Face stared morosely out the window at the groundskeeper raking up the fallen leaves of the Langley residence. It was late fall in Virginia, and the leaves that had turned an astonishing kaleidoscope of yellows, oranges, and reds now carpeted the manicured lawns in an equally dramatic array of colour. Despite the brilliance, to Face it just looked bleak and cold - yet another reminder of how far from home he was.
He kicked the skirting board sharply, momentarily deriving some satisfaction at the dark mark that appeared on the white paint. Realizing both the pettiness and pointlessness of the action, he slumped against the window sill and rested his forehead against the glass. Then, another wave a frustration and aggression washed over him and it took all his willpower not to thrust his fist through the glass.
The Team had just returned from a mission for General Stockwell. It had been hard mission for all of them. As one thing after another had gone wrong, Face had started to feel his fear turn to anger and his anger turned to aggression. He knew he had lost control when instead of sweet talking a young lady to let them into her house, he had kicked the door down and charged in waving his gun at all the occupants.
It had worked. The girl had given them the information they needed right away. It had, in fact, been the turning point for the mission, too. From that point on, the team had seemed to become very business-like and efficient. Murdock stopped needling BA; BA stopped growling at everyone; Hannibal didn't hang around to gloat; and Frankie kept his mouth shut. Face just wanted to smash things.
On the way back to Langley, Face had retreated from the others and sat in the back of the plane, feigning sleep so that they would leave him alone. Even then, he was aware of Murdock murmuring in serious tones to Hannibal, and knew that the pilot was talking about him and his uncharacteristic behaviour. As they departed the plane, he could feel Hannibal's eyes watching him, giving him a speculative look that only made Face feel angrier.
He knew he had scared Frankie. The young man had never really taken Face seriously as a soldier, and it had shaken him to see Face lose his facade. Frankie had literally flinched when Face turned to fast in his direction. It was this reaction that made Face make a concerted effort to reign in his rage.
After escaping Fort Bragg, Face had expended a lot of effort on cultivated a more sophisticated playboy veneer and buried his soldier-self deep down. But now, that soldier was resurfacing. It was not the first time, but his usual method of dealing with it were not available in Langley. They weren't near the ocean, and he couldn't simply disappear for a few days. Or rather, he could easily disappear, but then he knew that Stockwell would go looking for him.
So, now he was stuck staring out the window at a bunch of leaves instead of the calming ocean -trying to hang onto a bubble of fury that threatened to overwhelm him.
Behind him, he could hear Frankie furtively making his way across the room to the kitchen. He debated whether he should say something to Frankie, but changed his mind because he couldn't trust himself not to scream. He was aware, too, of Hannibal in the small office off the kitchen area. By the tone of the colonel's voice, he was talking to Stockwell - probably about Face.
Face kicked the skirting board again. He had to leave. He had to get out before he did some real damage to either the wall or himself or both. Thrusting his hands into his pockets, he strode across the room, ignoring the yelp of surprise from Frankie and the crash of a plate hitting the floor. At the hallway, he turned and marched toward the front door, only pausing to pick up and shrug into his coat. As he left the house, he gave into his impulse and slammed the door.
Outside, the sun shone, and the air was crisp and fresh. The smell of burning leaves drifted from the bonfire out of sight around the side of the house. The groundskeepers voices merged with the crackle of the fire. They had finished making the piles of leaves and were in the process of moving each pile to the bonfire and burning it. Three huge piles remained in front of the house.
Face stared at the piles. They didn't have piles of leaves like that where he grew up. He remembered movies and TV commercials where people had mounded the leaves in that way. He walked to the first pile and gave it a swift kick, venting some of his anger. The leaves billowed up and made a scuffily, crinkly noise. Face blinked. He kicked them again. The appealing crunchy, scratchy noise soothed something inside him.
He looked around. No-one was in sight. With a growl, he charged the pile and began kicking with all his might. Soon, the pile was demolished and the leaves spread in a large circle. Panting, and feeling a bit guilty, Face looked around for the rake the groundskeeper had used. Spotting it against the bole of the tree, he hurried over, although making sure to scuffle his feet through the leaves. With short motions, he quickly reassembled the pile.
Unbidden, the memory came to him of a commercial where a young boy threw himself onto a pile of leaves, breathless with laughter. Biting his bottom lip thoughtfully, he looked at his pile of leaves and the other two piles nearby. A slight grin tugged the corners of his mouth.
Hannibal paused in his tirade. He could hear someone yelling outside the window. Still clutching the phone, he peered out the window just in time to see Face whoop again as he threw himself onto an enormous pile of leaves. The lieutenant wallowed in the leaves, laughing.
Hannibal grinned and said, "Never mind, Stockwell. Everything's under control again."