New Beginnings

Derek stood up, motioning for his fellow house members to listen for a minute. When
everyone was quiet, he turned towards the men in his life.

"As of today, Philip is once again a full time member of the Legacy."

"May it last this time," Nick joked.

Philip poked him and Derek gave Nick a dirty look. "Yes, well, that isn't the only news I
have. Although that is the goot news, there is bad news also. The London house called today."

"Boo," came from all around him.

"Children, at least listen to the bad news before commenting." Rachel cast her own dirty
look around the table.

"Please, but the two bits of news fit right in. Philip, you know that the diocese in town,
and your friend the Arch-Bishop, are updating the book collection to a computer database, right?"
Philip nodded. "Goot, we're doing it for them. Along with our own." Derek sat back down,
waiting for the shock to wear off.

"You mean we have to put all the books in the library onto the computer?" Alex asked,
mouth hanging open.

"Hold it, we'd need to build a database, get picture and graphic scanning programs. With
the way the computer is configured now, we'd need another whole system, or auxiliary hard drive.
*And* we have to do the Church's too? It'll never get done." Nick laid down his fork, his
appetite gone.

"Well, the Church's books are mostly in three languages: Spanish, Latin, and English. Do
we need to translate it too?"

"Yes, on both systems." Derek watched his colleagues. "So, we've heard the bad side, any

"Well, it'll save time to get a reference book we need for a case," was Alex's suggestion.

"We'd get to update the computer system to a new level. It wouldn't need done again for a
decade if we do it right this time."

"It'd mean that you wouldn't need to have a linguist here all the time to translate things on
the spot. And no more mistranslations, either." Philip leaned back in his chair. "Wouldn't you
know it, just when I come back, the Legacy has devised a way for my position to become

"Oh, no, my friend, not even obsolete. Think about how many volumes there are in the
library and how many of them aren't in English."

"Hold it, why English? Why not French or Spanish as a base language?"

"Because, Alex, the translation program that we use is more accurate going from English
to another language than any other. The London house has been testing this idea for a few years
now. This is how they want it because it worked best. As to Nick's database idea, that's left up to
us. We're the test house. Every other house will use our design, and we'll be recompensated for
any upgrades we need. That's why we're first. That, and our reputation as a research house." He
leaned forward, resting his head on his hands. "The Legacy is reorganizing, for the first time in
almost five hundred years. There are going to be houses designated for research, ones designated
for archival purposes, ones for artifact study, and so on, on top of our regular case load. We are
being designated as both a research house and an archival facility. So, no Philip, your job just got
expanded. Along with Nick's and Alex's. We're going to have more, smaller houses spread out in
smaller cities with just a couple of people to take care of the intermediate areas for cases and
they're going to start using us as a reference."

"Like Sacramento?" Nick leaned forward. "They seem to work well. Former Legacy
members who take care of small items in the area, and farm out the rest to a major house if it's
something they can't handle right away."

"Yeah, that case three months ago that we got from them was much easier because they
were there and knew what was happening." Rachel handed her daughter a napkin and motioned
for her to wipe her mouth. "So, am I in on this project too, or am I consulting on any new
equipment we might need in the lab?"

"Both. I know you don't do languages, but we have to take an inventory of all our books,
and the Church's of course, and some of them can be scanned in directly. You can do that much.
Also, you're right, if we become a major research house, we'll need to update the laboratory.
That's your job. Nick, you and Alex plan out the new system and it's requirements. Philip,
unfortunately, you're going to spend many hours bent over obsolete manuscripts."

"That's okay. If I was just at the Church, I'd be doing the same thing. Tell me something
though, did we get this because the Church is doing theirs, or the other way around?"

"Both." He smiled at his friend. "Let's finish dinner before it gets cold. We can work on
this after supper."

"Okay. But, one thing, should I plan to put both the original text and the English version
on in case someone needs it?"

"That would be helpful. Especially if you're talking about some of the houses that routinely
screw up translations."

"You mean like the London house?" Philip asked. They all laughed and went back to their
food, wrapped up in the new project.


Philip put the phone back on the hook. "Well, Derek's gonna love this." He smiled at the
butler, and went to find his Precept. He found him in the control room with Alex and Nick.
"Derek, are you busy?"

"No, Nick and Alex were just showing me an easy way to do the database project." He
turned to look at Philip's fallen face. "What happened?"

"My sister in law just called."

"Do you need to go home?"

"No, that isn't it. My ... it's a delicate situation. My niece is very talented in languages,
and she wants her to come and learn from me."

"Ah, like an apprenticeship? Well, as long as we keep her away from the journals and the
heavy paranormal books, I don't see why not." He shrugged.

"I wish it were that simple." He took a seat on the steps. "She got ... involved with a boy,
and neither family approved of the match. He was sent away to school, and she's was to be sent
to me."

"Let me guess, she's in trouble?" Nick chuckled a little. "And neither family wants to
admit what happened."

"Yeah, and my sister in law still wants her to come here and live with me."

"Okay, tell me about her. What's she like?"

"Ah, a female version of me?"

"Oooh, a stoic, studious female with a sense of humor that likes soccer? Cool, she'll fit
right in," Alex joked, reaching over to pat Philip on the shoulder. "Don't worry, there are a
couple of decent obstetricians in town, and a great birthing center. She'll be fine, and we'll all
keep Nick from fussing over her."

Philip smiled up at her. "Funny. It's not that. I would have recommended her for the
Legacy in a few years, but with this? I don't think I know her anymore."

"Philip, this happens every day, all around the world. I'm sure some of the girls in your
other parishes have gotten pregnant accidentally."

"True, but not at twelve."


Philip nodded. "And the father is supposed to be joining the order in the winter when he
turns nineteen."

"Well, that does put a new spin on it. But I still don't see a problem. Is there going to be a
problem with her being here if something happens? Is that what's worrying you?"

"Yeah, that and what's happened to Kat, and well, there isn't a great track record for
children that grow up in the Legacy. Most of them end up hurt, abused, or on the wrong side."

"Well, we won't abuse her, and we'll try not to hurt her. As for ending up on the wrong
side, well, that's still up to her, and could still happen even if she's not here."

"Philip," Nick entered into the conversation, "do you feel guilty for not being there for her?
I know she was like your own daughter."

"Yeah, I guess that's it. She's like my daughter, and I've protected her the best I could all
her life. Now this happens, and I can't do anything but be there and stand beside her."

"Philip, sometimes that's the most important thing. Without someone who loves her and
cares beside and behind her, she's already lost the fight. Her age, combined with the lack of father
in the child's life, and her mother not being able to deal with or handle the situation are all going
to compound on her, and blow her mind. She's in trouble now, and needs you more than ever."

"True, buddy. Now's the time for you to really step into the father role. She'll need a
strong guiding hand now more than ever if you don't want her to self-destruct."

"Philip, go call your sister in law again. Tell her to send the child. We'll all help you with
her if you need it." He sat down beside Philip, hugging him. "Nick and Alex are right. Besides,
you could use a hand with all the translations, and it's not hard physical labor that'll hurt her."

Philip looked up at Derek. "Aren't those famous last words?"

They all laughed, and Philip called his family back.


It was the night before Philip's niece, Alana, arrived, and he was a nervous wreck. He
couldn't sleep, so he was in the library getting a head start on some of the translations. At least,
that's where Nick found him, hunched over his little table with three or four books and a legal pad
in front of him.

"Hey, can't sleep?" He handed Philip a bottle of stout.

"Yeah, and thanks, I needed this." He took a long drink. "I don't know if I'm upset with
her, or with myself, or with her mother for not being there, or who."

"Well, you feel guilt so deeply, so of course you're mad at yourself. And you're probably
mad at both of them too, for not being more careful, and for not paying enough attention to a
young girl to prevent it from happening."

"Yeah, I am. When did you get to be so good at this?"

"I've been hanging around Kat a lot, and picked up on it from Rachel." He smiled, taking
another drink. "Free knowledge I can soak up, just not what's forced on me."

"True. Okay, let me put this up, and I'll..."

"Come up to my room, I'll work on your shoulders for you." He got up and went back to
his room.

Philip smiled at Nick's back before putting up his things and following him upstairs. He
knocked lightly on the door to Nick's room, and it swung open.

Nick stuck his head out of the bathroom. "Close the door, and take off your shirt. Get
comfortable on the bed, I'll be right out. Just warming up some oil." He disappeared again.

Philip did as he was told, and set his bottle on the bedside table. He stretched out,
plumping the pillows up to raise his head up some. By the time Nick came out, he was almost
asleep, the smell and warmth of the room a soothing comfort to him.

"Hey, don't jump, it's just me. Still want me to work on your shoulders?" Philip nodded,
so he dribbled some of the oil down the indentation that marked his spine. "Man, I know you're
worried about Alana coming, but it feels like my weights are sitting here on the muscles in your
back. Relax. Let me work out the knots." He stroked down the tight spots, making Philip
shiver. "Relax," Nick whispered, "let me do all the work. Let the tension flow through your skin,
and into my fingers. Let it go, Philip." He kneaded into a shoulder, working the knots in circles
until they loosened. "That's it, let it go."

Philip could feel the tension flow out of him as Nick removed the knots that had kept him
up from his back. Soon he was asleep under the magic fingers that played over his back. He never
felt Nick cover him, never felt him take the other pillow and set up a bed on the floor. He
wouldn't know about the lengths his friend went to make him comfortable until the morning.


Philip was shifting nervously outside of customs. He could see Alana, waiting in line.
She looked good, had a nice healthy glow.

"Well, she looks like she made it okay. No air sickness afterglow," Nick said from behind
his shoulder.

Philip jumped. "Don' do that!"

Nick laughed, "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. You were just so wrapped up in how she
looked that I thought I'd give you a hand."

"S'okay. She does look good, doesn't she?" He turned to see Nick nod. "And she's not
showing yet, that's good too."

"True, it means many more months of anxiety on your part, though. Are you ready to be a
great-uncle to the child?"

"More like a granda." Alana said coming up to them. "Uncle Phi'p, you loo' good. And
who's your frien' here? He's a cute one."

"This is Nick. He works at the Luna Foundation too. Any more bags?"

"Not a one. Just my pack an' my duffel. I've got a box comin' but it won' be here for a few
days yet." She looped her arm through her uncle's. "So, are ya gonna feed me firs' or are we
goin' to tha island now?"

"Ah, a young woman after my own heart. Breakfast first." Nick picked up her bags and
led the way out to Range Rover.

Alana whistled and ran an appreciative hand over the side of the SUV. "Nice one, is she

"Nope, the boss's. He just lets me borrow it when I have delicate cargo."

"I am no' delicate!" she fumed.

He smiled. "Not you, him," he pointed at Philip, who blushed a nice shade of pink.

"Oh, well tha's okay then. We've always known uncle Phi'p was delicate, tha's why he
plays soccer insteada rugby."

Nick climbed in, after throwing her bags into the trunk. "You've got to tell me more about
that." He checked to make sure everyone was buckled up, and turned on the engine.

"No, she doesn't." He scowled at his niece. "Does she?"

"Well, o'course I do. Who else would tell him abou' your time on the rugby team?"

"Oh, my Philip, there's organized sports in your past?" Nick laughed and pulled them out
of the parking lot, and headed back into the city proper.


Nick handed Philip one of Alana's bags, and headed for the open side door that Alex held
open for them.

"Hey, Alex, this is Alana. Alana, this is Alex Moreau, one of our researchers." Nick
pushed past her, letting Alana in behind him. "She's gonna show you to your room while I go
check in with Derek." He handed her the bag. "Have fun." He headed off for the library.

"Yup, just leave the work to the women. Philip, Derek wants to talk to you now that
you're back." She took the other bag too, and watched with a smile as Philip grumbled and
followed Nick down the hall. "Well, Alana, let's get you settled." She headed up the stairs,
stopping on the landing to make sure she was being followed.

Alana was busy looking at the woodwork and the paintings. She had never seen a house
like this before. "What?"

"Don't worry, pretty soon, you'll take it for granted." She motioned with her head, and
Alana followed her up.

"Don't think so, but if you say so."


Derek was waiting in the Library. Nick came in, and received his hug, Philip following
close behind.

"She's here." Nick turned to watch Philip fidget with some papers. "Oh, and don't call her

"Yeah, that was almos' a fit in the making." He sat down in his usual seat at the long
table. "I just don't want her hurt by our work."

"And you're worried that she'll accidentally stumble across it?" Derek sat down next to
him, taking Philip's hand in his. "Don't worry so much. She'll be fine, and so will her child."

"What's the worst that can happen, Philip?" Nick sat down on Philip's other side, putting
an arm around his shoulders.

"She can become involved in a case and die."

"And how probable is that with our recent case load?"

Philip snorted and gave Nick a look. "Recent? Or the past few years?"

"Recent. Say the past six months."

"Not very."

"So then the worst that could happen is that she somehow gets hurt or loses the baby,

"Yeah. Thanks Nick." He reached to his friend for a hug.

Nick let him hug, before pushing him towards Derek for one. "We'll all be here for both of
you. Don't worry so much, you won't look as good with wrinkles or gray hair."

"What's wrong with gray hair?" Derek asked over Philip's head.

"Nothing on you. You've got that aging gracefully thing going that makes you look better.
Both of us will not look as good as you do with gray hair, so we need to hold it off for a few
more years."

"Hair dye." Alex says from the doorway. All three of the men whip their heads around to
stare at the two women. "What, it works for women." She smiled and led Alana into the room.
"And this is where your uncle can be found most any time."

"Oh, look at all tha books!" She spun in the center of the floor, taking in the books and
journals. "And ya work with these ev'ry day?"

"No, Philip does. We come whining and begging to him when we need something
translated." Nick stood up, letting her have his chair next to Philip. "Sit."

She smiled at him, her blue eyes twinkling. "You wouldn't be suggestin' that I needed ta
sit for a while would ya?"

"Nope, not me. I know better, Alex trained all of us too well." He smiled and headed out
of the room for the kitchen.

"So, Alana, right?" Derek held out his hand.

"Oh, my manners are lacking again. Yes, Doctor Rayne, I'm Alana. Thank ya for letting
me stay here for a while." She shook his hand. "Ya have beautiful tastes in the artwork around
the house."

"Thank you, but it's mostly not mine, it's the Luna Foundation's." He shifted in his seat to
cross his legs and patted Philip's arm. "So, your Uncle tells us you have his gift for languages."

"Yes, sir. I speak four fluently, speak somewhere around ten passable enough to get by,
and read fifteen almost fluently, most of those are ancient. My ma wants me ta become a
historian or somethin'."

"Well you'll fit right in here. Derek's an Anthropologist, and I'm a history major, and
Nick's former military, and then there's your uncle - we're still trying to figure out what he is."
Alex giggled at the stern look on Philip's face.

Alana laughed, harder when she saw Philip's face. "Oh, tha's a good one. I gotta
remember it ta tell my ma."

"Don't ya dare, Alana Julia Callahan; or I'll tell them about your last pet."

"What, Henry the microwaved lizard? Go ahead, it's not my fault that my sis thought he
was cold." She grinned, daring him to tell them about it.

"A microwaved lizard?" Nick came back in with a tray of drinks. He handed Alana a
soda, caffeine free, and handed around coffee cups to the rest, before taking his and sitting down.

"Yeah, my little sis, she was watching my lizard for me while I was away at Church one
day and she was sick. She decided that since she was cold and he felt cold, she would microwave
a hot towel for both of them. But his skin didn't get any warmer, so she tried the direct approach,
and put him in the microwave. Made a pretty mess, let me tell you."

"It was so bad, that her ma tried to make her clean it."

"Nothin' doin' for that, so I buried the whole thing in the yard with a nice marker."

"Here lies Mr. Microwave and his last victim, my lizard Henry. May they both rest in
peace." Philip recited. Everybody laughed, Alex snorting her coffee and swearing at the burning
in her sinuses.

Nick pounded her on the back. "You okay?" She nodded. "Good, don't do that again, it
hurts." He grinned at her.

"Tell me about it. But it wasn't carbonated at least." She smiled evily back at him.
"Remind me to tell you some night when he's not here about him snorting champagne in front of a
woman he was trying to impress at a formal event here." She patted Alana's arm. "It's good to
have a full time female here to talk to again."

"Thanks. So, when do I start, Doctor Rayne?"

"We're not formal here, call me Derek, and that's up to you. You need to find a goot doctor
for yourself, and see them, and these three could use help with the book inventory, so we'll let
Alex break you in gently today." He checked his watch. "I need to call the diocese; and Philip,
they'll want to talk to you. We'll see you in a few hours. Oh, and Nick, could you and Alex have
the projections for the new database requirements by the end of the week?"

"Sure, boss, as soon as we get the inventory done; maybe a day later."

"Do you need the books in storage on the inventory too?" Alex was planning on how to
schedule that in.

"Yes, unfortunately, we do. And while we're there, we might as well find out what else is
in those storage warehouses."

"Plural? As in more than one?" Nick swallowed some more of his coffee.

"Plural as in ten or twelve, I think. Some are for the hall at the museum, a few are for the
extra furniture and things for the house. At least three have books, but you'll need to go through
the old inventory lists to find out where and how many." He pulled out a pencil and a small
notepad, and writing down something, handed it to Alex. "It's listed under that. Have fun."

"Oh, loads." Nick's dry reply followed them down the hall. He turned to Alex. "So, start
here and work our way out?"

"Yeah, we still have half this room to do, not to mention the backup room, and the storage
spaces here in the house. We really should just make a new inventory list of everything else we
find too while we're at it."

"True. I know there are books stacked in the attics from the dark ages."

"Oh, really? And who would have put them there?"

"Didn't you know? That was when Sloan and Derek used to work together here." He
took another drink and Alex hit him on the arm. He smiled at her, giving her an evil look. "And
now we have a willing accomplice to list things for us."

"Alana, would you like to help us today by making lists of all the books and things?"

"Sure. Soun's good to me. Is it on paper or computer?"

"Her laptop." He pointed a thumb back at Alex. "You just have to type, but like she said,
it's a lot of work. You sure you're up to it, what with jet-lag and all?"

"I'm fine, quit motherin' me." She played with her empty soda can. "I don' need a mother,
and I don' wan' ta be treated like I'm helpless."

"Well of course you're not, honey. You probably shouldn't lift, and soon you'll be eating
horrible food combinations, and feel like a blimp, but you are not helpless. Your body's just
taking a time out right now, that's all." Nick patted her hand, offering his friendship to her.
"Anytime you want to talk, just find me and we'll eat gross food together, okay?"

She smiled at him. "Deal. But don't grimace when ya do it."

"Cool. And if you need to talk about ... women things, or something like stretch marks,
you can go find Alex."

She laughed. "Okay, I can deal with tha'. Now, wha' first?"

"Oh my, a very willing helper. Umm, well we've been doing the books in here, so let's
finish some more of that until mid-afternoon when Rachel and Kat will be here." She took Alana's
hand from Nick's and held it. "Rachel is a Psychiatrist, and our full time doctor, but there are
some things you need to know."

"Yeah, she's real protective of her daughter, who is a year younger than you."

"So, I'll get another mother?"

"That, and on occasion, a few lectures, and 'talking to's about what's happening, and
lectures about your choice, among others." Alex tried to put a good spin on it, but it didn't work
very well, and all three knew it.

"Just don't be surprised if Rachel is real unhappy if you and Kat start becoming fast friends
before she gets used to you, that's all." Nick shrugged, and drained his coffee. "She had to get
used to us too, but now Kat is like our favorite niece."

"Okay, I can understan' that. What abou' schoolin'? Am I to enroll in one soon?"

"Don't know. Philip hasn't made a comment about it." Alex shrugged and looked to Nick.

"I don't think he's thought that far ahead yet. Why don't we start with some home school
lessons later tonight from Kat's books, and see where you stand?"

"Okay, but I gotta warn ya, I'm in an advanced program back at home. Or at least I was
until they kicked me out."

"Excuse me, they kicked you out? Why?" Philip said, coming back in and sitting back
down beside her.

She patted her stomach, not saying a word.

"Oh, well then, Derek suggested a few good schools, but I agree with Nick, until we have
you checked by a doctor, a specialist, you're not leaving the house."

"But, Uncle, I've already been checked. My records are upstairs. He said I don't need ta
see anybody else until it was almost time."

"Ah, but here in America, you see an Obstetrician every month, and in the last month once
a week."

"Yes," Alex added, "for some reason, our doctors believe that a pregnancy is an illness
instead of a natural occurrence. But I agree with them; because of your age, and how small you
are, you're going to see a doctor soon. Also, we have one of the best birthing centers in the US
here. You'll love it. One of my friends delivered there, and she went on about it for weeks."

"Yes, mothers, I'll see a doctor soon."

"Goot, then you won't object to my having Rachel send over a list of local Obstetricians."
Derek came in and squeezed her shoulders. "And I do believe that the home schooling may be the
best idea if she doesn't want to travel everyday."

"Hmm, hadn't thought of that." Philip frowned, thinking about all the traveling on the
ferry she would have to do. "And we could tailor her program here to include advanced classes.
We have a home schooling person in the diocese, I'll ask her."

"Goot, then it's settled for now. Have you set your schedule for the rest of the day?" He
turned to Alex and Nick.

"Yeah, it's the books in here some more until Rachel and Kat get here. She's volunteered
to work on the computer while we climb the shelves. We also decided that when we need to get
into the backup archival room and the attics that we should make a note of the other things we
find too."

"Sounds goot to me. That will make next year's inventory so much easier. Go to it. Philip
is getting the first load of books to start translating this afternoon, and I've got a teleconference
with London at one, so I'll help you three with the inventory later."

"Just one thing. Philip needs to designate a spot for the Church's materials that they send
so we don't get it mixed in with ours."

"Okay, how about we get a box or something and set it beside my usual table upstairs?"

"That sounds okay, and it could be pushed under when you're not up there. Any overflow
could be put under the window up there and along that same wall, in boxes also." Alex was
planning her assault on the large task mentally. "That way we would trip over it, but not include

"Why not include it anyway?"

"Nick, what do you mean?" Derek shifted to look at him.

"I mean, how many of these books are similar to what they're sending over? It would save
us some trouble if we included a copy of the translations into our database. They probably
wouldn't object, and we're constantly borrowing books from them, so why not include them?"

"The leas' they coul' do would be ta let us provide a link to their site." Alana added. "I
mean, if we're settin' up a database of all their works, and all our works are going on one too, they
might be kind enough ta let us set up a direct link to their archive site, maybe even let our search
engine work on it" Everyone stared at her. "Tha' is if I read the situation righ'."

"Yeah, you did, and that's a great idea. It's workable, and easy enough to do."

"I'll talk to the Arch-Bishop when he comes over this afternoon with the first load." Philip
beamed at his niece. "Thanks, love."

"Don' mention it." She blushed, and they adjourned to their separate tasks.


"Is it just me, or all of these books about what Uncle Philip used to get into when he was

"Huh?" Nick climbed down off the ladder, brining another stack of books with him. He
sat down at Alana's feet and sorted them.

"When Uncle Philip was little, he used to get into so much trouble. He opened a cave that
the town fathers had sealed a banshee into. Then he was in the church one day, sorting their
books, as it happened, and came across something trapped in a book that he released. Things like

"Yeah, well, that's true, but you have to ask Derek about that. Most of these are donated to
us, so we just store them, and occasionally beg Philip to work his magic on a few to help someone
research something."

"Oh, I thought you might have something to do with the house in Dublin."

Alex spit her water across Nick's chest. "Dublin? What house in Dublin?"

"Guys, I know. They've been askin' for me ta join for a few years now. Said I would be
just as good a credit to them as Philip is ta you all."

"Oh, my. Does Philip know?" Nick could see the Dublin house going up in flames for

"Nah, he'd crap bricks if he knew."

Alex and Nick laughed, harder when Derek came up the stairs. "You wouldn't believe
what she just told us," Alex let on.

"What, that the Dublin house has been persuing her for almost three years now?"

Nick raised an eyebrow. "You knew?"

"Yes, and I agree with her about not telling her Uncle."

"Not telling him what?"

"Oh, that she knows some things about what you did as a child. Something about a cave,
and a book in the Church archives?" Nick covered.

"Oh, that, well, that was a long time ago, and her da shouldn't have told her." He frowned
at her. "Don't tell them that, they'll never look at me again without laughing."

"I won't Uncle, if you don't want me too. At least not any more of it."

"Thank ya." He set the box down at his table. "Here's the first load. Mostly prayer books
from priests that were missionaries into Spanish California."

"Goot, so Latin and Spanish?"

"Mostly Latin. The Church wasn't real big on other languages then. Nothin' hard for

"Oh, goot." Derek sat down next to Nick. "So where are we up here?"

"We've got a good third of this floor done. That leaves the bottom level and the small third
level on the stairs. She's been a great help."

"Ah, now, I've just typed in what ya told me ta." She blushed.

"I see the blushing gene runs strong in your family." He grinned when Alana got darker
and Philip did his best to match it."

"My ma said it came from him," she pointed at her Uncle, "and that he cast a spell on her
when she ditched him for da. Said it was that.... that...." She ran back down the stairs, right
through Rachel and Kat, and into her room.

"Let me guess, that was Alana?" Rachel asked from the bottom of the stairs.

Everyone nodded, and Philip went after her.


Alana knocked on Alex's door, ready for bed, and wearing a sheet contraption around her
stomach and through her legs. "Can you please tie this for me? My Aunt, the midwife, said I
should wear it, it'll keep the baby small and not sticking out so much."

"Honey, I don't think that's a good idea. It looks like something that could hurt you if
you're not careful. Are you sure, maybe we should get Rachel in here to look at it and okay it's

"But my Aunt...."

"Isn't an obstetrician, and neither am I, but I do have more training than her. Show me
how this goes and we'll see if she's right." She tried to smile, but failed miserably to put the
young girl at ease.

"Jus' wha' I need, another mother hen," Alana muttered, lifting her shirt.

"Hold it, let's close the door first, in case some sensitive guy like Nick comes by." Rachel
stepped into the room, closing the door behind her. "And I'm not a mother hen, I'm a mother and
a Doctor, we're stricter than mother hens."

"Are ya sure? Seems like the same thing ta me." She took off her shirt, showing the sheet
wrapped tightly around her middle, then stretched through her legs, with ties at the shoulders.
"She said it would keep the baby small, and help me carry it better. She has all of her patients
wear one."

Rachel walked around her, testing the tightness and strength of the binding. "Well, she's
wrong." She moved to sit on the bed and patted it for Alana to sit beside her.


"Then it's definitely not a good thing. See, this binding could cause the baby to be
deformed because there isn't enough room for it to grow, which would make you miscarry. You
need to take it off, and let me get my stethoscope to listen to the baby's heartbeat. Okay?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"Okay, meet me in your room in five minutes. Oh, and Alex, Kat wants to talk to you
about girl stuff she can't ask me. Would you mind?"

Alex smiled. "Not a bit. It'll be my only chance to give the 'speech'. I'd be happy to help
out with facts and things, but not morals, that's your job."

"Deal. Five minutes Alana, and be laying down with that thing off." She patted her on the
back of the head as she left.

Alana sighed and turned to Alex. "Will ya help me get this off?"

"Sure, let's hit your room so you can just stretch out immediately." The two women went
down the hall and went into Alana's room.

Alana stripped, and had Alex help her unwind the sheet. She laid down on the bed while
Alex bundled it up. She looked at the sheet, and saw an unwelcome sight, blood.

"Honey, how long have you been bleeding?"

"Off and on for over a week, but she said it was nothin', jus' the las' of my cycle for a
while. Why?" She leaned up on one arm, but Alex pushed her back down.

"Oh, no you're not. Stay laying down until Rachel gets here, and we'll show her." She sat
down, and looked for permission to touch Alana. "May I?"

"Sure, everyone always wan's ta, go ahead." She closed her eyes, relaxing into Alex's touch
on her stomach. "Do ya think it's a problem, the bleedin' I mean?"

"Oh, it could be, or she could be right. Rachel will know." She patted the little ripples of
muscle down the smooth flesh. "So young."

"Tha's what everyone says. I'm no' tha' young. My ma was only three years older when
she had her firs' one. O'course he didn't live, but tha's beside the point."

"Yeah, but a lot of changes happen in those three years. You're going to have a bad time
just because you're only four-eight and ninety pounds, not to mention your age."

"I'll be fine. The women in my family are hardy stock. We live through thin's like this.
Don' worry." She patted Alex's hand and laid back with her eyes closed to wait for Rachel.

Rachel walked in, after a perfunctory knock, and looked at the situation. Alex was
watching Alana sleep, and was looking worried every once in a while at the sheet thing. "Is she

"No' really, jus' restin'." She yawned and opened her eyes. "She said to tell ya abou'
spottin' for a while now."

"Spotting? Like having a period spotting?" She sat down on the other side of the bed, and
laid her scope on the bed. "How long have you been doing that?"

"Few weeks. My Aunt said it was the las' of my cycle."

"How far along are you?"

"Abou' three months, jus' under it I think. Why?"

"Well, if you're farther along, it's a problem. That early it could be a problem or she could
be right. Let's see the sheet after I listen for the heartbeat, okay?" She picked up the stethoscope
and put it on. "Okay, now a deep breath while I search for the baby manually." She pushed
gently on Alana's stomach. "Okay, let it out all the way and take shallow and not rapid breaths."
She put the scope beside her fingers, listening for the heartbeat. "Okay, nice normal breaths now
and hold them slightly." She listened for a while longer before removing the scope and holding a
hand out for the sheet. She checked the blood spots, looking for amount and patterns before
sitting back against the footboard and looking at the two women. "It's not good news. I want
you to go the hospital to be sure, but I heard two hearts, not a single one, and the baby felt like a
large lump instead of two separate ones. I'm sorry, but it's not a good sign added with the

"So, I'm in trouble already?" Alana looked like the scared twelve year old she was
suddenly, all the fight gone in her fear.

"Honey, I'll go get Philip and Nick, you get dressed and be ready to leave." Alex patted
her on the leg. "Don't worry, if there is a problem, we've found it in time. Worrying will only
make it worse, so calm yourself and realize that you aren't alone anymore with this." Alex left the

"She right, especially about the worrying. It won't help and could hurt. It's early and you
aren't spotting much. I'm sending you as a precaution, not a necessity, so calm down and wait
until we have the opinion of an o.b. Okay?"

Alana nodded, and Rachel helped her dress for the trip across the bay.

Alex knocked on Philip's door. "Philip, it's Alex, you have to answer the door."

Derek stuck his head out, looking down at her. "We're all in here. What's wrong?"

She followed him in, not caring that the other two men were lounging on the bed together.
"Alana's spotting, and Rachel's sending her to the emergency room as a precaution." Nick and
Philip flew off the bed and down the hall to their rooms, not asking anything else. She left so
Derek could dress and went to her own room. She threw on a sweatshirt over her top and some
shoes and met the men out in the hall.

"I'm no' feeble, an' I can wal' on my own!" Alana was fuming as she came down the hall
flanked and held by Philip and Nick.

"Goo' then do it. Don' make me drag you down to tha car."

"Yes, sir." Alex took the file from Alana's hand and followed the trio out, followed closely
by Derek and Rachel.

"Dominic will watch Kat while we're gone." She pushed Derek out of the way and sat
down next to Alana in the back of the Range Rover. "Nick, you know which one?"

"Yes ma'am." He looked at Alana in the rearview mirror. "Don't worry, everything will be

"O'course it will. You'd thin' none of ya ever saw a pregn't woman before."

"No, actually," Philip said from beside her, "we've seen Rachel pregnant, but not anyone
under normal circumstances."

"Philip, I doubt she wants to hear about that." Alex punched him on the arm to get her
point across.

"Right, sorry." He hugged her closer, holding her for his comfort, and hers of course, until
they got to the hospital.


Philip paced in the hall outside of the examination room.

Nick, Derek, and Alex sat on the small couch, waiting on the doctor to come out, and
watching Philip drive himself crazy.

"Sit down." Nick said quietly.

"I can'. She's been like my own since she was born. I'm worried." He paced faster.

"Of course you are. It's not a bad thing. We don't want you to wear out the floor, though.
It'll look bad to the doctors." Alex patted his arm as he walked by.

"I dont' care. I should be in there holdin' her hand or somethin'. That's where I need to be,
not ou' here pacing."

Derek and Nick exchanged looks and Nick got up, pulling Philip with him down a dead
end corridor.

"Wha'? I need to be there." He tried to get away, but Nick just held on tighter, pulling
him into a hug.

"I know you're worried. We are too, even though we aren't related. We see so much of her
in you." He pushed Philip's head onto his shoulder. "Just relax for a minute. We'll hear when they
come out, and you won't miss anything. Just relax and let me calm you." He rubbed the tight
back in small circles, trying to impart soothing rhythms into the stressed out body. "It's been a
long day, and longer for some of us than others. Just relax into me and let me protect you until
they need us."

"Nick, I can't."


"I can't do this anymore."

"Which, be with me, or the situation in general?"

"You and Derek. I can't do that anymore. I need more."

"More, like a permanence?" Nick's heart fell, hard. "I know we said it would stay casual,
but if you need more, we'll gladly give it. I will, and I know Derek will."

"I don't know if that's what I need or not, though. I just know I need more."

"So you'll figure it out, and then you'll tell us, and we'll give it to you."

"It's not that simple." He tried to pull himself up slightly, but was stopped by strong arms
holding him close. "Let me up."

"In a minute." He gave one last squeeze, then released Philip some. "I know you... I know
we aren't giving you much of ourselves, but if you need more, just tell us and we'll give it to you."
He made Philip look him in the eyes. "Do you hear me?"

"Yeah, and I will." He sighed, relaxing into his occasional lover's grasp. "When I figure it
out, I'll tell ya and you'll help me with it. I jus'..."

"Shh, it's not the time for this. We'll talk about it at home, snuggling together with Derek.
After this crisis is over, we'll go home and curl up together, and relax, and figure out what's going
on. Just let us help you for now. Okay?" He nodded, hoping Philip would do the same.

"Yeah, I guess so. It just seems..."

"Shh, later." Nick laid a quick kiss against his lips.


Nick squeezed his arms, then let him lead back into the other hall.

"Better?" Rachel asked, standing there with the other doctor.

"Yeah, he was so uptight, so we talked."

"Okay, we're waiting for a specialist, one who deals with a lot of teen pregnancies, but she
has some questions."

"Hi, I'm Doctor Bisher's; I'm the one who's admitting her overnight." She saw Philip's face
fall and added, "As a precaution only. She's going to have some problems, but I want you to hear
it from her."

"Doctor Arkadi, and yes I noticed the name Derek, is going to be here soon. She
specializes in teen and problem pregnancies, delivers about a third of them in the city from what I
hear. She's well recommended, and affiliated with the new Birthing Center."

"Okay, so what's the problem, why can't she go home?" Nick sat down, pulling Philip
with him and dislodging Alex in the process.

"Well, I was right. She's having twins it looks like; co-joined ones."

"Because of the sheet thing?"

"Sheet thing?" Doctor Bisher asked. "Like a long sheet, wrapped sumo style around her
abdomen and through her legs?"

"Yeah, she asked me to tie it for her. Said her Aunt was a midwife in Ireland and told her
to wear it."

"That's why she called me in to look at her. Then she noticed the bleeding."

Philip said something in Gaelic, making Derek and Doctor Bisher frown and look at him.
"Father, words like that from a man of the cloth, really."

"Well, if that meant what I think it did, it was warranted. Alana said she wasn't supposed
to see anyone until it was almost her due date in six months or so."

"Five more likely."

"Five?" Philip got up to go into the examination room, but was stopped by Rachel.

"These things happen sometimes. Calm down. I'm sure she didn't mislead you about it."

"True, I didn'." Alana was standing in the doorway, leaning on the I.V. pole. "And, I have
some ques'ns too, if I may."

"Get your butt back into bed!" Philip and Doctor Bisher loomed over her until she
stomped back into the room.

"Am no' a child, can' tell me wha' ta do anymore, don' nee' this righ' now. Wish I had a
few less mothers in the world."

"I heard that," Philip called out. "Just stay there and we'll come in an' tell you everythin'. I
promise." He pulled the curtain shut. "Now, what about other problems? Rachel mentioned her
size and weight?

"That's part of what I would rather have Doctor Arkadi tell you. But I can tell you it's not
going to be a pleasant time for her."

"That bad, Alice?" A new female Doctor was walking down the hall, her flannel
nightshirt and a pair of jeans under her coat.

"Doctor Raven Arkadi, this is Father Callahan, Mr. Boyle, Doctor Derek Rayne, Alex
Moreau, and Doctor Rachel Corrigan. They're here to mother the poor one in there." She
handed over the folder and pulled Doctor Arkadi into the room to talk to her and Alana. She
came back out a few minutes later and grimaced. "I'll leave you to her. Oh, if you see a young
Asian women, send her down the hall to the one on the end, please. She's our interpreter tonight."
She bowed and left them alone to wait some more.

Just as Philip was ready to get up and go in there, Doctor Arkadi came out.

"Okay, so the responsible parent or guardian would be...."

"Me," Philip stood up.


"She's my niece. Her mother, my sister-in-law sent her to me for a while." She shrugged
and pulled him inside the curtained off room, talking quietly.

Alex blew out her breath and re-took her seat on the couch.

Derek looked up, and seeing who was coming down the hall, stood up. "Mei Ling?"

"Hi," she smiled, and shifted the child she was carrying to the other hip so she could kiss
his cheek. "Who's hurt this time?"

"Oh, it's Philip's niece. She's in there."

"Oh, well I hope she gets better. Do you know where...."

"End of the hall," Nick guessed. "As long as you're the translator, that is."

"Yep, that's me. Grandfather sent me tonight. Said he was too old to be getting out of bed
at a moment's notice." She shrugged and let the child slither down her legs. "Coming?" She
looked down at the little girl, who shook her head and pointed to Alex. "Okay, ask her first."
She walked away, Derek following closely behind.

"Hello, little one, did you want to sit here with me?" She nodded. "What's your name?"

She said something in Chinese, and Philip translated it, coming back out. "It means
Rayana or Raina, I can't remember which." He kneeled down in front of her. "Is your mommy
down the hall with the other Doctor?" She nodded and held out her arms for Philip to hug her,
which he did. "Is your mommy named Mei Ling?"

She looked confused, so Alex answered for her. "Yeah, she's the translator."

"And Derek followed her like a lost puppy." Nick added, just slightly jealous. He had
known about Mei Ling, and had accepted it, but he didn't believe in coincidences anymore, the
Legacy had cured him of that fairy tale. "So, do you think she's his?"

"Nick!" came the shocked three part chorus.

"What? I don't believe in coincidences anymore, and neither do any of you."

"Especially not where her Grandfather is concerned," Derek said, coming back to his
group. "And yes, I do believe you're right, but she didn't tell me so."

"Okay." Nick shrugged and leaned back. "Any news?"

"Yeah, and it's all bad." He sat down in the middle of the hall, getting comfortable. "She's
around four and a half months along. It does look like co-joined twins, and yes it was the sheet
tha' was the problem. She's being kep' overnigh', and we'll be given strict instruction on her care
when she's released. The Doctor said she's too small, and will probably need a c-section, and a
longer stay; and tha' the hospital Social Worker was on her way up because of her mother not
being here." He slumped down, only to get patted by everyone.

They heard shouting in Chinese coming from down the hall, and looked that way. The
Doctor stuck her head out of Alana's room, looking down there too. "Oh, well, looks like it's the
social workers for them." She looked at them, "Traditional Chinese man, wife having a daughter,
and a knife." She went back in to sit with Alana.

Alex shuddered and the guys all went "ooohhh". Rachel just looked sick.

"So, Derek, when is Mei Ling coming over?"

"Lunch on Tuesday. Please don't scare her off Nick."

"What, am I that scary?" Everybody nodded, laughing. "Gee, thanks guys, some friends
you are."

"It's the gun," Philip said. "Women think a man who carries a big gun is trying to impress
someone, and it's no' them, so they worry and get scared of them."

"Oh, okay, then I won't show her the weapon collection then." He shrugged and handed
Philip his cup of water, motioning for him to drink it.

"Thanks." He took a drink and moved to lean against Nick's legs, out of the way.


Nick helped Alana settle into her bed for the night, arranging her IV pole so it wouldn't
pull when she rolled over and pulled up two chairs beside the bed.

"Stayin' tonight are ya?" She asked and yawned.

"Yeah, wouldn't want to leave your Uncle alone, but don't worry, Alex will probably send
me to Rachel's house in a few hours and stay with you both herself for the rest of the night." He
shrugged and sat down, angling the chair so he could see both her and Philip at the same time.

Philip was outside having another conversation with Dr. Arkadi. He was looking very
depressed about something. She was patting him on the shoulder, probably telling him everything
would be all right, and smiling at him.

//Hmm, just so long as that's all she does with him.// Nick thought. //Where did that
come from? I thought our being casual would stop that. Hell, that's what almost broke us up the
last time, my possessiveness; it almost got us all killed because I couldn't keep it impersonal. I
can't go through that again. Gotta stop that now before he finds out. Or worse, she finds out.//
He turned his attention to the sleeping girl in the bed. //Twelve is too young. Her whole life was
in front of her, but now it's could be over just because of one time too many with a boy she
thought she loved. Life is cruel.// He shifted, quietly so as not to pull anyone's attention to him.
//We'll take care of her and the baby. I'll help any way I can. I know Philip will be in there
changing diapers, getting up when he needs his sleep to feed the little thing, spending all of his
free time with the baby so it wouldn't grow up without a father. And I'll be there beside him,
handing him things, pulling the baby away so he can sleep, acting as a favorite Uncle and big
brother all in one. It's what I did with Kat, and now there's another one to protect in the family.
And I won't let them, there are twins remember, down. They won't be hurt by the Legacy, any of
the cases; nobody will hurt these children while I'm around. Even if Philip doesn't want me
there.// He yawned, watching Philip and the Doctor come back in. "So, more bad news?"

"No," Philip answered. "I've got to sign as a legal guardian for her, though."

"That'll go over real well at the diocese, won't it." He nudged the other chair, bringing it to
Philip's attention.

"So, Mr. Boyle, wasn't it?" He nodded. "Are you staying here tonight too?"

"Yeah, I am." He didn't return Philip's shocked look. "We always do hospital shifts in

"Ah, so this bedside vigil thing is a usual occurrence out there on the island?"

"Yeah, an' it's usually him on the bed." He turned himself, sitting in the chair and leaned
over. "You don't have ta stay if ya don' wan' ta. I can handle it," he almost whispered. "Not
even I can find somethin' to get into here tonight."

"Nope," he shot a smile at his friend, "nothing doing. I'm in full protective mode for both
of you. I'm not going unless someone tougher comes in makes me go home."

"Good, at least she'll be protected against her will out there." The doctor sat down on the
bed, pulling her feet up under her. "Oh, you can call me Doctor, or Raven, or what all the
residents on the floor call me, that bitch, your call. I don't do formal real well."

"Cool then I'm Nick and he's Philip, and we don't have a nick-name for her yet, so..."

"It used to be 'The Voice' when she was little. She could sing like a siren and scream like
a banshee when she put her mind to it. More recently it's been her middle name, Julia, or sprout,
since she's growing so much recently."

"I like Julia better, iff'n ya prefer to call me it." Alana rolled onto her back and pulled
herself up into a sitting position. "So, Doc Raven, what's the bad news this time?"

"Social Services is coming up in a few minutes to have your Uncle sign papers for custody
of you."

"Is that going to be a problem?" Nick asked, worried that he would have to shoot a social
worker, or worse yet, pull Derek out of bed again tonight. "I mean, her mother clearly gave up
custody to Philip, even if only judged on her actions." //Please don't do this to Philip, he can't
take anymore crap from people about her. He doesn't think I know about the conversation with
the diocese, but I heard it, and I stopped him from killing the workout bag in the gym, so I do
know they weren't happy campers.//

"Actually, no it won't be hard. Her mother sent a paper with the medical file stating that
she was giving Philip temporary custody of her." Doc Raven shrugged. "I don't foresee a
problem; and if there is one, I'm sure your Derek will help you handle it quietly."

"True, he will." Philip nodded. He didn't want to think about his beloved niece going
back there anytime soon. "Oh, well, another problem for tomorrow."

"Nope, tonight. I can smell her perfume from the hallway."

A sandy haired, late twenties women tapped on the curtain and walked in. "Hi, I'm
Avonis Childrers, the social worker she told you about. Which one of you is Philip Callahan?"
She held her clipboard close to her chest. Philip raised his hand, and she handed him the board
and a pen. "Just sign at the bottom and we'll get the request processed before she goes home

"That is the form for temporary custody, right?"

"Yes, dear Raven, it is. I checked it before coming up this time. Oh, and 'she's' going to
throw a fit soon." She nodded her head towards the outside of the curtain.

Another woman, this one elderly, maybe sixty or so, blue/gray hair, and wearing tweed,
came through the curtain, not bothering to knock. "This was my case."

"She asked for me specifically. You were busy with the Chinese family in the ER. It's
nothing, just a mother who sent her daughter away because she was probably told 'Just don't do it'
like all the other Catholic girls her age are."

"How did ya know?" Alana blushed.

"I went to the same school where your Uncle Philip taught until a few years ago. My
daughter came home singing his praises about his realistic view of the world many days." She
smiled at Philip and took back the papers and clipboard, checking it over. "Okay, looks good.
We'll call the Luna Foundation if she's already gone to give you the good news."

"I disagree. I see *no* reason why this man should get custody of this innocent child."

"I'm no' inn'c'nt, and I'm no' a child. I'm a youn' woman; one who desperately needs her
sleep. So if ya would please leave...." She waved a hand at the curtain.

"Alana Julia Callahan," Philip hissed, "mind your manners."

"Wha' I am tired. I only flew in this mornin'. I need my beauty res' too. Besides, she's
bein' mean jus' because she thinks your sleepin' with Nick here."

Nick laughed and Philip blushed, cracking up the Doctor and younger Social Worker.

"Well, I never."

"O'course ya have, this is Amer'ca; everyone here has." Alana whispered just loud enough
to be heard by the four people around her. "Good nigh'," she said louder, getting the attention of
the older woman and slid back down the bed slightly.

"We'll see about this. There is *no* way a gay priest and his lover will get custody of a
child on *my* watch."

"Then you're in the wrong city," Nick said with a smile. "And besides, what makes you
think he's gay, or sleeping with me? I'm here for moral support and holding her hand when he
gets too uptight. I'm like a big brother." His smile increased. //Of course if you want to accuse
*me* of being gay, well then I'd have to happily re-arrange your features to make them right, but
what's a few broken bones between friends? I'll do what ever I have to to protect this little family,
and you're treading real close to the edge of my limit. Back off now, or I'll do something really
mean and nasty.//

"Tha's true, he is. Tha' an' an extra mother all in one. He even said he'd go on eatin'
binges with me when I get cravin's." She smiled and the elderly woman huffed out.

"Young lady..."

"Uncle Philip, I don' see a reason to be nice ta her, she's tryin' ta send me back to ma. An'
I'm no' goin' back, so stop it now." She stretched out a leg, then brought it back to her chest.
"So, anymore bad news?"

"None yet, dear, but we'll wait to see what happens in the next three weeks." Raven
shifted herself around to face the other four people all at once. "She's going to have to deliver by
c-section; she's just too small to do it naturally. Also, I'll be sending her home with a *long* list
of care instructions that will have to be followed to the letter." She turned to look at Nick
specifically. "Next time, she's to go to the birthing center. If you need it, call ahead and we'll
clear the chopper pad for you." She leaned back against the footboard. "I'm not foreseeing many
problems, but I'm foreseeing some. She has a standing appointment to see me *every* three
weeks. She's not to go over that water if it's choppy, so home schooling would be best. I don't
want her to eat crap, but she needs to gain some major weight along with water and baby weight."

"So we can stuff her, just not full of candy and pretzels?"

"Sure, make sure she eats for four people... adult people, and she'll be fine. She's already
ten pounds under for her size, and another ten for her term length, so she can eat all she wants to.
But, as a precaution, I would stick to a very high fiber diet, it'll help things move along as it
were." She giggled at her impromptu joke. "Sorry, sleep deprivation."

"S'okay, we've had that too." Nick smiled at her, getting an elbow from Philip for it.

"Guys, it's obvious to us. Just kiss an' make up for wha'ever it was and get on with it. My
upbringin' aside, I think it's cute o'ya to be together; it doesn' bother me a bi'" Alana yawned, and
slunk farther down in the bed. "Sorry, long day."

"And then some, kid, so rest while we talk, okay?" She nodded and closed her eyes,
curling up in a ball.

Ms. Childrers shook her head at Alana's position and waved good-bye as she left the room.

"So, any other nasty surprises waiting for us at the end of the rainbow?" Nick slumped in
his chair.

Philip laughed and reached over to squeeze his hand. "You need to watch newer movies
my friend."

"Well, it's not like we've had time to run into the city to catch one," he whined. "Besides
it's not the same without someone to steal your popcorn."

Philip laughed gently, "Ah, but you nev'r minded before."

"Who said I did now? It was nice when we met to get the last few pieces."

"Nick, not now. I said later, at home."

"No, go ahead, don't stop on my account." Raven moved her hair around. "You need to
talk, and I'm going to be around for a while. If you want, I can step out though," she offered,
starting to get up.

"Nah, si' back an' relax. We're gonna talk later abou' this an' other thin's." Philip tried to
let go of Nick's hand, but couldn't, Nick wouldn't let go. "Nick...."

"No, it's nice, and I'm comfortable with this." Philip shrugged and let the subject drop for
now. "So," Nick reminded her of the earlier question, "any thing else we need to know?"

"Just that I think only one will survive, if she's lucky. That and reduce the stress on her as
much as possible."

"So, no work?"

"Work? You mean like around the house? I thought you would have a housekeeper out
there for that at least."

"No, like translatin' stuff. She's agreed to help us set up the diocese database of all their
books for the internet, and we have ta translate over two-thirds of it."

"Shouldn't be strenuous. Just sitting and reading, right? No climbing up ladders to get
books on high shelves, no running up and down stairs multiple times a day? Nothing but mental
work really?"

"Yeah. We can get her books for her and set them out. But that does bring up another
question. She has a room upstairs, all of us do, is that going to be a problem?"

"Maybe when she's farther along. She's going to get pretty big in a few months time, and
she may have trouble waddling up and down them a couple times a day. But, by then, she may
also be on bed rest. So, it really depends on her and how hard her body takes the pregnancy."
She patted a foot, "I don't think she'll have that bad a problem with it; and if she does, well, I'm
sure you'll carry her up and down them."

"You don't know the half of it," Philip said. "He's appointed himself her guardian angel
and pregnancy fairy all in one."

"Pregnancy fairy, Philip? Never heard of that one." Nick was laughing, so Raven had to
ask. "What do they do?"

"They come in an' cheer up the lass when she's almost due and feels huge. They send in
baskets of food for cravin's, and calm the mother down when she gets hysterical durin' the birth.
They're generally goo' natured, but if'n a mother get's one mad, well she's better off havin' that kid
right then. They can rouse the baby up to kicking at a whisper; makin' the mother's sickness last
longer came up too."

"Yeah, it sounds like something he could do. How about it, Nick, are you up to being a
pregnancy fairy?"

"I think he'd make a great one," Alex said coming around the curtain. At Rachel's
confused look, she adds, "I'll show the book later."

"Oh, okay." She nodded, resigned to not getting it again. "If you guys want to crash at my
house, I'll give you the keys." She dug around in her pocket, bringing out her key ring. "Just
don't drink the milk, it's chunky."

"Eww," came from under the covers, then a light snore.

"Thanks, but I'm staying. You never know what sort of trouble a priest can get into at a
hospital." He squeezed Philip's hand, devilish twinkle in his eyes.

"Not me," he protested.

"Famous last words, I'm sure," Raven said and got off the bed, stretching upwards. "I'm
sending her home tomorrow with three pages of instructions, and Nick's in charge of her diet, so
don't worry too much. If something happens again, go directly to the birthing center; I'll leave
instructions at the desk."

"Okay. Any problems with the Social Worker?"

"Well, one was okay, but the other had a problem with a, and I quote, "gay priest and his
lover getting custody of a child," end quote."

"And Alana, or Julia as the day may bring, has quite a temper. She sniped at the older
worker who was being rude." Raven patted Alana's foot one last time and left the room. "See
you in a few hours. Take a nap."

"Night," they called.

"Philip, I'll have a talk with the worker if you want. I used to be one of them," Alex

"Or better yet, I'll have a talk with her boss. I've had problems with the old biddy on
occasion myself," Rachel added.

"It was nothin'. Just a bigot pushin' her weight aroun', tha's all." Philip sat quietly, staring
at his niece. "Doctor Raven said one might live," he whispered.

"I'm sure she'll do her best for all of them." Rachel checked Alana's pulse, fussing with
the blankets to be doing something. "She won't be able to lay like that much longer."

"Doc Raven said she was going to be huge," Nick offered. "She said I might have to carry
her upstairs when she got farther along, because she was going to be so big."

Alex laughed. "Oh, our Knight in Shining Armour rides again." She came around the bed
and kneeled beside Nick's chair. "We'll watch, go do something and take Philip with you." She
gave his shoulder a light push.

"No, I'm stayin'." His tone brooked no arguments. "You can go if ya wan', Nick. I don't
need to be monitored for trouble, really."

Derek walked through the curtain. "No, Philip, you need to get up and take a walk once in
a while; even if it is just to the bathroom or to the coffee machine." Alex said. "Now get up and
let us watch for a while. I promise we won't tell her about anything wild that you do with us."

"I said no."

"Philip," Derek said, trying to be diplomatic in the face of his stubbornness, "Go to the
cafeteria and get a cup of coffee. You'll want it soon, so do it while we're all still here."

"I don' need anythin'." He tried to pull his hand away again, but Nick held fast.

"Yes," Derek responded, showing his own obstinate side plainly, "you do. You didn't get
to bed until the middle of the night probably, and you've been up all day. Now go get some coffee
and take Nick with you."

"Yeah, so we can discuss how to get around him to feed the poor child twinkies behind his
back," Rachel added.

Nick laughed and got up, pulling Philip behind him and out of the room. Alex took Nick's
seat immediately.

They all listened to Philip grumble as he was pulled out. "So, shift system? Two at a
time?" Alex asked the others.

"I don't think we need it, but if that's what you want..." Derek gave in easily to her.

"I think it would make Nick being here more plausible, and give Philip some support
tonight. He'll need it. You guys can crash at my place while they watch and talk."

"I know, did you see Nick pull him down the hall earlier? Was that possessive or

"Both," Derek answered. "He wanted to comfort him, and knew Philip wouldn't let him do
it in the main hall. Also they were talking earlier, and he probably wanted to continue it." He
shrugged, taking Philip's seat.

"It's about time," Alex smiled and laughed lightly. "He *was* a bear when Philip left last
time. Now that he's been here for a while, Nick is much easier to deal with."

"And happier too." Derek muttered.

"And so are you, Derek," Rachel added. "Don't think we haven't noticed what you three

"We think it's great, really, but we're worried about what happened last time."

"Nick being possessive was *very* bad for all of us, almost."

"He's not having that problem anymore. We've worked that out." Derek put his head
down and ended the discussion of his youngest lover's problem that time.


Nick pulled Philip down the hall. "Come on, coffee's better in the cafeteria."

"Nick, stop." Philip tried to pull the younger man to a halt, but was almost pulled off his
feet instead. "Stop, Nick, an' I mean now."

"In here," he said, pulling them into the stairwell. "Now, shut up and listen."

"No, you listen," he started, but was cut off.

"Shut up or I'll kiss you so you have to." He waited for an argument, but none came. "I'm
staying, and that's final. Get used to it. I'm here, and I'm staying. Through the bad, the good, the
uneasy, the fights, the traumas, the back cramps, the birth, everything, I'm staying. Understand?"
Philip started to say something but Nick put a finger over his lips. "Let me finish. This applies to
her, and to us. Unless you can tell me that you don't want me anymore, don't love me at all and
never have, then I'm here, so get used to it and quit fighting the inevitable. She was right, we
*do* need to make up, and I'm not opposed to kissing if you want to do it that way, but I know
we need to talk first."

"Yeah, we do." Philip leaned his tired body against the wall and slid down until he was
sitting on the floor. "Soon."

"I know that. We will, tonight after the others have gone. We'll talk like grown ups, not scream
and yell like the last time." He kneeled down, taking Philip's hands in his. "And I promise to be
better at that this time."

"Nick, it's not you, or what happened last time. It's me, and her, and what she'll need, and ...."

"What about what you need?" He smiled, reaching up with their joined hands to brush some of
the hair out of Philip's eyes. "I know you're supposed to not think about those things as a Priest,
but now you have to." He kissed the end of Philip's nose, "And I want to make sure you get
whatever that is. So does Derek."

"I know, but I'm not sure... I don't think I need to be involved right now. There are so many other
things I need more, things for Alana and the babies, things for the house and the Church; things
for myself come way down that list."

"No, they don't, or they shouldn't. You can't do your best work, in the house, with the Church, or
for her, when you're ignoring your own needs. People work better when they have the important
things in life."

"But is having a relationship *that* important in life?"

"Philip, oh my love," he sat down next to his lover, pulling him into a close hug and resting
Philip's head over his heart, "love rules the world. It's the reason for life to continue, for hopes to
flourish, for the world to evolve. Love is one of the fundamental energies of the Universe, and
you need it to live." He pulled Philip's face up so he could look in it. "Not to survive, but to live.
Living means that you take joy from things that you do daily. You don't hate your life; you didn't
used to at least, and if you do, then you're just surviving, not living." He kissed Philip's brow.
"Let me show you, let Derek and I show you how good living can be." He pulled Philip's face up
closer, kissing the older man lightly.

"Living woul' be nice for a change," he agreed, tucking his head back onto Nick's chest. "It's been
much too long since I've done that."

"Much too long."

They sat there in silence, letting the feelings grow.


Derek looked up as the two younger men walked in and smiled at him. He looked at them,
noticing their easy way with each other and sighed.

Nick came over and kissed his cheek. "Ours," he simply stated and sat back down.

Derek smiled for the first time in two weeks. "Thank you. Both."

"Our pleasure, Derek," Philip said, parking himself on the floor between the two chairs. "How's
she doing?"

"She's sleeping soundly, making little noises too. Rachel and Alex went back to the house,
leaving the Range Rover with us."

Nick laughed. "The women left us alone with a young girl? That's a switch. I would have
assumed that they would have demanded some equal time with her to make sure we didn't
suppress her or something."

"Nick, just because they're both feminists, doesn't mean that they don't trust a man to help raise a
young girl. Okay, well Alex does have her days," Derek said when Nick shot him a disbelieving
look. "But she knows we only want what's best for her, so they'll worry in silence and go behind
our backs to undo any damage we cause her."

They all laughed at the old argument, letting the tension release.

"Oh, my, I haven't laughed like that in so long. Alex would kill us for bringing that up again."
Philip said, wiping his eyes. "She's changed so much since she came to the house."

"True," Derek said, again with a sigh, "and not all for the goot."

"But she can see so much of her old ways in Rachel, and in Kristen when she was here, that she's
become our lubricating agent with her," Nick pointed out. He reached a hand over to Derek.
"You couldn't protect her forever, but you did a good job, she's still here."

"Thank you, love, I needed to hear that from you." He smiled and kissed the hand. "Now what's
this I hear about her wanting to be called Julia?"

"It's her middle name," Philip said. "She's always been partial to it. Her da called her by it."

"That settles it then, Julia she is."

"May she have a happier life than ours did before she came to us," Philip added.

The three men settled down, waiting and watching for the time when they would be needed.


Doctor Raven Arkadi walked into the room, pushing the curtain quietly back. She held up a hand
when Nick snapped awake, and 'sshh'ed him with a finger at her lips, pointing to Philip and
Derek. She checked Alana's vital signs, smiling when she didn't wake, before tucking the
blankets back up around her. She turned towards him, motioning for him to meet her in the hall.

Nick followed her out, wondering what was going wrong now. "Hi, more bad news?" He
yawned and stretched.

She shook her head and pulled him over to a bench. "Actually, she's fine now. Her pulse is
steady and strong, and she's resting fully. That's a good thing." She patted his arm in
reassurance. "Don't worry so much, you'll get wrinkles."

He laughed. "Yeah, well, I have them, but I hide 'em really well. So, what's up?"

"Many things that you probably want to ask me." She was quiet for a moment, gathering her
thoughts. "I noticed the look your whole group gave each other when you heard my name. Is
there going to be a problem with who my father is?"

"How did you know?"

"Know what? That my father is one of the evilest s.o.b.'s in the Universes? Please, he left my
mother when she was a few months along; apparently he was busy spreading his genes around all
of New Orleans and didn't want to actually help raise a child, just father a few. Well, more than a
few, I know of twenty of us in the South alone." She shrugged and hunched into herself. "I've
met him twice. Both times he tried to get me to go with him. Once was in college. He stopped
me from attending a lecture, oddly enough by your Doctor Rayne, and the other was a few years

"We've had a run-in with him before. He doesn't like us, and we share the same sentiment. Derek
and the others were just worried that you took after him, that's all," he said, patting her hand.
"Nothing to worry about. We know you're the best one to handle Alana's care, or Julia as she
prefers, and we'll not argue with you about it. Much." He smiled.

She chuckled, "Okay, I know you will, but if you say so. Seriously, though, not a problem?"

"No, not a problem, Doctor Arkadi," Derek said from the doorway. "I agree with Nick, you're
the best person for the job, and we know you're not like your father." He came over to squeeze
Nick's shoulder. "What time is it?"

Nick looked and didn't see his watch. "Must not have put it on. Doc?"

"Raven, please, and it's just about three thirty."

"Thank you, Raven. Nick, I'll be right back." He gave another squeeze, then headed down the

"You better get back; you don't want Father Philip to wake up with neither of you there." She
patted his hand, and standing up, walked away.

Nick yawned and headed for the coffee machine in the waiting area, getting two cups. Derek
joined him, getting his own, and they walked back to Alana's room together.

Philip was just waking up and starting to look around for them. Nick handed him a coffee cup
and pointed to his chair with a raised eyebrow.

Philip shook his head no, then moved to lean against his legs when he sat down. "Mornin'."

"Goot morning, Philip," Derek said and gave him a kiss on the top of his head. "Sleep any?"

Philip yawned and took a drink of his coffee, nodding. "Yeah, I did, thanks."

"Well, I suggest when we go home later, that we all take a nap."

"What's the matter, Derek, back giving you troubles again?" Derek nodded and finished his
coffee. "Maybe you should see someone about it this time."

"It's just a twinge. I'm fine. If it get's worse, I'll have Rachel look at it. Okay?" His lovers
nodded, sharing a worried look with him. "It's nothing. Worry about her."

Alana rolled over. "Who?"

"You, dear, and how are you this morning?" Nick asked.

"Fine, bett'r, gonna go back ta sleep. Night." She rolled on her other side and started to snore
lightly again.

"Well, she's fine now." Philip said, finishing his coffee and handing the cup off to Derek.

"Yeah, just a nice normal teenager." Nick said, running a hand through Philip's hair.


Alex opened the door, helping Alana through the portal. "Hi, feeling better?"

"Yeah, jus' fussed over a bi' much." She sighed and headed for her room. "I'm nappin' for a while.
Raven said I needed more sleep."

"Goot, we'll wake you for supper." Derek said, handing her the medicines and instruction sheets.
"I've got an extra copy for the staff. Go ahead and take your first dose and go to bed." He smiled
and patted her hand before walking away for his office.

"Go on you two, I don' need ta be tucked in. I'm a big girl now." She waved Nick and Philip
away and headed up to her room. "Men," she muttered under her breath.

Alex smiled after her. "It's good to have a like mind in the house." She smiled directly at Nick.
"For a change." She turned and went back to the inventory in progress.

"Just see if I ever give your shoulders a rub again," he called after her. She laughed back, and
Philip pulled him close to console him.

"Don't worry, she didn't mean it."

"I know. We act just like a brother and sister; even Kat said so."

They laughed and went up to their room to take a nap, not bothering to wait for Derek.

Nick stripped and sat on the bed watching Philip strip also. "Love?"

"Yeah, Nick, wha'?"

"Can I, I mean I want....."

"Nick, it's too soon." Philip laid down on the bed, pulling the covers up over his chest. "I though'
we agreed to take this slow." He yawned, showing all his teeth. "Besides, I need ta sleep, no'
pound ya inta the mattress." He patted the spot beside him. "Come ta bed love."

Nick crawled in with him, moving to snuggle. "I didn't mean me. I want to .... I want to show
you how much I love you and want us to work this out." He hid his face in the side of Philip's

"Nick, love, I don' need it, I already know. Ya showed me that at the hosp'tal, and again this
morning when we go' up again. Don' worry abou' showin' me." He kissed the thick hair, rolling a
little to snuggle against Nick's warm body.

"I just wanted to pleasure you, no strings attached," he said quietly, hugging Philip tightly and
settling in for the night.

"I think that's a great idea, Nick," Derek said from the doorway. He closed the door and stripped
to join them in bed. "It'll help him sleep better, and if it makes you feel more secure in our love,
providing he doesn't object, then go ahead. I'll just lay here and watch." He kissed Nick's cheek
and pulled Philip over to lay on him instead.

"Mmm, Derek, don' need it, jus' sleep," Philip muttered settling back down again.

"But think about Nick pleasuring you fully, making sure you sleep all day."

"He's right, love, you need to sleep more than a few hours." Nick licked the side of Philip's neck,
hitting the spot guaranteed to make him say yes. "Please?"

"Fine." He said rolling over. "I won' get any sleep until ya do." He huffed and pillowed his head
on Derek's shoulder.

"Thank you, love." Nick said, kissing him gently. He moved back to work on Philip's neck,
working all the little tender spots he liked, first with a tongue, then nipping and sucking on them
to make him feel better. "Relax, Philip, please?"

Philip nodded and shifted a little, making Nick move to his chest. Nick, taking the hint, laved his
chest muscles, dampening the thin hair and moving inward to the nipples. He looked up and
licked at a nipple, making Philip moan and grab his head for more contact. He sucked a nipple in,
sucking on it to get it hard before nipping lightly at the edges and sucking some more. Philip
arched up, demanding more silently, so he moved to the other side. When Philip was moaning
and thrashing on the bed, he moved down, lapping the line of hair to his navel, rimming and
sucking on the edges of the small cavity.

"Nick, don't." Philip sighed. "I can't do that yet."

"Wasn't planning on it," he whispered into the tight muscles. "This is just for you. I'm telling you
how much I love you with my mouth, making sure you understand that whatever you want I'll
give you." He dipped into the hole one last time before licking downward again, going through
the tight, curly hairs that surrounded his goal. "Just relax for me." He found a spot Philip liked
played with under the hair and nipped it, pulling on the hair as he pulled his mouth away.

Philip bucked underneath him, "Oh, yes, Nick, more," he whimpered. Nick laughed softly into the
base of the hard flesh beside his cheek, making it jump and swell. "More," Philip sighed when he
licked around the base.

Nick worked his way up the shaft, drawing circular patterns with his tongue all the way up, but
avoiding the specially sensitive spots. When he got to the head, it was leaking, a small bead of
fluid welling up and ready to fall over.

"Mmm," he said, licking it off, tongue hanging out of his mouth so nothing else connected. "One
of my favorite things." He stiffened his tongue and teased the little hole.

"Oh, Nick, tha's cruel," Philip said, thrusting up trying to get more. "Please?"

"Well," he said, licking a finger and noticing that only Derek could see him, "all right, if you
insist." He dove down, swallowing down as far as he could and swallowing to create suction.

"Ye'!" he cried, arching his whole body upwards into the warmth and wetness. Nick let him fuck
his mouth, using it for his pleasure. He played with the sensitive head every time it came in range
of his tongue, brushing the sensitive vein on the underside with his teeth on each downstroke.
Philip's thrusting got faster and faster, and Nick let him go deeper, swallowing each time he got to
the back of his mouth, driving Philip mad.

Nick hummed, sliding the finger down to the pucker, sure he was too far gone to object. He
slipped it inside, timing it to his thrusts, and found Philip's prostate. Philip screamed and came,
shooting hard down Nick's throat. Nick took his finger out, rubbing on the perineum to lengthen
the pleasure and ease him down gently.

Nick released him, licking around the softening flesh, getting the last of the sticky fluid off before
fully letting him go and moving back up to cuddle.

"Thank you love," Philip said, kissing his cheek. "And I felt wha' ya did."

"Sorry, I didn't think you would mind this time. And you didn't bleed either."

"True, I didn'. Jus' be careful in the future, I don' wan' another rupture like we had before." He
licked at Nick's lips. "I could sleep all day cuddled between you two," he murmured getting
comfortable. "Nigh'."

"Good night Philip," Derek said, giving Nick a dirty look. "You shouldn't have done that to him,
Nick," he mouthed.

"I was careful and didn't push him. Besides, he needed that little bit more to sleep all day," he
mouthed back. "I knew what I was doing, and he wasn't hurt. I even asked someone how to do
so he wouldn't be."

"Fine, just ask first next time. He was having nightmares about having another tubal rupture night
before last."

"Damn, I didn't know. I'm sorry. I'll apologize to him later." Nick clung tighter to Philip, sorry
he could have hurt his friend.

Derek encircled them both, nuzzling Nick's ear. "I know, I'm sorry to have yelled at you. I know
you wouldn't hurt him on purpose, any more than I would. I'm sure he knows that too. He won't
be mad, and neither am I. Just go to sleep, love, and relax. I'm sorry."

Nick nodded, letting both pairs of arms around him warm him into sleep. Nothing would keep the
nightmares away, though. After the first one, he got out of bed, moving back to his own room so
as not to disturb his lovers' sleep.


Mei Ling was shown into Derek's office, where she put the baby down to play on the rug.

Derek came around the desk to hug her, kissing her lightly on the cheek. "Hi, how was your

"Fine, the water was calm today. Raina enjoyed it, looking at the city and the water and the other
islands." She shrugged out of his grasp and sat down in a chair. "So, why are we having lunch?"

"Her," he said, motioning to Raina, "and to catch up."

"Aaahh, so now the questions come." She dug around in her purse, coming up with packets of
pictures. "Some of these are copies, others are marked and I'll get them copied later today." She
handed them over, sitting back to watch her daughter play with the sunlight patterns on the
carpet. "She's yours."

"I figured. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I didn't want you to be obligated, or pressured, or trapped into helping her." She
moved a little. "I thought I would be enough, but she needs more than I can give her most days.
Grandfather was filling in some, but he's getting old, and he's been sick lately."

"I know how hard it must be for you. Anything I can do, just tell me." He reached over and
patted her hand, holding up a picture. "Her birthday?" Raina had cake all over her face and
clothes, a bright smile showing through the frosting.

Mei Ling laughed. "No, actually, Grandfather's. They're only two weeks apart, so he had a little
one made for her so she could 'practice', as he called it, for her own." They laughed together,
drawing Raina over to see what was going on.

Derek picked her up, moving the pictures aside. "Hello, Raina, how are you this afternoon?"

She smiled up at him and made a grab for his hair. "Tay," she said, delighting the adults. "Pony?"

"Raina, stop it. I'm sure he doesn't have a pony." She looked upward. "She saw a pony last
week at the circus, so now she thinks everyone has one. She even asked some woman at the
grocery store if she had one."

Derek laughed. "Well, little one, we have stables here, but no ponies right now. Sorry." She
pouted for a few seconds, then started to play with his tie.

"She's easily amused and diverted," her mother said, reaching for her. "So, if you suspected she
was yours since the hospital, are we meeting for you to see her or for you to take her? Because I
won't let you take her from me."

Derek sat back, relaxing into the wing chair. "Mei Ling, you should know me better than that. I
wouldn't try to take her from you unless you were doing something horribly wrong with her. I've
been friends with your family now for many years, and you know how strong I am about families,
and you know I only want to see her."

"I know, but I thought it better to make sure up front." She put Raina down, who promptly went
to look out the window, and dug for something else in her purse. "Here," she said handing him a
legal document.

He opened it, reading the enclosed visitation agreement. "You knew?"

"Yes, and I had my will updated as soon as I found out I was pregnant. If something happens to
me, she'll come to you." She sat back, watching her daughter try to call the peacocks over.

"Pretty, pretty, [blowing noise], pretty, pretty," Raina called.

Derek looked up, trying to find out what she was doing. He stood up, watching her over the top
of the desk. "Oh, honey, they can't hear you." He sat back down, waiting for her to come over.

Raina toddled over, leaning into her mother's knees and pointing. "Pretty, pretty."

"Yes, I saw the peacocks sweetling." Raina just smiled up at her and leaned in farther to lay her
head down on her mother's legs. "Rest, little one, and we'll eat soon."

"Wunch?" She said, her head coming back up.

"After you rest, Raina, you can have some lunch." He reached over and patted her hair. "Rest
now." He looked up at Mei Ling, "She can sleep on the sofa in the next room or upstairs in a bed
if you would like."

"Thanks, the couch would be fine."

Derek went to the desk, signing the document and pushing a call button on the phone. "Dominic,
could you please come in here for a minute? Thank you."

They waited for the butler to come in. "Yes, sir?"

"Would you please take little Raina and lay her in on the couch in the next room. Maybe keep an
eye on her for us while we talk?"

"Of course sir, not a problem." He came over and picked up the little girl, letting her snuggle into
his shoulder. "I'll put her on the overstuffed one. It's softer," he whispered and took her out of
the room.

"I don't know. She may have an accident or something...." She started to go after them.

"That one's stain resistant too. Don't worry, he's got one of his own at home." He handed her
back the legal form. "Here, it's signed. We can work out when later, around our schedules."

"Sounds good." She put it back in her purse. "You know, Grandfather was furious with me the
next morning."

"He was? He didn't seem like it to me." He sat down again and picked up more of the pictures.
"Who took this one?" It was a picture of mother and daughter at the hospital.

"Grandfather, and he wouldn't have shown it to you. He went out and bought a camera just for
his first great-grand child." She laughed. "The morning I started having morning sickness he
gave me this look, an I-told-you-so one. We didn't speak for weeks after that."

"Was he not happy about me being the father, or you being pregnant?" He put down the pictures
to face her again. "I would have thought he'd be happy to have his family continued."

"Oh, he was, but not under those circumstances. Fortunately she's wrapped him around her little
fist. Did it just after we got home. He even used to get up to change her."

"I can just see him now, grumbling down the hall until he got to her, then a smile coming and
picking her up."

"Yes. So many mornings I woke up to find him asleep with her in the rocking chair, or her in his
bed. He loves her like his own." she sighed. "I just wish he wasn't so old now."

He patted her arm, pulling it away abruptly when a knock came at the door. "I'm sure he's going
to be fine." He smiled at her. "Come in."

Nick came in, all smiles and giggles. "Dominic said you were in here, and it's marked urgent for
you from London." He handed over the folder. "She's cute."

"Thanks," Mei Ling said. "She's a little enchantress, has everyone wrapped around her little fist."
They smiled together.

"Do I...."

"No, I'll call them in a minute. Thank you, Nick."

"Not a problem, boss," he said and left the office.

"Something wrong?"

"No, not with the house or the Luna Foundation. It's a warning that Philip's sister-in-law is
sending someone over after her daughter."

"The girl who was in the hospital the other night?"

"Yes." He stood up, and showed her to the kitchen. "I'll be right back. I have to call them." He
left her there to start on lunch, and went back to his office.

He sat down behind the desk, speed-dialing the London house. "Hello."

The London Precept looked up, "Hi, Derek, what's up?"

"I just got a head's-up from your house about Philip's niece and her family?"

"Oh, yes, I had heard. Apparently the Aunt and Mother are coming to take her back. Their
parish priest knows ours and Philip so he sent the message through us. She said, and I quote,
"Sending her away was the biggest mistake of her life. Her daughter should be home where she
belongs and the problem would be taken care of by the family," end quote." He shuffled some
papers, and held a few up. "We've traced both of them, and you need to watch out. They meant
both parts of that. Alana is in serious danger, as are the children she is carrying, if she's taken
back with them."

"Thank you, my friend, I needed the warning. I'll tell Philip immediately."

"Derek, tell both of them. She can handle it."

"Okay, I will." He hung up. "Oh, damn," he whispered and paged the two of them to his office.

Philip walked in, followed by Alana Julia. Seeing Derek's face, Philip immediately sat down.
Alana looked confused, but followed suit. "Wha's wrong?" Philip asked.

"Bad news, my friend, very bad news." He sat back, waiting for them to ready themselves.
"Alana, your mother and aunt are coming over here to take you back with them."

She jumped up, trying to find a way out past her guardians. "No, can' happen, she can' have me."
She headed towards the door, made it through, but was stopped by Nick in the hall. Nick held
her, sinking them both to the floor, and rocked her until she calmed down.

"Sshh, little one, it's going to be okay. We won't let you go with them," he crooned.

Derek and Philip stood there and watched Nick calm her. When she settled down into crying, the
three men got her up and got her back into the office, sitting her in Derek's desk chair.

Nick kneeled before her, holding the weeping child, trying to calm her down farther so they could
talk about it.

"Oh, God, [hiccup], what am I gonna do? I can' go back." She sniffled into Nick's shoulder and
threw herself back against the chair. "Why now? After all thi' time, she picks now ta show up
and ruin my life. Why me?"

"Honey, calm down. She can't have you." Nick said. "We'll fight for you, you gotta know that by
now." He wiped the tears from her cheeks and stood beside his men. "Don't worry about it so
much. We're here and you're here, and possession is nine-tenths of the law."

Alana laughed, giggling hysterically. "Oh, tha's a goo' one. I though' tha' only applied to thin's
not people."

"Well, it does," Derek said, "but the argument is no less valid in this case." He sat on the edge of
the desk. "We've known it could happen, so I talked to my lawyer already. He's got a plan to get
us full custody of you. Don't worry so much."

"Yeah, if worst comes to worst, you run away back here to us." Nick said.

"No, Nick, she can't do that. It could get us all in trouble. Jail type trouble." Derek patted his
shoulder. "We won't let her go without a strong fight, though. Don't worry."

Philip had sunk down into a chair, watching them. "She didn' used to be a bad person, but I thin'
she's changed since my brother Michael died. Hasn't she, Alana Julia?"

"Yeah, she has. A lo'." She sniffled her last, and Nick handed her a tissue. "Than's."

"When she gets here, let me talk to her first. Keep the lawyer ready, though, she's almost as
stubborn as you are Derek."

"I will." He punched a button on the phone, using the handset. "Hello? Is Mark in?" Pause.
"Mark, Derek." Short pause. "Well, not so goot. We just heard Alana's mother and aunt are on
their way over here to the states." Long pause, broken by non-committal noises. "Okay, so go
ahead and file for him. Send the papers over later. Oh, and I did sign a visitation agreement
today, I'll send my copy back to you with the courier." Short pause. "Okay, bye." He turned to
face the group. "He's filing today for full custody of her for Philip."

"Thank God," Alana said, crossing herself.

"We all agree little one. Don't worry, Derek has the best lawyer in the city working for him."
Nick patted her shoulder and went over to Philip. "You okay?"

"Fine, jus' thinkin'," he said quietly. "I'm gonna have ta leave the Church if we ge' custody." He
sat back, leaning into Nick's touch. "The Arch-Bishop made tha' very clear."

"Not necessarily. There is a priest in New York..." Derek started.

"But this Arch-Bishop makes the rules for this diocese. I can' go around him or above him on

"Philip, we'll talk to him if you want us to," Nick offered. "I'm sure we can make him see reason."

"He only sees his own reasons."

"Uncle Phi'ip, if'n you have ta leave the Church for me, I don' wan' ya to. Your callin's more
importan' than I am. Don' do it for me." She came over and hugged him tightly. "Don' let them
push ya out becausea me and mine." She kissed him on the forehead and left the room before
anyone could stop her. Nick and Philip followed her, yelling for her to stop and wait up for them
while Derek went to talk with Mei Ling.

"I'm sorry about that. We've just had some very unwelcome news about her family," he told her.

"That's all right, Derek, that I understand. I heard her crying in the hall. We can continue this
some other time. I'll send your copy of the papers out today." She got up, and he followed her to
the living room.

"Are you sure?"

"Derek, I'm not upset by this." She turned to face him, pulling him close. "She's the one in need
right now, and I agree with you on helping her with this. Don't worry about us, you can call when
things settle down some and we'll come back out for a longer visit." She kissed him. "Even old
ghosts have to take time out from their families to be with others who need them." She walked
over to the couch and picked up her daughter. "Call us, and we'll come," she flipped over her
shoulder and left the castle.


Nick was pounding on Alana's bedroom door. She had just made it ahead of them and locked
herself in.

"Come on, Alana Julia, open up, let us in. Please." He slapped the door in frustration.

"Alana," Philip called, "open this door right now and act your age!"

"She is," Alex said from behind them. "Why don't you let us talk. She'll listen to me."

Nick nodded and moved to the other side of the hall. Philip followed him, pulling Nick to sit with
him on the carpet.

"Alana, honey, it's Alex. Let me in. They won't come with me, I promise." The door unlocked
and she went inside. "Hi," she said, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Want to talk about it?"

"No' really," she said, throwing clothes into her bags. "I can' let him leave his callin' jus' for me,
an' I can' go back with her, so I'm leavin'." She threw another thing in, grunting in frustration
when Alex took it out to fold it neatly. "Don' do that."

"You'll fit more in if you fold it." She pulled out the rest of the clothes and started to fold them
too. "He doesn't mind leaving his calling if it's for a good reason. I know he's been close to
leaving before."

"I don' care. I'm no' a goo' enough reason."

"Why not? You're his family. He told us before you came that you were like his daughter. I'd
say that was reason enough, family usually is." Alex placed the folded clothes back in the bags.
"He was torn up when your father died. He almost left then, over his doubts. So why aren't you
important enough for him to leave?"

"'Cause I'm no' his. I'm his niece, no' his daughter. I'm up there in his lis' of priorities, bu' I don'
deserve to be tha' high up." She sat down next to Alex's back, making the older woman shift. "I
don' wan' ta cause him harm by my being here, I never did. Now he has ta leave the only thin' he's
known since he was a chil' like me for me. If tha' makes sense."

"Of course it does. You don't want him to sacrifice one of the most important parts of his life for
another." She reached around to grab her in a hug. "Do saints run in your family?"


"Well, you're denying yourself for his sake, and he's doing the same thing. Isn't that one of the
signs of a saint?"

Alana laughed. "No' quite. There's also the part about three miracles." She sobered up. "Bu' I see
wha' ya mean. We need ta talk abou' this. Before she gets here."

"Yes, you do. And you left two very upset men sitting in the hall."


"What, you thought Nick ran after you because he didn't like you?" They giggled, then Alana
went to let the men in her life in.

%%%%% (6 months)

"Doctor Rayne," their defense attorney asked, "how did you come to be associated with this child

"She's one my colleagues nieces. Her mother sent her to him while she was pregnant, for the
distinct purpose of hiding her. Since then, she's become like my own niece, and closer to my
other colleagues."

"And do you understand what full custody entails in relation to her?"

"Yes, sir. And we're already doing everything that we can. We've set up a home schooling
program for her, focusing on her strong area of languages. We've set her up with medical care,
and have supported her psychologically and emotionally thoughout her stay with us."

"So, you've been acting as an alternate parent, all of you have, since she got there, right?"

"Yes, we have."

"Thank you, no further questions at this time."

"Doctor Rayne," Alana's mother's attorney asked, "what does the Luna Foundation do?"

"We do research on artifacts, find their origin and such things."

"Don't you also go out and investigate paranormal activities? Before you answer, we have sworn
statements about your other line of work."

"Yes, we have, in the past, debunked a few fraudulent psychics and the like."

"The like? I have a sworn statement here that you've rid a house of ghosts, another that you kept
a child alive under psionic attack, and many more like them. You see, an ad in the paper brought
all these people out to sing your praises. Now, should I repeat the question?"

"Yes, we have done all those things, and others like getting a child out of jail and helping him
afford a lawyer and other acts. We've lent our lab to various people who needed it to solve a case
because we have a more modern facility than some places could afford. Some of that had to do
with debunking frauds too."

"That's nice. So, this child is around these happenings, and by her presence you're putting her in
danger, am I right?"

"No. We don't usually have anything happen at the house, barring one or two notable exceptions,
and she wasn't there for those. We also wouldn't bring her with us if we were needed to help on
such a case. She stays at the house, studying and helping us translate books for the local diocese's
new database."

"She's translating books for you? Please Doctor, what could she tell you about them?"

"She's fluent in many languages. She's been working on this project with her Uncle almost since
she got here, when she volunteered to do it."

"She volunteered? Why would a normal, active teen volunteer to sit and read old musty books all
day? Mine wouldn't."

"Yours may not speak four languages fluently, and read another fifteen either. She asked what we
were doing, and when found out what it was, asked if she could help."

"If you say so." He turned around to get some more papers on his desk. "How often does she
get out of the house?"

"At least once a week when she feels up to it. She and either her Uncle, Mr. Boyle, or Ms.
Moreau take her into the city to a museum or art gallery. Other times, she goes to the mall or
walking in the park. If she's not feeling well, then she puts it off for a few days. There are also
the days she goes to the doctor for check-ups. She usually eats out those days and comes home
after doing some shopping."

"So, normal activities?"

"Yes, as far as I know. I don't know much about what modern teenagers do." He shrugged.

"I see. And you're happy with how she conducts her life?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, are you sure she's happy with what she's doing?"

"I would say yes, she seems to be."

"Thank you, one last question." He looks down at the floor. "Are you and her Uncle lover's?"

Derek thought for a minute, then answered truthfully, kind of. "He and I were once in love, and
have laid together on occasion. But, he has worked that out with the Church authorities long

"Do you love him now?"

"I will always love him, but we haven't had sex, if that's what you're asking, in a long time."

The lawyer grunted. "Thank you, no more questions."

"Doctor Arkadi, would you please state your qualifications in regards to this case?" the Legacy
defense lawyer asked.

"I'm an obstetrician, specializing in problem pregnancies and subspecializing in teen pregnancies.
I'm the doctor of record for Alana Julia Callahan. I'm also listed on the top twenty list in my main
specialty area in the United States."

"Thank you doctor, and have you been her doctor for long?"

"Almost since she got here. It was discovered her first night by a Doctor working at the Luna
Foundation, Doctor Corrigan, that she was spotting. She was taken to the emergency room at
General, where I was called in."

"And why did you agree to take this case out of rotation? I've learned that it wasn't your call
night, so why did you accept the call?"

"Doctor Bisher, the E.R. doctor, called me personally and asked me to take the case. She
described the problem, and I agreed because I knew I could not only handle it, but hopefully
deliver the children with as little trauma to her as possible."

"Would you please put that last part in plain english?" the judge asked.

"In layman's terms, her size and weight problems could make her pregnancy damaging to her
body. I understand her reasons for not aborting, and can accept them, so I'm doing my best to not
let the pregnancy hurt her body any more than is necessary." She turned towards the judge. "A
child this young, a normal pregnancy could disable for life if not monitored closely. In her case
she's carrying twins, joined ones, and that presents special problems in addition to the normal

"Thank you, Doctor, " the judge said. "Carry on."

"Thank you. So, Doctor, she's in a lot of trouble physically?"

"Not really. We've added some weight to her and that's helped. She's had a lot of loving support
from the people at the Luna Foundation, and that's helped further. She's doing about as well as
can be expected for a pregnant twelve year old. Most of the foreseeable problems will be in the
next trimester, she's only six months along right now."

"So, she may end up on bed rest, or in the hospital?"

"Yes, she may. Or we may end up inducing in her seventh month to save her life."

"So you do know her case well, and have a plan and backups in place to deal with all
eventualities, and have informed her caregivers of them?"

"Yes, I have. Her Uncle and Mr. Boyle usually come to the office with her, asking as many
questions as possible. Those two have kept her spirits up, kept her eating, and kept her from
doing stupid things like swimming in the bay."

"Thank you, no further questions."

"Doctor," the other lawyer asked, standing up, "how long have you been a doctor?"

"Since graduation, or my residency?"

"Residency please?"

"Eight years."

"And you are presently numbered what on that top twenty list?"

"Somewhere around fifteen overall, around five on the west coast."

"Really? And how did you get there?"

"Last year, I delivered almost fifteen hundred children, two thirds of those teens."

"So, you have a lot of experience with this area?"

"To say the least, sir. Why?"

"I'll ask the questions, Doctor, if you please. Is there anyone in the field that you would defer

"Yes, and I've called to check with all three of them on her case as they've all had similar ones. All
of them are on the east coast, and will help me at a minute's notice if I need it."

"So, you haven't handled a case that's like her's before."

"Her case is rare, very very rare. There are around ten documented cases in the United States of
people her age having co-joined twins from lack of expansion room." She shifted some more
getting comfortable. "You see, her twins are fraternal, but they grew together because of lack of

"And did her age cause this?"

"No, not really. That sheet contraption her aunt put on her did."


"It's a long piece of fabric, wrapped tightly around the stomach and then through the legs to bind
the stomach in. It caused her stomach and uterus to not be able to expand as necessary, as it was
worn through the first trimester."

"So, her aunt put this on her?"

"That's what Alana told us, yes."

"Thank you."

"If I may," the Legacy lawyer stood up. The judge nodded. "Doctor Arkadi, what would happen
to a doctor if they placed such a binding on a patient?"

"Over here, they would be brought up on charges in front of their board. Over there, I'm sure it's
a similar process, but her aunt isn't a doctor, she's a midwife. An unlicensed and untrained one at

"Thank you."

"Doctor," the other lawyer asked, "have you talked to her doctor over there about this?"

"I didn't find it, so can only pass on what was told to me, as I have done in a signed letter. Doctor
Corrigan has talked to him as she found it and has sworn out a letter also on behalf of Alana."

"Thank you."

"Father, are you her paternal or maternal uncle?" The other lawyer asked.

"Paternal. Her father was my younger brother."

"And her mother *sent* her daughter to you? Why would a mother do that?"

"Because I've been like a father to the girl since she was born. Her own was out of the country
for months after her birth, so I acted in his stead."

"So, you're close."


"And would you say that Alana would run away from home to come to you?"

"Yes, but she didn't."

"Father, that letter she had in her possession, her mother said she never wrote it. Her mother also
said she never sent the child over."

"We have phone logs and automatic taping of incoming calls if you want it at the Luna

"I see. And are you and Doctor Rayne prepared to show them as evidence?"

"Yes, we found them last week. We erase them every six months, so we pulled those tapes."

"I see. Father, do you know of any reason why her mother shouldn't take care of her during this
trying time?"

"Yes, I do."

"Come again?"

"Yes, I do. Her mother said, plainly, that she couldn't deal with the shame of her daughter being
pregnant at such an age, and especially with who the father is."

"And the father would be..."

"A young man who is reported to be entering the clergy himself this winter."

"Oh, my, so your niece slept with a soon-to-be priest? That would be humiliating."

"He wasn't one yet, and he's allowed to date until he takes his first orders before seminary."

"Oh, I see. And what about your vows?"

"My vows?"

"Do you hold to them?"

"Yes, I hold to both my vows to the Church and to God."

"What about your vow of chastity? You see, I think it's your influence that led the poor girl

Philip laughed. "My vows and their upholdin' is not what led her astray. Her mother is differ'nt
since her husband died. She's changed in many ways, not all of them pleasant. Her daughter
went unwatched many nights while she went out. She lef' her children in the care of an eleven
year old, who didn't have any way of contacting her or anybody else if something happened. I
know it wasn't my fault that this happened. If her mother had taken better care of her..."

"Yes, father, I'm sure we've heard this argument before." He sighed and walked in front of Philip.
"You didn't answer my question."

"What, abou' my vow of chastity? Any time I've broken it, I've confessed and gotten absolution.
My Arch-Bishop knows that is a weakness of mine, and we've worked on it."

"So, you did break your vow?"

"Yes, in the past."

"Thank you, father."

"Mr. Boyle, what is your relationship with Father Callahn and Doctor Rayne?"

"We're co-workers and friends."

"I object to his perjury," the other lawyer said.

"Shut up, you'll get your turn to counter." The judge said, tapping his fingers.

"To answer his question, were you in the past lovers with both of them?"

"Yes, I was." He sighed and leaned forward. "When I got to the Luna Foundation, I was hurt.
Mentally and emotionally hurt. Derek and Philip cured that. I owe them my life, and my eternal
love. No matter what happens later in life, I'll always love both of them for it."

"Thank you, that's sweet." Nick smiled at her. "So, you are not presently pursuing a relationship
with either?"

"We've talked about it, but we've not come to a decision about it. If Philip is forced to leave the
Church when he gets custody, then things may change, but for right now, we are friends and very

"And you help the Father with Alana?"

"Yes, she's like a little sister to me. I protect her, help her, teach some of her classwork, make
sure she eats, shop with her, and am there when she needs to let go and lean on someone. She's a
very strong young woman, but this is taking a toll on her."

"I can understand fully. And do you think she's happy and better off there?"

"Yes, to both. She likes what's she's doing with the books, and she likes being part of our family
out there, and she's happy."

"Thank you." She sat down, and looked at the other lawyer, "Your turn."

"Mr. Boyle, are you sure you're not in a relationship with either of them right now?"

"I'm sure we're not having sex right now, but we will always have some sort of relationship,
whether it be friendship or what we have now."

"So, you're not sleeping with them?"

"Sex, no, sleeping, on occasion. When I'm asked, or if I have nightmares or flashbacks. They
told me I could crawl in with either of them if I needed support though the night."

"So, in your innocent cuddling through a hard night, nothing happens."

"Not to me. I'm so tired most nights that I can't see straight by the time I fall into bed."

"So if, right now, you were not tired and they offered to sleep with you, meaning sexual contact,
would you take them up on it?"

"If they needed me to comfort them, hold them, yes I would. If they wanted me to comfort them
that way, it might happen, but no one can say for sure."

"That isn't an answer."

"Sorry, I don't do hypotheticals very well. If one or both of them came up to me right now and
asked me to make love to them, would I?" Alana's mother's attorney nodded. "I ... I don't

"That still isn't an answer."

"Sorry, but I don't know. I won't until it happens. I might not feel like it, or they might say they
want it, but really want to be held instead. Things like that happen in adult relationships; you
realize it's okay to just hold one another when you feel like you need it."

"Hmmm. Okay, so what will happen during the delivery?"

"We've agreed that, since she's going the c-section and full surgery route, that Philip and I will
take turns wearing out the hallway outside the operating room."

"You'll wait to see a child that isn't yours? Worry about her while she's in there and all?"

"Yes. I see the people out there like my family. She's just adding to it. So I'll worry and wait
with her Uncle."

"That's extraordinary. Many men won't do that for their own children, much less the child of a
friend of theirs. Why would you do that? Are you attracted to the young lady in question?"

Nick laughed. "Oh, now you are being stupid. I like women, not girls. She could be like my own
daughter with as much time as we spend together working and learning. I don't think, even when
I was that age, that I would have been attracted to her. I like older women, not younger."

"And men."

"And men," Nick said.

"Thank you, Mr. Boyle."

"While," the judge started out, "I find that the arrangement out at the Luna Foundation is unusual
at the best, I see no reason for Alana Julia Callahan to not live with them. Her biological mother
has not shown a reason for her to be taken from them, and by her earlier actions has proven that
she doesn't want the burden of the child. I would give custody to Father Philip Callahan, the
paternal uncle, and his friends out there with the stipulation that social services keep an eye on the
child's welfare until such a time as she is able to do so on her own." He pounded the gavel, and
Alana jumped up to hug her uncle.

"Oh, thank you, Uncle Phil'ip!"

"You're welcome Julia. Now let's go home."

"Nah, let's go eat," Nick said, getting his own hug.

"Okay, let's go eat." Alana seconded.


Alana received her aunt in the Library. She was sitting calmly at the long table, books spread out
before her. She smiled at Dominic when he showed the elderly woman in.

"I see you've made yoursel' at home."

"Yes, aunt I have." She pushed out a chair with her foot. "Please, sit, let's talk."

"Yes, I thin' we shoul'." Her aunt sat, staring at the room around her, coming back to face her
niece with a hard stare. "You've gotten what you wanted again."

"Yes, ma'am. I've gotten the love I deserve and people that care about my well being." She
shifted. "How's Mother taking this?"

"Now's a fine time to ask abou' her. She's heartbroken that her eldest doesn' love her anymore."

"I love her, jus' not what she's become." She looked down at the table. "You know wha' was
goin' on. It's not my fault," she whispered, "that she's datin' the local priest or that she sen' me to
ya to make me miscarry."

"She did no'. An' I woul' never intentionally make anyone miscarry. That sheet woul' have helped
you stay small."

"It's helped them be deformed, not small."

"She's fulla it. No matter wha' her fancy instruments say, I know my business. I've been doing it
for close to twenty years." Her eyes were flashing, she was sitting ramrod straight, staring in
anger at her niece. "An' don' you forget it either."

"Oh, I won' forget it. I also won' forget to mention how many of your patients have miscarried
and died because of you."

"How dare you!" She stood up, ready to leave, but Philip coming in stopped that.

"Oh, we dare, we do. We also dare to tell the authorities over there and her old obstetrician abou'
your patients." He stood next to the older woman. "No' only tha' but we also dare you to come
near thi' child, or any other, again. I'll no' let you or her mother hurt her. Ever. Do you

"Yes, very well." She walked out of the room, right into the arms of the police. She was pulled
away, screaming about how Alana was carrying an unholy child and how she and they would go
to hell and take everyone here with them, and how her children were cursed by Satan to be

Philip kneeled down next to her, taking her hands off her ears and hugged her tightly. "She's
deranged. She didn' mean it." He held her while she cried, rocking her gently against the pain
and hurt her family had spread to her. "Sshh, you're home now and it'll be fine." He pulled her
head up. "I promise, they'll never hurt you again."

She sniffled and went back to crying on his shoulder, happy tears this time.


"Alana. Wait up." Nick said. He and Derek had been walking in the garden and had found her.
She had walked away from them, giving them privacy. "Hey, little one." he said, hugging her
tightly. "We just got a call from your littler sisters and brothers."

"Really? How are they?"

"Better. They've went to live with your paternal Grandparents."

Derek came up and hugged her too. "We also were told about your aunt. It seems she's been
hurting those women on purpose. It's some form of dementia."

"Like a serial killer?" she asked.

"Yep, just like it." Nick said. "And they've stopped her from hurting anyone again. They also
found an old client list, so they've contacted those women also." He picked her up, swinging her
around. "She's stopped, and we're happy that you're safe from her."

"Oh, than' God," she said when she was put down. "Do they know wha' happened to make her
tha' way?"

"Yes," Derek said, pulling her over to a bench to sit down. "Apparently she lost her own child to
a midwife, so she's been recreating the circumstance, trying to change it."

"As Rachel would say, it's classic."

"Goo', then she'll never hurt another again." She giggled. "Oh, I bet her ma was beatin' on the
way to jail."

"Your younger brother said she took her purse and was beating her so hard she had to be pulled
off by guards." Nick said, tickling her. "Now, you, young lady are officially a member of this
house. No one can say different."

"Than' you both." She kissed Derek's cheek and Nick's forehead as she stood up with his help. "I
thin' I'll have a celebratory bowl of ice cream." She smile and headed for the kitchen, leaving the
men to their own devices.

They watched her waddle down the path, smiling and holding hands before going back to their

%%%%% (6 1/2 months)

Nick slid an omelet, one of his special oyster ones, off onto a plate for Alana Julia. "Here you go,
little one."

She snorted. "Where do ya see any little people aroun' here. I'm as big as a house."

"Not quite, maybe a trailer." He made his own plate and sat down next to her. "So, Raven's
today, right?"

She nodded, swallowing. "Ten thirty."

"Okay, so that gives me time to scan some more stuff into the diocese's database. I'll meet you
out front at nine."

"Okay." She scraped her plate, getting the last of the eggs off. "Thanks for makin' me breakfast."

"Well, yeah, you needed it."

"Did not!"

"Did too. I got yelled at last time because you hadn't gained more than a pound." He

She came over and gave him a hug. "Don't worry, I'll protec' ya from the big mean Doctor

"Which one?" Rachel asked coming in. She pulled a bottle of water out of the refrigerator and
opened it, leaning against the closed door.

"Raven. She's been on his case abou' my weight again."

"Oh, okay," she nodded. She left them alone, going back to her work.

They laughed when she was safely away. "Oh, she's so nice some day's, but other's..." Alana
giggled. "You'd think we'd grown another head."

"Hey, she likes you now, get used to it."

They laughed and went back to their respective jobs, watching the clock carefully.

%%%%% (7 months)

They were celebrating getting the diocese's database done, and their first hundred books onto
theirs. They were also celebrating coming together again; this was the first time they had truly
made love since Philip had gotten back. They had done quick licks and nibbles, a few hand jobs
and that morning after the first hospital trip, but the majority of the time it was cuddling and
talking until tonight.

Derek was sitting in a chair facing the bed, watching Nick tease Philip. "Bet you missed this,
huh, beautiful one?" Nick asked, settling himself down on Philip's stomach to better work on his

"Niiiccckkkk, get off me," he sighed, relaxing into the careful and tender massage he was
receiving, and trying to dodge the other hand that kept trying to tickle him. "An' I'm not

"Of course you are. Your our beautiful one," Derek said, handing Nick a bottle of oil. "Now lay
there and let him play, or I'll come join him."

"Derek, (laugh) Nick, stop that, you know I don't like to be tickled. Derek, love, I'm not beautiful.
I may be slightly handsome, but I'm *not* beautiful."

"Philip, accept the compliment," Nick whispered in his ear. "I know Derek would love to come
over and help me tickle you, so don't tempt him if you don't want it." He looked over his
shoulder at Derek, "Isn't that right, babe, don't tempt if you don't want it."

"He's tempting enough as is." Derek leaned over and gave them each a kiss, "And so are you, my
lovely Nick."

"Ah, Derek, you're gonna make me blush if you don't stop." Nick stoked Philip's shoulders,
gently arousing him to his state. "Derek, would you like to strip and join us?"

"Not just yet, loves, I want to watch first."

"Okay," Nick said, running fingers over Philip's chest. "Oh, and Philip, is it too late to apologize
for doing that to you that morning?"

"What, with your finger? No' a problem love, it didn't hurt me any." He leaned up and kissed his
younger lover. "I love ya, and I know ya didn' mean ta hurt me the first time either."

"I'm still sorry about it. I should have asked first. And I should have known better than to keep
you that aroused for that long. It was selfish of me to do that." He looked down, laying in the
middle of the chest to be hugged.

"Nick, look at me." Philip said, pulling him up. "I'm no' mad. I liked it. You liked it, so did
Derek. We all loved it, you keeping us up like tha' for hours. It was jus' bad luck that I had a
weak spot that chose to rupture at that precise moment." He kissed him again. "I've never felt
anything like that before, it was so intense, and the release was whole, not partial. Wha' I'm trying
to say is tha' if I could do it again, I would. I loved the care and patience you took with me that
night. Being aroused for so long a time was good, it purged a lot out of me when I finished."

"Really?" Nick looked pleased. "I'm glad. But not even if you ask me will I do that to you

"Nick, I've asked the doctor, and he said I was in that space too long, that's all. I can do lesser
amounts of time, if I want to, and it'll be okay."

"Nick," Derek said, coming up behind him. "I've checked too. It's okay to do it, but three hours
was too long, no matter how much we begged."

"Well, I still don't think I'll be doing it again anytime soon."

"Of course you won'. Tonight you're ours." Philip said, tweaking a nipple. "We get to have you
as our very own toy."

"Oh, I like that. And here I thought you would be mine, Philip."

Philip shook his head, laughing. "Nope, Derek and I got together and outvoted you. We've got
those ties you used to like and you're ours."

"Nick," Derek asked, slipping a spit moistened finger in him, "are you ready?"

"Yeah, cleaned and everything. Oh, yeah, love. Just like that." He squirmed on the finger, letting
it open him up. He didn't see Philip reach under the pillows and grab the nylon and leather ties or
attach them to him and the bed. "Oh, yeah, more."

"Do it yourself, love," Derek said, moving back to his chair.

"We want to see you stretch yourself." Nick moved and Philip moved to the end of the bed to see
better. "The lube is beside you under the middle pillow."

"Nick, you remember that you have no say from now on right, except to end it, right?" He
nodded, and slipped out the bottle of lube. "Goot, so let us pleasure you like you did us."

"Derek, I don't know if I can ...."

"Nick, shut up." Philip said. "You can let go for us. We know you can. Now do as you're told
or else." He wiggled his eyebrows. "Ours. Remember that."

Nick smiled at them. "If that's what you really want." He laid back, moving the straps until they
were out of his way. He had just enough room to move around on the bed, but not an inch past
the end. "How much and how far?"

"Wet, and jus' to two fingers. We'll do the rest."

Nick nodded, and poured some of the cold liquid on his fingers, smoothing it around with his
thumb until it warmed. He spread his legs, knees up, so they could see and moved a finger down
to tease and flick the opening to his body, the one they would use later. He flicked the tiny flaps
of muscle, running the finger in circles to relax them. Soon he was relaxed, opening some to
allow the finger access. He added more lube to his fingers and dipped one inside, just barely, to
brush the walls with the wetness. "Oohh," he groaned, liking it. The lube had heated once inside
of him. It was like a miniature heat source targeting the sensitive walls. He twisted the finger,
shoving it in further and groaned some more, moving on it, forgetting where he was and that he
was doing it to himself. Philip squirted some more lube on his fingers and he added a second one,
spreading the wet around more, searching for his prostate to rub against. When he found it, he
arched up, trying to rub his hard cock on something. Derek smiled and came over to run a finger
up the underside of it. "Yes, more," he begged, trying to slip another finger in.

"No, Nick" Philip whispered. "It's our turn to play now."

"Yes, play," he said, opening his eyes. "Play. Please?"

"Yes, love," Derek whispered from the other side. "We'll play and you'll love it." He motioned
for Philip to get the things from the drawer. When they were up on the bed, he selected the first
one, wetting it down with more lube and stuck the tiny dildo in, moving it in small circles.

"Oh, Derek, yes, more, please," he shoved his body down onto it, seeking more stimulus.

Philip had been lubing up a larger one, a vibrating one, and handed it off to Derek while taking
the other back. He watched as Derek turned it on, sending Nick into orbit when he teased the
ring of muscles at his opening, not pushing it inside, just moving it along the tender petals of
tissue. Nick was arching off the bed, whining and moaning with the sensation. Derek turned it
off and slipped it inside, using it to fuck his lover before hitting his prostate and turning it back on
to sit against it for a second.

Nick has long since gotten hard, but when the vibrating started against his prostate, his cock
jumped, starting to leak fluid. Philip leaned over and licked it off, handing Derek a new toy, this
one a small vibrating plug that didn't go much past the outer ring.

He raised an eye, taking it from his younger lover and quickly changed them out. "You're trying
to send him to the same place he sent you?" he whispered, grabbing a kiss before swiping a finger
across the head of Nick's cock and running it along Philip's lips.

Philip nodded, licking off the offering and sucked the finger into his mouth. He lipped and licked
the digit, showing him what was coming for him. When he released the finger, he leaned over
and kissed Nick. "Getting there love?"

"Yeah, oh, yes, more, please," he arched into Derek's chest, shoving his head up to kiss Philip.
"Take me to that spot again, please?"

"Of course we will, Nick," Derek said softly, rubbing the hardness pushing against him. "You'll
go so far up into sub space that you won't want to come back down."

"Yes," he begged.

Philip gave him another kiss while Derek changed to a lager toy, tipping it with more of the mint
lube. "Easy love, this one is bigger." Nick nodded and Derek eased it in, seating it firmly before
turning it so the spot of lube was resting against his prostate. "Good, love?"

"YES!" Nick shouted, feeling the heat penetrate and arching up to find more. He came back
down whimpering, the hard plastic had hurt some.

"Love, you know better. Let it heat you, and you'll not feel the pain when you arch up again, it'll
feel good." Philip bit a nipple, pulling it away from his body and letting it snap back. "Pretty
soon, it'll all feel good."

Nick nodded, letting Derek control the thrusts of the new toy, letting him control the speed,
depth, and force of the thrusts. He was moving steadily now, lost to this world.

"Nick," Derek asked, "do you want more?" He nodded, so Derek added a larger dildo, earning
him a grunt in appreciation. "Nick, look at me." The younger man looked up, panting heavily, so
he stopped moving the toy until he came down. "How far do you want to go?"


"No, Nick, you know what I mean, how large do you want?" He moved so Philip could pull
some out. He held up a few large ones, better than average size and a few novelty ones, one
wide, and the other long. "Do you want the larger or smaller ones."

Nick moved, trying to get the thrusting going again, but Derek and it wouldn't cooperate, forcing
him to come down a little. He looked over them, touching them, and pointed to one of the better
than average, but not novelty sized ones. "That one please." He let his hand fall back when
Derek started to play with him again.

"Good. We'll keep you up that long and you'll get that one. Soon, love, soon."

"You...two," he panted, riding the artificial cock. "Please?"

"Oh, yes, love," Philip said, leaning over to kiss Derek across his body. "You'll ge' both of us a
few times tonight."

Nick hummed and Derek switched again, letting this one be smaller. Nick groaned, but Derek
used it so well, soon he was back up into another world.

Derek switched off with Philip, letting the younger man thrust into their younger lover for a while
so he could kiss and fondle him. He laid his head in Philip's lap, sucking the head of his cock into
his mouth to play with it. Philip groaned and moved some so he could have better access while
playing with Nick. He grabbed another one, this one much larger and shoved it in, making Nick
arch up into it.

"Nick" he said.

"Umm, Philip?"

"You do it for a while and watch us." Philip shoved the toy in all the way, helping Nick up to his
knees. "That's it love, watch Derek pleasure me and me him." He moved Nick's hand to the end
of the toy and set the pace for him. "Keep it up and you're next."

Nick grinned, and moved onto all fours so they could watch the toy and he could watch them.
"Yes, sir."

Derek chuckled, licking across the top of Philip's cock before letting it go. "If I knew that this
was all it took to get that phrase from you, we would have done this to you sooner." He helped
Philip lay down, arraigning them so Nick could watch him suck on Philip and not stop his own
rhythm. "Good, Nick, harder," he asked and swallowed Philip whole.

Philip's hips came up off the bed, pushing himself farther down Derek's throat. He groaned,
setting up a quick pace, and looking over at Nick. "You're next, but only if you keep it up."

Nick nodded and moved the hard plastic harder and faster, moving slightly so Philip could see
how he was doing.

Derek came off Philip, and they switched places, Philip suckling on Derek, and Derek playing
with Nick. "Come on Nick, you can do it." He moved the toy a little faster. "For me?"

Nick nodded and moved it faster, trying to match Philip's rhythm on Derek's cock. When his
movements got jerky, Derek stopped him, telling him to lay down for a minute while he let Philip

"Do ya wan' me ta, or are ya teasin' him again?"

"Teasing. But you can suck on him if you like. He should be far enough down now to take the
oral stimulation well." They moved around, rolling Nick onto his side, Philip in front and Derek
in back, and opened his legs, leaning the top one forward. "Are ya ready Nick?" He nodded, not
yet down enough to speak and Philip gave him a smile. "Would ya like to be licked, love, all
over?" He nodded again, and pulled his top leg up, resting it on Philip's shoulder. Philip laughed
and bent to lick the luscious and leaking hardness in front of him.

Derek had removed the dildo, testing the hole with a finger. He smiled at Philip, who was
suckling hard and bent to taste his lover for the first time in ages. Nick arched into his tongue,
making it go deeper, then forward when Philip nibbled on the head, setting up an agonizing
rhythm between them.

He was so close, but they knew that, so stopped. They leaned over his hip, tasting through their
kisses what the other had been eating. Nick moaned, coming back down slightly. He grunted,
letting them know he was still there.

Derek looked down at him, and stuck a finger that he let Philip wet into the tight hole. "Are you
ready for us yet?" Nick rode the finger, taking his pleasure from it.

"Looks like it for now." He grabbed the lube, smearing it over Derek and himself. "Go ahead, I
wan' ta watch." He held Nick's leg while Derek entered him smoothly and stroked the hard cock
rubbing against his with his other hand, watching Derek disappear into the body of their lover.

"More," Nick whispered, and he got his wish. Philip sped up, and Derek pounded him hard and
fast, pulling out before he came. Nick whimpered, but Derek and Philip switched places and soon
he was filled again, this time soft and gentle and slow. He closed his eyes, knowing that it wasn't
time yet, so he relaxed and enjoyed his handlers.

Derek saw him give into the feelings and pulled Philip away from him. They sat cuddled at the
end of the bed, waiting for Nick to come down some before handing him the last toy. When Nick
came to enough to look for them, Philip handed him the toy he had selected, a big nine inch long
one that was four fingers thick.

"How," he whispered.

"Hands and knees, facing us." Derek said. "That way we can tell you when to stop."

Philip handed him more lube, and watched him wet the 'realistic feeling' plastic down, getting
enough on there to drip off. Nick got into the desired position and turned to face his lovers.

"Yes, love, soon and you'll have both of us and we'll let you down." Philip ran a hand down the
tired legs. "Soon and you'll come screaming and release all the bad things to us."

"Okay," he murmured. He turned his head, watching in the mirror across the room as the toy
slipped into him and smiled at his lovers. "Good?"

They nodded and let Nick set the pace, like he had shown them how to, letting him use himself for
their pleasure. Derek gently stroked Philip's erection, making it come back harder. Nick watched
them kiss, letting their hunger for each other wash over him. He slowly sped the pushes up,
getting hotter and hotter, watching Derek devour Philip's nipples and Philip leaning over to lick at
the wet cock in his lap. Nick was close, very close, and he knew it wasn't time yet, he didn't want
it to end. He took out the toy, flinging it away, and pushing Philip down on the bed for a kiss.
"Mine" he growled, plundering the mouth while Derek entered him for the last time. He worked
his way down Philip's chest, sending his hips higher and squeezing the globes tighter around
Derek's cock, making him slap one of them to let him go. He looked around, but Derek had his
eyes closed, letting the hunger take him. Philip got out from under him and was stroking his back,
murmuring words of encouragement to both of them, waiting for his turn.

Derek yelled, shooting himself into the tight, wet, hole and pulled out, letting Philip take his place
while he licked Nick, moving the younger man so he could reach his cock.

Philip saw the problem he was having, so he pulled Nick up onto his knees, spreading them so
Derek could reach him and he could go deeper to trigger off Nick's release. He pushed up hard,
making Nick arch back into him, letting Derek take him into his mouth.

"No, not time yet, not yet," Nick said, trying to get away, but they didn't let him go.

"Yes, Nick, ya can't take any longer, it'll hurt ya," Philip whispered into his ear. "Let us do this
for you. Let us give you release." Nick nodded, so Philip thrust up again and again, hitting the
prostate over and over. Nick came with a scream, shuddering and having to be held up by Philip.
His muscles tightened and squeezed Philip until he came too, shooting up into his willing and
softening body.

Derek licked as much as he could, swallowing as fast as he could, but when he couldn't take any
more, he grabbed Nick so Philip could have some too. He laid the still squirting man on the bed,
letting Philip take over and drink from him. They shared a messy kiss, after he had finished, and
scooped up some of the drips to feed each other.

Nick came around, moaning in pleasure. Philip moved up his body, taking some of the sticky
cream with him, feeding it to him also, letting him see how good it was. "Hi," he said, licking off
the offered fingers. "Umm, thanks." He watched Derek get off the bed and head for the
bathroom for some water and a cloth. He kissed Philip again, not complaining when he moved off
to the side to make way for Derek, who kissed him while he worked.

"Do you want a ..."

Nick nodded and Philip pulled a plug off the tray of toys, handing it to Derek.

Derek looked up at him, "Are you sure?"

"Um-hm, I want to wake up still full."

"Nick, love, there's no danger of anything else. We don' mind if you leak during the nigh' either.
It'll be goo' to wake up sticky."

Derek smiled at him and handed back the plug. "No, we still own you, and we want to be able to
check on you if we wake up." He undid the straps around Nick's wrists and took them off the
bed, throwing them aside to be cleaned in the morning with the toys. Philip pulled off the extra
sheet, and settled Nick under the covers.

"Sleep love, and le' us hold you tonight," was whispered in his ear, but he never heard it, already
asleep from exhaustion.


Nick woke up, rolling onto his side and off his sore bottom. He rolled partially onto a hard chest,
not knowing or caring which of his lover's it belong to and groaned. They had used him well last

Philip raised his head from the other side of Derek's chest and smiled at Nick. "Sore," he

Nick nodded, "How long was I up?"

"A little over an hour," Derek murmured, bringing his arm around to caress the back of Nick's
head. "You were beautiful like that."

"If you say so," he whispered, moving his butt again so he could find a soft spot for it. "So, good
morning, how are both of you feeling?"

"Goot," Derek said, letting his hand fall to Nick's back, traveling lower. "Are you very sore,

"Not really, just a surface ache from unstretching." He shrugged, liking where Derek was
heading. "I think I need to be stretched again for it to stop hurting." He smiled at his two men.
"I really do."

"If you say so," Philip said, climbing on top of Derek's thighs. He grabbed a kiss from his older
lover, reaching a hand down to snag the younger one's hand to pull it to him, letting him play with
his hard and leaking morning erection. "If ya wan' it, ya gotta earn it."

"Philip," Derek said, moving his own hand down to help Nick's, "that's mean, my love. Next
you'll be telling me that you want to have us all ride each other." He shook his head.

"Coul' we?" Philip smiled, getting a dreamy look. "I've always wan'ed to."

"Philip, I would be honored to help you fulfill a fantasy, but that one?" He shook his head. "Do
you know what that entails?"

"Yeah, you in me, and me in him," he said, ruffling Nick's hair. "Or anythin' like that." He smiled
brightly at Derek. "Please?"

Derek laughed, shaking his head. "I never could refuse you anything, could I. Okay, so how
would you like to do this?"

"Yes," was all Philip said, leaning down for a kiss.

Nick chuckled at his enthusiasm and grabbed the lube from where he had left it last night. He
slipped a wet finger into Philip's bent over body, letting it sink in, before twisting it around to start
opening him up for Derek. When he was moaning and moving backwards, he added another
finger, scissoring them to open him further. He knew he liked to be under-stretched, so he could
feel more of it, so he left it there, holding him while Philip seated himself on Derek.

"Nick, do me too please," he grunted, taking his first thrust up into the willing body laying on him.

"But I wanted to bottom too," he pouted and began to stretch Derek.

"Oh, you will, but we'll switch around some. I want to be in you as much as he does, so he'll get
the ultimate bottom position too, and maybe you too if there's enough time." He smiled, and
grabbed Philip's waist to slow him down.

"That's what I like about having older lovers, they take longer to finish." He smiled and added a
second finger to Derek, who would want four, like usual. "Arch up a little, love, and let me in
farther," he said from around Philip's side. Derek did as he was told and Nick sunk in another
one, searching for his prostate. Finding it and making Derek arch up was one of his favorite
morning things.

Nick licked up Philip's back, adding another finger to Derek and twisting them to open him
enough for Philip to get into him. He pulled out, and moved to kneel beside his lovers, who were
rocking gently, waiting for him. "So how Philip?"

"Climb on," he said, patting his thighs. Derek groaned, but held him steady while he seated
himself, pushing down to seat Philip firmly in him. Derek pushed up hard, making Philip arch
up, and pushing him into Nick, who pushed back down, sending him tighter onto Derek.

"Oh, Got," Derek whispered, liking it. He let them ride for a little longer, liking the feeling and
being able to watch both of their faces. When he wanted more, he slapped Nick's thigh lightly.
"Get off, switch places."

Nick nodded and climbed off, helping Philip off and laying him down on the bed. "Your turn." He
felt Derek hold him steady, wanting him in the middle, so he climbed back onto Philip's lap and
held still while Derek got on him. Philip groaned at the additional weight and pushed up a little.
Nick squeezed him, holding him tightly while he pushed up into Derek, giving his oldest lover a
hard ride. Philip was moaning, getting closer, so Nick helped Derek up, getting on top of him,
and letting Philip ride Derek to completion.

Derek felt Philip come, but he wasn't that close, so he continued to ride the softening cock while
giving it to Nick hard. "More," he grunted.

Nick took him at his word and slid off on an upstroke, pulling Derek back to the mattress and
getting back on. "Mine now," he whispered. He rode hard, setting a brisk pace that he knew
Derek would appreciate. Derek came, crying loudly and spilling hard into him, but Nick wasn't
done yet, so he climbed off, asking for silent permission to be inside his oldest lover. It was
given, and he pushed inside, loving the tightness of his hole. "Oh, yes, you're mine now, all mine."
He pulled on Philip's arm, moving him onto Derek's chest so he could play with his hole too. He
licked a finger, shoving it inside the slightly wet, hot space, and mimicked his actions on Derek.

Philip let Nick use him, knowing he couldn't get up again so fast, but he enjoyed Nick in these
moods. He kissed Nick, licking at his neck, making him tense and come with a shout. He helped
the younger man down, letting him fall gently onto Derek's chest, cuddling both of them and
waiting until they fell asleep to get up and grab a wet washcloth to clean them all.


It was almost nine when Nick woke. He looked at his position, laying on Derek's chest, Philip's
upper body on his, and groaned. Derek's back would be hurting him again soon. Philip had heard
him wake, and was sitting up, so he slid off in his direction, cuddling with the middle one of
them. They kissed softly, not wanting anything more, waiting to make sure Derek was okay.

Derek opened his eyes and moved his head to look at the quiet men beside him. He tried to roll
over to be with them, but he heard his back realign itself, popping loudly in the quiet house. He
groaned, grabbing at the offended muscles.

"Derek, you all right," Nick asked, moving off Philip to climb over and kneel behind his sore back.
He checked for a muscle spasm, but couldn't find anything. He checked the clock and grabbed
the phone. "I'm calling Rachel. And before you complain, I'm doing it unless you can get out of
this bed and stand up." He waited for Derek to say something, but he just nodded slowly and
rolled back onto his back. He dialed Rachel's cell phone, knowing she was somewhere in a
hospital making rounds at this time in the morning. "Rach, it's Nick. We need you, Derek threw
out his back." He got the answer he wanted and hung up. "Philip, we need to get him partially
dressed. Help me?"

The priest nodded and grabbed some clothes for all three of them from the dresser. He handed
Nick a pair of soft flannel boxers and some jeans, pulling on some of his own boxerbriefs. He
held out a pair of pajama bottoms for Derek and Nick slid a leg into each leghole, sliding them up
high enough for Philip to lift Derek's hips so they could get them on the rest of the way.

"Thank you," Derek whispered, still in pain. "It would have been most embarrassing to have her
find me like I was."

"That's true," Nick said, "she would have died of embarrassment." He ducked away from Philip's
playful swat and headed out of the room. "I'll go get us some coffee while we wait on her." He
blew them a kiss from around the door opening, making both men shake their heads.

"I'm sorry," Philip said. "I didn' mean ta hurt ya." He laid his head on the outside of Derek's
shoulder, his innate guilt taking over.

"Philip, it wasn't you, it was the three of us in that position, it was just too much. Next time, we'll
lay spooned up and do it that way." He leaned his head over, kissing the top of Philip's head.
"Don't worry so much, you didn't do anything wrong." He smiled when Philip looked up at him.

"Then it must be Nick's faul'. He was riding you too hard." He smiled, making it a joke and they
both laughed, cuddling together until Nick brought back a tray of breakfast for them.


Rachel knocked on the door, putting her head around. "Everyone decent?"

"Yeah, for almost an hour now that we've had our first cup of coffee." Nick said, moving off the
bed so she could sit beside Derek.

"So, is this something I want or need to know about?" She looked at them, both younger men
dressed, Alana sitting in the desk chair, Derek in the bed covered and in his pajamas.

Both the men shook their heads, and she nodded knowingly. "Okay, then, get out so I can poke
his back."

Alana stifled a giggle, and got helped up by Nick, ignoring his and Philip's dirty looks in her
direction. They headed out, her back to bed and them to stand talking in the hall.

"Do you think she was laughing at us, or was it the expression?" Nick asked him.

"Don' know, but I'll talk with her later." He frowned down the hall in the direction of her room.
"She didn' need to know abou' this."

Nick patted him on the back. "I think she already knew. Maybe even as soon as that night at the
hospital. We haven't been very discrete, and she hasn't said anything." He shrugged. "I'll talk to
her if you want."

Philip nodded, "It'll soun' better comin' from you, you're a frien' no' a paren'." He let his shoulders
fall, just as Rachel opened the door and let them back in.

"Okay, I'm assigning bed rest, for three *whole* days. And no sex, you two." She glared at them
to make sure they understood. "He can do nothing more than watch. Do I make myself clear?"
They nodded. "Okay, I've called in two prescriptions at the usual pharmacy, and they'll be waiting
on you when you bring Alana in for her check up this afternoon. He's to take *one* pain pill
*every four* hours, with a little food. It can upset his stomach, nothing major, and it can put him
to sleep. The other is something to help him sleep if he needs it. One of you is to come up every
hour or so and help him if he needs it. Walk him to the bathroom and the like. He's not to wear
anything binding or tight, including underwear, and he is *not* to get out of bed on his own. Do
I make myself understood plainly?" She looked around, giving her best Mother look to quell any
arguments. "Good. And I meant it." She gathered her things and left them, leaving to go back to
her rounds.


Nick pulled up outside the hospital entrance. They were early, so he put a hand on her arm,
keeping her in the Range Rover so they could talk. "Little one, I have a question. That laugh this

"Oh, it was for the expression. One a' my frien's is gay, and tha's what he used to say about how
he go' some." She looked over at him, big sorrowful puppy eyes out. "I'm sorry if I hur' ya with

"No, Philip and I were just wondering, that's all. We're worried that you're going to have
problems with our relationship. He didn't want you to feel uncomfortable with us, so I agreed to
ask you."

"Nah, I tol' you at the hospital tha' firs' night. I think you are cute together. All three of ya." She
smiled. "And I'm glad. Uncle Phi'ip needs more joy in his life. He's gotten so sour in the last few
years." She sighed. "I wish my da hadn't died; then everythin' would be normal and he'd be happy
all the time."

"You know, I think he wishes the same thing, for your father to not have died. He was pretty torn
up about it."

"It was the only time I'd seen him cry, at the graveside. I would have given anythin' to make him
no' hurt so much, but I was stuck too. We comforted each other, trying to be strong for the
others." She started to cry. "I miss him."

Nick pulled her close, hugging the tired young woman to him. "Sshh, little one, it's all right now.
You're here and safe and loved again. I know we can't bring him back, but I'm sure he'd be proud
of the way you're handling this." He sat her back up, wiping her tears away. "As a matter of fact,
I know he would be proud of the way you're handling yourself. I know Philip is and I and Derek
are. So are Alex and Raven." He wiped at the last one, brushing her cheek gently. "Now, let's go
get those pictures taken."

"Is that wha' a sonogram is then, pictures?" Nick nodded and got out, coming around to help her
out of the SUV. "Well, it's gotta be framed then, my firs' pictures of the kids."

Nick laughed. "We'll put them up on the 'fridge first, and if you want them framed, then we'll get
them framed. Don't worry, I'll drag Alex in with me to get them a good one. She'll get a
decorated one." He wiggled his eyebrows. "Won't that look cute?"

"You an' Alex actin' like man an' wife again? Yeah, it usually is." She linked her arm through
his. "Lead on."


Nick knocked on their door, opening it when Derek called to help Alana in. "Hi, we're back. The
pictures came out really pretty, and we need to get her a frame for them." He helped Alana to the
bottom edge of the bed. He looked at the little form cuddled into Derek's shoulder, trying to
hide. "Hi, Raina, aren't you cute today?" He tweaked her ear before leaning over to kiss his
lover. "And how's our back?" He sat beside Raina, patting her slightly curling hair.

"Oh, we're fine. It's hurting less." He watched Nick pet Raina's hair. "Mei Ling had to go out of
town suddenly, so she dropped off Raina for a few days. We were just reading a book of hers."

Raina looked at the man petting her hair, cocking her head off to the side to see him better.
"Me," she said, grabbing his hand to nibble on it.

"Yes, hello to you too, dear little one. How are you today?" Raina smiled, trying to chew on
Nick's Seal ring. "No, no honey, that's not a chew ring." He reached into the bedside table,
pulling out a plastic ring he had bought for her the other day. "Here you go, try this one." She
took it, gnawing happily and leaned back into her father's side.

She looked over at the book, "Pretty, pretty."

Derek smiled down at her. "That's a dog, Raina. Can you say dog?"

"Pretty, pretty," she said and shook her head, trying to turn the page.

"Mei Ling said she thinks any animal that isn't a p-o-n-y is a pretty." He chuckled. "I'm not sure
that I should give her the stuffed one now or not."

"You sen' someone in to ge' it?" Alana had gone with Derek to pick out a crib, something they
would need soon, and had found a stuffed pony, a little too big for her right now, but it would fit
nicely in a bed.

Derek smiled and nodded. "I know she was driving her mother nuts about it. It's in the bag in the
closet if you want to give it to her."

"Sure, and when Mei Ling gets driven nuts, she can blame her." Nick gave him a dirty look,
laughing when he couldn't hold it against Derek's puppy eyes. "Really, love, that's cruel to Alana

"Is no'. I'd love ta give it ta her. An' if her mother doesn' wan' her ta have it, well then she can
sneak it away some night." She pushed herself up, belly first and waddled over to the closet. "In
here, Derek?" He nodded and she opened the door, pulling out a bag. By the time she had made
it back to the bed, Raina was sitting at the end, waiting and watching her closely. "You know
wha' a present is, don' ya Raina?"

"Tay," she said, reaching for the bag.

Alana laughed, setting herself down gently so she didn't hurt herself or the baby trying to crawl
under her. She opened the bag, waiting until she had Raina's attention to show her what was in it.

"Pony!" she yelled, dragging the large stuffed animal out to hug it tightly. "Pony," she said,
showing it to Alana.

"Yes, love, I know. Show your da." She pointed at Derek and helped her stand up to toddle up
the bed.

They all watched to make sure she didn't fall, but when she sat down in Derek's lap and hugged
him and her pony, they all "awwed", bringing a giggle to Alana's body.

"Oh, I'm becomin' an adul' now. I'm even startin' ta think like one of ya." She smiled at Nick,
"No offense to the non-grownups here."

Derek laughed, hugging Nick to him and kissing his cheek. "Yes, but it wouldn't be the same if he
suddenly turned into a normal adult."

"Watch who you're callin' normal, or else." Nick looked up long enough to smile. "And you don't
want to know what I mean either."

"I'm sure I don't love, I'm sure I don't." They all watched Raina hum to her new friend, relaxing
back into the early night, happy in their family status.

%%%%% (8 months)

Derek looked at the plans for the upcoming formal event. He checked the date against his
calendar and groaned. "Dominic? Why did you let me plan this so close to her due date?"

"Because sir, the London Precept wanted it to be during the time he was here, and you couldn't
get out of it, no matter what you told him." Dominic smiled down at his charge. "Don't worry,
your Mother will be here that week too."

"Just what Alana Julia needs, another person to fuss over her." He shook his head, thinking back
to her beating Nick repeatedly yesterday with a pillow when he fussed over her. "My mother
won't stand a chance."

"Sir, if I may, your mother may be just the person you want here. She seems to calm even
the most restless spirit, or Master Nick as the case was, by her presence. She alone would make it
easier to help the poor child through that last month and the time afterwards. Even if Master
Nick has decided to kill anyone who gets between them during the delivery."

Derek looked up, smiling. "I didn't know that. Did he say it, or do you just know?"

"No, Sir, it's obvious."

Derek's smile brightened. "Dominic, are you sure you don't have the Sight, or some form of

"God forbid sir, no." He turned and left the office. "I leave the self-torture up to others."


Nick looked up from his scanning in of some more of the original text when Philip came in. "Hey,
love, what's up?"

"Oh, nothin'. I just had to help Alana to bed, that's all. The kids are kickin' up a storm and her
back's sore. She called Raven to make sure she could take a hot bath, which she can't, so went to
bed for another nap." He sat down, laying his head on Nick's shoulders. "Am I gonna get through

"Of course you will. There's only a little over a month left and everything's okay so far." He
patted the older man, letting the pats turn into caresses of soft, silky hair and flesh. "You know,
we probably shouldn't do this in here. Someone might see the tape later." He moved the hand
down, rubbing between the tight shoulder blades.

"Umm, but it feels good."

"I'm sure it does," Derek said, coming up behind them, "but the London precept will be calling in
a few minutes and you probably don't want to be seen with Nick's mouth on you where you want
it." He leaned over Philip's back, kissing Nick before licking Philip's shoulder. "Why don't you go
take a nap, and we'll come up in a little while and rub your shoulders for you."

"Soun's good. I'll be waitin'." Philip got up, leaving the two men alone to wait on the call of one
grumpy old man.

By the time he was ten minutes late, Nick was getting restless. "Where is he?" He shifted in his
seat, moving his partially hard cock to a more comfortable position. He had gotten that way
while working on Philip's back, and ten minutes of staring at Derek hadn't helped it go down any.
"Derek, can I, umm, come over there for a second?" Derek was sitting behind the computer
desks, hidden from the waist down, pulling up the status reports on the database.

"Why?" He didn't look at him when Nick came over, kneeling beside his leg.

Nick moved between his legs, completely hidden from the screen and slowly unzipped Derek's
zipper. "Because," was all he said as he swallowed the hardening flesh. He sucked it in deep,
bringing it to the back of his throat and suckling on it. He played his tongue around the tip,
moving it through the slit and along the circumcision scar to play with the tender spot just under
the head on the bottom side.

Derek grunted, reaching down to grab his head and hold it still while he used the mouth to gain
pleasure. He came with a groan, looking up to see who started to applaud.

William Sloan clapped from the big major screen. "Good, now you won't be as tense. Tell which
ever one it is to come back up and let's get started."

Nick just laughed, sitting in the chair beside Derek and stealthily unzipping his own zipper to
show Derek what he was going to get just as soon as they were done.

Derek stared at his youngest lover's boldness in shock. He looked from the screen to Nick and
back. "I'm sorry...," he started, but Sloan stopped him.

"Not a problem. I realize I was running late, and I'm sure you were working hard before. I don't
begrudge any of you your moments of pleasure." He smiled at Derek brightly. "Besides, if I
didn't have a wonderful woman, I'd come over there and try to steal the both of them from you.
You're too uptight to be much use to them."

Nick laughed. "Ah, but that's the secret of our relationship. We make Derek loosen up, and he
makes us more rigid." Derek groaned at his choice of words, making Sloan laugh harder.

"Oh, okay, enough of this, let's work. And from now on, I'll try to be on time."

They got down to work, and later, when Sloan was gone, Derek showed Nick just how upset he
was about getting caught. He had made Nick go back to his office, it was more private, so he
could torture the younger man into better future behavior. Nick was sitting in his chair when
Derek got in there, swinging it back and forth while he watched the peacocks strut by the

"Remind you of someone?"

"No, why?" He turned to smile at his frowning lover.

Derek pulled him out of the desk chair, pushing him onto his knees on the floor. "Now, you will
stay there and contemplate how I felt getting caught like that by Sloan. When you have decided
how to act in the future, I'll listen to pleas for mercy."

Nick laughed, he didn't think Derek was serious, until he was given one of the meanest looks he
had ever seen come off his lover. Derek didn't look like that at demons, making him very scared
for his position in his life. "Derek, I'm sorry. I should have thought instead of acting. I shouldn't
have done that to you, or shown myself off to you, while in the control room." Derek just stared
at him, frowning in annoyance. "I know we agreed to keep work separate, but I was feeling
needy. I needed to feel you." Derek turned away from him, sorting through some papers while
Nick sat there and stewed. "I don't need this." He started to get up, but Derek's voice stopped

"If you leave this office right now without my permission, you may not come between myself and
Philip for the next month." He shot Nick another furious look. "That means you sleep in your
own bed, you take showers by yourself, and you may not even get a hug from us for that time."
He didn't look up from his paperwork when he said it, not needing to look at his youngest lover to
see the effect of his words. "You and Philip may be that uncaring of what other's think, but I'm
not. Sloan is my superior and my friend, and I will not have him laughing at me behind my back
because you needed a few minutes of sexual gratification."

"Yeah, well, it's not like I don't care. I do. He didn't mind, and I knew that too. He told me the
last time I saw him at that meeting a few months back that he was happy for us." Nick stood up,
heading for one of the other chairs, running a finger across the seams. "For that matter, it didn't
sound like he was laughing at you behind your back. If anything, it sounded to me like he was
appreciative of your relationship, maybe even envious."

"Nick, I didn't give you permission to get up." He pointed at the spot on the floor again. "It
doesn't matter, though, because it will never happen again."

"You're right, it won't." Nick said and walked out of the office, heading towards their room to
remove his clothes.

Derek watched him go, the feeling that he had handled it wrong growing dreadfully fast.

%%%%% (a week later)

Derek opened the door, letting his Mother in. "Mother," he said gladly, kissing her cheek. "I'm
glad you're here, we could use your experience."

She smiled and patted his arm, pulling it through hers. "Yes, I heard all about your recent new
additions to the house, how is she?" Barbara Rayne led her son into the living room. "And when
do I get to meet the little one?"

"Mother, how did you..."

"What, she is only twelve, isn't she." She stopped, making Derek face her. "Or is there another
little person I should meet?" She took in his guilty look and clucked her tongue. "Derek, I would
have thought by now that you would know enough to not let that happen. Honestly, you're still a
teenager some days, son, irresponsible and moody."

"You don't know the half of it," Alex said coming down the hall to greet her. "Barbara, welcome
back." She gave the older woman a tight hug. "It's good to see you, you look great."

Barbara held Alex out at arm's length. "So do you, and I love the new length to your hair, it looks
good on you." Alex's smile lit up the hallway. "So, come and tell me about the little ones." She
pulled Alex to her side, forcing Derek to walk behind. "Has he turned into a total ogre about
them yet?"

Alex laughed. "Not really. Alana Julia won't let anyone fuss over her right now, not even our
resident fusser, Nick. She actually got so mad at him a week ago that she beat him with a pillow
whenever he came near enough to fuss."

"Oh, my, well I'm sure she just needs another feminine touch to balance out all the men around
here." They entered the living room, where Alana Julia was sitting with her feet propped up.
"Hello dear. You must be Philip's niece, Alana Julia?" She walked over and kissed her cheek.
"I'm Derek's mother, Barbara." She stoked the soft cheek, frowning at the color. "Derek, don't
you ever let this poor child outside, she obviously needs some sun."

"Mother, we haven't had any in a few weeks."

"Nonsense. The rain has to have stopped at least once." Barbara sat on the couch closest to
Alana. "And how are you feeling dear?"

"Okay, I guess. I'm no' supp's'd to be doing much more than sittin' aroun', though." She shrugged.
"I'm kinda bored." She shifted, waiting until the children quit kicking to wiggle down into the
chair. "An' they won' stop kickin'."

Barbara reached out a hand, laying it on her stomach. "They?" She searched for a specific spot
and started to rub in little clockwise circles. "Right there, it's a pressure point. It will calm the
darling little creatures down." She let Alana's fingers take over, smiling when she did after they
stopped beating her back up.

"Than's. Oh, tha's wonderful, it doesn' hur' any more."

"Now maybe you can get some sleep," Nick said, bringing her a soda, staying far enough away to
be out of her range. "Hi, Barbara, how are you?"

"Fine, Nicholas. How are you doing? I've heard you were the local pregnancy fairy around here."
She smiled up at the younger man, making him blush. "That is certainly one role I never expected
you to play."

"He's goo' though," Alana Julia said, taking a sip and patting the chair's arm. "He's been grea' to
me, all of them have. I feel so special. As Kat would say, I've got the warm and fuzzies from

"Well, dear, you should. It's been a long time since this house has heard the laughter of children.
Much too long, but that's my humble opinion." She turned to look at Alex, who was sitting on
another couch. "And when are we going to convince you to have one, dear Alex? You would
make such a good mother."

Nick laughed, stopping suddenly when Alex frowned at him. "Not anytime soon. I still have to
find a man I can tolerate for more than a month, preferably one who isn't like them." She waved a
hand around to show she meant the men in the house. "I like protective men, but they really are
too much some times."

"You sai' it," came quietly from the chair.

"Yes, and you love it little one, just remember that." Nick ruffled her hair, getting a frown in
return. "Stop it, you'll scare Derek's mom away," he whispered, making her smile and shake her

Barbara laughed. "Finally, you have all found the right family environment. A house this strong
can only benefit all of you." She turned to her son, who was sitting next to her. "You needed
this, Derek, and you've created the perfect family here." She patted his knee. "I'm happy for all
of you."

"Thank you, Mother." He blushed slightly, embarrassed because he didn't know if his mother
knew about his relationship or not. "I've tried."

"And you've done such a good job. Everyone here is happy and relatively healthy. you all have
bonded closer than most families today have, and that will help over the next few trying months."

"Tell me about it," Alex said. "Philip and Nick have already been fighting over who gets up to get
the kids when they're screaming while she's recovering from surgery."

She looked back to the pregnant young woman. "Oh, my, dear, I didn't know. Is it that bad?"

"Yeah, it is. They're join'd, back ta fron' from the pictures. So, I get ta have surgery, and they'll
drive the men nuts while I'm restin' in bed." She smiled. "I can jus' see Nick here runnin' down
the hall when one screams."

"Too true, but only if I make it out of bed before Philip." He kissed Alana's cheek. "You didn't
think he was going to let me win, did you?"

"Nah, he's exc'ted abou' them too."

Barbara watched the younger members fondly. "Derek, your family is precious. Keep it that way.
I'll come back to haunt you if you let them ever grow apart." She turned a smiling face to her son.
"And you know I mean it." They all laughed.


Barbara knocked on Alana's door. "Dear, may I come in?"

Alana looked up from the journal she was translating. "Sure, coul' use the company." She set the
materials aside, patting a spot on the bed. "Come an' sit."

Barbara looked around, seeing the bright posters and watercolors of landscapes spread around the
room, marking it with the young woman's personality. She smiled, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"So, why aren't you asleep yet? You'll want to get some now while you still can." She gave a
smile/grimace. "Trust me on this, once they're here, you won't get any *real* sleep for the next

"I can'. I've been restless for the las' few weeks. Raven sai' it was normal, but..." she shrugged to
finish the statement. "So, you're Derek's ma?"

"Why yes dear, even though it is hard to imagine him having one some days. Really, the way
those men of his were fighting tonight at dinner." She rolled her eyes. "You'd think they had a
fight and broke up or something."

Alana blushed. Derek had asked her specifically to not say anything to his mother about Nick and
Philip, preferring to do it himself. "Yeah, bu' they're headstrong men, they do tha' a lo'."

"Of course they do dear," Barbara said, smiling. "Believe me, I know just what's going on, even if
Derek doesn't want me to." She winked. "Just one of the benefits of talking constantly with the
London Precept." They laughed, Alana doubling over in pain when her twins objected to the
motions. "Oh, my Alana, lay down and let me rub your stomach."

Barbara helped her stretch out on her side, putting a small pillow under her stomach to support it
while she worked her magic. She found the spot again, and searched for another on her back with
the other hand, and began to rub them in small circles, calming the twins down and gently putting
the young woman to sleep.

When Barbara got up, she covered Alana with a throw and moved the journal farther away so she
wouldn't lay on it in the middle of the night. She closed the door softly behind her. "Another
generation learns bad habits through the bequeathal of the original household workaholic." She
smiled and went down the hall to find her companion in mischief, Alex.


Alex opened her door to see Barbara standing there, smiling at her. "Oh, no, what do you want to
go fix now?" she asked dramatically, letting her in and closing the door.

"Well, lets start with my son." She sat down in a rocking chair, facing her spy in the house.
"What did happen between them?"

"Who?" Alex asked, innocently. Derek had as much as ordered her to not say anything about him
and Nick fighting.

"Oh, don't you give me that too. I expect my son to manipulate the young woman down the hall
into silence, but he shouldn't be able to suppress you too." She gave her a measuring look.
"What did he threaten you with?"

"Nothing," she lied. She didn't want to have all the messy assignments for the next three months,
and she *really* didn't want to be on his bad side right now. "Why, is something wrong?"

"Really, Alex, you should know better than to try to lie to me about my son and one of his lover's
fighting. Now which one was it?" She gave her best intimidating stare.

"I don't know what you're talking about." She smiled, tipping her head to the side. "So, how is
William doing?"

"Oh, he's fine. I talked to him the other day. One of his, the younger one, has chicken pox, but
other than that, no problems in his house or at home. So, how is Rose?"

"She's feeling better. That supplement you suggested took care of her stomach problem right
away." She walked over and gave the older woman a hug. "It'll be good to get some normalness
in the house again. Stay?" She was begging, but it was for a good cause; the men were driving
her nuts.

"Of course I will. I'm going to be here until well after Alana Julia is able to take care of the twins
on her own." She brought her close, pulling her down to eye level. "Now give, and I'll make sure
he won't hurt you."

"Barbara, I can't tell you anything. Really, can't tell you anything." She shook her head.

"That's okay, dear, I understand." She patted Alex and walked back to her own room, lost in
thought. She knew someone who would know, and Alex had given her the perfect clue to

Barbara had just hung up with William when she heard the first yell from one of the men. She put
back on her dressing gown and walked out in the hall, wondering where everyone else was. A
yell like that used to bring the whole house running. She listened for a sound, trying to figure out
which room he was in. She had turned towards Derek's room when she heard someone
whimpering from Nick's at the opposite end of the hall. She tapped on his door, not getting any
answer beside another blood-curdling yell, so she opened the door slowly as to not startle him.
She walked in, seeing him curled up in a little ball on the edge of the bed, shivering in the warm
room. Barbara flipped on the desk light, letting the soft light wash over him so as not to startle
him awake. She let her mothering instincts take over, walking over to the bed and laying a hand
on his shoulder. Nick whimpered at the contact, trying to pull away from her, but not waking up.
She sat down beside him, taking his hand to pat it while she stroked his forehead. She let him
wake at his own speed, knowing that if she woke him up it would only hurt both of them.

He opened an eye to see who was touching him and smiled. "Hi."

"Was it a bad one, this time?"

He nodded and swallowed. "Yeah, it was. I was seeing.... seeing..." He couldn't get the words
out to tell her who he was dreaming about.

"Nick, was it your father, or some other person?" She smiled at his shock. "Who do you think
called those Social Workers on him? The tooth fairy?" She smiled and moved some more of his
hair off his forehead. "I tried for years to get him to let you alone, but he only got meaner didn't
he? I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault. You tried to help." He shifted some, uncurling and letting himself be
comforted for the first time in a long time. "Thank you."

"For what, love, being here to bring you back?" When he nodded she just kissed his cheek.
"That's what a mother's for. Even if she's not yours." She smiled and pulled the sheet up over his
chest. "Now, would you like to talk about Julia?"

"How did you...? Never mind." He shook his head no, but looked up at her. "It's not important."

"Of course it is, otherwise you wouldn't be having these dreams. Now, give. You'd be surprised
at what I know about this life."

"No I wouldn't." He smiled up at her. "I can't tell you. I don't remember most of it, it's just a
conglomerate dream of bad things from the people who should have cared." He shrugged,
snuggling closer to her side. "It's nice to have you here." He started to drift off, comfortable and
comforted by the presence of someone who cared.

"Sleep well, Nick, and if you need me again, you can come sleep in my room in the chair or on the
floor." She kissed him one last time, pulling the sheet up further and headed out of the room,
leaving the light on.

She met Philip in the hall, coming to check on Nick. "Is he all righ'?"

"You tell me." She saw his face fall, hurt and tired of all of this. "He's fine now, although I
expect him to be camped on my floor by the time I wake up tomorrow." She grabbed his arm,
painfully, and towed him to her room. She pushed him inside and closed the door behind them.
"Now, tell me what happened between him and Derek." She sat down in the chair, looking like a
queen on her throne. "And I do mean it," she added when she saw he was thinking about refusing

"I can', I wasn' there." He slumped down into himself where he sat on the bed. "All I know is
that it's like he's punishin' him for somthin' by withholdin' his love. And mine." He shuddered.
"That's no' the firs' one he's had recently. He has a few each nigh', and I'm worried abou' him.
Even Alana is worried abou' him. He hasn' slep' in almos' a week."

"Well, she is a smart young woman. You've done a good job with her." She smiled, letting him
know she wasn't mad at him for Derek's cruelty to the young man. "We have to fix them."

"I tried everythin'. I even tried lockin' them in the same room so they woul' have ta talk. It didn'
work, I had to le' Nick ou' before he hit Derek for somethin' he said."

"Well, then it's good I'm here now to stop this." She got up, giving him a hug. "Go back to him,
I'll fix this tomorrow."

Philip got up, hugging her hard. "Thank you, I can' live like this anymore." He walked to the
door. "Oh, an' Alana has a Doctor's appoin'men' in the afternoon." He closed the door softly
behind him, not wanting anyone, especially his older lover, to know he had been talking to his

"Oh, Derek, you're turning into your Father more every year." She sighed and took off her
dressing gown, crawling back into the bed. "How am I going to stop your descent into becoming
a bastard if you do things like this?"


Barbara woke up to an expected sight, Nick curled up in a ball beside her bed. She rolled onto her
side, petting the young man gently to wake him. "Morning," she said, when he turned over to
face her. "Did you sleep better down there?"

He nodded, "Yeah, I did. Thanks." He yawned and stretched, getting into a more normal state.
"I needed that."

"Of course you did. My son is an asshole some times, he gets if from his Father of course, and
you needed someone else to lean on for a while. We all do." She smiled down at him. "Now, if I
remember correctly you should be heading out on a run at dawn, and it's after," she checked the
clock, "ten, so get up and go shower and things. I'll treat you to brunch."

He smiled, getting up and kissing her cheek. "I'll see you down there." He headed out of the
room, taking his pillow and blanket with him, neatly sidestepping his Precept out in the hall
without a word.

Derek stood there, watching his lover walk back to his room in shock. He looked from his mother
to Nick's room and back to her.

"Oh, do shut your mouth and get in here before you scare someone else." She rearranged her
blankets, settling them decorously about her so her son wouldn't be embarrassed by her being in
bed. She watched Derek shut the door and walk slowly over to the desk chair. "You're your
father all over again."

He looked up, wondering what she was talking about. He cocked an eyebrow up, waiting for her
to say something else. He *knew* that they were going to fight, and he wasn't ready for it.

"It wasn't a compliment." She cleared her throat, drinking some water from the glass on the
bedside table. "As a matter of fact, I think you've gone past your own father's cruelty and
stupidity and made it all the way to Jonathan's level." She put down the glass and stared, hard, at
her son. "You *will* fix it, or I will."

"Mother," he began, but she cut him off.

"Oh no you don't. I won't let anyone else in this house be hurt like Winston hurt us or like
Jonathan hurt that poor boy. Now, straighten up and deal with whatever happened like an adult,
or I'll fix the situation for you." She kicked her foot, bringing her dressing gown within reach.
"Now, get out so I can get dressed," she dismissed him.

Derek just sat there, staring at her, for minute. "Yes, ma'am," he said, getting up and leaving her

Barbara Rayne did what she did best, she picked up the phone and mustered some support for
those who needed it most.


Barbara made it downstairs in time to see Nick go running for the living room, and hearing Alana
scream Derek's name, she headed in there too. "What's wrong, Alana?"

Nick pointed towards the screen, where they were loading a young Oriental woman into the back
of an ambulance. She turned to see Alana hyperventilating and pale as a sheet. "You get Derek,
Nick, I'll stay with her." She pushed him out of the way, holding the young woman and helping
her to calm down while Nick told Derek about whatever was going on. "There, there, little one,
try to take a deep breath, that's it, calm down, and breathe for me." She rubbed Alana's shoulders,
getting her to calm down and tell her what was going on. "Now, what's wrong?"

She pointed to the screen. "Tha's Mei Ling, she was in an accident, her an' the baby."

"And is she the mother of the other mystery child in the house?" Alana nodded, so she hissed
through her teeth. "It's all right. Do you know which hospital she was taken to?"

"General. Derek need's ta know." She started to get up, but Barbara stopped her.

"Oh, no you don't. Nick went to tell him. You're staying here, at least until you calm down quite
a bit." She stroked the soft cheek. "You mustn't worry, he'll do enough for all of us." She
watched as Derek ran past the room, heading out the door to be with his child and her mother.
"So, tell me about this child?"

"Raina?" She looked up at the older woman. "Ya mean he hasn' tol' ya about the newest ligh' in
his life?" When Barbara shook her head, she giggled. "She's almost two."

"Aahh," Barbara said, sitting down beside her. "And he sees her often?"

"Yeah, they visi' all the time. She comes here, he goes ta see her at the Cultural Center, they meet
for lunch; you know, visitation rights an' all."

"So, he has visitation, but not custody?" Alana nodded. "That's a good thing with how he's been
acting recently. We wouldn't want him to ruin her young life with his crap." She patted her hand.
"How about some tea dear? I haven't had breakfast yet."

"Well, I coul' eat. Help me up, an' I'll go with ya to the kitchen." She put down her feet, wiggling
forward and was pulled up. "Dominic makes the bes' waffles," she said as they walked down the


Nick walked up to Derek in the hall of the hospital. "How is she?"

Derek spun around, not expecting anyone to come up and talk to him. "She's fine. What are you
doing here?"

"Alana Julia wanted to come see how she was. She's down the hall with Raven." He shrugged.
"I'm just the driver." He stepped aside, waiting for Derek to say something. When he remained
silently looking at the floor, he broke it with another question. "What about Raina?"

"She's fine too. Just bounced around in her car seat." He turned to the younger man, wanting to
say something, but nothing would come.

Their silence was broken by a giggling young pregnant woman waddling beside her doctor. "Here
she is, Nick, all safe and sound."

"Like I woulda gotten inta trouble." She rolled her eyes. "Are ya comin' ta the formal party nex'

"Of course I am. But you're not." She smiled. "Not a chance are you going to put yourself into
some tight dress and heels and stand around for hours on end, young lady."

"If I promise to watch her, and make sure she stays seated, may she attend," Nick asked. "After
all," he ruffled her hair, "she's my date for the evening."

Alana just smiled, pleased that he wanted to be around her when there would be people more like
him there. Raven looked at him, smiling. "Well, I guess it's okay. But she has to *stay* seated
for most of the night, and she's forbidden to wear anything vaguely tight or heel-like." She smiled
down at Alana. "Do you understand me clearly?"

"Yup," she said and hugged her, turning to hug Derek, even though he frowned at her for doing
it. "How are they?"

"They're fine, dear," Derek said, smiling down at her. "Thank you for sending him to tell me."

"Wasn' nothin'. I tried to get up, but couldn' so yelled. He came runnin' and your mother sen' him
ta tell ya." She shrugged. "The only thing I did was watch the telly."

Derek kissed the top of her head. "Yes, dear, but without your being at the right place at the right
time, I would never have known." He looked at Nick. "Are you heading straight back?"

Nick looked at Alana, who nodded. "Yeah, I guess. Alex and Barbara will probably take her
shopping tomorrow or Saturday. We all know I'm not up on fashion."

Alana giggled. "Tha's okay, we love ya anyways." They said their good-byes and left the
frowning Dutchman and the Doctor there to watch them.

"She's fine."

"I know." He turned and walked back to the nurse's station to harass them into another update on
Mei Ling and Raina.


Alex carried in the bags, letting Barbara get the shoes and Alana. They had gone shopping for the
formal event at the house next week, each getting a new dress and all the things that went with it.
Alana was helped into the living room, where Raina promptly laid on her stomach.

"Oh, comunin' with them again, are ya?" She patted the slightly curling and unruly hair. "How
are ya feelin'?"

Derek walked in and smiled at the pair. "She's fine. It looks like her headache finally went away.
She's been sitting down here, singing to her pony, waiting on you three to get back." He turned
to smile at his mother, who didn't return it. "And how was shopping?"

"Fine. We all found something we liked and the shoes to go with them." She pulled him out of
the room. "Did you think I was kidding?"

He gave her a look, plainly confused, which she frowned at. "Oh, that. No, I know you don't do
that." He looked down at the floor. "It's hard, I can't find the words, and he won't even stay in
the same room I'm in, so how can I tell him?"

"Son, find a way. By tonight." She pinched his arm. "If you haven't I'm taking matters into my
own hands." She went back into the living room, leaning over to kiss her only Grandchild.
"Hello, little Raina, how are you?"

Derek watched in amazement as Raina looked up and smiled at her Grandmother. "'Ma," she
cried happily, reaching up to be picked up with her pony. "Pony," she said, showing it to her.

"Yes, love, I see that. And a pretty one it is too." She kissed her cheek and looked out at Derek,
a plain 'This-is-my-family-and-you're-disturbing-it-with-your-problems look.

Derek nodded, and left to find Philip, trying to get some help for what he needed to do.


Derek looked all over the house, but he couldn't find Nick. He knew he was somewhere, but he
didn't have a clue where he could be. He wasn't in his room, the kitchen, the control room, the
library, any of the sitting/living rooms, not in the laboratory, nowhere. He finally found Dominic
and asked him. "Have you seen Nick?"

"Master Nick is in the gym, music blaring. I tried to bring him some lunch, but he said he wasn't
hungry anymore." Dominic shrugged. "I suggested that he talk to Dr. Corrigan, he looked bad."
He turned his back, throwing over his shoulder. "Sir, it may not be my place, but he hasn't been
sleeping anywhere that we can tell, and he hasn't eaten in days. We all think you need to find out
what's wrong with him before he kills himself during a workout." Dominic left him alone, going
about his work, bringing Alana and Raina cookies and milk for a treat.

"I know what's wrong, I just don't know how to fix it," he whispered, heading towards the gym.

Dominic was right, he was there, Queen's music blaring on repeat. He didn't recognize the song,
but it was sad and understanding. It fit how both of them felt perfectly.

Derek walked over, turning down the music. "What song is that?"

"It's a hard life." He punched the bag again, moving back to the set of free weights. "Some
reason why you're here?"

"I... we need to talk, Nick. I'm sorry." He moved closer to the young man, but Nick moved
away, heading towards the stairmaster.

"That's nice. I'm busy." He set a dial, and climbed on, slowly walking nowhere. He looked at
Derek, "Anything else?"

"Yes, but if you won't listen then I can't tell you."

Nick was silent for a minute. "You know, I've learned a lot from this machine. I can climb as
high as I like, but I'm not getting anywhere. No matter how many miles I go, it just gets harder
and harder, and I can climb off, but it's almost hypnotic in it's power to keep me here, so I stay. I
still haven't figured that part out yet; why I stay on." He climbed faster.

Derek knew what he was saying, he didn't like it, but he understood. "When you're ready to come
down and restart your climb, I'll be waiting." He turned the music back up on his way out.

"Don't bother," he said, climbing off and heading for the pool, leaving the music on.


Nick was summoned to the control room. He had been in the library, not going in there because
of who else was in there talking to the London Precept, William Sloan. He walked in, pausing
long enough to move into camera range. "Yeah?"

"Nick, I have a proposition for you. Our computer expert is down, he was hit yesterday by a
demon, literally. We thought you might like to come over here for a few weeks and help us start
our part of the database project."

Nick sat down, thinking. Alana was due soon, and he had promised to be there for her. Barbara
said she wanted him here until she was ready to leave, just in case she needed help with the kids.
On the other hand, there was Derek and Philip and his continued exile into his own existence. "I
don't know what to say. Um, I promised Alana that I would be here for the delivery, and stay
around to help with the new munchkins while she was still down from the surgery."

"That's okay. Think about it and give me an answer at the party. I'll be there, as will both of you,
I know." He smiled. "You look more defined, change your workout again?"

"No, not really. I've been spending some time in there thinking." He shrugged. "It's cheaper than

"I understand perfectly. Now for the other reason I called you in here. Derek, you are being
temporarily removed as Precept until things calm down out there." He held up a hand to stop the
forthcoming argument. "No, hear me out. What with Mei Ling being in the hospital still and you
taking care of Raina, and Alana's due date around the corner, your house is in a ticking timebomb
state. We're reducing the stress to you all by appointing your mother temporary Precept, with my
backup, and not assigning you any thing but emergency cases. Just work on the database and
we'll move everything back to the way it was shortly after the delivery."

"We can handle it without that. " Derek was fuming. He was going to kill his mother for this.
"We don't need it, don't try."

William just smiled. "Tough, live with it." He turned back to Nick. "Am I correct in assuming
that she is having them by c-section, with full surgical support?" Nick and Philip nodded. "And
I've also heard that they're joined, so you are all going to be in and out of the hospital for weeks
until their fates are known, right?" Everyone in the room nodded except Derek. "Good, so then
it's settled. You can't run the house the normal way with you being gone twenty hours a day to sit
with them in the hospital, let alone take care of a two year-old at the same time, and work on the
database too." He smiled. "It's not a punishment, Derek, really, it's meant to be a reprieve so
none of you end up on a bell tower someplace with a shotgun." He broke the link, hanging up.

"I'll kill them," Derek muttered, leaving the control room and three younger people alone in it.

Alex looked after him, whistling. "Want to take bets on who's going to win?"

Philip shook his head. "Sucker be', Barbara will. He won' do more'n yell at her."

Nick looked up and chuckled. "We'll see." He tapped in the command to show the in-house
surveillance cameras. He quickly found them and turned up the sound. They listened as Derek
was put down in one sentence, left with his mouth hanging open by his mother.

"Tol' ya so," Philip said, leaving the room and Alex and Nick together.


Nick finished scanning another book into the computer, putting it aside. He swung his chair
around, stretching to loosen the stiff muscles in his shoulders. Alex was staring at him, watching
his arms and stomach where they weren't hidden by his shirt right them.

"He was right, you've lost weight," she said quietly. "Would you like to talk?"

"Nope," he said, getting up. "I'll be back later to start on another book." He left her there, going
back to his sanctuary in the gym.

He rounded the corner, running into Barbara. "Nick, I was looking for you."

"Well, you found me," he said, kissing her cheek. "What cha need?"

"Well, it's not so much what I need as you need." She showed him the key in her hand. "I've
locked the gym. You can have the key once you eat something and take at least a two hour nap."
She walked away from him.

"You're not my mother," he called after her, hitting the wall. "You don't have the right to do this."

"Of course I do, dear boy, you're in my country now." She turned around and flashed him a
smile. "There's a sandwich waiting in the refrigerator for you. Eat it. When you get upstairs,
beside your bed will be one sleeping pill because you are so exhausted now that you can't sleep.
Take it and climb into your bed. I've had your sheets changed to something warm and fuzzy."
She turned back around. "Come get me up when you get up and I'll give you the key.
Goodnight." She rounded the corner into the kitchen, leaving him alone to dent the two inch
thick wooden paneling.

"Damn it," he screamed, putting his hand through the wall with his last punch. He took the back
stairs to his room, going inside and grabbing his jacket, looking for his keys. "Probably stole
them from me too." He sat down on the bed, holding his head in his hands. "How can she do
this to me? She knew I felt safe there. Why did she take the one safe place away from me?"

"Because ya needed it." Philip stood in the doorway, two bottles in one hand, a bottle of oil in the
other. "Brough' ya one." He walked in and closed the door, handing one bottle of the dark stout
to Nick. "I was worried an' I asked her ta do it."

"I don't need the concern." He started to get up , but Philip pushed him gently back onto the bed.
"Let me up, Philip," he said very quietly and very slowly.

"Or wha', you'll bea' me? Not in the condition you're in." He sat down beside the younger man.
"Why didn' ya le' him apologize?"

"Because, nothing he could say would make it better." Nick drained his bottle and took off his
jacket. He stripped down to his boxers and turned around. "I'm going to change clothes. Sit
there if you want." He went to the dresser, pulling out something shiny and small. He pulled off
his boxers, slipping into his bathing suit and left Philip sitting there, staring after him.

Nick dove into the pool, settling himself into his normal rhythm. He was on his third lap when he
started to feel dizzy. He stopped, treading water, and shook himself until he calmed down. //Just
my nerves. I'm upset and it's hitting me hard. A few more laps and I'll be fine.// He started again,
making it halfway though another lap when he blacked out the first time.

He opened his eyes. He had rolled over sometime, he couldn't remember when. //What? I was
doing laps and now I'm laying here staring at the ceiling. I'm losing it now for sure.// He took a
few deep breaths, calming himself back into that state of mind where he didn't feel anything, all he
could do was be. He rolled over, staring another lap. This time he made it a third of the way
across, to about the exact center of the pool, when he lost it again.


Dominic was walking by the gym, smiling at the silence and the new lock when he heard Derek
scream and the sound of someone hitting the water. He ran towards the pool area, not knowing
what to expect this time. He stopped just inside the door, picking up the phone to call Dr.
Corrigan down from upstairs. It was a good thing she was here tonight. Derek was pulling Nick
out of the pool. He looked, from where he was standing, like he wasn't breathing. He walked
around, helping Derek lay him out, starting chest compressions, letting Derek take over breathing
for Nick. He spit up the water, but didn't regain consciousness. Derek held him, rocking back
and forth, crying.

"Master Derek, sir," Dominic said, handing him his coat, "here, cover him with this." When
Derek didn't reply, he covered him with it himself and moved out of the way as Barbara and
Rachel came rushing into the room, Philip not far behind.

Philip had to pull Derek away so Rachel could check Nick over, the younger man holding him
tightly and crooning to him to tell him it was going to be all right. When Rachel decided he didn't
have to go to the hospital Derek and Philip picked him up, moving the now lightweight man to
their room, where he should have been all along.


Derek was sitting beside the bed, feet resting on the end, watching his lover start to come around.
He had been out now for almost two straight days and he was getting very worried. Nick had
done this before, almost woken up only to fall back deeper into his own mind. "Hi," he said
quietly, not wanting to startle him in the dark room.

Nick groaned and rolled away from him. He didn't want to see his Precept this time either. He
opened his eyes slowly, searching for the clock. //Four thirty, gonna go back. Safe there,// he
thought, closing his eyes again.

"If you would stay awake this time, you can have something to eat." Derek moved himself, sitting
next to Nick's prone form. "You need it."

He croaked, "Go away," keeping his eyes closed and firmly not caring. "Just a dream, stop it."

"No, Nick, I'm not a dream." He stroked his hair, running his fingers through the damp strands.
Alana had helped him wash it earlier, then left him alone to give Nick a bed bath. "I'm here love,
and I'm real." He kissed the exposed ear gently, "Come back to us, please."

"You don't know the meaning of the word," he said, rolling onto his stomach at the edge of the
bed. "It's not in your vocabulary anymore." He pulled the covers up over his shoulders and sank
back into sleep. He didn't see Derek crying, muffling the sound in a pillow, or Philip coming in to
hold him through another night.


Nick opened his eyes to see Alex standing over him with a steel mallet. "Get up now, or I'm going
to brain you."

"Go away." He rolled over, or tried to. Rachel had him tied to the bed. She was standing at the
foot of the bed, holding a long piece of plastic. "Get up and eat something or get a feeding tube."
She unrolled the long piece of small tubing. "And trust me you won't like it."

"Let me go back to sleep." He struggled against the bonds, but she had him tied tightly on his
back. "Let me go."

"Not a chance," Derek said, coming in with a knife, raising it over Nick's vulnerable chest. "I'm
taking back what I gave you." He started to plunge the knife down into the weakened flesh.

Nick woke up screaming.

Derek and Philip were there, holding him close, rocking and making soothing sounds, calming
him down. He struggled to get away from them, still feeling the bonds, but Philip started to sing
softly in his ear, gentling him back to reality. He looked around at his former lovers, noticing that
the room was dark, but only because the curtains were pulled. "Let me go," he begged, trying to
get away from the two people who had driven all of him away from himself. "Just let me go." He
broke down in their arms, letting all the hurt from the past few weeks out. "Let me go, please,"
he begged.

"It's not going to happen. You're ours, and you'll stay that way," Derek said, crying softly himself
for all the hurt he had caused over something so stupid. "I'm sorry, so sorry. I never meant to
hurt you like this, oh, Got, please forgive me. Please, Nick, don't leave us."

Philip held them both, letting them heal together before joining in. "Nick, we love you, we always
have. That was stupidity on our part; Derek's for startin' it, and mine for not being stronger in
standin' up to him abou' it. Forgive us, please?"

Nick shook his head. "How can I forgive you for leaving me alone like that." He stopped long
enough to struggle away from them and pull himself up and over to the door. "You promised me
you wouldn't abandon me ever again, and yet you did it on purpose." He closed the door, leaning
on the wall to get to his room. He didn't care anymore. //They abandoned me, pushed me to that
point. I can't go back, there is no back, no forward, no reason anymore.// He made it to his door,
pushing it open. He stumbled inside, trying to throw the lock and only half succeeding. //They
don't want me, they want me to forgive them for leaving me like that.// Nick didn't realize that he
was running a high temperature, or that his actions were irrational at best. He didn't care what
Rachel would say about calming down and studying the problem to fix it.

He only knew one way to stop the voices from getting to him. They sounded so much like Derek
and Philip, but he knew they couldn't be them, they had abandoned him to this fate.

He fumbled around on the dresser, looking for the key to the special padded drawer. He grabbed
it only to have it slip through his fingers again and again. "Stop it," he hissed at the key, making it
behave. He finally grabbed it, putting it into the lock. He didn't notice the banging on the door,
or the hands that were grabbing, holding him, keeping him away from the guns.

"Stop it," he told the receding drawer, "Come back here, now."

"Ssh, Nick, no ya don' need 'em." Philip had come after him, holding him against his chest,
stopping him from abandoning them. "I love ya and I'm here. I didn't abandon ya again. Sshh,"
he laid the younger man on the bed, holding him down with his body. "Derek," he screamed.

Derek came running into the room. The first thing he saw was the open gun drawer. He turned
pale, turning towards the bed. He hadn't heard a shot, so they must be okay, both of them. He
walked over to the bed, taking Philip's place on top of Nick, holding him down.

"Nick, calm down, we're here."

"No, you're not real, you aren't them, they left me." He struggled, drawing on years of training to
throw Derek off him. He made a grab for the drawer, but Philip dropped the phone and tackled
him, narrowly missing the dresser with both their heads. "NO!" he screamed, fighting off Philip.
He made it up, backing himself into a corner, shaking and crying.

Philip started toward him, not moving faster than the two year-old that had climbed out of bed to
see what all the noise was. Raina walked over to Nick, patting his arm just like her Grandma did

Nick looked at her, sniffling and wiping his eyes with one hand. She looked so familiar, and a
child couldn't hurt him, could they?

Raina crawled into his arms, not needing an invitation into his lap most of the time. "Hug," she
said, giving his arm one.

He smiled down at her, seeing her and only her as real. He could feel her, smell her. He grabbed
her tightly, holding her closely to his chest, rocking her back and forth, tying to calm her so she
would get out of his nightmare. He talked to her, babbling on in a language only the two of them

When she smiled up at him, he returned it, and gently slipped peacefully off into sleep, escaping
his nightmare.


William Sloan walked into the house in time to hear Philip screaming Derek's name. He ran up
the stairs, beating the women to the top. He pulled his gun out of his waistband and motioned for
the women to stay there.

He pushed open the door to Nick's room slowly, not knowing what to expect. He didn't expect
what he saw though. Nick was sitting in the corner, holding a child like she was his personal
teddy bear. Philip was on his knees before him, trying to get her away. Derek was laying on the
floor, very still, but still breathing.

Philip turned to look at the new person and laid a finger against his lips, mouthing the words 'He's
got a high fever, we just fought him off, and she brought him around.' William nodded, putting
up the gun and walking in to check on the Precept.

"He's just unconscious," he whispered, coming over to look at the sleeping man and the little girl.
"Hi, Raina," he whispered, smiled, and waved at her.

She wiggled, but Nick just held her tighter. She looked up at him, making a grab for his nose and
squeezing. He let go long enough for her to get out of his arms and walk over to Philip. "Night,
night," she said, pointing at him.

"You know, she's probably the brightest one of you all," Barbara said, coming in. She kicked
Derek's foot as she went past to close the drawer, locking it and taking the key with her. "Shall
we?" She made a motion towards her son and Nick.

"Definitely," William said, getting Philip to help him move first Derek then Nick into Nick's bed.
He watched as Raina crawled in-between them and looked up at Barbara.

"Pony?" Barbara laughed, and Alex went to the room next door, bringing back the prized stuffed
animal. She handed it off, watching Raina snuggle into Nick's chest, resting her feet on Derek's,
helping the men sleep.

William turned to look at Philip, who just pulled up the desk chair. "Hall, now." Philip shook his
head, and William grabbed his arm pulling him with him. "Alex will stay until you get back." He
closed the door, leaving the women in the room. "Now, you *will* tell me why that looked like
he was going to shoot someone, and you will tell me exactly what is going on between you three."

Philip looked at him and the door. "Bring a chair in an' I'll tell ya." He went back inside, shooing
out the women and taking up a position next to the bed in the chair, watching all three sleep.

William came in, pulling an extra chair with him. He set it next to Philip and angled it so he
could see all four of them. "Now, tell me. And I want the truth. Why does Nick look like he's not
eaten in more than a week, and why was he this delusional?"

"He hasn't eaten in almost a week and a half, three days of that spent unconscious from almost
drowning." He swallowed, shifting slightly. "After tha' afternoon you caugh' them, they had a
figh'. Derek banished Nick from our room, an' made me no' go to him. I didn' figh' him hard
enough, and so Nick got depressed. He was..... It started with nightmares again, moving into lack
of sleep and constant exercise. The other night when I found him in here, bringing him a bottle of
stout, he was talking about the gym being safe for him to be in."

"You brought him alcohol? In his condition?"

"It's our thin' when the other's hur'. We bring the other a bottle of stou' an' we talk. It's kep' us
together this long." He shrugged. "I should have known better, wha' with him no' eatin' an' all,
but I wanted to talk to him so bad, and I knew he wouldn' refuse me tha'." He shifted again,
reaching over to pat Derek's hand. "He's no' been sleepin' either, been sittin' in his office all nigh'.
Derek tried to apologize, but Nick wouldn' listen to him. Tha' nigh' was when I brough' him the
stou' and I tried to talk to him he changed clothes, an' wen' for a swim." He broke up, letting a
sob come through. "Derek pulled him ou'a the water, he had blacked out while doin' laps. We
had to revive him. He slep' for three days, jus' wakin' up occasionally to tell us we weren' real and
we had abandoned him. He tol' Derek the second nigh' tha' love wasn' in his vocabulary
anymore." He broke down further, the sobs coming harder and harder.

William pulled the young man close. "It's all right Philip, I'm here and I'll fix it. You don't have to
be strong anymore, just let it go." He patted his back, treating him like a scared child, offering
comfort and security. "Just let it go." He held him until he stopped crying, then offered him a
handkerchief. "Here, you need it."

"Than's." He blew his nose and wiped his eyes, putting it down on the nightstand. "I honestly
don' know what happened tonight. He seemed to come around after wakin' up to another
nightmare, and we held him. We tol' him we loved him an' everythin'. We apologized and held
him, rockin' him to calm him down. Derek told him he was ours. He jus' begged for us to let him
go." Philip picked up the damp cloth from the table, wiping away the fresh tears. "He came in
here, I chased him, but he locked the door partway. He had the drawer open when I go' in. I go'
him away from it, trying ta call Rachel ta find ou' what was wrong. Derek came when I yelled,
holding him when I couldn' but Nick knocked him to the floor. I tackled him before he go' back
in the drawer, and he retreated to the corner." He smiled over at the trio on the bed. "Raina,
bless her little heart and soul, came righ' up to him an' climbed in his lap. Nick seemed to calm
when he recognized her an' he fell asleep. Tha's when you foun' us."

"So, Nick didn't eat for over a week, worked himself past the limits of his body, then drowned."
He shook his head, angry at the stupidity that was running rampant between these men. "Why
didn't Rachel admit him?"

Philip shrugged, looking over at Derek who was waking up. "Mornin'." Philip pointed to where
the other two were laying. Derek grunted and rolled over, hugging two of the most important
people to him for a while, feeling safe and secure with them in his arms.

"I know what happened tonight. Nick was running a temperature, right?" Philip nodded. "He
was delirious. It's common in cases where someone's starved. He just added insult to injury when
he worked out on top of it." He sighed, blowing out deeply. "He really should be in the

"No," Derek said quietly from the bed. "He stays here. I'll take care of him."

"Derek, he needs to be refluidated, maybe even fed for a while through a tube until he can
stomach food again. You can't do that here, and you don't have the equipment for Rachel to do it

"We'll get it then. He's not leaving us."

Philip patted his hip. "Sleep love, we'll talk abou' it later." He shot a look at William. "Nick's
biggest problem is tha' everyone he trusted an' loved left him or hur' him. If ya pu' him in the
hospital, it'll jus' reinforce that to him. We can take care of him, have been for the last three

"I understand that. But what about when Rachel has to go into the city to make rounds? Or
when you're sleeping?"

"Then we'll take turns an' she can get a leave of absence." Philip said, laying down beside his
elder lover. "Mine, I love you."

"Love you too." He put a cheek up, letting Philip kiss it before turning back to cuddle Nick and
Raina some more. "We'll do it, with or without your help William."

"I'm sure you will, Derek, I'm sure you will." William settled himself down, taking a shift at
watching the three men and one little girl sleep off their problems. "I'm very sure you will."


Derek woke, alone in the bed. He sat up, looking around to find his lovers. He noticed the open
bathroom door, then heard the singing and Raina laughing. He smiled, calming down and drug
himself out of the bed to go see what was going on.

Philip was giving Raina a bath, having great fun helping her play with her toys. Nick was resting
against the toilet, smiling and watching them play. Raina looked up at him and smiled. "Da," she
said, waving her arms.

Derek smiled and fell down on his knees near the tub, hugging her to his chest and kissing the top
of her head. "Hello, little one, are you having fun?"

She pulled back far enough to look at him very seriously. "Play," she said, shaking her head.

"Yeah, squirt, we're playing," Nick said.

Derek let her go back to her toys, turning around enough to collapse into Nick's arms, burying
himself in his chest. "Oh, thank Got, you're all right." He started to sniffle, but Nick just pushed
him away.

"None of us are all right at this moment. And until we are, I agree with William, I'm moving back
into my room, alone."

"William can go to hell, you're coming back with us and we're working it out between us.
Nothing else matters." Derek pulled him to him, tightly holding the younger man. "You're ours
and you're well again, and that's all that matters to me."

"I'm glad to here you say that, Derek," William said, coming in the door with a fresh towel and
some clothes. "It's good to know that you have your priorities straight finally, but it's still his
decision." He put the clothes on the edge of the sink, handing Philip the towel. "Not to much
longer, Philip, or she'll be a prune." He kneeled down next to Derek, prying his hands off Nick's
back. "Derek, let him go for a minute. We need to talk."

"NO!" He whipped his head around to look at one of his oldest friends. "He's ours and we'll
work it out between us."

William blew out a breath, grabbing Derek's hair. "Of course you will, now let him go and come
with me. Now." He pulled until Derek let him go and pulled him to his feet, making him follow.
"Stay in here, we'll be back in a minute." He pulled Derek into the middle of the room, letting his
hair go when they got there. "Sorry, but it was the only way I could think of." He shrugged and
pushed Derek until he sat down. "Shut up and listen." He paced in front of the older man,
gathering his thoughts. "You're an ass, to them and more recently to your mother and myself.
You need to give them time to heal, time to rediscover themselves in this. I know you love them,
and your first instinct is to grab on and not let go, but if you do that, then you'll lose both of
them." He stared at the bathroom door, smiling at the laughter coming from there. "They've
worked it out between them already, Raina helped." He turned to smile at his old friend. "She's
one hell of a kid, Derek, and she's very special."

"I know, but that's my family in there. Mine. Not yours, and no one asked you to butt in." He
tried to stand up, but William pushed him back down.

"Actually, your mother did. That's why I'm here early. She called the night Nick almost
drowned," he watched the color drain from Derek and watched his body fall into itself, "and
begged me to come and fix you. She said you were too much like your father to listen to her."
He kneeled down next to Derek, laying a hand on his shoulder. "I know you're glad he's okay. I
know you only want things to go back to normal, but it's not going to happen. Your domineering
attitude reacted too strongly to his need to let loose and play. That can be a very bad
combination." He smiled. "And you know the only way to fix this is for you to do something
drastic, like change."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt him, I was just so ... so mad, and he was so smug, and he didn't
listen to me."

"How could I listen to you when you sat me on the floor like some bad kid and made me sit there
while you lectured me." Nick came into the room, carrying the baby. "We're going to her room."

"Nick, you can go if you promise to sit or lay down once you're in there." William frowned at
him. "And let Philip carry her, it looks like you're going to pass out again."

"Yes, boss." He handed off Raina and followed Philip to her room.

They waited until he was gone. "Now, you see, he's happier. He's got some support, something
that he's been sorely lacking in the last few weeks, and he's more comfortable. Why is that?"
When Derek didn't answer, he forced his face around, making him look at him. "Why, Derek, why
was he alone?"

"Because I'm bad at this," the Dutchman whispered. "I hurt him badly, again, and he can't forgive
me for it, can he?"

William hugged him. "That's for him, not me, to decide. If it was up to me, I'd just lock you
three in a room until you're ready to talk." He pushed him back. "That's not such a bad idea. Pick
a neutral room."

Derek shrugged, not caring what he was saying anymore. How mean and cruel he had been to
Nick had just hit him. He hadn't meant to hurt him, abandon him, like that, but he did, all
because for his overwhelming and overstuffed pride. Stupid pride, making him act hurt when he
really wasn't. "I don't know why I was upset that day, I wasn't hurt by it."

"Your pride has always been almost as big as your heart, my friend." He stood them up, helping
Derek down the hall. He knocked lightly on Raina's door, opening it to see Nick curled up with
her and Alana and a book. "Having fun?"

"Pretty, pretty," Raina said, holding up the book.

Alana laughed. "I'll watch her for a while, you go talk ta your men." She motioned him out,
letting Philip help him up and help him out of the room. "Rachel had some soup pu' ou' for ya in
tha small library," she called after them, reminding them of a primary goal.

William smiled. He liked this young woman, she was going to be quite a woman when she grew
up and a good member of the Legacy. He helped the three of them to the auxiliary library,
buzzing Dominic to tell him where they were. He got them seated while Dominic brought in
food, and soup, and water for all of them. He was obviously bringing more than was needed, and
when he and William left them alone, they plainly heard the click of the door lock.

"Never underestimate the lengths that man will go to," Derek muttered, looking at the table. He
looked up at his lovers, seeing how pale and weak they looked. "You two need to eat," he said

"So do you," Nick reminded him, pulling out the soup and the bowls. He poured them each
some, letting Philip find the spoons, and Derek pouring water.

"Nick," he started.

"Let's just eat for right now."

"Of course." Derek took a drink of his soup, letting the warmth wash through him. He would
keep apologizing until Nick accepted it and forgave him, but he couldn't do that if Nick wouldn't
listen. He watched Nick eat, glad that his hunger was coming back. He wasn't in as much trouble
as he could be, he could keep down food still and was hungry, that was a good sign. He looked
over at Philip, who had gained all the weight Nick had lost. His middle lover had gone on an
eating binge, constantly wanting something in his mouth. And it was all his fault. "I'm sorry," he
whispered, getting up from the table and going to sit in a chair facing away from them.

Nick and Philip looked at each other, really seeing each other for the first time in a while. They
noticed the little things like hair length and a new shirt, and the big things like the weight and
color problems the other was having. They looked at Derek, seeing the tired, upset man he was,
watching as he bent over to help stop the pain he was feeling.

"Derek, come back and eat," Nick called. He knew it was up to him, it was his action that started
the original fight. Derek shook his head, so he tried to get up, having to grab the table to keep
from falling.

"Nick," Philip said, getting up and helping him to sit again. "Get over here."

Derek looked up, getting paler when he saw Philip having to help his formerly young, energetic
lover to a chair. "No," he whispered, coming over, resting his head on Nick's leg. "No, I ... it's
my fault."

Nick looked up at Philip, who decided now was a good time to go look at a book across the
room, trying to figure out what to do. "Follow your hear'," was whispered, just loud enough for
him to hear, in a soft lilting voice. Nick smiled, Philip always knew what to do, the exact words
that would fix everything. He stroked Derek's hair, letting all the love he still felt come through in
that simple gesture.

"I'm sorry, so sorry, it was all my fault, mine. My pride got in the way, it hurt us, and it's my
fault, never yours." He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "I'll understand if you don't love
me anymore."

"Derek," Nick said, patting his head to get his attention. He tried to pull him up, but the older
man wouldn't budge. "Get up here." He waited until Derek was looking at him. "It's as much my
fault as it is yours. I shouldn't have done that in the control room, especially not when I knew
Sloan was going to call." He smiled, stroking the deep lines in his forehead. "I love you, I always
will. What I told that lawyer, I meant it."

Derek hugged him hard, pulling himself partially into Nick's lap to do it. "Mine?"

"Yours and Philip's," Nick agreed, hugging him back with all of his meager strength. "Now, let
go and let's eat." He kissed the neck he was pressed against.

"In a minute." Derek laughed, letting him go with a kiss. "I'm glad you're all right."

"Me too, love," Philip said, sneaking up and kissing the top of his head. "Ya gave us a terrible
fright over the past few days."

"I'm sorry. I should have known better than to do that to myself, or to go swimming in that

"It doesn't matter, you're here and getting better, and you love us. All the rest is small stuff that
we can brush off." Derek took each one's hands, laying them around the round table. "We're
with each other, and together we're much better than apart."

"I agree," Philip said. "And if Derek needs to dominate on some occasions, well then we'll work
it ou' between us."

"Okay," Nick said, letting go and starting back into his soup. "This is so good."

They laughed. It was good to have the old Nick back again.

%%%%% (one week short of nine months)

It had been two days since they had made up. Nick was laying on the bed, watching Derek fuss
with Philip's bowtie, and smiled. He rubbed himself, getting slightly hard. They had agreed to not
have any actual sex while they were still working things out, but a small blow-job wouldn't hurt
would it? "Derek?"

Both men turned to look at him, laying on the bed like some debauched angel. "Yes, love?" He
smiled, knowing exactly what Nick was thinking just from the twinkle in his eyes. "Would you
like me to fix that for you?"

Philip blushed, laughing at the sight of Nick, half hard and hanging out of his pants, laying there
waiting to be taken. "I'd thin' tha' was obvious." He sat in the desk chair, watching Derek stride
over and give their lover a long and passionate kiss.

Derek straddled Nick's legs, bending down far enough to lick the soft and spongy tip. "Goot?"
Nick nodded, so he took it all in, licking the head and nibbling on it until Nick started to thrust up
madly. He lunged down, taking the whole cock in, swallowing frantically as the new sensation
sent the younger man over the edge. He licked the cock gently, putting it back in it's covering and
zipping it in, patting the tight bulge it made. He moved up, kissing Nick, letting him taste
himself, and rubbing his own erection against his stomach. "Better?"

"Yeah," Nick smiled up at him. "Would you like some too?" Derek nodded, moving to sit on the
side of the bed, letting Nick kneel between his legs.

Nick carefully unzipped his lover. He knew Derek was wearing the new silk stripper's thong
Philip had gotten him as a joke yesterday, and it would be driving him nuts. He expected to be
needed for this at least once more tonight. He flipped the little pouch aside, letting him hang out,
licking at the newly exposed flesh. Nick gently nibbled on the soft underside, tracing the outline
of the veining with his teeth. Derek was moaning; he knew he liked this, and tonight was special.

He licked over the tip, playing the slit with his tongue before encasing it in his mouth. Derek
pushed forward, trying to get more in, but Nick stopped him with his teeth on the separation. He
thoroughly licked the tender spots, suckling gently, finally releasing his teeth so Derek could slide
down further. Derek grunted, sliding in slowly, letting the heat and fire build within him. Nick
smiled and hummed around the hardness, swirling his tongue around the length and swallowing
to create suction. Derek groaned, speeding up his thrusts, ramming himself into Nick's mouth
over and over again, coming in hard, long, sticky streams. Nick licked him clean, getting him
back into the little pouch again and zipping him in. He looked up, licking his lips, and smiled.
"Feel better now?" Derek could only nod, falling backwards to lay on the bed while he recovered.
Nick stood up, leaning over, kissing the slack mouth, "Come find me later love if you need it

Derek grunted, a happy smile lighting up his face. Philip laughed from his chair, running his
fingers though the short hair on his head and motioned for Nick to come give him a kiss too.
"Am I included in tha' offer?" He licked Nick's lips, tasting Derek's and Nick's flavors on them.
"Or am I gonna hafta suffer until later?"

"Oh, I don't know," Nick's eyes twinkled. "I guess I could fit you in somewhere between dancing
with Alana and burying myself in Derek in dark corners." He smiled. "Anytime love, you know

"Goot," Derek said from the bed. "Then later I can watch."

They laughed, getting him up and getting ready to go downstairs.


Alana Julia walked down the stairs, helped down by William and Derek on each arm. She was
seated gently on a chair beside the stairs, arraigning her teal and ivory skirt to lay correctly around
her legs, while they stood around like they were protecting her from something.

"I can be lef' alone, ya don' have ta guard me from the other guests," she reminded them.

Philip laughed, kissing her cheek. "But wha' other woman here is as pretty as you are tonight'?"
He moved a hair that had fallen back down onto her forehead. "We jus' want ta protec' ya from
all the wolves in tha room."

She snorted, letting him get away with because of the flattery. "Thank ya muchly Uncle Phi'ip."
She nodded at Alex as she walked by, dragging Derek with her to go mingle. "You all look nice
yourself tonight'." She smiled at Nick, who was bringing her a glass of juice. "Ah, my pregnancy
fairy arrives with somethin' to calm the savage beasts I'm growin'." She smiled at him, laughing
when he leaned down to pat her stomach.

"How are they tonight?"

"Busy," she said after taking a drink. "That spot Barbara showed me isn' even workin' tonight'."
She sighed, taking another sip. "Ya'd thin' they'd sleep sometime, but no' them."

He laughed. "Of course not. They'll have plenty of time to sleep soon." He patted her stomach
one last time, getting kicked for it, and stood up, taking her glass to take a sip himself. "You
don't want to spill it on your new dress."

"O'course no', but I woul' gladly share with such a handsome man as yourself anyways."

Philip watched the two younger people tease each other, shaking his head. And he had thought
that she was only full of children. He laughed, taking the glass from Nick when he pulled her up
to go dance with him, watching him walk slowly so she could waddle along with him. "Oh, they
do make a cute couple though," he said to himself, looking around for anyone he might know.

Philip saw the Arch-Bishop standing across the room, watching his little family. He smiled,
heading over to the man, even though he detested him with a passion, and stood next to them.
"Your Eminence," he greeted the older man, shaking the hand that was offered.

"Father Callahan, you seem to be in your element here." He waved a hand around the room.
"How many of these have you been to?"

"Any that I was in the city for. I've worked for the Luna Foundation for a while now." He took a
drink of his fermented grape juice, he had decided to join Nick and Alana in the non-alcoholic
beverage tonight. "Is thi' your firs'? I could show you around." He waited, watching the face for
the sneer he knew was coming.

"No, thank you. I've seen more than enough just here in the hall." He looked at a particularly
expensive serigraph. "I see that the Luna Foundation collects artwork also."

"Yes, sir, we have a fine collection, almost as fine as the Diocese's itself." He couldn't help but
smile at the frown he was given for the off-hand remark. "How is the database workin', I'm sure
Mr. Boyle would like to know."

"Oh, it's fine. I still don't know why we needed it, but it works well enough I suppose." He
shrugged, taking another drink of his champagne. "So, was that Mr. Boyle with your niece just

"Yeah, he's appointed himself guardian of her tonight'." He smiled at the pair walking back to the
chair. "She's due almos' any day now."

"So I noticed." The Arch-Bishop turned to face the wayward priest. "And then your fate will be
decided won't it?"

Philip swallowed hard. He knew the man didn't like him, he was the reason he was suspended
from the church until the outcome of Alana's pregnancy was decided. He knew the Arch-Bishop
hated him, why he didn't know, and that he would do everything in his power to have him exiled
from the church forever. "Yes, sir, pretty soon I'll be an Grea' Uncle and she'll be a mother, a fine
one at tha'." He smiled to take the sting out of the words. "I'm sure everythin' will work out
accordin' to God's will." Philip smiled and walked back over to his lover and his niece. "Hi,
how'd the dance go?"

"Do you want me to shoot him for you before or after he kills you with the look he's sending
you?" Nick patted his arm. "It'll be fine. Even if you're forced to leave, you'll always be home
here with us."

"Tha's righ', an' if some mean man doesn' like ya takin' care of your family, then he shouldn' be a
priest anyways." She scowled back at the man who was responsible for the trouble her Uncle was
in over her. "He needs ta be sen' ta someplace where he can' hur' anyone by his stupidity and
bigotry," she said just loud enough for her two men and William Sloan, who was coming over, to
here her.

"Well said," William said, kissing her hand, "but don't say it loud enough for others to hear you.
A fight is not the proper attitude for tonight."

"I know, I know. I'll behave, even if I have ta be nice ta him," she said, pouting some, "Bu' I don'
have ta like it."

William laughed, helping her up. "I know the feeling all too well. We have much the same
problem with some people over in London. Would you like to walk with me and I'll tell you
about them?" He ushered her around the house, introducing her to people he knew on the way.

Nick stared after him. "Just so long as Raven yells at him and not me."

Philip laughed, touching his arm because he couldn't hug him right now. "I'm sure she'll do tha'
too." They both cracked up, earning them a funny look from Barbara, who walked over to them.

"What's so funny?"

"Oh, we were jus' thinkin' about her Doctor, Raven, yellin' at William insteada us for a change."

She nodded, smiling back. "Yes, I've heard she was quite a strong woman." She turned to watch
William walk around the corner with the vulnerable young woman. "She'll be fine, though, I'm
sure. What with all the protective people around her tonight, I don't think the frowning
Arch-Bishop, who by the way is coming over, could even say anything to her." She turned,
smiling to the new man in their group. "Your Excellency," she said, bowing her head slightly.
"How was your trip over?"

"Oh, it was calm." He looked down at Barbara, measuring her up to his standards. "Do you
think it was a wise idea, letting her be here tonight? I mean what with her being pregnant and so
close to term and all," he said covering his earlier mistake at her frown. He didn't know, yet, but
he had just pissed one of the most formidable women on the planet off.

"Well, yes, actually I do. It's good for her to meet new people, and she is well watched," she
waved a hand at their group, taking in Derek who was walking over to diffuse her tirade before it
got off the ground. "Besides, while her circumstances may not be the best right now, she *is* a
part of this family, and we don't hide our members to comfort others." She smiled and turned to
her son, walking away, "If you'll excuse me," she bowed her head again, a little less this time, and
walked away to find a more stimulating conversationalist.

Derek frowned after his mother. "Ah, mothers, they can tread where even angels fear," he said,
just loud enough to be heard. "Arch-Bishop how is your new database working?"

"Oh, it works, I don't know much about those things." He shrugged, watching Barbara Rayne
talk to another priest, this one from the Vatican, a young priest that had newly joined his parish.
"She's quite a woman, your mother." He took another flute of champagne from a passing waiter.
"Quite a woman."

"Yes, I suppose she is," Derek said, drinking from his glass of wine. "She's always been strong
willed, the anchor of our family."

"I would say so." He smiled at Derek. "So, how is Sister Ingrid?"

"Oh, she's well enough. She was to be here, but the storm hit them first and she couldn't get out."
He shrugged. "She'll be here in the morning I expect. Mother called her for support during the

"I see, and how is she really doing?" he asked, pointing to where William and Alana were just
walking back in. "I mean, she's so far out there and all, is she all right?"

"As well as possible under the circumstances." Nick smiled and waved a woman over, tall, dark
hair, in a wine red velvet and beaded dress. "This is Doctor Raven Arkadi, Your Eminence. She's
the miracle worker behind Alana's health tonight."

They shook hands, Raven looking around for her wayward patient. "And where might she be?"

"She's walkin' aroun' on William Sloan's arm," Philip said. "He insisted."

"Oh, well then, I'll guess I'll see her in a minute." She was handed a glass and drank delicately
from it. "Thank you," she told the waiter, who smiled and went about his rounds. "Such a lovely
house, Doctor Rayne. Is it yours or the Foundations?"

"Both actually. It's my house, but is also listed as the headquarters of the Luna Foundation."

"It's a tax dodge," Nick whispered to her, making her laugh.

"Well, I see. So, show me around Father or Mr. Boyle?" They each took an arm and started the

"Your Excellency," Derek started. "Is there some reason why you don't like Alana living here
with her Uncle and the rest of us?"

"Ah, plain speech at last. No, not a reason at all. I just don't think Philip should be focused
outside of his calling. Not on a problem like her, or in your work. I don't like it when my
underlings do things that don't concern the Church directly."

"I see. So then the database wasn't your idea, either, was it?"

"No, and I didn't see a need for it. Those computers are a menace to today's faithful. They take
time away from the family and the Church, giving them access to all sorts of information that they
don't need or want." He 'hrummped'. "It's positively sinful the way that modern technologies are
drawing away from what's important in this world and the next."

Derek just nodded his head. "I'm sure we'd disagree, but I'll not counter your arguments." He
smiled and walked over to where William and Alana were talking with the new priest to the
parish. "I've just come from the most interesting conversation with the Arch-Bishop," he
whispered to William on his way around him.

"I saw." He smiled and introduced Derek to the group. "This is Doctor Rayne, our host. Derek,
this is Fathers Alamard and Cushings. Father Alamard is in for Philip's board and Father
Cushings is here to learn from our good Father. Apparently, Father Cushings is also a linguist, of
mostly Middle Eastern and Asian ones."

Derek smiled at him. "I hope to see you around the house then. I'm sure you and Philip will get
along well."

"Yes, really, I came to see him because I had received a book in an inheritance, and I can't
decipher it. It's in some form of Ancient Hindu that I don't recognize."

"Father Callahan is one of the top linguists in the Church these days. I thought these two should
get together." Father Alamard smiled. "Actually, I was hoping to pick his brain myself on the
Vatican's manuals that are going up on the internet."

"I'm sure he'd be happy to help. I believe he's in the library, showing this young lady's doctor our
archives. If you would like, I'll take you to him," Derek offered.

"If it's not a problem, I would rather have this charming young woman take me. We were having
a discussion on the decoding of the Aztec language that I would like to continue." He held out
his arm, patting Alana's hand when she took it. "I see the gift of languages runs strong in your
family. Have you ever thought of joining the Church? We could use another one like him around
at the Vatican." They walked off to go find Philip, Alana blushing the whole way.

"Fortunately, she's agreed to come and work here," William said, grabbing another glass of
champagne. "She's signed a letter of intent this morning."

Father Cushings laughed. "So, then he won't be able to worm her away from your important
work, will he?" They all laughed. "Oh, Doctor Rayne, I was wondering if I could gain access to
your stacks here at the house. I'd love to research this," he pulled a necklace out of his pocket,
"here. It came to me with the book, and I haven't been able to find a reference anywhere. The
nice woman in New Delhi said I could ask you and you might know something." He handed it
over, letting Derek look at it.

Derek's sight went off. He could see the Precept of the New Delhi house backed into a corner,
warding off something with her hands. He shook his head, bringing him back to the present.
"When did you see her last?"

"A few days ago. Why, is something wrong?"

Derek shook his head, handing it back. "We would welcome you to our house. Anytime you
want to come over, just call first and we'll try to help." He smiled and pulled William a little ways
away. "You need to call New Delhi, now. I saw her, she's in trouble," he whispered, giving him
the key to his office. William nodded and left them alone, heading off at a casual pace.

"So, is it something bad?" Father Cushings asked. When Derek gave him a funny look, he added,
"My sister gets that look sometimes when she touches things too." He shrugged. "She's in
London right now, but he didn't recognize my name because she's married."

"Ah," Derek said, pulling him into an alcove. "How long have you known?"

"That something was going on? Only today. I was stationed over there, and had helped Ms.
Whitcomb, their archivist, on occasion. When I tried to call her today, I didn't get an answer, not
even the butler. I actually had to beg to get here tonight. She told me if I got in trouble while I
was here to come see you or Father Philip."

"I see, and what are you going to do with this knowledge?"

"Why, not a thing, sir. I loved working in their stacks, and would be happy to help you out if you
needed my expertise, but nothing else. I would never anger the old fool in the robes by the stairs
by being so blatant as asking to join your group. Even if I do desire it." He smiled, letting Derek
him know he was safe. "I would have asked them, but I knew I was being reassigned as soon as
an opening occurred." He looked at the floor. "There's not many gay parishes in New Delhi, and
that's what I want to do, to go and help that community to grow strong in their faith and their
love for each other." He smiled slightly, remembering someone. "My brother is working in one in
Connecticut. He's performing marriages and everything. That's what I want to do, santicfy their
love so it's accepted and celebrated."

"That's a noble cause," Derek patted his shoulder. "We welcome you to our house. Come by
tomorrow and I'll have the paperwork drawn up to give you consultant status." He smiled and
pulled him toward the library. "We should go join the others in the Library, I'm sure they're
wondering where we are by now."

Alana was walking on the covered balcony when she felt the first pain hit her. She didn't think
much of it, just that the twins were kicking harder now, targeting her kidneys. She rubbed her
back, watching the lightning hit the water of the bay.

"Pretty isn't it?" Rachel asked, coming up behind her and rubbing her back. "Pains?"

"Nah, they're jus' kickin' up a storm again. They don' like thunderstorms any better'n I do." She
smiled and turned slightly. "Does this mean ya like me now?"

"I never disliked you, dear, just your choices in life. I just thought you were throwing away a
promising future on what some old man in Rome says you ought to be doing." Rachel shrugged.
"I've always thought the Pope should stay out of women's bodies."

"I know, so do I; but I couldn' no' have them." She turned, pulling Rachel into the shadows. "In
my family, there's a problem, an' I go' it. Our baby-makin' parts wear ou' faster, and so we can'
have kids as well when we're older. I've been looked at, and he said I probably couldn' have any
after twenty or so." She smiled sadly. "I didn' plan this or anythin', but I couldn' no' have 'em
because of that."

"I've seen studies on that problem." She smiled and patted the young woman, reassuring her.
"I'm not saying you did it on purpose. Nobody is, otherwise Nick would have killed them by
now. All I'm saying is that taking care of one child is a pain, let alone twins, and sick ones. I just
wanted you to be sure of your choice and all it entailed." She patted a hair back into place and
went back inside, getting into a discussion with Derek and his mother.

"I know," Alana whispered, She grabbed the railing, holding on during the pain, willing it to go
away. She didn't realize she wasn't alone until she felt the hand on her back, rubbing gently.

"How far apart?"

She turned, surprised to find William Sloan standing there. "I'm having two or three, then nothing
for a while, almost an hour or so."

"Okay, so was that the second one?" She nodded, and he checked his watch. "Come on, I want
you to be sitting down." He helped her back inside, seating her on the chair and making eye
contact with Barbara. He mouthed the words, "Find her doctor," and turned back, distracting her
with conversation. "So, have you picked out names yet?"

"Yeah. I wan' ta name one after the women in the house who've helped me, so Barbara Alexandra
Callahan and Nicholas Phi'ip Callahan." She smiled up at him. "There was jus' too many of ya to
put in at once."

He smiled down at her. "Don't worry, you can name the next one after me." She laughed,
holding her stomach to keep from bouncing too much. "Hurts to do that, doesn't it?" He kneeled
down beside her. "You know, when my wife was pregnant with my second one, she didn't sleep
for almost a week at a time because of my daughter kicking her so much." He smiled,
remembering the frantic times. "She was such a trooper about it though, never complained. You
remind me a lot of her."

"Thank ya." She tipped her head, giving him a little bow at the compliment. She groaned, seeing
a certain determined doctor coming toward her. "You jus' had ta tell her, didn' ya?"

"Well, of course we did. It isn't like I can deliver those two for you." He stood up, moving out
of the way so Raven could get to her. "Doctor."

"So, it's pains now?" Alana nodded, starting another one. "How far apart?"

"Three minutes this time. She said she's having two or three then nothing for an hour or so."

"Good, premature labor. Still, I want to take you over to the hospital." She pulled her up, only
to be stopped by Nick.

"Can't. Weather's too bad. Ferry's not coming over again for another couple of hours and I can't
get the chopper off in those winds." He stroked Alana's cheek. "How you doing?"

"I'm fine, an' you're fussin' again." She frowned at him. "It's nothin'."

"Of course we are, this is important." Nick smiled down at her, stroking her hair back behind her
ear. "Now, sit there and behave, or do you want to go upstairs?"

"No, I'm fine." She started to get up, but William and Nick held her down in the chair. "Stop it,"
she hissed at them, doubling over in pain.

"Go get my bag out of the trunk of my car," she handed Nick her keys. "We're going upstairs. I'll

"We've got it, ma'am, just in case," Dominic whispered from behind her. "Her room is as clean as
possible, every surface was just wiped down with an antiseptic cleaner. If you want to take the
back stairs, I'll show you the way."

"No time for that Dominic, thank you though," William said, helping Alana up. "We'll just take
the main ones casually and no one will know." He motioned for Raven to get on her other side,
and they helped her up the stairs to her room, smiling politely at the people they passed. William
opened the door, noticing the preparations that had been made. The room smelled like a hospital,
and there were extra sheets on the bed, a small bowl and cloths on the dresser. "Looks like he's
thought of everything." He helped her in, sitting Alana on the side of her bed. "Okay, young one,
let's get you out of those shoes first so you can lay down." He started to bend down and help her,
but she pulled her legs away from him.

"No, no' you." She blushed. "I.... You ...."

"Don't worry, dear," Barbara said, coming into the room with Nick and Philip, "he's not going to
look up your skirt. But, William, I do agree with her. Why don't you go get some ice chips for
her while she changes into something a little more appropriate." She nodded at the door.

"Yes, dear. I know when a man is in the way." He walked out, smiling at Nick and Philip.

"Just put them down over there," Raven pointed at the corner nearest to the bed. "Open the little
bag and pull out the vial with the blue top." She helped Alana sit up, holding her steady while
Barbara unzipped her. She held out the holes of the shirt she was putting Alana into, helping her
get her arms through. "Okay, now, do you have shorts with this, or is it a one piece?"

"Shorts," she panted, getting into another contraction. "Second drawer." She rolled on her side,
grabbing Nick's and Philip's hands. "Hol' me?"

"O'course, little one. Jus' relax an' we'll hold ya." Philip handed Raven the vial and a syringe.

"Does this mean we're doing it here?" Nick asked, moving Alana's head enough to sit and rest it
on his thigh.

"Well, you said we can't get across the bay." She looked at him. "Unless you have some strange
power over the weather, we're doing it here." She drew some of the medicine into the needle,
taking the alcohol swab from Nick. "Alana honey, I'm going to give your stomach a local. It's
going to sting, really bad, and you'll still feel the pains, but it's all I've got here." She slipped the
needle in just under the larger part of Alana's stomach. "Here we go, the first is always the most
painful." She injected some, then moved the needle, hitting a few more spots.

Nick handed her over some more swabs, watching as she prepped the area. "Honey, little one,
you're doing just fine. Just keep breathing for us, okay?"

She nodded, panting slowing, the pain going away for a while longer. "Yeah. Okay. It's over."
She blew out a hard breath, rolling onto her back, affixing her head to where Nick's knees bent.
"Than' ya," she whispered.

Philip leaned over, kissing her sweaty brow. "Wha' did ya expec'? Us ta leave ya down there in

She laughed. "Oh, Uncle Phi'ip. You don' know how much it means ta me ta have ya here right
now. You an' Nick both." She smiled at them. "I have a favor ta ask."

"Sure, Alana, whatever you want." William handed her a cup of ice chips and sat on her other

"Well, wha' with there bein' three priests downstairs, an' seein' how I'm wantin' all o'ya ta be
Godparents, will ya let one o'them do the baptisms, Uncle Phi'ip?" She pulled on his hand until he
was looking at her. "It'd be hard for ya to do 'em an' be the Godfather at the same time." She
smiled at him, shyly, hoping he would understand.

Philip just smiled at her, kissing her cheek. "I like both of the younger men, I'll ask one ta come
up and do 'em."

"You meant it? You want all of us to be the Godparents?" Nick asked, shocked that he was being
offered the sacred position. "Are you sure?"

"Wha' ya think I'm kiddin'?" She snorted. "No' bloody likely." She smiled up at him. "Besides,
you're an Uncle already, an' more than likely to act like a father too, so I'm jus' makin' it official."

Raven looked up, smiling at the men. "Last time she was in, the Social Worker was there. She
asked her to sign a will and protection statement on who to give them to. She bequeathed the
poor little ones to you all anyways."

"All of us?"

"Ya mean like the whole house?"

"Yes, like the whole house Uncle, in general an' I named ya all in specific. I figure tha' they'd be
safer here an' better loved to." She tried to blow a stray hair off her forehead, and Nick moved it
for her. "Thanks." She smiled at her favorite men, squeezing Philip's hand. "I named you two,
Alex and Derek as her guardians, and if somethin' happened, William and Barbara. I hope ya
didn' mind."

"Not at all, Alana, we'll love them like our own. But only if something happens to you." Barbara
smiled down at her. "I'm so proud of the way you've withstood this time, so strong and all." She
bumped William with her hip. "You're like my own grand-daughter."

"Mine too," he said, shooting Barbara a dirty look. "But we know nothing's going to happen to
you. In a few years, you're going to Dublin and so are both of them."

"It's jus' a matter of faith," Alana said, wincing as another pain started. "Here's another."

"Okay, I've swabbed you, and we'll cut during the pain so you won't feel as much," Raven said,
sprinting over to grab a rolled up bundle. She laid it across Alana's stomach, nodding at the
others to distract Alana as she untied it and pulled out a scalpel. She unwrapped it, tossing the
paper onto the floor, and leaned over. "Okay, here we go." She waited until Alana was in the
middle of the pains until she made the first cut.

Alana jumped, the pain had gotten worse, but it was a pulling. "Oh," she cried, holding onto the
men harder.

Raven looked up and smiled at her. "Worst is over, just the uterus to go." She looked at the door
as Rachel slipped in, followed by Kat. "You might not want her here right now." She bent back
to the opening, using the spreaders she unwrapped to open it further, bending over to make
another incision.

"It's cool. I've helped Mom before on roadside cases." Kat came over, pulling back Raven's hair
so she could see, fastening it with her scruchie. "There, now you don't have to squint." She
walked over, standing behind Philip. "It'll be okay."

"Than's," Alana whispered, "Ya don' know how much tha' means ta me right now." She tightened
up, the pain from the surgery making her cry out.

"Ssshh, little one, it's all right," Nick stroked her face, calming her with his touch. "The worst is
almost over."

Philip had turned gray, holding onto Alana's hand for dear life. He was watching Raven dig
through his niece, inch by inch, going deeper to uncover his new family members, and it scared
him. He started to pray silently, glad that they weren't alone.

"Uncle, it's no' tha' bad," she whispered, smiling at him. "I'd imagine tha' havin' them the usual
way would be worse."

"Yeah, it is," Rachel said, handing Raven another instrument. "You only dilate about as big as a
large orange or a small grapefruit, then you push out something the size of a watermelon." She
smiled at her daughter. "At least that's what Kat felt like."

"Thank's Mom, really." Kat rolled her eyes, moving Philip aside a little so she could stand beside
the young woman. "It's okay, really. You've got two good doctors working on you, and I bet
Raven even knows how to make sure you don't scar that much." She smiled, trying to lighten the

Alana smiled at her. She liked Kat, even if they weren't friends. "Than's." She jumped as the pain
got worse. "Hey, don' do that."

"Sorry," Raven said, humming softly. "Almost excavated them."

"Is that the proper term?" William asked, frowning at the bad humor flying around.

"Dear, it's only appropriate around people like you and Derek," Barbara said, kissing his slightly
gray cheek. "Don't worry, I won't tell Derek that you have less of a sense of humor than he

"Thanks," he said quietly, watching as Kat slipped into a vision.

Kat 'saw' a baby, fighting and being put on a respirator, another sickly and pale, laying there. She
shook her head, coming back. "You got to hurry, they're in trouble," she said, sitting down
heavily on the floor and taking Alana's hand. "Don't worry, she still has some time before it

"Before wha' happens?" Alana asked, panicking. She knew Kat and Derek both had the sight,
both of them had strong visions of the future. "Wha's going on?"

"Ssshh, little one," Nick said, patting her head and shooting a dark look at Kat. "I'm sure it'll be
all right." He calmed her down, gentling her with soft words and pats. "It'll be okay, just wait
and see, they're fine, everything's all right."

"No, she's right, and she needs to keep her heartrate up, it's pushing theirs into the normal range
again," Raven said, smiling over at Kat. "Although, how she knew... You guys deal with way
too much strange stuff for me." She turned back, using the retractors to pull apart the sides of the
uterine incision. "All right, almost there, just let me reach in and grab them. Rachel, I'm handing
them off to you and Barbara. Get them breathing, clean 'em, and wrap them up to give to her."
She reached a hand in, feeling around in the sloshing liquid for the warm bodies. "Got 'em," she
cried, pulling them out. She handed the mass off to Rachel, bending back down to remove the
placental mass and most of the fluid. She reached a hand out, waiting for Nick to hand her a
stitch kit. When she didn't receive anything, she turned, looking at Rachel try to get one of them
to start breathing. "Rachel, in the bag is a stimulant, it's in the red bottle in the little bag. Use two
drops under the tongue."

"I've got it," Kat said, sliding across the floor and handing the bottle to her mother. They all
watched as Rachel worked, waiting for the expected cry. "Mom, check the air passageway
again," Kat said quietly. "There's a blockage still." Rachel nodded, and swept her finger, then the
little bulb sucker, along the back of the baby's throat. She sucked some more fluid out, letting it
out onto the towel they were laying on.

Everyone sighed heavily when the second cry came out.


Alex knocked on the hospital door, opening it part way to stick her head around. "Hi, how you

Alana groaned as she sat up, making the bed move to match her new position. "Oh, been better.
How are they?"

"They're fine. As a matter of fact, the two proud Godfathers were right behind me with the first
pictures of them separated." She smiled and sat down in the chair next to the bed. "Raven was
pacing the halls with them."

"Oh, better her'n me." Alana sat herself up a little more, plumping up the pillow before laying
back down. "So, how do I look?"

Alex laughed. "Smaller." Alana started to giggle, but instead ended up holding onto her
stomach. "Hurts?"

"Yeah." She turned onto her side, facing Alex. "Really, how do they look?"

"Well, the one in the back, the girl, is still on a respirator and the little boy still looks kind of gray,
but no other problems it looks like." She shrugged. "They look better."

"Sure do, kiddo," Nick said, handing over the pictures and stealing in to put a kiss on the top of
her head. "Kat said they are going to be fine, though. No more precogs for them." He smiled
and sat down on the edge of the bed. "How are you?"

"Inc'r'dbly sore." She patted the bulge of bandage on her stomach. "Other than tha', I'm jus'
tired." She yawned, and got a kiss in return from her Uncle, who had just come in. "Mornin'."

"Afternoon," Philip said, moving her slightly so he could sit down and have her head resting on
his chest. "They're fine, really."

"Beautiful children, just like their mother," Nick said.

Alana looked up at her Uncle, "Wha's the American version of the Blarney Stone?" At his
confused look, she added. "Well, I know he hasn' been to Ireland to kiss ours, so where's your's."

They all laughed, Nick blushing strongly.


Nick jumped up, bringing part of Derek with him off the bed. One of the newest members of his
family was screaming her head off, and it sounded like she meant it this time. He opened the
door, starting down the hall, but Alana's yell stopped him.

"Go back ta bed, she's mine an' I'll do it."

Nick just nodded and went back to his nest of lover's, wiggling to get under Derek's chest and on
top of Philip's arms, right where he was before.

"They're fine, and she's a goo' mother, love. Come back to sleep with us."

Nick hummed into the side of Philip's throat, laughing when the older man licked his ear. "Yes
love. I'll be back there soon."

"Just you wai' until I break you in the mornin'," he said, snuggling in closer. "You'll no' walk for a
week for gettin' up like that."

"What ever you say, Philip." Nick smiled, letting himself drift back into the comfortable and safe
place where he and his lovers met every night while they dreamed.

Nick woke to someone licking his stomach, nibbling on the rim of the small cavity. He groaned,
reaching down to pet the soft hair. Hair that didn't belong to Derek or Philip. He opened an eye,
raising his head long enough to look down. "Morning Raina."

"Get up." She crawled up him, gnawing on his shoulderblade. "Me," she said into the warm

"Yep, I know it's you. Are you still teething? Is that why you're biting your favorite Uncle?"

"It seems that my daughter has the same tastes I do, we both think you're delicious." Derek
leaned down, kissing his sleep swollen lips. "And it's afternoon."

"Can't be." Nick tried to turn around, but Raina slapped him for moving her chewing place.
"Raina, are we going to have to buy you a teething ring?"

"She has one," Philip said, coming over to sit on the bed on Nick's other side. "She jus' won't use

Raina stopped chewing long enough to look up at Philip and tell him "Yucky." She happily went
back to her gumming the spot on his chest.

"Oh, my, well, it looks like I can't do what I wanted this morning. And after Philip promised me
last night and all." He looked at his men, a devilish grin and light in his eyes coming across.

"Raina," Derek said, "why don't you go talk to the babies?" He helped her off Nick's chest,
putting her on the floor. "I'm sure they'd like to see you."

Raina smiled at him and nodded, letting Philip open the door for her and waddled down the hall.
Philip watched her go, smiling at the little pink diaper peeking out from under her dress. He
waited until Alana opened her door before coming back inside and locking the door.

Derek leaned over, kissing the spot where his daughter had tried to cut a new tooth. "Umm," he
said, licking at the tiny teeth marks, "I see my daughter does have goot taste in chew toys." He
smiled, letting his tongue work it's way up to Nick's open and waiting mouth. He slipped inside
it, sucking on it's mate and playing with the tender spots on the roof of Nick's mouth.

"Derek, leave some for the rest of us," Philip whined, crawling up to sit on Nick's thighs. He
pushed Derek away, grabbing the tempting lips for himself. "But," he said when he came up for
air, "we can't do this right now. My hearin's today in an hour or so." He checked the clock,
rolling off Nick to bury his head in his lover's chest.

"Philip, it'll be all right." Nick patted his back, gently rubbing it in small circles. He smiled at
Derek, motioning for him to take over Philip so he could get up. "I gotta shower now if we're
going to make it on time." He kissed his slightly older lover one last time, wiggling out from
under him and jogging into the bathroom.

Derek cuddled Philip to him, playing with his hair, stroking the tender and soft flesh on his neck.
"He's right, it's going to be fine, whatever the outcome."

"If they decide I can stay, they coul' send me away." He buried his face in Derek's chest. "I'm

"Of course you are," a very wet Nick said, sliding in behind him. "It's normal to be scared when
your whole life's work is called in question." He kissed the hand stroking the neck and the flesh it
was rubbing. "So, how should I dress?"

"Doesn' matter, they won't let you into the hearing." Philip sat up, hugging one then the other to
him tightly. "It's against protocol for anyone except the board, the Arch-Bishop, the Cardinal,
and myself to be in there."

"Then they'll have to break it," Derek said, running a hand across Philip's cheek, brushing away
the light touches of moisture. "I'd say something more formal than jeans and less formal than a
suit, Nick."

Nick nodded and headed for his side of the closet, pulling out a pair of khakis and a dress shirt.
He held them up for inspection, waiting until he got Derek's nod to lay them on the foot of the
bed. He grabbed his underwear out of a drawer, pulling it on and sitting down to start dressing.

Philip shook his head at his lovers, getting up to change his own clothes. Derek watched them
from the pillows, leaning on his hands he had clasped behind his head. When Nick got up long
enough to hand him a different shirt, caressing the naked flesh as he handed it over, Derek
groaned. "Later, boys, we'll celebrate later."

Nick smiled at him, stroking the strong shoulder Philip had turned towards him. "I know, I
couldn't resist."

"Get dressed," Philip growled, smiling at him. "Otherwise we'll never be on time."

Derek laughed. "Oh, I think they'll have to wait, but so will you, Nick. Later." He shot him a
dirty look. "Or else it'll be tomorrow for you."

"What? Can't a guy make his lover feel better?" He sat down, pulling on socks and shoes. "It's
not like *I've* had a few long talks with the Cardinal over the last few days." He smiled up at
Derek, taking the sting out of his words. "After all, I've not pushed my weight around just so
Philip would stay with them."

"You did wha'?" Philip turned to face his lovers. "You've been meddlin' again, after I asked ya to
*not* get involved?" He blew out a breath. "I will not get mad about this, it's not worth the
heartburn," he told himself, sitting in the desk chair to pull on his shoes. "When were ya gonna
tell me about this?"

"When hell froze over and no one we know does it," Derek said, standing up and coming over to
kiss the top of his head. "And it's nothing compared to the meddling William has done." He
smiled and walked out the door, Philip and Nick each on an arm.


"Father, you know why we're here and you also know what the outcome should probably be."
The Arch-Bishop held up a hand, quieting the outburst from the other priests on the judicial
board. "You knew the rules before you broke them and it will be in God's will how you will be

"I find your attitude problem disturbing, Bishop, but that's why your replacement will be here in
two days," the Cardinal said. He turned to look at Philip, smiling at the young man. "He would
have been here today, but he came down with the flu. We've heard your case, and your
arguments in your behalf. Are you ready to face this board's judgment?"

Philip nodded, standing up. "Yes, Your Excellency, I am."

"Good. My son, my friend, God has indeed worked in a strange way in your life." He held up a
hand. "Here me out Philip. God has seen fit to give you a calling, and an overwhelming love
both, which are presently at odds with each other. But, He has also worked a number of small
miracles lately, not the least of which being your new charges." He smiled. "I'm sure you'll hate
me for this in a few months when you haven't slept in days. You know, the little girl, Barbara, is
going to be quite a credit to her choir, which I know she will join when she's older."

"Yes, sir, she does have quite a set of lungs on her." He slumped, already knowing the outcome.

"Well, straighten up Philip, it looks bad." He waved a hand at the door guards, having them
admit Derek and Nick. "I'm sure you'll want your loves to be here for you. Oh, we noticed the
mostly truths in the court case Philip, you may want to confess those." He waited until they were
all inside, standing there holding hands for support. "Your luck is both bad and good here. While
we, in good faith and by the rules, cannot allow you to remain a priest, we do have a
compromise." He shifted forward, leaning on the table. "You see, we need someone who's in
your position in a number of ways. First, we need someone to counsel other brothers and sisters
of the faith that are having the same problems you've had. I know you aren't qualified for this, but
we'll get to that in a moment. Father, you see, we're at odds with the community here. We don't
reach out to our flock in all the ways we should; we don't practice the love that we preach in the
gay community here, and we should. That is why the Vatican is sending us a special Bishop, one
who excels in setting up new parishes. Our new parish is going to be a mostly gay one, and we
have decided that you should consult on this task. I know you aren't really a member of the
community yourself, but you're in a unique position, being able to see both sides of the fence as it
were." He smiled, nodding at Derek. "Your senior lover's boss was quite elegant in your behalf,
actually he demanded, that you be allowed to participate. You are on the formation counsel as a
peacemaker and as the middle ground. Besides that, the diocese is sending you to school for a
degree to help you counsel the brothers and sisters who are having problems keeping their vows
to the Church when it comes to not relating to another person intimately. Do you have any

"Why am I being chosen?" He didn't want their pity, but it was a good compromise. If only it
were for the right reasons.

"Because you've been there, and you have a special perspective on the situation, both of them. I'll
not lie to you, it'll be a lot of work, and some of it very tiring. You'll have my full support, and
that of the new Arch-Bishop, who I believe doesn't know it's him yet, and we'll help you with the
counseling as much as possible."

"So, he's going to help others make their own decisions, in regards to participating in a
relationship, *and* he's going to set up a new parish?" Nick turned to Philip, kissing him on the
cheek. "Any time you want me to help, just ask."

"I will, count on it." He turned to look at Derek who was smiling. "An' I'll deal with your
meddlin' later too." He smiled at him before turning back to face the panel of priests. "Thank
you, sir, and I only hope I'll be worthy of the positions you've given me." He bowed, leaving
them and pulling his lover's from the room. Once outside the room, he kissed each one tenderly,
letting his love show through.

Nick laughed, spinning him around. "Now you'll still be able to help others instead of letting
them fight it out with their consciousness on their own, like you did. I'm *so* proud of you."

"Yeah, it's a good thing." Philip hugged him tightly, wanting to be put down. Derek came up
behind them, hugging both the men to his chest. "Every thing is good right now."

"Let's celebrate," Nick whispered.


Philip laid down on the bed, letting himself sprawl over the blue satin sheets. Derek had given
him a bath, Nick his enema. Both of them had told him he was to be pounded into the mattress
tonight, as a reward Nick had said for being so calm earlier.

Alana had cried, running up to her room, when she heard the decision. Barbara had hugged him,
kissed his cheek and towed Alex after her to see to his niece and the kids. Rachel and Kat had
each hugged him, Rachel saying something about it being for the best and fate. Kat had sat beside
him, shaking her head at her mother, telling him later it was a crime to discriminate against him
like that, and how she was glad he was going to be spending more time around them, even if the
reason behind it was exile. He had hugged her, telling Kat it was all right, and he had made his
peace with the decision, but she had still walked off, shaking her head at his forgiveness of a
"stupid rule". Alana had come down later and they had talked, really discussed the subject, until
they were both comfortable with it. Maybe she would make Kat understand.

He looked around, listening to the quiet in the house. Everyone was over at Rachel's watching
movies to give them some privacy. She had invited them over so 'their screams wouldn't keep
anyone up, especially the twins'. Philip watched Nick slick himself up, sliding into bed beside
him. He let the younger man roll him onto his side, letting him face Derek who was going to just
kiss him for a while, and felt him slide in. He tensed, making himself relax as Nick moved into
his body slowly, carefully, tenderly. He kissed Derek, knowing they would trade positions later,
and let the kiss unwind him so Nick could sheathe himself fully.

"So good," Nick whispered, thrusting in small little sharp movements. Philip pushed back, telling
him he wanted more, but Nick just kissed his shoulder, pulling out and reentering him slowly.
"Mine, and we want to make love to you gently tonight." He slid out almost all the way, letting
himself fall back in a steady rhythm. He heard music in his head, keeping time with him. He kept
it up, gently rocking Philip back and forth in sync, letting Derek find his own gentle music in
Philip's mouth.

When Nick slid out for the final time, crawling over him to let Derek take his turn, Philip groaned.
He was liking the attention. He let Derek slip inside, squeezing him with the tight muscles. Nick
smiled, taking up his position to pleasure the front of him while Derek pleasured him annally.

"So goot," Derek whispered. "So right." He found his rhythm, just as gentle and tender as
Nick's had been. Nick played the inside of his mouth like some musical instrument, using his body
as the keys.

Philip groaned, liking this a lot, but needing more. Nick knew what was going on, so he slid his
slick cock against his, letting the friction cool the ache of his need. Nick moaned, settling himself
back into his internal music, letting his and Derek's rhythms set up a symphony of feelings and

Philip came with a soft sigh, kissing Nick through it. Derek had followed him over and Nick was
happily thrusting away into Philip's and Derek's hands. He came with a groan, leaning over to
lick at a sweat trail on Philip's chest. He held Philip when Derek pulled out, letting the loss of the
bonding flow into him too.

Philip laid there, snuggled between his men, happy that they were still together and that he hadn't
lost everything good in his life in the last few months. "Thank you," he whispered, not sure
whether or not anyone had heard him. He got kisses in return, both back and front over his heart,
and knew he was loved for all he was and all he would be.

The End.