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Laundry

Laundry
by emmastark




Rated: PG-13 Language, injured character.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Stephen J. Cannell and Universal.

Warning: Language, injured character.

Summary: Face does the team's laundry and talks with BA about words.


The Laundry
 

Rain poured down.  It was a nasty night, and the wind howled, letting a creeping cold in through the
laundromat doors.

Face lifted the lid of the washing machine and grabbed a damp armload of t-shirts and underwear.  He carried them over to a dryer and threw them in.

His hands weren't real steady and he dropped a couple quarters as he was trying to fit them in the little slots.  Just adrenaline.  Wearing off, now, mostly. It had been a day.  A really long goddamned day.  He crouched down.  Two quarters rested in a nest of dust bunnies.  Face wrinkled his nose, but grabbed them. Another had rolled just under the edge of the dryer. Face reached for it.

The door to the laundromat opened.

Face turned quickly, but not too quickly, hand hovering near the gun that was hidden beneath his
jacket.

It was BA.

"What you doin'?"

Face rolled his eyes, stuck the quarters in the dryer, and pushed Žstart.'  "Laundry."

"Should be sleepin'."

"You're not.  How's your back?"

No answer.

Face moved the rest of the laundry methodically from the washers to the dryers.  Took up five of them.  He glanced over at BA.

He looked like he always looked.  Big as a house and mean as a junkyard dog.  But cliches don't really describe real people and they didn't really describe BA.  How he looked wasn't how he was underneath. Something they'd had in common from the very first.

"Do you have any quarters?"

BA fished in his pockets and came up with a loose jangle of change.  He walked over and dumped it in Face's hand, then leaned against a washing machine.

Face started up the rest of the dryers, then hopped up on one of them.  It already felt warm.  The big empty room was so cold.

"Come here."

BA raised his eyebrows menacingly.

"Let me take a look at your back."

"Don't need no messin' with.  Want to mess wit' somebody, you got da fool."

"Murdock is sleeping the sleep of the just.  Besides, he's not the one who got hit with a two by four."

"Got dropped on his fool head."

Face dropped his chin a little and looked up at BA. He tilted his head.  "Let me look at it.  It'll make
me feel better."

"Save yo' scammin', Faceman."  But he hefted himself away from the washing machine and moved over next to Face.

Face rolled the red cloth of BA's shirt slowly and gently up over his broad shoulders.

BA's dark skin gleamed in the cold fluorescent light. His upper back was purple and black with bruises. There was a bandage near his right shoulder, where the impact of the wood had broken the skin.

The dressing was clean.  No need to change it.  But the bruises were angry and swollen.

"I could get you some ice."  Face lifted the cloth of BA's shirt carefully back down, trying not to rub
against the hurt places.

BA shook his head.

Face sighed.  It had been a nasty fight.  They'd cornered Avery's thugs coming out of one of their
"town meetings" in Avery's barn.  Town meetings that mostly consisted of a handful of bullies deciding which local Latino farmer to threaten, beat, or run out of town next.  "Cleaning up" River Bend.

They'd thrown fists and words.

Sister Margaret would have washed all their mouths out with soap.  For particularly nasty infractions, she'd drag kids by their ears down to the laundry room and pour one capful of dry detergent down their throats, holding their noses closed with her small, hard fist. You didn't forget that kind of lesson.  Forever after, Face knew the gritty, burning taste of sin.  When he'd wretched up white bubbly bile on the cement floor of the laundry room, feeling the cold misery coming up into him through hands and knees, Sister Margaret had said, "Those are your words, Templeton.  Those are
your words."

Better not tell Hannibal that story, Face thought. Might give him ideas.  He was kinder than Sister
Margaret, but they both had very firm ideas about justice.

Hannibal had gagged the men as soon as they'd put them down, but not before they'd said quite a few nasty things.  Face had gotten a capful of detergent for saying, "Oh, hell."  They'd probably earned the whole five gallon bucket's worth.  And most of it had been directed at BA.

Words are easier to throw than punches, and sometimes they hurt more.  Stay with you longer.

"Why you doin' laundry now?" BA asked quietly.

Face felt like he should reach over and put his hand on BA's shoulder.  Murdock would have.  Well, Murdock would have draped his whole self over BA.  He had a way of pressing himself against you when you were hurting that would take some of the hurt away with him.  Like sticky tape.  But Face wasn't Murdock. Face was an expert at figuring out what people needed. But some things were just difficult for him to give.

Maybe he'd try words.  Not sappy words.  They were guys after all.  Tough guys.  Just words, plain words like everything was alright.  And maybe the words could make it that way.

"I'm doing laundry because I don't trust any of you to do the laundry.  You turned my favorite white slacks pink the last time you did it.  Hannibal is a disaster.  Murdock washed seven of my silk shirts with his tennis shoes last time he did laundry.  They were in tatters.  Don't any of you read labels?"

BA's head dropped a little.  He was staring at the cold, dirty cement floor of the laundromat like he was reading something there.

Words.  BA and Murdock fought with words all the time. Crazy fool.  Ugly mudsucka.  But ultimately, their actions spoke louder than what they called each other. Action.  Okay.  He could do action.

Face patted the dryer beside him.  Warm, dusty air rose up from the five humming machines, making a little haven in the cold room, in the stormy night.

BA looked up at him.

"Come here," Face said.

BA started to shake his head.

"Come here," Face said again.  "Come up here.  What, there has to be a war on for you to take a little comfort?  Come here.  It's okay.  I won't say anything.  Come here."

BA stared at him for a moment.  Then he hefted himself up onto the next dryer.  He sat there, and his legs dangling over the side made him seem younger, suddenly.

Face scooted back a little, rested his back against the wall.  Then he patted his legs.

"Lay down a little, okay?"

For awhile, neither of them moved.  They were guys. Tough guys.  They could comfort each other when the floor was slippery with blood, when screams clawed at the backs of throats, when they were all tore to pieces they could comfort each other.  But the rest of the time it wasn't so easy.  To give or to take.

Slowly and carefully, without looking at Face, BA pulled his legs up onto the bank of dryers.  Then he curled onto his side and gently, almost delicately, rested his head on Face's leg.

Face let out a breath.  The dryers hummed softly beneath them, and the rhythmic turning and the soft
vibration of them felt good.  Comforting, kind of.  He reached out tentatively and put one hand on BA's shoulder.

BA's skin was hot, even under the shirt, in the bruised place.  Should get him some ice.  But he just
rested there a moment.

"Those guys were... were not nice guys," Face said quietly.  He was going to say assholes, but the
spectre of Sister Margaret was a little too near. "But Murdock told them off good.  We did good."

Murdock had lectured the gagged men for an hour and a half on the history of racism in America, quoting liberally from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, until Hannibal had said they had to go.  Nobody ranted as good as Murdock.

"That was quite a lecture.  I don't know where he comes up with all that stuff."

"Faceman?" BA said.

"Uh huh?"

 "Shuddup."

Face sighed.  And smiled.  And shut up.

They stayed like that for a long time.

At one point, Face saw Murdock appear in the glass door of the laundromat.  He wasn't wearing his
baseball cap (Face was washing it), and his thin, silky dark hair was wild in the wind.  Halo for a
crazy angel.

Murdock just looked in at them.  Then he smiled, planted a kiss in his palm, and blew it toward Face. And disappeared back into the night.

Murdock didn't ever say anything about it.  And neither did Face, and neither did BA.  When the
buzzers from the dryers buzzed, they just got up, folded the laundry, and carried it back to the motel.
None of them ever mentioned it again, but that was okay.  Because they were guys.  Tough guys.  And for them, actions speak louder then words.

~fin~

 


Laundry by emmastark

 

 


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