Turning Point by TalgoM
Kat watched as he pulled down the boxes that had sat dormant on a shelf in his closet for years. He tossed them onto the bed and went back for more repeatedly. When she had caught him in the process of emptying the storage boxes from his room he had dismissed it as spring-cleaning. But Kat was no longer quite the child they all accepted her as. She knew he was making room for Tangye's things in the room they shared more and more frequently. If they wanted to think that Kat didn't understand that she was content to allow them, even if she didn't grasp the reason.
"Nick where did you get all this stuff?" Kat asked as he entered the room again with a smaller box. He paused looking over the items he had pulled down. He probably didn't know what was in half of them anymore. He knew some of them to be from his childhood. Boxes he had claimed when his mother sold his boyhood home and left San Francisco. What they held was a mystery.
"Twenty-nine years Kat, you accumulate things." Nick shrugged dropping off from any other explanation. Some of the contents were from his days with the SEALS and while the medals and other honors were on proud display in the room, he still had items from that bit of his past that he didn't want to explain to her.
"What are you going to do with it?" Kat asked, sitting up on the bed to peak in one of the boxes.
"Not sure. I'll probably go through them finally, throw away things I don't need anymore, move the rest to the basement." Nick glanced back into the closet to make sure that was the last of the boxes.
"You should donate the clothes." Kat suggested. Nick couldn't help but smile at the rapidly growing social conscious of the girl. He pushed his hair back with a sigh thinking of the project he had taken on.
"Good idea Kitty-Kat. You want to help me sort out the clothes?" She nodded with enthusiasm. Nick knew she would jump at the opportunity, she always did when it involved helping any of them, even in the smallest ways. He liked that about her, it showed how much she cared about each of them not to mention her willingness to learn.
Of course this wasn't really a learning opportunity for her but it was a chance for them to spend some time together and she loved doing that. Nick admitted that he did to. He liked hearing her stories about school and children whom he didn't know. Her energy was contagious but he had less and less time to spend with her as she got older and he missed it. She didn't still want to play with him like she once had, no more piggybacks around the house, and he missed that as well. Now he had a chance to catch up outside of any life-threatening situation and he found himself wanting to hold on to that.
"Okay. If it isn't clothes just ignore it, I'll go back and do that later." Nick opened the box he was sure was just pieces of his old wardrobe. Kat sat up on her knees and began pulling out various articles of clothing for Nick to decide on while he started in on another box. He glanced up as Kat held up the old sweaters and T-shirts, nodding or shaking his head to tell her to keep it or not. His box had come from his mother and held the small clothes Nick had once worn. He found it odd that she would pass on such items to him, assuming that she had always kept them herself. She was always sentimental about his first few years, displaying pictures of her infant son long after he had grown up. Nick remembered thinking it odd the last time he had seen her that those pictures were still out but nothing more recent was displayed. As if Nick had been caught in time never aging past three and she had to hold on to the memory.
"Nick what about this?" Kat's voice broke into his thoughts and from the insistence of her tone he knew she had asked the question once already at least. He forced his eyes away from the tiny jumped and forced his attention onto the blue thermal shirt. He shook his head distracted by his questions over his mother's behavior. Was she trying to tell him something by giving him these clothes? Was she letting him go or perhaps giving a more loving reminder of a desire for grandchildren to wear the clothes? "Was that yours Nick?" Kat asked scooting over to look at the green baby jumper.
"Yeah." Nick nodded tossing the outfit into the discard pile. Kat watched him do it shocked and scampered off the bed to retrieve it.
"Nick you can't just get rid of this." Kat insisted scooping it up and folding it carefully against her chest.
"Kat it doesn't fit me anymore." Nick gave her a quick grin regretting how he handled that. He should have put on a better appearance and got rid of them quietly. Instead Kat was now bound to have questions about how he could so callously throw away his past. Questions he really didn't want to answer.
"But Nick, everybody keeps their baby clothes. Mom still has mine and Conner's." Kat said her large eyes only flashing for a moment with the lingering pain over the loss of her big brother. Nick didn't point out that her mom had them, her mom kept things like that because she wanted to remember. Nick's mom had every reason to want to forget and this might just be her way of moving towards that.
"I'll keep some of them Kat, of course. I just don't need everything." Nick justified; thinking this excuse sounded good and might derail her questions. Kat nodded, showing enough hesitation that Nick knew he would have to be careful the rest of the day. She climbed back onto his bed but did not let go of the outfit.
"I can't believe you used to fit in this." She said casually, Nick noting that the trait came from her mother. Rachel would always make those offhand comments that were planned to lead him into some sort of confession. He knew better then to fall for it now.
"Sure did, so did you once too." Nick nodded stacking a few of the infant clothes beside him, the save pile for Kat's benefit.
"I know I did Nick, but Well I just never really thought about you being a baby." Kat had always envisioned Nick as her strong guardian, the man who always jumped to her protection without showing a bit of fear. She knew it was foolish of him but it was not an image she could get out of her mind. Nick had protected her; he always had since first they met. The idea that once he was a small helpless baby had never really crossed her mind, he was Nick and there was only one way Nick was. This insight that once he had needed the protecting made her think that someday she could grow up to be like him. She could be someone that others looked to, that idea pleased her.
"We all were at one point." Nick hoped she'd stop asking him anything. He didn't want her to inquire about his childhood or what he was like. He could lie to her verbally but with Kat's intuitiveness he didn't think she would be convinced by any of that.
"You were probably really cute. Do you have any pictures?" Nick shook his head quickly. His mother had all of those and he had never asked for one. His eyes wandered back to the clothes she had given to him and wondered if he was wrong that the pictures were still out. It had been years since he had been to her house; by now they could all be stored away in some corner she never visited. Was her shedding of the past that complete by now? "Not one?"
"Derek might have something from that time, I was here a few times." Nick answered her thinking about dismissing himself to go get something to drink or check on Tangye. He doubted that break would distract Kat so decided it wasn't worth the trouble. Kat recognized the discomfort Nick was trying to hide and decided to drop the subject. She didn't want him to regret that he had asked her to help. She plucked the next shirt out of her box and held it up for him. "Keep it." He wanted to thank her for letting the conversation not continue about his past but just directed his eyes down in silence.
Eventually by the time Kat started in on her second box their conversation picked up again. Kat telling him about a new girl at school that she was becoming friends with. Nick listened to her tell her stories with an easy smile on his face. This was the way he liked things, comfortable and easy, no one pressuring him to discuss unpleasant topics. Kat dropped a few hints about a boy who she liked at a neighboring school but she didn't elaborate on the subject. That was the type of thing she would tell Alex or Tangye about, not Nick. She only brought it up to remind him that she wasn't a little girl anymore and it worked. Nick had to admit that Kat was at an age where she would notice boys and they would start noticing her. He still sometimes treated her like the little seven-year-old he had first met but that wasn't fair to her. He made a mental note to himself to watch that behavior as she was obviously subtly requesting he do.
"Nick what's this?" Kat asked leaning into the box and cautiously lifting something out of it. He watched as she took the fragile looking music box out that had been packed amongst his clothes. His memory flashed back to the time he had bought the object. He was over seas on a SEALS mission, they had arrived in country a few days early as they awaited their orders and Nick had purchased the ancient looking piece from a street vendor. He had then packed it amongst his things and carried it with him on the mission. He reached out taking it from Kat's hands. It was a delicately carved swan on a tree branch. He had never known what tune it played but he could still recall the notes. He turned it over in his hands remembering that the back leg of the bird had broken off in his bag.
"I got it for my mom overseas a few years ago." Nick answered in a far away voice.
"Why didn't you ever give it to her?" Kat inquired curious again by the look on Nick's face. The same expression she had caught him with when he first saw his baby clothes.
"It was broken. I broke it." Nick corrected his statement, remembering how he had pitched backwards when the stray bullet had found his arm. It was the one time he had been shot in the SEALS and luckily the damage was minimal. But he had never mentioned the incident to his mother. She didn't like to hear anything about his military experience, placing a lot of the blame on the Navy for Robert's hardness. Nick knew better then that now, but he always respected his mother's wishes that he not talk about the SEALS. When the music box had been broken on the mission he had decided not to give it to her. She would know he had got it overseas and that was a reminder of what he was doing. He couldn't tell her that it was broken when he was hurt and he didn't want to claim to be just negligent so it had been packed in with his old clothes and forgotten.
"Nick you can hardly see that. It's still beautiful." Kat argued her eyes locked on the delicate, life like features of the bird. Every detail was there. She saw small knots on the tree, blades of grass and rippling water under the birds remaining claw. Nick wound the bottom playing a bit of the song.
"But it's broken, I didn't want to give her something broken." Kat shrugged at his insistence.
"I think she would have loved it." Kat defended her position. Nick handed it back to her without responding to the comment. She traced her fingers over the wood that was so smooth it almost felt like glass. Silence again fell on the room as the song ran out. Nick was regretting ever offering to let her help. He hadn't thought about what might be waiting for him, believing the clothes were safe from memories. "Nick, why don't you ever talk about your mother?" Kat asked the question carefully afraid of upsetting him. She had seen Nick fly out of control when asked less personal things. Never at her, but at the others and as she got older she doubted Nick would be so careful with her.
"I'm sure I do, Kat." Nick answered quickly grabbing an empty box off the bed and going over to the pile of clothes for donation. He began folding them carefully and placing them in the box. She shook her head bewildered that he would want to even avoid this topic. Kat couldn't imagine not being close to her mother but obviously Nick wasn't.
"No, Nick you don't." Kat insisted. "I've known you more then four years and never once have you mentioned her. Not to me."
"I don't know why Kat." Nick said sincerely, he looked back down at the clothes folding them just a touch more forcibly as he grew increasingly uncomfortable.
"Does she live here anymore?" Kat asked. She could read Nick's change in mood but this was something she had been wondering about for years and he had brought her up.
"No she moved about six years ago." He could feel the building tension in his body, the same thing he felt whenever he was being asked about the past. An urge to get away from the situation that normally came out as frustrated anger. Lashing out at whomever might choose to push him too far despite the warning signs that everyone told him were obvious. Derek had talked to him about it; in fact they had all taken their turns. He needed to learn to control his temper, which was what it always came down to. They loved him but sometimes the only way he could show how passionately he felt about things was with anger. No one liked that and they wanted to help him figure out a better way to express himself. But hearing their words had only made it worse for him. They feared his temper and they couldn't have found anything worse to accuse him of. He didn't want to be that man, a man he knew all too well.
"Nick have you ever visited her?" Kat asked astonished by what she was hearing. She knew the answer to her own question. She knew Nick traveled a lot, but she couldn't remember a time when it wasn't for Legacy business.
"It's been a while." He said evasively.
"Four years at least. Do you at least call her?" Kat pushed for more details. She couldn't imagine going that long without seeing her mother, not even when she was an adult. She and her mother might see things very differently but they were family and they were all they had left. After losing her father and Conner at such a young age Kat vowed never to lose her mother. How could Nick not see how important that relationship was? He had lost his father when he was young; didn't that teach him anything about family?
"Sure Kat I call her." Nick didn't mention that it was usually limited to twice a year, Christmas and her birthday, and in those conversations they talked about very little. He remembered telling her about Julia and when his mother had asked about her again later in the year he had to tell her she was dead. That put an end to any questions about his life. She was not much more pleased that he found his way to the Legacy then she was about the military. She just saw him going down the exact path Robert had embarked on and dreaded what that might mean. So when they talked now it was brief and superficial.
"Good Nick. She probably misses you." Nick nodded with regret at that assessment. She probably did but he didn't know what he was supposed to do about it. If she didn't want to hear about his life what was there for him to say to her except to remind her occasionally that he did love her. That was the purpose of the calls he did make and he wanted to think that was enough.
"Kat, you want to keep that? I won't give it to her and it might as well go to someone who likes it rather then back in a box." That succeeded in distracting Kat from her questions as she nodded happy with the gift despite the defect. She didn't forget what she was asking him about but it was obviously something he did not want to rehash so she let it drop to study her new belonging.
"Derek what are you doing?" Tangye asked coming up behind him silently in the control room. He couldn't have missed the hint of annoyance in her tone if it was new to him. She didn't let her eyes linger on the pictures on the screen for more then a second, too afraid of the pain they would remind her of.
"I'm sorry." He said without explanation. "What are you doing out of bed?" The exhaustion was still visible around her eyes and she didn't look to be entirely sturdy on her feet. He fought the urge to reach out and help her to a chair knowing just how much she would dislike such a gesture.
"It's just the flu, I'll live." Her voice was stiff actually managing in her annoyance about the pictures to shed a bit of the rasping that had been diminishing it for days. "Why did you want to see them?" She repeated her line of questioning as she took a seat beside him. Her eyes danced in the direction of the screen but could not linger on the images watching her there. She didn't like having their eyes on her anymore, not after they had monitored her for so long.
"I was working on compiling a complete history on you for Legacy records." He hadn't wanted to lie but he knew she would never pursue any line of questioning about them for too long unless he gave her reason to press the subject. "I didn't expect you to be here." He didn't expect to be caught is what he meant to say. He wasn't ready for her questions, the ideas in the back of his mind just beginning to take form. He didn't want to cause her any pain if it was not necessary, but if he was right about his line of thinking he might actually be able to relieve some of that lingering suffering she already carried and offer an explanation for what she couldn't forget.
"I won't be next time." He was surprised by the irritation in her voice; she was striking out at him just because he had accidentally allowed her to see their faces again. "They aren't part of my history, Derek. They're nothing, I wish you'd try listening when I said that. They have nothing to do with me anymore, and if I could trade in the fact they ever did I would." He was always shocked when the hate sprung up in her eyes, overwhelmed her soft voice. He had often wondered when she would get past it, and while the weeks had turned to months of knowing her he had his answer. Simply never.
"Tangye the Legacy requires that we have a full history " He tried to explain and lessen a bit of her sudden rush of anguish.
"I got the talent from Charles, we know that. I got nothing from them, so what do they matter?" He didn't point out that her statement was obviously not true. Not when she was demonstrating for him exactly what she had got from her parents. Yet her statement sprung another thought into his mind. His eyes returned to the photo he had been looking at for much of the morning. He didn't have to look at her again to compare; he knew her features and could pick them out anywhere. He saw the similar shading of hair that she shared with her mother, the similar form of the eyes and nearly identical jaw lines.
"You don't look like him. Not even a " Derek began, his voice distant and lost in thought.
"Derek, enough. I've told you I don't want to talk about them; I don't want to think about it ever again. I realize that's best for me." She pushed herself away from the table, trying to make the motion forceful but her arms were still drained from even the smallest effort. "I don't care if I don't look like him, I don't care if I'm their exact doubles. I just don't care. I can't." She added the last phrase more softly hoping to make her point clear. "If I want to make sure that I never go back there, I can't let it back in."
"It's just odd, that you don't have a bit of him in you. I can see the similarities between you and your mother but well, who in your father's family do you look like?" He turned his eyes to her carefully wondering if she would sense the tiny bit of prodding to his questions. He wondered if she had asked these same questions herself and perhaps could give him reason to stop asking them.
Instead he was met only by familiar defiance. Tangye did not want to talk about this subject and she wasn't going to be tricked into doing so. "Me, Derek. I look like me, the end." She sent her eyes searching around the room helplessly, unable to face the look in his eyes. She was giving him every reason to have concern about her stability but she couldn't help herself. She looked back down when she felt a gentle hand enfold hers.
"You're tired, you should get back to bed." Derek whispered, excusing her behavior with those words. "Do you need any help?"
"No, I'll be fine." She shook her head wearily and turned away from him without even offering the smile she usually shot him at the end of small clashes to let him know everything was okay. He watched her make her way slowly out of the room before turning back to the screens. He had never intended for her to find him doing this, she had not left her bedroom in three days since the flu had first hit her. He had plenty of time before this but he was trying to ignore the thoughts running in his mind. He reached out and tapped a few keys changing the picture in front of him. He saw it immediately.
The eyes and the smile, the two things you most remembered about her, staring down on him as the facts clicked into place in his mind.
Kat was pleased with her new prize and showed it off around the house before returning to the mainland. Now she placed it reverently on the shelf above her bed. Pausing to wind it up and allow the music to play softly into her still room. She dropped down into her bed pulling the covers up on herself and letting the tiny notes fill her. She didn't know the song it played but it was beautiful and soothing. She found herself drifting off to sleep even though she hadn't felt that tired when she lay down.
The images in her dreams were harsh and disturbing. She fought to wake and look upon the bloodshed in her mind no more. Innocent people being murdered by faceless beings engulfed in black. She tried to scream out a warning but no one paid her any heed. It was horrible, unlike anything she ever saw before and it felt so real. Like the warning of things to come that she had grown familiar with even at her young age. She couldn't imagine how something so horrific could ever be allowed but the scene continued to play out in front of her. She could smell the fear and blood in the air around her; she felt rough winds tearing at her frozen skin. A young woman guarding a child was suddenly roughly lifted up by one of the attackers and without a moment of hesitation a sword was shoved through her belly. The creature engaged in the attack threw her form aside as she continued to struggle with the open wound. Whoever they were they weren't even showing those they hurt the kindness of a quick death. They left them to suffer an agonizing death without a glance.
Kat felt her blood rush at the sight; her anger rising to the surface in a way it never had before. She looked down at her feet and saw a three-foot board amongst the rubble these marauders were leaving behind them. Without considering the danger it might bring to her she acted, scooping up the board deftly and rushing at the back of the figure now moving toward the child. She swung hard above her head though the difference in height wasn't as great as it should be for something with such power. The timber came down on the back of the creature's head and Kat heard the revolting sound of shattered bone. She dropped the weapon she held staring down at her handiwork in horror.
She tried desperately to remind herself that this was just a dream. She had never hurt anyone in such a way, she never could. She looked at the cowering child sensing a recognition of the face which stared back at her. The scream started to build in her throat but before it was released someone else's cut it off. "Nick." The cry cut through all the noise around her and Kat's whole world stopped at that moment. She started to turn to locate Tangye in this war zone, tried to mentally prepare herself to see Nick as a victim in all of this disaster.
Before she did the images ceased. She sat up in her bed gasping for air that did not want to come. She had seen many terror inducing images in her dreams before and knew that the Legacy dealt with many more but none of what she had seen or heard of before compared to the images vivid in her mind. Death on a scale that seemed impossible. For every attacker there had to hundreds of victims, left behind in uncaring piles. There were so many, as if the dead had arrived for their own slaughter. She couldn't shake the memory that somewhere in there was Nick with Tangye crying over her loss and left unprotected to guard against her own death.
But it was only a dream. She repeated these words to herself over and over again. There was no way something like that could actually happen. Even the wars she studied about in school had failed to leave such carnage behind. Such an apocalyptic event would never be allowed to happen.
Nick stared down at the miniature shirt in his hands. He was too young at the time he wore it to have any memories but he imagined with the way his mother had always tried to hold on to those times that they had been happy. Perhaps at one point things in the Boyle home had been peaceful and full of love in ways Nick didn't remember. He glanced over at the phone on his bedside wondering once again if he should pick it up and call her. She would probably think that something was wrong and even if he denied it she would be worried. He didn't want to do that to her anymore. She had spent enough of her life concerned about his safety; she didn't need to waste anymore time to that worry. He wondered for a moment what had brought this sudden moodiness on. He hardly ever let himself spend anytime thinking about the past and what he could have done differently anymore, he couldn't change the mistakes and he learned that by experience.
He issued a disgusted grunt at himself tossing the little shirt onto the pile still on the floor of his room. Rachel had pulled Kat away before they finished and once she was gone Nick's motivation slipped away. He knew this was still a task he wanted to complete but he hadn't expected to be hit with so many difficult memories within the boxes. Those lingering pictures playing in his mind made it harder for him to push through the action. Now instead he sat on the bed trying to find a time from these bits of his history that didn't carry with them some type of regret. Searching for the happy memories that would chase away those he so disliked facing.
He realized that he had come close many times. Images of his father tossing the ball to him in the backyard, smiling with rare pride when it easily found his glove. But then something would invariably go wrong; a bad hop, sun in his eyes and the fun was gone. His father would get so upset about the smallest failures. He tried to focus his thoughts on his mother. Her kindness, the gentle way she could always comfort him by just holding him in her arms. But then the memories of the bruises on her arms or face crept into his mind's eye.
He forced himself away from those memories, his eyes turning to the picture of Julia that still held a spot of respect by his bedside. He had so many thoughts of her that could bring a smile to his face. She was such a calming element that worked her way into his world when he needed it most. She could put him in his place when he needed it most, but she always did it with a loving joke. Still when he thought of her the image of her hung, as a warning on the scarecrow could not be avoided. Her eyes once so captivating staring down at him cold in death still managed to chill him.
He silently cursed whatever forces had decided to so callously rob him of something so good, of so many things that should have brought him happiness. His cast his eyes downward again certain now that he would not be picking up the telephone to call his mother. He would be seeking the type of comfort she had always offered; she would have every right to worry about him. It wasn't fair to her to always be expecting her to sweep in and fix the problems in his world.
None of it weighed down on him like it once had. So much of the anger he had once been known for had passed but he still did find himself captured in these moments. Times when he indulged in reflection of the past and remembered why he so frequently tried to deny doing such a thing. But he had more control now, he could make it go away now with enough effort.
He brushed his hair back from his forehead, annoyed by the sweat that he felt there. He let out a deep breath of air and with it the intensifying tension he was feeling. He gave another glance around the room, catching a brief glimpse of the clock on his dresser. He was surprised to realize that it was so late at night. He hadn't emerged from his room since Kat left and the hours that were now lost had vanished without him noticing. For the first time he realized that his stomach was empty and crying out to him for attention. He stood up and went to the door of his room giving a glance at the piles on the floor. He needed some time away from them as much as he needed some food.
He entered the hall sure that he would not be running into anyone. He almost made it all the way to the stairs before the sound of sudden coughing broke into his progress. He paused considering if he should dare to face the source when his mind was running so wild with images he didn't want her to know about but hearing the miserable sound issuing from her he couldn't stop himself.
"Tan, you okay?" He pushed the door open just a bit and kept his voice low in case she was able to sleep through the racking cough.oman">
"I didn't wake you did I?" She managed the question out between the coughs. He found himself smiling at that question. She had been bedridden for days with the flu and was desperate for sleep that avoided her because of the illness, yet she was worried about him.
"No honey, I wasn't asleep." He slipped into the room and across to her bed. He took a seat on the edge of the bed and she quickly settled into his arms. He held her there tightly, resolving not to let this bit of good leave his life. He might not enjoy looking back but for the first time in too long he was letting himself look forward because of the friends in his life, the family that surrounded him. He kissed the top of her head gently, whispering a few soothing words to help her find sleep.
"Good morning Katherine." Derek greeted the young girl as he entered the kitchen, surprised to find her present in the house so early. She had a few days off from school for parent teacher days and Rachel had mentioned something about Kat staying with them during those days but it had slipped Derek's mind. He smiled at her warmly as she looked up groggily from her breakfast. "Well that isn't my normal greeting. Is everything alright?" He sensed the difference in her instantly. Something beyond the obvious need for sleep. She shrugged at his inquiry and looked back down into her bowl of food. "If you would like to talk about anything Kat, you know any of us will listen." He informed her gently as he fondly rubbed her on the head when he walked by.
"I know you will Derek but..." She turned in her seat to look at her friend and noticed the way that his eyebrows peaked in interest at whatever she might have to say. Seeing that expression of anticipation forced her to hold her tongue. What she had seen was just a dream, this time she was certain of that. She didn't want Derek to read more into the nightmare then existed within it. She was afraid of losing her friends, it was a natural fear and the night terror was a way of manifesting that anxiety. "It's nothing, just kid stuff."
"Well I may not be much good there, I was never a child after all. Perhaps you could talk to Nick, someone more... kid-like." Derek was glad that he managed to make her laugh with his staunch tone. She always found it amusing when Derek pushed his button down image to the extreme for her and as soon as he recognized that it could make her smile he used it often.
"It's nothing, really." She said the words between the small giggles he brought forth. She turned around to look at her soggy cereal again, realizing just how unappealing it looked after soaking in milk for so long. She wished she did have a way to ask Derek about the dream without making him worry that perhaps it signified something bigger. But it was in his nature to do such a thing; it was just the way his mind worked. You saw something out of the ordinary and it had to be really out of the ordinary. Kat didn't believe for a moment that what she saw would ever come to pass but the disturbed feeling it left in her was not so easy to convince to abandon her. She just couldn't forget the horror, the carnage that lie around her. Like nothing she had ever seen before or anything she would have thought herself capable of conjuring up.
She felt cold fingers run up her spine at the memory, making her body convulse with the chill. Luckily Derek was intent on preparing his cup of coffee and failed to see the reaction. Kat dropped her spoon back down into her cereal standing up from the table. "I think I'm going to go work in the library now." She announced formally, disliking the sound of her own stiff voice. Derek did seem to notice that but refrained from commenting instead just watching her carefully as she went through the motions of putting her dish in the sink.
"Kat, if you need any help with your school work I'll be around the house all day." Kat turned to look up at Derek's kind face with a small smile and nod. She knew he wasn't really offering help with her homework but instead was concerned with whatever else might be bothering her. He did respect her privacy enough not to press the issue and force her to talk. Instead he just left himself open for her to go to if she ever decided that she might need to do so.
She went out of the room in silence leaving Derek behind with no choice but to wonder about what might have disturbed her in such a way.
"Rachel, I'm glad I found you." Alex announced with a pleased smile as she entered the study. Rachel smiled back at her but returned her eyes to the papers in front of her.
"You wanted to talk to me about something?" She asked absently as she noted something in the margin of the page. Alex took a seat in the armchair caddy corner to the couch Rachel occupied. She leaned forward with her elbows on her knees.
"I wanted to know if you had noticed anything strange going on around here the past week." Rachel shrugged but paused at something she heard in Alex's voice. Rachel knew the tone well, the slightly strained sound that took over Alex's voice when she was worried about someone. It was not something she gave in to easily, usually certain of the trouble by the time she voiced any concern. Rarely did she ever need to ask if someone else had seen something to know the answer.
"Strange how, Alex?" Rachel put her pen down directing all of her attention at her friend.
"I don't really know how to explain it. Derek's been working on this secret project, Nick's been keeping to himself and in his room." Alex shrugged not sure what else it was. Just a feeling of something that was hanging in the air and waiting to rain down on them.
"We've been working hard lately, maybe they just need some time for themselves." Rachel offered the suggestion knowing that Alex would knock it down. Doing so felt to be the best way to lead the researcher through her thoughts.
"It's more then that. I could dismiss that." Alex brushed her hair back away from her face striving for the right words. "It's them. I don't know what either of them is thinking about right now and that just bothers me for some reason."
"You're very close to them Alex, you want to take care of them. That's why we love you." Rachel reached out to take her friend's hand. "Talk to them, find out what is going on with them. I don't think they'll shut you out." Rachel smiled hopefully. She wasn't sure that was the truth. Derek and Nick could both be fiercely protective about their privacy. She knew neither of them meant to hurt anyone by doing so they just preferred to keep people at arm's length in regard to certain subjects.
Alex knew that Rachel was only saying that to make her feel better. Neither man they were speaking of was particularly open when it came to discussing anything that might be bothering them. She had teased them about such male bravado, as she considered it to be, on many occasions. But they never heard the small pleas within those ribbings. They didn't offer to open up to Alex no matter how available she managed to make herself. They just appeared to take on the option of facing anything alone rather then looking weak for a moment.
She strove to get her mind around whatever it was specifically about their behavior that had disturbed her but it wasn't anything that she could pinpoint. Alex Moreau trusted her instincts all the same. When her gut told her there was something worth worrying about she had never been given much reason to doubt that. Something was coming.
"I guess I can try." She smiled for Rachel just a bit. "So this mean you haven't noticed anything?" Alex pressed her original question. She really did want Rachel to think about this. Rachel knew them both as well as Alex did, she would pick up on any behavior that could be deemed out of the ordinary.
"Why don't I run in to Derek a little later and see if I do." Rachel offered hoping that the gesture would make Alex feel a bit more at ease. Rachel had reason to worry just by the look in Alex's eyes, but not so much about the men. She could see the stress creasing the edges of Alex's brown eyes. A haggard look that came from worrying too much. Rachel hated to think that Alex was suffering under the weight of these concerns in even the smallest of ways and would do whatever she could to relieve that as much as possible.
"I'd really appreciate that." Alex nodded her approval of the suggestion, part of her praying that Rachel reported back that her worries were unfounded. She doubted that would be the case.
Kat tried to do her homework in the library; she had given it her best effort. While she read her eyes kept slipping closed instead of focusing on the words. She had tried to get back to sleep the night before but it was slow to come to her. Even when it did she barely amerced herself in its grasp. She just couldn't escape what she had seen. She shook her head to fight the images away that were plaguing her but they held tight. So she had abandoned her efforts to study.
She hoped no one in the house would come looking for her. This was the last thing that she wanted to do anymore but her body was demanding it. She wasn't a little girl; she didn't still take naps. But as she lay her head down against the pillow in her room she admitted that this was exactly what she needed. She concentrated her attention on the soft song of the music box. Her mom had told her that they would be spending the night on Angel Island and she had packed the carving in amongst her things. She found it comforting to have it sing her to sleep and when she had thought about leaving it she couldn't bring herself to do it. Her eyes focused on the carved wings done with such a delicate touch. But slowly the world around her slipped into darkness only inhabited by the bird's tune.
Kat wanted desperately to escape this place. She had hoped that she would never have to revisit it. She wanted to dismiss it as a single occurrence but now was trapped in it again. Her subconscious mind reminded her desperately that it was merely a dream. A figment of harmless images created by an overactive mind.
But the smell, the cries, the cold wind, all of it was real. Her mind could not deny what it knew to be true.
She wasn't even really sure that she had been here before. That it wasn't merely a sensation of horrible deja-vu rather then the dream only a bit of her knew it to be. Her mind and body both accepted it as reality as she stared frozen watching the carnage build.
No one approached her. No one looked to her for help or attacked her frozen form. She was left as a bystander, allowed the peace to take in the situation.
Her eyes studied the forms of buildings, or the remnants of them. Something about the structures appeared familiar but that she couldn't place either. It was like a picture from her childhood, something long forgotten except in the recesses of memory. She had been here before and it had been a much different place. She couldn't say how it once appeared with any degree of certainty but she assumed that once the buildings had actually stood. Now they were left only as charred ruins from a different time. Pieces of them still crowded the wide street making any progress through such an area a difficult task.
She tried to keep her eyes on the burn scars of the buildings, or even directed higher upward to the gray clouds hanging in the sky making breathing difficult. It was not merely clouds; her lungs straining for something clean assured her of that much. The fires that took this neighborhood were obviously still burning somewhere nearby. She kept her eyes off the scene at street level that was all she wanted to do.
Avoid looking at it long enough and hold on to the weak prayer that it all might pass.
Instead such peace was again snatched away from her when she heard the desperate scream of a young child. Again the deja-vu rushed over her, warning her that she should just stand still. There was nothing that she could hope to do that would tip the scales of this slaughter. All she could do by becoming involved in this madness was seal her own death.
But Katherine Corrigan had never been raised to be that person. She had spent her childhood watching as those she loved rushed foolishly into battles against things that they could not possibly hope to defeat. Perhaps the victory would fall to them for a moment, perhaps they would walk away with a few battles tucked proudly under their arms but in the end they were doomed to loose. If nothing else this world she was surrounded by showed her that.
Still she had been raised to fight in that way, to protect the innocent from the darkness as Derek had once explained to her. So before her mind could argue too much the point of futility her body reacted. She ran across the debris, surprising herself that she managed to keep her footing. With a swift movement she leaned down just far enough to grab the discarded two by four which had broken away from one of the buildings frames. Her eyes honed in on the dark figure converging down upon the cowering child and with a strength that felt somehow terribly out of place to her she crashed the weapon down on back side of the killers head.
The sound echoed in her ears for a moment as she watched the form slump down to a resting-place amongst the other dead. Her eyes met with the child she saved for only a moment, the dark brown eyes staring up at her ready to speak before another cry silenced him.
"Nick." Kat knew the voice instinctively. The desperate, pained tone to it might have been new but still Kat knew the voice. Kat found herself shutting her eyes tightly against this reality, she did not want to turn and see whatever it was that she might see. Yet with a deep fortifying breath Kat forced strength she never knew that she had to the surface. She turned slowly and despite the smoke and carnage Kat saw her immediately.
On her feet running in Kat's directions, blood and tears painting a face that no longer held even the hint of a child which Kat always saw in her. She was changed by whatever happened in this place. Damaged and robbed of the things that had made Kat Corrigan respect her. She moved in Kat's direction, apparently not seeing her young friend, her eyes locked only on something beyond Kat. Kat watched her as she lost her footing a few times but she would always rise and continue. Covered each time in more blood, thankfully not her own. Kat wanted to ask her for an explanation. Some justification for this world gone wrong but she could not find her voice.
She just watched in awe as her friend came towards her, slipping on anything that might be in her path but ignoring whatever it was for her goal. Hands grasped at the front of her shirt leaving dirty handprints on the fabric but she shook all of them off. She didn't even look to pause and consider what suffering she was passing by as she cut her way through them. Her eyes were cold each time Kat managed to see them. Determined but frigid. This was not the woman that Kat had once known and she cursed the world for destroying her.
"You need to run." A small voice by her side caused Kat to look away. She glanced down to the child ready to ask him what he wanted her to run from when her eye was instead caught by something else.
A clean, well cared for engraved piece of silver which she recognized...
Kat sat up in her bed desperate for air. She began repeating the same words over and over in her head that she had the night before. 'It was only a dream, it was only a...' But the mantra did little good against the sick feeling in her stomach or the chill she could not escape. Her eyes patrolled her room for some sign that the dream had managed to make its way here. But everything was in its place and in perfect condition. Her world had not been torn apart by some mad war without purpose. Her world was what it always was. Maybe not peaceful but miles away from the one she just left.
She drew her legs up close to her chest and obliged her need to clutch her doll closely to her chest despite her frequent proclamations that she was too old for such things. The familiar texture of the childhood toy offered a bit of comfort to her and she was not about to deny herself that. She wished she was young enough still to go climb into bed with her mother and have her chase all the bad things away but she would not give in to that desire. She would face this herself.
It was, after all, only a dream.
Nick stopped the car across the street from the small suburban home. His eyes studied the structure noting the subtle changes age had brought to it. The yard was unkempt now with the grass higher then ones ankles and the bushes all growing in wild, natural ways. For some reason that detail really stood out to him. He remembered a much different place. One where control was exhibited over everything including the yard. He had spent many Saturdays out in that yard when his friends had been at the park playing children's games. But Nick had learned important lessons from that work.
That was always the excuse he used. He learned about the world with every one of his father's demands. It never made him fear the man less or forgive him but at least it made the world logical. Nick wasn't afraid just to be afraid, the world was preparing him for the future. He wondered briefly how he would have been different if not for his childhood but quickly cast off the thought. He had little reason to think that he would be better off. His father had not been the only misfortune, just one of many.
Nick had heard countless talks about curses while being a part of the Legacy. Various items or family lines that carried with them some sort of fate all their own. Something that they imposed on the world instead of the other way around. The impossible could happen to them and even the greater powers of good would fail to stop it. He hated to think of himself having the same type of effect or even to admit to the idea of a decided progress dictated by a higher power. Man made their own fate they were not merely puppets performing a play for the amusement of something greater. But when he let his mind drift it was easy to see how it could be possible.
The beatings in his home had started with his birth. If they had waited longer perhaps his father would have been better prepared to be a father.
He had been on point and failed to see the attack. If someone else had been there, someone more experienced, maybe they would have seen what was coming.
Julia would be alive if . Nick again thanked her for being the one thing his absence wouldn't have changed. If he had not been in the Legacy she still was a member. She would have still gone to Ireland and she would have died. He sighed rubbing at his eyes. The headache had been lingering there since the night before and he had already maxed out on aspirin. It had been months since he entered one of these moody phases and he admitted to himself that was progress. He knew no one really enjoyed being around him when he was like this even if they had never said as much. Still he had been making a conscious effort to control it for them. Their lives were stressful enough without him making them feel they had to be careful around him.
He hadn't come back here to think about those things anyway. He had returned to remember his mother and this was always the place he saw her in his mind's eye. He knew he should call her even if it would cause her to worry. Which would be worse for her? A little worry or thinking her only child had written her out of his life? Unfortunately, knowing the answer didn't make dialing the phone any easier.
He stared at the front door of the house and could almost see her in the doorway holding out a glass of water for him while he mowed the lawn according to the specifications. She had a broad smile in her face; not the forced one she used when she was lying to herself that everything was fine. He knew the difference between the two expressions well. The woman he imagined now was really happy. She could always do that. Forget that anything stood behind her and just look forward and find happiness there. She either lived in the moment or in anticipation of tomorrow. At least when he had been young she had been like that, as he grew she began to see the future for what it would more likely become.
He remembered the pictures she had held onto twenty years later. What had changed for her that she stopped looking toward the future? What made her cling so desperately to a brief bit of history?
"Neighbors said I should call the police, thought I'd check you out." Nick's heart jumped with a painful lurch when his reverie was disturbed. For a moment he thought about going for his gun out of old instinct but managed to hold the urge. He knew the voice he heard and even if he hadn't he would look like a psychopath drawing a gun in the middle of the day for essentially no reason. "Sorry, Nick." Gilby apologized softly recognizing the start he had given Nick.
"It's okay." Nick shrugged focusing on slowing his heart rate. "Just didn't expect for anyone to notice me." Nick opened the car door to join his friend on the street.
"You're kidding right? C'mon Nick was there ever once we managed to do anything around here without someone seeing us?" Nick grinned with a small conceding laugh. Nick had never known who the someone was but Gilby was right they had been caught every time. If someone slipped with a curse or sneaked in past curfew the parents always knew the next day. "Been awhile since you've been around here hasn't it?" Gilby asked the question carefully, not wanting to imply anything. He had never said anything to Nick about the realization at the cabin and he didn't intend to. Still finding Nick back here came as a surprise. His mother no longer lived in the house what purpose could he have trying to remember this place?
"I guess it has." Nick admitted quietly. "Place doesn't look so great does it?" Nick nodded in the direction of the house.
"Nope. People have talked to the new owners about cleaning it up but they just won't do it." Gilby agreed. When Nick had lived there it had been cared for meticulously. Fresh paint whenever it started to show tiny signs of age, nothing ever left out in the lawn. Gilby wasn't sure what else he could say feeling uncertain about what Nick wanted to accomplish here.
"So what are you doing back?" Nick directed the question Gilby wanted to ask back at him.
"Had to talk to the old man." Gilby answered without mentioning the lawsuit. Silence fell between each of them for awhile as they thought about the past. Gilby remembering how much easier it had been when everything he did was a game. Nick thinking of how much harder it had been when everything had been a test. "Speaking of whom, he talked to your mom recently." Gilby threw the information out carefully. "Evidently she hasn't talked to you lately."
"No." Nick admitted with noticeable regret. "I'm sure your dad loves hearing that."
"Dad always liked you Nick, you showed him respect, he eats that up. But he does have some choice words about your relationship with your mom." There was no point in lying about the subject. Nick would know that people were talking even years after the Boyle's left the neighborhood. It allowed them their own little mystery to talk about and speculate on.
"Everyone probably does." Nick nodded pursing his lips with a nod.
"What do you say about it?" Gilby put the question out hesitantly but he was honestly curious and hoped Nick knew he wouldn't judge him.
"She never understood my choices. She can't see why I joined the Navy or work with the Legacy. She doesn't want to hear about it and I don't know what else to talk about." Nick looked down furtively at his watch needing to get back to the island and away from the conversation.
"I remember the first time you were supposed to come home on leave. She invited everyone over to congratulate you for making it into the SEALs. You could tell she wasn't thrilled about the Navy but she was behind you. You didn't show." Nick winced internally to hear that. His mother had never mentioned anything like that to him, never expressed her disappointment or embarrassment that such an occasion probably caused.
Nick knew what Gilby was talking about. His first visit home was to have been after his first mission overseas. "I got shot, didn't want her to know." Nick admitted. Gilby's eyes grew wide to hear how casually Nick could say such a thing. "I need to get going." Nick repeated the motion of looking at his watch. Gilby just nodded stepping away from the car as Nick got in. "I'll see you later." Nick avoided eye contact as he revved the engine and pulled off.