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About The Good Ol' Days
(Opposites Attract, Up To A Point and Turn The Page AU)
by Live Lady Roadkill
Disclaimer: A-Team owned by Stephen J. Cannell etc.
Grandpa is owned by The Judds
Comments: Please--Need'em, want'em and very much appreciate'em
Warnings: mentions m/m relationships and mental illness themes
Summary: The Team and their families gather together to comfort and reassure one another when the WTC and the Pentagon are struck, and wait to see what the White House was going to do. In the meantime, fifteen year old Cassy struggles to make sense of it all with Hannibal and Face's help. I was inspired to write this when I talked to a friend who has teenagers.
Grandpa (Tell Me About The Good Old Days)
Words and Music by Jamie O'Hara; Performed by The Judds
Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like
This world's gone crazy
Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy
Did lovers really fall in love to stay
And stand beside each other come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept
Not just something they would say?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Grandpa, everything is changing fast
We call it progress
But I just don't know
And Grandpa, let's wander back into the past
And paint me the picture
Of long ago
Did lovers really fall in love to stay
And stand beside each other come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept
Not just something they would say and then forget?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Oh, Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
It was a week after the hijackings and an uneasy calm had
settled upon the entire world. Everyone was waiting to see what America would
do, including the Americans. Immediately after the hits, and a series of
frantic phone calls to let everyone know that they were safe, everyone
converged upon Murdock and BA's summer home, with children in tow. BA and
Murdock, Hannibal and Carla, Face and Lisa, and Frankie and Yvonne. Together they
watched the events unfold on the television. It
was late in the evening before they heard anything from Decker. He wasn't anywhere near the Pentagon when the plane struck, but he was clearly shaken, much like everyone else.
Hannibal was surprised at how much Decker had become a part of their ever-growing makeshift family. Only when he'd heard Decker's voice on the phone, did he realize he had been holding his breathe all day. Decker decided to stay in DC to make himself available to assist in whatever way possible. Hannibal vowed to hug the man the next time he saw him. But that was going to have to wait for a while. He tried not to think about the numerous times he had walked up and down the corridors of the Pentagon with Decker and other people over the years.
For now, he had a severe case of insomnia. He glanced over to Carla, who was sleeping deeply. It was the first time in a week that she had slept that way, and Hannibal wasn't going to wake her just so she could keep him company. Deciding that he wasn't going to go to sleep anytime soon, he carefully pushed the blankets off of him.
Like an old sentinel, he made his way down the hall, checking the doors of the other bedrooms. The first door he came to was the older boys' room. Ben's room, one of BA and Murdock's four adopted children. The children were doubled, tripled, and more into rooms when everyone gathered at the summer home. Ben was of Czech descent but he looked enough like Murdock to pass for his natural born son. Hannibal made out the figure of Ben in his bed and his own sons sleeping on cots.
They were all fine boys, very fine boys. Hannibal adjusted Josh's sleeping bag and stroked the boy's cheek. Josh stirred a little and mumbled something before turning away from his father's touch in his sleep. Both his sons were tall, slender, striking young men. Chase was almost as tall as he was, and Josh promised to be every bit as tall as his older brother. Josh was a budding engineer, and Hannibal couldn't be more thrilled.
Chase, on the other hand wanted to be a professional soldier like his father and his uncles. Hannibal was proud of his son's career choice, until a week ago. Now he was downright frightened for him. He was only months away from his fourteenth birthday. Experience has taught Hannibal that if they do go to war, this war might take years. Four years had seemed a long time a week ago, but now it wasn't long enough. Hannibal carefully sat on the edge of Chase's cot and rested his hand on his son's shoulder. He watched him sleep unmoving on his side for a while. He wished Chase would get a haircut, and he brushed the longish, white-blonde hair from the teenager's forehead.
As he did this, Hannibal noticed, in the dim light filtering in from the hallway, how old and gnarled his hands were. He wondered when did he get so old. He sighed and looked over to Ben, nestled safe in his bed. He still remembered when BA and Murdock brought him and the others home so well.
They were all malnourished and scared of everything. BA and Murdock opted to adopt older children, and so did Face and Lisa. Hannibal thought between the four of them, that they were going to adopt every orphan in every underdeveloped nation in the world. BA and Murdock adopted four children and Face and Lisa adopted three, all from various countries. Frankie and Yvonne
had two children as well. Murdock said they had their own rainbow tribe. Hannibal marveled at how much they'd increased their numbers in a short eight years. Even he and Carla had another child-a girl. They had named her Sophia.
Hannibal lingered a little longer with the older boys and said a silent prayer that they'd never see combat. He had been saying this prayer a lot in the past week. He carefully adjusted the sleeping bags and blankets for each of the boys, planting a soft kiss on each of their brows.
Hannibal then made his way to the nursery. Sophia was in a pile with four other children. They reminded Hannibal of a litter of puppies that played themselves to exhaustion and dropped in a massive heap. The nursery had every toy imaginable; and a queen-sized mattress lay in the corner where the children slept. BA and Murdock learned this trick when Cassy was four. She was too big for a crib, but Murdock was worried she might fall out of bed during the night. Cassy liked this idea, and it worked well. Carla and Hannibal adopted the idea for each of their own children until they decided that it was time for a real bed on their own.
Hannibal carefully knelt down on the edge of the mattress without waking the mass of children. He knew each of them so well. Four year old Tabitha, the youngest and newest addition to the clan was from China. She had been adopted by Face and Lisa five
months ago. She was everyone's little princess. Davidge, seven, was Colombian. He'd had a habit of hoarding food when Murdock and BA first brought him home four years ago. Hannibal smiled at his own daughter nestled between Tabitha and Davidge with her foot in Olivia's face. He carefully moved his own daughter's foot from Face and Lisa's other daughter's face.
Olivia was from India. She was the only one who was adopted as a baby. She was born with a cleft palate. A little cosmetic surgery corrected her problem and no one could tell that she once had a gaping opening in her lip. Hannibal remembered waiting for her to come out of surgery with Face and Lisa. He was there to support them, along with BA and Murdock, but he was
just as worried about the little girl as the parents were. They all spent hours holding her after they moved her out of the recovery room. She would start crying when they put her down. She never got put down.
Ignacio, Frankie's oldest child, was huddled against Olivia. Ignacio and Olivia, like Sophie, were five years old. Hannibal touched all the children and brushed their hair away from their faces. He admired them, and he worried about what the events and
implications of the last week would impact them. They would grow up with a fear in the back of their mind that someone would hurt them. They already had that hanging over them to a certain extent because of who their parents were. But they were able to shield the children from this knowledge for the most part. Make them feel safe.
What happened in New York and DC was already becoming a permanent part of the fabric of American society. They could not shield them from that. Josh was now fearful of the idea of getting on a plane, and he had always loved flying. Josh was sensitive, and Hannibal had to be a bit more patient with him. But Josh got along perfectly with Face. They had matching temperaments-high-strung perfectionists. After sitting with the youngest children and watching over them for an hour, Hannibal moved on to the next room.
This was Face and Lisa's room, for now. It had been fourteen years since Face had been in the hospital, and he was doing very well on his medication, but Hannibal still worried about him. Face was indeed doing a lot better. His erratic behaviors, that kept him in trouble when they were on the run, were all but gone now. Whenever any of them noticed any of these behaviors, they'd take immediate action and help him to get a grip.
Face and Lisa's nine year-old was sleeping between them. Mikah was easily troubled and he was also slightly mentally disabled. Mikah appeared to be normal when they adopted him. But when they got him home and settled, he proved to be difficult to deal with at times. Face handled Mikah's problems with grace, and they all showered him with love and attention. After four years of special education, they had all taken pride in Mikah when he was placed in a regular class. Hannibal remembered how scrawny Mikah was when they brought him home from Russia. He had to be taught how to play, and Hannibal had reaffirmed his doubts that adopting was a good idea for Face and Lisa. Especially children with special needs.
Tabitha had clubfeet. When Hannibal went with Face to pick up a little girl in China months ago, Tabitha wasn't selected for them. When Face heard about a little girl that hadn't been adopted for some times, he said he wanted that little girl without even meeting her first. The little girl that had been selected for him and Lisa was adopted the next day by another American couple. The Chinese adoption official was a bit perplexed by Face giving up a perfect and healthy baby for a crippled, older child. Lisa had stayed in LA with Mikah and Olivia. Hannibal thought Face should have consulted with his wife about this, but when the four-year-old was brought home instead of a baby, Lisa had been just as delighted.
Hannibal shook his head at Mikah, sleeping between Face and Lisa. Poor kid. He made a B plus on a difficult test, and it should have been celebrated. Instead he came home finding the whole world had been turned upside down. His parents were packing in a hurry to meet everyone at the biggest place available so they all could be together-BA and Murdock's summer home. Hannibal decided to take Mikah out for ice cream when they got back to LA, just him and Mikah, to celebrate his B plus.
Hannibal quietly moved on to the next room. Murdock and BA's. He was checking on everyone, and these two were no exception. The two men slept in separate heaps, but they slept very close together. While he still had some trouble accepting the idea of two men together as a couple, he knew these two were a couple of the best men he knew. He trusted them with his children. Without them to help him and Carla raise them, especially their sons, he'd be lost. Chase was already rebelling against
him in typical, teenage fashion, but at least Chase turned to Murdock to talk about important things.
Yvonne was cuddled up against Frankie when Hannibal entered their room. Bonita was awake and playing quietly in her crib, and Hannibal quickly padded over to her to lift her out. The pudgy, eighteen-month-old reached over for her toy, still in the crib. Hannibal retrieved the toy for her and whispered, "There you go, Beautiful. Couldn't sleep either, eh?"
He took one look at her parents as he planted a kiss on top of her head. Bonita gurgled a little and Hannibal shushed her. "Shhhh.. Don't want to wake your mom and dad."
He quickly took the little girl out of the bedroom and went to the older girls' room. Catherine and Emily, Murdock and BA's other children were where they should be, but Cassy's bed was empty. From the looks of it she had been gone for a while. He looked over at the ten and twelve year olds and then at Cassy's empty bed. He adjusted his hold on Bonita and leaned over to adjust
the blankets on each of the girls. Catherine was from the Caribbean and was so dark that Hannibal couldn't make out her features in the muted light. She was stunningly beautiful, and Hannibal grew very concerned when, two weeks earlier, the twelve-year-old had announced that she had a boyfriend. Murdock and BA, on the other hand, took the announcement in stride and even teased her about it a little.
Emily was envious of her older sister. Emily was spotted by BA three years ago across the Mexican boarder when he took the older children on an outing. She was begging in the street when BA asked a street vender about her. He already knew they had to have her in their family before the vendor could even tell him that she had no one. It took a while to get the paperwork through but Hannibal had worked it so that she could be brought across the boarder on a visa as a child actor so they could take her home.
Hannibal finished fussing with the girls' blankets and caressed Catherine's jaw before setting out to look for Cassy with Bonita in his arms. He padded around the house looking around in each of the rooms, but no Cassy.
He then noticed the housedogs were gone, and that meant she was outside. Hannibal breathed easily when he deduced this and thought the California, September, night air was warm enough for the toddler. He stepped out on the porch and was immediately greeted by four German Shepherds. He heard Cassy's voice to his left. "Hi, Uncle Hannibal."
She sounded very tired, and Hannibal smiled as he made his way over to the porch swing. "Couldn't sleep either, huh, kid?"
Cassy's tall, slender form was clad in sweat pants and a T-shirt and her legs were drawn to her chest. She unfolded her legs, graceful as a ballerina and reached for Bonita when Hannibal got nearer. "I'm surprised anyone can sleep with what's going on."
She was a fine combination of Murdock and Jody's best features. She had Murdock's height and was beginning to show many of Jody's shapely curves already. She showed the promise of getting even lovelier with age, if that was possible. Cassy flipped her waist length, brown hair back over her shoulder as she accepted the toddler. Hannibal sat next to Cassy and stroked the long, fine hair back some more. "We all have to sleep sometimes, kid."
Cassy tickled Bonita a little before settling her on her lap. "I know. It's just that I feel like I should be doing something. Something besides sitting around here waiting to see what happens next."
Hannibal nodded thoughtfully. "I know exactly how you feel. I'm willing, but my body is too old to be of any real use anymore. All we can do is let those who are able, do what they can and be ready to give them what they need when they ask."
Cassy snorted. "And I'm too young. Besides that, Daddy and Papa BA won't let me off the property."
"It's for your own protection. You know that. I still say they are pushing it when they let you go around without a bodyguard or one or two of the dogs."
Cassy scooted over closer to Hannibal and leaned her head over onto his shoulder. He opened his arms to her and hugged her once she was comfortable. Bonita had climbed down from her lap and was playing with the dogs now. "I do have a life, and I can't be tripping over body guards and guard dogs everywhere I go. People get weird when they realize who and what they are."
Hannibal kissed her forehead and rested his chin on top of the teenager's head and watched Bonita toddle over to a dog. "I know it sucks. But you're our first child and our most precious. I consider it a miracle that you were even conceived in the first place."
Cassy laughed at Hannibal's joke about her parents. "Me, too. Daddy is one of the gayest guys on the face of the planet. I find it hard to believe he could've been attracted to women at one time."
Hannibal chuckled and shook his head a little. He was happy to see Cassy's mood lightened, and he stroked her hair a little more. "Your mother was a real knockout. I never met her but I've seen lots of pictures. She could turn anyone's head, and she certainly turned your father's head."
Cassy sighed in frustration. "I know everyone wants to protect me, but I'm starting college next fall. .." She sniffled and said, "Five thousand people had died last week and Uncle Rod could've been killed too, and here I am complaining about being overly protected."
Hannibal gentle pulled her onto his lap and she resisted at first. Hannibal sternly coaxed her. "C'mon now."
His tone told her he meant business and she did as she was told. He held her on his lap and began to gently sway back and forth in the swing. Cassy felt a bit ridiculous as she made herself comfortable. He hadn't held her like this in years. But she complied also because she didn't want to hear the 'I-used-to-change-your-diapers' speech. 'Hell', she thought, 'who hadn't changed my diapers?'
Despite her chagrin, she found herself melting into the safety of Hannibal's arms after a few minutes. Hannibal smiled at how willingly Cassy accepted his comfort when he wrapped his arms around her. He was silent for several more moments before speaking. " I understand how you must feel... It's not a bad thing to think of yourself during a time like this. It may not seem like
it right now, but it is a good thing that you're thinking ahead and about yourself. And don't be ashamed of that. ..... Everything humanly possible is being done for those people. The only thing that we can do is pray that things will work out for the best. You are as important as those people and a lot of important things are going on in your life right now. You're almost sixteen, and sixteen is a very important year in a person's life. You're getting your driver's license and your pilot's license. You're getting ready to graduate high school and go to college.. All of this is important. It's okay to worry and feel bad about what happened, but don't lose yourself to it. .. Don't feel bad because you have everything-your life, your health and your family."
Cassy peered at Hannibal with tear laden, curious, brown eyes. "How can I not feel bad about it? .. How can we go on like everything is normal?"
Hannibal sighed and said, "We're all scared, and nothing will ever be the same after this. But we still have to go on, kid. Unfortunately, this isn't the last crisis you'll live through. There will be more as long as there are people out there that have fanatical ideas. Your parents have lived through their own crisis, and so have I. If we stopped living and going about doing our own thing, you wouldn't be here. Chase, Joshua, and Sophia wouldn't be here and none your brothers and sisters, either."
Cassy sniffed again and a tear escaped from the corner of her eye. "How did you do it?"
Glancing over at Bonita pulling one of the dogs' tails, Hannibal smacked his lips. "I don't know how. I just did it like everyone else. When I was your age, World War II had just ended. It was supposed to be peaceful afterwards but it .. it was anything but that. The nuclear arms race began and everyone was frightened out of their skins for decades. The threat was very real but everyone went about their business. I admit that I've never been more scared about anything else in my life. until now."
Cassy sighed and Hannibal smiled at her. "Growing up and losing your innocence isn't an easy thing, is it, kid? ... But I assure you of one thing. You're safe and you don't have to worry about being safe as long as I'm around, and your parents, too. We'll make sure of it."
Cassy slipped her arms around Hannibal's chest and clung to him. She felt his arms go around her even tighter and she freely shed the tears against his chest, releasing the tension and most of the worry she had been carrying around for a week. Hannibal cradled the teenager and she huddled further against him on his lap. Cassy was unaccustomed to crying because she'd had very little reason to cry in her life until now. One of the dogs was concerned by Cassy's crying and he sniffed her over and propped his front paws on the porch swing causing it to sway a little more. Hannibal braced the swing still with his feet and the dog was steadied.
Hannibal patted the dog's neck as it pried its nose between Hannibal's chest and Cassy's face. Cassy sniffled and felt the dog's cold wet nose in her ear. She turned to be rewarded with a good face washing. Cassy let out a sobbing laugh was she pushed the dog's head back a little so she could sit up. "Thanks, Pavel."
Pavel backed down watching expectantly as Cassy moved off of Hannibal's lap to sit next to him again. Cassy wiped her face with her hand and reached to rub Pavel's ears and neck. Lovingly watching her, Hannibal pushed her hair behind her shoulder giving her a bitter smile. "You promise me something?"
Looking at Hannibal, Cassy sniffled again and wiped at the last stray tear. She nodded. "What?"
"You're fortunate. ... To have everything you have and I expect more from you because you've had so many more advantages than most people. BUT ... but don't ever feel bad about having them. Enjoy them while you have them. You're wise enough to know that we are given no guarantees in life, and we all must live as if everyday could be our last."
Cassy nodded again and gave Pavel a good head rubbing before sitting back against Hannibal. "I know..... I try to do that .. but...."
She clenched her fist in frustration.
"S'okay kiddo. I think I know what you're trying to say. I could try to tell you too, but I'm just as lost as you are. Sometimes there are no words, and maybe that's a good thing."
Cassy sighed as the pressure to define what happened was suddenly off of her. If Hannibal was afraid and couldn't make sense of what happened, then most, if not all adults were in the similar state. "I just don't like feeling so... helpless. I grew up being told I'm capable of anything and everything at every turn. I feel like I'm expected to do something about it, and I know I can't."
"I know, baby, I know. And it doesn't help much having the legendary A-Team in your lineage either, does it?"
Cassy scoffed and shook her head. "Some of the other kids at school think me, Chase and Joshua in particular, can rig their grades or get a keg anytime we want because of it."
Hannibal sucked on the inside of his cheek in amusement. "I'm sorry about that."
Relaxing a bit now, Cassy shrugged. "It can be kinda fun sometimes."
"Just be sure you don't break any laws."
Hannibal gave Cassy's shoulder a supportive pat. "I know you and my boys are good kids. I trust you to do the right thing."
Cassy nodded and noticed Bonita was yawning. She got up and scooped her up. Once Cassy settled back into place with the toddler in her arms, she fingered walked all over Bonita who giggled as Cassy's fingers tickled her. Hannibal watched Cassy for a few moments before speaking again. He had a thought that may help her put things in perspective a little. "Things will work out
kid. You just have to believe it. You remember when Face was sick?"
Answering honestly, Cassy shook her head a little. "No, not really. I know that you, Daddy, and Papa BA are always looking after him. .... I also know that he's bipolar and that he was suicidal once, and he was in the hospital for a long time, but that's about it."
Hannibal nodded. "He was very sick for a long time and we didn't know it. We could have lost him. In fact we came so close to losing him that it makes me shake just thinking about it even now. .. I was given power of attorney for him. It was up to me to decide everything for him for a while and I didn't know what I was doing. Especially when we realized just how sick he was at the time, and part of it was because of something devastating that happened to him as a little kid. I did my best to help him, but it seemed like whatever I did, only made things worse. When I learned to just stand back and listen to him, he started to get better. Your fathers and I were there when he needed or wanted us. Slowly, when he began to get better, things around Face started getting better. I had to learn to step back and let other people.. Complete strangers, help him."
Hannibal groaned and rolled his eyes. ".... Yes, ... Sidney, Dave, Alex and Freeman.... Just when I thought it was going to be impossible for Face to ever be discharged, he was making progress. I really thought the whole situation with him was hopeless." Hannibal's eyes sparkled as he began to lose himself in the past. "It took a while, but he was discharged, and he put his life together piece by piece ... It was nowhere near what it was before, but in a lot of ways it was better. Things are much better all the way around for him and for people in his life. We're still watching over him even though he doesn't seem to need it anymore."
"You're proud of him, aren't you?"
Hannibal nodded. "Very. .. I admit that I expected him to spend the rest of his life in the hospital .. and I couldn't be more proud of him that he isn't. He built something better for himself. He has a wife, a family, he has you, and he's writing music and manages all of our finances. Most importantly, he's happy now, and he's helping other people.... I often wondered why he adopted kids like Mikah, Olivia, and Tabitha. I used to think he did it because he felt sorry for them. Now I know that he adopted them to give them a better chance and give them the chance to shine that they wouldn't otherwise have had, just like your parents have done for you at every turn."
Cassy nodded thoughtfully and realized Bonita was nodding off. She shifted the toddler in her arms so she could fall asleep comfortably. Hannibal watched this and smiled as he remembered how Frankie would often do this for Cassy as a toddler. Hannibal tapped Bonita's nose a little and squeezed Cassy. "Sometimes the best thing you can do, kid, is be a witness and to
listen.... And I feel like we will witness greatness. But we must be prepared to pitch in when we're called upon. It's going to take years and you'll get your chance to help out in a tangible way. Nothing will be the same, but things will be better than they were
before. I know this is small comfort now, but you have to believe that things will be better even when it seems impossible. When you have doubts about this, talk to Face. He's living proof of this."
Cassy fell silent and they softly swayed in the swing for a while, looking out across the night. Bonita was sound asleep, and Cassy and Hannibal were each lost in their own thoughts. Cassy kept stealing glances at the man who had a hand in raising her. He looked so sad and even regretful. She saw a few more creases in his skin. Creases that were new. His blue eyes flashed a somber smile when he caught her looking at him. They both stared at each other. Cassy, drawing strength from his experiences and Hannibal, drawing strength from her youth. Hannibal sighed and squeezed Cassy. "It's gonna be alright kid. The country is pulling together in a way that I've never thought possible. I haven't seen anything like it since War World II. I thought I'd never see the world pull together again like it is doing now."
Looking inward, Cassy thoughtfully said, "Yeah... At the risk of sounding like a beach bum..." She mimicked a California surfer, "It's pretty AWESOME, dude."
Hannibal chuckled and carefully pulled Cassy closer, mindful of the sleeping toddler in her arms, and mussed her hair a little. Cassy laughed a little and then sobered up quickly. With a heavy sigh, she said, "I just hope it lasts."
Hannibal rubbed Cassy's shoulder. "I hope so too, kid. Government is a two steps forward, one step backward process. But we took a lot of steps forward during the last week."
Cassy nodded again and was silent for a while longer. Hannibal noticed her eyelids were starting to get heavy. "C'mon, lets go back to bed and get some sleep. I think it's time we got back to business as usual and back to the city tomorrow."
Cassy smacked her mouth a little and sighed. "I wish it could last one more day. I like having the entire family in one place."
"So do I.. Tell you what.... I was going to call a meeting first thing in the morning to discuss this. I'll put it off until tomorrow evening and I want you to join us."
Cassy froze. A meeting with the adults to discuss what they were going to do next? She reminded herself to breathe and slowly nodded. She stood up with Bonita in her arms and Hannibal got to his feet. They walked in the house together. He took Bonita from her and said, "Get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning."
Hannibal kissed her forehead and when she turned to walk back to her bedroom Hannibal swatted her on the butt. "G'night, kid."
Hannibal slipped Bonita back into her crib without waking her parents and slipped back into his own bed. Carla rolled over and wrapped her arm around him when he settled next to her. She was half awake and asked, "Somethin' the matter?"
Hannibal settled closer to her and grasped her hand. "No... things are fine. Go back to sleep, hon'."
Carla mumbled something and drifted back to sleep. Hannibal laced his fingers into hers and drifted to sleep.
Face felt a muted strike on his leg and woke up to find Mikah was tossing and turning in his sleep. Lisa was still asleep. She could sleep through earthquakes. He soothingly rubbed Mikah's neck and shoulders to settle him down in his sleep. Once the boy's sleep was deepened by his father's touch, Face glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It was very early, and he judged that he wouldn't be able to get back to sleep again. He carefully got up without waking his son and wife.
The sun wasn't up, but it was bright enough to clearly see about the room. As he put on his robe, he watched his wife and oldest child sleep. He put the blankets around Mikah a little better before heading to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee to begin the day. His mind was heavy with recent events, and he thanked God at every step that everyone he cared about was safe and
whole. He was surprised to find he wasn't the only one who was awake by the time he got to the kitchen.
He found Cassy sitting at the computer checking her e-mail and that she already had the coffee going. "G'morning Ladybug."
Cassy seemed a bit startled and she flashed a broad smile at her godfather. "G'mornin'"
She glanced at the computer screen as Face walked up behind her and gave her a one armed hug. "Anything interesting?"
Cassy sighed. "Another article blaming everything that happened on everything that doesn't fit with the fundamentalists' beliefs... other than that, it's the same ol' same ol'."
"I'm sorry. A lot of people are just plain stupid."
Cassy quickly clicked a bunch of keys and suspended the computer. She was used to hearing about gay bashing as a child of gay parents. But having it announced that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the fault of people like her parents took it to a whole new level that none of them had expected. Face shook his head and stepped back so Cassy could move away from the
Cassy went to the cabinet and got two mugs down and poured them each some coffee as Face went to the refrigerator. Face watched Cassy's unsuccessfully attempt to hide her anger. Reading something that basically said that the death of thousands of people was her parents' fault was the last thing she or the other kids needed.
Face set the coffee cream, orange juice, and a bowl of fruit on the table, and he reached to the top of the cabinets for a couple of pill bottles. Cassy had seen him take his medicine thousands of times, but this time it seemed to fascinate her. Once the pills were downed, he returned the pills to their safe place, out of reach of the younger children in the house. He settled with his orange juice and watched Cassy peel a tangerine after sitting down with their coffee. "Wanna talk about it?"
"What is there to talk about? There's always gonna be stupid people in the world."
"Unfortunately, that's true."
Cassy glanced over her tangerine at Face and nodded. He smiled at her warmly and Cassy studied him. He had a few wrinkles around the corners of his eyes, nowhere near as many as Hannibal, but they were there. His hair was lightly peppered with gray hairs. There were several other indications of aging, but his eyes looked young. Every once in a while, his eyes looked old and
dark. That was usually when Hannibal and her fathers would take him to the hospital to have him checked out. That had only happened four or five times that she could remember. Other than that, Face was always around as her godfather and everyone treated him like everyone else.
"What's it like? To go to war?"
Face slowly continued to stir his coffee. He studied her for a moment and tapped his spoon on the edge of the mug before setting it down on the saucer. "It's different for everyone, Cass. Depends on who you ask."
"I'm asking you what you think about what's going on."
Face sighed and looked critically at her. "I don't know what to tell you. Anything that involves pointing a gun and pulling the trigger at someone else as a solution isn't really solving the problem. ....It may take away the threat but it never solves the problem. As ironic as this may seem, my views are mostly pacifistic. But in this case.. I think we should go as soon as we know for sure who did it."
"Even though you know what war is like?"
Face slowly nodded. "There's no clear cut and neatly packaged answers for any of this."
"I know," said Cassy bitterly. "I talked to Hannibal last night. We were up half the night."
Face grinned a little. "Then what are you doing up at this hour?"
Cassy shrugged and sipped her coffee. "I got a little sleep. Talking to Hannibal helped and it got me thinking in a different direction now."
"What did you talk about?"
Cassy popped a tangerine slice in her mouth and said, "A little of everything. We even talked about you some."
Face grinned a little. "Now, don't you start worrying about me, too."
"I'm not. I know you're okay, but Hannibal seems to be a bit scared for you."
Face chuckled lightly. "He likes worrying about me too much sometimes. I think it's been his main hobby for the last ten years. .... You don't have a thing to worry about with me, so don't you start. I'll look after you, always."
Cassy took another slice of tangerine and fingered it a bit while thinking. Face watched her as he sipped his coffee. "You can ask me anything, Ladybug. I may not have the answers, but maybe together we could find the answers."
"I don't even know what questions to ask anymore."
"Neither do I. I don't think any of us know."
Cassy stopped playing with the tangerine slice and ate it. She peeled off another slice and looked at Face with her father's soulful, brown eyes. "What happened to you?... I know you go to the hospital every few years when you have problems with your medication. Daddy explains it to me every time you go back, but there's more to it than being bipolar, isn't there?"
Face nodded slowly. He smiled a little and set his coffee mug down. The coffee was decaffeinated. Everyone switched to decaf because they didn't want to worry about serving him the wrong kind when he was visiting. Although everyone changed a lot of things for him, he never thought his illness would affect Cassy that much. He knew his own children were affected due to his
absence, because of his occasional re-admittance to the psyche ward. They were very rare and short stays. Not like the first time he was admitted almost fifteen years ago. Face pushed the coffee mug from him and folded his hands. "Yes, there's a lot more to it than being bipolar."
Cassy looked at him expectantly and Face sucked on his lower lip for a moment before going on. "Something happened to me as a very young boy. There are no words to properly describe how bad it was. It was so bad that I blocked out everything. I didn't even remember who I was."
Cassy hesitantly asked, "Were... were you molested or something like that?"
Face shook his head with a bitter frown. "No, not that. ....... I was left for dead in a ditch."
He left out the part about his mother being dead and thrown in the ditch with him. He still couldn't speak of it without a great deal of difficulty, and he didn't think Cassy should know about that. Cassy was better aware than most adolescents, that a lot of children aren't wanted. She had helped her brothers and sisters learn to trust and just be kids over the years when each was adopted. Murdock and BA made it clear to her that she was adopting them too each time the brought another child home. She was aware of their stories and the circumstances that led them to her home; the home that became their home, too. All of their stories were tragic.
Cassy's eyes were wide as the saucers beneath the coffee mugs. Cassy had a better appreciation of her conversation with Hannibal the previous night. Cassy calmly stood up, walked around the table and hugged Face from behind. Face patted her arms that crossed over around his chest. "I survived and I'm okay now.... Did you know you are partially responsible for my recovery?"
Cassy squeezed Face a little and said, "No."
Face pulled Cassy's arms from him and pulled her around to sit her in the chair next to him. He grasped both of her hands tightly. "Yes... You were an important part of it. That was when your fathers made me your godfather. When I thought about giving up on myself, I had you to fight for. I don't think I would have made it as far or as quickly as I did without knowing that you were waiting at home for me. Waiting for me to be a part of your life, and I wanted to be a part of your life so much because I knew you were one pretty terrific kid even then."
Cassy sighed heavily and gave Face a secretive smile as her conversation with Hannibal made even more sense to her now. Face held onto her hands. "I know what you're trying to do right now. If there's anything I've learned about what happened to me it is that a lot of times there are no satisfactory answers in the wake of a senseless act like what happened in New York last week. You have to focus on what's around you and be ready to act when the opportunity arises. Your parents have raised you with a social conscience, and you will know when its time to act when you see it."
Cassy quietly nodded. Then looking at her hands firmly in his. Safe and secure. Without looking up she asked, "Do you think Daddy and Papa would mind if I donated part of my trust funds?"
Face smiled broadly and shook his head. "No. I don't think they'd mind it at all."
He released Cassy's hands and hugged her tightly. "I am so proud of you, you know that?"
Embarrassed, Cassy chuckled. "Save it. I think Daddy, Papa, and Hannibal are going to get all gushy enough over this. Don't you add to it or I'll drown in embarrassment. ... Can you make it where it's anonymous?"
Face grinned teasingly. "No one has ever died from embarrassment to date, and I'll make all the arrangements after you get your parents' approval. You should talk about it with them and decide on how much and where it goes."
Cassy nodded. She felt that it still wasn't enough, but she felt that things would indeed get better with time. She and Face had a quiet breakfast together, and slowly the rest of the household began to wake up and trickle into the kitchen and dinning room. She found herself enjoying the company of her brothers and sisters and cousins for the first time in a week. While she helped with the breakfast preparations for the younger children, she realized Face was watching her, and he winked at her. After the mayhem of breakfast was over with she found a moment to herself on the porch.
The sun was up and there was a light breeze on the air. She looked to the small private airport that hadn't been used since their arrival. She longed to take one of the planes for a morning flight, but couldn't because all private planes have been grounded. She had to stay on the ground for a while longer. She focused her attention on the sun rising higher in the sky and closed her eyes as she absorbed the warmth.
Hannibal had joined her again. "You okay, kid?"
Cassy nodded with surety. "Yeah. I'm getting there."
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