The Achieve of the Thing


Chapter Six

As soon as Face went to sleep, Murdock headed the Vette toward New York Avenue. Face would be annoyed to find himself on the Eastern Shore, but it was the best place to go. At least, he hoped it was. It was safe, which was important, and Stockwell either didn't know where it was or, if he did but figured he'd only drive Face into running for good if he moved on it, didn't come there. He could have wished for someplace to go that wouldn't have Frankie's ghost walking around it, but it had to be somewhere he could drive to before Face woke up. Or came to, more like, he thought, looking at the blond slumped against the doorframe.

Hell. Whether or not he could make Face believe he was in love with him, this had to stop. Face withdrawing from the team, hiding behind those barriers of his—that was one thing. Face going to bars and getting this drunk, that was another. It was new and self-destructive and couldn't be allowed to go on. BA was right... Face was in pain and scared and fighting back and he didn't have a clue what was happening. Murdock had stayed away too long; he had to make Face talk to him.

Especially if Frankie had been right...

He forced his attention back to the traffic, but he couldn't keep part of his mind from thinking about that. If Frankie had been right, if BA was right, if what he thought he'd seen in Face's eyes that evening before he vanished was real... He had a very strong urge to pull into the first motel he came to, but he knew he had to let Face sober up first. He couldn't be drunk, not even a little, when they had this conversation.

And this time he'd have to let Hannibal know where they were. Because if it didn't go well, he and BA would have to pick up the pieces.

He sighed as he looped around towards 450 and the Bay. He'd thought Face needed time to get over Frankie, but now he wasn't sure that that was even possible. Besides, he had to admit, if BA was right and Frankie was the first person who'd ever had a real, honest relationship with Face, he shouldn't get over it. He should cherish the memory for the rest of his life.

As long as he didn't start thinking he'd never have another...

He sighed again. It was going to be a long drive.

It was well past dawn when Murdock finally found the turnoff from US 13 back west to the house. If there hadn't been sunlight, he'd have never found it, he thought, and he'd definitely have missed the last turnoff, the one that went out past the Willises' place to the one Face was renting. He wondered, as he headed down the bumpy little road, what they were doing in a place like this in the first place. Maybe Frankie had found it. Maybe Face liked the water enough to balance out the ambience. Maybe they both figured Stockwell would never come looking in a place like this for Face...

He saw the boy on the bicycle and slowed down, and then, recognizing Cal, he stopped. After a long measuring look, Cal came up to the Vette and leaned down. His expression was still and withdrawn until he recognized Murdock, and then he smiled. "Hey, Mr. Thomas," he said, and craned his head around to see Face sleeping in the other seat. "How's Mr. Hard doin'?"

Murdock had had time to consider the situation. Obviously, being in and out of the house, seeing the bedrooms, these kids had to know the nature of Face's relationship with Frankie. And with him. Yet they obviously adored Face. So now he said, "He's been better. It all hit him pretty hard again. But I think he'll be all right."

"Hape say," said Cal. Hope so. "Anything we can do?"

"Well, actually we could use some eggs." Probably more, but he couldn't remember what was there and felt a little reluctant to impose too much. He should have bought more than gas in Annapolis.

"No problem. You be out here long?"

"I don't think so. A day or so. Somebody may come out to visit. A black van with a red stripe, a grey-haired man and a big black man with a mohawk."

"Friends of yourn?"

"Yes," Murdock nodded. "Of us both."

"'Kay," the boy said. "Me or Anne'll bring some eggs and stuff around later—or if you wait, I'll fetch some from th'house now, just be a coupla minutes."

"Thanks." Murdock waited, engine idling smoothly. When Cal returned with a grocery bag, he took it and put it behind him.

"'At's a noce car, Mr. Thomas," the boy said.

"It's his."

Cal grinned appreciatively.

Murdock grinned back and recklessly committed Face. "Come by later and you can drive it to the store for us."

"Thanks; I will." He moved back as Murdock put the Vette in gear.

Face was going to be pissed off when he realized Murdock had brought the Vette out here, he thought, driving carefully as he could. That old Chevy truck handled this goat-track a lot more easily. But even if he could have remembered where the other vehicles were, he hadn't wanted to keep dragging Face from one to another. It would have woken him up, and pissed him off, and Murdock didn't want to fight with him. It had been hard enough keeping calm in that bar, especially seeing that woman all over him. And the last thing he'd wanted was Face saying or doing something irretrievable.

He pulled the Vette up next to the house and pulled out the bag. He found the housekey under the fourth flagstone in the walkway and opened the door, put the eggs and bread away, and then went back outside. He paused a moment, looking at Face. It would be simplest just to leave him where he was, but if he spent much more time in the sports car he'd be so stiff when he woke up he wouldn't be able to move. Which would stop him punching Murdock but...

He reached in and pushed Face off the door and opened it. Face didn't wake, even when Murdock shook his shoulder. "Face... Face. Come on, Facey, wake up." No joy. This wasn't just sleep, he had passed out. "Oh, man, how much did you have before I got there?" He reached in and hauled the other man out, getting his shoulder under him and lifting him. He resisted the urge to pat the butt next to his chin and staggered up the stairs to the kitchen door—Face was built more solidly than you'd think.

He pushed open the door to Face's bedroom and dropped the blond onto the bed. Then he pulled him up enough to get the cream-colored jacket off. He let Face flop back down and took off his tie and cordovan loafers. Then he paused. What would annoy Face more: finding himself half-naked or crumpling up those slacks, which were certainly dry-clean only? Well, if that's not a stupid question, I never asked one, Murdock thought and unbuttoned the other man's shirt and pulled it off, and then unbuckled his belt. That finally got some reaction from Face; he pulled away, curling up a little. Murdock froze. After a few moments Face relaxed, sighing and going into a deeper unconsciousness. Telling himself he'd give it one shot, Murdock, being very careful, managed to tug the pants off. Equally carefully he folded them and hung them up, along with the shirt. Then, much as he wanted to stand there and look, he took the quilt from the foot of the bed and covered Face with it and went out into the kitchen, breathing deeply.

Maybe I ought to get drunk myself.

Instead he stretched out on the couch in the living room and finally fell asleep himself.

Face was still asleep when Murdock woke up and looked in on him. He was curled up on his side, his right hand stretched out across the other half of the bed, and his breathing deep and regular. Murdock leaned against the door jamb and watched him for a few minutes and then tore himself away before he yielded to temptation and woke him up. Instead he picked up one of the few books in the house and went out to sit on the porch in the autumn sunshine.

"He's sleeping," he told Cal when the boy came by after school, handing him the keys to the Vette, the shopping list, and three twenties. He wasn't sure why he was volunteering the information, but the blue eyes looking out of that thin suntanned face reminded him a lot of Face's and he heard the words coming out before he knew it.

"Hope he feels better," said Cal seriously. "Him and Mr. Rivera... " He paused and then shrugged, unable to find the right words.

"Yes, they were," Murdock said. "Fill up the Corvette, if you would. Premium. And thanks a lot, Cal."

The boy grinned. "Thank you," he said, stroking the car's hood. "I'll be careful with her."

Murdock watched him drive off and would have put money on his cranking the Vette up to 60 as soon as he hit pavement.

"Murdock!" Face, his hair mussed and wearing a pair of cords, opened the door, glaring.

"Oh, hi, Faceman."

"Don't 'hi' me. What am I doing here?" Face continued to glare.


"I don't remember a hell of a lot about last night, but I'm pretty sure I said I didn't want to come here."

"Yes, you did say that," Murdock conceded.

"So why am I here?"

"Because I couldn't think of any place else."

"God damn it." Face looked around. "What did we come in? Where is it?"

"Cal took it to do a little shopping for us."

"Yeah? Well, we're leaving as soon as he gets back."


"I'll put it this way. I'm leaving as soon as he gets back."

"Look, we'll talk about it."

"We have talked about it. I don't want to be here, so as soon as Cal gets back, I'm leaving."

Murdock nodded. On to Plan B. "You look in pain."

"My head is killing me—and I don't want to hear about it. I need a drink."

"You need aspirin."

"I'll get both."

Murdock jumped to his feet. "There's beer in the fridge. Nothing else. I'll get you some aspirin."

Face snarled at him and headed for the kitchen.

Handing Face one of his sleeping pills instead of an aspirin was the hardest thing he'd done in a long time. Until he left Face drowsily nuzzling his pillow and shut the door.

Face woke. Outside the window was grey, not the half-light of dawn but a deep, impenetrable greyness. Fog had come in during the night. He knew what kind it was from the little he could see of it: the kind you could get lost in after taking eight or nine steps.

At the moment that was a little bit tempting. But only a little bit, which, he supposed, was an improvement over the way he'd been feeling for the last few days. Or weeks. He didn't even feel particularly tired, though he also didn't feel like moving. He was logy, like he'd slept too much... one extreme or the other, huh? He could smell coffee, which meant Murdock was up already.

Murdock... yet another complication there. Because he knew where he was and how he'd gotten here. He just wasn't sure why, or what to do about it. At least he wasn't so tired he couldn't think straight.

He'd sworn never to come back here. Sure, he'd only sworn it to himself, but still he'd sworn it. He'd been planning on giving the nameless boat to Anne and Cal and telling the owners to put the property back on the market and never going further east than Annapolis ever again, unless of course Stockwell came up with something for them to do in Delaware. He sighed and turned over to look at the ceiling. Now that he was here, he couldn't remember why he'd felt so strongly about it. It wasn't so bad; the burning had worked. Frankie's ghost was exorcised, though he hesitated over that word. Frankie was as far from evil as you could get... But he was gone. The room felt empty, and Face couldn't remember his dreams, if he'd had any.

That was good. Murdock had been right about the usefulness of this place as a refuge from Stockwell. Maybe the whole team could come out here. Murdock had enjoyed sailing, Hannibal probably would. Maybe BA would, too. Hannibal would love all this wetland to run training drills in... On second thought, maybe don't let Hannibal come.

He realized his left hand was stretched out across the empty half of the bed, stroking the cool unwrinkled sheet. Damn. Maybe he should sleep on that side of the bed so when he reached out without thinking he'd find the table. He pulled his hand back. Frankie was gone, though his body wasn't convinced yet, but there wasn't anyone to take his place. No one to fill his hand.

He sat up. That was how it went. Frankie had been a momentary aberration, a passing episode now over. Something to be grateful for, but not to expect to see again. It's back to life as usual, Faceman. Count your blessings. Three friends who'd die for you; more than most people ever get. Don't be greedy. He sighed and scrubbed his hands through his hair and over his face. Shower. Then apologize.

He didn't remember yesterday (yesterday?) very well, but he did remember overreacting and hitting Murdock. Being incredibly rude to him. Being, to be honest, a pain in the ass. He hadn't expected Murdock to come looking for him, but the pilot had. We're team-mates. I care about you. Murdock wouldn't let him get drunk and lost. It was his own damned fault if he wanted more than that.

We're team-mates.

He rested his head on his forearms for a minute and then straightened up. Murdock was still here. He'd spent twenty years near Murdock, never having him; he could spend twenty more, or thirty, or however many God—and Murdock—gave him. As long as he didn't screw up irretrievably and chase him away. So, shower and then go out and be as charming and contrite as possible. Apologize. Let him yell. Make him laugh.

Keep him as close as he'll come.

So Face took a quick shower and pulled on the cords lying over the chairback in the bedroom and a blue and white polo shirt from the half-empty dresser and a pair of battered deck shoes and headed for the kitchen with an apology on his lips. He never got it said.

"Cinnamon rolls this morning, Face," Murdock said cheerfully. "Fresh from the oven, yum." He held the plate out, and the scent of cinnamon and melting sugar icing mingled with coffee and filled Face's senses. He took a step backwards.


The next thing Face knew, he was outside in the fog, running along the dock towards the Bay. He halted a step from the end of the dock; though he could barely see where the dark wood ended and the grey nothingness began, he'd been up and down here far too many times not to know exactly where the edges were. He dug the heels of his hands into his eyes and then stood still, trembling slightly, taking deep breaths and trying to calm himself. The heavy fog made the place into any place, or no place—'no place' fit his mood better. Beneath his feet the Chesapeake slid higher as the tide came in, the sound eerily muffled. It was like Limbo, home of unbaptized babies and virtuous pagans... Lost souls. No way out.

The faint scent of cinnamon hung in the still air around him. He must have brought it with him when he'd fled the kitchen. He should have known better: you can't run away from what's inside your head. He closed his eyes, remembering...

Frankie tasted of coffee and cinnamon in the morning. He'd thought at first it was in his mind, because Frankie looked like cinnamon, but it was true. He hadn't found out why, but he remembered the taste of him. It was sharp and invigorating, but his kiss wasn't sharp. It was sweet and yielding, his lips parting, their breath mingling, tongues caressing each other. Frankie's eyes were always open when they kissed, dark and soft; if Face opened his, as he sometimes did, he could see himself reflected in those dark irises just as surely as he was in Frankie's soul... Morning kiss in the old kitchen, love proffered without price tag... enough to break his heart even then, though it hadn't. Not till he lost it.

Cinnamon and coffee. Breakfast even at fast-food places. No way to get away from it, from Frankie’s kisses, engraved more deeply into his soul now than when they’d been there for the taking...

He'd never get away from Frankie. Sometimes he didn't want to. Others... Most of the time, anymore... He sighed, facing it. Frankie was gone if not forgotten (never forgotten, never to be forgotten) and Murdock was here, and he was lost.

"Face? You out here?" Murdock's voice came out of the fog. He'd crept up on little cat... on big sneakered feet. Coming after him one more time.

"I'm here," he answered. Murdock joined him. They stood silently for a moment. The only thing the fog was revealing to them was each other. The rest of the world was unseen, unreal. Even the sound of the water was like a dream, very far away. Face shivered, feeling not cold but scared. No, not scared but anticipatory, though of what he wasn't sure. Wasn't sure of anything, lost in more than fog.

"How close to the edge are we?" Murdock still wasn't used to the dock yet, after only two visits, and he sounded a bit worried.

Face knew where he was in relation to the edge of the dock and the Chesapeake Bay. But that was hardly the only edge he was getting near... "I don't know," he said. "Too close."

Murdock shook his head. "You can only get too close if you don't want to go over," he said. And then, moving slowly but without hesitation, he leaned in.

A gentle kiss, which led to another, much less so.

Murdock's kiss was nothing like Frankie's. No caffeine, Face thought, pure wine...

And then he stopped thinking. About anything at all.

Murdock watched Face sleep. He seemed to have been doing that a lot lately, but this time there were differences. Such as, Face was relaxed. And the most important difference: Murdock wasn't just watching. He was in the bed with Face, not just close enough to touch but actually touching. Being touched: Face's outflung arm was across Murdock's midriff.

He sighed happily. He felt pretty relaxed, himself.

Face wasn't the first man he'd had sex with. There'd been a few in Vietnam, to relieve tension and fear, and several in the hospital in the first bleak years. But they had been even more desperation measures. In fact, in some cases they'd probably been abuse, really. Whatever, though the mechanics had been familiar, the emotions hadn't. Nothing, no one, had ever been like Face.

He ran his fingers through thick tawny hair, slightly damp now and disarrayed. He'd wanted to do that back when it was still truly blond, golden and soft and shorter even than it was now. He wished he had, but back then things might not have worked out... Everything they'd been through might have torn lovers apart, while it had strengthened friendship. Although... The past is not a choice, Captain, he reminded himself. And he loved Face so much more today than he had back before everything else, the deaths, the madness, the years on the run... the camp. And Frankie. He still didn't know what precisely had spooked Face this morning, but he had the feeling that Frankie was involved in it. This was their place, after all. Had been their place. It's ours now.

He moved his free hand—Face's head was on his other arm—away from his lover's hair to stroke it along his shoulder and arm, prompting it to tighten slightly on him. He smiled. George Allen was right: the future is now. Now and forever. And if it came with baggage, well, that just meant it was moving in.

Face snuggled a little bit closer in his sleep. Murdock liked that. It wasn't very Face-like, but then again, sleeping Face shed his defenses. Unless he was using sleep as one, of course, but now he wasn't. Now he was just being himself, showing what he'd find a lot hard to show awake. Although, Murdock smiled broadly in remembrance, he'd showed it pretty well earlier. And he'd been awake. He'd definitely been awake.

Very definitely very awake.

They'd stood on the slippery dock kissing for Murdock wasn't sure how long. A long time. No words that meant anything, just names and "yes" and "oh, God". Hands everywhere. Mouths. Murdock's shirt was on the dock. God knew where Face's was—somewhere between there and the kitchen door. When the fog cleared they could find it. If it hadn't been so wet and cold they might still be out there themselves.

But it was better in bed. Much better. Warm and comfortable instead of cold and lumpy, plus you could fall asleep afterwards without catching pneumonia. Though the falling asleep afterwards bit was a definite downside to being forty (over, actually, for him) instead of twenty-four. Or not, he reconsidered. This was nice, lying here drowsy and sated, with Face the same, plus all trusting and cuddly. This was something he hadn't foreseen. He liked it, a lot. He liked falling asleep with Face. He liked waking up next to Face. And he had the feeling he was going to like it when Face woke up next to him.

It wasn't a bit surprising that Face and Frankie had wanted someplace to be like this.

Frankie... Face and Frankie.

Of course Frankie loved Face. Who wouldn't? And of course Face fell in love with Frankie. Frankie had loved him, which was pretty irresistible. And Frankie had offered him forever, that was clear from what little Face had actually said. And forever was what Face wanted. And maybe what BA had said, and Frankie too, from what his grandmother had said, was true: maybe Face had always loved Murdock, always wanted to stop being the caregiver and start being the lover, but when he finally could have then Murdock hadn't seen it, had started pushing him away. Pushing him right at someone who loved him and who wasn't any crazier than the world accepted as normal. And by the time he'd sorted out everything Richter had told him after that Monte Carlo job, the absolute low point of his relationship with Face, and then Face was in the hospital and Frankie had decided to move in.

Wrong words. Murdock sighed softly. Frankie had to decided to speak up. And Face accepted second choice and because Frankie did too they'd made it into something real and beautiful and necessary. You could tell that by what happened when Frankie died... Face loved Frankie by the time he died, whatever he'd felt at the beginning. Whatever he felt for Murdock now, or even then, he'd loved Frankie.

Murdock hadn't seen it, his own preconceptions hadn't had the chance to change, and Face's withdrawal and then the balance they'd struck, where Face and he were friends again, had hidden it. He'd had a window to change it, if he'd thought he could, and for most of that year it hadn't even crossed his mind...

"Why do I do that, Doc?" Murdock had called Richter after they'd come back from Monte Carlo.

"Do what, precisely?" Richter had told him he could have half an hour and then 'someone who really needs it has claim on my time.'

"Act like a jerk. He's been my best friend for almost twenty years, I've loved him as long as I've known him, since '69. And now I'm acting like I don't want him around."

"Like you don't want him around? Or, maybe, that you just don't want him as close as he used to get?"

"You mean my boundaries are bigger now?" That made sense, almost.

"Murdock, I'll confess I used to worry about your relationship with him, until I actually met him. He was getting extremely close to you, and there were times you didn't have any boundaries."

"I remember those times, kinda," Murdock nodded to the phone.

"You told me once that he followed you wherever you went, that he came inside you, went inside your mind I mean—"

"Yeah, I know." And even now that was rueful.

"Well, Murdock, now your mind is not that permeable. Now you have boundaries. And your subconscious is going to be even more protective of them. The only one it wants inside you is you."

Murdock thought about that for a while. It certainly explained why he sometimes reacted like Face was a threat, but not like the other guys were.


"I'm here, Doc. I'm just... watching pieces fall into place."

"Your relationship with him was never one of equals."

"Oh, now, Doc, that's just not right."

"I don't mean he thought of himself as superior, or that you had an inferiority complex. God knows, with everything else you came up with, that was never there. But your dynamic, if you prefer that term, his interactions with you, were always from someone who was, to be blunt, strong to someone who was injured. Protective strong to injured, let me hasten to add: he was good for you. But he was a caregiver to someone who needed it, almost a parent figure, and you don't need that anymore. I'm sure that after twenty years it's difficult for him to adjust but it's imperative for you that you not find yourself stuck in that role."

Murdock gave that a lot of thought. It was certainly true that Face had been as important to his recovery as Dr. Richter. The difference between the two men was that, now that Murdock was healthy, the doctor's job was done. Face was still there, still his best friend, and that role was contaminated by the past... He sighed, heavily.


"Just seeing the whole picture, Doc. You're right. We gotta change how we deal with each other. And I gotta find some way to do that that doesn't chase him away forever."

"Yes. But if it's any consolation, from what I've seen of the man, he doesn't chase easily."

Murdock smiled wryly. From what you've seen, that may look true. But a Face who's around but distant isn't what I want... "I'll work on it now that I understand what's happening. Thanks, Doc. Send me a bill."

Richter laughed, said goodbye, and hung up.

And Murdock had finally got himself together in time to see Face slide back into the best friend slot, wanting nothing more. So he'd done the same thing; after all, he'd been doing it for years, living with half a loaf, telling himself it was enough and that enough was as good as a feast. That made him laugh: Face in his arms was a feast, and nothing would ever be as good as that. As this.

Why the hell had he waited so long? Not before, of course: before he'd known about Frankie, Face would have turned him down and it would have hurt them both. And after, of course, well, Face would have gotten angry, and rightly so. But after Malaysia he could have spoken up. Why hadn't he? Why had he needed BA to slam some sense into him? Of course, and he found himself laughing again, that was pretty much what BA had always done.

"Hey," Face said sleepily, rubbing his hand along Murdock's ribs. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing much, hon," Murdock said. "Just feeling good. How about you?"


Uh-oh. That tone did not sound good. "Yep, it's me. Were you dreaming?"

Face didn't exactly leap away but he did roll over on his back, sliding his head off Murdock's arm and pulling his own arm off the pilot to rest his hands on his stomach. "No," he said after a moment. "I don't think so."

They lay quietly for a while. Murdock could see Face's eyes going around the room. He silently thanked God that he'd retained enough sense to drag Face that extra five paces down the hallway to the second bedroom. No memories in here: it had taken him an hour just to get the bed cleared off the first night he'd stayed here.

"What happened?" Face asked quietly.

Murdock paused. "I kissed you, you kissed me, we ended up in here..."

"Murdock, I remember."


"Yes," Face answered, though it hadn't been a question. Murdock smiled; that sounded a lot better. "It was... But that's not what I meant. Why? Why did you kiss me?"

Murdock shrugged. "'Cause there wasn't anything in the world I wanted to do more."

"Really?" The tone was indecipherable.

"Really," Murdock affirmed. "Still isn't. I love you, Face. Have for a while. Will forever."

Face was quiet for a couple more minutes. "Murdock—"

"I know," Murdock interrupted. "You loved Frankie. You probably still do, you probably still will for a long time. Maybe, in a way, the rest of your life. But maybe there's room for me now?" That turned into a question.

"Room for you? I don't know why you'd want to be here for very long."

"Come on, Face. Don't talk like that. Frankie loved you; you know that. Why can't you believe I do?"

"You know me better than he did."

"Maybe... It doesn't change anything. I love you. You know me better than anyone in the world. You've seen me at my absolute worst. You never walked away from me even when it would have been not only easy but safer. How can you be surprised that our shared past makes me feel closer?"

Face rolled over on his side, those blue eyes staring almost fiercely. "That's not the point. That's not what I'm talking about—"

"Come on, Face, you're not going to trot out that 'Frankie loved you, you didn't love him' line, are you? You can't believe that."

Face blinked at him.

Murdock sat up and faced him. "Six weeks later and you're still missing him. Aren't you? You didn't go through that whole don't-talk-or-sleep-or-even-eat-for-three-days thing because you didn't love him. You didn't go to Arizona because you didn't love him. You didn't turn into a nice polite stranger every time someone asked you how you were doing because you didn't love him. You didn't cry all over me and BA's Mama because you didn't love him. And you sure as hell didn't burn everything in this house that reminded you of him because you didn't love him. You may not think you loved him, but you did, and it's obvious to everyone else."

Face sat up, too, wrapping his arms defensively around his raised knees and not looking at Murdock. "I didn't."

Murdock sighed heavily. He hadn't planned on having this conversation naked in bed, but as von Moltke had said No plan survives contact with the enemy. "All right, Face. Why do you say that? What were you doing for the past year? Taking advantage of him? And what? He never noticed? Or he just liked it? Just lay down and let you?"

"Frankie wasn't—" Face broke off that angry response.

"Angry? Why, if you didn't love him?"


Murdock waited but that seemed all. "You loved him, Face. Maybe not as much as he loved you, but you loved him."

"If I loved him, why was I glad it wasn't you?" That was soft, so soft Murdock almost didn't hear it.

"Because it wasn't," he said after a minute. "If it had been, and Frankie was there to take care of you, get you through what I didn't, you'd have been glad it wasn't him. Gladder. It's just human. It didn't last long, and you've been beating yourself up over it too damned long."

"If I loved him," this was more aggressive, "what am I doing in bed with you?"

"You're not cheating on him, Face. He's gone."

Face dropped his eyes, examining the blanket over his knees as though there'd be a test later.

"He loved you. He wouldn't want you to spend the rest of your life alone and hurting. And before you ask how I know, well," he hesitated, not wanting to tell Face about the dream he'd had. It was probably just him anyway, so, "it's how I'd feel." Face looked up at him. "Besides," Murdock added, "his grandmother told me."

"His abuelita? Told you... what?"

"That Frankie loved you so much he didn't care if he wasn't the first person you loved, as long as you loved him. That now that he was gone, you and she had talked about the dead, and she and I needed to talk about the living. She told me to talk to you, take away your pain. 'That is what love is for', she told me. I figure she knew what she was talking about."

"It hasn't been long enough."

"Oh, who says what's long enough? Ann Landers? Abby? Emily Post? What the hell do they know? Everybody's different. And you sure as hell haven't forgotten him."

Face sighed. "I tried so hard."

"Well, stop it."

He looked up, startled by the acerbic tone. "You're saying that?"

"Hell, yes. You can't forget him. Don't kill yourself trying. There's no need. It's not like I don't know you loved him." He paused, and then reached out and touched Face's cheek, gently. "It's not like I'm not glad you were happy."

Face leaned into the touch, his eyes closed, but he said, "I didn't mean to."

Murdock wasn't sure what he meant, but he answered, "I didn't plan on this. At least, not today. But love kind of had a mind of its own."

"I wanted it," Face said. "I wanted you..."

"You weren't alone, hon." Murdock felt Face flinch slightly. He added, "You don't have to be alone any more."

Face sighed and turned to kiss Murdock's palm. Murdock slid his hand around to Face's shoulder and pulled him in for a real kiss. Face came to him, taking hold of his head gently and pushing him down onto the bed. And while the first time had been wild, driven, out of control, and wonderful, this time was slow, gentle, and thorough, and even better. Especially when Face slipped out of the bed long enough to fetch lube from the other room, and for the first time ever Murdock was possessed by someone who loved him.

And when Face lay down on Murdock's chest afterwards, the pilot felt tears on his skin, and in his eyes.

"We'd better get up," Murdock said.

"Why?" Face said, burrowing into the pillow.

"Because Hannibal and BA will probably be here soon," Murdock said tentatively.

"Hannibal and—" Face shook his head. "How did they find out where we were?" he asked rhetorically.

Murdock looked at him with that slightly hangdog expression. "Well, I guess I must have told them," he said.

"You guess you must have?" He rolled over and realized Murdock was actually apprehensive. "Hey, I'm kidding," he reassured him. "I was thinking about telling them myself."

Murdock grinned, still slightly nervous.

Face caught on. "What, you thought they'd have to pick up the pieces or something?"

Murdock's expression told him he'd hit the bullseye.

"I didn't mean to hit you yesterday," he said. "I was out of it. I'm sorry."

"I know, Faceman. But I didn't know what was going to happen. You were really drunk; it's not like you. I just figured better safe than sorry."

"It's all right," Face said. "I was really thinking about telling them about this place anyway. And I was a little... out of line."

"A little?" Murdock managed. "I'd hate to see a lot, hon." He ruffled Face's hair, ducking from the slap Face directed at him, and climbed out of the bed. "I gotta go."

Face watched him walk away, appreciating the view with a new perspective, and then got up himself, picked up his cords, and went into the other bedroom. It was where his clothes were, after all. He found himself just standing in the room, though, instead of opening any drawers. The room didn't feel empty any longer, but it didn't feel anything but welcoming, either...

Murdock's voice interrupted him from the other room. "Face?"

"I'm in here," he answered. "Need to get some clothes, after all."

"Must you?"

"If Hannibal and BA are coming, I must," Face said with a laugh. "Not to mention Anne will probably come by with food; she does, you must have noticed."

"I did." Murdock leaned up against the door jamb, frankly staring. Face hadn't actually put on more than a pair of briefs yet but he wasn't in any hurry to put on more, not with that expression in Murdock's eyes. "They're spectacularly nice kids."

"They are," Face nodded. "They brought us flowers... that first time we were here, remember?"

There was enough of a pause there to clue Murdock in that he hadn't meant that, but the other man didn't take him up on it, just nodded. "Yep. I didn't know you still get flowers in November."

"I think Anne's a bit of a witch," Face smiled.

"A good witch, though, right?"

"Oh, yes."

Murdock cocked his head, came into the room, glanced out the window, and said, "Hey, Face, look."


"Your Vette's big brother's here."

Face looked at him for a minute, and then walked over to the window. Coming down the road was BA's van. For a minute he could see Murdock's fancy: the van was black, and big, and boxy, while the Vette was white, and small, and sleek, but they both had a red stripe along their sides—Corellian bloodstripes, Murdock had called them once, something out of Star Wars—and somehow they seemed to go together... He shook his head and once again it was just a big GMC van. "Big brother, huh? Don't let BA hear you say that."

Murdock grinned at him. He'd always liked Murdock's grin; now it warmed him clear through. Open, a little goofy, a lot welcoming, a smile that said 'I'm happy, be happy with me'. It wasn't much like Frankie's but he loved seeing it—He realized what he was thinking. Swearing at himself, he turned away to grab his cords.

"Hon? What's the matter?"

He looked sideways at Murdock. What in hell is wrong with you? Finally get what you want and... He shook his head, trying to dislodge the treacherous thoughts, and felt Murdock's hand on his arm. "I'm sorry," he said.

"Sorry? For what?" Murdock's hand moved to turn his head so he had to meet those brown eyes. They softened almost at once and the smile Face had seen for the first time that morning came back. "Hon, don't be blaming yourself for that. It's the most natural thing in the world. It's just like when you get a new dog, and you keep catching yourself saying, 'Well, Spot never did that.'"

Face had to smile. "You're a little more important than a dog."

"Well, I hope so, muchacho, though I've known a lot of dogs I liked better than most people. But you shouldn't forget, even if you could. Can. Don't even try."

"Murdock, it's not fair to you."

"Fair?" He reached out and touched Face's cheek gently. "I'm the one you're standing here loving. That's anything but fair—thank God. Face, I'll never forget Frankie. I love him for how he made you feel. I told you earlier, and I meant it: don't even be trying to forget him. You got good memories," he insisted as Face felt himself looking doubtful. "A man that loved you, passionately and well. Lotsa people would kill for those memories. Besides, hon: we owe him us."

Face smiled back at him.

"But you'd better get into those pants before Hannibal and BA come in; I'm pretty sure that would fall under 'too much information'."

Face had to laugh. Then he stepped into his cords. He heard the van pull up outside. "You'd better dress, too, then," he pointed out, and pulled a shirt out of the dresser and over his head. "They're here."

Murdock pulled on his khakis and a t-shirt that didn't fit all that well. "How much information you want to give them?"

Face paused. "That's a good question. What do you think?"

"What I think is, Hannibal hated being blindsided."

"He does hate that."

"Besides, the big guy knows I'm in love with you. Might as well let Hannibal know it, too."

Face shrugged.

Murdock said, hoping it was true, "Hannibal will be glad for us."

"I hope you're right. But I don't think I can lie to him any more."

"Then we'll tell him." If BA hasn't already, Murdock thought. And threatened his teeth if he doesn't behave.

"Face? Murdock?" Hannibal's voice came from the porch.

"Let's go, muchacho."

Face laughed and headed for the front door. He was already there before he realized that they were both barefoot and Murdock at least was quite rumpled. He ran his hand through his hair and opened the door. "Come on in," he said.

They did, and Face shut the door behind BA. Murdock said, "Coffee? Beer? OJ? That's about it." He'd come up to stand just behind Face.

"Beer," Hannibal accepted.

"No milk?"

"Sorry, BA," Face said. "I didn't know you were coming," he added pointedly.

"I forgot to get Cal to buy some," Murdock apologized. "But there is condensed milk, I could add water."

BA shook his head. "I'll take some juice till we can get milk in."

"I'll get it." Murdock headed to the kitchen. BA followed him.

"So, Face," Hannibal said, looking around the living room and then focussing that blue stare on him. "How are you?"

"Not bad, Hannibal."

Hannibal raised his eyebrows. "Really?"

"Maybe good..." Face shrugged. "But I think not bad."

Hannibal blinked, and then raked his gaze over him from (he was afraid) mussed hair to bare feet, taking in old polo shirt and cords on the way. "You and Murdock?"

"Yeah." Face took a breath. "Seems he was just waiting for me to get over Frankie, decided maybe that would take too long—"

"Or end up with you dead," Hannibal said acerbically. "Sounds like you had a time of it."

Face shrugged. "I was lost. He found me."

Hannibal nodded. "And thank God." He put his hand on Face's shoulder and squeezed. "You had us really worried, kid."


"Not your fault, but..." Hannibal blew out a gusty sigh. "I was worried. You okay, now?"

"Well," he shrugged, glad Hannibal hadn't moved his hand. "It still hurts, but I'm better. Murdock... I do love him, you know. It's not new."

"I know." Hannibal squeezed his shoulder again. "I think maybe I always kind of knew. But I'm glad you told me."

"I'm tired of lying about myself to the people I care about."

Hannibal's slow smile appeared, warming Face. "Thanks, kid. I appreciate that."

And then Murdock came in with beer for Hannibal and Face and him, and BA with a carton of OJ and a glass.

"Well, BA," Hannibal said, looking between Face and Murdock. "Looks like you were right."

"Yeah," he nodded, smiling broadly. "I love it when a plan come together."

         I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
           dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
           Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
       High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpled wing
       In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing
           As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
           Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
       Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

the end

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6


Original Fantasy:
  Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans
Original Fan Fiction
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Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
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