Forget Me Not by TalgoM
Tangye was fully annoyed with herself for her behavior. She had never meant for her simple question to get her so emotional but it had and now she had to force herself back in control. She pushed back the images trying to bombard her mind, searching for something that would make her deal with being here better. It wasn't easy to do. She hated death, the very idea of it. She lacked fear any more of her own demise knowing how close she had been to it for so long, having had the time needed to accept that she would not live forever. She considered herself already on borrowed time but intended to make the most of what she had been given. It was thinking about those others who had died that bothered her. They died and left behind loved ones who would never understand what became of those they lost. They may try to hold on to some faith but they would never know for certain until it was too late to make use of the knowledge.
She recalled one of her Sunday school teachers telling the class that they had to have faith that there was a heaven and that they would be delivered to it upon their death. He admitted that there was no way to be certain since heaven was not something one lived to tell about, but insisted that their faith should be enough for them. That they shouldn't seek answers not intended for them. She had never been willing to do that though. She instead had used what was at her disposal only to learn that those who watched her were no closer to an answer. 'The whole death thing isn't that bad.' His voice came back to her. She had demanded that he explain it to her, to provide her a justification for the pain that she knew they all felt even if they never spoke of it. 'You can make something out of it, make it mean a little more and then it's easier to deal with. I don't know about heaven, I haven't made it there yet but I think that's just because I'm holding off. There's someplace else I should be going but I'm not. It hurt like hell, the actual dying, but after that nothing.' He had shrugged and she knew that was the best he could offer so she stopped asking.
Those visiting her were no closer to the answer because just as her teacher had once said, it wasn't something one lived to tell about. You didn't get to come back if you made it there and none of her friends had finished the journey when they came to her. She just forced herself to remember his words, 'isn't that bad.' If he could accept it and admit that it wasn't horrible she had to believe that. He wouldn't have lied to her even to make something easier on her. He had never played those kinds of games with her.
She pushed open the door for the waiting men with the gurney. She stepped outside in order to hold the door open and be out of the way and while they moved inside she allowed her eyes to wander the streets. She wasn't looking for anything in particular but found something anyway. She didn't allow her stare to linger instead redirecting her attention casually back to the men and their task, hoping that she hadn't made her acts obvious. As soon as they were clear she followed them inside without even bothering to check the street again and gain more confirmation about what she saw.
Alex rubbed at her eyes wearily knowing that she should go up to bed but finding it impossible to pry herself away from the stack of books in front of her. Her work on the computer was not helping to get them anywhere so she decided to redirect her attention to another arena taking up the search in the library. She still didn't know exactly what she was looking for but that didn't keep her from looking. She was having a more difficult time getting her eyes to focus on the words in front of her but that failed to stop her either. She pressed forward looking for anything that might indicate what they were trying to find. If only she knew what that was she was sure the answer would be here somewhere. The Legacy had information on countless occurrences of supernatural nature over the centuries. There was very little that was left that they did no have knowledge of, or at least she told herself that was the case.
The sudden ringing of the phone beside her broke into her thoughts that she found again straying from the task at hand. She welcomed the distraction and rose to answer the phone. "Luna Foundation, Alex Moreau speaking." She answered formally as she always did.
"Alex, it's Derek." The accented voice greeted her from the other end.
"Checking up on me Dr. Rayne?" She asked lightly and gained a small laugh from the precept for her efforts. She couldn't help but to smile to hear him react in such a way. For the last week he had been withdrawn as he attempted to deal with everything that had happened due to Liz Cannon's manipulations. She had not questioned him about any of it knowing his penchant for keeping things private, but it had been a constant effort not to check on how he was coping. She knew he had gone to see his mother before she left San Francisco and that the meeting proved helpful to his mood, but even gaining his mother's forgiveness for his hard choices had not erased everything that Liz had done. She made him question everything he put faith in besides his friends, made him wonder if he had not made a horrible mistake by joining the Legacy and allowing loved ones to be hurt. Even with the admission that she had fabricated the information about the past, Derek was not able to shed all the doubts it caused. Perhaps the truth was not as horrid as she made it out to be but if there was even a bit of truth in her words that might be more then Derek was willing to accept. Only time would provide those answers, Jackson being even more secretive then Derek himself. There was no way to gain information without just watching to see what happened. Alex felt for him and also feared the repercussions of any forthcoming knowledge on her own life.
She had chose the Legacy too, guided to it by Derek's belief that it was the right thing to do. He had explained it to her all those years ago with such intensity and passion. Alex had never seen anyone in her life as driven as Derek Rayne and she had longed to be a part of that. She knew for awhile that had translated into love and she wasn't sure that emotion had ever fully vanished, but now her motives for staying were different. She no longer desired to be in the Legacy as a means to be close to Derek and live out his passion second hand, but now she stayed because it was her own passion. She truly believed in what they were doing here and couldn't imagine walking away from it, certain that if ever asked to describe the Legacy to a new initiate that she could do so with the same swaying intensity that Derek once had. What they were doing was right, at least in this house and that was the best she felt she could hope for.
"Not at all, just checking in." Derek's tone was again that business like manner he did so well.
"Everything's fine Derek. The case at the store is handled. We do have something else to work on though." She explained, knowing how difficult Derek found it to be away from the house and not able to control what was going on. It was just his nature to be in charge of his house and the duty was not something that he relinquished easily.
"What would that be?" Derek questioned interested.
"Frances Carlton found a photo and a locket on two bodies at the morgue that belonged to her. We're looking in to possible suspects now but we aren't really sure what we're looking for." Alex explained.
"I assume you checked anyone who had contact with the bodies." Alex was impressed that he took the news so calmly, but then again that was the nature of Derek Rayne. Very little was capable of really offsetting his balance.
"You assume right. I'm checking journals to see what we can find. We know the man is managing to locate the dead before anyone else, we just don't know how. We're handling it." She reassured him not wanting him to think that she couldn't handle the job he left for her. She appreciated the confidence it spoke of whenever he was willing to leave the house in someone else's hands and did not want him to think for a moment that the faith was misplaced.
"I'm sure you are. I have every confidence in you Alex, you can handle whatever comes up." She knew Derek wanted to offer her some advice about possible lanes to explore but when he fought off the urge again she was surprised. Still it was better for her to question him and his expertise when he was available to her, even if it meant admitting that she wasn't moving along quite as well as she claimed.
"Derek have you ever heard of anything like this before? Someone that could, as Tangye put it, smell the dead?" Alex questioned carefully. Derek paused for a moment thinking over the question.
"Nothing springs to mind that would exactly be described as that but it does seem familiar to me. Something I have read at some time. Does there appear to be a motive?"
"I get the feeling he's trying to remind her of something. Both the picture and the locket were several years old, what the point is she doesn't even know." Alex informed him hoping that he could at least give her a push in a direction to follow.
"I can't think of anything Alex, but I'll talk to some people here and see if it sounds familiar. I'll let you know." Derek responded with noticeable regret. "I should get back outside. Nick and I should be back by the middle of the week. If you need anything you know how to reach us?"
"Of course Derek. Take care of yourself." She said before hanging up the phone. She stared down at the touch pad knowing that behind her was still a stack of journals to pour over in hopes of locating one bit of information. She had found herself honestly hoping that Derek would be able to help once she admitted that it wasn't a weakness to ask for his assistance. But just because Derek didn't readily have the answer did not mean that the Legacy archives would not, or at least one of the journals. She just dreaded another long night at the table and the resulting stiffness that would follow in the morning. She almost wished that she had volunteered to go to the morgue when she had the chance. Being in action of some sort had to be better then sitting here staring at endless pages of case histories spanning generations.
With a resigned sigh she brushed her hair back away from her face and turned back around to the table and her task. She took her seat, wiping at her eyes. She flipped open the next journal in the stack and began scanning the page for some indication that what they were looking for was not an isolated incident. Something like this must have happened before and there was no way she was going to give up until she found out when and what was done about it.
"Guess who I just saw?" Tangye asked as the two men left through the swinging doors of the examining room back out to their van. Frances and Kristin both looked up shocked, knowing whom she meant even before she said. "He was out across the street, just as described. Average size, brown coat, brown hat. I couldn't see anything more then that. He wasn't doing anything, just watching."
"Did he realize you saw him?" Kristin asked anxiously, suddenly very worried that the man was so close.
"Not that I could tell but I can't be sure." She shrugged glancing over at the covered form that Frances was silently getting ready to inspect. Kristin stepped up to her closer, not wanting the rest of their conversation to be overheard.
"Did you sense anything?" Kristin whispered down to the shorter woman, both watching Frances to be sure that she didn't over hear them.
"I didn't have the time." Tangye answered. Frances rolled her tray of medical tools over beside the body preparing herself mentally for whatever she might find on the body. She had questions she wanted to ask but was terrified of the answers that she might get. The description did little good in naming the man behind all of this but she was beginning to believe that her idea was not as impossible as she wanted it to be. She knew little about what happened to him and what she had learned was always second or third hand. Her information could easily all be wrong and if anyone would be holding a grudge against her he would make sense to do such a thing.
"Frances do you want us to look him over first?" Kristin asked carefully. She thought it would be much easier if someone else discovered whatever little souvenir they found, if they found one at all. Clearly it disturbed Frances to keep finding such things on bodies and it was probably better that she not be forced to go through such an event again.
"If you wouldn't mind." Frances stepped back allowing them access to the body. She didn't want to admit how afraid she was but lying to herself was not doing any good. Tangye and Kristin stepped up to the body both showing a bit of hesitancy about the task at hand. Frances was impressed that despite the fact they both were not comfortable with what they had to do they pressed forward because it was their job. Tangye deferred to allow Kristin to remove the sheet and she did so with the same caution that they were all moving with. When the face was revealed they saw only the frozen sleeping expression of an elderly woman. Nothing was obvious as the message left for Frances. "Both times it was under the clothes." Frances informed them not able to force her voice above a strained whisper.
"Naturally." Tangye nodded and reached out to pull the hospital gown back. Her hand brushed against the woman's stomach as she did so and knocked against something hard there. "Found it." She proclaimed as she lifted the gown only enough to grasp the object.
"What is it?" Frances asked, afraid of what the answer might be.
"Book." Kristin said as Tangye pulled the hard covered book free. She quickly passed it over to Kristin for her to inspect. Kristin noted the title, 'Wuthering Heights.' She had not read the book since back in high school but remembered the story. She flipped open the cover of the book and a small slip of paper fell out from behind the cover. Tangye leaned over to scoop up the discarded piece of paper, unfolding it to read the simple message written on it. "Remember. What's that mean?" Kristin asked glancing at the single word on the paper and then back up to Frances. Neither of the Legacy members could overlook how she diverted her eyes from their waiting expressions and did not answer the simple question.
"The Legacy has dealt with something like this before." Alex announced excited that she finally managed to locate some bit of information that could help them. "A creature of some sort that was the embodiment of a person out of the past. It sought death and the dying and left messages for the Legacy to find. Never anything specific just clues to lead one of the members to them."
"For what purpose?" Rachel asked.
"This thing, whatever it is, evolves." Alex explained sliding the journal over to Rachel. "The journal says that when it first began evidently it wanted revenge for its death but then over time it wanted only to help the one who condemned it to forgive themselves."
"You think Frances has something in her life that would require such forgiveness?" Rachel questioned interested looking down at the neat handwriting on the brittle paper that detailed the story.
"Not from anything we've managed to learn so far." Alex said with a shake of her head. She had not come up with anything that would indicate such a thing from the list that Frances had passed to them.
"She's keeping something back." Rachel whispered recalling the reactions she had been noticing through the course of the day. Frances' obvious discomfort with the idea that they would be investigating her past. "When she was compiling the list for us she asked questions about how much we could learn about her. It looked to me like she wanted to keep something hidden. I asked her about it but she avoided saying anything. I assumed she was upset about what was going on but what if there is something else? Someone that she didn't want us to know about?"
"So she left a name off the list?" Alex asked, looking up at the doctor to where she stood beside her. "But who's? Without her telling us there's no way we can know."
Rachel nodded and began pacing the room behind Alex. "So what do we know? That this man, whoever he is wants to help her find something. He wants her to remember, and I'm sure that she does but she doesn't want us to know what." Rachel sighed when restating their case proved not to be helpful. "He's left a picture and the locket. What do they mean to her?"
"She said she lost the locket years ago but what if this man stole it from her?" Rachel turned to look back at Alex suddenly, her eyes wide as she recalled a detail about the small locket.
"There was a picture on the other side. It was torn out but there were bits of it left." Rachel stated.
"So it could be that was his picture or it might be another person who maybe this man didn't like." Alex nodded, wondering how they would get the information from Frances. She looked back down at the journal in front of them reading over the story again. Evidently the woman from the old case had been killed by a Legacy member, who she had an intimate relationship with, when she became caught up in some sort of cult activity. It had been necessary that she die in order to protect an innocent child that the group was planning to use in a ritual but the decision had not been easily made by the Legacy member. Months later the small clues had begun to appear at scenes of cases where the endings were always violent, little things that would only hold significance for the man left behind. Three times they arrived to find someone already dead and each time he had checked the body to find another subtle message. He had not told anyone about it at first but the acts grew impossible to dismiss. He showed them the messages and they all noted the trend that began as angry and was moving to be more sympathetic. The first clue was a scrap from the dress the woman had been wearing the night that she died with a bit of bloodstain still evident. The forth clue, the last one the man evidently needed to realize what had to be done, was an envelope filled with delicate blue flower petals.
The story went on to reveal how when the man went to find her she was discovered in a garden out behind the house waiting on his arrival. It was a section lining the small pond near the rear of the expansive garden that they had planted almost a year earlier together. Filled with the delicate blue forget-me-nots that she so loved. The man claimed he had never seen her face but merely heard her voice telling him that he had to find it in himself to forgive the choice he had made. She admitted that when she first realized she could return she was angry, filled with hate for the betrayal but the longer she watched him the more she saw that she was not alone in such an anguish. He had never forgotten what he had to do and was refusing to allow himself to move forward because of it. She begged his forgiveness for all that she had done and offered hers for his acts. She let him go.
Alex was surprised to find such a romantic tale in one of the Legacy journals, it would have made a good novel, depicting a timeless love. Yet what she couldn't ignore was that evidently Frances was caught in a similar situation and was not confessing such an important detail to them. No one knew how dangerous this situation might be, or if this man would ever come to the catharsis that the woman had in the previous Legacy case. None of them should be forced into danger if Frances was withholding information just because she was afraid of admitting to something out of her past.
"Why don't we just ask her? We know she's hiding something, why not just tell her she's caught?" Rachel wanted to tell Tangye that they shouldn't do that, that Frances needed to open up to them on her own. Still she couldn't make herself utter those words. Kristin and Tangye had returned only ten minutes before with Frances, from the latest delivery to the morgue. They were now gathered in the secure control room while Frances took a shower and prepared for what would probably be another sleepless night. Both sides had been briefed on what they had learned so far and the younger members were not doing well at hiding their annoyance that Frances was keeping things from them.
"She deserves the chance to tell us herself." Alex answered evenly.
"She's had it." Kristin argued in defense of Tangye's idea. "Tangye saw the man, he's just watching her, possibly waiting for the chance to get close."
"He's had plenty of chances before we got involved." Rachel pointed out not sure which side of this discussion she really wanted to be on. She felt for Frances' plight, her desire to hide something that had clearly deeply effected her. At the same time she couldn't ignore that a threat was looming so close to them and they didn't know if they would be able to fight him. The journal had detailed the story well but they still had no clear definition of what these people were coming back as. A merciful spirit or something darker and more powerful, they didn't know and without certainty Rachel didn't like taking risks.
"Maybe he's toying with her?" Kristin suggested. "Torturing her with this game before making a move." She hated to think how close this creature evidently was to them now, and that he had probably seen all of them with Frances at one time or another. That made them targets in Kristin's opinion and that was the last place she wanted to be.
"Or he might realize what the woman in the previous case did, that Frances needs his forgiveness for whatever happened between them." Alex reminded, tapping her fingers against the book.
"Or maybe that guy was lucky. That realization could have been situational, maybe they had something stronger. We have no guarantees that this guy feels that way about Frances." Tangye insisted.
"She didn't say anything about the book or the note?" Alex asked hoping to divert them all away from the argument and differences in opinion. She didn't want to admit that what they said was true, she liked the happy ending version better, where everyone got what they needed and no one had to be hurt in the process. Still they were right, without a guarantee that the man had come back to offer his forgiveness they almost had to assume he had not. This game was just too cruel to indicate a kind spirit.
"She hasn't said much of anything." Kristin shook her head.
"She may just need some time. I say we all go to bed and see what she does in the morning." Rachel suggested placing a hand on both Tangye and Kristin's shoulders. "If she doesn't say anything "
"We'll ask." Alex directed her eyes downward giving in to what she knew was right. She had known Frances for several years, longer then any of the others, and she just found it hard to accept that she would knowingly deceive them. She had always been helpful even when it was a risk to her job to do so. Thinking that something had managed to change that was difficult on many levels. It meant that Frances had something in her past that she might have kept hidden from them all, something that she suffered with alone. Alex had never grown particularly close to Frances but she still considered her a friend and hated to imagine that she chose to suffer alone. "I'm going to stay down here for awhile, you all go to bed."
She could see the beginnings of an argument on their faces but evidently convinced them to refrain with something in her expression. They each slowly moved out of the room leaving her alone with her conflicting thoughts. She stared down at the copy of the book on the table recalling the story of anguished love that it told, of loss and loneliness and anger. She had not read it in years but it was a story not easily forgotten. A love story that resulted in the destruction of an entire generation and nearly the loss of the next. Powerfully intense, yet misguided by Heathcliff's attempts to punish those who offended him. In the end his only bit of salvation came when death reunited him with Catherine on the moors yet still that comfort had done nothing to negate the harms they had all committed against one another. What was this man attempting to tell Frances by sending her such a book? What message could it hope to convey? Certainly not one of forgiveness in Alex's opinion.
She wondered if running the Legacy house and the decisions it entailed were still so difficult on Derek or if he now knew just how to deal with them all. Had he been so well groomed for the job that he no longer had to question his instincts or choices? Or were there still nights that he sat in his office or some other part of the house and struggled with each choice he had to make? She pitied him the obligation if the latter were true. She knew Derek to be a strong man but that had never made him cold, even if there were times when he attempted to appear as such. She always believed she understood him and how trying his work had to be on his heart and soul but now she felt she was getting her first insight into how much she had never known. This job was impossible.
She just didn't know what was expected of her. Forcing Frances into a confession seemed cruel, but she couldn't ignore even the possibility of danger to those in the house. "Good Lord Derek, how do you do this?" She asked to the empty room, surprised to find herself struggling with what Derek would probably view as a simple choice and evidently the others did as well.
'Do you think we're like them?' The voice in his memory asked. 'I hope not.' She laughed back at the question, refusing to take it too seriously. 'No not the tragedy or the revenge, just that eternal sort of love that they shared. There is something beautiful about that.' He justified his words to her but she had turned to look at him as if he were equally as mad as Heathcliff. 'Doomed to wander the moors?' She questioned offhandedly not even really paying attention to him. He remembered moving over to her and pulling her own book away from her. 'Not doomed, how can you think they were doomed? They got what they wanted most, what they never managed to obtain in life.' She looked into his eyes, taking them, and all of the intensity they reflected, in while stroking his cheek. 'Which would be?' 'They got to be together. He had himself buried beside her, opening the sides of each casket so that with time their bodies would be one just as he knew their souls always had been. They were bonded because they were one whole, greater then what they ever managed to be apart. You've never felt we're like that?' She smiled at him fondly and leaned in to kiss him. 'I know I love you. I don't know about all that romantic illusion, I just know that I do love you. Can't that be enough?'
And it had been. That was always enough. He knew that she was too grounded in reality to ever give him the fairy tale or classic romance, but he accepted what she offered in its place with gratitude. Now he needed to remind her that the end wasn't as horrible as he once felt it was or as bad as she thought it to be. It just fit more with one of the stories of romance that were passed down through generations. Lovers divided by situations and obligations, but he did not want to see their tale carry the type of tragedy that Bronte told of. He wanted her to find her peace and the book was something she couldn't possibly ignore.
Frances wasn't sure exactly what she was doing or what was forcing her to make the choices she was. Soon enough they were bound to realize that she wasn't telling them everything even if her own actions didn't give it a way. Still she wasn't able to utter his name, to tell anyone of what she had done all those years ago. It was the right thing to do she reminded herself, just as she had a thousand times in the interceding years. She did know that she didn't have an option at the time but that didn't make the decision any easier. In order to do the right thing she had to give up the one thing she had managed to love in a long time. She was left only her work after that. Her work and a deep fear of ever allowing herself to grow close to anything again.
Her mind had forced her to ignore the difficult truth behind the first two mementos, that is until she had been asked when was the last time she saw the locket. With one question the memories had been brought back to her. Images and emotions that were too hard to face for many years. Now she was made to deal with them all again.
The locket torn away from her neck and thrown at him in a fit of disgust. She swore never to think of him again or to forgive him. It had taken only a matter of hours before she had broken both those promises. Both done too late, the words said she had no way to take them back. She had leveled the accusation upon him, pointing to him and naming him for the crime which she later learned was no more then an accident he could not handle. He had tried to explain that to her, desperate to get her to listen to him but she had refused. She wondered if perhaps she had heard his pleas that night when he came to her for absolution and a bit of comfort if everything would have been different.
Could they have ever managed happiness? Even if not together could a tiny amount of peace been theirs? She knew he was not without blame in all that occurred but once he was gone it became easy to heap the blame on herself. He wasn't there any longer to look at with anger not that it had ever been an easy task. His eyes were so kind, so full of the dedication he felt towards her. How had she let that leave her life?
Thinking of his many attempts at various conversations about the classic books he loved to read brought an involuntarily smile to her face. She would try to study and he was always there with some type of interruption. Asking her some off the wall question or just reading a passage from something and asking her opinion on what the author was trying to say. She would make every effort to ignore him but it never worked, he would get it in his head that they should be talking or that she was working too hard and there was just no derailing him. And she had loved him for the attention he showered on her. She had loved him for his unwavering love of her, which she could never fully understand. What was it that he saw in her, which everyone else had managed to overlook? What was it that made her perfect to him when no one else had ever felt such a way?
She crossed to the window facing out to the woods beyond the Luna Foundation castle. "Why are you doing this to me?" She whispered to the night beyond, wondering for a moment if he was close by. She recalled how she had once known when he was near even when she hadn't seen him. It was just a feeling in her stomach, an instinct honed by something she couldn't explain even with all her medical training. "Do you want to hear me say I'm sorry? Of course, I'm sorry. I've never regretted anything more then I regret what I did to us." She traced her fingers down the cold glass. "But you helped it, you didn't leave me a choice. I was so angry. So afraid what it said about you. I didn't know what else to do. Even if I did the right thing, I didn't have to do it that way. I didn't have to let you go in such a way. I am sorry, I hope you can believe that." She whispered sounding hopeless in the comments she sent out into the night.
She turned away from the window reaching up to her neck for the locket that hadn't hung there for years. She felt the tears begin to rise in her eyes as the truth dawned on her. She couldn't hide it any longer, by dragging these people in she had left herself no choice but to tell them about the decisions she had made and lived in remorse of for years. It was the only way they could really be expected to help and she couldn't help but wonder if it might be easier not to have to face it alone any longer. She pushed herself away from the window and went in search of someone to talk to.
Alex looked down at the book left on the table in the library. She had run all the necessary scans on it but as expected not come up with any new information that might help them find the source of the clues. The only way they were ever going to learn anything was from Frances and she wondered how difficult it would be to get that information. She reached out tracing her fingers over the slightly rough texture of the cover of the old book.
Her vision quickly flashed to black and white showing the image of a young man smiling as a woman nearby spoke. 'I love you Can't that be enough?' Then he was standing in a doorway, flanked on either side by police officers as the woman screamed, 'How could I ever love something like you?' Last there was a sudden image of the man in the trench coat, his face hidden under a hat and in shadows. She saw the object of his attention and knew her despite the darkness of the surrounding area.
The words she heard last were spoken with honest anger but Alex knew it was the sort born of a moment and not a long term. Whatever had motivated such a statement was not something that could destroy the emotion that the two from her vision shared but it was something that did enough to divide them.
"I loved him." Alex jumped at the sudden voice behind her. She turned quickly withdrawing her had from the book that still poured conflicting emotions into her mind. Love and betrayal, remorse and hope. Frances stood in the doorway, the evidence of tears still obvious on her soft face. She looked down at the book on the table and tried to smile but it did not succeed in reaching her eyes and therefore appeared to be strained. "I loved him more then I thought I could. I was young and maybe stupid, but at the time he was everything to me." She explained as she joined Alex in the room hesitantly, sure her revelations would be met with some anger. She carefully lifted the book from the table, tracing her fingers over the letters printed into the cover.
"Who was he?" Alex whispered sure that Frances needed to let this come in her own way. The sadness she saw in her eyes was so intense and clearly something that she had lived with for a long time but never fully dealt with.
"I met him when I was still in school." She recalled, in her mind picturing the first time he had ever approached her. His hair shining in the noonday sun, an easy smile on his face that relaxed her even though she didn't know how it worked. Not the most handsome of the men she had met but comfortable and safe. Good looking enough that she always enjoyed looking at him, but not so much so that she felt any constant worry that he would slip away or jealous of the many women friends he had. He had returned a book to her that she had dropped and with that simple moment it had all begun. She was in love in a matter of weeks, after two months she invited him to share her small one bedroom apartment days, which were, still the most content she could recall being. She kept the romance a secret from everyone not wanting to have to explain why two people who were so different would ever be so perfect, and so that she didn't ever have to share him. But perfection rarely lasts, and as so many great romances had in history, hers found tragedy. "He was an English master candidate working on his thesis at the time. He was the most gentle, sincere person I have ever met in my life. He was never content to just live life, he wanted to do so to the fullest. When he met me he showed me how to do that. He made sure our relationship was something special, something neither of us would ever forget or that would ever change. We never got to that comfortable stage, everyday was like the first time we saw each other and I loved that. I was so focused on the wrong things and he showed me how important the other side was. Love, friendship, pleasures rather then just books and classes. I don't know how to explain it except to tell you I loved him." She sighed looking down at the book again. There weren't the right words to express what he had meant to her, she had tried to find them for years to no avail. He would have had them she knew, he would have said something poetic that no one could dispute and she wished now that she had got him to do so when she had the chance so she could explain.
"What happened?" Alex asked softly watching as Frances fought over what clearly wanted to be a happy memory yet was somehow tainted now.
"The world that we managed to keep out for almost a year managed to find a way in." Frances answered without really explaining. "I don't know why he's come back now, but the fact is it's impossible." She dropped the book onto the table and looked up at Alex.
"Because he died almost three and a half years ago." Alex managed to keep her shock under control. She had expected the answer but to see how much it hurt Frances to say those words was hard. The pain there was still real and when Alex recalled the angry accusation from her vision she wondered why the man was thrown out if she clearly continued to loved him so much.
"Were you together at the time?" Alex knew the answer but felt their separation was key to what was happening. She had to know why Frances let him go.
"No. I heard about it second hand. People knew that I knew him but not what had been going on. Someone told me in passing." She pushed her hair back from her face in a weary gesture. "I know it was an accident, he was scared and didn't know what to do. He was a hopeless romantic and optimist, nothing bad could happen in his world and when something finally did he just didn't know what to do." Alex reached out to touch Frances' arm in an effort to comfort but as soon as she did her vision flashed again.
A car driving late at night on a dark road. A sudden body running across the road and the sound of brakes trying to hold to the pavement in a wasted effort. She felt the impact of the collision and jerked back to the present. She couldn't find her voice realizing what must have happened and just stared at Frances waiting for the explanation of what she just witnessed.
"There was an accident, it was an accident. He swore to me he didn't see the woman in enough time to stop and I believe him. I never doubted that. But he panicked. He ran and just left her there." Frances sank into one of the chairs once the truth was out. She had fought not to admit this for years, that someone she loved could ever do such a thing, but it was pointless. "I tell myself I would have done something different but how can you ever know?"
"I'm not sure." Alex shook her head sadly. She felt the same way as Frances, desperate to believe that she would handle the situation differently but not certain. Fear was a powerful motivator and when in such a situation there was no telling what it might make you do.
"I know he thought he would do something different. He was the type who would nurse a sick bird if he could but this just scared him so much. Losing everything in his life because of an accident was too much to handle, so he ran home expecting me to have some words of comfort. To tell him we'd be okay." Frances saw him opening the door, his hair wet with sweat, tears rolling down his face as he fell into her waiting arms. Then she remembered pushing him away after his confession, cursing him for what he did. "He said he needed my advice about what to do. He knew he had to go to the police but he needed some time, rushing wouldn't change anything. I took that option from him."
"You called?" Alex whispered sure that had to be one of the most difficult decisions that Frances had ever made. Throwing away something so precious even if it was the right thing to do.
"They came and got him. He tried to explain to me but I wouldn't listen to him. I threw the locket at him and told him I could never love something that would do such a thing." Frances turned to look up at Alex. "That was a lie. I could love him but not at that moment, the next day I did again but it was too late. I thought about going to see him but I didn't know what to say to him. Evidently he changed after that. I heard about the trial and how he wasn't showing any remorse, or even seeming to care what was going to happen to him. He was angry, I knew that from the pictures I saw. I ruined him. I managed to take everything that was special about him away from him with what I did." She wiped at the fresh tears on her face. "A few months later I heard that he had been killed in a fight while in prison, something he instigated. Does that make what I did any different from what he did?"
"Frances you can't blame yourself for what happened to him." Alex stated with certainty. What had become of the man was not to be placed on Frances' shoulders, he allowed her acts to ruin him when he could have understood how she felt. He should have tried to understand.
"Why not? He was alive and happy once, he could have been again if not for what I did to him. If he turned himself in he would have served his time quietly if I hadn't turned on him. He was going to but I didn't let him have the time he needed to adjust to what was going on." Frances insisted. "And now he's back to remind me of what I did. To make me pay for it. But, Dammit, he's dead." Her voice rose as her difficulty excepting the situation took over. She just couldn't believe in ghosts even if it was the only explanation. She could see that his death did not make the situation impossible in Alex's eyes but Frances was not able to give in to such an idea. She was a scientist, ghosts were make believe and she couldn't allow them to be more.
Alex chose not to argue that point at first focusing rather on something that might help to calm her. "He may not be back to make you pay, he may be back to forgive you." She consoled.
"Why would he do that?" She asked desperate for an answer.
"Because he loves you and doesn't want you hurting because of what happened to him. You've forgiven him for his mistake don't you think he could do the same for you?" Alex put the question forth and though Frances wanted to grasp on to such an idea she just couldn't do it. Not after she had lived with this guilt for so long, forgiveness shouldn't come to her so easily from him when it was so hard to give herself.
If she didn't arrive here then he would have to continue his plan, he just prayed he was granted enough time to complete his mission. She must know by now who was communicating with her and there was only a matter of time until she realized where he would be waiting for her. She couldn't stay away once she knew, her nature was far too inquisitive for that even if she was frightened. He hoped she could understand what he was doing and that this wouldn't serve to compound the hate or disgust that she felt about her memories of him. He wanted to believe that a part of her went on loving him but the memory of her face that last moment kept returning to him.
'How could I ever love something like you?' She had robbed him of his humanity with those words, making him a thing to be repelled rather then ever loved again as a man. Yet he wondered if it did hurt her that she had managed to once love him so much. Was that a weakness now in her mind, a failing within herself? He wanted to believe in forgiveness but his fear was that it was too late to start searching for such a thing now. Years had slipped away, emotions having time to compound upon themselves and build into something that never should have been.
Forgiveness was easy to offer but he wondered if it would be accepted on either part. He told himself that she had done the right thing, she faced the situation he could not. Where he had been prepared to hide she was willing to step up and sacrifice everything in the name of what even he knew to be right. That had never been the question for him. What she did was right, it was the how he had taken offense to for so long and allowed to transform him into something not worth love just as she said. Her choice was not what killed him or them, it was his anger that she would put the world before him where he couldn't imagine doing such a thing. What good was the world if she was not in it for him?
He was going to go to the police himself because it was right. He just couldn't do it without seeing her again, without a moment to take comfort in her. But that had been denied and for years that had created anger. Now he looked around himself and forgot all the hate built inside of him, focusing instead on what his mistake had done to her. He knew what he lost but for the first time in too long he thought about how hard it must have been for her to give up so much even if she didn't show it. He wanted her to know that it was all right, that the blame was not hers and she should feel free to go on with her life without fear. He wanted to tell her that he still loved her but was letting her go, and that she should do the same.
Morning came hours before daybreak for those in the Legacy household. Alex talked with Frances for awhile longer, learning all the details of what had happened and also helping her to regain her composure. After that she had woke everyone else up so that they could pool their ideas and hopefully figure out where the man might be waiting on Frances. Alex was sure that was an answer that only Frances could provide but the woman was not up to thinking about it. Alex just hoped that when she saw so many people working to help her it would motivate her to help them again. For now she sat in the corner of the living room watching as they all discussed their options.
"What about the apartment they shared?" Kristin suggested tentatively. She held one of the couch pillows in her arms, clutching to it tightly as she struggled for an answer.
"Someone is bound to be living in it now." Rachel pointed out hating the feeling of dashed hopes they all felt whenever one of the suggestions was rejected.
"It would be someplace personal, someplace that no one else would think of in such a way." Alex reminded. They all knew what that meant, they weren't going to be able to do anything until the silent member of their group choose to speak.
"Tangye what about you? Any ideas?" Rachel turned to the young woman who was observing Frances intently. Rachel wasn't sure exactly what was going on in her head but she was sure that Tangye was not angry just by the expression on her face. A kindness and understanding that Rachel couldn't account for. She assumed Tangye would be angry that so much information was withheld and that she was forced to visit the morgue despite her discomfort. When Kristin had gone to bed Tangye had taken the time to stop by the doctor's room and for the first time was willing to accept a bit of psychological counseling. She admitted to being disgusted with herself for letting her anger and fear linger so long in her active mind. She wanted Rachel to tell her how to get rid of it so not everyone who met her would instantly feel a need to coddle her because of what she couldn't get her eyes to hide. Rachel had told her that she needed to think about it all first, rather then avoiding it, and figure out what she needed to do with it. Was there an action she could take to make it hurt less, or just something she needed to say? After that she had to place all of it where it belonged and then let it rest.
"I was just thinking about where I would go. I never did much of a good bye thing for anyone I knew who died, but if I did I don't think I know where they would want me to go. It doesn't come easily maybe we do have to wait for another clue? The man that this happened to before didn't know where to go until he got the flower petals, right?" Tangye redirected her attention to the others in the room. Her eyes clearly reflected her exhaustion from another sleepless night but her mouth was drawn into that thin defiant line they were all growing to know so well. They all had their own expression that signified the same thing, their resolve to figure out the mystery and get something done.
"But the garden should have been obvious to him, he just didn't want to think about it." Alex added wondering just how the man had managed to miss such an obvious choice of meeting places. She threw Frances a careful look knowing her words could remind the woman how little help she had been. Once the story was revealed Alex didn't question why she had been willing to tell them so little, but she also admitted that if they were ever to figure out what was happening she would have to talk to them. At least give them something to go off of.
"We think it should be in hindsight." Tangye corrected.
"She's right. We don't know how many places they had that might have been considered just as important. She chose that one for personal reasons, where he might have thought another place better." Kristin defended Tangye's thought. She was surprised to find herself realizing just how much in common she had with the young woman without Derek or Nick around. She always felt she had to compete for Derek's attention and defend herself from unseen attack when he was home. Now she lacked those blinders.
"Exactly, we can't think of this from Frances' point of view, we have to consider his." Rachel nodded at this idea. "But we still need you to do that Frances." They all turned to look at the woman who flinched slightly just to hear her name mentioned. She didn't want them to look to her for answers, she didn't want to think of any of this even as a possibility.
"You can't understand " She whispered as her only answer.
"You might be surprised." Tangye answered back also in low tones she probably intended not to be heard. The horrible silence in the room allowed every syllable muttered to be heard clearly and Frances head jerked up to look at the younger woman.
"You know what this is like for me? I loved him and I might as well have killed him by what I did. You have even an idea what that feels like?" Her words were laced with venom that took them all by surprise, evidently even Frances was shocked by the sudden horror on her face. Tangye did not answer the question, turning instead to look at the other side of the room. She did feel her hand suddenly wrapped up by Rachel's and allowed herself to take comfort in that.
"Horrible, crushing guilt. Like you should have died in their place and now you're cheating the world of them by living yourself. Always wondering which of you it would have been better to see die, who had more to give the world." Kristin answered passionately before she even had time to think that no one in the room knew how she felt about her father's death. If only she hadn't brought the map to him he would never have gone to that accursed place. He would have been safe if she had not done as she had. If she had asked for help perhaps Derek could have prevented what she allowed to happen.
"How do you ?" Frances asked with amazement over how accurately Kristin was able to explain the emotions threatening to tear her up inside. She had denied the thoughts for so long but now she had no choice but to think about the mistakes she had made. Mistakes for which there was no forgiveness. If she had put a bit of the faith in him that he always had for her none of this might have happened. He would have still gone to the police and served his time. Instead she had to betray him first, throw away the one thing he might have been able to hold onto during those long nights alone. If she had not done that perhaps she would never have ended up in this place with self-loathing piling down upon her.
"Like Tangye said, you'd be surprised." Kristin replied with a careful look at the telepath now staring at her. Kristin had used her own confession to distract them all from how poorly she was reacting to the situation. She had actually done something painful in order to protect Tangye and that fact made Tangye hope that someday they could really put their differences aside. Clearly they made a good partnership in Legacy cases and it was a shame to allow something so useful to go to waste because of petty personal differences.
Frances thought over that statement for a long time, forcing herself to accept what had to be done. They did understand what she was going through, and she doubted that Kristin alone was speaking from obvious experience. The others might all have something like that they tried desperately to hide. She could almost see it on all of their faces, the same intense regret that she felt trying to overwhelm her. Old mistakes that no one ever thinks are forgiven but which in the span of time are just an instant that easily can be washed away. Her little issue was nothing in the face of time, it would fade away with little significance. Yet it was these moments that defined a person , these that they carried with them. A moment that changes everything in one small world but that must be dealt with in order to proceed. She couldn't hide any more, she was a scientist and she needed a solution to her problem in order to move on to the next one. "She was also right when she thought this isn't about me, he wants me to go somewhere that was always special to him because of me." She did not need to see the next clue to know where she would be expected. There was one place he would be waiting on her, not a location they had ever visited together but one that he had gone to in order to understand her.
They were all surprised when Frances told Rachel to pull the car over, announcing that they were at their location. The sun was just coming up over the horizon and the shadows stretched to the size of man from the hundreds of tombstones. The scene was still wet with morning dew and glimmered in the first light of day in almost a surreal way. It was beautiful at this time of day and one was almost able to forget how disturbing the place might have been only hours earlier. It was a well-manicured graveyard, with full-bodied trees lining the perimeter of the grassland. There was a serenity about the place that would faith when the first heartbroken mourner walked onto the scene to visit a lost loved one. But for now it was just a peaceful resting place, unbroken by the taint of life.
"Are you sure this is where you were thinking?" Alex asked carefully, wondering why such a place would hold special meaning to a young couple in love.
"I'm sure of it." Frances nodded opening the door to the car and climbing out to the deserted street. She heard the other members of her trip follow suit but she never turned her eyes away from the sight in front of her. It had taken her years to understand why he always came here, but losing him had clarified so much of that for her. He needed to be close to her at times and this place of mourning did that for him. "He said he came here because it was a part of me. I was studying to be a mortician at the time and he said this was like the end part of what I did, somehow that made this place a part of me. He always accused me of taking it all too much as a scientist. Of forgetting that I was working on people that others loved. That it wasn't about just studying the body for answers, but you had to think about the person as well. He took me here to watch the funeral of one of the bodies I had autopsied. He made me understand that he had been more then a case study before his death." She tried to explain, not sure that the words came out properly. It had been a lesson the young medical student desperately needed as she allowed herself to become detached from the living world. He had reminded her of why she decided on this career path so many years before she knew it, because she had once been the mourner and a woman had remembered that her grandmother was once a person and not just a cold form on her examining table.
"Do you know where he would be?" Rachel asked softly, not wanting to disturb Frances from her revelry over that long past visit.
"We'll find each other." She answered confidently and was surprised that she got no argument from any of them. She stepped across the street and hesitated only a moment before allowing her foot to find the soft grass of the cemetery. As she walked along the path, lined on either side by carefully carved headstones she found her hand reaching up to the clip in her hair and pulling it free, allowing her blonde hair to tumble down around her face untamed.
He saw them all arrive and for a moment found himself hesitating over facing her again. When she stepped away from them all and proceeded forward with them in her wake he knew that he had not made a mistake. She had not come alone, but she was leading the way back to him and somehow that was enough. She would face him with protection and support from her friends but she would not lean on them in order to get there. For the first time he really believed that she understood why he had to see her again and hoped that she felt the same need.
She held her head high, allowing the morning breeze to blow through her hair and lift it away from her shoulders. She was so beautiful at that moment as she refused to let her fear stop her from doing what had to be done. He respected that inner strength within her.
She got a good distance into the cemetery and stepped off the path, she was careful as she walked not to step where there might be any graves. She wandered her way amongst the headstones keeping a careful eye on the area around her. She was afraid that he would jump out and frighten her, he could tell that by the way her head repeatedly turned to watch the whole area. He smiled privately to that, she was so smart, she knew just when to keep her guard up.
He loved her still, he thought as we watched her form move. He had known it for so long but being this close to her again made it swell within him. There was not even the memory of anger or betrayal any longer, only concern for her well being was in its place. He had to let her know that she was forgiven and should move on without him or the guilt attached to his name in her memory.
"Are you sure she'll be okay?" Kristin asked Alex in a whisper while they all followed several paces behind Frances. Alex nodded slightly feeling certain that Frances had what it took within her to face this. Frances was a strong and determined woman, she would not admit defeat easily, even when thrown in a situation that she had no choice but to deem impossible. She just couldn't be expected to accept so easily that all she had been raised to believe were myths, were in fact truth. Everyone had difficulty when first asked to accept the notion of ghosts and demons. She recalled her own disbelief clearly enough. She had known that she was different from her peers at a very young age yet she still couldn't wrap her mind around the idea of ghosts when first told about them. Her mother and father both always swore there was nothing under her bed or hiding in her closet and to learn they may not have been entirely right was disturbing. But she was left no other choice but to learn to believe in and respect such powers. She felt that Frances would do the same when the option to hide was taken away.
She could feel all of them behind her, making sure that she was safe. She wondered if it had not been a mistake to allow them to come with her. What if he wanted to face her alone? What if he stayed in the shadows because she was not able to stand alone? She tried to cast off such concerns he would surely appear, he had not done all of this just to continue to hide. She just had to find him.
She finally stopped, standing her ground amongst some of the older headstones at the edge of trees. He would have to come to her now and she only hoped that when he did so he lacked the anger and hate she feared seeing in his eyes. She waited holding in the anxious breath she couldn't let escape. She wanted to see his face again as kind and loving, just how she remembered it for being so long. What she couldn't let go of was the terror that it would have just used the interceding years to let the anger last there build until it transformed him in to something no one who ever loved him would recognize.
She started to turn to the group behind her when an arm reached out from the patch of trees near her. She couldn't help but scream when the hard grip closed in around her. Before she could gain any of her composure she saw Tangye pull a gun out from under her coat and all the others bodies filled with instinctive tension, as if all were ready for battle.
"Let go of her and step out here." Alex demanded but the man only half complied. His hand held fast to her arm but he did move his form out from the darkness of the trees. The action had broke the silence of the morning, cutting short several of the softly chirping birds. She managed to keep her body from displaying the wave of fear she felt and turned to the form with a mastered calm expression. She had prepared herself to deal with whatever she might see on his face but instead was met with only darkness to look into, his hat shadowing whatever features he still had or what they might speak of. "Let her go." Alex repeated the instruction but he made no move to act.
"Why are you doing this? What do you want to say to her?" Rachel asked softly as if dealing with an emotionally distraught child. Condescending but incredibly kind. The man's head turned to look down at Frances but there was no other answer offered. They all remembered the discussions back at the house that perhaps the previous haunting such as this ended well because of the circumstances. They had no guarantees that Frances' situation would end in the same manner and with his threatening grip on her they all had to face they may have made a mistake. Perhaps he was still angry about what she had allowed to happen to him. Perhaps he did seek only revenge. They all hoped against it but staring into the dark void of his face did little to distract them from such thoughts.
"Let her go." Tangye warned clicking the hammer of the gun back, and in the silence of the morning even such a tiny sound reverberated around them.
Frances was sure that none of them wanted to actually take the shot on the man, yet she couldn't form the certainty that they wouldn't. She had often thought of them as the people who did the impossible, those who continued to fight when it stopped being easy to do so. The lines in front of them were not something average man ever had to contend with. Decisions based on morality and the greater good escalated to new meanings, and she knew they had accepted that responsibility. Tangye didn't want to shoot, none of them wanted her to, but she would in order to protect someone. Frances could not just allow that to happen.
"No." She cried, moving her body directly in front of his. "He won't hurt me." She surprised herself with the act and the words. The hand on her arm was not holding on with a strong grip, just touching her as if relieved to find her so close again. A soft touch, holding on in desperation not to see something lost again. She knew that touch well and it was not something she had to be protected from.
"Frances what are you doing?" Alex asked with shock heavy in her voice. She had been in these situations too many times. She knew that a spirit could manipulate a loved one into letting down guards that might save their life. It was never a good idea just to assume these things were acting for your benefit until you had some kind of proof. But now Frances had cut them off from him and turned herself over to his desires. They would not be able to protect her if she would not allow it.
"I made a mistake, you shouldn't be here." She stated flatly, turning her body to the man behind her. "You wanted to talk to me, let's talk but leave them alone. They came for me, I should have known I wouldn't need them." She wanted to touch his face but feared what she might find within the shadowed darkness. The Legacy members watched with a muted awe as she lead him away from the group.
She made sure to move far enough away so that she was out of clear view of the people waiting on her. She didn't want them to be witness to this exchange no matter how it played out. Her head cried out a repeated warning to her that she was being foolish and should not act without support of some kind. But her heart merely had to remind her of who she stood with to convince her that she was in no real danger. His hate would be justified but that would never enable him to hurt her. He might yell and cast her off with the same disregard she once had, but he would never strike out at her. She held on to that belief in the face of so many that were being forced to crumble.
"Have you thought of me? Have you missed me at all?" His voice whispered when they found a small nook in the trees away from her friends. It had been so long since she heard his voice but it had not changed at all. It was still soft and fluid, taking a rhythm almost poetic with even the simplest words.
She diverted her eyes quickly not able to gaze upon the emptiness of his countenance when something she had once so adored should have been there. "I made myself forget about you. I thought if I didn't think about you again that it would all just vanish, but it won't ever really go away, will it?" She fought the urge to look up and find the answers in his eyes.
"Only if you let it, Frances." Hearing his voice huskily state her name again filled her with the urge to run to his arms, only she couldn't bring herself to do it. She knew it was him just by the sound of his voice and the stature of his frame. Those were unmistakable traits to her after having studied them for so long. But she feared what she might find in his arms knowing he had been dead for so long.
"Why have you been doing this to me?" Now it was his turn to avoid looking at her. He turned his body away facing the portion of the cemetery that she was looking at. He thought over her question, wanting to offer her only the gentle words rather then let her know of any of the betrayal he had once felt.
"I had hoped you'd know that by the time you came here." He whispered to the trees more then to her. She hated the disappointment she heard in his tone, having to face that she had once again let him down when he had such unwavering faith in her.
"I can't decide honestly. At first you seemed to want to scare me but when you sent the book You always loved that story, depressing as I found it. You saw it as some type of perfect love and I think in a way you always wanted to be in the book yourself. Getting that wasn't frightening." She explained to him with regret. She had known in her heart where all of the clues had come from but her ever conflicted mind refused to acknowledge what her passionate side told her. She didn't want to face the idea of his return so for as long as she could she had not allowed herself that realization. Instead she had suffered with a raw fear that could have all been avoided.
"When this all started I think I wanted to scare you. I've had years to let my anger grow. I wanted to be angry with you " He turned back to face her again hesitantly. He stared at her face, grown a few years older but still as soft and beautiful as he recalled. He wanted to take it all in again, to have it to hold on to into eternity but to him her face was not something so easily captured. One needed years to observe it all and he was only granted a few more minutes. "But I couldn't stay that way and I shouldn't have ever tried." He whispered, his gloved hand reaching out to brush her hair back away from her face.
Without even thinking about what she was doing Frances found her hand shooting up to clasp on to his. She remembered the form of his hand well. How it would reach out and take hers to lead her to bed. How it would run through her hair or stroke her body. She remembered that little bit of him as well as anything and with it near she couldn't imagine letting it go again. "I hurt you, you have every right to be angry with me. To hate me." She argued with him, justifying any punishment he could suddenly decide to levy.
"I have no right. You did what was necessary, what I was too weak to do myself. You had no choice and you shouldn't blame yourself for what happened to me." He consoled her in soft tones. She smiled to hear those words that she had been waiting on for so long.
"You are dead aren't you? This is just a dream, I'm not really getting this chance am I?" Frances stared into the shadow of his face.
"Even if it were a dream you'd still be getting your chance. I need you to know that there's nothing you need to be forgiven for. You did nothing wrong. Please believe me when I say that. I didn't leave you a choice. You need to let go of this." He wanted to kiss her brow, feel the warmth of living flesh again if only for a moment but that was a pleasure denied of him.
"I don't understand what you are. Are you a ghost?" She heard the laughter build in the back of his throat at her question. She almost wanted to smile herself but couldn't allow herself that when she thought about what she was talking to. He was dead, dead for years, and yet she was having a conversation with him.
"You always have to qualify everything. Nothing can just be because it is." He shook his head at that trait wearily. "I'm not a ghost, I'm here right now. Not a figment of the imagination or indigestion. I'm still in a body, my body. I just couldn't rest. I thought it was because I blamed you for what happened to me but the more time I have back here the more I realize that my return had nothing to do with me and everything to do with you. You needed something from beyond the grave and whatever powers are in charge decided I could do the work. I would have been destroyed if I tried to hurt you, that's not why I got this chance." Frances shook her head in denial at what she heard. That was all too much to deal with, asking too much of her mind right now threatened it giving up on trying to figure everything out. "Let's just say I was caught in the middle of here and there and I got this time to sway judgement. I did something horrible when I was alive but for a long time before that I was a good man. Is it so surprising that someone out there wanted to be sure I should be forgiven?"
Frances gasped, forcing resistant air down into her lungs. "You're saying this is your ticket to heaven?" She asked in utter amazement. She was never certain that she believed in a definitive heaven or hell, but if he could prove it then her whole life might change.
"I'm saying this is something I had to do. You can understand that can't you?" She nodded before even thinking. She needed this moment just as badly as he did. She needed his forgiveness not necessarily to guarantee her spot in heaven but just her peace until that might actually be an issue.
"I loved you." She admitted weakly looking down at the ground once more. Without thinking he drew her into his arms, not thinking what she might find there to her disgust. He needed to get her someplace safe where the world didn't hurt so much and his arms were as good a place as any he could think of.
"But it's the past. You need to start thinking about your future with the living and stop focusing only on the dead. You were never meant to be alone this long." He soothed with a deep whisper. She nodded to his suggestion, wishing that it were that simple. Why couldn't he just whisper her a gentle condolence and make everything better anymore? Why had she thrown that safety away? "You promise me you'll forgive yourself now. You promise me that."
She found herself fighting not to give in to such a request without knowing why. She didn't want to let those words come out but she knew that he needed to hear them. She had betrayed him and everything he told her he dreamed of for them. They were supposed to be happy forever in the story he tried so desperately to write for them. She had thrown that dream away and if in some way she could redeem such a choice with one statement she was willing to do so. "I forgive myself." She whispered into the damp fabric of his coat.
"Next time don't mock me for throwing things at a spirit if you plan to face them down with a gun." Kristin whispered down to Tangye as they all waited anxiously for Frances. Kristin found herself uncomfortable with the quiet and was desperate to break it. Tangye looked up at her and then down at the sidearm still gripped in her hand. She found it strange that she would make such a choice as well but ever since joining the Legacy Nick had been there with his guns and she took comfort in the objects presence now. She brought it more just out of habit then faith that it would be able to help. It was part of the pattern for them winning and superstition was easy to give in to when a person was scared. She shrugged and started to say something but her voice was cut short.
The scream shattered the silence around them. Birds escaped their nests in surprising numbers at the piercing sound and the Legacy members moved in to fast action, all calling out for the woman they had brought here to face her past. Frances did not respond directly to them but it was easy to locate her just by following her anguished cries. They found her sitting on her knees in a small patch of grass amongst the trees. She held the form of the man's coat tightly in her arms with a torrent of tears running down her face. The hat had fallen from his head when he crumbled with her acceptance of forgiveness and the top of the decomposed head was visible to them all.
"Dear God." Rachel whispered unable to catch herself from the vocalization of her disgust. As soon as she did it though she realized that she had to do something more. She dropped down in the wet grass and wrapped her arms around Frances' shoulders.
"He told me to let it go and when I told him I would he just How can this ?" Frances shook her head. She would have been willing to accept so many things happening but having him fall in her arms, whatever power that had been animating his corpse suddenly vanishing, was beyond her. She had never really thought she was touching him, not in this way. His spirit, or even someone he was possessing but not his actual body. It was too much for her and there was no way she could hide what the discovery did to her.
"Frances we're not sure. Sometimes you can still be amazed by what can happen." Rachel consoled knowing the words would do little good. "He loved you and couldn't let you suffer, that might have been enough for him to be unable to rest." Rachel tried to rationalize what they were all seeing but the body in front of them was distracting her thoughts.
"All these years and he couldn't rest? I lived and he was just No." Frances let go of the body and it rolled away from her limply. She stood up removing herself from Rachel's touch. "This isn't happening, there's no way. This is some cruel " She wanted to say joke but her voice broke off. That was what she wanted it to be when it all began. Going back to that may have only been a small comfort but it was the best that she could hope for. Still she could not utter the phrase with them all looking on knowing better then that empty dream she grasped at. Instead she merely diverted her eyes displaying either shame or grief, none of them were quite sure which.
They all let the quiet hang while Frances struggled to resolve emotions that wanted to overwhelm her. He could not have come back to release her from the bonds of guilt, not after so long, not when she had done so little to deserve such forgiveness. Yet his voice had been so sincere, he had meant what he was saying to her. By doing so he had made it possible for her to mean her own promise. She would forgive herself, she would move on in her life, leaving him as only background scenery and a memory she could again take comfort in. Someone loved her that much once, and maybe she didn't have it to enjoy now but it could be hers again if she allowed it.
She turned from those waiting on her in the direction of the car they arrived in. With a resolve she wanted so badly to believe in she began walking away from his unanimated form, confining his memory to a corner of her mind and a bit of her heart. She would never forget him but she would live again without him, and more importantly she would love again.
A new day broke on the docks of San Francisco. She could hear all the sounds around her of men and women whose days began much before dawn but she paid them no mind. She just let her eyes focus on the waters in front of her remembering how easy it had once been to see beauty in such a place. Regretting that she had ever turned away from the glimmering waves touched by the hand of God.
She hoped her promise to forgive herself was sincere. She wanted to offer him that much in the place of all that she robbed him of. But it was not easy to make such a transition. For years she had pushed the memories back, forcing them into recesses of her mind that she couldn't touch. Yet despite such efforts he had lingered on. Someone would utter a phrase that he might have once said and she would catch herself smiling as she had only ever done for him. A soft night breeze would blow in from a window onto her neck and it would become his breath on her skin as she slept. She had never escaped the past.
Now having promised to do so she fought to find a way. She looked down at the book in her hands the story rushing over her as the floodgate of her memory spilled forth countless moments she had pushed back. His eyes catching hers across a room and studying her in a comforting manner. His hand slipping in to hers when they were alone, a warm anchor to the world only she understood. She traced the lines of his worn copy of the novel, read so many times as he latched on to any story of love.
She wanted to say the perfect goodbye. Find the words that said enough, yet kept the sentiments simple. 'Always so analytical.' His voice returned to her, laughter tinting the edges of the soothing tone. 'Some things don't need definition or categories, some things just are.' The memory of his lips brushing against her brow. 'Love just is, if you try to figure out why you'll lose touch with it. You made me live, but is that why I love you? No, I just can't not.' Simple but infinitely complicated.
She wanted the perfect goodbye but she didn't have one so instead she just turned away from the water and the past as he had asked her to do. Her hand stayed on the book for a moment as her eyes squeezed shut tightly against the tears looking for release. She thought about the past, about the love offered to her that the world made her throw away. She thought about his fantasies, about the moors he pictured them wandering for eternity. Still there were no words.
She pushed the cover of the book ever so slightly allowing it to tumble off the railing and down to the waiting waters that carried it away with the guilt he wanted her to let go of. "Goodbye Matthew."
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