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Regrettable Choices by TalgoM
Derek checked the number on the sheet of paper that Liz had given him one more time against the numbers of the doors he was walking past. He wasn't sure what he was getting himself in to but her indications that she had information about the Legacy made it impossible for him to ignore her. He had been worried about things going on in the organization for months, ever since the Alex had been unable to come up with any concrete information on Charles Gaarlihn and then suddenly those facts had reappeared when Tangye was safe. There were other indications of problems but that was what he traced back as his first indication.
He found the door to her hotel room and knocked lightly on the thin wood. He glanced around the parking lot once, fearing for some reason that he might be watched. He wasn't sure where such paranoia appeared from but he couldn't ignore that either. She pulled open the door after a moment obviously having been waiting on his arrival. She stepped aside and let him in the room, shutting the door behind her quickly as though she too were afraid that they were being observed. "I'm glad that you came." She smiled at him but it wasn't as warm as it had been the day before. She was much more serious now, almost frightened.
"After what you said, I'm not sure I couldn't. Now what is all this about Liz? If you needed me to see something why didn't you just bring it with you yesterday?" He took a seat on one of the beds as she sat across from him. The room was mostly empty and certainly didn't look lived in. She was clearly just passing through and ready to leave quickly if the need arose.
"I had to be sure that you would listen to me Derek." She answered quickly, playing perfectly into the paranoia she had read from him when she saw him out the peephole. He felt he was conspiring against something even if he wasn't sure exactly what it might be. She could use that to her own advantage if he felt that she was in the same position. It would help to strengthen whatever bond he might feel towards her.
His mother had served as nothing more then a catalyst to temporarily alienate him from his friends. Liz had studied him long enough to know just how he would react to her accusations. He would fear that he would, with time, cause his beloved Legacy house the same sort of pain he caused her. He would step away from them and isolate himself while he worked out his problems. She had stepped in at the perfect time as someone he didn't have to fear hurting because he had no feelings towards her. The false sympathy that he was getting from no one else at them time made him believe that he could count on her if not entirely trust her. Trust wasn't really important though and it was too much to ask for from Derek Rayne. All she needed was for him not to have the chance to open up to those in his house or be forced into doing so. The absence of one of the members had made that infinitely easier to avoid. If the little mind witch had been around she would have already cornered Derek and gained a confession from him. But she was safely on the other side of the continent and the others in the house right now were too wrapped up in themselves to take notice of their precept. Alex would surely do so soon, if she hadn't already, but for whatever reason she had clearly not approached Derek with her concern. Now with one final piece Liz knew she could get him to act out his part in her play without hesitation. He would leave her crushed by uncertainty and she doubted that any of them would be able to talk him out of acting. In fact he would probably be able to sway them all to her side.
Derek's eyes wandered around the room waiting for her to say something else. He took in the bland decorations of the inexpensive hotel room, the small TV bolted down to the dresser, the swing lamps mounted on the wall between the two beds. The generic hotel phone with labeled extensions on the nightstand and finally the stack of folders beside the phone. There was a book lying on top of them but it didn't cover the red imprint he saw on them. Without thinking he reached out and shoved the book off of them, shocked by what he saw.
"This is a Legacy file." Derek said as he picked up the manila folder with the familiar logo printed on the front of it. He looked it over and noticed the name on the small tab. "My file." He looked up, his eyes meeting hers as he expectantly waited on an explanation.
"Yes it is." She answered without trying to offer any sort of justification.
"What are you doing with it? This is Legacy property, they would never have let you " Derek was amazed that she could be so nonchalant about having them in her possession.
"They didn't. I took it because I needed to. That's my other reason for being here. To give it back to you." Derek shook his head. He knew the statues well enough, this was never supposed to be in his hands, not if it came from the Ruling House. "Derek you have a right to know what's in there. I told you that my reasons for leaving the Legacy were complicated. But I did make it clear that I felt they were endangering innocent lives. I found something in your file that you have a right to know. Yours and two others." She lifted the others from the nightstand holding them up so that he could read the names.
"I can't " Derek turned away, fighting his instinct to grab them from her and tear them open when he saw the two names. He wasn't interested in what might be in his own but he had a duty to do everything he could to protect them. She held in her hands the possible answers to all of the questions that had been in his mind for weeks, but he didn't believe that this was the right way to get them.
"You'd be surprised. I didn't think I could either but I heard enough comments not meant to get out that eventually I didn't see where I had a choice." She moved over to sit beside him, reaching out for his hand. "They turned a blind eye Derek. Ignored what they knew and never stepped in to help. They came so close to losing them and they never did anything to prevent it. You did though, without even knowing that you were thwarting what they had allowed to continue." Her voice was low and filled with the same sympathy she had shown him the day before. She behaved as if she truly regret what she knew and that she had to shatter something within him by passing that knowledge on. Yet she also clearly felt it was necessary to do so or she would never have come to him.
"What are you saying?" Derek turned suspicious eyes on her and for the first time she realized that she might lose him. But if she could get her information out quickly he would be hers totally. He could never ignore what was done to these two. If they hurt him it didn't matter but these two made up so much of his world that he couldn't allow harm to be done to them.
"That the Legacy knew what was done to them and was prepared to let them die." She answered simply but it was enough. Hearing those words, words he might have feared more then any others he pulled the files out of her hands and tore open the seals keeping them closed.
"How's it coming?" Kristin's voice spoke over the hum of the computers that had been driving Alex mad. She knew the reaction was born out of her concern but that rationalization didn't help the annoyance it caused. "I ran into Rachel and she told me what was going on." Kristin explained as she joined Alex at the computer terminal.
"Actually surprisingly well. From Gilby's description I think I have a pretty good idea of who gave him the flyer and the handwriting matches as well. He's going to come by later tonight and take a look at the photo so we can be sure, but operating on the assumption that I am right " Alex brought up the picture of the man she had identified.
"I know him, I met him a few years ago. Precept of the Athens house, Julian Gardina?" Alex nodded at Kristin's recognition. "He's handing out flyers about the Legacy on the streets now?"
"Evidently he left the Legacy about a week ago. No one saw him leave and I can't seem to get much information about his motives. I have a call in to the Athens house to see if they know anything but I haven't heard back from them yet." Alex explained glancing at Kristin to see her reaction. Kristin stood back up and crossed to look more closely at the photo, tying to sort through her memories of the man.
"That's strange. When I met him he was so dedicated to the Legacy. From some of the things the other members of the house had said he didn't seem to have anything else in his life." Kristin was truly surprised by the idea that such a man would leave the organization that had meant so much to him, not only leave but wage a sort of war against it by trying to expose it.
"Not anymore." Alex said switching the screen to show the scanned copy of the flyer. She highlighted a certain bit of text for Kristin to read. It didn't make much sense but after some research Alex had figured out what the words meant.
"Don't let them rob you of your flower?" Kristin looked over her shoulder at Alex who nodded.
"Julian's wife was killed on an archeological dig several years ago. That was when he became involved with the Legacy. They accidentally enacted some sort of curse on the grounds and she was killed. After that he joined the Legacy." Alex explained. "Her name was Violet."
"So for some reason he suddenly is blaming the Legacy for her death?" Alex shrugged, with a rise in her eyebrows not yet sure of the answer to the why of that question. "If that's the case, why would he come here of all places? What not take this to the London house?"
"That would be the question of the hour. Hopefully the Athens house will be able to tell me something. There must have been something that set him off." Alex stated, still struggling to find how all of this fit together. Why would a man who from all reports was well respected and very dedicated to the Legacy leave it out of the blue and try to spread the word of the secret by passing out flyers on the streets? Julian was an well-educated man, he had to know that his methods were going to get him nowhere. If one decided to expose the Legacy there were countless other ways in which to get the message out. Why would he choose to make himself appear to be nothing more then a crackpot?
"Mr. Parker we think we have located her." Carin spoke from the other side of Jackson's bedroom door. He yanked the door open a moment later surprising his young assistant.
"Where?" He snapped off the question. Whatever Liz had planned it didn't look good for the Legacy and he intended to gather her as quickly as he could. After talking to the Athens house he had all the information that he needed that Liz was clearly a threat to them all. A threat he was not going to stand by and allow to persist.
"We traced her steps, from here she went to the Netherlands and then on to Athens "
"I know all of that Carin, where is she now?" Jackson ordered, frustrated that he would have to listen to this girl go on about her research when she could just easily give him an answer.
"She went to the States sir. We aren't exactly sure but we think "
"She's in San Francisco. Dammit." Jackson again cut off her words the realization dawning on him. Without another word he turned back into his room shutting the door behind himself. How had he overlooked what had been right in front of him? She had gone to the Netherlands but not been seen around the Legacy house. She had been found with so many files but only a few of them represented personnel in the same house. He knew that she had a personal vendetta against the man yet he had never seen her going after him. He didn't know why he had overlooked it but now that he knew where she was he at least had the chance to step in and put a stop to whatever plan she had before she could enact it.
He cursed himself again for his own stupidity, his blindness to her manipulations. If there was one skill that she had mastered he certainly now knew what it was. He didn't know really how she did it but she had them all running around in some pattern that she had set for them. She had managed to upset him enough and leave him doubting himself long enough that she could act without fear. That was over now.
"Derek I know how badly this must hurt you." Liz finally spoke to the shell-shocked man sitting in the hotel room unable to raise his eyes from the damning words in front of him. She had found the time to grin maliciously at him when he was reading and with it out of her system she found it easy to pour on the false sympathy again.
"You have no idea." Derek mumbled his eyes glued to the lines in the file that she had drawn to his attention. After what he had read he could only imagine what he might find in his own file but he hadn't even bothered to look at it.
"Maybe I shouldn't have " She started, sounding regretful over the pain she had brought with her.
"No, you did the right thing. I needed to know this." He shook his head weakly.
"I know how important the Legacy is to you." She began again to apologize but he wouldn't hear it.
"It means nothing." With those simple words she knew without any doubt that she had won. Derek Rayne had lost all faith in what had been the foundation of his life for decades. Since he was just a child in fact. Derek had always been in the Legacy, even before his initiation it was the one path that his life was set on taking him. Now with a few well-phrased lines and false reports Liz had destroyed all of that. Made his life's work a waste and a betrayal of all that he loved.
"Derek how can you say that?" Liz was surprised that she made her voice sound so horrified. "You of all people? I knew it would hurt you to learn this but to turn away from it?"
"What choice do I have?" He finally tossed the files aside unable to stare at the words any longer. "I made promises to people. Not just to them but those who loved them. I swore that I would watch over them, do everything in my power to protect them." He gestured at the scattered papers with anger. Sickness swept over him to think that he would have to look at them all and explain what had been going on all along.
"But you made those promises before you knew any of this. You kept your word." She argued barely containing her laughter again.
"But if I go on another day I won't be." Derek looked at her with hate filled eyes, not directed at her but at the organization she was suddenly be defending. "I promised Nick's mother that I would do everything I could to watch out for him. She was terrified when he joined the Legacy and I have let her down enough over the years but if I turn a blind eye to this then what could I be letting him walk into? If they were willing to allow him to suffer when he was just a little boy what will they allow to happen to him now that he's a grown man?"
"But you can't think that he'll walk away just because you tell him to."
"Nick does not handle betrayal well. Duty is paramount with him but only if something deserves his dedication. He'll walk out when he learns that he's been lied to and that they stood by " Derek's eyes turned back to the files again. "I promised Charles that I would fight for her when she couldn't." Derek averted his eyes again, flinching at some thought that he didn't share. "They fear her, do you know what that would do to her? She finally feels that she has found a place where she can avoid that sort of persecution for her differences. How do I tell her she hasn't, that she has managed to fall right into the midst of it? They were waiting on her to die rather then risk her release. She's just a child." Derek's voice broke with his last words.
Liz went to him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders as he fought the tears that wanted so badly to be released. "I know Derek, and I'm so sorry for doing this to you."
"You did nothing, they did this." He denied her words instinctively. She hadn't failed to notice that he was now speaking of himself outside the Legacy. The group was now 'they' instead of 'us', which in her mind was a definite sign that she had won the battle for his loyalty.
"Maybe we can fight back." Derek looked at her through his bloodshot eyes. His vision was hazy at the edges and he wished that he could be left alone to absorb all that he had learned but he also wanted to hear what she had in mind. "Maybe we can take something from them, cheat them of the opportunity to do anything like this again."
Derek struggled to find his voice, a part of him screaming not to listen to her. A part telling him that everything was wrong with what was going on right now. But he didn't pay it any mind, deciding it was the bit of him trained in loyalty to the Legacy. "How?"
"Take from them the power their secret allows them. Give them to the innocents that need them rather then allow them to choose who they might help." He knew exactly what she was suggesting and though it went against everything he had been taught since he was a child at that moment it sounded right.
"Thank you so much Sybil. This is a big help to us. We'll let you know if we manage to locate Julian." Kristin hung up the phone looking over her shoulder to see if Alex had joined her back in the control room yet. When she saw that she was alone she settled down behind one of the computer terminals and began typing in commands to the computer. She wasn't entirely sure what she was looking for but she was certain that the details had to be in here somewhere. Something connecting all of this together and she needed to figure out what it was.
Sybil had explained to her about Julian's sudden departure from the Legacy as well as his visit from Liz Cannon. She had then gone on to explain that only a few hours ago she had received an announcement from the Ruling House that Liz had been banished from the Legacy, news that the San Francisco house was not yet privy to because Derek had not been checking in on his messages. That information had unsettled Kristin as much as learning that Julian had decided to abandon his life's work. She had been in London only a few weeks ago and she had seen the interaction between Jackson and Liz firsthand. He depended on her, sought her council on matters that he didn't trust anyone else's advice in. To learn that she had suddenly been ejected from the Legacy without any sort of an explanation offered did not bode well. Jackson was trying to hide something and having grown to know the man so well she feared what it might be. He was a man with too many secrets and agendas that she already knew about, any others automatically made her worry.
"Well we're sure about one thing. It was Julian that Gilby saw." Alex said as she and Rachel entered the control room after showing the picture to Gilby. She tossed the printout onto the table and sank into one of the chairs wearily. "Now if we could only figure out what it means that he would have such a sudden change of heart."
"I think I might have your answer." Kristin said as her eyes grew wide seeing the images in front of her. "Or something like one at least."
"What do you mean, who is that?" Rachel asked seeing the video clip of a woman on their front doorstep.
"That is Liz Cannon." Kristin sat back in her chair still not able to make a complete picture out of the pieces they were discovering but all the more certain that there was one.
"Jackson's assistant?" Alex questioned with surprise. "Why would she be here? Why haven't we seen her?" Alex turned to look at the researcher.
"Well first of all, she's his ex-assistant. She was banished by a tribunal a little over a week ago. Other then on our front door step the only place she has been seen since then is at the Athens house. Evidently she visited them the night Julian left the Legacy." Kristin explained looking at the others to see if perhaps they could make some more sense out of the fragments they had been able to gather.
"Then she and Julian both show up here in San Francisco? Do you know why a tribunal was called?" Rachel leaned against the front of the table staring at the image of the woman who was now being greeted by Derek in the video. She could recognize from the silent pictures of him the depression that Alex had described. There was just something about how heavy all of his motions looked and the way he was behaving so inattentively which was so out of character for him. He hadn't looked that way this morning when she ran into him but what Alex had told her about was clearly not an overreaction. There had been something very wrong with Derek but somehow he had suddenly got over it.
"It seems no one does. Except the tribunal itself and Jackson." Kristin turned to look at Alex more closely wanting to gage her reaction to what she was about to suggest. "And as for your other question, maybe the reason we haven't seen her is by her choice. Maybe we'd get in her way." There was a certain amount of doom to that statement that none of them could deny. They just didn't like what was implied by such an idea, not when Derek was out of the house and none of them knew where.
"We need to learn as much as possible about her and any sort of relationship she might have with Derek." Alex whispered, trying desperately not to jump to conclusions but without success.
He had insisted that he needed a little time. Some private moments to think over everything that he had learned this morning. She had been more then willing to give it to him knowing that he wouldn't stray far. She didn't doubt that he would show up at the appointed hour any more then she thought he might go and seek help from his friends. He just wouldn't be ready to do that yet. Not when he was the one who pulled them all into this mess in the first place. Derek Rayne had built the most recent incarnation of the San Francisco house and to admit that he had failed them all would be too much for him to do immediately. He would need time to find the right words, to prepare an explanation for them all.
But first he would come here just as she had asked him to. Before he knew what he was doing, before any of his precious friends could talk to him, he would bring ruin to everything that he held dear. He would never realize that she was in control of the situation and by the time someone arrived that could explain that to him it would be far too late. He would have already made the mistakes and his fate would be sealed. But if all went according to plan, and she had little doubt that it would, he would manage to turn them before they could make him see the light. He would convince them all to abandon what they had been taught and they would go down without a fight because of who he was. If it had been any other house she could never count on them all falling when their leader did, but the San Francisco house had never been any other house. They were special for their bond and they were vulnerable for it.
In the privacy of the auditorium, she spun around staring at the lights rigged from the catwalks above the stage and at long last she let go of her laughter. It reverberated off of walls designed specifically to amplify sound, bouncing back to her and away again, echoing on and building ever louder. She had won and in mere hours she would own the Legacy. With one man's distraught confession she would bring the powerful organization to its knees. She would have money, influence and the prize of power beyond the simple man's comprehension. The same simple men she had used as a weapon to gain the trust of the two precepts. The innocents that they swore to defend she merely wanted to control and in hours she would.
"So are we any closer to an answer?" Rachel asked joining the two researchers in the control room after having set Kat up in the library to do her homework. She glanced up to the screen to see the same image of Liz Cannon staring back at her that Alex had discovered earlier.
"Thankfully I think so." Alex nodded with a pleased grin. "We know that Liz is here and that somehow she got Julian to leave the Legacy. What we didn't know was why."
"And you do now?" Alex again responded with a quick nod.
"Putting together everything we know so far we think we might have an explanation. Nothing definite but what we have makes sense." Alex stood up and began pacing the length of the control room from the large screen to her terminal as she let her thoughts flow. "I don't think it's about turning people away from the Legacy, she wants to expose it. For what purpose I'm not sure but that seems to be the goal."
"If that's true why would she come after Derek? Why not go after someone who might be more easily swayed. The Legacy is Derek's life." Kristin asked, so far this was as far as any of them had been able to get yet Alex clearly had a much better idea about the possibilities, taking each clue easily to its next most logical step.
"True but Derek is a highly respected member of the community. Regarded as intelligent, people would listen to him." Rachel supplied, thinking of what someone wanting to manipulate others might naturally go after. Derek had a voice that wouldn't be dismissed and that was necessary to get any message out.
"The Legacy precepts for the most part fall into that category? She already had that with Julian, why remove him from his city, bring him here where he won't really do anything." Kristin questioned.
"That's what makes me think this is personal." Alex stopped her pacing for the moment looking at them.
"Why? Is she an old girlfriend?" Rachel wasn't sure where Alex was getting this information from but she was going with it so easily that Rachel was loath to argue with it.
"It in fact looks to be just the opposite. I finally managed to access her personal files. She has always been assigned to the London house but she was stuck never really doing much of anything. She had expressed an interest in becoming a precept several times but she was always passed over. On several occasions it looks like this was due to bad recommendations from current precepts. One of the most recent ones was during Sloan's time. She was sent on assignment to be judged and the report came back less then glowing." Alex leaned over and tapped at a few keys to display the typed letter to William Sloan that she had managed to dig up.
"Let me guess. Derek wrote the report?" Rachel slid into one of the chairs.
"Exactly. If I'm right she wants to bring down the Legacy and Derek along with it for what he did to her." Alex nodded, crossing her arms over her chest satisfied with this answer.
"Any ideas on a how." Tangye's voice suddenly broke into the conversation in the room. The three women all turned to see their two vacationing members entering the room and dropping several pieces of luggage by the door. Alex couldn't help but smile with relief to have the team whole, feeling that they always functioned much better that way. At least they were mostly whole, they had to get Derek back home safe for that to be completely true.
"Nick, Tangye, you didn't have to come back for this." Alex apologized.
"Trust me it's okay." Tangye answered Alex's regret. "Once the New York house decided to baby sit us our vacation started lacking." Tangye crossed the room and took a seat on one of the tables folding her legs up under herself. Her light eyes immediately turned to look up at the large display screen showing a Legacy personnel file that they had finally managed to gain access to.
"What are you talking about?" Rachel curiously looked at Nick as he joined Tangye.
"Please don't get her started." Nick warned, clearly indicating that this was a topic he had enough of. "It seems you guys have a pretty good idea what's going on with Derek, for the sake of time we'll catch up on our own. Why don't you answer Tan's question." He stopped and put his hands on Tangye's shoulders.
"Okay, I'm not really sure exactly how she plans to do it but I doubt she'll have Derek handing out flyers. She's toying with people, but getting bolder. She must assume that her banishment is out now, it will be more difficult for her to get close to anyone. This is her last chance so she went for the prize." Alex rubbed at her eyes wishing for the one thing she was missing, someway that Liz had managed to get past Derek's defenses. As if on cue Nick brought that point up.
"How did Derek fall for it? I don't think he'd be described as easily manipulated."
"Like I told you on the phone, he's been stressed, out of sorts, withdrawn since just shortly after you left. I don't know what brought it on but whatever it was it seemed to really put him off his game, I guess that's what I'd call it." Alex struggled to find the right words.
"So basically you're saying, he's lonely and he just let's her manipulate him. That seems a bit out there." No one answered Tangye's summarized statement unsure what to say. "Okay but from what I hear whoever she is she's not a demon or vengeful spirit or some other spawn of hell with incomprehensible power. She's just human, shouldn't be too hard to beat her." Tangye looked around the room to all of their faces that indicated silently that those were the exact problem.
"Well that's just it, Tangye. She is just human. We're used to dealing with things we can exorcise, kill or banish. Our normal methods don't work here." Alex pointed out, and began thinking out loud. "So she didn't make a deal with the dark side, we're sure on that, reasonably sure. She's just a smart woman that knows how to manipulate people into doing what she wants them to."
"Which means we have to ask ourselves how to stop just a person. We can't just kill her to keep her quiet. But we can't let her do this to Derek, it would destroy him if she lead him away from the Legacy before he realized what she was doing. I just don't see how she can do it. What would make Derek turn from the Legacy no matter what his mood might be?" Rachel asked the question weighing down on them all.
"I think the answer is probably in whatever brought this mood on to Derek in the first place. If we can figure out what that is then we might be able to help." Kristin stepped up, feeling the mood in the room take a nose dive as they began to wonder if their efforts were all going to fail after they had come this far. "If we found Derek, couldn't Tangye just "
"No, uh-uh." Tangye shook her head adamantly at that suggestion.
"Tangye, I hate to admit it but Kristin might have a point." Rachel spoke softly seeing the immediate defensiveness that the words brought forth in the young woman.
"I I don't " Tangye stumbled over the words to justify her reluctance.
"She's doesn't know that she can." Alex stepped up to her rescue. She had been the one that Tangye came to after the incident in the Cryer house explaining how much pain the effort of reading Emerson's mind had caused her. It had made Alex worry about her use of the gift all the more and she didn't want Tangye playing games with that. They had both agreed that if she did it again she would have to train first and have all the research on the subject completed. "Thoughts that are sent to her, or that she sends require minimum energy somehow. But if she has to search for it, muddle through to find one specific thing that she doesn't even know she's looking for, we're not sure what damage that might do to her. Derek wouldn't want her to take that risk. I thinks it's best we all forget that she might be able to do it. So we do this the old fashioned way." Alex nodded, giving Tangye a gentle pat on the back for support sure that she felt she was letting them all down.
"Had Derek left the house before this mood hit him?" Nick asked suddenly, his eyes diverted to a sheet of paper in his hands.
"Not that I know of, why?" Kristin turned to look at Nick, breaking her annoyed stare at Tangye.
"So whatever brought this on was either a phone call, letter or visitor." Nick slammed the paper down on the table top, pointing to one spot on it. "The log from the guard house of everyone coming on the island, they gave it to me on our way up here. Tuesday Barbara Rayne was here."
"That's when this started." Alex whispered shocked by the implication. Without speaking Nick took a seat at the computer, accessing the security tapes that were stored automatically into the computer system for his review. He pulled up the tape of that day and time frame easily, locating images of Derek and his mother both standing in the library. The scene was running in fast forward at first, pictures of them sitting at the conference table and then Barbara rising suddenly with anger as she crossed to the window. He let the tape play like that, their motions exaggerated by the speed.
"Well it looks like they got in some sort of argument." Alex stated.
"Any ideas what about?" Nick turned to look at her hoping that her intuition would provide an answer.
"None, I wish the tapes had sound." Alex sighed, rubbing at her eyes with exhaustion.
"So we have people that can read minds, but not lips." Kristin quipped.
"That's irony for ya, always ready to kick you in the butt." Tangye responded.
"What's she doing there?" Rachel asked pointing at the screen, ignoring the bickering. Nick ran the tape back to show Barbara pointing angrily at her son's hand and then at the far wall. "What's she looking at?"
"I'm not sure." Alex shook her head, leaning over Nick to run the tape back again. "It looks like she might be saying something about Derek's precept ring. But why?"
"And as for the far wall, it's just the window. Maybe mom wants Derek to get out into the world a bit more? Stop shutting himself up in the Legacy?" Nick suggested though it didn't sound right to him.
"That doesn't fit with Barbara. She's always understood the importance of the Legacy to him." Alex answered absently feeling the answer was right there in her reach, somehow spelt out on this short section of tape, but she still hadn't grasped it.
"Plus she wouldn't fly all the way here to lecture him about that. Mothers use the phone for that sort of thing, little calls to subtlety stack on guilt." Rachel shook her head at that idea as well.
"That in the mom handbook?" Nick asked with a quick grin.
"You'll never know." Rachel shot back. "Whatever she's saying she's angry about it."
"I don't get it, in all the years that I've known Barbara she's never been this angry with Derek. She always seems to understand his choices. And supports them. She's never really liked the Legacy, but she grasped Derek's dedication to it. Where it came from, why he felt it was his duty." Alex's voice dropped of with the realization.
"So what changed? Nothing about the Legacy, it has to mean something else. She's using the ring to make a point, if that's even what she's pointing at." Kristin said.
"It is." Alex whispered. Perhaps it wasn't directly about the Legacy but like everything else in Derek's life it was tied to it. This was about his duty as she had just said. She tapped on the computer keyboard and changed the image in front of her, bringing up a close up on the stained glass window in the library that they all knew so well. The words etched there that had become a motto to Derek over the years. "The ring was given to him by his father when he died. These were the words that Winston Rayne lived and died by. Or so we thought. She's not talking about the Legacy, she was talking about Winston."
"You think she somehow found out what became of him?" Rachel asked not able to hide the dislike of the man so apparent in her tone.
"What did?" Tangye asked confused due to her own lack of knowledge on the subject.
"Evidently his obsession with the sepulchers near the end of his life created a thirst in him for the power they represented. He turned." Alex summed up the information, vividly recalling her terror upon realizing that Winston had come back to complete his work with the ancient containers of evil. Taking over his son's body to open up hell on earth, only to be stopped when William Sloan offered himself instead and closed the portal. "The last time Derek spoke of it he said he wasn't sure if he was ever going to tell his family what he learned about Winston. It's been more then a year, why would he talk about it now?"
"She came with the accusations. She already knew. Which means someone in the Legacy must have told her, no one else would possibly know, or believe at any rate." Nick stated, standing up. They needed to move quickly and all the talking wasn't getting them anywhere now. They needed to find Derek, stop whatever Liz might have planned for him.
"No you're right. That never would have got outside the Legacy, and not even very far within it. Just here, and the Ruling house." With a quick sequence of keystrokes Alex brought back the picture of Liz Cannon to the screen.
"I don't get it, why tell Derek's mother?" Tangye inquired.
"I don't know that she did. She may have just planted the seeds of doubt in her head and then sent Barbara here to accuse Derek. That would be worse because then he would have to tell her every detail himself. And the why's easy. It's what we've been saying all along. This made him feel alone, as if he betrayed those he loved and couldn't turn to anyone for support. He never wanted to hurt his mother, but if he did, even when he had her best interests at heart he would be afraid of how many others he could hurt." Alex hated to think that Derek had withdrawn for such a reason. She knew that she had questioned his own actions in the past but she had never lost faith in him. To think he was doubting himself in such a way was like a physical blow to her. He was so noble, cared for them all so much and to have someone try to rob him of that was worse then any fate she could imagine for him.
"Well I think I speak for everyone when I say Bitch." Tangye growled, wishing she could get her hands on the woman that had caused the man who had shown her nothing but kindness, a moment of pain. Glad that Nick and she had returned early in order to leave her the chance to do just that.
"We need to find him, stop this. Nick do you still keep a tracker on his car?" Alex turned to Nick, her resolve strengthened. They could all tell that nothing was going to stop her from bringing Derek home again, no matter what stood in her way.
"This is Derek we're talking about, of course." Nick nodded.
He pulled his car into the parking spot just before the appointed hour she had given him to meet her. He wasn't exactly sure what she had planned nor what he was really doing in this place. He was hurt and angry due to everything that he had been shown but was that reason enough to follow her rather then his own instincts to take the information to the Ruling House? To possibly even call a tribunal on Jackson Parker for his part in all of this. Yet what she had shown him was information that spanned decades, many other precepts besides Jackson had been involved in all of this, including William Sloan. He couldn't believe that part of the revelation. William had known about Tangye and her imprisonment and yet he had never mentioned it to Derek. He had seen information about the abuse Nick went through and never uttered a word to indicate that he held such knowledge.
Derek hadn't read his own file but it was easy enough to guess what he would find in it. The Legacy had discovered that his father had turned prior to his death and they had done nothing about it. Or perhaps allowing him to go in search of the sepulcher had been their way of dealing with that problem. They might have known all along that such a quest would lead to his death and therefore an end to their problems. He didn't want to believe that the Legacy would use such methods but he also couldn't deny that it was within their collective character.
Was that the type of thing that he could really allow to persist? A group so powerful which held so little regard for lives they deemed unimportant for whatever reason they might have. Could he stand by wondering how many others were being hurt while the Legacy merely looked away and concentrated on their own interests? Shouldn't someone step up and say that they had gone too far? Send a message to them that there would be no more broken promises or lies?
He flung the door to his car open and climbed out, resolving himself to whatever solution she might have to offer him within this building. The betrayal of the Legacy towards the Rayne family was something he could forget but what they had done to the children Nick and Tangye had been was not. They had hurt those he cared for, even if only by allowing their pain to persist, and he would not allow them to do so any longer. He would enact revenge for them and he prayed that they could understand his choice after the fact.
Jackson was sure that she didn't want to be stopped, but he was equally certain now that she did want to be caught. Once he had figured out where she was it disappointingly easy to follow the trail that she had left for him. He knew that she had it planned so he would arrive too late, somehow perceiving his every move before he had a chance to act and allowing herself every moment that she needed. She was waiting to see the look on his face, none of this complete if he could not be there to comply with that desire. He only hoped that the San Francisco house would manage to get one step ahead of her somewhere along the line.
"Okay, if Derek's with his car then he's in there." Everyone in the car looked over at the structure on the other side of the parking lot. They saw the small sign in front of the building but none of them really wanted to register what they were reading. Thankfully the parking lot of the auditorium was empty which at least meant that Liz had not been able to gather a crowd for her little show whatever it might be.
Nick whipped the car around roughly, crossing the parking lot with unnecessary speed but stopping perfectly aligned with the front doors. "Well Alex?" Rachel asked looking at the young woman who's brow was creased with worry for her mentor.
"What?" Alex turned to her colleague unsure what was being asked of her.
"You got us this far, you're in charge." Rachel supplied only to be met with a shocked look from Alex.
"Really?" The others all nodded in turn. "Okay then, I guess we go in, see if we can talk to him. Now that we know what's going on we have to be able to talk some sense into him. Nick, Tangye you two stay out here, make sure no one leaves the building, I guess." Alex hated that she sounded so unsure of herself but she just didn't feel comfortable taking responsibility for all of them. Nick gave her a quick nod, reaching under Tangye's seat where he had a gun hidden in case of emergency. "Then let's go."
"Good luck." Tangye grinned for Alex, which helped to make her feel slightly better about what it was that she was being forced to do. The group piled out of the car and while Nick and Tangye took up their positions at either corner of the building in order to watch side exits the three women went into the building just as the first droplets of rain were felt.
"I knew you'd come Derek." Liz purred as she smiled to him. He sat on the chair she left on the stage for him. He shifted uncomfortably under that look, something about it not as kind and gentle as she had been towards him over the past day. The look in her eyes was more one he associated with the Liz Cannon that he had reviewed for William Sloan. A hunter with its prey in sight, enjoying every moment that it was given to toy with it. For the first time Derek wondered if perhaps this was not just a game to her, something to occupy the passing hours after she left the Legacy. What she hoped to gain from it he couldn't be sure but he also didn't know that he wanted to find out.
"After what you showed me I don't know that I had much of a choice." Derek snapped, annoyed that he was on display alone on this stage. His eyes scanned the room but he saw no indication of any other life.
"Yes, what I showed you." She nodded, attempting to look saddened by the information revealed to him but failing. She looked to be too amused by everything to convince him of any sympathy for what he had been forced to face. "How that must have broken your heart to learn what they did. To be forced to wonder how many others they had done the exact same thing to. To wonder if perhaps they had done it to other members of your house."
"What are you talking about?" Derek stood up, frustrated with her behavior.
"Don't tell me you haven't been. Think about how many horrible things have happened to them all. Rachel's mother killed 'accidentally' by your father? Do you think a man who was such a perfectionist would really make a mistake like that? And Philip, your dear priest, your favorite son. They wanted him in the Legacy as much as you did. He's useless to them in the church and they would go to any means to bring him 'home.' When his brother died, he was so close to leaving his faith wasn't he? Don't you think that was rather, predictable of him?" Liz walked to the edge of the stage staring up at Derek, smiling still but the expression chilled Derek.
"The Legacy did not kill Michael." Derek stated flatly.
"Can you really say that with any certainty Derek?" Liz asked. "You've doubted them before, haven't you? You've never be entirely sure of all the motives they have."
"With an organization like the Legacy there can never be absolute certainty about anything. There will always be members that become obsessed with the power of evil. Those of us who are not are responsible for the integrity of the rest of the organization." Liz chuckled to hear such words from him. She knew that she could have asked him to explain the Legacy without making him question her motives, but for some reason that she couldn't put into words watching him struggle was more enjoyable. He had realized that she was not the friend she had made herself seem and he had to face that he allowed her to manipulate him, yet he went on talking to her. He had to justify the Legacy as much to her as to himself. He had no idea that his statements would be turned against them all or even that they would be heard by anyone else.
"Of course Derek, but the secrets and lies, you wonder about them don't you? You don't really feel it's necessary to hide from a world that needs you so badly." Liz goaded him on.
"We hide so that innocents can sleep at night. We protect those we can protect." Derek answered without thinking about the words before they came out.
"Yet, Nick and Tangye were not counted among that number. You yourself as child were not important enough to warrant the protection of the Legacy." Liz said with an air of self-importance reminding Derek of the information that brought him here.
"Was it true?" Derek asked, his voice numb. That single question caused Liz to burst forth with a loud laugh. She didn't care anymore about bringing down the San Francisco house, she would get what she needed from Derek either way. She would be given enough to bring down the Legacy and that was all that really mattered. With that triumph would naturally come the San Francisco house. She wanted to revel in what she had done to Derek and she could only do that if he knew, if he suffered for his blindness.
"Of course not, Derek. But it brought you here, didn't it? It made you utter the one thing I needed you to. 'The Legacy did not kill Michael.' You admitted that there is a Legacy and that was all I need." She said in utter self-satisfaction. Derek's eyes did another scan of the auditorium but he still did not see anyone with them.
"I admitted it to you alone." Derek said, confused why that was such a success in her eyes.
"You might as well have admitted it to the world, because with time they will all hear you. Now I just need some more details Derek." Liz walked around to the stairs leading to the stage as Derek stared at her wide eyed, realization hitting over what he had done.
Alex couldn't say what had made her stop before entering the auditorium but she was relieved that they had done so. They could hear everything that was being said on the other side of the doors and it led to only one conclusion. She turned quickly to the two woman gathered at the door with her. "She's taping this. She knew Derek would never say anything if he had an audience. But she has his confession."
"Alex, it could be anywhere in the theatre." Kristin agreed with the thought but it didn't mean they were any closer to stopping what Liz had planned.
"Could be, but someone is probably guarding it, which means they'd have to be out of sight or Derek wouldn't have said that just Liz heard his confession." Alex looked around herself trying to think of where someone might be that would allow them to have a clear shot of the stage but still be unable to be seen.
"The control room, the booth. Where they run the show from." Rachel blurted out, envisioning a theatre set up in her mind.
"Exactly." Alex nodded. "We have to find a way to it." On cue the three women separated and went in search of the door that would gain them access to the room.
"You can tell me all about it Derek. About the Legacy, what exactly they are fighting. The realities man is too weak to face. Just say the words and this will be over." Liz circled him threateningly. She ran her hands gently over his shoulders and back but the touch was no longer something that Derek could take any sort of comfort in.
"You did this. You told my mother what became of my father." Derek struggled to get the words out as he realized that he had played perfectly into her hands for days, denying what he knew about her because of his need not to be alone. He wasn't sure how she knew how to manipulate him so perfectly but that no longer mattered. He had to find a way out of this. The Legacy would never forgive what he had done, for even an accidental betrayal that allowed this woman such power.
"No Derek you told your mother. I merely sent her to you with the right questions." Liz stopped in front of him, cocking her head to one side. She reached up to touch his cheek but he recoiled from the contact. "I couldn't have even planned how perfectly distraught you became after your mommy's accusations. But your life is pretty empty without your family. You never ventured out to build something else you could hold on to. Walling yourself up in the Legacy, allowing only those who knew its secret to grow close to you. That's why I knew if you doubted the Legacy you would be left entirely alone."
"Then why my mother? She has nothing to do with the Legacy." Derek's voice was low as he stared her down but she did not give in to the harsh glare.
"What was the first thing you thought about after your mother accused you of hiding what you knew about your father?" She turned away from him, looking out in pleasure at the empty seats of the auditorium. "Who in the Legacy told her? Only someone in the Legacy could have known and therefore the organization betrayed you. And after that you withdrew, carrying the load all alone. You feared betraying your second family as you had your first. The files merely got you back on track. Focused all that self-disgust on the Legacy rather then yourself." She turned back to him grinning. "Now I answered your questions, you should answer mine. What is the Legacy, Derek?"
Derek averted his eyes. He wouldn't say it, he wouldn't give in to her demands now that she had given up the power she had over him with her confession. But he wasn't sure that he hadn't already given her enough for her purposes.
"We have company Nick." Tangye called out pointing across the parking lights to where a pair of bright headlights had just turned in and were now pulling up to them. Nick raised his gun to greet the driver out of precaution. None of them knew exactly what to expect here but they weren't going to take any risks.
"There is no need for that Mr. Boyle." Nick's arms dropped recognizing the face of the man who emerged from the vehicle into the rain. "I don't have time to explain, are the others all here?" Nick nodded. "Then we should join them, we don't want this moment to fail Liz's expectations." Jackson's face stayed emotionless as he went to the main doors to the building and waited for them to join him.
"What are you doing here? How did you find us?" Nick asked suspiciously.
"Liz left me a trail to follow, none of this would be complete without me here." Jackson answered as he opened the doors and started down the hall to the auditorium following signs along the walls.
"So you know what's going on, yet you didn't think to pick up a phone and tell us?" Tangye questioned without hiding her annoyance.
"You figured it out didn't you?" Jackson answered smugly.
"Mostly. We're still working on how she got him here. We know about his mother and all that, but She had to have something else to get him to a point where he was willing to do this. She must have had some other sort of ammo to use on him." Nick stated aggravated that Jackson was choosing to be so evasive. He was shocked when Jackson suddenly stopped to study both of their faces, looking stunned by something Nick had said.
"The answer to that is simple, and I'm a bit disappointed that you didn't see it." Jackson said his tone indicating how obvious he felt the answer was. "You, she used you against him."
"Wait a minute, how do you know so much about what she's doing?" Nick grabbed Jackson's arm making him stop in his renewed progress to the main hall.
"Because much to my surprise Mr. Boyle, I realize that I do still know her. Very little has changed about who she is. She plans, she always foresees the oppositions next step and reaction. Traits I once felt beneficial to the Legacy. I was wrong about that." Jackson shook Nick's grip off and started walking again. Nick and Tangye exchanged a quick glance but followed without another word. "If you want to bring a man to his knees you don't attack something he feels indifferently about, you go after something he feels strongly for. That's elementary. Derek Rayne may never admit it but it is only natural that he doubts certain elements and methods of the Legacy. What he has never doubted, is you."
"But she never came after us?" Tangye argued.
"I didn't say she would. You are much more useful to her out of the picture then in it. She used you, your names that evoke a certain reaction from Derek. Your pasts that make him desire all the more to protect you. It made you two perfect for her needs more then the others. You may not know it but you are like children to him, and a child provokes a certain natural instinct from a parent." Jackson noted that both of their eyes shifted away from his face nervously. An unconscious reaction but not something that could be overlooked. "She would have used Alex and Rachel if they provided her enough material, but he would never have believed her if she fabricated everything. She had to start from something he knew and build."
"How do you intend to stop her?" Nick asked, wondering what they had all walked into.
"I'm not, I'm just here to get her. Derek has already stopped her." Jackson stated flatly and walked the rest of the way to the doors.
"Julian." The man turned from his position at the small camera set up to record the events taking place in the auditorium to see a familiar face. She was older now then when he had first met her but he still knew who she was and what she was here to do.
"Leave Kristin. This is necessary. It has to be this way." Julian turned away from her adamant in his statement. He didn't want to listen to whatever she might have to say, whatever argument she had prepared to stop him. He couldn't escape the memory of Violet's face from playing in his mind or the words that Liz had shown him.
"I know you think that but it isn't true." Kristin said sympathetically. "They had nothing to do with Violet's death. It was a tragedy, but not one they could have prevented."
"You haven't seen what I have." Julian said dismissing her.
"But are you listening to what's being said down there? She's admitted that she created the files. That it was all a fabrication to get people to do what she wanted them to." Kristin struggled to get him to listen to her but he only turned and looked at her and sadly shook his head. "I know how badly it hurts you to be without her, but this won't bring her back and you're punishing the people who can help make sure nothing like that happens to anyone else."
"Not if they remain in shadows they can't. They need to belong to the people who need them. Liz wants to turn them over and I think she's right." Julian answered.
"At the cost of what? They'll live in constant fear. They won't be able to tell their children there are no monsters because suddenly there will be. You're robbing them of their hope." Kristin pleaded, wishing that he would just think about what she was saying but his resolve did not wane in the face of her arguments.
"But I am making sure they stay safe, which matters more?" Julian demanded. Kristin didn't have an answer to that question but she also didn't need one. Alex stepped into the room from the door on the other side and while Julian's back was turned she raised the thick piece of wood and hit him squarely across the back. She prayed that she didn't cause too much damage to him, but was glad to see that he fell to the floor immediately. She had agreed to give Kristin her chance to reason with him but they didn't have the time to waste when she was getting anywhere.
"Good try." Alex said with a compassionate shrug. She had honestly hoped that Kristin could get him to listen but that had not worked.
"Good sucker punch." Kristin answered back, turning away. She knew that Alex hadn't been left a choice but she still didn't like the fact that Julian had to suffer just because Liz had managed to manipulate him with the memory of his wife.
Alex paused to look down at the unconscious man, feeling for him and the situation he had been propelled into without even realizing it. She only hoped that Julian would be able to find a way to rebuild his life after this, that the Legacy could find it in themselves to forgive his actions and offer him the chance to return to the new home he had built for himself. She then reached out and hit the eject button on the camera, grabbing the tape from its housing and feeling for the first time in days that they were in control of the situation.
"You know what the Legacy is. You could tell the world, why do you need me to say it?" He looked up at her, his eyes meeting hers for a moment before his attention was redirected to the back of the large space where the doors were suddenly pulled open.
"Because of who you are Dr. Rayne." Jackson Parker's voice suddenly filled the space and Liz spun to look at him, flanked on either side by the two tools she had used against Derek. "Liz, unlike you, is less than respected by the world." Jackson explained walking down the isle in her direction. Nick had his gun leveled on her just to be certain that she didn't make a move to get away. "She needed a better voice. Unfortunately, finally, one of her plans got away from her." Jackson grinned at her satisfied.
"Not quite as far as you might hope Jackson. I still have " Liz started smugly, but was cut off.
"The confession?" Alex asked, drawing the attention in the room to where she, Kristin and Rachel stood by one of the side doors. "Opps." Alex said as she began pulling the reel of tape free of the case and into a pile on the floor.
"Well done Miss Moreau." Jackson nodded approvingly as he stepped up to Liz and grabbed her arms, holding them behind her back so that she couldn't get away from him. "Derek I hope you learned something here." Derek nodded surprising nearly everyone by actually looking ashamed at the tone Jackson used with him, like a parent scolding a young child.
"So simple as that?" Tangye asked, surprised that it took merely seconds for Jackson to feel that he had resolved everything.
"You were perhaps hoping for some sort of battle?" Jackson asked, raising his eyebrows as if he were teasing her and her expectations.
"Not hoping." She answered, shifting uncomfortably under his gaze. Jackson was almost relieved to see someone do that again having feared that after Liz had duped him he would never again command the type of authority it took to make someone react in such a way. "Kinda par for the course though. But I'll take this way too." Tangye shrugged, realizing that as much as she was used to thinking that a battle was the natural conclusion to troubles of the Legacy that the anti-climatic ending was nicer.
"You want more you little mind witch?" Liz growled struggling against Jackson's hold on her.
"Okay, that's just rude." Tangye said stepping up to the woman without any hesitation. "But go ahead, shock me." The blue eyes that stared at Liz were harsh as Tangye remembered her instinctive dislike of the woman that had caused Derek so much pain. She wanted a reason to strike out to her and Liz appeared to be ready to give her one.
"It's actually for Derek. Just a warning that maybe I didn't have to make it all up. None of them have your best interests at heart." She grinned, the expression turned completely back to the one Derek associated with her. A look of contempt for all those around her.
"What do you mean?" He asked without thinking that he shouldn't listen to a word she might say. He knew it was probably going to be a lie but he feared the repercussions if he didn't at least hear what she wanted to tell him.
"More then spirits watch you from the shadows." She smiled as Jackson jerked her arms harshly. Obviously he felt this had gone too far and she shouldn't be allowed to make anymore trouble. Derek knew that Jackson was attempting to keep her from saying any more, but what didn't he want her to say?
"Go home Derek." Jackson scanned his eyes over the rest of the gathered group. "All of you." He looked straight at Kristin for a moment but the blonde quickly and subtlety jerked her head to the left. Jackson followed the path of her motion and noticed that Tangye was watching his every move with mounting suspicion due to his desire to keep Liz quiet. It hadn't been long since he had been thinking to himself that he wanted the opportunity to meet her face to face, now he regretted getting that chance. Derek had told him that she didn't read minds for enjoyment or without permission but he wondered if she had enough misgivings about someone how quickly that morality would be shed. If she thought anyone she cared about was in danger was there anything that she wouldn't do? From the look of hate in her eyes directed at Liz and the tone her voice had assumed when talking to her he doubted that there was.
"Perhaps you should take her back to our house " Derek began to suggest hoping that he could get more information out of Jackson about what Liz had meant. He didn't want to give in to her but her simple statement had roused the same suspicion he felt before all of this began. Not the one she had built that said the whole Legacy was corrupt but the older one warning him of a few dangerous factors within the group.
"I have a plane waiting for me, I'm taking her back to London. I will deal with this." Jackson snapped, annoyed that none of them were listening to his orders.
"Swift justice?" Tangye asked suspiciously.
"She's obviously a very troubled woman Jackson. She needs help." Rachel spoke quickly hoping to distract Jackson from his anger over Tangye's none to subtle accusation.
"And I intend to see that she gets what she needs." He answered not attempting to hide his frustration. "I'm sorry for any inconvenience that she may have caused you, but she is my problem. I allowed the situation to get out of hand and I will remedy that." Jackson shoved her roughly in the direction of the side doors to the auditorium.
"That doesn't make me feel any better." Derek mumbled, turning to look at the group that had gathered to rescue him. Tangye and Nick were both soaked to the bone having stayed outside in the rain until Jackson's sudden arrival. The others looked just as drained from the evening. All of them were waiting on him to say something. He wasn't sure what sort of explanation he could offer to them though. What could he say that would justify the choice he almost made tonight?
"Derek are you okay?" Alex's soft voice broke the imposing silence. He turned away from them not able to face the confusion he saw in them all. "I don't understand why you would do this. Why would you risk the thing you love the most?" The older man turned his eyes up quickly at them. He looked them all over again, his eyebrows rising in surprise at those words. He took a moment to study the features of each of the faces he knew so well. Rachel's eyes were full of kindness as she watched for his reactions that would indicate what he couldn't say to them.. Beside her stood Alex, her smooth skin glowing with the anxious sweat the situation had brought forth, her dark eyes knowing more then she would ever say. Kristin stood in their midst, her lips drawn into a straight line, Derek wasn't sure that he read any particular emotion from her but knew in his heart that she was concerned. Next came Nick, his dark hair matted down to his head, his dark jacket soaked by the torrent outside. His face was serious, his eyes curious. Last there was Tangye, her light brown hair wet in her face, her bright eyes watching his every motion intently looking for something unspoken they might indicate. They all waited for him to speak.
"I hope none of you believe that." He finally spoke with regret.
"Derek they would have thrown you out of the Legacy for this." Nick stated.
"I know that, but the Legacy is not what I love most, I owe you all an apology if I have allowed you to believe that." The events of the past day forced the words out. He needed for them all to know this and the past few hours made him see just how important it was that they no longer be denied his confession. With the risks they took he didn't want anything happening and them not knowing for certain.
"Derek the Legacy is your whole life." Rachel spoke and he couldn't help but laugh slightly at that.
"No Rachel, it's not. I do love the Legacy in ways, and hate it in as many. The most important thing though, the thing I love the most, is my family. That was the only way that Liz even managed to manipulate me. By using my family against me, every bit of it that she could." His grin broadened feeling infinitely better for finally letting these emotions come out. "All of you are so important to me, you give my life purpose and all the things I had been missing. I love the Legacy because you are the Legacy for me, don't ever be mistaken about that. My family matters most. It always will." He felt relief that he had finally told them the truth of his feelings and hoped they never doubted his dedication to them above all other things. This odd group that most would never see fitting together made his world make sense in a way he doubted he could ever properly explain.
Alex smiled, pleased that he had been so honest with them and himself for once. She knew there was much more that he could probably say to them and perhaps would with time but for now those simple words were enough. "Let's go home then." She said wrapping her arm around Derek's shoulder.
"It just feels really incomplete. Can't we do like a spell to just " Derek shook his head laughing at Tangye and her need for a definitive ending. In a few months she was accustomed to the finale with a battle and light show, probably even some small injury. He knew with time she would be as grateful as he was that occasionally it was much easier then all that. "I mean Jackson just walks in and situation resolved? If it works that way why don't we just get a Jackson doll? We take it with us, bad guy crops up, pull out Jackson doll and poof, all done. Bad guy goes back to hell."
"Interesting theory." Derek nodded at her, loving the bright full smiles her words managed to put on everyone's faces. "Maybe I should place a call to the Barbie people."
"Exactly." She exclaimed with exaggerated enthusiasm as they filed through the doors into the storm waiting for them outside. "You and me, Derek, we're bringing down evil and creating the next holiday craze toy."
Derek sat at the desk in his office, picking up the picture from his desk. They had only arrived back at the house about an hour ago but everyone had quickly gone to bed, emotionally spent from the day. He could not yet force himself to sleep yet as he considered everything that he had gone through. How easily Liz had been able to target him and get him to jump through any hoop she placed in front of him. He had already resolved that he would go talk to his mother tomorrow morning and do whatever necessary to heal the wounds he had created between them. The members of his house, his family he admitted, had already forgiven him without a word. He had done it for them, in hopes of protecting them he had allowed himself to be lead astray and therefore in their eyes there was nothing for which he needed to be forgiven.
He was relieved that he had been given the opportunity to tell them what they meant to him, wondering why he had never done so before. Why had he let them believe that they came after the Legacy to him? He also knew there was much more that he would tell each of them with time. They all deserved to know why they were individually so important to him. Until that moment presented itself though he decided to justify all of it within the pages of his journal. He glanced down to the page he had filled with the descriptions and then returned his eyes to the picture he held. He reviewed their faces one at a time and recalled the words now committed to paper written as letters that he hoped he would get to pass on to each of them some day.
'Rachel. Ingrid is dear to me, but she is not my only sister. When you joined the Legacy you joined my family. You have supported me, helped me, stood up for me so many times now, and though we fight at times I have never stayed angry with you. Because of your strength, because of what brings that out in you, that protective nature I so admire, you have become someone I can hold up to myself as an example.' His eyes turned down to Kat in the photo. 'And you Katherine, you have brought laughter and joy back into our house. You have shown me once again the things I had forgotten were possible. I can never thank you enough for that sweetness. I'm so proud of you today Kat, and I look forward to watching you grow, and showing me in how many other ways I can be proud of you.'
'Kristin. I wish I had let myself get to know you better before now, but I know that is a situation I will remedy if you let me. You are like me in so many ways. Passionate and driven by your feelings for those close to you. Yet you seem reluctant to let anyone gain such closeness again. I hope you can learn from the mistakes of my life and see with time how important your loved ones are, and how it can save you to let in new ones. Do not let the Legacy become your world, there is so much more you can make of your life and will if you seize the chance.'
'Alex.' His eyes fell on the researchers beautiful face. He could not consider her a child or sister, because of feelings lying just under the surface. Still the woman who had once been his student was dear to him in ways he wasn't sure he could express properly. 'You have been my best friend through so much, your sensitivity has always been a reminder to me of the things I want to strive for in my own life. I know sometimes you doubt my decisions and I even appreciate the views you bring in with that doubt, but I have never doubted you would support me when it truly mattered. Knowing that has given me more strength then I can say.'
'Philip. I'll never deny how badly I wish you would just come home, and I know that if I tried to it would do no good. You, I think more then any of the others, know just how much I care for you. How I see your faith and good nature, belief in mankind no matter what they do, as a standard to measure myself by. Your kindness comes from a place that I can't hope to emulate, some instinct within you that make you better then most. More gentle, more understanding, more compassionate, the best traits that man holds I see reflected in you every day. I hope that you get everything you want out of life, here or there. But as much I hope that you always know you can come home again.' Derek smiled thinking of the absent Legacy member who doubted himself far too often without cause. If only he could convince him of his strength.
'Nick. You can be so infuriating at times, but that is always overshadowed by your dedication and strength, sometimes foolish. I worry about you so much for the risks you take, and regret not having helped you in the past when you needed someone to watch over you. We've fought so many times, and yes I've been angry with you, but in many ways I've been proud to watch you grow into your own man even when you were aggravating me. You will always stand up for what you believe is right. I've watched you grow with a fathers pride, I just wish you didn't fight and try to push people away so much of the time, because you deserve every happiness and I hope you allow yourself that.'
'Tangye, in the short time I have known you I have been impressed by you so many times, and terrified for you. You worked your way into my heart so quickly Tangye, I wish you would stop playing games of life and death but I can't seem to convince you how important the former is to so many of us. You're so talented, bright, but mostly I admire your ability to love, to trust and to comfort those in your life. I hope you never think you're here because of your talents, you are here because you belong with us. We need the brightness you carry with you that casts away so many shadows. I love you dearly, as one of my own, I hope you know that.'
Derek sat back in his chair, putting the picture back down on the corner of his desk in it's reserved spot, a satisfied smile on his face. Derek rarely had the chance to feel so at peace with himself and right now he was prepared to enjoy it. He had almost made a horrible mistake but they had all been there, so close that he didn't even know it. Even when he was alone with Liz they were each there with him, reminding him of his importance in their lives even when he didn't hear their voices. He had feared being alone, hurting them beyond forgiveness but he finally allowed himself to admit that they would never let such a fate befall him. They would never give up on him and that was what mattered most to him in the world.
The End - Please email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org