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Chapter 76: Choices and Regrets

John walked through the secured room to Shane's office.  Hope had been plugging away since early afternoon and it was now past 10 p.m.  He wondered if he had been right to let her stay, but he had to admit there was something nice about not being completely alone.

He also had to admit to being intrigued by the file she had brought from Salem.  The criminal operations detailed in the file had been very complex and would have been very hard to obtain by a typical ISA unit.  It really did sound like something more up Nightwing's alley, something it might have pulled off by gaining the trust of key people in Costa Blanca.  What John could not figure out is how Shane personally would have fit into such a mission.  Shane oversaw Nightwing's operations. Sometimes he attended initial meetings or introductions with ISA targets, but he did not place himself in situations that put him in the line of fire.  Not anymore.

John reached Shane's office to see Hope still punching combinations of names and numbers on the keypad.  She had a look of grim determination on her face, like she would not stop until she got access.

"Let's take a break and call it a night," John said.

Hope looked up and protested, "No, I still have some ones to try out."

"It's okay.  You've had a long day and could probably use something to eat.  Have you eaten anything today?"

Hope shook her head.  "Just a little something on the airplane."

John walked over and pressed the power button on the computer.  "Enough for today.  That thing will still be here in the morning."  Hope finally complied and stood up.

"Ouch," she grumbled, as she stretched her arms and back.  "That's a lot of sitting for one day.  Or is it two?  I can never keep it straight with red-eye flights."

"Closer to two," John said.  He motioned for her to follow him.  "I asked Hopkins to leave something on the stove."

They took the elevator to the first floor, and he watched Hope as she looked around the mansion.  John had never cared much for the trappings of wealth, even though he had a fortune of his own.  Yet Donovan Manor, despite showing signs of its wealthy owners, seemed different.  Maybe it was the history and the age.  Or maybe it was that most of the signs of wealth seemed to fit the history.  There was nothing outwardly ostentatious.  Nothing that demanded that visitors acknowledge the home's rich owners.  John sometimes even wondered if Shane had added anything to the house over the years -- well, other than the bunker down below.  Other than that, the entire house seemed trapped in time.

"I always loved this house," Hope said as they walked through the entryway, down a corridor toward the kitchen.  "My wedding reception was here, even if I wasn't around to enjoy it."

John chuckled.  He had heard the stories about Bo and Hope's wedding.  How it had been arranged by British royalty after they helped capture a terrorist, how Shane's first wife, Emma -- boy, had she been a piece of work -- had tried to kill the newlyweds after the ceremony, and then how they had nearly spent their wedding night in jail, until Abe Carver's brother, Shane and Kim helped them escape the country.  "You and Bo always knew how to do things right."  As Hope laughed, he added, "You sure you're not still wanted by the London police?"

"No."  Hope said.  "I think Shane smoothed things over for us, and they dropped all the charges."

"Good, I don't want to be arrested for harboring a fugitive," he said with a wink.

Hope stopped and stared at the empty ballroom.  "You know, it's funny being here and not having Shane around.  I don't know; it's like this house is part of him.  I almost feel like I'm intruding on something being here."

John kind of understood what she meant.  He had been to Donovan Manor plenty of times after Shane left Salem, but it was different without Shane around.  At times, he felt like he was walking through the halls of an abandoned building or maybe a museum after all the visitors had left.  If he were a superstitious man, he might have described the feeling as if he were being watched by generations of Donovans who knew he did not belong there.

The corridor was lined with portraits, with John noting that most of the men wore some type of military uniform.  Shane had once tried to explain the "Donovan legacy of service to the Crown," detailing about eight or nine generations of soldiers and spies in the family.  John had not really been able to comprehend the idea.  Hardly surprising considering he had been part of so many families, not to mention having Roman Brady's implanted memories.  John barely knew his own history; he had no room for those of his grandparents and their grandparents.

Still, it was always a good thing when John could get Shane talking.  After he left Salem, he would give off the appearance of being secure and pleased with his life.  But John knew better.  Trying to get Shane to talk about his personal life was nearly impossible; that subject was usually shut behind a walk so thick, nothing could break through.

John doubted that Shane would have chosen a different life if he had the option.  He was proud of what he had accomplished; it was just that the life he chose had cost him dearly.  John understood.  A man could make a lot of choices and believe them to be right, but still regret the consequences of those choices.  Shane's choices had cost him any chance at love over most of the past two decades.  If you asked him, he would usually just dismiss that as unimportant.  How had Andrew described it -- attachments were "liabilities."  That was how Shane looked at life; at least, that was the Shane Donovan who rose through the ISA ranks and regularly saved the world.

Every once in a while, though, usually in the sitting room of Donovan Manor and invariably after a couple glasses of scotch and some tale of a past Donovan's heroism, Shane would let down his guard or let something slip, and more often than not, John detected some sadness in his best friend's eyes.  That was when the reflective Shane came out for a brief visit.  Then he might mention Kim and ask "what if."  What if he had let Jericho escape?  What if he had accepted that Kim was scared to reveal that Cal Winters was Jeannie's father and not been such a "cold, selfish bastard"?  What if he had admitted that he would have accepted Jeannie?  What if he returned to Kim instead of staying with Kayla?  Or what if he tried to steal her away from Phillip Collier?

One time, when he was particularly drunk, Shane had pondered what would have happened if he had given up the ISA when John did.  The first thing he said was that Kim would never have lost their baby girl.  She would never have walked out on him the first time.  Maybe things would have been different with Gabrielle and Eve.  Everything would have changed.

And sometimes he talked about his kids.  Shane would say he had given up on Eve too early and had then messed up everything with Jeannie.  "The damn job," he'd mutter.

Even Andrew came up.  Once right around the time Andrew was deployed to Afghanistan, a drunken Shane wondered if Kim was right about him pushing their son into the war.  John had seen something he could not recall ever seeing before in Shane's face -- fear.  Shane had shaken his head and said, "If he doesn't come back. . . ."  He never finished the sentence, but then had said, "You know, John, sometimes I wonder if it's all just been a bill of goods."  With a drunken laugh, he had added, "The Donovan legacy of service . . . Sometimes I think it's all a crock."

But those reflective moments were rare.  In the morning, usually as he fought a hangover, Shane would pretend not to remember what he had said the night before.  John knew better, but never pushed.  Shane was a man who would not dwell on his regrets.  He had important work to do.

"John?"

Hope voice snapped him out of his reverie.  "I'm sorry," he said.  "What did you say?"

"You're like a million miles away."  Hope chuckled.  "I wanted to know if that's enough."

He realized with surprise that they were in the large kitchen in Donovan Manor.  He did not even remember walking out of the corridor, but he glanced around at the hanging cast iron and bronze cookware, the large stoves, and counters and cabinets that probably had been built in the 17th century.  Hope was standing at the stove, one hand holding a bowl filled with some type of stew and the other holding a ladle.  "Um, that's fine," he said.

She put some stew into a second bowl and then carried both bowls to a bar at the end of the center island.  Hopkins had left some utensils and napkins for them, so he picked up a spoon and began eating.

"So what were you thinking about?" Hope asked.

"Regrets," he said.

"What about them?"

John sighed.  "Living a life full of regrets.  That's no way to live."

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Dec. 11th, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC)
Excellent chapter. I love the insights into Shane's regrets - the ones he would never show except in very rare moments. I also love how this highlights the almost irreconcilable conflict between Shane's career and his ability to have any kind of real life with his family. Even the demise of Kim and Shane's marriage starts with Shane's career because he would not have been involved in the Jericho case if he had not been in the ISA.

Shane's legacy of service put him in a position to do a lot of good for a lot of people, but it cost him a lot along the way. It sometimes feels like even if Kim and Shane had no other issues in their lives, that the ISA would have ultimately caused major problems for them.
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