Time Will Tell

Authors: MidnightMadness

Hosted by VendrediAntiques.com

1: Planning a Trip


"Yes, Micki?"

"What's this alchemist's timer on your list of things to locate?"

Jack looked up from his newspaper, "Oh, yes, that. I picked that up in Italy. It's a unique piece from the workshop of an unknown alchemist who developed a graduated hour-glass. It's a ten-hour piece, so he could use it all night, and know within 5 minutes the correct time."

Micki was quiet for a minute, "What do you suppose Lewis did to that?"

"I shudder to think."

"So where are you looking?"

"The buyer died, and his estate was sold to a dealer in Maryland. The dealer said it sold only a few days later to a local professor who died a few months later. So, it's probably still in Maryland, but that's where the trail went cold."

"What trail went cold?" Johnny's voice piped as he came up the steps from the front of the store.

Micki and Jack looked up, saying a quick hi to Johnny and telling him about the hourglass.

"So, what's the plan, guys?"

"Well, I think it'd be best if Micki and I head over to Maryland while you mind the shop."

"Sure, guys, no problem," Johnny said, dropping his leather jacket onto a nearby chair, "I'll crash here so I can open up on time."

"Sounds good. If you can, Micki, we'll leave early in the morning," Jack said, looking back down at his newspaper.

"Sure, sounds like a plan. I'll get my bags ready tonight."

"Good. We'll leave at 5."

Micki looked mildly disappointed at the mention of such an early hour. She'd never been a huge fan of mornings, and ever since Ryan had left the shop, Micki just didn't have the same level of enthusiasm or energy that she'd once had.

Still, she was eager to retrieve the hourglass; who knew how long it had been out in the world doing harm. Plus, Jack was amusing to travel with; he always had a bizarre tale with which to pass the time.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Johnny sniffing the air, "Woah, do I smell coffee?" With that, he raced upstairs for a cup.

"Are you sure it's a good idea to leave him in charge? Last time..."

Jack looked up the stairs after Johnny, "I know, but he'll be more careful because of what happened last time."

"I hope so."

Jack sighed, "I do, too."

2: A Lead

Micki stretched, pulled on her robe, and opened the adjoining door between Jack's room and hers.

Jack was standing there, dressed and carrying a stack of newspapers, "I was going to the library, but the lobby had all these old periodicals. I found exactly what I was looking for - mysterious deaths at a local retirement home."

Micki rubbed her eyes, "More helpless victims? Jack, don't you ever get tired of the cruelty of what we see?"

Jack patted her shoulder sympathetically, "I know how you feel, but we've collect almost half the antiques, now. That many things will never hurt anyone again. We have to keep going." He paused, "Come into my room once you get dressed, I brought coffee back from the lobby with me."

Micki yawned and stretched, "Oh, thank God! I need something to get me awake this morning!"

Jack chuckled, and shook his head, "Whenever you're ready, just give a knock. I'll be waiting."

Micki watched the passing buildings, "I just don't see anything, Jack, that helps us. This is a residential neighborhood. Everything looks the same."

Jack glanced over at her, "I know, but we have to try. One of these houses may have something to tell us where to look - unusually expensive decorating, or something else. If this doesn't yield anything, I guess we'll take our next step - interviewing the staff at this retirement home."

Micki nodded, but still looked doubtful, "A residential area and retirement home. I'm just not having a good feeling about this..."

Jack smiled sympathetically. Since Ryan had been gone, Micki rarely had a positive outlook on how recoveries would proceed. "I'm sure we'll find something, Micki."

They knocked on door after door, up and down the block. The majority of them were couples who did not seem to have too many flashy goods in their homes (from what they could see from the porch). Finally, after an hour and a half of hunting, they decided to make their way back to the retirement home to see what they could find out there.

3: Haverstrom Retirement Home

The car crunched over the fallen autumn leaves as Jack and Micki pulled up in front of the Haverstrom Retirement home. Micki shivered as she looked out at the large white house set against a sea of stormy grey clouds.

"So, what's our story?" Micki asked, "Father and daughter looking for a long-lost relative?"

"I think in this case we should stick with the truth. I think it might up our changes of finding what we need."

Micki nodded, and they got out, walking slowly toward the front entrance. The parking lot was empty and Micki frowned, "What a sad place...not even one visitor."

Jack knocked on the door, "Makes me very happy I have you to look after me when I finally grow old."

Micki let out a soft chuckle, "Fortunately your old age is decades away at least."

The door opened a few seconds later to reveal a short, heavyset, friendly-looking woman, about 50 years old.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," she said, looking out at the wind that was whipping the tree around. "You two come on in here, get yourselves out of that cold."

She stepped aside as they thanked her and walking in to the large foyeer. Micki took off her gloves. Her fingers stung as the warmth of the room began to thaw her chilled hands.

"My name is Marjorie Chester. I'm the caretaker here at Haverstrom. Can I get you two anything? Some coffee or something?"

Jack smiled, "I wouldn't say no to a cup of coffee."

Marjorie nodded, "Coming right up. Can I get you anything, Hon?" she asked, looking at Micki.

Micki nodded, "Yes, please, coffee would be wonderful."

Marjorie made her way to the lobby, with Jack and Micki following, and filled three cups of coffee from the large coffee urn meant for visitors. After settling into the large sofa near the fireplace Marjorie finally asked, "So what brings you two out here to Haverstrom? We don't get many visitors out here."

Jack wrapped his hands around the warm mug, "We're antique dealers, and we're looking for items to buy, but in particular any antique time-pieces."

Marjorie pursed her lips, "So you want to buy things from our guests?"

Micki nodded, "Only if they have things they want to sell, I promise you."

"Well, I don't know a lot of things people would sell, since...people then to bring only the things that are precious to them. But maybe I can ask around."

"We would appreciate it."

With a smile and a nod, Marjorie was out of the door and moving from staff member to staff member, asking about time-pieces.

Each time Micki and Jack watched as the staff member would look perplexed and shook her/her head in a "no" answer. Micki and Jack, by this point, were feeling rather hopeless about finding the hourglass in this lonely place.

Suddenly, a sound caught the pair's ears and the turned to look out the front window.

4: Encouragement

Micki and Jack watched as a shiny black Corvette roared into the driveway. The gravel and dead leaves crunched under its tires as it whipped into a parking space towards the front of the building.

Micki and Jack exchanged a quick glance. It was, by far, the most expensive, flashy vehicle they had seen in this small town. They shifted their gazes back to the window in time to see an older man, in his early-50's, get out of the driver's side. He was a handsome man, slightly grey at the temples, with an intense look on his face. He wore a black suit with a vibrant red tie. In his right hand was a large, soft-sided black leather briefcase.

Micki wondered if he were a doctor, while Jack thought me might be the home's owner. Their silent questions were answered by Marjorie, who had seen them looking out the window, "Oh, that's Mr. Morris. He comes by about three times a week to visit his father."

With that the door opened, and the well-dressed man strode into the lobby towards his father's room.

"Hello, Mr. Morris," Marjorie called after him down the hall.

"Good afternoon, Marjorie," he said flatly, continuing to his father's room.

Marjorie turned back to Micki and Jack, "Mr. Jacob Morris is naturally cranky," she said, feeling awkward that he had not greeted the two antique dealers. "He's always in such a rush. Of course, you know how stock brokers are. Always stressed out about something."

Jack gave a quick glance at Micki, "How long has he been coming here in that gorgeous car?"

Marjorie chuckled, taking a sip of her coffee, "You sound just like my husband. Always car talk with him. You know, to tell you the truth, Mr. Morris used to drive a real junker. The thing barely made it here once a week. Then, a few months ago, he showed up in that. Must've hit it big in the stock-market. His father was certainly surprised."

Micki took one last sip of her coffee, and set the cup softly down on the table as Marjorie continued to talk, "Anyway, I am really sorry I wasn't able to be of any help to you two. But if you don't mind driving against this wind, you two can go on out to Old Man Crenshaw's little antique store. He's always hunting for a sale."

Jack smiled and stood, "Thank you so much for the time and hospitality, Marjorie. We'll head over to Chenshaw's and see what we can find."

Micki stood, "Thank you, Marjorie, you've been a lot of help."

Marjorie hugged Micki tightly and a surprised Micki hugged the older woman back. When Marjorie pulled back she was smiling softly, yet there was sadness deep in her eyes, "You've lost someone close to you...Don't worry, Sugar. He'll be back.

5: Surveilance

Micki shuddered as she put her gloved back on. The interior of the Mercedes was freezing and she could hear the wind howling outside, "That was weird," she stated matter-of-factly.

Jack nodded, "I can't disagree. But you know how these small-town older women are, Micki."

Micki nodded, still feeling a strange mixture of awkward and hopeful, "I suppose...So, what's our plan?"

Jack pulled the car back behind a large tree and turned off the motor, "We'll wait for Jacob Morris to come back to his car, then we follow him home."

Micki nodded, thinking for a few moments, "And what do we do then?"

Jack sighed, looking out the window, "I guess we'll know what to do when we get there...we'll improvise."

The two of them waited in the cold car for nearly an hour. Then, finally, Morris emerged from the building. They watched him turn out onto the road, and followed cautiously. They followed him all the way back to his home, at 1472 Pinebaugh Lane, 18 miles from the Haverstrom retirement home.

They watched him rush into the house, briefcase clutched to his chest. Jack glanced over at Micki, who was carefully studying the huge mansion, "Looks like he may be our best lead so far."

Jack nodded, "I think you're right. C'mon, let's go see what we can find out. We'll sneak around the side."

The pair silently got out of the car and crept over to the side of the house near a huge picture-window. The window offered them a perfect view of the living room, but Mr. Morris was nowhere to be seen yet.

He came through a few minutes later, coat off, carrying a foot-tall hour-glass.

"He has it, Jack! We've found it!"

Jack smiled, "Yes! We did. Now we can wait for him to go to bed, and we'll nab the thing while he sleeps."

But as they watched, Morris set the timepiece on the table, and pulled the sliding stopper. Grains of sand started to flow from the top to the bottom of the hourglass, and he rapidly faded from view.

6: Playing A Hunch

Jacob reached into his pocket, pulling out a wad of bills as he walked down the street towards the bank. He glanced around at the posters and signs that hung in the shop windows, some proclaiming the wonders of the latest hair tonics, others urging the purchase of war bonds.

He whistled happily as he made his way to the large brick building that served as the town bank. Glancing at the calendar on his way to the teller, a smile touched Jacob's lips: November 2, 1942.

He strolled into the bank, and one of the tellers recognized him immediately. "Mr. Lexington, it's wonderful to you you again," the professionally dressed you man said eagerly.

Mr. Lexington, Andrew Lexington, was Jacob Morris' grandfather, who Jacob looked nothing like. Jacob smiled broadly, "Hello, Mr. Stewart. I would like to invest some money in a certain stock."

"Another hunch? Mr. Lexington, we would be thrilled to help perform that transaction for you. Of course, I have to ask you to fill out the appropriate forms..."

"Of course." Jacob was lead upstairs to one of the private offices, grinning happily.

Micki sat at a desk in the reference room of the local library, looking through articles of the past few months. She was looking for stories about a local man striking it rich, but what she found was much more confusing.

"Jack!" she whispered to the man at the next table, "Jack, look at this!"

The newspaper had a story about a local man who had discovered, as the executor of his grandfather's estate, that the frugal old man had been a secret millionaire - and had left it all to his beloved grandson. One hidden set of accounts: stocks, bonds, and savings, had changed everything.

Jack scanned the story, then looked at Micki, "So his luck changed with a few good investments made decades ago. This is a time-travel piece. I think we need to pay Mr. Morris another visit."

Micki nodded as she reached for her coat, "Are we headed back to his house?"

Jack looked thoughtful for a moment, then shook his head, "No...if I'm not mistaken, I have a feeling he'll be headed back to the nursing home soon. I think it may be best to catch him there."

7: Another Loss

When they arrived at Haverstrom, Marjorie looked very distraught, "You folks can help yourself to some coffee, I'll be down in a few minutes. We have to clean out Mrs. Aaron's room."

Micki and Jack exchanged a glance, "Oh, I'm sorry," Micki said sympathetically.

She knew the pain of losing someone, and she felt badly for Marjorie; she seemed so close to each of the residents.

Marjorie smiled, "Thank you, Sugar. She was doing fine, just the other day, strong as an ox, healthy...then she just died, in a matter of hours..."

Marjorie disappeared upstairs, and Jack sighed, "Someone else, using others to gain for themselves."

Micki looked down at her hands, saddened, "Maybe we can talk to the older Mr. Morris."

Jack nodded, and the two of them made their way down the hall to Mr. Morris' room. The door was partially open, and Jack and Micki walked in to see an older man sitting at a small desk. His white hair blew around as a stream of cold air came in through the window, and he looked down at a book in his lap.

Jack spoke softly, "Mr. Morris? Mr. Morris, we'd like to ask you a few questions about your father."

Mr. Morris swung around in his chair, facing them, "Who are you?"

Jack smiled disarmingly, "We're antique dealers, but I'm writing a book about people who did well for themselves and passed it on selflessly to their descendants."

The old man chuckled and motioned to two chairs in a corner of the room, "I really don't know much about that whole business - I never knew we had money, although we always lived comfortably. I'll tell you what I can."

Micki hung up the phone in the hotel room, "Johnny says everything's going well at the shop."

"Good, good."

"He said he bought a box of stuff from some old guy who came in, and put the whole box in the vault for us to look over."

Jack chuckled, "What'd I tell you? He can be taught." Jack sat on the bed, pulling his shoes off, "So...what do you think, Micki, how do we get the thing back."

"He can't take it everywhere with him. Let's be there in the morning, to check out the house when he leaves for work."

Jack nodded, "We'd better get to sleep then."

8: Recovery

The next evening, they sat in the Haverstrom foyer again, talking to Marjorie, "So we thought we'd see if anyone had anything else they were interested in selling."

Marjorie nodded, "Why don't you two stay for dinner, and you can speak with everybody yourselves?"

"That would be nice," Jack said, "Thank you."

Marjorie smiled and stood, "Come along to the dining room, we're just setting everything up."

The three of them walked into the main dining room - a large, well-decorated dining room with several tables already set for the meal.

Marjorie tapped two chairs as she walked past, "You two can sit here with me - dinner's in about 15 minutes, so I have to go dish up."

"Do you need any help in the kitchen?" Micki offered.

"Why yes, I do, Dear," Marjorie answered. The two women disappeared into the kitchen, and Jack strolled around the dining room, looking at the decorations. Jack was glad to have Micki, the daughter he'd never had, so he never had to stay in a place like this - as nice as it was.

As he stood there, he heard the gentle roar of a performance engine in the drive - Morris' Corvette. He stood to the side of the dining room, out of view of the foyer as Morris stalked through the foyer and upstairs.

Jack hesitated only a moment, uncertain of whether or not he needed Micki, and followed Morris upstairs. Jack watched Morris, briefcase in hand, go into one of the rooms. Withing seconds, Jack was at the crack of the door peering in. He watched Morris open his briefcase and pull out an hourglass - the same hourglass he had used in his home two days previous.

Jack watched as Morris handed the thing to the older woman and muttered a few words Jack couldn't quite hear.

She turned it over in her hands and Jack watched closely as the sand seemed to emit a faint glow as it poured through the narrow passage to the bottom of the glass.

Seconds later, her head dropped forward as she fell into a deep sleep. Morris grinned, "I'll be back later," he chuckled, heading for the door.

Jack quickly ducked out of sight aw Morris walked out into the hallway and made his way toward his father's room.

After waiting a few moments, Jack slipped into the old lady's room. He hesitated before her, uncertain what to do.

He turned the hourglass on its side, and watched her carefully. Her sleep seemed to become more normal, and she showed signs of waking. Resisting the urge to turn the hourglass over the other way in order to right whatever wrong had been committed, Jack carried it carefully down the stairs, took his coat from the coat rack in the foyer, and tucked the cursed item under it, taking it out to the trunk of the car.

Then he stole back into the house, hung his coat back on the coat rack, and returned to wait anxiously for Micki in the dining room.

When she finally emerged from the kitchen with Marjorie, Jack put on his best "sick" face, "Micki, Marjorie, I'm sorry to tell you this, but I'm suddenly not feeling well."

Marjorie looked concerned, "Oh, Mr. Marshak, are you all right?"

Micki caught the look that Jack gave her, and tried her best to act concerned even though she knew Jack was faking an illness.

Jack smiled, pained, "Yes, thank you, Marjorie, just a bit dizzy...may be a flu coming on or something, I'd hate to make everyone else here sick."

Micki nodded, "Yes, you are looking a bit pale, why don't we get you out to the car," Micki offered her arm and Jack leaned against it, feigning an unsteady stance, "I think that might be best, Micki. Marjorie, I'm sorry about this," he started.

Marjorie smiled sympathetically, "Now don't you two worry about it. You just go home and get yourself some rest. You're both welcome back for dinner anytime."

They smiled at the kind older woman, thanked her, and walked hurriedly to the car.

Once inside the private space, Micki looked at Jack expectantly. He smiled, "Got it. Took it from the woman Morris was intending to harm with it, too."

Micki smiled broadly and resisted the urge to hug Jack, thinking it may look a bit suspicious, "That's great," she said quietly, "Let's hurry home and put the bloody thing in the vault where it belongs."

9: Safe and Sound

"C'mon, man, go long!" Micki and Jack heard as they made their way up the back steps from the garage and vault area.

The two of them made it up the steps just in time to see Ryan diving off of the bottom step, catching the football that had been hurled across the room by Johnny.

Jack and Micki stopped, trying not to laugh as they watched Ryan tumble onto the floor screaming, "TOUCHDOWN!" True, the football had nearly taken out a $350 vase, but having Ryan back in the shop brought new life to the old place again.

Jack picked up the young Ryan, his age belying his strength, "And who do we have here? What a pleasant surprise, Ryan, what are you doing here?"

Ryan wriggled from Jack's grasp, and hugged him, "Jack! Johnny said you'd be home today! My mom had to go to a...a funeral," Ryan frowned, "and she said it wouldn't be good for me to go. So she dropped me off here!"

Johnny ruffled Ryan's hair, "She dropped him off this morning, not long after you guys called, said that she'd be back to pick him up on Monday."

Micki smiled, kneeling in front of Ryan for a hug, "We get to keep you for 4 days! That's great, Ryan!"

Ryan hugged her tightly, "It is! I love spending time here! It feels like home. And I love visiting with all of you!" Ryan broke away, running up the stairs, "I have to show you something!"

Micki watched him disappear beyond the landing, smiling sadly. Jack touched her arm, "Are you okay?"

She nodded, "I am. I just...I miss him. He always had that enthusiasm..."

Jack gestured, "He still does..."

Ryan reappeared at the balcony and raced down the stairs, "I made this for you." He handed her a figurine sculpted from clay.

She turned it over in her hands, "Is this..."

"It's you!" he exclaimed. "The clay reminded me of your red hair, so I made it look like you!"

She smiled, "It's wonderful, Ryan, thank you!"

Morris was furious - his victim hadn't died, and his piece, half-charged for his upcoming trip, was missing. He could only think of one suspect - those antique dealers. He'd convinced Marjorie to give him the business card they had left with her, telling her he may have some things to sell, and now all he had to do was wait. Taking vacation-time on such short-notice wouldn't do, but he could leave early on Saturday morning, and be in Chicago in time for a late lunch.

Micki smiled as Ryan chattered on at dinner. They had gone out to the local pizza joint (Ryan's suggestion), and now he went on about comics and art classes.

He was doing well in most of his classes, mostly the art ones, and he had made some new friends over the past few months. This really didn't surprise Jack or Micki; he was the same old Ryan, just in a smaller form.

He went on about some stuck up kid who thought his art was better than everyone else's, talked about how he missed the shop (which Jack and Micki thought a bit odd since, in Ryan's newly-young memory, he had never really been there before), then Ryan quickly switched to another story - one about how he had gone out to the lake to sketch birds and wound up falling into the lake.

Jack glanced at Micki several times during the meal and, although she was smiling, a melancholy sadness was evident behind her eyes.

When Ryan suggested excitedly that they go play some games with the money he had saved up from his paper route, Micki was quick to take him up on it, but Jack said he'd stay and watch the table. He figured Micki and Ryan had been robbed of their time together, and he didn't want to intrude. Besides, there'd be enough time to visit over the next few days.

10: Saturday Afternoon

Ryan was playing with two model cars and an old set of skis - they were having a car chase, the skiis providing a long icy slope for the cars to careen down. Micki was out, grocery shopping, Jack was upstairs at the table tending to paperwork, and Johnny was talking to a younger lady who wanted to buy a piece of jewelery.

Ryan heard the bell above the door ring, and saw an intense-looking man walk in. He watched him as he came over, and knelt beside him, "I'm looking for something I would like to buy. Can you help me find it?"

Micki parked out front, and was carrying groceries in, "Johnny, Ryan, could I have a little help?"

Johnny looked up where he stood at the register, writing, "Sure."

Micki glanced around, "Where's Ryan?"

"I don't know, I thought he changed his mind and decided to go with you."

"No, he didn't..." Micki set the bag of groceries down on the desk, and took a quick look around the shop, seeing that he wasn't there. "Go see if he's upstairs - I'll look in the basement."

Micki fought to stay calm, but she was overcome with fear - what if something had happened to Ryan?

He wasn't in the garage, she could tell as soon as she walked down the stairs, but the vault door was open. Without thinking, she rushed in, to see Morris kneeling by Ryan's side, where he had collapsed on the floor. Micki ran at him, furious, "You bastard!" she shouted.

Morris started laughing, "I knew it was you who stole my precious hourglass - and when I got here, there was this wonderful gift. With this boy's life, I can travel back many, many times."

Micki looked down at Ryan - he seemed pale, his sleep unnatural. As she watched, the hourglass stopped running - it had charged, and taken everything its victim had to offer.

Morris gave a cry of triumph, kneeling down to pick it up, and Micki jumped on him, trying to keep him from turning it over - but it was too late. Jack and Johnny were just in time to see both Morris and Micki fade from view.

Micki glanced around as the scene before her eyes gradually appeared. She stood in an empty street with moderately sized, old buildings all around her.

It looked as if she had stepped into an old photograph, but the movement of the trees in the wind told her that this scene was very real. Frighteningly real as she now realized that she was trapped in this time with an angry looking Morris.

He was glaring at her, "You bitch!" he spat out, raising his hand to strike her across the head with the heavy hourglass.

Micki raised up a hand, blocking the blow, and latched onto the cursed object with all her strength. She knew that she had to get the hourglass back from him. Not just so that she could travel back to her own time, but for Ryan. She knew that the object aged people until their death, and she couldn't bear to lose Ryan again.

11: Aging

Johnny carried Ryan upstairs to Micki's bed; Jack followed closely behind him looking concerned.

When Ryan was laid down, Jack and Johnny exchanged worried glances.

Ryan was pallid and he seemed to be struggling against some unseen force, as if he were having a bad dream.

They were worried, not just about Ryan, but about Micki. "Where the hell is she?" Johnny had asked frantically.

Jack was stunned, and simply shook his head, praying that she'd stay safe and come back to all of them soon. He didn't know what else to do.

Ryan moved around, and Jack's eyes widened as he looked down at him. Not a full 10 minutes had passed and Ryan was already looking as if he was in his early 20's.

He had grown taller, making his previously loose pants reach up around his ankles. His loose sweatshirt had also began to pull and stretch as Ryan's newly muscular physique filled out his growing frame.

Ryan's appearance was starting to faintly resemble the young man that Jack had met all those years ago during that fateful night at Curious Goods - then Vendredi Antiques.

Jack shut his eyes, already trying to formulate a plan in case Ryan's aging reached a more desperate level, "Oh, please, hurry, Micki," he whispered to himself.

Micki let out a pained yelp as Morris struck her across the face again, still desperately trying to fight her off. "Let go of it, you fucking whore!"

Little did Morris know how fiercely protective Micki was of Ryan - she knew that her getting this accursed object back was Ryan's only hope of living, and she would do anything she could to get the hourglass back to her own era.

She and Morris had been gone at least 15 minutes by now, and she knew that every minute was precious.

Micki was not about to let this wretched man have the hourglass without a fight.

Before he knew it, the feisty redhead was sinking her teeth into his hand, drawing blood. He let out a scream and released his vice-like grip on the hourglass.

She fell backwards, and Morris charged her, furious, "You can't take it from me, you bitch!" He grabbed at the hourglass in her hands, and she fought desperately to keep her grip on it. He was stronger, and larger than her, but she was much more determined. She struggled with him, neither making any progress against the other - and Micki heard a shrill sound, a police whistle.

Morris seemed startled, and she took the opportunity, as she heard a policeman yell the word stop to bring her knee up sharply, connecting between Morris' legs. He yelped, and she finally managed to pull the hourglass away from him, scrambling to her feet. With a silent prayer, she turned the hourglass over again in her hands, and the sand stopped flowing.

12: Fever

Micki found herself standing in the vault, dizzy and disoriented. She reached out her hand to steady herself against a book-case. After her head had cleared, she carefully set the hourglass on the ground, wedged into a back corner so it stood upright and couldn't tip, and raced up the stairs, looking for Ryan.

She found Johnny and Jack in her room, Jack sitting on the bed beside a surprising familiar Ryan.

Jack had sent Micki and Johnny to get dinner, and when they had returned Jack had changed Ryan into a pair of his old pajamas. His skin was hot to the touch, and although his sleep seemed more natural, he struggled and cried out regularly, a sure sign that his fever had brought with it nightmares.

After dinner, after Johnny had gone home, Micki sat with Jack in her room, beside Ryan, "I didn't know you kept his clothes..."

Jack smiled, "When I cleared out all his stuff, I kept most of it..."

"Jack, what...what do you suppose will happen to him?"

Jack shook his head, "I don't know, Micki - he may be a 12 year old in the body of a 33 year old man."

"33? Is that how old he is, now?"

"That seems to be right. You were gone, as near as I can tell, about 21 minutes - I checked my watch after you disappeared, but I'm not exactly sure when you got back."

Micki smiled slightly, "Making him older than me. Jack...it isn't fair. He gave everything for us, to save us and everybody else, and he's just made to suffer more for it."

Jack patted her arm, "I know, Micki, but remember, it's exactly his willingness to give of himself that makes him a target for Satan's evil plans, the same way you and I and Johnny are. If he weren't so selfless, this would never have happened. But if he weren't so selfless, he wouldn't be Ryan."

Micki sighed, "I know, Jack, but it's not fair."

Jack kissed her forehead, "Why don't you go shower, Micki? I'll keep watch over him."

Micki didn't want to leave Ryan, but she had to admit, she was exhausted and needed to clean up after her violent run in with Morris.

She moved off of the bed and made her way towards the shower.

Micki had to admit, the hot water that steamed up the bathroom felt good against her skin and aching muscles.

As she let streams of hot water pummel her shoulders, she closed her eyes and tried to imagine what Ryan might be like when he woke up...Micki's heart ached thinking of all of the pain and troubles he had suffered in his young life.

Her head filled with questions - would Ryan be the same playful kid they went to dinner with at the pizza place?

Would he remember France and all of the things that had happened at the shop over the years?

Would Ryan remember her?

13: Micki...

Micki slipped into her cotton nightgown and robe, then made her way back towards her bed.

"Micki..." she heard a familiar voice murmur, pained and frightened.

She made her way quickly back to the bed and saw Ryan moving around, still asleep, a tormented look on his face. Jack looked up at her, happy she was back. Ryan had been moaning her name in his sleep now for nearly 10 minutes.

Micki looked at him, eyebrows furrowed and a worried look on her face, "Is he okay?"

Jack nodded, forcing a smile, "Just a nightmare...he's been asking for you."

Micki smiled softly, nodding, "Jack, why don't you go take a shower, I'll keep watch over Ryan."

Jack nodded, patting her on the shoulder as he stood.

After Jack had disappeared into the bathroom, Micki slipped into bed beside Ryan, "Shh," Micki started soothingly, "I'm right here, Ryan. You're fine."

She was surprised to feel Ryan's arm move and go around her protectively, pulling her closer as if to comfort himself.

She smiled faintly, and snuggled up against him, hoping to take away his pain and let him get some much needed peaceful sleep.

By the time Jack came out of the shower 20 minutes later, Micki was sleeping peacefully, her head resting on Ryan's muscular chest, his arm still tightly around Micki's small frame.

Jack smiled to himself and made his way downstairs.

Micki awoke to the smell of coffee, and sat up, extricating herself from Ryan's arms, and leaned over, kissing his forehead.

A few minutes later, she found herself in the kitchen, and Jack poured a cup of coffee, "How did you sleep?"

She shook her head, "Not too bad, but Ryan had a couple of nightmares, I think - he kept talking in his sleep."

"How is he this morning?"

"Still too warm, but he was sleeping soundly when I got up."

"Good. If he sleeps too much longer, I'll see if I can't find a potion to wake him, but I'm sure he needs the rest. It must be hard on the body to grow that much in 20 minutes."

Micki laughed, "Yeah, I can see where that might be."

Jack sipped his coffee, and smiled, "You did a great job, yesterday, getting back so soon. Too much longer, and Ryan could have been my age, or older..."

Micki grinned, "So, he could have been 40 or 45?"

Jack chuckled, "I'm going to make some toast - can I make you anything to eat?"

Micki nodded, "That would be great."

Lunchtime came and went, and Johnny had come back to the shop, joining the anxious vigil waiting for Ryan to wake. The three were in the kitchen talking quietly when they heard Ryan's voice, husky and deep, screaming "No" over and over again.

They all rushed in, but Micki was first to Ryan's side. Sweat poured from his skin, and pain was evident in his expression.

Micki shook him gently as he twisted and turned, "Ryan! Ryan, please wake up...please..." She was shaking him softly, pleading with him to wake up.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Ryan's body went limp and his eyes opened slowly.

The first sight he saw was a beautiful red head, her huge eyes open wide in anticipation. She was leaning over him, still holding onto him. An angelic vision that nearly took his breath away.

He blinked a few times before a weak smile crossed his lips, "Micki..."

Micki's eyes instantly filled with tears and she dived forward, hugging him. She had never felt such a complex mixture or relief, pain, fear, and happiness in such a short period of time.

Ryan held onto her tightly for a long moment, and finally kissed her cheek, "How did I get home?" He paused, releasing Micki and sitting up, "I remember...Mom...the airport...the plane flight...Astaroth...Chris..."

He seemed to crumple beneath the weight of his memories, "Sister Adele! Oh, God, I killed her..."

Jack sat on the bed, on Ryan's other side, drawing the younger man in for a hug, "It wasn't you, Ryan, it was Astaroth working through you. You couldn't help what you did...but you did save Chris. In fact, you saved us all..."

Ryan pulled away, looking around Micki's room, "I've been away so long..."

"But now you're back," Micki said, taking his hand.

Ryan forced a smile, "Yeah, I am...I've missed you."

14: Back Again

Ryan wolfed down his dinner ravenously, and Micki stole another glance at him. He looked so familiar in his Illinois State sweatshirt and torn-up jeans, but he was different, too. Indefinably older and full of regret.

He took a long drink of his beer and grinned, "Man, I've missed that! So, Jack, what...what's the deal with France? I'm not allowed back, am I?"

Jack shook his head, "There were only a few people who actually witnessed Sister Adele's death, and Chris was able to convince them to rescind their testimony against you, and instead state that they saw Astaroth kill her, while you were helpless to stop what he was doing.

"It's the truth, and Chris was as convinced of it as we were. There were no witnesses to anything else Astaroth did through you, so if we ever need to go back, you're free to do so."

Ryan nodded, "That's great. How...how is Chris? Have you heard from her?"

"We've had letters from her, two of them - she's doing well, and asked after you."

Ryan was quietly contemplative, "I wish I could have done something to stop it..."

Jack patted his hand, "You did what you could, when we needed you the most. You can't blame yourself."

Ryan took another bite of his second burger, "I've got a lot of things I need to make up for in this world. So, I guess what I should ask is what we're going after next, and when?"

Jack looked up, and his eyes met Micki's for a moment, "I think we should give you a chance to settle back in before we go chasing any more cursed antiques. You're...well, you aged 20 years in a day, and Micki had a pretty hard time with Morris. You should both rest. And don't forget, Ryan, your mother will be back tomorrow to pick you up.

"When she met you at the cemetery, you avoided talking to her about anything. Now, though, I don't think you can. You're going to have to talk to her about what happened, after she left. And you're going to have to explain, at least a little bit, how this happened..."

"What, with the hourglass?"

"Of course with the hourglass...you'll probably have to tell her a little bit about Lewis, and why it's so important that you stay here."

Ryan nodded, leaning back in his chair, "Yeah, I guess I will have to tell her something. I suppose I'll just tell her the truth, about how an hourglass aged me...Best case scenario she believes me, worse case she thinks I'm nuts. Either way, I get to stay here with my family."

Micki and Jack exchanged glances and grinned, relieved that he was the same old Ryan who always saw things on such a down-to-earth level.

15: Nice to have you home...

Ryan watched his mother make her way slowly back to her car. He had spent the last 2 hours trying to explain what had happened to him, what was housed in the shop, and his life before France.

She had listened patiently, but looked confused during the entire conversation.

As she drove off Ryan gave a quick wave and turned to see Micki standing there, "So...how'd it go? Did she take it well?"

A small smile touched Ryan's lips and he nodded, "Yeah, I guess as well as anyone hearing that kind of news would..."

Micki nodded, "Well, that's good. I'm glad it went so well," she said as they made their way towards the main room of the shop.

"Listen," Micki started, "Jack's out with Rashid for the night, why don't I make us some dinner?" Micki felt awkward and searched for something that could take Ryan's mind off of the conversation with his mother.

It must have been difficult to tell her everything, and Micki wondered if she had taken the news as well as Ryan said she had.

When Ryan grinned wryly she was a bit surprised. He shook his head, "I don't want to have dinner here tonight."

She cocked an eyebrow, wondering if he wasn't hungry. "Why not?"

"Because...I thought it might be nice to spend a night out on the town. Micki, will you go out to dinner with me?"

Micki blinked a few times. He had surprised her with the question, and she had not expected him to be up to going out. Not after everything he had been through.

But, Ryan's trademark boyish grin spread easily across his face and Micki couldn't help but say yes, "I would love to."

Ryan rubbed his hands together, "Perfect! Dress for a nice dinner, and be sure to wear shoes you can walk in."

"What?" Micki asked, surprised.

"You know, walking shoes - there'll be a surprise after dinner."

She smiled, "Are you sure you're up to it?"

He nodded, "You bet I am..." He walked past her, heading toward the stairs, then turned back to face her. He smiled shyly, walking to her, taking her hands in his, and spoke quietly, "I missed you."

"I missed you, too."

He grinned, "Come on, then, Micki, we have a lot of catching up to do. I'll be ready to leave for dinner in 15 minutes." He kissed her innocently, and grinned, "Come on, Micki, let's get moving!"

She smiled after him as he bounded up the steps, "It's nice to have you home, Ryan."