Imaginary Friends

by Maven Alysse

Poltergeist: The Legacy fan fiction story.

Original Author's note:

Greetings and Salutations.

I had been so impressed with the many Legacy stories (okay, okay, Nick stories ::grin::) that I've found on the 'Net, that I had to try my hand at one. Anyone who's an avid fan of the show (of which I am currently adding membership to) knows that Nick Boyle did not have an easy childhood. I decided to focus my story on how, with a little help from a friend, Nick was able to survive his childhood and become the sensitive and caring adult he is today.

Disclaimer: The concept of the show Poltergeist: The Legacy does not belong to me, neither do Nick Boyle, Derek Raynes, Phillip Callahan, Jonathan Boyle, or Alex Moraeu. They all belong to Showtime and Trilogy Entertainment Group. Nicole Jenter and the story idea do belong to me, so don't borrow without asking permission first. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the story.

A/N2: This story was originally posted on a geocities site that has since gone defunct. Written in 1998 – betaed by Aislinn – revised in 2012.

Imaginary Friends

By Maven Alysse

1978

A small figure huddled in the corner of the bedroom, knees drawn up to the chest, arms wrapped protectively over the head. "Where are you?" a voice bellowed, causing a shudder to wrack the small frame. "Don't make me come up and get you!"

Slowly, the figure uncurled, rose, and timidly made its way down the stairs. Green hazel eyes, wide with fright, peeked around the door jamb into the living room. A large man stood glaring, his face twisted in anger. He pointed to a spot a few feet away. "Right now!" The child came forward, head bowed, arms wrapped about itself. "How many times to I have to tell you not to play with those kids? Huh?" A hand came down and clamped tightly on the shoulder. He shook the child slightly. "Well?"

The child looked up, tears filling the eyes. "We-we was only playing. I was lonely."

The large man shook the child harder, bruising the shoulder and rattling teeth. "I don't care if you were lonely. I told you you were to have nothing to do with those kids. Didn't I?"

"But, d-daddy..."

Another shake, this time accompanied by a slap to the face. "Didn't I?" he roared.

"Y-y-y-y..." head nodding vigorously.

"Are you going to disobey me again?" Another slap.

"N-n-n-n..." a shake of the head.

"Damn right, you aren't. Get out of my sight!" The man turned and pushed the child towards the door. Sneering in disgust, the man stalked out of the room, not noticing, or not caring, about the large bump appearing on the child's head where the child banged it on the door jamb from the force of the shove.

The child stumbled out into the hallway, blinded by the tears. A snag in the rug grabbed at a foot, causing the figure to trip and catch itself against the full length mirror hung in the hallway. The child slid down the mirror, huddling against the oak frame, trying to regain both senses and balance. Angrily wiping tears away, the child focused on the mirror, a puzzled frown forming between the eyes. The child paled at the reflection shown, terror flashing in the green hazel eyes. The reflection staring back paled as well, green hazel eyes also showing fear, but the rest of the face... in fact, the rest of the reflection, was not that of the child's! In an instant the apparition vanished, the child's reflection returned to normal. The child rubbed its head and tentatively reached out to touch the mirror. Finding nothing but glass, the child stood and went back upstairs, wondering who the strange child in the mirror had been.

Three years later. 1981

Nick Boyle sat on the back porch idly drawing designs in the dirt. He was using his left hand because his right was in a sling after he had "fallen down" and dislocated the shoulder. "Nick?" The seven year old looked up as his father came out of the house carrying a duffel bag in one hand. "I'll be gone for a few days. Mind your mom. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

Jonathan Boyle smiled, "That's my boy. Be good."

"I will," Nick responded as his father got into his car and drove away. Nick's attention went back to his drawing. A few minutes later, a second stick joined in his doodling. Nick's face lit up as he turned to his friend. "Hey, Nicole. You showed!"

"I said I would, didn't I?" came the amused response. Green hazel eyes met green hazel eyes and each gave identical grins, but that was the extent of their similarities. The twelve year old brushed back a lock of brown gold hair and nodded towards the street. "He gone?"

"Yeah. For a couple of days." The two exchanged grins again and relaxed.

With a foot, she smoothed the dirt, obliterating the designs. "What do you want to do today?"

"Wanna work on our tree house?"

Nicole grimaced a bit and stretched her right leg out stiffly. Nick noticed that the knee was bandaged. "I wrenched it pretty bad. I don't think I'll be able to climb so good." Nicole shrugged in apology, then tilted her head as an idea came. "Your mom home?"

"Nope. She's visitin' granma for a couple hours. Why?"

"Well, the other day, when you were taking that math test, I found this neat old house down the street."

Nick looked at her with wide eyes, incredulous. "You didn't go in, did you?" Nicole nodded. Nick's voice dropped to a whisper. "What was it like? Some of the kids say it's haunted."

"I don't know 'bout that. _I_ didn't see any ghosts. Guess that doesn't mean there aren't any. But I liked the place." She turned to her companion, eyes sparkling in excitement. "It's got a piano, too. A real old one. I thought..." she trailed off a bit, shrugged, then plunged on. "I thought I could teach you. If you wanted," she added in a rush, then looked away, pretending she didn't care if he agreed to the idea or not.

"Sounds cool." Nick grinned up at her, then his face fell. "Aw, Mrs. Garrett's watching me today."

Nicole sighed, well aware of the older woman's capricious moods. Sometimes she didn't seem to care where Nick went and other times she wouldn't let him out of her sight. "Couldn't hurt to try."

Nick nodded and went inside. Nicole waited a few minutes before Nick came bounding out of the house. He passed her by, leaping across the stoop. "She said to be back in two hours. Let's go!" Nicole laughed and did her best to keep up with her younger friend.

Nicole perched on the piano seat, making room for Nick to climb beside her. Reverently, she touched the keys, sounding them out. She smiled to find they didn't need much tuning. "Now, this is the scale." And for the next two hours, she taught him the basics.

A few weeks later.

Nick waited for Nicole in the empty field behind the house; glove, bat and ball lying in the grass beside him. "Come on, Nicole. Where are you?" He sat down next to the gear, eyes searching the clearing. Absently, he reached for the ball, only to connect with the leather of the mitt instead. Looking over, he saw Nicole standing a couple of feet away, tossing the ball from one hand to another, a small smile on her face. "Hey, Nick. Were you waiting long?"

Nick rose. "Not too long. Though, I thought you'd be by sooner."

She shook her head apologetically. "Had homework to finish up. Sorry."

"'Sokay. Wanna play catch?"

"All right." She picked the glove on, slipping it on. "I warn you, I'm not very good at it."

"Well, I'll help you out." The two played for a while, each taking turns pitching and hitting. A couple of hours later the two could hear a voice call out. "Nick! Time to come in!" The two exchanged glances and Nicole handed the glove and ball over to Nick, well aware of the ruckus that had been caused when a neighborhood kid saw her carrying a picnic basket a year ago.

As they walked Nick caught her fiddling with her hair, a sure sign that something was going on. "What's up?"

She twisted a lock around her fingers. "My dad's been transferred. Said we'll be moving in a few months."

Nick looked worried. "Where to?"

She shrugged. "He doesn't know yet."

"Will you still be able to visit?" He stopped to look at her, brows creased in consternation.

She shrugged again, heaving a sigh. "I hope so. But I don't know."

"Nicholas! Let's go!"

Both children started, then Nicole grabbed her friend's arm. "Come on. We don't want to get him mad." She ran towards the house, pulling him along for a bit till he caught his balance and ran on his own. At the door, Nicole let Nick precede her into the house. She cautiously made her way in, aware that if known, her presence would not be welcomed. She heard Jonathan Boyle tell his son, "Get packed. Mom's staying with your grandmother for a few days, so you're coming to the island with me."

"Yes, sir." Nick scrambled up the stairs, silently motioning for Nicole to join him.

She met him in his bedroom. "The island?" she mentioned.

Nick pulled a bag out from his closet. "That's right, you haven't been there, have you?" He continued when she shook her head. "Angel Island. It's where my dad works. There's an honest-to-goodness castle!" His eyes lit up. "It's also where my dad's boss lives."

She handed him a t-shirt as her expression brightened. "Cool. I'll stick around to see that before returning home today." She helped him finish packing and the two headed back down.

Jonathan Boyle drove the car off the ferry and down the road towards the mansion. Nicole got a glimpse of the house. She leaned closer to Nick and whispered in his ear. "Whoa. It's huge. That's where your dad works?" Nick nodded, not talking for fear of drawing his father's attention. "That is so cool," came her awed response. Nick grinned.

Jonathan looked over at his son, glad for the smile. 'He's such a moody kid. I never know what he's going to do next.' They continued on a few minutes in silence. "Now, Nick. I don't want you getting into any trouble while you're here. It's a privilege to stay at the island. Dr. Rayne's been asking after you."

Nick looked up at his father, interest showing in his eyes. "He has?"

"Yes, so I expect you to conduct yourself in a proper manner."

Nicole elbowed him in the side, "He means; behave yourself."

Nick nodded, "Yes, sir."

Jonathan had caught the hesitation and slight jump and he stared at his son through the rear view mirror. His eyes narrowed. He had hoped Nick had gotten over such odd behavior. Not for the first time, he wished his employer, Dr. Derek Raynes, hadn't insisted that Nick visited.

As they navigated the walk to the door, Nicole laid a hand on Nick's shoulder and squeezed. He looked up at her, a question in his eyes. She shrugged at him and shook her head to dispel the uneasiness she felt. Something told her that this weekend was going to be very important. With a quick glance at his father, Nick patted her hand comfortingly.

"Jonathan." The trio were just inside the door and turned to see a handsome young man descend the staircase. "Glad you could make it. And I see you did decide to bring Nick."

"What kind of accent is that?" Nicole whispered, intrigued.

"Derek's Dutch," Nick whispered back.

Jonathan smiled, "Well, you were right. It wouldn't have been fair to leave Mrs. Garrett alone with this little hellion for the weekend."

Raynes strode over, shook hands with Jonathan, then turned his attention to Nick. "So, young Mr. Boyle, glad to be back?"

"Yes, sir!"

Nicole glanced at him. "You never said you were here before."

Nick shrugged fractionally. Neither child noticed the strange look that crossed Raynes' face. "Jonathan, the others are set up in the Control Room. Why don't you join them while I show Nick to his room? I have a special project for him while he's here. If he'll take it."

Jonathan shot a warning look at his son before handing him his duffel. "Don't let him try to squirm out of it."

"Oh, I'm sure he won't want to." Jonathan left and Raynes motioned for the boy to follow him upstairs. "My godson, Phillip, came to live with me a few months ago. As you can tell, there aren't many children here on the island."

Nicole murmured, "Understatement." Nick stifled a laugh. Derek blinked and smiled. He opened a door,

"This will be your room. Your dad's is next door. Leave your bags and William will take care of it."

Nicole glanced around the room in appreciation. "Is William the guy who answered the door?" Nick nodded.

"Anyway," Derek continued. "I'm hoping you'll be able to draw Phillip out of his shell a bit. He's a few years older than you, but I hope that won't be too much of a problem for either of you. I hope you two will get to be friends."

Nick briefly grinned, as if at a private joke. "Where's he from?"

"He's lived in Ireland his whole life. He's only been in America for a few months."

Nick dropped his bag on the bed. "What's he like?"

Derek chuckled and started to answer, then stopped and went to the window. He glanced out and pointed. "He's out there in the garden. Why don't you find out yourself?" He smiled at the young boy and left the room, hoping for the best.

Nicole drifted over to the window. "I see him. He's over by that big tree."

Nick slumped up against the window frame. "Yeah? So?"

"Why don't we go say hi?"

"Why should we?"

Nicole leaned against the frame as well, arms wrapped about herself. "Well, for one, your dad's boss is bound to tell your dad that your 'project' is to hang out with Phillip while you're here."

"Yeah. And dad did tell me to do what Dr. Raynes said."

Nicole nodded. "Besides, it would be nice to have someone to talk to after I've gone home. Won't it?"

Nick shrugged. "I guess."

She gave a lopsided grin. "'Sides. He's lived here so long, maybe we could go exploring." She checked his expression. "It's a big house. Whaddya say?" she wheedled.

Nick stared into her eyes. "What's the real reason you want to meet him?"

Nicole sat on the bed and patted beside her, waiting until he joined her. "We don't know for how much longer I'll be able to visit you and..." she trailed off.

Nick laced his fingers with her. "And you don't want me to be alone when you're gone?"

She gave his hand a squeeze. "Something like that."

They were quiet for a moment. "What if he doesn't like me?"

Nicole laughed quietly. "Why wouldn't he? 'Sides, you'll never know if you don't try."

There was a pause while he thought it over. "Okay."

The two made their way outside and into the garden. Nicole hung back, letting Nick meet Phillip on his own.

Later that evening, a noise caused Nick to step out of his room and out into the hallway. A door opening down the hall caused him to freeze. He relaxed when Phillip joined him at the head of the stairs. "What are ya doin'?" The boy asked, his accent giving a lilt to his voice.

"Keep it down, will ya?" Nick hissed. "I heard a noise and I'm gonna check it out." Phillip followed the younger boy down the stairs. Nick pointed to a closed door, the noise was coming from the other side. "What's in there?"

"It's the livin' room. Where Derek brings visitors." The two exchanged glances, then entered the room.

Derek made his way down the hallway towards the living room. He awoke from a strange dream and would have sworn he had heard music. Unwilling to worry anyone, he decided to check it out himself. The door was opened a crack and a light was on. He heard his godson remark, "What other songs do ya know?"

Nick responded proudly, "She knows lots, don't you, Nicole?"

There was a pause, then Phillip said, "Do ya know any Irish songs?"

Another pause, then a lively jig sounded out. "Told you," Nick crowed.

Derek quietly peeked in, curious as to who the two boys were talking with. The small lamp beside the grand piano was on, illuminating a very unusual scene. Phillip sat at one end of the piano bench, young Nick Boyle sat at the other, and the center was empty. The two boys were watching the keys intently as they played themselves! Derek blinked and shook his head in astonishment. He watched them for a moment, then he must have make a noise or something because the music suddenly ceased. "What happened?" Phillip turned to his young friend.

Nick's voice was sad. "She went home."

Phillip looked disappointed. "Can ya bring her back?"

Nick shook his head. "No. She can't come when called. She's only here for a while. She'll be back tomorrow, though."

"Great. I'll show you both aroun' the castle."

Nick grinned. "We'd like that!"

Derek softly cleared his throat and pushed the door wider. Instantly, he became the focus of two sets of eyes. Phillip's gaze was a bit worried, but otherwise relaxed. Derek didn't miss the flash of fear in Nick's eyes before recognition changed it to a wariness that made the child look older than his seven years. "A bit late for music lessons, isn't it?"

"Sorry, Derek. We were... just about to go back ta bed. Weren't we Nick?"

Nick gave Phillip a grateful smile and nodded. Derek nodded himself. He decided he'd bring up 'Nicole' when Nick was not quite as wary. "Better head back up, then. Breakfast is served pretty early around here."

"Yes, sir," they chorused.

As they headed past him, Derek felt another presence return to the room. He saw Nick stiffen a bit and wave a hand behind his back, as if in warning. Phillip noticed his friend's movements, but didn't seem aware of the presence himself. Derek motioned them on. "I'll straighten up here. You two go on up. I'll check on you in a moment." He went into the living room and stopped near the door to listen.

"Whatcha doing back so soon?" Nick's voice asked.

There was a pause, then Phillip asked, "Did she come back?"

"Yeah."

"What did she say?"

"That she's sorry she ditched so quick, couldn't be helped. She came back to wish us a goodnight."

"Oh. Well, goodnight, Nicole."

Nick laughed a bit. "She says, 'Night, Pip'"

"Pip?" Phillip asked indignantly. Their voices faded as they went upstairs.

Derek closed the piano up, turned the light off and left the room, musing. 'It appears Nick has an "imaginary friend," though not a type I'm familiar with. I wonder where she came from? She seems harmless enough. I don't think Jonathan knows about it, or at least the full extent of it or he'd have told us about it by now.' He paused, then made his way after the boys. 'I'm amazed how Phillip reacted. He didn't seem at all surprised. I'll talk to him about this tomorrow.'

Derek let Phillip go out to play, a frown furrowing his brow. Phillip said he couldn't see Nicole, though "If you listen real hard, sometimes you can hear her."

'I'd better have a chat with Nick. How long has he known this friend of his? Could she be a danger to him?' He left his study to search for the boy. He finally found him in a corner of the library. Nick sat at one of the tables, a pad of paper in front of him, a pencil in hand. The child nodded occasionally as he drew. Derek noticed an open book in front of the chair beside him. One of the pages turned as if someone was reading. Concentrating, Derek thought he could just make out the sound of a young girl talking, but he couldn't be sure if it was just his imagination or not. "Nick?"

The boy's head shot up and he focused on Derek. "Yes, Dr. Raynes?"

Derek eased into the library and took a seat across the boy. "I wanted to talk to you about something."

Nick shot a glance at the empty chair and huffed a breath. "About?"

"Who's Nicole?"

Nick didn't look too surprised by the question. "She's my friend."

"How long have you known her?"

"About three years."

'Three years?' "Does your father know about her?"

Now Nick squirmed. "Not really."

"Why not?"

"Well, I tried telling him about her, but he told me I was too old for an imaginary friend." He glanced down at his paper and added a few dark strokes to the bottom of the picture, obviously trying to end the conversation.

"Has Nicole ever done anything in front of him to show she was there?"

"Like what?" He sounded distracted and studied the paper with care.

"Oh, like... play the piano?"

Nick sat as if frozen, the room was silent save for their soft breathing. Finally, Nick looked up, a calculating look in his eyes. "You saw. Didn't you?:

"Yes."

The boy leaned back in his chair, arms crossed. "Now what? You gonna tell my dad?"

"Do you want me to?"

"No." The answer was swift and definite.

"Why?"

"Cause he'll tell me I'm not allowed to see her again. And he'll make her go away. He told me so before. That's why we hid it from him."

Derek frowned and he spoke almost to himself. "I wonder why he never mentioned this to us?"

Nick snorted, a startlingly derisive sound from one so young. "What? And have you all think his only son was crazy? Not likely." Nick fidgeted in his seat. He closed the note pad, reached over, put a bookmark in the book beside him and closed it. "We'll finish it later, okay?" He apparently got an affirmative, because some of the tension in his face left. He stared defiantly at the older man. "So, what are you gonna do?"

Derek leaned back. "Nothing."

Nick looked skeptical. "Nothing?"

"Nothing. Provided that she harms no one, I see no reason for anyone to know about her, if you don't wish them to."

Nick stared at him for a moment, gauging his sincerity. He nodded once, formally, then rose and left the room without another word.

Derek felt the presence walk past him and he reached out a hand. Though he felt nothing, a barrage of images struck him: Green hazel eyes ... a mirror in an oak frame ... a piano ... a tree house ... a raised fist ... a flight of stairs. Blinking rapidly, Derek tried to clear his eyes and mind of the visions. Looking around, he noticed the boy had gone. Derek decided not to go after him, but would keep an eye out for both Nick and Nicole.

As the years passed, Nicole seemed to appear less and less often and when she did appear, she didn't have quite as much strength as she once did. Derek couldn't decide if it was due to Nick getting older, Nicole getting older (if she did), a combination of both, or if they just got better at hiding her presence. Nine years passed. Phillip and Nick became close friends, though Phillip, or Pip as he was sometimes called, never mentioned Nicole again. He had accepted her presence well and her apparent departure equally well.

1990

Derek was watching Nick while his mother took care of a sick relative. 'Nick's been so quiet since his father's death a year ago,' Derek mused. 'I wonder if I should have a talk with him.'

Nick had been there for three days when Derek found the journal. Nick and Phillip were in the back, under the watchful eyes of the gardener. Derek straightened up the library and came across the small cloth covered book. Opening it at random, he noted that the page was filled with a neat cramped writing. He glanced at the top of the page. It was marked two years earlier.

April 14, 1988: Nicole has been here over three days now without going home. It's extremely unusual. She usually stays between 4-10 hours - depending on when she goes to sleep. I asked her why things were so different. She didn't really answer. Just looked so sad.

April 16, 1988: The bruises on her arms and legs are more pronounced. It reminds me of when I fell out of the tree house a few years ago. Nicole won't tell me anything, but then, she doesn't have to. I know. What a way to spend a birthday.

April 18, 1988: Nicole flickered in and out a lot today. I guess she's finally waking up. I'm glad. I mean, I love it when she's here, but she should be living her own life. Though she'd be better off without Him. So would I, I guess.

April 30, 1988: She went home yesterday for most of the day. Guess that means she's making a full recovery. I was finally able to get her to play the piano with me. Couldn't do it before - she just couldn't seem to focus.

Derek flipped forward a few pages to more recent entries.

February 3, 1989: Nicole almost gave Dad a heart attack today. I screwed up and Dad got angry. In our "argument" I tripped and would have fallen down the stairs if Nicole hadn't grabbed hold of my shirt at the last moment. She pulled me back. I've never seen Dad so pale before. A couple hours later, he convinced himself that it had just been his imagination. When I thanked Nicole, she just said she was glad to save me from what she had gone through.

March 28, 1989: Nicole still teaches me to play the piano. Dad still doesn't know that I can play - I'm not sure he'd approve. I think mom guesses, though.

April 12, 1989: Nicole didn't want to go to the island this week. She says its creepy, but I know she's just bored trying not to attract attention to herself (especially Derek's).

Derek smiled, he had wondered if anything was wrong. He'd felt her presence, but noticed she wasn't doing as much as she used to. 'Now I know why.' He chuckled.

April 16, 1989: Nicole is 20 now. She's afraid that our time is going to come to an end soon. She says its getting harder and harder to come visit. I had noticed the visits had been getting shorter - now I know why. I hope she's not right, but I've come to trust her judgment in these matters."

Derek flipped a couple of pages again and drew a pained breath at the entry.

June 20, 1989: Dad died today. If it hadn't been for Nicole - I think I would have lost it.

Derek remembered that day well. He had gotten the call that Jonathan Boyle had been murdered while on assignment. Nick had seemed shell shocked by the news, keeping to himself and not speaking a word to anyone. Phillip had tried to draw his friend out, but nothing seemed to help until Nick spotted the piano at the funeral home. Striding over, Nick had played for the first (and only) time in public, though he'd not been aware of an audience. 'Nicole must have gotten through to him, thank Gott.' Afterwards, Nick seemed able to grieve more naturally, though he'd been more concerned about his mother's emotional state than his own.

Derek flipped to the end of the journal.

July 8, 1990: It's been three months since I've seen Nicole. I guess she was right - there was no more time. I hope she's well and happy, wherever she is. I know I'll never forget her.

With a concerned frown, Derek gently replaced the journal on the desk. He wandered over to the window and watched as Nick and Phillip kicked a soccer ball back and forth. He also hoped that Nicole was happy - wherever she was.

1998

"Hey Nick. Would you care to accompany me into town tonight?" Alex Moraeu asked.

Nick looked up at the dark-skinned young woman, a wry grin on his face. "Are you asking for the company or are you asking because I'm the only one with a working car?"

Alex smiled back. "Both."

"Well, in that case, how can I refuse? Where are we headed?"

"The theater, my dear boy, so dress sharp."

"What going on at the theater?"

"It's a charity concert. An up and coming young pianist is touring the country. From what I hear, she's good." She glanced at him, a sparkle in her eye. "You still game?"

"Why not? It'll be nice to get out of here for a while."

Nick lead the way to a set of seats. "What's the musician's name?"

Alex checked the handbill. "Nicole Jenter." She didn't notice the frown that formed between Nick's eyes as he silently repeated, 'Jenter?' He shook his head.

The curtain rose revealing a small orchestra with a grand piano in the center. A young girl emerged from the side and seated herself on the bench. Nick blinked in surprise. 'It can't possibly be her.' But the resemblance was uncanny, same thin face, same mischievous grin, same brown gold hair, albeit a bit longer. Nick shook his head. 'It can't be her, she's not old enough.' Satisfied with his logic, he leaned back in his chair. He relaxed considerably during the first three selections, but the fourth... that one brought him to the edge of his chair, eyes wide as the oh so familiar chords drifted through the air. It was the very tune that Nicole had taught him so many years ago. A tune she had made up, just for him. A tune that no one else but he could play so well.

Alex laid a hand on his arm. "Nick? Are you all right?"

Nick leaned back and nodded absently, his mind a whirl. 'How is this possible? She hasn't aged much since I last saw her and... and I guess I never really thought it possible that I would actually meet her. It never occurred to me that she was real - a living being. I guess I considered her a guardian angel or at least my own personal spirit. I shouldn't have, she had told me enough of her life.' Another thought struck him. 'I wonder if she remembers me?' He tried to enjoy the rest of the performance, though he was anxious for it to end so he could talk to her.

Nick talked Alex into staying when the concert was over. Alex was surprised. "You were fidgeting so much I thought you were bored."

"No. I... think I know one of the musicians. I just want to say hi."

"Okay." The two made their way backstage. "Looks like we weren't the only ones with this idea." The area was packed with performers and well-wishers. Alex left Nick to fend for himself when she spotted an acquaintance.

Nick spent the next twenty minutes looking for Nicole before finally asking one of the other musicians. "Excuse me. Have you seen Nicole Jenter? I was hoping to talk to her."

The older woman glanced at him appreciatively. "She's probably out on the stage. She doesn't like all this fuss."

"Thank you."

He moved away, not hearing her feverently say, "It was definitely my pleasure."

Nick quietly stepped out onto the stage. The auditorium was empty and only a couple of stage lights were on, bright enough to illuminate the slender figure that sat at the piano. Nick's breath caught in his throat as he recognized the tune. This one was one he'd written for her when he'd finally felt comfortable with his skill. She had loved it.

Halfway through the song, the girl stopped playing, rose and started walking away, arms wrapped around her. On impulse, Nick sat at the piano and began playing where she left off. She froze for a moment, then spun about, her eyes wide in astonishment. Hazel green eyes stared into hazel green eyes for what seemed to be an eternity. The song finished, Nick stood slowly, his eyes never leaving her face. "Nick?" she whispered. He nodded, a smile forming. "Am I dreaming?" she whispered again.

"No. You're not dreaming?"

"How is this possible?"

He shrugged and after a few heartbeats she flung herself into his arms with a shout. "God, Nick. I've missed you!"

He wrapped his arms about her. "I've missed you, too."

She stepped back to look him over. "I wouldn't have recognized you. You've changed so much."

"Eight years will do that to you."

She blinked and tilted her head in puzzlement. "Eight? It's only been three."

Before he could respond, Nick heard Alex behind him. "Nick? If you don't mind, I'm... Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt."

Nick turned to smile at his friend. "It's no problem. Alex. I'd like you to meet Nicole Jenter. Nicole, this is one of my colleagues, Alex Moraeu."

Alex shook hands with the young woman. "I really enjoyed your concert. Your playing is... breathtaking."

Nicole blushed with pleasure. "Thank you."

Nick grinned. "What were you going to say, Alex?"

"Humn? Oh. I'm going to get a ride home from a friend tonight. I hope you don't mind?"

Nick exchanged glances with Nicole. "Not a problem. When you get back, tell Derek not to wait up. Nicole and I have some catching up to do."

"All right. Goodnight." She kissed Nick's cheek and turned to leave, giving a wave to Nicole. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do," she teased.

"Oh, ha ha, Alex." Nick turned to Nicole. "Let's say you and me go somewhere where we can talk. Okay?"

Nicole hooked her arm through his and gave him a brilliant smile. "Lead on, McDuff."

After leaving the theater house, the two made their way towards the docks, taking their time, talking about what happened to them during their years of separation. Nicole learned that Nick had been a Navy S.E.A.L. for a few years before quitting and working for Derek. "Why did you quit?"

Nick told her about the problems he had had while in the service, about his group's last mission, the betrayal, and the aftermath. "I quit because I no longer trusted those who were supposed to be guarding my back." Nick shrugged. "It's taken me awhile, but I think I've learned to trust again."

"So now you work for Derek?"

"Yeah."

She shot him an unreadable look. "Legacy?"

Nick stopped, stunned. "How'd you...?"

She gave a half grin. "I did a lot of exploring and, well quite frankly eavesdropping, during those last few years. You can learn a lot when no one knows you're there. I know the Luna Foundation's a front, I just ..." she trailed off, a frown forming.

"Just what?"

She turned to look out at the water, hugging herself. "I don't know why I never tried to contact you." She glanced at him from the corner of her eye before looking away again. "I mean, yeah, they were dreams. Most times, I'd wake up and I wouldn't remember anything that happened the previous night. But then other times ... I couldn't get the images out of my mind. You'd think I'd at least've tried to satisfy my curiosity and check. But I never did."

Nick snorted, drawing her attention. "Hell. I had an even better excuse to try to contact you. I at least 'knew' that you had your own life." He paused. "Come to think of it, you never did tell me where exactly you lived."

Nicole blinked. "Guess it never came up." She sat at the end of the pier and leaned up against Nick. The two dangled their legs over the side.

"What's been going on with you?"

Nicole sighed. "My dad died three years ago. The day before the funeral was the last night I dreamt of you." She gave him a watery smile. "I really could have used your support. I never could figure out why the dreams stopped." She leaned into Nick's embrace, then pulled away to continue. "Then ... my piano teacher, Mrs. Fox, gave me a recital. I was so scared. There were recruiters there. One was so impressed that he asked me to join the local symphony. I worked with them for a while, but I really wanted to travel more. So, I joined this orchestra about a year ago and have been touring ever since. Seen some fascinating places." The two were silent for awhile watching the moon glint off the water. Dawn was not far off. "So," she nudged his arm. "Are you and Alex an item?" She smiled at his surprised look.

"Alex? No. We work together. And we're good friends. But that's about it."

"Are you seeing anyone?"

A look of indescribable sadness filled his eyes. "Not any more." Nick blinked then grinned at his friend, trying to lighten the mood. "How about you?"

"No. Not any more." Her eyes filled with tears that she angrily dashed away.

Nick touched her arm, his voice concerned. "Do you want to talk about it?"

She gave him a calculating look, then gave a half grin. "Sure. When you do."

Nick shook his head, a wry grin on his lips. "You still know me too well."

"Hey, eleven years will do that to a person." She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder, one arm wrapped about his waist. "I don't think I've ever been this happy before."

Nick draped an arm about her shoulders and lightly kissed the top of her head as the sun began peeking up over the horizon. "I know what you mean, Nicole. I know what you mean.

THE END