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About Face And Old Ghosts
Pairing: Face/Murdock…. but nothing graphic
Summary: Third part of my About Face series in which Templeton meets a number of phantoms from his past but which are more dangerous, the living ones or the dead?
Warnings/Content: Contains male/male relationship plus torture and drug abuse. Also some full-bodied soldier type language.
Disclaimer: I do not own the A-Team characters and am making no profit from this story, which is a work of fan fiction only.
ABOUT FACE AND OLD GHOSTS
"God, I am too old for this!"
The thought echoed unchecked around Peck's head. He didn't have the energy to stop it since everything he had was focused on continuing to keep his legs running along the wet street. His breaths were coming in short, sharp gasps and his lungs, straining at the waning supply of oxygen, were set to explode at any moment. Sweat was leaching out of every pore of his skin and his head was beginning to thump sickeningly in time with each fall of his feet.
He risked a glance behind him, could see the dark shadows gaining. It was a fair assumption they would – those guys were at least half his age and although Peck had kept himself fit, he knew he didn't have the stamina to keep this pace up for long.
He turned the corner pelting into an unlit alleyway. There were puddles on the sidewalk here and the way ahead was obscured by the gloom of the darkening night. Peck's legs were shuddering and threatening to give out at any moment. His desperation intensifying, he lifted the cell phone in his hand and pressed the last number redial button.
His voice was wheezing as he spat out. "Murdock! Murdock; where the hell are you?"
No answer. "Shit!" Peck stumbled on the slippery surface, nearly falling, he managed to right himself and keep on running.
A bullet whistled past his shoulder. Involuntarily Peck ducked his head lower as if that could make a difference. There was a point on his back mid way between his shoulder blades that started to itch as if waiting for the bullet to hit. Peck gulped, glanced behind him and then forwards again. His guts knotted as he saw the wire fence that stretched right across the alleyway looming up in front of him.
Shit! He couldn't climb that, not now! His legs were going to give up and dump him on the floor at any minute. An iced vein of fear shuddered down his backbone as he slid to a halt. Behind him he heard the deep, humourless laugh of his assailants over the raw harshness of his own laboured breathing.
He turned back, shivering as the hot sweat on his skin froze to the air temperature around him. He had blown it, screwed up again. He couldn't do this, not on his own. He should never have even tried, should have seen that this was the only way it was ever going to end; a dirty, dark alley stinking of piss, a shattered body only capable of vaguely remembering its physical prowess of yesteryear and a cold bullet delivering the ultimate punishment for his over inflated confidence.
"Hands up, Peck!" A voice called. "This is the Police. We got you surrounded!"
Peck started, puzzled. But it had been the bad guys chasing him into the alley – where had they gone? And where in hell had the cops come from? Suddenly the final solution of a bullet seemed a better option than the years of imprisonment the police were touting.
Peck gulped, his lungs were still burning and his legs felt like jello. He didn't want to move, not to go back there. Desperately he glanced around and it was then that he saw it……
….. the smaller alley snaking away behind the building to his right. But this one wasn't dark and dingy, oh no, this one was white and spotless and glowing so brightly through the gloom that Peck had no idea why he had not noticed it before. It promised sanctuary and warmth; an escape from both the law and the bullet. And then the voice came to Peck's ears, enticing him, pulling him forwards.
"Face," the voice said and Peck beheld the brilliant bright figure before him, so vividly drenched with light that Peck could not make out the features. Still he knew the voice. "Hannibal?" he whispered hoarsely.
The figure of light appeared to beckon to him. "Do not be afraid, kid!" the unworldly voice continued. "Accept…"
Peck shook his head to clear it, turning back from the light. Away coming from the blackness there was the harsh rapport of a gun and an instant later Peck felt his chest finally explode but not from his own exertion, from the violent impact of a deathly bullet. His blood splattered out and up, decorating the wall behind him and covering his own face. It was everywhere, the stench of sharp gore up his nose, the echo and the squelch as it hit deafening his ears and the sting of blood in his eyes, blinding him, sending him into blackness; straight to hell…….
Peck sat up in the bed, heart thumping, drenched in sweat and mind reeling at the nightmare. Beside him Murdock stirred, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and reaching out a supportive hand to lay it on Peck's shuddering shoulders.
"The dream again, eh?" he asked softly.
Peck nodded, his arms tightly stretched across his chest protectively, he dare not trust his voice not yet so he just turned to look over his shoulder at the other man.
Murdock's heart leapt when he saw the look of complete consternation in his lover's eyes. "Hannibal?" he ventured nervously.
Peck nodded again. "I can't …."
"Sshhhh!" Murdock placated as he reached forwards to envelope his friend in his embrace. "You don't need to talk about it, Facey. It's just a dream that's all."
Peck sighed. "You know what Father Carreras told me about nightmares," he said finally, voice raw.
Murdock nodded. "If you tell a friend, a nightmare will never come true," he replied warmly. "You don't have to tell me now, Face. It was the same one wasn't it, the one you told me about before?" Peck nodded. "The one you've been having for weeks."
Peck sighed, a long deep release. "Maybe a shower," he said. "I feel kinda dirty."
"Good idea!" Murdock beamed. He glanced over at the clock. "It's nearly time to get up any way."
Peck gently peeled himself out of the other man's arms. He stood and moved toward the bathroom but hesitated at the door. "Thanks, Murdock," he said softly.
"It's OK, Faceyman! All part of the service!"
Murdock sat in the diner steadfastly demolishing a hearty breakfast of waffles and syrup. He had left Face in the shower in their room, the feelings of inadequacy and frustration washed over him as they did frequently following the nightmares.
It was six months since Hannibal had died and Face had gone on the run. Six months since Murdock had given up everything he had built and followed his friend like a loyal lap dog. Murdock sighed as he thought back over the time, not allowing himself to question whether he had been right about the decision, it was the one he had made and the one they both had to live with.
They had argued the first weeks – Face insistent that Murdock should leave him and go back to his 'real' life. Murdock just as adamant that he would not, that he had nothing to go back for. They had talked it through countless times and many had ended with them screaming at each other. Peck had even left one motel in the middle of the night but Murdock had stoically followed him, hiring a car and turning up the next night at Face's new motel room door. Peck had tried to turn him away, shut him out, but in the end he could not find the strength to do it, for though the rational side of his mind could quite easily justify such action, his spirit ached for the closeness. To say they were both stubborn was quite an understatement and yet very slowly Face had come to accept what his heart told him; Murdock would not be denied.
It had gotten easier after that. They settled down a little and had some good times together – there had always had a deep friendship between them but that was intensified by the closeness of real intimacy. To use Murdock's own analogy they had spent a good deal of time reading together!
Murdock had known he would win the argument eventually because, no matter how obstinate Face was, after a lifetime bereft of tenderness and the shock of losing the only man who had been a father to him, Face could not reject what was being offered so selflessly by his best friend.
They travelled continuously across the country and back again – a different motel every night, a new city each day. Murdock watched his friend closely for signs that the constant change was getting to him but Peck was cool and controlled, scamming what they needed with ease, and though he never would quite be the man he once had been – but hell who was after what life threw at you? – he was getting closer to it. Being relentlessly on the run seemed to inspire Face. In a way it was like old times…. except half the team was missing – while BA was just a phone call away, Hannibal was gone and he was never coming back.
Peck dealt with the loss as he had everything else of importance in his life; he ignored it, pushed it away and refused to feel the pain, hiding behind his walls to stop himself from acknowledging it – some things would never change! And though he did not subscribe to it as a strategy, Murdock understood that it seemed to work for his friend. He had even begun to dare to think that they would survive; that Peck really did have such immense inner strength that he could endure, prosper even, after all. And then the goddamn dreams started.
The first few times both of them thought little of it. Hell, both men had lived through Vietnam; they knew that the terrors of the day could come back with increased viciousness in the dark hours while the rational mind slept powerless to resist. But the dreams began to increase in both frequency and intensity. Eventually Murdock persuaded Face to tell him their content and Murdock had spent enough time on the psychiatrist's couch to know that ignoring the pain was not going to work – Peck needed more than that.
Now they were in Oregon, travelling back south because Peck had decided that there was only one thing he could do to ease his aching soul. Murdock didn't like his proposal but he also knew that he could come up with nothing better. Still, going back to LA would surely only put Face in greater danger of detection.
Murdock chewed his waffle distractedly, his attention taken by a door banging shut across the parking lot. He stared towards the motel rooms and stopped with the next bit of his breakfast hovering half way to his mouth, transfixed by the sight.
Peck was walking towards him, dressed in tight jeans, and black leather jacket, he ran his hand through his shining damp hair as he talked casually on his cell phone. Oblivious of his adoring audience, Face appeared relaxed. Murdock drank in the sight of him – trim frame with no sign of middle age paunch, the jeans slung around the slim hips that could have been those of a teenager. The pilot's eyes moved upwards, he remembered when his fingers had run lovingly over that chest now covered by a t-shirt the exact colour of Peck's eyes. The familiar face was pale but still retained the ethereal beauty of its youth, made more durable but not diminished by the life experience, and though the golden hair was dimmed somewhat by the silver shot through it; he still looked good, damn good! Murdock itched at the vision so much that he lost the taste for his breakfast completely.
Face entered and smiled as he moved towards the pilot's table. "OK, I'll be there in about an hour. And I can't tell you just how grateful the President is gonna be over this one!" He was talking into his phone.
Murdock raised his eyebrows. Peck finished the call and sat down, as he did so he reached across the table and snaffled Murdock's coffee cup. He took a long slow drink, bright eyes beaming at the pilot from over the rim.
"I can get you one of your own," Murdock said.
"I prefer yours," Peck retorted smugly. "Always!"
"Want waffles?" Murdock offered the plate but Peck pulled a face and shook his head. "Your coffee's just fine," he said, emptying the cup. Murdock signalled for a refill.
"You gotta eat, Face," he tried but Peck just snorted. "So what's happening?" Murdock asked, not willing to push anything further than he had to; still wary.
Peck switched on his most dangerous smile. "Just sorting," he replied enigmatically.
Murdock shook his head. "The President?" he repeated. "Grateful?"
Peck nodded. "You bet!"
"Lord I hate it when you go like this, Face!" Murdock pouted. "It makes me nervous."
Murdock speared him with his sternest gaze. "You are a man of very many words, Face," he began. "When you start giving two word answers to my questions instead of the usual six thousand, five hundred and seventy four, I know something's up!"
Amazingly the smile broadened. "Something's up?" Peck repeated, enjoying his little game.
"You're not gonna tell me, are you?"
Peck pursed his lips. "Might do." He took another long gulp. "Coffee's good!" he continued, looking around the room and smiling at the waitress. She stopped blowing bubble-gum bubbles long enough to smile back wanly.
"C'mon Face!" Murdock pushed now. "Who was on the phone and why are you taking Georgie Bush's name in vain?"
Peck smiled. "All will be revealed," he said.
"Hallelujah! Four words are twice as good as two!" Murdock said. "If you could double every time, we might get somewhere."
Peck sighed and stood up. "We going?"
Murdock looked frustratedly down at his half finished breakfast. "Why not? If you won't tell me, you might just show me."
Peck chuckled. "Of course," he replied, heading for the door.
Murdock snorted in annoyance as he left money on the table for the bubble blowing waitress. "Shit, Faceman," he muttered. "Why the hell did I ever get hooked up with you? You are one conceited, annoying little…" But as he walked out of the door that Peck had left swinging after his exit, his features curled into a languid smile as his heart thrilled at the thought of Peck's true self-belief returning. Wasn't that why he loved him in the first place?
"My! She's beautiful!" Murdock muttered.
His sentiments went unheard as Peck was behind him closing the deal with the chopper's owner. Murdock was unaware of everything, he had eyes only for the state-of-the-art helicopter that sat on the pad in front of him.
Face came up behind him. "Reckon driving would take too long." His voice rose to reach the owner as he said, "Now let's go get the President!"
Murdock smiled. "Sure thing!"
They climbed into the cockpit. "Can you fly it?" Peck asked.
Murdock fixed him with a cold, confident stare. "Did Decker have piles?"
"How the hell should I know – urggh what a horrible thought!" Peck's features scrunched up with distaste. "Can you fly it?"
In answer Murdock flicked on the switches, the rotors began to whirl and within seconds they were rising into the air.
There were silent for a while except for Murdock's whoops of glee as he put the chopper through its paces. It had been a long time since he had flown and he had missed it, never realising how much until the pleasure was presented to him again.
Finally he turned to his companion. "Thanks, Facey," he said. "Still don't understand why though."
Peck snorted, avoiding the pilot's questioning stare, instead he chose to look out at the ground that flashed below them instead. "I'm sure that I don't always use six thousand, five hundred and seventy four words to answer your questions," he said touchily.
"No, you're right," Murdock's voice was stern. "I misrepresented the true facts there. Sometimes, especially when you are trying to change the subject, you use a hell of a lot more!" Peck pulled a scowl which got worse as Murdock continued. "And it hasn't passed by unnoticed that you are not beyond stooping to any level to get what you want."
Peck's eyes were wide as they came back to look at the pilot. "Murdock, I got you a chopper cos I knew you needed to fly." He ran his hand through his hair, nervously looking forwards again. "You get tetchy after a while and I was thinking of you." Murdock let out a guffaw and Peck looked hurt as he continued. "Honestly."
"Honestly?" Murdock parroted. "The only reason I know you know the meaning of the word is because you so completely disregard it all the time. I know life is just one big negotiation for you, Face. You give something, you want something back."
"Murdock! You wound me!" Peck was playing the offended innocent right to the hilt.
Murdock nodded. "OK, let me look into those gorgeous blue eyes while you tell me this chopper has nothing to do with getting you to LA as soon as possible, so you can carry out your crazy plan."
Peck snorted, looked away. "It's not crazy," he said sulkily.
"Oh no, not crazy at all. You just gonna turn up at Hannibal's graveside, have a little chat, put the record straight, chase off those demons and then walk on out. No hassle!"
"Christ I am not public enemy number one, Murdock! Embezzlement is not a hanging offence and I'm sure the LAPD have got a lot better things to do with their time than stakeout a war hero's grave!" Peck was fiddling with the buckle of his seatbelt now.
"I'm not thinking about the cops!" Murdock's exasperation could be heard in his voice. "There are other people with a more personal interest in you."
Peck sighed, nervy hand going back to his hair. "It's over six months, Stepford must be dead by now."
Murdock sent the chopper into a dive that forced them back into their seats. As he straightened the bird back again, Face glared at him. "What the hell was that for?"
"Sorry," Murdock said. "Had to avoid that pig coming in the other direction."
Peck's smile was tight. "Very funny," he muttered.
There were silent for a while before Peck sighed. "Besides maybe that's the way to go," he ventured.
Murdock looked at him, eyes narrowing. "What way?"
"Not slowly wearing out, losing your faculties until you can't eat or shit by yourself but down in a blaze of glory."
"You mean like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?"
Murdock nodded. He hadn't liked the morbid way Face's thoughts were going but he couldn't ignore the fact that he liked this image. "You'd be Redford of course," he said.
Face smiled. "Of course."
"Which means I would be…."
"….Butch!" Peck rolled his eyes.
Murdock ignored the ironic gleam in his companion's eyes. "Yes," he said. "I like it." He shifted the stick and the helicopter swooped down a little more sedately than before but towards the ground below never-the-less.
"What you doing?" Peck asked.
"Looking for a good cliff to jump off like Butch and Sundance," Murdock replied.
Peck shook his head. "Murdock there are no 'good' cliffs to jump off! Jumping off cliffs is not good. In fact it's positively dangerous."
The pilot nodded. "Uh-huh," he agreed. "Just like you going to Hannibal's grave then, isn't it!"
Face groaned. He had really thought he had managed to divert Murdock's thoughts away from his plan. He knew it wasn't a very good one, in fact it was a down right unsafe one but something was pulling him back. He didn't know why but deep inside he knew that he had to make his peace with Hannibal or he would never be free of the dreams that haunted him. And he knew if he were to suffer them for any lengthy period of time he would not survive them. He felt suddenly tired and drained. "Look Murdock, I got the chopper for you, OK?" he began, his voice having lost the playfulness of earlier, it sounded as strung out as he felt. "You can believe what you want about my motives but I thought you understood me better than that. Either with or without your blessing I am going to do what I have to do."
Murdock sighed. He placed his hand on Peck's knee and squeezed it gently. "I know you are," he said softly. "And that's why I love you, Sundance!"
Peck drew in a long ragged breath as he stood motionless beside the grave. It was a scorchingly hot day, the sun blazing down from a smoggy blue/grey sky causing the heat to shimmer in the distance and making the very air appear to be melting. Peck could feel the pores of his skin evacuating sweat by the bucketful beneath his t-shirt and jeans as if to join in the overall liquefying experience. He was glad he had dumped his leather jacket in the car they had hired earlier but still he was seriously worried that if he stood out of the shade for much longer he would turn into a pathetic little puddle of grease and gore in the grass.
The cemetery was empty and the sounds of the road at the other side of the brick wall permeated into this quiet sanctuary only weakly through the sultry thick air, as if too hot to bother banging the sound molecules together. Face was alone and yet he knew that somewhere in the cool of the trees behind him Murdock watched, looking out for him, keeping him safe, as always.
Peck shuddered. He had expanded all his energy on getting here, now he had arrived, he was not sure of what to do. He looked down at the ornate grave stone but could not bring his eyes to fall on the words engraved there; words that decreed his Colonel's final resting place. Still Peck felt the familiar tingle at the back of his eyes as his vision blurred, he sniffed back the emotion – it served no purpose.
In his life, of all the people he had spoken to, he had confided in Hannibal more than any other. Still he had never been forthcoming about his feelings and Smith had had to work hard to get anything of note from him. Peck smiled ruefully as he remembered some of the conversations they had had. Relentlessly Smith had probed and pushed, eventually finding a way to get what he needed from his Lieutenant but the younger man had never made it easy for him. Before meeting the Colonel life had taught Peck to be circumspect about revealing his feelings. He had learned to hide behind his bland, shallow shell for years and in truth, Hannibal had been the first and possibly the only man, to ever reveal completely what lay beneath. He owed Hannibal so much and even through the years of their friendship though he had whined about plans and tasks, Face had kept his genuine fears deeply hidden.
He sighed deeply, not knowing if he could talk about them even now, not here, to a piece of land under which the Colonel lay. Hell, it had been hard enough to describe the content of his dreams to Murdock. He could not begin to articulate the base worries and concerns from which he suspected his nightmares bred.
He shuddered again, the cool flush running through his hot body was almost welcome in the heat. He knelt down onto the well kept green grass, its artificially watered and manicured blades sharp under his knees. He was hugely uncomfortable both mentally and physically.
"Hannibal," he released the name finally. "Jesus this is stupid!" He shook his head, tried again. "Hannibal I …. I'm sorry I wasn't there at the end. I should have found a way, should have got away from Stepford earlier, should have…." He hesitated again. For a man of many words he was having great difficulty finding any, let alone the ones that he needed to express himself clearly.
"Oh Lord," he sighed, running his hand through his hair. "What am I doing? What is your dumb-ass Lieutenant doing now? Smudge Marks would have made a better effort at it, I'm sure, eh Hannibal? It's just …. It's just that I miss you, I'm hollow inside and I don't know how to begin to fill up the hole you've left in me. I'm scared… scared to let you go, Hannibal, so I keep hold of you. Hold on so very tight that it's killing me." A tear broke from his eye and ran sweetly down his cheek. "I need to let you go… I know that. I need to stop dreaming about you cos it's doing me no good. But I just can't."
He sniffed, twisting his hands together. "Murdock's good for me and BA would come if I called but they're not you. You did all you could for me… hell of a lot more than you should but I have to do it alone now. Why can't I let you go? Why do I still believe you're gonna come marching over the hill, the goddamn cavalry come to rescue me like you did so many times before."
He drew in a deep breath. "It was stupid to come here, I know but I thought if I could see where you are, I could settle my demons … but it's not working, is it? Why am I so weak? Why can't I have a little of your strength? Hannibal?"
He wanted to shout, to beseech the earth and the sky! To rage at the grass and the trees, to weep, to scream, to beg … to do anything at all that would release his inner turmoil but instead he simply knelt by the grave, shivering slightly, eyes moist with their blue as he bit back his angst, his bitterness, his loss. He closed his eyes squeezing the emotion into small parcels, filing it away into the very depths of his mind, surviving, as he always had, by denying his pain.
He stood up stiffly. "I'm sorry, Hannibal," his voice was raw but soft. "I shouldn't have come here. There's nothing you can do is there? I should leave you to your peace, Christ knows you deserve it." Absently his hands brushed the grass cuttings from his pants and he turned to move away. But then he stopped, turning back to the grave with wide, expectant eyes.
Then his shoulders drooped a little and he sighed. "Shit, what the hell am I doing here?" he muttered. "You're not here are you, Hannibal?"
He walked away not looking back for he knew with complete surety that the answers he sought would not be found in this burning, unforgiving grave yard. As he reached the car, Murdock opened the door for him. The pilot was flushed and breathing heavily from running back. "Don't look now," he said. "You're being followed."
Peck groaned. "Who?"
"Pretty little blonde thing. She was hiding in the trees when I got there, watched you all the way. She's coming through the gates now." Murdock gently pulled the car out into the afternoon traffic, fiddling with the air con with his other hand.
As they pulled away, Face nonchalantly looked towards the cemetery. He let the breath whistle through his teeth as he saw the woman Murdock had described. "Not bad," he mused. "And not a cop for sure!"
Murdock snorted. "How can you tell?"
"The legs," replied Peck mysteriously.
"Oh?" Murdock raised his eyebrows but decided not to take it any further. "We need to find out more about her then."
Peck sighed and sat back into his seat, relaxing muscles he realised had been tense all day. "Maybe it's just the old Faceman charm," he mused.
Murdock threw him a knowing glance. "Maybe," he agreed. "Although not even you have boasted about women hiding in bushes to get a look at you!"
Face chewed his lip. "Not normally," he conceded thoughtfully. He looked back to where the girl could be seen hailing a cab. "You're right; further investigation is obviously required!"
The cheap motel room was stuffy as the air conditioning unit struggled noisily to cope with the heat of a summer night. Way past its better days the unit sounded like the motors that pulled the roller coasters up to the top of the rides in the theme park only yards away across the bushy waste ground. The rides were running now pulling another load of excited, screaming tourists up to the very edge of oblivion before plunging them down into the queasy depths once more. It wasn't long until the glow in the neon lit sky above would be further enhanced by the brief extravagant beauty of the fireworks that signalled the end of the theme park's attractions for another day.
Peck was oblivious to the enjoyment just yards from his door, for he was on his own specific brand of thrill ride – he was dreaming again!
It was, however, a new and different dream this time. There was no image of an alleyway, no running and no pursuit. This time there was only the emotion, the fear, tearing at him, racing through him and pulling him awkwardly out from the oblivion of sleep. It was raw and intense and terrifying, forcing him to feel, petrifying him completely; so he lay on the bed, sweating and motionless, every part of his body imprisoned by his anxiety.
As he came closer to consciousness he had but a vague memory of what he had experienced just seconds before. He gulped in air violently, and then forced his breaths to come in and out more slowly, pressed the panic and the pain away, concentrating on nothing but control, until he dare move again.
He glanced at Murdock sleeping soundly beside him on the bed. The pilot snored softly and the sight brought Peck a brief rush of relief that he had not disturbed his companion. Lying back into the not-so-soft pillow, Peck tried to remember exactly what he had been dreaming.
He was afraid and he could recall the sense of loss but also of deep desperation. He glanced at the clock. It read 11.18. A strong wave of relief flushed through him at that but he did not understand why. He had survived! But survived what? From deep in the depths of his subconscious he managed to drag forth the fact that he had believed he was going to die for something. But what? It had all appeared so real in his dream, so obvious but he could only remember his sense of complete certainty, the actual facts remained illusively out of his reach. He snorted, forcing his mind to think. He was going to die at 11 o'clock… there was something he had not done and for that he was going to die!
He rolled over and sat up, throwing his legs out of the bed but careful not to disturb Murdock. What the hell did it mean? Why had everything appeared so blatant and why couldn't he remember it now? He stood up and slowly shuffled to the bathroom. He dabbled cold water on his face.
He hated it when his mind ran away from him. He wanted to be in control, he wanted to be sure but uncertainty ravaged through him. He sighed. The most frustrating thing of all was that in his dream he recalled that he had accepted his own death as if it was correct, as a punishment for something he had failed to do. He knew he had acknowledged that it was a fitting and deserved conclusion but he could remember no more, hard as he tried. Something he hadn't done, something important…..
"Shit!" he muttered, ignoring the fear that was pooling inside his gut once more, knew it wasn't going to help him.
"What's up?" Murdock was standing in the door way, bleary eyes blinking in the dirty bathroom light, still bright compared to the darkened bedroom.
Face sighed again. "Sorry," he replied wearily. "Couldn't sleep."
Murdock eyed him suspiciously. "Couldn't sleep or couldn't sleep without dreaming?" he asked.
Face just snorted and pushed past the pilot making his way back to the bed.
"Same one?" Murdock asked as he followed.
Peck sat down, his head resting in his hands, elbows in turn on his knees. "Different," he muttered.
Murdock sat beside him. "Wanna tell?"
Face looked up, his eyes moist and dull. "Can't remember," he replied.
Murdock's own eyes narrowed. "Not enough words, Face," he said worriedly. "Talk to me, open up! If you don't tell it might come true, remember!"
Peck snorted ruefully. "Thanks for the encouragement," he said. Lifting his legs, he lay back on to the bed, pulling the thin quilt upwards.
"What you doing?"
"What's it look like?"
Murdock looked hurt. "Looks like you're going back to sleep but do you think you can?"
"Only one way to find out!"
Murdock moved around and climbed in his side of the bed. "It's gonna be all right, Faceman," he said softly.
Outside the bangs of the theme park fireworks started. Peck jumped but then managed to control his flinch into only a slight shudder. "How do you know, Murdock?"
Murdock drew in a deep breath. "Cos we're the good guys," he replied, his voice muffled slightly by the pillows.
Peck turned to look at him pensively chewing his lip. "Are we Murdock?" he asked. "How can you be so sure?"
Murdock smiled widely then. "Cos Butch and Sundance are the goodies," he said with such uncluttered certainty that Peck found himself nodding in agreement.
"Of course," he sighed with resignation.
Peck cleared his throat and knocked on the door once more. Hell! Why was he doing this?
It had seemed so easy when Mo had asked him but now he didn't even seem capable of getting into the room, let alone having a heart-to-heart with her son.
He had met Mo a couple of hours ago as she left work. Smiling as he approached her in the parking lot, he had rolled his eyes as he noted the badge on her chest which proudly proclaimed 'Office Manager' to the world.
"Promotion?" he asked as she hugged him to her affectionately.
Mo smiled. "Couldn't do any worse than the last one," she laughed. "You look good, Templeton!"
"Well deserved, I reckon," he replied. His smile broadened almost off the scale. "What can I say? I was born looking good!"
She laughed but then cast a suspicious glance over her shoulder. "Should you be here? I mean someone with your overwhelming good looks is bound to be noticed. Aren't you taking a risk?"
Peck chuckled, supremely confident. "What's life without a risk?" he asked. "Anyway I got the message you left on my phone – what's up?"
Mo took him home and filled him in on what had been going on. He had listened unsure as to how he could actually help until she had asked him to talk to Drake, her youngest son. Face had argued that he really wasn't the type of guy to deliver fatherly speeches; in fact, he was so far from such a person that she needed her head examined to even consider him! But Mo had just smiled "What's life without a risk?" she repeated, eyes twinkling.
Which was why Peck found himself in the unlikely position of banging on the door of a teenager's bedroom, waiting patiently to be given permission to enter.
Finally a gruff response emanated from behind the door. It was not entirely encouraging but Face opened the door regardless and entered. It was a bright, airy room made dingier by dark colours of the gothic posters tacked on most of the wall space – crosses, skulls, scythes…. Peck's eyes ran over them with the merest of perfunctory glances. Not his interest at all. He looked instead at the boy lying on his back on the bed, catching a ball with his gloved hand and then tossing it back up again. There was a dark stain on the roof immediately above him that told Face the kid partook of this angst releasing exercise quite regularly.
Peck looked closer at the boy. Seventeen Mo had said and Face felt a tinge of the jealousy of an old man towards the promise of youth. Christ, at his age Peck was in Boot Camp, almost ready for his destiny in the jungles of Vietnam. But things had been different then, oh so very different.
This boy looked young, very young. His skin had the blotches and spots of the teenage years, his hair was long and drifting into his eyes. His body looked thin and rangy as if at that awkward stage of elbows and joints before the confidence of adulthood smoothed out his odd, angular anomalies. He was dressed in baggy, clothes and Peck suspected that when the kid stood up his jeans were so loose they would reach a natural resting place somewhere between his buttocks and his knees.
Peck stopped looking then – it made him feel old even to think it. Old and tired. He re-focused on the room, looked at the dresser, saw three photos there and moved closer. Maybe here was a chance to find an opening line maybe. The first photo was of a family of four – it looked like it had been taken a few years before, Mo was in it and the kid on the bed, both looking younger and somehow less world weary. There were two others in it – the father and elder brother, Peck surmised. He glanced at the second photo. It showed the elder brother in uniform – bingo!
"Your brother's a green beret?" Face asked with surprise.
The kid snorted. He had made no attempt to acknowledge the other man's presence but continued to catch the ball disinterestedly. Face's eyes went to the third photo. It was of a young girl, blonde and sweet, smiling with innocent abandon at the camera. Peck reached out and picked it up. "Pretty girl," he muttered.
"Who the hell are you?" The kid's pubescent patience had suddenly evaporated and he turned to look at Peck for the first time, green eyes spitting their anger.
"Oh sorry." Face forced a disarming smile as he put down the photo carefully. "I'm Templeton Peck," he said reaching out his hand.
Almost despite his earlier tantrum the kid's face was suddenly impressed. He sat forward. "Faceman!" he gasped in awe.
Peck's smile quadrupled in strength – how he loved it when somebody (excepting the cops of course) recognised him. He felt the long yearned for warmth flame through his guts; the enduring memory of fame, although lost, still entranced and tormented him. "That's right," he beamed.
The kid took his hand and shook it, tamping down his astonishment. "I'm Drake," he said, trying to look cool and unconcerned but failing. Peck rolled his eyes, wanting to pursue the conversation topic centring on himself with the boy but knowing it would be purely to soothe his own vanity. To his ego's initial relief Drake answered the unasked question.
"My brother, Kyle – the green beret, he loved you guys when we were kids back in the 80s. Man, he had a scrapbook with all press cuttings in it. Jeez he was tedious about it!" The boy smiled. "For a while we always had to play at being you guys in the yard. Kyle, he was always Hannibal cos he said he had a plan. I always wanted to be BA but they said I didn't have any muscles." He snorted in disgust. "I always ended up being you!"
"I can think of worse people to be," Peck retorted defensively, telling himself he deserved the rebuff because of his unwavering focus on appeasing his own ego.
Drake sighed. "I guess."
"Bet you always ended up with the girl?" Peck suggested hopefully.
"I was ten, man – I didn't want anything to do with no girls back then." He smiled. "Although things change as you grow up. Reckon now I wouldn't be too upset to be like you!"
"Is that a compliment?" Face asked still fishing shamelessly.
Drake fixed him with an uncompromising stare. "How many did you have?"
"Compliments or women?"
"Women, of course!"
Peck sighed, a deep contented release of breath that spoke volumes. "Thousands," he said with a satisfied smirk. Then, remembering with a flash of guilt what Mo had sent him up to do, he carried on quickly. "Of course they didn't make me happy."
Drake's eyes flashed knowingly. "No?"
Peck ran a hand through his hair, sure he was more smug than guilty but out of duty to Mo determined to carry on with his mission. "There is no substitute for a deep, loving relationship," he said. And then an awful flashback of himself suffering very similar sermons on numerous occasions from Father McGill, stopped him from going further.
Drake snorted in disbelief. Peck raised his hands in mock surrender, his own arrogance winning over his sense of duty. "All right! I am the wrong person to give you this little talk – I admit that. I lived it to the full, I didn't care about tomorrow. I was full on in the fast lane. And what's more I would do it all again." He sighed. "But that's not what your mom asked me to talk to you about. She's worried about you, Drake."
"I know, but sometimes I can't talk to her. She's just too positive, too good about things. Lord I miss my dad, you know?"
Face nodded solemnly. "Oh yes," he responded with feeling.
Drake stared at him, eyes wide with understanding. "My mom told me about Hannibal," he said finally.
Peck gulped, suddenly unwilling to trust his voice, unwilling to reveal more. He moved away, feeling hot in the small room, searching for a change of subject. "Who's the girl?"
"Shannon; my girlfriend." Drake too appeared tight lipped and uncomfortable.
"She's very pretty," Face said.
Drake just looked miserable. "She's very pregnant!"
Peck sighed, fiddled with his tie. "Oh. That may explain things then. Your mom doesn't know?"
"Don't you think it would be kinda a good idea to tell her? I mean she can help you." Face eased himself down on the edge of the bed.
Drake turned away and started throwing the ball again. "We don't need help. I got a job, I was earning and we were putting money away. I was gonna tell mom when we got something sorted. I wanted to make her proud of me – she's always saying to me – 'Come up with a solution, not a problem!'"
Peck made a sour face. "She get that from one of those management books I saw downstairs. She started reading them since she got the new job?"
Drake smiled ruefully. "I blame the guy who got her old boss fired!"
"Guilty as charged!" Peck smiled. "So I guess I better do something to help. What do you want me to do, Drake?"
Drake pondered. "I was doing good. I had a job delivering parcels and stuff after school and on weekends. What I didn't know was that there was some 'secondary delivering' going on."
Peck's eyes narrowed. "Secondary delivery of illegal substances?" he asked.
Drake nodded. "They put pressure on me to join in but I don't want any of that shit. When I refused, the other couriers got me fired."
"That was a brave thing to do." Peck forced away his guilty thought that he would never have been that principled at seventeen – in fact he believed he would have been unable to walk away from the action! He had to admit that the kid before him, although he had no fashion sense, had well developed morals and Peck again felt a tinge of envy.
Drake shrugged. "I know the difference between right and wrong."
"You want your job back?"
"I don't know – I need the money. And I don't think it's right that I should lose it for doing the right thing. I don't think Mr Ramirez, the boss, knows what's going on and he was good to work for."
Peck nodded. "Well, I can't help you with your first problem – I'm strictly an old fashioned love 'em and leave 'em sort of guy but that doesn't mean that your adult attitude hasn't impressed me – I don't think I could be so honourable in your place. However lacking in ethics though I am, I may be able to help with the second issue – in fact that lack could be seen as a definite asset in this case. I'm thinking I could kick some ass and get the operation closed down, but it's your call. How about I get some evidence that you can present to your boss, see if he'll give you your job back."
"Could you really? That sounds awesome but I can't pay."
"There are other ways of paying. How about you pay me by coming clean with your mom; telling her about Shannon and the baby. Do we have a deal?"
They shook on it solemnly. Peck's smile was brilliant once more. "Maybe I'm not so bad at this 'fatherly talk' stuff!"
"Fatherly!" Drake chortled. "You're old enough to be my grandfather!"
That hurt and though it was technically true Peck sure didn't feel like it should be. "And you're still young enough for me to put you over my knee and beat a little respect into your arrogant hide!"
"Hey!" Drake raised his arms. "I'm a lover not a fighter! What say you take me for a beer instead?"
Face chuckled. "Couldn't have put it better myself! But I damn well know you are not old enough to drink – you could get me into even more trouble. Besides you need to talk to your mother!"
"Easy Face!" Murdock breathed, not wanting to distract his partner as the delivery truck spun around the corner in front of them.
Peck was sitting in the passenger seat of the car, his features set in concentration as he aimed the gun he had rested on the open window frame beside him. He was aiming at the delivery van's front off side tyre. Very carefully he squeezed the trigger.
The tyre blew and he vehicle slewed to an undignified stop at the other side of the road. "Piece of cake," Peck muttered as he got out of the car and made to catch up with Murdock as he approached the van.
The driver, a young boy, with long unkempt hair that dangled greasily into his eyes, swore as he climbed out of the cab.
"Man, you got a blow out there, son," Murdock breezily said, kicking the flat tyre and wearing his 'stating-the-goddamn obvious' expression.
"Awwh shit!" The boy cursed. "I am so not gonna make my drops now."
"Uh-huh," Murdock agreed.
The kid opened his mouth to continue his whine but stopped when he felt the cold metal of Face's magnum pressed into the small of his back.
"Never mind, pal," Peck spat. "I am sure you can deliver the package to me that I want."
The boy shuddered. "I don't know what you ….." he stammered.
"Sure you do – it's real simple," Murdock said as Peck manoeuvred the kid back around to the driving side.
"You got a package," Peck hissed. "A special package. We want it now. What's to know?"
The boy was pale and drawn licking his lips nervously, as Peck pushed him into the cab. "You don't understand!" he tried again.
"No friend," Murdock said. "It's you that doesn't understand. He's the one with the gun and you're the one who does as he says."
The boy hesitated for a further moment, his eyes flashing fearfully. "OK," he breathed. He leant forward, across the seats to click open the glove compartment. His hand reached out and fell upon the smooth handle of the gun he kept there. The fear left his eyes. Murdock was staring straight at him from the other side of the cab, he noted the change and let out a warning cry. Face, who was positioned behind the kid, was quicker than them both. He hit the boy with the butt of his own gun sharply on the back of the head. The kid poleaxed and fell forwards across the seats.
"Do I look like I was born yesterday?" Peak muttered as he leaned over him, unmindful of the boy now he was no longer a threat, and took the plastic package that was secreted behind the gun in the glove box. Standing back up he tossed the packet to the pilot.
Murdock smiled. "Criminals just ain't what they used to be, Sundance!" he laughed. Then his face grew serious. "What was that guy's name that kept getting blown up on the train?"
They got back to the car, leaving the unconscious driver in his van. Face snorted. "Murdock it's years since I saw the film. How the hell should I know?"
The pilot pouted but gunned the engine and they pulled out into the traffic. Face took out his knife and carefully slit through the plastic of the package. He dipped his finger in to the white powder and tasted it. His features creased with distaste. "Smack," he confirmed.
Murdock whistled. He threw a glance at his passenger but Face was looking out of the window, his features blank and unreadable.
"Facey," he began. "You just might have lit a neon sign over your head, saying 'Stepford, here I am'! I told you we shouldn't get into this shit."
Peck shrugged, keeping his emotions tightly controlled and appearing unconcerned, he smiled beautifully. "Always said I should have had my name in lights!"
Murdock shook his head. "This is serious stuff, Face! If this is Stepford's stuff, are you sure you want to get involved?"
Peck snorted. Murdock had raised the same concern the night before when Peck had outlined his plan and asked him to help. They had had the most heated discussion they had had in a while. The essence of Peck's argument had been the same as the answer he gave now. "Oh yes," he replied firmly. "I've waited too long. If the old bastard hasn't had the sense to die yet, then it's time I did something to help ease his passage. It's time this was concluded, one way or another."
"Let it go, Face – you are so much more precious than this." Murdock said his voice soft. "I don't want you hurt."
Peck's smile was grim. "You better look after me then, HM," he said. "C'mon, I don't want to get caught with this crap in my possession – how would I explain that to my parole officer?"
Murdock relented, as he knew he would. "OK, whatever you say kid, whatever you say. After, can we swing by Blockbuster and see if I can get a copy of Butch and Sundance… please?"
Face sighed. He stretched out his cramped legs, felt the blood move a little faster through his veins, fidgeted in his seat and then settled back down to wait. He was in the foyer of one of the most expensive downtown hotels.
He glanced at his watch – 11.15 pm. An unbidden wave of relief washed through him. Where the hell did that come from? With a jolt he remembered his dream from the night before; he was going to die at 11 o'clock for something he had not done!
"Shit!" he breathed, admonishing his weakness. This was just stupid – it had only been a dream after all. He still could not remember its entire content only the fact that he was going to die. As this was the last in a long line of nightmares that had plagued him through his sleeping (or lack thereof) life, why was his body showing such a violent reaction of relief just because he had managed to survive past 11 o'clock?
Christ! He could not allow this to go on. He had to find some control. This could not go on. He was strangely relieved to find himself in a hotel lobby at this time of night, at least he had an excuse not to go to bed – sleep he decided he would prefer to do without!
After he and Murdock had returned from the delivery van escapade, they had both noticed the blonde girl from the cemetery apparently hiding in a car in the parking lot of their motel. Peck had to admit she was an interesting proposition and had decided that he would try to find out more about her. She was barely capable as a spy, being so stunningly beautiful she was always going to find it difficult to merge unnoticed in a crowd.
Murdock had thought it was a really bad idea and they had argued again with the intense passion that only concern for a loved one can bring. In the end Murdock had reluctantly agreed but only if Peck would wear a radio mike which kept him in contact with the pilot at all times. As he sat in the hotel Face moved his hand up to his ear to nervously check for the thousandth time that it was still secreted there. For although he had whined against the idea when it was foisted on him, he had to admit it did make him feel a little safer knowing that he could contact the pilot at any time.
So at mid afternoon Peck had left the motel room and driven around for a while. He had then made a conscious effort to lose her but had actually tailed her, much more professionally then she had managed with him. She had driven around for a while looking for him and then come back to this hotel.
She had left her car with the valet to park and Peck had watched her from across the block. She was young and curvy with long slender legs that seemed to stretch all the way there. Peck felt a long repressed shudder deep inside when he looked on her. 'Stop it!' he told himself, remembering his conversation with Drake earlier. 'You are old enough to be her father at least for Chrissakes!' But he had always been a sucker for a pretty face and just because he had not had the opportunity recently did not mean that he had got over that weakness.
The girl seemed to hitch up her shorter than short skirt as she got out of the car. Even from distance Peck fancied he could see the beautifully smooth thigh that was revealed. She ran her hand seductively along it and his mouth went dry. Somewhere deep in his head the thought fluttered that she knew he was there watching and she was putting on a show. He shook his head at such an outrageous thought and left his car to follow her inside.
He wanted to see her pick up her key but she walked straight passed the reception desk and over towards the elevators.
"Damn!" he breathed.
She waited for an elevator and he ducked behind a tall potted plant as she glanced behind her. When he came out again, she had entered the elevator and the doors slid shut.
He rushed to the door then and watched as the elevator ascended until it stopped on the twelfth floor.
Peck snorted – unsure of what to do. He considered following her up there but did not know which was her room. He also thought about asking at reception but since he didn't know the girl's name, it would be difficult. Sighing he moved back to the lobby. He decided to sit and wait to see whether the girl came down or whether she was staying in the hotel. And he had been waiting ever since.
He sighed again.
"Hey baby!" a familiar voice sounded in his ear. "You doing an awful lot of heavy breathing. Is there anything you want to tell me about?"
Peck smiled. "Nothing to report, Captain," he said. "Just a whole lot of waiting. How's the movie?"
"Ahh Facey; the last scene made me cry! Sure you don't want any back up, muchacho?"
"There's no reason for both of us to spend the night in a hotel lobby," Peck replied.
"Yes there is!" Murdock's tinny voice sounded suddenly hurt. "At least we'd be together. And I could cover your back!"
"I'm good, Murdock," Peck responded when really he felt a strong tug of longing at his bowels and he wanted to scream at the pilot to come down straight away. He did not therefore put up too much complaint when Murdock seemed to make a decision and said, "Goddamn it – I'm coming now!"
Murdock arrived about half an hour later. They sat for a while and then the pilot fidgeted nervously so he decided to go for a walk around the hotel. Peck told him he believed that the girl was on the twelfth floor so he decided to take a look.
Peck remained in the lobby, moodily watching the pilot's rangy form striding out towards the elevators. He glanced at his watch; it was resolutely ticking its way towards midnight. Peck rubbed at his eyes, feeling tired and irritated, he never-the-less still preferred to be in the lobby rather than risky another torrid time with his demons in bed.
"Face!" Murdock's voice hissed in his ear. "She's just left room 1211, she's heading for the elevators, coming your way, maybe?"
Peck flexed his tired muscles back to vigilant mode, leaning forward to get a better view of the elevators. In his ear Murdock continued, "Keep an eye out for her. I'm gonna check out this room."
"Don't do anything dangerous, Murdock!" Face replied. "There might be somebody else in there."
"Hey lover, you know caution is my middle name!" Murdock quipped. Although he couldn't see it the pilot sensed Peck's scowl as he retorted. "Yeah, right! Be careful!"
"Oh and Murdock – I don't even know your middle name."
Murdock laughed gleefully. "And you love a mystery, Face!"
Peck couldn't summon up the energy to answer so he just groaned balefully. However a few seconds later, Murdock heard him exclaim. "Oh shit!"
"Face?" The pilot stopped. He was on his way to the kitchens to see if he could snag a room service uniform to make his planned entrance into room 1211 more plausible.
Peck's voice was strained and slightly fractious as he continued. "She's coming my way!"
"Your way?" Murdock repeated.
"What the hell am I going to do?"
"Use that famous Faceman charm!" Murdock replied glibly.
"But …." Peck's voice changed noticeably and Murdock felt a sudden sense of alarm as he heard the silky smooth tone. "Hi, have we met?"
Murdock listened for a while until he was sure that Face was in no imminent danger. He shook his head. 'Smooth operator,' he thought as he carried on his way.
Down in the lobby Peck was entranced and considering pinching himself to ensure he had not slid into some parallel universe. His new companion had entered the lobby and made a beeline straight towards where he sat. He had to fight hard to keep his mouth closed and retain an air of confident indifference as she glided towards him. His earlier thoughts on her beauty had inadequate she was quite simply gorgeous and a long forgotten yearning stirred deep within him.
She was dressed in a figure hugging, off the shoulder powder blue evening dress that clung to all of her best curves, her suntanned skin was flawless and seemed to glow with radiance even in the stark hotel light. Long blonde tresses flowed over her shoulders in waves of soft curls and pearls shone at her neck. As she moved towards him he looked into her eyes, they were the colour of the sea, shifting from green to blue, constant only in their continual change. Her strong mouth, quirked into a confident smile as she stood in front of him and waited expectantly.
"Hi," Peck tried for coolly interested and wondered if he managed to pull it off. He stood up, noting with her heels she was a good few inches taller than him. He refused to be intimidated. "Have we met?"
Her voice was as husky with sexiness as he hoped it would be. "I've been waiting a lifetime for this," she purred.
Peck gulped, slightly floored by such a confession, maybe twenty years ago he would have expected such a response but now! Still, couldn't argue with a lady; he forced his most magnificent smile. "You have?"
She sat down on the couch beside him, patting it gently until he sat beside her. Her eyes never left his as she said, "Can't sleep. I have far too much energy."
He rolled his eyes appreciatively. "Maybe a nightcap would help?" His eyes were still drinking in her loveliness and it took all his strength to find coherent speech, to cover the desire that was kindling deep within.
She smiled and the flame roared stronger. "Yes, that would be nice."
He nodded bemusedly and then managing to compute her words he giggled nervously. "Oh yeah, sure!" He signalled the waiter immediately.
A few minutes later she gazed at him evenly over the rim of her glass, eyes shadowed with blue and wide. A sudden crisis of confidence hit Peck and he had to really fight the urge to look over his shoulder to see who behind him was deserving of such a smouldering gaze. Easy! Peck schooled himself, keep smiling! It had been so long since he had found himself in such a situation and yet he had been a master of the art once. Indeed he had practised it so often in his youth that even after the time lapse it was as if a switch deep inside had suddenly been flicked. He forgot his lack of belief, his feeling of inadequacy and began to flirt mercilessly, smiling, batting his eyes, touching, keeping eye contact, very soon he was completely at ease and enjoying himself.
"So do I know you?" he asked. "I don't normally forget a pretty face and I cannot believe that I would one as beautiful as yours."
She smiled. "No," she replied. She eased herself along the couch so that their bodies were so close, they touched. Electricity sparked between. "But I can remedy that very soon."
"Remedy…." Peck repeated, losing himself in her softness and breathing in the sweet scent of her. "I…. ah … I…"
The rational side of his brain was lurching, searching for any sort of explanation that this beautiful young woman should be reacting to him in this way, but the rest of him did not care. It had been so long since he had felt this, so long that he felt himself reacting before he could control himself.
He leant in towards her, his mouth opening and his hands moving to embrace her. "Templeton Peck," she breathed. "Man of my dreams!"
Peck's adrenaline was pumping so hard that he could hardly hear, certainly could not think and did not hesitate to grab her, squeezing her tightly, they kissed passionately. They were entwined for long minutes, tongues twirling and sucking, hands running up and down the other's body, searching and caressing and …
… Peck managed to get a strong enough grip on his seething emotion to manage to pull away but the rest of him screamed in frustration as he broke the kiss.
She regarded him, eyes flashing passionately but her mouth curled in a superior smirk. She damn well knew the effect she was having on him and seemed to be enjoying it immensely. And yet he could pull away no further, could not break her gaze because he was enjoying it just as much as she.
"Do I know you?" he asked again after two false starts when he just could not seem able to locate his voice.
"Not yet," she purred, her tongue ran achingly along her deeply red lips.
Peck groaned but the vague memory of all the times he had got himself and the rest of the Team into trouble from similar situations throbbed annoyingly at the edge of his mind. "Why are you following me?" he managed.
"You were following me," she retorted, moving closer again.
"I was… I was…" And then she was kissing him again. Deep inside of Peck his whole being seemed to flutter. He couldn't resist it, couldn't fight it… didn't even want to. "You are so beautiful," he managed to breath in between shattering kisses.
"I know," she responded. "And you are all the man I ever wanted."
"Oh god!" Peck whispered feeling his emotions sweeping through him unfettered. He tried to pull back again. He should not be doing this. He was going to blow everything… but it was so enticing. No! What about Murdock? What about the fact the pilot was listening, hearing exactly what was going on right now? He needed to get control of himself but even as he thought it, he felt himself deepening the kiss.
The listener in question was feeling decidedly uncomfortable with what he was hearing coming from the lobby. He had snaffled a uniform plus a pass key and made his way back up to the twelfth floor. On entering the room and trying to ignore what he was hearing through the earpiece. He had sniffed around but found nothing of any great value at all.
Now he was returning back to the kitchen and unable to block out the heavy sounds coming from his lover and the woman below. He could bite back his anger no longer. "Face!" he hissed. "Put her down!"
Peck snorted. The shock of Murdock's voice in his ear adding to the guilt he was already feeling, grounded him somewhat. He pulled away. "I got to …. I got to…."
She smiled, still looking serene and cool while Peck could feel the flash of heat in his own cheeks and the dribble of sweat down his back. She peeled herself off him and stood up, her eyes still fascinatingly fixed on his.
"We should continue this later," she grinned. "Dinner tomorrow?"
He was breathing heavily, patting down his hair and straightening his clothes. "Of course," he said. "What is your name?" he asked feeling like a pubescent boy on his first date.
Her eyes were deep pools of unreadable blue. "Lorelei," she purred.
He gulped. "Lorelei? As in faithless lover and luring sailors on to the rocks?"
Her smile widened. "My father had a strange sense of humour. Until tonight then." And she was gone.
Peck shuddered, the heat turning cold on his skin. He shook his head in puzzlement. What the hell had just happened?
Murdock rushed into the lobby and pulled him out of his reverie. "What the hell was that all about?" the pilot fumed.
Peck was still stunned. "I honestly don't know," he murmured.
"C'mon," Murdock continued. "It's late. We need to go!"
Peck stood on legs that still felt crazily shaky and followed where his partner lead. He lifted his hands up to his lips as if to verify they had so recently been kissed. There was the hint of her strong perfume and he could taste her loveliness but apart from these meagre signs it was as if the whole experience had been a fanciful dream.
"How do I look?" It had been a long time since Face had preened in the mirror for quite such a long time as he was doing. He tilted his head, lightly brushing his hand down his slacks to ensure that the crease was just right.
Murdock sat on the bed, his mouth pulled into a bad tempered pout as he fiddled with a book beside him. "I do not believe you are really going to go through with this!"
Peck sniffed. "Cuff links," he muttered and turned to the small box on the dresser beside him.
"Face!" Murdock said. "Are you registering anything up there? The lights are on but somebody has sold the goddamn real estate!"
Peck's features crumpled with concentration as he put on the cuff links. Then he looked back into the mirror. "Aaaah!" he sighed. "Armani, you know – can't beat it!"
Murdock shook his head. "I haven't seen you this far up your own arse since that time you got that fake pardon. Remember what happened then?"
Peck delicately brushed back his hair. "Looking good," he breathed. "Maybe I should have got that hair dye," he muttered looking critically at the grey hairs and anxiously pulling out a few strands.
"Oh please!" Murdock said disgustedly. "Have you heard anything I have said?"
Peck stopped and turned around to eye the other man. "Of course I have!" he said somewhat pompously. "I have just chosen to ignore it. We've been through all this already."
"Listen to yourself, Face!" Murdock tried again. "You must see this is a little suspect, no?"
Peck smiled tightly. "I think you've over-reacting Murdock, it's just dinner!"
"I'm over-reacting!" Murdock spluttered. "I'm not the one wearing the five hundred dollar suit!"
Peck snorted and turned back to the mirror. "And doesn't it look good?"
"Yes, it looks goddamn gorgeous!" Murdock snapped. "But that's not the point, is it?"
"Do I detect a touch of jealousy there?" Peck asked infuriating the pilot even more. "Didn't I tell you that nothing is going to happen tonight? I'm just there to get more information."
"Yeah, right!" Murdock spat. "And I'm supposed to believe that after all that tongue sucking I was forced to listen to last night!"
Face snorted again. "Well you won't be listening tonight! You know my methods, Murdock. You always have. Now that I've finally got a little of my confidence back, you suddenly turn into a green eyes monster. I was always this way – you either take it or leave it!"
"And that's it!" Murdock jumped off the bed, his anger forcing his long limbs to act, he stood challengingly in front of Peck, blocking his way, eyes flashing. "How stupid of me – I thought we had so much more than that! Silly me; thinking that I deserved a little loyalty from you!"
"Look Murdock, I don't want to fight. You're spitting on my suit! I'm going out with Lorelei and that's it – live with it!"
Murdock clenched his fists in frustration. "Lorelei!" he spat in disgust. "What sort of a name is that? I tell you what, it's a siren's name, that's what it is. A woman who tempts men to their doom!"
Peck snorted, shaking his head in disbelief and moving to the bathroom. "We've been through this already. I don't even know why I'm wasting my time telling you – she said her father had a weird sense of humour!" He said dismissively, as he doused himself in aftershave. "And we're going to dinner – no boats involved!"
Murdock slumped on the bed and picked up the book he had left there. Clearing his throat he read out loud;
"I don't know what it could mean,
Or why I'm so sad: I find,
A fairy-tale, from times unseen,
Won't vanish from my mind".
"Shut up Murdock!" Peck shouted from the bathroom. "It's just a dull poem!"
"It's a warning that you're just too blind to see Templeton Peck! All right so it's been a long time since a woman came on to you, especially a beautiful one. It makes you feel young again. I understand that but…
"The air is cool and it darkens,
And quiet flows the Rhine:
The tops of the mountains sparkle,
In evening's after-shine."
Peck's head appeared around the door frame, his handsome features masked with fury. "I said shut up Murdock! You're only doing this cos you're jealous! If you keep this up I just might sleep with her just to piss you off!"
It was a cheap shot and Face regretted it instantly as the pilot looked hurt and upset. Peck reached out his hand. "I'm sorry …"
But Murdock shook his head stubbornly, his voice cutting over the other man's feeble attempt at an apology.
"The loveliest of maidens,
She's wonderful, sits there,
Her golden jewels glisten,
She combs her golden hair."
"Goddamn it Murdock!" Peck's anger overcame him. He stalked through the room towards the door. "I am going now!"
Murdock continued relentlessly;
She combs it with a comb of gold,
And sings a song as well:
Its strangeness too is old
And casts a powerful spell.
Peck opened the door, his face glowering as he turned back to Murdock.
"It grips the boatman in his boat
With a wild pang of woe:
He only looks up to the heights,
Can't see the rocks below."
The door slammed and Peck was gone. Murdock chewed his hand nervously as he finished:
"The waves end by swallowing
The boat and its boatman,
That's what, by her singing,
The Lorelei has done."
The pilot let out a long animal groan. "Oh Faceyman," he whispered sadly, "You don't know what you're doing, babe!" He snorted but then he pulled himself off the bed. "Well she might be dangerous but I can summon up my own monster. One that's a big, bad mudsucker!" As he spoke, he reached for the phone and dialled a number. "BA?" he said when the phone was picked up at the other end. "We need your help muchado..!"
"BA, watch this bit – it's really cool!"
"You've shown me it fifteen times already!" the big man growled. "And it ain't cool, wasn't cool the first time! Switch it off now, fool! I wanna watch the game's highlights!" But his voice was not as hard or as uncaring as it could have been.
He glanced at the clock – just gone 11:00. It was almost three hours since he had arrived in Murdock's hotel room. He had gotten the pilot's muddled phone call and come straight over, only stopping to pick up Amy on the way. He had been growling ever since but that was just to hide the concern that he felt – over the years the pilot had become gradually stronger as his broken psyche sought to mend itself, his inner strength exerting itself once more. Murdock had pulled himself together winning BA's undying admiration for the way he had re-built his life, even to the extent that he had dealt the best of them all with Hannibal's death. BA knew the pilot's recovery was in no small part due to the support he had found from Face; the conman knew the fragile nature of his lover's mind, which made his actions this night all the more inexplicable. BA again fought down the exasperated flush of anger that rushed through him. It was the same feeling he had felt on the phone hours previously – it was a long time since he had heard Murdock so distressed and torn apart. The big man resisted the urge to thump something; he would save his strength until Peck returned and he better have a damn good reason for screwing up the pilot again – if it was for his own selfish pleasure then BA was going to have to dish out his own particular brand of punishment. Flexing his muscles the big man satisfied himself by sending a frustrated glance toward Amy.
The reporter was sitting quietly on the chair close to the bathroom door, her glassy glance was towards the TV but she was seeing none of the exploits of Butch and Sundance that Murdock was showing them. She smiled sadly at BA, knowing that she shared his disquiet; his disbelief at what the sobbing Murdock had disclosed when they had first arrived. He was quieter now, seemingly engrossed in the cowboy film but his face was still pale, his eyes lacking their normal maniacal glint and his slender hands fiddling nervously with the remote.
"You need another drink, Murdock?" she asked.
The pilot smiled somewhat despondently. "I'm good," he responded. "You guys don't need to stay," he continued hesitantly, brushing at his thinning hair nervously. "I'll be OK – I was just a little …eh.. you know… but I'll be fine now. You guys got other things to do, I know."
BA snorted. "Other things taken care of. I ain't going nowhere, not till I find out what's going on with Faceman!"
"BA's right, Murdock," Amy agreed. "You were really upset – it's not fair that Face should get away with that. We all know that sometimes he's not the most selfless individual in the world but he's out of order this time."
BA slammed one of his big fists into the other. "Man gonna pay!" he growled.
"No," Murdock sighed. "He's got his reasons and they're good ones. He told me I knew what he was like when I got into this and I did. Hell, I've had thirty years to find out haven't I? It's not what he did to me that freaked me out, it's the position he's putting himself in. He's in danger; I can feel it and he won't listen to me."
"All the more reason for us to stay and talk to him too, then!" Amy pressed. "And I can make enquiries about this 'Lorelei' tomorrow at the paper."
"He's a good man," Murdock continued so softly it was difficult to hear his words. "He just needs to be loved, it's a desperate burning deep inside him that I thought I could satisfy but maybe it's too much for any one person. You know how deep he keeps it hidden but once in a while it sneaks out, wells to the surface and he can't keep the little boy inside controlled. Then he's more susceptible than the rest of us, and then he becomes more gullible than the greenest mark. Hannibal knew how to control it, how to keep him safe and I thought I could." He sighed sadly, shaking his head. "It's a long time since a beautiful woman came on to him, I should have guessed he wouldn't be able to resist it – his need-to-be-loved gene is just too powerful."
"Murdock," Amy moved across the room gracefully and sat down on the bed, taking the pilot's hands in her own. "All you say is true and part of an explanation but you can't take the responsibility from him completely. Sure he had a bad childhood, sure he likes to be cosseted and loved but that does not excuse the fact that he made a commitment to you."
"But this is Face we are talking about!"
"Yes it is! And it's about time he grew up enough to live up to his responsibilities. I love him to bits but what he did to you tonight is just not fair. We, all of us, have allowed him to duck too much, maybe because he was doing it to other people but now he's doing it to you Murdock, one of our own and we won't, we can't, allow him to get away with it."
"She's right, Murdock," BA added. "Ain't that the reason why it took you thirty years to commit in the first place?"
Murdock smiled and squeezed Amy's hands tightly. "She is right but no, BA, you're not," he responded. "It took me thirty years cos I was scared it would turn out to be as good as I hoped it would."
Amy fixed him with a curious stare. "And was it?" she asked, unable to keep the journalist in her under wraps.
Murdock's smile was truly wicked. "Oh yes!" he breathed. "Better than even I imagined which is why I forgive him too much."
Amy was about to ask more but the throaty growl of a powerful engine pulling up outside the window and causing the flimsy walls to quiver silenced her.
BA threw a questioning glance at Murdock. "Ain't no rental," he murmured.
Murdock's smile widened even further. "Dodge Viper," he said. "Face rolled up in it earlier. God knows where he scammed it!"
BA shook his head as Amy smirked, "Another boy racer car – he is never going to grow up!" she muttered despairingly.
The click of the key in the lock was followed by the door opening and a greying blond head peering somewhat suspiciously into the room. "BA? Amy?" Face said. "What are you guys doing here?"
"Murdock was upset…" Amy began before BA butted in, cracking his knuckles and moving menacingly towards Peck. "You went out on a date, man! A date!"
Peck stepped back, gulping nervously and raising his hands. "It wasn't a date!" he started.
BA stopped and simply stared, his dark eyes running the length of the man in front of him, taking in the five hundred dollar suit, the expensive footwear, the flash of gold at his cuffs, and most damning of all, the smudge of bright red lipstick on Peck's left cheek.
She smiled, allowing him his small victory – it was but a small price to pay. "I know you Face," she said, shamelessly soothing his wounded ego a little more. "You're a smooth operator and you never give up until you've got what you want. So spill…."
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