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Choice and Consequence

Choice and Consequence
by Reagan


Rating: R -- I'll give this a soft R cause the f word isn't the only colorful one in these pages. So those under 17 are warned to read this at their own discretion. Don't get mad at me if you are offended after I warned you.
Summary: Can one choice ruin everything?
Setting: Sometime after the first season story "Bad Day at Black Rock," and before the fifth season. Anything more specific is up to the individual reader.
Characters: Mainly Face and
Hannibal, with Maggie Sullivan, Murdock and BA all making appearances. What can I say I write what I like and know. If you've read my other stories this should come as no surprise.
Warnings: This story contains violence, death of non main characters, and adult language. If this offends please feel free to give my story a pass.
Disclaimer: I so don't own the A-Team or Maggie Sullivan. Unfortunately I'm not making a profit and the only thing you'll get from sueing me is my debt.
Feedback would totally rock. Good, bad or indifferent tell me what you think.

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Day four of Hannibal's enforced medical recuperation began quietly enough. Face was in the kitchen finishing off the last of his cereal and coffee, hoping to sneak out before Hannibal awoke. He'd been able to deflect Hannibal's questions so far but knew his commander wouldn't allow his continued obfuscation forever. Face planned to be gone all day to avoid the questions he knew the colonel had.

He had just placed his dishes in the sink, finishing the last of his coffee and putting on his coat when he heard a voice.

"Where are you going Face?"

"Hey Hannibal." Face pasted a smile and tried to sound pleased to see the older man. "Just got some errands to run. You'll be okay till BA shows up for lunch won't you?"

"Yeah I'm okay. I don't need you guys to babysit me, but I did want to talk to you before you leave. Whatever you have to do can wait a few hours right?" It was phrased as a question but the underlying tone of it will wait was unmistakable.

"Hannibal really, I've gotta a couple of people to meet. So I gotta go now. There's coffee in the pot and tons of food and juice in the fridge. We can talk later." Face didn't look the colonel in the eye as he spoke and turned for the door before he even finished, clearly intending to flee the beach house as soon as possible.

"Face you've been putting this conversation off for days. We're not putting it off any longer. Whatever you've got going today can wait. We're gonna talk." Hannibal's strident tone was an obvious order.

"Sorry Hannibal. A couple of people are expecting me and I can't keep them waiting or just not bother to show up. We'll talk later."

Face didn't turn around, knowing that he did not want to see the thunder cloud spread across his commander's face. He took the last couple of steps to the door. "Don't over tax yourself or BA and Murdock'll kill me."

"Face!" When Face showed no signs of stopping. "We're not done yet Lieutenant. You're not leaving here until I hear just what the hell happened at that house." Hannibal was livid, hobbling over on his crutches toward the door in order to block Peck's escape.

He didn't realize that Face wasn't going to give him an opportunity to physically stop him. "Sorry Colonel, no time." That was his last word as Face opened the door and walked out of the house. Hannibal heard the corvette tear out of the driveway before he slammed the front door shut.

"God dammit Face! You're not going to be able to avoid me and whatever it is you don't want to tell me forever. I oughta kick your ass for walking out on me like that." With a huge sigh of frustration he hit the door with his hand. "What the hell is going on kid?"

"Shit." Face hit the steering wheel. Hannibal's going to kick my ass, crutches or no crutches. Why can't he just let this go? God, I don't want to go back there now. Maybe he'll be asleep by the time I get back tonight or I should find someplace else to sleep for a while. BA is going to be so pissed at me. God knows Hannibal will be in a terrible mood when he shows up this afternoon. Fuck! I am so screwed.

 

 

Part 2

 

Hours Later

It was dark and Face was tired. Emotionally and mentally exhausted from the strain of the last week he knew he wouldn't drive back to Malibu tonight. He hadn't answered his phone knowing that Hannibal was calling to demand just where the hell he was and to come back so he could bitch him out. Face just wasn't up to the confrontation tonight. He needed support from someone who wouldn't ask a lot of questions and thus he saved this errand for last. The town was quiet. Face had driven the back way and parked his car in an abandoned barn not to far from her house. He made his way to the front door unnoticed due to the empty street. He just prayed she was home alone. Knocking on the door he waited for a response.

The door was opened by a surprised Maggie Sullivan. "Face what are you doing here? Is everything okay? Come in, come in." She ushered the young conman in giving him a warm hug after the door was closed. Face flashed his first genuine smile of the day as he hugged her back. The hours they had spent watching over Hannibal had formed a bond between the two. "Everything's fine. Hannibal's irritable at being cooped up in order to fully heal but he's getting better everyday thanks to you. I just came up here to settle things. I know you turned down Hannibal's offer to pay for your services, but you're not going to turn me down. He doesn't know how much food we ate and all the medical supplies you used to patch him, but I do. We owe you Maggie, for several things, and I always make sure we pay our debts."

He pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to the surprised doctor. "Please take this and restock your supplies or maybe make an extra house payment. It's the least we can do to pay you back for all your help."

Maggie's eyes widened at the amount of cash in the envelope. She immediately began to protest. "Face really this isn't..."

He interrupted, "Yeah Maggie it is and I won't take no for an answer. You could have gotten into a lot of trouble with the law for helping us out again. Please take it with our thanks."

She gave him the evil eye for a minute before reluctantly accepting the generous payment. "Okay, but I do so under protest. I didn't help Hannibal and you guys because I expected you to pay me a small fortune."

He smiled again, "I know that, but just because you fulfilled your Hippocratic oath doesn't mean you shouldn't get paid for your services."

When glaring didn't seem to work she finally acquiesced. "Okay." With that she dropped one subject and started another. "Have you eaten dinner yet? Would like join me?"

"I don't want to impose." Face stated honestly, although secretly hoping she'd insist. He wasn't ready to leave her friendly presence yet.

"It's no imposition really. I was just about to eat. There's some leftover chicken, is that okay?"

"That'd be great, thanks."

They sat down to eat a few minutes later, Maggie starting the conversation. "So what are you really doing up here so late Face. You could have just left the money, then I couldn't have argued with you, but you chose to talk to me. What's going on?"

He gave a rueful sigh, then smirked as he cut up his chicken. "You're pretty perceptive doc. I'm just trying to avoid a situation I don't want to deal with. It's going to come up and I know I can't avoid it forever but for now I'm just trying to delay the inevitable."

She smiled sympathetically at him trying to convey her empathy. "You want to tell me about it?"

"Nah, I don't want to drag you into this. Suffice it to say that Hannibal wants the answers to a couple of questions that I'd just assume he didn't ask. He's not going to like what I have to say and I'd rather just avoid the argument and strain."

"Is it serious?" She asked her curiosity peaked.

"Yeah. I did something he's not going to approve of and I should feel guilty, but don't. He's not going to be happy with me, and I don't know how this is going to play out, but if I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change anything. He's not going to want to hear that." Sighing as he takes a healthy swallow of wine. "I don't want to disappoint him, but I think I already have."

She could see the burden he was carrying in his eyes and the droop of his shoulders. Whatever the problem she knew he considered it serious and she hoped they worked it out, because it was apparent that Hannibal's approval meant a great deal to the young man. She stretched her hand over to squeeze his in a small attempt to buoy his spirits. "You'll work it out Face. I've seen the two of you together and it's obvious that you care about one another. You two will be okay, I know it. But for now why don't you stay the night here. You're exhausted and I don't want you driving back to LA tired. You're also not going to solve anything worrying about it tonight. Get some sleep and then you can go back and work things out tomorrow. Finish your dinner and I'll go make up a spare bedroom."

He smiled gratefully, knowing that her offer was genuine and that coming up here was the right decision. He needed to hear that things were going to be okay. "Are you sure it's not a imposition? I really don't want to be an inconvenience. I'll be perfectly fine driving back tonight."

Rolling her eyes tolerantly. "Face you're staying. Don't argue with me and finish your dinner before it gets cold. Making up a spare bed really isn't a bother."

"Thanks Maggie. I appreciate it. Hannibal's a lucky guy." He smirked at her. Face couldn't tell if she blushed as she turned for the stairs, but he felt better.

Less than an hour later Face was passed out in a spare bedroom. Maggie smiled as she closed the bedroom door. He resembled more a little boy than ex-Green Beret as the worry lines that creased his face disappeared in sleep.

She went back downstairs pulling out an address book, calling the number on the otherwise blank piece of paper stuffed in the front of it.

"Hello?"

"Hi John, it's Maggie." She said softly.

Surprised, "Hey Maggie. I'm fine. You don't have to call and check up on me, even if it is nice to talk to you."

"Yeah I know you're okay. One of the guys would have called me otherwise." She smiled at the idea of trying to mother Hannibal Smith.

Now curious, "Then what's up? Are you okay? Is there anything wrong?"

Laughing at his concern. "I'm fine, thank you for asking. Actually, I was wondering if you were missing a certain blond hair, blue-eyed lady killer."

Completely serious at this turn. "Yes I am. Is he okay? What's wrong, what's he doing up there?"

"He's fine too, John. Don't worry. He just came up here to blackmail me into accepting money for taking care of you. He looked fatigued and I was concerned about him driving back to LA tonight so I insisted he stay. I just didn't want you to worry about him."

Relieved, "Thanks Maggie. I've been calling and cursing his name most of the day because he hasn't checked in. I'll be up there in a couple of hours to collect him."

Laughing, "Whoa cowboy. You need to rest if you want to get better, not get in a car and drive up here late at night. He'll be fine after he gets a little sleep and some breakfast in the morning. I promise to send him straight home after that."

Hannibal didn't appreciate the humor, but realized that she was probably right. He was tired, pacing throughout the house most of the day wondering what the hell was up with Face had left him drained. Racing up there, waking the kid up, to yell at him didn't make much sense either. "This really isn't funny Maggie."

The concern and worry in his tone stopped the snickering. "What's going on Hannibal? He didn't go into much detail but I get the impression he's avoiding you like the plague."

"You're not the only one with that impression. As for what's going on I really don't know because he hasn't told me, but the next time I see him he will tell me, even if I have to beat it out of him." Frustrated, Hannibal paused to reign in his temper. He wasn't mad at Maggie. "I just don't know what to do with that kid. He's never deliberately avoided me before. Even when I've chewed his ass about something he's never just walked out. He didn't tell you anything?" Hannibal questioned trying to find some explanation for Face's behavior.

Wishing she could be more helpful. "Sorry John, no. He said he didn't want to drag me into whatever this is and that he doesn't want to disappoint you, but he's afraid he already has. Other than that, he just said he doesn't want to answer some questions you have. Does that mean anything to you?"

Perplexed. "Disappoint me? He said that?" Sighing, Jesus kid what the hell happened? "Sorry Maggie, I don't know much more than you, except that if he doesn't drive back here tomorrow to explain what the hell is going on I'm going to wring his neck. Anyway, thanks for letting me know he's okay. I don't think I'd have gotten any sleep tonight if I hadn't heard from you. I'll let you know when we get this all straightened out. Then you can explain how he convinced you to take our money when you wouldn't listen to me."

She could practically envision his smirk through the phone line. "Sorry John, that's between Face and I. A girl's gotta have some secrets. Let me know if there's anything I can do and you get some sleep or you're not going to be in any condition to argue with him tomorrow."

"I will. Thanks for the call Maggie, I appreciate it."

"You're welcome John. Goodnight."

She hung up the phone more curious than ever about what was going on between the two men. She hadn't spent much time with the A-Team but it was evident to her that Face and Hannibal cared deeply for one another. Their relationship was strange, but devoted and she believed, unbreakable.

Realizing that speculating would do nothing but keep her awake all night without any appreciable results she decided to turn in and see if she couldn't pry more information out of her guest in the morning.

 

Part 3

 

At 8:15am Face rolled over in an unfamiliar bed to the smell of coffee. It took him a moment to remember going to sleep in one of Maggie Sullivan's spare bedrooms. As he climbed out of bed he had to reluctantly admit that a good night's sleep did make him feel better. The past week had been one of the most difficult he could remember in recent years and he hadn't been able to sleep much. He grabbed the duffel off the floor that he had brought in late last night and trudged into the bathroom to shower and shave. Twenty minutes later a clean Templeton Peck clamored down the stairs to find Maggie pulling freshly baked muffins out of the oven.

"Morning."

"
Hey, how'd you sleep?"

He smiled at her. "Good, thanks. I appreciate you letting me stay here last night."

"You're welcome Face. You look better. I knew that a good night's sleep would help." She couldn't help but smile back at the handsome young conman. "I just pulled these from the oven, you want a blueberry muffin?"

"Blueberry? Yeah, thanks."

The two of them sat down to eat. Coffee, orange juice, and butter already on the table.

Maggie cleared her throat a little nervous. "I suppose I should tell you that I called Hannibal after you went to bed. I figured he'd be worried about you. He was and he's expecting you later on this morning."

Face dropped his head, shaking it and closing his eyes. "I totally forgot about calling him. I really didn't want to get reamed out over the phone so I just conveniently didn't think about the fact that he was probably pretty worried." Looking back at her. "I shudder to think about what he had to say?" He worded it as a question, curious yet leery of what she'd tell him.

She smiled sympathetically, wondering again just what was going on between them. "He was glad to hear you were all right. He's understandably concerned about you Face and you ignoring him all day didn't help. John told me he'd wring your neck if you didn't show up today. I also said that whatever is going on between you two is affecting you as well. I actually think he felt better knowing that you feel bad too." Shrugging her shoulders at him, "He wants to talk to you Face. Just remember that you two are friends and nothing about that will change unless you let it."

He couldn't muster up a smile this time. "I hope so Maggie and you're right we can't go on like this. Thanks for letting me stay here and for breakfast. I should probably get going before someone comes looking for you and accidentally finds me." He finished munching on another muffin before rising out of his chair. Walking around the table he pulled the doctor out of her seat as well. "You're a good woman doc and if Hannibal wouldn't kick my ass..." He let the sentence trail off grinning hugely at her. Winking, "I'll be sure to send him up here when all this settles down. He needs some more rest and recovery."

She affectionately cuffed the back of his head. "If you weren't so damn young. Besides I can only handle one stubborn, egomaniacal man at a time." She kissed his cheek while barely containing her laughter. "Give John a kiss for me and work this out will ya? Neither of you will be happy till this is resolved."

"Take care doc. I'm sure I'll be seeing you again soon." Face imparted as he peaked around her back door. Seeing no one he jogged to the tree-line and over to the barn where he left his car. Throwing the duffel in the trunk he opened the battered barn doors pushing his car out and then shutting the doors again to conceal his use of the dilapidated building. Minutes later he was on the two lane state highway back toward Malibu.

~~~~~~~~~~~

It was shortly after 11:00am when Face pulled his corvette into the garage of the beach house they were using as a base during Hannibal's recovery. Face couldn't remember the last time he was this nervous to see his commanding officer. At least the van was gone which hopefully meant that BA wouldn't be growling at him in the background during his conversation with Hannibal. Deciding that sitting in his car in the garage wouldn't accomplish anything Face reluctantly got out walking into the kitchen. Surprised that Hannibal wasn't waiting just inside the doorway for his entrance the conman passed through the kitchen into the living room where a glowering Hannibal Smith awaited him standing in the middle of the room leaning on his crutches.

Only years of experience kept the implacable expression on Peck's face, internally though he winced at Smith's withering glare. Hoping to defuse the tension in the air Face breezily walked up to Hannibal with a twinkle in his eye and kissed the colonel on the cheek. Laughing at Hannibal's less than enthusiastic response and moving out of swatting range Face answered the unasked question. "Maggie asked me to give you a kiss for her."

Not appreciating the humor. "Don't think this means you're not in deep shit with me Lieutenant."

Pinching the bridge of his nose Face sighed. "Hannibal..."

Angry, "You deliberately walked out on me yesterday. I gave you a direct order and you ignored it. You then proceeded to ignore my phone calls, not even bothering to check-in and let me know if you were okay. I had no idea where you were last night kid until Maggie thoughtfully called to let me know you were at her place. You've avoided me for the better part of a week and rebuffed every attempt to talk to you about what happened. You are on my last nerve Lieutenant and I am tired of the bullshit. What the hell happened at that house?"

 

Part 4

 

10 Days Earlier, A Small Farm in the Valley, South of Fresno

Face, Murdock, and BA were on the fringe of the tree line just east of the rural farm road they'd been following for the past hour. Face turned to whisper to BA, who was staring at the monitor in his hand, "Are you sure this is the right place?"

Growling, "Ya sucka, Hannibal's in the house." He pointed to the farm house approximately one-hundred feet in front of them. They could clearly see pairs of men walking around with various rifles patrolling the grounds.

Silently cursing the fact that it was only 3:30pm so it wouldn't be dark for several more hours, Face began devising a plan to go and rescue their missing leader. So far it had been one of the worst days of Face's adult life. The morning had started with Face being kidnapped right outside the house the team was using for it's latest job. He'd been monumentally pissed at being caught unawares but it was a tame reaction in comparison to Hannibal's response.

The intrepid colonel had been livid at the mocking phone call from Tommy Johnston, the local hood, who had been using illegal immigrant workers for slave labor. The team had been hired to put the ring out of business. Johnston, a former sergeant in the army had had a few run-ins with Col. Smith. There was no love loss between the two men and Johnston decided the best way to get rid of the team was to use the suave conman as a means of controlling Hannibal. An exchange was agreed upon, reluctantly by Murdock and BA, Face for Hannibal. All things considered it had gone off fairly well with Face dumped, tied up next to his corvette that Hannibal had been driving and Hannibal thrown into Johnston's van. The guns pointing at both men prevented HM and BA from attempting any kind of intervention. The transmitter sewn into Smith's jacket led the team right to Johnston's private farm surrounded by armed gunmen.

Peck longed to go settle the account with the man who had used him to get to Hannibal but knew that their only chance to rescue the colonel would be under the cover of darkness. So the three men scouted patrol routes and the number of guards just itching for the opportunity to put this lowlife out of business. Hoping that by waiting a couple of hours after dark to lull the guards into a false sense of security the three remaining team members made their move.

It was just like an old infiltration operation in Vietnam. BA and Murdock worked as a pair to take out the four patrol units undetected while Face snuck into the house and got Hannibal without being noticed. Fear that gunfire would result in Johnston just killing Hannibal made them extra cautious. Light escaping from the cellar doors gave the conman a logical place to start his search.

Face had lost his .357 to Johnston earlier and settled for a spare Browning 9mm and a smaller Uzi rather than his usual fully automatic Ruger Mini-14. They'd been picked up long ago for emergency purposes, but no one had ever needed them until now.

At nine o'clock, almost two hours after sunset, Face had skirted the tree line around to the back part of the house. The distance was much shorter and the back porch light was either out or unlit. It was darker on this side of the house and Face was able to traverse the thirty feet to the backdoor unnoticed. Peering in the window revealed that no one was in the formal living room or hallway. He picked the lock easily and slipped inside, listening for voices. Not hearing anything Face moved toward the kitchen. It was empty as well but a door, either the basement or pantry was partially open. Edging into the room Face listened intently for any clue what was on the other side. Pushing the door open slowly, a set of stairs led down.
Cautiously Face started down praying that the wooden steps would not creak and give away his advantage.

Four steps from the bottom Face could distinctly hear Johnston's voice taunting Hannibal.

"The mighty John Smith reduced to a pathetic whipping boy. If only the army could see you now." The biting words were accompanied by the swish of a bamboo cane slicing the air and subsequent thwack of it's impact on Hannibal's back. A grunt of pain and disorientation was Smith's only reply.

"Come now Colonel, this isn't nearly as much fun if you don't yell." Thwack! "You're not nearly so powerful or intimidating as I remember. In fact you and the A-Team have rather disappointed me." Thwack! "Ah well, good entertainment is so hard to find. It's almost a shame to have to kill you."

Face took the last few steps down the stairs in a hurry, no longer concerned about making too much noise. "I wouldn't bet money on that if I were you Johnston." Pointing the 9mm in his right hand at the other man. "Put down the cane or I'll put you down."

Ignoring the order Johnston smirked, "I'm impressed Peck. I didn't expect to see you again until after I'd dumped his body on your doorstep. How did you find us so soon?"

Glaring, "You're not nearly as smart as you think Tommy. I could smell your stench miles away. Step back from the table real slowly."

Johnston bristled at the insult, but controlled himself. "Actually I kinda like it here. Besides it will be far more fun to beat Smith to death with you watching. I've always wondered what Smith saw in a two bit hustler like you. What is it Colonel? Is Peck just too nice a piece of ass for you to pass up?"

The former Lieutenant's visage darkened as he cocked the hammer on his pistol. "Back away from him Johnston." The gun never wavered as Templeton took a step towards the table the older man was strapped on. "Hannibal, you okay?"

Glancing at his commanding officer out of the corner of his eye Face could see that the older man was in bad shape. Stripped to the waist Smith's back appeared to be one big bruise with various cuts and abrasions also marring the skin. Rivulets of blood puddled on the otherwise bare wooden table. On the back of his head was an obvious knot with dried blood staining his hair and leaving a path down his neck. When no response came Face's worry escalated.

"I said step away from the table Johnston." The conman spat angrily.

Smirking, "I don't think so Peck. Really, the fun's just beginning. He's unconscious now so I only have your reactions to judge by." He pulled back the cane a little to see what younger man would do.

"You try and swing that cane again and I'll kill you." The dark words more a promise than a threat.

Gleefully, "I don't think so. Why don't you look to your left and say hello to my partner Omar Hernandez. That twelve-gauge he's carrying could make things real messy for both of you." Face silently cursed, berating himself for forgetting about the stairwell behind him. He could clearly see the other man now in the corner of his eye.

He had no idea exactly how much time had passed since he entered the house. BA and Murdock could be anywhere, making it unrealistic to expect them to come and save his sorry ass. Hannibal's life lay in the balance and for once the conman wasn't sure how the hell to get the both of them out of this situation.

"Not so much fun is it Peck. Put the gun down now!" Johnston ordered.

Trying to buy time and think of some way out of this impossible scenario, "No. I put the gun down and you kill both of us. You tell Hernandez to put his gun down before I kill you."

Enjoying the upper hand, sneering, "Cold blooded murder isn't your style conman. I know your reputation and execution isn't on your list of traits. Besides if you shoot me Omar will kill you and Smith both. Or if you try and disable Omar he'll kill you and then I'll kill Smith. You came here to save him didn't you? That's not very likely if you keep that gun pointed toward me. Drop it or I'll make him beg for me to kill him."

Shit! Hannibal, why aren't you awake to tell me what the hell I should do? I can't...I won't sit here and watch him beat you. I did that at the camps and I swore to myself that I would never stand by and willfully watch one of you guys tortured again. Jesus, I can see the gleam in Tommy's eye, he'll kill us both if I put down this gun and wait for BA and Murdock to show up. He knows BA'll come running when he hears that shotgun blast.

Don't get ahead of yourself. First things first Templeton, make sure Hannibal's not in the line of that shotgun. Keep'em occupied with what I'm saying, not what I'm doing. "You really are delusional Tommy if you think Hannibal would beg you for anything. You're just a piss ant amateur who's gotten in way over his head." Slowly Face stepped backwards and to his right making sure to keep 9mm pointed directly between Johnston's eyes. He continued to talk as he shuffled further away from both Omar and Hannibal. "Do you honestly think you're going to get away with all this? Those are people you're using Tommy, not some fourteenth century feudal beast of burden you're selling to the lords of the kingdom. I'm only sorry I won't get to see your face when they lock you up in a cell for the rest of your life." With smugness dripping from every word, "The irony is delicious don't you think? You two will be serving twenty to life while the A-Team is still free. God bless America."

Across the room Johnston is practically vibrating with anger and hate. Snarling, "The only cell you're going to see Peck is six feet deep, cause that's where you'll end up when I send Colonel Decker, you, in a body bag. You're time is up Peck. You made a helluva run but I've got business to attend to and this game is finally over.

"For the last time put down your gun. Omar, he's got three seconds."

 

Part 5

 

Taking one final step back, Face hopes this all works out in reality like does in his head. The entire team's lives hang in the balance of this ill conceived plan. He calls out, "All right." Slowly beginning to lower the pistol. He can't let the triumphant smile on Johnston's face pass without comment though. "Rot in hell Tommy." A final murmured prayer of "God forgive me," passes his lips before the room explodes with gunfire.

It'd been thirteen years since he'd deliberately aimed at someone, but the lessons the army taught were still very much ingrained no matter how much Hannibal had tried to teach him otherwise. Face briefly wondered which aspect was truly dominant, cold killer or humanitarian vigilante, but realized he didn't have time for such an existential question. Maybe he could ask Murdock later. Then again is that something one really wants to examine?

His eyes never followed the two shots he fired from the 9mm, knowing instinctively that his aim was true. Instead he concentrated on ducking and rolling forward, bringing up the Uzi that had been uselessly pointing at the floor in his left hand. He heard the roar of the shotgun blast, felt the fire as some of the pellets dug into his shoulder and left arm. But ignored the pain as he brought the Uzi back across his body to aim at Omar. It was a race to see who could aim and shoot first. Unfortunately for Omar he was a split second slow and Face fired a burst up and across the young Mexican's body. He jerked back from the impact unable to get the second shot off.

Breathing heavily, his body still pumping adrenaline, Face popped back up looking back and forth between the two men. Seeing no movement from Johnston, Peck stepped forward to kick the shotgun out of Omar's hand. Lifeless brown eyes stared back, forever frozen in shock and pain. Shaking his head Face turned back to Johnston, blood flowing from the two holes in his chest. "God damn you Tommy. What a fucking waste."

Holstering the pistol, Face moved toward Smith. "Hannibal can you hear me?" There was still no response as the conman untied the restraints. A steady, if accelerated, pulse beat in the jugular vein on John's neck. Knowing that Hannibal needed medical attention and that there was nothing else he could do here, Face turned him over, sliding him off the table and onto his right shoulder in a modified fireman's carry. Grabbing Hannibal's shirt and jacket from a nearby chair Face scanned the room for anything else incriminating. Seeing nothing besides the obvious, he moved for the stairs.

Walking up the stairs, reaching for the walkie talkie in his pocket and holding onto the Uzi all at the same time proved to be a challenge, but he managed. Before stepping into the kitchen Face paused to assess the situation.

"BA you out there? Have you got everything under control?"

"Yeah man, the fool and I took care of the guards. Theys' tied up. What's going on? How's Hannibal? Thought I heard a shotgun."

"
Hannibal's a little beaten up and unconscious. I've got him but can you bring the van down to the front door?" He asked, entering the kitchen.

"I left the fool to keep watch. I'm on my way now in my van. Been waiting on your signal."

Pleased that at least something had gone right. "Good, Murdock you out front?"

"Yeah muchacho, you alright Facey?"

"
I'm fine." He lied, grateful that Murdock couldn't see him right then, walking out the front door as the van slid to a stop in front of the house. Murdock opened the backdoor, helping Face gently lay Hannibal down. The older pilot whimpered at the bruises he could see in the dim light.

BA came around and growled at Hannibal's condition, but his rant was cut off as Face began barking out instructions.

"Murdock, can you ride in the back and fix him up as much as possible on the way to Maggie's house? BA, I need you to call her and tell her you're on your way. I'm gonna stay here and tie up all these loose ends."

Worried about leaving Face behind all by himself. "You sure you don't want me to stay with you Facey?" Murdock asked.

Lying smoothly just like any other con, "I'm positive. I'll be fine, besides I want you with Hannibal just in case anything happens on the way to Maggie's. I know he's gonna be okay, but I'd rather you were with him in case there are any complications. My vette's just up the ridge. I'll follow you as soon as everything's taken care of here. Get going, Hannibal needs a doctor."

"Make sure theses suckas don't get away. They gots to pay for hurtin' Hannibal." BA threatened before turning for the driver's seat.

"They won't BA, they won't." Face quietly assured as he watched the van tear up the gravel driveway.

After checking that the four guards would remain tied up, Face headed for the shed at the back of the house. Inside he found a shovel, a pick, a drop cloth, some rope and a tarp. Taking the latter three with him into the house, Face made his way back into the cellar. Death was still as bloody a mess as he remembered. He wrapped first Johnston then Omar up in their respective cloths. Using his knife to cut the rope in order to tie the ends, Face carried each of them out of the house and into the surrounding woods. Almost two hundred feet from the house Face started digging. It took more than two hours using flashlights to illuminate the ground till the hole was deep and wide enough; all the while wondering if it would have been easier to drive a couple hours to the ocean to dump their bodies there. Dropping them side by side he began to refill the hole stopping once to pour some ammonia he'd found in a cabinet above the washing machine to combat the smell and deter any wild animals. Satisfied that the grass looked as normal as possible and the excess dirt had been scattered, he then covered the refilled hole with leaves and broken branches in order to best camouflage his activities.

Once that grizzly task was complete, Templeton broke into the safe in the office removing all the incriminating paperwork for Johnston's Allied Labor corporation and their shady dealings. He went back to the cellar to remove spent shell casings and pour bleach on the blood stains to make it more difficult for anyone to determine what exactly had happened in the house.

Flipping on the garden hose to saturate the ground directly surrounding the house, Face then walked up the road to retrieve his Corvette. Loading a box of paperwork, nearly fifty-thousand dollars in cash, and a crate of wine, plus a box full of excellent liquors he was almost ready to leave.

Taking a can of gasoline from the shed he proceeded to pour it in every room of the house and shed being doubly generous in the cellar. Grabbing a set of keys off the coffee table Face maneuvered a brown Impala out of the driveway and back toward the four men still tied up.

Pulling out his 9mm, Face hoped he looked menacing enough to convince these four to follow his plan. "The keys are in the ignition. Johnston and Hernandez have already been taken care of. When you get out of here I suggest you go far away. If my friends and I find out you're still enslaving these people we'll come back. You won't like it if we come back. Do you understand?" They all nodded vigorously.

Taking his knife and slicing a little over half way through the rope on one guys hands he gave some final instructions. "Mr. Johnston is about to get caught up in an arson investigation, you don't want to be here when the police and firemen arrive do you?" Again they shook their heads, negatively this time. "Untie your friends and take off. You never saw us. You don't know us and pray that our paths never cross again. You should be loose in less than ten minutes, but you better hurry cause you don't want flames or embers from the house to catch the car right next to you on fire, do you?"

He walked away then, turning off the faucet, hoping that the ground was wet enough to prevent the spread of the fire. Picking up the two bottles of cheap vodka he'd left on the porch with rags from the bathroom he walked back inside one final time. Stopping half way down the stairs he lit the alcohol-soaked rag and hurled the bottle in the gasoline-soaked corner of the cellar. He watched the flames spread for a few seconds before walking up and over to the far side of the house, repeating the procedure. Staying long enough to make sure that the house would go up in flames, Face drove back to the spot, he'd originally hid his car. He watched as the four men jumped into the Impala and took off in the opposite direction. Satisfied that he'd accomplished all that he could, Face drove toward Maggie's.

 

Part 6

 

Present Day

The young man didn't immediately look up when he finished his story. Staring at his hands seemed far more appealing than watching fifteen years of friendship disintegrate because of one ugly moment: kill or be killed. The silence seemed to stretch on forever, but eventually became too much for Face to ignore. Across the room Hannibal had slumped into a chair at some point. Face couldn't remember him ever looking so old or defeated before.

"Why?" The question seemed all Hannibal could manage and maybe that one word articulated the colonel's thoughts and feelings better than any string of questions could have.

Face caught his eyes and held them as his answers spilled forth. "Why did I kill them? Why didn't I tell you? Why didn't I wait and see what would happen? Why did you trade yourself for me? Why!?!" Tem blew a breath between his cheeks and began to pace.

"I saw the look in his eyes Hannibal. The second I put down my guns we were dead. He would have killed both of us and then waited for BA and Murdock to come running, probably killing them as well. That wasn't a choice. Did you just expect me to stand there and watch him beat you? I remember the camps Hannibal. All I've got to do is think about it for a second and I can see those bastards beating on you guys... on me. I swore to myself when we got out of there that I would never stand by and watch one of you tortured again. Because that's what he was doing, that sick fuck enjoyed it, enjoyed watching my reaction to it. You were in that situation because I screwed up and got kidnapped that morning. So I had three seconds to decide what to do. Stand there and get both of us killed or shoot them."

Adamantly, he swung around and pointed at the surprised man. "Tommy Johnston was slime and the world is a better place without him and a choice between you and him isn't a choice at all. I knew this moment was coming. I tried to put it off as long as possible. I didn't want you to look at me like that. I didn't want to see the disapproval, the disappointment in your eyes." Shrugging his shoulders, "but at least you're alive to be let down."

The younger man seemed to run out of words then as he walked back to the bar that separated the kitchen from the living room. He poured himself a generous measure of Glenlivet, swallowing half of it before crossing to the hallway and entering his room. Hannibal was still in the chair the heels of his palms rubbing across his eyes trying to make sense of everything he'd heard.

Tommy was dead. John didn't particularly care about that. Face was right, he was slime and probably got a better death than he deserved. The problem wasn't that. It was that Face killed him and then lied about it because of him. This wasn't what they did, it wasn't what the A-Team was supposed to represent. They weren't murderers and they didn't dole out punishments, they left that for the law. John almost laughed at that. While they didn't do anything wrong in Vietnam the team had broken more than a few laws while helping those who couldn't help themselves. Firing automatic assault rifles in the city, destruction of property, and resisting arrest hardly compared with this though. Face killed two men, now what the hell was he supposed to do. Think John, go in there and say something to him.

Wearily, Hannibal arose from his chair and hobbled down the hallway to Face's room, what he saw made his breath catch. Face had two suitcases out and was neatly folding clothes into one of them. Half of his closet seemed to be already missing.

"What do you think you're doing?" John barked, startled and more than a bit angry.

Face was grateful his back was to the colonel, he didn't think the sardonic look that must have crossed his face would be appreciated right now. He waited several beats before sarcastically replying, "packing."

The snide response pissed Hannibal off even further. The last two days had evaporated his patience. "What the hell for? You don't seriously think you're going to leave do you?"

That actually had Face chuckling as he turned around to look at the older man. As though he were explaining the most obvious thing in the world, "Come on Hannibal. This was bound to happen. Hell, I'm surprised it took this long, although I didn't imagine it happening quite this way. I'm everything anyone's ever said about me. A conman, a thief...a murderer. You'd probably let that go though. I have no doubt that you're somehow spinning this all in your head and thinking that in some bizarre way you're to blame. It's not true, but you won't listen to me, not about this. The problem remains though. You're going to ask me for a promise I can't give you. A guarantee I can't, I won't make."

Dumbfounded and more than a little hurt, "So you're just going to pack your things and walk. After fifteen years, thanks for nothing Hannibal, and just walk away. You actually think I'm going to let you do that? You're damn right I'm not happy. God knows if I could somehow go back and redo that whole day over again I would, but nothing will bring back Tommy Johnston and you leaving the team isn't a solution."

Face can feel his control slipping through his fingers, he's almost yelling at this point. "This was a clusterfuck from the word go. I screwed up Hannibal. You were tortured...beaten into unconsciousness. Two men are dead...and you expect me to stick around and maybe next time get you killed."

Hannibal can feel a headache coming on as he pinches his eyes closed for just a second, trying desperately to come up with the right words here. Dubiously, "Do you honestly think that I'll somehow be safer without you there to back me up, to procure things for the team, and to make sure I don't get to carried away on the jazz? You can't be serious. For fifteen years you've watched my back and kept me from going over the edge. You've saved my life more than a few times kid. You're not a liability. Not to me. So what's this really about?"

Incensed that he has to spell this out. Didn't he realize what he was doing and why? "I'm a fuckup Hannibal. A selfish conman who uses people to get what I want and then dumps them by the wayside. When we first met in Vietnam I couldn't figure out why you wanted me for the team. I had a record longer than your arm. Every CO in the theater had dumped me or tried to. I was one arrest away from ending up court-martialled and in the brig for ten years. I tried my damnedest to get you to let me go, but you doggedly held on, and every time I pushed you pulled me further in. Eventually I just gave up, thinking that you'd figure out what everyone else already knew. It finally happened and you can't ignore it. Unfortunately you seem unable to make this decision yourself, so I'll have to make the choice for you."

He knew the kid was by far his own worst critic but he never imagined the wellspring of self-loathing that lurked beneath the surface. "Are you listening to yourself? Have you always had this self-flagellation thing going on? You can't honestly stand there and tell me that you have no idea why I wanted you on the team. Why I still want you. Back then I needed a supply officer. You were a little unorthodox but you got everything we needed and then some. You're also one of the best I've ever seen with that sniper rifle, not to mention you're pretty good on point. You followed my orders, but you could also think on your feet. Of course I wanted you. We were the best damn A-Team in that whole theater. We were the ones they sent in to do the impossible and we came back every time. A lot of those kids made it back because of you."

More than ever John wondered about the kid's childhood. Could he just not connect the dots and see how he and the others felt? Maybe telling him will get some of these messed up ideas out of his head. "The surroundings have changed. The circumstances are vastly different, but I still need you. We're not the A-Team without you. I don't know where you got this idea in your head. There has never been a time and there never will be a time when I want to dump you. But this isn't about what skill set you bring to the table. Are you really standing there telling me you don't know how I feel about you? I didn't know I had to say it or I would have told you years ago. I just assumed you realized what you mean to me...to BA and
Murdock. We're more than three criminals, and a crazy pilot on the run. We're a family, strange though it is. I love you, you idiot. What more is there to say than that?"

Exasperated, he hopes he drives the final nail home. "Did things fall apart in that house? Yes. I don't know if there was some other way to resolve that situation without one or both of us getting killed. I don't like how it turned out and I'll do my damnedest to try and prevent another scenario like it in the future, but I still trust your judgment. You're telling me there was no other way and I believe you. So you listen to me Lieutenant, I decide the composition of this unit and no one gets to leave without my permission. Your desertion is unacceptable. Do you understand me?"

When Face just looked at him, Hannibal got right up in his face and yelled. "I said do you understand me son?"

Face snapped to attention, yelling, "Sir, yes sir."

Nodding, Hannibal reached out and put his hand on Face's shoulder. "Good. I do need one promise from you, though not the one you think. Promise me kid that one day I won't wake up and you'll be gone. If we need to talk about this some more we will, but there's no leaving. Promise me that."

Face just kind of stared at him for a second. There were so many things to digest from this conversation, to ruminate on later, but Hannibal's looking at him expectantly. "Yeah Hannibal, that I can promise."


The End


Choice and Consequence by Reagan

 

 


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