Right Here Waiting . . .
San Francisco Legacy House
Life was unfair. Derek learned that truth the hard way while still in his early teens. Not that the timing was all that unusual; most teenagers clue in to the fact during adolescence that "Real Life" isn't the fairy tale picture painted for them when they were children. But Derek's lesson had been harder than most. Most teens didn't have to watch their father die in a dingy, dirty Peruvian mine, knowing that pure evil was responsible. Derek committed himself that night to fighting that evil -- and others like it. If his commitment was unusual for an adolescent his age; well, he certainly had been given ample inspiration for it.
All that doom and gloom was far away on this golden day. San Francisco's weather had been foggy and gray of late but this particular afternoon was glorious. Warm sunshine and sweet air with just enough pristine white clouds to bring your attention to the blue of the sky made for a perfect summer day. In short, it sucked.
Specifically, it sucked if you were Derek Rayne, the Legacy's rising star who was currently trying to cram for upcoming University finals. Resentful at being stuck in his room with stacks of boring mathematics textbooks, Derek glared out the window at the merry group of people gathered on the lawn below. It wasn't fair that the San Francisco House decided to hold a first-ever summer picnic on the day before his advanced calculus exam. Hell, it wasn't fair that he had to take mathematics courses in the first place.
"I'm going to be in the Legacy for the rest of my life, fighting the forces of darkness, what the Hell do I need calculus for?" Derek asked to the empty room as he slammed the textbook in front of him shut.
Startled, Derek jumped in his seat before remembering his feline companion. Chuckling ruefully, he walked over to where the long-haired white cat was curled up on his bed.
"Sorry," he apologized as he gently stroked the cat back to sleep. Thinking over what he had said a moment before, Derek decided he was glad the cat was the only one to have heard him. "God, what a pompous ass I am!" he chided himself. Spying the plate of cookies precariously perched on the top of his stack of books, Derek concluded it was time for a break. He smiled as he gathered them up. Frederick, the House's butler and overall Legacy den mother, had a soft spot for Derek and had dropped off the treats earlier in the day when he noticed the University student had skipped lunch. Frederick had kept a watchful eye on the "child prodigy" ever since Winston Rayne's death. Considering himself fully grown, Derek sometimes chafed under the fussing, but he truly didn't mind, especially where food was concerned.
With his snack in hand, Derek headed up to the balcony to watch the fun going on below. Even if he couldn't spare the time to join the picnic, he could enjoy it vicariously for a few minutes.
Once outside, Derek knew he'd made the right decision. Stretching, he arched his back and breathed deeply of the fresh air, barely managing to hang on to the plate at the same time. He watched the three-legged race, shaking his head at the silly antics of his friends and normally very serious colleagues. Legacy work was stressful, perhaps even more so for the family left at home to wonder about the safety of their loved ones. This picnic was just what everyone needed to blow off steam and it also gave the family members a chance to get to know one another.
Regretting the school work preventing him from participating in the fun, Derek turned to go back inside. As he did, he felt a mental tug. Not really a vision, but more of a feeling that it was important that he stay where he was. Still a very young man, Derek had nonetheless learned to listen to his instincts and so remained where he was standing. Casting out his mental and physical senses, Derek strained to find a reason why he should have such a feeling. For a moment, he sensed nothing, but then he heard a small sound from a dark corner on the opposite side of the balcony.
Moving quietly and carefully, Derek approached the shadowed area. It wasn't much of a noise. Actually, as he neared the spot, he realized it was more of a sniffle. Much to his surprise, the sound was coming from a very small figure huddled under a bench. As he drew closer, he could see that the figure was actually that of a very small boy, one that was trying hard to be invisible.
Derek stopped a few feet away from the child, squatted down to be more on the youngster's level, and pondered what to do next. He didn't have much experience with children, but even he could see this child was upset. Not only was he hiding, but the boy was curled up around himself, with his face hidden in his arms. A bedraggled orange tail, from what Derek could only surmise was some sort of toy, stuck out from underneath the child's elbow.
Obviously, one of the picnic attendees was missing one of their offspring. But what should he do about it? The Legacy House was safe--most of the time, anyway--but it wouldn't be very responsible of him to leave such a small child on his own. Derek decided to use the direct approach.
"Hello there. What's your name?" he tried, only to be met with more sniffles. "That doesn't look very comfortable. Why don't you come out of there?" Derek reached a hand in, but the boy just scrabbled further under the bench.
"Uh-uh. Not gonna," came a determined little voice. "And you can't make me!"
Well, at least he'd gotten some sort of reaction. Since the direct approach hadn't had much success, Derek was obviously going to have to try another tactic. Suddenly realizing he still had a plate of cookies in hand, Derek smiled. He'd yet to meet anyone who could resist Frederick's baking.
"I have some cookies here, too many for me to eat. I was hoping I would find someone to share with me." Suddenly one bright eye was peeking out over the crossed arms. Ah, it seemed bribery was the way to work with children!
"Yes, chocolate chip." Derek took one off the plate and bit into it. "Mmmmmm. My favorite. Do you like chocolate chip?"
"No," came a tentative answer. "But Tigger does!" The small form unfolded itself and crawled out from the bench. Derek reached out a hand to help the boy up and almost yelped as a sharp burst of energy swept over him as he touched the child. Almost like a bolt of electricity, the feeling was very sharp but was gone very quickly. It wasn't a vision or even the mental tug that had drawn him over to this corner in the first place. Still, it was an unusual phenomenon and one that might be worth investigating.......
"Hey mister," a piping voice intruded into his thoughts as a small hand tugged on his arm. "Are you okay?"
Derek looked into the greenish hazel eyes of the boy gazing at him and shook off the strange feeling. Still squatting, he was about at eye level with the child, who looked to be about four years old. Smiling at the stuffed animal clutched in the boy's arms, Derek decided introductions were in order.
"You must be Tigger. My name is Derek, can I offer you a cookie?" He bowed as he gallantly offered the plate to the orange toy. His silliness was rewarded with the child's giggles as a grubby hand took a cookie.
"Tigger can't really eat," the boy explained. "That's only pretend."
"Oh, I see."
Now that the urchin had been lured from underneath the bench, he seemed determined to explore. Walking around the balcony and leaving a trail of cookie crumbs behind, he intently studied the whole area before coming back to Derek. The University student was a bit startled at the frank appraisal in the child's stare.
"You kill monsters like my Papa, don'cha?"
Derek laughed to himself, thinking of his arrogant outburst while studying in his bedroom. "Killing monsters" didn't have quite the ring to it that "fighting the forces of darkness" did, but the idea was the same--even if it was stated a bit bluntly. Keeping his small companion's dignity in mind, however, he didn't let his amusement show on his face.
"Well, I don't know. Who's your Papa?"
"J'nthn Boyle. My name's Nick."
Suddenly the obstinate behavior and blunt mannerisms made sense: like father, like son.
"Yes, I do work with your papa. He's a very smart man." A smile as bright as the summer sunshine blossomed on the youngster's face as Derek complimented his father.
"Papa says you're real smart too. He said you're a real ass to the House."
"Excuse me?" Surely he hadn't heard the boy right.
Sensing he might not have used the right word, Nick frowned and tried again. "A real a-test to the House?"
"Do you mean asset?"
Compliment delivered, Nick wandered over to the edge of the balcony to watch the picnic. Derek lifted him up the balcony's lip and held onto him so there was no chance the small boy would fall. Another frown creased Nick's face as he watched the races still going on below.
"They said I'm too little to play. I'm not little!"
"Well, of course you're not little! They were just afraid you'd win, that's all." Frown erased, Nick grinned up at Derek and the two of them observed the picnic in companionable silence for several minutes. Both of them jumped when a voice called out from behind them.
"There you are, Squirt! Pop is gonna flip--we've been looking all over for you." An older boy walked out onto the balcony. The teenager had the same light brown hair, but with darker eyes than the younger child. The resemblance was uncanny, but was marred by the sullen expression on the new arrival's face. Derek racked his brain unsuccessfully for the name of Jonathon's eldest. Ricky? Jimmy?
Nick whimpered and raised his arms so Derek could lift him down. "He's not *really, really* mad, is he?" he asked his brother. Derek was concerned at the sudden fear in his young friend's voice.
"Hey, Nick," he said. "You just tell your papa that I needed you to help me finish those cookies."
As Derek was rewarded with another grin from Nick, he reached down to fondly tousle the boy's hair. As he did, he felt another energy flash.
Derek thought over his strange sensations during the encounter as the Boyle brothers left the balcony. Too vague to justify bringing to the attention of his superiors, Derek nonetheless got the feeling that Nick Boyle was important. But to the Legacy.....or to Derek Rayne?
Home of Jonathon and Caroline Boyle
"You've got to be shittin' me!"
Never overly diplomatic, Jonathan Boyle made no effort to hide his surprise at the identity of the man standing at his doorstep. Derek just grinned cheekily at his older colleague. Tonight was the Boyle's twentieth wedding anniversary and Jonathan's Legacy colleagues had pitched in to pay for the couple to have a nice night out on the town. The evening came complete with limousine service, dinner at San Francisco's fanciest restaurant, and tickets to the latest touring musical. The Legacy House members had thought of everything, including babysitting services, which explained why Derek had presented himself at the Boyle's home promptly at 6 pm..
"Come on, Jon!" Derek laughed as he stepped around his blustering friend to enter the house. "I know Eileen was supposed to watch Nick for you tonight, but she twisted her ankle coming down the stairs. Surely I can't be that poor a substitute."
"Derek," Jonathan struggled to explain, "how much do you know about watching 8-year-old boys?"
"I've tracked demons through Europe, stopped human sacrifices in Mexico, and laid a mummy to rest in Cairo. Babysitting can"t be *that* much harder."
"I don't know, Derek, Nick can be quite a handful...."
Before Jonathan could go any further, Caroline Boyle virtually floated down the stairs, practically glowing with excitement. His fellow Legacy members knew that Jonathan would rather celebrate the occasion with a few beers and a freshly opened jar of dry-roasted peanuts, but they also knew that Caroline had more refined tastes. As William Sloan put it when they presented the couple with the gift, they all figured that Caroline deserved a treat for 'putting up with the lug for so long.'
"Is there a problem, Jon?" Caroline had never tested as psychic, but Derek often wondered if she was gifted with some measure of empathy, so quickly did she pick up on the emotions in a room.
The momentary frown on Caroline's face didn't obscure her overall excitement in anticipation of the evening. Seeing the obvious delight in his wife's face, Jonathan put aside his misgivings. Sloan was right; Caroline deserved this. She'd been so depressed lately, especially since their thrice-damned older son had run off last year.....Jonathan quickly left that trail of thought and answered his spouse.
"Nope, no problem," Jonathan announced the fact as confident as if he hadn't been doubting his colleague's ability just moments before. "Derek's going to watch Nick for us tonight."
Caroline came the rest of the way down the stairs and grasped both of Derek's hands in hers. "Thank you, Derek! You're all being so kind about this."
Derek was amused at his friend's sudden turn-around, but figured that's what love could do to a man. He himself hadn't experienced that depth of feeling yet, but he couldn't wait to find out what it was like. Derek reached over and gently kissed Caroline's cheek in acknowledgement of her gratitude.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Jonathan laughed as he separated his young colleague from his mate. "That's my wife! We won't be married another twenty years if I let bums like you slobber all over her." Turning to his spouse, he continued. "Is Nick still outside? I think I ?d better lay down the law before we leave."
"Caroline," Jon mimicked the warning tone in Caroline's voice. "Derek's an innocent here. We've gotta make sure the little monster behaves himself tonight or he may scare Derek off kids so bad that there won't be a future generation of Raynes to serve the Legacy."
Jonathan finished his flip remark over his shoulder as he made his way into the back yard, presumably where the "little monster" was. Derek soon heard his voice giving instructions to his son. Caroline looked mortified, but the younger Legacy member was used to Jon's warped sense of humor. Derek simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders. The silence was awkward, but they were saved from having to make small talk by the arrival of the limousine. Caroline called to her husband to let him know their transportation had arrived and, after a moment, Jonathan returned to the house with a firm hand on Nick's shoulder. The youngster seemed very reluctant and kept his eyes trained on the floor. Derek was surprised at the boy's quiet demeanor. The child he remembered from four years ago was full of piss and vinegar.
"Okay, Derek, you're all set." Jonathan explained as he helped his wife into her shawl. Finishing with that task, the elder Boyle turned to Nick and grasped his son's face by the chin, forcing the child to meet his eyes. "You know the rules. If I hear of you giving Derek a hard time, there'll be hell to pay." Jonathan grinned over at his younger colleague before continuing. "Derek, if he misbehaves, you have my permission to offer him as a sacrifice to the god Shouldaknownbetta, dread punisher of wayward children and mighty devourer of mischief-makers."
With a final round of goodbyes, the couple were out the door and on their way, leaving the young man and the child adrift in the foyer. Nick once again had his head down and wouldn't meet Derek's eyes. Noticing the baseball glove clutched in one of his young charge's hands, Derek decided it might provide the opening he needed.
"Your dad says you're quite the baseball player."
"He does?" Nick's eyes were wide in disbelief.
"Yes, he does. We didn't have baseball where I grew up. You want to show me how it's done?" That brought out the grin that Derek remembered from their balcony introduction.
"Okay! Want to shag some flies?" Came the enthusiastic response.
"Sounds like fun. Lead on, McDuff."
A couple of hours later, Derek had cause to regret his words. Apparently, "shagging flies" was a secret child code for running your babysitter ragged. God, he was tired! The Legacy member barely had the energy to get his "homework" out of the car on their way back from the park. Nick, of course, had bounded into the house and promptly disappeared into the kitchen. Still, Derek couldn't really say that he regretted his introduction to baseball. The energy-filled sprite that had run circles around him in the park was a distinct improvement from the quiet boy that Jonathan had dragged into the house.
Derek looked up from where he'd collapsed on the couch, one arm draped across his eyes. Nick was standing shyly in front of him, a plate of cookies in one hand and a glass of milk in the other.
"Chocolate chip. Your favorite, right?" He asked as he extended the treats to his babysitter.
Derek smiled at Nick's offer. This must obviously be Caroline's influence. He couldn't imagine Jonathan being this thoughtful--let alone remembering such a thing in the first place.
"I still need someone to share with me," he said, indicating that the boy should help himself.
As the two munched on their snack, Derek pulled out the "homework" he'd retrieved from the car. Actually, it was an ancient sword that Derek was studying as part of his doctoral studies. Nick's calling him "Dr." Rayne was a bit premature but no doubt Jonathan had coached his son on using that form of address. The older Legacy member liked to tweak Derek about his studies.
The sword was a lethal work of art. Derek was trying to trace the origin of the design etched into the blade of the weapon. As he pulled it out of it's protective case, Derek couldn't help but hear the gasp of appreciation from Nick.
"Wow, is that real?"
"Yes," Derek answered. "Would you like to hold it?"
Nick reached his hand out but then suddenly snatched it back. "No," he said, obviously very reluctantly, "I'm not supposed to touch 'fancy stuff.' Pop says I can break 'spensive stuff just by breathing too hard on it."
Derek thought that admission odd. He'd seen how graceful Nick was while playing tonight; he had a hard time imagining the child clumsy at anything.
Derek had also forgotten Nick's penchant for asking questions.
"How come it's curved? When they show King Arthur and the knights 'n' stuff, they always have straight swords, not round ones like that."
Derek was surprised at the question. It seemed that in addition to being curious, Jonathan's son was also very observant.
"It's curved because of the fighting style that went with it. This sword was used in an upward sweeping motion. The curve was designed to cut right through the ribcage and slice directly into the heart. Even if a direct blow missed, the shape of the sword would cause the victim to be gutted." In his enthusiasm for his subject, Derek momentarily forgot he was talking to a child. When he remembered, he glanced quickly over at Nick in concern. Had he gotten too graphic for the 8-year- old?
Nick's eyes were wide as he studied the weapon with renewed respect. "Cool!" he breathed reverently. Derek needn't have worried--he had forgotten how fascinated young boys could be with blood and guts.
The next hour or so was very enjoyable for both babysitter and charge. To his friends at the Legacy House, this stuff was old hat. But in Nick, Derek had an enthusiastic audience. The child soaked up all of the historical details Derek was telling him as though they were the most fascinating story ever told.
Finally, Derek noticed how late it had gotten. Reluctantly, he sent Nick upstairs to bed. As the child reached the foot of the stairs, he turned back and padded back over to where Derek was finishing putting away the sword.
"Yes, Nick. Is something wrong?"
"I had fun tonight."
"Thanks." Suddenly, Nick rushed forward, gave Derek a big hug, and then ran full tilt up the stairs.
Derek was startled to realize that when he'd told Nick that he'd had fun too, that it had been the absolute truth. This babysitting gig hadn't been so bad after all.
San Francisco Legacy House
Derek had never been a fan of "The Wizard of Oz" but at the moment he could completely sympathize with Dorothy's infamous line "There's no place like home." Despite spending his formative years in the Netherlands, the San Francisco Legacy House would always be home to him. It was where he healed emotionally from watching his father die; it was where he stepped out of his father's shadow to forge his own place in the Legacy. In short, Derek's experiences at the San Francisco House were the first time he felt like he was his own person, not just Winston Rayne's son.
It had been a long three years. Derek had been transferred to the Stockholm House in Sweden. It was supposed to be temporary, just while Alfons recovered from surgery. But then it had been discovered that the Swedish researcher's tumor had been malignant after all and a three months' assignment had evolved into three years. Now he was back--because of another death. Longtime Legacy member Eileen Westcourt had been killed during an exorcism the month before. Once, just once, it would be nice to be reassigned because of a happy reason, but Derek's experience with the Legacy led him to believe that was simply too much to hope for.
As much as he'd missed his chosen American home, Derek didn't regret the years in Sweden either. Oh, the work hadn't been quite as stimulating as what he was used to, but at the Stockholm House Derek had met Lorenzo Ortiz.
Derek had had more than his fair share of encounters with women. He was, after all, a very attractive young man. Although he enjoyed his liaisons, he always felt he was missing something--that elusive spark that seemed to exist between couples deeply in love. Until Sweden, Derek had always thought he just hadn't met the right woman.
Until he'd met Lorenzo.
Lorenzo Ortiz was about ten years older than Derek. Dashing...urbane...experienced, Lorenzo took Derek's breath away right from the very beginning. It was lucky for Derek that Lorenzo was a man who knew what he wanted and wasn't shy about getting it. Derek was so new to the concept of being attracted to another man that it would have taken him much longer than three years to work up the nerve to approach the object of his affections.
It hadn't lasted, of course. Romances within Houses are tricky things and this one had the added complication of Derek's newness to male-to-male love. The ending had been painful, but Derek was glad they were eventually able to part as friends. Short and sweet as it was, his time with Lorenzo had opened Derek up to a myriad of new thoughts and ideas. While not occupied by Legacy business, the rest of his time in Sweden had been spent on a journey of personal exploration.
All of this ran through Derek's mind as he got out of the car in front of the San Francisco House. Nervously, he fingered the diamond stud earring that he now wore. To perform their jobs, members of the Legacy had to be pretty liberal in their worldview. Simply put, with all the strange phenomenon Legacy people saw, having a closed mind that couldn't except concepts outside the norm led quickly to insanity. That was why the Legacy was centuries ahead of the rest of the world when it came to equal rights for women and people of color.
Derek sighed and forced his hand away from the earring. He'd worn it as an "in your face" statement, but now wondered if that had been such a good idea. The Legacy's openmindedness notwithstanding, now that he was here, he wasn't as confident of his colleagues' acceptance of his new lifestyle.
"Derek Rayne! You dog!!"
Derek turned at hearing the enthusiastic greeting. Jonathan Boyle jogged down the stairs and clapped his young colleague soundly on the shoulder. The butterflies in Derek's stomach settled a bit with his friend's warm greeting.
"Jonathan," he responded, "it's good to be home. I just wish the circumstances were better."
"That was sad business, alright," the older Legacy member agreed, "and the worst part of it was that it was so needless. If Eileen had just seen that the circle had been broken..."
"Jonathan's explanation cut short as he realized that Derek was unloading his own luggage from the car.
"Whoa there, Doc! What'cha doin'?"
Derek looked at his bags on the ground and back to his friend. "I would think that would be obvious, old man."
Jonathan took the last bag from Derek's grasp with a smile. "This, my friend, is what teenagers are for." With that comment, Jonathan turned away from the car and bellowed, "NICHOLAS PATRICK BOYLE, GET YOUR LAZY BUTT DOWN HERE!"
Boyle's shout had the immediate effect of frightening all of the birds from the nearby trees. Derek didn't blame them a bit; his own ears would be ringing for awhile. Before the echo of Jon's voice had faced, his call had the desired response. A teenage boy came careening around the corner of the house, all knees and elbows, and came to an awkward stop in front of the two men.
"Yes, sir?" The teen was so serious, Derek halfway expected him to salute.
"Nick, you remember Derek Rayne?"
"Yes, sir." As Nick turned to address Derek, the Dutchman could see a livid purple bruise on the boy's cheek. "It's nice to see you again, Dr. Rayne."
"Likewise, Nick." Derek gestured to Nick's face. "That's a beauty, what happened?"
Before his son could answer, Jonathan Boyle interrupted. "Oh, the idiot tried to slide into third. I've told him time and again that you never slide on a sacrifice fly, but he never listens." Turning to the teenager, Jon barked out some orders. "Don't just stand there, make yourself useful! Derek's room is the third one down the upstairs hall. I expect his bags to be up there in three minutes."
"Yes, sir!" Nick quickly bent to his task.
Jonathan prevented Derek from helping by grabbing his elbow and guiding his younger colleague into the house. "Come on, Derek, loosen up! You're home-- this calls for a drink!"
The two men entered the house and headed for the study. As they did, Nick rushed by with his first load of Derek's bags. Derek smiled as the adolescent bundle of energy raced up the stairs. Had he ever been that young?
Seeing Jonathan watching his observance of his son, Derek said, "He's a fine young man, Jon. You and Caroline should be very proud of him."
Rather than being pleased at the compliment, Derek's words seemed to make Jonathan uncomfortable. The big man nervously fidgeted with the bottle of scotch he'd picked up.
"Derek, about Nick..."
His friend seemed to be struggling with something, so Derek let the silence continue until Jonathan was ready. Seeming to make a decision, Jonathan's hand stilled and carefully placed the bottle of alcohol on a nearby desk. Squaring his shoulders, the older man faced his newly returned colleague.
"Derek, I'm glad you're back, really I am." As he heard the hesitant words, Derek's butterflies returned. In swarms. Boyle continued.
"I heard about, you know," Jonathan gestured at Derek's earring with his chin. "And I'm happy for you...I mean, we all are. It was obvious you were looking for something before you left. I'm glad you found it."
"Thank you." Why did Derek feel that the other shoe was about to drop?
"It's just that Nick, well, he's at an impressionable age..."
Suddenly working past the butterflies, Derek found himself angry. "What does my sexual preference have to do with Nick?
Jonathan blushed and looked away. "Derek, you know I trust you with my life! But Nick's the only son I have left--"
The big man's words were broken off as Derek grabbed him by the collar and shoved Jonathan roughly to the wall. Before Boyle could move, the younger Legacy member was right in his face.
"I'm sexually attracted to men, Jonathan. MEN! Not boys!" Disgusted, Derek let Boyle go before continuing in a whisper. "My God, what kind of monster do you think I am?"
In the silence that had descended in the small room, both men could clearly hear Nick run back down the stairs on his way to get the rest of Derek's bags. Seeing clearly the pain in Derek's face, Jonathan closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the wall behind him.
"Shit, Derek, I am such an idiot!"
"No argument here!"
"I'm sorry, it's just that..."
"...you're an idiot and can't help it?" Derek helpfully finished for him.
Jonathan gave Derek a weak version of his normal grin. "Yeah, that must be it."
"Don't worry about it, I'm used to you making an ass of yourself. Now--I thought you said something about a drink?" Despite his attempt at making light of Jonathan's attitude, Derek knew that this confrontation would leave its mark on their friendship. He'd known that Jonathan tended to be a hardass, but despite Derek's misgivings at the possible repercussions of his life choice, he truly had not expected such ignorance in his own House.
Some homecoming. He wondered if Dorothy ever felt this lonely after she got back to Kansas.
On to Part 2
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