CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

Murdock heard the car pull into the driveway. They had just finished moving furniture around the living room and cleaning it up, all ready for the tree. He rushed to the front door, expecting to see the new arrival proudly tied to the top of the car.

Instead he watched as Maggie got out of the driver's seat, and rushed around to the back. Hannibal was climbing out, reaching back in. Face got out, Hannibal holding his arm. He stumbled a bit as he stepped away from the car and Hannibal and Maggie both took an arm. Face looked totally unfocused, like he had no idea he even existed, let alone where he was.

Murdock sighed. Now what?

He felt, rather than saw, BA rush past him. In a moment, BA's strong arm was taking the place of Hannibal's and Maggie's, wrapping around Face's shoulders, half walking, half carrying him into the house. Very soon Face was ensconced in his chair by the window, looking out at nothing once more.

Hannibal and Maggie were almost to the front door when BA was back. He grabbed Hannibal by the shoulders and had him up against the wall of the house.

"What happened? Why's he like that? What did you do?"

Maggie pulled at BA's arm. "BA, it wasn't his fault. Let him go. Let me explain." She knew BA was holding her to blame as well and was selfishly thankful that John had taken the brunt of his anger.

The big man let go of Hannibal, who was, miraculously, holding on to his own anger.

"There was an altercation in town..." Maggie explained what had happened. Every detail. It shook Maggie to recount the tale. She saw that Murdock and BA were just as shocked.

BA looked contritely at Hannibal. "I'm sorry, Hannibal. Real sorry."

Hannibal shook his head. "It's okay, BA. I know what it must have looked like. Let's go in, get some coffee. We need to talk."

Hannibal took a quick look in the living room, seeing that Face was okay. Well, relatively speaking. Then he followed the rest into the kitchen. He looked at Maggie, apologetically.

"Maggie, I hate to do this to you, but we need to talk privately. You and I will talk later. I'm sorry."

Maggie realized that those "things" she wasn't supposed to know about would be discussed. Much as she would have liked to have the whole picture of what she was dealing with, she knew it was for her own protection that she stay in the dark about them. She smiled at Hannibal, and went in to sit with Face. Hannibal then explained to the team his theories on the fight and the gloves.

Murdock thought for a few minutes after Hannibal had finished. He had been afraid of something like this when he had first heard about the gloves, all those months ago. He knew then that a split was coming, that Face was confronting a monumental task living with what he had done. Knowing him as well as he did, Murdock knew he would not be able to cope. He was actually thankful Face had found this solution. The other he could not have dealt with.

"I think we should bring Maggie back in on the rest of this. I want her input on what we do next, because it's time to start looking at meds. Get him started now, and that will still give us a little time to get moved into the new place, get our routine established, and otherwise get ready."

Reporting that Face had not stirred, Maggie came back. At least it looked like things would be relatively calm for a bit longer. She readily agreed that medications were a good beginning, and she would start researching them this afternoon.

Murdock took over again.

"Okay, that's settled. Now, I think someone needs to go into town and get that tree. Because this afternoon we're going to go ahead as if nothing happened. I don't want Face spending too much time off in inner space. He's been doing way too much of that already. If we aren't careful, he's going to go there one day and not come back."

BA volunteered to take the van in and pick up the tree. Maggie and Hannibal would bring the decorations down from storage before she started her 'homework'. Murdock was going to start working with Face in earnest. He wanted him at least semi-functional when this afternoon's project started.


*****

Face had been sitting in his chair, quietly musing, if one could call it that. He knew when Hannibal had stuck his head in to check on him. He knew that Maggie had sat with him for quite some time before Hannibal had come to get her. He could hear their low voices in the kitchen. He was sometimes aware of much more than they thought he was. Other times, he knew, were different. He liked those times much better. He wasn't sure where his mind hid during those interludes. He wasn't even sure if it was pleasant for him or not. All he knew is that he didn't remember them. That suited him just fine. He wanted more of those times.

He heard someone leave the house. BA. He watched him from the window, saw him look up at the window where Face sat, followed the van as it pulled out of the driveway and moved down the road toward town. He wondered, for a moment, if BA would come back. Probably. He'd promised to keep Face safe. That was before this morning, of course. Before Face had forgotten to comb his hair. Now Face wasn't sure if he would keep his promise or not. Not that it mattered any more.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Hannibal and Maggie going upstairs. A few minutes later he could hear movement in the storage area above him. He wasn't curious. He just noted the fact that that's where they were. He didn't worry about Hannibal any more. He didn't remember exactly why.

Murdock was saying his name, rather insistently. He brought his mind back to him. Not happily. He wondered how long he'd been gone this time. He considered going back. But Murdock was still calling him. It was always hard, when people were trying to talk to him. He couldn't concentrate very well with the distraction and sometimes it took a lot of concentration to go away. He wondered why that was. It didn't really make sense, having to work at it. He would've thought one could just sort of daydream, and let it happen. But it didn't work that way. Sometimes it just happened. Other times he really had to...

"Face! C'mon, muchacho, look at me, can you do that? Face?"

He looked at Murdock's worried face. He realized that Hannibal and Maggie were in the room, too. How long had they been there? They all looked so worried. They shouldn't worry about him. He was fine. He was getting better all the time...


*****

BA arrived with the tree. He hauled it in and found Hannibal standing outside the living room doorway, watching as Murdock tried to get Face to answer him. He hadn't 'gone away' again, thank God, but he was ignoring Murdock's every attempt.

"What's goin' on now, Hannibal?" BA knew immediately something more had gone wrong.

Hannibal explained. It was clear that he was shaken by it.

"What really worries me now is that Face continues to ignore Murdock. And Murdock's the one that has to bring him out of this. None of us know enough about it to be worth a damn."

"Face knows that Murdock's gonna try and make him talk about what happened. Make him think about it. And he don't want to so bad he's afraid to let Murdock in."

Hannibal looked at BA.

"Heck, Hannibal, that's just common sense." He picked up the tree once more and hauled it into the living room, leaving a bemused colonel in his wake.

Murdock nearly leaped with relief when he saw BA with the tree.

"Look, Face, BA's back and he brought the tree! Now we're gonna have some fun, buddy. We're gonna make this the most beautiful tree ever. You and me, okay?"

Face was watching BA set up the tree. Something about a tree...they had gone to get one this morning. So why did BA have to go and get another one? It puzzled him. He absently rubbed his ear, trying to figure it out. He felt the glove's roughness. Gloves? He didn't have any gloves any more. Somewhere along the line he'd lost them. So where did these come from? He looked once more at the tree. Hannibal. They were Hannibal's gloves. That's why he wasn't afraid of Hannibal any more - Hannibal had known about the gloves. He'd fixed it.

Fixed it. But why? Why did he have to fix it? Something happened this morning. A man. A man had attacked him. And he had...had fought back...had tried to...he'd lost control of it again. He'd tried to kill him. And something else...

He'd been enjoying it.