remember: all UC characters are the property of their creators. 
 

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Scene: Five years from now, September, 2007. 

Setting--the deck of a lakeside restaurant. Deck is empty, save for the Special Operations Unit. Frank wants it that way, and when Frank wants something, he gets it.

"The past five years have been both a pleasure, and a pain," Frank said to Jake, Cody, Monica, and Laura Zanidean. Laura had been Alex's replacement three years before when Alex had decided to defect to the private sector and become Cortez's personal bodyguard and lover.

Frank continued his speech. "After negotiating the release of the Ethiopian plane hostages, I beached myself. I found myself wondering just what I was doing in the Justice Department, risking my life--and my family's lives. For six months I was on sabbatical, weighing my options, thinking about my family and about my own future."  Frank paused for a moment, and picked up a glass of wine from the table. 

"So that's why you beached yourself," Cody said.  Frank looked at him over the rim of his wine glass. He took a sip of the Chablis.

"Yes," he told Cody, putting down the wine glass. 

"You wondered if the benefits of your job was worth the stress you put yourself, and your family through," Monica said, picking up her own glass of wine and sipping.

"More precisely, yes. The stress of working in the Justice department, and negotiating the release of hostages does take a toll on a person. There is always the chance that a protoge of the thief you're trying to catch will come up with the idea of taking you down unawares," Frank said.

"And it's easy to get information on just about anyone these days," Monica said.

"The internet, private detective agencies," Laura put in, brushing a lock of blonde hair out of her eyes. 

"And that's why your past is classified," Jake said, gaining more understanding, after five years, why so little information was available on Frank Donovan's past, and why Frank Donovan himself had volunteered so little about his private life. Five years, and the man's past was still largely a dark shadow. 

Frank now looked at Jake. "Having a classified past makes it more difficult for someone to get the idea of coming after me, and taking down my family in order to get my attention."

"So you have hideouts, where you feel your family's safe?" asked Laura, brushing another lock of her hair out of her eyes. Frustrated, she took out a pen and wrapped her hair around the pen, pinning her hair up in a bun. 

"Yes," was the curt reply, and the tone of Frank's voice told each member of the team that this was a subject not to be discussed.

"Sort of like when we put Sonny Walker into the Witness Protection Program, and we became responsible for protecting his new identity," Monica now said. She'd been the one to come up with a totally new past for Sonny Walker. 

"Even with the plastic surgery, you can still tell it's Sonny by looking at his eyes," Laura said.

"But only if you knew what Sonny's eye color was before," Cody said. "Sonny now has to put colored contact lenses in when he goes out during the day."

"Requirement of the Witness Protection Program," Frank said. "And it wouldn't be a good idea to keep using his real name. David Schnell will suffice."

"Where did you come up with that name?" Laura now asked Monica.

Monica, for her part, gave Laura a steely glance which caused the corner's of Frank's lips to curl up. "Phone book," she said shortly.

Frank's lips now curled into an actual smile. Yes, he thought. She's learning how to withhold information, he finished the thought. He had some business to discuss about Sonny--David--with the team, and he was waiting for just the right moment. He'd actually hoped to bring up the business of David Schnell during dessert, but with the subject already at hand, he was thinking about telling the team what he was planning.

The team was silent, and Frank noticed Laura was still a bit miffed about her reprimand from Monica. Three years she'd been with the SOU and still learning. But she had the beginnings of a fine agent. Orphaned, like Jake, Laura had gone through numerous foster homes prior to her twelfth birthday, when she'd finally been adopted. Seven years later, she was orphaned again when her adoptive parents had died in a plane crash over India. 

The waitress now brought their lunches. Cody and Laura were having the same lunch: broiled sole with baked potatoes. Jake was diving into a porterhouse steak and Monica was having the clams. 

For Frank's own lunch, he was having the broiled shrimp. 

"Smells good," Cody said, picking up his fork.

"Looks good," Laura said, as Cody put his fork into Laura's mouth unexpectedly. Laura smiled as she tried to chew and keep her mouth shut. 

"I'm leaving SOU," Frank said suddenly. The team looked at him, dumbfounded. 

"Leaving? Why?" Cody asked, a feeling of terror balling up in his stomach. 

Frank took a bite of his shrimp, chewed and swallowed before answering. "Greener pastures," he said, spearing another shrimp and eating it. He deliberately avoided looking at the team members. 

"Who's..." Laura started to ask, but trailed off at a sharp look from Frank. He would tell them the rest of the news in good time. 

Jake, for his part, just sat there thinking about Frank's words. Greener pastures. Jake realized that Frank had a hideout, a safe house, for his family. Greener pastures might mean that Frank was going off to wherever it is that Frank was going off to, and possibly Frank was meaning that he had a farm somewhere. Ahh, the sweet scent of confusion! Jake thought as he cut his steak. 

Frank now took the opportunity to look at each team member in turn. "Jake will be the unit's new leader," he said as Jake finished stuffing a bite of his steak into his mouth. Jake nearly choked.

"What?" Jake tried to say around his mouthful of steak.

Frank gave him a sharp glance that told Jake to finish chewing before he talked. Damn him, Jake thought to himself. He still makes me feel like a kid and I'm 35! 

"I leave tomorrow," Frank now said, spearing another shrimp and biting into it. 

Jake finished chewing while he thought about Frank's words. The new leader of SOU? He forced himself to act nonchalant, as if he'd known that Frank was going to hand the leadership of the SOU to him over lunch, so he forked another mouthful of steak into his mouth and chewed, trying to emulate Frank's emotionless expression. 

But a small corner of his mind told him that he wasn't fooling anyone, much less Monica. Jake looked at her to gauge her reaction to Frank's statement. 

Monica was looking off to the side, trying to hide her emotions. Frank noticed her and said softly, "I know its sudden, but it's for the best. Less time to react." 

Monica nodded but took her napkin and held it up to her face, trying hide her tears. Over the past five years, she'd grown to love Frank, not a sexual love, but a love nonetheless. She had to admit there was a certain attraction to a man like Frank Donovan: he was intelligent, capable, strong, silent, and he got the job done. Frank had been her steadying rock over the last five years and she'd grown into a capable psychologist just a few rungs below Frank's own capabilities. Perhaps this was why Frank had kept her on the team, when she'd realized that her own psychology background was merely duplicating Frank's.

Then it struck her, Frank had known he was going to leave the unit before he'd accepted the job. He'd seen the unit as a challenge to him, one of the few challenges left open to him. Did Frank decide to teach her how to be a psychologist near his own caliber, preparing the unit for the time when he left it? Or rather, when he'd taken early retirement. 

Retirement! That's what Frank was thinking about when he'd beached himself. How many more years would it take for him to retire on a government pension? Once he'd figured the answer to that question out, Frank had decided to take on the Special Operations Unit, knowing that he could wrangle with the federal government and take early retirement.  

Oh yeah, Monica knew how much money Frank earned in a year. Frank was one of the elite: a member of the SES--the Senior Executive Service. Tack on hazardous duty pay and Frank's salary was more than our President's salary: over two hundred thousand a year. Frank would need money for his family, and for his retirement. His choice of the SOU as employment would give Frank the extra financial cushion he'd need if he wanted early retirement and rid himself of the stress of working in their type of job. 

Many times she'd wondered just why she was employed with the SOU after Frank became leader. Under Keller, she'd been needed. He'd needed her to provide the psychological analysis and provide the profiles on the criminals they'd been assigned to catch. But Frank was a master criminal psychologist, much better than Monica could ever hope to become. When he'd first started with the unit, Monica had felt a bit left out once she'd realized his full capabilities while they were negotiating for the release of the former attorney general's son. 

But Monica knew now that Frank had been preparing her for the assumption of his duties Under Keller, the unit had enjoyed a lot of success. But it had been under Frank's leadership that they'd thrived. Monica had studied hard, learned well, and she was determined to make Frank proud of her. She risked taking a look at Frank and when she did, she found him gazing back at her, a soft glow in his eyes. He smiled at her, and she put down her napkin and picked up her wine glass. 

Cody had stopped eating and he was merely watching Frank. He didn't know what to think. His emotions were on a roll, but the predominant emotion was a feeling of loss. Over the past five years, he too had grown used to Frank and had grown used to working as a team.

The shadow of Keller had finally dissipated after the shooting of Frank Donovan. True, before the dark day of Frank's shooting and his subsequent near death from blood loss, Cody had thought Frank was little more than a robot, but then he'd seen Frank interact with Danny Montalto. The ten year old, now a fifteen year old paraplegic skiing star--albeit on a monoski--had somehow connected with Frank and had melted Frank's heart. Cody remembered being dumbfounded at the softness that Frank had shown Danny and it had been in Danny's hospital room that Cody had realized that Frank was indeed human. 

Since then, Cody had looked at Frank in a new light. He'd begun to understand that underneath that rough exterior, the man of steel possessed a heart of gold. He'd been standing side by side with Frank when Danny Montalto, who, just last year at 14 years old, had won his first bronze medal in monoskiing at the Para-Olympics. Frank had been cheering as Danny had come barreling down the hill, winning the bronze.

Danny's smile of pride had warmed everyone's heart, including Cody's. He remembered standing there beside Frank that day not so long ago, and he had seen the warmth in Frank's face watching Danny ski to glory. He remembered thinking that it had been a blessing to have Frank in his life, to have Frank teach him a thing or two about being human. 

During the past five years, Cody had often found himself assigned to assist Danny with Danny's own organization to help paraplegics. Frank had worked his contacts and had procured computer equipment to assist paraplegics in their everyday lives and Cody had found the experience wonderful. He'd installed computer equipment so a quadriplegic little girl could finally spell out "I love you, Mommy," on the computer screen using eye contact software that Cody had programmed and was now marketing to a private software firm. What a feeling Cody had had that day!

Now, Cody sat on the deck of the restaurant, watching as Frank ate his food. He knew that Frank was going to be silent for a while longer, allowing his news to sink in. Cody was feeling like he was losing an older brother. That thought brought a tear to Cody's eye and he looked away.

"I do have one last assignment for you, Cody," Frank said softly. Cody turned his head back towards Frank. Frank was looking at him with his large dark brown eyes. "It's a personal request. I'll fill you in later," he told Cody.

Cody tried to hold back his tears, but he managed to nod his head. Frank glanced down at Cody's food, making Cody realize that Frank was telling him he should eat, that he would feel better.

Cody had taken a bite of his broiled soil and then looked back at Frank with a start. How in hell did I know that Frank was telling me I would feel better if I ate? 

Frank had a ghost of a smile on his lips as he he finally poked his fork into his baked potato. Loaded with all the toppings, Cody idly noted. 

Cody glanced at the love of his life: Laura. She didn't really know what to think of Frank. To her, he was an enigma, her boss, and she, at 26 years old, didn't think it was a good idea to think too personally about her boss.

Laura felt Cody's eyes on her and she looked back. She really was too young to have had much experience with her boss leaving. While she'd made an excellent undercover and performed her job well, Frank had just been too distant for her to really connect with him. It had been Cody who'd shown her how to handle the mysterious moods she'd often found Frank in. His aloofness had, at first, alienated her, but she'd decided early on that Frank Donovan--still a legend at the FBI Academy--was just another test. 

Tests. How she'd hated tests. First the test of learning to love her adoptive parents after being bounced around in foster homes. She'd finally decided to attend an adoption fair. She'd always hated the idea of adoption fairs. The foster children were paraded on a walkway, like they were fashion models. Or, they were taken to a park where prospective parents would ask them a list of prepared questions. 

Laura just didn't like the idea of being paraded up and down a walkway.  And from the other foster kids, she'd heard about The Questions, always with capital letters. 

"If the parent doesn't like your choice of music, you're out," said Toni. "I told this one woman I liked Janet Jackson and her face went all screwy like," she had told Laura. "When their faces go all screwy after you answer their question, you know you're not wanted. Next!" Toni had said. Laura had tried to remember that but when she'd seen Mister and Missus Carmichael, she'd known she'd be adopted. She and her future adoptive mother had connected immediately, and Missus Carmichael had merely smiled at Laura's response that she liked Janet Jackson. 

"She comes from a fine family, Laura, and she's got herself a fine voice." Laura had smiled at Missus Carmichael and she'd known she'd found her adoptive mother. 

Then, just as she'd begun to feel safe again, the Carmichaels had died in a plane crash which had ocurred just off the coast of India.  232 dead, and one survivor: a little white dog who had swum to shore and had been found sitting at the water's edge, howling forlornly at the wreckage, some of which had still bobbed on the surface of the shallow water. A young boy had snapped a picture of the little white dog howling and the picture had been run in newspapers worldwide--earning enough money for the boy to send him and his six siblings to college, a miraculous feat for an impoverished family in India. 

Laura had framed that picture and the picture now sat on her desk. Frank had asked her about it one time, and she'd mumbled a reply, turning her head away. When she'd turned her head back, she'd found Frank looking at her softly with his large brown eyes. 

"Learning to trust is a difficult thing. Losing someone to death after you've learned to trust them feels like a betrayal of the heart," he'd told her softly before turning on his heel and leaving her alone.

Laura had been confused at his words. How had he known that the picture represented someone's death in her family? She'd asked Cody that one night over drinks and Cody had set his whiskey down, taken her chin in his hands and gazed into her eyes before responding. 

"Never hide anything from Frank. He's just like his mother. He can put nothing and nothing together and come up with everything."

"His mother? What's his mother have to do with this?" Laura had asked, but Cody had stroked her cheek. 

"His mother? Why his mother's Danita Weissman, the former British child spy!" Cody had told her. Laura had involuntarily pulled back. "Didn't you listen to him the other day during the staff meeting?" 

Laura had shaken her head no. "Danita Weissman's his mother?" she'd asked incredulously, finally making the connection. The entire world had heard of Danita Weissman and how as a seven year old, she'd helped her mother Carmelita reassemble and decipher smuggled documents from Poland. Those documents had proved the existence of the concentration camps that Hitler had been operating, and some of the smuggled documents had contained tactical information about German troops. 

Danita Weissman had been a child spy, and she'd died suddenly of natural causes, just last year, a few days before the British government, after years of unofficial leaks, had confirmed Danita's participation in the M5. Laura suddenly realized that was why Frank had taken off work for two months. He'd travelled to England, ostenibly to assist the British government with setting up a unit similar to the Special Operations Unit. But in reality, Laura now realized, was that he was burying his mother. She also realized that Frank had been in England when his mother had died. 

Laura looked at Frank, who was chewing another mouthful of food. The reality of his loss struck Laura just then, and on its heels, the reality of her own loss: that of not having capable Frank Donovan leading their team. 

The past three years had been trying for Laura and she felt that learning her role on the team would be essential to learning who she really was as a person. Working undercover, she could impersonate anyone, take on another identity for a short time. As a foster child, and much like Jake, she had felt left out, hadn't known where she fit in. 

Without a family to give her an identity, Laura, like Jake, had found she'd needed to make up an identity. It was a difficult job, for Laura didn't have her parent's accomplishments to guide her in her choice of a career. She didn't have an older sibling to look up to, nor did she have cousins to emulate. She was alone, not knowing who she was, or who she was to become. 

When she'd applied to the FBI Academy, she'd thought she wouldn't get in. Her surprise at the Academy's acceptance of her still brought a smile to her lips. Finally, she could begin to feel accepted by people again, so many years after her adoptive parents had been ripped away from her, a result of a faulty wire, a stray spark, and an elderly man's oxygen tank.

Laura took a look around the table. Jake, like Frank, was eating. Did he know about this? Laura wondered to herself. Jake was a good choice to assume leadership. The thought had been in the back of Laura's mind that someone new would be brought in, and they'd be operating under new leadership. Laura wasn't sure how she felt about having a 35 year old as her boss; she was used to Frank, her first and only boss. Jake was closer to her own age and she wasn't sure how she felt about someone being her boss who was less than 10 years her senior. 

Laura looked at Monica, who was sipping her wine and trying not to sniffle. Cody reached out and stroked Laura's cheek and she turned her face towards Cody.

It was then that Frank made his next shocking statement. "David Schnell will be joining this unit under Jake's leadership," Frank said, putting down his fork and lacing his hands together.

"What?!" Cody, Monica and Jake said together.

"David Schnell will be joining this unit under Jake's leadership," Frank repeated. 

Monica spluttered. "But, what, but..." her voice trailed off.

"David's in the witness protection program!" Laura interjected. "He can not join this unit," her tone was sharp.

"Uh-oh," Cody said softly. Frank didn't look at him. His steely gaze was fixed on Laura and Laura started trembling. She'd heard from Jake about being under Frank's scrutiny and in the past three years, she'd been able to avoid his scrutiny. Her time had run out today.

"Laura," Frank said quietly and the rest of the team knew from the tone of his voice that Frank was softly furious. Cody, Jake and Monica silently pushed back their chairs, got up and walked to the far end of the deck, out of earshot of Frank and Laura.

Laura looked scared at their actions. She looked back at Frank, who was now glaring at her.

"Laura. The decisions I make for this unit will be followed. Even when I'm not here and even when Jake is in charge. There is a reason why David--Sonny Walker--is to be employed by this unit. One of the quirks of my personality is that I only divulge my reasons to those who truly need to know why I do what I do. That is standard when working undercover. You are not one of the privileged people, despite the obvious risk of employing David Schnell in this unit."

"But he's a former criminal!" Laura protested. She was about to add more, but Frank held up his hand.

"Laura," he said quietly. "You follow orders and you don't question them. Until now. Jake will be briefed as to why David Schnell is joining this unit at my request. Do you have a problem working with David?" he asked as Laura involuntarily looked away. 

Frank continued. "You've never had a problem going undercover for his benefit during his tenure in the witness protection program. David was the first undercover assignment you worked on."

Laura now looked at Frank. His long winded statement was true: she'd volunteered to be the undercover liason for David when Alex Cross had left the unit to be bodyguard slash lover to Carlos Cortez. Laura had been just 23, and freshly out of the FBI academy. True, they'd made her change her last name--married her to the Special Operations Unit, Laura sometimes thought--but she'd seen going undercover and protecting a former criminal as a challenge. And David Schnell still had many enemies out there who wanted him dead for turning the tables on his mentor. 

And here she was, acting like a hypocrite by saying one thing and doing another. She looked at Frank and said, "No, sir. No, I don't have a problem with Son--with David--joining this unit."

"Go on," Frank said, clearly expecting her to give him her reasons why she wouldn't mind David joining the SOU. 

Laura considered her next words. She was confused. First Frank had told her he didn't tell her his reasons why he made his judgments, now he was fully expecting her to give him her reasons for not having a problem with David joining the SOU.

Why did Frank do this to her--make her explain her reasoning to him? she thought to herself as she collected her thoughts. Working with Frank was like being under surveillance twenty four seven--you couldn't run and you couldn't hide from anyone in the SOU.

Laura gasped, taking in her breath suddenly.

"Did you come to a conclusion?" Frank asked her. 

Laura nodded. 

"And that conclusion is...?" Frank prompted.

"It was..." she started but Frank interrupted her.

"The conclusion is..." he corrected.

"The conclusion is that employing David Schnell would be more effective than continuing to have him in the witness protection program. And more effective than having him in prison," she said. 

Frank nodded. "Does that make sense?"

Now it was Laura's turn to nod. "Yes. Yes it does."

"Laura, there are many reasons as to why, at times, I don't fully explain my actions. I give my reasons to those who need to know. But there are times when I need my staff to figure things out for themselves."

"Figuring things out for ourselves makes us better agents," Laura intoned. "Heard that so much in the Academy."

Frank laughed heartily, causing Jake, Cody and Monica to turn around and gape at him. Frank laughing heartily was rarely seen and even Laura was gaping at Frank. 

"You, Laura, were one of the best trainees the academy's ever had. One of the top ten. While you don't have my, or my mother's capacity for solving puzzles instantaneously, you do have that certain something that I was looking for in a replacement for Alex Cross."

"So that's why you kept at me, day after day for those two grueling weeks just before I was graduated with Top Honors?" Laua asked, understanding dawning in her eyes. Instructor Frank Donovan had been the bane of Academy class--a legend in the FBI who was finally teaching for a few weeks. And how she'd been surprised when she'd walked into her new office--a warehouse--and seen the legendary Frank Donovan sitting behind his desk. 

Frank nodded. "Those two weeks were a test," he held up his hand at her sharp, hurt look. "I know you hate tests. You felt that you were being tested when you decided to go to the adoption fair."

"You know about that?"

"I know about the backgrounds of all my staff," Frank said. "I also know you hadn't made the connection between me and my mother Danita until Cody told you. Those are intensely personal connections that you have trouble drawing conclusions between. That's a result of your background. But you demonstrate a good capacity for drawing conclusions in other areas."

"So that's why you kept grilling me, kept giving me question after question about cracked cases," Laura said.

"Yes. You must realize by now there are certain personalities who complement the SOU's employment needs. But you must also know that undercover work requires certain snap judgements. You demonstrated well your ability during those two weeks I taught at the Academy."

"Thank you," was Laura's automatic response. She looked at Frank and realized that her response was what Frank expected. He was complimenting her abilities, and compliments from Frank Donovan were few and far between. 

"There will be times working with Sonny Walker that you will need to make snap judgments. Jake made a snap judgment five years ago which propelled him to assume the leadership of this unit."

"And that judgment was?" Laura asked, but as soon as the words exited her full lips, she knew she'd made a mistake.

"He'll tell you what his judgment was, if he so chooses," Frank said. He waved his hand, and the other three team members started walking back. 

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell the others what conclusions you've drawn, Laura. I'll tell them in my own good time," Frank said. Laura nodded and took a bite of her sole. It was still hot, and she was surprised. She'd thought the conversation she'd just had with Frank had taken an eternity. But then again, coming under Frank's scrutiny often seemed like an eternity, Cody's voice echoed in her mind. 

"Nice chat?" quipped Cody. He was fully expecting Frank to look at him sharply, and that's what he got. But there was something else in Frank's look: was that a ghost of a smile? Cody looked intently at Frank's lips. Monica had sat down after smiling at Laura. 

"Do I have sour cream on my face, Cody?" Frank asked, snapping Cody out of his scrutiny. 

"Nope," Cody replied, for once out of jokes.

"Good. I'll need to see you alone after we return to the nest. It's a special assignment," Frank reminded, smiling at Cody. The corner's of Frank's eyes crinkled.

Jake sat down and took a long sip of his iced tea. Overhead, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. He was feeling rather good, despite the feeling of emptiness he'd felt ever since Frank had announced just a short time ago that he was leaving the SOU tomorrow. 

He'd finally come to terms with his childhood, and with his own rebellious years. After helping Sonny go into hiding as David Schnell, Jake had discovered, with Frank's help, why Sonny had come back from his self-imposed exile. He'd also discovered that he was Frank's protoge and that one day he'd be leading the unit. 

He wasn't exactly sure how he was supposed to react to Frank's news. He suspected that Frank would call him aside for a meeting about his taking over the leadership of the unit. Jake was feeling loss, but he also felt a tinge of excitement: he'd been handed a plum assignment and he wanted to run with it immediately, to see what he could do with his new job. 

"Jake?" he heard Frank ask.

"Sir? Meeting after lunch?" Jake asked, looking at Frank. Frank nodded. Jake took his knife and made another cut in the still-hot porterhouse steak. 

"Everyone fine with my news?" Frank asked, taking up his wine glass and taking a sip.

The team members nodded and the rest of the meal was finished in silence, each was lost in their own thoughts. 

When lunch was over, Frank dismissed the team, and stayed to pay the bill. He, too, was a bit nervous at retiring to his ranch in Montana. It was the right decision, but to a man like himself, who liked order and control, he was feeling a bit disoriented. 

He'd expected to feel a bit disoriented upon leaving employment for early retirement. To wake up in the morning without the expectation of hearing gunshots would be a new experience for him. But Frank had wanted to spend time with his family--he was a family man. After beaching himself for six months, he'd planned carefully what he was going to do next. Taking on the SOU was a new challenge for him, but not for the reasons why Monica thought he'd taken on the SOU. 

Frank smiled as he signed the check. Monica thougth he'd taken on the SOU because of the hazardous duty pay, which did boost his pay to well over two hundred thousand a year. But Frank had his trust fund, and that trust fund was well padded from both his parents. His mother Danita had lived through war rationing in England, and although his grandmother had supplanted their meagre rations, it had still been difficult to obtain certain items. 

But his mother had insisted on a trust fund largely because she had wanted him to be able to help those in need. She'd used the life insurance her husband had taken out and had started a trust fund for Frank. Danita had seen the haggard faces of the couriers who'd risked their lives to smuggle to England the documents confirming the existence of concentration camps. It had been her idea to use the additional income her mother earned and provide room and shelter to those couriers, who owned nothing, but risked everything to smuggle those documents to England. 

Frank, over the years, had used his income from his jobs to help fund a variety of charitable organizations, including helping Danny Montalto's paraplegic organization. And yes, he'd also used his income to pad his own trust fund, so his kids and wife would be well taken care of throughout their lives, should the worst happen to him. But more than half his income went to charitable endeavors, a fact that his mother had been immensely proud of in her last days.

He'd felt something was wrong with her and he'd phoned her. She, being Danita, had told him that she was fine and she'd see him and the grandkids during their next holiday. 

But there was a tone in her voice, a certain mix of sadness--and joy--that Frank had heard. And he'd been alarmed at what he heard in his mother's voice. That mix of emotions had told Frank that his mother expected to die. He didn't know why he thought she was going to die. But she'd had a sadness in her voice that Frank had picked up on. 

So Frank had gone to England on the next flight with his wife and children.  A few days later, she'd died in her sleep, during her afternoon nap. She'd gone quietly, in Frank's arms. He'd picked her up and held her once he'd realized that she was dying. That certain glow had come into her cheeks and Frank had gotten up from the leather chair and had gone to her bed and held her until she died, the tears from his eyes wetting her hair. 

A few days later, the story broke. Danita Weissman had been a child spy for the M5. He'd allowed the British government to confirm that fact; the M5 still respecting Carmelita Weissman's request that she and her daughter's involvement in the M5 remain a secret until after Danita passed away, despite the fact the Weissman women had decoded the documents so integral to confirming the existence of the concentration camps. Andt more than a few of the smuggled documents contained tactical information about the location of German troops. 

Both his mother and his grandmother had wanted to help but they didn't want to draw attention to their actions. "It was the human thing to do," Danita told him during his childhood. Frank knew that he'd had relatives in Poland during the War and his relatives had managed to escape the atrocities and make their way first to Switzerland, then to England and later to America and Canada. 

Frank had always thought that his mother had been afraid of people finding out about her involvement with the M5 because of the intensity of the Holocaust. And because there had still be in existence groups of people who still believed in Hitler's regime. A seven year old girl had seen the bloodstained documents--and the bloodstained wrappings in which they came. The smuggled papers contained graphic accounts of what Hitler's regime was doing to Jews, to Gypsies, to the disabled, and to those Hitler considered to be enemies of the state. 

Frank had always respected his mother's wishes as to the reasons why she didn't want her involvement in the M5 to become public knowledge until after her death. He'd always been in awe of his mother and of his grandmother, and part of the reason why his past was so classified was just that: because of his mother and grandmother. 

Danita and Carmelita had not been ashamed of their work with the M5. It was the opposite: they lived their lives in strict accordance with the unofficial credo of the M5: spy without being seen, catch without being caught. 

Carmelita's and Danita's talents were, in seven year old Danita's words, "more effective if no one knew what we were doing, or when I'm a grown up, no one knows what we've done until after we're gone."

His mother had broken her vow of silence only with Frank. There were times when a young Frank had thought his mother was contradicting herself but as he'd grown older, he realized Danita had only wanted him to understand the full import of what had happened in the concentration camps, and what else might have happened if the smuggled papers hadn't made their way out of Poland.

As a youth, Frank had always had a capacity to keep things to himself; he'd kept the fact that his lower right abdomen was swollen and hard for three days, before his mother finally realized something was wrong, and Frank had found himself in the hospital with a scar on his abdomen. 

It was while he was in the hospital recuperating from his emergency appendectomy that his mother had started telling him the stories of her youth. And the stories of her working with the M5.

"We spied without being seen and we caught criminals without being caught ourselves. Kind of like what you do now," his mother's voice had told him that day in the hospital and she'd echoed her own words on her last day alive. She'd smiled at him as she lay back on her pillow, "I love you, my son, my Frank Donovan," she told him. Frank had hugged her and kissed her forehead before brushing her wispy hair out of her eyes. "I love you too Danita Weissman. Always have and always will." Twenty minutes later, she'd died in his arms. 

It had been his mother Danita who had gone to the FBI with three senior members of the M5 when Frank had graduated from the Academy. He'd had his rebellious youthful days, but the memory of his mother's stories had only intrigued Frank. He'd been shocked to see his mother at the Academy but he'd kept his counsel when she'd shot him a steely look. 

Later, he'd been called into a conference. "Your past is now classified. Seems your mother has her reasons why," the Academy's director, a young Paul Bloom had told Frank. 

Frank had merely inclined his head which had prompted Bloom to add, "Seems like your mother's a government agent as well--a UK government agent. And as you have dual citizenship, we are going to respect the wishes of the British government regarding your past, which also includes your mother's past," Bloom had told him.

Frank had merely inclined his head again. 

Now Frank's hand hovered over the bill after he'd signed his name. He put down the pen, and slid back his chair. Standing up, he paused a moment, looking at the empty dessert plates of his team--of his former team. He'd taken them through a lot, and they'd discovered a lot about themselves in the last five years. Now he was passing the mantle of leadership to Jake. 

He turned and started to walk towards the exit of the deck, the soft September breeze ruffling his long black coat.


"And what conclusion did you draw from my statement?" Frank asked Jake. They were sitting face to face in Frank's office, equals in rank this time. Each was sipping a glass of scotch. 

"That Sonny Walker would be more useful as a member of this unit," Jake replied.

"Jake," Frank said, giving Jake a sharp look.

Jake chuckled. "Sonny Walker would be more effective at eluding those still looking to knock him off if he was a member of this unit. We're better than any crime ring, and Sonny would effectively be in an open prison, under surveillance at all times," Jake replied, sipping his scotch. "Working with Justice is like working in an open prison and in this unit, we know how to find anybody, anywhere. Ahhh! So that's why Sonny was given a presidential pardon!" Jake exclaimed.

"He can't run and he can't hide: he's surrounded by federal agents at all times," Frank said, sipping his own scotch. "When Carly was killed five years ago, something died within Sonny. And it caused him to take a good long look at his life and why he chose that life. That's why, when he came back into the US, he used the alias known only to us."

"That worm Cody planted in Custom's computers was effective. Customs didn't even blink when Sonny's alias was run through as part of the passenger list for the international flight. Not even the FBI's computers were triggered," Jake said. He thought a moment, sipping his scotch.

"Sonny saw something in me five years ago that reminded him of himself. When I cuffed him, that was hard. I felt like I was cuffing my father. Then, when I had to trust him not to turn the gun on me and take off again, I just had to go on gut, you know? It was like, like he was trying to make me proud of him," Jake said, sipping his scotch again. Frank merely remained silent, sipping his own scotch. 

"He..and I...were both your fathers," Frank quietly said after a few moments. Jake looked at Frank. "We're a lot alike, you and I," Frank said when he saw he had Jake's attention.

"Is that why you took such a strong interest in me? Because you saw in me something of yourself, from your own past?"

Frank nodded.

"So you were a bit like me early on? A bit of a renegade, despite your parentage?"

Frank glanced at Jake. "Renegade, not exactly. I grew up with Danita Weissman as my mother. While I kept to her principles, I did come under the opinion, when I was very young," Frank paused a bit for more emphasis, "that I could do anything and it wouldn't come back to haunt me later on."

Frank paused again and sipped his scotch. Jake reached over and took another ice cube out of the silver bucket Frank had always placed in his office. 

"I see you're trying to hide a smile," Frank told Jake.

Jake flinched slightly. He decided now would be as good a time as any to ask Frank exactly how he knew he'd been trying to hide a smile from Frank. He settled back in the chair and looked at Frank. 

"Just how do you do that?" he asked Frank.

"Psychology," Frank replied. 

"That's not an answer."

"You were pleased to slightly crack what I know Cody refers to as 'the Donovan files'. And you were feeling smug at being able to decipher a small part of my past which I confirmed to you. And that pleased you, so you smiled," Frank said as he too reached over and took another ice cube from the silver bucket. He dropped the ice cube into his glass and poured just a little more scotch into his glass. "As I said, psychology."

"I do have to admit I was trying to hide a smile. It's been five years, and we still don't know much about your past. We know from reading about your mother from where you get a lot of your behavior," Jake said, failing to look at Frank's face when he mentioned Danita.

Frank was still hurting from his mother's death. When Jake did look at him, he saw a fleeting look of pain on Frank's face. 

"Still miss her, don't you?" Jake said softly. 

"Yes. I'll always miss her," Frank replied. 

Jake didn't know how to reply; he'd never had a parent to mourn. He didn't know what he was going to say, so he opened his mouth. "I will admit that you're more open than you were five years ago."

"Explain."

"Well, you're not so short with us as much."

"Meaning?"

"You're a man of few words. You're succinct, you didn't talk much when you first joined. We weren't used to that."

"I have my reasons for being the way I am," Frank said.

"Danita," Jake said softly. 

Frank nodded. "Yes, she's one reason. I suppose I took after her more than my father. But I've also learned over the years that I have to communicate verbally with the people I work with," he finished. 

Jake nodded. "But you still don't fully explain your reasons," he said.

"Figuring things out for yourself makes you a better agent. You never know when you're going to need it," Frank intoned and Jake laughed. 

"Ahhh, the Academy!" Understanding dawned on Jake's face. "So that's why you were laughing at lunch! Laura said the same thing!" 

Frank nodded. 

"And sometimes, when undercovers know too much it can get them killed," Jake said. "Undercover's dirty work and at times the information has to be fed to the undercovers piecemeal," he finished. 

"It's a catch 22: undercovers need to know everything but they can't know too much because a slip could get them killed," Frank commented, sipping his scotch. The ice cube had partly melted and Frank swirled the glass around to mix the scotch and melted ice water. 

The two men fell silent for a few moments. "Walking the thin red line," Jake finally said. 

"Yes. The thin red line between life and death," Frank said. 

"Got that from Danita, didn't you?" Jake asked.

"Yes. She was a remarkable woman. Not many people know she was my mother, despite all the media attention."

"Were you angry she'd instructed you in her will to tell us whose son you were?"

"I expected her to instruct me to tell you my parentage after she died. She'd always told me that her involvement in the M5 would come out after her death."

"Laura wasn't paying attention at the staff meeting when you told us."

"I know Laura wasn't paying attention. I let her think she'd gotten away with that for a few days. But Cody told her before I could talk to her and she came to me privately and apologized. She'd heard the part about Danita but she didn't catch the first part."

"A seven year old helping the M5. A remarkable woman, even at seven years old."

"My grandmother was a remarkable woman as well," Frank said.

"No wonder you're so effective at keeping secrets. You've the Weissman women behind you!" Jake said with a smile.

Frank returned Jake's smile, then changed the subject. "You've got a great team, Jake."

"You have a great team. This unit's your until tomorrow," Jake said.

"It's your unit as of today," Frank said, putting down his glass on his desk. 

Jake was confused. "But you said tomorrow..." he trailed off as Frank looked at him.

"Jake, I'm leaving today. You should have known that I'd leave like I came in."

Jake smiled as he remembered how he and Alex had taken offense at Frank's handling of the former attorney general's kidnapped son. The two undercovers had gone so far as to take Frank aside for a minute and tell him what they thought Frank was doing wrong. After returning the young boy to his parents, Frank had merely walked off. Was that what Frank was going to do? Jake decided to ask Frank outright.

"So you're just going to walk off without a goodbye?" he asked Frank.

"I said goodbye at lunch," Frank said.

Jake remembered that Frank had requested Cody do him a personal request. He looked at Frank and it suddenly dawned on him that Frank had told Jake a few minutes ago that he had been like a father to Jake. And a father wouldn't desert his son. What Frank was doing by leaving today was showing Monica, Cody, and Laura that Frank had confidence in Jake's ability to run the unit.

And Jake would be in charge of the unit after Sonny Walker came on. And Jake would also be in charge of the new recruit, albeit a recruit that Frank had personally chosen.

Frank and Jake continued to look at each other. Jake slowly came to the understanding that Frank wasn't deserting them by leaving today but rather was going to have Cody install computer equipment at where ever Frank was going  off to--and Frank would be available to Jake should Jake need his advice.

"Like a father would be available to give advice to his son," Jake thought to himself.

"Yes," Frank said. "I see you've figured out what I have planned for Cody."

Jake started, not realizing he'd spoken aloud. "You're going to take Cody and have him install some equipment for you," he told Frank.

"It's a nice place. Highly inaccessible but I'll be available to you should the need arise. However," Frank warned as he picked up his glass of scotch again, "I will warn you that I am going on a world cruise after Cody's done. You'll have to wait until I return to use your new toys," he finished slyly, sipping his scotch, and putting the glass back down on his desk. 

Jake nodded. Frank had a lot of confidence in him if he was going off on a world cruise so soon after leaving his job. He'd set Jake up with the best possible team; he'd even chosen Jake's undercover replacement and Jake knew that his own replacement was highly qualified--Frank was that discriminating with his employees. And Jake hadn't minded Frank's choosing Jake's replacement; he'd been secretly dreading having to choose his own replacement. 

And Frank was sending a clear message to the rest of the unit: that Jake was in charge and Frank had confidence in Jake's abilities. 

Jake relaxed a bit. "When are you going to tell the rest of the team"?

"Now," Frank said, standing up. Jake took his cue and put down his scotch glass. 

The two men walked out of Frank's office. The rest of the team was gathered around the small table near Cody's computer banks. 

"Cody. You're to come with me. We're going out for a drink," Frank told Cody. Cody looked surprised but a grin suffused his face. It wasn't often that Frank agreed to have a drink with him, much less a drink in the afternoon. 

Frank looked at Monica. "Do you know why I'm doing what I'm doing?" he asked her. She looked at him with clear dry eyes. 

"Yes. Yes I do. You have a lot of confidence in Jake and by leaving today, you're sending a clear message not only to us, but to Sonny and the new recruit."

Frank nodded. Laura was confused. "I thought you said tomorrow? You said you were leaving tomorrow," she said. Her hair was still pinned in the bun she'd placed it in at lunch. The pen was sticking out at an awkward angle. Frank smiled at her.

Cody spoke up, "You should know by now Laura that Frank does things his own way. And with Danita as his mother, you should have expected something like this." 

Laura stood up and extended her hand. "It's been good working with you," she said as Frank shook her hand. 

"You're a good agent and you'll do well under Jake," he told her. She nodded and started to sit down, but decided to remain standing. 

It was Monica's turn to stand up. She tried not to let the tears show in her eyes but instead of shaking her hand, Frank hugged her. "Thank you. Thank you for helping me get over the death of my brother," she whispered to him. 

"You're welcome," Frank said softly to her before pulling back. 

The team stood there for a few moments, looking at each other. 

"Would you like to see me off?" Frank asked suddenly. The team members, including Jake, were confused but Monica nodded. Frank turned and walked out of the room with the team trailing behind him. Instead of going down the stairs, Frank went up the stairs--towards the roof.

"He's going to go off in a helicopter!" Laura whispered to Moncia. Monica nodded, understanding dawning on her face.  Frank was going to go off in a helicopter, to symbolize the success of this unit, much like he'd symbolized the success of the team's bringing back the former attorney general's young son--alive--in a helicopter. 

"I heard that," came back Frank's voice as he continued to climb the stairs.

Laura waited until Frank had gone through the door leading to the roof. "How does he do that? Does he have built in microphones?" she whispered to Monica. 

Monica cracked a smile. "He's Frank Donovan, that how he does it," she said as the rest of the team followed Frank through the door. There, on the roof, was a helicopter waiting. Frank motioned for Cody to get in.

"I thought we were going for a drink?" he asked Frank.

"We are. I never said when we were going for a drink. I just said that we were going for a drink but never told you where or when. And we're going for a drink at my place."

Jake laughed along with the rest of the team. "He's like his mother, Cody. Cagey and secretive."

"Yeah, he puts nothing and nothing together and he comes up with everything," Cody remarked and even Frank cracked a smile as he watched Cody climb in the waiting helicopter. 

Frank extended his hand to Jake."Take care of them. They need a leader," he told Jake. Jake held Frank's hand for a moment, wondering if he should hug Frank. Frank noticed and then hugged Jake, hard. "I'm proud of you, son," he whispered into Jake's ear. When Jake pulled back, he had tears in his eyes. He tried to hide the tears by turning his head. 

"Don't turn away," Frank said as he turned and put one leg into the helicopter. He started to climb in, but paused then turned back to Laura.

"By the way Laura, I carry a voice amplifier with me at all times. Has a seventy five foot range and I can pick up a whisper at the end of a noisy bar," he said to Laura's shocked look. "So in a way, I am built with microphones." 

Laura's mouth just hung down and her wide green eyes showed complete surprise. 

"Like mother, like son," Monica said with wonder and Frank gave her a thumbs up before turning and climbing into the helicopter. 

Jake, Monica and Laura stood back. Frank leaned out in order to shut the helicopter's small door. He called to someone behind the remaining team members. 

"Welcome aboard, Sonny and Alex!" he called and Jake, Monica and Laura turned and looked. Standing in front of the door was Sonny Walker, and the new recruit--Alexander Kennerly.

"Good to be aboard, Frank!" Sonny called, and nudged Alex. 

"Goodbye, sir! Thank you for everything!" Alex called out as he waved to Frank. Jake, Laura and Monica moved back towards the door. The pilot started the copter and soon Frank and Cody were just a speck in the sky.

Jake walked over to Sonny. "I didn't know Frank told you to come today."

Sonny looked at Jake: former friend, former foe and now teammates. "He'd arranged it beforehand. He came to me yesterday and told me he'd planned on leaving today."

"He told you before he told me?" Jake asked. "Damn him. He always gets what he wants and he does it secretly."

"Yeah," Sonny agreed. "Heard he got that from his mother," he said and Jake's mouth went open.

"You know about his mother?" he asked Sonny. Sonny nodded. "He told me yesterday. Didn't put two and two together until he told me," Sonny replied. 

"Who's mother?" Alex said. 

Jake considered. "It's a long story, Alex. We'll be sure to tell you one day, okay?" he said as his new team, sans Cody for the time being, assembled around him. 

Jake looked at each of his team members in turn. The wam September sun highlighted the reddish highlights in Laura's hair. "Let's go for a drink," he suggeste and walked towards the door.

"Now that's a good idea," Sonny said as Alex looked confused. 

Alex trailed Jake as the team started headed through the door. "Uh, sir? It's against government regulations to drink while on the job," Alex said brightly.

Jake decided to do what Frank had done and not turn around while talking. "In this unit, I am the regulation," he said while continuing to walk down the stairs. 

Alex looked at Sonny, then at Monica and Laura. All of them merely ignored him. At the bottom of the stairs, Monica finally took pity on Alex and told him, "Jake gets what he wants," she told him as they gathered their things and went out into the warm September sunshine.