Forget Me Not by TalgoM
He stood on the street watching the silent building in the dead of the night waiting. For her to arrive or leave he didn't know which but he had to see her face. He needed to have a glimpse of those soft features. He wanted to know if there would even be a bit of remorse creasing her smooth brow. She couldn't have forgotten what she had done to him. How her betrayal had cheated him of the life rightfully his.
And if she had he was prepared to remind her.
She deserved to suffer the same indignities that he had. She had to understand the pain that she could so casually cause to one that she had proclaimed to love. He would repay her every bit of disappointment she had bestowed upon him.
If only she had taken a moment to look in his eyes, to see the love that had been there until the bitter end, she would have found it in herself to repent her betrayal. But she had not; she had watched him be removed from her life and never uttered a word in his defense. There had been no last minute apology or plea for forgiveness. He didn't know if he would have given it if she had asked, but it would have been nice if she at least desired it.
Instead she had watched him go with silent, dead eyes. Her lips formed into the defiant line that he had once so adored. She would make him laugh without even meaning too when her face took on that expression. She could grow to be so focused on one thing, unflappable in her course and he had loved that trait in her more then he could say. It spoke of her dedication, something that she had once shown to him.
He recalled her face as she slept, when the horrors of the day would abandon her and she escaped into the peaceful world of her dreams. She had looked like a child in those moments. Fragile and in need of a protector. He had offered himself into such a role and he believed that she had accepted it. She would settle down in his arms to retreat from the cold world that waited outside to rob her of her innocence. When she was there everything was peaceful and full of hope. There had been no death in their sanctuary until she had let it in the front door.
He fought off the pleasant memories of her, reminding himself that she had been the one to invite the evil in. She had claimed that it couldn't be ignored, that they had to face what stood outside stalking to destroy them. He had argued with her but in the end she sneaked off in the night in search of the violence he wanted only to guard her from. She had brought about his ruination despite his love, which was not a crime easily forgiven. He had been given years to dwell on that fact rather then the happiness once theirs.
Still he felt compelled to lay his eyes on her one last time. To see her face and look into those large inquisitive eyes. Perhaps there would be remorse there. Maybe she had never been able to forgive herself for abandoning what he offered. If that was the case then he might be able to begin to pardon her. If she lived with the same pain that he had suffered then revenge would not be necessary. First though he had to see her face, not only to search for regret, but also to remind himself why this had to be done.
He needed to see again the one thing that he had ever loved to remind himself that it had been discarded so callously. She had given him her many reasons, debating right from wrong for him, yet he never believed those arguments completely swayed her from her emotions. It could not be so easy to forget that she had once loved him back. Yet even knowing that, she had gone forward. Leaving him behind and deciding to face the world alone rather then with him by her side where he knew he belonged.
So he waited for her appearance and his resolve, finally they both came. She exited the dark building but not alone. He knew her immediately just by the manner of her walk, straining for comfort and ease but never quite succeeding. She stepped into the glow of lamp by the building's front door and turned her back to him while she locked the door. There was a man with her but his eyes hardly registered the interloper. This moment was for them alone and none could share it.
She turned back out to the empty city street and he saw her smile as she turned to say something to the man with her. Her hair was pulled back away from her face in one of the ponytails that she so frequently wore. How he had once complained about that, always reminding her how beautiful her golden locks were and that she shouldn't try to tame them. She was just as stunning as she had been on that last day that he had seen her. When he had been dragged away from her arms which he wanted to seek a shelter in that was no longer his to have. His voice had cried along with his eyes when he had seen her for the last time, but her face had never broken. She had just watched him be removed with a cold expression of indifference.
He saw her reach out to the man with her and take his hand in a friendly gesture. She gave it a squeeze and then released him just as she let everything in her life go. Without hesitation. She nodded the man on and he obeyed by going on down the steps and to a car parked out in front of the building. They said nothing else to one another and then she was alone. She looked out onto the empty street, pulling her coat around herself tighter against the fall chill. She let her eyes wander the street as if sensing that she was not alone but then she discarded the notion and proceeded on to her own car parked on the side of the building.
He watched all of this waiting for the indication that she missed him. That she did regret what she had brought down on him. There was nothing there to indicate any such loss. Her lips still turned to a slight smile that should have been meant for him. But she had forgotten him and moved forward in her life. He wanted so badly to remember how he loved her, how she had given him safety in an otherwise heartless world. These were the things that he had fought to hold onto for years but they were recollections that slipped away too easily.
Instead he remembered the betrayal. How her slender finger had raised to point at him and condemn him, a finger that he had once loved along with everything else about her. He was forced back to those moments when she first realized what he had done and there had been tears in her eyes as she looked at him. When her gentle voice had whispered the words that had rung in his ears in a taunting manner for years.
'How could I ever love something like you?' It had seemed a simple question to her, one with an obvious answer. Then she had turned away and never again looked at him with sympathy or a bit of the forgotten love. She had given up on him while he would never have done such a thing to her. She had been everything to him and he believed himself the same for her.
Now he would remind her of that lost emotion with any means he had.
Her car pulled away to return her to her empty apartment where no longer anyone waited to comfort her from the horrors of the day or a world too unforgiving to accept. He watched her go and a small scowl formed on his lips. He would have loved her forever, would have forgiven what she did to him if only once she had admitted that she had loved him and that such feelings could not be just forgotten. But she refused.
For that reason he believed what he had planned for her was right. It was necessary for her to learn, to remember. Perhaps he had never been a perfect man, but he had once been perfect for her world and he was not going to allow her to just throw any of that away. She needed a reminder that his crime was no greater then hers and thus she should not be given any more forgiveness from the world that they had managed to escape from into the others arms.
She could smile and laugh for now. She could avoid looking back to the past for this night but come morning her lessons would begin. He turned away from the building shoving his hands deep into his pockets and lowering his head so not too look in the eyes of any who might pass. He didn't need to see them or for them to look on his face in horror of what they might find there. He knew what he was doing and that he had the best possible motives at heart. Could any of them understand that their petty rejections through life meant so little in the face of what had been done to him? Had one they saw as perfect ever viewed any of them as a monster? No, they prattled along in innocent bliss. But he knew that innocence was a dying breed and if he could do one thing to bring it back he would do anything necessary. He would make her see the world again through simple eyes that searched for the basest emotions, those that should come to man reflexively but were now analyzed into nothingness. He would make her remember love and only then could they both move forward to the next day.
Derek was certain that she was in the room. He also knew that she would be leaving town before nightfall and if he intended to remedy their problems he was losing his opportunities to do so. He knocked once again on the door of the hotel room and finally was relieved by the sound of movement behind it. He heard the chain lock pulled away and the lock undone. The door was still pulled back carefully, even though he doubted that she didn't know who was visiting her. This was far from the first time he had come to see her in the past week but she had never admitted him before, choosing instead to ignore his knocking.
From his conversation with Ingrid the evening before he had gained the information that he needed in order to go into this situation. He remembered how his sister had asked him so many questions about his choices and their father. Never with judgement in her tones, just that gentle sympathy that Ingrid had mastered when only a child. She had told him that their mother had come to see her when the anger was fresh and again when it had begun to wane. She said that indeed their mother had been furious with Derek for his choice to keep the truth hidden from the family. It was Ingrid that made Barbara see that very little needed to be hidden from any of them. They had known Winston, Barbara better then anyone, if she had not seen what he became then it could only be because she chose not to acknowledge it. If she refused to accept it why would any think that she would willingly hear such damning words now?
Derek had told Ingrid that he understood that. He had never thought that their mother would easily accept what he knew about Winston but he still had no right to keep such information about him secret. Barbara had been right when she said it was a family matter yet since it had occurred in the Legacy house he convinced himself that it was Legacy business. He wasn't sure what he real motives were but he doubted he ever really believed such an excuse. He knew he wanted to protect his mother from the dashed faith that learning the truth would have meant but he also hated to face the truth himself and by letting so few people in on the secret he did not have to deal with it as often.
When he expressed his concerns to Ingrid that their mother would not let him back in he had evoked a rare light laugh from his sister. 'Why else Derek, does she stay here? She's waiting on you.' That had been the sentence Derek most needed to hear and what had pulled him out of bed at the break of dawn. His mother had not left town in the week since Liz Cannon had been returned to London and Barbara had little reason to stay outside of her family. She was undeniably upset with her younger child but it was not anger past forgiveness. If only Derek would come and refuse to be derailed. So he had stayed knocking on her door for five minutes until she finally answered.
The door was pulled back to reveal her face, a countenance that meant more to him then possibly anything else in the world. Looking upon it he still felt the safety it instilled in him as a child. Her kind eyes were the first signs of love he had ever known as a child. She was the disciplinarian who had shown him the difference between right and wrong before he had ever known it was a battle he would fight in his whole life. She was the beginning of every emotion Derek had ever known and he wished he could thank her for all of that. But being taught betrayal by her was something he wished he had never learned. "I was wondering when you would show your stubborn side again." She welcomed him with a fond smile.
"Mother I know you're leaving town " Derek began.
"And I knew you would never overlook that. You're far too good at your job to miss my plane reservation." She reached up and brushed a few stray locks of graying hair away from his face, wondering for a moment when her child had grown so old to have gray in his hair. Wondering about the stress that had put each strand there.
"Then Ingrid was right, you were waiting for me." Derek asked shocked as he took her hand in his own.
"I'm sorry you needed to be told that." Barbara looked away back into her room. She was annoyed with herself for letting all of this go so far, and more aggravated with Winston for exhibiting such control over their emotions even when he wasn't trying.
"I'm not sure I did, I was just frightened by how it might hurt you to see me right now, when everything is so fresh." Barbara again issued a small smile.
"It has never hurt me to see you, Derek. You are my son, and I'm sure you hate it but you are still my baby. I love you far too much to ever be hurt by seeing you." She released Derek's hand and entered her room, sure that it would make Derek uncomfortable to talk in front of any passerby's that might be in the hotel hall. Derek followed her hesitantly into the room and allowed the door to fall shut behind him. "I never did see enough of you when you were young. So many boarding schools and special studies, you were always being groomed, never leaving much time for you to just be a little boy."
"All of that has made what I do possible. I know it was never easy but it was necessary." Derek consoled her, not wanting her to feel guilty about his less then enjoyable childhood.
"Do you enjoy what you do? Do you not regret what you might have given up to stay in the Legacy?" Barbara took a seat at the small table by the window. Derek could see how important this was to her in order to prove that she had not made a mistake by allowing Winston to mold him for the Legacy. Still he didn't want to lie to her again either by just telling her what he thought she wanted to hear.
"I can't say that I am without regrets, but who can? I'm doing something I believe in though and that makes up for those things. The work the Legacy does is important and it shouldn't be ignored. Also, other things have replaced those that I gave up." Derek took a seat across from her answering carefully.
"A wife, children?" She looked up at him. She knew just how important family was to Derek and to think that his choice to stay in the Legacy might have denied him one of his own was not something she could easily forgive. Her son would have made a wonderful father and she was disappointed that no child would ever get to know that.
"I'm not dead yet, mother." Derek smiled but then saw how serious she was. "I have children in a sense, perhaps not by blood but I never really felt I was without them."
"Nick and Philip?" Derek nodded to her suggestion. "And that little girl Katherine? But they aren't yours Derek, they will never be your children no matter how you feel about them." Barbara pushed the point.
"Let me ask you something. When you were raising Ingrid and myself and even now, what do you think about when you look at us? Do you think about how much you want to protect us? How you hope to guide us to being our best and doing the right thing? Do you look at us with pride at every little thing? Do you love us unconditionally even when perhaps we are making you angry? Do you think about how important it is just being there?" Derek reached out and covered her folded hands with his own as he thought about all the emotions that his team brought to the forefront of his mind.
"Of course." Barbara answered, a bit shocked by the questions.
"And how often do you think, I love them because I gave birth to them?" Barbara diverted her eyes knowing exactly what he was saying. "I don't think parenthood has that much to do with the actual birth, I'm sure it strengthens the bond but it is not the bond. If that were the case there are thousand of adopted children out there who never knew what it was like to have a parent. That's not the case though, those children are loved because of who they are, and I doubt any of those parents believe that they could love their children any more if they gave birth to them."
"And you love them that much?" Derek nodded with the corners of his mouth turning up a bit in a pleased smile. "Then I suppose I should take the time to eventually get to know my grandchildren." Barbara lifted his hands and kissed them softly.
"Mother, I'm glad you see how little I really did have to give up, but you know that's not why I'm here." Derek waited a few moments before speaking, afraid that this situation would grow much more uncomfortable with the reintroduction of the subject of Winston Rayne.
"I know why you're here Derek." She pulled away and crossed the room, putting the distance between her son and herself just as he feared she would. "I'm not going to deny that I was hurt to find out you kept so much from me but your sister is right. I did not want to hear it and that probably made you feel it was simpler just not to speak of it."
"But you were right, you did have a right to know. I should not have made that choice for you." Derek defended her reaction to his information.
"And maybe you wouldn't have if I had not made it so easy for you. I so often remind you of how similar you are to your father. How you are driven just as he was. Perhaps you could have told me the truth if I was not making it that much more unpleasant." She turned to look at him. "You aren't like him Derek, you are everything I wanted him to be but that he never measured up to."
"That's not entirely true mother. Despite what happened to him he still had traits that I hold myself to. He was human and he had faults that I hope I can avoid but I don't think everything about him should be dismissed only because of what he did in the end." Derek comforted, hating that she was so willing to forget that she had loved Winston Rayne for so long because of what Derek had been forced into telling her. It was exactly what he feared happening. "You loved him once, and I doubt that it was those traits that made you love him."
"No it was never his ambition, it had nothing to do with the Legacy in fact." She shook her head, sinking down onto the edge of the bed as she recalled her husband and the father of her two children. Even before the obsession about the sepulchers had begun to consume him he could be a very difficult man to live with. Yet despite that she had always seen something within him that deserved her love. It was a kindness that she couldn't quite explain now. He would say or do something overly harsh and when the realization would hit him of what he had done, such honest regret would fill his eyes. He would reach out to her in some simple little gesture of apology and the sincerity of the effort would always touch her. He would draw her into his arms and somehow everything there was safe and warm. She remembered the times when she would wake in the middle of the night and find him sitting in the chair across the room from her or in the doorway of one of the children's rooms. He would look at her and just barely let a smile reach his face. 'I just needed a reminder of why we fight.' He would whisper into the still of the night. That man striving for reassurance about the war that he chose to involve himself in was the one she had fallen in love with. A man looking for understanding and the good that was still in the world but was threatened by the things he fought. She had loved Winston because he needed reminders, because he had never done anything blindly but always allowed his drive to have something behind it, pushing him forward.
"I didn't want to take those from you. I'm sorry if that was a mistake, but I hope you can forgive me and remember the good in him." Derek looked down at the tabletop not sure what else he could say. He knew exactly how difficult this was on his mother, having gone through the exact same thing all too recently. Learning about his father's failing had been difficult but it proved a much harder task to remind himself that he wasn't all bad. Finding those traits again that had once been admired and emulated about Winston was much more arduous in the face of what he had done. Still Derek had fought to do just that and now he needed to help his mother do the same.
"I never believed he was perfect." Barbara answered weakly. "I understand why you did it Derek. I know you thought you were helping me, and perhaps you were. I just need some time to understand why he would make such a choice. He had so much but it was never enough. Why weren't we enough?" Derek shook his hand, unwilling to give her an answer that was pure conjecture. Whatever had motivated Winston in those last moments was clearly not thinking about anything he already had in life, but only that which he lacked. She turned her eyes to him. "Promise me something Derek. Promise me that you will never let those things you love take a backseat to your desire for the truth. If you want them to be children to you, don't be the father yours was." Derek nodded easily to such a promise.
"Could we just admit to the possibility, even if it is a stretch, that we're going to sit here all night and see a big batch of nothing?" Tangye sent her bored look to the other person in the car. Derek must be absolutely loving this little form of repentance he came up with. Sticking her in a confined space for hours with Kristin was the perfect punishment for what he learned about the events in New York. Meanwhile Nick was stuck researching artwork in the library. But neither of them was in a position to argue with Derek's orders not after Bruce Honeycutt had called to inform Derek that Nick and Tangye had stayed in the house during their vacation and that he caught Nick listening in on one of his conversations with Jackson. Tangye had pleaded her side of the case that it was Nick's brilliant idea to use the invitation to get information but Derek hadn't shown any concern about whose plan it was. He was just mad that they had been there and that their actions would give the Ruling House more reasons to watch them. Any punishment was deserved but she didn't have to like it all the same. Especially not when he put her with Kristin.
"Could you get your feet off of there." Kristin responded looking at where Tangye had her feet resting on the dashboard of her car. Tangye considered for a moment saying something just to start the fight Kristin was pushing for but decided against it, instead complying with the request. "So tell me, what exactly were you and Nick thinking?" Kristin smirked at her and Tangye again barely controlled the impulse to wipe the smug look away with a comment of her own.
"Clearly we weren't." She answered leaning forward in her seat to get a better view of the store front.
"You must have realized that something like that wouldn't be particularly well received." Kristin pushed forward despite Tangye's clear desire not to discuss the topic.
"You say." She came back sarcastically as if Kristin had let her in on some secret only she was privy too. Of course they knew it wasn't it a good idea but Nick's desire to have some answers had shadowed that logic for just long enough to land them in trouble. "Must be great to be the pride and joy of the whole Legacy, to always do every little thing so well."
"What's that mean?" Kristin snapped allowing the comment to be an attack when it was clearly just a joke.
"Obviously I didn't mean anything by it or I wouldn't have said it the way I did, stop being so touchy." Tangye slumped back into her seat starting to put her feet back up where they would be comfortable but catching herself at the last second.
"I'm just curious what you thought to accomplish." Tangye finally grew frustrated with Kristin's refusal to allow the subject to just drop. She turned in her seat to face the woman and stare her down.
"You want to play the question game? I've got one for you. What was that look that you and Jackson shared in the theatre? He told us to leave and then stared right at you, until that is you nodded in the direction of the rest of us. What were you telling him?" She let her voice hold every bit of accusation that Kristin's always appeared to with her. She didn't have clue if it meant anything at all but by the sudden look of nervousness on Kristin's face she had to assume that it did. Kristin turned, redirecting her attention to the store. "If you don't want to play, then don't start."
"You think you're really bright don't you, have us all figured out?" Kristin responded defensively. She had found herself on several occasions falling for Tangye's easy charm but she fought it off. She wanted to prepare herself if anything did turn up about the newest member and it she believed that she was the only one willing to consider such a possibility. For that reason she maintained a bit of the distrust at all times. Tangye would be easy enough to like. Smart, funny, passionate, all traits that Kristin did respect but still she wouldn't give in to what appeared to be a bit too good to be true. Tangye was just too well rounded, too well polished despite the occasional irrational emotional outburst or reckless impulses. Yet the younger woman even managed to counter that image by going too far on occasion, overstepping bounds so few would ever dare to. A trait that Derek had to publicly condemn but that Kristin knew privately he enjoyed.
Tangye couldn't help but laugh at such a comment. "Kristin I barely have myself figured out, much less anyone else." She sighed heavily knowing just how long this night was going to feel. She just prayed Derek would decide this eight hours was penance enough and not inflict another night on her. She knew that part of her job was to work with the woman but it didn't have to be in such close quarters in the future. "Bored."
"Goes with the territory not all of it can be exciting demon hunting." Kristin's voice appeared to give in a bit and actually agree with Tangye's assessment of the situation.
"No but occasionally I'd like to get to sleep before two." Kristin managed a smile at that comment. Before she could add anything Tangye shot her hand out to stop her. "Did you see that?" She had thought for a moment that a flash of movement caught her eye from inside the store but couldn't be sure. It might have been a shadow reflecting from something in the street onto the window.
"I don't " Kristin started with a shake of her head then froze when she too saw the movement. It looked to be someone inside but that wasn't possible. The store alarms or the motion detectors that they had set around the perimeter would have surely gone off if someone entered the store. "You want to check it out?"
"That would be why we're here." Tangye nodded opening her car door. They met on the sidewalk just down the street a bit from the store. "You're in charge, what do you want to do?"
"I'll go in the front, you come in from behind the store. We'll pin in whoever it is." Kristin instructed confidently. Tangye didn't point out that if they were dealing with a spirit that they couldn't actually pin it anywhere, sure that Kristin didn't mean her comment that way. Kristin watched as Tangye went down the alley to access the back door to the store, making sure to give her time so their arrival would nearly be coordinated. She pulled the keys out of her pocket and went to the front door of the store. She could see nothing inside clearly due to the bright reflection of the street lamp on the glass but she did still feel as if she was able to catch a glimpse of some movement without identifying the source. She unlocked the door as quietly as she could and pushed it open.
Once inside she had a much better view of the area and the thing in the center of the room. It was holding a heavy candelabrum in one hand and several books in the other and turned to the new arrival. Without a word it began to approach Kristin in what she perceived as a menacing manner. Kristin stepped back unsure of its intent, moving away from the door. Her hand fell to the table beside her and knocked over a picture frame on display there. Before she thought out her plan she lifted the object and threw it at the advancing spirit to no avail as it passed through the man harmlessly. She then grabbed the next closest object, a thick book and repeated the useless act. Still the man came closer to her without making a statement or any other sort of indication as to what it planned to do. Kristin retreated further away from the door trying to think of something else she might be able to do to stop his progress recognizing the futility of this method.
"What exactly are you hoping to accomplish Kristin?" Kristin redirected her attention to the back of the store as her arm rose to hurl another book in the direction of the man descending on her. As soon as it realized that there was another participant in the room though it faded away. Tangye leaned in the doorframe to the stock room shaking her head in disbelief. "It was a ghost you realize?"
"I know that, it started to attack." Kristin defended her actions automatically.
"So you threw stuff at it?" Tangye was clearly insulting the older woman's tactics. "I was like three when I saw my first ghost and I knew better then to throw stuff at 'em." She crossed to join Kristin.
"What do you suggest I do?" Kristin asked harshly, annoyed with Tangye's mocking.
"I don't know talk to it?" Tangye leaned over and picked up a broken small photo frame. She continued past Kristin handing the makeshift weapon to her. "Just remember, you broke it, you're buying it."
Kristin sighed in irritation watching the back of Tangye's head as she left the through the front door. She knew the younger woman was right, it had been foolish of her to do but she had been operating on a sudden rush of fear. She had not been given much time to think over her options and it had seemed logical in that moment to act in some way. She put the frame back down on the counter and exited the store, making sure to lock the door behind her. "Let's just call Derek and go home, I doubt whatever that was it will be back tonight." Kristin said sure that Tangye was not done with this yet.
"Are you kidding, I bet you scared bad boy off for good." Tangye joked as she climbed back into the car.
"Thank you." Kristin nodded in false appreciation as she joined Tangye in the car. She just prayed that Derek did allow them to return to Angel Island so that she wouldn't have to listen to that sort of comment for the rest of the night.
"Nick, can I speak with you a moment?" Nick looked up anxiously from the pile of books surrounding him at the conference table. Anything was better then this task and that included a lecture from Derek if he decided to clarify more why Nick had made a mistake in New York. He had known at the time that it wasn't his most well thought out idea but couldn't help himself when he had walked by Bruce's office and heard Jackson's voice. He was certain that it was bound to come up that Nick and Tangye were in the house and had been hoping that Jackson might give some indication about why they needed to be watched so closely. Or maybe Bruce would say something about them that would explain the attention from the Ruling House. Unfortunately he hadn't been expecting for Miriam Walers to walk up behind him and make such a production of his presence outside the door.
He jumped up from the table, grabbing some of his notes on the way and went to Derek's office. The older man was sitting behind his desk with an open folder in front of him. Derek looked up at Nick and indicated that he should take a seat. "I have those values for you. I'm only about halfway done." Nick said handing the pad of paper over to Derek. Nick had been impressed that Derek homed in so easily on duties that both he and Tangye would take such a dislike to. Sticking Tangye with Kristin on a stake out was exactly the type of thing that would make her crazy, yet not something she would complain about due to their situation. Meanwhile Derek had 'requested' that Nick research the most recent value of the artifacts presently housed in the Winston Rayne Hall of Antiquities. It wasn't something that needed to done, just something that Nick would hate having to research. But he too had done so without a complaint.
"Thank you." Derek said and without even glancing at them threw them in the round trashcan by his desk. Nick couldn't help but laugh at that with a shake of his head. He had to give Derek credit, he was very good at letting them know when they had stepped completely out of line and making them pay for it. Nick thought about the type of father that Derek would have made for a moment, not terribly strict or cruel, just capable of coming up with the perfect punishment that would drive a lesson home.
"Do you need me to finish?" Nick asked lightly.
"No I think that's enough, but I do need you to pack a bag. We've been requested to visit a dig in Indonesia as soon as possible." Derek handed the file over to Nick for him to review. Nick didn't question why they would be asked to travel so far when there was a house much closer to the scene. It was common enough for Legacy houses to request help when they felt someone else was better suited for a job or might have needed information.
"I'll take this upstairs and read it over. When do you want to leave?" Nick asked standing back up.
"Tonight. I've already called the airport and they are getting the plane ready for us. I'd like to leave here within the hour." Derek nodded at Nick's shocked expression. But he didn't argue with the precept instead turning to go up to his room. At the door he paused and looked back over she shoulder.
"Derek, I know we made a mistake " He began solemnly, a tone that didn't really suit him.
"And hopefully you learned from it." Derek cut him short not seeing any need to further discuss this subject. It had been an error in judgement, but the source of the motivation could easily be traced back to Derek himself. "Nick I know why you did it. You're concerned, it's your nature to protect those around you and you thought that was what you were doing. You just need to remember that if we are being watched it doesn't help to give them more cause to do so."
"You're really worried." Nick stated, knowing the tone in Derek's voice well enough.
"I'm not sure it is worry, more concerned. Jackson is still predominantly an unknown to all of us. I trust that he wants what is best for the Legacy, I just don't know what his means will be." Derek considered his words carefully unsure that he could really explain himself. Jackson's sudden appearance at the end of his recent crisis had felt a bit too well timed and the resolution almost disturbingly simple. He didn't want to believe that Liz had been sent by Jackson to tempt him but it was not a possibility he was prepared to ignore entirely.
With the previous Ruling House precepts Derek had known each of them before they took the position. He had observed them all in the field and personally. From those experiences he had a good sense of the men they were. Sir Edmund Trumaine had been a good man if a bit hard, constantly focused on the objective rather then looking around for the motives. He had been a man unwilling to hand out trust without cause and he had kept the Legacy running in a very specific order that he designed. William Sloan was an easier person to get to know and trust. He could be equally stern when the situation called for it but he always was willing to explain his choices. Sloan had been a very human leader, flawed and concerned for the well being of those around him, yet always focused on the goal as well.
Jackson Parker appeared to have the worst traits of each of his most recent predecessors and he added a few more into the equation. He would not trust those around him beyond a certain degree, never allowing anyone to get close enough to strike him. He went beyond merely focusing on the goal but instead allowed it to consume him, leaving no room for anything else to enter his life. He was known around the Legacy as being intolerant of weaknesses that were perceived as human, feeling that those in the Legacy should be above such distractions. The Legacy was the only thing defining his existence, which in Derek's opinion was a mistake because Jackson had nothing to fight for. He had no motive to push forward other then his own demand that he never fail. All of that made him a difficult man to understand and to sympathize with, much less willingly follow. But Derek reminded himself that his involvement with the Legacy had never been due to a desire to follow a particular leader, he was doing what he believed right by staying in the Legacy. Still he could not deny his fears of what methods Jackson might take to ensure his success, which meant more to him, it seemed, then anything else.
"But the end result, that's always been our focus." Nick pointed out simply, wanting to believe the statement but not really convinced by the sound of his own voice.
"You know better then that. Our means have to stay within limits or we might as well all go home. If we're going to fight the darkness "
"We have to walk on the side of the angels." Nick nodded his agreement.
"Yes, I suppose that is what I mean, for the most part. There are bound to be times when we stray from that but it needs to be our focus or we become what we fight." Derek looked down at his desk sadly, fearing that the Legacy was crossing that line and no one was uttering a word about it. He knew that he had been manipulated by Liz yet still her last words of warning echoed in his memory. Who had she been alerting him of in the shadows? He didn't want to condemn Jackson as that figure without proof yet he couldn't just ignore how well the Ruling Precept fit the part. Jackson chose to cloak himself in mystery and an unflappable guise of authority, it would be natural that he would want to have a hand in every pot if only to ensure when it came to a boil.
"You don't have to tell me that Derek." Nick shot him a lop sided grin to appease some of the worry. Perhaps it would help if Derek knew that someone else was on the lookout for a possibly imagined threat. Nick had noted to himself on several occasions how easy it was for people to slip into evil before they even realized it was happening. He swore to himself long ago that he would never fall into such a trap, he didn't care who he had to fight to avoid it as long as he and those he loved triumphed at the end of the battle. "I'll go get packed and meet you in twenty minutes." Derek nodded his agreement of the plan and Nick left him alone with his thoughts.
It wasn't like there was anyone else around to take these calls, none anyway that could do so without a disruption to their lives. As it was all she gave up was another night alone, and that was something she was perfectly willing to sacrifice. She carefully locked the door behind her and proceeded further into the building. She had been working here for years and despite her love of her work she couldn't entirely deny that the place did still give her the creeps this late at night. There was just something very unnatural about surrounding yourself with these cold, still forms at the witching hour. It didn't help that she had seen more in this place then any of her colleagues. Things she could never speak of even if she hadn't made a promise to keep the secrets. No one would believe a word that she said, instead thinking that she had allowed the atmosphere of her work to effect her.
But it wasn't the work that ever effected her. This was science and for years it was the one thing she allowed herself to feel any passion towards. She was able to provide answers to questions that could have left holes in people's hearts. Those who merely visited this place for as brief a moment as possible but all came looking for the same thing. Their eyes would look up to her for an explanation, some sort of justification for their pain. She could never offer them back the bits of faith that died on those visits but the science she offered in its place had to be some sort of condolence.
In the silence of the night she allowed her mind to drift back, recalling the first time she had set foot in a building similar to this in a different city. The first night she had stared down at a cold expression that would last forever. It was the night of her initiation even if she wouldn't realize it until years later. She had not been intended to see anything but quietly allowed her small form to follow along with those of the adults unnoticed while they grieved. She stepped around them when the sheet was pulled back and stared down at the frozen flesh of her grandmother. There had been no words from anyone in the room until she uttered the question on all of their lips. 'Why?'
A woman, not so unlike the person that little child had become, had leaned down in front of her and with a kind smiled gave her the only answer she had to offer. 'Your grandmother lived a very long life and eventually, like any machine, her heart just couldn't work anymore. It just broke down. It was very natural. I know it's hard to understand now, but it couldn't push anymore out of itself. It's tired after so many years and now it gets to rest.'
It wasn't the answer she had been looking for, but it was an answer of some form. In that moment someone had managed to fill a bit of the confusion within her with an explanation of some variety. Even then she had known it was the best that any of them could really offer her and she had accepted it. The woman had not presented any notion of a God who she couldn't understand. She didn't try to justify why God would take away a little girl's grandmother who was so loved. She hadn't reminded her that they could not understand whatever plan the powers above had. She had given a simple explanation.
Her own parents had later told her that now grandmother was with God, that he needed her. But that answer had meant little by then. The little girl knew the truth. Her grandmother's heart had grown weak from years of use and failed her. It was that explanation that made acceptance easier because she had not lost her grandmother to the indifference of something above but instead to a natural process that eventually would take them all. From that night forward the child had focused only on battles that could be fought. She didn't combat against some all-knowing, all-powerful deity but instead sought to combat death by understanding it on a physical level.
She pulled back the sheet of her latest subject. She had stared into the frozen face of death countless times since that night when she was merely a child. Though her heart had never grown cold to the loss those left behind would feel she was able to stare at the face with only the eyes of a scientist. In the silence of the morgue her earlier leeriness of the building slipped away as she pulled on her surgical gloves. She had a job to do and wanted to be prepared to give an explanation if a little child wandered in with their parents and looked to her for one.
"If you're going to be awhile, I can come back." Gilby offered to Alex as she dug through her files at the library table. He leaned against the edge of the table and stole a quick look at the papers that had her attention then returned his gaze to her serious face. She let herself smile a bit to that acknowledgment of the work that consumed so much of her time.
"No, I won't be long. Kristin just wants someone to look this over with a fresh set of eyes. Probably a half hour tops and then we can go to lunch." Alex informed him taking a moment to look at him and gauge his reaction to that situation. He grinned for her to let her know that it was okay.
"Then I'll wait. Actually I might be able to use the time to do something do you ?" He started to ask the question but hesitated over what her reaction might be.
"She's on the balcony." Alex provided without him saying what he was looking for. He nodded quickly and placed a kiss on the top of her head before leaving her to her work. He wandered the halls of the house tracing the path in his mind that Alex had shown him on his tour of the castle. After only one bad turn he stumbled upon the doors to the balcony over looking the gardens of the property. She was indeed there just as Alex said she would be. She sat on the ledge of the balcony and he saw a book in her hand, which she had closed, and at her side, instead staring off into the distance at nothing in particular.
Since returning to the city he had not had much time to talk to her, or he had not made the time he admitted with regret. It had been so many years since he had last seen her and despite the short amounts of scattered time they had spent together all those years ago she had earned a special place in his heart. He had taken a liking to many of the campers over the years, both when he had been a counselor and owner but in many cases those children did not return for a duration of years. She had reappeared every summer for eight years. He remembered the words he had overheard her parents say about her that first summer, how the camp was meant to be therapeutic, serve as a reintroduction to the reality she was evidently avoiding. He had never seen such a denial within her but it had been hearing those words that made him first approach the eight year old girl. For the next eight summers she had returned every year and he had watched that little girl grow almost into womanhood. She had impressed him with her energy and desire to get the most out of every moment of life offered to her as though she was privy to some secret that others were not. Almost displaying desperation to do everything immediately rather then allow anything to stay as a plan instead of action. She had kept up with him every step of the way despite a four-year age difference and he couldn't recall a moment when he wished some time off from her. He had many reasons to dispute the idea of fate, especially one that would actually be kind, but where she was concerned he had no doubt.
She had always been intended to be a part of his life, something along the way had clearly made that choice for them both and neither had been willing or desired to fight it. He didn't think that she had ever walked into a life that she was not meant to be an important part of, perhaps the reason for some of her solitude, maybe she knew something that they didn't. Why bother with casual acquaintances when you could focus on those that would really matter? She had always mattered to him, and he regretted that he let himself forget that for even a moment.
But that was something he could remedy now with this second chance. He had grown up an only child but at the age of twelve he had taken it upon himself to get to know an eight-year old girl that would assume the role closest to a little sister that he had ever offered anyone.
He was careful not to take her by surprise as he joined her on the balcony recalling that she had always been rather jumpy in some way. Never fearful, just very alert and prepared for the worst. But she had always been prepared. He thought again about that concern of her parents that she make 'real' friends and be drawn out. That would never have been a way he described her. If anything she caused concern just because of how open she was. How willingly she let people into her life before she could have possibly have known what their intentions might be. Like an instinct honed by experiences that she never spoke of.
"I know you're there." She whispered.
"Doesn't surprise me, you always did." Another one of her strange talents he thought. No one ever had successfully sneaked up on her. He pushed the thought aside deciding those traits mattered little in the face of the whole picture. He joined her at the balcony and gave her face a glance. He could only see her in profile but the changes of the years were just as obvious there. A new leeriness to the world that he felt never should have found its way to her face.
"I know why you're here too. It must be driving you crazy." She pointed out absently.
"I wouldn't say that. It's more that I'm worried about you." He admitted. He had not had many chances to talk to her in private but just observing her around others showed him clearly enough that something had changed her from the indestructible girl she had been. She was still reckless in many of the same ways, but now she actually seemed to acknowledge that she might not walk away from situations unscathed. Plus there was that lingering pain existing just behind her eyes that she probably wished no one would notice but was impossible to overlook when he remembered how they had once looked. A bit haunted even before, yes, but now it was infinitely more pronounced. He wanted to repair the years they had lost, rebuild what had once felt so right, but he wasn't sure that could be done without him understanding what had changed.
"That's sweet." She smiled at him for a moment and looked back over the yard. "Almost eight years. The last time I saw you I was starting my senior year, a few weeks short of my seventeenth birthday. Long time, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess it is." Gilby admitted sadly, afraid of what she might be trying to tell him but unwilling to press if her message was that it had been too long. "If you can't talk to me anymore I'll understand."
"You won't. You might try to but you won't. I kind of appreciate that, that you aren't willing to understand why I might not be able to talk to you." She corrected him. Gilby believed that she had never kept a secret from him. He would never have guessed that her whole childhood had been one. That for every thing that she had ever found it in herself to confess to the older man there had been ten other things that she hadn't been able to. And now there were only more to be added to that list of secrets. "I never really thought I would see you again. Do you believe in fate?"
"Let's see. My worst moment of life, when everything was crashing around me, you and Nick showed up. Not to mention that without that I wouldn't have met Alex. Yeah, I definitely believe in fate now." He grinned with a nod of approval.
She smiled back without looking over at him. She had been waiting for him to seek her out in the house, having stored up so many questions she wanted him to answer for him. Now in the situation she was no longer sure what she needed to tell him or what she wanted to hear from him. So she asked something simple, something that might help to reassure her that she could still press forward. "Would you say I was a happy kid? Back then I was happy, right?"
He could tell how important this was to her. She needed to be told the right thing and without hesitation he had her answer. "Hell yeah. And, from what I can see, you're a happy adult, just a different kind." Gilby reassured her knowing that without doubt. She was happy now, her voice serious but still she smiled.
"And you want to know why." She looked back over the landscape surrounding them both wondering if she could provide the answer to such a question. Or if Gilby should even be forced to hear it.
"You were hurt by something. You have these great eyes, but they've never managed to hide anything. I know something happened to you, and I do want to know what." He confessed softly. "You helped me recently, somehow convinced me that everything was going to be okay. I'm not going to deny that I want the chance to do the same for you."
"And if I told you that you can't, what then?" She looked at him her smile falling a bit.
"I'd say you've never given up before, why are you starting now?" He stated flatly, believing that without considering it. She had never allowed anything to beat her that he had seen, proving able to do the impossible without even recognizing the impossibility of it.
"Because sometimes giving up is the best thing that you can ever do." She admitted sadly, directing her eyes downward so to avoid the look of horror she knew would be on his face. She exhaled deeply, wishing this moment had never had to come but knowing just by the man Gilby Mayhew had always been that it was inevitable. He was just about to refute that fatalist statement when she pressed forward. "You're right, I was hurt by something. Badly, and a part of me will always doubt that it's actually over. Which is part of the reason I don't think I should tell you." The very idea of bringing someone else into the line of any possible future retribution from her father terrified her.