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Knock On Wood

Knock on Wood

by Shastelly

Rating: (PG)
Summary: Knock on Wood - If you've ever heard the song by Mighty Mighty Bosstones then you've got a good idea what the story is about. If not read it, it's pretty short.

Face stared at the newspaper in front of him. He couldn't believe it. Rhonda was dead, not just dead though, she had taken her own life. It had been a couple years since he had seen her, but he remembered her as a happy and vibrant young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Why would she choose to end her life? It didn't make any sense. She had so much life ahead of her. She had a loving family and tons of friends. Everyone liked her.

"Watcha doin' Face?" Murdock's unexpected voice, coming from right behind him, caused him to jump.

"Don't sneak up on people like that Murdock." He folded the paper quickly and turned an annoyed glare at Murdock.

"I didn't sneak, I walked right up to you. It's not my fault you were somewhere else. Where was that by the way, maybe I could stop by and visit sometime?" Murdock wasn't sure why Face had gotten so upset, but he tried to lighten the mood.

"You wouldn't want to." Face got up and left Murdock staring after him. Face really hadn't meant to snap at Murdock, but he had too much on his mind. He needed to find out why Rhonda would commit suicide. He searched through the desk at his latest house. It was a nice little condo on the beach, the owners were away visiting relatives for a month. He finally found what he was looking for, a phone number. "Murdock, I've got to make a call, watch for Hannibal and BA they should be here anytime now." Face didn't wait for Murdock to respond. He stepped into the master bedroom and closed the door.

Murdock stared at the door; he was horrified to hear the lock slip into place. Whatever was going on with Face must he serious. He was shutting Murdock out, literally. Murdock sat on the couch in the front room and turned on the television, he didn't want Face to think that he was trying to listen in on his conversation, even though that is exactly what he wanted to do. He tried to puzzle over what had upset his friend. He didn't think he had done anything lately to make him angry, and it was more that he had become upset all of the sudden. He could have been hiding something and it had just boiled to the surface, Face had done that before, but this seemed different. It was like he was okay, then he sat down to read...the newspaper. Murdock picked up the paper and began reading through it, try as he might though he couldn't find anything that should have upset Face, of course part of the paper was missing. Face must have carried it with him. Murdock sighed; it looked like he was going to have to wait until Face was ready to tell him. A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.

"Who is it?" Murdock asked in an impossibly high voice.

"It's us fool, open the door." Another pound at the door reinforced BA's gruff answer. Murdock opened the door and smiled at his friend.

"Welcome. Please may I take your coat?" Murdock asked in a stuffy butler voice.

"I ain't wearing no coat." BA shoved his way past Murdock and into the building. Hannibal smiled and shook his head. "Man, Face done it again, would you look at this place." Hannibal was looking at the place and appreciating the sight. This was a good place to get away for a couple of days.

"Where's Face?" Hannibal noticed the slight lessening of Murdock's smile.

"He had to make a phone call." Murdock gestured to the bedroom. Hannibal frowned at the closed door, but shrugged it off. He probably just wanted some privacy to talk to his latest girlfriend.

Have you ever been close to tragedy
I've been close to folks who have
Have you ever felt a pain so powerful
So heavy you collapsed
I never had to knock on wood
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if I could
It makes me wonder if I...
Never had to knock on wood
And I'm glad I haven't yet
Because I'm sure it isn't good
That's the impression that I get

"Face are you alive in there?" Murdock pounded on the bedroom door. It had been three hours and Face was still locked in the room.

"Yeah Murdock, I'll be out in a minute." Murdock frowned at the subdued quality of Face's voice.

Face sat on the floor in the bedroom; he couldn't seem to convince himself to get up. The conversation with Rhonda's mom replayed through his mind over and over again.

"Hello Mrs. Simms, this is Tem Brennon, I was so sorry to hear about Rhonda. I just saw the article in the paper and I wanted to offer my condolences."

"OH Tem, I have been trying to get in touch with you." The relief in the distraught woman's voice confused him.

"You have?"

"Yes, it's well it's about why Rhonda killed herself. There's no easy way to tell you this, but Rhonda found out recently that she had AIDS." Face felt his knees give and found himself sitting on the floor.

"AIDS? How long?" His voice came out as a bare whisper.

"She didn't know. That's why she wanted me to call you, she left it in the...note. I'm sorry, but she was afraid that she may have been...she may already have had it when..." The poor woman broke into tears.

"Thank you for telling me. I am so sorry to learn about Rhonda." Face hung up the phone. He closed his eyes and tried to catch his breath. This couldn't be happening to him, could it? He couldn't accept it; it wasn't fair. He couldn't have...he couldn't even think it. Rhonda said she wasn't sure, but he was. She didn't have it when he was with her; his mind wouldn't let him believe anything else.

Three hours later he still sat on the floor and he was still trying to convince himself. Murdock's voice broke into his thoughts. Well it was time to put on a smile and pretend that everything was okay, no not pretend, everything is okay. Face stepped into the main room and greeted everyone like usual. He had simply been on the phone with an old girlfriend. Everyone seemed to accept that except for Murdock who frowned, but didn't say anything.

Have you ever had the odds to go so high
You need a strength most don't possess
Or has it ever come done to do or die
You got to rise above the rest
I never had to knock on wood
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if I could
It makes me wonder if I...
Never had to knock on wood
And I'm glad I haven't yet
Because I'm sure it isn't good
That's the impression that I get

Six months had passed since the day at the beach house.

"Face what were you thinking? You could have gotten us all killed." Hannibal was furious. Face had made an amateur mistake that could have ended with the whole team dead. It was fortunate that Murdock had caught the foul-up before it went too far. "You haven't had your head in this case from the beginning, or in the last one for that matter. If you want to continue on this team you had better shape up. I don't know what's the matter with you."

Face stood silent the entire time. He knew he had messed up. He had gone in undercover in a law firm. He had blown it, the whole place had been on to him from the beginning and he missed it. Murdock had happened to overhear a conversation between two of the head bad guys, it was the only reason he was still alive. They had been planning on killing him and then going after the team. Face just couldn't seem to concentrate on anything. Always in the back of his mind was this nagging suspicion that he may be already dead. It was one thing to accept that you could die; it was entirely different to accept that you were going to die no matter what you did. It weighed heavily on his shoulders day in and day out. On top of that he began to think of the three girls that he had been with since Rhonda, contrary to popular belief he didn't sleep with every girl he met. He had called them, to let them know of the possibility. He had assured them that he didn't think it was a problem. He wasn't sick, he didn't have AIDS, and Rhonda had gotten that after him. The more it played through his head the less sure he was, but he still couldn't bring himself to get a blood test. It was like admitting that he could be HIV positive, and he wasn't. Besides, he had called the girls and warned them, no one else needed to know. No one else would be hurt one way or the other. He didn't need to know; not knowing was better. It was back to the way he had been living for the last fifteen years, today you could die, but you may not.

"Face have you heard a word I said." Hannibal stood directly in front of his Lieutenant, the anger smoldering in his eyes.

"Yeah, Hannibal and I'm sorry. I don't know what else to say." Face started to walk away, but Hannibal grabbed his arms.

"You're sorry? That isn't good enough, until you can prove to me that you are ready to get back into the game I can't let you go on another mission." Hannibal was angrier than he had been in a long time. Face could have been killed. Hannibal wasn't going to let that happen, not if he could prevent it.

"You..." Face was shocked at Hannibal's words; it sounded very much like he was being kicked off the team. It hurt, but in the back of his mind he was thinking maybe it's for the best. He pulled away from Hannibal and jumped into the 'Vette. Hannibal, BA, and Murdock stared as he pealed away from the curve and sped off into traffic. No one knew what to say or what to do. They were all worried about him.

I'm not a coward I've just never been tested
I'd like to think that if I was I would pass
(I have listened to this line over and over and I
still can't figure out what he says)
Might be a coward I'm afraid of what I might find out
I never had to knock on wood
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if I could
It makes me wonder if I...
Never had to knock on wood
And I'm glad I haven't yet
Because I'm sure it isn't good
That's the impression that I get

The next morning an insistent pounding at his door woke Face.

"Who is it?" He didn't appreciate being awakened this early, especially when he'd polished off of fifth of Gentleman Jack the night before.

"It's Murdock, open up." Face slowly walked to the door holding his head as he moved.

"Don't yell." Murdock was shocked by Face's appearance. He had apparently fallen asleep in the same clothes he'd been wearing yesterday. He also smelled like the floor of a bar. The apartment Face was staying in wasn't in much better shape than its tenant was. Empty bottles littered the counter and table, dishes were piled in the sink, and quite frankly it hadn't been up to Face's usual standard to begin with.

"Hi Face." Murdock tried to keep his voice down. "I think we need to talk. Why don't you go get cleaned up first. A shower will probably help your headache." Face shrugged and headed to the bathroom. Murdock began to pick up the mess around the apartment. He was really worried about Face. He was sure that this whole thing, whatever it was, had started that first day at the beach house. He had told Hannibal that something was wrong then, but it had taken the colonel a little longer to spot it. BA had also noticed, but none of them knew what to do. They had each tried asking Face what was wrong in their own way. Nothing had worked. Face had stonewalled them at every turn, putting up that smile and saying that everything was fine. Well if this was fine, Murdock had no desire to see Face when something bothered him. He was almost finished with the dishes when he heard a muffled curse coming from the bathroom. "You okay?" Murdock peered around the corner. Face was standing in front of the mirror wrapped in a towel trying to shave. He had apparently cut himself. "Here let me help." Murdock had reached for a Kleenex to help stop the bleeding.

"No!" Murdock jerked back at the harsh tone.

"Face. I was just going to..."

"Don't touch me, okay." Face had realized at the moment that Murdock reached for him, that if he was infected then Murdock shouldn't touch his blood. It had never occurred to him that he was putting anyone else at risk until that moment. What if he had gotten hurt and wasn't conscious to warn Murdock or one of the others, they would have no idea to use precautions.

"Face, I don't know what the hell is going on with you, but you are going to tell me." Murdock was angry and scared and close to tears.

"In the top drawer in my dresser is a newspaper article, read it and I'll be out in a minute." Face closed the door to the bathroom. He slipped into some clothes and cleaned up the blood. He could hear Murdock open the drawer and sit on the bed. When he opened the door Murdock looked up at him with a slightly confused expression.

"This was Rhonda the aerobics instructor?" Face nodded. "I understand why this upset you, but there is something more to this isn't there?" Face sat on the bed next to Murdock.

"It was why she did it, Murdock. She had AIDS." Murdock barely heard the last three words.

"She what?" Murdock swallowed the ball of fear that formed in his throat. "Face, do you, I mean...?"

"I don't know." Murdock exploded.

"What do you mean you don't know! Face this was six months ago. You mean to tell me you haven't gotten a simple blood test. Why the hell not?" Murdock didn't know what to feel. He was scared for Face, but he was also angry with him. Angry because he had ignored the problem, and angry because he hadn't confided in anyone sooner.

"I just didn't think it mattered. I mean why would I want to know that I was going to die." Face was nearly in tears. Murdock sat back down.

"It does matter. Face there are medicines that people can take if they are HIV positive, you can live a long time and not get AIDS. Face you have to know, you can't let this just eat away at you."

"I know, it's just...God Murdock I'm scared." Face broke down into tears. Murdock wrapped his arms around his friend.

"So am I Face, so am I, but we can get through this. You can do this." For a long time the two friends sat in each other's arms drawing strength from each other. Finally Murdock broke the silence. "Why don't we drive out to Maggie's? She could send in the blood test and you wouldn't have to worry with a fake identity."

"Yeah." Face sat up straight. "Let's go now. I've put this off too long. You're right, I need to know." Murdock gave him a smile of encouragement.

Never had to...well I'd better knock on wood
Cause I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if I could
It makes me wonder if I...
Never had to...I'd better knock on wood
Cause I'm sure it isn't good
And I'm glad I haven't yet
That's the impression that I get

"Maggie said it would take a couple of days since she had to go around the usual channels. She said she would call as soon as she got the results." Murdock tried to stop Face from pacing. "Besides, you are wearing a hole in the sidewalk. Hannibal and BA are going to be here to pick us up in a minute." Murdock noticed the pained expression of his friend. "When you tell them what's going on they will understand." Face nodded, but he didn't look too convinced.

"I know I need to explain, I just don't know how they are going to take it. I mean I put your lives in danger on that last mission because I couldn't keep my mind on business. I really..."

"Face..." Murdock interrupted him, "have a little faith." Face nodded and stopped pacing. The van pulled up a few moments later. The tension in the van was oppressive. No one seemed to know what to say. Face was nervous about what Hannibal and BA would think. Hannibal wanted to apologize for getting quite so mad, BA had told him that he made it sound like he didn't want Face on the team, that wasn't what he wanted the kid to think. BA knew that his friends were hurting, but he didn't know what he could do. Murdock just wished that he could tell them what he knew, but Face needed to do it. The ringing of the phone broke the silence.

"Joe's Deli." Hannibal answered.

"Yeah, I'd like a ham on wheat." The familiar voice responded with the code.

"Maggie, how are you?" Hannibal was pleased to hear her voice, but he was a little surprised that she would call him on the van phone.

"Actually, I need to talk to Face." Hannibal gave the phone a slightly confused look, which deepened when he noticed how pale Face had gotten.

"It's for you." Hannibal handed Face the phone. Murdock put his hand on Face's shoulder for support. Hannibal was really worried now.

"Yeah, Maggie." Face's voice cracked a little. He listened quietly to what she told him. "Thanks." Face hung up the phone and for a long minute just stared into space.

"Well?" Murdock impatiently gave him a shake. The radiant smile that lit his friend's face was all the answer he needed. He gave a relieved howl and gave Face a bear hug.

Hannibal watched the display with something close to fear. It was obvious that whatever was okay, but it was also obvious that it had been a serious situation.

"What is going on?" Hannibal asked quietly. BA had pulled the van over to the side of the street and parked. He also turned to face the two in the back.

"Well it's a long story." Face filled Hannibal and BA in on everything that had been happening over the last six months. The expressions on their faces went from horrified to relieved by the end of the story. No one said anything. Hannibal and BA needed to process what they had been told. Face waited for their reaction; he was almost certain that they would both be angry with him. Finally Hannibal looked up, if Face didn't know better he would have sworn that there were tears in the colonel's eyes.

"Face, you should have told us sooner. We are a team that means that if one of is hurting then we all are. You should have let us help you through this." BA nodded in agreement. "But right now I'm just glad that you're okay." Hannibal surprised Face by pulling him into a hug. Face was shocked to feel BA wrap his arms around the both of them. He should have known, the team was the family he had always wanted, and a family that stuck together no matter what. Murdock wrapped himself around all three of them.

"We've had a moment." Murdock gave an exaggerated sniffle and broke the seriousness of the moment.

"Shut up fool." BA spun his seat around and started the van back down the road.

"OH don't deny it this time BA, you were all soft and cuddly." Murdock had a smug grin on his face.

"Shut up, before I have to shut you up!"

"BA." Hannibal laid a restraining hand on BA's shoulder.

Face leaned back into his chair and smiled. Everything was back to normal.

The End

Knock on Wood by Shastelly



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