Disclaimer: Fan Fiction is for fun, not for monetary profit. I own ... a computer (and nothing else worth mentioning).
Title: Unanticipated Responsibility
Author: Aeryn Alexander
Summary: When confronted with a crisis, does Sissy have what it takes to take care of everyone else?
Rating: PG (Dramatic Situations)
Spoilers: Really, of course, there are.
Genre: Drama/General
Author's Note: The author does not write comedy. Consider that fair warning. The author is well aware that the show upon which this fan fiction is based is a family situation comedy, not a drama. Apparently she didn't/ doesn't care. She also knows that it is affected to refer to oneself in the third person. Please read, review, and request that a "Family Affair" category be added. Thanks!

Chapter One

Just Fourteen

When Sissy opened the door to her Uncle Bill's apartment that afternoon, returning from school and a few hours of hanging out with her friends, she expected to find French bustling about either in the kitchen or elsewhere and the runts working on their homework or playing in their room. Then she remembered that Buffy and Jody had an after school field trip that would barely have them home in time for dinner and that Mister French was probably on his way back from the grocer's, having mentioned just that morning that they were running low on something or other. Chives, she thought. Uncle Bill, on the other hand, was attending a business conference in Denver and wasn't scheduled to return to the city for another two days.

Sissy, while not the most conscientious of students, especially where tiresome book work was concerned, understood the importance and practical value of reading the occasional book and turning in the occasional piece of homework, not to mention that she tried to set a good example for her two younger siblings. After grabbing a piece of fruit from the kitchen, she tossed her backpack on her bed and started to work on a rather tedious algebra assignment.

After about an hour of pencil chewing and copious amounts of scribbling and erasing, the sound of the front door being opened roused Sissy from her schoolwork induced stupor. The pounding of small sneaker-clad feet brought an instant smile to her face. The runts were finally home!

"Sissy!" yelled Jody, suddenly appearing in the open doorway of her room with Buffy and Mrs. Beasly just behind him.

"Hey guys! How was school?" she asked, moving her books out of the way as they pounced on her bed.

"It was great! We went to Mrs. Rosetti's bakery and watched her bake bread." Buffy answered.

"I want to be a baker when I grow up!" said Jody with a grin.

"Me too!" said Buffy.

"Wow." said Sissy with what she hoped sounded like approval and enthusiasm. After all, the runts had blown up a goodly portion of Uncle Bill's kitchen on the very day of their arrival in New York, not that long ago. "Exciting." she added.

With that the twins, at Sissy's behest, took their books and things to their own room and started doing their own homework, which was relatively light, while she returned to the algebra with renewed energy. From time to time she could hear giggles from the runts' room that led her to believe that perhaps they weren't working as diligently as she, but then, they were only kids, so she let it slide.

Sissy lost track of time after that. Only when she glanced into the hall and realized that it seemed dusky, did she bother to check her watch. It was almost seven o'clock. The giggling in the other room had died down some time ago and the apartment was very quiet. Sissy closed her books and slipped off her bed, frowning thoughtfully as she did so. She walked into the kitchen, which was empty: no groceries and no Mister French. Sissy was almost positive that she had not heard him return from the grocery store or where ever else the butler might have gone to run his afternoon errands. He was running very late, and that was certainly unlike French.

"Sissy?" questioned a voice, Jody's, from the hall.

"We're hungry." Buffy complained.

The oldest of the trio was seldom at a loss as to how to fix the simple problems. She just smiled and walked to the refrigerator as the twins followed.

"Well, guys, maybe I can whip up some sandwiches for us." she suggested as the pair stood watching her.

"Where's Mister French?" asked Jody.

"I don't know. Maybe he ran into someone he knows while he was out." suggested Sissy, not wanting to let on that she was just a tiny bit worried.

Sissy was no gourmet chef, of course, but she had in her younger days become something an expert on making a meal for three on the fly and she heard no more complaints from the twins once the sandwiches were served.

They were halfway through their meal when the telephone rang. Sissy wasn't sure whether to feel relieved or concerned as she slipped out of her seat to answer it. The runts were still munching away happily as she picked up the receiver.

"Davis residence." she answered.

"This is Officer Carmichael. I'm afraid I have some bad news." said the voice on the other end of the line.

Sissy took a deep breath, feeling suddenly ten years old again. She had answered the phone that night too while the baby-sitter was putting Jody and Buffy to bed. That police officer, who had had a thick midwestern accent instead of a New York one, had asked her to find an adult for him to speak with. He too had said something about bad news. Sissy remembered running up stairs to tell the sitter. The baby-sitter, Jamie from across the street, had looked nervous when Sissy told her that a policeman was on the phone. Jamie had told her to stay with Jody and Buffy and to read the two-year-olds a bedtime story. Then Jamie had walked out and closed the door. Sissy took another deep breath and stepped a few feet down the hall before saying anything.

"Yes, officer?"

"Can I speak to an adult? Your parents maybe?" the officer asked. Something in his voice was impatient, but not unkindly.

"Do they all sound like that?" Sissy wondered silently. "I'm afraid Uncle Bill isn't in right now." she told Officer Carmichael. "You'll have to speak to me." she added, mustering all of her confidence just to make the statement.

"Right ..." said the officer. "Well, I need to get in touch with this guy's family and ... the only number he had in his wallet was this one."

"Mister French?" Sissy blurted out.

"Yeah, that's the name."

"What happened?" asked Sissy in a quieter voice, glancing into the kitchen to make sure that Buffy and Jody were still eating and not listening.

"He was hit by a car in a crosswalk. They've got him down at the hospital." he explained.

"How is he?" asked Sissy, biting her lower lip.

"Look, I don't have much information here. I just need to notify his relatives, if I can. Are you his family or not?" asked Officer Carmichael.

Sissy hesitated, but only for a second before answering, "Yes." They may not have been exactly related, but she had come to think of the English butler as part of her extended family.

"Great." said the officer. Sissy thought she could hear him writing something down.

The sound of her own heartbeat in her ears was so loud that she could barely make out the rest of what the officer told her. She just knew that she needed to call Uncle Bill and then get down to the hospital fast. When she hung up the receiver, Sissy tried her best to look and sound calm as she walked back into the kitchen.

"Are you guys done?" she asked them, her voice sounding an octave higher in her own ears. Her voice had a frightened ring to it.

The runts weren't stupid. They could tell something was wrong, so they just nodded, their eyes glued on Sissy.

"Okay. I want you two to go to your room and play quietly for a little while, okay?" she instructed them.

Buffy hesitated in the door and looked up at her big sister as she asked, "Is everything all right, Sissy?"

Sissy was almost glad that they were too young to remember what had happened to their parents, although she had always wished that they had known them better.

"Yeah. Just go to your room, okay?" said Sissy, hoping that Buffy wouldn't ask any more questions.

The little girl, not fooled at all, simply nodded and went to join her brother.

Sissy then went through some papers on the table in the living room, struggling to find the one with her uncle's number on it. Upon locating it, she checked to make sure that the twins had their door closed, grab the phone, and sat down in a chair near the door to the terrace.

The phone rang several times before rolling over to voice mail.

"Bill Davis here. It seems you've caught me at an inopportune time. Leave your name and number and I'll be sure to get back to ya at my earliest convenience." said the prerecorded message.

"Uncle Bill ... it's Sissy. Mister French ... the police called and said he ... There was an accident. Please ... come home ... because I don't think I can handle this. It's ... just like when our parents died. And I don't think I'm ready to go through this again." she said before hanging up and quickly wiping her eyes.

Sissy squeezed her eyes closed as she tried to figure out what to do next. It wasn't easy. She was just fourteen, though comparatively street-wise for a fourteen-year-old Hoosier. She had to get to the hospital. She had to make sure Mister French was ... okay, or at least alive. French ...

"What would French do in this situation?" she asked herself, knowing that the dynamic butler could handle almost anything.

Sissy opened her eyes and managed a determined smile.

"Buffy! Jody!" she yelled, rising from her seat and dropping the telephone on it. The runts came running and looked at her expectantly. "We're going out. We might not be coming back until in the morning, so I want you to pack up all of your school things and a change of clothes and underwear. I want you to do it fast." she told them, fighting to keep the smile on her face as she gave them the instructions.

"Where are we going?" asked Jody.

"Doesn't matter. Just pack. I need you to be ready in five minutes, no more." she said, adopting her stern older-sisterly tone. They knew better than to disobey her when she used that voice.

The pair scampered off instantly while Sissy dashed to her own room to pack a bag of bare necessities for herself. She wanted to believe that French was okay, that he wasn't dead, that he wasn't going to die, that he was just waiting for them to come and get him. But Sissy knew better than to be that optimistic. He had been hit by a car, after all, and that was no small matter.

As she zipped up her own tightly packed bag, the same one she used for school, she considered getting a few things for French.

"He would kill me if I went poking around in his room." she thought, shaking her head. The more practical side of her, however, thought, "But if he's not ... dead ... he'll want fresh clothes. And how hard can it be to put a couple things in a bag for him?" Sissy almost laughed as she thought that. "And who's going to schlep that bag across town?"

The door to the butler's room as unlocked when Sissy finally made up her mind to grab a change of clothes and some other things for him. The room was immaculate, pristine, frighteningly orderly and neat. She could hardly believe it as she set a carry-on bag on his perfectly made bed. She glanced around the room again as she opened his closet. Here was a man whose life was dedicated to order. Her stomach flip-flopped ever-so-slightly as she looked at the mostly dark clothes in the closet.

"I'm not dressing him for his funeral." she thought, berating herself for the mild wave of dizziness.

Sissy grabbed a pair of perfectly pressed khaki trousers and a green-gray knit sweater from the rear of the closet and immediately closed the door. That would have to do.

The more personal items were in a bureau. She chose them with great haste and some embarrassment, tossing them into the bag with the neatly folded outer garments and a pair of shoes she had found tucked beneath bed. She grabbed a razor from his bathroom, unable to imagine French without a good shave, and started to zip the bag. Then she glimpsed his robe, hanging on the bathroom door and grabbed it too. Having once bed hospitalized overnight for a concussion, Sissy knew well the inadequacies of hospital garments. The bag would hardly zip, but it contained everything Sissy thought he would need, and the entire process had settled her nerves substantially.

The runts had dutifully packed their school bags with everything Sissy had told them to and were sitting in the hall, too afraid to go into French's room to get her.

"Is Mister French coming too?" asked Buffy as Sissy made a cursory check of their luggage.

"In a manner of speaking." she said before helping them put the backpacks on and grabbing her own. Sissy hefted the other bag and led the twins out of the apartment, feeling more confident and ready to face whatever lay ahead.


A/N: I really hate to tack another note onto this story, but ... I don't like children. I haven't spent time with any since I was one. I have also never been to New York. Or a 'lively' arts high school. And factual errors probably abound (for instance, when did the kids' parents die? I couldn't find out.) Oh, and if anyone notices the chapter titles and figures out what they are ... I'll give you special recognition in the end notes. Thanks again for reading!