I Won't Say GoodBye

AUTHOR'S NOTE All residents of Schooner Bay belong to CBS. Sean originated with Mary . Dr. Avery's name is from Stephen Donaldson- but she's mine. Tristan's first name is from ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (PBS). YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE to Debby Boone. IMMORTALITY to the BeeGees though it was Michael Ball's singing that hooked me on it. Tristan is mine. Blackie is mine, so is Thom. Blackie was named for Father Blackie of Andrew Greeley's books. Although the main characters are not the GHOST AND MRS. MUIR , it is related to the series- and takes place after Martha's Wish to explain where Tristan was. Dashire was once Cashire.

Special thanks to Mary for all her help

The sight of a strange man reading in his living room was disconcerting; the sight of his wife dropping her purse, running over to said man and embracing him, or trying to, more so. The only thing that saved Thom Avery from slugging the fellow was the fact that Candy's arms went through him.

Just another ghost then. It'd be nice if this latest de facto uncle was less young and handsome. There was something - familiar - about this one.

"Tristan- if you weren't dead, I'd kill you, "Candy exclaimed. .

"Candy? What are you doing in Dashire's house?" Tristan gaped. "And what have I done now? I can't recall anything worth a second death. But I could be forgetting. And- wait until I'm solid to hug me, please. It's no fun before."

"You didn't attend my wedding."

"Well, of course not. I was heartbroken."

"We couldn't find you to invite you," she corrected.

"I knew the day would come- and my heart broke with the knowledge." His grin offset the words, unless you looked closely. His eyes did not smile. "That doesn't answer my question. Is that the bloke who broke my heart?" Tristan asked, peering at Thom. "Not to mention - your toes?"

"Thom Avery," Candy introduced, "Tristan Matthews. And this is our house. Adam finagled a deal so that his lordship's blasted descendants sold it for a song to Claymore who sold it to grandpa and he gave it to us."

"Good show. Is Dash around?"

"No, he's giving us a honeymoon time, without round the clock ghost care. Now , where were you?" she insisted.

"Well," he looked abashed. "I lost a bet. As you recall, when the not so great Ghost Callahan departed for other planes, he left a note saying that Sean the Living needed a new ghost -"

"You didn't follow Claymore's idea!"

"Of course not- but I lost a bet to the spook who did- and she wanted a vacation. Colleen - the proper first Mrs. Callahan. Not a happy lady. I hied out as soon as I could. The current Callahans are not any better than the late ones. SO, here I am. Where is Dash then? Gull Cottage? Or is he making Adam into an early bird?"

"He's at my cousin's- giving the other happy couple space too," Thom put in.

"Other - Jenny's been married for a bit- hasn't she?" Tris frowned. "I was at that one."

"Mom- and Captain Dad. And you were? How?"

A beaming smile broke over his face. "Now that's what I call grand. Dash will be insufferable- matchmaker that he is, but good show indeed." He completely ignored the "how" part.

Thom frowned. "Callahan- that name's familiar..."

''Avery? You're the doctor who wasn't the peep's son? Do you recall the body found at Gull Cottage?" Tristan asked.

"Peep? Mom is a doctor- I do remember that! When it was over that Mark guy showed up asking if it was plausible that a woman could bash in a man's brains- Mom nodded very wisely and said, 'I see your point. Here- let's experiment- of course the analogy will be rough - as I am taller than Miss Hamilton was supposed to be- and you don't have brains- but we'll make do.' " He looked at Tris again. "And you were Candy's date at at least one dance!"

"Yes- so fair warning- if you hurt her- I will make your life pure Hell. And I am good at that. Just ask Claymore."

"Oh, don't worry- Captain Dad, Uncles Dash and Sean, Jonathan, Dave, Adam, and even Claymore and my own cousin have offered me varying degrees of death," Thom assured him, "should I do so. Though Adam did suggest that it might be more interesting to just tear me up one side and down the other in court. Just fair warning. "

"Adam did? Do you remember how he kept warning us not to imply or confess any kind of crime around him?" Tris laughed.

"And thanks, " Candy smiled. "Without your teaching, Elroy couldn't have helped Captain Dad marry us- but really- we could have used your help with Blair!"

" I thought I ran that idiot off thoroughly.Can't believe he dared to come back after that incident. Operative word is idiot, I guess. I think I'm missing some good stories. Want to tell me?"

"Only if I get to hear the full story behind the body at Gull Cottage. No one would answer the rumors right after it happened, and well - I kind of forgot until now- which one was the man in black scaring off tourists? I really can't see his lordship or the captain - or Sean..."

Tristan bowed. "C'est moi. The Ghost of Raines Abbey at your service. "

"Raines Abbey?" Thom looked completely befuddled.

"Just paying homage to a colleague in Britain," Tristan smiled. "Want to trade stories?"

Sometime later, when all the stories were exchanged, Tris gave Candy a reluctant smile and said he ought to go- he really had been looking for Dashire- so he'd best be on down the road. He'd learned that even less than Adam liked being awoken early, other humans hated being disturbed in the wee hours. So if he hurried, he might not wake this cousin of Thom's.

"Uh- you don't know where Cousin Blackie lives," Thom advised hesitantly.

Tristan waved it off. "I expected Dash to be here- so I didn't bother using my- ghostdar- but it'll take me straight to him, now that I know to look. But - I'm very glad to have been wrong." His expression softened for a heartbeat, looking only at Candy, then changed to a devil may care grin, "Novel experience. Never done that before and all that." Quicker than either human could get out a word, he was gone.

Flashback

As he drifted through the night on his way to finding his old friends, at least the single ones, Tristan was uncharacteristically thoughtful. Seeing Candy happy was a bittersweet joy. His mind returned to her first dance, she'd been sixteen and hadn't planned on going, but hadn't counted on her ghostly godfathers- much superior to fairy godmothers in his opinion.

How had it begun again? Oh, yes, now he recalled...

None of the young men, boys rather, had asked Candy to the Spring dance at SBHS. Either they saw her as one of the guys, a pal, not a date, or didn't want to date the girl who lived in a haunted house. This had both Carolyn and Candy upset, which had Daniel riled, not to mention the rest of their rapidly extending family.

Daniel had promised not to interfere after the Mark Helmore debacle. Dashire and Sean never had promised any such thing. Jenny, Carolyn's god-daughter and cousin she had taken to raise a year or so before was older, and dating a college boy. Decent chap, but asking him to fix up Candy was out of the question- Carolyn had flipped out over the idea of a college boy dating her sixteen year old child, even for one night, although having ghosts in the family meant she'd be perfectly safe. Not to mention it would not help Candy's self esteem one whit to be set up.

By that time, Elroy was on his own haunting wise, and Tris was a drifter again, moving around from town to town, always finding his way to the town he called home, in his heart. He was just returning as this crisis began to build.

Candy's music lesson was going badly; that tipped Tristan off that something was not right. If he hadn't figured out that she was intensely private, he'd have asked. As it was, respecting her wish to not confide hurt a bit, but it might be some mood that he'd best not ask about.

When Mrs. Muir asked him later how the lesson went, his chance to find out more came.

"Not too splendidly. She seemed rather preoccupied..."

Carolyn sighed, glancing at the kitchen door.

"She went off somewhere with Jen," Tristan assured her. "Having another young lady around can be handy at times."

"Her first dance is coming up, Tris. No one's asked her."

"Whyever not? She's - she looks like you must have at that age- and my captain's taste, with one or so exceptions has been good. And that one would have been good, if she'd had enough sense to make change for a nickel."

"She's one of the guys," Carolyn began hesitantly.

Tristan's snort cut that off, bringing her to one of the most hurtful reasons, "Living here, in the haunted mansion- "

"Is off putting to the local yokels, eh?" he guessed disdainfully. "Bloody cowards- don't deserve a shot if they can't take the trouble to find out the truth. "

"I know," Carolyn sighed ruefully. "That does not help the matter any. I almost caved and asked Daniel to - again..."

"To- what again?"

"When she had a crush on Mark Helmore-"

"That nancy boy!" Tristan gasped.He'd silently attended more than one class with all of the kids, catching up on his own education, and seen the English lad. He was not impressed, except negatively. "Pardon me- go on."

"It didn't last very long, just long enough to break her heart a bit, which Daniel could not stand- so he opened the boy's eyes a bit- then he went around for months looking like a lost pup- because Candy wanted nothing to do with him. I really don't want a repeat of that."

"Have the others weighed in on this topic?" Tris queried adroitly.

"Oh, yes. Martha baked cookies- Jonathan and Ed enjoyed those very much. Jen offered to see if her young man had a free friend- offered to me- not Candy- but they're both in college- the idea did not - I don't like the thought."

Tristan nodded, then began juggling coffee cups, pretending to pay less attention than he was. Carolyn winced, but knew he could handle them. Or clean up the mess if he couldn't.

"Sean had comforting words, but- so did I- and neither one of us had much luck. Daniel was at a bit of a loss, having never had much exposure to that age until now. Dashire offered Adam- without consulting Adam, I might add," Carolyn grinned a bit at that.

"Isn't he considerably older than college? I admit, he's got that sort of in between look that could get away with almost any age- "

"I pointed that out- Dash said that years don't mean so much to you guys- and apologized. "

Tristan made no comment, just continued to juggle for a few minutes. Then, abruptly stopped, setting each mug in a proper place, deftly, to her relief. "What about- me?"

"You?"

"Okay- technically I am much older than college guys or Adam- wish I'd seen his face when Dashire volunteered him- but I can appear to be pretty much any age.."

"True- Jonathan told me that Sean's visited him before at school- as a little boy."

"And - don't forget - I promised her I'd take her to a dance," Tristan reminded, counting off points on his fingers.

"I thought that was one of those things you say- like let's do lunch,'' Mrs. Muir admitted abashedly.

"Only if Martha is cooking- sorry- but- dear lady- you are a writer, not a chef," the ghost agreed without missing a beat. "Finally- I never got to go to a school dance when I was - school aged. Or later. "

A pang of sympathy pulled on Carolyn's heart. She'd forgotten what rough lives the four men she cared for the most had lived. "You'll have to ask her- of course...and ..."

"And ask ME!" a gruff voice put in as Daniel appeared. "The logs have been duly updated, my dear. Now, what's this about you taking out a member of my crew?" he went on, turning to Tristan sternly, with twinkling eyes belying the tone.

"Permission to take your - little girl out to her dance, sir, asked?" Tristan stammered a bit. "Please?"

Pretending to consider, Daniel nodded. "Granted, but you will be on your best behavior. No tricks. No fresh moves. No popping off to pull Claymore's chain, tempting as that is. No ghostly powers at all for the duration of the date- or at least in public."

"Of course, Dad," Tristan affirmed. "I can use them to look the right age?"

" Naturally. And don't forget that. Mrs. Muir is chaperoning the event- so I will be there- invisibly keeping a -"

"Cold, beady eye on me, I know the drill, sir."

"Impudent whelp," the older ghost groused affectionately.

"Don't let her know- about- this conversation,'' Carolyn advised with a note of pleading in her voice.

"Trust me,'' the impudent whelp grinned. "Tell her I'll be by tomorrow for another lesson."

Then, after bending to give Scruffy a pat so the arthritic little guy did not have to rise, he popped out.

The next day, Candy was still a bit down in the mouth when Tristan arrived. "What's wrong?" he asked, deciding that when someone looked this unhappy, they wanted someone to take note of it.

"Penelope Hassenhammer."

"Since she can aggravate by merely living and breathing- and even if she weren't, she'd be an aggravating ghost," Tris mused, "what has she done this time?"

"Just being - herself. Ooh, have you seen my dress? I dooo hope it matches Mark's suit, and so on," Candy grimaced.

"Not still hung up on him, I hope?" Blast, did she know that he knew about that?

"Don't be silly- once the accent wore off, he was irritating," Candy sniffed, not picking up on the error. "No offense - I LIKE yours and Uncle Dash' accents. And Sean's- but his is different."

"None taken. But- I will be offended if you don't let me take you to the dance- I've always wanted to go to one- and well, I do hope I'm not too late."

Candy choked. "What? But- you're - and I don't want you to feel sorry for me.."

"Sorry for you? Perish the thought, no pun. No, I never got to go to school dances- and rather hoped that with you growing up and that age, maybe you wouldn't mind too terribly letting me - forget it. Me and my silly ideas. Why'd you want to go to a dance with ME of all people. Not even alive am I?" His eyes out puppy dogged Mark Helmore's on that note.

"I-I'd love to," Candy got out.

"Really? Not just saying that because you're kind?" Tristan asked sincerely.

"No, oh- this is so cool. " Her smile made Tristan glad that he was responsible for it.

There, one crisis handled satisfactorily.

Of course, on the night of the dance, there were others to face- such as heels.

Carolyn's writing successes over the past years; her paperback rights had been negotiated well, thanks to Adam's help on legal matters, allowed Candy to have a very pretty tea length semi formal gown, but when Tris arrived to go to the dance, Candy was putting her foot down on the issue of heels. Carolyn wanted her to borrow a pair from either her or Jenny, ignoring one critical factor.

"Mom, you don't hardly ever wear them," she protested. "So- why should I?"

"True, dear lady. I can count easily the number of times you have," Daniel agreed.

Tristan decided to remain unseen until this crisis blew past.

"He's right- you had to borrow mine last time you needed a pair," Jenny put in with a nod. "It's lucky all three of us managed to have the same shoe size, or at least pretty close. Come on, Candy- Dave'll be picking John boy and me up for the hockey game any minute now, and I want to help you with your make up. And the other ghosts will be here too- Dash has never seen a hockey game before- so he's riding shotgun."

"Literally if need be," a voice intoned as the lord popped in. When the girls went upstairs, he added, "I will wager however, that before too long, I can appear to this bloke - our girl there willingly going to a hockey game- and a boy willing to put up with a bratty little "brother" along? It's love."

"Bratty?" Johnathan protested from the corner where he was trying to remain unnoticed in all the hub bub.

"Figuratively speaking, of course, for the most part," Dashire winked. "The real brat is hiding."

Daniel smiled. "I knew that- he was wisely not inveigling himself in the shoe wars. "

Tristan visibilized, as he put it, then. "Well, would you, with a choice?"

"No," Sean O'Casey agreed. "Do I get the back seat or the front this time, Captain? I'm going along with you all to the dance."

"I don't need that much watching!" Tristan declared rebelliously. "I'd never do anything that requires both of you to slap me down."

"I'm not here for you- I'm here for the music- and I hear Martha will be there helping out. Dashire is not the only spook who misses her being around here all the time since she married Ed," Sean nodded. "That's not to say if you misbehave I won't race Danny to see which one can strangle you fastest."

Carolyn laid a hand on Tristan's shoulder. "Hey, he's trustworthy." She smiled at him.

"Thank you, " Tristan said in an aggrieved tone.

"He's not supposed to know that we know that," Sean scolded in a mock serious tone. "Anyone else interesting going to be there?"

"Dr. Avery got conned into it- the school nurse charges overtime- so a chaperone with medical training is practical," Carolyn said with a shake of her head.

"Claymore's on the schoolboard," Daniel added in explanation.

"And let me guess- you're going to double as the roving or shall I say dancing- reporter?" Tristan essayed.

Her slightly wry grin affirmed that for him. "Now, Tris, I know that human ages are a bit meaningless to you all, " her sweeping look took in all four ghosts, "but you still look a bit older than the norm will be tonight, not much- but -"

"No, I look exactly as I intended, about eighteen- I'm a Junior college student who met Candy through Jen- explaining why no one there but this household knows me. "

Tugging his ear, a bit less than gladly, Daniel nodded, "Aye. He has a point."

"Besides- Miss HASSLEhammer- will turn positively green- probably that horrid yellowish shade that's rather lizardish - Candy's date is not only foreign but older, not to mention, charming, handsome, and-"

"Yes, your one fault, dear lad, is that you are entirely too modest," Dashire cut in a heartbeat before the doorbell chimed. "My cue to fade," he tacked on in explanation as he, Sean, and Daniel also popped out.

Carolyn let in Jenny's date, and soon the three (actually four) were off to see the Philly team hopefully, from one point of view, pound the Houston Aeroes to death.

Shortly afterwards, Carolyn, Candy, and three ghosts were off to the dance. Tristan insisted he COULD drive- he'd conned and pestered Adam into teaching him how- though he did not have an actual permit to do so. The threat of "I might get bored if I don't learn how" had been sufficient persuasion at the time, but Adam hadn't quite gotten the hang of rigging fake ID's for ghosts at that time, so Tristan could not get legal. Or perhaps he wanted to try and curb how much time Tristan was loose behind the wheel.

However, Daniel's foot went down, a moment before Carolyn's, and Tristan was relegated to the back seat with Candy. Sean sat between them.

"You never let me have any fun," Tris stated petulantly.

A crack of thunder was his only answer, but when they reached the school, Carolyn and her invisible date went in a few minutes after the young couple. Sean ambled in at his own pace somewhere between.

It took all of a minute for Tristan and Candy's entrance to turn heads. Everyone wondered who the handsome stranger with the girl from the haunted house was. Naturally, Penny Hassenhammer took it upon herself, dragging Mark Helmore in her wake, to find out all the dirt. Or create some if there wasn't any.

"SO! You found a date- I guess your- what is she- cousin? Sister? asked him for you?" Penny simpered. "That was so sweet of her, wasn't it?"

Tristan smiled, not in a friendly way. "Oh, yes, I do know Candy's cousin, and have attended college with her, but she didn't ask me. As I recall, I had to plead with Candy to let me bring her. You must be Miss Hasslehammer- I've heard all about you."

Penny was oblivious. "Hassenhammer. You're foreign, aren't you? So is Mark- do you know each other?"

Tristan mentally rolled his eyes. "Sorry, Freudian slip. Where are you from, old son?"

"England," Mark said brightly.

"Me too. But, I don't know you. It is a rather big place. Perhaps Mr. Shoemaker can give you the dimensions of it. I'm sure he's memorized them," Tristan stated in a bored tone. "Now, I believe we came to dance. It's been an experience meeting you." Deftly, he led Candy away, knowing that Penny probably hadn't figured out yet whether or not she'd been insulted.

The first song began,one by the Bee Gees. Tristan wasn't sure that Sean was going to find the music to his liking after all. Well- if he and Daniel didn't approve, then, it might all change, and quite abruptly.

That would be interesting; however, he doubted this song would bother them too much.

Something in the lyrics did disturb him though, but he hid it well, losing himself in the music and dance.

Eventually, a few of Candy's buddies seemed to wake up a bit and realize the pretty girl with the stranger was their old pal. Once they got over the moments of blinking and piecing it all together a few dared to ask her to dance, but she returned inevitably to her date.

After a while, as Debby Boone began to sing, Tristan leaned a bit closer to whisper to Candy, "I'm not the only ghost enjoying myself thoroughly- and I don't think Half Penny is enjoying herself that much. "

Indeed, Candy had taken note of the latter fact. If looks could kill, it was fortunate that Tristan was already a ghost. It took a few seconds for her to locate what he meant by the first part. He swung her to where she could see first, Sean, disguised as a boy of indeterminate teen years, but unmistakably Sean O'Casey, dancing with one of the nicer young ladies, Cassie Glenn. Candy vaugely recalled that Penny had accused her of being foreign when she moved there a while back, her Colorado accent was not in synch with the local New England tone.

Then, she saw what Tristan really wanted her to see. Her mother and a very handsome man were dancing as if they were the only people in the room just as the part about sea and home played. Watching them she did not see the eyes watching her in turn as the words I love you were spoken .

"Hoping he'd get my hint," Tristan whispered dryly, letting his features morph back and forth for a split second, just long enough for Candy to take his meaning.

"They look so good - so right together," Candy said. "Mom is so lucky."

"I'd say both of them," Tristan said in unaccustomed seriousness.

"They're perfect, " Candy sighed.

Tristan spared the older couple another look. "Yeah. I can't argue with that." He wasn't sure if that was something he found hopeful, comforting, or troubling. Maybe all three?

Before he had a chance to say or think more on it, Dr. Avery's son was asking to cut in, so he moved aside a bit resentfully, noting that Sean had asked the mother to dance.

"Lucky I'm not Dash, he might see potential there," Tristan mused, keeping one eye on Candy. After her toes had been squashed for the third time, he decided it was time to reclaim his date, if he wanted her to be able to walk the next day.

Since he hoped to maybe try this date experiment again, possibly even tomorrow, it seemed the prudent thing to do. However, the dance ended and Sean decided to dance with his favorite "niece" first.

Tristan scanned the crowd, seeing if there was anyone else he could dance with, glad it wasn't a century ago. Politeness would have forced him to dance with everyone- including Jackhammer, or whatever her name was.

He drifted over to where Carolyn and Daniel were sitting out the dance"You aren't looking yourself, you know. So- if anyone asks- who are you, sir?"

"Your - stepfather, in town to visit."

"And keep a cold beady eye on me, yes. I remember."

"Good lad."

"You two looked good," Tristan dared say.

"Thanks," Carolyn smiled. "I think Alex likes current music better than he planned to. "

"Alex?" Tristan asked. He'd expected the captain to be called Danny perhaps or even Gregory.

Silently, Daniel stated flatly, "Daniel Elias Alexander Gregg."

"I see my creativity is rubbing off."

The cold, beady stare turned on him. "Mind your manners, SON."

"Yes, POP," Tristan scowled. "May I have this dance- Mrs. Muir?"

"Of course."

"Call me that once more- and I'll pop you!"

If the dance had been the one and only time Tristan took Candy out, he might not have felt obliged to leave.

It wasn't the last, or even second to last.

Several weeks later, Tristan had arrived early to go on a double date with Candy, Jenny and Dave. Looked like Dashire might be right on that front at least. The young man had even consented to a family date- going with all of them, visible and not, to see that new space movie in Keystone. Today, Tris waited invisibly, not making himself known, on some gut instinct that told him to be silent.

Jenny had been sitting with Carolyn while Candy finished up in the shower. The Captain was entertaining them with a fairly tame story. If he detected another ghost, he did not indicate it.

"I envy Candy, " Jenny had said, when the Captain, on noticing she was less than enthralled with the story asked what was wrong. "She doesn't have to hide anything on her dates- Tristan knows what the skeletons in our closet are."

"Please don't say skeleton," Carolyn sighed.

"Sorry- but it's true."

"I'm sorry, but unless you're marrying- we can't just let anyone and everyone know. "

"I know, but still. It's not fair." Sulkiness was unusual for her, and she realized it immediately. "Sorry. Forget I said anything. I'd better go on upstairs- don't want to look like I'm waiting for anyone."

Tris had started to materialize then, but held off.

"She's right," Carolyn shook her head.

"Well, Dashire is a good judge of these things- and though I still say, thirty five would be a better age for her to consider marriage- we may not have that luxury,'' Daniel noted with twinkling eyes.

"Which one?"

"Jenny, on the immediacy- we can still try and tie down Candy."

"Doubtful. I wish-"

"What?" Daniel asked, ready to fulfill any request.

"He was alive- if he were, they'd be a cute couple," Carolyn said wistfully. ". But, I can't very well say anything. And friendship is a wonderful beginning for a relationship."

"Yes, though I have only one relationship that began that way - but it has been the best of all," Daniel agreed with a pointed look.

With a sharp stab in his heart, Tristan made the most mature and painful choice he had made in life or death.

Here it was, possibly the most difficult moment of his life, either before or after death. It was the right thing to do, the noble thing - it was what the man he had admired most of all he'd met would do.

Why'd it have to hurt so blasted much? Wasn't there a rule, pain ended upon death?

Fine time to worry about rules, Tris, my lad, he thought to himself. What have you ever done but break them?

Bend, I just bent them.

Very quietly, he came to stand between the two twin beds in the girls' room.

"I just wanted to say thank you, Candy. You may at some point have or come to think I was doing you a favor. Maybe, for a moment, but really- no. I was the one who got the most from this- the most fun in my life, or whatever, and it was deadly serious. But, it's not right. Not now, anyway. Someday, there's always someday to hope for. But you need- you need a living love, in ways I can't be alive. Even if this is the most alive I've ever felt. Ever. "

He paused to look at the moonlight. "Blast. There's not a good and right way to say this. Remember that song we danced to that first night? " Singing softly, not as well as Sean for sure, but well enough, "Immortality, I make my journey through eternity... I keep a memory of you and me inside- and we dont' say goodbye.. no we don't say good bye? Well, that's it then. I won't say goodbye, because I can't stay away forever. Just long enough for you to find a place for love that's alive. Promise me to be happy, to ... don't be angry or sad about me. Okay? I'm doing the right thing, for you. Because you are too precious to settle, and that's what I'd be, settling. Think of me, sometimes, fondly?It's not fair, but it's what must be. Right then. No help for it. See you, later."

It was now or never. After giving her a first and last kiss on the cheek, Tristan walked out. Ghost couldn't cry, but he did a good impression.

His captain waited on the other side of the door.

"I know that was not easy, lad, but - the best things seldom are. I just hope you didn't alter her memories."

Tristan shook his head. "I don't think my ending will be as happy as yours, sir."

"Perhaps- perhaps you can learn to redefine the word?" Daniel suggested. "Stay in touch, son."

"If- if there's a reason- I'll come back, but not for a while. I think I covered it all in there- but just in case- don't let her think badly of herself- nothing's wrong with Candy- not at all."

"Or with you," Daniel assured him with a small smile and promised, wishing that somehow the lad could have what he and Carolyn did.

It was the hardest thing he'd ever known, but the time had come for letting go.

In his memory, the song echoed. The king's heart was broken as the joker ran wild.

Present day

"So, who won?" a distracted voice asked Tristan as he materialized in the study. "No- tell me about the game later. I haven't nailed the hermaneutic of this passage sufficiently yet- and I know Mr. Light will be waiting for me with five pages of questions..that I've never even thought of considering... What is it with that man and election? Wish he'd stick to political ones. When he reaches glory- I want to be there when he interrogates St. Paul!"

The voice's owner looked up. "You are not either Lord Dashire or Sean O'Casey- or any other ghost I've met. "

"I realize that. You aren't any non ghost I've ever met. Would you be- 'Cousin Blackie'?"

"I don't recall any of my relatives resembling you, but yes. You are?"

"Old friend of Candy M- Avery's, Tristan Q Matthews." Tristan extended his hand. "How'd you know I was here?"

"I see ghosts, whether or not they want to be seen. " Blackie took the hand. "Or sense them might be a better word."

"Really? Fascinating. "

"What does the Q mean?"

Tristan's slow grin lit his face just a bit. "Truth? Absolutely nothing. I never had a middle name- so when I lit out on my own, I adopted one, but didn't want something ordinary. Not too many names begin with Q, you know. So, whatever it is, it must be unusual, like me."

"Gotcha," Blackie nodded, then paused for a moment. "I take it you're looking for the aforementioned spooks..." Blackie began as they appeared.

"Thought we sensed you- and since you're here- you have seen Candy?" Dashire announced. "And spooks? Really, Blackwood!"

''It's about time you got back home, boy,'' Dashire scolded. "It's been rather quiet, relatively, these past years."

"Not the way I hear tell," Tristan contradicted. "Weddings, scaring off that Thompson chap- it all sounds just the opposite- almost like you don't need me to keep you all from turning into stodgy old guys."

Sean cuffed his ear. "Mind your elders, boyo. If we say it's been too quiet, it's been too quiet. " He hesitated, "So - are you here for a bit now? We did see you hovering at Jenny's wedding, Jonathan's graduation.."

"And Scruffy's 'funeral'," Dashire added a bit sadly. "But we respected your wish to remain unseen."

Tris shrugged and accepted his friends' welcome. "So, I met Thom at your place, your lordship- what do you guys think of him?" His tone was casual, in an uncasual way.

"He's a good lad," Sean nodded. "Barely blinked over having a ghostly father in law, much less uncles. He even handled having Clay and a lawyer in the family well."

"Best one she's ever brought home," Dashire agreed. "Now the first boy that came along after you," he shook his head.

"Eh?" Tristan probed.

"Let's just say- one evening the bloke arrived to pick up Candy same time as Adam was dropping off some paperwork for her mum," Dashire sighed.

"And getting a free meal, but can't blame him- Martha's frozen dinners beat Swanson's," Sean added. "And I don't think Adam can cook much better than Mrs. Gregg."

"Right," Dashire went on, looking a bit put out at the interruption. "Well, keep in mind, this is a second hand tale- but Carolyn is a good storyteller."

"Should be," Tristan agreed tensely, wishing that he'd get on with it.

"He did that tapping thing of his, you know how he'll drum something, fork, pencil, pen- when he's contemplative."

"A very irritating habit," Sean added.

"Among others," Dashire smiled thinly, before going on, "Then, looked over at Carolyn, not a bit of expression on his face. Tapped a bit more, then cool and calm as anything, said, 'Carolyn, Daniel- forgive me if I am overstepping, however, I consider you all family in the best sense, and should that boy continue to hang around here- I would strongly advise a that he take a trip to the basement, now that it is unoccupied."

It took a second for Tristan to comprehend, then he burst out laughing. "As in Callahan?"

The elder ghosts nodded. "I was quite proud of the lad when I heard that," Sean grinned.

"So what happened- is the basement re-inhabited?" Tristan asked. "Personally- I'd use someone else's basement."

"No- Candy figured out fast that he was not worth her time- and - well- there are and he figured out that there were girls who are a bit less," Dashire began.

''Much less,'' Sean dissented. "Moralled."

"If he tried anything," Tristan warned, all vestiges of his normal jovial self vanishing.

"He'd already be under something much less pleasant than the basement at Gull Cottage," Dashire assured him.

"Or several someplaces," Sean thoughtfully amended. "Don't worry, she was never out of ghost shot on her dates with him, or most others. But we did leave her be with Thom. Mostly. After he proved himself. "

"Right then," Tristan nodded in relief. "Afterwards- she didn't make too many poor choices, I hope?"

"No, lad," Sean said in consolation. "There weren't that many to consider- and those that there were were nicer, bland, but not someone we needed to trouble Pierce about."

"Or Clay?" Tristan grinned, then did his best imitation, "What? You killed a man just for looking like you?"

"Indeed," Sean nodded. "I was wondering how long it would take young Thom to get the nerve to ask her out or her to figure out she wanted him to."

"But we did promise not to interfere," Dashire scowled. "But- it all did work out properly. In all respects. By the way, the rumor was - you were summoned, with your step dad, back to England. No one was just impolitely dumped. Okay, we did interfere, a bit. Necessity."

Sean agreed. "So, no more running off on us for a while, and what a disgrace- cheating to lose a bet? And Getting stuck with haunting Callahan's? "

"Guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. The gossip network is quite intact still, eh?" Tristan shrugged. "I did the right thing, then?" For the first time since he'd been alive, his voice was genuinely uncertain.

"Aye, that you did- and we do know how hard it was for you," Sean assured him. "The Captain's situation was the exception, not the rule - as more than one of us knows."

He'd been standing in the door, not interfering in the reunion, but Blackie just had to say something. It was his house after all was said and done, though at times he thought it might be simpler just to move into Gull Cottage. "You know, I've got a sermon around here somewhere- when Brother Paul says we're to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice- it might be the other way around- it's not that hard to mourn with those who mourn. Mourning with someone, raging with them is simple. But being happy with them, especially when you feel like the middle stanza of a bad country song, one of those where your wife just cheated on you with your best friend, left, took your dog and the truck's broken down too and you're out of beer, that's tough. You generally want to sock them in the nose- misery does love company."

"Or bury them in the basement," Tristan said with a half hearted grin.

"Excuse me?" the young pastor blinked. He hadn't followed the bits about killing someone who looked like someone, basements, or troubling Adam at all. Not at all.

"Oh, aye," Sean grinned, "but don't tell Adam. At least not too early in the morning."

"Sit down, son," Dashire said. "It appears you've missed a grand story- as my Irish friend would say. Do we have any Madeira? This is a long story."

"How is the happy couple? The less than great Callahans?" the Irish friend asked before the tale proper began.

"Oh-" Tristan replied, staring at the ceiling as if looking for inspiration, "Just about as you would expect them to be."

Cast List:

Carolyn Muir (Gregg Miles) Matriarch of the "clan." Mother of Jon(athan) and Candy, wife of Daniel.

Daniel Gregg (a.k.a. Daniel Miles) Patriarch, Ghost.

Candy Avery nee Muir - Carolyn's daughter from her first marriage.

Jonathon Muir (Jon/Jonathan) - Carolyn's son from her first marriage.

Jenny Williams Farnon - Carolyn's third cousin and goddaughter who comes to live with her at Gull Cottage when she is orphaned.

Claymore Gregg - the legal heir of Daniel Gregg - however as the ghost will tell you that blasted barnacle is NOT his nephew or anything else.

Martha Grant Peavey - Carolyn's housekeeper and friend.

Ed Peavey - Martha's cherry-pie-loving husband.

Dave Farnon - Jenny's husband.

Thom Avery - Candy's husband.

Linden Avery - Thom's mother, a widow, a.k.a. Dr. Lynne

Lord Charles Dashire - Daniel's good friend from their days alive, helped Claymore (Clay) Reunite the family; Thom and Candy now live in his house.

Adam Pierce - Initially, Dashire's lawyer, now handles the entire family's legal affairs.

Sean O'Casey - Daniel's first mate and best friend in life and afterlife.

Molly O'Casey - Sean's recently reunited wife.

Elroy Applegate - Hapless ghost-seaman who needs ghost lessons.

Scruffy - first family dog, deceased.

Dakota - Scruffy's grandchild, current family mutt.

Tristan Matthews - Seaman from Daniel's crew, now a ghost. Not on the inner circle with Dash, Sean and Daniel in life, but added in death. In love with Candy.

Siegfried Matthews - Not a seaman, Tris' older brother who talks very, very fast and lives with Dr. Lynne.

Tris and Sig were modeled after the Yorkshire vets in All Creatures Great and Small.

James and Helen Wight - the town vets.

Stories in the From This Day On Universe:

From This Day On - Resolutions - In Good Spirits - Past Sins - Wedding Conspiracy - Martha's Wish Granted - I Won't Say Goodbye - When Legends Meet - Knowing the Truth That Haunts Me - Brotherly Love - Heart's Memories - The Space Between -