The Achieve of the Thing


Note: this is a direct sequel to "Like A Thunderbolt, He Falls". If you haven't read that, you probably should.
The epigraph is excerpted from Gerard Manley Hopkins's "The Windhover".
The poem found in Chapter Two is Margaret Atwood's "Variations on the Word Sleep".

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
    dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpled wing
In his ecstasy!

Chapter One

Murdock sat at the old wooden table in the kitchen and listened to the song of the night. The door was open, the screen door collecting moths drawn by the single lamp, and he could hear the Chesapeake, the nightbirds, and the wind. He could smell the salt, too; very salty the Bay was this close to the ocean, though more brackish further north, he knew. Down here it might be the Atlantic. Face did love the ocean. He sighed and took another pull from his beer: trust Face to know a gas station in Maryland that carried Corona. Putting the bottle down on the table he cocked an ear towards the other room, but didn't hear anything. He glanced at the phone again; he should call Hannibal, he knew he should, but he wanted to wait until Face was deeply sleeping. The conversation might not go well, and even if it did, no sense in disturbing Face.

No sense in disturbing him any more, that was. Murdock pulled at the edge of the label moodily. It was his third and he probably wouldn't finish it; it most likely depended on what Hannibal said when he called. Face, though... Face had had six. And wanted another, but Murdock had point-blank refused to let him. He'd been surprised at how docilely Face had accepted that, but by then the younger man had been exhausted. Probably too exhausted to argue.

He'd cried a long time, sitting out there on the edge of the dock as night fell. And after he'd cried himself out, he'd stayed in Murdock's hold for a long while. But then he'd pulled away, embarrassed and maybe even a little frightened at the emotions he'd let loose. It hadn't been time to try talking about anything, Murdock had known; Face would have run. So he'd just picked up the box of chicken and handed it to the blond and reached for a beer. They had sat there, feet dangling over the Bay, and finished the chicken, pitching the bones into the dark water, and drank.

After about a half an hour, the sound of a small outboard engine had reached them. Face had lifted his head, listening, and then said, "That'll be Cal."

"Cal who?"

"Anne's brother," Face had said as though that was enough explanation.

"Hey, Mr. Hard," a teenager's voice reached them through the warm, humid darkness. "I brought youns some eggs an' bread from momma. Anne said you had somebody else here?" He paused. "You all rote, Mr. Hard?"

"Yeah," Face said.

Murdock pulled the names up out of his memory and added, "My name's Thomas. Mr. Rivera won't be coming up any more. He died."

"Died?" The boy's accent made it dode but Murdock was beginning to get the hang of it. Besides, what else could it have been? "'At's too bad. Sorry t'hear 'at. He dint seem sick."

"He was shot," Face said baldly.

The boy whistled. "'At DC, at's a bade place t'live."

"Yes," Murdock let the misapprehension stand. "Did you say eggs?"

"Oh, rote. Sorry..." Cal brought the boat up next to the dock and handed over a paper bag. "My folks'll be at sorry 'bout Mr. Rivera. We'll lote a candle for him Sunnay."

"Thank you," Face said.

"Anne forgot t'ask you, how long youns gane be here?"

"Couple of days, maybe."

"Well, we keep an eye out," the boy had said, or Murdock thought that's what he'd said. It had sounded more like "an oeh oot".

"Thanks, Cal," Face had said.

"Naow problem, Mr. Hard. You take it easy." And then he'd revved up the motor and been gone.

"You got your own personal coast watchers?" Murdock had asked.

Face had shrugged. "Like Cal said, they keep an eye out... nice people."

"Eating out of your hand," Murdock had teased lightly.

Face had shrugged again and pulled his fourth beer out of the twelve-pack. There hadn't been any more conversation until Murdock had vetoed beer number seven and they'd come inside. Face had been nearly sleepwalking then; he'd headed for bed, but after Murdock had put the six brown eggs into the refrigerator and the homemade bread in the breadbox beside it, he'd come out of the kitchen to find the younger man standing stock-still in the doorway of the bedroom.

Murdock had sworn silently. The little house had two bedrooms, he'd seen, but the other bed was covered in stuff. Face needed to sleep, and anyway, he was going to have to face it sooner or later. Now was as good a time as any. At least now he was tired and almost drunk. He'd probably sleep anywhere... Murdock sighed and put his hand between Face's chambray-covered shoulders and pushed, lightly. "Go on to bed," he'd said.

Once moving, Face had managed to get into the room and the bed, curling up on one side near the edge and closing his eyes. Murdock had cut the lights and gone into the kitchen, listening to Face's struggle to sleep. The beer and the exhaustion had indeed helped, and Face had in fact gone off relatively soon. Murdock was now sitting and waiting to see if he was going to wake up, and putting off calling Hannibal.

But he couldn't put it off for ever, he knew; Hannibal wouldn't call Stockwell soon but he would eventually. He sighed; he should have left Hannibal a note, but who knew Face and Frankie had been in the habit of driving all this way, into the haunts of coot and tern? He'd figured DC somewhere...

The label came off the bottle. He looked at it in some surprise, having been unaware he was even messing with it, and then folded it and laid it on the table. He looked at his watch. Getting late... he'd better call. Reaching a long arm out, he snagged the phone from the counter and set it on the table and dialed.

Hannibal picked up on the second ring. "Face?" He sounded worried.

"No, Hannibal, it's me."

"Captain." Hannibal's voice sharpened. "You'd better be calling to tell me Face is with you and you're on your way back. And you'd better think long and hard before saying he's not—"

"Now, Hannibal," Murdock interrupted, "I could think all I wanted and if he wasn't with me he still wouldn't be."


"He's with me," he reassured the older man. "But we're not on our way back. Not tonight."


"And probably not tomorrow, either. The next day, I expect. Look, Hannibal, he's beat. He's asleep right now, and tomorrow he doesn't need to be driving for hours—"

"Hours? Murdock, where the hell are you?"

He paused. "I got Face to take me where he and Frankie used to go. It's a long drive. Look, Hannibal, there's something you need to know," he said, cutting short Hannibal's incipient demand for an actual location.


Murdock had given this some thought. He'd be telling the truth, not the whole truth, but nothing but the truth. Even if Face didn't agree... "Hannibal, you need to know this, why Face has been so upset. Once we got out here, I managed to get him to talk to me... He and Frankie..." This was harder to say to Hannibal than he'd thought.

"He and Frankie what?"

"Well, they were... a couple, Hannibal."

There was a long pause. "A couple? What do you mean, Captain?"

Usually he said 'Colonel' back, but he stayed with 'Hannibal'. This didn't need a military attitude. "A couple couple, Hannibal," he said. "In love. Lovers. Sleeping together. Romantically involved. A—"

"I get the picture."

"Well, I hope so, Hannibal," Murdock said. "Because Face is really hurtin'. He lost Frankie and he was scared to let us know. He needs us right now."

Another pause. "You'll be back day after tomorrow?"

Murdock sighed. "Yes."


"Hannibal—Face really needs us now."

"I got that, Captain," Hannibal said. "Watch him. Don't let him do anything reckless."

"Oh, I'll watch him," Murdock promised.

"Good." And Hannibal hung up.

Murdock looked at the phone and then gently replaced the receiver. He really hoped Hannibal had indeed 'gotten it'. Because his reaction, and BA's, was going to be very important. If they couldn't accept Face for who he was, now that they knew, it could destroy the Team.

Hell with that. It could destroy Face.

Hannibal hung up the phone. He was shaken. Not many things shook him any more, he'd seen too much, but that had done so. Face and Frankie? Sure, he'd heard the occasional rumor around the lots about Frankie, but Face? Face was...

He shook his head sharply. That was just... incomprehensible. Face?

"Hannibal?" BA said. "What was that all about? Who gonna do something reckless? Faceman?"

Hannibal looked at BA. "Sergeant," he said carefully, "Murdock had some information that has... well, let's say it's startling."

"About Face? What is it? Murdock figure out he and Frankie was lovers?"

Hannibal stared at him. "You knew?"

"Naw. It just the only thing that makes sense, Hannibal. Way Face carried on after Frankie died, way you carryin' on now."

"Carrying on?" Hannibal said. "I should think so. You don't find it just a little bit disturbing?"

BA thought about it for a minute and shrugged massively. "No," he said simply. "Do you?"

"Hell, yes. Of course I do." Hannibal glared at BA, and then headed into the living room. "I need a drink."

BA followed him. "Why's it bother you, Hannibal?"

"Why doesn't it bother you?" Hannibal poured two fingers of Scotch, looked at the glass, and added two more. "Why doesn't it bother Murdock? All he says is Face needs us. Us?" He shook his head and downed half the drink. "Face is—" he rejected all the slang terms that leapt to mind, unable to apply them to Face, and settled on, "a homosexual. He'd have been dishonorably discharged if they'd known that."

"Good thing for us they didn't," BA observed.

"That's not the point," Hannibal said. "I'd have thought you'd have understood. It's against nature."

"It's pretty natural," BA objected.

"Maybe. But a lot of things are that are immoral. Perversions."

"You sayin' Face is a pervert?" BA asked gently.

Whoa. Hannibal didn't like the sound of that. He skittered away from it back to safer ground. "His own church doesn't like it."

"His church don't like a lot of things Face do. That don't make him wrong and them right."

"Your church doesn't like it."

"My church don't like liquor, either," BA said, waving his hand at Hannibal's Scotch.

"It's not the same."

"Don't matter," BA said. "Why it botherin' you is the question."

"It's just... I don't know," Hannibal admitted. "I was taught it was wrong. Worse than wrong. I can't believe Face is—" no word would come.

"Like that?" BA suggested. "He is, though, ain't he?"

"He is. Murdock said he and Frankie were," he swallowed and took Murdock's least disturbing word, "a couple."

"They was in love," BA corrected him. "You seen how hurt Face was. That wasn't just screwin' around, Hannibal. That was in love."


"You think two men cain't love each other? Of course they can. Just 'cause our society don't let them don't mean they cain't. You oughta know better than that, Hannibal. Fifty years ago they said black men couldn't be sergeants in the infantry, too."

Hannibal thought about that. It was easier to take if he thought Face and Frankie had been serious. He finished his Scotch. "They didn't tell us."

BA laughed. "You'da killed Frankie for puttin' a hand on Face," he pointed out. "And Face, well, you don't sound like you'da been happy if he had."

Hannibal had to agree. But still, it roiled his stomach to think about it, even just in the abstract. To think about Face and Frankie together... "I don't like it."

"Who say you gotta? Who say it matter whether you like it or not?"

"It's just... damn it, BA. He's like my son. I couldn't love him more if he were."

"So—you gonna kick your son out your life 'cause you don't like who he fell in love with?" BA asked almost scornfully. Only almost, though, mostly it was a challenge.

Hannibal thought about that. Put that way, it was ridiculous. Self-destructive. Stupid, cruel, and, well, barbaric. "No," he said slowly. "I don't want to do that."

"Then there ain't no problem. 'Cept, of course, Face's. Murdock right, he gonna need us."

"Just like that?"

The big man shrugged, his gold chiming softly with the motion. "How else, Hannibal? Face belong to us, we gotta look out for him, specially when he hurt."

How else indeed? "BA," Hannibal asked, "how'd you get to be so wise?"

"I ain't wise, Hannibal," he said. "I just got common sense. You spendin' too much time thinkin' about it."

"Doesn't it bother you? At all?"

BA shook his head, an exasperated look on his face. "Hannibal, we talkin' about Face. I known him almost half his life. All the time he been a grown man. He ain't changed none. We just know somethin' now we didn't before, that's all." BA shook his head again. "I don't want to sleep with him, but he ain't askin' me. So it ain't my business." He was quiet for a minute, and then said, very seriously, "Hannibal, you just now said he was like your son. Well, he like my little brother. And we all the family he's got. Specially now. You cain't turn on your family over somethin' like who they love."

"You're right, BA," Hannibal said. "I just hope I can do it."

BA shook his head again. "Just stop thinkin' about it, Hannibal. I known plenty of guys in Nam who were like that. Most of 'em were good soldiers. You know Face is. An' a good man, an' a good friend. Ain't none of that changed, just cause he and Frankie tried to make each other happy."

Hannibal sighed heavily. "I suppose you're right. The main thing is not to let Face know how I feel."

BA nodded. "When they comin' back?"

"Day after tomorrow."

"That'll give you time to get used to it. An' there's somethin' we oughta do."

"What's that?" Hannibal was eager for action, any sort.

"Stockwell done took all Frankie's stuff away. We oughta get it back. Let Face have what he want and send the rest to his nana."

"You're right," Hannibal nodded. "I'm sure the good general put it all away in storage someplace."

"Yeah. An' he can get it out o' storage, too. Frankie, he was on the team even if he was new. An' now, specially—"

"I don't think we need to tell Stockwell that."

"No," BA agreed, surprising Hannibal a little after his defense a moment ago. "After all, it illegal lotsa places. Like Virginia. An' Stockwell would use it."

Hannibal nodded and poured himself another drink. "In the morning, then, you and I will go call on the general."

Face woke up when the morning light spilling in through the window finally crept onto the bed. He knew where he was almost at once; he didn't even need to smell the Bay to know. The feel of the bed and of the room surrounding him, even with his eyes closed...

Frankie wasn't there. And not just because he'd gotten up early, the way he did, to mess around in the kitchen or wander around outside. Frankie was gone.

Dead. Face forced himself to think the word. He rolled over onto his back and opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling. Frankie was dead. A 7.62mm bullet had torn through his throat and drained his life out onto the ground, soaking the Malaysian earth with it. He was buried in that earth, in a little Muslim cemetery outside of Pontianak, among strangers. He is dead and gone, lady, he is dead and gone... Words floated through his mind from somewhere and he chastised himself. Stop trying to hide. This is real. Frankie's dead.

For a moment, he couldn't think of anything else. He'd been trying so hard not to think of it, for so long—he wasn't even sure how long—that he'd mostly not thought of anything at all. Now it crashed into him, harder than it had even when he'd been talking to Frankie's abuelita. He'd needed to stay in control for her. Needed to be Frankie's friend, at first, and then, after Murdock had gone outside and she'd told him she knew that he and Frankie had been lovers, needed to be... what, he wondered suddenly. Maybe she'd have liked him better if he'd wept for Frankie, even though men don't cry.

Stop crying. Big boys don't cry. Take it like a man...

He shook his head, clearing it of old, useless memories. This place was going to be hard enough to take without baggage from twenty-five or thirty years ago. How the hell had he let Murdock talk him into this? Murdock... He closed his eyes and sighed. Murdock knew. How long had he known? Had Mrs. Yazzie told him? Had he just guessed? He might have, he was an intuitive person, Murdock, sensitive and attuned to the people he cared about. Probably one reason it had been so easy for the world to shatter him.

Face sighed again, remembering crying on Murdock the night before, remembering the words. "It's okay, Face. It's okay. I love you and I'm not letting you get lost. I've got you..." Murdock had meant those words, Face had known then and knew now. He just didn't mean them the way Face wished he did.

And oh, God, there he went again. He rolled over onto his side and stared at Frankie's side of the bed. After a minute, he reached out and pulled Frankie's pillow to himself and buried his face in it. God, Frankie, you deserved better than me. So much better than me. Why did you love me so much?

"I love you."


"I love you," he repeated. "When you were shot, it nearly killed me. I was crazy scared. I love you."

Face looked at him for a long moment, sitting there so serious and so... ardent. It was almost frightening, but only almost. He sighed. "Frankie, I don't love you."

"I know. You and Murdock, you two are all tangled up somehow. But you're not together, are you? Or am I wrong? I'll go away if I'm wrong."

Face had almost laughed at the phrase, it was so perfect. Now he repeated it. "All tangled up... That's us. But you're not wrong." It might have been easier to lie, but Frankie's honesty deserved the same in return. "He doesn't love me."

"You love him."

"Yes," Face answered, though it hadn't been a question. "Have for a long time now. Fifteen, maybe sixteen years. I don't even know... He doesn't love me."

"You're sure."

Face did laugh this time. "Oh, yeah. I'm sure. I'm in the middle of it; I've seen him every way there is... Sure, I could have slept with him maybe a thousand times, and some of them he was offering. But he was offering because he didn't want to be left, didn't want to be alone. Because he was afraid. He'd have done anything to keep me close those times, and I don't want to be his anything. And the rest of them, he'd have said yes because he'd have said yes to, well, anything. He was so fucked up, Frankie, you have no idea. You never saw him when he was so hurt, so broken... There is no way it would have been morally defensible."

"He's all right now."

"Yes. And now he's not willing. Now there's nothing."

"Not nothing," Frankie corrected softly. "He loves you."

"Not 'loves me' loves me. He's my friend, my best friend. And he wouldn't have been if I'd taken advantage of him."

"I 'love you' love you," Frankie said. "And I'm sane... No, I am. I may not have a certificate to prove it, but I am. I'm a grown man. I know what I'm doing. I know what I want."


"I know you don't love me. But you don't hate me, right?"

"No," Face admitted. "I like you."

"See? Halfway there... Look, all I'm saying is, let's date."

"Date?" It was like a foreign word.

"Sure. You know, movies. Dinners. Walks in the park. Dates." Frankie swallowed. "Bed, maybe, after a while. I know you don't love me now, but maybe you will."

"Frankie," Face started.

"Face... Temple. I love you. If you want me to go away, I will. Just say so. But I can't stop loving you. I don't want to stop. Let's give it a try; what can it hurt?"

"You," Face said. "It could hurt you."

"Not as bad as not trying," Frankie said. "I know where I stand. I know I'd be second choice. I don't mind, not if I'm chosen in the end."

"Oh, God, Frankie." Face felt his self-control slipping away in the light of those luminous dark eyes. "Don't do this."

"Why not?" Somehow, without moving, Frankie was suddenly closer. "Why not, Temple?"

The name cut more ground out from under him. He looked into those eyes and said, "You have no idea... I'm so lonely, Frankie. Don't do this. If you put yourself in reach, I'll use you."

"No." Frankie sounded so sure. "No, you won't."

"Yes," Face almost whispered.

"No. Don't be scared, Temple. And don't be lonely. Let me stop you being lonely. Let me do that much."


"You don't have to be lonely. I'm here."

He didn't move. He was leaving it up to Face to make the decision. He wasn't fighting fair, though; his eyes and his voice promised a place Face could hide, a place he could rest. Somebody who loved him... wanted him, yes, but more. Almost too much more.

But only almost. With a sigh that was half a sob Face leaned over and closed the distance between them.

At least he had that. He'd been honest. Frankie had gone into it with his eyes open...

Frankie's eyes had always been open. He'd never wanted to miss one thing, had wanted to see it all.

Face had never understood how Frankie saw what he saw. They could sit side by side and look out over the same view, but Frankie always saw things just a little differently. Saw possibilities Face didn't. Good possibilities. And it wasn't rose-colored glasses or the old seeing things like a child business, either. Frankie wasn't a child, though he was young and hadn't been to Vietnam and was... innocent. Until Stockwell got hold of him, anyway. It was just Frankie, just the way he saw things at their best. Saw people at their best. Saw Face the way no one else had ever seen him, not Father Maghill, not Leslie... Not even the Team.

After last night, he wouldn't have thought he had any tears left, but he did, and they soaked into the pillowcase as he sobbed, trying to be quiet so Murdock wouldn't hear, trying to stop, finally giving up and just crying. For Frankie. For himself. For love lost and never had. For a desolate now and a future no better.

But mostly for Frankie, dead and buried in Pontianak with his whole life cut off and lost. Frankie, who'd deserved so much more and been so happy with what he'd had. Frankie, who'd never had Face's heart but who had broken it as surely as if he'd been holding it when he fell. At least his own heart hadn't broken first, though he couldn't have picked a worse person to give it to.

Face held the pillow and wept.

Murdock woke up suddenly. He was disoriented, which didn't happen much anymore. For a moment he was perturbed, and then he realized that the room really was unfamiliar, which relaxed him enough that he recognized it: the small and cluttered second bedroom in Face's place on the Eastern Shore, in which, pretty obviously, nobody ever slept. It was early, by the light outside, which explained his sluggishness: he hadn't gotten to sleep until probably four. The feeling of dread hanging over him was due to Hannibal's tone on the phone the night before. And his feelings of anxiety and sadness were caused by what had woken him, which his still-tired consciousness was only just getting around to identifying, though the alert ear-subconscious connection had decided, correctly, that he shouldn't sleep through it: Face was crying in the next room. All in all, Murdock thought, he'd rather have been crazy again.

He sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees and tried to decide what he should do. Getting up would wake him up, and there was not a damn thing he could do about Hannibal. Face, now... Face he could do something about. The question was, what? He cocked his head, listening, and thought about it. His options, as he saw it, ranged from ignoring Face and trying to get back to sleep through going in to him. Neither of those extremes appealed to him... well, the latter did, but Face wouldn't appreciate it.

Very much wouldn't appreciate it.

Murdock really didn't want to be stuck out here in the middle of Maryland's answer to Romney Marsh, with the Scarecrow (that would be Face) disappearing over the horizon on his big horse (which would be the old Chevy), leaving Curlew (who would, of course, be Murdock) stranded while the Redcoats (who would be... okay, the analogy fell apart there, at least he hoped it did) galloped towards him. Funny thing, that; in his role playing with the Team, back in his crazy days, he'd always been the main guy, Red Ryder or Captain Nighthawk or whoever. But in his private world, he was usually the sidekick... just one of those little disconnects.

Anyway, Face probably wouldn't drive off and leave him. Probably. But he wouldn't like it if Murdock barged in on his grief. He hadn't liked it that Murdock had been there last night. He'd needed it, but that only made him like it less. Face didn't like showing need.

Murdock sighed. Face didn't like needing. That was the real problem. He wanted to be self-sufficient, an island unto himself. He kept digging canals, but he was still a piece of the main... Whatever he said, whatever he was telling himself, Frankie had got inside (and Murdock could almost have hated Frankie for that. Almost.) and now Face was fronting up to the price of letting that happen. Right now, when he was so raw with the pain of it, was not the time to ask him to do it again. Even a little bit.

Be there for him, but don't be there on him, Murdock concluded. And definitely don't come out with any declarations. Not now. Not for a while. He sighed to himself. Maybe never, he admitted.

He got out of the bed and shivered, letting out a little yelp involuntarily when his feet hit the cold floor. It might be the first week in October, but it was chilly out here in the mornings. He grabbed for his socks and trousers and ran into the bathroom.

When he came out, warmed up by the shower though wishing he'd been bright enough to take his shirt with him, Face had stopped crying. In fact, his room was silent. Murdock headed for the kitchen, hoping Face was still there; the sight of the old truck in the front of the house reassured him, and then he heard Face heading for the bathroom himself. He smiled and opened the refrigerator. This was definitely a four-egg day. Plus the bacon he'd gotten down from the freezer last night. And toast from the bread Cal's mom had sent. Butter, also found in the freezer—guess out here anyway neither Face nor Frankie had worried much about eating "right". OJ. There was even a couple of cans of condensed milk, so he could scramble the eggs the way Face liked them. Before he started, he double-checked the dial and then turned on the radio, a little Sixties to cook by.

Face came out, wearing faded blue jeans and an old, equally faded Orioles t-shirt, his hair damp. "You're gonna catch your death, muchacho," Murdock said lightly, directing Face toward a chair at the table and depositing orange juice and coffee in front of him. "Eggs up in a minute."

"Thanks," Face said. "You didn't have to. And it's not that cold. You should be here in January or February."

"Is that an invitation? If the wicked witch hasn't let us go by then, I'll take you up on it," Murdock said over his shoulder, slowly stirring the eggs.

Face was quiet for a moment, apparently thinking about that, and then shrugged (Murdock could see him reflected in the window) and said, "Sure. If it hasn't sold by then."

"Sold?" Murdock cried involuntarily. "Faceman, you can't sell this place. It's great. A real Hernando's Hideaway! On the Chesapeake Bay, when you need to get away, which, God knows," he descended abruptly into prose, "you do when Stockwell gets to be a bit much. Like every other day or so."

Face shook his head but didn't say anything, just finished his orange juice.

Murdock didn't say anything right away, either, just spooned up a large serving of eggs, scrambled just like Face loved them, and added some bacon and a piece of toast warm from the oven to the plate. He liked his own eggs a little dryer than Face, so by the time he was done serving and fixing the rest of his meal, his were ready. He sat down and snared the blackberry jelly. "You own this place? Or you scamming it?" he asked as he smeared the thick toast even more thickly with the dark spread.

"No, we're," Face stopped. "It's rented. By the year. Lease is up in... well, actually this month except we already renewed it."

Murdock calculated quickly: just over a year. That was almost as soon as Face had recovered from the shooting. If Frankie's grandmother was right, he'd moved in on Face pretty quick. Well, why not? Face is worth grabbing for. And if Frankie had known he was gay since he was sixteen maybe he could read signs better. Indians could read signs better than white men, and Yazzie was a Navajo name, so Frankie was at least part... Murdock reined in his straying thoughts and said, "So, January is still on."

Face shrugged again. "Thought I'd tell the owners to put it back on the market."

"Be a big mistake, muchacho," Murdock said. "I mean it, this place is great. Stockwell's goons would never think of looking for you out here. Hey," he brightened up, finishing his eggs. "Isn't this supposed to be a good day for it?"

Face pushed his empty plate to the side, looking slightly surprised that it was empty, and pulled his coffee cup in front of him. "A good day for what?"

"Taking the boat out. Isn't that what Anne of the great Grimpen Moor said?"

Face blinked at him, visibly decided not to pursue it, and answered, "Murdock, you don't know the first thing about sailboats."

"I do too."

"Oh yeah?"

"Oh, yeah," he said with dignity. "The first thing about sailboats is they sink."

Face laughed. "Murdock, you idiot, the first thing about them is that they don't sink."

"Well, we hope so. Pleeeeease, Face," he said. "Let's take out the boat. That sounds so, I don't know, Cary Grant." He wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do, but after all, Face had brought it up yesterday.

"Okay," Face capitulated so easily that Murdock knew he really wanted to. "But you are going to wear a life jacket."

"Face, I can swim."

"I know. But the Chesapeake is cold. And big. And you're not drowning off my boat."

"You own it?" He'd thought it belonged to the neighbors.

"Nobody rents you a boat, Murdock. At least not one worth having."

"Don't they take a lot of maintenance?"

Face shrugged, easily this time. The movement of his shoulders under the soft fabric was a thing of beauty. "Anne and Cal look after it... and that's really the first thing about boats. They do take a lot of trouble."

So they took the boat out. It was a small boat, with one mast and two sails, a pretty little thing that Murdock would have never taken out into the ocean, though Face said he had, and had always wanted to sail to Bermuda.

"Bermuda? How far away is Bermuda?"

"I don't know," Face said, hauling up the sail. "A thousand miles? But that's in a straight line. More like twelve hundred, probably."

"You're crazy, you know that? Crazier than I ever was."

Face laughed. "Don't worry. We're just going up to Annapolis today. And don't touch anything unless I tell you to."

"Aye-aye, Skipper... Is it a three hour tour?" Murdock couldn't resist breaking into song.

"Depends on the wind," Face pretended to ignore him. "It could be a lot longer... li'l buddy."

Murdock laughed. "Anchors aweigh! Avast, me hearties, it's Cap'n Hard of the good ship Crisfield—"

Face laughed so hard he almost dropped the line. "That's not its name. That's the home port. Crisfield, we'll pass it on the way up."

"Oh." Just as well, he'd thought it was a really stupid name for a boat. But there wasn't anything else painted on the hull but some numbers. "So what is its name?"

"It doesn't have one. Couldn't decide on anything... it's just the boat."

"That's so sad," Murdock said. "Boats always look alive... this one feels alive," he added as the sails caught the wind and the boat heeled out into the Bay. "It should have a name."

"It doesn't need one," Face said, tying off the line. He managed to be busy all the way up to Annapolis.

Murdock didn't mind, he was enjoying the sail and watching Face. It was the first time the blond had looked happy in weeks.

Since Pontianak.

So let him enjoy himself, Murdock thought. It probably wouldn't last. But he'd get good and tired today, and sleep well tonight, and tomorrow...

Let tomorrow's troubles come tomorrow.

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6


Original Fantasy:
  Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans
Original Fan Fiction
Star Wars | Power Rangers | Real Ghostbusters
Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
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