by "Nickette"
This story is a colloboration between two pre-established P:TL fanfic writers.
We sincerely hope you enjoy our "take" on "What If ...."!


'I hate it when he gets in these moods,' Alex thought to herself. She always tried to be tolerant and understanding with everyone at the Legacy house, but whenever they were moody, it drove her out of her mind. Today, Nick was going to drive her absolutely insane! "Look," she said aloud, trying to calm the irritation in her voice, "I realize you re upset about your friend's death but ...."

".... Upset?!" Nick snapped as he turned from his flight up the stairs to face her. "God, Alex, a buddy I spent almost three years with in the SEALs, decided to dine on a 9mm bullet a few days ago ... and all you can say is you realize I m 'upset'?! I don't get you sometimes, Alex ... I really

don t!" He turned and continued his run up the stairs and ended it by slamming his door.

"Was that Nick?" Derek asked as he walked out of the dining room. "Is he alright?"

"I guess that depends on your definition of 'alright'," Alex stated, with obvious hurt in her voice. She cared a great deal about Nick and what he must be going through. In fact, this whole argument started because she had asked him to get her up this morning so that she could run with him; she hadn't wanted him to be alone. When he had failed to do that, she confronted him when he came through the door. 'That s what I get for trying to help,' she thought bitterly.

Alex noticed that Derek seemed displeased at what she had to say, and she immediately hoped it wasn't at her. She valued her mentor's opinion and thought that if he were to criticize her too today, she would explode. On the contrary, Derek said in a very controlled voice, "Well, I m sure you were caught in the middle of his emotional outburst, Alex. Don't take it to heart."

Hearing his words of comfort, Alex found herself defending Nick. "It's got to be hard on him, though. It seems like everyone he's ever been close to ends up dead. I know that's an exaggeration of sorts, but to have a friend commit suicide like that ... Well, I probably shouldn't've snapped at him when he came in."

Derek appreciated Alex's understanding of Nick's emotional state. And, he too knew how Nick must feel; Derek lost his father just after entering his teens and, lately, friends of the past -- old schoolmates and Legacy associates -- seemed to be passing away. Yes, he understood exactly how Nick felt.

He continued his conversation with Alex, "I do think I'll call Rachel and ask her to talk to him. We can't afford for him not to have his head on straight. William just called and he wants us to do our own private investigation into some recent deaths he feels might be connected. I just got word that Monroe Starr was found dead in his basement."

"Monroe Starr?" Alex repeated the name, trying to recall where she had heard it before. "I know I know that name from somewhere."

"Yes," Derek helped, "He was a former member of the Legacy ... out of this very House actually. If you've read anything historical about the Brighton House haunting, then you'd be familiar with his name."

"Of course," Alex said. "He was the guy who confronted the spirit there and got rid of it. Didn't you work with him during that time?"

"Yes," he replied quietly with painful recollection. "It was at the same time that Jonathan Boyle, William Sloan and I all worked together. Cord McAllister was the Precept then. I remember he and Jonathan use to disagree a lot and Monroe, William and I would run interference for them."

"Sorta like you and Nick now, huh?" Alex pointed out.

"Yes." Derek said with a sigh. He recalled how well Cord use to handle Jonathan -- and all of them for that matter -- and could only hope that he was as good a Precept to his own members as Cord had been to him. "Yes," he repeated. "And, because of that, I think I would rather have Rachel talk to Nick before I'm forced to. She has a much ... gentler way of handling matters like this.

* * * * * * *

Rachel entered the library to find Derek engrossed in looking at what appeared to be a photo album. She walked quietly up behind him and glanced over his shoulder at the pictures he was staring at. The look of them indicated that they had to have been about 20 years old. She recognized Derek immediately (though he had to have been a scant 25-28 in them).

"Is that you?" she asked over his shoulder. She touched him when he jumped realizing that he hadn't heard her approach. "I'm sorry, Derek. I thought you heard me come in."

"No," Derek responded, trying to recover. "I guess I was so engrossed in these pictures." Rachel pulled a chair over and sat next to him as he continued with a half-laugh. "I was recalling my 'glorious past' as they say." He paused and then in a much quieter voice commented, "Actually, I was remembering just how many friends I've lost over the years. It's amazing when you think of all the people that come and go out of your life in such a short amount of time."

"Yes," Rachel said, in her doctor-sounding tone. "It's especially hard when you lose people who are close to you at very close intervals from each other. You don't get a chance to really recover from one death before you're forced to deal with the next one."

Derek cleared his throat and authoritatively said, "Exactly. That's why I wanted you to talk to Nick. He received a call the other day about a friend of his -- someone he knew while he was in the SEALS. This person apparently killed himself and Nick's been taking it pretty hard. He's not eally communicating with Alex or me. William gave us an assignment and I could really use his help on investigating the deaths of some former Legacy members. He might even remember the people, in fact." He paused and looked at Rachel, "Could you talk to him, Rachel? Make sure he's alright?"

"Absolutely," she said as she patted his arm. "And Derek, remember, if you ever need to talk, I'd be happy to do the same for you." She smiled at his half smile and then pursued the question she asked earlier about the pictures he had been staring at. "I asked you earlier ... is this you?"

The picture Derek had been studying, and that Rachel had pointed to was of six young men -- all close in age -- two middle-aged men, and two young women all sitting or standing together around a table. "Yes," he answered, clearly embarrassed. "That's me ... about 100 years ago."

"Who're the other people?" she questioned. "Are they all Legacy members or are some of them just family and friends?"

Derek pointed to the first in the picture and introduced him. He was the young man on the extreme left and Derek said, with maliciousness in his voice, "Well, this is William Sloan!"

"You've got to be kidding!" she said, as she took the picture from his hand. She was laughing now with him -- encouraging him to enjoy the moment; Derek found humour in so little these days, she thought. She stared at the young friendly face of the man who seemed so gruff and distant now. "This can't be Sloan ... he looks too -- I don't know -- normal!"

Derek laughed as he took the picture back. "Well, it's him." He pointed to the two middle-aged men in the photo and said, "This one is William Davis. Remember the Davis girls -- Laura and Margaret? We helped them a few weeks ago when a spirit was trying to invade Laura's body. This is their father. The other man here is Cord McAllister; he was the Precept of our House at the time. He also died recently, while visiting his Grandchildren."

"Wow," Rachel stated, "there were a lot of members then, weren't there. Are all these people connected to the Legacy?"

"Yes," Derek replied. "But remember, Rachel, we didn't have the technology and use of computers than that we have now. Quite often research took much longer and information was harder to gather. It took more members back then to do the research that two or three of us can do now."

Rachel nodded her understanding and then asked, "Who are the others?" Besides you and William, I mean."

"That was the rest of the team," Derek replied. "There's William and me, and this one next to me is Monroe Starr. He's the former member that was recently found dead in his basement; Sloan called to ask us to investigate the circumstances. This gentleman here is Felix Black and next to him, is Arthur Peterson." He paused and cleared his throat. "And this ... this is Jonathan Boyle -- Nick's father."

Rachel again snatched the photo away from Derek as she took a closer look at the man she had come to hate simply because of the things she knew about him. On the surface, he looked like an ordinary man -- strong build, nice features and a winning smile. But she knew that within him was the heart (or soul) of a monster! At last, she passed the photo back to Derek and asked, "Who are the two women?"

"They helped with paperwork and research. They were members, in a way, but not officially," he responded. Rachel watched him as he appeared to be evasive. He met her look and finally pointed to the woman on the far left. "That's Michelle Davis -- Matthew Davis' wife. And that," he said pointing to the woman on the far right, "is Miranda Richardson -- Miranda Boyle now."

"Nick's mother!" Rachel exclaimed clearly stunned. For the third time, she glanced closely at the photo and the resemblance hit her immediately. "I should've known," she said in a half-whisper. "He resembles her, doesn't he?! Same eyes, same features ... it's amazing. I didn't notice it before. I see a lot of her in him!"

"Yes," Derek replied quietly. "He has Miranda's looks ... and Jonathan's temper! So, maybe you could go up and talk to him now. I'd like to get started on the investigation as soon as he's ready. And Nick can be pretty uncommunicative at times!"

"Of course," Rachel said as she prepared to leave the room. "But," she added," you shouldn't be so hard on him, Derek. You're not exactly the most talkative person in the world either you know!

* * * * * * *

"C'mon, Nick," Rachel continued, "thinking like that doesn't solve anything." It had taken Rachel 20 minutes just to get Nick to start talking and the last 30 to get to the heart of what was bothering him. What troubled her most was his previous statement that he didn't think he could live through many more "sudden deaths" of the people in his life.

She was well aware that Derek worried about Nick's mental state sometimes. It was a concern of hers as well. But she knew that Nick had a good heart and had overcome many terrible obstacles during his lifetime -- such as the child abuse he received when he was young -- and she never believed he would ever really be a danger to himself or anyone else. However, when he talked like this, she would get nervous -- very nervous.

"You don't mean it, Nick," she tried to convince him. "I know that it's tough and God knows you've been through enough of it, but you're strong and you can survive this." Seeing that he seemed unconvinced, she tried another tact, "Besides, you've got me, Alex, Derek, Philip ... and don't forget about Kat. She adores you, you know! In fact, the other night, she told me that when she grows up, she's going to marry someone just like you." Rachel laughed at this, hoping to draw Nick in, but it didn't work.

"I'd tell 'er not to, if I were you, Rach. People around people like me don't seem to stay healthy for long." Nick walked back to the window for the tenth time during their hour-long talk. As he stared out the window, he said quietly, "Look, I know you're here to help, but I just don't want to talk about this. If Derek's worried about me doin' my job, he doesn't have to be. I'll do whatever he wants. I just don't wanna talk any more."

Rachel knew that was that; she knew Nick well enough to know that he had decided flat out not to discuss his feelings and that no amount of time or prying would change it. So she left his room and went back to the library to tell Derek the news that she hadn't been much help after all.

* * * * * * *

"Well," Derek said," if I find he can't do his job, I'll have to talk to him myself. But thank you, Rachel ... thank you for trying."

"Not a problem," she replied half-heartedly. "I'm just sorry I couldn't reach him. Ya know, Derek, normally it takes him a little time and then he opens up to me. But this time ... well, this time ...."

Derek turned to face her, hearing something in her voice that filled him with dread. "Go on; what is it?" he asked. "You seem worried."

Rachel waited until after Mitchell had left the library from delivering a hot cup of tea to her. "Frankly," she replied, "I am worried. Nick's past ... everything about him -- his intensity, his passion, his silent pain -- everything makes him a top-notch suicide candidate. And then, when he

hears of an old Navy buddy who does it and he clams up on me ... Well, frankly, it's got me a little frightened."

"I see," Derek replied distractedly. He had often worried about the same or similar thing. Nick was headstrong, reckless and yet time and again his bravado had proven invaluable. When Nick first came to the Legacy, Derek had been concerned about dealing with Nick's temper -- it seemed so much like Jonathan's. But, over time, he came to discover that Nick was a very sensitive, bright and thoughtful individual as well. Derek wondered now if he hadn't been wrong in encouraging Nick's bravado at times; he wondered if he shouldn't have perhaps tried to calm the young man down somehow. But even as he had these thoughts, he realized that -- with Nick's difficult childhood and strenuous military past -- that would never be possible.

Derek's thoughts were interrupted as he heard Alex enter the room. "Hi, Rachel. I didn't know you were here already. Have you seen 'the grouch' yet?"

Rachel smiled as she replied. "Yes, but it didn't do any good. I tried talking to him, but he just did not want to discuss his friend or his feelings about his death." Alex had been feeling guilty since her encounter with Nick earlier this morning and she told Rachel about it. Rachel assured her, "Alex, there's nothing you could've done; not if he doesn't want to talk about it. All we can do is wait."

Silence filled the room as Nick entered it at that precise moment. No one -- especially Nick -- tried to pretend that he hadn't just been the topic of conversation, so he flippantly asked, "Am I too early? I can go out and come back later if you guys want to keep discussing my personal life."

Rachel noticed Derek flush with anger. He would accept many things from Nick that he wouldn't accept from others, but this kind of tone and sarcasm he wouldn't. She tried to defuse a potentially explosive situation by saying, "C'mon Nick. Everyone here is worried about you; that's all. But, if you say you can handle it and are ready to work, then fine. Let's get to work.


Derek sighed and gave Rachel a half-way smile, thanking her for her timely intervention. Alex took a seat opposite Rachel and Nick sat on the corner of the table at the opposite end of Derek. His body language was a clear indication that he was not ready for work and all Derek could do was hope that his reading of that language was wrong. He cleared his throat and began, "Well, as you know, there's been a series of deaths recently of former Legacy members. William Sloan wanted our House to investigate these deaths and see if we could find any connections -- any reasons why they've all happened so suddenly, etc. Any thoughts?"

Alex always liked to please her mentor and immediately inquired, "Why does Mr. Sloan feel there's anything odd about these deaths? If they're all natural causes, which assumedly they are, or they would be 'murder' investigations -- so, if they're natural deaths, why is he concerned?"

Rachel interjected with her own follow-up question before Derek could respond, "Does he think that there's something 'unnatural' about these deaths that the police aren't aware of?"

Derek sat silently waiting to see if his two female colleagues would throw additional questions at him. He glanced up at Nick sitting at the far side of the table to await his question. But Nick was staring at his foot on the table and didn't even seem to be paying attention. "No, Rachel," he answered, "there's nothing that particularly stands out as unusual. But, he is concerned nonetheless. There is an obvious tie, Alex, in the fact that, not only were all these individuals former Legacy members ... but that they were all members of the same House -- this House -- at one time in their careers!" Derek noticed Nick look up at him at that time. "In fact," he continued, "William and I had worked with all of them. It was at the same time when Nick's father, Jonathan, was here as well."

Nick shifted on the table and stared at Derek. The very mention of Jonathan's name sent a chill through him. He knew that Derek had only recently learned the truth about his father -- that he was an alcoholic who abused both his wife and son when he drank -- but Nick still found it difficult to forget sometimes that Derek had once considered that monster an associate ... a friend ... of his.

Derek noticed the steel-eyed look from Nick, but continued his briefing. If Nick was to be of any help at all in this investigation, he needed to hear the facts! He continued, "William is also concerned because both Cord McAllister and Matthew Davis died recently. Although there's nothing terribly unusual about their deaths either, he still feels that it's too much of a coincidence -- three members of the same House all dying within a matter of months of each other."

"I agree that it must be difficult to lose these friends, Derek," Alex commented. "But I still don't see where it's something that the Legacy would need to look into." She paused, debating whether to voice her thoughts or not and boldly decided to continue, "I mean, is there something you're not telling us about these deaths? You have been known to keep your 'little secrets' in the past, Derek. I was just wondering if we're really working with all the facts on this case."

Derek felt a momentarily flush of anger at his integrity being questioned. But, he knew in his heart that it was true -- often he was secretive and evasive with facts that he felt would or could compromise the Legacy in some way ... even with his own colleagues ... and so he could hardly blame her for her question. He simply replied, "Well, in this case, Alex, I am giving you all the facts. Cord McAllister -- a former Precept of this House -- died of a heart attack while visiting with his Grandchildren. He apparently died in his sleep."

"Heart attack?" Rachel inquired. "Did he have a heart condition prior to his death?"

"I'm not certain," Derek answered. "that's something we need to investigate. And then there was Matthew Davis -- Laura and Margaret's father. He drowned while swimming in the New York House's pool. Again, it could have been a heart attack or other undetected medical condition, but the coincidence is uncanny when you look at the timeframe between the deaths -- five weeks -- and the fact that they worked together at the same time."

Alex interjected, "And now Monroe Starr ... I'm beginning to see why Mr. Sloan wants us to investigate."

"But," Rachel interrupted, "didn't you say that Monroe Starr was found dead in his basement? Was the cause of death another heart attack or did he fall?" Not waiting for Derek to answer, she firmly stated, "I agree with Alex, this is pretty coincidental ... and should definitely be investigated!"

"And," Alex concluded, "I'm sure this has to be painful because, for you and Mr. Sloan, it's personal as well."

"Yes," Derek replied slowly. "Cord, Matthew and Monroe were all dear friends. William and I would like to know if there's anything ... unusual ... behind their deaths. So, I'd like to count on all of you to ...."

"Friends die sometimes," Nick interrupted angrily. "Sometimes even dear friends -- and it doesn't always mean anything. Why does everything in your life have to be surrounded by the Legacy, Derek. Why can't your friends die just like the rest of ours?!"

Everyone in the room knew that the words coming out of Nick were not coming from his head but from his pain-filled heart, but it didn't matter; they were meant to hurt -- and they did. Derek had wanted so badly not to lash out at Nick ... to give him time to deal with his own personal tragedy ... and had thought jumping into an investigation would have helped him. But now, he could not hold back his own hurt or anger and he snapped at Nick.

"ENOUGH! If you don't want to help on this investigation, then don't. Frankly, I don't want you to! You've got a real attitude problem, Nick and I'm just not going to deal with it any more -- understand? So go ... have a drink, pick a fight, do whatever the Hell it is you want to do, but just go -- now ... before we both do or say something that can't be undone!"

Nick was stunned to hear how angry Derek sounded. He realized he had pushed the Precept ... and pushed him way too far, but he couldn't help it. He just couldn't get the image of Leroy Michelson with a gun in his mouth out of his mind! "Fine! he shouted back at Derek, not giving an inch. "I'm outta here."

Rachel became frightened at the sound in Nick's voice and stepped in front of him, blocking his path to the door. "Nick," she said calmly with her hands upraised in a friendly gesture. "Calm down. Derek didn't mean anything. What you said was inappropriate. Don't go off angry; you'll end up doing something stupid in this frame of mind."

As Derek listened to Rachel try to reason with Nick, he had already begun to calm down. Suddenly, his mind filled with a barrage of visions -- a door slamming; a car's tires screeching; Nick's face -- twisted in fear (or anger); the sound of metal crunching. As quickly as they came, they faded and a sense of dread replaced them in his mind and in his heart. He turned to Rachel and Nick and said, as steadily and calmly as he could, "Rachel's right, Nick. It's over with. Let's just get to work on this case, alright?"

But Nick was beyond reasoning with now. The hurt and pain he had been feeling over his friend's death was multiplied a hundred times over as he had listened to Derek speak so passionately about his friends and past associates -- one of which was Jonathan Boyle ... Nick's father! He glared at Rachel as she blocked his exit, yet couldn't bare to look past her at Derek to see that he had indeed softened after his angry outburst.

"He meant what he said, Rachel," Nick stated, ignoring Derek's comments. "And he's right. I have no business working on this case. I don't have a very good track record when it comes to people dying ... or stopping them from dying." He paused as he finally glanced over at Derek, then continued, "I have to get outta here, Rachel. I can't think straight right now."

He brushed past her before she could say or do anything else. With concern and anger, Rachel turned to Derek and snapped, "Was that really necessary? I mean, first you call me over because you're concerned about him, and then you practically push him out the door into ... God knows what?!" She saw the stricken look cross Derek's face and immediately regretted her outburst -- just as she was sure Derek was regretting his.

Alex tried to defuse the situation by interjecting, "Well, maybe Derek's right. Maybe if he goes for a long drive, it'll clear his head." She paused and then added, "He's not dangerous, Rachel ... he's just upset. I'm sure he'll be back in a little while and be ready to work. He just needs to deal

with this. And, knowing Nick, he needs to deal with it alone."

At that moment, the three Legacy members heard the screech of tires and knew that Nick was on his way ... to wherever he needed to go. Derek cleared his throat and authoritatively said, "Let's get to work. In answer to your question earlier, Monroe's death was caused by a fall down the stairs leading to his basement. William feels that all these deaths are just too conveniently connected."

He looked at the doorway, wishing that he would see Nick return, yet knowing that he wouldn't. It would be a while before the young man would enter the House again ... whether it was due to his continuing anger or his bruised ego. "Alex," Derek said aloud, "pull all the files you can from the Legacy House records, circa 1970's. Download all the information we have on each of the Legacy members of this House at that time -- including William and myself. Rachel, I'd like you to read over the medical files on everyone Alex prints off and see if anything ... unusual ... surfaces."

With the assignments given, Derek left the library and headed to the kitchen for another cup of coffee. As he waited for Mitchell to finish preparing a new pot, his mind echoed back at him with visions of -- tires squealing, Nick's face, the sound of crunching metal, and a terrible sense of

foreboding. He barely heard Mitchell say, "Would you care for a cup of coffee now, Dr. Rayne?" He nodded, not absolutely certain what he was agreeing to as he silently began to hope and pray that Nick would return ... soon.

* * * * * * *

Nick had driven out of the Legacy driveway as fast as he could coax the Mustang into going. He knew that it wasn't smart to drive fast on wet or slick roads, but he screeched his tires to make a point to the people inside the Legacy House -- the point that he was angry and hurt and he wanted them to know it!

By the time he had reached the ferry dock, his anger had greatly subsided. He had known the moment he stood up to leave that his anger wasn't really directed at Derek -- that it was actually directed at Leroy for deciding to eat a bullet instead of calling him! -- but anger was anger and Nick needed time away. He needed to be by himself for a while, to sort out his feelings. Now, halfway across the bay, he had already calmed considerably. But, he didn't want to return too soon; that would tell Derek that he had been right and Nick had been wrong ... and that just wasn't something Nick was up to admitting just yet.

Instead, he decided to take a drive along the coastline and think about the case that Sloan had wanted them to work on. Nick had to admit that it did sound intriguing and way too coincidental for so many past Legacy members -- and of the same House! -- to have died in such a close timeframe. As he drove off the ferry, his mind turned to Laura Davis. He remembered a few short weeks ago how she had needed his help. And now, he would be investigating her father's drowning.

He began to recall the names and faces of the previous San Francisco Legacy members that use to work with his father. He had met all of them at various times during his childhood. He remembered quite often that both Derek and William Sloan -- usually on separate occasions -- came to his home for dinner. But, on those occasions, he was usually sent up to his room by his father so that the guests wouldn't see the black eyes or bruised cheekbones Nick was wearing.

He remembered going over to Matthew Davis' house quite often with his mother. As the two women would meet and the men were off on some investigation, Nick spent time with Laura and her older sister, Margaret. Those were some of the happiest memories of his childhood and he recalled them now with a smile.

As he turned along a quiet shoreline road, he tried to recall Monroe Starr -- the latest Legacy victim. His only recollection of Mr. Starr was a painful one. He remembered when Mr. Starr had stopped by their home one day to pick up his father to head out on an assignment. Nick had been told to stay in the backyard because of his recently acquired broken arm, but the basketball he had been trying to dribble failed to cooperate and he ended up running into the waiting guest. He remembered how angry his father was when he saw Mr. Starr and Nick talking. The slaps across the face and bloodied ear that he had received for talking to Monroe Starr when his father returned, were still fresh in his mind.

Nick began to drive a little faster, passing a slower vehicle in front of him, trying to escape the pain of that memory. No matter how often he tried to hold on to the good memories of his childhood, the bad ones just wouldn't stay buried! He tried to calm himself by remembering the other associates his father had worked with. But, it seemed like they also reminded him of painful events in his life at the hands of his father.

Cord McAllister was always yelling at his dad ... or so Jonathan would say at night to his family as he would pour himself yet another brandy. Nick remembered meeting Mr. McAllister as a boy and, no matter how friendly the elderly man would be to him, Nick wouldn't respond back because he knew how much his father disliked the man. But, Nick's being cool towards his

father's boss didn't seem to make Jonathan any happier; it seemed like Nick could never do anything right ... at least not in his father's eyes!

He checked the speedometer and realized that he was driving way too fast on a damp road with these kind of curves and immediately started to slow down. As he did, he began to remember the names of his father's other associates ... there were Felix something-or-other and Art "somebody". He wondered now if they were alive or dead, and whether they were to be a part of the investigation as well.

At the next scenic turnout, Nick turned the Mustang around and headed back toward the City and the ferry dock. He knew it was time to return to Angel Island, the Legacy and Derek. He was now ready and willing to put his personal pain aside to help Derek with this case. As he drove, he began to remember who Felix was and what his last name was -- it was "Black". He remembered going with his Mom and this guy, Felix, to a baseball game; his father was suppose to have taken them, but had gotten tied up during a case. Felix had "filled in" that night and Nick'd had a fantastic time.

"I bet you did," came an all-to-familiar voice. "I just bet you had a great time!" Nick swerved the wheel and began to slow the car as he saw a shape manifesting itself on the seat next to him. he looked over and could have sworn -- and was nearly praying -- that he was going out of his mind! In the seat next to him was his "old man" ... Jonathan Boyle! ... glaring at him

with that look in his eye! Nick was stunned and, out of habit, started to apply pressure to the brake to pull the car over.

"I don't think so," the voice of Jonathan Boyle said, as he stretched his leg over and began to apply pressure to the gas pedal of the Mustang. "Let's just see how good you are at driving this hot rod, eh, Son?!"

Nick felt his heart race as the speed of the Mustang began to pick up. Although he could barely take his eyes off Jonathan in the seat next to him, he felt the tires of the car skid on the gravel along the roadside and realized he had better concentrate on the road. As the car loomed faster

and faster around the shoreline, Nick felt fear -- real fear -- enter his heart and grip his stomach. He hadn't felt this way since the week before his father had died.

'And he's dead,' his mind screamed at him. 'This can't be real -- this can't be happening!' He felt as though he were in some kind of time warp ... a young boy once again terrified of the man he both loved and hated, respected and feared ... and, at the same time, he felt like a man who had been way too angry when he left the Legacy House and had not been thinking clearly; he felt like he must be delusional. It was the only rational explanation ... his anger had driven him over the edge.

"Oh, you're not crazy, Nick," Jonathan said, as he read the young man's thoughts. "At least ... not yet! "Nick felt the Mustang continue to pick up speed and he barely missed hitting the car he had previously passed going in the other direction. He began to swerve within the lane, trying to gain control of the speeding vehicle. "What's the matter, Son?" Jonathan taunted, "can't you handle your own car?"

As the sharpest turn began to loom before him, Nick knew he didn't stand a chance to make it around the curve at his present speed. He looked over at the spirit of Jonathan Boyle and screamed, "What'd ya want from me?" He saw the evil grin spread across the face of his father. "What the Hell do you want?" he shouted again.

"Maybe, I've missed you," answered Jonathan, his voice dripping with malice. "Or, maybe I just want you to join me ... in Hell, you Goddamn sonofabitch!"

Things moved simultaneously in rapid and slow motion as Nick gripped the wheel with all his strength trying to make the sharp turn. His terror rose and he yelled out at the top of his lungs, "NO!" as the car went over the embankment. He continually tried to apply the brake as the car sped down the hillside, even after his head had connected two or three times with the steering wheel.

As he felt the vehicle at last come to a stop down the sloping hill, he began to lose consciousness from the force of the blows his head and body had taken. The last sight he saw was the image of Jonathan Boyle as it faded to nothingness; the last sound he heard was the sound of Jonathan's sadistic laughter as he blacked out.

* * * * * * *

Derek sat back from his desk, rubbing at his eyes tiredly. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was now eleven thirty in the evening. Derek was getting worried; since Nick had run out on them, no one had heard from him all day. In a way, Derek supposed that was a good thing -- there could've been more conflict. But all the same, the Precept was worried about his young friend.

Derek jumped as the phone rang out in the still house. Everyone else had gone to bed; Derek had promised the others that he would wait up for Nick and have a long talk with him. He snatched up the receiver, saying, "Nick? Is that you?"

"Hello," said an unfamiliar voice at the other end, "Is this Philip Callaghan?"

"No ..." Derek replied, disappointed. "No, Philip no longer lives here."

He heard the voice on the other end sigh. "Is there any way to get in touch with him? It's urgent."

"Well, I know he's in the city," Derek told the stranger. "He tends to wander between here and Dublin, but I believe he's back in San Francisco now. Can I help in any way? I'm an associate of Philip Callaghan's."

"Maybe you can," the voice sounded hopeful. "I'm Karl Kariff, an officer with the SFPD. Mr. Callaghan has been named as next of kin for a young man brought into the hospital this evening; I need to contact him."

Derek felt an icy hand grip at his stomach as he forced the next words out, "Who ... who is it?"

"The names ... Nicholas Boyle. I'm afraid he's been hurt quite badly in an auto accident. Do you know him?"

Derek felt his hands go numb, and he nearly dropped the receiver as he was barraged yet again by the vision that had struck him earlier that day ... tires, screeching, burning as they tried to grip the road; Nick, screaming in terror again and again...

"Sir?" Kariff's voice brought Derek back to the present. "Sir, is everything alright? Do you know Mr. Boyle?"

"I'll be there at once," Derek said, his voice seeming disjointed and echoey. "I ... I'll pick up Philip on the way."

He slammed the receiver down, suddenly wanting to go back to this morning, to take back his words, to make everything alright again. Derek pushed himself out of his chair, walking slowly, wondering how he was going to tell Alex and Rachel. He just thanked whatever gods were looking out for him that Kat wasn't staying on the Island tonight; facing her would have been more

than he could bear.

* * * * * * *

Philip ran in through the doors of the ER, coat flying wildly behind him. He still wore the grey sweatsuit he had been sleeping in, but he hadn't wanted to waste any time on dressing properly. Derek's phone call had awakened the young priest, who had agreed to meet the others at the hospital. He could get there a lot quicker than they could, and Philip didn't wish to wait any longer than necessary to find out how Nick was.

Philip ran up to the desk, startling the young nurse who had been snoozing in the chair. "My friend, Nick Boyle!" Philip said, breathlessly. "I got a call that he's here ... is he alright? Where is he?"

The young nurse waved over a doctor who was standing a little ways off, talking to two police officers. The medic wandered over. "This man is a friend of Nick Boyle's," the nurse told the doctor.

The man smiled at Philip, holding out his hand. "I'm James Keaton. Are you Philip Callaghan?"

Philip nodded. "Is Nick alright?" he asked, taking Keaton's hand and shaking it briefly. Philip watched with unease as the doctor's face grew grave.

"I'm afraid your friend has been hurt quite badly, Mr. Callaghan."

"Father Callaghan," Philip replied, coldly. He wished that the doctor would just get to the point; he couldn't bear not knowing what was going on.

"Your friend, Nick, was in an automobile accident," Keaton explained, ignoring (and, to a degree, understanding) Philip's attitude towards him. "It appears he drove his car off an embankment ..."

"Excuse me?!" Philip interrupted. "Are ya tryin' t'tell me that he did this deliberately?!"

Dr. Keaton nodded, "It appears that way. If you'll talk to the police, they ..."

"No, I don't want t'do that; not until I've talked t'Nick," Philip answered, suddenly feeling very tired. "I just want t'see m'friend."

"If you come with me, you can see him," Keaton told him, leading Philip off down the corridor. The young priest followed numbly, not able to forget what Keaton had just told him; that Nick had done this on purpose -- had tried to kill himself! Philip prayed that this was just Nick's warped way of getting attention, that everything was going to be okay.

Philip stopped as Keaton drew up outside an observation window to a large room. The corridor was dark, but the room was brightly lit, decorated in brilliant white with a sterile look to it. In the middle of the room was a metal bed, the sides drawn up, the head surrounded by several machines and tubes. In the center of all this, lying all-too-still on the bed, was Nick. Philip breathed in sharply as he saw his friend's condition; the young man was curled on his side, an air tube forced down his swollen throat, his head heavily bandaged. Tiny butterfly strips taped his eyes closed. His arms were splayed awkwardly to the sides of the bed, wrists encased in what Philip first

mistook for bandages.

All at once, it dawned on Philip what those items were. He whirled on Keaton suddenly, making the doctor jump. "What are the restraints for?" he demanded angrily. "He's unconscious, fer Chrissake!"

Keaton looked at Philip nervously. "I'm sorry; it's a regulation -- due to the nature of the accident, he's been placed on suicide watch and ..."

"This is unbelievable!!" Philip yelled, forgetting his Priestly manners. "He's just a kid ... and he's my friend! He wouldn't've done this!"

"Oh, no?" Dr. Keaton stated, standing his ground. "So, then how did the accident happen? There were witnesses, Father!" Unable to answer, Philip turned away, looking through the glass partition to the room

beyond. "Listen," Keaton said gently, "Whatever happened, it's happened. You need to be here for him now ... as his friend." Philip nodded, his voice lost. Keaton opened the door to the room. "Go on in -- stay with him," Keaton instructed. "He'll need you there when he wakes up."

Philip entered the room, approaching the bed. Nick looked so small and helpless ... a child in a cruel, adult world. Philip sat down on a hard plastic chair by the bed, as he considered taking off the straps that held Nick down. The area around the young man's wrists were reddened, where someone had been too rough in tying them on. Philip reached out, and gently maneuvered Nick's body into a more comfortable position, so that the restraints were not pulling his arm back.

Philip looked around the room nervously. He hated hospitals; hated it even more when it was one of his friends in here. He normally would have been able to stand it, but the sterility of the room, coupled with the restraints and security cameras high in the corner, made Philip tense. He reached over, gently smoothing out Nick's tousled hair, and noticed that Nick had once again

grown a small goatee. Philip smiled as he remembered a time when Nick hadn't even been able to shave -- when he had been a skinny teenager with an endless stream of bad hair days. Philip had teased him mercilessly about it. After joining the SEALs, Nick had sent Philip a photograph of himself a few months after Hell-week, sporting a stylish growth of stubble.

"Oh, Nick," Philip sighed heavily. "What in Hell have ya done?"

* * * * * * *

About half an hour later, Derek and the others arrived. They knocked on the window to attract Philip's attention, as only one person was allowed in the room at a time. Philip got up, leaving Nick and coming out the door.

"How is he?" Derek asked, anxiously.

"Well, he doesn't look too good," Philip said. "They ... they said ... they think Nick tried t'kill himself!" He looked around at the others, looking for support against the ludicrous suggestion, but he only found grim, nervous looks directed at one another.

"What is it?" Philip was getting increasingly worried. "What's goin' on?"

"Nick ... was slightly upset this morning," Rachel commented. "When he left, he was pretty upset. In that state of mind ... well, I wouldn't put it past him to do anything."

"C'mon, this is Nick!" Philip laughed nervously. "Ya know him as well as I do ... he'd never try t'kill himself!"

"The truth is, Philip, he and Derek had a pretty bad argument," Alex stated.

Philip turned to Derek accusingly. "Well?" Derek quickly explained the events of that morning -- about Nick's friend's death, the investigation, Nick storming out of the House, and finally Derek's vision. Philip couldn't stand this any longer. "Ya knew somethin' would happen, and ya just let 'im go?! How could ya, Derek?!"

"I'm sorry, but ..." Derek was visibly upset, but Philip was too angry to care.

"I don't believe this! He could've died, and it would've been all yer fault, Derek!"

"Philip ..."

"No!" Philip yelled vehemently. "Ya have t'start tellin' people about these visions! Don't ya care what happens t'people? You could've stopped this, but ya just let 'im go!"

"You think I don't know that, Philip?!" Derek shouted back. "Of course I feel bad about this! I'll never forgive myself for what happened to him; but, there were two people involved here! It was Nick's decision to walk out -- not mine!"

Philip fell silent, staring at Derek. For a long while, they didn't move -- just looking at each other, Rachel and Alex standing nervously to one side.

* * * * * * *

Consciousness crashed down on Nick, and for a moment he thought that he was still in his car. He tried to scream out, but something thick blocked his airway. He could feel it forcing air in his lungs, controlling him. Nick wanted to reach up and rip it out, but his hands couldn't move. Panicking, Nick tried to open his eyes, but they remained obstinately shut, held closed by an unknown object. Fear erupted through Nick as he could neither move nor shout. He tried to wiggle his body, making small panicky noises in his throat, but to no avail. No one came. Nick forced himself to remain calm, fighting back the onslaught of hysteria. Behind his closed lids, he could see his father's face, leering at him from the passenger seat; he could still hear his voice, harsh and mocking.

Suddenly, Nick heard someone enter the room and he steeled himself, terrified that it would be Jonathan. He heard an unfamiliar voice say softy, "Nick? Mr. Boyle? Can you hear me?" The voice was masculine and warm. Nick twisted his fingers round, tapping at the metal rail he felt next to his hand.

"Okay, hold on, kid," the voice continued, and Nick felt something removed from over his eyes. Abruptly, his lids were forced open and liquid was squirted in. Nick blinked, eventually making out the image of a doctor in a white coat leaning over him. "Better?" the man smiled. Nick could only nod, still unable to speak. "I'm James Keaton a doctor here at the hospital. You gave your friends quite a scare, young man."

'Young man?' Nick thought. 'Who the Hell are you and why are you being so patronizing?!'

"I suppose you have many questions, and I'll try to answer them for you but ..."

'If you let me talk!' Nick's mind screamed back at the man.

Dr. Keaton continued, "... but the police do want to see you about your 'accident'."

Nick felt panic again rise within him as he thought, 'God, no! Not the police! What do I tell 'em?! Where's Derek -- why isn't he here? Someone, please get Derek ...'

Keaton smiled again. "I'm just going to get your friend, alright?" I won't be a minute." Keaton left Nick alone with his thoughts.

"Not quite alone," Nick heard a voice say. He turned his head to see the image of Jonathan leaning against the wall. Nick's breath shortened involuntarily, causing a painful retaliation from the ventilator.

"Aww, did that hurt?" Jonathan grinned. "Good, 'cause it's only gonna get worse!" He walked forward, until he was standing directly over Nick. "This is just a dream," he whispered. "And you're not ever going to wake up this time."

Nick heard the door open again, and he glanced over to where Keaton was entering. Nick turned back, but Jonathan was gone. Looking toward the doctor, Nick saw Philip standing behind him. Relief washed over the young man, but he still felt a deep sense of outright fear. He tried to tell himself that if Philip was here, then everything would turn out okay; it always had before.

Philip came over to stand by the bed. "Hey," he smiled, sadness evident in his eyes. Nick felt uneasy, as if Philip was keeping something from him. He tried to speak, but the tube in his throat prevented it. Philip turned to Keaton. "Can't ya take this thing out now that he's awake?"

Keaton nodded, approaching the bed. He gently removed the strips of tape that held the plastic tube in place, then looked down at Nick. "You sure you're ready for me to take this out?" Nick nodded his head as violently as he dared. "OK," Keaton continued, "On three, I want you to breath out as hard as you can. One, two, three ..." Nick let out a deep breath, and Keaton pulled the tube out. Nick coughed involuntarily as the cold air hit his lungs, and Philip reached out to grasp his hand firmly.

When the coughing had subsided, he tried to speak, "Please ..." he coughed again, pain dulling his eyes. He turned to Keaton. "Can ... you leave ... us?"

Keaton nodded, stating that he would return soon. Once he had left, Nick turned to Philip, who was shocked by the look of pure fear in his friend's eyes. "Nick? What is it?"

Nick swallowed, trying to force out a few words. "My ... my father."

Philip frowned at the mention of the man that he had grown to hate over the years. "What about 'im?"

"He ..." Nick coughed again, as a spasm of pain -- fresh and deep -- hit him again. He pulled against the restraints, but Philip reached out and stopped him, looking him straight in the eye.

"What about him?" he repeated firmly. "Just take yer time."

"He ... tried ... to kill me!"

Philip shook his head, sadly stating, "Nick, you're confused; you were in an accident ..."

"No!" he whispered hoarsely, leaning forward to look at Philip properly. "It was him ... he was in the car!" Nick stared at the young Priest. "You have to believe me," he pleaded," "Please, Philip!"

Philip nodded slowly. "I believe you."

Nick leaned back on the pillows, closing his eyes. "Thank you," he whispered, before drifting off into a fitfull sleep.

Nick didn't awaken until the next day, and he was surprised to see Philip still by the bed. "Don't you have a home to go to?" he whispered, his throat still feeling pain, but his voice a bit stronger.

Philip smiled. "Ya don't honestly think I'd leave ya here by yerself now, d'ya?"

Nick frowned. "Where are the others?" He noticed as Philip shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "Philip?" Nick persisted.

"They were here, when you were asleep ..." he answered, slowly, "But the police are talking to them at the moment ..."

"The police?" Nick looked genuinely confused, and tried to rub at his eyes with his hand. He looked down crossly at the restraints. "What the Hell are these for?" he demanded. Philip remained silent. "Well?"

"Nick ..." Philip didn't know quite how to put this without upsetting his young friend. "Nick, everyone thinks that ya tried t'kill yerself."

"What?!" Nick paled visibly. "Philip, I didn't! I told you what happened; you said you believed me!"

"An' I do!" Philip comforted him. "But tell that story t'the police, and ya won't just be on a suicide watch, yo'll be put in a mental home!"

Nick was quiet for a moment, then, asked, "Have you told Derek yet?"

Philip shook his head. "No. I'm leavin' that up t'you; it'll sound better."

Nick laughed bitterly. "As if it could."

As if on cue, the door opened, and Derek stuck his head in. "Can we come in?" he asked.

Nick looked at him warily, remembering their argument. Derek met his gaze and clearly seemed awkward himself, not sure of what to say. "Nick ..." he started, then faltered, unsure of himself. The awkwardness was broken by Alex pushing herself forward from behind Derek and walking into the room. She smiled down at Nick.

"Hey there, Sweetheart," she said. Her voice was kind, but her eyes betrayed a sadness that hit Nick like a ten-ton truck. He knew that Alex truly believed that Nick had tried to kill himself -- he could see it in her eyes. He looked around Alex to where Rachel now stood beside Derek, and could tell that she thought exactly the same thing. This fact tore at his heart ... that his closest friends could actually think he would do something like this was beyond anything he could comprehend.

Nick took a deep breath, steeling himself for what he had to tell them, but Rachel spoke up first. "Nick, we need to ask you something," she said slowly.

"Rachel, I didn't try to commit suicide," Nick told her, his voice still hoarse. Relief showed in her eyes, but they were still clouded by doubt.

"So, what happened?" she asked him. Nick remained silent, looking to Philip for support. The young Priest looked at him encouragingly and nodded his head.

"Nick ... just tell them," he said. "Tell 'em what ya told me."

Finally, Nick spoke. "My father was in the car with me," he spoke quietly, letting his words drop. Silence greeted him as the other Legacy members looked at each other, then back at him.

"Look, Nick ..." Alex began.

"Forget it!" Nick said, as loudly as he could without too much pain. "God, I don't believe this! You don't believe me, do you?!"

"It's not that, Nick," Derek voiced. "It's just that ... your father ... is dead. How could he've been in the car?"

Nick sighed deeply, disgusted by the fact that his closest friends couldn't accept one simple fact without questioning him. "We deal with things like this every day. Is it so hard for you to believe that this could happen on our own doorstep?!"

"OK ... OK," Rachel said, holding her arms up in a gesture of defense. "Let's just assume for one moment that your father was in the car. So, why did you crash? Did you do it to get rid of him?"

"He did it to get rid of me!" Nick cried. "He held down the accelerator until I lost control ... just like one of his damn tests! Remember, Alex ... remember, I told you how he always liked to test me?! Well, this time, he tried to kill me!"

"Nick," Alex began, "Your father loved you! Why would he ..."

"Loved?" Nick exploded. "What warped reality are you living in?! He abused me, Alex! He never loved anything about me!"

Alex stared at Nick. She knew that Jonathan had been cruel, but she had thought that it was just his way of trying to turn Nick into the best he could be; Rachel had thought the same thing. Rachel pursued this thinking, asking, "Nick, are you sure you aren't confusing his hardness for something else? I mean, you clashed all the time; you might've been misinterpreting his intentions."

"Oh, so it was his intention to get drunk and beat me up, was it?!" Nick yelled, before degenerating into harsh coughs that shook his bruised form. Derek, quiet until now, reached forward, in an attempt to calm the young man before he could hurt himself further. "Get out!" Nick shouted through the coughing fit. "Just get out ... all of you!"

"Nick ..." Rachel started in order to defuse the situation.

But Nick interrupted her. "Get out! I just can't believe that you all think I tried to kill myself! My father was there -- is that so hard for you to believe?! I mean, we see this happen all the time. Why can't you just accept what I saw; what happened?! You're suppose to be my friends; how can I trust you anymore when I know that you think I wanted to kill myself? Ya know, I would've done anything ... anything for each and every one of you ... and now ..." Nick stared at the others, silence hanging thickly in the room. Philip opened his mouth to speak, but Nick cut him off with a glance. "All of you ... just get out," Nick said, quietly. "Just ... leave."

Derek stepped away, moving towards the door. After a moment, Rachel and Alex followed, silently. Philip remained behind. Nick looked at him, gratefully, for a moment, then nodded towards the door. "You better go too."

Philip shook his head. "I'm staying."

"No, Philip," Nick said. "Look, I'm tired, I just want to be alone for a while."

Philip seemed anxious. "If you're sure ..."

Nick nodded. "Go ... I'll see you later."

Philip left, following the others. Nick was alone once again. He stared around the room, and a tear rolled down his cheek. If the others didn't believe him, then what was he going to do? If Jonathan came back, Nick was as vulnerable as a child; there would be no hope of ever defeating his father on his own -- not right now, anyway. But then, once again, everything rested on his ability to do things on his own. With a sinking feeling in his heart, he realised that was how it would always be; him against the world, fighting against the sins of his father.

* * * * * * *

Derek restlessly paced the small Lobby of the hospital. The officers investigating Nick's "accident" wanted to meet him and the others for a few more questions, and they had agreed to assemble in the Lobby that evening. For some reason, the officers were late, and Derek was getting irritated. He just wanted to go back home and have a long, hot shower, and try to sort things out in his muddled mind. He couldn't shake the guilt he was feeling and his emotions were on edge; he had hardly had time to think properly since the phone call late last night.

Now, all Derek wanted to do was rest; yet he wondered how he could rest with everything going on? He needed to know the truth -- did Nick really try to kill himself? His logic said no ... that Nick would never be so stupid. But, in his heart, he knew that when Nick was angry, he was capable of anything. Did that "anything" include suicide? With a heavy heart, Derek acknowledged that it might. The real problem was, he just couldn't believe Nick's story about Jonathan coming back to kill him. It had been hard enough learning and accepting the fact that Jonathan had been a sadistic sonofabitch; but there had been another side to his former associate and friend -- a warm and caring side. Was the friend that Derek knew and loved really the monster Nick made him out to be, or was Nick himself delusional -- making something out of nothing?

Derek was interrupted of any further thought as the two officers whom he had met earlier, Kariff and his partner Smith, walked into the Lobby from outside. It was raining, and they were slightly out of breath from running to avoid getting too wet. Derek noted that Philip stared at the officers disdainfully. He realised that Philip totally believed whatever Nick had said, and hoped that the young Priest wouldn't get hurt by his total trust in Nick.

Kariff stepped forward to shake Derek's hand. He beamed at the Dutchman, seeming way too cheerful. "Mr. Rayne! I hear that Nick Boyle is awake and back among the living ... how is he?"

"He's going to be alright. Thank you for asking," Derek said. "The question now is, why did you want to meet us here?"

"We had some news we thought you might like to hear," Kariff continued. "It appears that Mr. Boyle didn't try to commit suicide after all. Our people have inspected his car and found that there was a fault in the gearbox. There was nothing he could have done to avoid going over the embankment."

Derek listened intently, relief and shame flooding over him as Officer Kariff continued his explanation, "... so, even though the first indications of the crash made it appear to be a suicide attempt, it's clear now that the gas pedal of the car was stuck in an accelerated rate of speed."

Alex noticed the look on Derek's face as he listened and voiced the questions he couldn't seem to ask, "So, then it definitely was an 'accident' ... despite the fact that the witnesses stated that Nick had been driving recklessly?"

"Yes, Ma am," Officer Smith replied," We're certain now that the fast or reckless driving stemmed from the fact that the accelerator was stuck. And, that kind of reckless driving is consistent with the fact that Mr. Boyle was making every effort to control the vehicle. However, given the slope and curves of that road ... it just wasn't possible."

Officer Kariff reiterated, "We're terribly sorry for the 'suicide watch' and restraints we placed on Mr. Boyle; however, until we had inspected his vehicle, all indications were that he ...."

"We understand," Derek interrupted, at last finding his voice. "Given the circumstances of the accident, you had no choice but to make those assumptions." The officers excused themselves and Derek turned to Alex, Rachel and Philip. "My Gott," he exclaimed, "no wonder Nick is so angry at us for not believing him!"

"But," Alex interjected," since Nick was telling the truth about the fact that the crash was an accident ... do you think he's telling the truth about Jonathan Boyle's spirit causing the accident?"

Philip could remain quiet no longer; he had been the only one among the group to believe Nick totally about what had happened. He had understood Nick's pain and anger that the others hadn't believed him. He lashed out saying, "Well, I fer one believed ever thin' he had said ... even about his father's apparition." He saw the others staring at him, a little surprised at his outburst, but he continued, "C mon, Derek. The Legacy deals with spirits and demons and such all the time. Why was it so hard fer ya't believe in 'im?"

Derek took a slow, deep breath and then walked over to stand face-to-face with Philip. He placed his hand on the young Priest's shoulder and responded, "I understand how you feel, my friend; and I'm very relieved to hear that it hadn't been a suicide attempt. But, you didn't see what kind

of state Nick was in when he took off."

Philip shrugged his shoulder out of Derek's grip and walked to the window of the Lobby, staring down into the parking structure below. In doing so, he had turned his back on his three Legacy associates, on the words Derek was saying, and on whatever truth might be living in those words. But, he had seen a genuine look of fear ... honest't God fear ... in his friend's eyes from the moment he had stepped foot in Nick's hospital room -- and he knew it wasn't a fear generated by the restraints Nick was wearing. Philip had seen very little that truly scared Nick; but whatever his friend had encountered on that dark and lonely road had terrified the young man.

Derek once again approached Philip and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Philip," he said softly. "Perhaps we should have believed Nick; but the circumstances -- the coincidence of his friend's suicide, his angry outburst and the accident -- were too great given the witnesses statements." He paused as he realized that he was beginning to break through to Philip and could only pray that the same heart-felt apology would work later on Nick. "But," he continued, a little stronger, "to believe that the accident had anything to do with Jonathan is not possible. He's been dead for over 10 years, Philip, so there's no way he ...."

Rachel could see by Philip's changing expression that the headway Derek had made moments ago was already fading. She quickly broke in, "Philip. Maybe Nick only thinks he saw his father." She had gotten the young Priest's attention with that statement and watched as he turned toward her. She continued, "I mean, he has a massive concussion from hitting his head on the steering wheel. He might have thought he saw his father and, for him, a delusion like that would be very real."

Philip considered Rachel's words before speaking. As much as they made sense to him, he couldn't get the image of Nick's eyes as he talked about seeing the apparition out of his mind. "If ya think he only imagined it," he asked Rachel, "why would he be claimin' so hard that it was Jonathan Boyle? Why wouldn't've been his friend that just died or somethin' more recent in his life -- if he's just imaginin' it?

Both Derek and Alex looked at Rachel, awaiting an answer to Philip's question. She slowly answered, "Well, even though he was upset over his friend's suicide, he seemed more upset -- at least to me -- about the conversation we were having about the deaths of the former Legacy members that Derek use to work with. And ...."

"... Jonathan Boyle was a member at that time," Derek finished for her, believing this explanation to be the only rational one. "I agree with Rachel. I know that Jonathan is dead -- William, Arthur and I were with him during that case -- and we all saw him die. However, for Nick, his turbulent relationship with his father is still ongoing. I can see now that he believes he saw Jonathan in that car -- and that Jonathan would have been trying to kill him ... given their history."

Philip accepted everything that was said; however, he still had a feeling that something other than Nick's anger and a stuck accelerator pedal caused the accident. He nodded his acceptance of the explanation to Derek and Rachel and then accompanied them into Nick's room.

* * * * * * *

Although the restraints had been removed and only the IV remained (which indicated that the patient would require another day or two in the hospital), the figure lying so still in the bed did not look as though his situation had improved. He turned to face the approaching figures and then quickly turned his head away. The hurt and pain-filled look in his eyes was not lost on any of his associates.

"Well," Rachel said, as cheerily as she could muster, "you're looking a lot better than last time we saw you." Nick, who had been staring at the ceiling, shut his eyes as Rachel asked him, "How're you feeling? Any better?" A full minute of silence followed the question and she looked at Derek, Alex and Philip to see if they could offer any help in this situation. Seeing their own lost expressions, she continued to try to coax Nick to talk to her. "C mon, Nick ... talk to me. I know you're angry at us for not believing you about the accident, but ...."

Nick's eyes popped open -- although the left one was still very swollen -- and he glared at Rachel as he spit out, "... but what?! You're sorry?!" His voice was raspy from the tube that had been in there, but the hatred in it was loud and clear. "I told you what happened ... all of you! ... and the only one of the group to believe me is the one that isn't with the group!" He winced from the pain in his ribs and lungs -- which both protested strongly at his outburst -- but continued through the pain. "There's nothin' left to say, Rachel. You didn't believe. It was easier for you and Derek and Alex to believe that I'd try to kill myself." He paused and then finished by saying, "Just get outta here."

Derek knew that the words spoken were both painful and heartfelt for everyone in the room. But, as Precept of the House, he couldn't allow Nick to digress any further. He walked to the side of the ex-SEAL's bed, made eye contact with the young man and then firmly said, "Enough. We are all sorry

for not believing you about the accident, Nick. But, if you remember, you weren't very calm or rational when you left the Legacy. The witnesses statements helped convince us that it might not have been an accident." Seeing the look of anguish in Nick's eyes, he softened his speech as he continued, "We were wrong for not trusting you, Nick ... and you have every right to be angry. But, it's time to put that behind you now. Now you need to concentrate on getting well! Understand?"

Nick shut his eyes to the words and the pain he was feeling -- both from his body and from the truth in the words -- and slowly nodded his head. He took several deep breaths and then asked, "So, you believe me about my old man then too, right?" He watched as a look clouded over Derek's face and felt his anger rise once more. "You do believe me -- don't you, Derek?!"

As gently as he could Derek tried to voice the explanation Rachel had expressed so perfectly to Philip earlier. However, the patient barely allowed him to begin before he exploded, "I don t believe this! I didn't dream 'im up ... I swear ... he tried to kill me!" Feeling as though his words were falling on deaf ears, he closed his eyes and sighed. "Just leave me alone," Nick quietly said. "I'm tired ... I really just wanna sleep right now. Could ya just leave me alone?!"

* * * * * * *

Alex and Philip waited in the Lobby while the doctors finished writing the necessary prescriptions and instructions that Nick needed in order to be released. The doctors were still unhappy about Nick's insistence that he be allowed to leave today and were dragging their heels as much as possible; they had wanted the patient to remain there at least another two to three days. Alex and Philip were equally unhappy about their friend's decision; they felt he needed more time -- not only for his body to heal, but also to get over his anger.

As Nick was being wheeled down the hall, Alex felt relieved to see that Nick at least looked better than two days ago when they had all seen him just after the restraints had been removed. He at least appeared to be making a good recovery. The look of discomfort and anger was evident in his eyes and on his face but, just knowing that she, Derek and Rachel had been wrong in their suspicions about the cause of Nick's accident made her feel better.

"Ready't go?" Philip asked Nick, patting him on the shoulder. Alex was grateful for his volunteering to go with her to pick Nick up. The angry words and hurt feelings that Nick had expressed towards Derek a few days ago had stopped the Precept from picking Nick up himself. As much as he had wanted to go, he felt that his presence would only further disturb Nick and he wanted to give him as much time as he needed.

"More than ready," Nick replied solemnly. He barely looked at Alex, still angry at her for not believing him about Jonathan. 'Dammit,' he thought to himself for the hundredth time since regaining consciousness. 'The Legacy deals with this stuff everyday! Why doesn't anyone believe me -- other than Philip? If they don't trust and believe in me, how am I suppose to trust

an' believe in them?!'

* * * * * * *

The ride to Angel Island and the Legacy House was made mostly in silence with only brief questions and answers about the medication Nick was to start taking "the minute they arrived", the weather and the condition of the water, and how long Philip was going to be "sticking around this time". Philip pulled Derek's Range Rover up in front of the door and started to get out to help Nick. "I can make it just fine," Nick announced as he opened the door, got out and headed toward the front door. Alex, however, followed closely on his heels as she watched him sway a little as he walked.

Mitchell had heard the car pulling around and opened the front door to greet Nick. "Welcome home, Mr. Boyle," he said, cheerily. "I trust you're feeling well?"

Although Nick knew that Mitchell was a very kind and caring soul and was only trying to be friendly, he vehemently replied, "I'm fine; and, Mitchell, don't call me 'Mr. Boyle' ... the name's 'Nick!'" Upon seeing the stricken look on the older man's face, he quickly apologized saying, "Sorry ... I ... well, the ride was a little rougher than I thought it would be. I think I just need to lie down."

"Of course," Mitchell said with kindness. "I'll get you some hot tea and a sandwich. I'm sure you must have some appetite after being served that horrendous hospital food. I'll bring it right up to you ... Nick."

Alex heard Nick sigh and knew that being back here was going to be just as tough on him as lying in the hospital had been. There was just no place where Nick could escape the demon -- or demons -- in his mind right now, and her heart went out to him. Noting that Nick was standing still ... as if indecisive of something ... Alex stated, "C mon. Let's get you upstairs and into bed. You're suppose to be starting this medication; the sooner you start it, the better you'll feel."

He turned and looked long and hard into Alex's face for the first time since his accident. Nick could tell that Alex was feeling uncomfortable because of the confrontation that had all had the other day. A part of him felt guilty for that; maybe, if he had been in their shoes, the truth would've been just as hard to believe -- he had left the House like a maniac behind the wheel. He reached out and touched her arm as he said, "I'm sorry, Alex. I know you're tryin' to help, but I'd really rather be alone right now."

The moment that Nick touched her, Alex's mind was overcome with a vision -- Nick was frantically swerving the wheel of his Mustang; the face of a man she had never seen before, sitting beside him with an evil grin; the Mustang soaring over an embankment. She shook her head and just caught the gist of Nick's words. She replied, "I'll leave you alone just as soon as I'm sure that you're settled in and had your medication." When she saw he was about to protest again, she firmly stated, "No arguments, Nick. Let's go."

Philip walked in just as Nick and Alex were rounding the stairs and heading to Nick's room. He saw Mitchell come out of the kitchen with a tray. "Are ya takin' that up't Nick?" he asked.

"Yes, Sir," Mitchell replied, a bit solemnly. "I thought he could use a hot cup of a tea and I prepared a sandwich for him in case he's hungry." He stopped at the bottom of the stairs and continued, "He's not looking very well -- is he, Father?"

"No," Philip replied, equally solemn. "I don't think he's doin' verra well, either." Before Mitchell could proceed up the stairs, Philip stopped him asking, "Mitchell, would ya mind takin' these bottles up with ya't Nick's room? They're his prescriptions and I'm sure that Alex is waitin' fer me't be bringin' 'em up there. I think I'll go in an' let Derek know that we're back. Is he in his office?"

"Yes, Sir," Mitchell replied. "Actually, he was hoping you would stop in and see him once you had Mr. Boy ... Nick ... settled in his room."

* * * * * * *

Philip walked into Derek's office even before awaiting permission to enter. Before Derek could ask, Philip sat down and stated, "Well, Alex is gettin' Nick settled up in his room right now, but you were right ... the doctor's didn't want 'im't leave just yet. He was pretty quiet all the way

home an' I think some of it's 'cause'o the way he's feelin' and some of it's cause he's still angry."

"Yes," Derek said, with compassion in his voice, "I'm sure both are true. But he's home and that's the first step to getting past all this." Derek could sense that something was troubling Philip ... and he knew that he probably didn't want to hear what it was. But, he asked anyway, "What's troubling you, Philip? Is it Nick ... or is it because we don't believe Nick about Jonathan causing the accident?"

Philip had walked in planning to confront his mentor and friend but, having seen the look of concern on the Precept's face, he had backed down. Now, being challenged to express his feelings, Philip burst out, "Why is it so impossible't believe that Nick's tellin' the truth? The Legacy deals with these things ever'day, Derek. He turned't you -- t'us -- knowin' we'd believe

'im ... and then it ends up that I'm the only one that does!"

Derek had seen this conversation coming for the past few days, so he was prepared. He calmly responded, "Philip ... I saw Jonathan Boyle die with my own eyes. He couldn't possibly have been in that car with Nick."

"I'm not talkin' about his 'Earthly' body, Derek," Philip retorted. "I'm talkin' about the essence -- the spirit o'the man! He and Nick had a volatile relationship. Doesn't it make sense that if he did manage't come back somehow, he'd be goin' after Nick?!"

"But how? ... why? ... for what purpose, could he have come back?" Derek questioned. He took a deep, calming breath and then continued, "Jonathan obviously had his personal problems -- of which had been totally unaware -- but he spent his life ... in fact, he gave his life ... fighting Satan and the forces of darkness. What would possibly bring him back after all this time?" He paused and then reiterated, "No. I firmly believe that Nick imagined seeing Jonathan in the car with him."

At that precise moment, Alex entered the room. Catching the last part of the conversation, she quickly commented, "I'm not so sure, Derek." She watched as he turned a stunned face towards her and waited for her to proceed. "Just before I helped Nick up to his room -- oh, I do have him settled in bed, by the way ... at least for the moment! Anyway, he reached out to touch me and I had these visions ..."

"What kind of visions?" Derek asked. "Of the accident?

"I think so," Alex answered, hesitantly. "but I'm not sure. They weren't very clear, but I'd almost swear that it was from the accident."

"What exactly did you see?" Derek pursued, as he sat behind his desk. Several times, whenever Alex had received a vision or a "sight" manifestation, Derek had found that, if he sat still and concentrated on her words, he too could see what she was "seeing". He listened carefully now, trying to clear his mind.

"Well," she began, "I saw Nick struggling with the wheel of a car; I think it was his Mustang, but I really couldn't see it clearly. Then -- I saw the image of this man; I know I've never seen him before -- but he had this look of hatred or evil ... I don't know ... but he had this horrible expression on his face. He was sitting in the car next to Nick! The only other thing I 'saw' was Nick's Mustang going over the embankment."

As hard as he tried, Derek was unable to "see" the vision that Alex was describing. This frustrated the Precept because, ever since Nick had shared the painful truth with him about Jonathan's abusing both him and Miranda, Derek had felt guilty -- guilty for never stopping to notice his friend's drinking problem; guilty for never paying much attention to the family his

associate had; guilty because he had envied Jonathan his relationship with Miranda and the birth of his son! Now, years later, to find that Jonathan had abused all that he had been given ... and Derek had never realized it so that he could have put a stop to it ... was a painful revelation to the Dutchman.

He noticed both Philip and Alex staring at him intently and he cleared his throat before saying, "What you're describing, Alex, could be what Nick believes happened; you're probably seeing what he has convinced himself he saw." He saw the skeptical look on her face begin to fade. He strongly reiterated, "I know that Jonathan is a painful subject to Nick, but Rachel was right earlier ... we were discussing him before Nick took off. I am convinced that the blows he suffered to his head made his mind manifest Jonathan's appearance -- and his guilt."

Rachel walked in, apologizing for being late and listened intently to the last part of Derek's statement. She added to it by stating, "... and, the reason why I'm joining you late is because I just got off the phone with Nick's doctors. They still feel that he has a mild concussion and not only needs constant attention, but that he may imagine things as well. They're equally convinced that any recollection he has of the accident is probably sketchy at best. He had to have imagined seeing the image of his father."

Philip rose from his seat and began to pace in the Precept's small office. He still couldn't believe that no one else in the group would even consider Nick's theory of how the accident occurred; he realized he hadn't witnessed Nick's behavior before the accident, but he had witnessed the fear

and apprehension in his friend's eyes when he talked about it. "Well then," Philip stated, matter-of-factly, "I guess I'm the only one that's gonna be believin' 'im then!" With that, he walked out of the room, up the stairs and into his own room.

Alex felt torn between the vision she had seen and Derek's rational explanation of it. Finally, she concluded, "Philip is right about one thing, Derek. Nick truly believes that his father was the cause of his accident. And, if we don't at least allow for that possibility, he's not going to trust us or open up to us ... about anything!"

"Yes," Derek agreed. "I'm aware of that, Alex. And, for Nick's sake, I would prefer not to discuss the circumstances of his accident." He paused and then added as an after-thought, "You know, if Jonathan had really tried to kill Nick as Nick claims ... why hasn't he 'appeared' again to finish the job?! No, I think the best thing we can do for Nick right now is to move forward ... begin our investigation into this case and try to involve him wherever we can."

"I agree," Rachel chimed in. "The sooner Nick starts putting his mind on other things, the sooner he'll fully recover from this. Did you inform Sloan about the delay?"

Derek quickly recalled the conversation he'd had and how understanding William had been. "Yes," he answered. "He told us to take our time -- he wants a thorough job done and is willing to be patient. He's naturally concerned that if there is some kind of 'unholy connection' between these deaths that Felix Black, Arthur Peterson, William or myself could be the next target."

* * * * * * *

At dinner that evening, conversation was held to a minimum. Although Alex, Rachel and Derek felt like discussing theories, possibilities and assignments to research regarding Monroe Starr's death, they did not feel comfortable doing so with Philip in such a serious state of mind. He had

barely spoken when he sat to join them for dinner and now was only pushing the food around on his plate. Finally, Alex asked, "Philip ... are you alright?"

"No," he answered simply. "I'm not alright. I'm not alright with me bein' the only one't be believin' Nick! If ya could just give me one good reason why ya don't believe 'im, maybe I'd understand. But, just because Nick drove off in a bad mood and Jonathan Boyle is dead, doesn't mean it couldn't've happened the way he said it did."

Derek sat in silence thinking of the irony of the situation. Often, he found himself mediating over an argument between Philip and Nick ... and often he was taking Philip's side in those arguments. Now, here was Philip, taking Nick's side against Derek in a situation where Derek and Nick didn't agree! He smiled to himself thinking how like himself his two younger associates were ... stubborn and opinionated!

He responded by stating that, "If Jonathan had returned from beyond the grave to hurt or kill Nick, why hasn't he re-appeared. Nick is still alive! If he were trying to injure or kill his son and had overcome death to do it, I don't think he'd be delaying any further attacks right now, do you?" He knew that he had at least made some headway with Philip and decided to leave his comments there.

Continued on the next page...