CHAPTER EIGHTY FOUR

"Do you want to talk about Randy, Templeton? Sometimes, it helps to..."

"What? No...no, not...not now...I'm sorry, Father, but I...there's something..." Templeton frowned, obviously distracted.

Magill frowned. Since the initial outburst two days before, he had not been able to get Randy into the conversation. In a way, he could understand it. Templeton had been deluged with memories, pieces of his life hitting him left and right. It had kept him in a turmoil and Magill exhausted trying to answer his questions. And yet, the biggest barrier to his recovery and reunion with the team was Randy. At some point, Templeton would have to face his grief.

And so would the rest of the team.

"Father..."

"Yes, Templeton?"

"Have you ever been bothered by...ghosts?"

"Ghosts?"

Templeton sighed. "These memories...they're like ghosts. I see them, but they're not real. Yet they are. It was like this before. When I first went back with the guys. It just...so many pictures but no meaning to them. It's different than the kids from the orphanage. Those I really remember. I can...feel them. Damn..."

Magill let the profanity slip. The frustration was clear as day. The priest could feel it, himself. While he was happy Templeton had "joined" with his childhood again, he was puzzled why the same thing wasn't happening with Colonel Smith and the others.

"There was another priest...wasn't there? I remember another priest..."

"Yes, Templeton. Father O'Malley was at the orphanage the last couple of years you were there." Magill was getting used to the sudden changes in subject; over the past four days it had become almost routine. "Why do you ask?"

"He gave me something...and there was some...problem...about a nun..."

Magill sighed. Yet another memory Templeton was not going to want. Well, maybe he could soften it a bit for him. "Her name was Leslie, Templeton..."


*****

"I don't think we can wait much longer. He's made enough progress for us to proceed."

"Hmm, maybe. He's still fighting Smith. I don't like that. Maybe he's not ready to go back yet."

"And maybe it's time to quit babying him along." The Preacher almost stepped back from the look he received. Holding out his hands, placating, he continued. "Okay, what I meant was, maybe he's going to keep fighting the memories until he has no choice, until he has to deal with Smith and the others one on one."

"That didn't work before."

"That was before the priest got hold of him. Things are different now. Besides, Stockwell isn't going to wait much longer. He's going to want me back in Langley, with an explanation of what happened with the priest."

The other man sat for several minutes. He knew the Preacher was right; they were running out of time. He also thought he might be right about Smith. The operative word being "might". What if Peck really wasn't ready yet?

"All right. Today, go ahead and talk to Smith. And Magill. If Smith doesn't blow everything to hell, set up a meeting between him and the lieutenant for tomorrow. When I see how that goes, then I'll decide about the general."

The Preacher was satisfied. The sooner this whole charade was over, the better he'd like it. He had never been good at waiting; it was time for him to get to doing what he did best. Cleaning up messes.


*****

Kurt threw down the cards in disgust and stood up. Shaking his head, he stalked into the kitchen, grabbing a can of pop from the fridge. Grimacing at the sweetness, he cursed again at Smith's sudden paranoia about having anything harder in the place.

Daryl stayed at the table, staring blankly at his hand. They had played so many hands of cards he felt like a casino. He couldn't even say for sure what they were currently playing - poker, gin rummy, hearts. Take your pick. Sighing, he let the cards drop to the table and watched Kurt forcing down the pop.

Murdock finished his play and casually reached over to pick up Kurt's hand. Frowning, he rearranged the cards before laying down two and dealing two new ones. He frowned again before placing the hand carefully on the table, face down, and reaching for Daryl's. He mouthed something before laying that hand down, again, face down, and once again picking up his own. He shook his head disgustedly and dealt himself three new cards.

BA was dozing on the couch, the television roaring softly across the room. At least the one channel was now showing a football game. High school, and there was more snow on the screen than California had seen in the last century, but it was better than nothing.

Hannibal was ignoring all of them, his attention on the doorway across the street. Four days now. Four long, boring, tense days. And not a word from Magill. Which was undoubtedly good. At least Face hadn't bolted. Something positive must be happening or Face wouldn't have stayed.

Unless, of course, he'd gotten pissed and killed everyone before sneaking off...

Hannibal was due to relieve Frankie in a few minutes. He wondered if it was even worth it. There hadn't been any strange happenings since that guy paid a visit to the retreat the other night. Since then, Hannibal had seen him going to and from his office up the street; nothing suspicious about him. No other strangers on the block. And no unusual activity in the alley, either. It had been dead quiet since their arrival.

And none of them liked dead quiet.

Hannibal heaved a sigh and lit a cigar before heading for the door. BA opened his eyes long enough to watch him leave. None of the others paid any attention. Kurt was leaning against the kitchen counter, contemplating the surface of the fridge; Daryl had picked up yesterday's paper and was re-reading it. Murdock had just dealt a new round for himself and himself and himself.

Quiet or not, Hannibal was still careful as he crossed the street and headed down the block for the alley entrance. Complacency led to trouble. Always.

He received Frankie's report, short and sweet. Nothing but the neighborhood bum wandering from building to building, as per routine. Nodding, Hannibal told him to head for the local drive-through and take back something for the guys. He'd grab something later. Much later, from the way his belt had tightened up over these days of inactivity...

It was nearly dark when he first saw him. The man from the office. Stepping out of the back of a building that would face the next street. Curious. Even more curious when the man very deliberately walked in his direction. And stopped in front of the dumpster Hannibal had "hidden" behind.

"Colonel Smith? I believe you and I have some business to conduct..."


*****

As expected, Templeton hadn't taken the news about Leslie very well at all. Even after Father Magill had vainly attempted to explain about the "calling", he'd just kept asking why. Why had she said she loved him, then? Why had she left without a word to him? Why had she expected him to just come running when she needed him? Why had he?

Questions Father Magill didn't have all the answers to. He knew Templeton knew more about the actual reunion, if one could call it that, than he did; those memories just hadn't come back yet. It would be interesting to see if he could get them back. Or if he would let them.

Leslie had opened a new train of thought for the priest. He saw the difficulties Templeton had when faced with the less-than-pleasant parts of his history. Not that he blamed him; who wanted to remember pain or hurt? But he shouldn't have that problem with Colonel Smith or the others. He should embrace those memories. And he would, Magill was sure, if it weren't for Randy.

Actually, Randy's ghost.

Templeton was feeling extreme guilt about Randy; not only his death, but the way Templeton had treated him prior to that. To accept and embrace the team now must seem like the ultimate betrayal of Randy and their relationship. And yet, from what both Smith and Templeton had told him about Randy, what the dead man would have wanted most of all was a reconciliation. But right now, Randy was much more real to Templeton than the team.

Perhaps it was time...