I'll Be Home For Christmas

"I'll Be Home For Christmas" written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, and Buck Ram.
"Crabs for Christmas" is by David DeBoy.

"I'll be home for Christmas; you can plan on me."

The grey-haired man sitting alone in the crowded terminal glanced up when the song started.

"Please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents under the tree."

Snow was a given, Hannibal thought, looking at his ticket again. Mistletoe, if Bob had anything to say about it. Tree, a carefully selected fir brought home out of the woods in back of the old house and decorated by everyone. And presents... the clan would have presents. Even for him, the lost black sheep, suddenly washed white and showing up again.

"Christmas Eve will find me where the love-light gleams."

Faded faces and old, lovingly burnished memories ran through his mind. He didn't even hear the song as it went into the instrumental and back through the words. Laughing children, barking dogs, smiling adults... and then his mind pulled him relentlessly forward through all the Christmases since then, overseas army bases, Vietnam, hideouts... different faces. He blinked as the words reached him again.

"Christmas Eve will find me where the love-light gleams. I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."

He stood up and headed for the check-in counter.

Face flopped down on the couch and picked up the remote control. Cutting on the television he flipped through channels until he found Notre Dame football. He dropped the remote on the coffee table and dug his shoulders into the cushions, settling down to enjoy the game.

He and Murdock had moved in two weeks ago. They'd had to compromise on where they were going to live, now that the pardons had finally come through for Face, Hannibal, and BA. They'd ended up with a nice condo inside the city limits. It wasn't an urban apartment, but it wasn't a ranch in the suburbs either. Of course, one week later, Murdock had nuzzled Face's neck after making love and admitted he'd have lived anywhere Face wanted and been happy... even that little house on the Eastern Shore.

That wouldn't have done, even if Face had wanted to stay on the East Coast, which he didn't. He hadn't been able to get back to LA fast enough. He might be an orphan, and he might have had to wander—maybe even because of those things—but his roots were deep in the Southern California soil and he wasn't really happy anywhere else.

"I got roots, too," Murdock had murmured. "They're in you."

But even if they'd stayed in the Washington area, even if they'd moved to the Eastern Shore full-time, Face wouldn't have wanted to live in that house. It was too full of Frankie. Murdock had helped him to exorcise, not the memories—"You got good memories," he'd insisted. "A man that loved you, passionately and well. Lotsa people would kill for those memories."—but the grief. The guilt... But still, the little house was too full of them, those memories. Face had known they needed to live somewhere new, somewhere empty. Somewhere they could fill up with their own memories.

Not that he'd left Frankie behind in Maryland. He never would forget him. Didn't really want to, either; he owed it to him to remember him, and most of the time he liked it. Every now and then it was a bittersweet melancholy, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. And there were tangible reminders of him here, too; after all, Murdock had liked Frankie. BA had thought it strange that there was a picture of him—black hair pulled back, peacock blue shirt burnishing his cinnamon-colored skin, lustrous dark eyes, half smile hinting at secrets—on their wall, but Face had heard Murdock say, "C'mon, big guy, he's part of our life; no use pretending otherwise. And without him, there might not be an us. I owe him."

As did Face. And for more than Murdock...

There were a couple of other things, not immediately identifiable as him: a movie poster in the spare bedroom, an Ansel Adams print in the kitchen, a framed illustration in the master bedroom... a black pocket knife and an old bridle heavily decorated with silver that had been his great-great-grandfather's that lay on the top of the bookshelf in the living room along with things Face and Murdock had picked up here and there and hung onto through the years.

And now, of course, the hand-carved wooden crèche that had come from the Yucatan, a mission two years ago. It was out with the rest of the Christmas stuff. Murdock had gone a bit... well, Face would say "insane" if he wasn't talking about Murdock; "over the top" would do. Even the television had been garlanded and the Three Kings were on top of it, waiting to make their appearance at the crèche on Epiphany. And somehow, despite the overkill of decorations, the tree managed to dominate the living room. It was a huge artificial one—Murdock had quoted "Woodman spare that tree!" until Face had given in—and they'd spent an entire afternoon decorating it. Murdock had a handful of ornaments squirreled away, but everything else was brand new, bought for their new house. Their new life.

Face inhaled the aroma coming from the kitchen and mixing with the scent of pine (from a can) and the clove-studded oranges on the window sills and sighed. Domesticity. What was that thing... "indulge in the felicity of unbounded domesticity." Unbounded. It was nice. It was very nice. He could get used to it; hell, he already was.

Him and Murdock, just the two of them for Christmas. That was going to be a little odd, he supposed. BA and Hannibal had been around for Christmas every year since he'd been nineteen. But BA had taken the train to Chicago two weeks ago to visit Mama, and Face wouldn't be that surprised if he stayed there a good long time. And Hannibal had called his brother and arranged to spend the holidays in New England with his family, most of whom he hadn't seen in fifteen years.

Face smiled, remembering how excited Hannibal had been. He'd talked an entire evening about all the things they'd done for Christmas when he was a kid, about his brothers and sister, his aunts and uncles and cousins... it was going to be good for him to get up there and reconnect with his blood kin. His family...

Face sighed softly, and tried to focus on the Fighting Irish. Hannibal had gone home to his family just like BA had gone home to his. And he himself was already with his. Murdock was all the family he'd ever need. It was just the holidays making him a bit lonely. Hannibal had been happy to go, he'd have a wonderful time, and he'd be back. After all, they were starting "The Aquamaniac at Roswell" in the spring.

Out in the kitchen Murdock's baritone rose in the emotional climax of that silly song he'd heard in Maryland and memorized and been driving Face round the bend with. "'There's no crabs till May, but hop in my sleigh, and we'll fly to New England and I'll buy you some scrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrod!' OW! I want crabs for Christmas! Ow, Only crabs will do! Ow, I want crabs for Christmas, and my Christmas wish'll come true!"


It was a good thing. It really was.

The song ended, for the moment, and there was silence except for the football game. Then the doorbell rang. Face looked up. "You gonna get that?" he called.

"No," Murdock answered from the kitchen. "I'm up to my elbows in baking, you know that. Get it yourself; your leg's not broken."

"Honeymoon's over," Face said, sitting up.

"Wait till tonight and say that again," Murdock called. "Right now, just answer the damn door."

"What if it's the cops?"

"Show 'em your pardon."

Face laughed and got up. It was a joke, but it was a joke with a core of truth. After fifteen years, he wasn't used to being on the right side of the law. He supposed he would be, someday. Just like someday he'd probably get used to living someplace he was paying for. Murdock could be so... straight. He laughed again and tweaked a strand of lights on the tree, and went to open the door.

It was Hannibal.

Face blinked at him, standing in the door and trying to think of something to say.

"Can I come in?" Hannibal asked after a minute, raising an eyebrow.

"Of course," Face said, moving aside and then spotting the suitcase. He reached for it. "Where are you staying?" he asked, avoiding the 'why aren't you half-way to New Hampshire by now' minefield.

"I don't know," Hannibal said. "I came straight here and haven't called around to find a room yet."

"Forget that," Face said. "Murdock! Hannibal's here. He can have the spare room, right?"

"Of course," Murdock emerged from the kitchen, flour all over his face and Kiss-The-Chef apron. "What are you doing here, Hannibal? I thought you were going to your brother's for Christmas."

"Yeah," Face said, turning to look at the grey-haired man. Leave it to Murdock to bound straight past the warning signs into the middle of the mines... "New England, snow, all that White Christmas jazz."

Hannibal smiled. "I haven't been to New Hampshire in years. And I'm not sure I like snow, anyway."

Murdock came up beside them. "Well, you don't have to worry about that here."

"You're sure I'm not putting you out?" Hannibal said, glancing between them.

"Heck, no, Hannibal. You're not puttin' us out, we're puttin' you up, right, Facey?"

"Right," Face said. "We won't take no for an answer. I'll put this in the room."

As he walked down the hallway he heard a pinger go off in the kitchen. Murdock yelped and ran. Face grinned and then sobered up as he put the suitcase on the bed. Why wasn't Hannibal halfway to New Hampshire? Not liking snow wasn't the answer; besides Hannibal did like snow. So why was he here instead of going home? The only answer he could come up with was, Hannibal was uneasy being alone, and that seemed, well, odd. Or maybe not so odd, he realized, thinking back over his own reactions to things over the last month. It was all different now, not looking over his shoulder, not worrying about things that had become second nature to worry about. Was Hannibal having trouble adjusting to their new freedom, too? He shouldn't, Face thought; sure, they'd been wanted as long, but Hannibal was older. He'd actually had a life... though, come to think of it, he'd been career army. Maybe he didn't know what to do on his own, either. Well, he and Murdock would put him up as long as necessary.

When he walked back out in the living room, Hannibal was looking at the crèche. "Nice," he said.


"All right, kid, what's bothering you?" Hannibal asked, blunt as always.

"Me?" Face started, and then stopped. What was the point? "Don't get me wrong, Hannibal, I'm glad you're here. Especially with BA in Chicago. But—"

"But? I can go to a motel, you know."

"No," Face said immediately. "But... I thought you wanted to be with your family, that's all. If there's some problem—"

"Hey," Hannibal interrupted him gently, closing the distance between them. "I am with my family."

Face stared at him. Could Hannibal mean—?

Hannibal said, "If you don't know that you're closer to me than blood, you need to. You understand me, son?"

Face blinked at him again, and then found himself wrapped in a quick but comprehensive embrace. He was frozen for a second, but recovered in time to return the hug, and felt Hannibal's arms tighten around him, one hand on the back of his head. Hannibal had hugged him like this a couple of times before, but the words had never been said... the word.

"Does this mean you're my father-in-law, Colonel?" Murdock asked.

"I guess so," Hannibal said, turning to look at him and leaving an arm around Face's shoulder.

Murdock, a plate of cookies in his hands, grinned his big goofy happy grin. "Facey! I got in-laws!"

Face shook his head. "Only you could be happy about that."

"You treat him good, Captain, or you'll have in-law trouble," Hannibal said, smiling.

"No worries, Colonel," Murdock said. "Now that I got him, I'm planning on taking real good care of him. But don't just stand there. Sit. Eat. I'll get cider. Turn off the tv," he added over his shoulder.

Hannibal laughed as they complied.

So did Face. This was going to be the best Christmas of his life.

The End


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