Warnings: violence, non-con sex (though not in this part), angst
Summary: Gratuitous Face torture. That's about it, really.
It was the noises of the
rusty chains that Murdock knew would stay with him. The other sounds,
leather striking flesh, of Face's withheld grunts of pain changing slowly to gasping cries, and finally to
screams - all of them were sounds familiar to Murdock, sounds that revisited his dreams each and every
night. Dreams which only Billy's presence could drive away in the waking moments. And not just Face's
cries; each night he heard BA's, Hannibal's, and those of other friends who hadn't made it through that
man-made hell. But there was something different this time: the fact that English was the native tongue
of the one administering the punishment. In the jungle, the enemy had been different. Other. It had not
made the suffering easier, but somehow it had been understandable. An accepted, if not acceptable, risk.
But this. The chains creaked as every blow sent Face's body arching in agony, looking for an escape from
the deadly caress of the whip, a rhythm that Murdock knew he could never forget.
They had been playing sticks
with Billy in the park. Nothing he and Face hadn't done a thousand times
before, no reason for them to suspect anything. Certainly no reason for them to question the diffident
request for help from a respectable-looking man whose car refused to start. Murdock's brow wrinkled as he
tried to remember again what exactly had happened next, but it was still nothing more than a sudden pain
and then blackness, before waking slowly to find himself chained against a damp stone wall, and Face's
worried whispers tugging at him, bringing him back to consciousness.
"Murdock?" Over and
over again, quiet and desperate. "Murdock, are you ok? Talk to me,
tell me you're
A grunt was all he was
capable of at first, but it seemed to reassure the Lieutenant, who turned his
attention to analysing where they were, and how long it would take Hannibal to find them.
Murdock's throat tightened
as he remembered that early optimism. He had no way of telling how long
been - they had figured out that they were being held in an underground cellar - but he reckoned that at
least three days had passed since they had been taken. In all that time there had been no sign of
Hannibal or BA. All there had been had been the growing pain of stretched muscles, freezing eventually
into immobility, trying to ignore the increasing pressure of his bladder until he could no longer do so
and felt the warm liquid running down his leg, slowly drying to chill him even further in the dampness of
the cold room. He had closed his eyes in shame at first, until he remembered what they had all told one
another in the camp in Nam; it was just another psychological weapon to break the prisoners. Nothing to
be ashamed of about bodily functions. He held onto that, tried to remember and believe it.
It must have been at least
the second day before somebody finally came. They had discussed it in
whispers, turning over and over all the possibilities, who it might be, where they might be, but
eventually the uncertainty had bred fear, as no doubt had been the intention. The brightness of the
overhead light had them both closing their eyes, screwing lids tightly shut against the sudden assault on
their senses after the unrelenting darkness. And then a voice, unfamiliar, although its owner obviously
knew who his captives were.
Murdock had shivered as
the man had run a leather-gloved hand down Face's cheek. The Lieutenant
remembered the hard-learned lessons from Nam and didn't react at all, merely looking back at the man who
stood there. Taller than either of them, in his late forties, salt and pepper grey hair lending a
respectability to him which the madness of his eyes denied, he had laughed then, a sound which had sent a
chill through Murdock and, he thought, through Face as well.
"Nice try, Lieutenant,"
he sounded amused, light-hearted. "Believe me, by the time I'm through,
either be begging me to kill you, or to fuck you again. Your choice."
The pilot knew he would
never forget the moment of fear which filled his friend's blue eyes as they
Murdock's. But then the Lieutenant got his feelings back under control and refused to look at their
captor, knowing that was what the man wanted, to get a reaction from them.
"Why?" It was Murdock
who spoke. His voice was hoarse after so long without water, but he cleared
throat and tried again. "Who are you?"
The man never even turned
to look at him, but ran a hand possessively down Face's shirt, pausing briefly
to pull it open and bare his chest. Leather-clad fingers tightened possessively on a revealed nipple and
squeezed. Hard. Face gasped and tried to jerk away. All that got him was a blow across the face from
the other hand and a harder pressure on his nipple.
"I'm no-one," he said at
last, watching Face with the sort of detached expression that a scientist
conducting an experiment might display. "At least, that's what you thought when you destroyed my life."
He suddenly swung round
on Murdock. "You see, Captain, nothing in this life is certain.
and white, and you took my reason for living away from me without a second thought. Now, it's time for
you to have those second thoughts."
Murdock shook his head in frustration. He had no recollection of this man who stood before him.
"No, I'm just one of the
little people to the mighty A-Team, isn't that right, Lieutenant?" Another
from Face as he swung and drove his fist into the Lieutenant's ribs. "Maybe it's time Hannibal Smith
thought about the consequences of his actions. And you know," running his hand very slowly through Face's
blond hair as the Lieutenant's head hung and he gaspingly tried to pull air into his starved lungs, "I
think I've found his weak spot." He glanced back briefly at Murdock. "Well, both of them, in fact.
Truth to tell," he confided as he pulled Face's shirt open further and greedy fingers ran over the muscled
chest displayed before him, "I'd've liked Baracus here as well, but I'm not suicidal. Quite."
"You're wrong there."
Face's voice came unevenly as a result of his breath being driven from him,
wasn't backing down. "When BA and Hannibal catch up with you, they're going to have words with you about
your lack of hospitality, I'm sure of that."
Shrugging, their host turned
away. "Maybe. Or maybe they'll be too distraught over their favourite
Lieutenant's shattered body, and their lovable loony Captain's shattered mind." He prowled across the
flagged stone floor towards Murdock. "Because you see, Captain," his breath was ferally hot on Murdock's
cheek, "Your part of this is to watch. Helpless, just as you were in Nam when they took your friends.
And given what it did to you then, I don't think you're going to come out of this one intact, are you?"
Brown eyes glared in impotent
rage, but it seemed only to satisfy their gaoler. He left them after that,
for perhaps a couple of hours. Then he returned, plaited leather whip coiled in his hand, and it began,
until Murdock's need to lock himself away in his mind from what was happening was almost as great as his
need to stay there and be there for Face as the lash raised bloody weals on his flesh, and all the time
the taunts came about how Hannibal didn't care enough to come to rescue them. That was what kept Murdock
present, the lost look in Face's eyes. That, and the way he whispered brokenly to Murdock after each
session 'Why doesn't he come, Murdock?'
There came a time when it stopped. Days, weeks, or just hours - Murdock had no way of telling. Time had stopped for him when the world reduced to that dark cellar, when all that mattered were the sound of the whip, Face's cries of pain, again and again, and the creak of old chains. Murdock's eyes had closed at some point during that last beating, no longer able to watch, just listening for his friend's gasping breaths, to know he was still alive. He heard the sound of iron grating on iron, then something heavy dropping. Cautiously he cracked his eyes open, blinking against the light, to see that Face had been released from the chains around his wrists and his body lay crumpled on the stone floor.
Murdock remained very still as the man approached him. He had already discovered the hard way that there was no way of harming their captors, chained as he was, and there was no point in provoking when that provocation would only be taken out on Face's defenceless body. Face hadn't been so reasonable earlier, and his smart-mouthed comments had brought instant retribution, until even the Faceman had fallen silent.
His arms were suddenly released, and he almost cried out at the agony that flooded through his muscles as he brought them down from above his head. By the time he had caught his breath, the solid oak door had been closed and locked, and he and Face were alone in the cellar. Stiff, his head hurting even now from the blow it had received all those days ago, Murdock made his way to his friend. Kneeling down beside the huddled figure, he cautiously reached his hand to the Lieutenant's shoulder and turned him over onto his back. His once-white shirt was in bloodstained tatters from the whip, but it was his face that Murdock was staring into, desperately looking for signs of awareness. "Hey, Faceyman," he shook him gently. "Can't go to sleep on the job, you know. The ants don't like it."
Eyelids fluttered slightly, then painfully cracked open. "Ants?" he croaked.
Murdock's smile of relief must have blinded Face almost as much as the bright bulb that blared light into their prison. He smoothed the blond hair back from Face's brow, noting where it was clumped with blood by his left temple.
"They're workers, you know," he explained to his friend, "And so they expect us to work just as hard. Do you know how big a leaf is to an ant? It's like -"
"Murdock," Face's hand came up and grasped the pilot's wrist, desperation in his voice. "Don't. Please."
Murdock bit down his disappointment, and was silent for a moment. But it didn't work - as soon as he stopped thinking about the ants he felt the hysteria start to rise. He had been helpless as his friend had been beaten until he screamed, and he knew from what had been said that it was going to happen again. And again. 'Until he begs for me to kill him'. Murdock whimpered. He couldn't go through this. Not again
"It's alright, Murdock," Face got out. "Hannibal'll be here soon."
Rocking slightly in his distress, Murdock nodded. His fingers traced the cuts on the Lieutenant's face from where the stinging end of the whip had caught him, the split lip from where he had mouthed off once too often, and the puffy swelling around his right eye. "Better not expect to go on any dates right away," he managed, for his friend's sake finding reserves of strength he didn't know he had.
Face breathed out a silent sigh of relief. Murdock was back with him, though for how long he wasn't sure. The pilot's eyes were dark and unnaturally wide, his movements jerky and distressed. Though he wanted nothing so much as to close his eyes and slip back into sleep, Face forced himself to sit up. It was more difficult than he had thought it would be, but eventually he made it, leaning heavily against Murdock as the pilot's strong arms held him upright.
"What do we have to do to get room service round here?" he asked the pilot, his voice hoarse.
"Ring the bell for the maid," Murdock informed him in all seriousness. "Though I'm not sure the maid's outfit will suit him."
Face managed a smile for an instant. "How many of them have you seen?" he asked, struggling to sit upright. It was so warm and comforting in Murdock's arms, and he wanted nothing more than to stay there, but if they were going to get out of this, he had to start moving.
Murdock's hold loosened and he let Face sit up properly. "There's always someone else who lets him in, I've heard his voice but I haven't seen him," he responded. "And there must have been at least two of them when we got taken." He scratched his head, his baseball cap long gone and sadly missed. "But Facey, *who* is he? I don't remember him."
A slow shake of Face's head was the answer. "Neither do I, Murdock." And I just hope Hannibal does or he'll never find us, he thought to himself. His throat tightened. Why hadn't Hannibal come for them yet? That was what had kept him going when the pain became unbearable but his mind refused to retreat into oblivion - the knowledge that Hannibal would come for them. Every lash had become bearable because he knew that before the next blow fell, BA would be knocking down the door and Hannibal would be there, releasing him from his chains, releasing Murdock, and they'd both be safe again. That was why he could never understand, when it was over and the man had left them again, why Hannibal wasn't here yet. His captor told him it was because Hannibal didn't care. He *knew* that wasn't true. Hannibal always looked out for his team. But why hadn't he come for them yet? Oh God, Hannibal, please come quickly. I don't know how much more of this Murdock can take without it doing him permanent harm. I don't know how much more of this *I* can take
Colonel Smith sat at the pine table in the kitchen of their latest house, his eyes fixed on the grain of the bleached wood before him. It was easier than looking up to see the mute accusation in his Sergeant's eyes. BA thought - hell, they *all* thought - that Hannibal was invincible. Present him with a problem and he'd find a way through it, lit up by the jazz in a way that meant he seemed to live for problems. But not this time. This time two of his team had been missing for three days, and there was nothing he could do.
At first Hannibal had been annoyed rather than worried. But as the hours dragged on and there had been no sign of the recalcitrant pair, and no word, Hannibal's internal alarm bells had begun to sound. They had searched the park that day until they knew every blade of grass and every leaf on every tree, every paving stone of the surrounding streets, until it grew too dark for them to continue. Then they took it in shifts, one of them remaining to ask passers-by if they had seen anything, while the other waited by the phone at the house. The result was a resounding nothing. The two of them had just disappeared.
If one of them had been hurt in an accident, the other would have reported in. The chances of both of them being in the same accident when they were pedestrians were practically non-existent. If Murdock had gotten spooked by anything and done something weird, Face would have let them know. And if they had been caught by Decker, it would have been all over the news. No. The one thing that Colonel Smith knew was that *someone* had his men. And it didn't take someone as shrewd as Hannibal to hazard a guess that it was somebody who didn't feel too friendly towards the A-Team.
Face sat on the cold floor next to the door, and waited. He had overruled Murdock's protests and taken first watch. He hurt too much to sleep. Sooner or later somebody would come, and then they would have their chance. Perhaps their only chance.
Murdock, fully versed in mental games, had offered an explanation as to why they had been released from their chains and not had their hands tied again, and Face had reluctantly agreed that it made perfect sense. It was all part of the attempt at intimidation, putting them in a position of ongoing uncertainty. The way they had been left for so long at the beginning, their captor not coming immediately to gloat, argued that the man knew exactly what he was doing. He was dealing with men who had faced imprisonment and brutality before, so he turned first to the psychological weapons.
Face gingerly touched the bloody marks on his wrists where he had fought against the iron cuffs, and his eyes were drawn to the identical marks on Murdock who lay in uneasy sleep, his body curled close to Face to try to conserve body heat. The Lieutenant had to bite hard on his lower lip for control when he thought about the pilot. In a way, perhaps because it was something all the members of the Team had faced over the years, the physical punishment came as no real surprise to Face. But the cruelty which lay behind this mental torturing of Murdock, and their captor's stated intention of breaking the pilot, made him shiver where he sat.
The single light bulb blazed down mercilessly on the damp stone walls and floor, showing the bucket which stood in the corner and which was, apart from the chains bolted into the wall and ceiling, their only furniture. Being plastic, it didn't even offer any sort of possibility as a weapon. Nonetheless they had been thankful for its presence, allowing them to keep some small measure of dignity. As his eyes lingered on the bucket, Face's nose wrinkled in distaste as he realised how they both must smell. He glanced down at the ribbons of material which were now all that remained of his extremely expensive shirt. At least by concentrating on the ruin of his new shirt he could keep the other thoughts at bay, force himself to ignore the ominous words which their captor had uttered earlier. They had been for effect, no more. Another weapon in the psychological war being waged. He couldn't have meant them, not really.
Determined though they both were to escape, the problem was that every now and then Face found it hard to focus, the walls around him blurring before his eyes. He tried to ignore the pain from his injuries as best he could, but he knew he would have problems moving quickly when the time came, and HM was not in much better shape: neither of them had had anything to drink, let alone eat, since they had been captured, and he could see the dried blood in Murdock's hair from where he must have been knocked out when they had been taken. Face reached out an unsteady hand and rested it on the pilot's shoulder as he whimpered softly in his sleep. "It's ok, Murdock. They'll find us."
The ominous silence which blanketed the house was abruptly shattered by the strident sound of the telephone ringing. Hannibal beat BA to it by a short head.
Hannibal's knuckles tightened on the receiver as he received no immediate response. Then that leisurely voice spoke again. "I think we'll treat that information on a need to know basis, Colonel. What you may like to know is the fact that I have two packages in my possession in which I think you may have an interest."
"What do you want for them?" All thoughts of bargaining, of playing the usual games, were gone. All Hannibal wanted was Face and Murdock back safely.
"Do you ever think about your actions, Colonel?" The voice continued without a break. "Do you ever think that the people who get in your way, the ones who you crush without a second thought, have lives too?"
"Who are you and what do you want?"
The urbanity was gone, the steel beneath unsheathed with shocking suddenness. "Tell me, Colonel. *Do* you?"
Hannibal drew a breath, fighting down the anger at his powerlessness. "We only go after those who do wrong, who oppress others," he bit out.
There was sudden bitter laughter in his ear. "Oh, save it for someone who cares, please, you're breaking my heart here. No, Colonel - you love violence, you love dominating others. If you got your pardon, you wouldn't know what to do with it, would you? It's an excuse for you, this Robin Hood act, to go round breaking the law and killing those who get in your way. Maybe they're not perfect, but neither are those who you say you're protecting. Do you ever ask them *why* they need protecting, Colonel? Do you? You ever wonder why these innocent helpless people have ended up in the situations they're in?"
Hannibal was almost trembling with the effort of controlling himself. "If it's me your grudge is with, let my men go, and I'll meet you."
There was an instant's silence at the other end of the line, and then a very satisfied sounding voice. "Oh no, Colonel - you don't get off as easily as that. You wouldn't mind dying at the hands of a civilian who doesn't understand the necessity for what you do, would you? No, that would be a noble death, sacrificing yourself for your men. But you won't get away as easily as that. You'll hurt because your men hurt. And believe me, they'll hurt." The speaker paused for a moment, apparently savouring the thought before he continued. "You may be in charge, but just because they're carrying out your orders doesn't give them an excuse for what they do. Neither does being crazy. They must suffer for it as well. No, Colonel - those who live by the sword, die by it."
And then the line was suddenly dead.
Hannibal's hand shook slightly as he returned the receiver to its cradle. "Colonel?" BA was practically vibrating with menace. "Colonel, what'd he say?"
Hannibal drew his eyes to BA's face with an effort. Telling him the full content of their conversation would only result in him having an uncontrollable Sergeant on his hands. The big man was already only just managing to keep his frustrated rage in check. He needed action.
Hannibal side-stepped the question. "We have to find them," he said. "Go back to the park, and ask *everyone* you see. And be careful."
BA was silent. He wanted to protest that they had already done that, times out of mind these last three days, but he couldn't remember when he last saw Hannibal's eyes so tired. He knew that the Colonel was telling him to do this because there was nothing else they could do.
Hannibal waited until the door had closed behind Baracus before he sank into a chair and propped his head on his hands. Chilled as he had been by the last statement that the caller had made, his mind still worried at the parts of this that made no sense. If he wanted to just - Hannibal's mind shied away from the word and he substituted another in its place - *remove* Murdock and Face, he wouldn't be ringing up to boast about it, he'd have gone ahead and done it. So his aim had to be the entire team. In which case why had he given them no clues to start looking for the others? He had the perfect bait; he had to have known that Hannibal and BA would walk willingly into a trap if it gave them a chance to save their friends. Why hadn't he done it?
It was Murdock's turn to sit by the door and watch his friend's restless sleep. His mind flitted with butterfly lightness from place to place, until he was no longer sure whether what it rested on was reality or something else. The one thing that he did know, that Face had impressed on him time and again, his blue eyes shining with faith and trust even in that place, even when his voice was hoarse from screaming and thick from lack of water, was that Hannibal would come for them. Murdock knew that; he had known that since the first time in Nam when Hannibal had risked his own life to save the pilot's worthless hide. Their Colonel would always come for them.
If he could. If he was still alive to find them. But if he was, if he could, why hadn't he come yet? There were only two possible answers to that: either because he couldn't find them, or because he was already dead. BA too. Murdock knew the big Sergeant would never rest until he found his little brother and the damn fool. His no-show meant either that there was no trail for them to follow, or no 'them' to follow it.
Murdock didn't betray a word of his thoughts to the Lieutenant. The pilot was having a hard enough time holding on to things as it was, and if that light in Face's eyes were to go out, he knew he wouldn't survive this.
Warnings: violence, non-consensual sex (though not in this part), angst
Summary: Gratuitous Face torture. That's about it, really.
Despite his exhaustion, Face woke instantly when Murdock gripped his arm and gently shook him in a familiar signal. Years of being on the run had honed the survival instincts of all the team, and no sooner was he awake than he was fully alert. "What is it?" he asked, moving to sit up.
Murdock jerked his head towards the door. "Someone's coming," he said quietly.
Sure enough, when Face strained his ears, he could hear voices approaching, and two, maybe three, sets of footsteps. He struggled to sit up fully, ignoring the screams of protest from his stiff and cold muscles and the way some of the newly formed scabs tore when he moved. He couldn't prevent a sound of pain escaping him as he eventually made it to his feet, and Murdock reached out to steady him as he swayed, the room spinning slightly around him. As soon as he was convinced that the Lieutenant was steady on his feet, Murdock moved with cat-like silence to the other side of the door, and stood waiting, every muscle coiled to spring into smooth and effective action. Face blinked hard, trying to get the room to stop moving under his feet and attempted to emulate the pilot's ready stance. Everything became suddenly clear and sharply focused as the adrenaline took over.
As the voices neared the door the two prisoners shared a glance, silently confirming the plan they had discussed earlier. Murdock would jump the first one through the door, disarming him, while Face distracted whoever came in second. Although neither of them were too convinced that Face would be able to disable a guard single-handedly in his present state, they hoped that the distraction would be enough to give Murdock time to overcome the first one, arm himself and then take control of the situation. They had ruefully agreed that if there turned out to be more than two of them, there was very little chance of their desperate plan succeeding.
The footsteps stopped, and then they heard a key being slid into the lock before starting to turn.
The fourth evening stretched on, long and lonely. There was none of the usual comfort to be found in his cigars, and with just him and BA, it was deathly quiet. It was this helplessness that Hannibal couldn't deal with. He'd go up against anyone, an army even, without a second thought in order to rescue his team. But to be forced to sit and wait, unable to do anything at all, not knowing what was happening to them, was torture.
He glanced over at BA's silent figure hunched by the window, watching the street, and knew how much the big man would give just to have the damn fool back and annoying him, or Face managing to irritate everyone by finding something unimportant to complain about. Hannibal shifted restlessly in his chair and sighed yet again.
"He knows it's gonna drive yo' crazy," BA's voice broke the silence.
Hannibal stared at his sergeant as BA turned to face him.
"Doin' nothin' while your men are in trouble," BA continued. "That's why he's doin' it. He knows it's gonna drive yo' crazy."
With an oath, Hannibal crushed his cigar between strong fingers. Damn it to hell, BA was right. And he'd fallen hook, line and sinker for it, what's more. If that's the game this man was playing, he shouldn't be wasting energy like this, he should be resting, ready to move out as soon as the game entered its next phase. Yeah, like he could rest when some maniac had two of his men. Had Murdock and Peck, what was worse.
BA got slowly to his feet, and began to make his way towards the kitchen to refill his glass. As he passed Hannibal, he dropped a hand briefly on the other man's shoulder. "Don't worry, Colonel - we'll find 'em," he said.
Hannibal looked up and held BA's eyes for an instant. "Of course we will, Sergeant," he agreed. He only hoped that his expression was as convincing as BA's.
It was over quickly. Murdock was still grappling with the first man through the door, rolling over and over on the cold floor, each trying to break the other's hold and gain supremacy, when a gunshot echoed with brutal volume around the bare room. His head jerked up, searching for Face, and he froze when he saw the Lieutenant pinned face-down on the floor by a man who had his knee heavily in the Lieutenant's back and a gun grinding into his head.
"Next time, Captain, he won't be aiming to miss."
That unmistakable voice again, cultured tones which slipped every now and then, and then its owner was stepping through the cellar doorway, picking his way fastidiously around Face's spread-eagled body. Murdock got slowly to his feet, only for the man he had been fighting to scramble up with a snarl and deliver a punishing blow to his stomach, causing the Captain to double over, fighting for air.
"That's enough, Parr." The man's voice lashed the air. "Restrain him."
The big man moved behind Murdock, dragging his arms behind his back, forcing the pilot to straighten painfully, his chest still heaving for breath. The other man moved forward and ran a hand possessively down Murdock's face, patting his cheek affectionately before his hand lowered again.
"That's the problem with hired muscle," he confided to the Captain, "They just can't see the bigger picture." He turned a disappointed gaze on Parr where he stood behind Murdock, his hands tightly businesslike on the pilot's wrists. "I've told you already," he continued, "The Captain here won't respond to violence. After what they did to him in Vietnam, I regret to say that I don't think we could offer anything new in the way of sensory experiences. No, the way to Captain Murdock is through his friends. Isn't that right, Captain? Wouldn't you agree that part of your little mental problem is survivor's guilt?"
The question was rhetorical. He didn't wait for an answer but gestured peremptorily to the other man, who returned his gun to his shoulder holster before he got off Face and pulled the Lieutenant to his feet. Murdock's eyes quartered Face anxiously, looking for fresh wounds, but could see nothing new. Seemingly the Lieutenant had simply been overpowered. His eyes were lowered, avoiding Murdock's.
Face's eyes flashed up. Murdock's breath caught as he saw the instant of fear in the Lieutenant's eyes before Face caught himself and smiled mockingly at his captor. "*So* unoriginal," he managed.
Murdock would have swallowed at the Lieutenant's attempted nonchalance if his throat and mouth hadn't been so dry. Instead he just watched in raging helplessness as the one who he guessed was also hired muscle chained the Lieutenant's wrists to the manacles dangling from a metal hook embedded in the ceiling. No sooner had he done so than without warning he kicked out Face's legs from under him, causing the Lieutenant's whole body weight to be suddenly jerked onto his already injured wrists. Face cried out briefly, and Murdock found himself struggling blindly against the man who held him. After a brief, undignified tussle, Murdock was returned to his place against the wall, the cuffs once again secured around his own damaged wrists.
Their enemy stood there, his lips pursed as he regarded them, before nodding in satisfaction. "I think that'll do for now," he commented at last. "I'll come by later to fill you in on your punishment for that pathetic escape attempt." He turned to leave, then stopped as a thought apparently struck him. "Oh, and Parr? Give them some water. We wouldn't want them losing consciousness too soon, now would we?"
"Don't you just love a good cliche, Murdock?" Face's voice was hoarse, yet the sardonic tone came through loud and clear.
It hit home. For a moment there was a very real flash of anger on their captor's face, then he moved to stand in front of the Lieutenant, his fingers closing around Face's jaw in a cruelly tight grip in order to turn Peck's face and look it over slowly, measuringly. "It's almost a shame to damage something that pretty," he mused. "Still, I'm sure I'll be able to live with myself afterwards. I'm not so sure about your dear Captain though."
He leaned close into Face, who tried not to react to the unwelcome caress of hot breath "You'll notice I'm leaving you out of the living equation, Peck," his voice was low and heavy with threat. "Perhaps you can guess why that is."
This time when he turned to leave, Face said nothing.
Time passed. They had no way of measuring it, no way in this room of telling even if was day or night outside. Face tried not to let it unsettle him, knowing it was all part of the disorientation process, but as time passed and nothing happened except the increasing scream of his arm muscles, the feeling of impending doom grew ever more oppressive.
He had turned his face against one of his raised arms, which had finally, thankfully, retreated into numbness, and rested it there. He couldn't face Murdock after his failure. He breathed deeply, trying to empty his mind. What happened would happen. But somehow that wasn't as easy to accept as it had been once. Maybe it was because they no longer faced death as a certainty every day, the only question being when it would come for them. Or maybe it was because of Murdock. Face buried his face deeper into his arm, eyes screwed closed in pain. If their positions were reversed he didn't know how he could cope, and for Murdock it had to be infinitely worse, bringing back the memories of others being taken from the cage, one by one, and executed in front of him because he wouldn't give up the information he had. This time around he was just as helpless; there was nothing he could offer to bargain for Face's life. He would just have to watch whatever their captor had in mind play out in front of him.
Or perhaps it was all an elaborate bluff, an attempt to send Murdock over the edge without carrying through on the threat. Oh God, whatever it was that was going on in that sick bastard's brain, the result would be the same for the Captain. Face wiped his eyes roughly against his numb arm and forced himself to look over at Murdock. The chains held him upright, but his head was hanging forward and a low muttering became slowly audible to the Lieutenant.
"Murdock?" It hurt to talk, but he had to get through.
No answer. No response even to show that Murdock had heard him.
"Murdock!" He coughed dryly as his throat reacted to the sudden strain, but still there was nothing from the pilot. Murdock had retreated somewhere. Face just hoped that it was somewhere better than here.
Face closed his eyes, shivering slightly in the unrelenting cold of their prison, and concentrated his whole being on Hannibal. The Colonel would find them. He *had* to find them. Please God, may he find them soon.
Finally the guards came back in, and administered rough and ready doses of water to the prisoners. Face swallowed greedily, gulping down as much of the bottle's contents as he could, not daring to take his concentration off the plastic bottle long enough even to check what was happening with Murdock. All he knew was that he had to get as much of the precious liquid inside him before they took it away again. The sudden influx hurt his stomach and immediately triggered vicious hunger pangs, but he refused to stop swallowing. It wasn't until he choked that the guard took it from away from his mouth, and by then the worst of his need had been satisfied.
Once he had recovered, Face's gaze found Parr administering the same treatment to Murdock. Wherever it was in his mind the pilot had found to hide, he still obviously welcomed the water.
"Thank you. Most kind," he acknowledged in a very English accent once Parr had finished supplying him with water. "I don't suppose you gentlemen would know where one might obtain a G and T, by any chance?" Face's eyes stung suddenly. Murdock's impressions had always made him laugh, but that was because he had known that Murdock was still there underneath. Now, though, he was beginning to wonder. Face watched as Parr exchanged a meaningful look with his fellow guard, tapping his forehead significantly. "Loony tunes," he commented. Then he glanced over at Face and his mouth lifted in a wolfish smile. "But then, maybe he's the lucky one," he added, before they left.
Face tried to get through to Murdock again, but with no success. The pilot was engaged in a heated discussion with himself and was evidently in no mood to interrupt this to respond to his friend. Face slowly admitted defeat, and resting his head against his arm, closed his eyes again.
The sound of the key in the lock brought his head up again with a jerk. A quick glance at Murdock showed that the noise had got through to him and the pilot was watching the door with suddenly narrowed eyes, a world away from the slumped muttering figure of who knew how many hours earlier. They exchanged a quick glance, and Face felt somehow steadied by the reminder that he wasn't alone in this. Breathing slowly, he deliberately stood as arrogantly as his bonds would allow, fixing his gaze on the men in the doorway with an expression of mild disinterest.
He was aware of the displeasure in their captor's face as he took in the Lieutenant's attitude, the was his lips tightened as he saw a watchful anger in the Captain. It appeared that he was disappointed, that he had expected them to show some signs of defeat by now. He abruptly cast the coiled whip he carried to one side and jerked his head in Face's direction. "Take him out."
Face stood silently while new chains were fixed around his wrists before he was unlocked from the ones fastened to the ceiling. He schooled his features to betray nothing, but his heart was racing unevenly. He was aware of Murdock's frozen stance, and he glanced over. The look on the Captain's face broke Face's resolve not to give their captor any satisfaction.
"It's ok, Murdock," he said quietly as Parr's gun in his back indicated unmistakably to him that he was to move forward.
The smile on their captor's face let him know that he had just made a major mistake.
"Oh, it's very far from being ok, Captain." The tone was incongruously genial. "Still, at least you're used to this little scenario, aren't you? You know what to expect this time around. Though I have to agree that it's probably even worse when it's one of your friends."
Face twisted his head round as he was pushed towards the door. The movement hurt as it pulled at stiff muscles and other injuries but he was desperate to keep his eyes on Murdock's and reassure him somehow, and to be reassured in return. There was nothing he could say that he'd want anybody else to overhear, and he wasn't entirely sure that Murdock would be able to hear him even if he were to speak. Blank horror had filled the brown eyes which looked blindly into something only they could see.
As Face's eyes locked onto his, trying to say everything he wanted without words, Murdock seemed suddenly to jerk back to awareness and he stared at Face until the Lieutenant was thrust roughly out of the cell. As Face was pushed along the stone-walled corridor, Murdock screamed. Rage and terror and loss filled the air, echoing relentlessly from the blank walls, until the sound of a heart in ruin finally faded to silence.
A noise of distress echoed in Face's throat, but the unforgiving gun in his back drove him onwards. 'It's ok, Murdock.' He willed the pilot to somehow hear his thoughts. But even as he did, the cold fear gnawing at his belly let him know that it really wasn't ok. Not at all.
He tossed and turned in the bed, the covers lying on the floor long since having fallen crumpled victims to his restlessness. He couldn't remember the last time he had slept, unless he counted the moments of dozing uneasily before jerking back to full consciousness, sure that the ringing of the phone had woken him.
BA had finally snapped and ordered him to bed, and Hannibal had found a strange sort of comfort in allowing the big man to take charge briefly. It hadn't worked, though. He still couldn't settle, couldn't get the thoughts out of his head. Images of Peck and Murdock, prisoners, in pain if their captor was to be believed, yet holding on in the belief that their Colonel would rescue them. Hannibal thumped the pillow as he turned over yet again. Their Colonel who was meanwhile left with no clue, no starting point. And no plan.
It was as though his men had disappeared into thin air. And if there was anything worse than having them missing, it was that he had to remain here even while he knew that security had been breached. Every instinct screamed at him to move on, move out. This was unsafe. They were sitting targets. But they couldn't leave. He had to carry on putting his Sergeant at risk because this was where they had been contacted. Move, and their only chance of finding Murdock and Face was gone.
Face took mental notes as he was marched along yet another stone corridor, the insistent pressure of the gun in his back indicating the direction he was to go in. The size of this underground place took him by surprise; it was obviously artificial, and the only possible reason he could deduce for it was for wine cellars. Yet the room they had been in had been damp, which didn't seem to make sense. A sudden order from his guard interrupted his speculations and he stopped as told.
A quick glance was enough to show Face another bare room, indistinguishable from the one he had been taken from. He turned his head and bestowed a winning smile on the man. "Why thank you. Don't mind if I do. I could do with a change of scenery." If he was going to be taken out, he might as well go with as much style as was left to him.
A blow was his reward, but he scarcely felt it. His mind had slid back to Murdock. If he was going to be executed and Murdock allowed to live, he couldn't even begin to think what that would do to the pilot.
It had seemed hours, but was probably no more than twenty minutes or so. Just long enough for Face to begin to have to concentrate on remaining upright through the dizziness that assailed him. He was standing in the centre of the room, his hands still chained together before him. Pain and weakness, lack of food and water, all combined to try to take from him what dignity he had left. It had also been long enough for him to face the bitter truth. He could no longer hide behind the mental exertion of trying to reckon the original use of their prison, nor even his concern for Murdock. Parr's unnerving silence and the gun kept unwaveringly on him had begun, despite Face's best efforts, to break through his defences. It was truly going to happen. Hannibal wasn't going to be in time, not this time.
He swallowed a suddenly painful lump in his throat at the realisation. This was it. Not even under the open sky, but here, in a damp stone cell, was where Templeton Peck would meet his end. Alone at the end, as at the beginning. And not even for a reason, at least not for any reason he knew. Prayers memorised long ago ran through his head, but none of it seemed real any more. He wondered briefly if Murdock would hear the shot. He set his shoulders back and gazed steadfastly at the opposite wall. Even if this was all there was that was left to his life, he wouldn't go without a fight.
Billy had disappeared, that was the problem. One minute he'd been chasing sticks, his tail waving happily as he bounded around the park, and the next he'd gone. Murdock had woken up in this room, and Billy wasn't there. The fear trickled coldly through him. How would Billy cope without him? Even if Billy had managed to find Hannibal and BA, Murdock didn't believe BA would look after him properly. He wouldn't understand the particular way that Billy liked to have his ears scratched.
Or maybe Billy was wandering around the park, lost and abandoned, looking for Murdock but never finding him. Worse, perhaps he'd strayed out onto the road and been knocked down. Perhaps he was even now lying desperately hurt somewhere, waiting for Murdock to find him and make everything better again. The pilot muttered in feverish anxiety, pulling again at whatever it was which held his wrists to the wall, holding him still. He couldn't stay here, he had to find Billy, to help him. Billy had been hurt and he hadn't done anything to stop it happening.
The minutes crawled, but when their captor came into the cell, Face knew it was too soon. He wasn't ready. He kept his eyes firmly on the wall at the far side of the room, determined to give away nothing of his feelings. He couldn't understand why this was so hard: in 'Nam he had accepted death. But now he didn't want to die. The intensity of his realisation took him by surprise.
He was aware that he was being watched, but he remained impassively regarding the wall. He would not give them the satisfaction.
"Ok, Parr, wait outside."
As the guard left, Face allowed his gaze to flick to the man standing in front of him. The calmness of his voice hadn't prepared Face for the hatred which blazed in his eyes.
He smiled when he saw Face's eyes on him. "I wonder how your friend Murdock's doing?" he mused. "He did seem a little distressed, after you were removed."
Rage began to burn in Face's own heart. "Why?" It burst from him before he could stop it. Appalled, he bit down on his tongue, concentrating on the small pain to make sure he said nothing more, determined not to give this man the satisfaction of knowing that he was getting to Face.
"Why?" His captor moved forwards and he stood gazing into Face's eyes with a peculiar concentration. "If I tell you my name, I think your questions will be answered." He laughed slightly, a sound that had nothing to do with humour. "Anyway, Peck, seeing that we're going to be as close as we are, it seems only polite."
Face glared defiantly back, trying to ignore the sudden churning in his gut. Games, all psychological games. This man was an expert, and Face would be damned if he would let him see that his words had any effect.
"Matthews, Peck. My name is John Matthews."
Face remained expressionless as his mind processed the information, searching for anything that might give him a clue. Matthews. It meant nothing to him. He couldn't remember anyone of that name
A fist crashed into his face, sending him staggering. "I said, 'Matthews', Lieutenant. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
Face straightened slowly, looking at Matthews. The mask of urbanity had finally slipped, and in the fury it revealed Face read his own death.
He knew that his answer would enrage the man further, but lying would be a worse option. "I've got a bad memory," he said blandly, for once hoping not to provoke.
He was more prepared for the blow this time, but not for the madness which followed, fists beating him down to the floor and a foot crashing into his ribs, again and again until he was curled up desperately trying to protect himself, as the boot connected with his head.
He lost a few minutes, or maybe longer, coming round to find a hand in his hair pulling him upwards. "John Matthews Jr was my *son*, Peck, and you and your Team *killed* him. And you don't even *remember*!"
With those anguished words, his head was released and he fell backwards, his skull striking the stone floor. Everything slid into blackness again.