Note: Happens in that span of time in 51 when Brandon leaves, but before graduation.
Rome, Sweet Rome.
Brandon looked around as he stepped off the plane. He grabbed Buffy's hand as they walked into the terminal, clutching it tightly as the crowds got bigger and louder. They stopped in front of a bitter-looking older man, who frowned at him. He held up his bag because that's what everyone else was doing. "I'm here to help someone," he told the old man. He got a grunt.
"He doesn't understand English," Buffy said as she leaned down. "Relax, we'll be picked up soon. Okay?"
He nodded, shifting his grip because his hand was getting sweaty. "Okay. Will they like me?"
"Everyone else does so I don't see why not," Giles said, giving him a smile. He took their bags and led the way out of the security section, going to where their contact would be waiting. "Sister Mary Catherine?" he called as he caught sight of a familiar form. Six nuns turned to look at him.
She walked over, holding out a hand. "Rupert Giles. We've been wanting to bring you to our house." She nodded at Buffy. "Ms. Summers. And little Brandon." She squatted down to get on his level. "Hi. How was your trip?"
"Long," he said with a grin. "Do you have any animals?"
"We have a very large lapdog. He's a German Shepard."
"Cool." He switched hands, taking one of hers. He flinched and looked up at her. "Wow. What house was that about?"
"We'll figure that out when we get home," the nun, the Precept of the Vatican City House, said quietly. "Come, let's go to the car. It's not the greatest but it runs." She led them to the car, letting everyone but Brandon get in the back. "There, we'll talk while we're stuck in traffic." She got in and slammed the door, tugging to make sure it really closed this time. "Like I said, it runs," she said as she caught Giles' smile.
"Yes, I had the same feeling about my Citreon."
"That was a bad car, Giles," Buffy told him with a pat to the knee. "It didn't like to run faster than I could."
"Yes, dear, but it was there when we needed it," Giles told her firmly. "No more disparaging remarks about my former car."
"Yes, Giles." She smiled and winked at Brandon, who was looking over the edge of the seat at her. "When are you going to get another car? You haven't had one in ages."
"Probably about the same time you do," he said lightly, patting her on the knee. "Derek has a few extras that he lets us both use. It's good enough for me, Buffy, drop the subject."
"But those cars are *real* old," Brandon protested. "Even older than I am."
"Just because something's old doesn't mean that it doesn't work just as well," Giles told him, giving him a frown. "That goes for cars as well as it does people."
"Of course it does, after all, you work very well," he said, giving his favorite uncle a brave smile, "and you're real old too."
"Thank you," Giles said dryly.
Buffy snickered. "I don't have to worry about that at least."
"Nope, you're not quite that old, but you're still old," Brandon said, grinning at her. He got very confused when she started to cry. "I'm sorry," he said, reaching a hand back to her.
"She okay?" the Precept asked.
"Yeah," Buffy sniffled, "I never thought I'd hear that about myself." She leaned into Giles' side, gladly accepting his hug. "Thanks," she said as she stopped, wiping off her cheeks. "Brandon, remind me to give you a kiss and hug when we get out."
"Okay," he said, still looking confused. He looked at Uncle Giles, who was smiling at him. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine," Giles said gently. "Turn around and watch the city go by, this is a very historic place. Lots of famous people have lived here."
"Like who?" Brandon asked, turning around to watch the buildings go past. He glanced over at the woman driving them. "Are you a nun like Sister Ingrid? She's kinda cool but she's always in the garden."
"Almost like her, though I'm less saintly." She stopped in front of a small, very ancient building. "I've got to make a stop here, be right back. Brandon, want to come in with me?"
"Sure." He climbed out after her, following her inside. Inside the building was a store with all sorts of things he'd never seen. He stared intently down into the big box of beans, reaching out to touch one, trying to figure out why it was hard.
"Nope, we don't need any of those," Sister Mary said as she walked past him. "We need cheese and we need meat, oh, and bread, but no beans tonight."
"Why are they hard? When we're forced to eat them, they're never hard."
"Those aren't cooked," she told him with a smile. "Come on, we have to get a light supper for our friends." She grabbed two loaves of bread and a package off the counter, smiling at the man behind it. "You know us, we'll pay you tomorrow," she called as she led Brandon out the door. She let him in first then handed the groceries back to Giles. "No nibbling," she ordered. Buffy had just been looking at the packages. She slid in and started the car as she closed the door. "We'll be home in a few minutes, we're over beside the Vatican City proper." She pulled out onto the street, cutting off another driver.
"My, you've adjusted to Roman driving very well," Giles said as he clutched the window.
She smiled at him. "Yup. This little Minnesota girl gets on well in this town." She spun the car around a sharp corner, heading toward a big wall. "Almost there," she said, speeding up.
Brandon clapped as she made another sharp turn and parked the car suddenly. "Very good! Not even Unclie Nick could do that."
"It's the only way to get into the driveway. If you go too slow, you hit the house." She got out and took the packages, not waiting for them as she headed for the house.
Brandon slid out and ran after her, not wanting to miss out on anything.
Brandon sat up in his bed, looking at the door. He frowned as one of his friends appeared beside him on the bed. "What's going on down there?"
"Nothing, Brandon, don't worry about it." He tucked the little boy back in. "Okay, we've got to have a little talk," Richie said as he laid down beside the young boy. "You can't tell anyone about me unless they ask you or unless I say so, okay?" Brandon nodded. "The head of the house knows so it's all good there, but anyone else you meet you can't tell."
"Because they won't believe you. You're not old enough to be believed in this town." He brushed some of the light red hair off the pale forehead. "You're getting sick," he said quietly. "You need a nap, Brandon."
"I'm fine, it's just the snifflies." He sniffled to prove his point. "Why does Sister Mary know?"
"Your grandfather told her."
"Oh. Okay." He nodded. "Do you want me to tell her something for you?"
"No, sweetness." Richie smiled at him. "I can talk to her whenever I want to. I can't go into the Vatican because it's an old rule, but I can talk to anyone like Sister Mary. I'd have to lose the leather jacket," he admitted, looking down at himself. He tapped Brandon on the forehead again. "Go to sleep and tell them about your dreams in the morning, that's why you're here as far as they know." He disappeared, leaving Brandon alone.
Buffy opened the door and looked in on him. "Hey, heard you talking, you okay?"
"I'm getting the snifflies," he told her, sitting up and holding out his arms. "You forgot to hug me."
She walked in and gave him a hard hug and a kiss on top of the head. "Go to sleep, Brandon, it's past your bedtime."
"But I'm not tired," he complained.
"Yay." She walked back to the door and closed it behind her, leaving him alone.
"I'm not. It's not bedtime, my belly says so."
Brandon walked around the house, looking at all the books. He had tried to read one earlier but a strange little man had yelled at him, even if he hadn't understood it he knew he was in trouble. He walked into what must be the office, smiling at the woman behind the desk. "Richie says I'm to tell you about my dreams. Do you want to hear about them now?" She shook her head. "But I'm bored," he complained. "I should tell you and then you can tell me why the big yellow guy was trying to eat Grandpa William."
She looked up at him and licked her lips. "Big yellow guy? Was he a human or not?"
"Sorta but he was yellow. Like the color of hard boiled eggies."
"I see. Where did this happen?"
"In his house. Grandma was sitting beside him when the big yellow guy burst in and tried to bite him. She hit him with a lamp and he glared at her. She screamed for Grandpa Derek but he wasn't there." He shrugged. "I had another one but I'm not sure if the dog wandering through pretty pictures means anything or not."
"All right," she said slowly. "Who's Richie?"
"He's my friend. He said you knew about him, that Grandpa Derek had told you."
"Oh, him." She nodded. "I've been told about him but I never knew his name. Was he here last night? In the house? Buffy said she heard you talking to someone."
He nodded, giving her a bright smile. "Yup. That's when he said I should tell you about my dreams." He swung his feet. "Why would your dog be walking around a museum? 'Cause he was. He was sniffing the pictures too." He leaned closer. "He even went on one and it didn't look like a hydrant." He sat back and swung his feet some more. "Do you know Junior?"
"I've seen him on the screen," she said with a smile. "Brandon, I want you to find Buffy and have her write down your entire dream for me, okay? Just like it happened for you. They might mean something or they might not, I'm not sure yet, but she's supposed to be pretty good at getting information from you guys."
"Okay, but I couldn't find her. That's why I'm bored. Where's the dog?"
"He's upstairs sleeping on my bed. He likes to do that in the mornings. He's getting old."
Brandon's smile fell away. "I'm sorry. Is he okay?"
"He's fine, he's just taking a nap." She pushed a button on her phone. "Dale, is Buffy in there?" She got an affirmative grunt. "Have her come here please. I need her to do something for me." She hung up.
Buffy walked in a few minutes later. "What's up, Sister Mary?"
"Can you please write down Brandon's dreams? His ... friend said he should tell them to us."
"Okay." She nodded back out the doorway. "Come on, squirt. We'll go get comfy and talk." She led him out to the living room. "Why are you supposed to tell us about your dreams?"
"Because Richie said so. Last night, before you argued with my belly."
She patted him on the head. "Sometimes, bellies can be wrong. We're in a different time zone now and your belly will just have to adjust to it." She got comfortable as he hopped up and snuggled into the other end of the couch. "Okay, tell me what you saw?"
"I saw a big yellow guy attacking Unclie William. He runned into the house and growled at him. Grandma was scared and she yelled for Derek but he was still at home. He tried to bite Unclie William and Grandma hit him with a lamp."
"Okay, good to know. Could you describe the yellow guy?"
He nodded. "He was the same color as hard boiled eggies."
"There are two parts to hard boiled eggs," she reminded him.
"Yup, but I only like the white part. Xanny eats all the other stuff for me." He sat up and gave her a hug. "The other one was about a doggie. He was going through a museum. He even went on a painting."
Buffy chuckled. "I don't think that one's prophetic, Brandon." She looked at the door as Giles passed by. "Giles, should I document his dreams as dreams or not as dreams?"
He walked back in. "Already?"
"He had two dreams last night. In one, a yolk-colored man attacked William."
"In the other a doggie was wandering through a museum."
Giles looked down at the paper in his hand, then at Brandon. "Come with me," he said, holding out a hand. He took the little boy back to the office and handed the paper to Sister Mary Catherine.
She read the article then looked at Brandon. "Describe the dog?"
"He was brown. Some sort of hunting dog, he had one of their tails. He didn't have any spots, but he had a white belly. He was oak tree brown, not pine tree brown." He smiled at her. "Did it happen?"
She nodded. "Yes, dear, it did." She reread the article. "Did you see which painting he...went on?"
"It was a pretty one with lots of splotchies. I couldn't tell what it was, but it was pretty."
"Modern art painting," she said, handing back the paper. "Good job, Brandon. We'll let Buffy fill out the paperwork and then you can have a treat. What would you like to do this afternoon?"
Richie popped in behind Brandon and whispered in his ear, then he disappeared again. "I want to go see the Vatican," Brandon said, smiling at her.
"If that's what you'd like," she said calmly. "I'll arrange it." She looked up at Giles and smiled sweetly at him. "Now I know why Derek sent him instead of coming himself."
"He's busy in London," Giles reminded her. "William was attacked a few days ago." He picked up the phone and dialed London. "Willow?" he asked, looking surprised. "Oh, I'm sorry, you sounded a bit like her. Forgive me. Is Derek or Nick there please?" He hummed along with the music while on hold. "Derek, was the thing that attacked William yellow? No, that's what Brandon dreamed last night. Well, yes, but his other dream came true. No, have you read any news articles yet?" He chuckled. "Not quite that sort of news. He dreamed about a dog that went into a museum and messed with one of the paintings." He smiled, turning on the speaker so everyone could hear the laughter. "He described the dog perfectly," he told his boss.
"Derek, we need to know if the thing that attacked him was in the house or not," Sister Mary Catherine asked. "Your grandson saw someone yellow attacking them in the house."
"He was eggie colored," Brandon said, leaning forward. "Oh, Richie say hi. Say to tell Mommy hi too for him."
"I will," Derek muttered. "No, he wasn't attacked in the house this time. He was attacked out on assignment. What shade of yellow? Nick wants to know." He cleared his throat. "Runny egg yellow, uncooked egg yellow, or hard egg yellow, he asked."
"Hard eggie yellow. Like the ones I like to eat for snack." Brandon smiled up at his Unclie. "I get to go see the Vatican today."
"Why do you want to go there?" Derek asked.
"Because. I can't tell you more than that." He grinned at the nun, who had just sighed. "It'll be okay. I know it will. I'm a good boy."
"I'm sure you are," Sister Mary Catherine said calmly. "Your call, Rayne."
"Let him go with Rupert, I'm sure he'll be able to keep him out of trouble." Derek laughed again. "Nick said maybe he would be able to, but I have every confidence in Rupert." The line went dead.
"All right then, I'll arrange it," the nun said, making a note. "Why don't you make sure he has something productive to do while Buffy documents his dreams and this morning's paper."
Rupert nodded and picked Brandon up, carrying him from the room. "Who told you to tell her about your dreams, Brandon?" he asked quietly.
"Richie did. He showed up last night."
"Ah, did he say you were to go to the Vatican?" Brandon's face fell. "What's wrong?"
"You guessed it," he pouted. "He said I could tell anyone who guessed it. He wanted me to meet someone today." He hugged him. "I'm sorry, you shouldn't have to know."
"That's for the best then," Giles said, patting him on the back. "Come, I have something I want to try with the House's seer. Would you be willing to see if you couldn't do what you do with Precious?"
"Sure. Today?" Giles nodded. "I'll try, but I don't think I'm ready yet. I'm not calm at all."
"All right. We'll go up and try, and if nothing happens, then we'll try again tomorrow. How's that?"
"Okay," Brandon said, giving him a smile again. "You're a good Unclie. You should have babies of your own."
"That won't be happening," Rupert said, carrying him up the stairs to where the Seer had locked herself in her room.
Brandon was running around to look at all the big statues, peering up at each one, giving the pigeons a smile. He stopped running when he felt someone watching him, turning to look at the older priest. "Hi," he called, waving at him.
Richie appeared. "I want you to go over to him and ask him about his angel. His name's Humbert."
"No," another voice said, and Kelly, Brandon's other messenger friend appeared. "He can't do that yet. Something really bad'll happen to the family if he does." She looked over and smacked herself on the head. "Gabriel said not to let him do it, Richie!"
"But Humbert wants to break his guy of his ignoring him."
"Stop it," Brandon said, glaring at both of them. "No more arguing." He walked over and stopped right in front of the Priest. "Who's the guy standing behind you making funny faces?" he asked.
"There's no one there," the Priest said calmly. "Your imagination does you credit, young man, but I wouldn't use it to help you meet others. Go back to your guardian's side."
Brandon nodded. "Okay. Bye, Humbert." He waved at the spirit he could see and ran back over to Giles' side, clutching his hand. "We should go before Richie gets into trouble," he said quietly. "They were arguing over introducing me to that Priest." He pointed at the one who was walking away as fast as he could. "Kelly said no but Richie said I had to go ask him about his friend and now I'm not sure I'm not in trouble."
Giles squeezed his hand. "I'm sure it will be fine in the long run." He led Brandon out of the statue yard and down the road, back to the house. "Here we go," he said, letting him go take the dog's leash from the older man holding it. "Let him, he needs to play with something," he told him with a smile as he walked indoors, heading straight for the office. "Brandon's gotten conflicting messages and he's done what Richie said, but Kelly said it would cause trouble," he said in greeting.
She stood up and waved at the chair. "Here, you tell Derek and I'll go make sure we're not about to be stormed." She walked out, letting Brandon into the office. "Next time, tell me that these things are going to happen, okay, kid?"
"I didn't know," he told her, patting her on the thigh as she walked past. "Richie told me while I was looking at the statues." He walked over and climbed up into his Uncle's lap. "Hi, Grandpa Derek. Should I listen to Kelly or Richie when they argue?"
"It depends on what they argued about," he said reasonably.
"I was to go over and talk to a priest about his angelie named Humbert but Kelly said not to, that it'd cause problems for us."
"What did Richie say about that?"
"He told me to go talk to Humbert." Brandon shrugged. "I did something else. I asked the guy about his friend, who was making faces behind his back, and then said 'bye' to him. Was that okay?"
"I think it should be fine," Derek said, giving him a smile, looking up at Giles.
"I had no idea this was going to happen, he didn't tell me when he said Richie told him to go to the Vatican."
"He said he can't go because of an old rule," Brandon said helpfully. "I think it's silly."
Nick nodded. "Me too, squirt. How did talking with the seer go?"
"I tried but she didn't like me. She kept giving me funny looks. I saw a graveyard though, but it was really dark. I could almost see names but not quite."
"Goot," Derek said, clapping his hands together. "We'll work on that some more. Tell Mary Catherine to give her seer instructions about working with Brandon. This sounds like a case of bias to me. With a little luck and some effort, the bias may be solved quickly." He smiled at Brandon. "Why don't you go play for the rest of the day, dear, and we'll talk to you tomorrow, after you talk to the seer again. All right?" Brandon nodded and blew kisses before climbing down and running from the office.
"I really had no idea," Giles said, relaxing. "All I know is that he said Richie told him not to tell anyone unless they guessed it, and that he wasn't to tell anyone who didn't already know about him."
"Which is for the best," Derek reminded him. "Can you imagine what would happen if word got out that a little boy was talking to Angels?"
"Lourdes all over again," Nick agreed. "Bunches of people depending on the kid for holy messages."
"Try and shelter him a bit more," Derek said after a few seconds thought. "Let Mary Catherine shelter the both of you and let Buffy act as his guardian if you have to. If someone does get an idea about Brandon's gifts, then they'd have to go through all of you and you'd have enough time to help him leave the city." Giles nodded. "Goot day, Rupert. Be careful. I want to know what they're seeing." He signed off.
Giles stood up and turned to find Mary Catherine standing behind him. "Has the trouble already started?"
"Not yet. Got a call though, asking what I knew about the boy. It's from a good source, Philip would approve. Where is he anyway?"
"At his home church, he's in counseling there to figure out his path from here on out." He let her have her chair back. "Derek did say that he thought the seer's problem with Brandon was a form of bias."
"I know. We talked about it earlier. She said she never saw the graveyard at all, not even in outline."
"Yes, well, he may be picking up on something that she's suppressing."
"Or from another viewpoint," Buffy said as she walked in with Brandon. "He just walked up to her and gave her a hug. Then he said her name and she burst out crying." She handed him over. "He's seeing a big graveyard, Mary Catherine, and it's got a bunch of people in it, including your seer."
Mary Catherine nodded. "What will be is," she said calmly. "Please write it out for me. Maybe the account will help us unblock our seer."
Buffy nodded. "Okay, I can do that. It shook him up pretty badly though. Can I borrow Giles?" She nodded. "Thanks. Come on, tough guy," she said, patting Brandon on the back. "Let's go talk about what you saw."
Mary Catherine waited until she was alone to redial the house. "He saw a large graveyard," she said calmly, her hands shaking below the camera's view. "Our seer's stone was there in front."
"A blockage?" Nick said thoughtfully. "That would explain the darkness." He gave her a reassuring smile. "If you can fix it, it won't happen. Remind her of that, okay, and see if it helps. It helped Alex the last few times it almost happened to her." He waved and signed off.
Mary Catherine calmed herself and pulled herself together so she could go do this. She had to do this, it was her House. She was the Precept, it was her job to go down with the House while saving the rest of them if she could. But she hated to rely on the words of an almost five year old.
Brandon sat up and screamed, clutching his blanket to his chest. He grabbed the first person that ran into his room, clinging to them. "Make them not hurt Daddy," he cried, hiding his face in Sister Mary Catherine's bathrobe. "They were mean to Daddy because of me."
Buffy took him from her arms and sat on the bed, holding him. "Brandon, what happened? Tell me and I'll tell you why it won't."
"Na-uh, not even Grandpas could stop it. They yelled at Daddies and took them away because they wanted me." He sniffled, rubbing his face on her chest to wipe away his tears. "Not even Uncle Philip could stop them. They were mean. They took them to court and everything!"
"Shh," Buffy crooned. "It'll be okay, Brandon. We'll stop them before they get the idea. If you tell us what happened, then we'll stop it." She looked up and saw the whole house in the room. "Out!" she ordered. "Everyone but Giles and the Sister. He doesn't need an audience."
Sister Mary Catherine nodded and they all filed out, letting her sit in the desk's chair. "Brandon, who was it that wanted to hurt your family?" she asked quietly. "We have to know to stop them."
"Priests. Not nice ones like Unclie Philip, but mean ones like earlier today." He grabbed Buffy's hands to keep them where they were. "They came to the house and told Daddy that they were taking me, one way or another. Then, when Daddies laughed at them, they called the Police to come take us because they wanted me."
"Sweetheart, they can't do that at home," Buffy said quietly. "The Police require a reason before they can take kids away from parents."
"Unfortunately," Giles said as he sat down beside them, "he's right. A Priest saying that the children needed to be taken away would be listened to over the parent's wishes." He tipped Brandon's face up so he could look in his eyes. "You must tell us everything, Brandon, so we can stop them before this happens."
"They had a meeting, but I didn't hear it," Brandon confessed. "I was floating over it."
Sister Mary Catherine stood up. "Let me make a few calls, maybe I can head this off now." She left the room, closing the door behind her.
Brandon looked up at Buffy. "You won't let them take me?"
"Nope, not at all." She hugged him as tightly as she could. "I'll even beat them up if they come for you, okay?" He nodded, relaxing. "Now, what were they talking about? Was it because of your visions?"
"Yup. That and Richie."
"Which is why you shouldn't tell people about him," Giles reminded him. "Did you tell that priest today about him?"
Brandon shook his head. "Nope, I asked him about his angelie."
"What did he say about it?" Buffy asked.
"He said I was imagining things," Brandon said, tipping his head up to look at her. "I told you that."
"I know, but we need to make sure that you didn't forget to tell us something earlier. Did he do anything else?"
"He runned off," Brandon said after a few second's thought. "He wasn't very happy about me noticing his angelie."
Buffy nodded. "I wouldn't be either if I had been trying to ignore him." She passed him over to Giles so she could stand up. "Brandon, this is really important, okay?" He nodded. "If something happens here, we're going to send you home and we may not be coming back with you immediately. We won't make you go home alone, but we may need to help hide you."
"I don't think all that's necessary," Philip said as he walked into the room. "I got a call earlier," he said at Giles' confused look. "Sister Mary Catherine said that I should come up."
"Cool," Buffy said, stepping out of the way. "He just saw Priests coming for him and having all the kids taken away from their parents."
"Won't happen," Philip assured him, reaching over to tap Brandon on the forehead. "I won't let it and neither will your Grandparents. If they tried, they'd be in for a fight." He held out his arms and his Godson scrambled into them to get a hug. "Why don't you go back to sleep, little one, and let us handle this. All right?"
Brandon nodded and slid down, crawling back into his bed and letting Buffy tuck him in. "Night, Unclie Philip. Will you be here for breakfast?"
"I'll try ta be," he said, giving him a smile. "Sleep now, Brandon, it's well past time." He nodded out at the hall and walked out, followed by the other two members of his house. "I've got to talk to a few people with Sister Mary Catherine. We'll be back by breakfast hopefully, if not, let him handle the seer tomorrow. He should have a clear picture according to Nick." He patted Buffy on the side of the face. "I'm sorry I wasn't there," he said quietly. "I'm glad that you're back though." He turned and walked away, his trench coat flowing out behind him.
Buffy looked up at Giles. "Someone knew before he had that dream," she said quietly
"Possibly. There are many precognitives in the Legacy." He walked her back to her room and let her go back to sleep while he went down to fix himself a cup of tea.
Philip walked into the meeting room and slammed the door, glaring at his former Chosen brethren. "You're to leave the child alone," he said quietly, his voice deadly serious. "He's to take my place some day, not this week."
Mary Catherine sat down in her spot and looked at him. "Philip, how do you know he's to take your spot? Did the messenger tell him?"
Philip stood at the end of the large stone table. "He did, and he told me to guard his development. Today was a mess up of grand proportions and it'll be forgotten."
Mary Catherine shook her head. "Not likely. Father Brenan ran to see one of the Cardinals."
Philip frowned. "If only there were a way to let the messengers into the Vatican, they could straighten that out."
"You could," the man at the other end of the table said quietly, looking Philip over. "You're a forsaken one now, Philip, you could lead them into the Vatican and break the rule. No one'd have to say anything more about it. Your own messenger would likely approve."
"He already told me not to," Philip told him. "We had a discussion on the plane over." He looked around the table and saw the faces shadowed by the hoods fall. "I'm sorry, but I've got my orders too. I can't break the rule, not yet. Not for at least another year." He pulled a chair over and sat down. "There's another forsaken in town. Father Brenan himself is one. He forsook his own calling and he could lead them in. All you'd have to do would be to get him to admit Humbert's real."
"Which he won't," the man at the end of the table reminded him.
"He'll have to some day," Mary Catherine said. She stood up. "I'd best get back. Philip?"
"The Chosen will him to remain," another member said, intoning the formal phrase for an interrogation as she pushed her hood back. "We will speak with him about his future plans."
"I'm still not sure. I know I'm searchin' for a path, but I'm not sure what it is yet." He shook his head as a voice whispered to him. "I don't wantta start a church o'my own," he complained, looking up.
The woman who had ordered him to stay laughed merrily. "That's an idea," she told him. "At least you'd know the truth and tell it."
Philip nodded. "Maybe, but I've got my hands full with the kids in the house right now, not to mention Derek and Nick."
"They'll still love you," she reminded him, looking around the table. "Are there any doubts that he can train Brandon to take his eventual place among us?"
Philip glared at her. "'Tis still his choice," he reminded her. "I can't make him take it, only show him the right path."
"Good enough," she reminded him. "With the right sort of encouragement, he'll become a fine priest and a credit to the order he takes up."
"He'll not take mine," Philip said. "My seat, but not my orders. I wouldn't put him through that. He'd come out wrong."
"Then I'd help him pick a faith that would let him be happy and joyful," she told him, standing up. "Maybe he should take on his mother's heritage."
"Maybe," Philip agreed, standing up also. "I'd best leave. I promised Brandon I'd be there for breakfast."
"There will be a summons coming later," a man who had watched all this said. "We're short on seat members."
Philip nodded. "If I'm still to serve as Chosen, I will." He bowed to the man at the end of the table and walked out of the room.
Philip walked back into the Vatican City House and looked around. No one was up yet apparently. He walked back to the kitchen, where he could hear Brandon, and stopped to enjoy the sight of the young boy fixing his own breakfast. "Here, let me help," he said quietly, coming over to take the eggs from him. He dropped some into the boiling water and looked at his watch. "Go sit, I'll do this." Brandon walked away without saying a word.
Philip fixed the eggs as quickly as he could and brought them over to the table, sitting down next to his Godson. "What's wrong?" he asked, reaching over to pat Brandon on the head.
"Someone said I was bad," Brandon whispered, dropping his fork. "They said that I was making things up and stuff."
Philip ran his fingers through Brandon's light red hair. "Who said that?"
"Don't quite know her," Philip said, looking out the window.
"She's the little girl that lives here."
"Ah, her." He looked back at his charge and smiled. "Brandon, she's a brat worse'n your own sisters are. Don' listen to her."
Sister Mary Catherine walked in and smiled at Philip. "Yes, she's a brat, but she's also a seer. Hers are still dark too."
Brandon looked up. "I no see a graveyard with her. I see big panda bears."
"Oh, she's blockin' ya, huh?" Philip said, looking up at the Precept.
"Probably, he's taking her spot of cute and useful little person." Mary Catherine looked at the pot with water in it. "What'd you guys make?"
"Eggies," Brandon said, holding up a fork full. "Want some?"
She smiled. "Yes, I think I'd like that. That sounds very soothing." She ran some more water in the pot and put it back on the stove to let it heat. "So," she said after a few minutes of quiet. "What are we doing today?"
"I have to go talk to the mixed up lady to help her," Brandon said solemnly. "The graveyard isn't what she's seeing."
"Usually, his gift works as a mirror of his sister's sight," Philip told her. "If the seer'd have a vision with Brandon touchin' her, maybe he'd pick up on it better."
"Maybe," Sister Catherine said, "but you can't force them."
Brandon groaned and held his head, squeezing his eyes tightly shut. "Ouchies. Big 'splosion. Oh, and Unclie Nick's gonna get hurt again. Oooh, and Daddies are going to find something big." He shook his head, looking up to find both adults staring down at him. "What?"
"You did it," she said, hugging him. "Now we need to know what you saw exactly."
"I can do that," Philip said. "Send Buffy to me once she's up and aware." He picked up Brandon's plate and carried it out with the little boy trotting along beside him. "C'mon, let's go debrief you. Then you can get back to playin' with the dog."
"Can I have a dog?" Brandon asked. "Junior has a cat and he's *much* younger."
Sister Mary Catherine went back to trying to fix her breakfast, but she glared at the pot. It wasn't boiling yet.
Brandon looked up at the scary guy in the red robes in front of him and clutched Buffy's hand just so much tighter. "Why're you here?" he asked, tipping his head to the side.
"Young man, it's come to our attention that you've been saying things recently to some of our members."
Buffy put Brandon behind him, blocking the Priest from coming through the door. "Sorry, but he's not allowed to give out that information to strangers." She looked around but no one was visible. "PHILIP!"
The former Priest walked out and nodded at the Cardinal. "Your excellency," he said, touching Brandon's shoulder. "What do you need with us?"
"Father Philip," he sneered. "Do you have something to do with this *boy's* claims?"
"It's not a story!" Brandon protested. "Maybe if they liked you, they'd talk to you too!" He got free and glared at the old man, no longer scared of him. "Just because they don't like you doesn't mean that I'm not good and that they don't like me." He ran up the stairs, heading for his room. Maybe Richie or Kelly would show up and talk to him, tell him what to do.
Buffy cleared her throat. "I'm sorry, but I believe this interview is over." She slammed the door in his face. "You put up with that?" she asked Philip as she walked past him, going up to find Brandon.
"For too long," he agreed. He waited until she was gone then opened the door and stepped out, going to stop the Cardinal from leaving. "He's got a gift," Philip said quietly, "not one that you're gonna use, but it's a gift. He's not to be bothered by you either. The boy's just that, a boy, and he'll be left alone."
"Some of the most important messages have come from children," the Cardinal reminded him stiffly. "Why haven't you taught him respect for us?"
"Because his ma' Jewish and he's still got to decide where he fits." Philip stepped away from him. "It'd be best if this was never talked about again. They don't give him real messages yet, so leave him be." He turned and walked back into the house, slamming the door.
The Cardinal looked at his assistant and smiled cruelly. "We'll see." He got into the back of his car and tapped the window to make his assistant drive.
Philip led Brandon deep down the dark corridor, stopping to knock on one of the small doors that lined the hallway. "Father?" he called quietly.
The door opened and a very old man waved them inside. "Ah, the Chosen has returned," he said, giving Brandon a smile.
Brandon liked this guy, and Kelly had given him a message for him. "You're the one to help Humbert come out," he told the old man. "Kelly said so."
Philip looked down at him. "When she'd say that?"
"Last night. While you were swearing at Nick on the phone in the office." He grinned at the old man. "She told me he was."
Philip rolled his eyes. "I'm sure she did, Brandon." He looked at the older Priest. "You can see what our problem is then?"
The old man nodded, giving Philip a bright smile. "That particular Cardinal has went to the Pope to get his support for talking to the boy. The Pope communed in the garden with some of the birds and came back with a 'no' answer. The Cardinal's not very happy."
"Politics are not why we got inta this," Philip muttered and the old man nodded.
"Oh, Richie said something funny the other day," Brandon piped up, "and I didn't understand it, but can I tell you anyway?" Philip looked down and nodded. "Richie said that he wasn't allowed in here."
"True, he's not," the old man said, walking over to a small couch and sitting down, patting the space beside him for Brandon to come sit with him. As soon as the child was up there with him, he put an arm around him. "You see, a very long time ago, around the same time this building was being built, there was a very special messenger. She told the Pope of that time to not let any more of her type in because there were some false messengers coming. So that Pope had it set so no angels could come in, no matter how strong."
Philip smiled. "Not quite the full story, but enough for this little guy," he said, pinching Brandon's ankle. He sat on the floor in front of them. "It was discussed and they believe that asking Humbert to come out would be the best way."
"Brenan's a forsaken then?" the old Priest asked. Philip nodded. "Oh, well, I guess he would be if he ignores his messenger."
"He was mean," Brandon said. "Told me I was imagining things."
"I'm sure he did," the old man said, giving him a hug. He looked over at Philip and nodded down at him. "Any idea where he'll fit?"
"Not yet. He's got to decide which religion he's going to partake of still. I won't let him into my order but I'll help him if he wants to become Catholic. If not, I'll help him find someone understanding to sponsor him."
The door was knocked on and everyone stiffened. "My, three visitors in one day?" the old priest said quietly, getting up to answer it. "Hello, Cardinal," he said, waving the other man inside.
Philip smiled, recognizing one of the Chosen. "What's up on your end of the spectrum?" he greeted.
"Nothing much, just a small problem. The Pope wants to talk to the boy himself." He held a hand out. "Brandon, if you wouldn't mind?"
"I do," Philip said, standing to get between them. "His das wouldn't appreciate that."
"I go," Brandon said, sliding down and clasping Philip's hand. "He comes with me though." He looked over at the old Priest. "You come too?"
"No, sweetling, it's not for me to come with you. It's for me to find that original declaration that kept people like your friends out of this place." He smiled at him. "Don't worry though, stick with Philip, he's been through this before." He waved at the door. "Out, the lot of you, before you topple my research."
Philip smiled back at him as they walked out of the office, heading out after the Cardinal. "He really wants to see him?"
"Just to ask if he's got a message for him."
Brandon looked up at Philip and nodded. "But it was to go to that other guy, the one who doesn't like me."
"Which one?" the Cardinal asked. "We can have him drawn into the discussion too. The Pope's not in his office," he explained as they turned into another hallway. "He's in the main gallery."
Philip smiled. "Father Brenan?" he asked.
"Is attending him since he's the first one to have noticed the boy." He opened a door and led them down another hallway.
Brandon tugged on Philip's hand. "I'm lost," he whispered.
"Yeah, that's usual on your first time here," Philip said back, giving him an encouraging smile. "Oh, Father Brenan," he said, grabbing him as they went past. "You're supposed to be there. Right, Brandon?"
Brandon nodded. "Yup, because I'm supposed to say something but only if you're there." He fell to his knees and grabbed his head, whimpering in pain. "No, bad guys," he complained.
Philip sat down beside him and pulled him into his lap. "Shh, tell me what you saw," he said softly. "Let me help you find and stop them." Brandon looked up and his eyes were watering. "The bad guys just laid the explosives at the house. Everyone's gonna go boomie."
Philip shook his head. "No they won't. We'll make sure of it." He looked up at the Cardinal, who nodded at a nook. "Thanks." He carried Brandon over there and got him calmed down as he dialed the house. "Sister, listen. No, he just saw what she did." He put the phone up to Brandon's ear. "Tell her everything."
"They just put the explosives on the big stone wall, the one I told you about before. No, just now. Yeah, down there. It's not quite as slimey as it was last time, but it's the same wall." He took a deep breath. "Yeah, that wall. They're gonna blow it up tonight. It's got a timer on it though." He nodded and handed the phone back to Philip. "I have to go do this, you have to stop the bomb she said." He slid down and walked over to where the Cardinal was. "Where's the big stone wall at anyway? No one would tell me."
The Cardinal looked over at Philip, who nodded before he jogged off. He got down and looked at Brandon, getting onto his level. "That's a very special place that few people know about, son. Philip knows right where it is and he'll go fix it, okay?" Brandon nodded. "Good. Can we still go do this?"
Brandon nodded. "Yup. I didn't see Philip going boomies so it's okay if I do this." He looked over at Father Brenan, who was very pale now. "Not be scared," he scoffed, "I'm a good boy." He smiled and took the held out hand to hold so he wouldn't get more lost on the way to the gallery.
Philip grabbed the bag Sister Mary Catherine held out for him, giving her a grateful smile. "He's to out Father Brenan's friend to the Pope," he said quietly as he slipped on the robes he had once worn.
"Good. It's about time the messengers were let back into the Vatican. Maybe something will change soon." She picked up their equipment and followed him out to the street and the hidden doorway on the wall that led to the Catacombs.
Brandon smiled at the very old man in red, walking over to give him a hug. He glared at the Cardinal who tried to stop him, kicking him in the shins to get away from him. "You're a bad guy," he said loudly. He smiled up at the old guy and held his arms out. "Aren't hugs all right?"
"Of course they are," the translator standing just behind him said. He smiled at Brandon. "Since he doesn't understand English, I'm going to be telling him what you're saying, all right?" Brandon nodded. "All right then. Go ahead and give him a hug if you'd like."
Brandon gave the old guy a hug and then looked at Father Brenan. "I was told to give him a hug and then to talk to you, even though he's here, because you're ignoring a special thing. Humbert."
The old guy said something and the translator smiled down at Brandon. "Who's Humbert?"
"His angelie," Brandon said, smiling up at him. "Richie and Kelly both agreed, it was time for him to admit it. And they know everything!" The other Priests glared at him so he stomped his foot. "Now, please. I have to go help stop the bomb thingy."
"Bomb?" the translator asked the Priest who had brought the little boy.
"He's prescient, had one on the way over." He groaned and held his head. "The big wall. The catacombs. No wonder Philip had to go take care of it. He's the only one that won't get lost down there." He hit himself on the forehead. "It's being taken care of by the proper people. Sister Mary Catherine is sponsoring Brandon's time in the city."
"Ah." The translator nodded and said something to the old guy.
Brandon looked at the old guy. "You understand a lot more than you let on," he said with a grin, getting one in return. He looked back at Father Brenan, who was sweating. "Your Humbert's the only one allowed in here right now and that's because he can't talk to anyone. Shouldn't he be allowed that right? Everyone should be able to speak."
"Enough of this," the Cardinal that had threatened him yesterday said, glaring at Brandon. "You have no useful information." He reached out to touch the boy, but Father Brenan got in his way.
"No, he's right. I've been ignoring my sacred duty." He looked at the old Priest. "Sir, I have to report that I've had messenger contact since I was eight and was in that car crash. He's never given me any useful information, but he's always around. I thought it best to ignore him after that incident at my first parish, but I can't do it any longer." He looked down at Brandon. "The boy's right. Absolutely correct." He smiled at him. "Can you see him now?"
Brandon shook his head. "Nope." He pointed at one of the paintings. "But I see a ghost."
Everyone looked at the picture and the ghost in front of it. The translator chuckled. "Haven't seen that one yet." He looked at the Priest escorting Brandon. "Does he have another message?"
"They can get in by themselves now," Brandon said, giving the ghost a wave. "She's nice." He looked over at the Priest that was bothering him. "She said you reminded her of a story about swords."
The Cardinal choked and backed away from him. "What?"
The translator looked at the ghost, then at Brandon. "Can you talk to them also?"
"Nope, but I can," Richie said as he appeared. He gave Brandon a hug. "You did very well." He smiled at the Pope. "Brandon, this is the Pope, he heads this church."
Brandon looked up at him. "Wow, that must be hard at your age. Do you have helpers or do you have to do it all by yourself? At least I have my brothers and sisters to help me when I need it."
The Pope said something and the translator burst out laughing. "He said he's got a lot of help but none of them are as honest as you." He nodded at Richie. "The deal was broken?"
"Yeah, but you've still got to watch out for the false ones. I mean, you really don't want another Crusade or Inquisition, right?" He winked at Brandon and left.
Brandon looked at the good priests. "Can I have ice cream now? I think I deserve a treat," he pouted when they started laughing too.
"Of course you may," the Cardinal that had brought him said, picking him up. "Wave good night to the Pope and we'll take you back to your house."
Brandon waved at him. "Bye. Take care of Frisbee. She's a good doggie." He put his head down and yawned. "I've had a long day," he announced.
"I know," the Cardinal said as he walked Brandon out into the gardens, the best shortcut out of the Vatican. "We'll let you take a nap. You can have ice cream tonight."
The Pope tapped the other Cardinal on the shoulder and pointed, saying something in Italian. He looked at Father Brenan and gave him a smile, leaving him there as he walked away.
Father Brenan slumped against the wall nearest him, slowly sliding down it.
Philip walked up behind the two robed men and kicked one of them in the lower back, knocking him into the second one. He grabbed a handful of loose stones off the floor and tossed it at the second man as he got up, backhanding the first. "Sister, come do the bomb?" he called.
"I'm having a small problem," she complained, coming around the corner fighting with someone else. "Stupid gits."
"Sister," Philip said in shock, "such language from a Chosen?"
The man he was fighting went pale and backed away. "We don't want no trouble with you, we just want what's on the other side of the wall," he said in broken English.
"You want a corpse?" Philip asked him. "Because the book's been gone now for centuries. We have it."
The man swore and kicked the man on the floor. "They have it, stupid!"
Philip turned and threw his last stone at the man attacking his cohort, hitting him in the nose. She hit him in the same place and sent him crashing to the floor holding the now broken instrument. They straightened up and looked at the two men. "Disarm it," he said.
"I don't know how," he said, backing up. "All I was told to do was put it on there and hide around the corner."
Philip looked at the bomb and shook his head. "This will take down the whole retaining wall. It'll collapse the Vatican in on itself." He pulled it off the wall and looked at it, trying to figure out which wire went to the battery. "I don't know a thing about these," he said after a minute. A soft voice rang down the corridor, making him stiffen.
"Put it in the ugly fountain, Philip."
Philip looked at Sister Mary Catherine and shrugged. "I'd best do this. Call the others to come get these idiots? We need to find which Chosen sent them."
"I'll take that," a robed figure said as he walked out of the second leading hallway. "That's not for you, though it's highly ironic that you're going to be blown up with it. *We* don't have the book, Philip, the order does."
"Which is what I said," he told him, not doing anything to or for the outstretched hand. In the distance, he could hear a dog barking and for some reason it bothered him, but he wasn't sure why. He backed away from the robed man, nodding at the other three. "Didn't tell them that you're gonna blow them up too?" he asked calmly, glancing down at the timer.
"Put it in the fountain, Philip," the voice said again, making the robed figure jump. "Do it now, Philip, there's no guards."
Philip shrugged and smiled. "Better do what she says. You know how messengers can be." He turned and ran, using every soccer skill he had ever had to get up the tunnel before those people did. He ran past two guards, heading for the fountain that he had never liked. He stopped and looked from it to the one beside it, they were both empty. He shrugged and ran to the one with the spouting Saint James and tossed the bomb in there. He ran away from it, tugging on the guard he ran into on the way. "Bomb, down in the catacombs," he panted, dragging him away. Wisely, his partner came with him. Philip checked his watch as the bomb went off, swearing. "Damn, slower every day," he muttered, tapping the top of it. He nodded at the Cardinal that came running, the one carrying Brandon. "Take him to the house," he said firmly. "I've got to go to the meeting area." He walked away, ignoring the guards' shouts for him to stop.
Brandon looked at the nearest guard and stuck out his tongue. "You're just pissed because you liked that one." He looked up at the man carrying him. "Can I go play with the doggie now? I bet he's lonely with the Sister gone."
"Of course you can. Do you know where you live?" Brandon started to sniffle. "No, don't do that," he said, looking at the guards. "Does anyone know where Sister Mary Catherine lives?" One of the guards said something and he gave him a grateful smile. "Thank you." He walked out the gate and down the hill, going to the house by the retaining wall. He spared one last look for the statue that had spouted water from the open mouth and outstretched arms of Saint James. At least the ugly thing looked like the Venus DeMilo now. It was a definite improvement.
Philip stormed into the meeting room of the Chosen, glaring at the man Mary Catherine was holding. "Let 'im go," he said coldly. "I've had enough of him."
"We don't do that here," the man at the end of the table said quietly. "You know that Philip. Thank you for fixing Brenan by the way, it makes my job so much easier." He raised a hand as he stood up. "Philip, have you forsaken your appointed task?"
"I've never been given one," he said coldly. "I accuse this man of trying to get the Book of Reveals."
"You have no right to charge me, you're Forsaken," the man shouted.
"I never had a task," Philip told him. "I was told to become a priest and wait until it was time for mine. Now, it's my time." He looked at the man at the end of the table, calling upon what little powers he possessed. "Now, I see what my task has been." The voice floated out again.
"Not all are forsaken," she whispered, appearing. "Philip, you know better," she chided gently. She looked at the hooded man, sending a breeze at his hood to make it fall back. "He is not supposed to be here, and neither is the one who would destroy everything to gain a book of lies." She smiled at those around, especially the ones staying seated. "You've known what was going on, it's time to fix this now. This is not Philip's task, it is but a step on his path." She turned to her Chosen and reached out, trying to give him a hug. "You have done well on the hard path, Philip, relax and let the Chosen do this. I call upon them to fix themselves before they are all forsaken." She faded out.
A wail of voices started around the room, turning into a wind around the standing members. Those who sat where safe from it, but Philip continued to stand, staring at those two men, his eyes filled with a semi-holy insanity and glee born of the voices. "If they are bad, then a willing one shall go with them," he vowed, forcing his own powers out into a single globe in his hand. The winds attacked it, changed its color, but it didn't waver. As the winds and voices picked up, climbing to a screaming pitch, the orb changed to a pure blue light which flowed out to the two standing members. They shrieked as the voices flowed through them, grabbing their ears. When they fell to the floor, the orb of power and the voices all disappeared, leaving a light breeze to ruffle the papers. Philip bowed to the woman now sitting at the end of the table. "I call upon you to deal with the forsaken ones," he said coldly. "Or let my people do it."
"We will," she said, inclining her head slightly. "You have chosen to prove yourself in the harshest manner, Philip, take your seat now or not ever."
He sat down in his rightful seat for three heartbeats then stood up. "I have to go back to the little one, before somethin' worse happens."
She smiled. "Of course you do. We will be calling upon you once you are settled back at home. Stay with the Legacy for a bit, Philip, it's part of your path." She smiled and in that simple expression everyone could see the one that called Philip to the Chosen's table.
He nodded at them and left. "Sister, keys?" he called, catching them when she threw them. "Have fun. I'll make sure it's still standing." He jogged out, going up the tunnel. He slipped past the guards at the end, heading down the street to the house. Only one person noticed him and he doubted that the Pope was unpleased. He hadn't liked that fountain either.
Philip looked down at the little boy accompanying him back to the house, Buffy and Giles had left earlier to make sure she made it in time for graduation, but there weren't any open seats on any Legacy jet around the same time. So they were waiting on regular airline service. "What're you doing?" he asked quietly.
"I'm drawing a picture of my dream last night," he said, looking up with a grin. "It's for Grandpa."
"Ah. What was the one with the yellow man about?"
"I asked and Richie said it was to make sure that they listened, but that the doggie one was to prove me." He shrugged. "He said no one would have listened to the doggy one before it got to be too late."
"So it wasn't something that's gonna happen?" he asked in surprise.
"Not yet," Brandon agreed, nodding as he colored in the green man on the paper. "Someday he said it would happen." He picked up the purple crayon and drew a belt around his waist. "This was part of that. I got the rest of the dream last night. This way, it'll be recorded for when it's time."
Philip patted him on the head. "That's a very good idea, Brandon." He looked up as a priest walked past them, giving him a smile. It didn't hurt so much to see them now. Maybe it was time to move on. He had more interesting dilemmas waiting for him at home.
END THIS STORY, TO BE CONTINUED...