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Hide and Seek by TalgoM
"Maybe you should let someone else work on it for awhile?" Kristin's voice from the doorway caused Philip to jump slightly in his seat. He had been alone for several hours and hadn't been prepared for the interruption. Kristin shot him what could either be read as an apologetic or amused grin and walked over to stand beside him at the table.
"Maybe you're right." Philip responded with an irritated groan in the direction of the box, which he released from his hold and allowed to clatter down onto the table. Kristin plucked it up into her own grip, both to give herself the chance to study it and to keep it out of Philip's hands for a few moments. She traced her fingers along the symbols burned into the side but it was obvious to her companion that her mind was on something else. She just didn't know how to say what she had come in here to get off her chest. Finally she decided to just steel herself against any unfavorable reaction and spit the words out, putting aside her humility over the situation.
"Philip I owe you an apology. I was rude in the kitchen the when we first met and I had no right to speak to you that way." Philip looked up at her, surprised that her tone sounded so harsh delivering the apology, making him wonder if she really meant it at all or had merely been told to do it by Derek. But either way, Philip was not the type of man who allowed others to feel uncomfortable if he could help it.
"No worries, you were being honest." Philip casually answered. He hoped that by showing he wasn't concerned over the situation Kristin could feel less guilty about what had transpired. He had been surprised by the verbal assault from her, even if he hadn't let it go on for very long. He understood where Kristin was coming from though, her fear that her place here was tentative and threatened by his presence. He wasn't sure that he would be able to convince her that he was not coming back to the Legacy, not yet at least. He didn't fail to notice the fact that his mind always added that clause at the end of the statement.
"It's just that you're a legend around here. Everyone loves you so much, and they talk about you all the time. The good old days of the team." She said with a rueful grin. "When you aren't around, they all know it every minute. You leave behind you this void that anyone can see that they can't fill. That nothing can." She put the box down on the table not focusing on it rather then Philip's face anymore. He hated to think that she had been living under such pressure for all of her time in this Legacy house. Always feeling like she was in competition with him, never knowing about the successes that she had that would have been Philip's failures because no one would speak of such things.
"There's really no need " Philip began again in his light earnest voice.
"But there is. No matter how I feel I had no right to talk to you in that way, you hadn't done anything wrong. It's just hard to compete with the past. You know the picture Derek keeps in his room? The one with his team? You, Nick, Alex, Rachel, Kat and himself. It's impossible not to know that was his favorite. It's not the first group Derek has been precept too but it was the one that mattered the most to him." She looked away not able to face the sympathy in his eyes. She hated herself for admitting these insecurities, for giving in to them at all. She hadn't come to this house looking for a new family, she had come looking for her original one and stayed to do a job. When had their individual opinions of her come to matter so much? Why did it bother her that she wasn't looked at with as much favor as the priest? She didn't want to have weaknesses that could be exploited by those against them but she was having a hard time not giving in to the feelings so alive in the San Francisco house.
"Things were far from perfect back then." Philip remembered the days in which that photo had been taking, recalling how awkward things had been, how tense. "I was leavin' to go back to the church soon and they all knew tha'. Nick was still mourning Julia and takin' his anger out on anyone whom could share some of the blame in his loss. Rachel was still fightin' against having ties with the Legacy at all. It wasn' the happiest of times." Philip knew that was an understatement at best. Of course there had been good times during those days but it was the tense silences that he would always associate with those months. Nick had been looking for an opportunity to blow up at the world, and everyone was waiting for him to do just that or break down. He thought about the arguments that Nick and Derek would have all the time, arguments that would end in Nick just silently staring Derek down, he wouldn't leave because he wanted the chance to blow, to do some damage. But Derek would just stand in the face of that stare and finally give in to it. Philip was certain that had it been anyone else but Nick, Derek wouldn't have backed down.
But those were the days when so much of what they did revolved around their youngest member. It was then that they all began to see the eyes that Derek looked at Nick through. To understand his intense desire to protect Nick. When exactly Derek had dawned on the urgency with Nick Philip wasn't sure but he would never forget the terrified screams Derek issued whenever Nick was in danger, the way his eyes always checked on Nick first. If it came from some subconscious recognition of the past Philip didn't know, but he was sure that Rachel's eventual observations had only made the need greater.
He still could feel the fear creep over him as he remembered the time when Rachel had asked to speak with him privately in Derek's office. He sat down in one of the chairs with her standing close in what she considered a comforting gesture but it had only succeeded in intensifying his dread at what she might say. He knew that Alex had already had her own private talk with Rachel and since then the researcher's mood had been nervous and sad, Philip knew he was about to find out why. 'Derek and I have been talking over the past few weeks Philip, and he thought I should talk to you about something.' Rachel had started, keeping her tone gentle, yet her eyes betrayed a sadness that he didn't know the cause of. 'You all care about Nick a great deal don't you?' Philip nodded, his fear sinking in deeper to know what the subject was. 'I can tell. In the short while I've known him I've also grown to like him.' He could see by the sincere look in her eyes that was true, she probably even cared about him more then she wanted to admit. She stood back up and began pacing the small office, working to choose her best words to deliver her blow. She began tapping the tips of her fingers together and resumed her speech. 'I'm also worried about him though. I've been watching him closely to see how he handles certain things, and the truth is often times he doesn't. He distracts all of you with his anger, forcing you to focus on that rather then the real problems.' Philip felt his face go stern, he didn't want anyone talking about Nick in such away, as if he were something to be studied. He had his own protective instincts in regards to Nick and they always sprung up when someone was questioning him. 'Derek has explained to me some of the things that have happened to Nick over the years. Honestly, any one of them would have me worried but they've been compounded upon him in twenty-four years, it's a lot for him to endure. His father's abuse and alcoholism, being the only survivor in his SEAL team, losing the person he loved.' She paused to turn and gauge Philip's reaction, Derek having warned her that he might take the information badly or deny what she was saying entirely. His blue eyes looked away from her, trying to keep the anger off his face. He didn't know what Derek was thinking telling Rachel about all of that when Nick had never been willing to talk about it himself. Philip knew that Derek had just learned the secrets of the Boyle home, and also was sure Nick wouldn't be happy to learn other's had been told. 'What are you saying?' Philip asked as he looked back up at Rachel and feeling sick just seeing the expression on her face. She didn't want to utter the words to him, but felt that she had to. Her voice came to him low and sympathetic, with a gentle hand placed on his shoulder hoping to lessen the blow. 'Nick's a text book case of what they teach us to look for prior to ' He filled in the blank she left easily. "I think that his reckless behavior is a demonstration of that.'
Philip still felt the wrenching heartache those words brought forth even just recalling them years later. It had been the last thing that he ever wanted to hear, but it had also been a truth he had been trying to deny for years. Losing Nick just wasn't acceptable, the idea that they might because of a choice he made was more then he could bear. He had never been able to look at Nick quite the same way, always questioning what was going on in him. He had never told Rachel of Nick's drunken confession about the day of his father's death, feeling it better to keep that knowledge to himself rather then risk Nick's anger at being lied to. With one statement Rachel had managed to change the focus of all their lives. Legacy business went on as usual but it wasn't the battle they were fighting full time. Those were the days when in any situation their eyes all fell to Nick first, waiting for a reaction. When instinct drove them to protect him, to check on him first. When he left a room there was always a shared feeling of dread between them that he would not come back. With time Nick appeared to recover to a satisfying degree so they didn't need to be constantly fearful but he knew that none of them would ever fully shake the effect Rachel's diagnosis had on them.
"Things definitely weren't perfect." Philip mumbled coming out of his memories.
"But they were still the days when Derek had everyone he loved the most with him. That's the time he holds on to." She added sadly.
"Maybe, but before tha' there was another picture in tha' frame, of a different team he felt was irreplaceable. Things change, Kristin. People leave, and new friends enter your life. You just have to learn to let them in and not dwell on memories of the past. You don' have to compete for your spot here, you were given it. It's not my spot, it belongs to you." She looked down at the understanding young priest wanting to believe his words but not sure if anyone else felt the same way.
Philip Callaghan would always exist in this house. His memory just lingered there, reminding them all of days when they had been a complete family, a family she had never allowed herself to join.
"I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am. I had no right to be rude." She repeated her apology, and Philip watched as she gathered herself away from the thoughts that she was not comfortable having. She brushed her hair away from her face and flattened her blouse. She then reached out and traced her fingers over the top of the box.
"Don' worry, much worse has been said." Philip replied with a sigh.
"I hope you two can work things out." She patted his shoulder gently in a surprising gesture of familiarity. He was shocked that she had known exactly who he was referring to with his comment, but then realized it was probably harder to overlook that tension then to notice it.
"I do too, but I don' think it's goin' to be now." Philip answered her sounding pitifully alone. She knew that in some way Nick was different to the rest of them. To see that Philip felt the same intensity made it just that much clearer that he did belong in the house. She rapped her knuckles against the top of the box, changing the subject quickly so not to have to figure out what the right thing to say would be.
"It's pretty." She commented, returning Philip's attention to the box.
"Any suggestions?" He asked hopefully.
"Nope, but I don't think it's a music box. The tumblers would have made some noise by now with as much as you've been tossing it around." She teased, her voice actually sounding kind rather then its normal condescending tone whenever she picked on someone.
"So I'm back to an un-openable hollow box?" Philip moaned in the direction of the wooden object in front of him.
"Enjoy yourself." Kristin laughed as she left the room.
Night crept over the house peacefully, everyone falling into relaxing activities. Derek and Rachel engaged in a game of chess in the library, while Kristin read and Kat and Alex worked on Kat's homework. Philip finally separated himself from the box and went to bed early to catch up from the night he missed. Eventually they all made their own ways to bed and the house fell silent until nearly midnight when the front door opened.
"Giants, Schmiants." Tangye said as she and Nick entered the quiet house. He couldn't help but laugh but he kept his back to her so she wouldn't see his amusement. She had kept it to herself until they arrived at the game and she had pulled out a baseball hat, that she was in fact a Yankees fan. She was disappointed that her team wasn't playing due to the limits of inter-league play but the Mets proved a good substitute as she explained the importance of New York to the sport.
"Yankees, Schmankees." He imitated her, having decided to focus their rivalry on their favorite teams.
"I'm not saying the Giants should go away completely, obviously they can stay. The New York teams need someone around to beat. All I've been pointing out is that the Bronx Bombers are the game of baseball." She turned to look at him curiously, but still clearly teasing him. "Or do the Giants have twenty-four World Series under their belt that they're just keeping quiet? That's a franchise." She slid her jacket off handing it over to him, making the statement as though it were ridiculous to think anything else. While Nick's back was again to her she shot a quick glance in the direction of the basement door.
"Clarify for me, who won tonight?" Nick asked. "Giants beat the Mets, but the radio said the Yanks "
"They gave the Rangers the game out of pity. The Yankees are the best, the end." She came back stubbornly, then pointed at her face. "Look, this is me not listening to any negative Bombers comments. And that's Yankees to you, mister. Nicknames are for the loyal."
Nick reached out and caught her arm pulling her up against him. "So, I was thinking of taking a shower and " She shook her head to stop what she thought he was going to say.
"Ah, ah, ah. Reign it in Boyle." She went up on her toes and kissed the corner of his mouth. "Again with the shower." She mumbled.
"What you think everything that I say is going to have some level of " Nick protested her accusation.
"Smut?" She suggested.
"Not the word I would have jumped at but okay. All I was going to ask was if I could stop by your room before I went to bed?" He looked down, his eyes dancing to let her know it wasn't what he meant at all.
"In my room?" She asked playfully, knowing where he'd be sleeping. "Really I don't know, I met this guy at the game, he liked the right team, and he said he might try to stop by my room later tonight." She looked away, her eyes full of mischief that still had Nick wondering just what was going on in her head. "Well, I think you two would get along, so why not?" She shrugged.
"You do find yourself funny don't you?" He asked again, knowing exactly her response.
"To no end, and stop asking me that." She said after rolling her eyes back slightly and acting as if she was giving the question a great deal of thought. "Feel free to swing by."
"Oh and Derek gave me the day off tomorrow. I want to pay you back for the game tonight, so tomorrow afternoon, you are mine." Nick pointed a finger at her as he started up the stairs.
"Look at me not fighting the suggestion." She laughed for him but as soon as he vanished she turned serious looking at the door of the basement that had been fighting for her attention since she entered the house. She had worked to keep her reactions under control during her interchange with Nick but once she had heard the giggling voice from downstairs she had difficulty concentrating. When the second voice joined in her urgency level rose but she was not willing to allow Nick to get involved if she could help it. She wanted to believe that Erin was the sweet little girl she seemed but she could not shake the memories. She wondered if she would ever trust another spirit again as she had done so freely when a child.
She dashed for the basement door not bothering to close it as she ran down the steps, jumping off of the last few. She heard the voices clearly and followed them around a few stacks of boxes until the scene she sought opened before her. The girls were running underneath a light bulb in a small open space between stacks of boxes, she could tell with one glance that Kat had got Erin involved in a game of shadow tag and now they were both laughing happily, acting so alive.
"Kat what are you doing down here? It's the middle of the night and it's not safe." Tangye was surprised how harsh her words came out and immediately regretted it due to the look in Kat's eyes. Kat who was so desperate to please them all in much the same way Tangye wanted to prove herself. She didn't mean to make Kat think she was angry, it just happened to be the way her leery suspicion came out.
"I'm sorry Tangye, but I heard Erin and " Kat began her earnest explanation.
"No Kat, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped like that." Tangye crouched down so she was at a better height for Erin who watched them with fearful eyes. "I was scared. But you should be in bed, it's late." She used her best adult voice then turned slightly to the younger child's ghost. "Erin, why don't you hide again and I'll work on finding you, okay?" The little girl nodded vigorously at the suggestion and ran off in the opposite direction, finally passing through the far wall. Tangye had noticed that it didn't bother Erin that she was being sent off to hide yet no one was actively seeking her, she just enjoyed the game.
Tangye stood back up placing her hand on the top of Kat's head to guide her back upstairs. "Kat you have to be more careful." She said with loving sternness, wiping at her face as she thought about what to do.
"She's just a little girl Tangye, she doesn't know she's dead does she?" Kat asked, her blue eyes looking up for Tangye to provide an answer she wanted to hear.
"I don't think so." Tangye answered with a small, weak shake of her head.
"Does Derek know about her?" Kat continued her questions.
"No, and how about we keep it that way. I think I can sort this out on my own." Tangye said without conviction, she had to come up with a plan. Kat nodded, pleased to be let in on a secret when she was normally protected from knowing anything at all. She knew Derek would be upset with them for hiding what they knew, but she got the impression Tangye felt it was very important to do so. She wasn't sure why her friend was desperate to hide what they found but she trusted Tangye to know what was best.
"How?" Tangye sighed, turning the lights of the basement off and shutting the door. She knew the question would be forthcoming but hadn't come up with her answer yet.
"Look for her parents I guess. Maybe they can help. I'll use the databases, see where they are now." She shrugged; thinking that at least sounded like a good starting point.
"I want to help." Kat pleaded.
"You're going to bed." Kat looked at her co-conspirator disappointed. "I'm not facing your mom if she finds out I let you stay up in the middle of the night. If we don't want anyone to know that's when I have to do the research. I'll get you if I find something out, deal?" She looked down at Kat as they started up the stairs to both the bedrooms and library.
"You should check the Legacy databases too, someone probably wrote about what happened. They have passwords, but I know Nick's. I've seen him type it a hundred times." Kat said proudly at the knowledge she could provide but Tangye just looked down at her shocked, finally giving in to her growing smile.
"Later Kat, you and me. Talk about criminal tendencies." Tangye teased. "I'm not breaking into anything. If it gets to that we'll get help, but hacking onto secure databases is not the best way to impress." She gave Kat a gentle shove in the direction of her room. "Bed Katherine, now. I'll only be up a little while anyway. I'll see you in the morning." Kat almost blurted out a birthday wish to her friend but held it in at the last moment. Tangye waited until she was sure she heard Kat's door shut and then went to the library and straight from there to the control room. She took a seat at the computer terminal and booted up the search program. She typed in Erin's name and sat back to wait out the results, hoping it was quick remembering she was meeting Nick shortly.
"What are you working on?" A voice suddenly broke into her thoughts from just over her shoulder.
"God, don't do that." She snapped.
"I managed to scare the telepath?" Kristin asked sounding a little too pleased for Tangye's ears.
"Yea you. Sorry there's no prize. I was concentrating." She tried to ignore the satisfied expression on Kristin's face but due to her present focus and the interruption Kristin represented it aggravated her more then normal. Kristin remained just over Tangye's shoulder, watching the computer as it worked to complete its task. "I'm just practicing my searching skills." She finally answered the initial question. Kristin stood her ground and the closeness was beginning to bother Tangye, who knew she was being studied and probably suspected of some crime. "Look at that, there was a Erin Baker, and I just picked a name out a hat. Says here that she died as a child in a fall. She was six years old. Isn't that interesting?" She looked back over her shoulder but Kristin had lost interest and wandered off to the other side of the room. "In that sick, twisted interesting way." She mumbled to herself. She scrolled down the screen. "Survived by her mother Georgia, and father Peter." She added the two names to the search and again sat back to wait. "So what are you doing up?" She asked Kristin, hoping that her voice matched Kristin's normal suspicious tone so she would know how it felt to be constantly questioned.
"Looking for a book." Kristin answered without paying her much mind.
"The library is the next room over, this is where they keep the electronics. Musty books to your left." She joked, immediately recognizing the flaw in Kristin's excuse.
"The box has me intrigued. Thought I'd give it a try." She shrugged, finally allowing herself to go to the object in the locked glass case.
"It is still just a box right?" Tangye asked, speaking into her the into her palm where her chin was resting, she was confused by the obsession it was causing but didn't wait for an answer as the computer told her it had a match. She turned back to look at it barely able to contain her groan. "Crap, that would be the way."
Rachel and Kat left the house in the early hours of morning the next day, rushing to get Kat to school on time back in the city. Tangye and Nick shortly followed them out prior to breakfast. Kristin and Alex made their way immediately to the control room to study the security tapes for the hundredth time after the morning meal, leaving Philip and Derek alone in the kitchen finishing their own breakfasts. Philip wasn't sure how to bring up the subject that had been baring down on his mind throughout the night, but knew that Derek could sense something was up just by the way his mentor kept looking at him with such concern. Philip pushed the eggs around his plate absently trying to endure Derek's sympathetic glances without suddenly pouring out his concern.
"How's the box coming along?" Derek asked as a means to at least get a conversation started between them. Philip's blue eyes darted over to look at the trashcan for a moment then settled back on Derek. Nick had asked him the same thing the night before in an effort to avoid the real topic whereas Derek used it as an opening for Philip to speak.
"Tell me somethin' Derek, how badly do you think it really bothers Nick tha' I leave?" Philip questioned softly, his voice barely able to be heard.
"I think it's obvious that it bothers him a great deal, but not for the reasons he says. Philip is everything all right? I know you and Nick had another argument recently." Derek hoped to put Philip at ease but it didn't work to be affecting his worried state.
"If tha's what you want to call it, but then again tha' seems the constant state of affairs." Philip ran a hand through his brown hair to keep it from his face but also in a nervous gesture. "This one just reminded me of another time."
"Another fight?" Derek asked interested.
"Not just tha', but a time period." Philip looked up into his friend's eyes, hoping he could read the truth there if Derek decided he needed to be less then honest. "Wha's Rachel's current evaluation of Nick?"
Derek was shocked by the question but knew exactly what he was talking about. A part of him had never let go of the fear that Nick would be taken away from them by his own choice. He tried to convince himself on a regular basis that Nick's actions indicated a desire to survive but whenever he had himself believing that Nick would do something to shatter his hope. Losing any of the members of his house in battle was unthinkable to him, he was sure he couldn't go through it again, but to lose one of them because of a choice chilled him. To think he hadn't done enough, tried hard enough, he wouldn't have lived with that guilt. "He's not 'fixed' but he's better." Philip nodded seeing the fear in Derek's dark eyes. "Philip, we all still do worry about him, that's natural. What Rachel said all those years ago effected us all, it scared us but it was a long time ago. Nick's had the chance to deal with a lot of it. Helping his father's spirit, facing Richter, even the incident with the succubus. It forced him to face the elements that hurt him the most. He survived all of that." Derek explained sympathetically.
Philip pushed at his food some more. "He faced all of tha' Derek, why won't he face me?" Philip finally asked sadly. Derek hated to hear such pain in the voice of his friend and son.
"Because he doesn't have too. Nick was forced into all those situations; you can't corner him like that. He didn't want to deal with any of it but he had to. You always let him storm off. If you could force him then maybe you'd make some headway." Derek reached out and gently touched Philip's shoulder. "But you can't do that to him. It's not in your nature to hurt him, even if it's the only way to fix things."
Philip looked up at Derek with that wisdom stated. Derek stood up and put his plate in the dishwasher without saying another word. Just as he got to the door of the kitchen Philip called out to him. "But you do still worry?" Philip asked.
"Of course, but not much more then I worry about you." Derek responded with a fond smile.
"Tha's less then comfortin'." Philip said with a weak grin, knowing exactly how much Derek worried about the older of the two men. If Derek worried about Nick more then that was beyond a reason to stay concerned.
Nick looked over to where Tangye sat on the large boulder taking in the scene spread out before her. Studying her features Nick realized that he had captured the moment from his dreams a few weeks ago. She looked just as beautiful as she had in his mind. They were in a place visually similar to the landscape that Nick had created as a refuge in his dreams. Her hair lifted with the wind like a cape behind her. He could see that the corners of her mouth were lifted slightly in a pleased smile. He felt the peace sink into them both, somehow this place felt safe within them.
She turned to look over at him, her blue gold eyes inviting him silently to join her on the boulder. "Thank you." She whispered just as she had done in his dream, only this time the sound of her voice was something he knew. Something that still managed to comfort him with its timbre. She turned back to look out over the scenery, but he noticed how she also moved over slightly on her rock so to make room for him. He took her up on the offer and joined her, immediately her hand found his and her head rested against his shoulder.
"So, how you feeling today?" She laughed slightly at him.
"You remembered?" She asked innocently.
"Of course, it was interesting to me." He answered with mock indignation. "Does your birthday bother you?" He asked sincerely.
"No." She said with a slight shake of her head.
"Then what is it?" He looked down at her precious face, so much a child's but also containing a wisdom that surpassed her years. "You've seemed distant today, not so many badly timed jokes or sarcasm. Feel free to tell me what's going on." He brushed the hair out of her eyes gently.
"Not the birthday per se just which one it is. I feel like it should be my 18th." She sighed heavily. "I'm so tired of being depresso girl." She looked away ashamed of her own behavior when Nick had arranged such a beautiful day for them.
"You haven't been. At times I'm worried that you aren't. You carry such a sense of life with you, like you're a little brighter then everyone else." She was surprised to hear such a statement but because of whom it came from it meant a great deal to her. Not only did she know for certain that Nick saw something different in her, but he willingness to say it made her hopeful for the future. Somehow no one else's compliments made her feel as good as Nick's, she wasn't sure if she sought his approval or just liked knowing he was proud. She wanted Nick to notice her, which was what it came down to. "You don't have to keep everything bottled up, we all want to help you through this."
"It's over Nick, nothing else to get through." She responded trying to sound indifferent but not succeeding. "Today was great by the way. Lunch, the drive, here. I think you definitely paid me back for the game. Yankees are better." She reached up and touched his stubble covered chin, throwing in the last bit just to aggravate him and give him the badly timed comment he had been missing.
"Glad I could provide." Nick kissed the fingers so close to him. He had been worried all day that as soon as they returned to the house she would make a beeline for the library and that the others wouldn't be ready for them. Seeing the look in her eyes he knew that was no longer a concern. She lifted her chin up even with his and leaned in.
His hands brushed against the soft skin of her bare arms, his thumb tracing the line of her spaghetti strap. She shifted her position slightly so she was sitting on her leg and facing Nick. One of her hands rested against his thigh, the other still on his face. He began kissing the line of her neck and collarbone, and she leaned her head back to leave herself more open to the soft caress of his lips. "Definitely a good day." She mumbled causing Nick to smile at her enjoyment.
Alex had to admit that she was thoroughly enjoying the secret planning of the birthday party. Keeping the surprise was like a game, they all knew that any stray thought about it in Tangye's presence could accidentally bring all their efforts down. She wasn't concerned that Tangye might actually be trying to pick things up from their minds, but she sensed that perhaps the birthday girl didn't have the kind of control it would take to keep everything out.
She sat in her room having taken a few moments off of the investigation into whatever spirit was in the house, and was enjoying a moment to herself with a good book. She settled into her ideal position in the chair by the window when a knock came at her door. "Miss Alex, you have a phone call." She reached over to the phone in her room and hit speaker, calling out a quick thank you to Dominick.
"Alex Moreau." She heard sudden laughter from the other line, and somehow instantly recognized the source of the full and deep laugh and found she couldn't keep from smiling to herself.
"So very official, most people just say hello." His voice was low and smooth as he teased her.
"Comes from living where you work, literally." She laughed back at him. "So Mr. Mayhew, this a social call or did some other creature from the nether worlds decide to start tormenting you?" She had learned quickly enough that Gilby was dealing with the loss of his camp only through his humor. She was sure that if he really thought about it too seriously he would realize the depths of the danger and his loss.
"I'm not really sure what you want to call it." Alex sat up at the tone in his voice, somewhat uncertain and nervous, not traits she had grown to associate with him. "I guess I'm calling for advice from a friend."
"You called for Nick didn't you?" She asked disappointed by the thought that she had been his second, possibly third, choice of who to turn to.
"No I was looking for a woman's opinion." He answered back.
"Tangye, then?" She heard his laugh through the speaker again.
"You have way too little faith in yourself. No I didn't call for Tangye, Rachel or Derek. I wanted to talk to you." Alex nodded relieved, though he couldn't see the action. "See there's this woman I know, but things between us got off to an odd note. I'm interested, big interest, but I don't know how to tell her. I just don't know if she views me as a friend, pity case or what."
"I'm sure it's not a pity case. What's the woman's name?" Alex asked playing along with his ruse.
"Let's just call her Alex. See, I was supposed to have dinner with Alex when I got back to town, which I am now, but I don't know how to ask if she thinks it's a date or just friends eating together." She could almost see the smile on his face.
"You could always call and pretend, not very well, that you were asking about it for someone else." She teased his technique, though he didn't really try too hard to hide behind the ruse.
"Don't you think that would be obvious? I mean she's bound to associate the two with each other. She's very smart, and if I do say so myself, attractive." Alex smiled at the compliments.
"It's funny, but I'm having this same problem with a guy I just met. We're supposed to have dinner but I really want it to be a date. I don't know how to tell him though." Alex couldn't stop smiling, she wasn't sure why she was enjoying the ridiculous conversation so much but she was.
"So if you don't know what to do, why am I asking you? Tangye or Rachel around?" Alex laughed loudly at that. "You have a great laugh Alex, this guy better see the opportunity you're giving him. Oh and on an entirely separate note, how's this Thursday for our dinner?"
"That would be great." Alex answered back surprised to hear her own voice sound so dreamy.
"Good, I'm calling it a date then. I need to run but I'll see you Thursday, around seven?" He asked, his tone indicating the need to wrap up the conversation.
"That would be fine Mr. Mayhew, and good luck with the girl."
"Thanks Alex." Alex waited for the line to go dead before turning off her speakerphone. There was no denying it she liked Gilby Mayhew. He was just so alive, so prepared to face anything bad if only to find the good hidden behind it. Even if he hadn't been as handsome as he was, which in her mind was merely a bonus, he still would have managed to attract her with his humor and sensitivity. Alex refused to allow herself to get too excited by the prospect of a relationship, knowing it might not last, but she wouldn't let herself ignore the hope she felt. There was a chance that Gilby would be the one to understand her, the one who could be a bridge for her between her life in the Legacy and the real world. He knew about her secret so there was nothing to hide. She wouldn't be able to tell him about all their cases but at least he would understand why not. She also admitted to herself that Gilby was safe to her, not just meaning he wouldn't hurt her but because of his own strength. People who came into her life often got hurt, but Gilby had shown that he was able to fight for himself. He faced challenges, maybe foolishly but he wouldn't be easily hurt. To counter that he also appeared to understand when to step down and let others handle things, those more apt.
She thought about Barry Alger and the way he foolishly faced down the demon hunting her. She told herself that Gilby would have known better, that he would never have dared to go up against something so powerful. She needed to believe it; she couldn't face that guilt twice in her life. If anything did ever grow between them she would make it a point to teach him how to deal with just that kind of situation. Teach him what he could deal with and couldn't, maybe even teach him a few exorcisms and arm him with holy water. She smiled ruefully to think of the types of precautions she was thinking of taking before getting into a relationship. Most people tried to figure out how to hide their inability to cook, or sloppy house keeping, she was planning on teaching her perspective relationship how to slay demons. For some reason she thought that would amuse Gilby to no end and that put the whole thing into perspective. He would go through it all but always have the amusing comments that made it feel less foreboding. He would make it all enjoyable with his easygoing attitude.
She looked down at her book, having lost interest in it, with a pleased smile on her face. She wouldn't get too excited she reminded herself but she wasn't going to give up easily either. This felt more hopeful then anything had in too long. Finally she glanced down at her watch and decided to go help everyone with the preparations for the party, her spirits now lifted ten fold above her previous good mood, and she was ready for a celebration.
"Derek I trust your judgement. You should know that by now." Derek nodded to the image of Jackson Parker though he wasn't entirely sure he trusted the man's sincerity. Ever since Jackson had been appointed as Precept of the Ruling house Derek had felt that his house was under more scrutiny then necessary, not to mention that they were being kept from certain truths. The missing reports in regards to Charles Gaarlihn's activities and their subsequent reappearance was the most recent incident Derek could recall but there had been others. Derek felt that Jackson wanted him kept out of certain cases and in order to ensure they would be information vanished leaving them without leads. What exactly Jackson hoped to gain by doing this Derek couldn't be sure but it was something he was watching for. "If you feel the box has no significant importance then do with it what you want. We have plenty of artifacts from that time period of more interest. The only mystery is how it got buried in Greece in the first place."
"Not something you want to look into?" Derek asked averting his eyes from the screen, suddenly worried that Jackson might notice something through his penetrating ice blue stare.
"I don't see how, unless you can somehow identify the owner." Jackson looked away from the screen for a moment and nodded to someone outside the view of the camera. "Derek you're doing fine. You have my opinion on both issues, and I appreciate you asking, but I do trust you to run your own house. I don't know what Sloan expected out of his houses but I have every confidence in the precepts abilities." Some reason the comment sounded forced, as though Jackson were trying to convince him of something that was the exact opposite of how he felt. "I need to run, call if you have any problems." The transmission cut off and Derek sat back in his chair with an irritated sigh.
He couldn't believe that he actually preferred Sloan's constant questions and sudden visits to the indifference that Jackson acted with or at least displayed. At least when Sloan was always checking on Derek he had known what the Head Precept had been up to. Jackson's willingness to allow his houses to keep secrets indicated that Jackson himself had secrets he needed to hide. Derek made mental note of the behavior adding it to a list of suspicions already in his mind. Perhaps, he admitted, that the only reason he felt this way was because Sloan had been a friend and Jackson mostly an unknown, or maybe his instincts were trying to alert him of something coming that would have to be prepared for.
"Derek?" Rachel asked softly from the doorway, knowing the look of intense thought on Derek's face. The precept looked up at her with raised eyebrows at the interruption. "Nick and Tangye just pulled up." Rachel informed him and relief swept over her when a smile broke on his face. She hated it when Derek got so amerced in his thoughts and often moody, he was a pillar of calm to them all and when that broke they were all left slightly floundering for direction.
"Gather everyone in the library, I'll get Tangye in a few minutes." He instructed and Rachel nodded slipping out of the room.
"Tangye would you join me in the library?" Derek asked softly pushing her door open just enough so that he could see inside. She looked over at him skeptically but then broke into that bright grin that had captivated them all in some way. She knew that something was going on, Nick and Derek sneaking off the day before had alerted her to that. Then all day today it was obvious Nick was trying to keep her out of the house. She put her book aside and climbed off her bed to follow Derek to the library. When she entered all the members of the Legacy house were gathered around the table which had a large object on it covered by a tarp. She eyed it suspiciously then sent Derek a nervous glance but he gave nothing away keeping his face serious. "We have something we need your help with."
"Alright." She carefully approached the table and reached out to the tarp.
"Not so fast, Tan. Derek has some explaining to do." Nick's hand caught hers and he guided her to one of the chairs as everyone else also took a seat.
Derek stood at one end of the table and cleared his throat. "I've been holding off on doing something until the time was right. I don't think waiting will do any more good now." Tangye scanned the faces of everyone around her hoping to glean some type of clue as to what was going on but their expressions betrayed nothing. She settled her light eyes back on Derek as he continued. "The Legacy was formed to protect the innocent from the forces of darkness that attempt to destroy. Sometimes it has found itself helpless and at other times the Legacy has been reminded of the ability of one strong spirit to triumph alone." Derek was barely fighting the laughter he felt building up in him but forced his voice to be as serious as possible even as he watched Tangye's many confused reactions. "That lesson is important for the reminder it gives us that we are not ever alone in our fight, despite our secrecy. Not long ago we were given such a reminder when we met someone who found it within themselves to triumph and since then has proven their dedication to the battle." Tangye looked back at the covered form realizing it was the right size and shape for an average man. She shuddered to think that this was how the Legacy mourned their dead. "These are the people we would wish to be members of the Legacy, but first we must ask." Derek paused again, looking over all their faces; glad none of them had given anything away. "Tangye Gaarlihn, the Ruling House in London has requested that you join the Legacy and the San Francisco house."
Tangye's eyes grew wide as she realized she had been duped. Derek's tone had been so serious, showing no happiness or sadness, she hadn't known what was up. "I accept." She said gratefully.
"Knew you would." Nick grinned over at her.
"One question, what's all this?" She swept her hand in the general direction of the tarp.
"What this?" Alex asked innocently as though she hadn't even seen the tarp.
"Cute, c'mon what is it?" She pressed for the truth.
"Kat?" Derek looked at the youngest of the group gathered who jumped out of her chair immediately and ran around to the other side of the table. She leaned in giving Tangye a quick kiss on the cheek.
"It's for you." She stated proudly.
"Little welcome to the Legacy gift? Well it's really big." She said sarcastically while looking the form over trying to guess what it might hold. "Or bunch of little things. Crosses? Wooden stakes? Silver nitrate, that sort of thing?"
"Not quite." Alex responded with a small laugh, beginning to wonder if Tangye thought they didn't know about her birthday or had maybe forgotten it herself.
"Happy birthday." Kat proclaimed to a shocked Tangye. She turned and grabbed the corner of the tarp and started pulling at it.
"This is ?" She looked them over with a shocked expression.
"It's your twenty-fifth, quarter of a century old today." Nick laughed.
"That makes me sound ancient, thanks. Derek, all of you, you really didn't have to " Tangye started as Derek joined Kat to help her with the heavy tarp.
"We wanted to." He came back. Finally together he and Kat pulled the tarp free to reveal a large stack of gifts and torn wrapping paper. There wasn't a single gift left on the table that was not unwrapped. Someone had torn them all open without ceremony or caution and left them in a pile not bothering to hide their act, not that the mess would ever be overlooked.
"Christmas morning around here must be fairly brief." Tangye stated in amazement as she looked over the remains of the many gifts. Just then the intercom on the phone came alive with Melissa's voice.
"Dr. Rayne, I have something you should see, one of the secrets." She hinted. Derek's jaw shifted in his annoyance at what he could already guess he was going to find. He shot Tangye an apologetic look and then left the room, with everyone trailing behind him. Kat and Tangye remained in the back sharing a quick knowing look that almost made them burst into giggles. They all quickly went down to the kitchen where Melissa was waiting in front of the large refrigerator. "In there Dr. Rayne." She pointed to the freezer door then stepped away. Derek opened the door with Nick peering in around him to see the circular shaped ice cream cake Melissa had spent two hours working on during the day. The entire top had been eaten off the cake, and every flower along the side was also missing. It was now only about half the size it should have been with a large bowl shaped section eaten out of the center.
"Dammit I'm tired of this." Derek cursed slamming the door shut. He caught a brief glance of Tangye and Kat out of the corner of his eye and everything clicked into place. Things he should have seen long before this. He had felt that perhaps Tangye had seen the spirit, but to think Kat had as well and yet they had said nothing to him really upset him. Kat should have known better by now, but Tangye had always handled spirits alone. He started back out of the kitchen, not wanting to get into the discussion in front of Melissa.
"Derek what do you think it is?" Kristin asked as they all followed him.
"I don't know." He snapped back.
"Should we look?" Nick asked but Derek held up his hand to stop the question.
"Would you two like to tell us what you know now?" He turned around to the group following him his eyes falling between the two youngest members as he looked back and forth to them. Tangye felt her stomach lurch. Derek had known all along that she had found the spirit, he was probably using the whole incident as a test, one she clearly failed. She thought about the Legacy and feared this one act would keep her out of the group. Derek had made it clear before that he didn't need any lone rangers on the team, yet she persisted in behaving in just that way. All of them waited for her to answer with shocked eyes over the secret she had kept.
Tangye nervously licked her lips. "Her name is Erin Danielle Baker. She, ah, died on the island twenty-eight years ago after falling out of one of the trees on the cliffs." Tangye heard Rachel gasp and watched her draw Kat closer to herself in a protective gesture. "She came here with her parents, Peter and Georgia, to have a picnic. I don't know why she suddenly appeared though." Tangye finished, averting her eyes with humility, readying herself for whatever punishment Derek might deliver.
"She heard you." Kat provided with pride.
"What do you mean 'heard' me?" Tangye asked surprised that Kat held the answer.
"Wait, Kat you know about this?" Rachel cut off Kat's answer with her own question. Kat knew she was in trouble just by the tone her mother used, shocked and aggravated.
"Keeping the secret was my idea Rachel, I asked Kat to." Tangye stepped up, figuring that she was already in trouble and she might as well take it all. She wouldn't mention how willing Kat had been to keep quiet.
"You got my daughter to lie to me?" Rachel asked surprised yet still clearly irritated.
"Not lie, more like leave out morsels of truth." Tangye attempted to make it sound better, but Rachel was accustomed to such excuses and wasn't buying into it.
"Like all?" Rachel's voice rose with indignation.
"Yeah that would be the morsel I chose." Tangye watched as Rachel's eyes turned threatening. "Which clearly was a bad choice." She stepped back from Rachel's obvious anger.
"We have more important issues to discuss right now." Derek spoke in an authoritative tone, making sure that he had everyone's attention. "What else do you know? And why did you see it necessary to hide this?" Derek looked back down at Tangye. He couldn't deny that he was annoyed she hadn't come to him with the information but he was also curious why she hadn't.
"I didn't know what you'd do, or if she was dangerous. I don't think she is but my gut reaction to spirits " Tangye looked away not wanting to state her weakness in front of them all. "If she's not, then she's just a little girl. I don't want her just exorcised, there has to be another way. She was playing hide and seek with her mom and lost everything in that moment, I didn't want her hurt anymore." Tangye's voice sounded so remorseful and fearful, that it became clear she had only been trying to help the child.
"So if her mother manages to find her then the game won't have to be played anymore? She can let go?" Alex suggested, hoping they could find a gentle way to help the child move on, sharing in Tangye's sympathy for the innocent deceased child.
"Not so easy. Her mother died five years ago." Tangye looked up at Derek, waiting out his response. She knew her ground was tentative at the moment and that one wrong comment could cost her everything that had come to mean so much in the past two and a half months.
"Then you may be the key to helping Erin." Derek answered with a nod.
Tangye stood a few feet away from the table, looking hesitantly at the scene that Derek had set up. She knew she didn't have a choice, she had to go through with this but still her body resisted getting too close. That which had been a lingering fear of spirits the past few days had now blown itself up inside of her to just a level below irrational. She studied the ouiji board with suspicion as though it had the power to hurt her contained within it. She gnawed down on her pinky wishing there were any other way of getting Erin to move on from the house. Derek had agreed with Alex's assessment though. Since Erin had already been found by Tangye it was clear that simply being found was not what the little girl needed, yet perhaps if the one who was supposed to have found her did she could end the game.
"Tangye, Kat have a seat." Derek instructed. Kat slipped her hand into Tangye's for support, she clearly saw that Tangye didn't want to get into this situation.
"Derek is this really a good idea? I can call spirits to me without even trying, what if when I do try I open a flood gate for them to get through?" Derek knew that even Tangye had to be running out of excuses not to participate in this effort.
"Just focus on Georgia Baker, don't let yourself think of anyone else." Derek informed her, his voice gentle once again with understanding of exactly how hard this had to be on her. He knew the task was probably easier said then done, but she was right, she could prove a bridge to many other spirits if the connection was opened so they had to be careful. Still if she was going to be helpful to the Legacy she had to learn to face her fear of spirits now while she still could. She took a seat at the table; never removing her eyes from the antique board positioned in the center. She rubbed the front of her fist along her top lip trying to make the board vanish with her will so she would not have to participate in this.
"You'll be fine, Tan." Nick whispered from his seat beside her. She tried to force a smile on her face for him as reassurance but it didn't work. Nick looked up at Derek anxiously; hoping his eyes told his friend that he wanted them to stop. Derek just shook his head at Nick's unspoken plea.
"Alright, everyone let's do this." Derek said taking his seat and reaching one hand out to place on the pointer. Hesitantly they all also placed their fingers on the small wooden triangular shape. Tangye was the last to join them, her hand fighting her not to have to touch the light wood. She sighed heavily and looked at Derek out of the corner of her eyes. "Go ahead."
Tangye said a quick prayer before beginning the chant that Derek had taught her with a deep sigh, some of the words barely coming out. "We call out to the spirit of Georgia Tarpen-Baker. You have sought your daughter for many years in a game never ending; we have answers to offer, in exchange for your help. Join us in your house of sorrow so that you may be reunited. Georgia Baker if you can hear this call please come, we shall offer you all you lost." Tangye's mind prayed that the call wasn't heard but as Kat began to repeat the same words Tangye's hope slipped away. She felt it before any of the others did, before she could even see the physical manifestation of the woman. Her eyes jerked around the room trying to figure out the spot she would first appear from, she didn't even realize when her fingers slipped off the pointer.
"Tangye?" Derek's voice whispered but hardly reached her as anxiety took over.
"She's here." She mumbled, sounding far off to them all.
"Tangye's right." Kat agreed just as Nick's chair was yanked back from the table causing him to crash to the floor. Tangye was on her feet and rushing to his side before she even knew what she was doing, something inside of her would not allow her to ignore Nick if he might be hurt. Seeing that he was fine and already climbing back to his feet she turned to look up at Derek, who had also run to Nick's side.
"And it seems she's mad." Tangye saw the woman begin to take form behind Derek and barely managed to scream the warning in time. Georgia's hands reached out grasping the empty air where Derek had been standing. Tangye's fears for the moment were overshadowed by her angry annoyance at spirits returning only to bring pain with them.
She stood up a few feet from the woman's spirit that only she was able to see at the time, as if to dare her to strike out. "What the hell is your problem?" She growled.
"Why did you call me here? To this place I never intended to return." Georgia yelled angrily.
"Too bad, you had to." Tangye snapped back, Derek recognized that this was getting out of control and would just get worse if he allowed Tangye to take out her stored up anger on the spirit.
"You must listen to us." He stepped up beside Tangye, placing a calming hand against her shoulder but her eyes showed no lessening of the threat she presented. "We can help you."
"By reminding me of everything I lost?" She screamed. Her face contorted with her fury over ever having to return to the place where she had lost that which was most precious to her. She had never escaped the scream her daughter had issued just before the fall; she would never forget the searing agony it had imprinted into her soul. To have to see this house again was more pain then she could describe and she wanted to hurt all those who reminded her of it by bringing her here.
"No, by returning it to you." He yelled back at her, fearing she wouldn't hear his answer otherwise. She turned her cold eyes on Derek yet something in her face broke down against the blind rage that had been gripping her. The line of her mouth softened as she studied the precept and she appeared to find something on it that she was willing to trust for the moment.
"How?" She asked more controlled but still sounding very dangerous.
"Erin is here, in the house. We believe that she needs to be found by you to move on. You could have your child back." Rachel stepped up to help Derek explain the situation to the spirit. She tried to behave calmly but couldn't keep from pushing Kat in Nick's direction so he could protect her.
"Where is she?" The spirit demanded harshly. All eyes in the room quickly turned to look at Tangye expectantly. The young woman still had a hard look on her face, refusing to allow her guard to come down just because the woman now appeared to be controlled.
"I don't know." She answered back flatly.
"What do you mean?" Georgia quickly grew angry again feeling that this whole thing was just a trick. She started to descend on Tangye's small figure but Nick stepped up the second he recognized the threat. He placed himself directly in front of Tangye and the spirits path to her. Tangye wished she had the second to tell him not to do that for her. She didn't want anyone to ever be at risk again because of her, she was sure that she wouldn't be able to live through the pain again.
"I don't sense her right now, but she's been doing that for days. She can vanish from the house, but I don't know where she goes." The woman studied Tangye's face to be sure that she wasn't trying to keep her daughter away by lying. She saw only honesty and hatred in the eyes staring back at her. She wasn't even sure how the two emotions managed to mingle inside her but it was what her instincts told her was there.
"I do then." The spirit turned from the room with purpose in her walk, making her way down the stairs without another word. The rest of the group shared a confused look but said nothing as they followed her to the front doors of the house. She stepped outside into the night air and paused to gather her bearings in a place she had spent years trying not to think about.
"I cut down the tree after I learned about the accident, it's not there anymore." Derek spoke from just behind her. As soon as she had lead them outside he was certain where they were all being taken. He didn't want her to discover the scene without warning. It had crossed his mind that it would be where Erin would hide; it was after all her last hiding place. But the tree hadn't been there for twenty-eight years now; it could no longer serve as a refuge nor a last hope for the distraught Georgia.
"Where had it been?" She asked, unfazed by the revelation.
"To the left." She nodded and let Derek lead the way the rest of the journey.
"I shouldn't have given up on searching for her. But I was distracted all day." She mused as they all walked along. "Peter knew how much I disliked Bob, but he was always planing outings with his family. That man just carried tragedy with him, I should have known something would happen."
"I know it hurts Georgia but you can't blame yourself. What happened was a terrible accident." Rachel's comforting voice did little good.
"That I should have prevented, if I hadn't been fighting with Peter I could have." She came back to the comforting words with regret.
"What were you fighting for?" Kat asked innocently but Rachel quickly tried to hush her.
"Don't, she wants to know." Georgia turned and knelt down in front of Kat. For the first time Kat felt she was seeing this woman as Erin would have remembered her mother. Her earlier anger was replaced by hope for finding what she lost so many years previously. "We were arguing about a lot of things, but it was all a cover for how upset I was with his friend. I said a lot of mean things that day to my husband, things I regret. It wasn't his fault Erin liked to play hide and seek." She explained gently.
Kat was confused by her last comment but had latched on to the point of her words. "Why were you mad at his friend? Had he been rude to you?"
Georgia smiled at the innocence she had missed hearing in her own child's voice for so long. "No. He was mean to someone else, someone too little to defend himself." She heard the sudden gasp from one of the other members of the group and turned to look at them, searching their faces for whom would react in such a way. Two of the women looked at her with kind, understanding eyes, women clearly guided by their hearts and desire to help people. The blonde younger woman seemed to look on with confusion. The youngest woman still looked at her with suspicious eyes, as if she were waiting for something terrible to happen. The men, the older one and the tall, blue eyed one both were showing some sympathy but were also keeping their respective guards up. It was on the last face that she found her answer.
His hazel green eyes were wide, his mouth hanging slightly open as he tried to absorb some bit of information. She stood up and went to him, sensing the tensing of the young woman beside him. "You said Bob?" The man struggled the name out.
"Yes, Robert Boyle. Why?" As soon as the question was out of her mouth she dawned on the realization. His appearance had changed in the nearly three decades, but there was something about his eyes that hadn't. The knowledge of things that would always be well beyond his years was still held within the deep green eyes. "Nicholas, all grown up." Nick just nodded. She said she knew he had been hurting him, she had known. Before his mind even had the chance to grow angry she reached out brushing a cold breeze across his cheek. "I'm so sorry. I would have helped you, I wanted to. I may have lost Peter if I tried but that would have been a sacrifice I made. Then I lost Erin; the world seemed to stop for so long. He was dead before I came back. I should have helped you, I could have. I should have focused on the living rather then what I lost." Nick swallowed down the suffocating lump that had formed in his throat. "I'm very sorry."
Knowing that Nick wasn't going to be able to come up with an answer after such sincere words Philip decided to step in. "Where do you think your daughter could be?" Georgia turned to look at the rest of the group again.
"At the tree." She answered and turned back in the direction of their destination. Philip thought he saw Nick throw him a thankful glance but wasn't sure.
"But it's been torn down." Kristin pointed out again.
"It doesn't really matter. You know that don't you?" She turned to look at Tangye suddenly. The brunette just stared back, keeping her face neutral waiting out the challenge. Finally Georgia just smiled, her expression impressed by Tangye's ability to stand up for herself.
"She'll be able to see the tree if she wants to. It's similar to the way they can pick Nick up and toss him around without touching him. Sort of like telekinesis in a way. They can make a sort of field and manipulate it. Usually just for tossing purposes but it can be used more creatively. Or so I've been told, I can't see it though." She summed up the explanation she had once been given by one of her teachers.
"Seeing still believing?" Nick asked lightly.
"When you see as much as I do, yes." She came back seriously. They got to the clearing where the tree had once stood on the edge of the cliff. Georgia looked out over the impressive scene with loss in her eyes, remembering all too vividly everything that had slipped out of her grasp in this spot.
The rest of the group waited for her to do something. She finally sighed and took a step forward. "Erin, mommy can see you, it's time to come out now." She called out, her voice nearly breaking to think she was getting her little girl back after so long. "Come on honey, mommy got you. You're in the tree."
They all waited for several moments, holding their breath to see if the woman was right. They all felt she hadn't really yet seen the child, but knew that it was the only way to get Erin to reveal herself. After an anxious minute passed they finally saw the small foot come hesitantly down on what they assumed was a branch they couldn't see. Gradually the rest of Erin's little form was also revealed. She jumped down out of the tree landing solidly on the ground. They all heard Georgia gasp to see the face of her six-year-old child unchanged before her. But before they could absorb that, Georgia ran over sweeping her daughter into her arms and hugging her intensely. She laughed hysterically, and cried into the blonde locks atop Erin's head. "Mommy, did you cheat?" Erin asked seriously.
"No honey, I didn't cheat. Oh, baby, you can't know how much your mommy has missed you." She kissed Erin's small face several times and then studied her, as if to make sure she were real. The Legacy members watched the scene with relief, feeling the intense good they were capable of bringing about. Derek put his hand on Kat's shoulder while Rachel held onto her hand. Nick slipped an arm around Tangye and drew her to him. Philip stepped up behind Alex and Kristin, placing a comforting hand on both of their shoulders.
"It's okay mommy, you found me." Erin kissed her mother back and brushed at her hair.
"Yes, Erin I did. I found you and Angie again." She turned to look at those who had brought her here, who she had been so angry with for returning her to the old pain. She regretted striking out at them, especially at Nick, when she now owed them so much. They had figured out what Erin needed to leave this place and taken great risks to put those events in place. She had no way to repay them, and didn't believe they were looking for anything when she saw them all gathered together, holding on to one another. "Say goodbye to your friends honey, we need to leave."
"Okay mommy." Erin slithered out of her mother's arms and ran quickly to Kat. "It was fun playing with you. I haven't gotten to play in a long time. Bye Kat."
"Bye Erin, have fun." Kat answered back sadly, knowing she would never see this little girl again. Erin then turned to look up at Tangye, whose eyes finally shed all suspicion.
"You're it now." She stated.
"Oh really, what do I need to do?" Tangye asked back, playing along.
"You have to find someone." She answered with a shrug.
"But I found you, isn't it my turn to hide?" Tangye said with a smile.
"No, you're a really good finder." She said before smiling proudly at her statement and then running back to her mother. Georgia scooped Erin up again and with a look said thank you to the people that had helped put them both at rest, then without much ceremony the two just vanished. Derek waited for the moment to sink in and then turned to his group.
"That was easy." Kristin was surprised by the simplicity of the events.
"Maybe for you." Philip whispered, not missing how Tangye was still staring at the spot where the two spirits had vanished from. She had not been able to hide her fear over the idea of having to call on a spirit, to allow one to be at all close to her. She accepted Erin because she was only a child, but Georgia was a threat no matter how good of a woman she was. Perhaps it had been easy on them, but it was not on Tangye. Not when they had forced her to face what she feared the most.
"We were in the middle of something if I remember correctly." Derek proclaimed, trying to distract Tangye from her thoughts and it evidently worked for a moment. Tangye looked at him hesitantly, checking to see if he was still mad at her for hiding what she knew. His face broke into a smile, putting her instantly at ease. "Erin handled the opening of most of your gifts but there is still one left. Nick?" Derek looked at the man standing with Tangye in his arms.
"On it boss man." Nick kissed the top of Tangye's head and then turned to go back to the house. Tangye looked over to Derek suspiciously about this new secret but his face gave away nothing.
"Let's give him a moment to set up." Derek stated to keep anyone else from rushing back to the house before the surprise was ready.
"Derek you've really done enough. You didn't kill me for one thing." Tangye said, forcing her humor to return now that the spirits were gone and she sensed only the living on the island.
"No but you can look forward to one hell of a talking to." Derek said causing both Alex and Rachel to burst out laughing due to his joking tone and the light threat it held. "Call this revenge."
"Wow, imagine the big way I don't like hearing that." She answered him wavering between real fear and mock. She just wasn't sure what to expect. Still she held onto the faith that Derek would never do anything to hurt her, much less any of them. "But I guess I'll trust you." She finished with a half grin.
"Good, if we walk slowly we can start back now." They all nodded and began the walk down to the house. Kat quickly caught up with Tangye who was in the lead, grasping onto her hand. They chatted idly until they rounded the corner of the house where Tangye immediately noticed something out of place.
"We have company." She whispered, not wanting to draw attention to them.
"No we don't. That would be the final gift." Derek said with a chuckle to his voice. Tangye turned around quickly to stare at him in utter disbelief. His self-satisfied grin spread as she tried to figure out what to say.
"You didn't wouldn't both." She stammered, annoyed by her own ability to make sense.
"I did, would, both." Derek answered back, his tone jovial.
"Derek it's too much." Tangye protested with a gesture in the direction of the front door.
"I used part of a rather sizable donation made to the Winston Rayne Hall to cover the expense. It is for one of the employees of the Luna Foundation after all, it's justified." Tangye just shook her head skeptically, knowing she had been duped by the precept. She turned back to look at the Midnight Blue convertible showered in the porch light. Derek recalled the discussion he had with Tangye during one of her training sessions when she had been trying to distract him from the work at hand. She had told him how excited she was to have her freedom back again, how she wanted to make the most of it. She wanted to see things again; everything that had been denied her. She just didn't know how to do it. Now he had given her the freedom that she longed for, she could come and go as she pleased without asking anyone. A part of him had been afraid to give it to her, to think that he might be providing her the means with which to leave their lives. After some consideration though he decided that she was not looking to go anywhere else permanently, she had made it clear she thought of this as home, them her family.
"Derek, thank you. It's kinda cheating with the money and way too much, but thank you all the same." She wrapped her arms around his neck tightly and then made a dash for the car where Nick was still sitting in the driver's seat. "You were in on this?"
"You would have had some big clunky sports utility number if I left it up to him." Nick joked with a glance at Derek. Tangye pushed Nick out of the driver's seat and slid in to his place. The joyful smile on her face was enough for them all.
Kat sat in the library working on her homework, knowing she would soon be sent off to bed since they would have to get up extra early to get her off the island and to school in time. She looked across the table at the box that Philip had been working on for the past few days. She had heard them all talking about how they didn't believe it was dangerous in anyway but Philip just wanted to know what it was. She looked around to make sure that no adults were around to see her and pulled the box over to herself, keeping her body blocking it from the control room view through the hologram. She remembered once telling Philip how she enjoyed puzzles and was also good at them.
She spun it around to look at all the sides, studying the engravings made into the wood. She noticed that four of them, one on each side, had a similar theme to each other with only slight differences. The first was a single circle with a square inside, on the opposite side there were two triangles, one right inside the other, with a trapezoid in the middle. On the third side was a triple lined square with a triangle in the center. And finally on the last side there were four sets of trapezoids one inside of the other and a circle in the middle.
She reached out her small hands placing her first finger on the circle, then another on the triangles. She found that her hands were too small to reach around to the other sides of the box and still hold onto her spots. She started to let go in frustration when a voice interrupted her work. "Katherine what are you doin' with tha'?" She turned and looked at Philip surprised to see that he had joined her in the room, but also nervous that she would be in trouble for touching the box.
"I think I figured it out. Come over here." Philip looked at her skeptically but then shrugged and joined her. They had run every test possible and found nothing threatening about the box so he didn't see how Kat could be in any danger. "Look see those three squares? Put a finger on them and then put one on the trapezoids, in that order." Kat instructed.
"All right." Philip looked down at the box and did as he was told, as soon as he touched the trapezoids they both heard something inside of the box click. Kat reached out quickly and pulled the lid off.
"So, good birthday?" Nick asked as they stood on the small balcony off the upper level of the library. They had come up here several times since their first visit when Alex had been missing, it offered a bit of comfort to them both in some way. He looked down at her grinning face and saw that her eyes were dancing, which was answer enough.
"Got everything I wanted." She answered happily with a pleased nod.
"Car, clothes, helped a little girl find peace " She turned to face him fully, cutting short his words. She was slowly shaking her head at him letting her know that his response was wrong.
"Initiated." She stated simply. "I know I belong here Nick, I couldn't imagine myself leaving. Part of that is because of the Legacy. I want to do something where I can feel good about what I do everyday, to know that I'm making a difference. How many jobs can you get that you know you've done something to stave off evil from taking over the world?" He smiled at her conviction.
"Tan, no matter where you got to in life, whatever city and please forgive me for saying this but even without what happened to your parents, I know you would have found your way to the Legacy. You were meant to be with us, I'm just glad we're the house that gets you." He brushed her hair away from her face bringing just more of a smile forth.
"I am too." She whispered back sincerely.
"I have something for you." She started to protest but Nick just shook his head to prevent her from doing so. "It's not a birthday present, more a 'welcome to the club' sort of thing." He pulled the black felt covered box out of his jacket pocket and handed it over to her. She slid the ribbon off and slowly opened the box with a creak. Inside lay small stone with a black leather string on it. The stone was rectangular, dark gray, flat no more than 1/8 inch thick and no larger then an inch on either side. In the side facing up there was a symbol engraved looking much like a capitol 'e' without the center line. The top and bottom lines were angular looking like a triangle missing one side. She looked up at his face impressed by the gift.
"Peorth, meaning initiation." She lifted the stone from where it lay, turning it over to find those two words engraved in the back, along with the letter C. "If I remember it means something like keeping hidden all those mysteries which we only learn after death. It's tied with the idea of fate, that the road we travel, regardless of what we choose to do, is predetermined from the moment of our birth."
"Which sums it up for you I think. But I thought I'd get to tell you that." Nick took the necklace from her, taking an end in each hand and reaching around her neck to help her tie it on.
"I can read rune stones, sorry." He finished tying the necklace, the stone falling to rest over her heart. Then he lifted her chin to have a clearer look in her eyes.
"Don't apologize." He leaned down kissing her gently as his final birthday present to her.
"All tha', and the thing is empty." Kat couldn't help but start giggling to hear his reaction to their discovery. He just acted shocked, even disappointed that a demon didn't pop out. "It's nothin' at all, jus' empty." Philip picked it up and looked it over closely.
"But now you know that." Kat provided trying to control her laughter.
"I suppose, it's jus' " Philip tried to find a way to explain his feelings to the girl.
"You like saving the world. Sometimes my mom's right though, and a box just is a box." Philip looked at her surprised at how logical her statement was, how grown up. He sometimes forgot that Kat was no longer the little seven year old girl that he had first met. She was older now, and bound to be wiser, though the depths of her wisdom could still sometimes be disconcerting. Philip had to wonder if they were allowing her to grow up too quickly.
She jumped down off of her chair, and quickly kissed Philip's cheek as she had done on countless occasions. He smiled at her warmly and she shot him a smile right back. "Isn't it okay that sometimes the world doesn't need saving? You all did something really good today "
"We, all did." Philip corrected.
"Sure. We didn't save the world but we saved someone, I think we still are coming out ahead." Philip laughed at the reason he heard in her voice, a logical tone grasping at anything hopeful, that was so familiar to him. So like his other Legacy members who could sometimes be called fatalists but more often then not looked for the light in situations. Nothing couldn't be fought to the Legacy; they did not give up because of impossibilities. It was clearly a trait that had been passed on to Kat already.
"You're right Katherine. It's jus' a box, nothin' more. Would you like it?" Philip dropped the lid back into place and held it out to Kat. She looked at it for a moment then shook her head.
"You take it, it should be yours." She started to leave the room then hesitated. She turned suddenly and ran to Philip's arms burying her face against his shoulder. "I'm going to miss you." He hushed her gently but hugged her back fiercely.
"I'll miss you too Kat, more then you guess." He kissed the top of her head and slowly let her go. He could see the tears threatening to come from Kat but didn't want to let her cry. He put on his best brave face for her. "Everythin' will be fine, you'll see. We'll always be a family." She nodded but it was obvious she didn't really believe the promise he made. She just didn't see how everything could go back to how it had been, but it was all she wanted.
He stepped off the stairs as silently as he could hoping not to wake anyone in the house. He had made sure to say his good-byes to everyone the night before so he could get an early start. Now all he had to do was wait for the cab to arrive so he could return to his church. He placed his last bag beside the door and went to wait in the morning room just as the front door came open. He winced involuntarily knowing exactly who else would be up at this hour and already out. He had hoped to avoid one last confrontation but it the world was not willing to work out that way. He turned slowly to see Nick staring down at the bags that nearly blocked his path. There was almost a look of remorse on his face until he realized he was not alone and then it returned to its normal angry stare.
"Going so soon?" He bit off the words as he stepped past the luggage.
"You know I have to." Philip answered sympathetically.
"No I don't." Nick shook his head. Clearly there would be no reconciliation on this visit, perhaps the next would hold more hope, Philip felt he had to believe that.
"Nick, I know you're angry at me, I understand tha'. I jus' hope you can someday find it in yourself to forgive me." Nick struggled, nearly ready to say something else but the sound of a car horn outside cut him off. "Tha's my ride." Philip turned and started to gather up his bags. When he had them all he turned to give his friend one last look. He couldn't tell if Nick was ready to do more yelling or actually let Philip back in, his face was conflicted and Philip didn't think Nick himself knew what he wanted to do. "I was thinkin' about Erin last nigh', and the game and realized something. I can't force you to forgive me, or force my way back into being your friend until you're ready. All I can do is let you know that I miss having my little brother around. So it's up to you now Nick. I'm going to take Erin's example, I'll go hide and you can seek when you're ready." With that Philip turned and left the house, Nick barely controlling the urge to call him back. Outside as he loaded his suitcases into the cab, he thought about what he had written in his journal earlier in the morning.
'We are so accustomed to fighting evil in its many forms and fear is a constant part of our lives that I think too often we assume the worst. I felt fear for the child but not what I'm used to. She was an innocent cheated; I feared no act from her but instead what might happen to her. Is it so odd to think that the answer was so simple? Is that a game that ever really leaves us? We spend our lives searching for elusive means to satisfaction. Love, purpose, honor. I just have to wonder if it would be better if we just stopped searching and instead allowed ourselves to be found.'