something I don’t think she wanted me to have just yet."

"Something that could be used against her?" Kristin asked hopefully, to the surprise of the others.

Except Sara. Sara gave her a little smile, almost dangerous in a predator-type way.

"Maybe."

"What now?" Alex asked, standing next to a still silent Nick.

Derek looked at Sara. It was her call. She nodded and then looked at Rachel.

"I want you to go home to Kat. She’s going to need you. She’s scared."

Rachel was going to object but Sara shook her head, adamant.

"You have to go, Rachel." She said, "Kat can feel me. She knows something’s wrong. I’m sorry."

"Don’t be sorry," Rachel told her "Be okay."

Sara smiled and then looked at the others, then at Nick "I’m going to get cleaned up. Walk with me, Nick?"

Without comment, he got up and walked with her.

-- 

"Okay, Boyle –"

"Don’t, " he cut her off raggedly "Don’t ask me why I feel guilty. Don’t try and play down my role in this."

They had made it as far as her room and she opened the door and turned to him.

"Okay," she said, "I won’t. But know this –"

She reached up and cupped his cheek, her gaze and tone gentle "I do not hold you responsible or to blame for what’s happening -- and I won’t. Yes, she’s after you, granted. But-"

He met her gaze, torn. He felt helpless at having been unable to protect her from what she had gone through. And the thought of possibly losing her when it was all finally said and done….

"If I hadn’t have slept with her in the first place –"

"She’d be doing this to someone else."

Nick looked at her, unconvinced. There was no way she was going to ease his guilt.

She sighed and placed her forehead against his, her question quiet.

"Did you ask her to do this to me?"

"No!"

She smiled sweetly "Well then, I’m afraid you’re not to blame."

"And you’ve got to get over it, Nick." She added, cupping his face in both of her hands "She’s using that to get to you."

He closed his eyes, knowing what she said was true. But Sara had been violated--maybe not physically raped, but --…!

"Sara." he whispered, not knowing what he was asking but needing to feel her close to him. Needing to ease the pain of what he had caused her to go through and confused because he didn’t know how or if he ever could.

She kissed him lightly on the lips and then had to reluctantly pull away. A tear fell as he looked at her. She was being so tender with him and he had….

"Will she be back tonight?" he asked, his voice hoarse with emotion.

Sara shook her head "No. She knows I need to rest, that I’m weak, that I need to heal. She’ll wait until I –"

She closed her eyes and made herself finish the sentence "She’ll wait until I grow hungry. Then she’ll try and seduce you to join me."

He touched her, unable to stop himself, and caressed her cheek and neck. He felt he would too. The mixture of guilt and longing tore at him. Karen had done her homework well.

"Then let me stay with you tonight. I just want to hold you."

She started to shake her head. All night with Nick was pushing it.

He stroked her hair, smiling sadly "Just until you fall asleep, Sara. Then I’ll be a good little boy and go lock myself up."

She couldn’t help it and smiled, albeit tearfully. He led her into the room and gently guided her to the bathroom.

"You need to get cleaned up." He told her "I’ll be back in a few minutes."

He was going to clean himself up, too, but wanted to make sure she knew he was coming back. He gently took his jacket off of her and set it on a nearby chair. Then, he left.

He returned fifteen minutes later, dressed in jeans and a sweater but bare-footed. Sara was already in bed and dressed in a pair of pajamas.

She moved her coverlet over for him to lie down, and he did so carefully.

"Nick." She whispered when he just stared at her.

His eyes filled with tears, his tone ragged "I’m so sorry."

Sara reached out to him and held him close. He cried in a way she had never heard him cry before – even when they had opened up to each other about Julia's death.

She cried with him.

And because of the exhaustion she felt, she fell asleep first, still holding Nick’s head against her breast.

"I love you" he whispered, feeling emotionally and physically drained. He couldn’t hide from the truth and it scared him, the way he felt about Sara. Everyone he ever loved had been hurt – and Sara was no exception. He closed his eyes and pushed the fear and self-anger away. He couldn’t give into it, not now. Not until Karen was gone for good. He had to hold on to the belief that she would make it through this. She just had to.

He could never admit his true feelings. Sara had already been hurt enough because of him.

He started to get sleepy and felt his own eyes close.

---

She felt the stirrings of hunger. She felt the one beside her.

Touch him, a soft voice whispered to her, urging her to do it.

Her eyes flew open. She felt the weight of Nick’s head still laying against her heart and heard the rhythm of his breathing. He was still asleep.

He hadn’t left.

The hunger, as she concentrated on it, started to abate. So far, she coached herself, so good. She was extremely aware of the position of his body against hers. She felt her body respond.

Careful not to wake him she got up and went out into the hall. The effort of staying in control was getting harder and harder. Already she could feel a fine sheen of sweat forming about her neck and forehead. Her temperature was literally rising.

"Sara?" Phillip came out of his room and looked at her in concern.

She held up her hand to stay him "I’m fine. Just don’t touch me.

"And, um," she waved her hand at him distractedly "change your aftershave. It smells too damned good."

He smiled sadly. The cologne was on his shirt. He hadn’t put on any today.

"I’ll change. Then," his gaze softened "we can talk."

Sara looked at him uncertainly.

He winked at her and re-opened the bedroom door, not taking 'no' for an answer "I’ll ev’n wear my collar. And we cen talk ou’ by the lake."

That sounded good. She nodded.

For some reason Phillip didn’t ask her about Nick. He didn’t have to. He knew Nick was okay.

---

"Talk to me, Sara." Phillip urged her as they entered and then sat at the pavilion, by the lake she always seemed to find comfort at "I know this is tearing ye apart. I know ye."

Sara looked out over the water. It was true; Phillip did know her, better than most. He and Nick.

She looked at him, unsure.

"Ye don’t trust me?" he asked, not really meaning it but meaning to get a reaction.

She gave him a look, one she had perfected with Derek "That is not the issue here, Pip. And that was a very stupid question. I trust you with my life. It’s me I don’t trust; what I’ve become."

He grinned, admitting with a glance what he had done. Sara smiled in answer, and even went on.

"I’m scared to let it out." She admitted, "Because if I do, I might realize that I could very well lose everything I’ve come to love; the Legacy, Alex, Rachel, Derek, Kat, you…."

She stopped there. She could feel the truth coming too close to the surface. She felt that if she admitted it, it would somehow be saying that she was giving up. The feelings she was starting to have for Nick were confusing. Hell, she thought mirthlessly, it could be Karen’s emotions she could be feeling.

"…And Nick." She finished softly "and then I would get angry."

Phillip heard the unspoken words, the confusion she felt, all in her tone. He touched her gently on the cheek and wished he could take her pain "Maybe ye need te get angry, Sara. Ye know ye’ll have te do it eventually. Now would be better than later."

She reached up and touched his jaw, feeling it’s strength with the tips of her fingertips. Then, because the want was so great and she needed to prove her point, she kissed him.

He closed his eyes and returned the caress instinctually, trusting her not to hurt him.

His lips were warm…. She gasped and gently withdrew, looking at him with even more confusion.

"Why did you let me do that?" she asked, visibly shaken.

Phillip refused to look away. He wouldn’t feel guilty about what he just did, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to let her feel it either. So he schooled his expression and answered her.

"To show ye that I trust ye. Ye were going to let me feel th’ thing that Karen put in ye’, to prove yer own point. I knew ye’ wouldn’t let her hurt me."

She closed her eyes, wishing what he said were true. But she knew better. She opened her eyes and regarded him sadly.

"You cannot let that happen again, Flip." She told him "I can’t guarantee that the next time I can stop. That thing is growing inside of me-"

He held up his hand to stay her next warning, "I know. But right now, here, I can trust ye. And ye can trust me. Always."

Sara hugged him and felt the emotional dam crumble. Leave it to Phillip to break down her walls, she thought as he returned the embrace and listened to what she had to say in shock. She found herself telling him everything after that – everything from the moment she fell into the water to Nick having brought her home from the second trip from the hospital.

He shook and held on to her, no longer listening as a priest but as the man that loved her.

Neither of them knew exactly how long they stayed that way, with Sara wrapped protectively within his arms, but after a while, she had to pull back. The hunger wasn't gone and was only simmering on the surface.

Sara looked at him, her gaze solemn "At least I wasn't raped. That would have hurt Nick more than anything."

"Ye were raped, Sara." Phillip told her gently "Maybe not sexually, but you were subjected to everything without your consent and it was multiplied because of your Gift.

"And I'll wager Nick thinks the same way."

"God, I hope not." She whispered, "And I don't want the others to know, about what happened. Promise me you won't say anything."

He smiled sadly, gently and nodded. He would take it to his grave if she asked it. He also realized the significance of the bleak look Nick had had from their hospital visit, when Sara had gone into Phillip’s arms and not turned to him.

"Ye’ll survive, Sara," Phillip whispered with conviction, giving her some hope "Ye have to. And I’ll be here for ye to make sure ye do."

There was nothing left to say, so he stood and gently raised her with him. It was time to go back inside.

--

"We found it." Both Derek and Kristin announced as soon as the two entered.

Sara stopped and read the ancient text they had unearthed now prominently displayed on the main screen. The Rite. Ancient Arabic.

"We got it from your friend in the F.B.I." Derek went on before looking at them both "Is everything all right?"

They looked at each other and then Sara looked at their precept, just as the entryway sounded and Nick walked in.

"Not until we stop this." Was all she said on the matter before turning to their next plan of action and silently acknowledging Nick, who stopped silently beside her "What’s next?"

Kristin finished reading the file and turned to her "We have to get Karen’s body. The original one."

The one from the mine.

"Then let’s do it." Nick told them "What do we have to do with it?"

Derek watched Phillip step away from the couple but didn’t comment on it. He also noticed a change between Sara and Nick.

"We bring it back here and exorcise her from Sara." He answered "Once done, she will be trapped in her mortal body and able to be destroyed."

"That simple, huh?" Nick asked him sarcastically, before meeting Sara’s gaze and softening.

"How long do you have?" Derek looked at Sara, standing to begin the process.

She touched her stomach and answered, "Eight maybe twelve hours before it gets really bad."

Derek nodded and Kristin stood with him "Then we’d better hurry. Nick, we can take the chopper. It’ll cut our time down. There’s an old landing site there, hasn’t been used in over half a century."

Nick met his gaze, determined "I can land it."

Derek then looked at Phillip "I want you to watch over Sara."

The priest nodded, and they left.

---

"Umm, Phillip?" Sara came into the reading room a few hours later, her tone soft.

He and Alex looked up, both of them coming instantly to their feet.

Sara was clutching her stomach, her face covered in sweat from her effort of hiding her pain. Now, it was too late for that, and she knew she had to move quickly.

"You better lock me up." She told them, already heading toward the stairs. She couldn’t afford to touch either one of them. She had never been this bad before.

"I thought ye said i’ would be at least eight hours?" Phillip asked as they followed.

She managed to look at him, every step a sharp pain in her center.

"Until it got bad." She reminded him "It’s been five hours since they left and they’re on their way back. Just – lock – the damned – door!"

They had made it to Nick’s room, and he did just that, both he and Alex hearing Sara moan and the sound of the bed as she fell on it. Phillip looked at Alex helplessly and then touched the door, silently praying for his friends’ quick return.

Sara moaned and turned to her side. She heard his words and echoed his sentiment. But all she could think about was Nick. The hunger burned even darker.

```

The men finished hoisting Karen’s skeletal remains in the helicopter and looked around. The weather was getting bad.

"We better lift off!" Kristin said, looking at the approaching weather uneasily "I’ve got a bad feeling about this."

Derek agreed. It just didn’t feel right.

Nick was already getting into the pilot’s seat, intent on returning to Sara. The others got in and buckled themselves in.

"Hold on." Nick’s voice came over the headsets as soon as they put them on "It’s going to be a bumpy ride."

"You think its Karen?" Kristin asked Derek.

Derek just looked at her, wondering what evil surprises awaited them at the Legacy house.

---

Sara’s moans turned into out right screams of pain.

Phillip cringed with Sara’s cries, even as Alex squeezed his arm reassuringly. They were both standing outside Nick’s door, unable to help her.

The cell phone at Alex’s waist sounded. She answered it quickly and then smiled at Phillip.

"I’ll be right there." She said into the phone before hanging up and telling him that the others had just landed "I’m going to go help them. Stay here and tell Sara the good news."

She left and Phillip turned back toward the bedroom door "Sara?"

"What are they doing?" Karen suddenly appeared before the bed, eyes glowing with angry fire "What in the hell do they think they’re doing?"

Sara glared at her, spitting her words at the succubus "Stopping you!"

Karen’s eyes turned back to their human brown color, still filled with anger.

"I don’t think so." She whispered with promise "They’ll be too late."

Sara’s gaze flew to the door, Karen straightening.

Phillip! Sara started to yell a warning, too late realizing her mistake when Karen’s evil succubus-fire explode from her mouth into hers. Sara’s body arched as it began to invade her, gripping the sheets as it tore into her soul.

NO!!

The door crashed open, Phillip yelling for Karen to stop.

She did, with a laugh, and vanished into thin air.

Phillip dropped to his knees beside Sara, urging her to open her eyes.

She did, her eyes flashing with it’s own unearthly fire as they then looked at him.

"Phillip," she sighed, licking her bottom lip as she reached out and caught him gently at the nape of his neck and brought him forward "where’s Nick? I need Nick."

The man fell limp to the floor, just as Nick made it to the door.

"Sara?" Nick whispered her name, seeing Phillip’s limp form.

She turned toward him, graceful in her movements.

"He’s not dead." She told him softly, seductively "It’s not him I want. Come to me Nick."

She held out her hand to him. He took it. It was his fault, he thought sadly, his fault.

He stepped into her embrace, drawing her to him. She moved against him, to a silent, sultry tune. His body answered to her fire.

It was the nightmare, in reality.

"I’m sorry –" he started to whisper, only to have her place her fingers over his lips and then, slowly just as it had happened in the dream, replace her finger tip with her lips. He moaned as he tasted her warmth. He deepened the Kiss.

"Come back to me, Sara." He murmured between caresses "Don’t let Karen take you."

Something happened. The demonic light in Sara’s eyes flickered. Nick felt the change in his arms.

"Sara?" he looked into her eyes.

She jerked in pain, her face telling of the struggle.

Nick looked at the foot of the bed and saw Karen there, grinning victoriously.

"Let her go, Karen! Please!"

The woman he had thought he had once loved raised a dark brow.

"You left me to die, Nick." She told him "I will leave you to die as well. Sara will lose her humanity and I will gain a new body to love you with. Hell hath no fury, Lover."

Nick’s grip tightened on Sara and he felt her head loll against his arm.

"Leave her alone," he repeated "Take me instead."

Karen’s smile was cool "Now, Nick. I’m going to take you anyway."

Sara stirred. She was burning up; felt like she was on fire. She felt Nick’s hands on her, his body pressed to hers.

She moaned as she continued to try and fight Karen’s influence.

Karen floated to stand behind her, her voice low.

"You want him anyway, Sara. And you can feel that he wants you. Give in. Let me help you."

She was yanked roughly against Nick as he tried in vain to take a swing at Karen.

Let me help you…Karen’s voice continued to echo in her mind.

She licked her suddenly dry lips and blindly reached for Nick.

Karen chuckled at her obvious pain.

Phillip stirred.

"Get her out of here!" Derek was suddenly there and yelling at Nick to take Sara away "Get out of the house!"

Karen laughed out loud. Did they think she wouldn’t find them? She waited while they ran, Nick having had to pick Sara up and carry her to do so, and then looked at the priest.

"I’ll make sure you’re my first meal, you want to be with her so much." Karen smiled evilly at him "That way you have her and she’s the last thing you see before you die."

She disappeared and went after her prey.

"Come on!" Derek helped him up, saying nothing about what the succubus had said, "We have to hurry!"

---

"I love you." Sara whispered into Nick’s ear without realizing it. She was thinking she would never be able to tell him how much she cared about him before she died. She wasn’t going to let Karen take her – or Nick.

Nick sprinted down the last few stairs and put his cheek next to hers, his voice hoarse with emotion "I love you, too."

Then they made it to the front door.

"Where do you think you’re going, Lover?" Karen’s voice echoed throughout the foyer, disembodied.

He wrenched open the front door with his left hand, balancing Sara, and then ran out. Karen chuckled and followed.

"Now!" he suddenly yelled, already out in the yard. He dropped to his knees, Sara limp in his arms, and watched as every spotlight they had been able to get their hands on suddenly came alive and trapped Karen in its glare.

That was when Karen saw the bones on the ground surrounding her, formed in a reverse pentagram.

The succubus screamed in outrage and glared at Nick "You bastard!"

"From where you came, so shall you return." He intoned in response, holding Sara closer and the other two men coming out from the front door.

"In our Lord’s Name!" Phillip was there, a bottle of holy water in his hand "Return to hell from which you were spawned!"

He tossed some water at her, making her rail in pain.

A spasm wracked Sara’s body. The succubus’ power was struggling within her.

"Return to your mortal body, trapped for all time!" the priest continued, spraying the succubus with more water "Release your would-be victim's mortal body, to you she has been denied!"

Fire flared up around Karen, white-hot and unmerciful. The light that was the succubus’ life force within Sara exploded out of her and arched back to Karen.

Nick gathered Sara’s limp form back to him, rocking her gently back and forth.

He squeezed his eyes shut as, knowing the succubus wasn’t going to escape, and Karen let out one last dying screech.

Then, all was silent.

And Sara remained unmoving.

"Oh, God, no." Nick shook uncontrollably as he gently placed her on the ground and checked for a pulse "Sara, don’t leave me!"

The others headed toward him.

He couldn’t find a pulse…. He yanked her up and held her to his heart, shaking as he repeated her name over and over again and remembered Julia's death and, just like he had then, yelled out into the night.

"SAARRAA!!!!"

Precious seconds passed and no one moved, stunned. Then, in a rush, Sara inhaled sharply, as if she had been under water for too long and was gulping in as much oxygen as she could to fill her starving lungs with.

Nick laughed as she stirred and looked at him sleepily.

"We did it." She smiled "She’s gone."

---

A month later….

Sara sat in the pavilion, writing in her journal…

I can feel Julia again. I couldn’t when Karen was inside of me. I’m waiting for Rachel and our session to begin. She now knows everything that’s happened to me, to Nick. She says that, although I wasn’t physically raped, I was still violated, just like Phillip had told me. I agree, but I’m mainly concerned with Nick. There’s still sadness in his eyes, as if he really does believe that everyone he will ever love will be hurt. It’s just not so. I just wish I could convince Nick of that. I’m pretty sure he believes I don’t remember those last few seconds, from the moment he took me out of his bedroom to coming back to him after Karen’s destruction. But, I do. And I can wait. If I’ve learned one thing from all of this, it’s that life is precious and shouldn’t be wasted. But, I must admit, there are some things worth waiting for. I will continue to be Nick’s friend, wait until he heals and realizes that he can find happiness with someone he loves. It would be well worth it. And I have the strength to do it. Karen also taught me that.

She stopped writing and smiled when, instead of Rachel, Nick approached her with a small grin of his own.

"Rachel says she’ll be late." He said, holding out a mug of coffee for her to take.

Sara set the journal aside and accepted the mug "She did, huh?"

Nick looked down at his shoes and then admitted the truth.

"I asked her if you could reschedule it. I wanted to watch the sunset with you."

He extended his hand out to her, waiting for her to take it or reject him.

Slowly, and with a soft smile that said more than words could, she placed her own in his and stood.