CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

The day had started out badly, and Face wasn't exactly sure why. First, BA had knocked on his door, practically ordering him out of bed. He didn't understand why BA would use that tone of voice. He hadn't even gotten out of his bedroom when BA started listing the things he needed to do. That's when he started having a problem. He remembered the shower. That was easy. First thing BA had told him, first thing on the list. But once he came out, it was a blank. He used to run such elaborate scams and now he couldn't even remember a simple list. He pulled on the first clothes he saw and made his way downstairs.

BA took one look at Face and the pride he'd felt at starting to take care of Face's "chores" deflated. Face had taken a shower, but he had on the same shirt as yesterday, possibly the same jeans, and hadn't bothered to comb his hair. BA had finally had it with being Face's 'chosen one'. This was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"Face! I tol' you to put on clean clothes and comb your hair. Where's your head at, man?"

Shocked silence. Even BA seemed taken aback by the force he'd put behind his words. Face had gone white. He knew he'd screwed up. He'd screwed it up with BA. He wouldn't have used that tone otherwise. The one person who had his back. And he'd screwed it up. Damn it, Peck, can't you do anything but fuck up?

BA had to fix this fast. He took a step toward Face. "Hey, Face, I'm sorry, man. I didn't mean to snap at you."

Face stood stock still. No, I screwed up. I screwed up. My fault.

BA looked stricken. He turned to Hannibal and Murdock.

Murdock moved closer to Face.

"C'mon, Face, you know how the big guy is. He always sounds madder than he is. He's not really sore at you. He knows you just forgot." The voice of experience talking there, he thought.

Face looked at Murdock. He did forget. But all he had to do was remember two little things. People don't just forget two little things like that. He'd screwed up and now BA was mad...or disappointed. And maybe that was worse. Maybe he realized he'd made a mistake, sticking by Face. Face couldn't even handle getting dressed or combing his hair. A waste of time. A waste, period.

"Face, tell you what. Why don't you go on back upstairs, get your clothes, comb your hair, and then when you come down, we'll just start fresh, okay? Like nothing happened. Can you do that, Muchacho? Clean clothes comb," he added helpfully.

They watched as Face slowly backed up to the door, then turned and quietly went upstairs. BA slammed his fist into his palm.

"Don't worry about it, BA." Hannibal put his hand on the big shoulder. "We're on a pretty steep learning curve here, guy. We're all gonna screw up now and then. We'll make up for it."

Face was back down in clean clothes, hair combed. Hands deep in his pockets, he nearly double-timed it past them to the dining room. It was going to be another long day.


*****

Maggie heard the entire exchange. This was not going the way she thought it would. She forgot she was not dealing with, well, "sensitive" guys. These were dear friends, but... silk purses and sows ears drifted to mind.

She was rethinking the whole Christmas tree scenario. Maybe today wasn't the best day for that. Or maybe BA should go instead of her. But the more she thought about it, the more it seemed that this little blowup might be for the best. It would more or less force Face to look elsewhere for support, at least temporarily. And then he'd be thrust into Hannibal's company. She doubted there would be a complete switch over to Hannibal, but at least it might open the doors a little to 'spreading the wealth' as it were.

She smiled sympathetically when Face came bursting into the dining room. He just looked embarrassed. Memory was one of the casualties of depression, right along with concentration and reasoning. It would get better. He would get better. It would just take time.

Conversation around the table was forced. Murdock was trying to lighten the mood; Hannibal trying to ignore it. BA kept looking at Face, hoping he would look back so BA could smile or wink or something to let him know he wasn't really mad at him. But Face just kept staring at the middle of the table. Maggie had to wonder how he saw what he had on his plate.

Breakfast mercifully over, Maggie looked at Hannibal. 'You or me?' Hannibal grimaced.

"Well, fellas, Maggie thinks its about time we got a tree in here. What say we go take a look, see what we can find?"

"Hey, that sounds great, Maggie." Murdock grinned at Hannibal. "But, uh, BA and I were gonna clean up the van this morning. It's been a while. But we can get the living room cleared out so there's room for it when you guys get back."

"Great. Well, John, Face, let's get going. We're gonna bag a tree."

Face looked startled. Going? Tree? Bag? He hadn't heard a word of the conversation.