The Return
Kethrineth (Janet and Sandy)
more in this storyline at

Sunnydale High School March 5, 1997 11:54p.m.

"Marissa, It worked! The ritual actually worked just like you said it would." 
Danny was nearly babbling in his excitement as he watched the stolen hand flaming
brilliantly on the tile floor. He didn't see his new girlfriend's face shift to an 
almost bestial appearance as she drew softly closer to his unprotected back. "When 
will...", his words trailed off with a gasp as Marissa's freshly elongated fangs 
tore his throat open.

A tall, dark haired man stepped quietly from the shadows of the locker room as the
boy's blood ran down the drain. "That was most unwise, my dear. You have deprived
me of a potential servant." He effortlessly hauled the vampire from her prey, 
lifting her from the floor with his remaining good hand. "I trust you have an 
explanation for me?" His voice softened to nearly a purr. 

The last bell had rung five minutes ago when Xander came shooting down the walk on 
his skateboard, oblivious to the dark suited stranger waiting just inside the 
school gate. The board went flying off into the shrubbery when the man grabbed his 
arm, yanking him to a stop.

"Whoa, what did you do that for?" the teen demanded. "Uh, sir." Xander tacked on 
uneasily once he'd taken in the air of quiet authority the stranger radiated.

"To get your attention. I believe skateboarding on school property is against the 
rules here, especially when one is late for classes." The man's quiet, measured 
tones were anything but reassuring "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Mr. Warden. 
The new Vice Principal in charge of instilling some discipline here. And you 
are?" he prompted.

"In deep trouble" he responded thinking, This is not a good way to start the day. 
No, not good at all. Mr. Warden, maintaining his painful grip on the boy's arm, 
steered him towards the office.

The two girls looked up from their conversation, when the dark haired boy banged 
his way through the door, snagging a chair across from them. "Will somebody please 
tell me this new vice principal is a monster and we're going to kill him?" Xander 
demanded in as reasonable a voice as he could manage after glancing around to be 
certain nobody but Buffy and Willow were in the library.

"Not exactly a monster, a demon really, and I'm afraid he can't be killed, merely 
banished." The slightly nervous tones of the school librarian drifting out of the 
back room startled all three teenagers so badly it took a second for them to 
assimilate what he'd just said.

As usual Buffy recovered first. "Wait a second. You mean the new VP really is a 
demon, like in lake of fire, servant of Satan? That type of demon?" She peered 
skeptically at the curly headed Englishman who had appeared in the doorway, 
ignoring Xander who was pounding quietly on the table telling anyone who cared to 
listen that he'd known it all along.

"Yes Buffy, that type of demon." He responded dryly, dropping the old leather-
bound tome he carried on to the table between them. "He's actually called the 
Warden, rather cheeky using his real name, and he's summoned using an ancient rite 
called the Hand of Glory."

"Wow, I didn't think Mr. Snyder was that serious about cracking down on 
discipline." Willow marveled, referring to the paranoid little man who had taken 
over after Principal Flutey was eaten by a pack of possessed students.

"I don't think Principal Snyder called him. Danny Choi was found in the boy's 
locker room this morning drained white, along with all the paraphernalia necessary 
for the ritual. It was shortly after this that I was introduced to our new Vice 
Principal. It wasn't hard to make the connection. His hand still hasn't completely 
grown back from the last time he was banished."

"So what do you think he's doing in Sunnydale." Buffy demanded getting down to 

"Well...since draining all the blood from his summoner isn't part of the Warden's 
usual pattern I assume our friend the Master had something to do with it." Giles 
looked sadly at the three teens. They had proven to be quite effective at battling 
the head vampire and he was proud of them but they had paid a high price. They are 
so young for this sort of thing. They should be worrying about dates not demons in 
high school. Except the Slayer of course. It's her destiny to worry about these 
things. "What really concerns me is what our friend could be planning that 
requires such a powerful ally." 

All four conspirators jumped when the library's swinging doors were thrown open. 
"I wasn't aware classes were being held in the library today." The newcomer 
announced in a deceptively pleasant tone.

Not quite shaking off that deer in the headlights look Willow stammered something 
about looking up references for a report.

The Warden merely stared coldly at them. "In the future I would suggest you stop 
by class and get a pass first. No one is allowed in here during class time without 
a pass." He glared meaningfully at the only faculty member present and withdrew 
from the room, allowing the three to start breathing again.

By the time Xander got out of detention and made his way to Buffy's place in the 
early twilight the girls were already upstairs. Anyone looking at them would only 
see two giggling sixteen year olds making plans for the month they'd be spending 
together now that Willow's parents had left for Europe. The only difference was 
these two were planning a demon hunt. It wasn't much longer before their mentor 
showed up, explaining to Mrs. Summers that he was here to coach the children for a 
history exam.

"It's almost frightening how easily your mother is diverted." Giles commented 
polishing his glasses before turning to the thick file folder he'd placed on the 
desk in the corner.

"Yeah, I know. She's been frightening me for years." Buffy bounced restlessly on 
the foot of the bed. "Come on Giles, fess up. You said he'd been banished before. 
Are you planning to share or not?"

Putting his glasses back in place he blinked at the three expectant faces lined up 
at the foot of the bed. "Yes, of course. He was sent back by a Legacy priest using 
an altered form of the summoning. He added a bit of a twist of his own which is 
how the Warden's hand was burned up." He fumbled nervously with the papers. "Ahh, 
I don't suppose that clarified things very much did it?"

"Not at all." Xander replied helpfully. "What's the Legacy?"

"Well, you see, the Legacy is a very old and secret organization dedicated to 
protecting mankind from the forces of darkness. They battle demons, investigate 
paranormal phenomenon and help lay troubled spirits to rest. Sometimes they even 
take on vampires among other things." Giles paused, wondering how much to tell 
them and if it would be considered a violation of his oath of secrecy. Nonsense! 
They are my team in a sense and they have a need to know these things if they're 
to be of any help in this matter. 

"So they're sort of like those guys in Ghostbusters." Xander broke in to the 
teacher's train of thought, seeming pleased to have figured something out. 

Giles almost hated to correct him but he'd actually seen that movie and didn't 
want Xander making such a comparison in front of the men coming to assist them. 
"Well, not exactly."

Before he could gather his thoughts to try and make the children understand the 
seriousness of what the Legacy did, Buffy cut the librarian off. "Wait a sec here. 
What does this Legacy have to do with us? Hello. We were talking about how to 
banish this creep, I thought."

"Quite right. I'm glad you brought that up." Giles was relieved that it was Buffy 
who asked the question. It felt less like a betrayal to explain this to the 
Slayer. After all she had a tie to the Legacy whether she knew it or not. "They 
have a great deal to do with us. Centuries ago the Slayer was a part of the Legacy 
but it was decided it would be better if she worked alone so as to focus 
exclusively on vampires. A specialist from the Ruling House, the Watcher, was the 
only link maintained between them. I file reports with the nearest Legacy House on 
our activities and in return I have access to their database should I wish to use 
it. If necessary they can even send backup. The same team that banished the Warden 
before can be here by morning."

"Who says we need backup. Just tell us what to do and we'll off the guy."  "It's 
not that simple Xander. The Warden is a major power and I'm afraid he's a bit out 
of your league. Besides I called the nearest Legacy House for assistance as soon 
as school let out and they've probably already left. It's a long drive from San 
Francisco." Giles frowned at the trio on the bed. "These are experienced 
operatives and I need you to promise me you won't try anything foolish until they 

"Don't fuss Giles, it's not like we've never dealt with a demon before. Uh, not 
that we're planning on dealing with this one." she tacked on hurriedly at his dark 
look. Buffy got up and raised her right hand, solemnly intoning, "I promise we 
won't try anything foolish."

The Master had begun to pace excitedly about the firelit cavern, filled with plans 
for his coming out. "You'll be able to handle the Slayer and her friends without 
harming them won't you? I am so looking forward to paying my respects in person." 
The vampire's bestial face was twisted into a look of unholy rapture.

The Warden glanced up from studying the blood ritual that would free his host, a 
trifle irritated at this questioning of his abilities. Ah well, these minor demons 
have to be reassured constantly but they do have their uses. And I know just the 
use I have in mind for this one. A thin, unpleasant smile fleeted across the 
Warden's face at the thought of his planned revenge on the priest once he'd 
finished here and tracked the boy down. "I don't believe the girl will be any 
problem. I've already concocted a plan that will keep her quite safely preoccupied 
while I prepare for our little ceremony." He closed the book abruptly. "If all 
goes well it should take less than a week to neutralize the opposition and then 
you'll be free to fulfill your end of our bargain."

The Master seemed startled for a moment then began to laugh. "Once I've been 
released it will be a simple matter for me to put the bite on the priest for you."

"He's not to be killed!" The Warden snapped sharply as he glared at the other.

"Of course not. I have done this before you know." The Master was offended at the 
thought that he might go too far with a victim. He drifted to the far side of the 
stone chamber that held him captive, his eyes growing dreamy. "I think I like the 
unwilling ones best. The horror in their eyes as they lie there, helplessly near 
death, while the blood that will revive them is forced down their throats."

He snapped back from his daydreams of brutalizing the innocent to the present as 
he whirled on his guest with a petulant complaint. "What I don't understand is why 
put the curse on him as well. After all, that will ruin him as a servant. Trust 
me. I know." His thoughts flitted briefly to the traitor, Angel. If the renegade 
thought he was suffering now, since that gypsy woman restored his soul to him, 
just wait until he got his hands on the ungrateful little whelp. I'll teach him 
true suffering once I'm free. Right before I kill him that is.

The Warden grabbed hold of the vampire's tunic collar, yanking him close to be 
sure he got the message. "Because I don't want to make him a servant, you idiot! I 
want to make him suffer! I want him to keep his soul so that it can die a little 
more with every life he must take to survive."

Later that night after Giles had gone home and Buffy's Mom, thinking Xander had 
caught a ride with the teacher, had gone to sleep the three teens crept towards 
the old cemetery. Willow said, "Ahh Buffy, I've just got one question." She 
continued in a rush, "Doesn't this qualify as the something foolish you promised 
Giles we wouldn't do?"

"Of course not. I'm the Slayer. I'm supposed to hang out in cemeteries after 
dark." Buffy rationalized.

"Yeah," Xander chipped in. "It's not like we're out looking for the guy."

"Then what are you doing out at this hour." A chillingly familiar voice asked from 
behind them. "It is after all a school night."

The Slayer's response was a series of flying kicks that could easily have killed 
an ordinary man had any of them connected. The Warden simply swatted her aside 
like an irritating gnat. Willow rushed to her friend's side while Xander, showing 
more courage than sense, stepped in to throw an awkward punch at their inhuman 
adversary. This time the Warden didn't even raise his good hand, merely turning 
his gleaming eyes on the boy to hurl him into the side of a mausoleum. There was a 
sick snapping sound as he crumpled to the ground, his leg twisted unnaturally 
beneath him.

To Willow's surprise she wasn't next. The Warden stared down at her pale heart 
shaped face and calmly informed her, "It's deplorable the way teenagers today run 
wild at night. I shall have to speak with your parents about this sort of 
behavior." He then turned and walked quietly away.

Buffy asked groggily from her lap, "Wha' happened? Where'd he go?"

"I'm not sure but I think he went to call our parents." Willow responded in a 
daze. "Gee, it's a good thing mine are in Europe." 

San Francisco Legacy House March 6, 1997 5:43p.m.

Nick Boyle stood in the airy foyer beside his precept with his packed duffel bag 
slung carelessly at his feet and shouted up the stairs, "Hurry up Philip! I want 
to get there with enough spare time to grab a couple hours sleep before we have to 
meet these people."

"I am hurryin'." Philip yelled back as he appeared at the top of the stairs, 
struggling to hang onto his own duffel as he checked the contents of the small 
black bag he carried in his other hand. "You can't expect me t'go demon huntin' 
without m'tools."

"Philip is right. Don't be in too much of a rush. You'll have to approach the 
situation with caution." The precept was delayed from continuing by a fit of 

Nick took advantage of the distraction to pick up his gear and back towards the 
door. As sorry as he felt for the misery his boss was going through, he had no 
intention of catching the same flu bug. "Don't fuss Derek, this isn't exactly our 
first demon. We've dealt with the Warden before. We can handle this."

Derek Rayne stuffed his handkerchief back into the pocket of the heavy gray 
sweater he wore, irritated at his own show of weakness. He hated being sick! "I 
didn't mean to imply otherwise. I'm only trying to make you understand that this 
time he'll be ready for the ritual Philip used before."

"We know all that Derek." Philip spoke soothingly as he passed his ailing 
godfather. "Get some rest and just worry about gettin' better. I promise I won' 
let Nick do anythin' foolish." The young priest ducked quickly past his indignant 
partner, laughing as Nick turned to chase him out to the car like they were still 
a pair of kids.

Derek shook his head ruefully at the antics of his young operatives but stopped 
when the motion set off the pounding in his head again. Noticing that Dominic was 
eyeing him with some concern as he closed the door behind the young men Derek 
nodded politely at the servant before heading upstairs in search of more aspirin. 
Hopefully it would lower his fever enough for him to get some sleep and get over 
this wretched bug.

As the pair drove through the night Philip began reading snatches of the files 
they'd been given, passing a few pertinent details along as he went. "It says here 
that in all the world there is only one Slayer born in each generation, always a 
young girl, t'battle all the vampires on earth."

"Sounds like a pretty big job." Nick commented, keeping his eyes on the semi 
trying to squeeze it's way into the left lane ahead of them.

"Accordin' t'these records the girl is gifted with superhuman strength an' agility 
which the Watcher trains her t'use in the fight." Philip closed his eyes and 
started to nervously finger his crucifix as Nick cut the intrusive trucker off 
with a burst of speed from the mustang's V-8. " I hope he did a good job, we might 
need the help. It says here that Sunnydale is built over the Hellmouth, some kind 
of center for all the dark energies in the world. If the Warden has found a way to 
draw on those energies he could be much more powerful than he was the last time we 

Nick took a second to glance at his friend's grim face. "You scared?"

"Of the Warden? Of course not." Philip got quiet for a few miles, hoping that 
either the traffic would thin out soon or Nick would quit trying to pass every 
vehicle on the road. "Do ye think he's still mad about the hand?" he asked after a 

"Let's just say you'd better keep a low profile until you're ready to send him 
back." Nick grinned slyly before turning his attention back to the road. I didn't 
think even Philip could get that pale.

"Can I help you?" the slender girl who sat working at the library's computer 
terminal asked when Nick poked his head in. He frowned uncertainly. He'd begun 
opening doors at random looking for someone after they'd gotten turned around up 
by the gym. This is definitely the library but there's no way this fragile looking 
kid's the slayer. He stepped forward anyway when Philip jostled him from behind. 

"I hope so. There was a message waitin' at our hotel sayin' t'meet a Mr. Giles 
here this mornin'. Could ye tell us where we might be findin' 'im?" Philip laid 
his accent on thick, trying to cover the laugh that threatened to escape when he 
noticed the way the lass was staring at Nick. He'd seen enough of the girls at the 
parish school where he'd worked as a counselor three days a week get that look on 
their faces. He knew his friend was in trouble. A demon could be banished with the 
right prayers and incantations, a teenage crush was a much harder thing to get rid 
of. He knew. He'd tried it often enough!

"Uh, that would be me." Giles spoke up as he emerged from the stacks on the upper 
level. "...and you are?" He inquired, coming down the short flight of stairs to 
stand behind Willow. This can't be the team from San Francisco. The two men 
standing before him in old jeans and loose fitting work shirts looked to be only 
in their twenties They look more like grad students than seasoned demon hunters.

"Giles, we have to do something about this guy now!" Buffy yelled nearly an hour 
later, brushing a strand of dark blond hair out of her eyes. Frustrated by the 
proposed inactivity she turned her focus to the one area where she felt they 
should take action. "He told Mom that I needed therapy. She actually made an 
appointment! How can I be the Slayer if I have to waste time talking to some 

Giles sighed pinching the bridge of his nose to head off the migraine that was 
threatening to develop. "I don't know what I can do about that Buffy. He's 
convinced her this will solve all your so called behavior problems and put 
everything back the way it was before you learned you were the Slayer and it's not 
like I can offer her any alternatives. You know as well as I do that she could 
never handle the truth."

"I think we can help with that." Philip smiled reassuringly. "One of our 
teammates, Dr. Rachel Corrigan, is a psychiatrist. She can come out and meet with 
your mother t'calm her down while we try t'find somethin' we can use t'stop the 
Warden. Right now your job is t'wait an' t'watch fer the Warden t'make his move 
while we look fer a way t'send our old friend back where he belongs."

Nick lifted his head from his arms to glare across the table at the kid they 
expected him to work surveillance with. The little airhead was really getting on 
his nerves. I can't believe I'm going to say this. "Philip is right. We can't move 
against the Warden without some idea of what he's up to. If we move against him 
without knowing what he wants we risk playing right into his hands. Besides when 
things get rough I might not be able to protect you and I think you've pressed 
your luck far enough." He nodded pointedly at Xander's crutches. 

Buffy bristled at the pointed hit. She already felt bad enough about what happened 
to Xander without having this cocky interloper rub it in. "You're going to protect 
us? Excuse me who invited who here?" Buffy inquired incredulously. It was really 
getting on her nerves the way this guy was trying to tell her what to do. "Come 
on, why don't you show us how tough a big bad SEAL can really be."

Philip looked almost as worried as Willow when Nick got up without hesitation to 
face Buffy in the center of the room. The two of them had been building towards 
this ever since the Slayer had come in, midway through her mentor's briefing, just 
in time to hear Nick criticizing the way she had handled last night's hunt. Now 
neither of them could contain themselves any longer. Too much. Philip wished the 
girl hadn't brought up the SEALs. That Mr. Giles hadn't read their background 
files and shared the information with his students. Nick could be sensitive about 
his involvement in the elite military unit and his reasons for leaving it.

"I really don't think that's necessary." Giles interjected uneasily. "Classes will 
be starting soon and we really need to make up some kind of schedule for those of 
you who will be keeping an eye on our target while Father Callaghan and I are 
looking for a way to send him back."

"This won't take long and you're always saying I need to train harder." Buffy 
countered, needing to do something, anything to let off some of the pressure of  
inactivity and the ex-SEAL made such a tempting practice dummy. Oh, I'm really 
going to enjoy this. She could almost taste how good it would feel to take this 
guy down a peg...or three.

"Nick, she's just a girl. You shouldn't be doin' this." Philip cautioned, seeing 
his friend's short fuse getting the better of him once again.

"You heard the girl, Philip. She needs the training. I won't hurt her." This kid 
needed a lesson in not underestimating her opponent before she got anybody else 
hurt. Or killed. Nick drew his gun from beneath his shirt, handing it to the 
priest, who simply stared at it.

"What do ya expect me t'do with this?" Philip raised disbelieving blue eyes to 
meet those of his friend.

"Shoot her if she wins." The ex-SEAL told him, rolling his eyes disparagingly at 
his slightly dense friend before letting the irritation creep back into his voice. 
"Just hang on to it. I'd rather it didn't go off during the demonstration." 

"Hey, if you're not comfortable with guns I'll hang on to it." Xander chirped up, 
eyes alight with interest. The light died as the priest looked at the boy like he 
was out of his mind and tucked the weapon protectively into his waistband beneath 
the untucked edge of his red flannel shirt. 

The two hotheads began to circle one another, throwing light punches to test each 
other's defenses. Nick feinted with his left while sweeping a leg around to take 
the kid down. It didn't work out quite like he'd planned when the Slayer caught 
his leg and twisted, throwing him to the floor as she danced aside and waited for 
him to get up.

Rolling back to his feet the ex-commando came in more cautiously, ignoring 
Xander's animated and unflattering running commentary. He hadn't been put down 
that neatly since basic training with the navy. It was going to get worse. He soon 
found he couldn't lay a hand or foot on the kid as she knuckled down to teach him 
a serious lesson in humility. The petite blond didn't have the same problem as she 
landed blow after blow, each one harder than the one before. This fight was 
rapidly becoming far more than a demonstration. Neither one of them was prepared 
to take orders from the other. Each one was being driven to prove themselves 
superior, and there was plainly nothing anyone could do to stop the competition.

The Slayer had just landed a solid kick to Nick's ribs that left him curled up on 
the floor gasping for breath when an outraged voice behind them demanded, "What's 
going on in here?"

The principal looked down, a bit disconcerted at the young man lying curled up on 
the floor. No, he's definitely too old to be a student here. "Who are you people 
and what are you doing on school property? What happened to him?" He zeroed in on 
Buffy as the usual center of any disturbance in his school. "Is this a fight I 
find you in, Miss Summers?" 

Everyone but Nick and Willow were staring at the wizened little man in the doorway 
by now. She was too busy trying to help him sit up and he had all he could manage 
just trying to breathe. Giles hurriedly stepped forward to explain as Philip bent 
to haul his partner none too gently to his feet. Getting the man back up seemed to 
ease both his breathing and Willow's anxiety. It was plain he'd cracked at least 
one rib from the way he was clutching at his side and allowing them to support 
much of his weight but it was difficult to feel sorry for the man given the 

"These gentlemen are researchers from the Luna Foundation in San Francisco.  
They've come to study the history of the Hellmouth." Seeing that he at least had 
his superior's attention the librarian rushed on. "When the children learned Mr. 
Boyle used to be with your Navy SEALs they asked him to demonstrate some self 
defense techniques, and things got a little out of hand I'm afraid."

"You said yourself that it wasn't safe for a young girl to wander around here 
alone anymore. With an expert around I just thought he could give us a few lessons 
in how to protect ourselves." Buffy chimed in innocently, hoping to get herself 
out of trouble. If she happened to get her opponent into it in the process for the 
unauthorized activity on school grounds, well that would be a plus.

"From the look of things he needs a refresher course himself." The principal 
commented, causing Philip and Willow to tighten their grips on Nick as the barb 
made his muscles tense. The principal eyed the angry man warily, wondering if he 
was about to be attacked. When it was apparent nothing more was about to happen he 
continued. "I'm afraid, unless you get permission from the school board to be on 
the premises, you'll have to make do with the public library."

He turned to leave but paused long enough to glare at Buffy. "No more fights young 
lady. I'm not going to warn you again." The bizarre goings on at this school 
looked bad on his record and this girl always seemed to be on hand when something 
odd was happening.

The ringing of the first bell galvanized everyone. "I'll call Rachel as soon as 
I've seen t' Nick's ribs. She should be able t'get here by this evenin'." Philip 
tried to reassure the kids as he dragged an uncooperative Nick out the door 
alongside the three students.

"Don't worry, I'll call your mother and convince her not to do anything until 
she's talked to Dr. Corrigan." Giles called from the doorway as they all hurried 
away from him. He turned back to the brooding stillness of his library and it's 
vast collection on the occult. "In the meantime it looks like I've got work to do, 
and I'm apparently going to be doing it all by myself."

The shadows filling the firelit cavern seemed to dance with unholy glee that night 
as the Warden laughed. "I have dreamed of this! They are both here and this time 
they will be mine!"

The messenger who had brought news of the new arrivals shifted nervously closer to 
the wall at the strange reaction to a potential threat and turned pleading eyes to 
her Master. 

"Just don't forget that the Slayer is mine." the Master interjected in a hard 
voice, motioning his servant out of the room. "And don't let your petty vengeance 
interfere with the plan."

"Don't give me orders." the Warden glared before turning to go, his half-formed 
hand clenching angrily at his side. "This plays just perfectly into my plans. I'll 
need the assistance of a mortal to complete my backup plan and I know just the one 
I want." His anger faded at the delicious thought of the anguish that backup plan 
would  cause his foes if it had to be implemented. I almost hope something does go 
wrong, making it necessary to use the backup.

"Getting picky?" His host inquired snidely.

"Let's just say I prefer someone who I have already broken in a bit. It doesn't 
require so much of my attention to keep a familiar subject under control."

It was well past the witching hour before the Warden settled into the candlelit 
pentagram on the floor of the old house he was staying in. He chuckled quietly as 
he reached out with his senses, feeling the night for his prey. The vision filled 
his mind of his target tossing restlessly in his bed as the young warrior 
unconsciously fought the summons. The demon focused his thoughts until he saw the 
figure kick loose the tangled bedclothes and rise to dress with empty eyes. All 
that remained now was to wait.

It wasn't long before the front door swung open and the sleeper stood quietly 
before him. The demon rose smoothly to his feet and peered into his victim's eyes 
for a time, searching the soul that normally peered out from them. Searching for 
anything he might be able to use in controlling the boy. Soon he began to smile 
and gently reached out to run his ruined hand along the youngster's jaw in a 
possessive caress. "Ohhh yes, there is a great deal in here to work with." An 
unholy light filled his eyes and was briefly mirrored within his victim's as he 
placed a small part of himself within the wounded soul to bind it to him. He 
stepped back from the ex-SEAL once the task was completed. 

"You are to return to your bed and remember nothing of this meeting until I call 
for you again. You belong to me now and this time we'll see to it the priest 
doesn't interfere." The demon's eyes continued to glow with a cold fire as he 
watched his newest plaything docilely turn away to do as his new master had bade 

After school the next day the entire group was to compare notes on the 
surveillance, meeting in the motel room they had converted to a command post. The 
quest for a new spell to banish the Warden was proceeding slowly due to the 
difficulty of smuggling the books out of the school library to where one of the 
Legacy members waited outside the iron fence. The room looked like the aftermath 
of a bomb blast in an occult bookstore, and despite this they never seemed to have 
the volumes they wanted. Nearly two days of research and they'd still gotten 
nowhere. Their one consolation was that the Warden didn't seem in a hurry to do 
anything either.

Rachel couldn't help but grin as she entered with Buffy and surveyed the chaos. 
This was the first chance she'd had to join her colleagues since arriving the day 
before. She'd gotten into town late last night and had gone straight to see Mrs. 
Summers this morning. She had only just gotten away from the woman for this 

There was a teenage boy, who must be Xander, in a chair by the door with his 
broken leg propped up on another chair. Philip had begun using the cast as a 
writing desk without realizing it sometime after the table had become buried 
beneath reference volumes. The white plaster cast was covered in arcane symbols 
and snatches of Latin. There was a man about her own age peering over the shoulder 
of an auburn haired girl who was perched cross-legged on one twin bed calling up 
files on Nick's laptop. Her grin faded to puzzlement as she noticed the laptop's 
owner was sprawled on the other bed with one arm thrown across his eyes and a 
frown creasing the only visible portion of his face. Books seemed to cover every 
flat surface with the exception of the second twin bed and it's obviously out of 
sorts occupant.

"Buffy! So how'd it go with the mom?" Xander called out, delighted at the 
interruption, before Rachel could ask what was going on with Nick. Spending the 
evening buried in books wasn't the teen's idea of fun even if it was necessary. 

"Not bad. At least I'm not bound for a really soft room at the community hospital 
just yet." The Slayer replied, plopping herself down next to the other girl.

Philip found a scrap of paper to mark his place with and set his book aside to 
ask, "So that's all settled then?"

"It is for now but I think I'd better stick around for a few days. The Warden 
filled that woman's head with some pretty scary ideas about out of control teens 
and it's going to take a while to counter that. Mothers can get very protective of 
their daughters you know." The psychiatrist frowned, thinking of her own daughter 
who was only nine. "Besides with Kat at her grandparents for the next couple weeks 
home is a little too quiet."

"If you're trying to avoid quiet you came to the right place." Came the sarcastic 
comment from across the room.

When Rachel cocked an inquiring eyebrow his way, Philip explained. "Nick cracked 
three of his ribs in a fight with Buffy right after we met them yesterday. I don't 
think he's feelin' all that well." The priest shrugged and retreated back to his 
book, no longer quite so enthusiastic for a break. He'd already been on the 
receiving end of Nick's famous temper too many times today and didn't want to 
discuss it. He was grateful for the company now that classes were out though. He'd 
begun to feel like Nick was trying to start a fight with him and he really didn't 
want that.

The ex-SEAL sat up abruptly, scowling to hide the pain his sudden movement caused. 
"Maybe if somebody had warned me the kid had superhuman strength and reflexes I'd 
have had a chance!"

"I did tell ya about her. On the drive here." Philip defended himself, clearly 
hurt by the accusation in Nick's voice. He had told Nick about the girl and the 
unfairness of his words cut deeply. 

Noting how uncomfortable the object of this budding family dispute was getting, 
Rachel decided to step in before things got any further out of hand and put things 
back on track. "Right now I don't think any of that matters. We've got a lot of 
work to do and probably not much more time. Let's get back to it people." She 
tried to turn everyone's attention back to finding an answer to their problem. She 
even went so far as to open the book on Xander's lap and tap the text for his 
attention as she passed him.

As the others settled back to their research, careful not to look at the angry 
outcast in the back of the small room, she quietly moved to stand near Nick, 
resting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm not even going to ask what you thought you 
were doing getting into a fight with a sixteen year old girl." Rachel declared 
quietly, chalking the incident up to just one more of the irrational stunts Nick 
tended to pull. "We need everyone carrying their own weight on this case. Do you 
need anything for the pain so that you can keep working?"

Rachel was a bit surprised when Nick shook off her hand and stormed off to the 
motel's tiny bathroom shouting, "I'm fine! Why can't everyone just leave me 
alone?" For a moment the only sound was the shower going on.

A quiet British voice broke the ensuing silence. "I'm afraid he's been like that 
all day. We finally had to have Willow take over the computer work because your 
friend just couldn't seem to stay focused on anything."

Nick leaned his head against the side of the shower letting the hot water beat 
down on him. The look on Philip's face when he'd snapped at him had made him feel 
sick inside. All the more so because he did remember Philip warning him about the 
Slayer's strength and later telling him not to fight her. He'd hurt Rachel's 
feelings too when she'd only been trying to help him. He couldn't understand it. 
He wasn't in that much pain, not more than he could handle anyway. He hadn’t even 
needed to take those pills that they’d given him after they X-rayed his ribs 
yesterday. Nick quietly banged his head against the tiles a couple times. It was 
just so hard to think! Deep within his mind something twisted laughed, and in a 
small office in the school down the street a demon smiled at the sick frustration 
it sensed through the binding.

The sleeper huddled silently behind the picket fence next to the bloodless corpse 
until the police car had passed. Then he slipped softly away into the shadows, his 
dark clothes blending seamlessly with the night. The children would discover his 
handiwork in the morning and hate forever the man who had brought this sickness 
into their lives. The sleeper didn't care. He had no morals, no thoughts even of 
his own. All that mattered was bringing his master the things he had asked for. 

He hid the blood-filled container in the stolen backpack along with the other 
items he'd taken earlier from the little store with the faulty lock on the 
basement window. A frown creased his face as some nameless feeling stirred within 
him. It never reached the empty eyes as some power outside of himself battered the 
wayward emotion back into submission. It was almost dawn, soon he would have to 
return to his master, but there was still time to go in search of one more victim. 
He could not bear it if his master were disappointed in his night's work. The 
sleeper moved on, once more certain of the rightness of his mission.

The next morning the team had decided to risk the principal's wrath and do their 
research in the library. Of all people Xander had turned up the information that 
the next three nights there would be a dark alignment in the night skies. Whatever 
was going to happen they no longer had time to sneak books past the fence.

Nick was back at his laptop calling up everything he could think of that applied 
to either the Warden or Sunnydale's resident ghoul the Master but so far he'd only 
managed to duplicate Willow's work of the day before. The others were pretending 
his outburst hadn't happened and he was ashamed enough to make an effort to 
control his frustration. He grumbled a vaguely polite response when Rachel pushed 
a cup of coffee in front of him and quickly gulped down half of it. Maybe the 
caffeine will wake me up enough to concentrate. It must have been a rougher night 
than I thought.

Half a cup would have to do. The other half ended up all over the carpet when the 
Slayer came bursting through the door that separated them from the rest of the 
library and scared him a foot off the chair. OK, maybe I've had enough caffeine. 
Nick thought as his heart rate returned to normal. He dismissed the thought a 
moment later. Nah, there's no such thing as enough caffeine.

"I just heard something major disgusting in science class that could be 
important." The girl paused to watch the effect of her announcement, smirking a 
little over the spilled coffee.

"What might that be?" Giles prodded hoping to get past the dramatics and find out 
what was happening now.

"Somebody killed a bunch of pets last night, right in their yards, and drained all 
the blood!"

"According to the reports there are a lot of vampires here." Nick glared at the 
girl, angry over the useless interruption...and the spilled coffee. He'd really 
needed that coffee. "Maybe you've got one with a conscience."

"Thank you very much for stating the obvious. Any more feats of brainpower to show 
us today?" She asked, pointedly turning away from Nick to address her instructor. 
"Like I was saying, one of the dogs belonged to Sharon Thompson. She's really 
broken up about it. Anyway she says it's throat was slit wide open by some sicko. 
The cops think it was a hunting knife." Buffy looked over her shoulder at the 
simmering ex-SEAL. "That is not a vampire's style. Duh."

Giles was clearly embarrassed by his student's behavior but secretly shared her 
low opinion of the young man from the San Francisco House. "No, it's not. The 
Warden must be getting ready to perform the blood ritual I told you about. The one 
on freeing demons. I know I've seen the spell to counter it somewhere around here. 
We'll just have to keep searching. In the meantime you, Willow and Xander 
shouldn't let the Warden out of your sight. We need to know exactly when he makes 
his move." It didn't go unnoticed that the librarian was relying more heavily on 
his students than on the professionals he'd called in a few days earlier.

"That's a good idea. Three students hanging around the halls won't attract the 
attention a stranger would." Rachel quickly added her support to the plan.

She shook her head slightly in warning when her young associates both seemed ready 
to protest this arrangement. They needed Philip working with the old books and 
Nick's professionalism left something to be desired lately. At least the kids are 
finding some answers. Philip subsided uneasily while Nick slouched back into his 
chair with a resentful scowl at being left out of the action that was brewing 
outside the confines of the tiny research room. I'm gonna have to talk with him. 
This behavior is not normal, even for Nick. 

Buffy made a face at him on her way back out, completely missing the silent 
exchange. "No problem. Xander's back in the detention room and Mr. Warden is in 
there keeping a personal eye on him. We can work that both ways."

Philip slammed the latest useless volume closed letting his head sink into his 
hands as he let out a low moan of frustration. Even his patience was starting to 
slip as evening slipped toward night and they still hadn't found the answer they 
were seeking. We know the book is here somewhere. Why can't we find it?

When Giles edged into the back room, burdened by yet another stack of 
possibilities, he found the young priest gazing steadily at the other source of 
his frustration. Sometime since the librarian had gone out to the main room Nick 
had fallen asleep over the book he was searching. Only his short brown hair showed 
over the pillow he'd made of his arms. "My god, this is the fourth time today. 
Does he have some sort of medical problem I should be aware of? Other than the 
cracked ribs that is?" The librarian was quietly amazed at such dereliction of 
duty from what he thought was a member of a crack team. Father Callaghan is such a 
good researcher, there's got to be some reason why he tolerates such an 
incompetent partner. 

"It's the fifth time." Philip countered. "And no he doesn't, he's been a little 
off ever since we came here. Maybe he's comin' down with somethin'. It is flu 
season. Do you think we should pull Rachel or one of the kids back from stakeout 
duty t'help with the search? Rachel would be a good choice." Maybe she can figure 
out what Nick's problem is. Despite what he had said, Philip was certain whatever 
was bothering Nick wasn't so simple as a flu virus. He'd seen Nick before when he 
was feeling sick and he'd never behaved like this.

"No, that wouldn't be a good idea at all. Buffy's mother insisted on coming to the 
basketball game with the girls and your doctor friend needs to be there to 
reassure her. Besides as long as the Warden stays in the school I don't think 
he'll make a move until everyone has left." He paused with a sigh as he set down 
the armload of books. "It's your turn to wake him. The cafeteria is closed but I 
think there's a jar of instant coffee in the little refrigerator in my office. 
I'll go and make some up."

Giles popped his head back around the door before Philip could make a move toward 
his partner. "Unless you think tea would be better? I have some decent herbal teas 
that might be better for him. I mean if he's ill that is."

Philip smiled at the thought of how fast and how angry Nick would wake up if they 
tried to give him herb tea. "Coffee will be fine." He got up and rounded the table 
to see about getting Nick awake before the eager librarian could come up with any 
more potentially dangerous ways to help.

Nick hadn't even blinked the sleep from his eyes when Giles came back into the 
room looking quite perplexed at a small leather book in his hands. Philip 
inquired, "What's wrong? No coffee?"

"This is the book we've been looking for. The one I think might have what we need 
in it." He blinked at the book a few times as if unable to believe what he'd 
found, or rather where he had found it. "It was in the refrigerator where the milk 
used to be." The librarian concluded looking rather embarrassed.

Philip stared for a moment waiting for the punchline then quirked a smile. "Keep 
them in there often do ya?" he asked almost laughing in relief at the strange 

"No, actually never." The librarian seemed a bit shaken at such an out of place 
occurrence, but dismissed it from his mind for the moment. They had work to do now 
that they had the proper tool in hand.

By the time Rachel and the girls talked Mrs. Summers into going home, while they 
went for ice cream, the school was deserted for the night. They slipped in through 
the door Giles had unlocked for them and headed for the library. Xander was posted 
in the hall outside the gym observing the Warden and Nick finally seemed to be 
awake enough to provide backup during the coming confrontation. They were ready 
for battle at last. After one last check to make certain they had all they needed 
the six of them set out for the gym.

Willow clung tightly to Nick's arm as they approached the gym. A faint red glow 
was emanating from the cracks beneath the double doors and they could hear the 
demon's voice faintly echoing in the empty room.

"I thought Xander was supposed to be here. Where is he?" Willow's voice was 
beginning to tremble.

"His crutches are right here so he can't be too far." Buffy announced grimly, 
holding up the crutches for all to see.

All eyes were immediately drawn to the glowing doors. It didn't take a rocket 
scientist to figure out what must have happened.

Philip, who had changed into his roman collar and formal black suit, merely 
frowned. "Then the time for sneakin' around is over with." Armed with his crucifix 
in one hand and a vial of holy water in the other, he stepped into the gym to 
confront his nemesis. All the others could do was follow to provide the priest 
with emotional  support and defend him against the unlikely possibility of an 
actual physical attack.

No time was wasted on greetings. All of Philip's training told him you don't talk 
to a demon. They would do anything to confuse and distract an exorcist. He began 
his chant even before the doors had swung closed in their wake, putting all his 
heart into the ancient banishment. For a moment the priest wasn't sure he'd gotten 
the hastily memorized words right. 

The red glow that had built around the demon and his potential sacrifice began to 
pulsate wildly but the Warden didn't look at all pleased as his own incantation 
faltered to a halt. The demon roared as his head snapped around to focus on his 
foe. He had no time to deal with the pest now! 

The glowing eyes fastened on Philip and the young priest could feel despair rising 
within him as old doubts floated to the surface of his mind. What place does a 
fallen priest have fighting something like this? Only someone who's truly 
righteous would have a chance. Not you. He faltered. You betrayed your vows and 
your God for pleasures of the flesh. You killed that poor woman using her like 
that and then running out on her. You didn't have the guts for that commitment 

"NO!!" Philip screamed rejecting the thoughts. Knowing it was the demon trying to 
weaken him. God forgive me he nearly succeeded. "I will not let you do this 
t'me." He quickly started the banishment over, careful to keep his mind empty of 
everything but the task at hand. He seemed invincible. Unless you looked at his 
eyes. Those still held the brightness of tears unshed and all the anguish of a 
soul in torment.

The Warden began to pace within the confines of the blazing pentagram, his face 
contorted with his fury. He dared not cross the lines. That would mean an end to 
the ritual and he would have to start over tomorrow night. Instead he summoned a 
blazing wind from the pit to batter at his opponents. 

Nick and Buffy both moved forward, working together for the first time on this 
case, to anchor Philip as the others were pinned to the walls. Their strength 
served to anchor his spirit as well as his body. This was right. He could do this. 
The winds faltered and stilled, leaving the loose debris left after the basketball 
game to float down all over the massive room.

Philip took this as a good sign and advanced to within a few feet of the creature, 
using the holy water now and moving between him and the boy tied to the vaulting 
horse the gymnastics class had left on the sidelines. The Warden had moved it to 
the center of the room to use as his altar. Xander could be an annoying little 
twit but he didn't deserve to be a sacrifice. His chanting grew in strength as the 
ceremonial candles at the Warden's feet blazed higher in defiance.

The others, now that they could move again, had spread out along the sidelines to 
cover all avenues of escape should their prey attempt to flee. He didn't. Instead, 
balls of flame began to rise from the candles at his feet and flung themselves 
wherever he pointed. Philip concentrated on what he was doing and allowed his two 
protectors to pull him about, out of the path of danger. His attention remained on 
the hellspawn before him. The scent of varnish blazing on the hardwood floor as it 
caught fire mingled with the cloying smell of blood from the arcane symbols on the 
walls. The banners put up to encourage the local team were all in flames and the 
demon himself had begun to burn from the combination of the flames and the holy 
water he was being periodically doused with. In the flickering demon light it was 
truly a vision of hell. 

The demon's clothing and his very flesh had begun to blacken and curl when he 
threw back his head and began to laugh. "Insolent little cur, you won't have it so 
easy this time." Philip faltered to a halt uncertain what was happening. His focus 
had been broken again by the unexpected outburst. It looked as though he was 
winning but the demon didn't seem to be taking things very seriously. They all 
drew a breath of relief when the body immediately crumbled to dust.

The dust hadn't even settled when Nick spoke up, his voice strangely cold and 
harsh, "This time I prepared a retreat. One I might add you don't dare to attack 
for fear of hurting your friend."

The demon took advantage of the stunned moment when they all turned to gape at his 
new host body. His hands moved higher, grabbing the priest by that damnable collar 
and twisting. He might regret being so hasty later but at the moment he'd far 
rather throttle the life out of the brat than waste time on such intricate things 
as curses.

This was not acceptable to Buffy. She let go of Philip's arm and stepped back to 
get a better angle. She quickly used one of her patented side kicks to break the 
demon's hold. From the sound it made when her foot connected with Nick's side 
she'd also broken the ribs that had been cracked days earlier. Clutching the 
injured ribs the demon took off running. Leaving the others to free Xander and 
tend the gasping priest, Buffy put out the fires as quickly as possible before 
following in hot pursuit. The last thing she needed was to burn down another 

Principal Snyder was on his way out of the building at long last. He was just 
passing the gym when one of Mr. Giles' visitors from San Francisco came bursting 
out, nearly knocking him over in his rush. Some days he thought the students and 
their teachers were both conspiring to make his job more difficult. It's nearly 
eleven o'clock! This is too much. He grabbed the stranger by one arm. "Hey, I 
thought I told you...Oww." He broke off as the man swung around and launched a 
short hard punch to his face, taking him in the nose and knocking him through the 
gym doors. The sight that greeted him there was unlike anything he'd seen in over 
twenty years of teaching. Just too much!! He thought gazing around himself as he 
tried to stop the blood streaming from his broken nose.

The Warden had begun to laugh by the time he reached the street. Even with the 
broken ribs this body was young and strong and fast. It's response to being 
confronted was instinctive. It had been a true pleasure taking a jab at that 
pompous ass, Snyder. Wonderful! This body has been trained at inflicting damage. 
It should be interesting finding out just how well trained.

A quiet looking man waiting at the bus stop looked up as the somewhat intoxicated 
looking young man came bounding out the school gate laughing hysterically. He 
frowned briefly and checked his watch. The bus wasn't due for a while anyway and 
this boy looked like he needed to hear what he had to say. The reverend is always 
telling us that if we can just reach one person it's worth all the slamming doors. 
"Excuse me." he called, approaching the stranger. "Do you know Jesus Christ?" 

The Warden couldn't believe his good fortune. It looked like he wasn't going to 
have to wait to learn what this body was truly capable of. "All too well." The 
demon responded with a wicked grin as his first blow knocked the man to the 

By the time the Slayer came charging out of the school only minutes later, the 
unfortunate stranger lay unconscious on the ground. His blood glistened darkly in 
the glare from the single street lamp. The boy was highly skilled indeed. The 
demon could hear bones breaking as he kicked the man. Now however wasn't the time 
for pleasure. There was still a chance to complete the ritual tomorrow night. But 
only if he remained free. He took one last kick at the do-gooder before fleeing 
into the night, trusting the evasion skills of his host body to leave his pursuer 
far behind.

It was nearly two in the morning before Philip and Rachel got back to their motel. 
The police had detained them for over two hours when they reached the scene in 
answer to Snyder's call and they were both exhausted. Rachel followed Philip into 
the room he and Nick had been sharing, snapping the light on as she shut the door 
behind them.

"It isn't over yet. One of us still has to call Derek and tell him what's 
happened." Rachel hoped that Philip would volunteer for the job but she wasn't 
counting on it. He'd been badly shaken by the sight of the man Nick had beaten 
outside of the school. The only thing Philip had said during the drive back to the 
motel was that it was all his fault. That he'd known something was wrong with Nick 
and he should have done something about it. Nothing she had said could make him 
believe otherwise.

"An' tell him what, Rachel? That Nick's been possessed and you've got half the 
Sunnydale police force out huntin' him like a rabid animal?" Philip demanded, 
giving way to the fear he felt for the man he considered a brother. The man he 
feared was lost to them. "What were you thinkin' tellin' 'em all those crazy 
things about Nick? They think he did all that in the gym. That he's some kind of 

Rachel broke into this rising hysteria harshly. "I didn't tell them anything Nick 
hasn't actually done, though I admit it was out of context. Most of it anyway." 
Her thoughts went to the time Nick had opened fire at the magic props in the back 
of an empty nightclub when he couldn't contain his anger and frustration at not 
finding the man they were looking for. She had actually been afraid of him then. 
"What was I supposed to tell them? The truth? It's bad enough Giles got suspended 
for letting us in there. We didn't need to be hauled off by the police as some 
sort of crazed cultists."

When Philip sank down on the nearest bed and seemed to be listening she went on in 
a gentler tone. "The police have a better chance of finding him than we do. They 
aren't going to put him in jail if they think he's had some kind of mental 
breakdown. Getting him released from a hospital will be a lot easier than getting 
him released from jail for attempted murder." She smiled at the thought of another 
time she had truly doubted her colleague's sanity. "Besides, anybody who'd play 
Russian roulette with a ghost needs his head examined."

She was relieved when the priest finally cracked a smile. Philip had nearly gone 
through the roof on Nick when he came home from a visit to Belfast and heard about 
the risk his friend had taken on behalf of a dead woman. She brushed the long hair 
out of Philip's eyes in an uncharacteristic show of affection for the young 
priest. "Get some sleep. When they do find Nick you're going to have your work cut 
out for you. I'll call Derek from my room before I turn in. He'll want to be 
here." She wasn't looking forward to Derek's reaction to the news but it was 
better he take it out on her at this point than on Philip. She didn't think he 
could handle the precept's temper right now. She wasn't sure she could either.

Alex wasn't really surprised to find all the lights in the castle blazing at three 
in the morning. She just hoped whatever was going on was being handled. All she 
wanted to do was get a decent eight hours of sleep in her own bed. Convincing that 
spirit in San Ysidro that, no, the new tenants didn't like having their furniture 
rearranged in the middle of the night had been a job and a half. She sighed in 
exasperation. The guy at the charter boat place had been nearly as hard headed as 
the ghost but he'd finally agreed to bring her to the private dock below the 
castle despite the ungodly hour. Tomorrow would be soon enough to tell the others 
that she was back. If I'd known everybody was up I could have saved myself some 
trouble and phoned for the launch.

She'd barely gotten into the house when Derek came charging down the main 
staircase with his overnight bag in hand. He looked terrible. That flu bug must 
really be taking it's toll on him. Her curiosity got the better of her. She had to 
find out what could get their normally unflappable precept out of bed at this hour 
in his current condition. "What's going on? Where is everybody?"

Relief washed over the haggard features when he caught sight of her standing in 
the foyer. "Alex, I'm glad you're back! We need to leave for Sunnydale right 
away." He took her arm, turning her around to head back into the fog shrouded 
night. "I'll explain everything on the way. You're driving."

Deep within the wounded creature that was once a person, a consciousness had begun 
to stir. The Warden smiled from his hiding place beneath the dais of the old 
church. The shock was beginning to wear off of his host's mind. Soon the boy 
should find all the wonderful little surprises I've prepared for him. Pity his 
friend can't share in them. For now he'd have to stay out of sight but in a few 
hours when the search had lessened he had preparations to make. There was still a 
ceremony to get ready for. He was glad now that he hadn't succeeded in killing the 
exorcist. After the ritual he would have the pleasure of watching his newly freed 
associate turn the young priest into a blood drinker, unable to bear the sight of 
the cross he'd sworn to serve. For young Philip that will be nearly as great a 
torment as the one I've planned for my new pet.

Nick woke up shivering with cold. The wet stone beneath him had chilled him to the 
bone. Only once he was on his feet in a combat crouch did he take the time to 
wonder how he'd gotten from the gym to this dark cavern. The dim lights set high 
in the stone walls did little to cut through the billowing fog that separated him 
from reality. His hand slid instinctively to where his holster should be at the 
small of his back. His gun was gone. He had to find the others. The last thing he 
remembered was the Warden flaming like a torch. Something had obviously gone very 
wrong after that.

A noise drew him into one of the jagged corridors that branched from the main 
room. His eyes flickered about, on the lookout for attack. The warrior slipped 
towards the light streaming from what looked like an alcove.

The chill in his bones crept into his heart at the sight he beheld. The early 
morning sun was streaming through the window of a playroom. He knew this place. It 
was the finished attic in his parent's old house. The one directly above the 
master bedroom. This isn't happening. The little boy sitting on the floor in front 
of the TV watching Saturday morning cartoons was him. 

As the boy began bouncing excitedly around the room, miming the actions of his 
favorite heroes, Nick tried to step forward. To warn him. No. Please. You're gonna 
wake him up! His throat closed on the words before they could escape and an icy 
hand held him where he was. There would be no intervention and no escape. Too 
late. The man was in the room and had grabbed the boy by the back of his neck 
before the child even knew his sanctuary had been invaded.

His father's face was still flushed with alcohol. Lines of pain radiated out from 
his eyes. This was when he was most dangerous. That terrible time when the 
hangover first started to dig in. The first blow knocked the child to the floor. 
He tried to curl into a protective ball and wait it out but even this slight 
refuge was denied him this time. The man hauled him upright by twisting one thin 
arm and started slapping him. "You can't ever think of anyone but yourself, can 
you?" Jonathan Boyle shouted, losing control as he struck his only son harder and 
harder. "All I ask is a little peace and quiet when I'm home and my lousy kid 
can't even manage that. Am I gonna have to beat some consideration into you? Huh? 
Am I?"

He'd started shaking his small son too hard for the child to answer even if he'd 
had one to give the angry man. By now the young man on the threshold was in tears, 
feeling every blow his child-self suffered. Only his ears caught the word the 
child whimpered several minutes later as he lost consciousness under the renewed 
rain of blows. Mommy? She never came. She didn't dare. 

He remembered this beating. One of the worst. He had woken up in a hospital bed 
and hadn't left it for a week. He hadn't been able to hear anything but ringing 
for days afterwards. Then even that small sound had left him. The whole time his 
parents acted like he really had fallen down the steep attic stairs like they had 
told the admitting nurse in the ER when they brought him in. 

The doctor on duty that morning had treated this same child for suspicious 
injuries twice before in the past three months. This time he notified Child 
Protective Services, but it was hard to question a child who couldn't hear and 
hadn't learned to read or write yet. By the time the swelling in his brain had 
lessened and the boy could understand people again, the gentle woman who had sat 
by his bed and watched him draw with the crayons she brought had been removed from 
his case. Her superiors had been afraid of antagonizing a man of Jonathan Boyle's 
standing in the community. They had even dismissed the damningly violent drawings 
she'd kept as stemming from the boy's frustration at his hearing loss. A new 
caseworker had come to the house two months after the beating. He had plainly 
wanted Nick to confirm his father's story so he could close a file he felt the 
less experienced caseworker should never have opened. Even at that age Nick had 
known better than to try and tell a grownup anything they didn't want to hear. 
They wouldn't have believed him and it would only have made things worse. 

The watcher started to back away as the eldritch grip that held him loosened. He 
nearly fell over the small woman standing behind him. Her hair was brushed forward 
to try and hide the bruises her husband had inflicted when he'd staggered home the 
night before. Nick backed away a few paces. This was not the way he remembered his 
mother looking. Her eyes had always been so tired and sad, not bitter and accusing 
like this woman's eyes. He had always been able to turn to his mother for comfort 
as a child but he couldn't imagine turning to this woman for anything.

"Why do you always have to antagonize him?" She demanded clutching the collar of 
her robe more tightly to her neck. "The girls never provoked him like that. You 
brought this down on us all. You realize you weren't even supposed to be born, 
don't you? We were a happy family with everything planned out. Then we got a 
little careless and all our plans got pushed aside for the baby. That's when he 
started drinking you know. When you came along. You ruined all our lives!"

He had always known he was an accident because he was so much younger than his two 
sisters but even Maureen, who hated him, had never pointed it out this cruelly. 
Nick started to back away, shaken by the verbal assault, but the woman followed. 

"If it weren't for you I'd have been able to go back to school and I'd have had a 
career of my own instead of living off your Dad's social security." Her eyes 
blazed with hate as the woman played her final card. "Jenny killed herself because 
of you. If I'd gotten the abortion your father wanted me to have, then my 
beautiful little girl would still be alive." His mother began to cry, screaming 
the last words at him.

Nick could feel his world slipping, tilting beneath him. Shaking his head he held 
onto the only thing he was sure of in this strange, twisted world he'd awakened 
in. "Jenny loved me. She killed herself because of him not me. Just like Maureen 
ran away because of him. You're not real. None of this is real!" He turned away 
and ran before his fragile defenses could be unraveled any farther. He didn't get 
far before hard hands grabbed his shoulders and spun him around to stand at 
attention against the wall.

The wall of the grinder where thousands of SEAL trainees were put to the test by 
instructors trying to weed out those unfit for the teams. One of the night 
instructors was glaring menacingly into his eyes. "Do you know what it means when 
a SEAL dies, Boyle?" The man snarled.

It was the third day into the dreaded Hell Week. During this time he'd slept a 
grand total of two hours. He had been too cold to sleep during the first rest 
period the class was allowed, immersed to his neck in Coronado Bay. The pain and 
exhaustion of those days came crashing down on him, forcing him to relive the 
scene. His mind had drawn a complete blank. "N-no, Sir." He stammered out weakly.

"It means somebody screwed up! Just like Boyle here screwed up when he couldn't 
answer my simple question!" The man raised his voice to address the rest of the 
line before returning his focus to the hapless teen Nick had been back then. 
"There is no excuse for a SEAL to die in combat! You had better start paying 
attention to me boy. I will wash you out of this class before I let you graduate 
and get any good men killed. Hit the surf!" The man yelled, sending him running 
for a cold dip in the Pacific as punishment for not knowing the answer.

When he came out of the water he was no longer in Coronado or the cavern he'd 
woken up in, but by now he'd quit trying to understand what was happening to him 
and was merely trying to survive it. He wasn't surprised when someone grabbed him 
from behind and dragged him into an all too familiar jungle. Nick bit at the hand 
clamped over his mouth and began to twist and buck until the man lost his grip. It 
was a hollow victory.

When he staggered to his feet, hands raised to defend himself, the instructor's 
words still rang in his head. "When a SEAL gets killed it's because somebody 
screwed up." He was surrounded by the animated corpses of his platoon. The men 
who'd been killed because he screwed up.

Tom Anderson, who had always been fairly indifferent to the newcomer, shoved him 
hard enough to send the lighter man reeling to the other side of the hostile 
circle. "What did you think you were supposed to be doing up there, huh? Taking a 
walk in the park?" On the far side Riley Kincaid caught him by one shoulder and 
sent him spinning off in another direction, angrily informing him, "You were on 
point! That means you were supposed to be watching for any kind of trap. To warn 
us." Paul Kohler roughly fended off his staggering teammate, demanding, " How the 
hell did you get through BUDS without being able to spot an ambush that size?"

Thick, strong arms reached out and grabbed him before he could answer them. Nick 
found himself pinned with his back against someone's blood soaked chest, unable to 
get his arms up to defend himself. Jaimie Crandall's knife was a cold, unyielding 
pressure against the wildly throbbing artery in his neck. The weight-lifter 
tightened his grip, forcing most of the remaining air out of his captive's lungs. 
"Maybe he did see it and just decided to save himself." He suggested darkly, 
drawing a shallow line of pain down Nick's neck with the knife as he sent him 
reeling across the circle once more.

This time Nick caught his foot on a tree root and tumbled to the uneven ground 
midway across the clearing before he could be grabbed again. He clamped one hand 
to his neck trying to stop the line of blood trickling down his throat. "That's 
not the way it happened! Richter sold us out. There was nothing I could do." No 
one answered as he climbed to his feet gasping for breath his eyes wide and dark 
with shock.

"Yes, there was." The renegade CO spoke from behind him. "If you'd been doing your 
job those men would still be alive. Who sold you out shouldn't have made a 
difference." Nick whirled around to find his whereabouts had shifted again. The 
gunmetal gray walls of the debriefing room aboard the USS Nebraska greeted him. He 
knew every seam in these walls. This was where they had kept him for questioning 
after the extraction. They'd made him go over every detail of the operation, 
repeatedly, for days trying to figure out what went wrong. To assign blame for the 
deaths of an entire platoon.

"Face it kid, you weren't cut out for this. I told you that the day they saddled 
me with you after the Gulf War." Richter turned to address the officer behind the 
desk. "The kid was derelict in his duties. Just look at the blood still on his 
hands. He's a murderer, Skipper, and I say we make an example of him."

Nick glanced down, horrified to see Richter was right. Though his surroundings 
were shifting he wasn't. He still wore the street clothes he'd put on that morning 
only now they were covered in dirt from the jungle floor. At least he thought it 
was only that morning. His hands were slick from the blood Jamie's knife had 
drawn. My blood. No...this isn't really happening. Is it?

"I agree. This one has never been anything but a disappointment." The voice coming 
from behind the desk was enough to make Nick start shaking even through the cocoon 
of shock that had closed in around him. The man regarding him so intently was his 
father. This isn't how it happened. He was already dead. The SEALs were my chance 
to get out of his shadow. He was never a part of this! This can't be happening.

"You killed all those men just like you planned to kill me." The man got up and 
came to stand inches from his son's pale face. Nick's mind was screaming for him 
to run, to escape from the horror that he now realized was his own soul being torn 
open, but the eldritch grip he'd felt before was holding him again. Whatever was 
coming next he wasn't going to be allowed to run away from it.

"You didn't think I knew about that did you? You actually thought you could buy a 
gun from some guy in a back alley without somebody seeing you and telling me. I 
suppose I should be grateful you didn't get picked up by the cops and disgrace me 
any worse, pulling a stunt like that."

The disgust in the older man's voice was like a knife twisting in Nick's gut and 
he briefly, deliriously, wondered if it was possible to be sick to your stomach in 
a nightmare. He started shaking his head dumbly in denial. "That's not the way it 
was. I just wanted to stop the pain. I wasn’t going to kill you, I was going to 
kill me!" His voice began to rise in volume, anguish twisting his heart as tears 
began to flood the green eyes.

He remembered how scared he'd been, kneeling in the woods behind the house with 
the gun in his hands trying to find the courage to use it before the old man came 
back from his latest trip and tore into him again. He'd nearly done it when he 
heard someone coming toward him but managed to hide the weapon when he realized it 
was Dr. Rayne's voice calling him. The young precept had come to tell them about 
his father's death in Saskatchewan. He never knew what he'd interrupted or the 
guilty relief that washed through the fifteen year old when he was told the man he 
should have been able to look to for protection, the man he'd lived his childhood 
in fear of, wasn't coming back from this trip.

"Why didn't you? You never did have the guts to follow through on anything." The 
dead man regarded him coldly. "I never expected much from the girls but you were 
my son. You should have been special. My legacy. Instead your weakness shames me 
in front of my own House. I know all about your pitiful little future. You'll 
always be nobody and nothing. A burden on your House."

Nick slid down the wall at his back pulling his knees in close to his chest as the 
room shifted dizzily around him, taking on the familiar lines of the peaceful 
study room on Angel Island where he retreated when his work didn't require the 
Legacy's powerful computers. A soft moan forced it's way past his lips as his 
father's features melted into Derek's. Only it wasn't Derek. It can't be him. Even 
when his precept was angry with him there was always caring in the man's eyes. Not 
in this creature's eyes though. These eyes seemed to bore right through him, 
pinning him to the wall at his back.

"He's right you know. I knew when I let you into my House all that you'd been and 
ever would be. I'm psychic remember?" he teased cruelly. "I must have been a fool 
jeopardizing the Legacy like that, but you were Jonathan's son and I promised him 
that I would look out for you. You couldn't have survived in the real world by 

"No more. Please, no more." Nick whispered brokenly to the demon he knew must be 
controlling events from somewhere. He'd been in the Legacy long enough to realize 
that possession was the only explanation for what was happening to him. He tucked 
his head tightly against his knees and covered his ears, ashamed of his pain, as 
harsh sobs wrenched their way from his throat. Please God, make it stop. He 
pleaded silently. It's all twisted up and I can't take this anymore. Someone, 
somewhere must have heard the pitiful little prayer. Mercifully, darkness stole 
across his mind before it could be broken completely.

Beneath the dais of an old church a demon smiled and stretched luxuriously. It 
didn't bother him that something had drawn a protective veil over his captive's 
mind. There would be plenty of time for more entertainment later. It was time to 
gather more supplies for the blood ritual before the enemy reinforcements could 
arrive. They would surely send some kind of help after the way he had beaten them 
and taken one of their own hostage.

"You admit you noticed Nick was acting strangely! You knew the Warden took control 
of him once before, but you didn't think it was important enough to look into! 
What were you thinking Philip?" The precept paced angrily in front of the young 
man sitting on the bed. 

"I don' know Derek. I was busy with the research an' he just seemed out o' sorts 
from the hurt ribs. I wasn' thinkin'." The priest hunched his shoulders miserably, 
unable to meet the older man's eyes. At least only Rachel and Alex were witness to 
the fiery dressing down. Giles and the kids were in the motel suite's tiny front 
room monitoring the police scanner for any news about Nick. 

"Come on Derek. You can't blame Philip for all of this." Rachel spoke up from the 
windowsill she had retreated to after Derek finished yelling at her for involving 
the police any further than the school principal already had. "Nick's done some 
pretty strange things without being possessed. I noticed the way Nick was acting 
too and didn't do anything, and I'm supposed to be trained in spotting abnormal 
behavior." The psychiatrist pointed out, feeling guilty both for her failure to 
help Nick and for letting Philip take the heat alone for the past quarter hour.

Derek's eyebrows shot up at the interruption but Alex broke in before he could 
respond. I've had just about enough of this! It's time someone put things in 
perspective here, she thought. "None of that matters now. Don't you see that until 
we can find Nick and free him, the Warden has a hostage he can use against us? The 
police are taking care of the finding angle." Her brown eyes shot sparks at her 
boss, daring him to say one more word about the police being involved. "Let's get 
to work on a way to get this demon out once they have him."

The awkward pause that followed was broken when Buffy poked her head through the 
door. "Uh...I really hate to interrupt whatever's going on here but I think you 
guys had better hear this."

A grim silence held the room when Derek snapped off the scanner and turned to face 
his people. Chatter over the police band had painted too clear a picture. A 
robbery interrupted, a clerk hospitalized with a fractured skull, and worst of 
all, an off duty cop shot in the stomach when he'd confronted the thief. All 
courtesy of their possessed comrade. 

"I don't think we can wait any longer for the police to find Nick for us. Rachel, 
I want you to find out all you can about the condition of the victims and what 
items were stolen. Alex, take Miss Summers and search the cemetery. That seems to 
be a favorite hangout for the local night dwellers so be careful. Philip, you and 
Miss Rosenberg will check the local churches. The Warden might try for holy ground 
this time. Such a desecration would strengthen his spells." The precept hammered 
out his orders with precision, automatically taking charge of the situation. He 
was forced to pause briefly however when a coughing fit overtook him.

That was all the break Xander needed. "What about me? I mean I want to do 
something here too, you know."

"Yeah, I think everybody needs to pitch in. We've been talking and we all feel 
pretty bad about the way some of us treated your friend." The Slayer came to stand 
before the Legacy precept, almost shy in her effort to apologize. "At any rate I 
want you to know I'm sorry for the things I said, and did, to him."

"Well said, Buffy." Her mentor murmured from his corner.

Derek however merely raised an eyebrow as he straightened up, red faced from 
coughing, and stuffed his handkerchief back into his pocket, not quite ready to 
forgive any of them yet. "I'm sure Nick will be glad to hear it once he's himself  
again." He informed the girl coldly. His level gaze turned itself to the boy 
propped against the wall on his crutches. "You, Mr. Harris, I'd like to remain 
here listening to the police reports. I'll leave our cell phone numbers for you in 
case there's any news. Mr. Giles, you're with me." He tore off the sheet of note 
paper he'd been scribbling on and dropped it by the scanner as he exited the room, 
confident his orders would be carried out without question. There was no time to 
waste if they were to find Nick before the police did. They had all heard the 
dispatcher authorize the use of deadly force to bring down the potential cop 

The precept leaned his fevered head against the cool metal of the car door while 
he waited for the Watcher to join him. He wished his sight would kick in and give 
him some clue of where to start searching but he didn't really expect it to. The 
capricious talent rarely worked when he was ill and true to form it wasn't helping 
him now. We must find a way to save Nick. I will not pay this price for victory.

The grim atmosphere in the black range rover hadn't lightened two hours later when 
Rachel called to inform them that both the clerk and the police officer were  
expected to recover completely given time. The man from outside the school was the 
most serious case. He was on dialysis as a result of both kidneys being ruptured 
during the beating but reportedly was refusing to press any charges against his 

"Get this Derek. He apparently told the nurses that Nick must be deeply disturbed 
to savagely attack a total stranger like he did. He said, 'The young man needs our 
prayers not our condemnation.'" The somewhat cynical psychiatrist informed her 
superior in disbelief. "Apparently he's some kind of door to door missionary. 
That's what the nurse said anyway."

"For Nick's sake I hope he continues to feel that way." Derek hung up without 
ceremony, making a mental note to have his lawyers take care of the man's medical 
expenses. The nervous figure in the passenger seat continued to scan the street 
for the red mustang, unwilling to call the attention of the critical precept to 
himself by asking about the conversation. 

He was still cringing inside over the things his precept had had to say about 
endangering innocent children and revealing too much information to outsiders. 
Derek Rayne had made it quite clear that he was in charge of all Legacy matters in  
the area and was to be kept informed of all unusual occurrences. He had also made 
it clear that the librarian was to answer to him not the London House as long as 
he was in his territory. Despite the relative autonomy normally granted to the 
Watcher, Giles was disinclined to argue with the man in his current mood.

The Warden stood at the door to the sanctuary to survey his handiwork one last 
time before going to find a proper sacrifice. The simple wooden cross that covered 
half the front wall had been inverted and resecured. Below it the candles and 
incense he'd stolen that morning were laid out in the ancient shape of the 
pentagram. Most of the windows were cracked or broken allowing the spring winds to 
riffle through the room and play with the pages torn from the bibles and hymn 
books. The beautifully polished wooden pews had all been overturned. Some had even 
splintered as they fell against one another. That last had been quite difficult 
with three broken ribs but the demon had simply channeled the pain to the body's 
rightful owner and gone about his business.

"You realize that even if your friends manage a last minute rescue, your 
reputation is quite destroyed now. We've been quite a bad boy today." Though the 
demon spoke the words aloud, they echoed through the fog filled cavern where his 
captive was trapped within his own mind. To his disappointment the ex-SEAL lay 
unresponsive on the cold stone floor, gasping from the pain of drawing breath past 
the broken bones. Pity. I didn't think he'd break so easily. I had so many more 
things to show him.

The Warden stepped out into the gathering dusk. Then again I might still have the 
chance. As a soldier he'd know to save his strength until there's a real chance of 
breaking free. The boy was cunning and might well be up to something. Oddly 
enough, the notion that he hadn't won just yet put the demon in a good mood. He 
began to whistle jauntily as he went in search of an appropriate victim. A virgin 
can't be that hard to find in a backwards little place like this.

Willow walked slowly toward the old Baptist church on the next block, thinking 
about the handsome young man she'd been daydreaming about for the past few days. 
It isn't fair! The last guy I liked turned out to be a demon and now this one is 
possessed by one. She brushed the tears out of her eyes and took a deep breath, 
trying to calm herself the way that Buffy had taught her. We have to find him. He 
just wasn't ready for the Warden. That's all. If we can find him we can help him 
fight this. It was hard to be brave after all the dead ends they'd run into today. 
Even the Legacy people had started to sound discouraged as they checked in. The 
priest she'd been with had wanted to stay at St. John of the Woods long enough to 
say a prayer and light a candle for his friend. Not being Catholic, Willow had 
felt strange about hanging around and had promised her companion she'd wait for 
him outside the next church. She couldn't help feeling they were on the wrong 
track here but she'd wait for Philip before going in anyway.

She was so lost in thought she nearly screamed when she bumped into someone in the 
shadows beneath the oak tree leaning over the sidewalk. Then it was too late as a 
hand covered her mouth and the ex-SEAL's strong arms began to drag her down the 
empty street. "It looks like this is my lucky night. I thought I'd actually have 
to go looking for a sacrifice and here one walks right into my arms." The cruel 
delight sounded foreign coming from Nick, making her freeze in terror just long 
enough for him to cover the short distance to the old church.

Willow stared round eyed at her captor as the demon secured her to the alter with 
lengths plastic encased wire from a stolen clothesline. "Please Nick, don't let 
him do this! You can fight back. Giles said you beat him before!" She fought to 
hold back her tears, hoping to break through to the handsome stranger. To delay 
the demon until Father Callaghan got there. It couldn't take that long to say a 
prayer for someone after all. Please God, I know it's really strange to hear a 
Jewish girl in a Baptist church asking you to send a Catholic priest, but if you 
could do this just this once I swear I'll go to Temple every Sabbath and never 
break another commandment ever again. 

She watched with growing horror as the demon laughed at her and raised a heavy 
knife to his own left wrist. "Sorry, but you've confused this one with his 
partner. I'm afraid our friend Nicholas is quite unable to save even himself just 
now. Isn't that right, Nick?" The demon allowed the boy to see what was happening 
as he savagely ripped a six inch gash across the wrist and down his forearm. He 
could feel the captive soul shrinking back in horror from the method of his own 
impending death. The Warden was laughing again as he turned to write on the white 
plaster walls with the blood streaming from the deep wound.

This was too much for the sixteen year old. She closed her eyes tightly as she 
finished her prayer. Just please if you plan to send help, send it fast!

Her eyes popped open again almost immediately. Hard as it was to watch what was 
happening, not knowing was worse. The Warden wrote quickly, filling the walls with 
the dark symbols ritual required. When the bright arterial blood didn't flow 
rapidly enough to keep pace he angrily made a nearly identical gash in the right 
forearm, barely able to control the blade with the damaged left hand.

"You should be more careful. If he loses too much blood he could die before you're 
through with him." Willow informed the creature with a false calm designed to 
irritate it and buy time for them both.

Ignoring her, he finished the symbols with unnatural speed. Her captor came back 
to the alter and smiled Nick's quirky smile at her. "I'm afraid neither of you are 
that lucky. He'll die very shortly, but not before you. It should be quite a blow 
to his teammates. Not only will they lose their friend but they'll have to live 
with the knowledge he's damned to hell because his soul was possessed at the 
moment of his death." The crooked smile vanished as the Warden raised the knife 
above her, blood dripping from the slashed wrists onto her. Willow turned her face 
away to escape the dripping blood and closed her eyes so she wouldn't have to see 
the knife fall. "Don't worry my dear, by dying in an unholy rite you'll have an 
eternity in hell with him to pursue your little infatuation." 

Philip glanced anxiously up the street hoping to catch sight of Willow from the 
stairs. It had grown dark while he was inside and he felt guilty for leaving the 
girl alone for so long and inexplicably frantic at not seeing her waiting for him. 
The local priest had approached him when he had finished his prayers, concerned by 
the tears he'd been unable to hold back any longer. Still stinging from his 
precept's hard words he'd gratefully accepted the chance to unburden his soul 
through confession. An’ the man didna believe a word of it. Such thin's aren't 
part o' his world. 

He'd been trying to find a polite way to excuse himself from the man's kindly 
speech about the demons men make for themselves when he'd been seized with fear 
that something was terribly wrong. He'd finally taken the card he was offered for 
some local crisis center and run from the church. Philip saw no one at all on the 
dark street and cursed himself for splitting the team up. Damn you for a weak 
fool, Philip Callaghan. If anythin's happened t'the lass it'll be all yer own 
fault. When first one then two police cars turned silently into the street, lights 
flashing, he knew beyond any doubt where both missing persons were. He began to 
run, covering the distance to the old church faster than he'd ever covered the 
length of a soccer field. He was not, however, as fast as the patrol cars or their 
armed occupants.

The priest burst through the double doors, screaming his friend's name as the 
nearest officer caught him across the chest with both arms. The officer pushed him 
to the floor, pinning him face down, out of harm’s way. The other three opened 
fire on the pale figure swaying unsteadily at the alter, blood streaming down the 
arms that held the knife over the terrified girl. Philip twisted his head, 
frantically trying to see what was happening as the cell phone in his jacket 
pocket started to ring.

The sharp trill of her cell phone nearly made Alex jump out of her skin. The sun 
had barely set when they'd been attacked by a lone vampire looking for a snack. 
Her companion had taken care of it with reassuring ease but the encounter had left 
them both a little jumpy. Before she even had a chance to say hello, Buffy 
snatched the phone from her hand.

"This had better be good news, Xander. It's starting to get creepy out here." The 
Slayer snapped turning a slow circle as she spoke, wooden stake in hand, to watch 
for anything that might have mistaken the phone for a dinner bell.

"And it's always a pleasure to talk to you too, Buffy." Xander replied with smooth 
sarcasm before getting down to business. "You're outta there. Some busybody on 
Crescent Drive spotted a young guy grab a girl off the street and called the cops. 
She also said that he stole her clothesline. Chatter on the scanner says it's our 
boy. The bossman wants everybody to rendezvous at the hospital. Uh, could you guys 
come pick me up on your way there?"

Buffy grabbed Alex's hand and, without any explanation, headed for the older 
woman's car, still talking on the confiscated phone. "Why meet there?"

"The cops called for an ambulance. They said it didn't look like the suspect was 
gonna make it. They said he slit his wrists." The boy paused uncomfortably. "I 
couldn't get a hold of Willow or Father Callaghan but the cops just ran a check on 
him. Whatever went down he was part of it." 

Sunnydale Community Hospital March 10, 1997 11:28pm

Four hours later Rachel was still in with the doctors taking care of Nick and all 
the others could do was wait. That and eavesdrop on Willow's conversation with her 
parents, who Mrs. Summers had insisted be notified. She'd been called when the  
authorities learned that Willow was in her care while her parents were away and 
had been convinced to let the girls stay until they knew something about Nick's 

Under any other circumstances the young girl's breathless rush would have been 
funny. Now, however, her plea for leniency only served to remind them that this 
time a demon wasn't their only problem. There was a very real possibility that 
unless the authorities could be convinced he was unbalanced, their friend would be 
facing serious criminal charges once he was freed from the demon's grasp. If he 
survives, that is. Derek pushed the grim thought aside, preferring to focus on the 
girl's conversation as she attempted to intercede on Nick's behalf.

"Please Daddy, you can't press charges, he really just needs our help right now! 
He's really a nice guy and kind of cute and you're always saying that the jails 
are too crowded." Willow rattled on, starting to sniffle from the tears running 
down her face. She was trying to get as much of her defense out as possible before 
her father could say anything. There was a pause for a moment.

I guess her father finally managed to get a word in somehow. The precept smiled 
sadly, thinking about what a feat that must have been. "No, Daddy you don't need 
to come home. I'm fine. Nick's the only one who got hurt. Everyone here is scared 
he's not gonna make it." Willow pushed her point, trying to make her father see 
that Nick was a real person with people who cared about him and were just as 
frightened for him as her parents were for her. She kept her fingers tightly 
crossed as she skirted the fact that her kidnapper had hurt people. Three people 
were in the hospital because of him. He asked about what happened at the church 
and the only one hurt there was Nick. She justified to herself.

Derek left off listening and came to his feet as Rachel, wearing her worried 
doctor face, joined their small company in the corner of the open waiting area. 
The girl was right about their fears. Nick had looked like a ghost when he was 
brought into the emergency room. A very bloody ghost. Whatever news was coming he 
needed to meet it on his feet.

Seeing the tension in his face, Rachel took his hand comfortingly between her own 
as she surveyed the worried faces confronting her. It concerned her that Philip 
remained hunched over in his chair, his face buried in his hands. The young priest 
had been brought in by the police in a mild state of shock after witnessing the 
events at the church. Fortunately once the authorities saw that Willow knew him 
and found out what he was doing there they had decided not to file obstruction 
charges against him. They'd both been given mild tranquilizers in the ER to calm 
their nerves but she had a hunch Philip had ditched the pills so he could keep a 
clear head. 

Willow said a hurried good-bye and hung up on her distraught father so she could 
rejoin the others. She informed the psychiatrist, "Buffy took her Mom to get some 
coffee to calm her down. Is Nick gonna be okay?"

"We think he will be. He suffered massive blood loss before they got him here but 
he's stabilized now. By some miracle none of the bullets hit anything vital and 
none remained lodged in his body so he didn't require surgery. He's got enough 
stitches in him to be a quilt though." She joked lamely, trying to lighten the 
mood before delivering the rest of her news. "They're still pumping blood into 
him. He's been placed in a locked psychiatric ward as an attempted suicide and 
probable psychotic. They've got him under heavy sedation for the rest of the 

"How long do you think it will be before we can get him out of here and perform 
the exorcism." Derek asked, relieved that his young friend would survive and eager 
to get to work on what he considered the most serious problem.

"It's not going to be that easy, Derek. The police filed an involuntary hold on 
him. That means the law requires he stay here for three days while they evaluate 
his fitness to stand trial for what he did. If the doctor believes he's mentally 
ill and needs treatment, he can file an extension and keep him two more weeks. 
After that we should have no problem. The state has to either file conservatorship 
papers, declaring him mentally incompetent and assigning custody, or they have to 
release him. With the Warden in control they aren't likely to release him but I'm 
sure we can get medical custody after the fourteen day hold expires. Anything to 
save the state some money."

"Tha's not good enough." Philip informed her, lifting his head from his hands. 
"The longer we wait, the harder it'll be t'free him. Wait too long and there 
mightn't be anyone left inside his head t'save. Now that he knows he can't get 
away with his plans the Warden will try t'destroy Nick's soul so that he can keep 
the body. We have t'do it now."

"So.." Xander asked, glancing around to make sure he had everyone's attention. 
"Why don't we sneak him out someplace quiet, like the basement? You can do the 
thing and get him back before he's missed."

"Yeah, if we asked Dr. Hailey he'd probably let one of you sit with your friend. 
That way you could keep anyone from finding out he's gone before you get him 
back." A little color filled Willow's pale cheeks as she started to get excited 
about the idea. "Then he'll just have to pretend he's still crazy to stay out of 

"Excuse me." Derek broke in before the conversation could get away from him. 
"Who's Dr. Hailey and why would he want to help us?"

Xander was nearly bouncing in his seat with enthusiasm by now. "Sunnydale's Chief 
of Psychiatry. He comes by the school sometimes to talk to the health classes and 
make sure we're all healthy, maladjusted teenagers. Cool guy. He'll help."

"The man puts people ahead of rules." The school librarian clarified for the out 
of towners. "He does a great deal of charity work with the area youth and is well 
respected by most of the town. I'm sure he'll agree to allow one of you to stay."

The pounding in Derek's head faded a little at the prospect of finally taking some 
sort of action to help Nick. "This could work. Any ideas on how we make the switch 

Seeing the flash of hope on everyone's faces, Rachel gave her precept's hand a 
last reassuring squeeze and announced, "If we're going to do this, I guess I'd 
better go find this Dr. Hailey while the rest of you work out the details."

They had been fortunate to find the Chief of Psychiatry working late and within a 
couple hours, Alex was installed in a chair beside her 'poor' friend's bed. She 
reached over to pull the corner of the blanket a little higher, trying to conceal 
the identity of the patient from anyone who happened to glance through the glass 
portal in the door.

"Hey! Bad enough I have to have my arms strapped to the bedrails. Do you have to 
smother me too?" Xander hissed in protest.

"Sorry! I was just trying to cover you up a little more. Your hair isn't much 
darker than Nick's but it's a lot longer. I really don't think anyone would 
believe it grew this fast. Now keep quiet before you get us in trouble." Alex 
couldn't help smiling at the boy's spirit. No matter how bad things got nothing 
seemed to phase these kids. Lucky for us Giles talked the parents into letting 
them stay. They're nearly as good as Nick at getting into places they don't 
belong. Besides it's hard to picture Derek and Philip breaking into a mental ward 
to switch patients. 

She couldn't help but laugh at the mental picture this last thought conjured. 
They'd get caught. When a passing nurse unlocked the door and opened it a crack to 
check on the noise, Alex composed herself and raised a cool eyebrow, daring the 
woman to say anything.

"Who's gonna get us in trouble?" The blanket inquired disbelievingly after the 
door had fallen closed behind the woman.

No laughter broke the tension of the people huddled around Nick during the ride to 
the hospital's sub-basement. Unaccountably the demon had been able to surface past 
the chemicals in his host's body and had begun fighting them on the way down. 
Rachel and Giles were both white faced as they clung tightly to the struggling 
victim. The doctor was astonished that even a demon could find such strength in a 
body as weak and injured as Nick's and grateful for the straps that helped to hold 
him on the gurney. The librarian simply hoped the elevator wouldn't stop anywhere 
on the way down.

"You did disable the security camera's didn't you?" Giles asked the Slayer.

"Yes, Giles. Give me a little credit will you."

Overhead a light panel burst, showering them with broken shards from the light 
tubes and the plastic sheeting that covered them. Rachel quickly brushed them off 
of the blanket, checking carefully to make certain none of the sharp fragments had 
hurt Nick before she looked around to see if anyone else had been harmed. They 

The demon raised it's head and laughed at her. "Don't worry so, Doctor Corrigan. 
Believe me, he can't feel anything. Not unless I want him to, that is."

"We're here." Buffy informed the others a moment before the door slid open on the 
shadowy confines of the sub-basement. "Let's get this done and shut this creep up 
for good." She had barely gotten through the door when it slammed shut in her 

"I like it just fine in here now that she's gone. Let's stay a while." The Warden 
informed them as the doors began to slide crazily back and forth. Anyone who tried 
to leave, or come back in, risked getting smashed by the heavy metal panels.

"Well I don't!" Derek informed the monster before grabbing one of the panels as it 
swung open. Philip and Giles quickly moved to help before the doors could crush 
him, dragging them to a standstill. They were unable to force them open far enough 
though until the sixteen year old girl on the other side lent her considerable 
strength to the effort, yanking one side open and holding it there while the men 
used their combined efforts to pry open the other side. Once Rachel and Willow had 
maneuvered the gurney out into the corridor, the elevator quit fighting them. 

"Take him out of sight around the corner." Derek told the doctor. He held out a 
hand to stop Willow from following. "Both of you girls should stay here to warn us 
if anyone is coming."

"I think you should stay with them, Derek." Rachel gave Giles a push on the 
shoulder to get him moving before the Warden thought of anything else to delay 
them with. "Nick's system has gone through quite a shock. It's left him weak and 
vulnerable. In his condition that bug of yours could be life threatening."

Derek looked a little deflated at his inability to help. "Very well then. You're 
the doctor." He turned away with a fresh burden on his heart, wondering what harm 
he may have already done to his wounded companion.

By the time she rounded the corner Philip had begun the exorcism. Giles was 
relieved when she took hold of their captive from the other side of the gurney. He 
was worried he wouldn't be able to give the proper responses to the priest's 
prayers without losing his grip.

He ducked as an old box of coat hangers, at the top of a pile of odds and ends 
left in the hall, flew up to attack them. Philip paused. At first, the librarian 
thought he'd been hit and looked up to see the Irish priest staring expectantly at 
him. Realizing what the man wanted, he gave the first response he'd memorized. It 
must have been the correct one, for the priest continued.

Nick stirred on the floor of the cavern, wondering why he was still alive after 
what had been done to him in the church. And who says I'm alive? Maybe I died in 
the fight in the gym and this is hell. He shivered, wishing it were that simple. 
Certain it wasn't. He could hear voices. He staggered to his feet, looking wildly 
around for the attack he thought was coming. It had been quiet for so long now 
that something big must be coming. It was time to pay for the respite he'd been 

There was no one in sight, however, and none of those crazy shifts seemed ready to 
start. He listened, but the sound drifted just outside of his grasp. The clatter 
of a pebble being dislodged behind him made him whirl to find Richter there with a 
knife in his hand. He ignored the pain that filled his being and jumped out of the 
way as more of the apparitions closed in from the passages that had opened in the 
formerly solid walls of his prison. Nick could only try to keep them from getting 
behind him and get ready for a fight he didn't have a prayer of winning.

Rather difficult to remember a Latin exorcism and hang onto a demon at the same 
time. Just focus on what you're doing, Rupert. The sooner we get this right, the 
sooner he'll stop fighting. The Watcher kept up the running commentary in his head 
to encourage himself. The flying debris never seemed to end and his arms were 
going numb from hanging on so tight. It was a considerable shock when the 
struggling stopped.

The ex-SEAL's green eyes focused on the priest, glowing with an unholy glee at the 
maelstrom that surrounded him. "Even if you win, your precious Legacy will still 
lose him, you know." He informed them. "If he survives he'll be quite mad....and 
then there are the criminal charges to consider. Altogether a rather grim picture 
don't you think?"

The priest made no response. He merely raised his voice over the demon's taunts, 
determined to be strong for his brother. Enough people had been hurt because of 
his failures this trip. With all his stubborn Irish heart Philip Callaghan vowed 
that this one would be hurt no further.

The love he felt for his chosen brother filled his voice. It filled the demon with 
sudden fear as he felt the barriers he'd used to imprison Nick's soul weaken under 
the assault. This must be stopped and the captive soul destroyed. Now before it 
was too late.

The demon snarled angrily at his failure to provoke the man of God. Seeking to 
hurt them, he announced, "I'm afraid we'll have to cut this little chat short. My 
young pet is stirring and needs some attention to recall his place in all this. 
While he still has one that is."

The glowing eyes drifted closed as the body resumed it's restless thrashing. 
Neither the three performing the exorcism nor the two lookouts who had drawn near 
enough to listen knew whether to be relieved or terrified at how weak their 
subject's struggles had become. Even the barrage of loose objects had stopped as 
the Warden turned his attention inward.

The balance slid to terror when Willow pointed in silent horror to the fresh blood 
soaking the bandages. Despite their best efforts to hold him still, some stitches 
had clearly come open and Nick's body was fast losing blood he could ill afford.

"Take his head." Derek locked eyes with Willow as he lent his strength to holding 
his friend still and preventing further injury. It wouldn't matter if he caught 
the flu or not if he bled to death in this basement. He raised his voice to carry 
to the one lookout remaining near the entrance. "Miss Summers if you could keep 
him from kicking that would be helpful."

"Not now boss." Buffy irreverently informed him as she came around the corner. "I 
hear the elevator coming." She grabbed an empty cardboard carton, clearly labeled 
‘syringes’, and thrust it at Willow before picking up a second carton for herself 
and flipping the hood of her sweatjacket over her head. "Put your hood on and 
follow me."

Even Philip was forced to lend a hand at trying to contain their struggling 
patient as the girls ran off down the hall toward the elevators, leaving the other 
four on their own. Soon they heard voices shouting for the kids to stop and 
footsteps pounding off in the other direction as hospital security gave chase to 
what appeared to be a pair of thieves. The priest was whispering the words now, 
his head resting against Nick's heart as they fought to hold his body still. 
Volume didn't matter. It was the intensity of his need that would tip the scales 
in this battle. 

Within the mist filled cavern, angry phantoms circled their prey, backing the 
frightened, raging victim towards a darkened alcove. He could hear his parents 
fighting downstairs as he stumbled into the dark hallway outside his oldest 
sister's room.

"Noooo..." He wailed, turning to run from what he knew waited for him. The cold, 
dead hands of the apparitions dragged him back, forcing him to his knees just 
inside the doorway. Forcing him to confront what waited within.

It felt like he was five years old again. They no longer had to hold him as he 
stared at the body of his beloved seventeen year old sister lying blank eyed on 
the bloody bed. The long red slashes on her arms, so like those he'd watched cut 
into his own the last time he was allowed to look out his own eyes, still seeped 
blood onto the reddened sheets.

Nick couldn't look away when the dead eyes focused on him and the corpse spoke. 
"You were a fool to ever think you were better than me. Those marks will tell 
everyone who ever looks at you just how weak you really are, baby brother." Blood 
tears began to flow from the accusing eyes. "Where were you a couple hours ago 
when I needed someone."

"Asleep. You tucked me in yourself, remember?" He whispered, hoping for 
forgiveness. My fault. This was all my fault. The guilt he'd carried since that 
night squeezed his chest, making it hard to breath. "I woke up scared when they 
started to fight. I'm here now."

"Now's too late you stupid little brat! If I hadn't taken you along when I ran 
away they'd never have even bothered to look for me. This was the only escape you 
left me." The girl on the bed balled the bloody sheets up in her fists, screaming, 
as her previously beautiful face twisted with hate.

Her brother fell backwards on the floor, trying to pull away from the venom in her 
voice. Fell forever it seemed. He had clung to Jenny's love long after her death. 
With that too taken from him, and tarnished by the power that held him, there was 
nothing left to hang on to.

The blood soaked girl who had been very nearly another mother to Nick rose from 
the bed to join the angry army tightening around him. Once more, he curled into a 
tight ball, hoping to ride out the coming assault. He never registered the soft 
Irish voice whose desperate prayers had begun to penetrate the cavern. Never saw 
the phantoms fade, one by one, destroyed by the priest's love before they could 
harm him. He was a child again in his mind and could only cry, there on the empty 
floor, while the people who loved him fought for his soul.

Nick's muscles suddenly tensed, the battered body straining rigidly against the 
hands that held him. Philip was nearly lifted off his feet by the convulsive 
effort as a long wailing scream echoed from the concrete walls. The terrifying 
rigidity left Nic kso quickly and completely that more than one pair of hands lost 
their grip in the ringing silence that followed.

Rachel pressed carefully against her patient's neck, searching for some sign that 
Nick was still with them. She was filled with giddy relief at the weak flutter she 
found there. "He's alive." She informed her frightened companions. "I'll need to 
fix a few stitches before we get him back to bed but he's hanging in there."

"Is that it then? It worked?" A soft British voice inquired.

"I think so." Philip sounded tired and depressed as he straightened up. He hoped 
it had worked. "We'll find out when he comes to. Fer now let's get him outta this 
cold before he gets sick on top o' everythin’ else."

In a firelit cavern beneath the quiet little town, the Master shrieked and began 
to throw anything that came to hand at the hapless vampire who had brought him 
news of the failure of his glorious plan to be free. "Don't just cower there! We 
have to start working on another idea now!"

He continued to throw things as he began to rummage through the bookshelves but 
they were no longer aimed at anyone in particular. In fact, he seemed to have 
already forgotten the Warden, the messenger and the failed plan. "Why can't I ever 
find the books I need anymore. Has anyone been getting into these shelves?" He 
whirled to glare at his followers.

"I'll find out Master." The dark haired beauty, Marissa, hastened to reassure him, 
hoping to make him forget this entire debacle had been her idea.

"See that you do."

The following afternoon, only Willow was able to join the Legacy members in their 
vigil. Giles had been called before the school board to discuss his future, or 
lack thereof, and the other kids had detention for skipping classes the day before 
to join in the search. They'd been lucky not to be caught by hospital security and 
jailed when the girls had decoyed them away from the exorcism going on in the sub-
basement. The hospital was still buzzing with the story about how eight drug 
crazed gang members had been driven off by hospital security after they were 
caught trying to steal a truckload of medical supplies. 

Willow had been astonished to learn how the small incident had snowballed by the 
time she got there. She'd been delayed by a quick lecture from Principal Snyder on 
the dangers of roaming the streets when she should be in class and then dismissed 
to go to the hospital. The school authorities had been forced to admit though, 
that Willow had a right to know the state of mind of the man who had tried to kill 
her. They had waived detention in her case so that she could be there when the 
doctor announced his findings.

This was the news they were awaiting now. Nick had regained consciousness late 
that morning, frightened and confused by his condition and surroundings, and they 
had all been exiled to the third floor waiting area while Dr. Hailey made his 

Rachel finally couldn't listen to the hopeful chatter of the other four any longer 
and broke into Derek's schemes to get Nick released as soon as possible. "You're 
making it sound like the exorcism was the end of the battle. We aren't even 
positive yet that it worked!" She pressed on, her temper heating up at the angry 
reprimand in her precept's eyes. "He's liable to have some serious problems coping 
with this, Derek, and you denying them won't help him any."

"Very well, Rachel. What are these problems you're so certain we'll have to deal 
with?" Derek couldn't help snapping at the woman. His entire body ached and no 
amount of medicine seemed able to clear his breathing anymore. He didn't need to 
be made any more miserable by her dire predictions.

"Well....there's bound to be some sense of violation, of helplessness over how the 
demon took control and used him without his being able to stop it. Probably 
nightmares. He'll need to be watched for depression. Knowing Nick, he'll feel 
guilty for the harm that was done with his body. Even before this, he fit a high 
risk profile for possible suicide attempts. Now that he's got those scars to make 
him think about it, that risk nearly doubles. He'd just be fulfilling people's new 
expectations of him if he tried to hurt himself." She tried to keep her own fears 
out of her voice, hoping calm professionalism would break through the wall of 
denial the precept was building around his heart.

Not ready to think yet about what her own experience as a social worker told her 
were serious possibilities, Alex nudged the priest beside her to get his 
attention. She needed more facts. "How much will Nick remember of what he did 
while the Warden was in control?"

"Not much. He'll have some flashes of memory from any moments he got close 
t'breakin free. More as time passes. Mostly he'll remember any mental imagery the 
demon used t'torment him. That would have been his world." The man was pale and 
grim in clerical black once more. "Makin' him see tha' that world was'n real is 
somethin’ Rachel can help more with than me. We all know how Nick feels about 
religious counsel. He's goin' t'need Rachel and he's goin t'need you, Derek." His 
pale eyes fastened on those of his precept, challenging the older man to deny his 
own importance to the people he considered his children.

"Thank you, Philip." The psychiatrist said, grateful for the unexpected support.

"How do we know he's even still in there?" Willow asked. She hurried on when they 
all turned to look at her. "I mean, you said the Warden would try to destroy his 
soul and there wouldn't be anyone left to save."

That made Philip smile just a little. He felt much better all of a sudden. "If his 
soul had been destroyed, his body would have died when the demon was expelled." He 
looked around at the others. "I don't care if he's stark raving mad. If the 
exorcism worked then he's still in there and that means we can still get him 

"This is a little off subject," Willow apologized in a timid voice, "but I have a 
couple more questions. Would Nick really have been damned if he had died?"

"Yes, though there's little fear of that now." The priest rose to his feet, 
relieved to see Nick's doctor making his way towards them. He really didn't want 
to answer the next question that was probably on the girl's mind. She didn't need 
to know what would have become of her if the ritual had been completed.

The tall, silver haired man smiled at the young priest, resting a comforting hand 
on his shoulder while he looked over the rest of them. He'd been told by Dr. 
Corrigan last night that the two youngsters were close and that the priest was 
blaming himself for not seeing his friend's deterioration. All of these people are 
way too tense, but I suppose they have a right to be after last night. Best not 
keep them waiting.

"I'm already convinced your friend isn't fit to stand trial. He appears to have no 
memory of the violence or even much about the town itself and I'm inclined to 
believe him. My official report will state that he cannot be held accountable for 
any of his actions since arriving in Sunnydale." He didn't tell them how fragile 
and confused the boy had been. It had taken nearly an hour to get him talking at 
all and he'd had to tread very carefully with the questions the law required him 
to ask about the attacks. Bringing such traumatic memories to the surface too soon 
could be devastating.

Philip sagged with relief at this news and gratefully returned Alex's hug as she 
stood up and pulled him into her arms. Willow quickly came to her feet as well, 
flinging herself into the old doctor's arms to thank him over and over again. He 
simply folded his arms around the girl and patted her back, making no attempt to 
stop the muffled flow of words. It amazed him that she was so worried about a man 
she barely knew who had tried to murder her just the night before. And they say 
kids today have no hearts!

Rachel smiled, patting Derek's hand as he too sagged with relief. "How soon do you 
think we can get him transferred to private care?" She asked her colleague, 
despite her better judgment voicing the question she knew Derek wanted answered 
first. "I really think he'll recover more rapidly if he can be closer to home and 
his loved ones in a safe, familiar environment." 

All their hearts sank when Chris Hailey frowned at the idea. "I think it's a 
little soon for that. He seems a lot calmer now but I'd like to be certain he 
isn't an immediate danger to himself or anyone else before I allow a transfer. 
This is only the first day. We need more time to find out just how serious his 
condition is."

"Of course, I understand." The Legacy doctor murmured, cursing herself for 
bringing up the subject prematurely.

He smiled again, hoping to ease the disappointment none of them could hide. "Don't 
worry about it. I just want to give him some more time to stabilize. Those ribs 
don't need to be jostled around right now. I promise he'll be released to you as 
soon as he's well enough. I've got a hunch Nick's going to need more one on one 
attention than we can give him here. And would I lie about something like that?" 
He asked the girl snuggled against his sweater.

"How soon until we can at least see him?" Philip asked. He needed to make his own 
determination to be certain Nick was really free. That his friend wasn't lost 
forever and a demon confined in the secure hospital room.

"I think it would be best if you waited until visiting hours tomorrow. We still 
have some tests to run, both medical and psychiatric, and he's going to need a 
rest after that." He felt terrible at the crushed look on the boy's face but had 
to do what was best for his patient. He tried to ease the disappointment for them 
a little bit. "I'll let the nurses know you can stay here as long as you need to 
tonight. You can look in on Nick all you like without entering the room. All I ask 
is that you don't disturb him."

"That's fair enough." Derek told him. "Thank you, doctor."

It was nearly eight o'clock when Chris Hailey found himself once again outside the 
private room that held the young man from San Francisco. He'd been on his way home 
at last after sedating that woman screaming about a vampire attack and sending her 
home with her husband. Too many vampires in this town. Is it any wonder we get two 
or three screamers in here every night? He grinned. I say something like that to 
one of my esteemed colleagues and I'm going to end up in one of my own rooms. He 
idly looked through the glass pane in the door and saw that Nick was wide awake 
and just staring up at the ceiling. That was pretty much all he could do with the 
restraints still on his arms. Dr. Hailey fumbled at the chain around his neck for 
the key card that would open the door. It's not as if there's anyone waiting at 
home anymore and God knows this kid needs all the time I can give him.

"Hey, Nick." He called softly, careful not to startle the youngster. "I thought 
you'd be asleep by now after everything we put you through today."

Nick let his head roll toward the sound as the tall, silver haired doctor stepped 
in, letting the door fall closed behind him. His eyes darkened a little with fresh 
pain at the soft snick of the lock reengaging but he didn't answer the greeting. 
He only watched as the old man came and took his coat off, settling himself in the 
bedside chair.

Chris hadn't missed the reaction. "That bothers you doesn't it?" He asked, keeping 
his voice gentle and nonjudgmental. "Being locked in here that is."

Nick flinched away from the question and returned to gazing at the ceiling. He'd 
finally started to believe this wasn't part of the dream world. He wasn't sure yet 
if it was someplace better or worse. He still felt like the little boy who had 
been curled up crying on the cavern floor. He hadn't seen anyone he knew yet and 
he still wasn't sure he could trust this man who claimed to want to help him. "Can 
my friends come in here yet?" He finally asked in the waiting silence.

"Not tonight. I told them you needed to rest. It looked like your boss needed to 
get some rest too. He's a very sick man right now. He's also very worried about 
you." He watched to see how the boy would react to what he'd said.

"Oh." Nick closed his eyes against the tears that threatened to fall all too 
easily. He knew Derek was sick and probably not allowed to see him but he wanted 
him here anyway. The strength of that wanting surprised him. So did the 
perceptiveness of the old man beside him.

"It's okay to cry, Nick." Chris watched sadly as the boy's eyes squeezed more 
tightly closed to hold back the pain in his heart. "Sometimes crying or just 
talking to somebody can keep the pain from building up inside until hurting 
yourself seems like the only way to let it out. You already tried hurting yourself 
and ended up here. Will you try to talk to me? You did for a while this morning."

"Talk about what?" Nick was stalling for time. Trying to think past the drugs he'd 
been forced to take after dinner. He didn't understand what they wanted from him. 
He didn't even know how he got here but it was a pretty safe guess they thought 
he'd tried to kill himself.

"How about what you were feeling when you first came to town? Can you sort any of 
that out for me?" Chris probed cautiously, trying to find a way to lead the kid 
the rest of the way back from the nightmare world he'd slipped into. The one he'd 
dragged too many others into with him during the psychotic episode he'd apparently 
suffered when reality became too much for him to handle. 

Nick thought about that and shuddered. That was what he'd been trying to do when 
the doctor came in. All of his memories since coming to this town were a jumbled 
mess. Sometimes some lone image would jump out at him but that was all. Except for 
the cavern. That and everything that had occurred there he remembered all too 
clearly. "No!" He jerked his head away and balled his fists. The memory was still 
too close. His fingernails were drawing blood from his palms as he fought to deny 
what had been done to him by the Warden.

The doctor quickly reached out and used the pressure points on the backs of Nick's 
hands to force the fists open. "Calm down. We don't have to talk about anything 
you aren't ready for."

It went on like that for over an hour. The doctor bringing up questions Nick 
either couldn't answer or couldn't face and then backing off for a while to let 
the boy calm down. When the nurse finally arrived with medication to help the 
patient sleep, the two were swapping lies about the fish that had gotten away on 
boyhood camping trips. Chris was enjoying the childlike happiness Nick dove into 
the tall tales with. His sons and grandson were always too conscious of their 
roles as adults to just let go this way. Must've been their mother's influence. 

The doctor snapped back into his professional side when he saw his patient's eyes 
darken with panic. Nick was watching the small medication cup like it was a 
poisonous snake. 

"I'm fine. I don't need anything." He started to tug on the heavy straps that held 
him, trying to pull away from the nurse. He could feel the world slipping around 
him again. He'd fallen asleep earlier in the afternoon after the first long 
session with the doctor. He knew what was waiting for him in the depths of his 
mind and he wouldn't willingly go there again.

Chris stood up and tried to hold Nick still before he could hurt himself. "Take it 
easy Nick. It's just something to help you relax. Everybody gets them because of 
all the activity that goes on around here while people are trying to sleep." This 
only made the man fight harder. He didn't seem quite so much like a fragile child 
when he was fighting like this. More like a wounded tiger. "Get a needle to put 
him out!" He could see fresh blood already seeping through the bandages over the 
right arm and both wrists. He turned to call, over Nick's screams, to the 
departing nurse. "Get me a suture kit while you're at it. We've got stitches 
popping all over the place in here!"

It was nearly three hours before they had all his wounds resutured and were 
certain none of the broken ribs had punctured a lung in the struggle. The sedative 
had finally put him out after a ten minute battle that had sucked in, and injured, 
three orderlies and started half the ward shrieking. Now the kid had straps 
pinning hislegs and waist to the bed as well as his arms so that he was completely 
immobilized. The orderly, who was in the ER now getting his jaw wired, had seen to 
those personally. Up until the nurse came in he had thought he was connecting with 
the kid. Earning his trust. Guess not. Altogether a thoroughly disheartening 
experience. He rubbed absentmindedly at his own bandaged forearm. He wouldn't have 
pegged the kid for a biter. Dr. Hailey was so lost in his thoughts that he nearly 
bumped into Derek Rayne before he saw him. He stopped politely when the man put a 
hand on his arm to detain him. The man looked miserable. His eyes were red rimmed 
and running and his nose was nearly glowing red.

"How is Nick?" The voice was actually worse than it had been earlier. No wonder he 
let the others do most of the talking. "Scared to death, but he's sleeping now." 
Chris stated frankly. He could see this wasn't a man who would tolerate being 
protected from the truth. "We had to strap him down and put him out with a needle. 
I'm afraid all of you have a long road ahead. That's if you plan to stick with him 
through this?"

"We do." The grim eloquence of the words was enough. 

Dr. Hailey studied the white face and glassy eyes. "I'm assuming you came by to 
check on him because the fever wouldn't let you sleep. Have you been able to eat 
or drink anything today?"

Derek flushed with embarrassment at being queried like this outside the side 
entrance of the hospital. "So I'm the patient now, doctor?"

"You will be if you don't look after yourself better than this. If you really care 
about the kid, you'll check in with whoever's on duty tonight in the ER and get 
some antibiotics so you can shake this thing and really be there for him instead 
of just watching him through glass." The old man turned away. "Good-night, Dr. 

After going up to the third floor and watching Nick's haunted sleep for a while, 
Derek went downstairs and submitted himself to the indignities of the ER. His 
family had to take precedence over his pride. 

Nick closed his eyes after the nurse left and tried to find something to focus his 
mind on to distract himself from the pain until the medication could take effect. 
It wouldn't work. Every time he tried to shift position, the straps pulled at him, 
holding him in place and reminding him of the way he had lost control the night 
before. The nurse had loosened them a little after he'd complained that they were 
hurting him but she'd said only the doctor could order them taken off. The shame 
he felt over the panic attack hurt almost as much as his wounds, only there 
weren't any drugs that could take this pain away from him.

"Nick? Are you awake?" The nurse who'd unlocked the door and opened it for them 
had said he was awake but she'd also said she'd just given him something for the 
pain that might have put him out again. Philip spoke quietly just in case. He 
didn't want to wake Nick if he was sleeping but he hoped he wasn't. He hoped he 
was still Nick. 

The wary question inflicted a pain of it's own. It made Nick remember how cruel 
he'd been to Philip. He opened his eyes and turned his head to see both the priest 
and Rachel hovering in the doorway. Yesterday he'd wanted them all so desperately. 
Now he didn't know what to say to them. "Yeah. I'm sorry for the way I acted 
before." His voice began to shake as the words tumbled unexpectedly out of him. 
"I'm so sorry for everything."

Philip just stood there, stunned that Nick was apologizing to them after the way 
they had failed him. Rachel came forward and brushed away the tears that had 
started to slide down his face, kissing his forehead the way she would Kat's if 
her little girl was hurting. "Hey, none of that. You haven't done anything to be 
sorry for. Has he Philip?" She prompted.

He shook himself and came around to the other side of Nick's bed. "Of course not. 
That may not have even been you." He slid a hand through the railings and gently 
rested it on Nick's arm. The small gesture of affection was all he allowed himself 
before getting down to business. "We came to have a look at you and ask a few 
questions to be certain you're really free of any trace of possession." He ignored 
Rachel's reproachful look at diving into things so quickly. He had to know.

Nick understood the need that drove Philip. For what was left of this assignment 
he was a victim, not a friend, and his big brother had a job to do. At least he 
knew what was expected of him in this kind of situation. He wouldn't have to watch 
what he said the way he had to with the doctors either. Philip was Legacy. He 
didn't have to guard any secrets from him. That knowledge steadied him. "You can 
ask, but I don't have a lot of answers right now."

"Fair enough." Philip smiled, glad that Nick was taking things so well. "What's 
the last thing you really remember clearly before the scene in the gym?"

Nick's eyes closed and furrows cut deeply into his forehead as he tried to locate 
the last clear moment when he was sure he was really himself. "I remember you 
trying to make me take those stupid pain pills before bed the night after I got in 
the fight in the library."

"And what about the next day? What do you remember of that?" Philip asked quietly.

"I remember the things I said to you." Nick opened his eyes to watch Philip's 
face. It was composed and professional. He'd get nothing in the way of anger or 
forgiveness until the interview was over.

"What else?" This was almost as painful for him as he could see it was for Nick 
but he felt certain he was close to learning the actual moment Nick was taken from 
them. Anything he could learn now might be useful in the next case that presented 
itself. That was part of the reason behind such questions. The other being to 
force the victim to face their own helplessness and move on instead of battering 
themselves with useless what if's. He wasn't sure they'd ever get Nick over that 

Nick's eyes had grown glassy and drifted shut as the pain medication took effect 
and there was a long pause before he answered. Rachel was nearly ready to get up 
and motion the priest to leave when the green eyes snapped open. "In the shower, 
after I stormed off, it felt like someone was laughing at me. Someone inside my 
head. He took me that first night didn't he?" "Probably." Philip watched sadly as 
Rachel wiped off the sweat that had broken out on Nick's face. "He got sneaky on 
us. We didn't know there was anythin' inside of you t'fight until he'd already 
secured his hold and taken you away where we couldn't find you."

"All that time he was in there then and I didn't even know. Laughing at the way he 
was making me treat you." Nick's eyes were dilated now and his chest heaving as he 
tried to draw breath past the horror that was smothering him. The other two could 
see the pulse pounding in his neck. "He might still be here and we wouldn't know!"

Rachel leaned over him and took hold of his shoulders so that he was forced to 
focus on her rather than his fears. "Take it easy Nick. He can't hurt you here. We 
aren't going to let anyone hurt you." She held the eye contact until she could see 
him relaxing a little. "Besides, that's what we're here for right now. To make 
sure he's really gone."

"How?!" Nick asked, frustrated nearly to tears now. The adrenaline rush of his 
fear had countered the drugs enough to leave him tensed for battle. He wanted to 
fight what might still be happening to him but he couldn't even move, tied to the 
bed like this. 

Philip got out the vial of holy water he'd put in his pocket for this purpose. 
"I'm goin' t'perform a blessin’. If there's any trace of the Warden's influence in 
you this'll get a reaction out of him." Philip wet his fingertips and drew the 
shape of the cross on Nick's forehead while reciting a simple prayer for those 
afflicted by the devil's minions. There was no violent reaction that would have 
betrayed the presence of evil. There wasn't even any of Nick's usual irritation at 
anything spiritual. He finished quickly and sat down beside the bed while the 
doctor checked their friend's bandages.

"I think we need to go and get some breakfast now and let you rest for a while." 
Rachel spoke gently while leveling a hard stare at her healthy team mate. Come on 
Philip. He's not ready for more than this. Much to her relief the priest seemed to 
get the message and got up to leave. 

"Alex should be here soon. She wanted t'wait at the motel until Derek was awake 
but then she was headin' down here. She'd be pretty mad at us if we tired you out 
before she could say hello." Philip told him, hoping the picture of Alex getting 
mad at them would make him smile. It didn't work. Nick's muscles were all tensed 
and he seemed to be growing whiter. Nick could feel last night's panic rising at 
the thought of being left alone to fall asleep again. "No!" He flushed at the way 
they both stared at him. "I mean, couldn't one of you stay here until she gets 
here? I won't get tired just lying here. I promise."

Philip couldn't leave him here like this. He hadn't seen Nick this frightened or 
vulnerable since he was eight and spent the Fourth of July with Nick's family. 
He'd had nightmares for a week about what he'd seen Jonathan Boyle do to his son 
that weekend. He knew today that he should have told Derek what happened as soon 
as he got home, but all he'd known then was that the four year old had been 
frantic when he'd begged Philip not to tell. "I'll stay. There's one last thin' I 
have t'do and then after I've got some coffee I'm all yours." He carefully kept 
his eyes away from Rachel as he defied her suggestion to let Nick rest. She didn't 
know Nick the way he did. The man wouldn't rest if they left him now. He'd just 
make himself worse.

Rachel rounded on him as soon as the door was shut behind them. "Don't push him 
Philip. He's not up to it."

"I know. He's too quiet." He saw with relief that Rachel understood what he meant. 
"I'm not plannin' t'push him Rachel. I won't even talk about the case. I just 
couldn't leave him like that. He's scared t'death of bein' alone right now."

"I noticed that too." She smiled bitterly. "There have been a lot of times I 
wished he would just be quiet and listen instead of going off on something. Now 
that he is quiet it scares me." She looped her arm through Philip's and started 
down the hall to the nurse's station. "Come on. I want to find out why he's in 
four point restraints. He wasn't in them last night and those aren't exactly 
standard. We can go get some breakfast in the cafeteria once I've checked with the 
nurses about what went on here after we left."

Philip pulled back. "I have to go back. I promised."

"You have to get someone with a key first to let you back in, so you can at least 
get that coffee like you said you were going to. It might be a good idea to take a 
snack in there for later too if you're going to skip breakfast." She grinned as he 
realized he'd locked himself out and quit resisting her. He was probably going to 
camp out in there as much as they let him until Nick was released. She might as 
well make sure he'd be comfortable.

Alex was sitting alone by the window, leafing through an old magazine when Nick 
began to stir. He moaned softly in his sleep, his head turning a little. Thinking 
that another nightmare was about to begin, she got up and headed for the door. 
Nick's doctor was out in the hall talking with Derek and Rachel and if this dream 
was half as violent as the last one, she'd need some help in here very soon.

"Alex?" The somewhat blurry voice made her stop with her hand on the door. She'd 
just been ready to hit the panic button that was beside the doors of all of these 
rooms to summon help. "Don't go!"

Nick was wide awake and terrified by the time she turned back around. "I'm not 
going anywhere, Nick." She came back and leaned against the bedrails to stroke his 
cheek. She wished she could do more for him and hoped he couldn't see the tears 
she was holding back at the sight of her normally invincible seeming friend so 
frightened. "I'll be right here as long as you need me. I promise. You were 
moaning. Do you need the doctor?"

Nick frowned, trying to remember what he'd been dreaming just as he woke. He had a 
feeling he was better off if he didn't. "No. I'm okay. Just stay here, please?" He 
wished he could reach out to hold her hand and keep her here with him.

Just then the clicking of the lock signaled a new arrival. Philip slipped in, pale 
and holding one arm as though it were injured, and thanked the nurse as she went 
back to her work.

Nick was suddenly very aware that he was once again wearing the leg restraints 
they had removed during mid morning rounds. The nurse had wanted them put back 
when she came to give him a knockout shot after lunch but Philip had said no. He'd 
told her that he could restrain Nick for her. "Philip, your arm. The 
restraints...did I...." Nick didn't know how to ask the question that tortured 
him. He remembered being afraid to fall asleep and crying while Philip held him 
for the shot, wanting to struggle, but then things got fuzzy on him.

"No. Nothin' like that Nick." Philip came to the foot of the bed and showed him 
the small cotton ball taped to the inside of his elbow. "This is from givin' 
blood. The restraints are there because you had a bad dream. We had to put them 
back so you wouldn't hurt yourself, that's all."

"We all gave blood, even Giles and the kids. Everyone except Derek that is. They 
didn't want his. See?" Alex pushed up her sleeve to reveal the same thing on her 
arm. She teased her friend gently. "You wiped out their supply."

The teasing continued for a while with the visitors steering carefully clear of 
how their friend wound up here, despite the questions he'd begun to ask. When 
Rachel poked her head in, even Nick was smiling at some story Philip was telling 
about trying to get directions to the Vatican and all the strange places he'd 
ended up before he found his way there. 

"I thought you'd want to know, Derek is heading back to San Francisco to take care 
of some business. I think he was feeling a bit useless spending all his time out 
in the hall." She wished she'd kept the news to herself when she saw how fast 
Nick's smile went away. I guess it was important to him just to know Derek was 
here even if he couldn't come in. Rachel hated being the newcomer to the team. 
Sometimes it was hard to remember how far back the tie that bound the others went 
or how strong it was. "Why don't you two go get some dinner while I keep this 
character entertained."

"Good idea! I'm starved." Alex informed them.

"No, I think I'll stay here a bit. I'm not very hungry." Philip told them just 
before his stomach grumbled a noisy protest to the contrary.

Alex grabbed his arm and headed toward the door. "Come on. You just gave blood, 
you have to replace it with something."

"I'll be all right. Go eat." Nick reassured him, seeing the anxious look his 
friend was still giving him as Alex dragged him off to be fed. "What are you 

Rachel finished releasing his left arm and moved on to the legs as she came around 
the bed. "Unbuckling these things. Since you seem pretty calm when you're awake, 
Dr. Hailey thought it might be time to let you out of them. He said he knew how 
uncomfortable they were. That feel better?" By the time she finished speaking 
she'd worked her way back up and pulled the blankets back just enough to get at 
the last strap around his middle.

He moved around restlessly without answering and then started to play with the 
controls on the bed. Rachel kept quiet and waited in the chair for him to finish. 
He finally settled back in almost the same spot he had started from. "All done?" 
She asked, trying not to laugh.

"Yeah. It hurts too much to sit up." He poked an arm through the rails that kept 
him from falling out of the bed, enjoying the freedom of the gesture, and reached 
for her hand. "Thanks, Rachel."

"No problem." She patted his hand and kept hold of it while she got down to 
business. "I hear you gave them a pretty rough time last night. Want to tell me 
about it?"

"I didn't want to go to sleep. That's all. Then everybody pounced on me and I 
fought back." He tried to pull his hand away but she didn't allow it.

"Okay. We'll let that slide for now." Rachel didn't like the unsteady look in his 
eyes. His self control was a lot more tenuous right now than she'd thought. She 
quit wasting time with the minor stuff and got down to the important question. She 
had to sort out what he had done from what had been done to him if she was going 
to have a prayer of helping him come to terms with this. She turned his hand in 
her own, studying the heavy bandages around his wrist. "Did he do this to you or 
did you do it yourself to try and get him to leave you alone?"

Nick's lips moved soundlessly, robbed of the ability to speak by the unfair 
accusation from someone he trusted. He yanked his arm back and this time she let 
it go. With the physical contact broken, his voice returned. "I didn't try to kill 
myself! I couldn't do anything to stop him! Don't you get it? I wasn't in charge 

"Whoa, hold on a second. I believe you, but I had to ask." She watched without 
trying to touch him again until the hurt and anger started to subside a little and 
then approached the subject as a colleague instead of a therapist. "From what I've 
heard, you've been around the Legacy your entire life. You know the extremes 
people can be forced to by possession. I have to know what he did to you, and how 
you responded to it, if I'm going to help you deal with it."

"So I'm supposed to be in therapy after this, like I'm some kind of nut even 
though you know what really happened?" Bitterness filled his voice as he gazed up 
at the ceiling rather than look at her. 

Nick wasn't taking this well. He was going into denial just like many patients 
she'd worked with who'd suffered abuse or violent assaults. Somehow she doubted 
he'd appreciate the comparison. Before she could frame a response, a nurse opened 
the door, pushing a cart in ahead of her.

"Dr. Corrigan? Your service called and said there was an emergency with one of 
your patients. They need you to call Dr. Ross at Mercy Hospital right away."

"Thank you. I'll be right out." Rachel gathered up her purse to leave but was 
stopped when Nick called her name. Fear was mingling with the anger on his face 
now and he was watching her again. She hated to do this to him but maybe leaving 
him alone with his fears for a while would make him realize he needed help. "I'll 
be back as soon as I can Nick but I can't ignore the people who do want my help 
just to argue with you." She didn't look back as she left the room and heard the 
lock snick behind her, imprisoning Nick with his fears. This had to be done for 
his own good and she had other patients to think about as well. 

Derek Rayne tugged his jacket collar higher around his chin and ducked his head as 
he hurried past the news crew that had staked out the hospital lobby. A psychopath 
performing satanic rituals with local children was big news in such a small town 
and the tiny independent TV station was trying to turn the incident into a major 
scandal. Their take on the situation was that the suspect in custody was faking 
insanity to avoid prosecution and that the authorities were being paid off by the 
man's wealthy boss, namely him, to look the other way. They were putting pressure 
on the mayor's office to convict someone in the imaginary conspiracy.

If they could have seen Nick through the small viewing window the way he had last 
night, fighting frantically against the leather restraints, in the grip of a 
nightmare, they would know he was every bit as sick as they had been told. Rachel 
had been proven all too right about the nightmares and he had felt very old and 
helpless outside of the locked hospital room. His fortune could do little to calm 
Nick's fears. 

He was abruptly seized by a fit of coughing that doubled him over and made his 
eyes start running again. I can't even be there to comfort him thanks to this damn 
bug! At least I should be thankful it's keeping these media vultures from getting 
near enough to recognize me. And that the fever's nearly gone. He smiled grimly as 
he fingered the bottle of antibiotics in his pocket. At least he'd be able to go 
in and see Nick by the time he got back. The doctor who had seen him had said it 
would only be a few days before he was no longer contagious. In the meantime Dr. 
Hailey had promised to call if there were any new developments with Nick.'

Nick shifted slightly in the bed after Rachel left, trying to find a position that 
would ease both his aching ribs and the bullet torn right arm. In the process, he 
accidentally put too much pressure on the burning bullet groove in his left hip. 
He'd almost forgotten that one. Once the searing pain faded, he carefully slid 
back to where he'd started from. He hadn't realized how badly he still hurt until 
Rachel took off the restraints that had held him in one place, leaving him free to 
really shift position. It seemed as if every part of him was hurt in some way. The 
dinner that the nurse had left on the tray table over his bed definitely didn't 
look worth the pain it would cost him to sit up and eat it. 

When the lock clicked, announcing a visitor, he closed his eyes pretending to be 
asleep. Hoping they weren't bringing more of the drugs that made it so hard to 
think clearly. So hard to avoid sleep and the terror it had brought with it ever 
since he woke up in this place. Please let it be Alex or Philip coming back from 
dinner or even Rachel from her phone call. The pain is a lot easier to handle than 
those dreams.

"I saw your eyes open through the window so let's not waste time with games 
here." A hard edged voice let him know the act wasn't working and Nick opened his 
eyes to find a man in an old suit standing by the bed with a folder in his hands. 
Something about the visitor's eyes made him grateful for the safety of the raised 
bedrails that separated them. This didn't look like another well meaning doctor 
come to ask questions he couldn't answer even if he wanted to.

When Nick simply lay there in silence, waiting for him to make the first move, the 
stranger spoke up. "You like playing games with people don't ya, kid? I'll bet 
it's got you out of trouble before. I'm Detective Krakas, Sunnydale Police, and 
I'm not playing your game."

This did not sound good. Some of the questions the doctor had asked had made him 
wonder what he'd done to get shot up. He'd asked his friends before they had gone 
to dinner, but Philip had only told him that the Warden was responsible for any 
harm done, not him. Alex had just looked like she might cry so he didn't ask 
again. The only clear memories he had were of the cavern and he'd just as soon not 
look too closely at those so he waited to see what the man wanted from him. He 
wished Derek could be here with him now, instead of on his way home.

Krakas had had enough of the silent treatment and raised his voice a few decibels. 
"Fine! This is a game to you! How's this for stakes? The rest of your life behind 
bars for kidnapping and four counts of attempted homicide. One of those a cop! 
Sorry no death penalty in this state." He dropped the folder he carried onto the 
chest of the man in the bed. "Here are my cards. Let's play. Go on look at them!"

The angry cop pushed the untouched tray table aside and used the controls to raise 
the head of the bed. He picked the folder back up and started yanking pictures 
out, tossing them onto Nick's lap. "You're gonna look at what you did to my 
partner and to the others and then you're gonna look me in the eye while you tell 
me whether you remember any of it or not."

The first picture that caught Nick's eye was a still shot from a security camera. 
He must have developed a hundred like it in his work for the Legacy. It was him. 
In the middle of a store with the 9mm in his hand. A man in running clothes was 
frozen forever by the camera as he slid down a wall, his hands clamped to his 
stomach. Another man, this one about Derek's age, was crumpled near his own feet 
under a dark stain that had to be blood on the shelf nearby.

He barely heard the detective rattling on about lesser charges like assault, 
robbery, arson and vandalism. There were more pictures fluttering down on his lap. 
Evidence photos of a man on an examining table covered with blood and bruises. 
More security footage showing him slamming the uniformed clerk's head into the 
shelves. The school gym burned and blood splattered. Pictures of a church that had 
been desecrated. The roaring in his head drowned everything else out now. He 
remembered the church. Watching his wrists being sliced open just like Jenny's. 
Not being able to stop it. He started to shake as he saw the monster he had become 
in these photos. In all of the security pictures he was smiling, reveling in the 
carnage he had created.

When Chris Hailey reached the room in answer to the summons from the nurse Krakas 
had bullied into letting him in, he was instantly furious. His patient, who should 
have been lying flat resting, was raised up in bed white and shaking. The graphic 
evidence of his violent breakdown was scattered over the blanket. He'd heard 
Krakas shouting at the kid from halfway down the hall, demanding to know if he 
remembered anything now. He'd warned the man about this sort of behavior before. 
"Get out of here." He ordered, his voice low and deadly. "Take your pictures and 
leave. I swear, if you ever set foot in a patient's room without a warrant again I 
will have your badge for it."

Red faced with anger and embarrassment, the detective gathered his evidence and 
allowed hospital security to escort him out in silence. He'd lived in this town 
long enough to know the old man could make good on his threat. 

Turning back to his patient, Chris could see immediately that he was starting to 
withdraw from a reality he hadn't been ready to face yet. He quickly sent Carla 
Jensen out of the room for a sedative before going to the bedside. Damage control 
time. Damn Krakas! I oughta really get his badge lifted for this stunt.

In just the time it had taken to order the sedative, Nick had begun rolling his 
head from side to side, his mouth working soundlessly to find some words for the 
chaos inside of him. The doctor reached out to stop the rolling motion and force 
his patient to look at him. When Nick jerked violently at the unexpected contact, 
he simply held on until the kid registered who he was. "Talk to me Nick. Are you 
okay?" Obviously he wasn't, but Chris had to try and stop him from withdrawing any 
further from the reality he'd only recently returned to.

"No! Those people in the pictures. The things I did...." The words trailed off in 
a sob as the boy in the bed started coming apart.

"Those people aren't holding anything against you, Nick. You didn't have any 
control over any of that." The doctor slowly lowered the bed flat again and 
reached across to resecure the restraints that had been left on the bedrails just 
in case they were needed again, buckling the heavy leather straps carefully over 
the bandages that swathed the injured wrists. "Let's get these back on for now, 
all right?" Best not take any chances here. At least the kid's verbalizing it 
instead of shutting down. We aren't quite back at square one here. Rule number 
one: If you can talk with them, you can work with them.

"I wanna go home. Please....just let me go home."

The whispered plea cut the old man to the bone as he slid the needle in that would 
calm the boy down and let him sleep. Hopefully when he wakes up, he'll think 
Krakas was just another bad dream. "It's all right son. Dr. Corrigan is going to 
take you home just as soon as you're strong enough for it." His voice was husky 
with emotion as he made the promise. There was still another 24 hours to go on the 
involuntary hold but if he put the screws to the administration he might get the 
paperwork processed for the transfer in under a week.

He murmured soft reassurances to the boy, calming him much as he'd done for his 
grandson when the child was small. This one needed the closer attention that was 
available only in the private practices. More importantly, he needed his family 
around him. And those people from the Luna Foundation are obviously his family in 
spirit if not in blood. No boss he'd ever met would stand by an employee through 
something like this. No, Derek Rayne had behaved more like a worried, frustrated 
father through all of this than like a boss. He wasn't looking forward to calling 
the man with this update.

Chris Hailey didn't turn to the waiting nurse until he was sure Nick had faded out 
on them. His voice was quietly resigned as he ordered a fresh suicide watch. "Keep 
the restraints on for now, too. We'll reevaluate the need for them tomorrow after 
we've got some idea of how he's handling this."

epilogue 1: Sunnydale Community Hospital March 16, 1997 6:37p.m. 

The Legacy helicopter waited on the pad behind the hospital, it's rotors spinning 
lazily as the precept kept himself occupied rechecking the gauges. If the readings 
were correct, the new fuel line seemed to be holding up all right. He hadn't done 
much piloting since Nick was brought into the House five years ago and guiltily 
welcomed the excuse to wait outside while the others collected the ex-SEAL. Derek, 
himself, could not bear to see Nick in that place again, not if the set back he'd 
been told about over the phone had been as bad as it sounded. 

He had returned alone to San Francisco, mobilizing his attorneys to head off any 
civil suits the locals might file and making sure the Legacy's active 
investigations were covered by other Houses. He had even made arrangements to have 
Nick's car brought back before flying back to Sunnydale to retrieve his people. It 
had made him feel so helpless standing around while the doctors whispered in the 
hallway that he'd had to get out. Helplessness was not a feeling this powerful man 
was accustomed to dealing with. This sort of thing is Rachel's strength not mine, 
Derek reminded himself, and a good leader knows when to step back and let his 
people do their jobs.

Inside the building, Dr. Hailey was still going over last minute details of the 
case with Rachel while Giles and the kids said their good-byes to their new 
friends. When it really mattered they came through like pros. Giles has a lot to 
be proud of in those three. He's done a good job. I just hope I can do mine half 
as well. The psychiatrist had her doubts looking at Nick's pale face and shadowed 
eyes where he lay near the door on a gurney. He hadn't really come back to them 
after that detective got ahold of him. He hadn't been able to believe their 
reassurances that he was safe now. After all, they'd told him that before and it 
hadn't been true. 

The Ativan should have knocked him out by now but he was hanging onto Alex's hand 
as though he feared they'd leave him behind if he let go. She felt a hot flash of 
rage as the mother in her boiled up protectively in answer to the childlike fear 
in her patient's face. It's obvious he remembers a lot more of whatever that 
monster put him through than we expected. I just hope the Warden is suffering just 
as much wherever he is.

The slight cough at her elbow made Rachel realize she hadn't been listening to 
what her colleague had been saying. "With such an abrupt psychotic break you can 
never tell if they're gonna make it all the way back or not, but I always try to 
keep hoping. That's what you've still got to learn, Rachel. That kid doesn't have 
any hope left, you've got to have it for him." Dr. Hailey smiled apologetically. 
"Sorry, speech over. It's just that every now and then one comes through that 
really tugs at the old heart strings. He got mine. I can see he got hold of yours 
too. I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know how he does. He can bounce back from 
this if you just give him enough time and attention."

Rachel squeezed the old man's arm lightly. "I will Chris, thank you for all you've 
done to help get him released to us."

"Not a problem. Much as I hate to admit it I'm a little relieved to hand him off 
to you. I don't think we could have helped him here. He still won't open up to any 
of the staff about these nightmares he's been having. The nurses can't get him to 
sleep without either one of you holding him, or having him strapped down for a 
shot. He fights against the shots, and that keeps tearing his stitches open." He 
ran a large hand through his mop of silver hair, an old habit when something 
bothered the senior psychiatrist. "He just gets so damn scared whenever anyone 
tries to get him to close his eyes. His reactions are almost like what an 
instructor of mine from med school once described seeing in torture victims when 
he was in Korea." 

You don't know how close you are! Rachel thought, groping for a graceful exit 
before this perceptive old man saw too much of the truth. "Right now, though, I 
think we'd better get moving before you have to give Philip a sedative too!" She 
joked. Noticing the way the young priest hovered watchfully at his friend's side, 
Sunnydale's Chief of Psychiatry couldn't help but agree and stepped back to let 
Dr. Corrigan get her patient loaded.

Nick struggled to keep his eyes open as he was lifted from the gurney into the 
waiting helicopter. It hadn't taken him long to learn that sleep was no longer a 
refuge but a place to be feared. A place where all the terrors in his own mind 
waited just behind his closed eyelids, freed by the Warden from the dark corners 
he'd shut them in. If they'd just stop pumping all the drugs into him he'd be 
fine. He could live without sleep if it meant keeping the monsters away. The SEALs 
had taught him that.

As he lost the battle against the powerful sedative he'd been given for the trip, 
Nick clung tightly to Alex and Philip's hands, trying to draw some of their 
strength with him as the dark tide sucked him down. Rachel's voice was the last 
thing he heard that night. "At least we won't have to worry about the flight. I 
think he's finally under. The sleep should do him some good." You are so wrong, 
Rachel, was the last coherent thought that crossed Nick's mind as the terror 
reached out to take him.

It was some twenty minutes later before Giles shepherded his charges into the 
underground parking garage where he'd left his car. They had insisted on watching 
until the helicopter was out of sight in the gathering darkness. Even though they 
hadn't been allowed to visit the ex-SEAL while he was in the hospital they had all 
come to care what happened to him and had insisted on coming to say good bye when 
they learned he was being released. He quickly reached for his handkerchief as a 
fit of sneezing overcame him. "I'm starting to wish Mr. Snyder hadn't reinstated 
me quite so quickly. I could have used some time off to get over this damned flu 
bug Derek brought with him."

"But now that you've got your job back you've got paid sick leave, right?" Xander 
looked questioningly at the others, feeling he was missing something, as usual.

"Just because he can't blame Giles for somebody else's nervous breakdown doesn't 
mean Mr. Snyder won't be out to get him." Willow responded for the teacher, who 
had started to cough too hard to talk. "Now is definitely not the time to ask for 
a few days off."

"Ooh, I don't think the principal is what you should be worried about here." 
Marissa cooed, stepping out of the shadows, flanked by two of the ugliest vampires 
to sport fangs.

Buffy bounded forward. "I'm so glad you're here." she informed them sweetly. "I 
was getting bored on the sidelines."

Her support crew took cover as the slayer tossed them her book bag and went to 
work. Willow and Xander began pulling fresh stakes out of the bag and laid them 
out on the asphalt, ready to grab whenever Buffy needed them. As soon as Giles 
could gather enough breath he called out, "Be careful! Remember there are three of 
them and only one of you, don't let them get behind you."

At that moment, a fourth vampire rose from behind a parked car, directly in back 
of the Watcher. Without seeming to give any consideration to what she was doing, 
the Slayer hurled a stake past her mentor. Turning to follow the progress of the 
errant missile, Giles was a bit dismayed to see a somewhat puny vampire crumble to 
dust directly behind him. He quickly found better cover between two parked cars, 
having decided it may be better to keep his head down than to critique the 
Slayer’s technique at this time.

"Relax, Giles." The girl called as she tossed one of the big uglies into a 
dumpster some fifteen yards away. "This I can deal with!" She turned her attention 
back to her opponents, driving a stake Xander tossed to her through the other male 
vampire. It felt good to have life back to normal again on the Hellmouth.

epilogue 2: San Francisco Legacy House March 29, 1997 1:47am

Derek leaned back from his desk, knotting his fingers behind his head as he 
stretched to release some of the tension that had crept into his neck. The 
stillness of the House had told him the others must be long asleep but it was 
still startling to note the clock said it was nearly two in the morning. Going by 
the book might be fine for Sloan. Sitting in his London office all he has to do is 
read and sign off on these reports. All this writing is more likely to be the 
death of me than any enemy I've ever had to face. He smiled in relief. However, 
for now it's over. The damage done in Sunnydale had all been settled out of court 
and Nick, still somewhat subdued by his ordeal, had been released to "private 
care" readily enough by the administrator of the overburdened public hospital he'd 
been placed in. 

The specialist the Legacy had sent from Rome had confirmed Philip's assessment 
that his teammate was free of all vestiges of demonic influence and was fit for 
any duties his physical injuries would permit. He had even suggested resuming work 
would probably be the best therapy for the psychological wounds. According to his 
report these didn't seem too severe, though he noted the chance that his subject 
was simply very good at hiding his pain from strangers. I wonder what he would 
have said if he'd seen Nick in the hospital. Though being home seemed to help a 
great deal. The thought of the self important invader who had disrupted their 
attempt to get back to normal made the precept snort in disgust. The man had taken 
nearly a week to tell them what they already knew and had gone home just this 
evening after dropping his lengthy evaluation on Derek's desk.

It was going over the follow up report from Mexico City, however, that had kept 
him up so late. It had been good of Anna to step in on the San Diego possession 
during that first terrible week after it all fell apart in Sunnydale. If only they 
had been successful. He allowed the file to fall closed, hiding the photos of the 
woman's shattered body sprawled near the car she had dashed in front of after 
breaking free from the exorcism. Anna will likely never speak to me again, he 
thought, ruefully tossing his letter of apology onto the pile of outgoing mail. A 
letter wasn't going to go very far in smoothing the ruffled feathers caused when 
the police deported her operatives following the questionable death of Shannon 
Reiss, but it would have to do. Rising with a soft sigh of exhaustion, the precept 
snapped off the desk lamp and headed for his room, wishing the morning would hold 
off just a few extra hours today.

Unfortunately, it was sleep that would have to wait a while. As Derek crossed the 
landing, he could see light shining from beneath the living room door and faintly 
hear the sounds of the TV playing. Knowing he'd never get to sleep if he didn't 
investigate, Derek changed course. When no one responded to his gentle knock, he 
quietly stepped inside to find Nick sound asleep in one of the old armchairs, the 
remote control dangling from one limp hand.

True rest has been so rare for Nick lately, I really shouldn't wake him. Derek 
gently took the remote away and clicked off the TV. He hesitated for a moment, 
wondering if he should at least bring a blanket. Nighttime dampness tended to make 
the old house chilly. Before he could decide, the young man stirred uneasily, deep 
furrows creasing his brow as he began to whimper softly. Rapid movements beneath 
the closed eyelids reminded Derek of an animal seeking escape from some cruel 
trap. Concern settling more heavily upon his own features, the precept quickly 
reached out to clasp his friend's shoulders, pulling him from the grip of this 
latest in a string of night terrors. He kept a firm hold until the confusion of 
sleep cleared from Nick's eyes and he stopped struggling.

Now, in the night's strangest and most silent hour, Nick's defenses fell at last 
and he leaned his head quietly against the comfort of his mentor's shoulder until 
he had drawn enough strength to meet the pity he expected to find in the older 
man's eyes. There was none. Only the pain of a father watching his child suffer 
and the compassion of a man who has traveled nearly the same dark road. Such a 
depth of understanding overwhelmed him entirely.

"What are you doing down here at this hour?" Derek asked softly, aching from the 
desperate pain in Nick's eyes as the dam holding back his fears finally broke and 
he began to cry, clinging like a child to the shelter of the arms that drew him 

No more secrets lay between them when Nick finally pulled away to rest against the 
back of the chair. All the horrors of the possession, all the nightmares he'd been 
unable to tell those assigned to help him had all been handed over to the one 
person he trusted with his very soul, leaving both men drained and quiet. 

The simple act of sharing his pain with someone who understood instead of 
analyzed, made the ex-SEAL feel as if a stone had been lifted off his heart. When 
he spoke again, he almost sounded like the old Nick, trying to find the simplest 
way to state a complex problem. "It's as if he went through and found all of the 
scars inside of me then ripped them open, one by one, and left me to bleed to 

Derek leaned forward in the chair he had moved to and tapped his steepled fingers 
against his chin. Sensing that this was a key point in the recovery process, he 
sought for words that might help the healing and decided to continue with his 
young friend's analogy. "Sometimes when poison is trapped inside a wound it has to 
be reopened and allowed to bleed clean before it can truly heal. Now might be the 
time to confront and explore the things that haunt you." Seeing the shields going 
back up behind Nick's eyes, he reinforced the analogy. "None of us are strong all 
of the time. Let the wounds bleed until they can heal cleanly. We need you to be 
whole." The precept sat back, quietly observing the effect of his words. When Nick 
nodded his acceptance of the idea, Derek rose with a tired smile. "Come on. If you 
stay in that chair much longer, you'll be too stiff to move for a week"

"Too late." Nick moaned, as he was hauled to his feet, his half-healed injuries 
protesting vigorously. He was forced to lean heavily on the other man's arm as 
they headed for the stairs.

They paused when Alex commented from behind them, "You two are up awfully early." 
She attempted to frown sternly when they both started laughing instead of 
answering her, but she just couldn't hold the expression. It had been too long 
since she'd heard Nick laugh.

When Nick began clutching painfully at his ribs, Derek collected himself enough to 
steady the man. "No we're not. We haven't even gotten to bed yet." He replied 
before hustling them both up the stairs to their respective rooms.

Alex shook her head, grinning as she headed out for her run. It looks like 
something good happened between them at any rate, and it's about time. With her 
worries for her friend somewhat eased, this morning seemed even brighter than the 
weatherman had promised.

The End

The Philip/Derek background is used gratefully with the permission of it’s creator ~ 
:-) Thanks Deb T.!