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U N D E R T H E S U R F A C E B L U E S
Rating: NC 17 for slash related contents. Nothing graphic, explicit or violent.
Warnings: None apart from it being a slash story.
Summary: When things settled down after the ending of the episode, Beneath the Surface, what were Face's thoughts about what had occurred.
Disclaimer: The usual. I don't own them, Cannell does. No copyright infringement intended.
Copyright: T. Roubles 1989 (2003)
Words between / / denote thoughts
Words between * * denote emphasis
Hannibal frowned as he watched Face pace backwards and forwards across the pale blue carpet which covered the floor of the spacious living room of the apartment they shared.
His Lieutenant's brows were drawn together in a slight frown, his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his black pants.
Peck had been quiet ever since they'd arrived back from Santa Monica pier. He had gone straight to the bathroom, showered and changed his clothes, with hardly a word to Hannibal.
Smith cleared his throat, leaning forward to stub out his cigar in the crystal ash-tray on the coffee-table. "Tem, what's the matter? I thought you'd be happy to get Rebecca out of your system!"
Face stood by the window, staring out into the afternoon sunlight. Without turning round, he shrugged. "I was. That was the only bright spot in this whole affair."
"You said it wasn't worth writing to the Alumni? You mean that, or are you sorry you won't see her again?" Hannibal asked tentatively.
Face lifted one immaculately clad shoulder. "Oh, that was true enough ...the anticipation didn't survive the practical reality."
"Well..." Hannibal paused, he'd been longing to touch Face since the whole affair started at the Orphanage Reunion; at first to put the flat of his hand across the neatly rounded curves of his lover's provocative behind. He'd warned Peck not to attend that stupid reunion and had been hurt when he'd found out the reason. Rebecca! Face had an obsession about that girl, who, apparently, was one of the very few young ladies not to succumb to his teenage charm.
Then he'd wanted to hug his lover in grateful relief at his safety; then in the last couple of hours - to embrace him in a more intimate way.
Peck seemed to sense Hannibal's tension and turned his head slightly. "No contest, Colonel. Couldn't wait to get changed...wash the scent of her perfume off me. Rebecca is all front and no heart, should've known that from the beginning, but..." he shrugged.
Hannibal smiled, while inwardly sighing with relief. "But when you were fifteen/sixteen you weren't so clever - you let your...er..." he coughed delicately before adding, "desires...rule your head."
Face's lips twitched in the beginnings of a smile. "You mean I don't now?"
Hannibal shook his head. "Nope. Smart as new paint and twice as sexy."
Face smiled quietly before turning back to gaze out of the window.
Smith frowned slightly: usually that sort of provocation led to some fancy verbal exchanges, leading eventually to the large bed in the adjoining room.
He got up and walked across to the window. "Won't you tell me what's botherin' you Tem? Maybe I can help."
Face shrugged. "It's not the sort of problem that can be solved Hannibal." He paused then added softly, "It's far too late."
"What'd you mean, kid? We put one over on Fulbright again; you got your curiosity satisfied about Rebecca, you met Barry again...and his sister."
Face turned away from Smith and paced across the room again, one hand pushing through his hair. Abruptly picking up his leather jacket he moved to the door, "I'm going for a walk...see you later."
He was out in the corridor before Hannibal had lifted his dropped jaw.
"What the hell!" Smith was out of the door a second later and hurrying towards the elevator.
"Tem, hey Tem...wait a minute..." He just missed the closing door of the elevator and had to watch helplessly as the lights descended to the ground floor. Not the garage, Hannibal noticed absently, running for the stairs, too worried to wait for the elevator to make its way up again.
Three minutes later he was pushing open the door which led to the lobby realising as he did so, he had no idea which direction Face had taken. He hurried out of the security door and looked right and left. He was in luck: the sun shimmering on fair hair attracted his attention to the slim figure crossing the street towards a small park.
Hannibal set out to follow, curious and more than a little concerned for Tem's state of mind.
He made no attempt to catch up with his lover, wanting to accord Face the privacy he obviously needed at the moment; just kept him in sight, ready to be on hand if the younger man needed his company and also to keep a look out for trouble in the shape of their relentless military pursuers. Peck was so deep in his troubled thoughts, he might not be paying too much attention to the irritating practical matters of their present life-style.
Face just seemed to be wandering down the paths of the park, paying no heed to the brilliant colours of the flower-beds on either side, or the shouts of the many youngsters who were enjoying the sunshine-filled hours of freedom from school.
Hannibal lost sight of him for a moment as the path took a sharp right hand turn and he hurried to close the distance between them. When he turned the corner, there was no sign of the fair-haired figure of his lieutenant, and Smith swore under his breath. He hurried to the point where another path crossed the one he was on at right angles, but again there was no sign of his lover's lean-limbed form.
Hesitating for another second, Smith was about to start down the right-hand path when a low chuckle just behind him made him spin round, hands raised automatically for defence or attack.
He relaxed and smiled a little sheepishly as he saw his lieutenant lounging carelessly against the thick trunk of a shady oak tree a few yards from the edge of the path. Smith's heart leapt and pounded at the sight of that elegant figure, the automatic reaction of his body every time he saw his lover even after so short a separation.
"Hey Colonel, where're you going?"
"Oh," Smith waved a hand airily, "just taking a walk, you know... blowing the cobwebs away...smelling the flowers."
"Is that so?" Face raised an eyebrow. "I could've sworn you were following me."
"Me?" Hannibal's blue eyes opened wide in outraged innocence. "Why on earth would I want to do that?"
Peck shrugged, levering himself away from the tree. "Damn-if-I-know," he declared. "Well, don't let me stop you," he said, "there's plenty of nice fresh air for both of us. But Colonel..." he grinned impishly. "I'd give that path a miss if I were you; there's a couple of under-cover cops lurking at the fountain." His smile broadened, "I think they're looking for a mugger."
Smith cursed under his breath, here he was, supposed to be looking out for Face and he'd almost walked into an undercover operation to catch a mugger, who'd made the headlines lately with his day-light attacks on women in the park. Nothing of his thoughts, however, showed on his sun-tanned face. "Really? Well, I'll certainly give the fountain a miss," he gave a theatrical sigh, "and I was so looking forward to tossing a dime into it - see if it will make my wishes come true."
Peck's smile faded and he stepped back onto the path and started to move back along the other arm of it, but more slowly, as though he wanted Smith to walk with him.
Hannibal lost no time in falling into step beside the younger man, his heart twisting painfully at the dejected droop to his lover's sensual mouth.
They walked in silence for about ten minutes, before Smith cleared his throat. "Tem?"
Face glanced at him, one eyebrow raised, unwilling to admit, even to himself, that he was glad that Hannibal had followed him. He needed to be with someone he loved and who loved him, he reminded himself, painfully aware that he hadn't treated Hannibal very well these past hours.
In his curiosity to see Rebecca, he'd unintentionally hurt Hannibal and had been punished rather severely by Barry's news and his lover's amusement.
Smith went on softly, "Won't you tell me what's troubling you? I want to help, but I can't if I don't know what's wrong."
Face took a deep breath and stopped, his hands digging deeper into his pockets as he shrugged his shoulders. "You can't help, Hannibal. You can't help me for being a fool most of my life."
He paused again, then walked to an empty seat by the side of the path and sat down. Leaning forward, he rested his forearms on his knees, his hands clasped loosely together, and stared down at the ground.
Hannibal sat down beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Come on, tell me," he ordered firmly.
Face shook his head, "I don't even know where to begin."
He fell silent again and Hannibal sighed inwardly, then tightened his grip almost painfully until Face looked up, startled by the hard pressure.
"Tell me," insisted Smith. "It all seemed to start with that damn reunion; did it bring back unhappy memories?" He paused. "I always thought you were treated very kindly at the orphanage."
Peck shrugged, "I was - mostly. There were one or two of the priests and nuns who were sticklers for good behaviour, but the Monsignor always took my part. I guess he spoiled me a little." His lips curved in a fond smile of remembrance.
"He sure did," declared Hannibal. "You were a cocky little devil when we first met. Charming...but..." and he smiled.
Peck's answering smile faded too quickly for Hannibal's liking.
"Yeah. Father O'Brien always said I lacked discipline. He used to try to beat it into me, until the Monsignor caught him one time and made him stop."
Hannbal turned to him with a frown. "You never told me that before. The swine!"
Peck glanced around. "It was no big deal Colonel. I deserved some of it. I was out of control for a while, when Magill was transferred." He shook his head. "That was a bad time. I was very glad when he came back - just in time to save me from making a total fool of myself."
"How was that?" probed Hannibal carefully.
"Got into the wrong sort of company...fast cars...fast girls...rich kids who didn't give a damn." Face shrugged, then went on, seeming not to notice that Hannibal's arm had gone around his shoulders in a careful embrace, but grateful for the offered comfort. He seemed to want to talk now...the words coming slowly but steadily as he talked about his youth. A rare enough occurrence for Hannibal to hold his breath in case Face realised what he was doing and retreated back behind his mask of "the Faceman" and his countless personas.
"I didn't even think about it, they seemed to like me okay...so I went along, scamming for them and for myself; it was fun at first...and so easy." He glanced up at Hannibal's sober face. "Oh, don't worry, Colonel, I never stole anything, I was too good at trading - and it was always trading upwards, but it impressed them, girls and boys. I used to think I was the one in control, getting away with everything, but I never was; they got what they wanted through me - just like Barry." He stopped abruptly. "All those years, all those scams I pulled, they must have all been laughing at me. I used to feel guilty now and then when I'd pulled what I thought was a great scam - like getting those concert tickets so I could impress a girl I was keen on." He laughed and Smith winced at the bitterness in it, "and all the time Barry had pulled the biggest con of all, cheated me out of a home...and a family." He paused, swallowing with difficulty as his throat tightened with emotion.
"I don't think it was deliberate, Tem." Hannibal chose his words with care. "Barry wanted a family too, and he seems to be the sort of a guy who looks so hapless that people fall over themselves to help."
"Oh yeah!" Peck snorted. "He's all of that, he fell on his feet time after time." There was reluctant admiration in his tone.
"He's not as clever as you are, Face, or as beautiful," said Hannibal, trying to lighten the atmosphere slightly, as he became aware of footsteps approaching their sheltered seat.
"Is that so?" Peck straightened up, getting to his feet. "I won't forget you thought it extremely funny when he told us about being adopted." His voice broke a little on the last word and he turned away.
"Tem...wait, I'm sorry."
Face walked on, however, quickening his pace to avoid the young couple strolling in the same direction.
Cursing himself for an insensitive idiot, Smith hurried to catch up. It looked as though the little incident on the boat had struck Tem very hard, where it hurt most: his lack of a steady home and family - the things Barry had had since he was sixteen years old. Smith had known that although Peck didn't mention it specifically, he had always longed for a real home; someone to love him, spend time with him, be part of a close family. Before they'd become lovers, it occasionally used to surface when Peck used to disappear and they would have a job finding him - usually to discover he'd scammed himself a steady job and was living fairly quietly - until Smith dragged him away to help on the Team's latest job.
Knowing all that, why the hell had he let Tem see his amusement at Barry's confession? It was not so much the switch of the boys' identities that had made him smile, or the apologetic, yet satisfied tone in Barry's voice as he'd told his boy-hood friend what his scam had led too; merely the fond tolerance of an adult listening to two children quarrel, and amazement that Barry had actually put one over on Tem. He never imagined it would hurt his lover so much, although his heart had given a painful little tug when he'd heard Barry tell his story. Events had happened very quickly after that, with their capture and restraint by the modern day pirates and their subsequent turning of the tables - so he hadn't had time to make known his personal sympathy and apologies.
He would have to do something quickly, Tem was hurting pretty badly at the moment, and if left to himself for too long, would simply decide that he'd be better off trying to solve the problem alone, and disappear, perhaps for hours, or even days - or...
A chill struck Hannibal's heart... maybe this time, Tem wouldn't come back at all, thinking as he did that Hannibal had found Barry's confession amusing - and was unconcerned at how it had affected him.
A hundred yards down the pathway, Hannibal caught up with his Lieutenant's long-legged stride and fell into step. Tem's headlong flight had slowed as he didn't really have a destination, he was still smarting at what he considered to be Hannibal's callous amusement - yet still heaved an inward sigh of relief at his Colonel's persistent support.
Smith cleared his throat, "How about stopping for a cup of coffee? Or maybe a bite to eat - you haven't had anything since lunch-time."
They walked a few yards further before Tem stopped by the side of the small lake, where several groups of people were busy launching their model boats - the air filled with the chatter of childish voices overlaid by the deeper tones of the adults.
Hannibal hardly spared the colourful scene a second glance as he watched Tem's profile, waiting patiently for the younger man to speak.
Tem suddenly shrugged, flicking a sideways glance at Hannibal. "I'm not hungry", he said, then added, "but we can go and get a cup of coffee, or something."
Hannibal smiled and led the way to the exit of the park.
Half an hour later they were sitting by the open picture window in their apartment, frosted glasses of wine on the table beside them.
Hannibal had been surprised when Tem had opted to return home; to him it was a good sign as it meant that Tem might be willing to listen.
"You think I'm stupid to worry about the past, what might-have-been, don't you, Hannibal?" Face looked over at Smith, his eyes seeking confirmation.
Hannibal thought for a second, then sighed. "Yes and no, Tem. I don't think you're stupid to feel strong emotion about anything - but this - its only hurting you; and you're right, it's just too late to do anything about it."
Tem winced and glanced away.
Hannibal reached over to touch his arm. "I'm sorry, kid. I wouldn't hurt you for the world, but it wasn't meant to be. You can't let it sour your whole outlook now."
"You don't really know what I'm talking about Hannibal," Tem's voice was low, not accusing - merely stating a fact. "At the orphanage it was sometimes a contest - who was going to be fostered - who was going to be adopted. The younger the kid, the better chance there was of finding parents for him or her." He paused then went on, "Magill told me there were plenty of offers for me when I was just a small child, I even remember going home with one or two people for a while. But there was always some sort of mix-up, Magill didn't really go into it - but apparently the people weren't suitable, or their own children were jealous, or - I just didn't settle."
Hannibal merely reached for his hand and curled his fingers around the warm palm, expressing his interest and sympathy without the need for words.
Tem squeezed his fingers briefly before resuming. "As time went on, I went to school, and there was always so much to do and learn, it didn't seem to matter so much. Except every now and then, one of the children moved away with their new family." He paused, leaning forward to pick up his glass and took a sip of wine. "Then I was a teenager and going to High School - meeting lots of kids who had a father and a mother, even grand-parents, and I felt I was missing out on something special." He gulped suddenly and again took refuge in the cool contents of his wine glass. He looked up as Hannibal murmured sympathetically, and continued. "You see Hannibal, they knew where they had come from, even if they didn't know where they were going...but me - I didn't know anything about my parents' background. What they were like? Did I have grandparents? What did my Father do? Was my Mother pretty?"
He broke off again and shook his head "Silly I know, but I wanted to know Hannibal, I wanted to...to belong." He looked down to hide his emotion, embarrassed to be admitting to such long-hidden and deep-seated feelings. "Even belonging to somebody who cared enough to take an orphan into their family, that would've been good. Then to miss out on the best chance I ever had because I was being too clever..." he shook his head. "No wonder Barry and the others were laughing at me. I finally out-smarted myself all those years ago, and didn't even know it."
Hannibal reached across and turned the troubled face towards him.
"Tem, honey, don't upset yourself. I can't tell you what sort of family you had, except that I think your mother must've been beautiful and your father handsome to have such a beautiful child; but I can tell you, Barry wasn't laughing at you, nor, I bet, were the others. I know from what Magill has let slip to me over the years, and from Barry himself - no one was laughing at you. You were very well liked, the boys were proud of you in a crazy sort of way, even when you'd scammed them." He paused, his eyes fixed on the downcast lashes, seeing the diamond sparkle of moisture on the dark fringe.
He got up from his chair and knelt beside Face, hands sliding onto the silk clad shoulders. "Tem, listen to me. The people who took Barry knew who he was, they knew he wasn’t you, they must have known. You just can't adopt a boy without anybody realising who he is. Now Barry and his adoptive parents must have got on well, liked each other. Barry is a nice guy - he must've suited them, but Tem..." he cupped his hands under his lover's chin, making Face look at him, "...there wouldn't have been any contest if those people had seen you first, 'cos Barry doesn't have your sparkle, your zest. But he obviously suited them, they seem to have made the right decision for all concerned." He smiled, the smile Face loved, so full of warmth and tenderness; the one he reserved only for his beloved Lieutenant, and despite his unhappiness, Tem responded to it, the coldness around his heart beginning to thaw. "Think of it like this, Angel-face," he lifted one hand to stroke his fingers through the sun-streaked fair hair and tilted the quiet face towards his. "If you'd settled here with a family, you and I would never have met, and I wouldn't even have known I was missing out on the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me." He buried his mouth in the softness of fair hair which smelled of warm sunshine and flowers. "Don't regret the past Tem, please don't regret us. I love you so much, I couldn't bear it if you left me alone. I want you Tem, I need you. You belong with me, and I won't let anything, or anyone, take you away from me."
Face was silent, gazing into the bright blue eyes which sparkled like sapphires in the sunshine. Hannibal was right, he'd always wanted to belong, somewhere, with someone. He'd tried several times; at the orphanage he'd felt safe there for a while under Magill's watchful and loving care; then he'd tried with Lesley, only to be hurt so badly when she'd disappeared that he'd vowed never to fall in love again. In running from that hurt, however, he'd run straight to the one person who had healed all his wounds, and was still healing them. Here, with Hannibal, he was wanted and needed. Yes, he did belong with, and to Hannibal. He loved the older man more than he'd ever thought possible and he couldn't deliberately hurt his lover. Sometimes they misunderstood each other and storm clouds darkened the peaceful sky of their relationship, but he knew at that moment that he wanted to stay with Hannibal forever. No-one else had quite stirred this depth of feeling within him and he smiled slowly into the anxious feature, a smile which warmed Hannibal as the sun warms the earth.
"Okay Hannibal, you're forgiven for laughing at me," he put a finger across Smith's lips as the older man started to protest. "Okay, so you weren't laughing at me, I forgive you anyway, and now, how about some tender loving care..." His words became muffled as Hannibal kissed him hard and hugged him tightly.
Smith's eyes closed thankfully at the change of tone and expression in those sea-green eyes, the threatening despair melting away under the warmth of Tem's happiness.
I must've said the right thing for once, Hannibal thought; he'd meant every single word, and maybe that's what counted. Tem knew the truth when he heard it and Hannibal was thankful that he was willing to settle for what he had to offer. He couldn't offer Face a steady family life with a sister, but he could offer his whole heart and soul and he knew it had been accepted and returned when he heard Face whisper: "I love you, Hannibal. Don't ever leave me, because you're everything to me. I belong here, with you, for as long as you want me."
Hannibal couldn't reply, merely gathering the pliant body of his lover closer into his arms, where he hoped he would stay for ever.
- - - - -
(c) T. Roubles
18th May 1989
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