Xander stepped up to the closed gates, admiring the way they were formed. "They look like ribs," he told Philip, who was getting out of the car behind him. The London Legacy house had sent the car with them; they had also sent supplies and a person to try and tape the building again. He got out of Philip's way, letting him try to get through the gate first.
As soon as he touched the gate, it swung open soundlessly. No squeal like you'd expect, not a single protest from the metal. Just a smooth slide open. "Looks like it's expectin' us," Philip pronounced as he headed up the narrow stone path to the tower's door. It too opened. He turned to let Xander walk in first, smiling at the woman taping the outside. "You coming?" he asked. She nodded and came up to the door, so he let her in before him. He looked around the dim entryway, it looked like a big cave to him. To his right was the stairway. To his left was a smaller hallway. Above him were rafters and cobwebs. "Needs cleaned."
"I don't do heights," Xander called from down the hallway. "Found the kitchen and the bathroom." The woman went running, following his voice. Xander came out of the hallway a minute later. "She's excited, she thinks she's getting it all on tape." He picked up the bag he had dropped. "Bedrooms?"
"Later. Library first." He smiled. "Work before pleasure." He headed for the hallway, trying the one door that wasn't already open. He walked in and stopped to enjoy the sight as a low whistle broke from his mouth.
"Whoa," Xander said, walking in behind him, looking up. The library must have been at least four stories high, and the tower was only three. There were small staircases on each side of the library, very narrow and they looked like they wouldn't hold weight. They led to small walkways along the rows, and each row had their own moving ladder. "Even Giles would be impressed."
Philip smiled at him. "I'm impressed and I spent two years workin' in the Vatican's library." He looked across the room, heading over to look out the large, leaded window. "Come look," he called.
"We need an intercom," Xander suggested as he walked over, smiling at the green field outside the window. "It's a field."
"That's not Ireland," Philip said, pointing. "This side of the tower had rocks, not a pasture. And Ireland doesn't have horses like that," he said, pointing at the large gray beasts in the distance.
"Father?" the woman called, walking into the library. "Wow." She filmed the room, walking along the first row to get the books in a closer shot. She made it over to the window and looked out. "That doesn't look like what we came through."
"Philip says it's not," Xander agreed. His mouth opened as one of the animals walked closer, but nothing came out so he resorted to pointing. "Horsey!" he said finally.
Philip smiled at him. "Never seen one?"
"Not that big! It must be seven feet tall!"
Philip looked it over, then shrugged. "Eighteen hands most likely." He patted Xander on the shoulder. "Don't worry, I won't let it bite ya." He smiled at the woman. "Anything else ya wanna see?"
"The upstairs? We only got that one bedroom last time. Very nice bedroom, but very formal looking." She followed Philip out of the room and up the stairs, stopping long enough to film the new door at the top of the stairs. "That wasn't there before," she said quietly.
Philip looked up at the door. "Probably leads ta wherever that field is. Come on."
She followed him to the first room. "This one we got," she told him. "Though the fireplace wasn't there last time." She filmed the room, backing out onto the staircase to go to the next one. This next bedroom was simpler, simple wood furniture, simple blankets and quilt designs. Simply gorgeous view from the lone window. "Wow," she breathed as she looked out.
Philip looked over her shoulder, smiling down at the horse beside the library window. "Looks like Xander's tryin' ta talk ta it." He patted her on the back of the head and moved onto the last bedroom. This one was more ornate, more furniture, more ornate quilt on the bed. Smaller window that looked back on Ireland. "Guess this one's Xander's," he said with fond amusement. "Xander!"
The boy ran in a few minutes later. "Cool room," he noted. "Mine?" Philip nodded. "Okay. I'll get our stuff. Where's yours?"
"Across the hall," she said as she filmed the view out the window. "Visitors," she said when she pulled away. "Priest, couple of men, one woman."
Philip sighed and walked down the stairs, passing by Xander. "We've got guests."
"I don't know how to make tea," Xander retorted.
Philip shook his head, but he was smiling when he opened the door. "Father Marcus," he said with a smile. "Thought this was out of your district."
"It was, but I took over the local parish," he said as he stood on the doorstep. "Why're you here?"
"I was asked to come and study this," Philip told him, getting out of their way as a sign of invitation, but they didn't move. "You could come in."
"Father Philip, this building must be evil," the woman told him. "It just *appeared*."
He shrugged. "Right now, it's just a mystery ta be solved. No more, no less. And a buildin' can't be evil, only the purposes that people use it for." He waved them in again.
"Philip, I'm going to put the food up," Xander yelled as he started for the kitchen again. "And I still don't know how to make tea."
"Start by boilin' water," Philip called back. "I'll teach ya the rest in a few." He smiled at their visitors. "My assistant. The Vatican was nice enough ta let him come help me."
The other priest took the step over the threshold and shuddered, stepping back. "Philip, can't you feel that?"
"I never felt anything," Philip told him. "Or Xander, or the woman filmin' this for the archives." He looked over his shoulder as he heard footsteps, smiling at Xander. "Did you feel anything when you crossed over?"
"Not a bit, but there's a little person standing in the kitchen making tea for you," he said, his face wrinkling in confusion. "I know he wasn't there before."
"I'll deal with that, you explain it ta them," Philip muttered, going to check on this little man. "Hello," he said kindly. "Who're you?"
"I'm your helper, Father Philip. Didn't know when you'd come so I set a spell on the doorway."
"Ah. Can ya remove it?"
"No, that one's ta keep out the unbelievers," the little man said. He handed over the pot of warm tea. "For you and the boy. Will the woman be staying?"
"Not for much longer," Philip said, taking the tea. "Thank ya. Who're ya?"
"Oh, I'm Duffy, the help. I deal with the bushes and cook for ya both."
"What do you know about us?" Philip asked, clutching the tea pot.
"Just that ya were comin' an' that I was gonna be called ta serve. Been a few years, but I'm more'n fit for it. Just tell me what ta do and I'll get it done."
Xander walked in and grinned. "I won't have to mow?"
The little man laughed. "No, Lords no! I do all that. That's the reason for the horses."
"Where are they from?" Philip asked.
"'Tis a private dimension, Father. Very hard ta get to. Don't worry about it, they're friendly. Might even let your boy ride 'em."
"They're rideable?" Xander asked, his face lighting up.
"Yes, lad, they're broken. Not always pleasant, but they can be ridden." Duffy smiled at Philip. "Father, did ya want a cup for that or are ya gonna drink it from the pot?"
Philip put the teapot down and stepped back. "I wouldn't mind a cup," he admitted. "I'd best go talk to those others."
"Don't bother, they left," Xander told him. "They threatened to come back later with the villagers, but I told him we'd still be here, and that if *you* could cross over, then there was something wrong with them." He stole one of the cookies Duffy was taking out of the oven off the sheet. "Thanks," he mumbled as he stuffed it in his mouth.
Philip sighed and headed for the library. He hadn't expected things to be this difficult. Maybe there wouldn't be a burning attempt later. He could always hope. He picked a book off the first row and sat down to read it, letting the happy thoughts follow him into the text.
Xander walked in with the tray and stopped to admire the view. Philip was a very cute guy, no matter how off-limits he was. He could enjoy. He shook himself and put the tray down beside Philip's chair. "Food." He turned and walked out, going to explore. He had found another door in the kitchen, and one under the stairs.
Philip smiled at the boy's back. He would find something to do soon enough. Or he'd find himself doing notes for him.
Nick sighed as the office door opened, and his mood didn't get any better when he saw the look on Alex's face. "Nothing?"
"No, something, but not something happy," she told him. She touched a key on his monitor, tuning it to the security camera out in the lobby. "Our newest helper is here, just like Strife said she would be."
"She? I thought it was a knight," Nick said, leaning back in his chair.
"She is. Armor and all. It's in the trunk by her feet. Apparently, her many times great- grandfather was a knight and he's able to possess those in his line. She's the last of the direct line." She grimaced. "She has no idea why she's here."
Nick shook his head as he stood up, going to deal with this. "What's her name?"
"Karen. She and Victoria have a lot in common in the attitude category."
Nick pasted on his best 'company' smile as he walked into the entryway. He looked her over. She was tiny, couldn't be over five feet tall. Hispanic origin by the tint of her skin. Brunette hair, green eyes. Unnatural red streak down the middle of the left side of her hair. "Hello," he said lightly. "You were sent to us?"
"Yeah," she said, smiling at him. "Like, my totally great whatever grandfather sent me to you so he could take me over and help you guys." She wound a piece of brunette hair around her finger. "So, how should I do this?"
"Do what?" Alex asked.
"Well, to get the old dude into me, I usually gotta put on the chainmail. I can't really do that here," she reminded them in the currently popular 'hello' voice.
Nick coughed. "Alex, show her to a bathroom. I doubt she wants to do that in front of me."
Karen snickered. "It isn't you, I don't want to undress in front of *her*. Women can be very cruel." She picked up her trunk and followed Alex to a bathroom, giving her a grin before closing the door. "No offense, but gym class was enough for some of us." Then she closed and locked the door.
Alex blew out her sigh slowly, then went down to wait with Nick. "Why us?" she mouthed as she walked down the stairs.
Upstairs, someone laughed.
Xander walked into the kitchen, he figured that the loud gong had been the dinner bell. "Well, we have a dirt basement," he said as he sat down, "and underneath the stairs is a locked door."
"That's my doorway," Duffy said as he put a bowl of fried potatoes on the table. "I'll ask ya not ta get inta it again, please."
"Sure, just curious," Xander told him, giving him a grin. "I didn't mean to intrude."
"Nah, I'd have known if you did." Duffy walked back to the stove and came back with a plate of meat. "Here ya go. Eat it all so I don't have ta clean up after you lot tomorrow." He walked away, heading for his home.
Philip looked at Xander, and smiled. "Find anything else?"
"The door at the top of the stairs is locked. There's a statue standing on the other side. I could see it through the keyhole." He picked up the bowl of potatoes, but Philip slapped him on the hand. "Hey!"
"Grace first!" Philip said sharply.
"Yes, Father," Xander sighed. He bowed his head.
Philip smiled at the top of the boy's head. He'd mold well enough. He said a quick grace and grabbed the meat before the boy could inhale it all. He'd taught at a boarding school, he knew what teenage boys stomachs were like. The only thing he'd seen that was more bottomless than a teenage boy's stomach was Nick's. He heard a quiet laugh and looked over, Duffy was standing by the door.
Nick tapped his foot, this waiting stuff sucked. Karen finally came down the stairs, followed by Methos, Blair, Strife, and Rain. "Going already?" he asked them.
"Yup," Strife told him. "You got your other helper and our parts in this shithole of a problem are coming later." He slung an arm around Karen's shoulders. "Listen, you've got to make these guys lighten up. 'Dite was right, they'll never live through this if they're still so uptight. This crisis is going to take some imagination and some flexibility. I'm leavin' the house in your hands." He let her go and smiled at Nick. "Don't worry, dude, we're only a phone call away." He grinned and all four of them disappeared.
Karen shuddered and her head fell backwards. When she recovered, her eyes were brown and her sunny smile was gone. "Why did you do this?" the male voice demanded.
"We didn't do this, we're trying to stop this," Alex told him.
"You know who caused this and she remains unpunished," the man said.
"She sneezed," Nick said dryly. "It wasn't really something she could control. But hey, we don't really need your help. You could always go back home."
The man trapped in the girl's body shook his head. "I am unable to return until this is solved. I have been called to help." He looked around the foyer, then shook his head. "What strange place is this?"
"A very strange one," Strife agreed as he reappeared. He handed the guy a book, then saluted Nick and disappeared again.
"Ah, I see," the knight said, flipping through the book. "Yes, I and my kin will help. We have been pledged to help all that need us." He looked at Nick. "You will punish that girl."
"Not a chance," Nick said firmly. "It wasn't her fault. She didn't cast anything, she didn't ask for this, and she certainly doesn't deserve it."
"If you try and harm her, you'll end up somewhere very unpleasant." Alex looked him over. "That may have been the way things were played in your time, but things are different now. Victoria had nothing to do with this, she's as much a victim as everyone else is. It's bad enough she's lost almost all her friends and there're people who would kill her for sneezing. We won't allow you to harm her."
"A mere servant talks thus?" he asked, pointing at Alex, but looking at Nick.
"Servant?" Alex screeched, lunging for the knight. Nick tried to grab her, but Alex was just a little too fast. "I'll show you servant, you pompous dead windbag."
Karen came back to herself, choking. "Stop," she gasped.
Nick finally managed to pull Alex off her. "Your passenger decided to insult her," he explained.
"I heard," Karen admitted, not getting off the floor. "I'll explain it to him, 'kay? Just don't attack me again!" She let Nick help her off the floor. "You're strong," she accused.
"I fight and when there's none I train for the fights," Alex said with a one-sided shrug, her manner showing she still wasn't calm. "You'd better explain it to him fast, Karen, because I won't be insulted in this house." She turned and walked away.
Nick cleared his throat. "Just fix it soon," he advised. "Let me show you up to your room." He grabbed her remaining bag and led the way up the stairs. She went into Philip's former room, her passenger might appreciate that it had been lived in last by a priest, who had left some of his books lying around. He backed out of the room, going to check on Alex. He'd never seen her that pissed before. He heard the scream from the weight room and started that way, but Dominick got in his way.
"I wouldn't, sir," he said quietly. "Miss Alex needs some time alone." The butler turned and went back to preparing the evening meal.
Nick decided to leave it alone.
Xander tapped on Philip's door, smiling shyly when his friend opened it. "There're strange noises outside," he said. "Can you come look?"
Philip grabbed his robe and followed the boy back to his room, looking down on Ireland. He groaned and went back to his room to grab his more official clothes. He had hoped that the villagers wouldn't come, but that hope was now dashed. The pounding on the door started as he was buttoning his shirt. "Get dressed," he called as he walked down the stairs. He opened the door, smiling at the men standing there. "You can come in," he told the other priest. "There's a spell on the door against those that'd hurt us."
The priest grit his teeth and stepped across, but he quickly jumped back across the threshold. "That isn't right, Father," the other priest yelled, more than loud enough for the people in the back of the crowd to hear him.
"Emily, come here," Philip called, calling his niece. She ran over, getting away from the grabbing adult hands. She also easily crossed the threshold. Philip looked at the other priest. "You were leaving," he said quietly as he hugged the little girl he hadn't seen since she had been a baby. "How're you?" he asked, tickling her lightly.
Xander walked down the stairs, smiling at the little girl in his friend's arms. "Want me to try and get Duffy up?"
"Nah," Philip said, smiling as his sister-in-law walked up to the door. "It's ta keep those that'd harm us, and those that don't believe in the wonders of life, out," he said quietly. "You can come across." She stepped across, and stayed, getting her own hug.
"We've missed ya, Philip," she teased. "An' ya brought a boy with ya?"
Xander snorted. "Not quite. I'm here to transcribe notes for him."
"Gonna be a priest then?" she asked.
Xander shook his head quickly. "No. Not even." Philip grinned at him. "I just happen to be a killer research helper," he told her with a grin. "Philip picked me up in 'Frisco and dragged me with him."
"Well, now, we could use a new boy around here," Philip's sister-in-law told him. "It'll be good for the lasses ta get over with someone else." She held out her arms for her daughter. "If'n I may, it's past her bedtime." Philip handed Emily back to her mother. "We'll be up for tea tomorrow," she said, giving Xander a nod. Then she walked out. "He's not possessed," she called. "It's still Philip, the lad who egged all the houses in the village."
"That wasn't me," Philip called, leaning against the door jamb. "That was Todd, ya know that." He smiled at the other villagers he remembered. "The Vatican itself sent me here ta study this place. I'm stayin' here with a helper. Feel free ta drop in anytime, we'll take tea in the garden if'n ya want." He looked at the other father. "Marcus, are ya satisfied now?" he asked quietly. "Ya don't believe, and ya'd hurt us if'n ya could. Go home and rest. I'm here on assignment, the same as you are." He watched as the villagers left, talking amongst themselves, but the priest stayed.
"I'll prove that this is a demonic place," Father Marcus vowed, turning and leaving.
Xander stepped up. "Father Marcus, a word," he said, stepping out to go join the priest. "I know this stuff bothers you, and you've probably never seen real magic in your life, but it really is a matter of how you use it, just like knowledge is. You know Philip wouldn't hurt anyone, and while I'm sure you don't know me, I'm a protector. I've been helping protect a town in California for three years." He stepped closer when he saw the hatred in the other man's eyes. "Philip deserves more respect than you do," he said in a deadly quiet voice. "He's managed to do what most people couldn't, get someone like me interested in more than the good fight. He's even managed to get me to want to learn a language. If you come here again, you're going to deal with me, not Philip. I wouldn't make Father Philip deal with you, but I can guarantee you I'll have fun." He stepped back. "Come back at a decent hour tomorrow and we'll figure out a way so you can cross over and look around. It really is just a big library. A really big library." Then he smiled his sweetest and most innocent smile. "Good night, Father Marcus, don't let the chaos bite you on the ass." He walked back inside, ignoring the scowl.
Philip slammed the door, turning to glare at his protégé. "What were ya thinkin'?" he demanded. "You don't threaten a priest!"
"Hey, I'm not Catholic. To me he's just another asshole making my life more difficult. The collar just makes him an official asshole." Xander crossed his arms. "If you want to, you can get him more on your side because I just gave him a visible enemy to rail against." Xander started up the stairs.
"Wait," Philip called, and Xander turned around. "Ya didn't have ta. He'd have come around."
"When? After we were burned to death?" Xander sat down on the stairs. "Father Philip, you didn't see his eyes. That's what I was watching. Every time he looked at you, the only thing in them was hatred. Cold, impersonal, 'you're going to hell quickly and I'm sending you there' hatred. I won't allow you to get hurt. Nick ordered me to take care of you."
"I'm the adult here," Philip said quietly.
Xander snorted. "Father, I've been an adult in all but age for over three years now. Killing your best friend tends to age you really quickly." He stood up. "I do what I have to do, Philip, no matter what, no matter who gets hurt. And if that priest comes for either of us, I'm going to take him down one way or another. No matter how many times you beat me, no matter how many times you yell, my job is to help you and to protect you while you do your studying thing. And I'm going to do it." He started walking again.
Philip stood there with his mouth open. He eventually put the bar across the door and followed Xander up to his room. He tapped on the door, getting a grunt in response. "I'd never yell," he said quietly. "Or beat ya. I find that's cruel for anyone and I wouldn't do it ta my worst enemy." He walked in and sat on the edge of Xander's bed. "Ya really don't have ta protect me."
"Philip you have this habit of getting lost in your books," Xander said dryly. "Besides, if I don't protect you, Nick said he'd skin me - without the use of handy dandy drugs or a sharp knife." That got a chuckle. "So, yes, I do have to protect you. It's something I'm good at. I'm sorry if it bothers you, but this is who I am. Accept it or not."
"I accepted it the first time I talked ta ya," Philip admitted with a smile, "but ya still don't have ta protect me. The tower itself'll do enough'a that." He patted the boy's leg. "We'll be talkin' tomorrow." He stopped and looked at the boy. "I really got ya thinkin' about education?"
"Well, I kinda figured you'd at least have a fondness for the subject you were teaching, which is better than half of my old teachers," Xander admitted with a shy grin. "I wouldn't mind trying."
"Good, we'll work on that tomorrow too." Philip stood up. "Good night, Xander. Sleep well."
"You too." Xander snuggled under his blankets, waiting until the door was closed to breathe deeply. Philip wasn't that mad. He wasn't punished. Maybe this would work out somewhat okay. And if not, at least he'd gotten to come to Ireland. He fell asleep, dreaming about those horses and tales of heros who probably rode them.
Philip settled in on his bed, finally relaxing. The worst had started and been averted. He was safe. The boy was safe. He snorted at his thoughts. Xander wasn't really a boy, he was a man in a boy suit. Well, he would have to see to it that the man got some fun time. It wouldn't suit anyone if they got stuck in a routine that would bore Xander. And Philip had to admit, he did get lost in the books. Maybe he wouldn't write Nick to yell at him. Maybe. Not likely though. He smiled and grabbed his pleasure reading book, settling in to do another chapter before he fell asleep. There wasn't any reason to get up at dawn unless he wanted to.
TO BE CONTINUED...