All right. The sequel that has been too long in the making. I can't even tell you how many times this has started and stopped. It was previously called Legacy, but I have other plans for that title.
Also, they have been magically transported back to New York, where they should've been all along. Not that it matters too much. So here it is, the sequel to Manipulation. I swear it won't take a year to complete!
Brendan Dean tossed and turned in his hospital bed, anxious for the next day. After two days of observation, his doctor finally decided to let him go. Visiting hours were over, and his partner reluctantly left his bedside. Freya had comforted him, reassured him for nearly a day, coaxing his overloaded brain to settle. Corralling the implanted memories left him exhausted, but he could finally rest.
I'm spending the weekend with my mother. Brendan stared at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to claim him. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Larkin leaning over him, or a person he never recalled meeting. Sitting up, the agent gingerly got out of bed. They insisted he keep the IV until he left the next day, but he was tired of carting around the pole every time he left his bed.
Moving over to the window, Brendan raised the blinds to stare out at the city. Half the view was blocked by an adjoining wing of the hospital. Watching the glittering lights of the city, he felt the weariness creep up on him. Shuffling over to the chair in the corner, Brendan grabbed a blanket off the bed, and wrapped himself in it. From this vantage point, he could see exactly two stars. I love New York.
"Mister Dean? Are you all right?" A high pitched voice asked from somewhere to his left.
He woke with a start, surprised by her voice and the bright light bouncing off a window and into his eyes. That's not gonna help my headache. "I'm... I'm fine," he rasped, shielding his eyes from the light. "Must've fallen asleep."
"Yes." The nurse frowned at him, crossing her arms. "It's early, so let's get you back to bed."
Brendan shook his head. "I'm good. Don't really feel like lying down right now." She isn't really going to make me get back in bed, is she?
"Please , sir. I–"
"Morning, Agent Dean." Doctor Levinson swanned into the room, clicking a pen as he perused the patient's medical chart. "Are you giving your nurse a hard time? Come on, back in bed."
"But I don't wanna. Been there too long," Brendan said, already struggling to rise. By the time he shuffled back to the bed, all he could only think of falling into it. The impromptu nap had given him no rest whatsoever.
"Just lie still while I take your vitals, okay? You can walk around once you've had breakfast." The nurse – Tina – gently examined his neck and shoulders, while the doctor asked questions. Soon Brendan was lulled into a light doze, completely missing the end of the pervasive touching and medical people leaving. The breakfast tray clanged, startling him awake, the heart monitor beeping like crazy.
"Sorry about that, Mister Dean. You hungry?" Another nurse – Hank – swung the table over, setting the covered dish on top of a newspaper. With practiced flourish, he removed the cover. "Eat up. Looks like you've skipped a few already." With a wink, Hank turned to leave.
As soon as the smell hit, Brendan took a deep breath, trying to swallow his nausea. Can't go backwards! "Thanks," he said thickly, eying the eggs and toast with disdain.
Hank reappeared, placing an emesis basin within arm's reach. "I'll be back later, Mister Dean."
"Okay," Brendan said quietly, choosing between the food and the basin. Ultimately, the basin won out. When the retching finally stopped, he wanted to get rid of the evidence. Grabbing his constant companion, the IV pole, he entered the bathroom. Behind a heavy curtain, he discovered a shower. Sweet! After flushing and rinsing, Brendan happily stripped. The IV was a problem, but he merely freed the bag from its hook, and placed it on a shelf inside the shower. Warm water beat down on his chilled skin; he wished it would warm his bones.
Using every available handrail, Brendan was able to keep himself upright. For the first time in nearly three days, he examined his body. The bruises on his arm were not bad, mostly green and yellow. Purple bruises adorned his wrists, and would likely take a while to fade. Avoiding the mirror most of the time, he wasn't sure he wanted to see the bruises on his neck and shoulders everyone had been so worried about. Nausea swept over him again; the memory of colorless eyes boring into his own. A pale face, too close to make out features, and pressure on his chest drove him to his knees.
Keep it together, Dean! You're leaving today.
Pulling himself upright, Brendan washed his hair and body with thankfully odorless soap. Drying off, he forewent the mirror once again. Just do it! You're not a vampire. Look!
Turning slowly around, he faced the mirror. The person looking back at him was recognizable, however, Brendan didn't like what he saw. He started low, wincing at the countable ribs and translucent skin. Dark stubble against pale pale skin, dark smudges under his eyes matching the black and purple bruises along his jaw. More purple bruises dotted his neck, trailing along his collarbone and shoulders. Mottled oval shapes all over; Keith Larkin had left more than his memories with Brendan.
"I need to get outta here."
It had been a long time since Paget Dean had to take care of her son. The last thing she'd thought she'd be doing this week was cradling Brendan's head in her lap. The last time he allowed this kind of interaction, they were both a lot younger. Today, he had fallen asleep as soon as the car door closed, and pitched sideways. She gently lay his head on her lap, absently stroking his back.
Leaving the hospital, Brendan was dead on his feet by the time they reached the car. The nurse pushed the wheelchair slowly, mentioning the patient had had a rough night. Sudden movement made Brendan jumpy, so she moved slower and faster by increments. His mother knew he hated hospitals, but most of all, he didn't want anyone to worry for him. She saw the infamous Dean mask fall into place, very nearly hiding all expression.
Two years ago, they had some stupid fight; occasional phone calls were not the same as physical contact. Two years, and they still kept each other at arm's length. He used to hug everyone until... Paget willed the thoughts and memories away, trying to focus on the present.
John Harper was a very good friend, and nice enough to let her know when things happened to her son. But there were gaps. Paget suspected larger events were involved; she could never quite pin him on it. While her son was know to be a reliable agent, Brendan's persistence often led to his poor health and nearly obsessive behavior. As she rubbed his thin shoulder, Paget watched his sleeping face, she was amazed at how young he looked. God, he's nearly forty.
Early on in life, Brendan Dean was a rambunctious little boy. No, he was a brat. Somehow, he could be in three places at once. Trees, dogs, bikes, roller skates, and stairs figured into every injury. Once, Social Services was called due to several injuries within a month. That was a long day; Brendan had slept through most of it, blissfully unaware of the interrogation his parents endured.
She let her eyes rove the landscape. It was so simple then, only dealing with physical injuries. Now it's mind tampering. More and more cases came through her offices involving telepaths, telekinetics, and empaths. The judge wondered when people said "the voices made me do it," if they were actually telling the truth. New laws had to be set in place, and they had to be changed all the time. Paget felt sorry for congress persons and lawyers, who were supposed to suspend imagination while forming a bill. The 'what if' became reality; those laws would have to protect, as well as serve the community.
Her own son had the gift of memory, which often did more harm than good. Brendan could remember to the finest detail just about anything. All you had to do was ask, and those hazel eyes would gloss over as he related the memory. But his inflection was wrong; gone was the warmth of his natural voice, leaving only a dead, mechanical voice. Brendan's father was always more sympathetic, and it frustrated her for a long time until he finally told her his deep dark secret.
Robert Dean was an empath. Worse, his family was a merry band of Scottish-English grifters, who could sell ice to Eskimos. Robert had escaped the clutches of his family long ago, but Paget often wondered how he found his way to Nolan Enterprises. When she first met Robert, he looked a lot like his son now, skinny, and tired. He mainly kept to himself, and what girl can resist a man shrouded in mystery who looked devastating in black?
She smiled at the memory, absently stroking Brendan's hair. Paget startled at the flinch; the doctor had told her that Brendan would be sensitive around the head and neck. As if he needed any more problems! She knew he still had nightmares, and sometimes could scarcely be touched. His new partner seemed to be a godsend; Freya knew exactly what to do and when to say it.
The girl later explained she was telepathic. She even explained in detail what had happened to Brendan. While he neither confirmed nor denied anything she said, his lapse in speaking may have been a communication between them. This was all so new to Paget. One minute, he's speaking Russian; the next, he's mentally communicating a hurt she could only see in his eyes. Freya informed her of his headaches privately, knowing Brendan would never tell her. "And," she had said with a sad smile. "He's really fidgety after laying down so long." Freya knew that Brendan would need to sleep; his mind had been ravaged and he had fought valiantly.
Again, her hands were in his hair, and this time the flinch was more like a shudder.
"Lemme go," Brendan slurred, pulling his mother out of her reverie. He suddenly sat upright, eyes very wide and very green. Breathing heavily, he passed a hand over his face. "Mom? Where –?"
"You're safe, ba – Brendan. We're almost home."
Confusion took over his pale face as he scooted to the other end of the seat, out of arm's reach. He drew his knees up, sitting wedged against the car door. "Sorry, I, um..." He flinched again when she held out her hand.
Paget withdrew her hand quickly, placing both on her lap in plain sight; he watched with interest as she clasped them. "Carswell? Take it easy on that last turn, okay?"
Suddenly, Brendan uncoiled from his position; he knew that curve. Leaning forward, he smiled. "Carswell, don't you dare." Scooting closer to his mother, Brendan waited for the blind curve at the end of the road leading to his grandfather's house.
Expertly, the car swung around the curve, denoting Carswell's years of experience driving for the Nolan family. The car kicked up dust as it skidded lightly on dry leaves and loose gravel, narrowly missing the mailbox.
Every time they came up to her father's house, Brendan would have the same reaction. A gleeful laugh as he slammed into whoever sat next to him. Paget rolled her eyes; she couldn't help but smile. "Ya still got it, Carswell."
Unfolding his thin frame, Brendan got out of the car and glanced around the visible grounds. The tree he had fallen out of numerous times, still stood with all its gnarled grace at the edge of the property; an eighty-year-old garden maze that his grandmother had refused to let him inside; and the dense copse of low pines on the east side of the house. Everything as it was since he left nearly twenty years ago.
"Come inside before you catch a chill, please."
"Yes, Mother," Brendan pouted.
Upon entering the house, he was overwhelmed by its largeness. He had forgotten. I don't forget anything. I do know I don't want to go up those stairs.
Paget saw her son's distress; the fear was still evident so many years later. She wanted to gather him in her arms, but really there was nothing she could do to make him feel differently. Grabbing his hand, Paget decided to at least distract him. She led him to the parlor. "Have a seat; I've got a surprise for you." Her son narrowed his eyes at her. "Don't look at me like that. It'll be good I promise."
Glancing at the newly decorated surroundings, he laughed uneasily. "You mean I get to sit on the furniture?" Keeping his anxiousness at bay, Brendan let his eyes roam the room. "You've been busy. Granny Delores must be spinning in her grave right about now."
"Yer tellin' me," Paget said in her best Irish lilt. She gave him a conspiratorial wink. "Sit tight. I'll be right back."
Brendan settled on the beautifully upholstered couch, blinking sleepily. "Wow. Doesn't look like a museum anymore." Several times, he caught himself dozing. This has got to stop! But listening to a tree tapping outside the window finally caused him to drop off.
This house was always peaceful, despite the bad memories. Flashes of someone else's life behind closed lids chased him further into sleep. The reorganization was nearly complete. Once he was alert enough, Brendan knew those memories would be locked up for good. But right now, he needed to get well again.
A thump somewhere outside the room woke him. Rubbing his face vigorously, Brendan snatched a magazine off the table, idly flipping through pages.
By the time Paget returned, she found her son drowsily slouching on the couch. "All right, kid. Time for your nap."
Brendan rose stiffly, pouting a little. "Fine. But I'll have you know, me and long-term bed rest do not play well together."
"Never did, sweetie. Come on now," she chuckled. "Dinner's at seven-thirty, so I'll bring it –"
"I can come downstairs, Mom. Haven't broken anything. Haven't even been shot."
Paget stopped in her tracks. Why would he say that? "Shot?" she blurted. "Have you – Did you –?" She felt like she had been in denial all these years. Being an agent wasn't that dangerous... was it?
But her son frowned thoughtfully, as if weighing his words. "It was a flesh wound, no big deal." Shrugging it off, Brendan slowly climbed the stairs.
"No big –"As she watched his ascending back, Paget wanted to scream. "You and I are going to have to have a serious talk, young man." After all these years, did she really want to get to know him now?
Okay, so that was kinda... loaded, I guess.