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Harry Simmons

Adjustments

AUTHOR:     Viskey Utsadanas

 

RATING:            PG - 13

PAIRING:           none

DISCLAIMER:   I don't own the A-Team and gain nothing from this excepting the odd million…..

mosquitoes in summer.

NOTES:             There's a (slashy) sequel... Bedjustments. Mhm, I know the title's a bit strange

WARNINGS:     Self aggression, mental illness... and Amy, for those who don't like her

SUMMARY:      Face is behaving strangely, and finally lets Murdock diagnose him. Which leads to

Face sharing accommodation with Murdock.

 

************************************************************

 

Adjustments I

 

Face looked up with dull satisfaction in his eyes. He'd done it again. He had sworn to himself *not* to do it again. *Never*. It was ill. – But he swore every time, didn't he?

 

Nevertheless he found himself here in the bathroom, once again, cleaning up and feeling so disgustingly satisfied. Obviously he just needed some illness in his life. In the darker corners of his mind he knew he was crazier than Murdock had ever been, ever could be. He was simply better at hiding it.

 

Last he cleaned the razor blade. It was always the last thing he cleaned. – He had a special collection of blades exclusively... exclusively for this little obsession of his.

 

He accidentally cut his forefinger when he wiped over the blade one last time. Some more of his bright, red blood dripped into the basin, mingling with the water, turning the world pink. Face stared in fascination. Blood was just such a captivating essence.

 

+++++

 

Face hurried to the VA. Murdock had agreed on breaking out on his own this time. Face just had to pick him up. Therefore it was essential he was on time. He parked his car near the entrance of the VA, half concealed by some bushes, the motor running. Silently he was berating himself for his stupidity. How could he have done it this morning, when he *knew* he'd meet the team only hours later? How could he have been so stupid? Surely he could have waited another few days. Oh, he had enjoyed it, greatly, but why couldn't he have waited? There was usually some down time in between missions, plenty of time for a little... So why hadn't he waited? The job was an easy one, four days to completion, tops. He should have waited...

 

The wailing of the alarm bells cut off Face's somber thought. Instead he straightened up in his seat, ready to speed off.

 

"GO, GO, GO!" shouted Murdock, throwing himself onto the backseat, and Face stepped on the gas.

 

A few miles down the road Murdock finally dropped into the passenger seat. It had taken him that long to disentangle his limbs and get his hair back under control and under his cap. Of course, talking about his latest fixation – fruits and how some of them got used for espionage against their will – didn't particularly speed things up.

 

"Murdock, can I ask you something?" Face interrupted him.

 

"Hold on a second, please, I'll check if he's in." Murdock answered in finest British accent. He closed his eyes for a moment, than said: "Faceman! Jasper told me you wanted to speak to me. – He's a terrible cook, but as a butler does just fine."

 

"Murdock, cut the crap! I'm serious."

 

"So, what's up, man?" Murdock reduced his psychotic output to a minimum.

 

"Murdock, I feel silly, somehow, asking you this, but do you... Do you sometimes feel, the man in the mirror is not you?"

 

Murdock first arced his eyebrows, then frowned. "You're not asking me seriously, are you?"

 

"I am absolutely serious. Now do you?" Face responded sharply. He had no nerve for playing games right now. He'd had a hell of a day. He'd done it again. He had enjoyed it, just as always. And now he felt guilty for it, just as always.

 

Murdock looked at Face in astonishment. "Face, you're talking to me, Howling Mad Murdock. Of course I feel like someone else from time to time. And I don't even need a mirror for it. But why are you asking?" And he feared the answer. It dawned to him how serious things possibly were.

 

"It occurred to me a few times now. I look in the mirror and catch myself thinking: 'Boy, is that man small.' Or thin, or ill, or... I know, of course, it's me. But it feels so not-me. – That's not good, is it?"

 

"Well, Face. I don't want to disturb you, but this is a symptom of schizophrenia," Murdock answered flatly, though slowly. He had his emotions locked up tightly deep inside himself, he couldn't afford having them around for the moment.

 

"Yeah, just what I wanted you to say." Face grimaced.

 

"Face?" Murdock asked concerned. Face did not answer. "Face, you're not gonna go crazy too, are you?"

 

Face smiled mischievously. Going to? Certainly not. He was all crazy already. Had been for years. Face wondered, if he should tell Murdock. He was the only one, he felt would probably understand him.

 

"Face?"

 

"Sorry, I was thinking."

 

"Face, if you are now, as I am usually, I understand, why BA hates me."

 

"He doesn't hate you." Face happily jumped onto that subject. Anything but his own mental state.

 

"I know. He hates me being crazy. – I would hate you being crazy."

 

"I'm not!"

 

"Not yet, you're bound to say."

 

Face stopped with squealing, smoking tires. "Murdock, I'm not!" he shouted and gave Murdock a stern look. "And I told you that in secrecy. So no word to Hannibal, BA or Amy, is that clear?!" It was not the wisest, to shout at Murdock. First, Murdock didn't go well with being shouted at. Second, it would give Murdock a hint as how bad things really were. More than just a hint, really.

 

"Face, I'll be as silent as the grave," Murdock answered without hesitation, but gave Face a serious look, before he went on, "But... You should see someone about it."

 

"I know. It's just..." Face dropped onto the wheel, clinging to it and hiding his face, so Murdock wouldn't see the hopelessness he knew was written across it. Murdock had enough to deal with already. 'Don't talk shit!' his mind burst out on him. 'You just don't want him to ask questions, you dread the truth, the nasty, disgusting truth.' Somehow, sometime his mind had personalised. And from time to time it was talking to him. And it was never nice things it said.

 

His mind, seeing, there was no evident reaction to what it had said, repeated it: 'You know it's nasty, it's disgusting, revolting, vile. Go and confess, you know it from church, don't you? Look at Murdock as your priest. Go, go and tell him!' Face shuddered under these words, that were so cruel, and yet so true. It *was* disgusting.

 

"You're afraid. I know how you feel. Ask me, how I felt before my first therapy," Murdock tried to comfort his friend. He didn't know about the voice in Face's head, didn't know about his secret 'hobby', he only saw what it did to Face. He was suffering. Murdock couldn't stand anyone suffering; and his best friends at least.

 

"You don't understand, Murdock", Face managed to say, trying to cover up his misery.

 

"I do understand a lot, baby." Murdock stroked Face's head and shoulders. "And when it comes to craziness, I understand a lot more than most people." Murdock gave Face a big hug, the biggest in his repertoire. It helped a little.

 

"But your craziness is... harmless." Face protested, still leaning against the wheel.

 

"Schizophrenia is also harmless. Well, can be."

 

"It's... forget it." Face sat up, blinked away some tears and started the vette again. He kept silent for the rest of the drive. No matter what Murdock said or tried to make him talk.

 

+++++

 

They arrived at the appointed place. Hannibal and BA were already there. Only Amy was yet to come. It was an easy job, they really didn't need her, but they had come accustomed to count her in. So they had called her to meet up with them.

 

Hannibal sensed the tension at once. Murdock seemed unhappy, and Face miles away. "Guys?" he inquired.

 

"Hi, Hannibal", greeted Murdock. Face remained silent.

 

"Face, you ok?" Hannibal asked.

 

Murdock was on the verge of telling Hannibal about the conversation he'd had with Face earlier on, but he stopped himself just in time. Technically he had not promised to keep it to himself, but Face counted on him.

 

"I'm fine, thanks," Face answered, looking down to the ground.

 

"I'm not buying that."

 

"I'm fine, really. Had not the best of days so far. That's all." And Face lifted his eyes to finally look at Hannibal.

 

"Oh, yeah, really?"

 

"Yeah. Anything ahead 's gonna be improvement." Face looked away again, turned away even. He had the feeling, they could see it written into his face. Just one look, and they'd know everything.

 

Any further discussion was postponed, as Amy arrived.

 

"AMY!" Murdock ran over to her. He needed some support. Normally he'd get it from Face, but Face was out of the question this time. He hugged her once and stayed close to her even after he'd let go.

 

"Murdock?! What's the matter with you?" Amy returned the hug, however. She liked him just too much and he seemed to need it.

 

"Ok, we done?" Face asked, impatiently and strained.

 

Hannibal nodded and indicated the van. "Murdock, you gonna take my seat, Amy, keep your eyes and ears to yourself."

 

Murdock nodded, glad that Hannibal was obviously taking care of the situation. Amy nodded too, if with a certain confusion. But she had learned not to question Hannibal's orders.

 

Face felt himself being pushed into the van. And being pushed was painful. It hurt his abdominal wall, it hurt his upper arm, that Hannibal had gripped. And it hurt his heart. He didn't like being pushed around. – Well, who does, after all? He felt like complaining, but his voice would betray the pain. And that would cause questions... 'Dreading questions, are we?' And his ever-so-clever mind squeaked with laughter. In response Face turned his complexion into granite.

 

"Now, Face, what's wrong with you?" Hannibal asked softly. He was not sure what to make of the situation, what with Face and Murdock behaving so strange, but he was determined to find out.

 

"Murdock says, it's schizophrenia", Face answered plainly and faster than his damned bloody mind could even think about protesting. But then, of course, Mind was having its fun. He was avoiding the real problem once again. He was not telling Hannibal about the bloody razor blades, the blood soaking into his clothes, the fresh cuts he'd inflicted this morning and noon. The last one only one and a half hours old. He thought, he was so very clever. Well, Mind knew better. Oh, he was so *amusing*.

 

"What?" Hannibal was shocked. He drew Amy's attention by it, but she didn't turn and really tried not to overhear what was spoken behind her.

 

"His diagnosis, not mine. But I'm afraid he's right." Face said it in a by-the-by-voice, as if talking about purchasing new shoes. But his face was not by-the-by, his face was still stone. "But he says, it's harmless. – Can be harmless." And he was astonished himself, that he was not blushing. Didn't he know better? Didn't he know it had long run out of control, and wasn't harmless? 'Oh, it's only a little cutting, a little bleeding, a little auto-aggression. – Harmless.' His Mind mocked. 'Oh, shut up!' Face thought back. – Or was he actually speaking it out?

 

Hannibal saw a shadow falling over Face's eyes.

 

"And what now? Are you going to be ok?" Hannibal laid his hand gently on Face's shoulder. He had never before been so insecure. Was Face still able to function properly? Was he still able to con, as they needed him to? Conning required a quick mind, and Face didn't appear to be too quick at the moment.

 

"Murdock's cracked up and works ok. So will I." Face didn't know whether he was speaking up or not. He couldn't hear himself through the terrible, contemptuous laughter of Mind.

 

Hannibal was at a loss. Murdock being crazy, they'd gotten used to it. But Face? Sure, they were all nuts in a way, but... schizophrenia. If it was true... But had he reason to doubt Murdock's judgement? Hannibal knew, he hadn't. What the hell *was* schizophrenia, at all? Hannibal needed to ask Murdock. He turned, leaving Face alone, deep in thought.

 

+++++

 

They arrived after a four-hours-drive. They had all been incredibly silent. Almost unhealthy. Hannibal couldn't but smile at the thought, a sad smile, however. There were two unhealthy men on board. Three to two, what a score!

 

BA parked the van. He and Murdock and Amy got off. Face had changed back into the man, they all knew: Good-humoured, reasonable and superficial on the surface, hinting there was a hell of a something underneath. Hannibal stopped him from getting off, anyway. He simply stretched out his arm, so Face would bump into it.

 

"Not so quick, Lieutenant", he said. But the question he'd wanted to ask, vanished from his mind, as he saw the twisted face.

 

"Face?"

 

"I'll be ok. Let me out." But although Face tried to hide it, Hannibal heard the pain.

 

Hannibal acted on intuition, like he always did. – Although usually he liked calling it plans. – He pulled the door shut. "Face, shirt up."

 

"No!" Mind was having the time of its life, as Face tried to avoid the following. He squirmed, trying to escape Hannibal's determined hands. Finally Hannibal won and pulled up Face's shirt and Face gave a quick sound of pain, as some of the scabs were scratched off in the fight, fresh blood oozing from the cuts. He turned his head away in shame. He didn't want to be detected.

 

Hannibal let go of Face, all strength gone with the sudden shock.

 

"Face", he whispered, "Face, what is this?"

 

Face turned further away. Whilst he cut himself, it never hurt. It was just fascinating, great; it was fabulous. But afterwards it hurt. Just how to explain that? How to explain that he just couldn't help it? That the urge became stronger and stronger, till it overpowered him completely. That on these days he'd find himself in the bathroom, unwrapping his special collection and starting 'work'?

 

"Face, please, tell me." Hannibal was horrified and not actually out of his mind, but not really in it either, unable to comprehend. How could he have missed how ill Face really was? That he was ill in the first place? How could he help him, now, that he knew? And Hannibal was hurt. Sensing the despair, Face must have felt, when he did that. Sensing the hopelessness.

 

"What you wanna hear?" Mind spoke through Face's mouth, the voice dripping with derision and insult.

 

"I want to hear, what troubles you so much, you have to hurt yourself!" Hannibal was still horrified, but he was also angry. Angry that he had not seen it, angry that Face had not said a word. Angry that something had driven Face to do something that terrible.

 

Mind took over control completely. It made Face's body rush forward, flying at Hannibal, folding his hands around his neck and pressing. Hannibal did it reluctantly, but he did it: He punched his fists up into Face's wounded abdomen.

 

Face gasped and retreated. More blood coming from his wounds, he rose the hands, that had just been strangling Hannibal, covering his face.

 

Hannibal took a few deep breaths to compose himself, than crawled over to Face. "Face?" He laid an arm around him. Face struggled against him, crying. He did not want Hannibal's comfort, he had just tried to kill him! Hannibal struggled too. He knew, he must not let go of Face now. If he did, worst things might happen.

 

"Face, why didn't you say anything?" he asked gently, cradling Face and rocking. But Face was beyond speaking.

 

Hannibal held Face in a secure embrace for a while, stroking his back and head. Muttering soothing words and promises.

 

Eventually Face calmed down enough to speak. "It's just, I'm freaked out. I'm cracked up. I'm the real nut case. Murdock's as sane as can be compared to me. I thought, you'd be busy enough having one madman to deal with."

 

More tears.

 

"Oh, Face, Face, my boy." Hannibal rocked him gently in his arms. "I'm not getting *why* you did it, but it's ok, we'll get it fixed." It was the wrong thing to say. Face struggled free.

 

"You can't just fix reality, Hannibal!" And he was too fast for Hannibal this time, when he flung open the door and jumped out. He pushed Amy aside and rushed off.

 

Neither Amy nor the two other team members really tried to stop him, they were too confused and stunned. Instead they simply stood, waiting, wondering, worrying.

 

"Hannibal?" Just one word, but it was filled with books. Hannibal shook his head, answering all the questions that hadn't been asked.

 

"Hannibal, I... I don't want Face to snap." Murdock looked at Hannibal desperately. Hannibal postponed the sigh, that oppressed his heart, later he might sigh. At the moment he couldn't afford it.

 

+++++

 

Face was on his own, far from the team, at least he thought so. He felt the desire rising. Hell, he'd just done it this morning! He couldn't do it again. 'Why not, baby?' mocked Mind. And Face obeyed. He went searching for a sharp instrument. There was not much sense in resisting it anymore, anyway. They all knew by now that he'd snapped. That the really ill guy in their unit was not Murdock but him. So why not flinging himself into a round of pleasure? Damn it, he could even work on visible skin, like his face. He'd never done it before to keep it secret. And then, of course, his face was his capital, he needed it for work and the odd private comfort.

 

Face found a piece of broken glass and sat down on the ground in a dirty, deserted alley. And since old habits die hard, he rolled up the legs of his pants, for his arms and belly had been treated too recently and he needed new grounds to work on.

 

He put the splinter to his skin, just above his left ankle. Staring for a while, just staring for what might have been an eternity, or just a second. Then he put pressure on the glass. He felt pressure, he felt resistance of flesh and skin, he felt warmth leaking from his leg. Face pulled, producing more blood, getting lost in a red, mysterious wonderland.

 

He lifted the splinter, put it back to his skin, right above the first cut. He pressed, feeling the resistance and then warm blood, getting lost in relief. Every cut a valve for his innermost atrociousness. Red atrociousness, red, warm, liquid... There could never be enough valves.

 

He was up at his right knee, when Amy found him. She had to take a few breaths to becalm her stomach. The sight was nauseating, Face sitting there, his legs all red with blood, while he inflicted yet another cut. Then she went over to him, crouched in front of him, and took away the splinter of glass.

 

He didn't resist really, his work was done, both legs covered with long gashes. He looked up at her, but she wished he hadn't. His eyes were like glass, too. He saw her, but he was also looking through her. His face was blank. Like he was walking in his sleep.

 

"Face, what the hell are you doing?" She whispered the question, horrified.

 

"Adjusting," he answered in a dreamlike voice.

 

Amy did not understand him. "What?"

 

"I'm adjusting. - Bringing my outside in line with my inside." Face explained in the same dreamy, dull voice, that made Amy cry. But she still didn't understand him.

 

"What?"

 

"My outside is much too pretty for my inside." And for the first time there was a hint of real emotion in his voice. Amy tossed the glass aside, hugging her friend instead and giving him kisses on the cheeks and the forehead.

 

"Oh, Amy..."

 

Amy could hear a sexual undertone in her name. She wished for the others to come. She couldn't reject Face, not now. But she couldn't have him have her either. She decided to try and ignore it, and thankfully Face didn't dig deeper into it.

 

He just dived into her embrace and kisses, not crying, dead men don't cry.

 

+++++

 

Murdock looked through the grille in the door.

 

After the incident in the alley they had brought Face to the VA. He was found guilty, alright. But now he was found nuts also. They couldn't put him into prison. No prison for the insane.

 

Restrained to the bed, arms and legs, Face could hardly move. – Not that he cared. The white walls of the room were so dulling, nothing mattered anymore. He looked. He listened. Sometimes to sounds of the real world, sometimes to his own breath, sometimes to Mind, who was still mocking him for being a coward. 'Never had the guts to do it properly, eh? Cutting skin instead of cutting wrists, eh?'

 

But even the mock didn't matter anymore.

 

He turned his head to face the door. He thought, in the distance of his own mind, that he knew the man standing there, looking at him. He thought, that he not only knew him, but also liked him. He thought ................................................................................... He thought not to think.

 


Adjustments II

 

Face stood at the door of his little cell. They had locked him away. Away from anything that was sharp. But not from anything that could be *made* sharp. He was working on a blade already. And if everything else failed, there was always the window to break.

 

He didn't need it, not yet. But there'd be a time when he would. And Face didn't want to go unprepared.

 

He wiped over his chin and cheeks. He'd used to be clean shaven, every day, every night. Now they had him use an electric shaver. It didn't work properly. He could feel stubble.

 

Face stood at the door and peered out through the grille onto the corridor. There was crazy folks out there, scurrying along the corridor, some on their own, some in the company of bulky orderlies. Some screaming, protesting, kicking, beating. Some seemingly happy and content. Some screaming the ward deaf with nightmare screams at nights. But none cutting themselves all bloody. None turning their own skin into mush. That was just him.

 

He saw Murdock coming round the corner and quickly backed away. He didn't want Murdock to see him. He was too ashamed of himself. He knew Murdock would look anyway, would maybe even walk up to the door, peeping in, trying to catch a sight of him. But Face wasn't willing to be caught.

 

"Face?" asked the tender voice through the hole in the door. Face slipped down to the floor. How he longed to be with Murdock. How he longed for the days when Murdock was the nut case, not he himself. How he longed...

 

"Face, c'mon, how long are you gonna to play that silly game?" A little annoyed now and disappointed, too.

 

"Murdock, move on, there's nothing of interest in there for you", Face heard one of the orderlies.

 

"No, no, there's my friend in there, I know it!" Murdock protested.

 

"And what friend might that be, Murdock? What is it this week, pink honey-bees? Bigfoot, coming to visit you?"

 

"No, no! My friend, my real, *human* friend!"

 

"Move on." The orderly cautioned gently but also determined. Murdock had to give in.

 

"Next time, buddy, next time I'll get you!" he shouted.

 

Face sighed. Next time. Next time, he dreaded next time. He dreaded any time. "But it's true!" he heard Murdock, still protesting somewhere in the distance.

 

Face got up, walked over to his bed, undid the springing and produced his blade. It was not quite finished. Face tried it anyway. And it was... *PERFECT*! Just sharp enough to cut and blunt enough to cause wonderful resistance!

 

Face retreated to the corner next to the door, so he could not be seen from outside and decided, he'd work on his thighs today. He took off his pants and stroked the skin once, before he started.

 

+++++

 

Murdock made his usual rounds through the VA. And as usual he looked over to the door behind which, he knew, Face was living now. He walked over, peering in, expecting to see the same as always: an empty room. God knows, how Face always knew when he was coming! But he saw more this time and it shocked and hurt and saddened him.

 

Why had they restrained him again? But of course Murdock knew the answer. Face just wasn't stopping.

 

This night, he'd break out of his own room and into Face's, Murdock decided.

 

+++++

 

Face was sleeping, when Murdock entered, carefully closing the door behind him, so it would look still locked from outside.

 

Murdock looked at Face, watched him breathing. He reached out and stroked his face, ever so gently. "Why?" he whispered. "Why, baby, why? Do you hate yourself so much, you think you have to destroy yourself?" Amy had told them about his "explanation", and none of them had been able to comprehend it.

 

"Face, you're not ugly. You're pretty outside, still, despite all these scars, and you're just as pretty inside." His strokes became a little more confident. "You're so pretty, so light. Why don't you see that?" A teardrop fell onto the bedding. Murdock felt so miserable for Face. How could such a wonderful person think so badly about himself?

 

Face turned his head away. "I'm not pretty, Murdock, and stop crying", he said.

 

Murdock started. "When did you wake up?"

 

"Does it matter? Go, and leave me."

 

"No, I'm not. Look at me, Face."

 

"Go. – Please."

 

"Why? Cause you're ashamed? Good, you'd better be! Doing that, doing... hurting yourself like that!"

 

"It *don't* hurt, get that? It just *don't* hurt." Face looked at him for short, but turned away, before Murdock answered.

 

"Can't tell me that, Face. Sometimes later it does."

 

"Sometimes later is irrelevant."

 

Murdock grabbed Face's head and tried to force him to look at him. Face averted his eyes as best as he could, though.

 

"Face, what made you hate yourself so much? Who told you, you're ugly?"

 

Face's eyes flashed with sudden anger and tears that were just about to fall but didn't. "I was proved."

 

"By whom?" Murdock inquired.

 

"Who cares, dammit?"

 

"*I do*!"

 

Face didn't answer that. He just stared on, knowing, Murdock hated to be stared at, hoping he could get rid of him that way.

 

"Face, I love you. Do you think, I'd love an ugly person?"

 

"You love just about anyone and any*thing*. – Point for me." Oh yes, he did try to hurt Murdock. Enough to make him go away, to get rid of him. He should have known his friend better...

 

Murdock slapped Face. "This is not a game, god dammit! There's no points to make! This is about *you*!"

 

Face closed his eyes, excluding Murdock from his vision. Staring didn't work, obviously. He almost hoped his Mind would start mocking, so he wouldn't have to hear him anymore either. But ever-so-clever Mind kept quiet, always eager to tease him.

 

"Look at me!" No reaction to his anger. Murdock tried again, gentle this time. "Look at me, baby."

 

Face didn't look, but the tears started falling, he tried hiding them with his hands, but of course they were tied to the bed.

 

Murdock did it for him. Cupping his hands over his face. "Cry, baby, cry."

 

That, finally, was too much for Face. The gesture woke a lump in his throat, in his whole body, really, that he'd long forgotten. And it was urging to be set free. 

 

The noise Murdock and Face had made, had not remained undetected, of course. Two orderlies came rushing into the room, chemical sleep at hand. Murdock protectively threw himself across Face, hiding Face's head at his shoulder and wrapping his arms around him, sheltering him. He looked up at the two men. "Don't even think of taking me away from him", he said, far too calmly to be really calm. "Don't even think of it." Then he focused on Face again, stroking him and drying his tears with the cloth of his shirt. He undid the bandages that tied Face's arms down. And Face lifted them at once, clinging to Murdock as if he were drowning and Murdock his lifebelt.

 

He was one single tremble, he was one single pain. And Murdock was like his redeeming angel. Taking away from him, what had been brewing so long, all the unpleasant events of his life, no matter how minor, having coagulated to a black, filthy, smelly mass of badness. Taking all the tears, he'd never cried, all the sighs, he'd never sighed, all the sobs and the moans. Taking them all with him, away, away from him. Away, just away.

 

+++++

 

Face stepped onto the corridor for the first time. Murdock was leaning casually against the wall, opposite his door, smiling encouraging. "How d'you feel there, baby?"

 

Face looked at him, wondering, when Murdock had started calling him baby. What became of good old muchacho? "Ok, I think."

 

"C'mon, I'll show you around." Murdock pushed himself off the wall and took Face at the arm.

 

"Murdock, I know the ward. Remember? I've conned you out of here from time to time."

 

"Oh, yeah, and you were just great! Every single time." Murdock smiled broadly and squeezed him, knowing there were no fresh wounds that could break open. He had Face's promise. "By the by, Hannibal called. He's glad you're better. He asked if he could come and see you..."

 

"Coming here? Not wise."

 

"We could break out to see him," Murdock suggested lightly.

 

But Face got a slightly panicky look. Breaking out, leaving? Going outside? "I... I don't think, I should be anywhere else but... I think I just can't go outside."

 

Murdock nodded, as if he understood. – For him breaking out had never been a problem.

 

Face, however, noticed, that Murdock was just playing along. "Murdock, outside is what turned me into... outside is, what... what... cracked me. – I'm not ready for outside."

 

Murdock was fine with that. They'd break out when Face was ready.

 

+++++

 

Face sat on his bed, cross-legged and rocked back and forth. It was night, long past midnight, the ward was quiet. He'd received bad news today. Well, good news actually, but Face was trembling with nervousness. Hannibal had announced his visit for tomorrow.

 

'You could, of course, soothe yourself...' suggested Mind.

 

"No, no more cutting. I've promised."

 

'That crazy Murdock'll never know... Sure I won't tell him.'

 

"No more cutting. Promised is promised."

 

'Oh, come on, coward. They've taken that wonderful blade, and you coward haven't made a new one. But there's always the window...'

 

"Shut up, oh, would you please just shut up?!"

 

Mind giggled nastily in the background but didn't say any more. Face got up meanwhile, walked over to the door and shouted for an orderly.

 

"Keep it down, buddy, keep it down. What's your problem, then?"

 

"Give me a pill, please. Help me sleep." Face hated pills, but what he hated even more was the disturbing image of himself, breaking his window and...

 

+++++

 

Hannibal waited in the garden, BA and Amy had wanted to come too, but Murdock had hinted, that Face wasn't ready for so many visitors. So he'd come alone.

 

"Hi, Hannibal!" Murdock came running the last few steps towards him. Hannibal leaned to the side to look past Murdock. A few steps behind him came Face. Walking slowly, head bent, hands deep in his pockets. But perfect hairstyle, Hannibal noticed with amusement.

 

"Hello, Murdock, how's it going?"

 

"Fine, just fine."

 

"Hi." Face had reached them, but still wasn't looking up.

 

"Face, how you doing, kid?"

 

Face shrugged. He was still trying to figure that one out.

 

"Come here", Hannibal said, drawing him into a fatherly embrace. "I've been missing you", he whispered at his ear. "We all have."

 

"All, except Murdock", Face answered. And he even managed a smile.

 

"Well, guess so, kid." Hannibal clapped him gently on the back and then let go of him. Face was kind of relieved. He walked over to Murdock, using him as a shield in a way. He avoided direct eye-contact, he avoided body-contact – excepting Murdock, that is –, he avoided conversation. To Hannibal he looked like walking avoidance.

 

But Hannibal also saw that Murdock looked after him. He patted Face's arm, nudged him, stroked him briefly, as if it were purely accidentally, made him feel comfortable. And strange as it seemed, Murdock seemed to grow healthy by it. Maybe that's what he'd needed all along: Someone who needed him. Someone who would gladly absorb all the affection.

 

Face seemed to be the one who would.

 

+++++

 

Face saw the look, Hannibal and Murdock exchanged, when they said good-bye. Maybe they thought, he hadn't noticed it, maybe they didn't care. It was all the same to Face. He didn't mind Hannibal and Murdock talking about him. He trusted them both, he loved them both. He knew, they worried about him. He knew, they wanted but his best. At last even his heart knew it.

 

"Why don't you stay here a little longer?" he asked Murdock. He was itching to let them know, he'd noticed. And he wanted them to know, that it was ok with him. "I'm gone, though." He lifted his hand to Hannibal and left, as he'd come: slowly, head bent, hands in his pockets.

 

Hannibal watched him leave with a smile. "I must not make the mistake, I've never made with you, with him."

 

"And that would be?"

 

"Underestimate him."

 

 

The End

 


Adjustments by Viskey

 

 


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