This is a collaborative effort between AnneAck and myself. We were chatting one evening, and this was the result. It's a crossover between Equalizer and KF:TLC... We decided that Todd McCall had to be related to Robert, somehow... and we found a way to make it work, heh. This is in my universe where so very many characters are related to one another.
As always, I'm using characters created by others to whom I am grateful for their genius and forbearance in not suing over the unauthorized use of their intellectual property. This is not for profit, just for fun.
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"Daddy! What are you doing in New York?" She hugged him fiercely and he hesitantly returned the embrace, his battered and exhausted brain wondering what was going on. He looked around and spotted a tall young man frowning at him. He looked him in the eye and the young man blushed a bit and forced a smile.
"This is a surprise, Paul. Why didn't you mention you were coming to New York?"
The tumblers clicked. His brother's name was Paul, so this must be one of his daughters. His brain was fried. Names. Names. K. Kelly, Kelly and... "Caroline, I didn't expect to see you, here."
She released him with a slight frown. He didn't seem happy to see her. Oh, great, he was here on one of 'those' trips. She glanced worriedly around, seeking anyone who might be watching them. Not seeing anyone, she looked up at him in concern. "Sorry, I'm sorry. It was just such a surprise," she murmured, barely above a whisper.
He frowned, glancing again at the young man, deciding this must be her husband. He remembered Paul mentioning his eldest daughter getting married, but he didn't know his name. His eyes narrowed as he observed his nephew-in-law's dislike of his contact with Caroline.
"It's all right, babe. Don't worry about it," he whispered back to her. Releasing her completely, he looked at her husband. "I was just getting some dinner. Would you care to join me?" He knew it was a bit early for dinner, and far too late for lunch, but if he didn't refuel soon, he'd be totally incapacitated. If they came, he'd chat pleasantly with them, pretending to be his brother and find out just what exactly was going on.
Caroline's face lit up as she turned to her husband. "Todd? I know it's a bit early, but we did miss lunch," she said brightly. Her tone of voice made Control's eyes narrow at 'Todd', daring him to refuse.
"O'Phelan's has excellent food, and a wine list second to none." And a clientele to match.
"Oh, we wouldn't want to intrude, Paul," Todd tried to gracefully decline.
He smiled. "Nonsense. I'd enjoy the company." He put his arm around Caroline's shoulders and guided her towards the covered entrance to his destination, leaving Todd to follow, or not.
"You look tired, Daddy," Caroline said softly, once they were inside and seated at his usual table.
"Yes, well, it's been one of those weeks, I'm afraid." Todd was looking around. The decor was subdued and very exclusive. He'd never heard of this place, but the fireplace alone told him this was more a club than just a restaurant. Control watched him, trying to read him, but he was so exhausted that he wasn't quite sure of his readings. Something about the young man, however, had set off alarm bells inside. He looked at Caroline and remembered her as a young teenager and he twigged to the problem. The once lively and vivacious girl was a quiet and subdued young woman. Alarms began to ring more loudly, and he wondered if Todd ever hit her. He watched her closely, but didn't see any outward signs of physical abuse, but perhaps it was more mental, than physical.
"Have you talked to your mom lately?" He asked after the waiter had taken their orders for drinks.
Caroline glanced quickly at her husband and shook her head. "I'm afraid not. We've been pretty busy, lately, what with Todd's new job and all."
He nodded. "So, Todd, how is the new job?"
Todd, finally the center of attention, preened, "It's great. Of course, I have to travel a bit more, but the money's wonderful. I'll be going to Europe next month, and then to Japan. Very exciting."
"Will you be taking Caroline with you?" Control watched carefully, reading nuances of Todd's expression as well as his body language. He caught Caroline's flinch and knew the answer before Todd had a chance to say a word.
"Well, it's a business trip, Paul, not pleasure." He chuckled and winked, as though he expected his father-in-law to understand and even condone his actions; whatever they might be.
Control knew exactly what Todd was doing, and he didn't think that Paul would appreciate it one bit. He didn't appreciate it, so he knew his brother would be at least as displeased, if not more. "Too bad. Having your wife with you on trips makes the work easier, and the nights a lot less lonely." He reached across the table and took Caroline's hand. She looked up at him and smiled bravely. She knew as well as he did what was really going on. Married less than a year and already cheating on her? The boy needed a lesson; but was he the one who should administer it? He wasn't sure. If he ever got out from under long enough to get some real sleep, he'd call Paul and tell him about it. This was definitely not good.
He didn't bother with a menu, choosing instead to watch Todd and Caroline. She was deferential to her husband, and he wondered how in the world this had happened. He noticed she barely looked at the menu and realized that she would defer to her husband's choices for her. Clenching his teeth to keep from scowling, he smiled, instead. "You really should try the lobster bisque," he suggested. Todd frowned, as though about to protest, but Caroline beat him to it.
"Oh, that sounds lovely. What else do you recommend, Daddy?"
He chewed his lower lip to keep from smirking at Todd and shrugged. "Well, I'd advise you choosing your favorite food. For myself, I generally have a steak, although the salmon is also excellent. If you'd like something lighter, the chef's salad is good, too." He was pleased when Caroline opened her menu again, and they both ignored Todd's scowl.
"Carrie, remember your diet," he scolded. Control scowled as he looked at his niece. She was, in his opinion, quite thin enough, if not overly so.
"Don't be silly, Todd. Caroline is, if anything, underweight."
Todd sniffed. "Not according to the insurance tables."
Control shook his head. "Which one are you using, the one from 1900? For her height and age, she should be between 150 and 175, and she's a bit heavier boned than the 'average'," He smiled ruefully at her, "Which comes from my side of the family, I'm afraid, so she should be at the upper end of that."
Todd sniffed. "She weighs 147, and her goal is 135."
Control scowled. His voice dropped to a low, rumbling purr, which caused Caroline to stare at him in surprise. "You planning on making her into a fashion model or an actress? Or do you just want her so thin she's not strong enough to put your ass in a sling?"
Todd's scowl deepened. "She's my wife...."
"And my daughter. Try to remember that, hmmm?"
Todd was saved by the arrival of their waiter. Control insisted that Caroline order first, "What would you like, sweetheart?" He smiled at Todd's annoyed expression as Caroline ordered herself a substantial meal.
Control ordered next with "My usual, please," and Todd ordered last, looking as though he smelled something unpleasant.
Conversation turned to lighter matters over their dinner. Even Todd had to admit that the food was excellent. Control was grateful to avoid all the possible land mines that could have been tripped with his pretense to being Caroline's father. Good thing that Paul had trained her well in regards to asking about his 'business trips'. Todd, however, kept asking questions about what had brought him to New York. Control smiled at how easily Caroline could change the subject and help him avoid having to answer.
After dinner, over drinks, Control gently pressed for more information. Explaining that he hadn't brought their phone number with him, he got that and their address. He surreptitiously slipped Caroline a small card with just a phone number on it. Like the trouper she was, she didn't react. When he kissed her cheek, he whispered, "When he's gone, if you need to talk, call me." They hugged tightly and he watched them as they walked away. He could tell that the excellent meal had mellowed Todd, in that he didn't immediately start berating his wife over her 'disobedience'. As soon as he got some sleep, he was going to call Paul....
"Paul. We need to talk."
Paul Blaisdell stiffened at the voice on the phone. "What's wrong?"
Paul frowned. "My son-in-law?"
"I met them the other afternoon. I don't like the way Caroline was behaving. I don't remember her being such a little mouse, kowtowing to his every frown. I had to encourage her to eat... he thinks she's too fat; and she weighs in at 147, and he's set her 'goal' at 135."
Paul's gorge rose. "I'll be there tomorrow afternoon. Thanks." He thought for a moment. "I think I'll bring along a little help."
Control frowned. "Who?"
Control nodded, remembering. "Tell you what. Leave him in the car, come to my apartment, and we'll trade places. Then, you get Caroline and have a good, long, father-daughter chat, while Griffin and I have a little talk with Todd."
Paul grinned. "Sounds good to me. Thanks again."
"Family, little brother," Control said softly and hung up. He hadn't seen Griffin since he'd taken his brother's place and rescued him from that hellish place. He wondered how he was doing, now?
"Sure you don't want me to come along, Paul?"
Paul smiled at the thought of his friend's reaction to meeting Control. "Not this time. I'll be right back." He got out of the rental car and headed into the building. Arriving at his brother's door, he knocked. Control opened the door less than a minute later and they greeted each other with a hug.
"It's been a while, old son," Control said to his younger brother, who chuckled.
"Well, if you ever decide to come in from the cold, I'll be more than happy to introduce you to the rest of the family." He stood back and took a more critical look at the older man. "You look like you've been rode hard and put up wet, Jimmy."
Control chuckled, dryly. "That was last month. This month is starting off a bit better, thank God." He began stripping off his suit. Paul grinned his understanding and began to strip as well. Despite their similar tastes in suits, Kermit would no doubt notice the difference. No point in doing this half-way, after all.
Five minutes later, they were adjusting their ties and Paul gave his brother a critical inspection. "Let me call Caroline and arrange to meet her." Control pointed to his phone and Paul quickly placed the call.
"Hey, Caro, it's dad. I was hoping I could get you to join me for lunch. Now would be good." He listened with a frown as his daughter asked her husband for 'permission' to meet her father for lunch. He looked at his brother, who shrugged. Fortunately, Todd agreed and they arranged to meet in half an hour at O'Phelan's. He had to get directions from Control, and then the older spook left, to make sure he and Kermit were gone before he had to leave.
Control gave directions to their destination, hoping that Caroline was on her way already. Pulling up in front of the newer skyscraper in which Todd and Caroline lived, they parked and slowly got out of the car. Kermit looked up and smiled. "You think the windows open?"
Control smiled. Despite the shades, he liked the man's attitude, and knowing the reason for the sunglasses, he could let it go. "I'm sure we can make accommodations for whatever necessity arises." He led the way, Kermit at his shoulder and half a step behind him.
Paul met his daughter in front of the restaurant with a big smile and a hug. His smile faded, however, as he felt her ribs. "Baby, are you sick or something? I can feel every bone in your body," he frowned.
"I'm fine, Daddy. Don't worry."
"I can't help it, I'm your father. You're too thin, sweetheart. Peter could carry you under one arm."
Caroline laughed, remembering when her brother had done just that. "Dad, come on. I'm fine."
"You don't look fine, and why haven't you called home? It's been what, three months since we last we heard from you. Talk to me, Caro, please?" They entered the restaurant and were shown to Control's usual table. Once they were seated, he turned his concerned gaze on his daughter. "Talk to me, Caro. What's going on?"
Caroline bit her lip and looked away. "I don't know, Daddy. Todd doesn't hit me, or anything like that," she glanced at him and smiled upon seeing his scowl. "You know me, if he hit me once, I'd hit back so hard and so fast that he'd never know what hit him. This is... different." She shook her head. "I don't know, but somehow, he says 'jump' and I snap to and say 'how high'. What's wrong with me, Daddy?"
Paul frowned at his eldest daughter. "Have you been to see a doctor, lately, Caro?"
She shook her head. "No. I throw up sometimes, in the afternoons, but since I stopped eating lunch, it's been better."
He stopped breathing for several moments. "Were you getting sick every afternoon?"
She shrugged. "Not every one, but most. Why?"
"You need to see a doctor, sweetheart. When was your last period?" He'd purchased feminine hygiene products for his wife and daughters for years and was not in the least bit embarrassed to talk to them about it.
Caroline blinked, then paled, then flushed. "Oh, no." She stared at her father. "Oh, Daddy...." Then she giggled. "Oh, brother. No wonder he thought I was getting fat." She shook her head. "How dumb can we get? I guess the pill didn't work too well. We didn't plan on having any kids for a couple more years."
"Don't go off half-cocked, Caroline. Doctor, first. Then we'll worry about it if it's true." The waiter came and took their order. He had coffee and ordered juice for his daughter. "You didn't answer my question, by the way," he softly growled at her.
"Uh, I don't remember?" she offered lamely. "You know me, Dad; I've never been particularly regular. It might be two, or it could be four months. It's hard to say."
"Yeah, I know. So, do you even have a doctor here? How about medical insurance?"
"Yes, Dad, I have a doctor, and insurance." She picked up her purse and dug through it for her wallet, then through the wallet until she came to a business card. "Here it is." She pulled out her cell phone and made the call. She was lucky and got an appointment for the next day. With one worry out of the way, they settled in for a nice father-daughter talk, the kind she hadn't realized she'd missed.
"Let me borrow your cell a minute, will you? I need to make a local call." She handed him her phone and he made the call. "Jim, yeah." He smiled at his daughter and turned slightly away from her and lowered his voice so she couldn't hear. "I think she's pregnant, bro. She's got an appointment with her doctor tomorrow and I'm going to stay in town until I know for certain. Yeah, you can suggest it to him. Maybe give him something to think about at any rate." He listened for a moment and then turned back to his daughter, smiling. "That's great. Thanks. I'll see you later." He disconnected the call and handed her back her phone. "Now, tell me all about Todd...."
"Did you forget your key again?" Todd snarled as he jerked the door open. He stepped back in surprise at seeing his father-in-law standing there with that weird, sunglasses-wearing friend of his. "I thought you were meeting Caroline," he stammered.
"I am," Paul replied, entering the room, Kermit right on his heels. Kermit took the door from Todd and gently closed it and leaned back against it. "Been a while, Todd."
"Not quite long enough, Detective. He deliberately turned his back on Kermit and focused on the man he thought was his father-in-law. "What do you want, Paul? Caroline's mine, now. You don't have any say in her life any more," he practically sneered.
Kermit winced. Todd obviously had no idea who he was dealing with. He was surprised when Paul suddenly grabbed the fool and threw him up against the wall. It was a move that Kermit himself had perfected, but Paul did an excellent imitation. He perked up.
"You listen, and you listen good, Todd. My daughter is not to be pushed around, browbeaten, belittled, coerced, or disparaged. You will be kind to her at all times, and listen to her when she has something to say. You will not ignore her needs, and you will stop trying to remake her into a mousy little hausfrau while you go out and have fun gallivanting around on your business trips. If I ever, ever hear that you've cheated on her, I will castrate you with a pair of children's scissors and force feed you with it. Do I make myself clear?" His hands were fisted in Todd's shirt and he shook him and banged his head against the wall for punctuation.
Kermit had never seen Paul like this, before. It was interesting, but he figured he'd better step in before Paul left any marks on the idiot. He placed a gentle hand on Paul's shoulder. Control turned his head and glared at him. Kermit grinned.
"Don't leave any marks, Paul," he reminded softly. As Control took a deep breath, he released his hold and shifted back half a step. Kermit eased closer. The two men now had Todd cornered and had severely invaded his personal space, standing mere inches from him.
"Let me tell you a little story, Todd. It has to do with family. Now in your family, that might not mean very much, but in ours, it's very important to us. Very important indeed. You see, Paul and I, well, we're brothers, you know? Because of our history together, fighting in various and sundry little wars here and there. It's made us close. Closer, I'm sure, than you are with your family." He smiled, his eyes dark behind his sunglasses. "Now, you just happened to marry into our little family. I guess no one told you the rules of engagement. Let me enlighten you."
He proceeded to do just that. Paul had never flaunted his secret life, so it was very much news to Todd that the family his wife belonged to included not only cops, which were bad enough, but mercenaries. And according to Kermit, 'Mercenary Rules' required a great deal of loyalty and willingness to die for a cause. If Todd didn't wish to become a statistic, he'd better rethink his position on how his wife should behave. In fact, Kermit strongly suggested he become a yes-man at home, if he wished to avoid future confrontations.
Kermit whispered, "Besides, you know how Paul is about his little girls." His smile would have made a shark proud.
Control leaned closer, "Oh, yeah." Todd's eyes went to the man he thought was his father-in-law. "My family includes friends. It's a rather extensive group, and the overweening trait is loyalty."
Todd found his voice, "But she's my wife, now."
Both Kermit and Control winced at the definite whine. Kermit shook his head. "Paul's never liked whiners, very much, and he doesn't stomach complainers very easily."
Control nodded. "I'm afraid it's a family trait, like blue eyes."
Kermit grinned, "And a deadly aim. Funny thing, the adopted family are much the same, so it's not just by blood."
Control nodded. "It's been my experience that the adopted family tends to be the most loyal of all." Kermit nodded in agreement, being one of the adoptees.
"Remember that kid in high school who brought her home from their date in tears?" Kermit asked Paul. "Whatever happened to him, anyway?"
"Who knows. I never saw him again." Control didn't know anything about it, but played along, figuring that Paul would have said much the same thing.
"You wouldn't dare," Todd ground out, trying to put on a brave front, glaring at Kermit. Control stepped back with a frown. Kermit glanced at him.
"We could always tell Annie," Kermit suggested.
Control smiled. "Where would we hide the body?"
Kermit chuckled. There was no amusement in the sound. "Are you getting it, yet, McCall?"
Control started and scowled. "Are you by any chance related to Robert McCall?"
Todd sneered. "If you mean my father's bastard half-brother, then no."
Kermit raised a surprised eyebrow at Control "Sounds like you know this person the devil just damned."
Control grinned. "Hold him a minute. I need to make a phone call."
Kermit grinned and focused on Todd. "He's not going to twitch, are you? Because if you do, I might have to shoot you." He turned to Control, "Can I assume this Robert is our kind of guy?"
Control grinned, "He's retired from the firm."
"Oh, a brother of ours, then; how nice, another family member!" Kermit smiled broadly.
"You have yet to meet my nephew, and Robert's partner, Mickey Kostmayer He makes you look like someone sane."
Kermit raised an eyebrow and said, "Oh?"
Control grinned and said, "He's an ex-SEAL."
Kermit shuddered. "Then that guy is certifiable!" Then he grinned again and looked at Todd.
Control continued, "Sharpshooter, loose cannon, you name it; and I can't think of many I'd rather have backing me up in a nasty situation."
"Probably takes good care of his family, too." Kermit smiled, "Like, say, cousin Caroline."
"Even family members he doesn't much like," Control agreed.
"And I imagine he would like Caroline, she's a very nice girl." Kermit grinned. "She's his cousin, after all."
Control grinned and spoke into his cell phone. "Robert, old son. Tell me about your nephew, Todd..."
"I'm, uh, sorry."
"We're not the ones you need to apologize to," Control softly replied as he slipped his phone back in his jacket pocket. "I trust we won't have to have another such conversation, will we?"
"No, sir." Control smiled and patted him on the shoulder, then turned to leave. Kermit paused for a moment and leaned back into Todd's space.
"May I make a suggestion?" he asked softly.
"Uh, sure." Todd still wouldn't meet his eyes, not that he could see through the dark glasses anyway.
"Take her to Europe with you; and ask her to go to Japan, too. She may say no, but at least make the offer, hmmm?"
Todd swallowed hard and nodded. Of course, at this point, he'd agree to just about anything to get them to leave. He wondered where his wife was, she'd said she was meeting her father for lunch, maybe they were going to lunch now? Not that it mattered. He was beginning to understand. He should have realized when their wedding reception had been interrupted by that gang of thieves, but it hadn't registered, then. It certainly had now. As soon as the door was closed behind his 'guests', he rushed to the bathroom and knelt down, throwing up uncontrollably from the release of the terror he'd been in. He was grateful that his bladder hadn't given out on him... and then realized that as he'd hurled, his colon had let go. He was never so glad to be alone in his life. Yes, he'd remember this lesson. He'd be stupid not to; and he was neither stupid, nor crazy. Not like the family he'd married into. As he showered, he wondered why he hadn't realized it before, but Carrie... Caroline... hadn't been too assertive. Until she sicced her father and his friend on him... although, Paul had seemed surprised the other night... it didn't matter. He didn't want to dwell on it. In fact, he wanted nothing more than to put it behind him and get back on his wife's family's good side. It wasn't like he couldn't afford for her to go with him to Europe, after all....
"How's Caroline?" Control asked the moment he was in his apartment. He began stripping out of his brother's clothes, as Paul stripped out of his.
"I think she's pregnant." Paul grinned. "I'm going to be a grandfather,"
Control chuckled. "We put the fear of family in young Todd. I wished I'd known he was McCall's nephew, though."
Paul paused, frowning. "Who's McCall?"
His brother grinned. "One of my former people. He's a code yellow retiree."
"Retiree? I didn't think that was allowed."
"Oh, it's allowed. Rarely, but it does happen." He finished zipping his pants and held Paul's jacket for him as his brother struggled with his tie.
"Well, maybe you can get him to keep an eye on them a bit when they're in town?"
"I'll see to it. Oh, and Kermit suggested he take her with him to Europe."
Paul chuckled. "Good for him. I hope she enjoys it." He slid his arms into his jacket and ran his hands through his mussed hair. "Okay?" Control nodded, grinning. Paul returned the smile and stepped close for a hug. "One of these days, you should see about retiring, yourself, big brother."
Control sighed. "Lately, the thought has crossed my mind. If I do, I'll let you know. Take care, old son."
"You, too, Jimmy. Thanks."
"You're more than welcome. Oh, and we gave him the 'family means' speech."
Paul laughed. "With additions by Kermit?"
"Hey, friends are the family we choose for ourselves, remember?"
"Oh, yeah. You take care of yourself."
"I will. Have a safe trip, Paul." With a final hug, Paul left, leaving his brother smiling after him.
Back down in the car, Paul grinned at Kermit. "Let's go find a hotel, Kermit. I have a feeling I'm going to want to talk to Caroline tomorrow, and I want it to be in person."
Kermit grinned. "Oh, yeah." He started up the car and pulled into traffic.
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