Chapter Six

I'm Going Home

Bill awoke with a jolt as he felt the plane began to descend. He rubbed his eyes and glanced out the window. It was too dark to see anything but his own tired reflection staring back at him.

"New York?" he asked the guy across the aisle.

"Where else?" replied the man, giving him an odd look.

"Philadelphia, Albany, Boston ..." he thought to himself, ticking off possible destinations other than home. It had taken him so long to get there that he just couldn't take it for granted.

The descent seemed unusually and painfully slow as Uncle Bill glanced from his watch to the window. It seemed as though time were grinding to a halt until the plane touched down and the mad dash from the plane to the arrival gates began. Bill hustled through the crowded airport and caught the first available cab outside.

He gave the driver the address of his apartment and removed his cell phone from his pocket. The battery had died during the last leg of his trip. He was almost positive that French and kids were still at the hospital, but he had to check. If they had come home already, then he would be searching every hospital in the city in vain to find them.

Bill paid the cabby, gave him a really good tip, and asked him to wait. The guy was only too happy to oblige as Uncle Bill jogged into the building, nodding to the doorman as he caught the elevator door, which was just closing.

The apartment was, of course, deserted. To him it seemed as though no one had been home for sometime. There were dishes in the kitchen left over from the dinner interrupted the night before, and all of the doors were open. Then he saw the note by the phone and managed a small relieved smile as he skimmed and pocketed it before dashing back down stairs.

Sissy had thought of almost everything, he conceded, as he climbed back into the taxi and examined the note more closely.

The lights were dimmed considerably in the hospital room as the kindly night nurse let him inside. Gladys had told him everything. For a moment Uncle Bill just stood there looking at the two kids asleep on the cot in the corner, Sissy sleeping curled up in a chair, and French softly snoring in the hospital bed. He was momentarily in awe of the peacefulness of the scene. Sissy moved slightly in her sleep, snuggling deeper into her blanket as she did so. Bill looked at Gladys and the nurse chuckled. They stepped back into the hallway for a moment.

"I don't want to wake them, not for anything. I can see that they need their rest. Could I possibly get a chair brought in there?" asked Bill with a smile.

"Take one from the waiting room, if you would like. It's a slow night, Mister Davis, and I don't think we'll need them all." she answered.

Uncle Bill dragged the chair into the as quietly as possible while Gladys returned to her other patients and other duties. As he closed the door it made a soft squeak and the snoring stopped. Bill winced as he heard French stirring.

"Hush, now." said Bill in a whisper as he stepped quickly to French's bedside. "Everyone's sleeping." he added.

"Sir? You're back." said French, keeping his voice low and starting to sit up.

Bill shook his head and laid a hand on French's shoulder, indicating that he shouldn't get up, as he told him, "Of course, I am, French. Better late than never, right?"

"Indeed, sir." he agreed.

"How are you feeling?" asked Bill.

"As though I were run over by a very large truck, although they say that it was only a small compact and I went over it. I'm not entirely certain that I believe them." answered French.

"Well, you don't look half bad." said Bill, glad to see that French's rather dry sense of humor remained intact.

"Are you going to take them home, sir? I should think that's where they belong now."

"Nah, I don't think Sissy would go for it, not after all the hours she's put in here. I think she'd want to see it through."

"Perhaps you're right." said French, glancing over at her where she appeared to be sleeping contentedly. "She has been a great comfort, sir." he added.

"Still think she's irredeemable?"

"I would take back that remark, if I may."

"You may." chuckled Uncle Bill.

"Thank you, sir."

"Don't mention it. And get some rest, would you? I intend to do the same." Bill told him with an amused look.

"Of course, sir." French yawned quietly.

Sissy smiled behind her blanket as she listened to Uncle Bill and French talking. Who could sleep through a discussion like that? French's voice alone would have been sufficient to wake her. She lay awake for sometime even after she heard the sound of her uncle removing his jacket and taking a seat in his chair. She had been sleeping uneasily, but with the knowledge that her uncle was home and that everything was going to be okay at last, she could slumber more restfully. Of course, she would have some fun with French concerning that comment about her being 'irredeemable', but that could certainly wait until morning, if not later.

She smiled again as she closed her eyes, thinking to herself, "Buffy and Jody will be in for a big surprise tomorrow."

When the early morning light at last came streaming in through the blinds on the window, Uncle Bill sat up in his not entirely comfortable chair and stretched, looking around at his still sleeping family. The nurse had mentioned something about French's release being official at eight o'clock. An hour, he guessed, looking at his watch, which was still on mountain time. He could hear the quiet sound of footsteps in the hallway as doctors and nurses walked to and fro outside. It was definitely time for all of them to get moving.

Bill cautiously left his seat, rubbing his lower back as he did so. Sleeping in chairs was definitely an activity for the young, he decided. He prodded the twins' cot with his foot, jostling it just enough to wake them.

"Uncle Bill!" Buffy shrieked as she sat up, grabbing Mrs. Beasly before jumping from the cot to hug him with Jody just behind.

"We thought you'd never come home!" said Jody.

"Now you two should know better than that!" he admonished with a grin.

"Mrs. Beasly says that she thought we were going to stay here forever." Buffy pouted, squeezing her doll even closer than usual.

"Well, your sister says that you should have more faith in Uncle Bill ... and in me." Sissy told them, stifling a yawn as she uncurled from her chair and blanket.

"I couldn't have put it better myself." said French.

"Right," said Uncle Bill, finally releasing his niece and nephew, "and now all we have to do is get you up and out of here."

"If a pair of crutches could be found, I would be only too happy to comply." answered French.

"Sissy, you want to handle all of that while I take Buffy and Jody to have some breakfast? They look a little underfed." said Bill.

"Hey, looks can be deceiving." said Sissy, watching the twins' eyes light up at the mention of a meal. "Well, maybe I could've done better at that part." she privately acknowledged.

"It's settled then." said their uncle, offering a hand to each of the runts. "We'll be back in half an hour." he added.

As the door closed Sissy sighed and said, "You know, that would have made a lot more sense if I had taken the runts to get breakfast and he stayed here with you."

"Your uncle just wants you to know that he has confidence in you and that you have proven yourself to him." said French.

"Great. Do you want the crutches now or after you get dressed?" she questioned.

"While. Perhaps you could locate a pair while I am dressing." replied French, almost expertly lowering the railing of his bed. He paused thoughtfully before asking, "Am I to understand that you have brought clothing with you?"

Sissy slid the bag from beneath the bed and placed it next to French with an undisguised smirk.

"I packed it in a rush." she warned as he began sifting through the contents.

French removed the razor she had packed for him and commented, "I am very much relieved that isn't pink." "But I do thank you." he added, examining her choice of outfits without further comment as she blushed slightly.

"You're going to need some help." she remarked uncomfortably.

"With the shave ... perhaps, but certainly not with anything else." he said.

"Fine. Get dressed and everything while I get your crutches." agreed Sissy.

As he slipped from the bed, balancing carefully on one foot, Sissy just sighed, shouldered his bag and guided him the few steps to the bathroom before setting small suitcase down on the sink inside.

"You have ten minutes." she told him, closing the door.

Dolores had a pair of crutches waiting, but Sissy took her time getting them, knowing that French would want his privacy. When she returned, the door was open and French was making a valiant attempt at shaving with one arm in a sling. Seeing her reflection behind him in the mirror, he smiled slightly and turned, leaning on the sink. Sissy propped up the crutches and held out her hand for the razor.

"I have no doubt that you will cut me to bits." he said, half jokingly.

"Just sit down and try not to move." answered Sissy, gesturing toward the rim of the tub.

She had helped a guy friend in Ohio shave his head once, but that was for fun and this was different. Though French often tried her patience and she knew that he did not approve of how she chose to live her life, there was a particular sort of closeness, familiarity between them. Sissy smiled slightly as she thought of the Mister French that she remembered from childhood and had once thrown-up on back then. Throw-up, like blood, was also thicker than water, it seemed.

"Wow, what a gross analogy!" she thought to herself as she rinsed the razor.

French closed his eyes after a moment, trusting her almost despite himself as she cradled the back of his head in one hand and held the razor in the other. He was quite surprised in the end, when she wiped the excess soap from his face with a towel, that she had managed not to nick him.

"Masterful work." he commented, opening his eyes and daring to touch his face as he heard her begin to rinse the instrument again.

"I'm a girl. I have to be good with a razor." she replied.

"You know, I just wish I had a camera." commented Uncle Bill from the doorway where he had been watching as he smiled at the two of them. "That was a real Kodak moment."

"Hey, weren't you going to give me half an hour?" objected Sissy, blushing furiously.

"Buffy and Jody inhaled their breakfast. Right now they're pushing a wheelchair up and down the ward."

"Why is it that they always behave when they're with me and never when they're with you?" asked Sissy, zipping French's bag and reaching for the crutches.

"Did I hear the word 'wheelchair', sir?" asked French.

Sissy helped him up and slipped a crutch under each arm. He looked oddly practiced in their use as they stepped back into the room.

"Hospital policy." shrugged Bill. "I'll take care of the twins' stuff. You go grab 'em and get that wheelchair in here." he instructed Sissy.

She nodded once and dashed out into the corridor.

"You know, sir, for all of her previous misadventures, the underwear party and the roaming about the city to cite examples, she can be surprisingly grown-up and responsible at times." commented French.

"And independent." added Bill with a chuckle.

"She is unquestionably that, sir." French agreed.

After a pause Bill coughed and asked, "You know I got back here as fast as I could, right?"

"Of course, sir. And the children and I are very grateful, though I must confess that I am sorry to have precipitated this inconvenience ..." said French.

"Ah, French, could've happened to anyone." Uncle Bill told him, cutting him off.

"You must tell me about your trip back sometime, sir. I was very heavily medicated when Sissy explained it to me. It must have awful."

"Well ... it was no picnic. You know how it is, French, when you have to get somewhere in a hurry and can't. It was like that."

Meanwhile, in the hall outside Sissy had just confiscated the wheelchair that Buffy and Jody had been racing up and down the ward, taking advantage of Dolores's temporary absence from the main desk. They had zoomed by at a nice clip when Sissy had stepped into the hallway.

"But it was my turn to ride!" complained Jody, who always seemed to play second fiddle to his more confident and outgoing twin sister, not to mention her doll.

"I told you guys that you have to behave while we are here! Does that include racing a wheelchair? I don't think so. You two are just lucky that I'm not going to tell Uncle Bill what you were up to." she said, trying not smile. What would their uncle say? Well, no one had gotten hurt, so probably not much.

She pushed the wheelchair into the hospital room with Buffy and Jody trailing behind her.

"Is this really necessary?" asked French.

"Oh, sit down and give me the crutches, would you?" Bill sighed impatiently as Buffy threw her books in her bag and slung it upon her back.

"Of course, sir." said French as he complied.

"Then I guess we're ready to get out of here." said Bill with a smile, passing Buffy and Jody their backpacks.

"Finally." said Sissy with a laugh, stepping behind the wheelchair once again.

Looking at her over his shoulder, French began to ask, "Are you sure ...?"

"Buffy and Jody could always do it. They've been practicing." Sissy suggested with a gleam in her eye.

"Never mind." replied French quickly.

Bill watched for a moment as Sissy pushed Mister French into the hall, flanked on either side by Buffy and Jody, and he smiled.

"This is my family." he said, reminding himself one more time about those pictures for his wallet.

The End


A/N: This is it. No one reviewed. Ah, well. But there's still time ...