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My Poor Heart

My Poor Heart

By:  Ocean-Born-Mary

Rating: PG-13/T
Summary:  One shot songfic that follows Face through Vietnam.  Song by Allison Krauss and Union Station. 
Warnings:  Child abuse, mild swearing, alcohol abuse.

Disclaimer:  I don't own the characters, just borrowing them.

 

 

My Poor Old Heart

Song: Allison Krauss and Union Station

 

Don't expect too much from my poor old heart

You can blame me unforgiven for my scars

 

 

            "Lieutenant!"  A creature from the mud-planet wallowed out of the rain-bogged pit, slipping and splattering the muck all over his superior officer's boots.  Pulling himself up, he left the shovel on the ground, snapping to attention, his shoulders straight, rigid, chest out, arms at his sides, hands curled, thumb resting…

            Hannibal grinned, trying unsuccessfully to light his cigar for the forth time in the rain.  "You're gonna have to clean this off my boots, Lieutenant."  He grinned even more as the creature from the deep fixed two very defiant blue eyes on the, still, unlit cigar.

            "Why don't I just scam you a new pair, Sir?  That is why I joined, isn't it, Sir, because you needed a Supplies Officer."  The voice was hard, rigid, his glare would have set the cigar on fire if the Indian Ocean wasn't pouring over their heads. 

            "Because, Lieutenant, this is so much more fun.  I needed a new excuse to make you run in the rain.  Now drop and give me a hundred."

            The lieutenant almost collapsed when he dropped to the ground, but characteristic of his defiant gaze, he straightened his shoulders, and looked straight ahead.  "One, sir, two, sir, three sir…"

            "I can't hear you Peck!"

            "Four, Sir!  Five, Sir!"

            "You will work for this team, Lieutenant Peck!  You will sweat for this team! You eat with this team, you sleep with this team, you live and die for this team!  When I'm through, Peck, your heart and soul will be a part of this team."

            Peck pushed up, holding his position despite shaking arms to lock his gaze with the Colonel's.  "Then I wouldn't expect too much, Sir.  Not from my heart."

            "That's what you think.  We'll see, Peck, we'll see.  Three laps around the base after you finish the push ups for stopping."

 

You may just be the best that I can find

But I can't seem to forget the tears I've cried

 

            Murdock was fumbling with his empty beer-bottle, trying to see if he could find some way to stick it up the exhaust pipe of the jeep that the Lieutenant had somehow managed to scam.  Peck had taken a shine to the HM, and spent much of his free time around the pilot, in turn, Murdock had taken him under his wing, or propeller in his case.  To see how far he could push the friendship, and trying to make the reserved lieutenant feel more at ease, he had taken to calling the baby-faced blue-eyed scammer Faceyman, or an infinite number of derivatives thereof, teasing him both about the innocence of his face and the number of scams he pulled with it.  In fact the lieutenant had even taken to scamming Havana's for the Colonel, keeping one in his shirt pocket, and B.A. had been endeared to him ever since the jeep had appeared by the hooch.  "Murdock, why are you shoving a beer-bottle up the exhaust pipe?"  The lieutenant was sitting on the dusty ground, holding a full bottle of beer in his hand, basking in the sun.  Murdock had already noticed that the lieutenant didn't drink much, often dumping the scammed beer in the dirt and pitching the bottle, and he resolved himself to ask about it.

            "The point, Faceyman, is to get B.A. going, so I'd appreciate it if you kept it quiet."

            "Why do you want to get him going?"

            "It's all about the Jazz, Faceman.  It's the Jazz."

            The Jazz.  What the colonel was all about.   That happy-go-lucky look he got on his face, a look the lieutenant longed to understand, and as he was included more and more and more into the team, he started to comprehend, but he knew he was missing something, something important.  He concentrated on the bottle in his hands, remembering how he felt when the Colonel pushed him through Hell and back, a feeling that he couldn't explain or pinpoint.  A little bit proud, a little bit hyped…the Jazz.  Suddenly a hand tugged the full bottle from his grasp.

            "Tell me, Face.  Why don't you drink?"

            Murdock felt himself recoil inside like he'd been struck at the look in the lieutenant's eyes.  The pain they portrayed was tangible, thick, and then it was gone, hidden behind one of his many faces.  "People do things…when they drink.  Things that they don't mean, or maybe they do mean…you lose control when you drink, Murdock, and I don't want to lose control."

            ~ "Mommy!"  He moved around the apartment quickly, scanning the corners with worried eyes.  "Mommy!"  The apartment suddenly got smaller and he ran back to his bed, grabbing a dingy blanket and a stuffed monkey, hiding under the comforter.  He had seen the empty bottles, had heard the heavy suitcase.  "She just forgot, Monkey.  Mommy wouldn't leave us here.  She'll be back."  A tear fell from his face onto the toy.  "Don't cry, Monkey.  I'll sing you a lullaby."  He sang himself to sleep, expecting his mommy back when he woke up.

            She never came home. ~

            "I've got something to do for the Colonel.  I'll see you later, Murdock."

            It was the most he had gotten out of the lieutenant so far, he figured the kid needed a few minutes to compose himself.  When he went to check on him a little later, all he found was an old stuffed monkey on his abandoned cot.

 

I don't know that I will ever trust again

It's the price that I must pay for all my sins

 

            "It's a simple mission.  We go in, you shoot the target, we cover you and we're gone.  That's it, Peck."

            Hannibal didn't know what to do.  The kid just wasn't feelin' the Jazz.  They had been over the wire twice already.  The lieutenant had done perfectly during both, but on the way back from the last one, something had snapped, the jazz had flown out the window, and he was pretty sure it might take the end of a gun to convince the kid to go past the wire again.  And they had been doing so well too, making such progress, and now he was back to square one.  Right now two blue eyes were burning a hole in the wall, and the kid's jaw was clenched so tight he had to have a headache.  Trying to figure out what it was that happened.  Hannibal pushed his mind back to the last mission. 

            He had been fine up until the helicopter ride home…

            "Hey, good job Faceyman."

            The kid had practically beamed from the compliment.  Hannibal had wondered how many compliments he had gotten in his life.  "Thanks Murdock.  You know, when they started the cross fire…"

            "Hey, 'lil brother, you can always count on us."

            "Yeah kid, we won't leave you behind."

            And that was the point where the conversation blew up.  The kid had gotten real pale real fast, all hint of the Jazz gone.

            Murdock turned in his seat.  "You okay Face?"  No response.  "Face?"

            He was shaking so bad by the time Murdock landed that he had to be held in his seat.

            Hannibal lit his cigar, studying the clenched jaw line.  Definitely one nasty headache.  "What's bothering you, kid?"  The lieutenant had that scamming look on his face, the one where he looked innocent.  "And don't lie to me.  You don't scam me and I won't scam you."

            "Well, then, I guess we can't trust each other, Colonel.  My life is a scam."

            "You can trust me, Peck.  So why don't you trust us?  We're your family now, kid."

            Face smiled that bland, emotionless smile.  Family was the biggest scam of all.  Family always left you behind.  "May I be dismissed, Sir?"

            ~ "Shh, monkey, it's okay."  He clutched the monkey tighter.  "Someone's coming to get us.  And this time I'm gonna be so good they won't leave us, Monkey."

            He wasn't good enough, because they left too. ~

            "Sure.  Get out of here, Peck.  We're going over the wire tomorrow."

 

Time has changed me and left me full of doubt

And my heart may be lost, never to be found

 

            He rolled back over to the right side of his cot, burying his head in the cold side of the pillow.  Murdock was on this side, but his back was to the lieutenant, Murdock liked to sleep facing the wall.  BA was snoring over to the left of him, facing the other wall and the side he had just vacated.  Certain the Captain and the Sergeant were both asleep he slipped a hand under his pillow and pulled out the ragged looking monkey.  One arm was stitched back on, you could see the line where Sister Mary had been only able to find pink thread.  She had stitched it so carefully that it hadn't fallen off again, back when a scrape could still be kissed away, when squeezing his monkey at night helped to take the ache away.  Now the monkey brought little comfort other than familiarity, he had buried the ache deep, hoping to suffocate it, in the process, slowly suffocating himself.

            ~There's a new family coming for you today, Templeton."

            He had been placed in a family already.  Sister Mary had a stack of letters and pictures in a five-year-old's scrawl of happy memories that he had shared with her.  She had gotten a letter once a week, up until the car accident.  Then there was no need for letters, and there weren't anymore happy pictures, because Templeton's Mommy and Daddy were gone, and he had all the time in the world to spend with Sister Mary.  Now, two years later, he was a skinny little boy, all hint of baby fat gone, but he had the most beautiful blue eyes, and a smile that would melt the toughest heart.  His blonde hair was a little long, but it suited him all the same.  "You think they'll love me?"  He leaned against the black bars on the gate, looking out at the empty road.

            "Who couldn't love you?  C'mon, I'll help you pack."

            The family was wonderful.  They had two older children, and they had hugged him and kissed him and thanked Sister Mary, all smiles and gratitude to the car.

            "I'm so happy you came to adop…"

            "Shut up, kid!  You speak when spoken to, you call me sir, her ma'm, and we've already made you a pallet in the closet.  Understood?'

            He wrote Sister Mary once a week, describing the food, the games, how much he loved it there.  He didn't want to hurt her, so he scammed her, and lied.  He had an incredible imagination, and a knack for words, and so his precise handwriting was full of stories that he made up about him, a mom, a dad, and his two sisters.  In his letters they went on picnics and went fishing, he ate chocolate at will, and they played games every evening.  He even made pictures to go with them.

            At the same time, he developed claustrophobia from the closet, and started sleeping outside on warm nights.  He would have slept outside more often, but he didn't have a pillow or blankets, though he did have monkey.  He learned to cook, the family had adopted him as a cheap servant, and learned he was good at making food, enjoyed it even.  That went in the letters to Sister Mary as well.  He cleaned the house from top to bottom, inside and out, he left that part out, but they never hit him.

            Well, not much, at least at first.

            And then one night, 'Sir' came home in a drunken stupor.  Templeton Peck hadn't had much luck with drink so far in his short life.  His mother had left one night after heavy drinking, his next family killed in a car accident by a drunk driver.  And, in a drunken rage Sir beat Templeton because his dinner was cold.  The young boy was almost killed over a cold dinner and one shot of vodka too many.  When Templeton woke up, doped up but still in pain, a voice had said that he might never walk again, but Monkey was there.

            That was the last time Monkey took the ache away, because the next morning Templeton Peck stopped crying, and Monkey didn't work very well after that.~

            Sighing, the lieutenant stuffed the monkey under his pillow and tried unsuccessfully to go to sleep.

 

Once upon a time I did believe

In a true love that swept me off my feet

 

            "Faceyman, that's the forth time you've checked that gun."

            "I know.  Just being safe."  He looked over at BA who was fiddling on the jeep.  "We're about to go over the wire, and he's working on that jeep."

            "No, he's working on the Jazz with the thing that he loves."

            Face grinned.  "He's in love with a jeep?"

            "You know what I mean, Faceman.  Everyone has something to love while they wait for their one true love to come along."

            Murdock's head was up in the clouds as usual.  "How poetic," muttered the lieutenant, rather unconvinced.

            "Here's an example.  I love to fly.  But, when I fall in love, then I'll love that person so much that I'll be occupied and won't need to fly anymore."

            "You'll never give up flying."

            "I didn't say I'd give it up, just be occupied with something else.  So, Face, what do you love?"

            Scams…no, he was good at scams, he enjoyed them, but they were a necessity, like breathing.  You couldn't love breathing, and he couldn't love scamming because he had to do them, he had no choice.  "Nothing, I don't believe in that true love crap."

            "Aww, c'mon, everyone dreams that one day they'll meet the perfect person."

            "Not me, Murdock.  Love is just another way to get sucker-punched."  Family wasn't the biggest scam, he had forgotten about love.  "I need to go check my pack."

            ~The beach was full of couples.  Couples on blankets, couples surfing, flying kites, picnicking…the list went on, and on.  So no one noticed one lonely kid, maybe thirteen at most, sitting alone on the sand.  Watching all the couples, Templeton Peck decided that when he fell in love, this was where he'd be, because what he loved the most right now was the ocean.  The waves rolling in, bringing something new to the shore, but taking a piece of it with them each time, ever changing, but always the same.  His life was ever changing, but it always ended up the same, with him alone staring out at the ocean, wishing he could swim away and never come back.

            His mind wandered to what he was going to do now.  He had proved for the last time that Templeton Peck could escape anything, and he wasn't going back to the orphanage, not after this escape, this one was final.  Of course, if he didn't leave soon, he knew Sister Mary would find him like she always did, and the second that he took a look at her disappointed eyes, he'd come crawling back to the gated orphanage.  So he picked up his belongings, an old brown grocery bag that held a blanket, a change of clothes, and Monkey.  He had almost not brought the stuffed creature, but sometimes it was the only thing that kept him together, the one thing that reminded him of who he was when he woke up in the middle of the night all alone. 

            Taking one last look at the waves he resolved himself to the fact that he would find someone to spend the rest of his life with some day at the ocean, and moved on to find a place where he belonged.~

            "You've checked that four times too, Faceman, but go ahead.  I'll be here if you wanna talk.  I'll see you at 1200 hours if you don't."

            Face nodded tightly and turned crisply on his heel.  "What's wrong with Face?"

            "Didn't think a big ugly mudsucker like you could be so perceptive."

            "Fool," growled BA, threatening him with his wrench.

            "I'm not sure big guy, but one thing I do know, he's not feeling the Jazz."

            "Maybe he's not nuts like some people."

            "Maybe," said Murdock, not listening.  He was watching the stiff retreating back of the young man.  "What do you know about Face's past, BA?"

            "Well…man, Hannibal pulled his file…after, you know…"

            Murdock did know.  The kid had gone sideways the last time over the wire.  "And?"

            "Said sumthing 'bout…Face is good at scammin', had to be the best, makin' up the file he did…why?"

            "Because, you Mudsucker, even that hunk of junk that you insist on working on could see something is eating him up inside…and if he's hiding something…He doesn't trust us."

            "That 'cause you a fool."

            "He doesn't trust anyone, BA.  That kid came not trusting, somebody broke it out of him."

            "Man, why you tellin' me this.  That's Hannibal's job!"

            "Because, he trusts Hannibal least of all."

            Love is just another way to get sucker-punched.

 

Then the winds of change swept in the way

And left me drowning in the pain

 

            He couldn't go over the wire.  Not again.  He'd fail them; it was inevitable.  Sitting on the edge of the cot he didn't even make a pretense of trying to check his pack.  He just stared blindly at the back of his hands, white knuckled and shaking.  Shaking.

            He smiled bitterly, no matter how hard he tried, the Great Templeton Peck couldn't scam himself.  He could scam the pants off the Prince of Egypt if he had to, well, he'd be assuming the price wore pants, but when it came to himself…or maybe he was scamming himself, letting himself hope they might like him, that they weren't like everyone else, that they cared.  He willed his shaking hands still, and checked his watch.  Making sure one last time that his hands were steady he snatched up his pack.  Time to go.

            ~It was time to move on.  He had stayed on this street two weeks.  Long enough to be risking getting caught…but this street had a large dumpster that broke the chill.  And despite popular belief, it did get rather cold in California in the winter.  He sighed and rescued his bag from behind the stacked boxes at the end of the alley.  Right now the tattered grocery bag held Monkey and a half-eaten apple.  He'd been saving the rest of the apple, hoping to make it last the week.  He was working odd jobs around town; hard odd jobs.  He moved equipment, nearly broke his back, go paid two bucks, and sometimes a left over apple, some days he mowed lawns and pulled weeds, others he scrubbed floors and walls.  Whatever he could find.  He had held a steady job at a factory for awhile, but the dust had given him pneumonia, and he'd landed in the hospital, having to escape before they realized he was an orphan.  After spending two weeks in near delirium, near dying, made him gaunt and made finding a job harder than ever, no one wanted to hired a kid that looked like one good breeze would send him flying.  He was saving money to buy a nice set of clothes, so he could scam himself a job.  And once he had a job he could get a place to live.

            A place with real blankets.

            Until then, he had to move down at least two streets, which didn't have a dumpster.~

 

I don't know that I'll ever love again

It's the price that I must pay for all my sins

 

Trust us, kid, willed Hannibal.  But if the kid could feel his thoughts he didn't show it, continuing to look out the chopper with that blank stare, the one that took in everything and still saw nothing.  God, he's just a kid, just a kid, with the face of an angel, or of an alter boy.  How'd he get mixed up in this damn war anyway?  He was starting to regret forcing the kid over the wire, but the kid needed to be straightened out, and his temper had gotten the better of him, told him to bulk and make the kid go over anyway.  Instead of trying to figure out what was wrong, he gave the kid an order, and that kid could follow orders like no other, smart mouth you in the process, make you feel like a moron, all while doing his interpretation of your orders.  There was no room for interpretation on these orders though, the kid was going over and that was final, but the look on the kid's face was making him regret his harshness.

            Hannibal could see Murdock glancing back at the lieutenant, trying to assess his condition, see what it was that was wrong.  He had pulled Hannibal aside earlier, suggested letting the kid stay on the chopper, BA was a decent shot, he missed on occasion, but not often.  But the kid never missed, he was a crack-shot, and Hannibal had put his foot down, it was the kid's job to take the target out. Maybe he was wrong.  BA had his eyes closed, swaying with the chopper but relaxed.  Hannibal turned back to Peck, no, Face, Murdock had deemed him Face, to see him take a deep steadying breath.  Without turning from the view of the jungle below the young officer spoke.

            "Colonel?  If for some reason, I don't make it back one of these times…if I get left behind…"

            Left behind.  The kid was scared of being left behind.  "We won't leave you kid."

            "If," he interjected, turning so that his blue eyes pierced Hannibal.  "If I get left behind on one of these missions…there's a letter.  It's addressed to Sister Mary at the Orphanage for Boys in LA.  Promise me you'll mail it."

            "Face, kid…"  Murdock was watching, BA had opened his eyes.

            "Please."

            "Alright.  Where's the letter?"

            "In my duffel, under my cot, everything I have is in there…I'd appreciate it you'd mail it all to her.  There should be enough to reimburse you…"

            "Kid, we aren't leaving you behind, and that's final.  We'll talk about this more when we have time, but for now we have some VC to blow to kingdom come."  There it was, in the lieutenant's eyes.  If you looked real close, you could see the beginning of the jazz…

            ~He'd written the letter when he was 15. 

            He'd gotten a job recently, a kindly old man had given it to him, he worked in a laundry, the man was Chinese.  His name was Mr. Lee, and Mr. Lee treated him like an equal, paid him, gave a place to sleep, food, and most of all, he taught him.  Templeton became a voracious reader, within a month he had taught himself Algebra and Trig, and was working with Plato and could recite the battles from the 100 Years War to the present day.  He was enamored with history, loved to read about war, sucked down novels like Catch 22 and All Quiet on the Western Front.  He helped Mr. Lee with the laundry, cleaned the store, shopped for the man, and was able to procure anything Mr. Lee needed at minimal cost.  His face and thousand-dollar smile increased business as more and more young ladies suddenly needed to go to the laundry rather than wash their clothes themselves.  He was happy, Mr. Lee gave him everything that he needed, and even loved him in his quiet reserved way.

            And so he'd sat down and written the letter one night, right after he had applied to college and completed the entrance exams, telling Sister Mary of his success, how happy he was, and begging for her forgiveness for leaving without a word.  It explained to her his reasoning behind it, how alone he had felt, and he couldn't wait to see her again if she could find it in her heart to do so.  He'd sealed it and stamped it, and was about to bring it down to the post box when he heard the sound of glass shattering downstairs.  The letter had fallen from his hand to land on top of Monkey, and he had taken the stairs two at a time only to be reminded that some people still hated other races when he saw Mr. Lee lying dead in a pool of blood.  The kids that had done it had been drunk that night, that's what they said at the trial.  Templeton didn't cry, he never cried since that night they thought he was paralyzed, but he had opened that letter, added a PS. 

            He never mailed it though, he never had the heart to, he was afraid that if he waltzed back into Sister Mary's life she'd high tail it out of his.  But every year he added an additional page, telling what he had done, addressed it and stamped it, hoping that if he ever died and someone found it, they'd mail it to her, so at least she'd know…~

 

Time had changed me and left me full of doubt

And my heart may be lost…never to be found

 

            The Jazz, the kid had been on it, had seen what it was about, Hannibal loved to watch Face work.  The Jazz penetrated every part of his life, just as it was bound to do, caused him to scam for the pleasure of it, made his mouth run wild, made him able to shoot the VC and never blink an eye, and if the Jazz wore off in the night, if the kid tossed and turned, well, everyone had their demons.  Everyone. 

            And Templeton Peck had found a place to belong, somewhere where no one cared that you grew up an orphan, where no one knew your past transgressions, and, so far, Hannibal had kept his promise and hadn't left the kid behind, even though he'd been in a couple of tight spots.  And so when Hannibal had said they were going over the wire again he didn't think about it, didn't care, just threw his equipment together, checked his semi-automatic twice, and headed for the chopper.  But this time was different.  This time, the VC were everywhere, and no matter how high he was on the Jazz, he couldn't do it, couldn't shoot his target.  It was a woman.  Hannibal hadn't known, or if he had, he wasn't sure, but the kid wouldn't shoot, and unless the he was pulling the trigger for him, Hannibal was pretty sure the kid wasn't going to hit the intended target.  He'd told him it was alright, Hannibal understood, but the kid didn't, and as Hannibal turned to walk away, the kid pulled the trigger, pulled the trigger and silenced the entire camp with his gunshot.  The aim was true, it always was, but the kid had been so stunned at the fact he'd pulled the trigger, he hadn't scrambled fast enough, and the VC snipers hit him.  They tried to get back to the chopper, but he slowed them down.

            "Hannibal, just leave, they'll catch you too."

            "I'm not leaving you behind kid."

            "The letter…"  They had clipped his leg, a lot of blood, and it slowed them down, but not life threatening.

            "Shut up, Lieutenant!  I'm not leaving and that is final."

            And that was their introduction to the Hanoi Hotel.

            ~She was pretty, there was no doubt about that, blonde hair, sparkling eyes.  He was on the beach when he met her, some frat party or another, they only one from his dorm that was sober.  The time was spent the way all these beach parties were spent, him sitting on a rock staring out at the ocean.  But this time, she was on his rock, and she knew it.  She refused to move, even though he never suggested it, they ended up talking and a few minutes later they were walking down to the diner for milkshakes.

            He stopped in front of the diner door, his hand on the handle and turned.  "By the way, I'm Templeton, Templeton Peck."

            "Leslie."

            She loved the ocean, almost as much as he did, and he couldn't count the nights they had spent on the beach, staring out at the waves.  He was mischievous, always in trouble, but she was just as bad.  She had a kind heart though, always stopping to help anyone who needed it, and he recalled how she talked about adopting kids, how important the orphans were to her.  And so he told her what he'd told no one else, about his life from beginning to end, and she'd held him, like no one had.  He had gone that night, picked out a ring, but when he stopped by tomorrow, her best friend said she was gone…gone.

            She'd left to.  Left him behind.~

 

I don't know that I will ever love again

It's the price that I must pay for all my sins

 

            Murdock wouldn't leave without the team, and had wound up in the same cozy little cell as the rest of them.  To Templeton Peck this was the ultimate act, they had stayed behind, hadn't left him, despite the fact that they would most likely be killed.  No one had stayed with him, everyone had left, but in this act he realized the team wasn't everyone, and so with new hope came the Jazz.  He was quick, and picked up enough Vietnamese to insult the guards every chance he got.  And Face seemed to love the fact they were in a hotel, constantly calling the VC over for room service to his suite.  Some suite.  There wasn't a bed, or anywhere to go to the bathroom, four to five POWs were in each cell. 

            Hannibal wondered at first why they just hadn't upped and killed the kid, if his jibber jabber wasn't enough to drive the VC insane, they all knew he'd been the one that killed the target, he was surprised the kid wasn't already one of the many bodies in the mass grave known as Vietnam.  And then he overheard the conversation, Chao himself was coming, and he wanted to hear this kid scream, he didn't want him to die; he wanted him to suffer.  After that he told the lieutenant to knock it off, to check his lip, keep himself in line, but Face was already too far gone, taking every chance he got to talk crap to the guards, making sure the only punches thrown were at him and not at the rest of the team.

            It was the night before Chao came that Hannibal confronted the kid about it.  "Face, are you trying to get yourself killed?"  He had begun to wonder if the angel faced lieutenant was suicidal, he'd known from Murdock and BA that every once and awhile the Jazz drove him too far, but to suicide?

            "No.  I'm trying to keep you alive.  If I keep them distracted, keep them coming at me, they won't kill you, and you'll have a chance to get out of here."

            "We'll get out of here together kid, as touching as your loyalty is, none of us want to see you dead either."

            He watched as Face's gaze landed on the sleeping pilot and sergeant, as much as the two seemed to dislike each other Murdock still had somehow managed to weasel himself up to BA and fall asleep next to the burly man.  "You don't understand, Hannibal.  You kept a promise to me that no one…no one had ever kept.  This is my way of repaying it.  You didn't leave me behind, and I'm not going to let you guys be left here to die."  There was something else, some momentary fear or loss, something that was scaring the kid; it was scaring Hannibal to, because despite the dim light of the flickering torches, he could see a death wish in the kid's eyes, Face wanted to die.

            "What's worth dying for kid?  What's scaring you?"

            "You're worth dying for.  They're worth dying for, this team is worth dying for."  When Hannibal said heart and soul, he didn't know how far the kid would go, and he had no idea what baggage that the kid was carrying could have caused this.  "And if I die, well, then you guys will always be special.  You won't have a chance to leave me behind if I'm the one that dies, but if you guys die, then, then you'll just be leaving me behind like everybody else."

            Twenty-two, the file said twenty-two.  Murdock said he was eighteen, he'd gotten it out of the kid somehow, but that was all he'd been able to get out, Face had gone sideways for a week after that, afraid that the Colonel would send him home.  Hannibal didn't, but right now he was wishing he did, so the kid didn't have to make the damn decision to die, not for his country, but for his friends.  "Who?  Who left you?"

            "Everyone," said Face, turning to meet Hannibal's eyes.  There was truth in them, truth that wasn't there when Face was scamming.  "Every damn person in the world left me…well, except for Sister Mary, but I left her before she could leave me to, because she would leave, just like everyone else."

            That explained it all.  Hannibal didn't know who left, didn't know why, but whoever the kid had placed his trust it left, whether it was Face's fault or not he didn't know, but he highly doubted that he'd done anything wrong.  And so when Hannibal had told him to trust him Templeton Peck couldn't, because it had all been a lie to him, he didn't know what trust was.  And now that he'd found it, he was afraid of losing it.  So afraid that he would rather die than lose it again.  God.  "Come here, son," Hannibal held his arms out, and that night the eighteen year old kid cried, cried like he hadn't in years, rocked to sleep in a father's arms, because the next morning, Hannibal knew the kid had to grow up again, had to be a man in this hellhole, but now he had a family to help him through it.  Hannibal bent down just before the kid fell asleep and whispered, "I'm not leaving you behind."

            ~She was gone.

            It was his fault.  His.  He was cursed.  Everyone who he thought he could trust, thought he could love left.  Obviously there was something wrong with him, some sort of imperfection.  He'd heard hundreds of girls tell him he was good looking, so it couldn't be that.  No, this was the last time he let anyone too close.  The last time.  This time, he was going to build walls so high that no one could break them down.  No one.  He'd make it on his own.

            The first thing he did was hurl the ring into the ocean.  Wishes on waves just hadn't worked for him.  He'd fallen in love on the beach alright.  Fallen head over heels, fallen onto something really hard, cause it hurt like hell. 

            He was quitting college.  He could scam what he needed, he knew that, and college had just be another dream for a kid, there was a war going on overseas, and picking up a tattered copy of Catch 22 he threw it in his duffel with Monkey and a change of clothes.  War was the place to become a man.  War.  Twenty minutes later, he belonged to Uncle Sam.

            A month later he'd joined the Green Berets, smart, athletic, he'd managed to make his way through quicker than anyone before him, because he lived for this.  He could pull countless scams on base, and was good at it, so good, that they had deemed him a Supplies Officer.  So good, he got himself shipped off to a war that he didn't start in a place on the other side of the world.  But it was what he had wanted, so it was alright.~

 

Time has changed me and left me full of doubt

I don't know that I will ever trust again

 

            The first night after Chao was there was the worst night in Hannibal's life.  It was like a slow motion replay of a sports pass, except there wasn't a football, just a lifeless bloody body that was thrown back in the cell.  He watched in slow motion as Face came crashing down, hit his head off the bars and then the ground, another bruise to add to his multitude.  He watched as BA slowly bent down, picked the limp body up, cradled it protectively.  Maybe the kid had gotten what he'd wanted maybe he was dead.  BA was walking slowly, so slowly, back to the corner, laying the kid down, Murdock, bending, reaching, it was the Captain's voice that started time again.  "Colonel, he's alive."

            He was alive.  But just as Hannibal reached to see he felt arms pulling him backwards, one of the guards had knocked BA out, they were dragging him, Chao had ordered that they be separated.  Hannibal struggled, fought like there was no tomorrow, but he was dragged backwards despite his efforts, he saw Murdock pulling Face up into his lap, saw one of the swollen baby blue eyes open, and saw betrayal.  He'd promised not to leave.  "I'm not leaving, Lieutenant!  Face I swear I won't leave you behind!"  But he could see the pain, could see how scared the kid was, could see that whatever had happened to the kid before was happening again.  "I won't leave!!"

            He saw the kid mutter something, collapsing against Murdock, at least they were letting the Captain stay.  "Colonel.  He says don't make promises you can't keep."

            That was the last Hannibal saw of the kid for two weeks.

            ~'Nam.  The air was so thick that it could suffocate you, mosquitoes, disease, missing limbs, and a smorgasbord of scams.  Templeton Peck had found a place that he could fit in.  For the time being anyway.  The nurses were always looking for a decent looking man, and he was more that decent, and seeing as he was able to scam birth control, well, there were plenty of people interested in Templeton Peck.  He didn't mind the ladies being interested, not at all, it was a good way to forget Leslie, and forget her he made sure he did.        

            Maybe he had tried too hard to forget her.  The night with that Major, well, she had been something else, and so had her boyfriend.  He'd been drunk when he'd found out, but Templeton was sober, sober enough to remember vividly the right hook that had given him a concussion and the left that had broken a rib.  He'd been careful at first, not wanting to hit a commanding officer, but after the rib…he'd been right to be careful because he landed himself in the brig.  And after that he was landing himself in the brig left and right, the brig gave him time alone, time to think, time to not deal with the war going on outside.  And it kept him from going over the wire. 

            He'd gone over twice.  Both times had sucked.  The guy on his right stepped on a landmine; he'd been spattered with blood and bits of cloth.  Must have spent at least three hours in the showers, despite the protests of everyone around him, scrubbing, trying to get the hot blood off of him.  And if he'd been three inches to the right…the blood would have been his.  The second time…the second time was what made him start saying his prayers again every night.  The second time, his commanding officer was sure that they were caught, and pulled out a gun, stuck it to his head, and pulled the trigger, leaving the Lieutenant in charge of the entire unit.  God knew how he managed to get the unit out.  Half of them died in the cross fire, and he still had nightmares about the little girl trying to get across the field.  He'd tried to reach her, but before he was even halfway to her she'd been blown full of holes, and the sergeant in his unit had grabbed him and thrown him to the ground before he was hit.  The sergeant got shot in the head two seconds later, his still warm body landing on top of the lieutenant that he had just saved.

            After that, he'd started fights with anyone he could get his hands on, just to get thrown in the brig.  At least there he was safe, there were no commanding officers to blow their heads off and leave you behind in the middle of a war.

            And then, one morning, when he'd been on his knees reciting a liturgy, a cigar smoking Colonel had appeared and told him to pack up his stuff, he'd been transferred.~

 

It's the price that I must pay for all my sins

Time has changed me and left me full of doubt

 

            The choppers had signaled release.  The camp was in disarray.  The VC were running everywhere, screaming orders, disorganized, many had abandoned the hotel, crept back into the cover of the jungle.  Rodney Decker had smiled when he saw Hannibal, ordered one of his men to open the cell.  "Hey, Smith, thought we'd lost you."

            "I'm not easy to kill, Rod."

            "I know."

            With the help of BA, Hannibal could stand, could walk out of that cell like a dignified man.  He'd been tortured, malnourished, dehydrated, but he could walk out with his head held up.  "Rod, have you seen Captain Murdock, and my lieutenant?"

            "No.  But we haven't gotten very far.  You know where they might be?"

            "Maybe, down that way."  Decker kept his pace slow so that the Colonel could keep up with him. 

            "How bad are you hurt?"

            "Coupla ribs, my sergeant has a broken hand."

            They'd reached their original cell.  And there was Murdock, in the corner wrapped all up in himself, rocking back and forth, back and forth.  "Fool?" called out BA gently.

            "I tried…I tried to keep them from taking him…"  Murdock looked up.  "He was so…so…scared…so, I showed him Billy…he likes Billy, Billy'll keep him safe, he'll protect Facey…"

            Hannibal knelt down next to his pilot.  "Murdock, who's Billy?"

            "He's my dog.  I made him for Facey.  So Facey wouldn't be scared.  'Cause Billy won't leave Facey, Billy won't leave us…"  He was rocking back and forth, back and forth…

            There was a shout from a nearby hut, "He's still alive!!"  Somebody came running out.  "I don't know how, but, he's still alive!"

            Hannibal rushed to the hut, ignoring the cries of pain from his broken ribs.  There was his lieutenant, huddled up on the ground.  Hannibal ignored the dead guard, except to register briefly that it looked like a dog had ripped his throat out, and dropped down next to the kid, there was still a pulse, he wasn't dead yet.  He brushed back blonde hair, it was matted and dirty, there wasn't a part of the kid that wasn't covered in something.  His hand traveled down, stroking blood from Face's cheek, and the kid stirred.  "H'nnbal…"

            "You're gonna be okay kid.  You're gonna be okay."

            "You..d'dn't lea…"

            "No, kid.  No, I told you I wouldn't leave you.  I promised."  The kid went slack under his hand, he felt for a pulse and found none.  "I didn't leave kid, so you don't get to!  You don't get to!  Face!!!!"  Medics rushed into the hut, they told him to leave, but he didn't.  Never again.  Never again.  "You gave your heart and soul kid, like I told you, I'm not going to leave you.  I promise."

 

And my heart may be lost…never to be found…

 

~"Lieutenant!"  A creature from the mud-planet wallowed out of the rain-bogged pit, slipping and splattering the muck all over his superior officer's boots.  Pulling himself up, he left the shovel on the ground, snapping to attention, his shoulders straight, rigid, chest out, arms at his sides, hands curled, thumb resting…

            Hannibal grinned, trying unsuccessfully to light his cigar for the forth time in the rain.~

 

 

 


My Poor Heart by Ocean-Born-Mary

 

 


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