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A Handful of Choices # 4

A Handful of Choices # 4 

by Jenny 

 

Rating:  PG 13

Disclaimer:  TAT and all known characters belong to SJC.  Meagan and Natalie Burkes belong to me. (and Face)  : )

 

 

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Face stood outside a small bungalow in Florida.  He'd just driven from Langley,

nonstop and he stretched his long legs and rubbed his hands over his face.

Walking up the short walk, he wondered just what had been so urgent that Ellen

had called and almost demanded that he join her for a long weekend.

 

They had known each other for three weeks now.  Their father, AJ Bancroft, had

died of natural causes while under the team's protection.  After verifying with

Stockwell that the now dead criminal was indeed his father, Face had approached

Ellen and awkwardly explained how Bancroft had specifically requested the team

for his protection on his return.  Face continued with explaining how the dying

man had confessed to Murdock that he, born as Richard Bancroft, was AJ's

first-born child and his son.

 

Ellen Bancroft had sat, hard and stared at the man before her.  Stooping down

next to her, Face had simply waited for her reaction.  Finally, she'd held out

the small, framed photographs she'd pulled from the loosely piled dirt of the

new grave.  "I guess that explains this."  She handed over the pictures and

after several minutes of silence had offered her hand to her brother.  They

both rose and walked to the van where they stayed, talking quietly, for nearly

an hour.  When they were ready, Murdock had driven them back to the cabin where

they had explained their discoveries to the others. 

 

Unfortunately, Stockwell had another mission lined up for them as soon as they

returned to Virginia and Face and Ellen had reluctantly said good-bye.  They

spoke often. on the phone line BA had rigged and that Hannibal had forced

Stockwell to leave in place after the long distance bill had revealed it's use.

Using the safe line, unbugged and untraceable, they called at least once or

twice weekly and had just spoken for an hour the night before when Ellen had

called again, urgently requesting, nearly demanding, that Face drive to see

her.  She refused to answer his questions, merely stating that she needed him

to come to her, quickly.  

 

A quick conference with Hannibal earned him permission for the outing and Face,

slipping the Abels easily, left early that morning.  Arriving now, hours later,

he walked quickly toward his sister's door.  Before he reached the porch, she

was flinging the door wide and running out to greet him.

 

"Face!"  She launched herself into his arms and held on tight.  "You made it."

 

Face stopped and gulped in shock at her open emotion.  She'd been friendly and

willing, both in person and on the phone, but never this free with her

affections.  He found himself returning the tight hug, surprised at how much

he'd missed her in the last three weeks.   Phone calls, long distance, were

just not the same thing.

 

"Yeah, Ellen, I made it."  He pulled back a bit and observed her carefully for

a clue to this strange behavior. 

 

Reddening a bit at her effusive reaction to her brother, Ellen quickly slipped

away and waved him toward the house.  "Umm, come in. you must be tired."

 

Following her into the small home, he took in his surroundings immediately.

The rooms were small but decorated tastefully.  Muted tones of beige and mauve

were throughout the house, in the wallpaper and curtains.  Here and there,

holiday knick-knacks littered the flat surfaces.  He had also noticed a

gaily-decorated wreath on the door as he came in.  Pictures graced the walls

and most of the tabletops.  More frequently than not, they were of a years

younger Ellen and a slim, delicate woman, who shared her coloring and basic

facial traits.  Noticing his inspection of the pictures, Ellen volunteered an

explanation.

 

"That's my mother.  Her name was Katherine."  She picked up the closest one.

"She died about five years ago."  Ellen smiled a gentle smile, briefly caressed

the photograph then replaced it carefully in its spot on the hallway table.

 

Excusing himself briefly to use the phone to check in with Hannibal, Face made

his way through the holiday clutter and to the desk.  Quickly he let his leader

know he had arrived and that he'd check in again in the morning.  Hanging up,

he returned his full attention to his sister.

 

Together they walked past the small, gaily lit Christmas tree near the doorway

of the living room to the compact kitchen area.  Pouring coffee and offering

cookies or fudge, both of which were deferred, Ellen began to ramble about

nothing.

 

"It's hard to get in the Christmas spirit here.  It's so warm all year that I

find it hard to believe that it's time for Santa again.  I've never been a big

Christmas celebrator anyway.  Mom was more into the holidays than I ever was.

How about you?  Do you like Christmas?"  Finally settling in a chair across

from her brother, Ellen paused for breath and to wait for his answer.

 

Face smiled, chuckled at her obvious discomfort, wondered how she could more

into the Christmas spirit than she already was and nodded.  "I actually really

enjoy Christmas.  I mean, we've never had exactly normal ones, but we always

managed to enjoy ourselves."  He narrowed his eyes when she failed to respond

and ventured, "Ellen. what's going on?  Why am I here?"

 

"You don't want to be here?"  She reached out and began to mangle and mutilate

a paper napkin from the holder in the center of the table.

 

"That's not what I said.  I mean, I love seeing you again and I'd do it again,

but Ellen, why the rush and secrets?"  Face reached across the table for her

hands.  To still her nervous twitching, he clasped her smaller hands between

his and waited.

 

Letting out an explosive breath, she nodded and began to laugh lightly, "Can't

con the conman?"  Studiously she looked down, watching their fingers, entwined

on the tabletop.

 

"Something like that." He spoke quietly, willing to wait her out, as long as it

took.

 

"Okay. yesterday after we spoke, I got a strange package.  Two actually and

they were both addressed to Richard and Ellen Bancroft.  The freight marks say

they originated in Barbados.  They were sent two weeks before AJ died."  She

swallowed hard and continued.  "I guess I kind of freaked out.  I just didn't

want to open them alone.  Selfish, I guess.  I mean you could be in big trouble

with Stockwell."

 

"I don't blame you. and I'm glad you called.  Don't you ever worry about

Stockwell.  We can handle him."  He freed one hand and urged her to look him in

the eyes by tipping her head up with a finger under her chin.  "I want to be

your brother. I need you to be my sister."

 

Nodding her acceptance, Ellen stood, and then pulled him toward the tiny, spare

room.  "I had the delivery man put them in here, out of the way."

 

 

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Nearly two hours later, the stiff and sore brother and sister eased themselves

from the carpet of the room and made their way back to the kitchen.  Each of

them carried a handful of papers; legal documents and two sealed envelopes.

They had been through the packing boxes, sorting out what needed to be turned

over as evidence to back up the diary AJ had kept over the years, clearly

documenting his business dealings, shady and legal.  This left them with a mere

handful of personal papers, several deeds to properties that appeared to be

very legal and the letters, one addressed to each of them in AJ's spidery,

slightly stilted handwriting.

 

"Face, why do you think he sent this to us?"  Ellen poured coffee and fixed an

easy meal of sandwiches and chips as Face watched and continued to study the

legal deeds and their accompanying papers.

 

"I don't know, Ellen.  A need to make-up for what he felt he took from you by

leaving?  Maybe just to ease his guilty conscience; either way, I'd say these

are perfectly legal, and you have at least four properties over the world to

decide what to do with." He tapped the sheaf of papers against his palm and

then slapped them on the tabletop to assist her with the cups and plates of

food.

 

"Oh, no you don't!  Not just me. You have a say in this, too!"  She shoved his

cup into his hand.  "Those papers and boxes were marked Ellen AND Richard

Bancroft."

 

"I don't need any of this stuff, Ell. I mean, I can't exactly jet off to

Colorado and take over this cattle ranch or to Cozumel and see what this

factory makes."

 

"So, we sell it all and split the profit.  I'm happy here; I have no need for a

big house or fancy cars.  I'm just gonna sock the money in the bank anyway."

Ellen pointedly waited for his reaction to this proposal. 

 

"Okay, but you keep mine, too.  For now. When the team gets our pardons. or

whatever. we'll talk about it then."  Face picked up his thick ham and cheese

sandwich and took a bite.

 

Ellen watched, saw that the conversation was closed and picked up her own

sandwich.

 

They munched for a time, quiet, not mentioning the letters or the fact that

they hadn't opened them and weren't sure if they wanted to.  Finally, finishing

their meal, they took dishes to the sink and returned to their spots, each of

their gazes drawn to the letters lying on the table before them.

 

"You going to read that?" Ellen finally asked her brother, who was turning and

folding the corners of the white envelope over and over.

 

"I suppose. he obviously had something to say to me."  Face took a deep breath

and started to neatly slit the envelope with the small knife he took from his

pocket.

 

"Do you want me to go?  I mean, do you want to be alone?"  Ellen was already

standing.

 

"NO!  No, please don't go."  Face looked up at her, beseechingly.  Seeing her

nod and sit back down, he returned his attention to the paper now loose in his

hand.  He read the brief words quickly, once and then again.  "He says he's

sorry and that he never forgot about me. Just more of what he told Murdock

really.  He does give me my mother's maiden name, in case I want to try to find

any other family."  Snorting, almost in disgust, but really feeling more sorry

for the lonely old man than anything else, Face dropped the paper on the table

and stood.  Restlessly he paced the tiny kitchen. 

 

Stepping up to him, Ellen placed her hand on his shoulder.  "Hey. at least he

didn't tell us there were any more of us out there that he had abandoned."  Her

attempt at humor fell flat, yet Face grew still and turned to look at her.

 

Smiling ruefully, he agreed, "Yeah, I guess you're right about that. of course,

you haven't read yours yet." He gripped her hands and squeezed. 

 

She chuckled and pulled free and reached for the letter.  Tearing the end open,

she tapped the paper into her hand and unfolded it.  She read hers as quickly

as he had and shrugged.  "Same old, same old.  BUT no more brothers or sisters."

 

"Just me and you, huh, kid?"  Face smiled easily at her, hooking his arm around

her shoulders and pulling her into the living room.  They settled on the couch

and sat in silence, absorbing each other's presence.  

 

Staring at the flickering tree lights, Ellen appeared thoughtful and then

ventured to ask, "Face?"

 

"Yes?" He looked down at her and waited for the rest.

 

"Can I ask you a question?"

 

He nodded, but added, "I'll answer if I can.  Some things are off limits,

Ellen.  It's just the way I am."  His face tensed and he wondered for the

millionth time if this was the right thing to do.  Getting involved in her life

could be the most wonderful thing he'd ever thought about.  A family of his

own.. But, he had to wonder if she knew what kind of man her brother was,

really.  He wasn't proud of some of the things he'd done, but knowing that he's

always had the team's best interest at heart, he knew he'd do them again.

 

"Okay.  Fair enough.  Back at the cabin, when AJ. dad died. you said something

to me that I haven't been able to forget about.  You said, 'And you don't know

what it's like to leave behind the ones you love.'  And you're right, I don't.

but I think you do.?"

 

Face started to leap up and away from her.  He really, really wanted to tell

her this was one of the things that were off limits, but she held his arm and

looked in his eyes and he knew, he just knew that she'd listen and that she'd

understand.  Hannibal had listened, but he still didn't really understand.

 

"Face. Who is it?  Was it recently or long ago?" 

 

"Both.  But the first time, she left me."  Face relaxed and let his mind go

back and he began to talk.  "Her name is Meagan and she has my daughter,

Natalie.  I love them both and some day, I'm going to go back and tell them

that."  His declaration had eased his mind somehow and he knew it was the

truth.  Someday, he would be ready and able to lay claim to what had to be his.

 

 

Soon, he'd rehashed the whole story and ended his monologue by showing his

sister the pictures he'd stashed in his pocket before leaving the Langley

compound.

 

Ellen examined the photo carefully.  Her niece had her father's; Face's eyes

and she thought this might be the most beautiful child she'd ever seen.  "She's

beautiful. I wish I could meet her, both of them.  Meagan must be very

special."  Already her mind was whirling with ways to do just that: meet both

her niece and the woman who so totally held her brother's heart.  After all,

she was her brother's sister.

 

Face grinned and took the picture back, tucking it safely into his pocket.

"Natalie turned five a few months ago.  She is so smart. it just amazed me

every time she asked questions that I would never have thought a child that age

would.  Meagan has done a wonderful job raising her.  I feel so grateful for

that. Ellen, how in the Hell did AJ do it?"  Suddenly, Face felt anger rise

toward the man who had abandoned them both.  He'd felt so many things in the

last few weeks, since their discovery.  Hurt, confusion, others that he just

couldn't identify. but the anger toward AJ was new.  Twisting to look directly

at Ellen, Face went on.  "I mean, I'd do just about anything to see her, both

of them, again right now. even just to hear their voices. how could he just

walk away and forget?" 

 

Tears were gathering in his eyes and he felt one slide down his cheek.

Horrified at his emotional response, he groaned and stood up, turning away from

Ellen.

 

From behind him, he heard her rise and then he felt her arms slide around his

waist and her head rest on the center of his back.  "Face, it's okay.  I love

you brother. and I'm so proud of you. do you know that?"

 

"Oh God, Ellen, I love you, too."  He gripped her hands in front of him and

they held on to each other as dark descended outside.  The colored lights on

Ellen's tree twinkled over the brother and sister as they held each other for

the first time.  The first of many in days to come.

 

 

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Across the country, Meagan Burkes held her daughter under the softly glowing

white lights of her own Christmas tree.  Presents were stacked under the tree

and Natalie watched as a cold rain fell against their window. 

 

'Silent Night' played softly in the background and a plate of untouched cookies

lay before them.  It was the week before Christmas and Natalie would ordinarily

have been bouncing off the wall, but she just didn't seem herself this week.

She tired easily and grew cranky.  Just today her mother had noticed how the

pallor on her tiny face and how the dark area under her eyes became more

pronounced as the day progressed. 

 

Meagan watched as Natalie squirmed in her lap, looking for a comfortable spot.

she grunted softly and then pushed away from her mother's arms and legs and

laid on the couch cushions.  "Your bones hurt mine, mommy." Natalie closed her

eyes and soon slept.

 

Watching her breathing, Meagan wondered again if her child was coming down with

the flu.  Several kids and teachers had been out with it this past two weeks at

Natalie's school.  She had all the symptoms, tired, cranky, achy. she'd

probably wake up with an upset stomach in the morning.  Meagan was sure it was

just the flu.

 

Still, something niggled in the back of her mind.  She'd call David in the

morning.  The most lovely new family doctor had moved into town just a few

weeks ago and David had recommended her highly. a Dr. Maggie Sullivan.  Maybe

she'd see her instead.  David was trying to focus on his new private, adult

practice and his new wife, Kim.

 

Making up her mind, she rose wearily from the couch, scooped her daughter into

her arms and carried her to her bedroom.  Covering her warmly, she left,

leaving the door open so she could hear Natalie if she called out for her in

the night.

 

Meagan quickly washed her face and brushed her teeth then walked to her own

room.  Shivering in the slight cool of the December night air, she burrowed

under her blankets.  Closing her eyes, she saw a sudden, near painful flash of

a handsome, tanned face with eyes the color of her daughter's.  Her own gray

eyes flew open and she groaned to herself. she didn't have the energy for

this..

 

Flopping onto her back, she closed her eyes to try and sleep again.  An hour

later, she was still pretending she was successful.

 

 

THE END 

 

 


A Handful of Choices by Jenny
A Handful of Choices #2 by Jenny
A Handful of Choices #3 by Jenny
A Handful of Choices #4 by Jenny

 

 


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