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Hide and Seek by TalgoM
After dinner the house settled in to its normal evening activities. Kristin worked on a standing case, while Alex continued the process of entering the recent cases into the database for review by the Ruling House. Nick kept scanning the yards and house through the security monitors hoping to see something that would lead him to the intruding spirit which had invaded their sanctuary. In the library Philip was gathering texts to aid him on the process tomorrow of the translation. Derek and Tangye were working in his office on training her with her abilities. Meanwhile Kat and Rachel had returned home for the night.
"This isn't getting me anywhere." Nick groaned sliding away from the control panel in his chair. "The things here somewhere but it's not doing anything."
"Please don't sound so disappointed when you say that." Alex reprimanded throwing him a knowing look. She would take a playful spirit over what they normally drew to the house any day. If this entity, whatever it was, was content to play games and make a few messes she could live with that, she didn't want Nick going off and trying to goad it out of hiding.
"I just want to know what the thing is doing, no surprises unless they're mine." Nick rubbed at his eyes but didn't miss the look that both women with him threw in his direction. "I'm gonna take a break, you two want anything from the kitchen?"
"I've had the strangest urge for cookies all day." Kristin said with laughter lacing her voice. Nick shook his head and slightly rolled his eyes for her.
"I'll take that as a no." Nick responded leaving the room and the two women enjoying an outburst of laughter. He had to admit to himself how good it was to hear Alex's laughter again. For the past few weeks she had come across as brooding and almost moody, which Nick knew was even more pronounced to the other members of the house. For the most part he held the title for brooding so it was easier for him to overlook. He entered the library but it looked to be empty so he started to make his way to the door.
"Nick, hold on." He spun around to find Philip coming down the spiral staircase to the second level. He hadn't even noticed the priest up there rummaging through his precious books.
"I'm going to get some coffee, you want some?" Nick asked indifferently, not really wanting to be alone in a room with his friend. He had faced the realization that he had been treating Philip unfairly for a long time but wasn't sure what he could do about it now. Nor was he sure he wanted to do anything. Philip was planning to leave again; Nick hadn't missed the bags stacked in his room all day. He wondered to himself why he should bother facing any of the emotions between them if Philip was just going to walk out of their lives again. But Nick also had to admit how badly it hurt when Philip wasn't around, how something felt to be missing all the time. He just didn't know what to do, how much of himself he was willing to invest when whatever he got back would be short lived.
"Actually I saw earlier tha' there were a few stouts in there, would you mind sharin'?" Philip's voice was hesitant, not sure what Nick's reaction to the suggestion might be. Nick's mind immediately clicked back to the memories of the two of them taking time out from work to share a drink and talk. He remembered occasions when those few minutes stretched in to the early morning hours, when one or two drinks turned into countless many more. He knew that he was more guilty of that behavior then Philip ever had been. But even when Nick's words grew slurred and he became obnoxious; Philip had stuck by him. He tolerated all of it with a divine patience which Nick had found in no one else. He had allowed their talks to continue even when Nick was hard to understand or failing to make sense entirely.
Nick flashed over those memories in an instant and hated the wrenching loss it brought to his stomach. Finally his mind settled on one particular night. It would have been his father's fifty-fourth birthday so images of the man had been playing through Nick's head all day. He had chosen to avoid contact with everyone for the day rather then allow his mood to affect them or more truthfully allow the chance that one of the psychics might recognize the events Nick was trapped in. Philip had found him just after sunset working out in the lawn a ways from the house. He held two bottles of stout and said he had plenty more waiting for them. Philip had been right when he said that, but never expected to watch Nick tear through them so quickly. Nick recalled getting agitated suddenly in a drunken haze and throwing a bottle against the wall. He had yelled a few curses to his father and then asked Philip why he still couldn't escape, why he was still losing time in his life to the man even seven years after his death? Philip hadn't understood at first so Nick allowed himself the outpouring of details. He told Philip everything, how his father would beat him up for making too much noise in the house. How he'd hit his mother and then Nick for trying to stop him. How he'd leave Nick alone in the house for hours at end when he still hadn't started school. How he drank himself blind in the same chair night after night. But mainly he had focused on the beatings, describing his father's favorite methods, the series of lies that were told. He could see Philip on the verge of tears at what he was listening to, saw the instinct in him to reach out and help somehow. The last thing Nick recalled was telling about the day that had Derek arrived to tell them he was dead. How he had gone down to his father's chair with one of the many guns in the house. How he planned to ruin the chair and take some small pleasure away from his father. The next morning Philip told him he had passed out around one; hours still before the confession, that he had dreamed the whole thing. After that though Nick had in many ways hoped to actually get that night back, to really get to shed the lies and let someone else know the depths of hell he'd endured, and he knew it had to be Philip he told, Philip would understand.
"I don't guess that would be a problem." Nick mumbled, feeling dread settle in his stomach. He wanted to unload his baggage but wasn't sure he was really ready when faced with the chance to do so.
They went down to the kitchen in silence, neither sure how to begin, what to apologize for first. Philip opened his bottle taking a seat at the table. He passed the bottle opener to Nick who hopped up on the counter to keep a safe distance between them. "So, how's the translation coming?"
"Nick, you have to know I never meant to hurt you by leavin'." Philip responded deciding to dispense with small talk and get right to the point, he kept his blue eyes locked on the label of the bottle afraid to see Nick's reaction.
"You didn't, you disappointed me. You let the team down." Nick answered back quickly, knowing that his words were a lie.
"The rest of the team forgave me, can't you?" Philip waited for an answer, afraid of what it might be.
"You remember when you came back with the thing holding Joshua Cantwell's ashes? You were depressed over your brother's death understandably. When you came back that time I realized how much a part of the house you were, how everyone seemed more alive when you walked in the door. I was ready to forgive you then. I went to your room with two bottles of stout." He looked down at the brown bottle in his hands. "And you pushed me away." Nick looked up at his friend who stared back with eyes full of regret over a moment that had meant so much to Nick.
"I didn' think you'd understan'." Nick looked away quickly as though something Philip had said managed to hit him physically.
"That's the difference between us. I always kinda figured you'd understand anything. Sorry I never gave you cause to believe that." Nick slid off the counter and went to the other side of the island not certain how to continue.
"Nick you don' have anythin' to apologize for. I know you have a lot of misdirected anger." Philip stood up trying to calm him down some but when he spun around Philip knew he had said the wrong thing just by the fire in his eyes.
"Misdirected anger? That's what you think this is? What just predictable old Nick overreacting once again? That's not it at all. You deserve this. You deserve it Philip. Maybe the others can forgive you but maybe someone should stay on as a reminder of what you betrayed. You should have been here Philip, you promised us that." Nick yelled, squaring his shoulders off and resuming his full height, which still wasn't anywhere near Philip's. Yet the look in his eyes was clear enough warning that size aside Nick could do some damage.
"Nick I know I said an oath but " Philip tried to plead for reason.
"But what? She's dead Philip, I lost her and you should have been there. You promised to be there." Nick slammed the bottle down on the counter top and it shattered spilling Guinness and glass over the floor. "Dammit."
"Nick are you " Philip rounded to the other side of the island to check Nick as he turned away holding his right hand tightly closed. Philip had known it was coming, the driving force behind so much of the anger Nick directed at him, at the world. He had lost Julia before he even really had the chance to realize he had her. Nick would never forgive himself for that, and therefore couldn't forgive anyone else who could carry some of the blame.
"I'm fine." Nick snapped. "This was stupid Philip, the damage is done, we can't go back now." Philip was sure he heard some mourning in Nick's voice, proof that he didn't want to let go.
"Maybe you're right. I'm sorry Nick, for everythin'." Philip gave in, not wanting to push Nick any further away, not knowing how bad hearing him give up hurt the Ex-SEAL.
"Tell Derek I went on a run if you see him." Philip nodded mutely as Nick quickly exited the kitchen. Philip looked sadly down at the remains of Nick's stout and his mind flashed back to another moment. Back to a time when Nick's anger was predominantly directed at one man, before so many others had come along to earn their own share. Philip hadn't had any idea what he was getting himself into when he invited Nick to drink with him after his day of solitude. He just had a sense that something was going on with his friend and he deserved a chance to talk about it. He had watched in impressed silence as Nick slammed down stout after stout. Listened as the voice lost some clarity but also grew a distinct edge. He had watched the outburst brew until Nick was pacing the room and then suddenly threw a bottle into the wall. After that Nick's anger lost to his pain. He explained to Philip every way his father had hurt him, told him how those injuries were things he still carried with him. How he always had to prove himself strong, taking up impossible tasks and succeeding all for the benefit of a dead man. Philip had never guessed at any such thing happening in Nick's twenty-three years, especially nothing that lasted for sixteen of those years. He had always known Nick was troubled about something from his past, but assumed it had to do with the SEALS which he worked so hard to join and then quit so suddenly. To think that a man once a member of this house and a friend of Derek's had done such things horrified Philip. To think that it was his best friend that had endured them sickened him. Finally Nick had told Philip of his decision to commit suicide as a last ditch effort for freedom. How if Derek had arrived five minutes later his father would have won. For the first time since Philip had known him he watched Nick cry and nothing could have broken his heart more. It was then that Philip realized he had been given another brother, a younger brother who it was his responsibility to watch over as Michael watched over him. As he sneaked back downstairs to clean up the evidence he decided Nick would be much too uncomfortable around him if he thought Philip knew his secret and that he would lie and tell Nick he passed out much earlier. While he disposed of the shattered bottle in the trashcans out back Philip had sworn to himself that he would never allow Nick to be hurt like that again, anyone wanting to hurt his little brother would have to go through him first.
Or be him. Philip thought with a sigh as he threw away the shards of glass, his mind returning to the present. How had it happened? He wondered. How had it become that he was the one now causing Nick a pain that he had to live with? He pushed the trash can back into its place with a weary sigh and left the kitchen, wondering if everyone was wrong who insisted that things were salvageable. Perhaps there was no reconciliation that could be made.
Derek waited until the house was silent before he left his office. He had told Philip to go to bed and allow the box to wait until morning so he might have some time with it undisturbed. Tangye's arguments at dinner had made sense, the Legacy had in it's possession no artifacts directly linked to any of the Greek God's, nothing they had made or owned to prove their existence sprung from anything other then a cultures mind and need. Still if such proof existed it would make perfect sense that the object they would find would be the mythical Pandora's Box. It was given to a human to bring to earth, if the myth was true, they could uncover it. Derek had to hope that the artifact on the library table would prove to be it.
He turned on a few lights over the table and saw the box. Plain and simple, but possibly holding the answer to so many questions. Possibly, as Tangye pointed out, full of hope. That thought had not escaped Derek; he remembered his mythology well enough to recall what was supposedly left in the box when Pandora did get it closed. He had discovered so many artifacts to prove the validity of a Christian god, if he could prove the existence of the Greek's family of gods the implications would be endless. He touched the box gently hoping for it to be true. He knew that the chances were slim but if Winston Rayne had taught him nothing else it was never to give up until the truth was revealed. Derek would not shed his hopes until the moment came that he had no choice. He pulled back his hand with a sigh, they would know soon enough.
It hadn't been the easiest of tasks to manage to get Nick into his own room for the night without drawing suspicion but she knew she wouldn't have been able to sneak away in the middle of the night to conduct her search otherwise. He hadn't been a particularly good mood anyway as far as she could tell and her rejection hadn't done much to help that. She promised that she would figure out a way to make it up to him, but for now one task had her attention.
She slowly opened the door to her room and checked the hallway for any signs or sounds of life, but found none. She reached out as Derek had taught her to and found each of the members of the house easily, all of them already in bed and appearing to be asleep. By a system of deduction she managed to locate the one stray spirit that shouldn't have been in the house. She let her door stay open using it as a light to guide her down the stairs. She made her way quietly to the basement door and opened it slowly hoping that didn't creak and disturb the silence of the night.
She closed it behind her once she was through and flipped the light switch by the door on. The harsh flood of yellow light blinded her for a moment and she stood still at the top of the stairs until her eyes adjusted to the light. After several moments she finally decided she could proceed. As soon as she reached the bottom of the stairs the light voice reached her ears.
"See Angie, I told you no one would find us. We're the best hiders there are. No one ever finds us." Tangye smiled sadly to hear the proclamation from the young voice. "The adults just aren't good at this game. They'll never find us."
"That so?" Tangye broke into the words the little girl was delivering to the doll clutched to her small chest. She jumped slightly to see the woman leaning against the wall not far from where she sat in the corner cross-legged on the floor. Her deep brown eyes met to look at the woman with soft brown hair and beautiful blue gold eyes leaning casually with one leg crossed over the other. Her pretty face was graced with a large grin directed completely at the child.
"You can see us?" She asked, her disappointment obvious.
"Yup, and I know what you've been doing too." She crossed to the little girl and sat in front of her, pulling her legs up against her chest. "What I don't know is your name." Tangye stated matter-of-factly.
"Erin Danielle Baker." She said proudly.
"And who's this?" Tangye reached out and gestured to the doll Erin held.
"This is Angie Michelle. She's my best friend in the whole world." She said pulling the doll closer still and placing a kiss on top of it's blonde head. "Who are you?"
"Well my name is Tangye." She noticed the way the little girl looked at her expectantly and recalled that both the introductions she'd received had been full names. "Tangye Mauveen Gaarlihn." The little girl scrunched up her miniature nose at her name. "I know, it's a strange name. You can call me Tangye if that's easier." She said with an approving nod and grin.
"I don't think I could say your other names." Erin stated disappointed. "Why are they so funny?"
"Family names." Tangye responded with a shrug, it wasn't the first time someone had pointed out that her name was difficult or odd. "My great-grandpa's name was Charles Mauvus, I was named for him."
"Oh. My grandpa was great too you know." Erin said proudly. Tangye chuckled slightly at the child's confusion over what she meant by the title but decided not to bother to try to explain. At that age family matters were of little interest, especially ancestors too old to be known.
"That's good." Tangye nodded.
"You know now you're 'it.'" Erin stated, though she still didn't seem too pleased that she had been found in the first place.
"Am I now? So do I have to hide or seek?" Tangye inquired playing along.
"I really like to hide, so I can do that again." She smiled excited that someone was willing to bend the rules and let her continue to play her favorite side of the game. She started to get up to run off to find a new spot to hide. Her face looked so alive when the smile passed over it. Tangye tried to hide the pain she felt seeing the little girl look so happy but wasn't sure it was working. She knew something Erin didn't and she wasn't sure how to explain it to one so young.
"Okay, but how about we sit here for a few minutes and get to know each other?" Tangye hoped she would agree. She knew the girl was capable of leaving the house in her game and didn't want to lose this chance to talk to her when she didn't know how long it would be until she located her again, or when she could do so without drawing attention to herself.
"I guess that's alright." She slumped back to sit on her legs, which were folded underneath her tiny frame now. Erin looked down at Angie as though she was saying something then turned her bright eyes back up at Tangye. "Angie says you're very pretty."
"Well thank you Angie, you're very pretty too. And I like your name." Tangye addressed the doll that Erin held.
"It's a lot like yours, they sound the same. That's called rhyming, mommy taught me that." Her smile was genuine and full of pleasure that she got to share her knowledge.
"That's right, Erin. Can you tell me what you're doing on the island?" The girl nodded vigorously and erupted into her story.
"I came with my mommy and daddy for a picnic here. Daddy has a friend who works on the island. I even got to hold a baby up in this big house. He was really little and his daddy was afraid that I'd drop him, but mommy had me show him how well I hold Angie and he let me. I had to sit in a chair but it was still really neat. Mommy says that he was only a couple of months old, that's really young, cuz I'm six and that's not little anymore." Her speech was quick and reflected how excited she was by all the events that had taken place on the island.
"Nope it's not. You're probably already in school aren't you?" She nodded. Tangye was being drawn in by the excitable little girl, forgetting the horrible truth that was behind it all.
"I'm in first grade now, we're learning to write and read and add. I can even write my own name now." Tangye laughed slightly but there was nothing mean behind it, just her enjoyment of the child. "Last year I only went to school half a day but now I go like the big kids, all day. Recess is the best though." She finished with a nod.
"It always was." She realized that she had been distracted. "Erin can you tell me more about the visit to the island, what else happened?" A thought suddenly hit her. "Do you remember the name of your daddy's friend? The one with the baby?" The child's nose scrunched up in thought and finally she shook her head. Tangye wasn't sure how else to figure out when the child was on the island but to identify what Legacy member was the man in question.
She looked up a bright smile on her face. "The baby, I know his name though."
"Really? What was it?" Tangye wasn't sure it would be any help unless she also remembered a last name but it was the best she could hope for.
"Um, Nicholas Patrick." Tangye had already noticed the child's penchant for referring to people by their full names but was still surprised to hear the name she said. This innocent child was only about ten years older then her but had never been given a chance to explore the last thirty years of what should have been her life. She imagined her holding the infant Nick and couldn't keep the smile from her face. She had never seen so much as picture of Nick as a baby but she received a clear enough image from Erin. His face was soft and white; it lacked the hardness that the years had written upon it. His hair was light brown and little more then fuzz along his head, his hazel eyes so full of an innocence the man hadn't been able to hold onto. He was a beautiful baby and the thought brought a smile onto her face.
She forced herself to focus again on the situation at hand. "What happened after that? You got to hold Nick " She began to lead Erin on but was quickly cut off.
"Nicholas Patrick." Erin corrected exasperated that Tangye would refer to him by a nickname.
"Right, Nicholas Patrick. So you got to hold him, then what happened?"
"We had a picnic, me, mommy, daddy, Nicholas Patrick, his mommy and daddy. Then I played hide and seek. Mommy couldn't find me anywhere, daddy says I'm the best hider there is. No one ever finds me, except you." She said again showing her disappointment. "I found this tree and I hid behind the leaves. It was hard not to laugh when mommy was right below me but she couldn't see me. Then I heard her say we had to leave, I waited until she was gone though to come down. I didn't want her to see my hiding place in case we came back. I dropped Angie, then " Again her tiny nose scrunched up, deep in thought. "I kept playing." She smiled, her innocence and youth masking the truth of what had happened to her.
But Tangye knew, she heard the limb break underneath her, felt her reach for the lost doll and then there was the sensation of falling, a fall that made Tangye shudder and jerk back. She took a few deep breaths trying to calm herself and fight off the horror of the memory she had found in the girl's mind. She bit down hard on her bottom lip to keep it from trembling. She wanted to reach out and hold the child but knew that wasn't possible, and didn't want to show the little girl that she could no longer be held. She forced a smile on her face.
"I see you got Angie back, that's good." Erin nodded happily, hugging her doll all the tighter.
"Now I'm gonna hide and you have to find me again." Erin jumped up and started to run before Tangye could protest. Tangye hadn't even had the chance to turn around or say anything when the sense of the child vanished from the basement and, near as Tangye could tell, the house as well. She slammed her hand down onto the dirt-covered floor of the basement.
Philip had tried to get some sleep but too many things were running through him for his head to allow rest. He had finally given up and decided to work on the translation. He made sure to make as little noise as possible when he passed by the sleeping quarters and kept only a scarce few lights on to read by. He had been there just under ten minutes when the lights overhead were suddenly turned on blinding him.
"Oh my God I'm sorry Philip." Tangye's voice blurted out her apology when she saw the priest sitting across the room, his hand now shading his eyes. "I was sure everyone was asleep."
"No' quite." Philip said with a small laugh as he looked up to where she stood in the door still dressed from the day despite the late hour. "Why aren't you?"
"Oh, um, I couldn't?" She asked with a small wince praying he would accept the answer when she wasn't able to formulate a better excuse. She had hoped use the control room to learn some things about Erin Baker without drawing suspicion as she would in the day but that idea now was shot.
"Are you alright, do you wan' to talk?" He asked concerned.
"No, I'm fine. No bad dreams for this girl." She joked sliding on the table to sit beside the box he was studying. "I thought Derek gave you a stay of execution and said you could do this tomorrow."
"He did, but I, ah, 'couldn't' sleep either so I thought I'd get somethin' done." She nodded picking up the box and studying it, looking for some way that it might open. Philip stood up and leaned against the table beside her also looking at the box. "It is pretty, plain and simple but a good find none the less." She looked up at him, surprised to hear such a confession from him.
"That it is. But you don't really think ?" She looked back down at the box weighing it with her right hand, bouncing it there and making Philip instantly nervous that she would drop it.
"That it is Pandora's? No." He said with a shake of his head taking it away from her and placing it carefully on the table. He didn't really believe it but with the luck the Legacy had he still wanted to be careful with the artifact. "So were you looking for something to read?"
"Huh? Oh, library, right. Yeah, sort of." She said with a quick grin to hide the on guard answer that she gave to Philip's simple question. "But maybe we could just talk instead. You don't mind do you?"
"No, no' at all." He had a good sense of what she wanted to talk about. He had already noticed that whenever she entered a conversation with a planned topic she always gave a person an out right at the beginning. If she really had wanted to just chat she wouldn't have bothered with that question. He was sure that she had run into Nick by now and probably noticed his mood. She didn't need to be a telepath to know that Philip was probably the only one that could put him in that humor.
"So you're leaving?" She saw the surprised look on his face. "You left your door open, it was hard to overlook the suitcases." She explained. "So, when?"
"A few more days. But fer now I'm still assigned to San Francisco so I won' be far." He tried to make the blow come easier with that but when her eyes fell on him he could see that she knew he wasn't being completely honest.
"But you won't visit. I'll miss you Philip." She patted his hand where it rested beside hers.
"I'll miss you to, but I will come back. I have some matters I still need to settle here." He said his voice sounding far away and disappointed.
"Named Nick." Tangye said with a nod. Philip looked over at her, not at all surprised by her ability to know exactly what he meant. Over the past several weeks he had several encounters with her, when she would linger in the library while he worked and occasionally just blurt out something knowing it would engage Philip in conversation. They had talked on those occasions about religion, philosophy, ancient societies, and their own histories. He recalled how her face lit up like a child's receiving a wrapped gift every time he started to talk about Ireland, how she pressed for vivid details. And he had enjoyed giving her that gift of a country she had never seen but her family originated from.
"Tangye, he can be verra strong but hurt verra easily. I'm afraid lately I've been the one doin' the hurtin'." Philip admitted with regret.
"It's different, you aren't doing it because it's fun or gives you a thrill. You're doing what you have to do." She consoled but it didn't do much good.
"I could stay." Philip responded to her.
"And then in a few weeks Nick hates himself for forcing you to do something that isn't right for you and it starts all over again. He wants to be mad and he's gonna be." She said with a shrug though it hurt her to admit such a thing about the man she had grown to care about so much.
"I suppose there's a truth to that." He took a seat at the table again, concentrating his attention once again on the box in front of him.
"What was he like before?" She asked quietly her mind racing with thoughts.
"As a child? I didn' know him. I met Nick shortly after he turned twenty-two. Derek was tryin' to get him to join the Legacy but he was really against it for a long time." Philip remembered those days and asking Derek many times why it had become so important that the hotheaded, impulsive ex-SEAL join the house. Derek had said that he couldn't explain it but he was sure that Nick was meant to be there. That he remembered him as a boy who got in trouble on a daily basis with his father, yet still Robert had spoken of his child as though he were perfect. Years later Derek would learn of the difference with which Nick was treated and spoken of. Philip's first response to Nick was to view him as a risk, the way he always went into things headfirst concerned them all and was a distraction. Until after awhile they learned it was not his head Nick lead with but his heart. Somehow they had all taken that better and Nick grew to be an integral part of their house.
"No, just before. Was there ever a time, when he could just be happy?" She questioned hesitantly not sure if she should even be asking such a thing.
"Nick? I'm no' sure he ever gave himself tha'." Philip answered trying to place a moment when he remembered Nick's face absolutely soft. With Julia at times it had almost been that way but then he would see something in the back of his eyes that reminded Philip of the lingering pain still inside.
"What do you think it would take? To make Nick really happy?" She tried to make the question sound innocent but Philip could tell she was formulating plans.
"I'm no' sure there is anything." Philip answered sadly, hating what that said about his friend.
"You're not sure Nick can be happy? I hope you're wrong." She looked down at the ground in front of her, thinking.
"Why? Did you have something in mind?" Philip looked up at her, drawing her attention back.
"No such luck." She said turning her stunning eyes on Philip and slightly biting down on her lower lip formulating the best words. "But the more time I spend with him, the more he overshadows everything else. The more the idea of making him happy becomes more important then anything. Like if I do it I'll have succeeded. Like that would just be enough." Philip smiled at her and reached over for her hand, which she freely turned over to him.
"It's still very new." He told her sympathetically.
"I know and it terrifies me to think it could just get worse with time. But it won't go away. I'll find a way, because I think he wants me to." She finished with a reassuring nod approving of her own line of thinking.
"I'm glad to hear you say tha'. Jus' remember tha' he'll surprise you sometimes. Something will set him off that seems really insignificant. A comment made in passin'." Tangye looked up at him with a fond smile as he began to set forth the warnings. She had been waiting for someone to come up to her and give her a good 'how to handle' Nick lecture, and for some reason she was pleased to see it was Philip. She had hoped he'd step up to protect Nick.
"I know what you're doing Father, and let me just say, no way in hell I'm hurting him. He won." She said with a shrug.
"Won what?" Philip asked surprised by the statement.
"The prize. If he wants it." She said it so casually that he didn't take her words to be at all egotistical it was just an image she had picked to make her point clear. He didn't voice the thought he had that she was indeed a prize. He stood up and pulled her into a tight hug that took her off guard, but it was a gesture that she understood the need for. His needing to hug someone was not in an effort to thank her, but to gain some comfort himself. She rubbed his back gently and whispered to him softly.
"You'll fix things, I'll do whatever I can to help. You won't lose another brother." Somehow the reassurance from her musical voice held a power it didn't from anyone else. He knew she wouldn't give up until Nick was happy and neither believed he would be as long as he had so much anger directed at his best friend. That would have to be solved for Tangye to succeed, for Nick to gain happiness and Philip peace.
He stepped away from her, glad that he had not given into the instinct to cry. He looked at her face and read no pity there, nor any anger for the pain he had accidentally caused. Her blue gold eyes looked only on with determination, set to helping remedy the problem plaguing her new family. "I should let you work on this thing. Let me know if you get it open and hopes released." She said with a grin hoping down from the table. "Or if it starts playing music."
"Why do you say tha'?" Philip was taken back by her odd comment.
"Look at it. What does it say to you? It screams music box to me." She left Philip staring at the box and retreated back to her room. At the door she paused looking off down the hall to where Nick was sleeping. She reflected on the mood he had been in when he went to bed and knew his slumber would not be pleasant. She slipped into her room and quickly changed into her silk pajamas. She flipped the light off as she left and padded down the hall in the dark. She slowly pushed open Nick's door and the moonlight from outside was showering down upon his restless form tangled in the sheets. She carefully shut the door and crossed over to the bed, sitting down on it on the side closer to Nick. She reached out and gently brushed his hair away from his sweaty forehead. At first he didn't wake but a pleased smile came to his face wiping away the grimace of pain that had been there. She leaned over and kissed his forehead and that succeeded in rousing him.
"Tan?" He mumbled in his half conscious state.
"Right here Boyle." She continued to stroke his hair as he came awake.
"I thought ?" He asked confused that she would appear in the middle of the night. Not that he wasn't glad, her presence was a comfort for him away from the memories he had been facing in his dreams. More then that though he just missed having her close.
"I made a mistake. That bed in there is just huge without you hogging it. Can you forgive me?" He caught her hand in his when she went to brush his hair back again. She looked at his hand surprised but as soon as she felt him tug on it she allowed him to guide her down to his lips. He kissed her deeply as though to reassure himself that she was even there. She wasn't some dream that one of the monsters from his past would burst in to destroy just as another means of hurting him. He needed for Tangye to be real, and the taste of her lips and her own growing need attached to the kiss assured him that she was. She climbed up into the bed; one hand still locked with Nick's the other on the pillow beside his head to serve as support. She felt his free hand begin to slid up her the curve of her back and then around her waist. Holding her there he pushed slightly up forcing her to roll over onto her back. Nick didn't allow the kiss to halt for a moment and just followed her over, both of his hands now finding their way to her waist. He started to move them up, his thumbs brushing against the bare skin of her flat stomach.
Finally Nick broke the kiss and drew a deep breath looking down at her below him. "All's forgiven." He noticed the way her chest continued to rise and fall in a quick pattern and couldn't help but smile. "Too fast?" He asked playfully.
"Way fast." She nodded closing her eyes to focus on calming herself. "But way good." She whispered, opening one eye to catch Nick's expression. Nick laughed for a moment at that admission and cupped her chin in his hand. He leaned down, delivering one more passionate kiss that both allowed to linger longer then first intended. Once he pulled back he drew her tightly into his arms and both gave into the need for sleep; Nick more certain he could face what waited for him there.
Philip sat in the library the next morning when the others came down. As Derek passed the room Philip issued a small announcing cough to draw the precepts attention. Derek looked in the room wondering what Philip was already doing up, yet wandering around still in what he slept in. "I have somethin' you don't want to see."
"About the box?" Derek asked anxiously hoping for an answer to that mystery.
"No' quite." Philip slid the book in front of him across the table so Derek could have a better look. The page it was open to had an old illustration on one side, an illustration covered in sloppy crayon marks.
"Kat wouldn't " Derek began astonished but noticed the shake of Philip's head.
"She didn't. I was using this last night to work on the translation. I left the room for a few minutes to get some coffee and came back to find this done. Not just on that page either. I'm sorry Derek." Philip glanced down with shame. Derek couldn't believe he was actually apologizing for the destruction of the old manuscript when there was clearly nothing he could have done. Derek patted him fondly on the shoulder.
"Don't be. Let Nick know so he can look at the video before we leave this morning. How's the translation going?" Derek asked setting down his coffee to look at the box.
"Actually I barely started, I decided to carbon date it first." Philip said drawing a surprised stare from his mentor. "Something I just thought should be done." He said with a shrug.
"It should, thank you. Have you had breakfast?" Philip shook his head, not admitting that he also hadn't really had any sleep either. "Come downstairs in a few minutes and get something." He started out of the room and then turned back to Philip. "You don't happen to know Tangye's favorite color do you?"
Philip looked up with a grin, knowing that Derek was thinking of her upcoming birthday the next day. He again shook his head just as a voice spoke from behind Derek. "Midnight Blue." Derek turned to look at Nick who entered with a cup of coffee in his hand. He crossed the table and glanced at the book laid upon it. "Philip I really thought you'd stay in the lines better." Nick teased.
"Funny. Why don't you check the security tapes from last night." Philip said keeping his voice pleasant immediately noticing Nick's improved mood and not wanting to disrupt it. He wasn't sure what brought it on or if it would last so he chose to play things safe.
"Busy little spirit." Nick quipped as he started over to the hologram.
"Nick when will you be ready to leave?" Derek called.
"Two hours tops." Nick answered stepping through the world map. Derek nodded and went to his room to finish getting ready for the day ahead.
"Tangye, can I speak with you a moment in my office?" Derek poked his head into the library not long before he was due to leave with Nick on some secret outing. Tangye was working away on her homework but also watching Philip work on the translation out of the corner of her eye. He hadn't asked her for help yet but she was still hoping that he would, she just felt useless living in the house but doing nothing to aid their fight. Philip threw her a quick glance as she put her book on the table and stood from her chair. She went to the door to his office and didn't bother to knock before entering.
"Everything okay?" She asked taking the seat across his desk, a chair she felt a growing familiarity with. She remembered sitting right there when she had first been brought to the island, after seeing the nun's spirit in the street and not saying anything and when Derek caught her skipping class.
"I know about what you did." He stated flatly, his face and voice both hiding whatever emotions he was feeling at the time.
"Which stunt would this be about?" She asked. She wasn't sure how he would have discovered her late night visit with Erin's spirit and she didn't want to give it away if he hadn't, so she avoided answering his accusation.
"You turned your inheritance over to the Winston Rayne Hall." Derek said sliding the papers over to her that announced the donation and detailed the transfer of funds.
"Oh, that." She said, relieved. She then thought about the slight annoyance that she heard in his voice and looked back up, knowing by his stern expression she wasn't off the hook. "I didn't want their money, Derek. I can't have it. I donated to several other organizations too."
"Tangye, that money could have left you very comfortable for a long time." Derek tried to explain to her what he saw as obvious, though he did understand why she wouldn't want it.
"It wouldn't have. I kept what was mine, I'll be fine with that." She answered staring down at her hands.
"Tangye it is all yours." Derek tried again but saw a wall of stubbornness form in front of him, a wall not willing to listen to reason.
"No it's theirs and I don't want it, the end. I have my own money, plenty of it." She asserted, her voice steely and refusing to back down.
"From where?" Derek asked surprised.
"A friend set up an account for me when I was young. Stocks, bonds, that sort of thing. It accumulated, a lot." She added hoping that convinced him.
"This friend?" Derek asked with a knowing nod.
"Spirit. He put a note in a safety deposit box that he knew hadn't been discovered. When it was they found two hundred bucks and instructions on what to do with it. They did it. He just wanted to make sure I'd always be taken care of." She finished with a fond grin. "I didn't even know what it all meant when he told me about it, he said I would one day, and I do." She sighed getting to her feet. "I don't want their money Derek, I won't take it. If you refuse the donation I'll just give it to someone else, there's plenty of good causes out there." She said with a shrug.
"Then I guess there's nothing else to say." Derek relented to her.
"Thanks for understanding." She crossed the door. "Plus it helps to think that it pisses them off that I'm doing good things with their money." Her voice was low and held surprising venom for such a passing comment that she probably didn't even mean for him to hear.
"Nick, my boy you can't be hungry again so soon." Melissa looked up to see the young man walking into her kitchen. She had found the remnants of one of his famous omelets in the trash and didn't understand where the fit man put all the food he ate.
"Of course I can." Nick said with a light laugh, coming up behind her and grabbing one of the brownies she was fixing. She slapped his hand away remembering him vividly from his childhood. She was the only one of the household staff that had seen an entire generation come and go, and would always see that small little boy so shy and tentative in the man before her. "Actually I came to check on the food for tomorrow night, what's planned?"
"You leave that to me, that girl is sweet as can be and I intend for it to be a meal to remember. I've talked to her enough to know her favorites boy, now out of my kitchen. You just worry about finding that darling the perfect gift." She scooted him out of the way using a loving but threatening tone that, besides Melissa, only his mother had ever mastered
"Just don't forget the cake." He called over his shoulder.
"Nicholas you're making me angry, don't tell me how to do my job. Out of my kitchen before I ban you from it." She gave his back one last shove and let the door fall closed behind him. She turned back around her eyes falling to the plate of brownies she had been stacking for snacks. She hadn't seen Philip come down all morning and knew that she would have to remind him to eat. Dr. Rayne really had to learn to focus on the little things if he wanted this house to run. But then again she enjoyed mothering them all, taking them snacks or coffee when it was most needed, knowing just when to show up with cookies.
She stepped back slightly when her eyes feel to the plate now empty of any of her brownies. There was no way that Nick could have made off with them without her noticing; even he wasn't that slick, which meant only one thing. "Nick, Nick get in here." She cried and Nick burst in through the door behind her.
"What is it? Are you okay?" He asked urgently. She just pointed over at the counter where the empty plate sat. "What? Oh my God." He looked around to see if there was any trail but saw nothing indicating a direction. "It was here when we were. And it's definitely hungry."
"Don't make jokes. Just make it go away, do whatever it is you do. And quickly." She again was pushing him out of the room with him laughing the whole way.
"More tapes, no more tapes." Nick groaned having spent the last two hours in front of the security monitors only to discover that whatever had been in the library the previous night had been hiding under the table before it just vanished. Once again all he had got on tape was the image of hands reaching from under the table and snatching the book then putting it back. Facing more time in front of the exhausting black and white screens was not an idea he relished, but it was also his job.
"Where are you off to in such a cheery mood?" Kristin met up with Nick in the hallway. Her tone already too harsh to be real teasing, it sounded more like mocking. Nick's jaw shifted as he mentally prepared himself for the bout, even though his heart wasn't in it.
"We had another visit, I'm off to more recordings." Nick said with a deep sigh, hoping to get past her to the stairs but she stood her ground in front of him.
"You were up awful late last night." She said casually, throwing him a knowing look.
"What are you talking about?" Nick asked, wishing she would just find a point.
"I heard talking coming from your room when I went to get some water. Were you talking in your sleep?" She asked clearly knowing that was not what had been going on. Nick tried once again to step around her but she moved just enough to continue blocking him.
"What do you want to know Kristin? What we were talking about, what time we feel asleep, what?" He stepped up to her, pushing for her to admit what she really was looking for.
"Nothing Nick, I was just curious." She held up her hands in mock surrender, finally allowing him to pass. "I can handle the review of the tapes if you and Derek are going out." He shot her an annoyed look to tell her that he didn't need her picking up his work. "Just trying to be helpful."
"As always." Nick grunted as he started up the steps. Kristin just let her eyes follow him up to the next level, shaking her head glad she once again got a reaction out of him. She enjoyed teasing him, getting him annoyed and irritable, for some reason she couldn't put into words doing so amused her.
"Nick Boyle, tell me I'm your favorite person in the whole world." Tangye came bounding into the control room hiding one of her hands behind her back.
"I don't know, I love my mom a lot and I've known Alex longer." He said spinning in his chair to face her smiling face.
"Okay no surprise for you. Alex am I your favorite person?" Nick jumped up out of his chair, grabbing her arm playfully and pushing her so her back was against the wall. She laughed at him happily and he couldn't control the smile she caused to come to his face. "Do you need something? I was talking to Alex." Nick looked over his shoulder at his friend who just grinned and turned her attention back to the screen in front of her, giving them as much privacy as she could in the close quarters.
"You amuse yourself don't you?" Nick asked, keeping his tone hushed.
"Terribly, I've told you that." She answered back with a satisfied smile. "So am I your favorite person?" She asked again placing her hand against his chest.
"You're in the running, but right now you're annoying me. Out with the surprise." He threatened playfully. She raised up on her toes and kissed him quickly and when he drew his head back she slid two slips of paper in front of his eyes. "What? Tan are these? How? Are these for tonight's game?" He asked taking the tickets from her and staring at them with excited eyes.
"Yes they are, so do I get to go?" Nick kissed her once quickly then carried his tickets over to flaunt in front of Alex, though she wasn't particularly impressed.
"Sorry Alex but I'm taking my new favorite person to the Giants game tonight." Nick said in a sing-songy voice and kept waving the tickets in front of her.
"What she buys you off with a gift? You just forget my years of loyalty?" She asked in an indignant tone but amused by Nick's childish pleasure with the baseball tickets.
"You did try to kill me two times." Nick said going back over to Tangye.
"Someone attempts to suck your blood and you can't forgive?" Alex called over her shoulder.
"Philip what are you doing?" Derek walked into the library to find Philip intently studying the side of the box, poking and prodding at it.
"Looking for a lever of some sort." Philip answered pushing the box away from himself in frustration.
"Why would you be doing that?" Derek took the seat beside him, waiting out Nick.
"Somethin' Tangye said last night, tha' it reminded her of a music box. Tha's why I ran the carbon dating. Which says this isn't more then three hundred years old. Sorry Derek." Philip apologized for dashing Derek's hope that the box would be a greater find. He could see the flash of disappointment that appeared in his mentor's eyes. Derek was always on these quests, looking for the impossible artifact. He had dedicated so many years of his life to finding the sepulchers only to have them bring him great pain. He wondered how Derek found it in himself to continue such searches in the face of tragedy.
"So you think that it could be?" Derek looked down at him for his assessment. "Have you done the translation?" He tried to hide the defeat he felt that the box was not all he hoped but knew his "son" to be more observant then he might admit.
"Yes, it's a poem." Philip handed Derek the sheet of paper. As he read it over Philip gave in to his compulsion to pick the box back up and continue his search for a way to get it open. "Derek whatever this thing is it probably just belonged to someone once on a dig there, or travelling through. I don' think it's any great find, not dangerous certainly."
"That's at least good. Maybe you can help Alex track down our visitor, or run some errands in the city? I've given Nick the rest of today and tomorrow off, so I'm sure Alex would appreciate your help." Derek took the box away noticing Philip's beginning obsession with the new puzzle. He smiled proudly down at the young priest and then stood up to go downstairs.
"I'll take a shower and then help Alex out." Derek nodded and left Philip alone in the library. Out in the hall Nick was just coming out of his room, still holding a pleased smile on his face. He wore his San Francisco Giants hat and was carrying his leather jacket.
"You ready boss man?" Nick asked meeting up with Derek at the head of the stairs.
"Will she be here?" Derek asked, keeping his voice low so not to be overheard.
"No, she's meeting me at the game." Nick said proudly to have arranged such an open period for them to arrange things. "You said you knew what you were giving her?" Nick asked, hoping to be able pry out some details of the secret that Derek was content to keep from them all. He hadn't even hinted at what he might have planned, and it was beginning to drive them all crazy. Nick was just glad that he was in on half of the secret.
"Yes I do, the end." Derek smiled at Nick, showing clearly how much he was enjoying the secrets he was getting to keep. Nick couldn't help but laugh at the childish behavior his normally stoic precept was demonstrating.
"So, am I gonna live?" Tangye stepped up behind Alex as the results of the latest tests began to printout. Derek felt the need to monitor Tangye on a weekly basis, still unsure of the strain that her abilities would cause her. He had been boning up on information in the Legacy files about other known telepaths and on too many occasions their talents ended up harming them. There was only so far they could reach before causing some damage to their own mind. Derek wasn't quite clear on all of the details and he and Rachel were working on figuring it out, but until all the facts were in they felt the need to monitor Tangye.
"Looks that way. Your brain waves match from last week, so nothing seems to be changing in that thick skull of yours." Alex handed the sheets to the patient who quickly looked them over.
"Thanks for the flattery. So Rachel and Derek still haven't figured out what, if anything, this might be doing to me?" Alex looked over at her new friend and saw her fight to keep the concern from rising in to her eyes. Alex forced her best face on having dealt with many of the same fears in her own life. She knew people gifted or cursed with the sight often times slipped away from reality due to the things they saw. She had always been terrified that her gifts might someday be her undoing yet she continued to battle against that. Tangye's mind ran the same risk, not to mention the added stress it might cause for her to reach out to other minds.
"Not yet, but that's good. They have no concrete evidence that the gift caused the problems." She consoled the nearly twenty-five year old woman.
"I like to think that. Until Derek mentioned it, I hadn't ever given it any thought. Is he just a fatalist that he homes right in on that sort of thing?" Tangye asked putting the papers aside wishing to think about something else.
"I think he'd prefer to be called careful." Alex laughed at the description.
"Yeah and I'd like to be too, but not many people would say that about me." Tangye grinned.
"I'll concur with that, it's not the first word that springs to mind." Alex shook her head.
"Really what does?" Tangye slid down off the counter she had perched herself on and took up the chair beside Alex to watch as she continued to review the security tapes for Nick who had left to run an errand with Derek. Tangye gave a quick glance down at her watch to make sure she still had plenty of time to kill before she needed to meet Nick at the game.
"So do you really like baseball?" Alex asked noticing what she was doing. "Or is it more a 'be with Nick' thing?" She enjoyed seeing the reactions it caused when Tangye was asked about Nick.
"I love baseball. It's still the best sport out there. Maybe not the most exciting, but it at least is understandable to the masses." She slid back in her chair, thinking over the question in great detail, listing out what she loved about the game as if each element was a secret she was letting Alex in on. "With other sports there are just too many rules that you have to know to follow what's going on. Baseball on the other hand is straightforward, it has the rules if you really know the game, but you don't have to in order to follow the action. Plus there's none of that tie garbage, it's a sport and there should always be a winner, what's the point otherwise? And there's strategy, every move the manager makes has so many levels of planning behind it. There's no time clock so it's like time is on hold there, it's leisurely, and you get to take life at its necessary pace." She finished with a nod, then looked over at Alex seriously to sum up. "Pete Rose once said that he'd walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball, that's passion. It's also the first sport I ever played." She looked over her shoulder to be sure that they were alone and with a wicked smile added one more thought. "Not to mention that baseball players are some of the best looking athletes out there. Not too big, not too thin. Just in good shape so many of them."
"I see you've given this some thought." Tangye nodded proudly.
"Plus there is the 'be with Nick' aspect." She admitted finally trying to remain indifferent but failing.
"What the hell was that?" Alex ran the tape back a few seconds and pointed to the small fuzzy spot making a dash across its view. Tangye knew exactly what it was but still wasn't sure she wanted to confess about what she saw. She didn't know what means the Legacy would take to be rid of the spirit. She couldn't envision Erin and not see the innocent child there. She didn't want anything to happen to the girl, and until she could be sure of the methods the Legacy might use she wasn't risking revealing her secret. She trusted the members of the Legacy but so far she had only seen cases where the spirits were forcibly sent away or made the choice for themselves. Erin wasn't going to make that choice because she didn't understand what she was, and the other route was out of the question.
"Glitch in the tape?" Tangye suggested lamely.
"Could be." Alex agreed with a sigh.
"I could go check it out." Tangye stood and started to leave the room.
"Good try, but I don't think so." Alex said stopping her by grabbing her arm.
"Or I'll avoid the scene altogether." She added as though it had been her original idea.
"Better." Alex nodded her approval and stood, leaving the room. She saw Philip fiddling with the box in the library but didn't ask him to join her. So far the spirit had shown no interest in anything living and she couldn't believe something that wanted to harm them would wait so long to attack. It only worked to put the whole house on edge. She ran into Kristin on the upstairs balcony and decided to take her along on the investigation just to give her something to do. She knew Kristin was probably headed toward the control room and decided it would be better if she was there to head off another of the verbal assaults that she and Tangye were getting into on a regular basis.
"You don't think this thing is really just going to be waiting around for us to find it do you?" Kristin asked as they opened the exterior door to go to the spot outside where the camera which picked up the movement was perched.
"Doubtful, but it's all we can really do." Alex answered back, clearly concentrating more on the task at hand, focusing her attention closely on the world around her.
"What about Tangye, she can see it can't she?" Kristin asked trying a little too hard to sound casual about the inquiry.
"Derek doesn't want her put in any situation that might be dangerous, for now." She added the clause seeing Kristin's smile appear. She had intentionally avoided answering the actual question knowing that Kristin was fishing for information. What she would have used it for she didn't know, but lately Alex had the feeling there were things that were better left outside Kristin's knowledge.
"She does seem a little care to the wind when dealing with problems." Kristin observed.
"I guess you could call it that, but with Nick we've always called it reckless." Alex had meant it as a joke, but could tell that Kristin took the description seriously. She was going to ask why the blonde insisted on being suspicious, what dirt she was looking for on the newest resident in the house, but just then they came up to the spot the movement had been spotted.
"Erin Danielle, I need to talk to you." Tangye whispered as she searched the lower section of the house. "C'mon out. I forgot to tell you one of the rules I play by. Erin, Angie where are you?" Tangye stepped into the cavernous pool area and immediately saw the beach balls floating on the top of the water. She knew they had put them all away the day before so she was certain that Erin had at least come this way. She left the room and continued off down the hallway, whispering the little girl's name. Finally she came to the front of the house again, just outside the kitchen door. "Please tell me you aren't bothering Melissa again." She whispered and then pushed the door open.
"What you need honey?" Tangye jumped slightly when Melissa stepped out of the walk in pantry; she had been focusing so much on locating Erin she hadn't been paying any attention to whom else she might run into in the house.
"What? Nothing, I was looking for water. I was thirsty and looking for water." She stammered out the excuse, saying it a bit to forcefully. Tangye wondered to herself why every excuse she used sounded so lame to her own ears. Melissa nodded at her confused by something in Tangye's urgent tone.
"Well, you know where it is." Melissa indicated the small fridge hidden under the counter and resumed her activities at the stove, adding in some of the spices she had retrieved from the pantry.
"That I do." Tangye nodded vigorously. She crossed the room eyeing the giggling child at the kitchen table. She jerked her thumb in the direction of the door trying to tell the little girl to go out in the hall but Erin just continued to talk away to her doll and laugh. Tangye whispered her name, motioning with her head to the door but still Erin continued to ignore her. Tangye rubbed at her chin trying to think up another means to get Erin out of the room without Melissa thinking she was crazy.
"What you waiting on? Get your water and skadaddle." Melissa turned to look at Tangye with a weary shake of her head. "Between you and Nick I'll never get any work done around here. Well I should say you two and that little gh "
"So what are you cooking?" Tangye blurted out, covering the last word Melissa said by nearly yelling. She didn't want Erin to hear the word ghost until she came up with a better way of explaining the truth to the six-year-old. Melissa looked at Tangye with sharply raised eyebrows, trying to puzzle out the strange behavior. Tangye attempted to cover her interruption with a small laugh but the cook didn't appear to be appeased. As soon as Melissa looked away, Tangye rolled her eyes in annoyance at herself. She certainly wasn't trying too hard to head off the crazy evaluation, instead making it easier to believe.
"You're acting a little strange today." Melissa observed.
"Too much sugar." She answered absently. Tangye was again focusing on getting Erin to leave the room with silent hand motions and mouthed words.
"I would say." Melissa paused to think something over and then turned to see Tangye gesturing at the table. "What are you doing?"
"Fly." Tangye voice again peaked in surprise she then lowered her tone trying to sound natural. "There was a fly. Imagine that." Tangye shook her head in awe of her horrible performance.
"Tell me something young lady." Melissa began.
"Am I in trouble?" Tangye asked in response to the tone and title that Melissa had used.
"Maybe. This morning you and Nick weren't playing games with me were you? He wasn't distracting me so you could steal my brownies." Melissa asked in that strict mothering tone that demanded the truth of anyone receiving it.
"No, that wasn't me." She got a somewhat satisfied nod from Melissa who then turned back to her stove with a shake of her head. She didn't even notice Erin had left the table and was reaching for the new plate of brownies. She reached her hand out to stop the child but just ended up knocking the plate off the counter of her own accord. Melissa turned as soon as she heard it thump to the ground. "But that was me." She said indicating the mess on the floor with a strained smile and nod.
"That's it, you and your little partner in crime are out. I don't want you stepping foot in here for two days. I just don't have the time to watch you every minute." Tangye started to protest the banishment but the look in Melissa's eyes told her it would do no good at all. She let the woman push her in the direction of the door. Not noticing the pleased look on Melissa's face. She had found a way to keep Tangye out of the way during the preparations of the dinner and cake for tomorrow night so there was no concern that they would all get caught in their plans.
'Out in the hall Erin, I need to talk to you.' Tangye forced her mind to reach out, unbelieving that she had forgotten she could reach the little girl that way due to her nervousness over getting caught communicating with her. Moments after the door swung shut behind Melissa Erin stepped through it. "Erin, I know you like to play games, but you need to cut it out. You'll get found a lot easier if you don't and then hide and seek is no fun." Erin looked up at her playmate nodding her understanding. "So no playing with Kat's toys, don't eat anymore cookies, and defiantly don't draw in any more books. I'm not mad, I just want the game to be as fun as possible." Tangye explained gently, worried that she might hurt the child's feelings inadvertently. But at the same time she was a bit annoyed that she had fallen into all of this in the first place. She had no idea how she was going to explain her behavior to Melissa when she had the chance.
"What was that?" Alex asked stepping around the corner overhearing Tangye.
"Huh?" The young brunette's head bolted upright. "Oh, I was apologizing to Melissa, but I'm not allowed in the kitchen." She answered quickly but then was lost for a justification. "So obviously I was talking to a door." She stammered out the rest before just giving up a jerk of her thumb in the direction of the door. She watched Alex's face closely to see if she received any sense of the spirit so close to her.
"Got banished did you?" Alex said with a laugh.
"I'm going to go hide again." Erin announced and took off down the hall. Tangye jerked forward as if to stop her and then remembered that she wasn't alone. She barely caught the name from coming out, turning it into a cough instead. She turned an innocent smile on Alex but she just shook her head skeptically at Tangye as she went on down the hall.
'Good Tangye, no one at all has a reason to be suspicious of you. No, no you're acting perfectly normal.' She chastised herself for her behavior with one more disgusted roll of her eyes that luckily this time no one was around to see. 'Sad part is, they probably do consider this par for your course.' She went off in the opposite direction as Alex with an exhausted sigh.