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Precious Cargo by TalgoM

"If you think we can do that, why not do it first?" Tangye asked.

"Because there's no time to fight with her right now. When Kat is safe we can talk to her, show her why we did this. But I don't want to take a risk hoping that we can get her to listen before Raymond or Claudia make their move." Derek replied.

Nick's mind raced, imagining the fear and anger Rachel would feel at this sort of betrayal. Yet if they were right, and he was praying more then ever that they weren't, it was their duty to protect the child. Kat was like a little sister to him and he cared for her more deeply then he did almost anyone in his life. He could not stand by and see her come to harm just because he did not like the methods they would have to employ to protect her. "Who do you want to do it?" He asked, his voice barely above a regretful whisper.

Derek nodded slowly, relieved to have someone on his side even if Nick was clearly doing so with a great deal of hesitation. They didn't have time to argue this choice. "I think it makes the most sense for it to be you and Tangye. Raymond knows I'm the precept and it would arouse his suspicion if I left suddenly. You two have already shown a connection to Kat and each other, at least it will give us a cover story to use. We can just tell them you're taking her into the city to a movie, that should give you time to get away."

"That's assuming Rachel doesn't say anything about this to them, but she will. She'll lose it the minute she realizes Kat is gone." Tangye shook her head knowing it wouldn't be as simple for them to get away as Derek was making it sound.

"If you leave quietly she may not notice at first. It's a large house, it can take a great deal of time to find someone hiding in it." Derek said logically but didn't really convince anyone.

"I don't like this Derek, but you're right. We have to do everything we can to protect Kat even if we don't necessarily like the methods we have to use." Tangye gave into him. "Where do you want us to go?"

"I don't want to know." Derek said. "It's better that we don't. When we think it's safe I'll call you." Nick and Tangye turned to look at each other. Each wondering if this act was something that Rachel would ever be able to forgive them for.

*****

"Rachel?" Rachel's head jerked up to look at the door to her room when the soft knock and call got her attention. She tried to force a smile on her face but it wouldn't stay there and her eyes fell once more to the floor. "Is everything alright? I thought I heard yelling." Raymond stepped into the room carefully not wanting to appear pushy and arouse any more suspicion. He had not only heard the sounds of yelling but he had managed to make out several of the words. The girl, Tangye Gaarlihn, had tried to communicate to Rachel the Legacy members concerns about the guests in their home. He hadn't been able to hear how much she knew but he had heard that Rachel wasn't listening to any of it.

"Everything's fine, I'm just tired." Rachel answered wearily.

"I can see that." Raymond said taking a seat beside her and gently putting his arm over her shoulders. "Life around here has seemed to take its toll on you."

"You could say that." Rachel nodded, leaning against the man. "Sometimes they just get so wrapped up in their little world here that they refuse to take a look at the bigger picture."

"From what I've seen the Legacy can be that way." Rachel rose her head shocked to hear that word from her friend. Raymond smiled at the surprise written on her face. Clearly she was being more resistant to listening to them then he could have hoped. She hadn't even allowed them to tell her about his connection to the organization. "I'm surprised Derek didn't question you about it immediately. I informed him last night that I have had some dealings with the Legacy in Chicago."

"Then you do understand."

"Completely. The Legacy is so accustomed to solving mysteries and searching out evil that they begin to see it where it doesn't exist. Paranoia built by the lifestyle. It's actually reassuring to see that you haven't allowed your involvement to do the same thing." He stroked at the blonde locks of her hair hanging loose around her head. She smiled wiping at her eyes.

"I don't know if that's really true. I find myself doing the exact same thing that Derek infuriates me with. He makes everything about the Legacy, nothing can be separate from it. I hate that but it is so easy to do. Kat has a bad dream and I want so badly to dismiss it. Say it's just a bad dream, little girls have them. But there is always this part of me that fills with dread thinking 'God what did she see now?' Sometimes I just want that security, that na´ve bliss back that I had before I ever came here." She took Raymond's hand giving it a light squeeze.

"I think that's part of this world. Always wanting to go back but never being able to. I remember when I first found out about it, they brought this thing injured to me. They asked me to mend it and there I was staring down at it knowing it wasn't human and feeling terror about what had walked into my office. When I couldn't save it they just walked out saying it was probably best that I hadn't. They came to me for help and when I couldn't they just dismissed it. That wasn't something that comes along very often." He shook his head as if struggling over the memory. "I forced answers out of them, they couldn't make me forget what I had seen so they told me. They said that sometimes it was better for things to be dead, simple as that. Those words went against everything I believed though."

"I know all about that. I keep landing in these situations where Derek says that the greater good has to be considered over one man, but I'm a doctor and it's my job to heal the individual. I can't ever seem to resolve how to live under both rules." Rachel had always been annoyed by the Legacy's ability to overlook one man's pain. Derek's willingness to put the organization before so many other things, just to protect it. That was something she could not forgive. Not when she knew how hard it was for those left in the wake of the Legacy dealings to deal with the aftermath.

"I don't know that you can. You just have to take each situation individually." Raymond comforted.

"If it was only that easy." Rachel sighed.

"Are you sure you don't want to talk about your argument? I could be an objective ear." He offered but she shook the suggestion off.

"No I really don't. I just want to forget about it because if anything you just proved me right." She hugged him tightly. No person that showed this much compassion could possibly do what Tangye had suggested. There was just no way Raymond would become involved in that sort of thing.

*****

Tangye stared at the steering wheel being gripped as if to crush the hard plastic. She and Nick had discussed their options about where to take Kat and come up with an idea she hated to her core. She had fought even bringing the place up but neither had been able to offer a suggestion that they could be sure could work. They needed a place they could not be easily traced to by strangers but somewhere that Derek might be able to locate them if the need arose. They thought about renting something under an assumed name that Derek might know but rejected that idea when they realized that his chances of finding them anywhere in the world under another name could prove impossible. They needed something different. She had jumped at the idea of Gilby's camp but that would be too easy for Claudia and Raymond to attach them to. After a half-hour of discussing options she had finally mentioned this hoping Nick would reject it.

But it was perfect and she knew it. The cabin in the woods of British Columbia was not in a name that would be easily related to her. If she remembered correctly Janet had divorced the owner when she was only two. He had kept the ownership papers in his name alone and merely agreed to let her use the retreat at her leisure. As far as Tangye knew it was not a place that Janet had ever gone, she had only mentioned it on a few occasions offering it to the Gaarlihn's for a family trip. Now it felt to be the perfect place for them to run. Derek wouldn't easily come up with the idea that they might be here but there was at least a good possibility that he would ask Janet where Tangye might run.

She took a deep breath and opened the door to the car. She had never returned the phone calls from her godmother or tried to make any other sort of contact. She didn't have time now to explain that oversight either. Nick would be waiting for her at the airport with Kat. That at least gave her an excuse to come and go quickly rather then be trapped in a situation she wanted to avoid. She stared at the ground at her feet rather then risk her eyes wandering in the direction of the house next door. She hated the weakness in herself that didn't allow her to face the old wooden structure but she wasn't at that point yet. She could maintain a brave front most of the time but she wasn't ready to really face the past.

She knocked on the door and waited, her back facing her old home. After a few moments an immediately shocked Janet Albertson finally pulled the door open. Her eyes brimmed with tears just seeing the face of the girl she loved so dearly but Tangye didn't allow that to register. She couldn't feel bad right now about the pain avoiding her godmother might have caused. Eventually she would find it in herself to deal with this situation but that time was not yet here. "Oh my God, Tangye. I didn't expect…"

"I can't stay long." Tangye cut her off, her voice low showing her discomfort over being here clearly. "I need a favor from you." Tangye stepped into the house without invitation, needing to put the walls between her and the place too close.

"Anything you need, you know that." Janet answered quickly still shocked by her sudden appearance. She thought she had lost the young woman completely and even if she did appear entirely changed having her close again meant more then Janet could say. It gave her some bit of hope that she might get her back.

"I need your cabin, the keys and a map to it." Tangye said, her voice no more relaxed in the safety of this house. Janet nodded without asking any questions and went to the desk in the hall, sliding back the roll top.

"They're here somewhere." She mumbled. "How have you been?" She asked to fill the awkward silence.

"Fine." Tangye came back quickly. Janet couldn't miss the tension that she saw in every part of Tangye's body or the way her eyes were shifting around the room nervously. She had her hands shoved deeply in her pockets, her shoulders hunched in and she was staying near the door as if she wanted to run away.

"I'm glad to hear that, I've missed…"

"Janet, I'm sorry, I… I can't do this right now." She interrupted in a strained voice. "I just need to get to the cabin."

"Of course." Janet nodded sadly, renewing her search. Tangye shook her head, annoyed with herself for treating the woman in such manner. She didn't deserve to be caught in this just because Tangye was terrified by being so close to the house and the memories it held. Janet had always cared about her and done all that she could for her when she knew what to do. Tangye suddenly thought of something and looked up at her godmother.

"Can I ask you one thing?" Janet turned hesitantly. "When you sent the letter to the Luna Foundation, why did you do it? What made you think of them?"

Janet wanted to tell her the act had been motivated by her love of her godchild. That she felt that the Luna Foundation could somehow offer the type of help no one else had been able to. She wanted to give Tangye an answer she might like. One that would somehow speak of how much she loved the girl but she wasn't willing to lie. "I really don't know. I just did."

"That makes sense." Tangye said with a nod having the only question she really wanted to ask answered. She did want to believe that Janet had acted out of her own faith and had not been forced to write the words that Derek received but Tangye had known a different truth all along. Someone else had stepped in to make the woman act where they could not. She wasn't positive about whom that person might be but she had a good guess. Charles had been watching over her, he knew about the Legacy, he would see them as a means to her salvation.

"I wish I could explain it to you." Tangye shook her head not wanting an explanation. "I would have done anything for you."

"You would have tried." Tangye corrected but hadn't meant to be so harsh. "I can't ask more then that."

"Here they are." She pulled the envelope out of the desk and crossed to Tangye with a small smile. "Your father always wanted to take you up there."

Before she even had time to stop the reaction she spoke, grabbing the package. "He's not my father."

Janet stepped back, horror registering on her face. She couldn't believe the words that Tangye had just uttered, wondering desperately where they might have come from. "How… Why would you say that?" The words caught in her throat. "Are you angry because they left you?"

Tangye finally looked up, making eye contact and holding it for the first time during the exchange. "Not in the least." She glanced down at the envelope in her hands. "Thank you for this, I'll call." She lied, unsure if she would ever be able to come back here, not when it was this hard to face the past.

*****

Derek sat at one of the tables in the control room staring down at the amulet replaying the events of the day in his mind. How had this happened, he wondered? How had it come to the fact that he had made Tangye and Nick steal Kat away when Rachel wasn't looking in order to protect her? He would have thought eventually they could get Rachel to listen to them but she resisted the idea completely. Now he had sent off two of his members in an effort to protect the child when they couldn't even be certain that she needed protecting. He told himself that he had made the wisest choice in Kat's guards but there had been that moment when Derek was talking to Tangye about their plans privately that she had given him cause to worry. She was reassuring him with her words but for a moment she had flashed him that defiant smirk, her eyes lit up in anticipation. Something about the expression seemed to say 'C'mon evil, I dare you.' That was not what Derek wanted to see, it was a look he had seen on Nick far too many times.

Yet even that moment of concern had not made him waver from his choice. He was certain that they needed to be the one's to go. What told him that he wasn't sure but a part of him didn't doubt that Tangye and Nick needed to be away from the house as well. He sighed, flipping over the amulet trying not to focus on the fear building in him for Kat's safety. If anyone in the world could protect her she was with them now. His eyes looked over the rough symbols carved into the back of the metal circle. With more time to study it he had seen the sloppy forms of the Latin letters and made out their message. A message that in twenty-four hours consumed their world.

"Where's Kat? I need to get back home, she has school tomorrow." Rachel came into the control room, forcing her voice to remain calm. She had looked all over the house and her daughter did not turn up. She didn't want to get into another fight tonight, instead hoping only to get off the island and allow this situation to pass. Claudia and Raymond would leave town again and the Legacy could forget all their misguided suspicions.

"She's with Tangye and Nick." Derek responded. This was the moment he had been dreading all day but knew was unavoidable. Rachel would only go a matter of hours without seeing her daughter before she had questions, and then the inevitable explosion of emotion.

"Well it would be nice if they asked before they took her places." Rachel's annoyance cropped up immediately. Close as they all were, Kat was still her child and she should be asked before people decided to take her out for the afternoon. She wouldn't have said no to them, even after the morning's argument. In some way perhaps allowing Kat to go with the couple would have made up for her overly harsh words said in the heat of the moment.

"I told them to take her." Derek replied. Rachel started to say something but then realized what she was being told. Her anger flared on a moment's notice. She prayed that Derek did not mean what she thought he did but it was entirely within his personality to have done it.

"You mean, you told them to take her to a movie or to dinner, right?" Rachel's voice held every bit of the anger she felt but she offered him a way out all the same. Derek turned in his chair slowly to face her.

"No I mean I told them to remove her from harm's way." Derek informed her not backing down at all from the resolve he felt over his choice despite Rachel's clear hostility.

"You have to be joking, Derek. You couldn't have possibly." Rachel fought the words in shock over what she was being told. She knew Derek frequently did things his own way without much thinking about who might disagree with his methods but this was beyond even him.

"You wouldn't listen to us Rachel, you didn't leave me a choice."

"Here's a choice. She's my daughter, Derek; you have no right to make these kinds of decisions for me. Do you realize what you made them do?" Her hysteria rose quickly.

"Yes, I do. I'm completely aware of what I asked of them, as are they. They agreed because they couldn't let Kat be hurt just because you refused to listen to reason." Derek's voice remained calm and businesslike. He was still the precept of this house and when Rachel brought Kat here it became his responsibility to make sure that she was safe. Even if her mother didn't like the methods.

"You're telling me about reason? You kidnapped my daughter." She turned away, ready to leave the room in disgust but she didn't do it. "You can't do this Derek. You have no right to do this."

"When you bring Kat here…" Derek began to explain but Rachel didn't want to hear any of it.

"Maybe I shouldn't then." She yelled. She stepped up to him threateningly. "Where are they Derek?"

"I don't know." He said not backing down a bit from his resolve.

"You don't even know. Well that's just great. I suggest you find them Derek and bring them back here tonight. And when you do I hope you realize that whatever happens is entirely your fault." Rachel stepped back from him her eyes harsher then they had ever been. He had argued with her many times during their associate but never before had he overstepped his bounds so completely.

"I won't be calling them back Rachel until I know Kat will be safe." Derek let her know the truth. No matter what this might due to their relationship he was going to stand his ground. She let loose a disgusted sigh and turned away from him. He looked down in his regret over what he was being forced to do, sure that if she would give any of them the time necessary to explain the details that she would be on their side. She would thank him for his intervention but in her present mood it was even more unlikely that she would hear any of that.

*****

"Rachel? Rachel?" Raymond called out to the woman storming out of the library and down the hall. The irritation was obvious in every one of her tight motions. He jogged to catch up the small distance between them, reaching out for her arm to stop her progress. "Rachel, what is it now?"

"Derek." She snapped. "Dr. Derek Rayne and his need to be right about everything." She answered turning away again.

"What happened?" This was perfect. Rachel was refusing to side with her friends in the Legacy.

"He had them take Kat." She exclaimed. "He made Tangye and Nick take my daughter away into hiding because of some imagined threat to her." Raymond reacted in shock. He hadn't seen the little girl or the other two for most of the afternoon but he had never thought they would actually run. It proved Claudia's concerns that they might no more then they were letting on, but he refused to allow that to be his undoing. He wasn't about to let them keep him from a second chance at life.

"Rachel, I don't understand what you're saying." Raymond pushed for more details, needing to know exactly where he stood in all of this.

"I'm saying that Derek decided once again that he knew better then I did what Kat needs. So he had them take her somewhere and I have no idea where she might be." Rachel pulled her arm back and went to the stairs. Raymond followed wondering for a moment if she should send Claudia to deal with the doctor now. She would be able to provide more sympathy, an understanding ear of another mother. When he thought about the hesitancy she had been exhibiting he dismissed that idea. If Claudia saw Rachel this distraught over her child it might only make her give up on their plan. It would serve too much as a reminder of the betrayal of her own daughter that was being perpetrated. That was the last thing that Raymond needed at the moment. Claudia going ever softer on him about their goals. She could betray him if she decided that what they were doing was wrong and he wasn't giving up this chance.

"He can't do that. He can't possibly." Raymond argued.

"Of course he can, he's Derek Rayne, precept of the San Francisco house." Rachel came back defensively. He knew her anger was not directed at him or anything he had done but it came out that way all the same. She was lashing out at anything daring to cross her path in her turmoil. It would be a reaction any mother had to something threatening her child, even if they knew in her heart that the guilty parties would never hurt the child. Rachel trusted her friends in the Legacy with Kat's life on several occasions. She knew that Nick would do anything to protect her, but knowing that she was being kept from her was not something that she could easily accept. The anxiety was natural.

"I know that, but he must see that this is beyond even his authority." Raymond shot back quickly, in defense of the man. Rachel shook her head in irritation. Derek was actually telling her not to trust Raymond; meanwhile he was defending Derek. Again she felt her point proved about her trust of her old friends. Perhaps many years had passed from when they last saw each other but some bonds couldn't be shattered just by years. Raymond had been a confidant to her at the hospital, someone she always enjoyed talking to because of how he saw so many things the same way she did. He was sympathetic to her struggles as a psychiatrist forced to listen to secrets often times too horrible to voice. He had always come to her with the right kind word, the supportive glance that she needed to fortify herself to another hard day. All that had been before her involvement in the Legacy but seeing him again had made her miss those times and realize how much she could have used his friendly support over the last few years.

Claudia had been someone she could laugh with. They would go out and have a good time alone and away from the kids. She understood Rachel's struggles to balance a home life and work life. Raymond on the other hand had been privilege to the difficulties of her chosen career. When the three were together they provided each other a good balance of strengths. These were people she knew she could trust because she already had so many times.

"No, trust me, if it happens here he thinks it's automatically his domain." Rachel knew she was being unnecessarily harsh to the precept. Usually Derek's instincts were right but whenever they were wrong he did have a difficult time admitting it. Derek was a friend; a dear one she knew but she could not accept this act without some fury. He had gone too far no matter what his motives might be.

"What sort of a man would do something like that to a mother?" Raymond asked. Rachel looked at him shocked. For some reason having someone else ask the question made her see it from a less hysterical position. She knew exactly why Derek had done it and infuriating as it might be, his motives were at least coming from his heart. He had not set out to hurt her but was willing to do so if he felt it had to be done.

"That's difficult to explain. He feels it's his job. I guess it is." Her voice dropped off a few degrees.

"Rachel, you can't possibly be defending him." Raymond shot back in surprise over the sudden change in her attitude.

"I'm not. He made a mistake but he still felt it had to be done. I've asked him to protect Kat enough times that I shouldn't really be surprised that he takes the initiative." Rachel shook her head walking the rest of the way down the stairs. She wasn't sure where she had planned to go but she just couldn't stand still. Derek and the others were doing what they believed to be right. Could she fault them for being willing to go this far for her child? Yet she couldn't forgive them for keeping Kat from her either.

"But she is your child. You should have first authority on what happens to her." Rachel looked back over her shoulder wishing that Raymond would stop pushing the point quite so much. She was angry enough on her own she didn't need anyone to push her along into being completely irrational.

"I know that and so does he. He went too far and he knows it. But that doesn't mean he's going to back down anytime soon either." Rachel explained reasonably.

"Well can't you do something about it without him knowing? Can't you reach them and make your case to them? They might be more willing to listen to you." Raymond offered hopefully.

"You don't know who we're talking about. They're as thick-skulled as Derek and they've already let me know their opinion on the issue." Rachel shook off the suggestion. "Derek will call them back only when I can prove to him whatever imaginary danger has passed. That's what I have to focus on right now. Wherever Nick and Tangye have Kat she'll be safe. They would never let anything happen to her." Rachel stated trying to think of some way to prove such a thing to the precept.

Raymond hadn't missed the unintentional admission from Rachel. Wherever the three had run to Derek still had a means of contacting them. He was sure that they had some sort of signal worked out, some way that Derek would let them know it was okay to return home without just saying it in case someone managed to force him to make the call. But that didn't really matter much. He didn't need to concern himself with the signal just the fact that they still had a means of communication on them. He would let Rachel calm down somewhat and then put forth the new suggestion. She would undoubtedly jump at the opportunity to at least hear her child's voice and that would give him the time he needed to locate them wherever they might have gone to hide.

*****

They had made it to the small cabin in the middle of the night. Kat had fallen asleep in the backseat of the car hours earlier but Nick had decided it was better not to approach Tangye when Kat could wake up and overhear anything. He had just watched her stare out the car window at the scenery rushing past as she had in the helicopter, but she probably couldn't see much due to the intense dark. They were miles away from any city that might smudge the color of the sky and it was clear and lit with stars. It was beautiful country where the cabin was nestled in the Rocky Mountain forest and would have been an ideal romantic retreat if not for their present circumstances.

He approached her carefully where she stood manning the window and watching the black forms of trees surrounding them on every side. He stepped up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders to let her know that she was not alone, hoping it gave her a feeling of comfort. When she didn't withdraw from the touch he spoke. "What are you looking at?"

"Nothing." She answered with a shake of her head.

"Tan, are you going to be okay? You didn't say a word on the way up here and I really could have used the help explaining all of this to Kat." Nick had decided it was better not to lie to the girl and had given her as much information as he felt comfortable giving. Enough that she knew this was for the best but not enough to terrify her over the danger she might be in. Kat had handled it all better then he suspected, quickly telling Nick that she had felt there was something very wrong about Claudia even if she hadn't known what it was. She trusted Nick and Tangye to do whatever was best for her even if she didn't like the idea of not at least calling her mom to tell her that she was okay. When Nick had explained that the call might be traced she had given in to his logic. Kat had really impressed him tonight with her ability to cope with a frightening situation but now that they were relatively safe she was set on making this a vacation they could all enjoy if they had to take it. She had managed to convince Nick as he carried her into the cabin to take her hiking in the mountains the next day so she could look at some of the local plants and animals. She also insisted that he take her along when he returned to the tiny little logging town that they had passed through to get supplies.

"She handled it fine." Tangye answered him, avoiding the real question.

"I know she did, it's you I'm worried about." Nick placed a kiss on the top of her head to let her know that he was there for her no matter what.

"I'll be fine Nick. I told you I didn't want to do it, but I did." She whispered.

"She knows how hard this is on you, she has to understand that." Nick reassured her.

"Yeah, she understood that. What she doesn't understand is why I went in there acting like a spoiled brat. She doesn't have to understand that, hell I don't even know if I do. Why did I go there and choose to be mean to her? Why did I snap at her when she was only trying to be nice and I knew that? She cares about me and I refuse to let her." Tangye gritted her teeth hating how she had behaved to the woman who didn't understand where any of the anger came from.

"Maybe you could explain it to her?" Nick offered seeing how important this was to her.

"And say what? No, I can't do that to her. I don't even want to because, as much as I hate it, this little voice keeps reminding me that she didn't write that letter. She stood by and watched it go on for seven years and didn't do a damn thing about it. She ships me off to a few doctors and when they can't help she just gave up. How can I forgive that? But at the same time how can I be mad about it? That probably kept her alive and the last thing I want is anymore blood on my hands." Tangye pulled away and crossed the room trying desperately to resolve all of this and move forward.

"You didn't kill him Tan." Nick spoke, his voice reassuring, not wanting to allow her to believe such a thing about herself. She had been the innocent of the situation. Trapped and watching events go by that she couldn't exhibit any control over. What had happened to Brian was unfair and heinous but it could not be placed on her thin shoulders.

"I stood by and watched it happen. Is that so different?" Nick started to speak but she cut him off. "When you were in danger I figured out a way to stop it. I didn't do that for him. If I hadn't been busy wallowing in my misery I could have done something years ago. It wouldn't have evolved into this thing I don't know how to beat. I'm twenty-five not seventeen anymore. My best friend is dead and I lost seven years of my life because I couldn't fight." She pushed her hair back from her face in an angry motion turning from him as she tried to process all of this. Nick didn't say anything, deciding she probably needed to get all of this out no matter how painful it might be. "I love you, I love Derek, Alex, Rachel and Kat. You know that. But I want those seven years back. I want my best friend back. Nothing I get from this point forward makes up for what I let happen to him." She looked away, closing her eyes tightly against the pain.

"I hate to say it, I really don't want to but you can't get any of that back. You need to figure out how to go on from here and put all of it in the past. I know it wants to eat you up inside and that you've tried everything to ignore that but none of that's going to work. Trust me, I know. You just have to accept that." Nick spoke from his own experience. For too many years he had let his childhood chew away at him, threatening any chance he might have for a future life. It was when he realized he was doing that, letting his father win by giving him more years then God had to torture his son that he fought back. Tangye's parents had taken seven years from her; he didn't want to see her turn over another to them.

"I could do that if he hadn't died. But I just can't understand why I get a second chance and he doesn't. Why do I get his?" Tangye shook her head. That was what it all came down to. Brian had died in her place; she was living now on someone else's time.

"I know that's hard but you have to make the most of it. If you got his shot at life I don't think he'd want you throwing it away. Then nobody wins. Don't feel guilty for doing what he would want you to." Nick went to her pulling her into his arms and for a moment offering her a bit of protection she felt didn't really exist anymore. "Use this life to the fullest. No matter whose you think it is, it's yours now. From everything I've heard, he wanted you to have it."

"Yeah." She nodded against his chest. "You're probably right." She wasn't sure if she really believed it yet but perhaps she could given enough time. She didn't say anymore on the subject, instead she just allowed herself to take comfort in his strong arms, soothed herself with the sounds of his breathing. She wasn't sure how long they stood there but she didn't care. She didn't know either how much longer they would have remained in that stance if not interrupted.

"Nick, Tangye?" Kat's small voice spoke carefully, not wanting to disturb what she saw but needing their attention for a moment. Nick pulled back and looked at Kat, sliding his hand into Tangye's and keeping her close. He went over to her and leaned down to close some of the distance between their heights.

"What is it Kitty Kat?" He asked worried what might have woken her.

"I had a dream." Kat informed them. "I saw them, mom's two friends. They had the amulet and were looking for me." Kat struggled to find the right words that would describe what she had seen. "The woman was sad but Raymond was angry. She didn't want to do it but he wouldn't listen. They found you and they hurt you but I wasn't there."

"Where were you?" Tangye pushed for more details.

"I don't know. I heard you say I was safe, but I'm not sure where. You said the devil himself couldn't get past the guard you posted." Kat answered. She was surprised by the words Tangye had used in her dream, wondering what they might mean but Tangye didn't offer an answer from her expression. Nick took a quick glance at his partner and then scooped Kat up off the floor.

"Well I don't think they'll find us, but we'll be really careful. Okay?" Kat nodded slowly, not sure if they could really do anything to stop what she had seen. "Now you need to get some sleep if we're going hiking tomorrow. We'll tell you a story, how's that sound? I'm sure Tan knows some you haven't heard before." Nick looked back at Tangye as he swung Kat down onto her bed. He gave her a little smirk in his own subtle way reminding her that there were still good parts to her past. The stories that had been passed on by her visitors certainly were one of them. Tangye felt herself smile back at him, wanting to thank him for that hint. Kat didn't even protest the idea that she didn't need to have a story told to her, that she wasn't a baby anymore. Somehow the idea comforted her and she wasn't going to let her own bravado deny her that.

*****

"You go downstairs and wait for me." Raymond gave Claudia a gentle push in the direction of the stairs. Night was pushing forward and his desperation was growing. He was exhausted from two nearly sleepless nights and it was taking everything he had just to stay on his feet. He could read the same weariness in Claudia from the dark circles under her unfocused eyes. She nodded obeying the command looking to have no strength left with which to argue. He just reminded himself that soon the pain and exhaustion would be a thing of the past. He would have a new healthy form with a good fifty years possibly left in it. Claudia would have the same and their suffering would be little more then a memory.

He turned back to the hall where all the bedrooms were. He had heard movement in the house awhile ago but since then it had remained silent. They had all gone off to bed, comforted by the knowledge that the Legacy control room was impenetrable. To an outsider Raymond was sure that was the case but one of their own would be able to come and go as she pleased. He went to Rachel's door and knocked on it softly. He doubted that she had actually managed to settle in for the night and was rewarded when she quickly opened the door to him. He smiled at her gently and reached out to her in a soothing gesture.

"I was giving this all some thought. I'm not entirely sure what is going on around here but it seems to have to do with this amulet you've all been yelling about." He hoped that he wasn't being too forward. That he was not giving Rachel cause to join the others in their doubts about his motives.

"Observant as ever." Rachel said with a wry grin.

"I'm not sure, but isn't there something you can do about it?" Rachel looked at him curiously. He suddenly changed directions of his thinking though knowing that the idea had to be hers. "Couldn't you call Kat? They must have a means to reach them by. I know you won't sleep until you know she's alright and if you don't rest you won't come up with a plan."

Rachel hesitated for a moment but the idea of hearing her daughter's voice won out against the silent warning building within her. "Nick or Tangye must have a phone with them." She said showing a bit of excitement over the idea.

"I have a phone in my room you could use. That way Dr. Rayne doesn't need to know you went against his wishes and contacted them if he checks phone records." Raymond offered stepping aside for her to leave. She met his eyes looking for some sign in them that would make her say no. Something that might warn her of an ulterior motive but there was no such thing there. All she saw looking down at her was his worry over her emotional state and the stress it was causing her. He clearly wanted her to find a way to bring her daughter home again and despite the fact he didn't have one he had found a different means to offering her a bit of solace. If Kat reassured her that she was fine Rachel would be able to focus on the second problem. She had been trying to do just that in her room but her thoughts wouldn't stay on the issue instead wandering back to Kat. She could think of nothing but her possibly very frightened child who may not understand why she couldn't talk to her mom.

*****

Kat stirred from sleep from a muffled noise somewhere in the cabin. She rubbed at her eyes with the back of her hands and turned on the small bedside lamp. She listened for the sound again and identified it. The sound of a ringing phone somewhere nearby. She climbed out of her bed, going into the living room. She looked around but found the room both dark and empty. She traced the sound to Nick's jacket, which was thrown over on of the kitchen chairs. She dug around in the pockets until her fingers found the small piece of plastic. "Hello?"

"Kat, Katherine is that you?" She heard her mom's desperate voice on the other end of the line.

"Yeah, mom it's me." Kat answered, checking over her shoulder to make sure she was still alone. The door to the master bedroom was closed and there was no light coming from under it so Kat assumed her caretakers were asleep.

"God I was so worried. Are you okay?" Rachel asked anxiously.

"I'm fine. I didn't think you were supposed to call." Kat remembered Nick's words from the car. He had explained that it would be better if they stayed out of contact until they were sure everything was safe.

"Honey I had to know that you're okay. Where are you?"

"I can't tell you that mom." Kat answered. "But I am fine. We all are. Tangye was upset but she's okay now. Nick and Tangye can watch out for me. I trust them." Kat sounded so logical, so much older then her eleven years. She wasn't scared merely because she was being kept from her mother. She understood the necessity of the choice.

"I do to Kat but I want you home." Rachel repeated her main concern.

"I want to be there too but I can't." She thought about not telling her mother about her dream but then decided that it might help. "Mom, I saw something. Your friends they came after me and they hurt Tangye and Nick. I was still safe somehow but… Mom they're dangerous. I know that. The necklace is too."

"Kat with everything that the others have been saying it's natural that you would dream that Claudia and Raymond are dangerous but I promise you they aren't." Rachel defended them but that nagging in the back of her mind was growing harder to ignore. She wanted to tell Kat that it was just a dream yet as she told Raymond it was difficult to dismiss what Kat saw so quickly. She had been right so many times in the past.

"I don't know." Kat said looking around the room again. "But this is about that necklace they found right? It was in my dream too. Maybe if there was no more necklace then there would be no more problem." Kat suggested logically and both mother and daughter saw a way to their reunion in her thought.

*****

Rachel stared down at the phone after replacing the receiver. Kat had done all she could to reassure her that everything was fine but Rachel just couldn't accept it until she saw the face she loved so much. She bit down on her bottom lip thinking over what Kat had suggested. All of this had begun with the amulet and perhaps Kat was right. If there were no more amulet there would be nothing more to unjustly fear from her friends. Derek would be furious at her but maybe he deserved that after taking her child away from her.

She turned back around to look at Raymond. "I need you to do me a favor. Go downstairs to the living room and start a fire, a big one." She commanded without offering an explanation. She knew exactly where they would have left the amulet for safekeeping. She glanced down at her watch wanting to make sure that she would have the time she needed to complete the task at hand. It was still about two hours till dawn, she hadn't even noticed that she had gone another night without sleep. Derek and Alex wouldn't wake for hours yet so she didn't fear getting caught.

She left Raymond's room waiting for him to go to the stairs before entering the library. She went straight to the control room and scanned it looking for the piece of jewelry. She saw it sitting in one of the thick plastic alarmed cases they used for safe keeping of questionable artifacts. She went to it and looked down at the object. It was the first time she had actually seen it and had an opportunity to study it. It was beautiful in a simple manner; the large green stone staring up at her like some inhuman eye. She shook off her rumination over the beauty of the piece, not caring how precious it might be. What it was keeping her from was immeasurably more so.

She hit the locks and lifted the cover off. Her fingers touched the cold metal cautiously, annoyed with herself that she let the paranoia of all the others effect her. It was just a piece of jewelry. It had no power over her. She lifted it up and held it in front of her self, watching as it slowly spun to show her the back. The markings on the back lacked the skill from the front, etched in just below the surface. Forcing her resolve she palmed the amulet and chain in her hand, wrapping her fingers around it tightly and turned back out of the room.

She rushed down the stairs to the living room where Raymond was waiting for her. He knelt in front of the fireplace where she was impressed to already see a good-sized blaze. She stepped up beside him without a word, looking down at the dancing flames. His eyes turned upward to her just as her grip relaxed and the amulet fell to hang from her hand. His eyes caught the dangling piece and understanding dawned on him.

She intended to destroy it without even attempting to understand what she held, what it might mean to him.

He didn't have to consider his next act, moving on reflex alone to protect what he had been seeking for years. Before she had a chance to toss the artifact into the fire he stood up, backhanding her harshly and sending her crashing backwards into one of the end tables. He went to her and pried the chain from her slack fingers. He looked down at her for a moment with regret but then turned away staring greedily at his prize. A small piece of jewelry worth little if not for its age but that offered him a gift nothing else in the world could any longer.

He literally held life in his hands.

*****

Nick looked over his shoulder in the direction of his companions. Kat was occupying herself in front of a display of prints depicting the area while Tangye stood close to her looking through a stack of folded sweaters. He couldn't help but smile at the sight of the two of them, neither showing any indication that this was not a vacation. "Kat, turn around." Tangye requested lifting a heavy wool sweater in blue and red from the pile. She held it up to Kat to check the size and with a nod threw it over her shoulder.

"You have a lovely family." Nick jerked around to face the woman behind the counter who was ringing up their groceries. She gave him a friendly smile and then took another look at the other two. "Though you seem a bit young to have a girl that age." Nick laughed slightly at that realizing he would indeed have been young to have a child Kat's age. He would have had to start at seventeen and Tangye at fourteen. Yet he didn't say anything to dispute her suggestion.

They had both fallen into their roles of substitute parents easily and he found himself surprised by how much he enjoyed it. He had realized it the night before when they had stood in Kat's doorway after getting her back to sleep. They had just stood there watching Kat, his arm over her shoulders keeping her close and it had felt natural to him. This morning as they talked over breakfast and then set out on this journey to gather supplies he had found a rare comfort in the simplicity of those acts as well. He doubted he was ready for a child of his own yet but playing the part of dad for a few days could be fun, as long as he remembered why they were really up here.

"Tell me something, if we decide to go for a hike up here we should be okay right?" Nick asked wanting to know if there was anything he should be looking out for in the area.

"Long as you dress for it you should be okay. Storms moving in but you should still be able to get some hiking in before it gets too bad." She nodded. "There going to be anything else?"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX PART 4

"Just this and… Kat are you getting one or not?" Tangye asked joining Nick and putting the sweater on the counter for the woman to add on. Kat nodded and picked a print to bring back to her mom. She too joined them and the woman tallied Nick's purchases.

"You folks up here for long?" The shopkeeper asked pleasantly. Nick and Tangye exchanged a quick glance not sure how to answer.

"Depends on how much we like it." Nick answered cryptically.

"Well I've lived here my whole life and I'll tell you now, you'll like it. If you're willing to go out in weather like this you're made for this country. Most people go to those cozy little ski villages nowadays. You folks must be more adventuresome then that." Each of them smiled at that, if only she knew.

"You could definitely say that." Tangye replied scooping up a few of the bags the teller had packed for them. She handed Kat her print for safekeeping and tossed the sweater over her head.

"Just don't get caught out in the woods at night." The woman called out as they filed out of her store. Nick looked back and gave her an appeasing look to tell her they weren't about to do anything that foolish. She was right about the weather up here and he wasn't about to risk getting caught in the plummeting temperatures of nightfall. They were up here to protect Kat after all and he doubted having her come back half frozen would satisfy that duty.

*****

"Derek, wake up. Derek." Rachel pounded on his bedroom door dreading what she was going to have to say. She couldn't believe she had been so foolish. So stubborn. Normally it was she who was accusing Derek or Nick of being stubborn but now she had to admit to her own blindness. She rubbed at the side of her head where she had hit it on the edge of the couch when Raymond had struck out at her. "Derek." She cried once more just as his door came open.

"Rachel what is…What happened to you?" He took her by the shoulders seeing the harsh red mark along her cheek. He studied it for a moment as she began rambling off all that had happened.

"You were right. God, you were right and now…" Rachel's words dropped off when she wasn't sure how to explain what she had stood by and allowed to happen.

"I was right about what?" Derek asked worried about her state. He wanted to calm her down but didn't know how to go about it. She was more hysterical now then she had been when she realized that Kat had been taken away.

"About Raymond. About the amulet." She replied desperately. She had turned the thing over to Raymond and she had no idea where he might be going with it. Derek's eyes grew wide as he dawned on what she was telling him. "I called Kat last night on Nick's cell phone. She suggested that I destroy the amulet and it sounded like such a good idea. I was going to throw it into the fire, melt it down so that it would be useless and you wouldn't think it was a threat anymore. The second he saw it he… he hit me and took it. They're both gone." She cried. Derek pulled her into his arms tightly to comfort her.

"Shh, it will be okay. They don't know where they are, we'll call them and warn them." Derek said soothingly.

"No." Rachel pulled back and looked at his eyes through her tears. "He does know. He told me I should use his phone so that you wouldn't be able to see on the records of outgoing calls from the house that I called. He must have some way to trace them."

"Then we'll call them and tell them to move." Derek said not allowing her state to effect him. It had to be that simple, it just had to be.

*****

Raymond cursed them for deciding to come to a place like this. Of course it was perfect for their purpose but it did not make his work any easier. A morning snow storm had kept their progress nearly to a stand still for a good part of the morning and it was now after noon and they were only just coming up on the town the trace had indicated the three were closest to. If a person wanted to be so generous as to call this a town. So far he had passed the lumber mill, a gas station and the general store he now parked in front of. If they had come into this town at all they would surely have had to come here.

"Wait for me here." Raymond ordered as he climbed out of the car. Claudia had withdrawn completely inside of herself, as they grew closer to their success. He didn't understand what about it could possibly have that sort of effect on her. He would think she would be getting more and more excited about what was coming. Yet instead she chose now to dwell on the side of their plans that he decided to ignore. Of course people would be hurt but survival was man's nature. They would do whatever necessary to persist and nothing they were doing was beyond that. Kat would come to no harm in any of this and the other two, as long as they cooperated, would not have to suffer.

The inside of the store was rustic and behind the counter stood a charming elderly woman with a broad smile. It was a place that just welcomed strangers and also one that would remember them due to their rarity. He returned the woman's smile and approached the counter pulling the photo out of his pocket.

"Can I help you?"

"I hope so. I was wondering if you had seen these two people?" He put the photo he had stolen from the Legacy house down on the counter. The woman didn't take but a moment to look at it before nodding.

"Sure did. They were in here first thing this morning before the storm hit. They friends of yours?" She looked back up at him, clearly thinking nothing odd about his request.

"Yes they are. Actually my daughter is with them. We're supposed to meet them up here but I lost my map. They didn't tell you by any chance where they were staying did they?" The woman shook her head. "Is there an area they might be in that you could point me towards? I'd recognize their car if I saw it." He asked, pressing for some sort of detail. He had limited time to work with. Rachel wouldn't have remained unconscious for long and they would certainly be trying to reach them by now to tell them to run again. He hoped that the storm would make use of cellular phones impossible in the area but with that passing Derek and Rachel would be able to make the call.

"Not much up here really. Mostly the cabins belong to the local loggers. There are a few places that people use as vacation homes. They're all clustered together up the road a bit." She informed him. He smiled nodding at her openness. Hearing the words 'a few' made him relax quite a bit. At least they wouldn't have to search the whole mountain for the three. "I'll give you a map and show you where they are. I know most of the people up here, even those who only visit but you all are new. There is one place that I don't think I've ever known of anyone going to. That might be yours."

"Thank you so much for your help. You can't guess how much it means to me." He replied watching as the woman jotted down the map on a slip of register tape.

*****

Rachel continued her anxious pacing of the control room while Derek and Alex worked. She had tried to help them but had not been able to focus so she abandoned the effort. She couldn't believe how blind she had been. How stupid. She wanted to prove Derek wrong on something so badly that she didn't see what was in front of her all along. Claudia's many questions about the security of the house should have tipped her off. Then there had been Raymond's prying for details about the Legacy and Kat. Yet she had ignored all of that desperate to trust her friends. Instead she had handed them everything that they wanted and was left only with her regret.

"Any luck yet?" Rachel asked for the sixteenth time as Derek continued to try to reach Nick. He shook his head in disappointment. "Where did they go?" She demanded.

"Evidently someplace very secure." Alex reasoned but Rachel wouldn't listen.

"No I got through last night. What if Raymond has already found them? What if that's why they aren't answering?" Alex stood up and put a comforting hand on Rachel's shoulder.

"You can't assume the worst. Anyway, they still have to get past Nick and Tangye and I don't think anyone would call that an easy task." Alex put on a smile but it did nothing to help.

"But it is possible. Derek you have no idea where they might go?" Rachel went to him asking the same question she had already pressed several times. Derek understood where her anxiety came from though so he didn't get annoyed with her. He was worried as well. He wanted to believe that they were fine and just out of cellular range for the moment but it was not easy to convince himself of that.

"I'm working on it Rachel, but I don't know yet." He shook his head. "I spoke with Gilby but he didn't have any ideas. They didn't contact him about the camp so we know they aren't there. I doubt they would have gone there anyway."

"They did take winter clothes though, we know that which means they probably went north." Alex pointed to the map but that didn't reduce their search area enough. "We're looking into any places either Tangye and Nick have been in the past that could help but nothing's turned up. They would have left some sort of trail for us."

"Unfortunately we haven't known Tangye long enough to know those sorts of details." Derek glanced down at his watch again. The day was rushing by too quickly which was making things worse for all of them. It was now after two in the afternoon and he didn't feel they had made any headway.

"But for right now we do have some time to deal with. They have to get to wherever Kat is and then figure out a way to get past Nick and Tangye. From what we've learned about the amulet they will need to locate two suitable…" Derek's hand shot out cutting Alex's words off. Both Rachel and Alex directed their attention to the look of dread that now shadowed his features. The truth that had been avoiding him suddenly settled on him and with it his remorse for overlooking it.

"Unless they had already chosen new forms." He whispered.

"But that still leaves us time right? They have to go at least two different places." Rachel asked hopefully but Derek shook his head.

"No, just one. We figured out…" Derek rifled through the papers on the top of the desk where Tangye had left the translation and notes. He scanned the words until he located the right passage. It was a small note that Nick had jotted along the edge of the page but within it Derek felt he knew everything that Raymond and Claudia had come looking for. "The transfer moves the soul of the infirm body to a new one, they would want one young and strong. The body of a warrior considering the culture." Derek quoted. He had felt from the beginning an unexplainable need to have Tangye and Nick out of the house as well and he couldn't believe that he had overlooked something so obvious.

"We let the three things they need go off together." Alex whispered as the truth dawned upon her.

"And they know where they are." Rachel cried realizing that Nick and Tangye could possibly die in their effort to protect her daughter. They might have succeeded too if she had listened to any of them at some point during the last day and a half. Instead she had cast off any negative comment they made about her friends and now… She didn't let herself think it. She needed to be helpful now if she expected to get any of them back. She had to approach this with a measure of reason and insight. She forced her mind to think over anything Kat might have said that would have given away their location. Unfortunately her daughter had known better then to do such a thing. "Kat said that in her dream Claudia and Raymond found them and they hurt Nick and Tangye. She said she was safe someplace. How could that be if no one was watching her?" Derek shook his head not having an answer. "We didn't talk long but… She told me about her dream, suggested I destroyed the amulet. Then she reassured me that they were all okay. That Tangye had seemed upset but she was better now. She told me she loved me and that I should trust them to protect her. Why couldn't I do that? Why did I have to…"

Derek looked back up from the papers something about Rachel's words registering in his mind. "Tangye was upset?" Derek asked abruptly.

"Yeah, she didn't say why. Do you think that means something?" Derek stood up rushing toward his office. The others both followed waiting on an answer about his behavior.

"Think about it. Who are we talking about? Tangye faced down a demon while making jokes. I was worried when she left because she seemed too cocky. Too ready to face down anything that world would throw at her and enjoy the challenge. Only one thing has ever looked to upset her." Derek pulled the card from his Rolodex and grabbed the phone. "For some reason Tangye was forced to face something out of her past and if Kat didn't see anything then they must have gone back to it in order to keep her safe." Derek dialed the number of the only person who might be able to provide them some insight. "Ms. Albertson?"

*****

Kat ran ahead of them back in the direction of the cabin. They had decided to wait until after lunch to go out on the hike and luckily by that time the storm had mostly passed over the area. Still the temperatures were harsh and they had all tired quickly from trudging through the snow. Kat appeared to have an endless store of energy as she let momentum carry her down the hill. Nick had insisted that they go back to beat the early nightfall of the region, taking the advice and avoiding being out in the woods at night when the temperature would just drop further.

Kat paused a bit ahead of them and looked back to wait until they caught up to go any further. She wore a bright happy smile on her face. This whole day had been great as far as she was concerned. Tangye and Nick had fixed both a big breakfast and lunch for her. She enjoyed their company a great deal, laughing as they exchanged jokes and sarcastic remarks back and forth. Nick had helped her with some of the homework they brought with him, the only down point to the day so far even if Nick had managed to make that pretty fun. She had convinced them to play Pictionary to pass the time while the snow fell in the morning. Then there had been the great hike through the mountains. They had found a few caves and Tangye pointed out some of the local plants. Kat had caught her a few times making up names for the things she didn't know and one of those accusations led to a snowball fight. This would have been a perfect day if her mom had been able to share it with them.

"C'mon slow pokes." Kat urged them forward.

"Give us some credit in our old age." Tangye shot back.

"My mom's older then you and she'd be doing better." Tangye sighed at that comment but didn't bother making one of her own knowing that Kat was just trying to get a reaction. "She'd love it up here. She and my daddy had a place like this they came to once." Kat recalled the cabin her father had shown her on Christmas several years ago. She didn't let herself get sad. Her daddy was a happy memory even if she did miss him a great deal. She smiled to reassure her companions not wanting them to worry about her.

"Tell me something Kat, how mad is your mom going to be?" Tangye asked imagining returning to the house to an outburst of rage from Rachel much longer then their previous yelling matches. Kat merely shrugged and started back down the hill.

"She's mad, but she seemed to understand." Kat called over her shoulder. Nick's hand shot out to stop Tangye realizing instantly what Kat had said.

"Kat, what do you mean by that?" Kat stopped and glanced back at them. "Why do you say she seemed to understand?" Nick felt immediately nervous at the implication, there should be know way that Kat would know so definitely.

"She called last night. I heard your… phone ringing." Kat turned to look at them and could see the worry written there. "I talked to her." Kat lowered her head knowing by their expressions that she had made a mistake. "I didn't tell her where we were though."

Tangye felt for the little girl and didn't want Kat to think that they were mad. They hadn't told her that she shouldn't do such a thing and they should have seen it coming. Of course Rachel would try to reach them to talk to Kat, it was only natural. "Kat, honey, it's alright. You didn't do anything wrong." Tangye couldn't blame Kat; it was Rachel who should have known better. She turned her eyes to Nick. "You think they could have traced the call?"

"I don't know, but I don't want to find out the hard way. We need to get out of here." Nick instructed and they started back to the cabin no longer at a leisurely pace. They were coming upon it from the back where there was a steep hill overlooking the cabin. Nick put his arm out to stop his two companions as soon as he saw the trees drop off over the edge of the cliff they would need to circle around to get back to the cabin. "Stay here for a second." He said and went forward the next twenty yards on his own. He dropped down to his knees at the edge of the slope and crawled the rest of the way reminding himself of the need for caution. He was glad he did it as soon as the cabin came into view.

He looked down and saw the rented Bronco and beside it another four wheel vehicle. He didn't see any movement but doubted that they would be waiting for them outside. They would be checking the cabin and positioning themselves so there would be no way for him to get to his car safely. At least they would if they knew what they were doing and he couldn't take the risk that they wouldn't. They had proved surprisingly competent so far. He rolled onto his back in the snow staring up at the sky growing dark above. "Dammit." He whispered to himself then stole a glance to the woman waiting up the hill for him.

He couldn't take the risk of making a run for the car with Kat and he was loath to do so even with just Tangye. He had kept one side arm on him out of habit but everything else was still down in the cabin. They were trapped in the forest and Raymond had the clear advantage of shelter. Their predators could stay in there as long as need be to wait them out, he didn't have that luxury. The temperature would drop drastically within the next two hours, which meant he had to act fast.

The cabin had felt like the perfect idea earlier in the day for its isolation but now he cursed the little town for being twenty minutes away by car. There was no way they could make it there on foot. Even if he managed to leave Kat and Tangye somewhere down along the road waiting for him to get the car he would be given a very minimal head start. Raymond would surely hear the car start and come after him. He could leave Kat and Tangye up here and just draw away Raymond but he didn't really feel comfortable with that idea. If Raymond didn't fall for it Tangye might walk into a trap when she thought everything was safe. He had to formulate a plan with less risk, which meant he'd have to put Raymond and Claudia out of commission to give them all time to get away. But he wasn't about to engage in that sort of mission with Kat so close by.

*****

Rachel ran out of the house in the direction of the helicopter Derek was warming up for them. She had felt only a moment of relief when Derek had indeed been able to learn their location from Janet Albertson. That had quickly fell away as she thought about how long it had taken them to get the information. Raymond had a head start of hours and the trip to Canada would take hours itself. They would get there in the middle of the night and chances were Raymond would already be there. Alex had told her of reports of a heavy morning storm in the area that might have slowed him down but she doubted it would be enough.

"Set?" Derek asked over the headsets as she fastened herself in. She nodded to him not able to find her voice for a moment. She had been fighting off the urge to cry all day but it was getting to be too much. Derek patted her leg for support and then lifted the craft from the ground. She couldn't get past her guilt that this whole situation was her fault and completely avoidable. Tangye had come to her and tried so hard to explain and instead of listening she had struck out at the young woman. Now she was out there protecting Rachel's child without even realizing that she was just as much a target of Raymond's twisted efforts. She knew that Tangye would risk her life for Kat but she still didn't want to see her have to sacrifice it. She just prayed they managed to get there before either Tangye or Nick had to do such a thing.

'They need some sort of human power conduct…I don't understand it, how it works, but plenty of people seem to view Kat as just that.' Tangye's words played themselves over in Rachel's mind. It had been obvious, despite the anger, that Tangye had not wanted to scare Rachel in such a way. She clearly felt that with this fact presented there would be no way Rachel could ignore them. But Rachel had done just that due to her faith that Claudia, as a mother, could never harm a child. Rachel's mind wandered back further to that first real conversation she had when Tangye came to the house. The night when they had learned how consumed by evil her father had become after his death. She remembered Tangye attempting to explain the gift that she had been given though she didn't view it in such a light. 'I never really got it, you know? Why do I get stuck with this, why do I have to be this bridge between life and death? I sure as hell never wanted it. I would have been fine without serving this purpose.'

Rachel froze all of her muscles going tense for a moment. 'I was still safe.' Kat's voice from the call the night before. She turned to Derek afraid to even use her voice to suggest the idea running wild in her mind but she couldn't keep it to herself. "Derek, Kat said that when Raymond and Claudia found them she was still safe. They want to use her because of her talent, right?" Derek nodded unsure where she was going with this. "But couldn't Tangye be used as the same type of bridge if they can't find Kat?"

"I… don't know." Derek didn't want to admit that the possibility was good. He hoped that somehow they would not know what Tangye could do and that she didn't show them in her efforts to protect Kat.

*****

"No way, Boyle. It isn't happening." Tangye demanded as they stepped away from Kat and the small fire that they had built. How the girl had managed to finally fall asleep neither knew but both were relieved that she had. Tangye glanced back to make sure her raised voice did not disturb Kat.

"Tan, think about it, we can't last up here overnight." Nick protested. He had waited until Kat was asleep to present his idea that he go back down to the cabin and remove Claudia and Raymond from the playing field knowing that an argument was bound to ensue. "We don't really have a choice. It's just going to get colder and we don't have the sort of supplies we need."

Tangye turned away from him running her hand through her light brown hair that had begun to form ice crystals in it. "I'm not letting you go alone." She insisted on the point again. "You have, what, ten bullets? They have the rest of the weapons you brought up here. You supplied them a damn armory."

"I won't need bullets." Nick responded in that cocky self-assured way that had begun to drive her crazy. He didn't even look to consider the fact that what he was suggesting was dangerous. He saw the reaction begin to form on her face when she looked back at him bored with his bravado and amended his statement. "If I think things are getting out of hand, I'll run. We know they're sick, they won't be able to keep up."

"You assume they'll give you that chance. They have your guns." She stated slowly to drive her point home, stepping up to him.

"Well then we're at a stalemate. You won't let me go alone but we can't leave Kat alone. It's not like we have anyone else around to watch her." Tangye shook her head and went over to the sleeping child. She was buried under both Tangye and Nick's coats to help keep her warm but Tangye doubted it was doing much good. Tangye pulled the scarf down a bit to cover more of Kat's face. "So?"

"I don't know what to do." Tangye answered him weakly, agonizing over the helplessness of the words.

"We're burning hours here. Chances are we won't last to morning and even if we do we're not much better off." Nick reminded her. Tangye stood back up and brushed past him to the darkness beyond the fire. Nick hated himself for putting her through this but he didn't have a choice. Meanwhile Tangye's mind fought off the image of Nick's face looking so cold and drained as it did now rather then alive and smiling at her, as it should have been.

"I can't let you walk away." She admitted. Nick took a deep breath not wanting to make his next suggestion fearful for what it might do to her. Still he didn't have many options left and this one at least carried with it a choice they could both live with.

"Is there anyone you can call?" He asked carefully.

"The phone doesn't work." She reminded him but that wasn't what he meant.

"I don't mean that way. Tan can't you call on someone you trust?" He admitted that he wasn't sure exactly how it all worked but if there was even a chance she could do it he had to suggest it.

"The list is short." She answered, surprising him by how quickly hate could fill her voice. "And it doesn't extend into the land of the dead anymore."

"That might be our only chance. I know you hate it but…" He walked up taking her in his arms.

"Please don't ask that." She begged into his sweater.

"I have to. Honey, they watched over you once, they cared for you. There must be one who didn't abandon that. Marilee didn't, even after the violence she went through she still loved you." He whispered to her feeling her arms gripping to him tightly.

"Nick, I…" She started to protest again but then caught sight of Kat's sleeping form. The child would freeze in mere hours no matter what precaution they took. She couldn't be responsible for that despite how much she hated what she might have to do to prevent it. She let out a deep breath and pulled away from Nick. "Give me a few minutes." She said backing to the forest outside the small cave. He knew how much the very idea of this must hurt her, in truth he had expected much more resistance to the suggestion. But he realized that he should have expected better of her. Tangye recognized how dire the situation had quickly become and would do whatever in her power to protect Kat. Even if it was the one thing that every bone in her body cried out against.

*****

"Where are they?" Claudia asked from the couch, watching Raymond as he patrolled the cabin checking out the various windows. He had set her down in front of the window with a view of the cars so that she would be sure to see if either of the adults came back for it. "Don't they realize what it's going to be like out there?"

"I'm sure they do." Raymond walked back up to her and set his eyes on the blue Bronco they were bound to come back for. He looked down for a moment at the gun he had found amongst Nick Boyle's belongings. He didn't want to use it and thus ruin the body that would soon be his, but he could not let them take the child away from here. The amulet hanging around his neck was nothing without Kat. It would be much easier for him to find another suitable form then to locate another one with Kat's rare gift to bridge the two worlds of life and death.

"How can you be sure they'll even come back here?" Claudia persisted in her questioning, looking for a way out of the nightmare she had walked into. Rachel was her friend, how could she possibly consider doing this to her? Raymond promised that Kat would come to no harm but what about the other two? Rachel obviously loved them as well and she and Raymond were planning on robbing them of their rightful lives. Her thoughts again turned to her own child. How would Charlotte react if she ever learned of her mother's actions? Would she view her as a monster or see the dedication that this spoke of? Claudia just couldn't accept death when her child was still young and needed her.

"They don't know the area and the town is over twenty miles away. I didn't see any other cabins around here. They could wander for days possibly before finding anyone or just get lost. Nick's a soldier; he won't take a risk like that. He knows better." Raymond explained once again his aggravation growing.

"What are we doing?" Claudia questioned with desperation for an explanation that would make this all okay. Something he could say that would make the crime less atrocious.

"As I've told you a thousand times, we're fighting for our survival. Anyone would do the same thing." He turned to her and gently brushed her hair back. "Think of Charlotte." She jerked away from his touch, hating that he was again using her daughter as a tool against her and that she let it work.

"Do you think I'm not? That's all I'm thinking about and when I looked at that girl who do you think I saw? She's someone's daughter, he's someone's son. Who are we to do this to the people that love them?" She demanded.

"Where is this coming from? I told you I did research. I told you why I choose them. She has no family, he has only a mother he hardly speaks with." Raymond kept his voice even not showing his anger.

"And that makes them expendable?" She cried, a fresh set of tears running down her face. "What about Rachel, she cares for them, you could see that. They all did. And look what they're doing for Katherine. That's not duty, that's love. They have everything in the world to live for." She stated adamantly.

"And suddenly we don't? I want to live, I don't care what you want to do, but I plan on living a long life." He turned away furious that she would dare turn on him in such a way. They had been working towards this goal for years and at the last hour she suddenly discovered this morality in herself? Well he wasn't about to allow her to stop him. He was walking off this accursed mountain in a new body and he'd show Nick Boyle the mercy the world had denied him by giving him over to death quickly rather then leave him to suffer until the bitter end. For that kindness he should be thanked. "They found the amulet. That was fate speaking to us. They were meant to be the ones." He said flatly, believing the words completely.

*****

She stepped clear of the cave into the moonlit night, the glow reflecting off the clean snow surrounding her. She had been waiting for Nick to ask this of her for hours, praying all along that he never would. Of course that had been ridiculous to even hope for. She forced down the tightness in her throat and made her face to remain tight and calm. "Okay, I believe that you've all been listening in, now I could use a little help." She took a deep breath to prepare herself to see his face, knowing in her heart that there was only one that she trusted enough to call upon. She exhaled heavily and bit down on her bottom lip. "James…"

She didn't have to say anything else. "Spitfire." Just hearing the voice suddenly behind her, feeling the sensation of solitude out in the snow pass, she froze. Tangye fought to steel herself to see his face again. A face that had made her laugh countless times in the weeks he had spent as her elected white knight. A face never once showing an ounce of anger towards her. A face she remembered watching fight not to cry as he said goodbye. "C'mon kiddo, turn around. I'm here for you." Her heart jumped at the phrase. "To help." He corrected. "Lord they made you jumpy."

"Go figure." She bit off her words, making no attempt to hide her annoyance over such a statement. She finally found it within herself to turn and face him. Naturally his face had not changed at all since she had last seen it. He was caught forever at the age of thirty-six. For the first time she dawned on the similarities between this man and the one waiting on her in the cave. His hair was short and neat, just growing out from his military days and he held himself in that strong, straight backed manner that the Marines had engrained into him. "That was quick."

"Like you said, we've been listening. When Boyle convinced you to call one of us I guessed it would be me." He shrugged looking her over, fighting the urge he felt to hug her. He would never do anything to hurt her and that gesture at this time would do so, even if it were meant only to comfort. He instead just marveled at the woman she had become, the same fire that he had been so proud of every year that he had known her still existing behind her eyes.

"Why would you guess that?" She asked harshly not sure why she wanted to be cruel to him. James had done more for her then any of the others by showing her that she had the strength to survive anything. Scholarly education would never have saved her life or made it possible for her to face it, but what he had passed on to her had. James respected her and enjoyed her in ways she felt many of the others never had, and more importantly he had loved her.

"For a time I was always the one you called on when you were scared." He explained simply.

"Yeah, and then you bailed on me." She added roughly, unable to hide the accusation in her tone.

"Don't start shorty. You know I couldn't get through, none of us could. Trust me though, had I been able to he would still be begging me to stop." She saw the hate in his eyes, the agony that watching what had occurred had clearly caused him. Immediately she regretted her cruel words. James never wished a moment of pain on her and would have torn down hell to stop it. She turned away, unable to face what she had brought forth without consideration for him.

"I never stopped you know. Calling on you when I was scared, I still do it." She admitted the difficult truth. James was a hero to her, an ideal who could fight anything and laugh about it afterwards. She had never quite abandoned that youthful admiration towards him and doubted that she ever would. He was the hero from every storybook she had ever read come to save her and show her that she too could be a hero, even if he would never call it that. He would just say he was doing the right thing, what any man would. James had never viewed himself in a glorified light but he was in her eyes.

"And I heard you every time." He wanted to add more but refrained. He swore he wouldn't hurt her and another word could do so too easily. Silence fell between them for a minute until Tangye found it in herself to look at him once again.

"Can you still…?" She asked, her voice barely reaching him.

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