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Regrettable Choices by TalgoM
"I just got to thinking, two young people, at a ball game, there will probably be beer, maybe a lot of it." Tangye's head jerked up to look at the aisle beside her. There stood Bruce Honeycutt with a stupid pleased grin gracing his face. She just caught the curse before it escaped her lips but Nick wasn't so lucky.
"Dammit how did you find us?" Nick couldn't hide his aggravation to have this man appear again from seemingly nowhere. He had wanted to know what the man was up to a few hours ago but Tangye had easily derailed him from that concern. Now he just wanted to spend some time alone with her and see where the night led them. Instead this man kept appearing like some specter they couldn't shake.
"You told me." He answered not moving from his position or appearing a bit shaken but Nick's obvious annoyance.
"Did we?" Tangye watched his face carefully. She didn't think they had, but if they hadn't Bruce's face didn't betray his lie at all. Then again if nothing else members of the Legacy were very skilled at veiling the truth.
"Field seats by first base, row sixty-something. You must have paid a pretty penny for these Nick." He said with a smile trying to ease a bit of the tension. "But then to see a smile like that I doubt there's little you wouldn't do." He cupped Tangye's face in his palm for a moment in a friendly almost grandfatherly gesture. It took all Tangye had not jerk herself free of the familiar touch.
"So why are you here, you said something about beer?" Tangye raised her eyebrows and carefully recoiled but back against Nick's shoulder so the motion masked her dislike of the stranger's touch. It wasn't that she thought anything negative about him, she just felt he was latching on too much. He wanted to keep an eye on them and this whole friendly act appeared to be a well-constructed ploy to lure them in to trusting him. Clearly he didn't have much of an idea of who he was dealing with.
"Yes. I was thinking that on an outing like this you might have a bit too much to drink. New York, especially this area, can be very rough. I wanted to make sure you made it home safe." Tangye knew without looking that Nick would roll his eyes at that comment. He could take care of himself, he was highly trained in doing just that. "I also wanted to extend my invitation to you both to stay in our house."
"We appreciate the offer but the whole idea of us coming here was kind of a get away from the Luna Foundation thing. Plus we have a hotel." Tangye explained, noting that Nick didn't seem willing to contribute anything to the conversation. She wished he would, just because he had so much tenure within the Legacy she thought he might be able to get Bruce to listen better.
"I'm afraid I insist and I don't take no for an answer." He kept up his pleasant smile that was quickly grating on Tangye's last nerve just because it did now feel so forced.
"Don'tcha?" She asked, her voice heavy with sarcasm.
"No. I already have rooms being set up for you. Now why don't I go get us something to eat and we can enjoy the game." He turned and walked away, Tangye turning and burying her face against Nick's neck.
"Rooms? Plural?" She moaned causing Nick to laugh though he hadn't liked hearing it anymore then she had. Some of the Legacy members, particularly the older ones, were still very particular about how things went in their houses. "Well, you did this you know, you wanted to trail him and now you've jinxed us. Can I thank you now, or should I wait?"
"We've got the whole game, Tan. He can't sit here thankfully. We'll figure something out." He consoled her but it didn't work against his own tension.
"Oh, and that made it no better. Face it Nick, world one, us none." She leaned over and kissed him, taking the opportunity as long as she still had it open to her. If the New York house had decided to watch them she saw their vacation taking a turn for the worse but she wasn't going to let them have it easily. She had come here with Nick to figure out where they stood in their relationship and where it was going. In the few days they had been here she had not only decided the course it was on but to put it in motion. She was almost surprised by herself, by how quickly she had let herself fall for him, but then he would turn and smile at her or reach out and touch her face and the whole thing made perfect sense. He laced his fingers in hers and for the moment that small touch was just enough. 'But maybe there will be a late inning rally.' She thought, unwilling to accept any other truth.
Alex glanced across the car seat to her companion, unable to fight the smile that came to her lips. She had given up on waiting for the moment that it was all going to go wrong, as these sort of things had so frequently in her life. He was not going to suddenly turn to her and bare fangs, he had no interest in her ties to the Legacy and the power that it represented. His mind just didn't work in such a manipulative manner. She wasn't a hurdle to a greater prize, she was the goal in all of this. Nothing could have made her feel better about being with someone. To know that they came by, invited her out, only because it meant that he would get to spend time with her. Too often her life was much too complicated. Yet he simplified all of it without even realizing he was doing it.
"What's that look for?" Gilby broke the silence in the car realizing that she was staring at him. He glanced over at her with his dark blue eyes that she found so attractive. They reflected his natural inquisitiveness somehow that she couldn't put into words, but that made them very honest.
"Nothing really, just thinking." She answered, gently stroking his arm as reassurance. Despite his calm, lighthearted demeanor Alex had noticed at times he acted a bit nervous still around her. Like he was waiting for her to say something negative about him, yet she could think of nothing worth pointing out.
"'Bout what?" He asked slowing the car only minimally as he went around the turn, making it so she had to grab hold of the door so not to be thrown to one side.
"Do you really want to know?" She asked, without thinking of the concern it might cause him. As soon as she saw his apprehensive glance at her she quickly amended her statement. "It's nothing bad, more weird and about me, not you."
"Then I definitely want to hear it." He answered with a grin. She shook her head slightly to hear such enthusiasm in his voice.
"I just realized that there's no reason to fear you. You aren't some monster from the depths of hell looking to get through me to something else." She paused when he looked over at her shocked that she might have ever thought such a thing about him. From the first time that he had met Alex Moreau he had been impressed by her ability to see right into a person and understand them. She had trusted him when none of the facts presented gave her much reason to. He had to admit that aside from her beauty that was the first thing that had drawn him to her, since then any number of other reasons had cropped up, but that had been the first.
"I didn't realize you felt that way." He looked back at the road dejectedly. By the look in his eyes Alex again knew she had made a mistake. What was it about her that made him feel so nervous sometimes?
"Pull the car over up here." She requested, motioning toward the small gas station coming up on the road. He complied with her but even when he had stopped the car did not turn to look at her. "Okay, Mr. Mayhew, whatever has you so worked up we need to get past it."
"I'm not worked up, Alex." He quickly defended himself. She noticed that he had begun tapping his thumb nervously against the steering wheel. Her hand reached out, covering his and successfully stopping the annoying fast tempo being played.
"Then I guess I should clarify something for you. When I said that I had been afraid that I was just a stepping stone for you to something else, it wasn't because of something that you have done. It was because too many times in the past I have been seen as exactly that." He finally turned to look at her, taking in her dark eyes and the curls that tumbled into them. "Those experiences have my guard up, not you. You have done everything right." She consoled, gently caressing his stubble covered jaw.
"That's the first time anyone said that to me." He slowly let a half grin form, hesitant to allow it.
"Well I think you'll hear it a lot in your life." She answered, a little surprised that no one had said it before.
"It'd be nice, but " He let his voice trail off and Alex was now certain that his mind was on something else. He had been acting strangely distant all night but she hadn't been able to place it exactly. "I should get you back home. I've been keeping you from your work too much."
"I don't mind." Alex stopped him from starting the car, leaning over the seat and finding his lips with her own. As soon as she initiated the contact he was redirected from whatever need to avoid her that had built up in him. He let himself give in to the soft touch of her lips, and her hands on either side of his face holding him in place. A place he did not want to run away from he admitted. He knew he could easily fall in love with Alex if he let himself but his own apprehension over the situation and her needs held the emotions in check. Whenever she got this close though those fears quickly fell away to a much more internal need that he had not to be alone. She pulled away slowly, placing a few more gentle kisses on his lips, and looked him directly in the eyes. "So are you going to tell me what's bothering you?"
"It's no big deal." He answered, returning quickly to his evasive mode of before. He started the car and roughly threw it into reverse. She wondered if Nick and Gilby had the same driving instructor and what kind of lunatic they must have been to pass on this type of skill, if one would call it that. He jerked the wheel to one side to align the vehicle with the road and then just let the wheel spin back into position itself rather then guiding the wheels straight again. "I had to call my father today to ask for something. He's a good guy Alex, I've told you that. He wants what's best for me and that's sort of his job. I just don't tend to live up to those expectations too often. But I made him feel that way, I gave him every reason to." He said with a sigh, remembering the many ways he had infuriated his father when he was younger and been given only a lecture when much worse punishments may have been in order. Those lectures had eventually been enough to straighten out the younger Gilby, and somehow his father had always known that.
"I have a hard time believing that." Alex said, thinking about the hardworking, dedicated man she had grown to know. Why would that not be enough to make a father proud?
"Trust me on that one. I was far from the ideal kid. I've given him every possible reason to think I'll screw up by doing it for a long time without even trying. And many times by putting forth my best effort to disappoint him." Gilby glanced over at her hoping she didn't pursue that line of thinking. He liked her and he just didn't feel ready to step up and admit how many mistakes he had made in just short of thirty years. They never really talked about the past and on the few occasions they did he always kept the conversation on the camp, one of his few unequivocal successes in life. At least up until those last few days. "Anyway, I had to tell him about what happened as best I could, and let's just say he took it a little too well."
"Like he'd been waiting for it?" Alex asked, understanding what he meant.
"Yeah, so I just well you saying that you realized that I wasn't evil " Gilby stuttered trying to find the right words to explain himself.
"Hurt, because if I thought you were it was like I had the same expectations of you that he does." Gilby nodded, glad that she understood and he didn't have to figure out how to put it. "Well you don't have to worry, because I don't think that way at all. I think you can succeed at whatever you want to."
"That's really nice but you don't really have much reason to think that." Gilby looked over at her for a moment, making his point all the more clear. She knew exactly what he meant. He was still an unknown to her, and her faith came more from a belief in human nature then it did from something she really knew to be fact about him.
"Why did you call him?" She avoided answering that statement.
"I needed a good lawyer, and he knows a lot of them. And I needed some money " He shrugged. Alex though didn't take such a statement with the same indifference he did.
"What? Why do you need a lawyer?" She asked anxiously.
"Something about neglect, what do you think Alex?" He almost sounded annoyed by her naiveté about the situation. He had been waiting ever since the incident to be notified that he was being sued or arrested, to see that she hadn't really surprised him.
"You can't be serious. They're suing you?" Her voice rose.
"Alex, I lost their kids. I'm lucky I'm only being sued. Did you think that there really wouldn't be an aftermath? Hell I'm surprised I made it off the mountain not in handcuffs." Gilby argued. "Anyway, it's not all of them. Jason somehow managed to talk his parents out of taking action against me, and no one is asking for jail time right now, which is good."
"How can you be taking this so lightly?" She asked incredulously.
"I'm not taking it lightly. I'm getting a lawyer, what more can I do? The boys know they broke the rules and they already told their parents they plan on letting the judge know I had no knowledge of what they were doing. Hopefully we never get that far though. If I plead guilty "
"Guilty? You didn't do anything."
"What do you suggest I do? Tell them a man dead thirty years abducted them to protect them from his mother, who has also been dead for several decades? That won't go over well in my defense. I don't know how the Luna Foundation gets out of these sorts of things but I don't have the money it does. I have to face what happened, nothing can protect me from that. But, as I was saying, if I make it clear that I'm selling the camp and won't take any sort of responsibility for kids again, pay some damages, hopefully the whole thing will be over." Gilby was keeping up a brave face for her and she knew it. The very idea of what he just suggested tore at his heart, she was sure of that. He loved kids, he loved the camp and he didn't have the money as he had just pointed out. He was going to lose everything in this suit and he wasn't even trying to fight it because for some reason he did feel he was to blame.
"The Luna Foundation could help, Derek has plenty of lawyers, they could defend you. Get you off." Alex suggested only to be met by a defiant shake of his head.
"No way. I'm not running to you and Derek every time something goes south in my life. This part is my problem. You did the important thing, you found the kids. The rest is my mess to clean up." His face was set and she doubted that anything she said would get through to him right now but that didn't mean she wasn't going to try.
"But you aren't cleaning it up. You're letting them take everything from you." She argued as he brought the car to a stop. She wondered for a moment what he was doing stopping in the middle of the road then noticed that they had arrived at the ferry to Angel Island without her even realizing it.
He turned to look at her, his long bangs hanging down into his dark blue eyes, but his face was serious as he clearly pronounced every word for her to make his point clear. "I almost took their kids from them Alex. I don't have anything in my life that can measure up to that loss. They have a right to everything I have for what I let happen."
"But you didn't " He held up his finger to cut her off.
"Tell me something, if you were possessed by some demon or whatever and it did something horrible to someone using your body, when you were freed would you feel responsible?" Alex's eyes dropped down to stare at the gearshift between them. Her mind turned back to Barry Alger, he had been hurt by a demon hunting her and she had felt responsible for what happened to him even if she had never personally delivered a blow to him, nor been able to stop the creature. She had taken on the blame for what had been done to him and all that he had lost because of his kindness towards her. She knew exactly how Gilby felt, even if the situations were very different. "Those kids were my responsibility and even if I didn't hurt them and maybe I couldn't have stopped Joshua, I should have kept them from the situation in the first place. That's why I am to blame and I'm willing to let them have everything if in some small way it makes up for what I let happen."
Alex nodded, wanting to respect that part of Gilby that allowed him to stand up in such a way. But she couldn't get past her fear for him. What losing so much might do to him in the end, the many ways he could change because of all of it. Still if he was willing to go through it and accept whatever might be his fate she couldn't let him know how wrong it felt to her. She had to back his decision and make sure that he never felt alone in all of it. "Okay, I'm sorry."
He looked back out the windshield of the car, watching the island across the bay grow larger in his view. He wanted to tell her how frightened he was but he couldn't do it. He needed to be brave in all of this or she would try to get involved and that was the last thing he wanted. The Luna Foundation had a good name and he wasn't going to let them smear it by trying to get involved with this sort of case. Not to mention the attention it would bring to him if they did. He would have a hard enough time finding a job now, but the whole city would know about what happened if the trial became a media circus with the Luna Foundation in the center. If that happened he could kiss any chance for a future goodbye. He just prayed they could keep it simple and settle out of court without dragging out too much from the past that would only help to damn him in the eyes of any judge.
"Thanks Alex, and don't worry about me. My father knows some good lawyers too, and though he wasn't exactly thrilled to hear what happened he isn't going to just throw me to the wolves. He'll do everything that he can for me. It will work out." He stated with reassurance, but he wasn't sure if he was attempting to make her feel better or boost his own spirits. They sat in silence the rest of the drive to the house. He knew that she wanted to say something more about the subject but she was holding her tongue in an effort to let him believe that she supported his choice, even if it was obviously not the case.
He pulled the car up under the covered portion of the driveway directly in front of the main doors. Alex looked over at him hesitantly and asked in a low voice if he wanted a cup of coffee. He nodded more to be polite then anything else and climbed out of the car, making sure he was the first to the front door so that he could open it for her. That gesture at least drew a smile from her and for the moment some of the tension dissipated between them. He followed her through the house towards the kitchen trying to fight back the creepy feeling the house always gave him. He wasn't sure if it was the imposing size or the many old artifacts along the halls but the place just didn't have a very warm feeling in his opinion. He couldn't quite understand why anyone would choose to live in a place that sometimes felt so gloomy. Alex had assured him it wasn't always that way, just when it was quiet and mostly empty. When the other residents were home she said it was very much full of life but he wasn't convinced. He knew two of those residents very well and he wasn't convinced that either Nick or even Tangye could fight off the loneliness the house spoke of to him.
That thought was reinforced when they entered the kitchen to find Derek sitting at the breakfast table in the dark room. Alex stood in the doorway, light streaming in from behind her, caught in shock by the sight for a moment. "Dr. Rayne, are you alright?" Gilby broke the silence.
Derek turned to look at them for a moment. His face was drawn and lifeless in the dim light that found its way to it. "Yes." He answered listlessly.
"We didn't mean to interrupt " Derek stood from his chair, his motions slow and heavy. He crossed to them without ever really looking at them.
"I'm fine, I'll leave you alone." He passed them still never making eye contact. Alex though couldn't look away from him or the door he passed through when he was gone. She was worried about him after seeing him in such a humor for no more then thirty seconds. Gilby studied her concerned face and for the first time saw a hint of something that she had been fighting for years. He would never have come to the conclusion himself if her concern were not so pronounced as it was now, but as soon as the thought hit him he felt even a stronger desire to vacate the house.
"Alex? Maybe you should go check on him?" Gilby reached out and touched her arm gently a gesture that worked to draw her back to the present.
"What? No. I'm sure he's fine. He's probably just been working too hard and is tired." She jerked away from the touch, immediately regretting the act. She smiled at him but in the darkness of the room couldn't be entirely sure he saw the gesture.
"That didn't really look like " Gilby started to argue. If she felt her place was at Derek's side he was not about to stand in the way of that. They had history and there were a thousand reasons that he probably never should have one with a woman like her.
"No. I'm sure that's it." She shook off her thoughts and turned the lights to the room on. "I invited you in for coffee, so coffee it shall be." Her voice was bright, and clearly an act put on for his benefit. The creepy factor of the house finally slipped away, to be replaced by something he liked much less.
"You understand don't you? You see how important all of this is?" She asked, sitting down on the hotel room bed beside him as he read over the purple sheet of paper held loosely in his hands. He nodded without any vigor. He accepted her words but she doubted if he felt much of anything at all right now. "If we can get the message out then perhaps at long last, we can protect people. I'm just sorry we're too late for you." She comforted with empty words.
"But we can help others." He whispered in that broken tone that was the best his voice now was capable of.
"That's why we're doing this. To help the innocent people who need it. And there are plenty of others, even within the Legacy, that need to know the truth. Others that they ignored maliciously." He looked at her shocked by that accusation. She merely nodded though wanting to make sure he was really with her, believing everything she said before she gave away too much about why she was here.
"We should find them. Let them know the truth, like you let me know. They can help." He said urgently. Like any good trained animal he was following her every command even those merely given with small hints. 'Perfect,' she again thought, reveling in her plan.
"That is exactly what we'll do." She patted his leg gently, but did not move it away wanting to see how receptive he was to her touch. At first he had recoiled from any contact but as he fell more into her trap he was allowing more and more. Just another sign of her control over him.
"Others that have lost loved ones because of them?" He asked with just a hint of hatred edging his voice.
"Those people are out there. There are others that have been allowed to endure many different things. That's why we came here. Here there is a collection of those betrayed by the Legacy." He looked up at her surprised by the implication of her words. He knew exactly what city they were in and the type of reputation the house here had. He couldn't believe that one of the houses that was the pride of the Legacy would be turned on by the group. Yet if she said it she must have evidence to back that statement up, just as she had so quickly proven that they knew what would happen to his Violet.
"All of them?" His voice broke with sympathy.
"No, not all. But enough." She reached into her bag, pulling forth the three prepared files. Information that had been easily manipulated to suit her needs even if not a word of it was truth, they were all likely to believe it. Another part falling perfectly into her plan. They were sure to have learned of Jackson's opinion by now. In her last weeks in the Legacy she had given them every possible clue they could need. She hadn't created the hesitancy in Jackson but it worked perfectly to her advantage.
She handed the files over to Julian and he took them as if they were written in poison. His hands touching them reluctantly. "You know who they are don't you? You've heard of all of them. Two of them are quickly becoming legends in the Legacy and the third surely would with time." He nodded. "But what they don't know is what the Legacy has cost them."
"Loved ones?" She rolled her eyes glad that he couldn't look away from the papers in his hands and catch the reaction. He was stuck on that one idea and that was an important hurdle to get over. This wasn't just about the Legacy costing people their family and friends, he had to believe the damage they were willing to inflict spread out much more then that.
"Not quite. This one, you know him right? He helped you on a case once, didn't he?" She tapped the file on the top of the stack. Julian nodded his memory playing back the days he had spent with the young man visiting his house. A man who had been vibrant and alive, edgy at times but he also had an easy humor about him. Julian had liked the young man and seen great promise in him. "The Legacy knew of the type of monster his father was all along. They never intervened and for sixteen years he was forced to live in fear and pain." She took the file from him and indicated the next in the stack. "Have you heard about her yet? Have you heard how she was kept locked away for seven years missing out on the most pivotal years of her life because spirits were torturing her?" He again merely nodded. He had never met this one but he had heard the stories of her ordeal and some of her activities since. Liz was right, with time she would be as much a prize to the Legacy as her two companions. "The Legacy knew about it all along and when these two finally heard about her and tried to help, important information was hidden from them that would have made her release easier." She took this file back as well, leaving only one in his hand.
"He's a friend." Julian whispered staring down at the name. He had known the subject for years, since he had first entered the Legacy. Julian had always thought of him as the very epitome of everything that the Legacy stood for but now he believed such thoughts to be an insult. He was a good and noble man, fighting evil in any form for the benefit of the innocent.
"I know, but he is not immune to the Legacy lies either. They knew what was becoming of his father. That he had become obsessed near his death, that he embraced evil. Did they do anything to protect him even though he was just a boy? They allowed him to go off on a fools quest with his father, a journey that ended in his father's death." She took the final file from him but opened this one to the head shot lying on top of the various reports. She stared down at the face remembering all too vividly her own encounters with the man. "He, more then any of the others, is important. If we can explain to him the others will follow." She turned to look at the papers on the other queen bed. "You understand don't you? You see why we must do this, don't you?" He nodded sadly not because he wasn't sure of their actions but he felt pity for those he did not want to see caught in the crossfire. He had been so close to getting over the loss of his beloved wife only to have it brought back to the surface. It was necessary that he know the truth but that didn't make it hurt any less. He felt regret only because he was about to open old wounds for so many he considered friends yet he had no choice.
Derek had spent two days waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting on his mother or Ingrid to make some gesture to talk to him, but the house remained silent. No one appeared with more accusations for him or even trying to forgive him for the decisions that he made. He was left alone to attempt to deal with the guilt over what he had done. He still tried to tell himself that he had done it for the best possible motives but the hurt look in his mother's eyes made that hard to believe. He truly hated the days when his past decided it was time to do a little catching up with him. A part of him had always known that eventually his mother would come to him with questions about the truth of his father's death, and more importantly the reason that it had occurred. He had just always prayed that he would be able to dance around the truth. No matter what type of man his father had been, he had always known that his mother loved him dearly. She wasn't blind, she clearly saw all of his less admirable traits but there had been something within him that she had held onto. A bright spot that made up for all the rest. Now she had given her son no choice but to tarnish some of that image.
He'd had hours upon hours to think about what had happened, sleep evading him and him choosing to avoid the other members of the house still around. His mother had arrived already knowing some bit of the truth and there had been no way that he could have avoided filling in the few blanks that remained. She had indicated that someone was out to hurt him and had used this information to do just that. Someone who went to a great deal of trouble to cause her pain, and had an interest in making sure that it would backlash onto him. He had too many enemies to keep track of by this time. Plenty that he had angered through the Legacy as he stood face to face and defeated them, and he was certain there were more lingering in the shadows that he had no idea existed. He saw no way to figure out this mystery unless he could convince his mother to open up to him.
But she was set on turning some of his evasive behavior back on him. He had managed to locate her at the hotel that she was staying at just hours after she had left the island. He had done all he could to get her to talk to him but she fought back insisting that it didn't matter who had told her, just that the truth was now out. He could not convince her how important the first detail was to him. Whoever orchestrated this attack he knew it was personal and obviously it had little to do with the Legacy in general. This was someone that wanted to see him hurt, to have his family turn from him due to destroyed faith.
He tried to convince himself whoever the guilty party was they would not be able to completely succeed in such a goal. He wanted to believe that the hurt his half truths and veiled comments caused his mother it would not ever make her lose faith entirely in her son. She loved him too much for any of that. Yet he couldn't quite persuade himself that was the case. She had been so angry, run away in so much pain that she left him wondering if he could ever be forgiven. The revelations though were hurting Derek even more then the knowledge had hurt her. He hated that look of disappointment in her eyes, to think that she felt he had let her down. That was what truly hurt the most about finding himself in this situation. He couldn't really believe it either. To think that even as a grown man, who could possibly have grown children of his own, he still sought and desperately desired his mother's approval.
He was struggling with the instinct that told him to grab the phone and call the others back home. If someone had taken such an interest in him he had reason to be leery of what may lie over the horizon. He knew he had plenty of his own internal strength to depend on, but right now the well felt dry as he recalled his mother's harsh glares and angry words. He would be able to gain support from them, he was sure that he would be able to weather whatever storm he felt brewing if the others were on Angel Island, even if all they could offer was moral support. He refused to do so in the end though. Whether it was because he wanted to respect their need for a break from the Legacy or his own pride in not wanting them to have to come back just to get him over a difficult patch he wasn't sure. It had only been days ago that he had been mourning his own lack of a personal life, he didn't want anyone in the house thinking he was begrudging them theirs.
No, he resolved, he would let them all stay where they were. He wouldn't mention to anyone that his mother was nearby and her own demands to stay in a hotel rather then the castle would make that easy enough to hide. Alex could go on enjoying her time with Gilby, Rachel and Kat the normalcy of their lives for a change, and Nick and Tangye would be left alone on the other side of the continent. He silently thanked the powers that be that the young telepath was safely thousands of miles away during his turmoil. It would be hard enough to hide his feelings from Alex and Kristin, getting anything past Tangye on an emotional level had proved a wasted expense of energy. Yet at the same time she also provided such a gentle touch, just the right smile when he needed it the most.
They all did he admitted. Though Nick's jokes often came at purely inappropriate times, just as frequently he made one when Derek needed it the most. The light teasing as the young man called him 'boss', or made quips about his lack of humor. The sarcasm that laced so many of Nick's comments that served to lighten even the darkest moods. Nick was also a figure of strength, the best traits that Derek only hoped he could emulate. Alex was the same way, though not as frequently at his expense. She was always more gentle then Nick, on some instinct she had been well taught. She would reach out and pat his back for support, provide him with spiritual backup when he felt that so many forces were against him. She was a light to him, a guiding force away from the darkness that kept so much of his life in shadows.
Then there was Rachel and Kat who despite their mother daughter bond were entirely different. Rachel provided a rational side to the world when Derek too often grasped at the fantastic. The ghost stories as she called it. Still as often as they disagreed on subjects Rachel had an insight into him that few ever had. She understood him seeing past the stoic guise he so often tried to maintain. She was a perfect balance and support to him. Kat on the other hand always saw the many possibilities first and over the years Derek had known her she had become a daughter to him. She had shown him again how important it was to just take the time to enjoy life as it went by rather then let it weigh down too heavily upon him. He held such pride in her over her every accomplishment and she fed him an endurance that he had never gained from anywhere else because more then anyone Kat believed in him without hesitation.
He sighed as he wandered back into his bedroom where he had spent the majority of his time over the last few days. He was trying to get past the regret that he felt along with all of the loneliness that had settled over him. With the house being so empty though he didn't have anything to distract him from it so it was becoming inescapable. He didn't want to believe that with time he would hurt the others the same way he had hurt his family but he had no indication that he wouldn't do just that. So frequently it was exactly what he allowed his half-truths to do. He let the door fall shut behind him wishing the sinking feeling away from himself but it did no good. Whoever had leveled this attack on him had succeeded no matter how badly he wanted to deny it. He just hoped that this was all there was to it, that he would be left alone and given the time he needed to move past that disappointed look in his mother's eyes.
Gilby had to admit that shopping wasn't one of his better skills, especially when the goal was to impress someone. He'd been searching the stores for hours and every time he thought he had come up with just the right item something very wrong about it would dawn upon him. It had to be perfect, it had to elicit the perfect bright smile from her the minute he gave it to her. So why was the task proving to be so difficult? He told himself that she would love whatever he gave her, but he also feared that she would only say that she did. He cursed Nick and Tangye in the back of his mind for choosing to leave town at just the time he needed their advice. Or wanted it anyway.
He stopped outside another one of the small eclectic shops he'd spent his afternoon trolling and looked into the window. He could see many beautiful hand blown glass figures, stunning carvings and sculpted candles but none of them screamed Alex to him and he wasn't going to settle for anything less. He tried to remind himself again what had made him decide that this task was so necessary. There was no birthday or holiday approaching, he had just come to the conclusion that he really wanted to do something nice for her. Not to mention that he had upset her a few nights previously even if she didn't admit it. She just didn't like that he was insisting on going into this battle without her help or that he was doing it without much of plan for his own defense. At first his idea for some sort of forgive me gift had been as simple as a nice bouquet of flowers and dinner, but he'd already done that a few times. This had to be something better, something that made more of a statement. A statement that he wasn't even sure that he should be making due to the thoughts he was having about Alex's possible feelings towards Derek but he couldn't deny his own emotions either.
He briefly noticed his own reflection staring back at him in the store window and another thought he was beginning to be too familiar with came back to him. Alex was beautiful, classy, well educated and any other number of adjectives that put her well out of what he considered his class. He knew he wasn't stupid but he did lack the type of higher education that she had. Her idea of a good time were nice restaurants, museums and plays whereas he would much rather be out somewhere hiking, or doing some other type of dirty excursion. He still enjoyed a night of sports and beer with the boys, but he couldn't think of what type of activity Alex would enjoy that compared to that. Derek on the other hand probably shared most of her interests, understanding her passion for ancient artifacts and the mysteries that they presented. Gilby just couldn't get into all of that. It wasn't that he didn't care at all about the past he just lacked the intense need she had for discovery.
'Admit it Gilby, she's about as far out of your league as you could have gone.' He brushed his shaggy blonde hair away from his face, allowing himself to entertain the thought of cutting it for a second but ignoring it once again. He liked it the way it was, even if sometimes it made it difficult for anyone to take him seriously as being very together. He'd been on enough job interviews since the closing of the camp to know his appearance probably wasn't a big help in locating employment. But he wasn't about to put on a suit to please someone.
Or most anyone. He'd actually bought one in order to be able to take Alex to some little restaurant that she had mentioned in passing one day. He knew it wasn't a place that he would have ever set foot in of his own accord but having Alex sitting across from him had made the experience enjoyable. Even if she wasn't the type of woman that Gilby had ever envisioned himself ending up with he was still going to do all he could to keep her in his life. Derek or no, lack of things in common, none of it mattered in the end. 'Makes sense or not, you're going for it.' He admitted to himself. He had already gone over all of the arguments as to why it wouldn't work but every time he was with her all of that slipped away. 'Now just find a damn gift for her.'
He turned away from the window, not sure if he should go in the store or not. He looked up and down the street, checking the other stores out and seeing very few left that he had yet to go into. 'Might as well.' He sighed to himself, trying to ignore the hopelessness of his chosen project.
"Excuse me sir, please take this." Gilby turned to see a tall, dark haired man standing beside him. He didn't quite look like the typical street prophet, except for the sign he had hung around his neck. His hair was short and neat, clothing in surprisingly good condition. Gilby glanced briefly at the writing on the piece of cardboard. Scribbled handwriting, nearly intelligible, saying something about secrets and lies. Gilby laughed to himself, wondering what it was about his appearance that always drew these people to him on crowded streets.
"Listen buddy, I'm not really into the whole government conspiracy thing." Gilby held up his hand and tried to wave off the man.
"Just read it." The man pushed his flyer towards Gilby more forcibly.
"I'm sure you know who killed J.F.K or want to inform me about your alien implant, but I'm just not interested. Got my own problems buddy." His mind raced over just how true that off the cuff comment was. His whole world was crashing in flames and he was worried about getting the girl. He really needed to start thinking about getting his priorities straight. Gilby tried to side step the man but he wasn't willing to give up that easily. He pushed the purple sheet of paper against Gilby's chest.
"Read it. It could save your life." The man's voice was low and threatening. Gilby eyed him carefully, surprised by his intensity. Sure there was usually something very intense about these street prophets, but it was usually very steeped in their mental problems as well. This man didn't have that trait at all.
"Great, thanks." Gilby took the flyer just to make the man leave, not even attempting to hide the condescending tone in his voice. The man nodded as soon as Gilby accepted his offering and turned to the next person he saw coming down the street to accost them with his theories. Gilby glanced down at the sheet just to see what it was about before he threw it away. As soon as he saw the scrawled words at the top though he tensed and spun around to locate the man who had given it to him. The man now had his back to the young ex-camp counselor and seeing the back of his billboard shirt Gilby's eyes grew wide. 'The Legacy of lies. Do you believe in evil? You will.'
"Holy " Gilby mumbled, the purpose of his trip slipping away as realization of the information the man was spreading settled onto him. Alex hadn't told him details about the secret society that she belonged to but he had overheard enough of her comments to pick up on what they called themselves. The word just came up too often to not have a greater meaning. He knew the Luna Foundation was little more then a front just by what they had done for him with such an air of calm acceptance. "Perfect, for once a kook is onto something." Gilby knew he had to get this information to Derek and Alex as soon as possible.
Derek half heartily pulled the front door to the house open as he was walking past rather then make Dominick come and answer it. His spirits were even lower now that he had gone another night with nearly no sleep at all. The accusations that his mother had so harshly laid upon him just would not stop replaying themselves in his mind. Could she really think that she would not be able to trust her son again? Just because he had withheld the truth from her about what had become of his father? He just hadn't been able to do it. He couldn't look her in the eyes and say those words.
He also had to admit to himself that he had been fighting not to face that exact truth. He wanted to believe that the spirit claiming to be his father had merely been lying to cause additional pain. He knew that Winston had been a troubled man, obsessed with the sepulchers but he couldn't account for when that obsession had turned him to evil. After spending his life fighting the forces of the dark what could have possibly driven him to embrace it? Derek had seen it happen time and time again to various members of the Legacy but somehow couldn't accept it from a man as strong and determined as his father.
He wasn't sure who to expect on the other side of the thick oak door, but didn't really feel up to dealing with whoever it might turn out to be. His only hope was that it might be his mother or sister appearing to forgive him or at least offering him some chance to better explain his choices. But that was an empty hope he didn't really believe in, so whoever he might find he was dreading the interaction.
If he had bothered to take a guess at who might be awaiting him, he knew the moment his eyes fell on the face there that he would have been entirely wrong. In fact this might be the last person he actually expected to see standing in his doorway, soaked from the afternoon storm. Old enemies, older friends, anyone would have managed to shock him less with their sudden and unannounced arrival. The smile she shot him took him equally off guard, so pleasant, which was not a word that easily came to mind in association with her. He hadn't even realized that he was standing there mutely staring at her without making even a motion to invite her in from the cold.
"Derek, are you okay. I've seen you react better to seeing actual ghosts." She sounded so amused to have taken him off of his guard so completely.
"Yes, I'm fine." He stammered, but he didn't do so convincingly and even the attempted smile obviously went no more then skin deep. "I just... you've never come here before..."
"No, I haven't, and I thought I should remedy that." She shifted awkwardly in the doorway but Derek didn't pay the motion any thought. Her tone and mannerisms were so agreeable, she was making an effort to be kind to him but all he could think of was the last time they had met. If his memory served she had thrown an ancient vase at him and stormed out of the room. Furious for what she had overhead him telling Sloan about the mission they had been sent on together as a test to gauge her readiness to move up in the Legacy. Derek's words had been less then supportive but he told himself he wouldn't have said any of the harsh words if he had known she was eavesdropping. He denied that thought quickly. Being kind was not paramount when dealing with a possible precept, they needed honesty even if it wasn't to their liking. Her knowing the truth had been necessary, he would have told her himself about his dismal recommendation even had she not over heard it. She shouldn't be allowed to harbor false dreams of promotions in the Legacy when it would never happen. But perhaps the statements she heard between the old college friends had gone beyond honest, and he doubted to this day that he was forgiven for his blunt harshness.
Yet there she stood, on his doorstep, with a bright smile that appeared to be genuine enough. Derek instinctively felt he was missing a piece of the puzzle but he wasn't sure where it might have been lost. "Well, ah, this is certainly a surprise."
"Are you going to let me in or should I just leave now?" If the question hadn't been asked so lightly, it would have been exactly what he expected out of her. But as it was it felt more like Derek was in fact meeting an entirely new person, this just wasn't the woman he recalled.
"Of course Liz, come in. I'm so sorry. It was just such a..." He apologized but had not yet moved from the doorway. She laughed and finally reached out and gently moved him out of her way.
"Shock, Derek, I know." She stepped inside, putting her umbrella down by the door and then turned to him. Her light hair was matted down to her head, her eyes bright and inquisitive like a child's. In so many ways that was exactly how Derek had thought of her. Childlike, quick to anger, pushy in a juvenile way. Normally he considered her in the least favorable light of a child's behavior, now looking at her he saw something very different. "I assumed you wouldn't be expecting me but I anticipated a better reaction from the Dr. Derek Rayne. Something a bit more fitting of a gracious, well brought up host."
"Again I apologize." He helped her off with her coat, trying to shed some of his own ridiculous behavior that was so out of character. "It's a pleasant surprise." She nodded, though she did not look to be convinced by his sincerity. His mind was nagging at him to remember something, some important little detail but in his confusion and lack of sleep he was not able to come up with it. He went over his last memories of her, the words she had screamed at him before hurling the fragile object just to the left of his head. When she stormed out Sloan had made light of the situation, commenting on her aim, but Derek had taken it all much more seriously. She was a woman clearly on the edge, anyone could push her over with a conscious or unconscious gesture. That had only served to compound Derek's belief that she should not become a precept, and he had even stated his uncertainty that she belonged in the Legacy at all.
That was it, he realized as he remembered his own words from more then two years ago. 'She's uncontrollable Sloan, you have no idea what she might do next.'
'I think the same can, and has, been said about you.' Sloan had joked as he took a seat behind his desk.
'But do you doubt my motives? If you do, I should leave the Legacy as well.' Derek had asked with unnecessary harshness, annoyed by the indifference Sloan seemed to reacting with.
'You know I don't question your motives, just some of your decisions. But I don't think everyone in the Legacy feels that way. There are plenty out there that probably believe that Derek Rayne is just as dangerous as you feel Liz is.' Sloan quickly pointed out. He hadn't liked what Derek was accusing him of. Despite their many differences and years of petty squabbling, Sloan still viewed Derek as one of the few people he could trust without hesitation and he didn't want Derek questioning that bond.
'I'm just not certain that it's a good idea to allow this to continue, you can't really be considering...' Derek didn't pursue that line of thinking, not wanting to try to appease Sloan by saying anything too flattering of him and thus lose one small battle.
'Of course not, I have recommendations from five other precepts that we keep her near the bottom, but I am not about to throw her out of the Legacy. Remember Derek, keep your enemies closer.' Sloan had looked up at him in such a way that Derek couldn't be entirely sure what he was eluding too. He was certain though that Sloan had recognized the threat in their midst and wasn't going to let it get out of control.
But then... Again Derek's thoughts turned back to his father. Winston's spirit had returned, assuming his son's body, and Sloan had sacrificed himself rather then allow Winston to open the sepulchers.
He forced his mind to return to the present rather then dwell on those unpleasant memories any more then he already had over the past several days. "You must be very happy that Jackson took such a liking to your work." He was willing to get Liz mad at him, screaming even, if it kept his thoughts from returning to those of his father and therefore his mother's accusations and disappointment.
Instead of giving him what he had hoped for she just turned another pleased smile to him. "For a time, yes. Nothing could have made me happier. I loved my work until I began thinking about what I was really doing. Then it became more than I could bear." Derek remembered why he felt he was forgetting something important about her sudden arrival. His mind playing back the reports he had distractedly gone over earlier in the morning in an effort to keep his thoughts from wandering. Unfortunately the ploy hadn't worked and he had been roaming the house trying to find something to occupy him since that time.
"I read that you left the Legacy. What are you doing here?" She looked pleased that he had finally brought this detail forward, unwilling to say it herself for some reason.
"I came to make amends. The last time I saw you I said some horrible things." She reached out, gently laying her slender fingers against the sleeve of his sweater. Her touch was both familiar and kind, more traits he did not consider being her strong suits. Yet it appeared to be sincere and Derek had to admit that he had only briefly known her and he had served as the final nail in her coffin as far as her career in the Legacy went. At least he had at the time, Jackson had quickly discarded the poor words of those before him and given her the sort of authority that Derek had feared her having. Her reaction and anger towards him those years ago had come at a time when perhaps it was natural to strike out at him. Perhaps he had judged her prematurely without bothering to garner all the information.
"It was in the heat of the moment. I had upset you and you reacted honestly, I can't fault you that." She laughed slightly at that understanding.
"And in that moment of heat I proved you right on every point you were making to Sloan. I behaved awfully towards you Derek and I owe an apology. You were being honest and you may have been right." Derek nodded surprised that she would so readily agree with him, even over comments he had made two years ago. Liz had never been to him the type of woman who would ever admit to her faults not even with the benefit of hindsight. She was too strong willed and determined for any of that.
"Really?" Derek asked unable to hide his amazement over her words.
"It only took me a short while being at a position in the Legacy that I thought would be more to my liking before long I could no longer handle what was going on around me. I had wanted a promotion so badly but when Jackson gave me one I quickly learned that I wasn't made for it like I thought." Derek was now intrigued by what she meant. Her admission of weakness or possibly failure definitely did not fit with the profile that he had worked up on her for Sloan
"Why don't we go into the living room. Dominick can bring us some coffee and we can talk." Derek gestured to the room off of the main hall.
"I'd really like that Derek." She smiled and let him lead the way. "You have a beautiful home here. I must admit I expected a bit more activity, I suppose. From what I've heard San Francisco is not exactly a quiet place."
"On most occasions no I wouldn't say that. Most of the house is away right now." He took a seat in an armchair and Liz stopped in her progress to the window to look back at him.
"I hope I'm not keeping you from anything." She said with a sudden nervousness. He wondered if she felt out of place being back in a Legacy house after having left the organization. Or if perhaps she was merely nervous from being around him.
"No. In fact you are a welcome distraction." Derek answered with a grin, hoping to put her at ease. He may never have had a close relationship with this woman but even if she wasn't someone he might willingly trust he admitted that he liked the diversion she represented from the thoughts he'd been trying to escape. "Now you were telling me about why you left the Legacy?"
"Yes, I suppose I was." She finished the walk to the window overlooking the woods on one side of the house. "I'm not really sure how to explain it to you. You've always believed so passionately in the Legacy and I just I can't find it in myself to give them that faith anymore. I've seen things, how the Ruling house handles some issues and it makes me very nervous."
"Really and why is that?" Derek asked leaning forward in his seat with interest. He had been having suspicions about that exact thing for weeks now if not longer. She had lived much closer to the heart of the organization and that could gain him some knowledge that might be kept from him. Not only that but she had held a special friendship with Jackson which was where Derek traced many of his lingering worries back to. Perhaps she could help him figure out that mystery.
"Derek, may I ask you something first?" She turned back around to look at him. She could see the pain in his eyes. It had worked. The woman had come here and she had done exactly as Liz had hoped she would. Somehow she had deeply hurt Derek and left him too distracted to be watching out from an attack. She knew that if she provided a sympathetic ear to him he would fall to her as easily as Julian had. Now she saw that he clearly had his own concerns about something occurring within the Legacy and that too could be easily fed.
"Of course." Derek nodded her on.
"When you opened the door for me and didn't invite me in, you seemed upset. Out of sorts. And you're alone here, is everything all right? Is everyone on your team all right? I know how dearly you care about all of them. That's talked about as much in the Ruling House as your many successes." She crossed back to him, crouching down in front of him.
"It is?" He asked with obvious leeriness to her statement.
Liz smiled at him again, she could tell that the simple expression was working to bring barriers down in him that would otherwise keep her too far away to allow himself to be hurt by her. "Naturally. The San Francisco house is it's legendary. You are considered the one house that will never fall. Everyone knows that's because you are the one house that is a family. Members may change but at the heart of it all is Derek Rayne, somehow pulling together this group that would never have fit under anyone else and making them a team. Fostering a bond much greater then that as well. You have the members here that would have been discounted by anyone else and yet you made them great."
Derek averted his eyes, feeling he didn't deserve any such praise. "They're fine." He whispered.
"I'm glad to hear that. I know losing them would be the worst punishment any could inflict on you." Derek nodded weakly. He couldn't deny the truth of that statement but also couldn't escape his fears that with time he would be the one hurting them. That he would do something to cause himself to lose them all out of his life. "Then tell me, what is it? Something obviously has you very upset, maybe it would help to talk about it. But if you can't, I'll understand."
He finally turned to look at her and saw the understanding look in her eyes that appeared to be so genuine. He found himself desperate to trust her. To lean on someone that wouldn't be hurt by some of the things he felt such a need to confess. If he said any of the things he was thinking to those in his house he feared his words would give them reason to worry where possibly none had existed. He could inadvertently give them reason to suspect and fear him just by saying that he feared he might make it necessary in time. But Liz was an outsider who he still thought probably had a poor opinion of him anyway. He would lose nothing by talking to her or risk anything. All it would do would help to lessen some of the load on him and that was what he most desperately wanted.
After a long pause he made up his mind to talk to her. To possibly gain some advice from her and see if it was not too late to fix things with his family and prevent the need for such repairs with his second family.
"Alex, what are you doing here?" Rachel was surprised when she answered her front door to find her colleague on her doorstep. Alex hadn't called ahead and Derek had promised that unless there was a dire emergency she would be left alone for a week to deal with her affairs outside the Legacy.
"I wanted to talk to you." Rachel nodded and invited Alex in, leading her back towards the kitchen where she was engaged in the rare activity of making Kat dinner. Too often lately they were either on the Island or Rachel resorted to eating out. This week she planned on cooking every night even if Kat felt the need to point out that it wasn't her greatest skill. Her daughter would probably just assume they were eating someone else's cooking but Rachel wanted to use these few days to do all the mom things that too often were neglected.
"What's up?" Rachel asked as she returned to her spot at the stove, checking the recipe she had out one more time before making last night's mistake with salt again.
"Have you talked to Derek in the last two days?" Alex questioned as she took a seat at the breakfast bar. She picked up a tomato off the counter and absently began rolling it in between her palms. She hadn't been able to get her brief encounter in the kitchen with Derek out of her mind. He had been so distracted and upset that it bothered her. Since then she had only seen him a few times but the mood from that short exchange had not lifted at all. He wandered around the house going through the motions but not really with any of his normal attention. She couldn't even put it into words but whatever it was it had caused her to worry.
"Nope. Week off, remember?" Rachel reminded.
"I know. I was just hoping you could give me your opinion on something." Rachel noticed the tone to Alex's voice, one that she unfortunately knew too well. Alex was concerned about Derek for some reason and she was not one to jump to conclusions. When Alex worried she did so with good cause.
"What is it?" Rachel turned the burners down, another important lesson she had been reminded of the hard way the night before. If you were going to direct your attention away from your sauce make sure you didn't leave the heat on high. It only took five minutes of scrubbing the bottom of the charred pot before she threw it in the trash but she didn't want to lose all her cooking supplies. Even if it might make Kat infinitely happier.
"I ran into him the other night, he was sitting in the kitchen in the dark. When I found him he just walked away without hardly a hello. For the last few days he's been very quiet and keeping himself removed from everyone. He hasn't shown any interest in anything and for the most part he has been staying in his room or other places he knows he'll be left alone. I'm not sure how to put it but it has me worried. It's just very out of character for him." Rachel nodded to the strain in Alex's voice that also showed on her face.
"Well, I don't know what to say. It could be any number of things. Perhaps an anniversary of some sort. Something that he's thinking about out of the past." Rachel leaned her elbows against the counter.
"I thought that at first too." She stood up and started pacing the length of the kitchen. "But I went over those in my head. I thought maybe Julia or Alicia or even Sloan. It's none of those. It's not his father. No birthdays or deaths happened around this time that I know about." Rachel started to point out that maybe Alex didn't know about it, maybe it was something that Derek had never before mentioned but the younger woman went on not allowing the interruption. "Anyway this is the first time it has happened. Which means it's something recent, not from the past or we would have seen it last year. Derek's lost so many people, he's always dealt with it better then this. Honestly he's dealt with everything better then this." Alex was clearly desperate for an answer and Rachel regretted that she couldn't provide her one.
"What about Nick and Tangye?" Rachel suggested, not letting her own worry get the best of her before she knew the answer to her question.
"I spoke with Nick last night when he called. Derek wouldn't take the call from them but they're fine. I don't mean to sound disappointed by that but it would at least be an answer." Alex gritted her teeth, struggling to locate whatever it was that she was missing. "I also called Philip just to be sure and he's fine too. Everyone is fine, except Derek."
"Alex it'll be okay. Whatever it is we can get through it." Rachel tried to console her anxious friend but it did no good. Rachel had hoped that Alex's blossoming relationship with Gilby would get her past the unrequited feelings that she had for Derek but that clearly wasn't the case. It wasn't something they had ever talked about it but it was obvious all the same. Rachel just couldn't figure out how Derek had missed it for so many years when it had been one of the first things that she had noticed.
"The not knowing is driving me crazy. I just want to help him." Alex stated desperately. Rachel went to her and reached out with a smile removing the tomato from her hands.
"No need to take it out on an innocent fruit." She smiled hoping to ease some of the worry. It appeared to work for a moment as Alex smiled at the comment but then her face immediately fell again. "Alex, it could be anything. He could just be tired. He works too hard, we all know that. He might just need a break but he won't give it to himself so it ends up coming to this."
"Rachel, I know you asked for the week " Alex began but Rachel cut her off by taking her hands and smiling at her warmly.
"I'll come out there first thing tomorrow morning. I'll talk to the good doctor, see if I can get him to open up to me. If I can't, we'll call in the cavalry." She leaned forward and placed a fond kiss on Alex's brow in a motherly gesture. Alex nodded at the suggestion but the idea that they might have to call on Nick and Tangye did not help to ease any of her concerns. She had observed Derek's reclusive behavior for two days and with no signs of it improving she felt she had no choice but to run to Rachel. If they had to then in turn run to the other members of the house that meant things were really bad. She just wished she could figure out what might do this to Derek. What could possibly drag him down so much that he was hiding away from her?
"Derek, I'm so sorry to hear about that. It must have been awful for you." She laid a sympathetic hand against his knee after he finished explaining to her about his mother's sudden appearance and then her demanded separation from him.
"I'm actually surprised that I'm taking it so badly. I suppose I never even considered the possibility of it happening and when it did I just don't know what to do about it now. The mistake has been made and I can't take it back." He stared down at his lap dejectedly. He had been very impressed by Liz while he told of the events over the last few days. She had asked all the right leading questions, let him alone to struggle to find the words when he needed to and never once did she point out that this was probably all his own fault and that perhaps he deserved it. She had done everything right and he had been afraid of telling anyone about what happened because he doubted that anyone could do so well. Alex, Rachel and Nick would all have a bit of 'I told you so' to their reactions to news like this because they had done just that time and again. That was the last thing that he needed right now though, he needed someone who just understood how hard this all was and surprisingly Liz did.
"No you can't which is unfortunate. But you have to figure out a way to go on from here. I don't think this is an unforgivable crime, eventually your mother will figure out a way to forgive you. She's bound to understand why you thought it was best to keep it to yourself." Liz whispered, laughing hysterically internally. She could not have hoped for more from this situation. His mother had reacted perfectly, more so then she had even dreamed and the fallout left Derek more devastated then she ever thought it would. If she believed in the idea of fate not of man's making she would be certain that the powers that be wanted her to succeed and were making it much easier for her to do so.
"I want to believe that, more then you can know, but you didn't see the look in her eyes. She's never looked at me that way before." Derek responded listlessly.
"You've never given her cause to. But you are her son and nothing you can do will ever destroy that bond. She loves you." Liz stood up, moving back over to the window. Derek sensed that she had something else to say on the matter but she remained silent as she stared out into the approaching darkness.
"Are you alright? You came here to talk to me, not to hear about this. What was it you wanted to tell me?" Derek welcomed the idea of a distraction even if it had helped to get some of his feelings out in the open. He just didn't want to dwell on them any longer. Two wasted days was enough he had to figure out a way to go on with his life until his mother found a way to let him back into hers.
"Actually it's strange, everything you just told me goes right back to why I left the Legacy Derek. The lies we're forced to tell, the shadow we have to exist in while innocents suffer not knowing that there is someone in the world that they could be crying out to. They train us to lie from the day of our initiation and after seeing some of what I saw I realized I just couldn't do it any longer." Her voice was agonized causing Derek to fear what she might have seen. He truly believed that keeping the Legacy secret was best for everyone. It allowed the innocents she spoke of to sleep at night without the knowledge of the horrors just beyond their walls. Yet there were still times when doubts crept into him. When he was forced to wonder how many others they couldn't help because no one knew that they were out there with the means to be saviors of sorts.
"What have you seen?" Derek asked carefully.
"That there are as many out there that the Legacy ignores as there are that they choose to help. How can that be forgiven, Derek? How can they just look away because it doesn't serve their needs?" Liz turned to him seeking answers from him as he had done of her. He wished he could tell her why it made sense but her insinuation just didn't to him. If what she was saying was even partially true she was expressing his greatest fear for the organization. That they might someday become callous, obsessed more with their own needs then those they were set up to protect.
"Are you sure of that? Perhaps we just don't have the means. We can't possibly be everywhere at once." Derek tried to give a logical explanation but Liz just shook her head at his words.
"There's a difference Derek. I understand that the scope is only so much but in some of these cases well, they were already there and they just didn't act." She stared down at the floor, fighting to hold back her smile. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be telling you all of this. I know how important the Legacy is to you." She paused and then turned to him having thought of something else. "But your house Derek, the people that live here and look to you for guidance, they are just, if not more, important to you aren't they?"
"Yes." Derek answered quickly having no doubt about that fact at all which was nice after days of doubting himself. Finding a corner of certainty helped in some way.
"Then I suppose that is why I'm here. Because you want nothing more then to protect your family and that makes it possible for you to see both sides of this. They come before the Legacy and the Legacy above everything else. Having something before the Legacy though is unfortunately rare. But it's in you and I guess that's why I thought you might listen to me. Maybe you can even justify it to me and I can trust you because it isn't your whole world. Too many of the others blindly follow whatever dictate the Legacy puts in front of them but you have never done that." Derek nodded in understanding. "So please Derek, I need you to meet me somewhere tomorrow. I need to show you something and then I want you to explain to me why the Legacy makes its choices. If you can do that you will help me in more ways then you can ever know." She pleaded with him and due to her sincerity and obvious struggles with whatever she had learned he found that he couldn't deny her.
"Of course Liz. If you think I can help." He went to her and took her hand in his own, offering her a weak smile in support but it was the best he could offer.
"Mr. Parker?" Carin stepped into Jackson's office tentatively. Jackson frequently did not welcome interruptions and normally she would never do so but he had specifically asked for any information about this. Jackson looked up from his paperwork, pulling his glasses off in an annoyed gesture.
"What is it?" He snapped.
"You wanted to know if anything strange happened in any of the houses or if Liz Cannon was seen near them." She crossed to his desk handing him the brief note sent by Sybil Pavlick from the Athens house. "The report just came in, Julian Gardina left the Legacy suddenly almost five days ago. He evidently left a note saying that he could no longer be involved with an organization so corrupt and that the others should reconsider their involvement as well. Liz was seen at the house earlier that day." Jackson snatched the note from her and quickly read over the few lines.
"Of course she was." Jackson growled. He tossed the paper into a stack on his desk. She had been caught with Julian's file before her banishment. It had been just one of many ways that she had overstepped her bounds which lead to her own removal. He should have seen this coming and admitted that it was just another failure on his part.
"Mr. Parker, if you don't mind me asking, why were the houses not " Jackson cut her off with a harsh glare and his threatening tone.
"I do mind, Carin. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Now is there anything else?" He didn't leave her a choice to add anything else, his voice signifying her dismissal. She shook her head and hurried from the room rather then anger him anymore. He sat at the desk his eyes unable to look away from the sheet of paper signaling the first step of his demise as the head of the Legacy. It would be learned that he had given her leniency and what that had brought about. They would remove him if he did not act and as much as he hated the idea of admitting to his failing in front of the entire Legacy it was better then being outcast.
He rubbed the bridge of his nose wearily wishing that he had handled this situation better or that he had let someone else take care of it. Then at least anything that went wrong could not so easily be blamed on him. But instead he had stayed in charge of the investigation and made all of the subsequent decisions. Now every choice he had made in regards to Liz Cannon were quickly bringing him to ruin. He thought about the files that he had read over when he had first become precept of the Ruling House. The many reports that William Sloan had complied that all spelled out the same thing for Liz. She was being allowed to stay in the Legacy only so that a close watch could be kept over her. He wasn't sure if he had gone against those recommendations just to show that he was now clearly in charge and would not blindly follow the path that Sloan had left or if she had somehow managed to manipulate him in a way she never could with William. Whatever the reason was it was a mistake, a weakness that she had exploited. Something that he could not tolerate any longer.
With begrudging resignation he reached out and turned the monitor of his computer on. He had allowed this to go too far and he already looked a fool in the eyes of the London house. If he let the situation continue he would be mocked throughout the Legacy for his weakness and there was sure to be plenty of other whisperings among them. Those in his house already questioned his relationship with Liz and that idea could not be allowed to spread. No sign of weakness should be seen and he would do whatever necessary now to prevent it.
He rubbed the tips of his fingers together wondering just how to phrase the notice. Liz had not left the Legacy of her own volition, she had been banished. They didn't need to know the reason just that simple fact. They had to know that she should not be allowed near any of the Legacy houses or its members. If she was seen they needed to notify him immediately. Julian Gardina was the same thing now, no more then a threat. He sighed and began typing the letter that would be broadcast to all of the Legacy precepts.
Gilby had called the house several times but was not able to catch either Alex or Derek free. He didn't yet know Kristin, who had been there, so he didn't feel comfortable going to her with his information. If it was nothing he didn't want to look like an over anxious fool in the eyes of a stranger. Alex would appreciate the concern he was showing and Derek was to be a man always leaning on the side of caution. They would think nothing if he showed up with a piece of literature from some man on the streets that meant nothing, but he wasn't sure Kristin's reaction would be so forgiving if he bothered her.
Alex finally called him back early the next day and when he told her what he had been given she invited him to meet her on the island for breakfast and to look over the flyer. He didn't mention that he had a meeting in the afternoon with his newly hired lawyer and hoped he could get away without bringing that subject up. He really didn't want to get into another discussion about how foolishly he was handling the whole thing, his father's lecture the night before had been his fill for the week of hearing that he was being stupid just giving in. In the end though his old man had come through with the lawyer and some money but he hadn't wasted the opportunity to tell Gilby he was lazy about not bothering to fight when he could conceivably win. Gilby just accepted his father's attitude though which probably annoyed the old man just as much, proving that his son wasn't interested in fighting for himself.
'You see a hurdle and you just turn away from it without so much as trying, where do you get that from?' The words rung in his ears as he drove up to the house. It was a true enough assessment. The minute he thought he saw Alex's possible feelings for Derek he was willing to step aside and walk out of her life. For some reason though he hadn't done it and he wasn't giving up on that battle. He wondered if his father would be proud to learn that or disappointed that he was willing to do for a girl what he wouldn't do for himself.
He parked the car in front of the garage where Nick's mustang was parked so he wouldn't be blocking anyone in. He checked the inside pocket of his canvas jacket again just to be sure he still had the flyer. Alex greeted him before he even made it to the front door, evidently having seen his car pull up to the house. He couldn't help but smile the minute he saw her, looking so beautiful in the early morning wearing dark jeans and a blue turtleneck, her curls bouncing as she came towards him. "Hey there, pretty lady." He called out to her as the distance between them closed.
"Hey there handsome." She laughed slightly at the friendly greeting. He self-consciously pushed his hair out of his face. She met up with him and placed a fond kiss on his cheek taking his hand in her own as they returned to the house. "No time to shave?" She asked noticing the two-day stubble on him.
"Not one of the things that really interests me. Does it bother you?" He asked with a bit too much concern for his own ears. He didn't want to try to impress her so much or change himself for her benefit. If she liked him she would have to do it for what he was. That included disinterest in haircuts and shaving.
"Not at all. It looks really good on you actually." He opened the door for her and stepped inside the house. "Now you had something you wanted me to see?"
"Right to business, huh?" Gilby laughed slightly at her no nonsense attitude.
"Sorry, things have been strange around here the last few days. I've been meaning to call you to talk but just haven't had much time to do it." She again placed a kiss on his cheek.
"No problem, I've been running around a lot myself." He dug the sheet of paper out of his pocket and passed it over to her. "I don't know if it means anything but it just seemed to be hitting the proverbial nail pretty squarely." He shrugged not wanting to appear too sure that it held significance in case it didn't.
"You said someone just gave you this on the streets?" Alex asked shocked by what she was reading. Words about demons and ghosts, vampires and werewolves. A very real element of evil to be fought in the world. But mostly just repeated references to the Legacy without even an attempt being made to hide.
"Yeah, you know, one of those guys who wants to scream his truths from the mountaintops. Nobody takes them seriously though, most of these end up in the trash five feet from him." Gilby explained as she lead him into the dining room where there was a light breakfast set out.
"You're right about that, but You're also right that this is a bit too accurate just to be dismissed. Do you think you could describe the man who gave it to you? I could see if he has any relation to us or if he's just grabbing at straws and managed to get a lot of the right ones." Gilby again shrugged.
"I probably could, he was pretty non de-script. If you think it would help I'll see what I can remember."
"That would be a big help. Thank you for bringing this here." She turned another bright smile to him and he was suddenly glad he had too. For some reason the sheet of paper and whatever it signified by him taking an interest in it made her happy and that was just what he wanted to do. He wanted her to be pleased with him and he didn't even bother chastising himself for that. What was so wrong with him wanting her to be happy with him?
"Alex?" They both looked up to see Rachel standing in the doorway. "Can I talk to you?" She glanced at Gilby for a moment but clearly wanted a moment alone with her associate.
"I'm sorry about this Gilby. Just grab something to eat, I'll be right back." Alex stood up from the table taking the flyer with her out into the hall. Rachel moved away from the doorway a ways to make sure that Gilby could not hear what they were talking about. "Did you see him?" Alex asked anxiously.
"Briefly, he was on his way out somewhere." Rachel nodded. Derek hadn't been interested in talking to her at the moment but she didn't see the signs of depression that Alex had referred to with so much concern. He acted as if he was troubled about whatever activity he was off to, but he had been friendly enough. Still there was something about his quick dismissal of her that wasn't right in her opinion. Derek usually always made time for them, even when he didn't necessarily want to he'd give them a few moments and his attention. She hadn't managed to get either of those things this morning.
"He left? Did he mention where he was going?" Alex asked her concern growing without cause this time. So Derek went out, what was wrong with that? It was actually good that he got out of the house and away from whatever it was that was dragging him down here.
"No he didn't but he was in a hurry. He barely had two words for me. He didn't mention to you having any appoints today?" Rachel saw the growing worry on Alex's face and wished she had something to say that might ease it but she didn't want to lie to her.
"He hasn't talked to me at all but I don't know of anything." Alex gestured in defeat. She wasn't sure what they were supposed to do with Derek. If he decided he wasn't going to open up to them about whatever it was that was bothering him she doubted they would be able to force him to. Instead she returned her thoughts to the information that Gilby had brought with him, wanting to get Rachel's opinion on it while she was here. "Take a look at this. Someone on the streets gave it to Gilby yesterday. I'm going to get a description of the man and see what I can find out."
Rachel scanned the sheet of purple paper her eyes growing wide as she took in the broken statements. "It was obviously written by someone very disturbed, the way it's so disjointed, lacking any cohesion. The main point is pretty clear though." Rachel looked back up at Alex awaiting her opinion, feeling her vacation slipping out of her grasp.
"Someone knows about us and isn't complying with the secret society side of it all." Alex nodded in her agreement feeling dread fall over her at the thought.