CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

Hannibal's talk with Face had no apparent effect. The next morning he kept his distance from both the colonel and Murdock. Unfortunately, he began to look at BA with a certain degree of wariness also. Was he thinking of BA's 'complicity' in last night's confrontation? BA knew he had to nip that in the bud. As they were loading the van, BA managed to maneuver Face off to the side.

"Face, you remember I told you I would keep you safe? You remember me saying that?"

"Yeah."

"Have I ever lied to you, Face? Ever?"

Face looked him in the eye. No, BA had never lied to him. BA didn't have it in him to lie.

"No."

"So don't you start shuttin me out, you hear? I don't know what your problem is with Hannibal or Murdock. Neither one of them would do anything to hurt you, and you know that. But that don't matter right now. Cause you and me, we got no problem. And we ain't gonna, are we? Cause we trust each other, right?"

BA could have sworn tears formed in Face's eyes. An instant later they were clear.

"Right, BA." And Face turned away and got in the van.

BA sighed. This was not turning out the way they had planned it. Instead of sharing the weight of Face's healing, it was landing squarely on BA's shoulders. He would not shrug it off, but he was worried he wouldn't be able to do the job. It would fall on him to get Face to trust Hannibal and Murdock again. And since he didn't know why the trust was gone, it was going to be a very hard task.


*****

As planned, they drove straight through to LA. Each day a repeat of the day before. Face talked to no one, responded to no one, except BA. If asked to do something, he did it. Otherwise he sat and watched out the window, or slept - or pretended to. Finally, on the morning of the second day, they pulled gratefully into Bad Rock.

As they pulled up to Maggie's house, they saw her standing on the front steps, waving. She trotted up to the van, smiling her welcome. Despite what Hannibal had told her of their problem, she was determined to act as normally as possible. She knew how easy it was to become bogged down in the stress.

"Hi, Maggie." Hannibal gave her a quick hug, spirits raised by her smile.

"Hi, John. Welcome back."

Murdock and BA joined them, greeting Maggie warmly.

Then she turned to greet Face and was shocked by what she saw. He stood back, silently watching from the side of the van. That in itself was so totally unlike Face it took her aback. She took in his hair, much longer and disordered than she had ever seen it. The beard nearly matched his hair in its unruliness. The eyes peering at her, emotionless except for suspicion. He was terribly thin, to her mind. Probably not eating much even now. She could feel the tension radiating from him. She glanced at Hannibal. No wonder they all looked so tired. Living with...this...for the last week. She felt a surge of sadness for the four of them.

She stepped over to Face. He straightened, and she saw near panic come into his eyes. Dear God, Face, she thought, what has happened to you?

"Hello, Face. I'm glad to see you again. I've missed you." She smiled warmly.

Not a word.

"I imagine you guys are ready for some good home cooking, huh? Why don't you come with me, Face, and we'll get you all some breakfast." She held out her hand and waited.

Face watched her hand. He didn't want to be here. This was Hannibal's territory. Maggie was a doctor; doctors meant drugs and questions and he wanted neither. He looked at BA. Although BA nodded back at him, he didn't move. Maybe BA didn't know as much as he thought he did. Maggie still held her hand out to him. She had never hurt him. She'd always helped the team when they needed it. All of them. She wasn't coming any closer, just kept holding out that hand. His choice. His space. Ok.

He looked at her, at her hand, back to her face. She understood. She dropped her hand, smiled, turned and started walking toward the house. Face followed. They had a truce.


*****

One would almost have thought there was nothing wrong in the world. Murdock and Maggie were chatting away in the kitchen, wonderful breakfast smells filling the house. Hannibal wandered happily back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room, setting the table, while BA gathered chairs and generally did whatever else needed doing. There was good natured teasing between the four of them, and they all were relaxing for the first time in months.

Face sat in the living room, listening. He would've liked to join in with the others. It all sounded so...normal. Like old times. He would have been right there, trading insults with Murdock, teasing Maggie, laughing. A real laugh. He would like to join them, but he couldn't. He couldn't make his body move into those rooms. He didn't belong in there any more. He wasn't part of that. Not after what he had done. So he sat and listened and looked out the window, staring at nothing.

BA was standing next to him, saying something. He hadn't even heard him come into the room. Where the hell had his mind been? That could've been anybody coming up on him. Planning anything. Stupid. He had to keep on top of things. He looked up at BA.

BA had been surprised that Face hadn't reacted to his coming up to him. Maybe the kid was finally starting to relax, let all those guards down a bit. That would be good. Yeah, or maybe he's just movin more into his own little world. And that wouldn't be good.

"C'mon, Face, let's eat."


*****

Maggie was telling them about the house she'd found for them. It was on a small farmstead, about 15 acres, not quite a mile out of Bad Rock. The farm was no longer in operation, but belonged to a professional couple. It was a large house, five bedrooms, old fashioned country kitchen, and even a large library. The owners were leaving for Europe due to the husband's job. They were willing to lease it at a reasonable price, glad to have someone to keep an eye on it. It sounded ideal. The couple was leaving the following week, so the team would stay at Maggie's until then. They would move in the day after Christmas.

Maggie had been watching Face throughout breakfast, as he stared a hole through the middle of the table. He was absently brushing the hair away from his face, or smoothing his beard, closing his eyes in seeming irritation each time. Something needed to be done about that, she decided. He wasn't looking himself and he needed to. He needed to get himself back, and that would be a good way to start. Consequently, as the others were clearing the table after breakfast, she moved over towards him.

"Face, this is probably none of my business, but I was thinking you might feel a little better if you had a haircut. I'm not exactly Beverly Hills trained, but I think I could do a fair job. If you'd like me to, that is."

Face looked at her, impassive. A haircut. He didn't care, really. It meant she'd have to get closer to him than he liked. He didn't want anyone very close. But again, Maggie had never hurt him. She'd given him his space earlier. She wasn't telling him she was going to cut his hair. She was asking him. Well, maybe. He could always leave if it got to be too much.

"Ok."

She could almost hear the sound of 3 jaws hitting the floor...


*****

Maggie made sure the guys knew they were not welcome on the back porch, where she had chosen to give Face his shearing. It was sunny and warm, and large enough that Face wouldn't feel overly confined. She had whispered to Hannibal on her way out to make sure an electric razor was in the bathroom. She crossed her fingers at him, letting him know she didn't hold out a lot of hope, but maybe. As she closed the door behind her, Hannibal, BA and Murdock grinned at each other. Leave it to Maggie.

Face was having second thoughts about this. He really didn't care what he looked like. But Maggie was putting herself out for them all, so he would go along with her on this. But the first sweep of the wet comb through his hair sent him up off the stool and over to the porch window.

Maggie sighed. It was a good thing she'd rearranged her schedule for the day. She might be at this for quite some time.

"It's okay, Face. We'll take it slow. Only what you're comfortable with."

He stood very still. Minutes passed. His heart was racing, and he knew this was stupid. But he couldn't help it. He didn't know what to do about it. So he just stood still until his heart slowed. Taking a deep breath, he sat back on the stool and steeled himself.

Maggie sighed in relief. Almost two hours. Not bad, considering how many times she'd had to stop and wait for him to calm down. But at last his haircut was done. It had been quite a while since his last flight, so maybe he was ready for the beard.

"Okay, Face. That's done. Now, you know, that beard doesn't really fit you, does it? If you'd like, and as long as we're all set up here anyway, I can trim that down for you. And when that's done, you can go on in and shave the rest of it off. I think you'd feel more like yourself that way, don't you?"

This woman didn't know when to quit. But he really did hate the beard. It wasn't his. It belonged to that other person, the one who...

"Ok."

It was a neatly trimmed, clean shaven Face who sat down to lunch. The first tiny step toward really bringing him home.