Outside In The Rain
The door shut.
Murdock and Dominique were on one side, and Face was on the other.
As usual, it was the wrong side.
"Murdock, not here! Take her somewhere else!"
Murdock didn't answer. Logan Ross was doing all the talking, in that pseudo-Sean Connery accent. At least he knew why Dominique was there, it didn't sound like he was falling for her take on the old from the minute I saw you line.
Then the thunder heralded the beginning of the rain they'd been expecting all afternoon. "Murdock, if you think I'm going to stand out here while you disport yourself--Murdock, I know you can hear me!"
But all he was getting now was white noise. Murdock had done something to the radio. Murdock was ignoring him, leaving him outside in the rain. "Oh, great," he moaned to the uncaring, if not actively snickering, universe, and then tried the door; maybe he could slip in behind the curtains and make his exit after Murdock and the slut had adjourned to the bedroom.
The door was locked.
For several minutes Face just stood there, the rain pelting down on him, and tried to make sense of that.
Murdock had locked him out.
It was symbolic, of course: his sleek soft-leather case with his picks was tucked neatly into his cummerbund, at the back side where it wouldn't spoil the line of his jacket, and he could get through a French door like this in nothing flat. Even with wet, chilled hands. But being locked out symbolically hurt worse than being locked out for real.
Being locked out both ways, in the rain...
Outside in the rain. He distracted himself for a moment from the hurt, and the anger hurt always brought with it, by trying to place that quote. Right. That bizarre movie Murdock (which was why he was thinking of it, no doubt) had dragged him to several years before. He hadn't liked it nearly as much as Murdock did; it was disturbing on a number of levels and disturbing didn't equal entertaining in his book. And the bits he couldn't get out of his mind weren't, as far as he could tell, the bits Murdock revelled in, the "Time Warp" song being one the pilot would break into every now and then. It was other songs he couldn't shake. Not that even they had been enjoyable; they'd cut too close to the bone for that.
Everywhere it's been the same, feeling like I'm outside in the rain, wheeling free to try and find a game, dealing cards for sorrow, cards for pain... And anytime he had seen blue skies, it had indeed been through the tears in his eyes. And going home? If he ever got that chance now it would end like it had for Frank in the movie, a bullet through the heart.
In the velvet darkness of the blackest night, burning bright, there's a guiding star, no matter what or who you are. Hoke. Pure hoke. There's a light in the darkness of everybody's night. He wanted to believe that, but in his experience the rest of the lyrics were only too correct: There's a light, over at the Frankenstein place. Far too often the light in his darkness was the monster's fireplace...
Then he paused. Frankie. Not the movie's Frankie, of course, but his Frankie. He blinked that thought into meaninglessness. Their Frankie. Frankie Santana. Over the last couple of months, ever since he'd decided to be nicer to him, he'd discovered that Frankie was a good companion. They had things in common, and it didn't hurt that they didn't have history. Or that Frankie pretty much deferred to him. He grinned a little wryly. That probably never hurt anyone.
But Frankie would let him in and let him do what he wanted without arguing. Hannibal would either point out unpalatable truths that Face was in no mood to hear, or come the colonel over him, and he wasn't in the mood for that, either. He knew the mission came first, he knew Murdock had to be Logan Ross (well, once they'd started with him taking the role, and why it had to be him... Not now.), and he knew things weren't always (ever?) going to go as he wanted them to. He knew that, that's why he was standing outside in the rain in the first place, why he wasn't already inside... He knew it, he didn't have to be told about it. And BA wasn't available. Not, Face admitted, that he'd have sought out BA, whose method of saying 'I told you so' was sometimes even less palatable than Hannibal's.
A couple of steps backwards and he could see the lighted window of Frankie's room. A flash of lightning transformed the balcony into a chiaroscuro, brilliant white furniture and bottomless black shadows. He probably fit right in in his evening wear, though he felt out of place. Not to mention chilled. He sneezed and that decided him.
In a minute he had his shoes off and one wedged in each pocket, socks tucked inside. These old European hotels were all so easy to get into, he thought. Of course, he wasn't exactly dressed for b&e, and he probably wasn't hard to spot if anybody should happen to be outside in this downpour and looking up, but then again he was registered...
Frankie's balcony door was locked and, despite the light, he wasn't in. Face pulled out his lock picks and was inside in less than nothing flat.
The one light Frankie had left on wasn't enough for Face to find the minibar without tripping over something, so he cut on more. Leaving his shoes on the carpet near the French door he padded, dripping, in search of liquor. He'd poured himself a glass of brandy when he heard the door open.
"Face?" Frankie came around the corner. His expression turned concerned. "What are you doing in here and why are you soaking wet? You should have fetched Murdock back ten minutes ago. Johnny's annoyed as hell; sent me after you two. I saw the light on... what's wrong?"
"Murdock won't be coming," Face said. "He's with Dominique."
"Dominique?" Frankie's face went all still.
Face blinked at him, trying to make out what he was thinking, and then sneezed.
"Damn, Face, you are soaking wet."
"It's raining out there, or didn't you notice?"
Frankie bit his finger for a minute, then said, "Okay, look, I'll tell Johnny what's up. I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere..."
He was as good as his word. Face hadn't had time to finish the brandy before he was back. "Okay, Johnny thinks you're watching Murdock and he agrees if Murdock can get anything out of her it's worth it, so he's gonna wait till morning to talk about tomorrow's plan. Murdock's okay, isn't he? I mean," he added as he caught Face's expression, "he doesn't need watching, does he?"
"I'm not watching him." Face paused, poured more brandy, and said, "No. He's not in danger. And they're not going anywhere."
"Okay, then. Face, what are you doing?"
"I need to get warm."
"I'll bet. But you can drink all of that you want and you won't get warm while you're soaked to the skin." He advanced on Face and took the brandy out of his hand. "Come on, get out of that before you catch your death."
Frankie was gay; Face was as certain of that as he could be without having had it said in so many words. Still, even when Frankie peeled his sodden and recalcitrant evening jacket off he didn't feel anything but concern from the other man. He freed his hands and pulled his tie loose, feeling his shirt clinging damply. Frankie tugged at his shirtfront. "Take it all off," he said, "it's all wet. You should take a shower."
"I think I'm wet enough," Face said; he was surprised he was laughing about it.
"Yeah, but you're cold and wet. You need to warm up, and a hot shower's the quickest way to do that. Go on, now; don't make me shove you in there. I'll put some coffee on."
Face laughed again but gave up. The hot water did feel good. He'd been standing under it a few minutes before he got his finger on what was so odd: usually nobody took him seriously when he griped about things like being soaked to the skin, and Frankie was anticipating him. Odd. Odd but nice. Even though it was leaving him feeling a little at a loss for what to say.
He got out of the shower and towelled himself off, putting on the thick hotel-provided robe hanging in the bathroom. He left the towel around his neck and went back out into the room. Frankie was waiting for him in his shirtsleeves, with a steaming cup. He took it and smelled the distinctive scent of brandy mingled with the coffee. "Nice," he said, smiling.
Frankie smiled back. "You want to give me your key? I could go get you something else to put on."
Face shook his head. "Nah. That stuff will dry. Of course, it'll never be the same again."
"A good dry cleaner will fix it right up. You're sure?"
"I'm sure," he said firmly and, as he'd expected, Frankie subsided. Funny what he'd decide to be firm about; Face expected he would have shoved him into the shower. But Face didn't intend to let Murdock know he'd been inside unless Murdock came out looking for him... and he didn't intend to get into that with Frankie. Despite the conversation they'd had a couple of months earlier, or perhaps because of it, he was uneasy letting Frankie know how much Murdock's recent behavior had rankled him. He wanted to think it was because Frankie needed to trust that they were working together smoothly but part of him knew Frankie had noted a while ago that he and Murdock were, well, snarled instead of smooth. It still felt a bit disloyal to admit it though, even to Frankie.
Especially since he still didn't understand it, since it was still a painful bruise if not an open wound in his mind.
So he drank his brandied coffee and tried to think of something else to say. Frankie rescued him.
"So I assume you're going back?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "I wouldn't put it past Dominique to try and talk him into going somewhere for breakfast. Or him to agree."
"I could go."
The offer surprised him. "No," he said automatically. Murdock was his to look after, even now. "You're not good enough to follow them yet," he added. "Not with Jourdan's men everywhere."
Frankie shrugged, probably having expected that.
Face sat down on the couch. "You don't have to stay up," he said. "If you don't mind my being out here drinking your brandy."
"It's the hotel's brandy," said Frankie automatically. "Not that I'd mind if it was mine."
Face smiled. Frankie looked out the window, where the rain was sheeting down, and said, "I hope this stops soon, but I got the feeling it won't."
"They said before dawn."
"They said it was going to start by nine, too." Frankie took a nervous turn around the room and poured himself a cup of coffee. "More?"
"Sure, heat it up."
Frankie did and then sat on the couch at the other end from Face. Face tucked the ends of the towel inside the bathrobe and said, "You got any cards?"
Frankie jumped up. "Yeah, I saw some here somewhere." He looked through a couple of drawers in the desk; while he did, Face added brandy to his coffee. Frankie came back with a new deck and sat down again, his long fingers pulling the cellophane off the package.
Face watched his elegant hands pull out the cards and sort through to remove the jokers. "You've got dealer's hands," he said.
"Really?" Frankie seemed more pleased by that than was warranted. "I generally don't do well at cards."
Face grinned. "It takes more than hands. You have to be duplicitous."
"Duplicitous, huh?" Frankie shuffled the deck, a nice pedestrian shuffle he clearly wasn't manipulating at all. "I'm not so good at that. Rummy?"
Face nodded. "It's probably not a character flaw."
Frankie smiled suddenly. "Which?"
Face laughed. "According to the nuns, you're better off than me."
"The nuns, they aren't always right." That sounded serious.
Well, sure. Of course it was. He picked up the cards as Frankie dealt. "No," he said after a moment. "They aren't. But it takes a while to figure that out, doesn't it?"
Frankie nodded. "Amen to that. Pass."
Face drew and discarded, considering that.
Frankie drew his own card. "Sometimes," he said, rearranging his hand, "I'm not sure you ever do."
Face snagged the jack Frankie had discarded. "Sometimes I know you don't."
Frankie's hand hovered over the six Face had put down, but then he drew a new card. Once again he rearranged his hand, but when he discarded it was the one he'd just drawn. He glanced at Face. "That's right," he said. "You're pre Vatican II."
"Well, not entirely," Face protested mildly, picking up Frankie's discarded nine. "And don't tell me you were born after it."
"No," Frankie shook his head and drew again, tossing it down at once. A useless two. Face drew and pondered whether to try for a run of seven or not while Frankie added, "But you have to have grown up really before it. Me, I was five when they closed it. Hadn't even had First Communion yet. What were you, fifteen?"
"'65?.. You were born in 1960?" Face was distracted.
Frankie grinned. "November 8th. My mother went into labor standing in line to vote for JFK, refused to leave till she'd voted. I was born in a polling booth."
"I'm surprised they didn't name you after him," Face said.
"My father had already picked Franklin Delano Roosevelt before I was even on the way. Gin."
"Gin?" Face stared. "Damn." He sorted through his cards. "Thirty, forty, seven, fifty... four."
"Nice." Frankie grinned. "You should have knocked."
"No more Mr. Nice Guy." Face began shuffling. "Anyway, yeah, I was fifteen. Vatican II came too late for me. Just confused me."
Frankie picked up his hand. "Confused everybody," he observed.
"True enough. But suddenly we weren't going to hell for having a hamburger on Friday." He laughed. "All the rules changed."
"Not all of them."
"Well, no," Face admitted, wondering about growing up gay and Catholic but not wanting to ask. Not wanting to get that close. "But enough that it was pretty easy to ignore the ones that didn't."
"I bet... Not what the Pope had in mind, I think."
"I don't think anything the Church did after he died was what he had in mind." Face still thought John XXIII had been betrayed, still wondered what it would be like to live in the Church that saint--canonized or not (and 'not' was what this Pope had in mind)--had envisioned.
Frankie rearranged his hand again, staring at his cards. "Ummm..."
"You have to lose one of 'em," Face said. "Want me to pick?"
"Hell, no." Frankie hesitated between two cards and finally dropped a queen. Face almost told him he was giving too much away but didn't; sometime they might play for money, after all. "Hell for hamburgers... at least I knew I was going to hell for more substantial reasons."
"So did I," Face surprised himself by saying.
"I suppose," Frankie said tentatively, "it didn't exactly fall under the doctrine of the just war."
"Even if it had..." he shook his head. "But actually I meant before then. Teenage stuff. You know."
"Yeah..." Frankie nodded. "Oh, yeah." His lips quirked. "Dat ol' debbil."
Face smiled reminiscently. "And lying," he added after a moment. "Definitely going to hell for lying, all the nuns said so."
"You should get a dispensation. With you it's like an art form."
Face shrugged. "It used to come in handy."
Frankie levelled those dark eyes at him; Face was always startled at how really black they were considering how soft they looked, not hard and shiny the way he thought of black eyes. The Latina girls he'd dated in high school had had brown eyes, not black like this... His mind darted off to that old song from 30s movies, "Ochi chorniye". He'd never known even all of the first verse, but the first two lines came to him now, out of the brandy probably... Ochi chorniye, ochi strastniye! Ochi zhguchiye i prekrasniye!.. An Aussie had translated it for him in Saigon once. "Black eyes, passionate eyes, burning and beautiful eyes. How I love you, how I fear you. I know I saw you on an unlucky day... Too bloody right, eh, mate?" he'd added. "Not that there's anything particularly beautiful about them..."
Face wrenched his mind out of the memories and focussed on Frankie. He'd lost too much of the conversation, he could tell at once; he didn't know what he was supposed to say. He thought about scrambling and faking, but it was too much work for too little gain. If it was any gain, really; Frankie was on the team now and Face doubted those dark eyes had missed much. Hard to remember that Frankie was used to lying, himself, not to mention being a professional at deceit in his own way. "Sorry," he said. "My mind was wandering there for a minute."
"I was just saying I bet it had come in handy... what with everything and all."
Face grinned involuntarily at the circumspection in that. "Everything and all," he repeated. "That's certainly one way to describe my rather checkered past."
Frankie smiled back but didn't say anything, though it was clear he was biting his tongue to stay quiet.
"Anyway," Face found the thread of the conversation again, "especially lying to nuns. That was definitely sending me straight to hell."
"I always wondered why they didn't figure you to figure that if you were already going, why bother?"
"Well, there was always Purgatory... I guess you're too young for Purgatory, too?"
"I heard about it. Nice conservative priests."
"At least they got rid of Limbo. All those unbaptized babies used to give me nightmares."
"The nuns gave me nightmares."
Face laughed. Catholic school was enough to keep the conversation going for several hours, Catholic school and just being Catholic but not quite. The game continued, though they were apt to forget about it for long stretches as they traded stories. Frankie had some definite tells, but Face found himself not paying enough attention to really capitalize on them, and he lost more often than he usually accepted. It didn't seem to matter.
He was surprised when he looked at his watch and saw it was almost six. He straightened up the deck and dropped it on the coffee table. "Time to call it a night."
Frankie stretched. "You're right," he said through a yawn.
Face got up and went into the bathroom. His shirt had pretty much dried, though it was badly wrinkled. The trousers hadn't, really; they were cold and clammy when he put them on. "Damn," he said; he could feel the irritation coming back full force. He pushed open the door.
When he came out, Frankie stared at him and then closed his eyes a minute, shaking his head. "Oh, man, Face. What are you doing?"
"I told you," said Face. "I'm going back to Murdock's room."
"You mean you're going back to Murdock's balcony."
Face shrugged. "Where else?"
"How about his parlor? Dominique's probably long gone."
"Depends on how good Logan Ross was. Or," he added a bit spitefully, "how good she wants him to think he was."
Frankie sighed. "Okay... I see that. But--"
"It's still raining."
"It's letting up." Face picked up his jacket. Like his trousers, it was not dry yet. When he started to put it on, the wet sleeve clung to the shirtsleeve, pulling it up. He fussed with it a minute.
"Oh, for crying out loud," Frankie interrupted. "Here, here, here..." He crossed over and took hold of the back of the jacket, freeing Face to hold his cuffs as he eased the jacket on. Like a valet, Face thought, though probably valets were less disapproving. "I'd tell you to wear mine," Frankie said, "because no one would notice how it was fitting after you slept in it, but there's no point, 'cause it'll take you about two minutes to be soaked to the skin again no matter what you wear." He gave the tail of the jacket a jerk and then came around in front of Face. "Are you sure about this?"
"I told you," Face repeated. "I'm going to watch his room. In case he leaves."
"You could watch from the hallway," Frankie said.
And of course he could but... "I'm going to be where he left me," Face said, crossing over to pick up his shoes and pull his socks out. He'd forgotten to take them out earlier and of course, balled up for hours, they hadn't dried either, but Frankie was right: he was going to be wet all the way through again anyway.
"He probably already came looking for you."
"If he had," Face carefully looked at his feet, "you'd have heard about it when he didn't find me." Then he did glance up. "Even if it was just to roust me out of bed for scaring him."
Frankie opened his mouth to say something and then, for a wonder, shut it again. Face wondered--ever the Elephant's Child, Al? Sister Teresa's voice echoed in his head--what the other man had thought better of, but he didn't want to know. Unlike the unfortunate juvenile pachyderm, he'd grown into a cat: curious still, but aware of its fatal qualities. He didn't want to hear it. He looked down again as he picked up his pumps.
The sound of Frankie picking up his room key pulled his head up again. "What are you doing?"
Frankie sighed. "As much as you've had to drink, which is more than I thought if this plan is any indication, you try to climb down there and you'll probably fall and cripple yourself. Put your shoes on."
"And what do you suggest?"
"I suggest you go to bed. But I propose you go over from the room next door. I'll go with you, lock the doors behind you."
Face gave him a small smile and slipped on his cold pumps. "Thanks."
"Don't thank me. I ought to have my head examined." Frankie pulled on his own jacket and followed Face out into the hallway. After a minute he snickered. "God. We look like we've been partying all night."
Face grinned back. "If anybody's in the room, we can pretend we have been."
"Count on it ... how do you say, 'You mean this isn't my room?' in French?"
Face's answer was the last thing either of them said until they were on the balcony of the fortunately unoccupied room, rain dripping down on them both. Face pulled off his shoes and found Frankie's hand out to take them. "I'll toss 'em to you," he said. "And listen: the minute Johnny says go get Murdock, I'm letting you in whether Murdock's noticed or not. It's crazy you out here anyway without it being longer than it has to."
Frankie stared at him, his dark face unreadable in the black and the rain. "Why are you doing this?" he said suddenly. "You already know... Sorry," he cut himself off. "I know it's none of my business."
"No, it's not," Face said, but he was surprised to hear how gentle his voice was. "It's between me and Murdock. I can't explain it."
"I know," said Frankie. He sounded so certain that Face almost believed he meant he knew what Face didn't, not just that he knew he'd stepped over the line.
He sighed. "Thanks for the brandy," he said, and climbed up onto the balustrade.
On Murdock's balcony the door was still locked. Standing in the rain, which might be letting up but was still enough chill him all over again, he wondered if Frankie was right. Not about the brandy--this had been his plan all along--but about his motivations.
He sat down in the chair closest to the French door, huddling in on himself, and waited. After a while, because he'd learned how in much worse circumstances than this, he slept.
He woke when the door opened and looked up, but it was Frankie. Someone needed to teach him to dress, Face thought, that dark green Henley shirt and his favorite black vest did not go with those expensive grey slacks. He wasn't paying any real attention to the thought, though, he was just trying to distract himself from the realization that it was well past dawn and yet it was Frankie opening the door and not Murdock. The Hispanic man crossed over to him, talking a mile a minute and loud; Hannibal must be with him. Face got to his feet, not even hearing his own response, and looked over Frankie's shoulder, searching for Murdock and not seeing him at first. Then the bedroom door opened and Murdock came out, tie undone, looking sleepy.
Face pushed past Frankie, ignoring his nervous chatter, not even caring what Hannibal thought. Dominique was long gone and Murdock had left the door locked. Left him outside in the rain. And if he'd been stupid enough to go back and wait to be let in... The anger pushed past the hurt as easily as he had pushed past Frankie.
"You left me out there all night while you..." Words failed him.
Murdock stretched. "What are you complaining about? At least you got some sleep. I was up all night--"
And that was the last straw. The next thing Face knew, he was across the room, his hands clutching Murdock's shirt and jacket, slamming him into the wall. He wasn't even sure why. Murdock barely resisted, though he was protesting. It was Hannibal who took hold of them, pushing them across the room, talking about breakfast.
Face growled and took a tighter hold.
"Face, I think you're choking him; you might want to let go now."
He might, but as it happened, he didn't. But he let Frankie pull him loose and watched as Hannibal and Murdock headed for the door and the next stage in the elaborate plan. He felt Frankie's hand move from his shoulder to rest briefly against his cheek, briefly and impersonally.
"Man, I cannot believe I let you talk me into letting you spend three hours in the rain," Frankie said. "You're starting a fever. You're crazy."
Maybe so. Maybe that was what was happening with him.
"You'd better get out of those clothes and into a hot shower pronto," Frankie said. "Johnny wants you watching Jourdan today while we try to figure out the target. I say we," he added as he pushed Face lightly toward the door, "but of course I'm just the local color. I don't know what he's planning."
"At least you're in on it," Face said, and his voice sounded so bitter even to him that he shut up.
"Yeah, well, in on it," Frankie said. "You know Johnny, he's like the centurion, he says to one 'Go' and he goes, and to another 'Come' and he comes--"
"And to his slave 'Do this' and he does it," Face nodded.
"So I'm doing it, but I can't say I understand it."
"Well, that's the essence of a Hannibal plan: no one understands it, and that includes Hannibal."
"And mainly he just thinks I look like an Arab."
Face looked at him, his thin dark intelligent face and his bright eyes, slightly worried, and not the generic slight worry that was in them all the time, worry that was more personal. He wondered exactly how it was that Frankie had managed to calm him down enough that he no longer felt like strangling Murdock the next time he saw him. He grinned at him and said, "Well, you don't. Not with that hair style."
Frankie grinned back. "I'll have you know this is almost exactly how Thomas Jefferson wore his."
"You say that like it's a good thing."
"Are you insulting Thomas Jefferson? I'm appalled, Face. Shocked and appalled."
Face laughed out loud. "If he wore his hair like that in nineteen eighty-eight instead of seventeen eighty-eight, yes, I would be."
Frankie smiled back at him, a flash of white teeth. "Go shower and change. I'll have 'em send some coffee up. I got the feeling Johnny's got a long day ahead for us all."
"And why should this day be any different?"
Frankie grinned and nodded. "Yeah. Take a couple of aspirin too. We don't need you getting sick."
And although he felt a bit like saying who'd notice if he wasn't around, he nodded back.
"And no more staying outside in the rain, you hear me?"
Face caught his breath. "No," he said as soon as he could, and stood in the doorway watching Frankie walk away until the other man was out of sight.
Maybe it wasn't always a monster's fireplace... maybe sometimes the fireplace belonged to a friend.
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