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PLAN, A BAD IDEA
Rating PG 13 (only a couple of swear words)
Summary: Hannibal plans a little vacation and things go wrong from there.
Disclaimer: The A
Team belongs to their respective creators, the rest including errors belong
to me. No infringement intended. This is my first story and any
comments would be welcome.
He took a puff on his cigar only to discover that it wasn't lit.
"Well, men," He said with a grin "that went well." He cupped his hands around his lighter and re-lit his stogie.
"You crazy, man." BA grumbled while behind him Face would have rolled his eyes, but one of them was completely swollen shut and it seemed too much like work, so instead he just sighed and shook his head.
The last escapade had not only involved a battle between an extortionist and his hired goons, but not one, but two escapes from Col. Decker and the M.P.'s.
Hannibal smiled as the young lady came over to him to offer her thanks. "I don't know how to thank you."
"It's our pleasure, Ma'am. Just give a call to the state police and have these guys picked up and just remember to forget our names." She smiled up at him gratefully. "Face, give the lady what you got out of the safe."
Face had to blink twice to focus his eye and pulled an envelope of cash out of his jacket pocket. "$137,500. we kept our fee and expenses, so that's your money back."
"Wow." She stared at the envelope. "This was more then we could have ever hoped for." She wriggled up close to his side and gave him a come-hither smile. Amazingly, his disentangled himself smoothly, but she persisted. "If there was any other way we I- could say thank you." She batted her long eyelashes at him. Face gave her an insincere smile, one only the team would recognize as insincere, and tried to back away again. "If only there was time." He gave her a wistful glance, "But, I think I here sirens."
Both Hannibal and Murdock's heads came up and their eyes swiveled around to take in the road behind them. BA only headed for the van. "We really must be going." Hannibal said with a grin.
Face and Murdock loaded into the back of the van, and pulled the door shut. Hannibal got into the front passenger seat and waived goodbye. BA started the van and put his foot down onto the accelerator causing the rear tires to smoke as he burned rubber out of the parking lot. Left behind was the client with 5 bound and gagged men, 3 boxes of evidence of the extortion activities and a lot of explaining to do to the local authorities.
The 4 men relaxed in the van. Hannibal was assessing the mission looking for flaws and judging the success. BA was keeping one eye on the road ahead, and one on the rear view mirror. Decker may be behind them, or he may have been hung up back in town, looking for the team. Murdock was playing with his latest friend, a small stuffed gorilla that he had found in the bottom of a Dumpster, and was calmly relating every fact and piece of trivia that he knew about primates. Mostly to Face, but to anyone who would listen. Occasionally, BA would pipe up with a "Shut up, fool", but Murdock kept happily prattling on. Face leaned back against the seat with a sigh. He hurt, everywhere. Over the course of the last 3 days he had been beat up twice, locked in a closet and tied to a chair. His bruises had bruises. His wrists were raw from rope burns and he was tired from lack of sleep. He heaved another sigh and tried to find a comfortable position with his head pressed against the seat back and the door.
"So, gentlemen, where to now?" Hannibal's question was met with a very loud silence. Finally, Murdock spoke up.
"I really need to get back to the VA, Colonel. I been trying to keep the purple wobbly's away for awhile, but I really want to go back now." His voice was soft and the sound of his Texas drawl was more pronounced. Murdock lived at the Veteran's Hospital in Westwood, Ca., where he was a mental patient. Each member of the team had different opinions of the diagnosis of Murdock's insanity, but none of them could doubt that Murdock did do better within the structure that life at the VA provided him. If Murdock wanted to go back, back he went. Face had popped open his one good eye and looked at his friend with concern. Murdock offered him a half smile and went back to playing with his stuffed gorilla.
"Well, it's settled. Back to LA and take Murdock home. Then what?" Hannibal cranked the window beside him down a little to allow the cigar smoke to escape.
"I really want to go to my cousin's wedding. But low-key, like. She won't want all o'you'all to come crashin' in like the envadin' horde." BA said softly. He hated to tell Hannibal that he wasn't invited. Hannibal just smiled.
"That's fine, BA. Are you sure Decker won't be checking up on this wedding?"
"Nah- she ain't really family. You know, daughter of a friend, we just call each other cousin, we ain't really related. Decker won't know about it, and my mama will be there. I ain't seen her in quite awhile." Hannibal gave another smile to the big man sitting next to him. For all BA's show of gruffness and anger, he was really an old softie. Tell him that, of course, and he'd rip you arm off and beat you to death with it. "How long will it take you to get there?"
"3 or 4 days from LA."
"You know, Colonel, if we rent BA a car at the next big town, he'd be only two days away from his cousin's, and we can drive Murdock home. Decker won't be looking for BA alone and he'd be safer in a rental car." Face's voice was soft from the back seat and although BA hated to let anyone but himself drive his beloved van, he was silently pleased that Face was looking out for him.
"You okay with that BA?" Hannibal asked.
"Yeah." BA agreed.
"Face, how much money did we ah- collect in fees- from that scum ball back there?"
Face would have smiled if his lip weren't split. He had broken into the safe and cleared it of all the cash, giving the $137,500 to the client, and the rest in his pocket. He handed the second envelope to Murdock who passed it up to the colonel.
"Our fee, plus expenses, came to $126,923." He said softly, "Almost exactly what was in the safe. They were a little short, but I thought you'd let it slide." Even with a split lip he had to smile a little at that.
Hannibal laughed out loud. It was a great laugh. Full of so much joy in the simple things in life.
"For once we didn't work for chump change." BA said with a smile.
"BA, I think we can rent you a car, and you'll have money for expenses on the road. No need for Face to try and scam a thing for you."
Murdock looked back over at his friend who was again leaning against the door. "Yeah, I don't think Faceman's quite up to scammin' stuff right now, Colonel."
Hannibal took a moment to swing his chair around and look back at his Lt. "You okay, Face?"
"Yeah." Hannibal and Murdock exchanged glances. Usually, the only way to tell if Face was really hurt was by how much he whined. The more minor the injury, the more he begged for attention. But now he was quiet and that could mean he was really hurt.
"You sure, Faceguy, you need a doctor?" Murdock tried to keep the worry out of his voice, but he wasn't doing too good of a job. His only answer from Face thought, was a soft snore.
As they pulled into the next big town with a car rental agency, they all got out and stretched. Face suggested that Murdock rent the car, as no one was looking for him, and like it or not, a big black man with a Mohawk and 25 pounds of gold chain around his neck did tend to be remembered. If Decker were to follow them this far, flashing Hannibal, Face or BA's picture to the desk clerk would not get the MP's any answers. So Murdock rented the car and they drove on to the next little town to have lunch and give the car over to BA.
It was not the type of
car that BA would have picked out for himself, but it was a mid-size luxury
car with all the amenities and BA would have a comfortable trip.
Hannibal handed him a sizable amount of cash for his trip expenses and admonished him to be careful and check in every day. BA smiled a little and said his good byes and got in the car. He threw back over his shoulder, "Be careful with my van. You mess it up, I'll mess you up", and then drove away.
Murdock tossed the keys up in the air and caught them easily. "It don't have wings, but I'd like to see if it'll fly." He grinned and got in behind the wheel.
Hannibal got back into the front passenger seat and rolled down the window. "Keep it on the ground, Captain, nice and level, we don't want to attract any attention." This time as Face got in he grabbed a pillow and a blanket and curled up on the floor of the van. "I'm gonna sleep." Again Hannibal and Murdock exchanged worried looks. "You sure you're alright?" Hannibal inquired.
"Mmmm" was the only response.
Hannibal shook his head with a grin. "The only person I know who can turn out the light, and fall asleep before the room gets dark."
"And he can sleep anywhere." Murdock said with amazement in his voice. Murdock had always had trouble sleeping, and slept poorly in unfamiliar places.
Hannibal and Murdock traded off all the driving as Face slept on the floor of the van. He finally woke five hours later in a cheery mood complaining that he was hungry.
"Feel up to a nice dinner before we check you back into your place, Murdock?" Hannibal inquired.
"Hamburger Heaven?" Murdock chirped.
Face whined a little. "Come on, Murdock? Burgers? Don't you want something a little more upscale?"
Hannibal smiled; this was a minor battle between the two friends, and one that Murdock would win.
"It's my last day of freedom for awhile, I should get what I want." Murdock replied with a pout in his voice.
All he got in response was a huge sigh. "So, Face, what shall we do for the next week while Murdock and BA are away?"
"I know these sisters…" he started, but stopped when he saw Hannibal shake his head.
"I was thinking of something more relaxing, and you could use a little R&R."
"That's just what I was thinking." Face leaned forward in his seat, and gave a little smile. "Rachel and Roxanne."
"No," Hannibal shook his head again. "I was thinking, camping."
"Camping?" From the tone in his voice you would have thought Hannibal had suggested cannibalism.
"Sure, I know this great little place. Quiet, secluded, not many tourist this time of year."
"Colonel, didn't you get enough of sleeping on the ground in Viet Nam?"
"Come on, it'll be fun. No Decker, I promise." Hannibal grinned. "I'll be low-key, as BA puts it. All the way there and all the way back, no jobs, no side trips, it'll be fun." He turned slightly in his seat to observe his second in command. Out of the corner of his eye he could also see Murdock looking at Face in the rear view mirror. For a con man Face was an easy man for one of his team to sucker.
"Great, just great." He muttered to himself as he sat back against the seat. "Burgers and camping."
Hannibal just grinned as
he settled himself back into his seat as Murdock pulled through the drive thru
window at Hamburger Heaven.
The next morning dawned bright and clear and Face awoke early to hear Hannibal on the phone making plane reservations and calling a cab. As he stumbled to the bathroom to clean up he muttered back over his shoulder, "Where the heck are we going?"
"Camping in Michigan in May? Won't there still be snow on the ground?"
"I told you there wouldn't be many tourists?"
No further sounds could be heard over the running water in the bathroom, but Hannibal was sure his ears should be burning. In order to be a little nice, he packed up all their gear and put the hotel's complementary coffeepot on.
John "Hannibal" Smith was a powerful force of nature. Just a little over 6 feet tall, his hair had gone from sandy blonde to silver while he was still young. Now he was 54 years old and should have been thinking of retirement. Instead, he was leading his band of men on a dangerous game of hide-and-seek from the military police.
In the last few days of the Viet Nam war he and his team were assigned to a mission to rob a bank. They were caught in the attempt, but their orders were lost along with their commanding officer when the base they were assigned to was over run and destroyed. They were tried and convicted and sentenced to 30 years to life in prison. Determining that this was unfair, Hannibal, Face and BA broke out of the prison at Fort Bragg and went on the run. So instead of thinking about where he would spend his declining years, he was planning missions, and generally being just as active, or more so, then he was during his war campaigns. He was the leader of a tight knit group of mercenaries. But they only did certain jobs, and his goal was to help the little guy, who had no place else to turn. Now he felt the only person he had to help was Face.
Templeton "Face" Peck so named because who wouldn't trust that ‘face', was a man who could talk the devil into going to church. People had a habit of just saying yes to him, before he even made a request. Woman of all ages flocked to him, he was quite handsome, with sandy brown hair and big, blue-green eyes and classic features. Most people didn't notice that after a few days in Face's company they didn't know anymore about him then when they had met him. He was quiet and reluctant to talk about himself, but that rarely stopped him from getting people to talk about themselves. He was a wonderful listener, and seemed to be compassionate, even if what he was really doing was sizing you up to play on your weaknesses.
But today, Hannibal felt that Face was a job worth taking on. The last few missions had not gone according to plan, maybe not even close to the plan, and Face had taken the brunt. Asked to scam up canoes in the desert, or cargo netting in the jungle, or tanks in a small town, and Face had always come through. Hannibal didn't always know how, and sometimes he was afraid to ask, but Face would come up with the impossible on short notice, with only a little grumbling about being under appreciated.
Hannibal gave his Lt. a quick once-over as Face sat at the table and nursed his cup of coffee. Face looked much better this morning. With plenty of sleep and a couple of ice packs the swelling had gone down on his face leaving one heck of a shiner and the split lip all that was visible of the last weeks of work. Hannibal could tell there were other bruises, not visible, but overall Face looked much better.
"Since I stashed the van last night, I called a cab to take us to the airport. We can get there early and eat at the airport, if that's okay with you."
Face grimaced a little at the thought of airport food but agreed. "Are you sure you want to go to Michigan in May?"
"Trust me on this, it's a great place. My dad used to take me and my brother there all the time when we were kids." Hannibal gave his most winning smile, one that actually put the con man to shame, it was so full of energy, that smile.
"In May?" Face still couldn't believe this, "Isn't it going to be cold?"
"No, that's the great part. This is a secluded little valley. Well, yeah, a little cold, but it'll be great."
Face decided to put his apprehensions on the back burner and helped double check that the room was clear as a cab pulled up out front and honked the horn.
"I told Murdock we'd check in with him and have him call BA to check in with him, so we could all keep in touch."
"How's he doing this morning?" Face inquired as he dumped his duffel bag in the trunk of the cab and climbed in the back seat.
"He said he was doing better, but he sounded tired and a little keyed up."
"He'll be fine in a couple of days, he just needs to unwind."
"Just what I recommend
After renting a car at the Detroit Airport they proceeded into the city. There they went to an outdoor sports shop and rented all the gear they would need for the trip. It seemed strange not to have to scam all the stuff or make do with what they could put together, but Hannibal had decided to go first class. After stowing the gear in the trunk of the car they drove toward the northwest part of the state. Face had never been to Michigan before and he sat in the passenger seat and looked out the window as Hannibal took on the job of tour guide. He related many interesting and useless facts about the state and the area as he drove northward. They traded off driving duties, stopping for lunch at a roadside diner and then continued on. Finally, Hannibal pointed to a small motel and suggested that they stop for the night.
"The trail head is still a few hours from here, but we can head out in the morning."
As Face got out of the car he pulled his jacket closer around him. "Whew, chilly."
"Yeah, they get the breezes off the lake here." Hannibal replied as he tamped out his cigar before headed up to the manager's office.
"Lake Michigan," Hannibal waived his hand pointing both west and north. "Don't you know your geography?"
"Wasn't my strong subject in school." Face replied sourly.
"What was?" Hannibal teased as he held open the door to the office.
"Anatomy." Face grinned back.
They checked into the room and then headed out for dinner. It was a nice restaurant with linen napkins and a wine list so Face was happy. They talked about nothing of importance before heading back to the room for the night. They turned in early.
"Face, come on, get up, its time to go, come on." Hannibal shook his shoulder and began to check their gear. "Come on." He said again.
Face opened one eye and noticed it was still dark outside and tried to look at his watch. "What time is it?"
"5 a.m., come on, up and at ‘em."
"Are you nuts?"
Hannibal grinned; he was as excited as a kid going to Disneyland. "We're burnin' daylight."
"It's not even daylight. Go back to bed." Someone had to be the voice of reason.
"No, come on." Hannibal shook him again. How did you reason with a force of nature? Face heaved a sigh and drug himself to the bathroom. While he was in the shower Hannibal was trying to pack his kit bag.
"Leave it." Face snarled.
"I'm just trying to hurry things along." Hannibal said with a grin, but decided retreat was the best thing at this point and went to sit on his bed and tap his foot in anxious nervousness.
After what seemed like hours, but in reality was only 13 minutes, Face was ready to go and Hannibal pulled the car out of the packing lot.
"Check out?" Face said as they passed the office.
"I already did while you were dawdling in the shower."
Face could only shake his head. Sometime Hannibal was just like a little kid, full of energy, excitement and adventure.
Hannibal took secondary roads and then back roads and finally pulled into a parking lot at an all night diner. It was 9 am now and the breakfast crowd was beginning to thin. As they sat down to order he pointed across the street to a Dept of Forestry building.
"We get our back country permits there and in 30 minutes we'll be in the wilderness."
"I would never have thought of wilderness this close to big cities." Face remarked as he looked out the window. "I get the feeling that you've done this before, you seem to have the timing down perfect." He watched as a girl in a green uniform unlocked the building across the street.
"Every summer as a kid." Hannibal had a wistful look on his face. "Course in the early day's you didn't need permits and all that, but too many people in too small of an area made all that necessary. Even after I went to college me and my dad would come here at spring break."
Face looked up at his commander and studied his face. These were good memories he was reliving. There was contentment in his voice.
"You and your dad were close?"
"Yeah, he was a great dad. He worked hard, don't get me wrong, and he could be tough on you, if he thought you needed it. But the worse punishment in the world was disappointing him, you know?"
Face nodded. The words ‘just like you' came to the tip of Face's tongue, but he couldn't bring himself to say them. Like father like son. They shared a newspaper over breakfast. "Last one for awhile." Hannibal stated and then headed across the street.
"You sure you want to be heading back there this time of year?" The girl behind the desk asked as she filled out the paper work for their permits.
Face glanced at Hannibal. "Are we sure?"
Hannibal only grinned, "Sure we're sure."
The little blonde behind the counter batted her eyes. "Make sure you stay warm in you sleeping bag. If you get cold…"
Face would have replied but Hannibal had grabbed the permits in one hand and the back of Face's shirt in the other and was tugging him out the door.
"Jeez Hannibal," Face muttered as he tucked in his shirt.
"No time to play with the park ranger, Boo Boo." Hannibal smirked as he pushed Face toward the car. "She don't have no pic-a-nic basket."
Face had to chuckle, "Okay Yogi, how far now?"
Hannibal started up the car. "Not far."
It was only about 15 more minutes to the trailhead where they unloaded their back packs and made sure they were secure and well positioned and headed up the trail.
Hannibal was back in his job of tour guide and after only a few grumbles about "boot camp wasn't this hard" and "I thought this was supposed to be fun" Face began to really listen to the stories Hannibal was telling.
"James and I would make up stories about this meadow." Hannibal started. "About knights in armor and the great battles fought here." He waived at the open meadow; "Doesn't this remind you of where the battle of Falstaff, or Dunkirk would have been fought?"
Face smiled. They were in the wrong country for English knights and major battles with thousand of armed and mounted troops. In his mind he thought more of minutemen and red coats. But these were childhood memories so he grinned at the thought of two little boys playing sword fight in the meadow and thought of their father looking on. "Robert the Bruce and King Edward the first." Face added trying to think back to his military history classes.
"Exactly." Hannibal said with pride in his voice.
"Which one were you?"
Hannibal had to smile. He paused in the trail to light a cigar. "Well, actually, I was Lancelot to my brothers King Arthur."
"You mean you didn't fight each other? You weren't Mordrid?"
"No my dad didn't want
us to even play fight against each other. He said ‘life is tough enough
with out brothers fighting each other', so we had to fight together to defeat
"Smart man, your dad."
Hannibal stared down the trail. "Sure was," he said with pride.
At little places along the trail Hannibal would point out places of interest. "This is where James caught his first rabbit…" or "This is where I learned to shoot…" The stories were endless. "The year I turned 9…" or "just after the end of the war, WW2…"And Face listened to them with rapt attention. He had to swallow a lump in his throat when he realized that if things had been different Hannibal may have married and he would have brought his own son's here. These were the stories that he should have been telling his children and his grandchildren. Instead he was here telling them to Face. So Face decided to be a good student and paid attention.
They came to a spot to camp for the night. Hannibal said they were actually ahead of schedule and that they should be at the lake by mid-afternoon tomorrow. So they pitched their tent and started a fire and broke out the freeze-dried food. As they lay on their backs and looked up at the stars Hannibal began to tell more stories. Face kept quiet and listened. His emotions running to the bittersweet. He was honored to be hearing these stories. Hannibal could spin a tale well and you felt as if you were there. Face was beginning to feel like he knew young John and James Smith and their father William. Hannibal was even tossing in stories of his grandfather Henry.
Henry had fought in WW1 and it was his stories of the Great War and patriotism that had helped shape the man here, now. Face smiled his soft wistful smile. He wondered if he had a father or grandfather that had fought for their country? Would he ever be able to tell war stories to his children?
"So what do you think, Face?"
"Huh?" Face was brought out of his reverie with the question. "Think of what?"
"America, or the park?" Face was a little confused, had they changed the subject from WW1?
"The park, kid, what do you think?"
"It's great, Hannibal. And," he hated to admit; "it's not too cold." The temperatures were in the 40's and now that the winds were dying down it was actually pleasant.
"See, told ya'." Hannibal was the only person Face knew who could actually light a cigar while lying on his back. "I can't get over the stars here. I have never seen them better then I do in this place." Hannibal paused as if searching for words. "I mean, I've been to places where the air was cleaner and the city lights farther away. I've been to countries where there are practically no lights at night at all, but here they just seem…better." He chuckled, "Know what I mean?"
Face had to grin. "Yeah. These are the stars from home. Like your mom's pie or your dad's after shave, in a way, nothing will ever be just like it."
"Exactly." Hannibal puffed his cigar, "Although to be honest, my mom made a terrible pie. You judge pies by the standard of my Aunt Lucy. She made the worlds best apple pie."
"Sister Mary Margaret made the world's best rhubarb pie. I won't even look at rhubarb if it's not cooked in a pie, but I'd eat her pie every day if I could. To this day I still compare every rhubarb pie to hers."
Hannibal cocked an ear at that. Getting Face to let go of childhood memories was sometimes like pulling teeth. "Did you like Sr. Mary Margaret?"
"Nah, just her pie." Hannibal waited, but nothing else was forth coming. "Did you like any of the sisters at the orphanage?"
For a moment Hannibal thought Face wasn't going to answer him, or dodge the question. "There was one, Sr. Mary Francis, she was nice. I remember her reading to me, but she got transferred out when I was 7." It was said in such a matter of fact way, the way you might say, ‘and then I bought a new toaster over', but the statement tugged at Hannibal's heart. Too many times Face had been left behind, abandoned, and this was just one more to add to the list. Hannibal reminded himself this was another reason that they were on this trip together, to teach Face that he was part of Hannibals' life, not just during the jobs.
"Do you know that I had never met a nun until I went to ‘Nam?"
"Yup, I don't remember her name," he paused, "Sr. Ignatio," he finally recalled. "She came into our camp at 2am and demanded, not asked, demanded that I have one of my soldier's ‘saddle up', her words, not mine, and take one of her sick children to the aide station." Face grinned. For all the patience, and tolerance that the nun's had tried to instill in him as a child, he felt a good many of them should practice what they preach.
"Darn straight I did. Woman scared me silly."
"Sure, I mean, look who
she works for. I was just a Major in the US Army, I didn't have those
kind of connections." He looked down at the end of his cigar. It was almost
out. "She turned out to be quite a friend. She worked with the refugees,
she was one tough lady. I could have used her to replace two or three
"Ever thought of telling BA if he got out of line you'd replace him with a nun?"
That brought a big belly laugh. "No, I can handle BA, I don't know if I can keep a nun in line."
"I'm gonna turn in, Hannibal." Face got up and brushed himself off and headed to the tent.
"I'll be in in a minute."
"K" was the only response.
Hannibal lay on the ground
for a few minutes and then got up to check the fire, toss his cigar butt into
the dying embers and then head into the tent to sleep.
The next morning was beautiful, the sky blue and not a cloud to be seen. To Hannibal's surprise, he was not the first one up. As he rolled over on his stomach to look out the doorway of the tent he could see Face had a pot of coffee on and had started breakfast.
"You're up early." He remarked as he crouched threw the little door and pulled on his boots.
"Burnin' daylight." Face replied with a grin. The black eye was beginning to fade to yellow and green and the spit in his lip was hardly noticeable.
"We're on vacation, now. No timetables to keep. Oh by the way, you're supposed to take off your watch."
"When you're on vacation, you're supposed to take off your watch."
"Do you make up these rules as you go along?"
"Really, Face, didn't you get a copy of the vacationer's handbook?"
"When did they hand this out?"
"I probably cut class that day." But with a good-natured grin he took off his watch and stuffed it in his pocket.
Back in the city Face was
the epitome of the new phrase going around, "Yuppie."
It was the media's attempt to pigeonhole the career minded, well-dressed youth, with their drive for all the material belongings, so unlike the last generation of ‘hippies'. He drove a new corvette, wore designer suits, and the watch on his wrist was probably worth almost as much as BA's van. The fact that a good many of the things he had were scammed, or ‘borrowed' had little to do with it. Life on the run did not lend itself to becoming an international banker or stockbroker. Face longed for all the things he'd never had as a child growing up in an orphanage. A nice home with a picket fence, full of fine things, maybe a wife and 2.3 kids, a dog, these were all things that Face wanted, but could never have with the life they led. For now, he just satisfied himself with the few nice luxuries he could wear.
But now, squatting over the fire this was a different Face. He wore blue jeans and what looked like what was probably one of Murdock's tee shirt with the motto "You are here" and an arrow pointing to a single star in a galaxy of stars. His hair was finger brushed into place and he hadn't shaved. For some reason his eyes seemed brighter in the clear air, too. He also seemed very relaxed. Maybe it was that not only was there nothing for him to scam, but there didn't seem to be anyone to scam from. It was quiet and peaceful here.
"What are you thinking about?" Hannibal asked as he watched Face stir the packaged eggs.
"Last of the Mohicans, or every old TV western, you know, life in the old west, living off the land."
Hannibal nodded his head and thought about it. "Lewis and Clark exploring uncharted territories to open up the land for Thomas Jefferson."
"Did you know that at the time of the Louisiana Purchase it was considered to be a bad idea for the US government to buy all that useless land west of the Mississippi. It was thought that the French Government had scammed President Jefferson."
Hannibal nodded, "Did you know that some of the best records of the local floral and fauna of the west and the plains was done by soldiers?"
"Probably because we have nothing else to do, ask any politician." Face added cynically. "When we're not out killing babies we're just sitting on our hands."
Hannibal's eyes popped open at that. "Easy, Face, the war's over."
"Yeah. For them, not for us."
"For us, too. The one thing we soldier's couldn't fight in this war was bad press. Up until Nam, soldiers were heroes, fighting to defend our way of life. Somehow in the press this war became a battle of economics and ideology, and they forgot that we were still doing our job as patriots for a country we love. Someday the soldier will get back in the good graces of the country again. I pray we never have to go to war again, but someday they'll look back and realize that we weren't the bad guys in all this. But we can't hold on to the anger, if you do it'll just eat you up."
"I know," Face sighed and then served up breakfast, "It's just hard."
"War is hell, kid."
"To err is human? Every cloud has a silver lining? Time and tide waits for no man?" Hannibal quoted.
"Shut up and eat or I'll throw it out?"
"Don't recognize that quote, who said that?"
"Sr. Mary Catherine."
"Ahhh, a very wise woman." And Hannibal dug into his meal.
Soon the camp was cleared and their gear packed and they headed up the trail to the next campsite.
Just about the time that Face and Hannibal were packing up their tent BA pulled into the town of Grace, Kansas. He checked himself into a hotel room and called the van phone, getting no answer he tried the last number he had for Face and then at last tried the VA.
"Howdy doody." Murdock's happy voice answered.
"Hey fool, that any way to answer the phone?" BA snarled.
"It's my phone I should be able to answer it any way I want. What'cha doin?'"
Because they were so many miles apart BA let himself smile at the crazy pilots warm, cheerful voice. "Tried to reach Hannibal but he's not answering the phone."
"Yeah I know, guess where he is? Go on guess, I'll give you three guesses. Go on."
"Shut up and just tell me what's going on."
Murdock just grinned a huge grin, knowing that from this distance BA couldn't pummel him into submission.
"How am I supposed to shut up and tell you?" He drawled slowly into the phone.
"Tell me." BA growled
"Tell me, or I'll reach through this phone line and snap you in half."
Murdock just grinned and said "Ah, ah, ah. You have to guess."
BA remained silent on his end of the phone. Patience was a virtue lost to BA, but he tried where Murdock was concerned. Finally, the silence was too much for Murdock, "He went camping."
"Camping?" BA was incredulous.
"Wait, it gets better. He went camping…with Face."
"Hannibal got Face to go
camping? Are you trying to pull my leg?"
"No lie big guy. Camping. Tents and backpacks and cooking over an open fire, all of it."
"Where?" BA asked this time softly.
"Michigan, the Ottawa wilderness or something."
"Ain't that where Hannibal grew up, near there or something."
"Yep-in-dee-dee-do. Too weird, isn't it? I mean all the times we've slept on the ground, or roughed it in the wild, and here Hannibal wants to do it for fun." At this point Murdock had stopped leaning against the wall and was walking back and forth across his bed the phone cord stretched to the limit.
"How's he gonna keep in touch?"
"Hannibal said for you to check in with me, and that they should be back at a phone by Wednesday."
"That ain't for 4 more days. What if something happens?"
"Guess they'll either call sooner, or if not, we'll have to figure out what to do then." Murdock replied while flopping belly first onto the mattress.
"I don't like it." BA grumbled.
"I know big guy, but the
Colonel didn't seem to worried, and I think it might do them both some good
"I ain't never seen Face go to nature to relax." BA pointed out.
"Oh sure you have, he goes to the beach all the time. Just walks on the shoreline, looks at the sunsets. And even then, he's not all ways relaxed. He's always looking over his shoulder to see what's coming. Maybe this will be good for both of them."
BA pondered this for a moment. "Maybe you're right. But I still don't like it."
"Objection noted, you seen you Mama yet?" Murdock asked changing the subject.
"No, gonna call her next."
"Well you have fun at the wedding, and bring me home a piece of cake, okay?"
"No, you crazy fool, I am not gonna bring home a week old piece of cake for you. I'll call you tomorrow."
"Okay, BA, bye."
BA didn't sign off; he just hung up the phone. Murdock was now lying on the linoleum floor with his feet up on the mattress. "Really," he said in a haughty British accent, "The manners of some people." And then rolled over and pulled himself under the bed.
BA met up with his mother, and they went to the wedding together. All things considered BA was having a very nice day. He was as relaxed as he could get under the circumstances. He did still need to be on guard that someone might call the MP's and report him for the reward, but aside from his ‘cousin' and a few friends and his Mama, most of the people were strangers to him. He ate well, and enjoyed the visit with his family.
Hannibal had stopped and was looking back down the trail. Face was sight seeing, his eyes going randomly from the wild flowers just beginning to bloom, to the birds in the treetops, to the light clouds in the sky. All in all he looked less like a man, and more like a boy on a field trip.
"Come on, kid. This you gotta see."
Face crested the bluff that Hannibal was standing on and admired the view. Just below his feet, almost 30 feet down was the bluest lake he had ever seen. It was surrounded on three sides by high granite walls and on the forth side by a beautiful meadow, leading to a wide sandy beach. Slowly he released the breath he didn't know he was holding.
"Nice." Hannibal said with a grin and a wiggle of his eyebrows.
"Just a bit of an understatement, don't you think, Hannibal?"
Hannibal grinned. "Ain't she pretty."
"Very." Face replied with awe in his voice.
"This is where we came every year."
"I'm amazed it's not developed. Condo's or something else horrible." Face commented.
"Can't, it's national park land."
"It was always kinda tough to get back here. The granite made it hard to build on, not enough trees to make it profitable to log, the usual. It didn't get ruined because there wasn't enough money in it." Hannibal took another look around.
He had his back to the lake, watching Face's reaction to his favorite spot.
That's when it happened. Like a bad movie, or a cheap soap opera, disaster struck. To Face it all happened in slow motion. Hannibal took a step back, and the rock face began to crumble and fall away. Hannibal, overbalanced by the backpack began to go over the ledge. Face lunged forward. Before he even had enough time to yell out in caution, Hannibal was disappearing over the side. In a heartbeat their hands met. Face was laying on his stomach in the dirt; Hannibal was hanging in mid-air swinging from the grip that his friend had on his left hand.
"Hang on." Face grunted out.
"Planned to." Hannibal replied breathlessly, but they both felt the grip slipping. Face extended his other arm over the edge, and Hannibal swung up his right hand, this time to grip Face's forearm. With better purchase, they shifted their other grip. Now Face had a firm grip on both of Hannibal's forearms and dug in with his knees to pull the older man up to safety. He squeezed his eyes shut and lifted with every ounce of strength in his arms. Hannibal searched for a ledge or outcropping to put his feet on, to aid his own rescue and at that moment the rest of the ledge let go. In a deafening roar of dirt and rock and debris the two men fell and bounced their way down to the edge of the lake.
A cloud of dirt rose around
the two still bodies lying on a small strip of sand, rock and brush settling
around them. And as there was no sound or movement, soon the birds resumed
HM Murdock was a tall, lanky man. He was soft spoken, had warm gentle eyes, and an off beat way of looking at the world. He soft Texas drawl was easily replaced with a British upper-crust accent or the strident tones of a late night TV personality selling the latest wonder soap. At the end of the Viet Nam war he had flown Colonel Smith, Lt. Templeton Peck, and Sgt. BA Baracus into Hanoi, and left them to complete one of hundreds of covert operations. He never forgave himself for not going back for them. But Saigon was already falling, at the other end of the country. Orders were given by HQ to bug out. Every available pilot, and a few that really had no business being in the air, were used to extract military and friendly population. Hour after hour, day after day Murdock flew his helicopter back and forth on his rescue missions. Sometimes the only sleep he got was as his helicopter was being refueled. Many times his chopper was dangerously overloaded, but each time he had to leave people behind it cut into his heart. And plenty off people were left behind. Eventually he was not allowed to go back. They were on their way out. Back to Japan, and finally the States. It wasn't until he got back to Japan that he had learned of the arrest of his three friends.
He knew they were innocent, well, at least, not guilty. They had attempted the robbery, but it was under orders. But their base had been overrun and no evidence of the mission survived.
Col. John "Hannibal" Smith had never been a well-loved officer. Not well loved by his superiors, anyway. His men would have followed him into hell, if he only asked. Col. Smith had a habit of telling people what he thought of them. Blunt and direct his whole career had not won him many friends. And those that liked his honesty were not always thrilled by his unorthodox and aggressive military style. The only thing that had kept Col. Smith from being court martialed dozens of times before was that he was successful. Hundreds of missions completed, against seemingly insurmountable odds. Where others would say ‘can't be done' Col. Smith would say ‘Sure thing, and when we get back, drinks are on you.'
Doing what couldn't be done, quicker, quieter, with less loss of life then any other commander in the field was what had earned him the name ‘Hannibal'. Like the mighty Hannibal of old taking elephants over the Alps, Hannibal Smith could do the impossible.
Murdock had been playing the video arcade game that Face had gotten installed in his room when he realized that he had been reminiscing to himself about the Col.
Over and over in his minds eye he kept seeing the Col. as he lit a cigar or grinned his broad grin. And with each memory Murdock had gotten colder and colder. Only one other time had he had this same feeling of doom. That was the day the guilty verdict had been read at the trial of his three friends.
Murdock and a few others had come every day to the trial, had offered what meager support they could, and watched with dread as Col. Smith was tried, more for being who he was then for what he may or may not have done. The day the verdict was read, Murdock felt a part of him die.
"No less then 30 years no more then 100." The judge proclaimed in his monotone voice. He would have had more enthusiasm if he were ordering lunch.
Life in prison for following orders. Murdock slumped back against the wooden bench and realized that he would never see his friends again. That was the end of Murdock's grip on reality. It had been touch and go for awhile, but now he was gone. The real world was a terrible place, so now he would just live in his own world of make believe. A world where people were nice to each other, where patriots were not called baby killers, where your best friends didn't go to prison for 30 years. Murdock was committed to the Veteran's Hospital before he had heard of his friends' escape from Fort Bragg. He did get better there, the Doctor's helped him with his ‘post traumatic stress syndrome' from the war and was safe from Col. Lynch. Lynch was the over-zealous officer put in charge of finding the A-Team. Many times he came to the VA to question Murdock, but instead of interviewing one of the US Army's finest pilot's he would instead be questioning a French chef or some other manifestation from Murdock's fertile mind.
Now, as he sat on the side
of his bed, the arcade game forgotten, he didn't feel very safe. He had
an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. In his usual detached way he
tried to put his fears into perspective. What could be causing these feelings,
and why now all of a sudden? He twisted his baseball hat in his hands,
over and over. Why? He asked himself this question again and again, but the
feeling persisted. Something was wrong. His mind could no longer
restrain his body and he moved frantically around the room. His eyes and
hands lingered on the items there. Posters on the wall, model planes and
helicopters that Face had somehow gotten BA to put together, his leather jacket
hung on the back of the door, the phone…
The knot in his stomach tightened. Hannibal, something was wrong with Hannibal. He knew it; as sure as he knew his own name he knew something was wrong with Hannibal. Now what was he going to do about it?
BA was just sitting down to lunch with his Mama and a few friends from the old neighborhood when he thought he heard someone call his name. He looked across the restaurant expecting to see Col. Decker or Capt. Crane, but there was no sign of kacki uniforms anywhere. He shook his head and glanced at the menu, with half an ear he listened to the conversations at the table, but abruptly he stood up.
"Mama, I need to make a phone call."
The older woman just patted his arm as he passed by on the way to the back of the restaurant. He dropped a handful of quarters into the payphone like he was playing the slots in Vegas and waited as the phone rang. On the first ring Murdock picked it up, "Colonel?"
"Hey, Murdock, it's me."
"Yeah, what's up?"
Murdock heaved a huge sigh. "I haven't heard anything."
"Why you thinking I'd be the Col.?"
"I don't know, no reason I guess." Murdock replied softly.
"Yeah, same ‘no reason' I got, somethin' ain't right." BA growled into the phone.
"You feel it too? I'm not crazy."
"Yes you are, fool, that's why you in that place." BA tried to be his usual ornery self, but it seemed to come off flat.
"What should we do?" Murdock asked.
"Nothin' we can do," BA replied, "not till we hear something."
"Maybe I should fly out there?"
"You the only one any of us can contact, you have to stay there."
"Your right. I just
feel like I should be doing something."
"You are, you're holding down the fort. But I'm not. I'm gonna head out to Michigan tomorrow, unless you call me sooner. You still the number?"
"Yeah. But you'll call a lot, right? Like every time you stop for gas?"
"What if this is nothing, what if you're driving all that way for no reason?"
"I guess it'll just be enjoying the scenery, but I'd just feel better knowin' I'm on my way."
"Me, too, big guy. I'll fell better, too." Murdock couldn't keep the concern out of his voice.
"Look, fool, just don't worry yourself over what ifs, okay. They're probably fine."
"You're probably right."
"Okay, I'll call you again tonight when I get back to my hotel. You hang tough."
Murdock smiled at the phone. BA was trying to comfort him. It was a very nice gesture.
"Okay. Bye, BA."
BA paused, normally he would just hang up, but this time he felt awkward.
"Bye," He said gruffly,
"fool." Then he hung up.
A cough woke Face. For a moment he couldn't figure out why he would be sleeping on the sand like this. He coughed again, and blinked bleary eyes. With a sigh he attempted to turn over, but he was pinned under the weight of his backpack. As he shrugged out of it he could feel every bruise, cut and scrape he had picked up on his journey down the mountain. He pushed those feelings away as he gained his bearings. He looked up the mountain and let the reality of the dissent sink in. Then with a rush of adrenaline he looked around.
"Hannibal?" he breathed.
There only a few feet away lay Hannibal Smith. Face ran over and began to check for injuries as best he could, and then he removed the Col.'s backpack. He moved him a little as he could as he was unsure or any neck or back injuries. Face's hands slowly made there way down the length of Hannibal's body cataloging the injuries he found along the way.
Head wound, bleeding profuse,
Minor cuts on hands, and left arm.
Right ankle, broken.
That was all he could see for now. Until the Col. woke there was no way to tell if there was internal bleeding, or any muscle trauma. But, his breathing and pulse were good. This didn't seem to be nearly as bad as it could have been.
Cradling Hannibal's neck in one hand, Face turned the Col. onto his back and set about finding the first aid kit in the bottom of his backpack. He wanted to set the ankle before Hannibal woke up.
The ankle set and splinted Face set about cleaning and dressing the wounds. Here along the rock face it was colder then it had been up above. Face wanted to move out to the meadow where it was warmer, but he was cautious about moving Hannibal until he awoke and internal injuries or damage to his back could be assessed. He had put his watch back on while taking the Col. pulse, and realized with a grin of irony that his wrist was bruised and cut right where his watch was usually worn, if he hadn't had it in his pocket it would probably be smashed. He set up the tent on the sand, laid out their sleeping bags inside, but still the Col. didn't move.
It had been at least 3 hours since the fall. Face whispered a silent prayer, "Please, Hannibal, wake up."
He got both his and the Col.'s jacket from their backpacks and laid them over Hannibal, got water boiling to make freeze dried soup and leaned back against the rock wall. This was dreadful. Should he go for help, should he stay? Why here, why now? It always seemed that the Col. was untouchable. Firefights, fistfights, bombs and grenades, the Col. never got hurt. Face, Murdock, even BA once in awhile, but mostly Hannibal made it through unscathed. But now this. Was God playing some awful trick? Face paused for a moment, and then silently he began to pray. God was the only one that could help now.
From all outward appearances Templeton Peck was a shallow beach boy. Blonde and tan, well dressed and fit, he looked like he had stepped of the pages of GQ. But his young life had taught him a lot. He couldn't blame what he was on his parents. Nuns and priests had provided and education and mild but disinterested guidance at the orphanage. His life, make or break was entirely his own doing. Good or bad, he had no one to blame but himself. He longed for better things, for a home and a wife and kids, but he knew he wasn't really ready to work for those things, yet. He learned to look out for himself. Take care of number one had been his rule his whole life. He also learned young that friends come and go, but God was the only friend that didn't leave him. And God couldn't be scammed. So now, Face prayed. Not the prayers of a man unused to praying, Templeton Peck prayed like one talking to an old and trusted friend.
"Please God, could you help him? Can you help me, help him. I don't know what else to do." Then he sat in quiet contemplation. "Please God," was all he could think.
In moments Hannibal stirred, then moaned. One eye then the other blinked open. Face was leaning over him in an instant. Another soft groan escaped behind closed lips. Face cast an eye heavenward and whispered a soft "Thank you." The turned his attention to his patient. "Hannibal, can you here me?"
"How many fingers do you see?" Face brought 2 fingers up into Hannibal's line of sight.
Hannibal licked his lips and squinted just a bit, "Two."
"Good. You took a good knock to the head and you've been unconscious for about 3 hours."
"Concussion?" Hannibal whispered back licking his lips again.
Face got a coffee cup filled with soup and brought it over. "Before you drink this we need to check for internal injuries. Can you move your fingers and toes? Do you hurt anywhere?"
Hannibal did an internal inspection. He wiggled his finger and toes, and gasped as he wiggled his broken ankle, he shifted his weight against the sand, and he moved his head from side to side. "I've got a killer headache. Did I break my leg? Other then that I think I'm okay."
Face breathed a sigh of relief and eased Hannibal's shoulder's up slightly, and helped him sip the now cooling soup. They sat in silence for a few minutes, "What happened?"
"You fell off a cliff?"
"?" The look spoke volumes.
"Seriously, from up there. Couldn't you have found a better way down?" Face tried to lighten the mood.
"My way was quicker." Hannibal responded in kind. "Help me sit up."
"Are you sure?" Face asked even as he helped him upright.
Hannibal held the warm cup in his hands as the jackets covering him fell into a lump on his legs. Blinking a little he looked up the rock wall to see from where he had fallen. "I don't remember."
"Like I said, you've got a bump on the head. It's normal to forget what happened."
"Why are we here in the shade. Why not go where it's warm?" Hannibal inquired.
"I didn't want to move you until I knew if there were any back injuries. I could have made it worse."
"I'm okay. Let's get out of the cold." He waived for Face to help him stand and swayed slightly, balancing awkwardly on his one good foot. Face pulled the older man's arm across his shoulder and they made there was slowly to the meadow. After setting Hannibal down with his back against a tree stump, Face jogged back to the campsite and unpegged the tent and carried it still set up to the new campsite. He re-pegged it and straightened out the sleeping bags then he went back and collected the soup and doused the fire. By the time he returned Hannibal had fallen asleep again. Face tried to rouse him, but it did no good.
Face had rebuilt the fire and had bodily picked Hannibal up and had placed him on the sleeping bag. He had tied back the doors to the tent and sat with his back to the fire and watched the older man sleep. When had this man slipped past his defenses and gotten under his skin?
Face had admired the wild, flamboyant military man months before they had actually met. Col. Smith was the leader of a platoon of men; hand picked and well trained. They mostly went on 3 or 5 men counter insurgence maneuvers. A polite way of saying ‘search and destroy'. His men were rowdy and loud, and the best around. Ten teams reported to Col. Smith and most of them would do anything for their leader. Eventually the team with BA, Face with the Colonel leading became what was known as the "A-Team". The first ones in. The missions were dangerous, the stories getting more and more outlandish with each telling. But the undercurrent to all of these, was Col. Smith looked out for his men. He was loyal to them, and they were loyal to him.
Face remembered the first time he had met the Col., he found himself telling the story out loud, just to hear another voice.
"I'm sure you don't remember me," He started, "you had come into a bar in DaNang, and there was this little man yelling at a little boy. Do you remember?" Face didn't wait for the sleeping man to reply. "You yelled out ‘any body here speak French?' and I stood up. ‘What's he saying?' and I told you that the man was telling the kid that he wasn't worth the money he'd paid for him and he was going to take him home and beat him. I watched your face go so very still and you grabbed my arm and drug me over to the little man, ‘Ask him how much he paid for the boy.' About one dollar American I told you. ‘Tell him I'll pay 2 dollars American if I can have the boy right now.' Col. you can't buy a kid, that's slavery. I was shocked you'd even suggest it. The look you gave me made my stomach drop. Me and that little man haggled back and forth. I never told you, but I got him down to one dollar and I gave the other dollar to the kid. Pretty good huh? So the man grabs the kid by the arm and shoves him at you and you gave me the money then you went over to the bar and ordered food for the kid. I still remember how you told me to find out where his family was and take him back. When I told the kid I was taking him home he was so confused. He thought I meant your home, it took forever to convince him I meant his home.
His village had been bombed, but I finally found his family and returned him. His mother cried and cried and the kid said that you were the most wonderful man in the world. You had bought his freedom, paid him money, and given him a ride home in a jeep. I also gave the family some rice and vegetables. And I told them if the boy ever got sold again, you'd bring the whole 5th division after them, but the mother assured me that she hadn't sold her son, that he had been stolen. I was so amazed that you do that for some little kid you'd never even seen before. I was the one that put those cigars in your jeep before you left. Did you know that?"
Face shook his head. "You were like an avenging angel." Face poked the fire.
"I remember that day I got transferred to your unit. Don't think I didn't know why I was there. My CO was hoping I'd get killed on one of those crazy missions of yours. I was an embarrassment to Army as far as he was concerned. He was glad to be rid of me. Tell the truth I was glad to be rid of him, too. Although it did mean I had to sell all my business interests, it was still worth it to be done with him. He gave incompetence a bad name. I wonder how long it took after I left for him to realize how much I did for him? I heard he asked to have me back and you said no. Anyway, I remember that first day. BA was coming out of your office, I didn't know who he was then, but I remember he growled at me. Actually growled, so I stepped back to let him pass."
Just then Hannibal grunted and shifted his weight.
Face got into the tent as quickly as he could, bringing the soup with him again.
"How you feeling?"
Hannibal grimaced and blinked his eyes. "My head still hurts, but I feel better."
Face shook two aspirin out of a bottle from the first aid kit. "Here, take these."
Hannibal sat up slowly frowning over his damaged ankle and leaned on one arm. He popped the aspirin in his mouth and took the cup of soup from Face.
"Thanks." He said after he swallowed. "What time is it?"
"About 10:30. You should try to stay awake if you can."
Hannibal shifted blearily in his sleeping bag, and sipped more of the soup. "Report, Lt." he said in the best command voice he had at the moment.
Face had to give a half smile before he started his report. "We were up on the top of that ledge looking down at this lake when the embankment gave way. You took a dive over the edge and when I tried to grab you, I came along for the ride. You hit your head and were unconscious for about 3 hours. Broken right ankle and minor cuts and bruises are your only other injuries. I set up camp and have just been lingering around here ever since."
"You're okay?" Hannibal asked as he assessed the situation.
"Yeah. Bumps and bruises but nothing serious. I should have gone for help before I lost the light, but I didn't want to leave you alone until I knew if you had hurt your back."
"No, you did good. We'll head out in the morning."
"You can't travel on that leg, Col. Tomorrow, I'll double time it back down the trail, hopefully I can get help and be right back."
"Face." Such a simple word but said with a huge sigh. Hannibal shook his head. "You're really going to leave me behind?"
The implication was not
one that Face liked, the team NEVER left behind one of the their own if it could
possibly be helped. "Col. you need medical help. I can make it down the
trail and bring it back quick."
"You'd leave me out here alone, unable to get around?"
Face shook his head. "You can't walk." Face wanted to shake Hannibal, couldn't he see what Face wanted to do. Face just wanted to get help as soon as he could.
"Look kid, it'll take you a day out and a day back. If we go together, we'll be out in a day and it'll be over."
"How are you gonna get out of here? Hop?" Face asked exasperated.
"No, think Face. How are you gonna get me out of here?" Hannibal asked with patience. He knew Face was rattled. The best way to get his junior officer back on track was to have a plan.
Face looked up at the stars outside the tent. He didn't know if he was looking for an answer, praying for patience, or just asking God to help him.
In the silence that settled between them Hannibal searched he pockets for a cigar and finally found one. Then he began searching for a match. Face noticed and fished one from his shirt pocket and handed it over. "I stole them to light the fire."
"So, what did you come up with?" Hannibal asked as he puffed.
"Make a travois out of the sleeping bag and then drag you out of here?" It was half question half statement. Along the lines of ‘I don't believe I'm even suggesting this.'
"We'll never get our deposit back is I ram tree limbs down the length of the bag and put holes in it." Face said with a smirk.
"Nah, but what a great story it'll make to tell Murdock and BA."
"I wish there were here now."
"Honestly, Face, can you imagine BA camping?" Hannibal laughed.
"Not on purpose, but then I can't imagine me camping, either. But here I am."
"And aren't we having a great time?"
Face had to smile while he shook his head. "So did this ever happen when you went camping with your Dad?"
"Nah, worse thing ever happened was one time my brother and I had cleaned fish too close to the camp. We'd left all the guts and everything on the ground, we'd done no clean up at all. Our Dad had told us a million times not to clean the fish near the camp, and to clean up, but we weren't listening. Around about midnight we start hearing these funny noises. I wake up, James wakes up, my Dad wakes up. We're all lying in the tent listening as the camp out side is slowly being decimated. Piece by piece. Finally, my Dad gets up. He starts yelling and shouting and waiving his coat over his head. I thought he was crazy, but he starts chasing a bear out of the camp. He throws logs on the fire and gets in nice and bright and makes us boys come out of the tent and break camp, right then. I didn't realize till the next morning just how angry he was at us. He made us clean up the whole camp as soon as it was light. We packed up everything and headed out 3 days early. He was that kind of angry where he doesn't even talk to you. Just snapped out what needed to be done and James and me, we did it. No questions asked. That afternoon he told us he was disappointed in us because he hadn't done what we knew we should do. But most of all that we taught the bear that it could get a free meal where humans were. That was bad for the bear and bad for humans. Next person going camping finds a bear in his camp would probably just kill the bear. And it was our fault." Hannibal stared out the door of the tent. "Dad wouldn't let us camp at this lake for 2 years and every time we cleaned fish, he'd stand over us like we were little kids. It was awful, but we learned our lesson. Neither of us ever did anything like that again."
Face was silent as he listened to the story. Here was a father that taught his sons not only what was expected, but why. The ‘why' was something that often eluded Face. Just a bunch of rules were often shoved at him, and he would rebel. Maybe if someone would have taken the time to explain the ‘why' things would have been easier. "I like your Dad." He said softly.
Hannibal gave a chuckle. "Me, too."
BA paced back and forth in his hotel room. This was a stupid situation. Here he was worrying about something that might never have even happened. Hannibal and Face were probably sitting around the fire, shooting the breeze and eating marshmallows and he was here digging a grove in the carpet for no reason at all.
When the phone rang he nearly jumped out of his skin.
"What?" He snapped.
"BA, no news." Murdock sounded unhappy and just as worried.
"And you know why there ain't no news? ‘Cuz there ain't no reason. They're fine. We are just bein' a couple of old hens. Hannibal's gonna laugh at us, and Face ain't never gonna let us live it down."
Murdock actually gave a little laugh. "Face will be happy we were worried."
"No he wont. He gonna be mad we don't trust him. He gonna whine and complain that we don't think he can handle things. He gonna say we treatin' him like a little kid. You know I'm right." BA sat heavily on the side of the bed. Thinking about Face being mad at him was almost as bad as thinking of Face in trouble.
"I'm still worried BA." Murdock's voice sounded small. "I want to come out there. I could fly out tonight and we could drive to Michigan together.
BA softened his tone toward Murdock. He knew that Murdock was worried. "No, fool. If there is a problem they're gonna call for help. And you're the only one they can call. And you're the only one I can call. You have to stay there and wait by the phone. I know it's hard, but you have to hang tough and stay there."
"I know, but I don't like it."
There was a long pause between them. Neither felt like breaking the connection. "BA, you still there?"
"Yeah, fool. I'm still here."
"What time you leaving in the morning?"
"Early, as soon as I get up. Maybe 5 or 6"
"Will you call me in the morning, when you wake up?"
"Yeah." BA said in a soft voice.
Murdock cheered up considerably. "Will you tell me a bed time story?" he asked with little kid exuberance.
"No, fool. What do you take me for? I ain't your baby sitter. Go to bed, go to sleep and quit pestering me." BA slammed down the phone, but before the receiver hit the cradle he could hear Murdock laughing.
Face tossed another log on the fire and pulled his jacket closer around himself. "You know BA's gonna blame me for this."
Hannibal shifted his body under the sleeping bag. He was too uncomfortable to sit up, but he didn't want to fall asleep. He knew his concussion wasn't bad, but he didn't want to aggravate anything, least of all Face.
"No he won't."
"Yes he will. He'll say that some how this was my fault. Or that I should have been able to prevent it. You know he will."
Hannibal sighed. His team was close. They were like family. But as with all families there were personalities to take into consideration.
BA was the oldest son in this little family unit, he had been with Hannibal the longest. BA had joined the army just out of high school. There were not a lot of choices for young black men in Chicago, even in the late 60's. So he joined up to learn a trade and make a good living. He sent a large portion of his pay home to his Mama and began his career in the military as an auto mechanic. And he was good. There was no doubt about it, give BA Baracus a pair of pliers and enough time and he could fix anything. Then he began to take things apart. Soon he knew why things worked and began to modify things. Mechanics became not only a job, but also a passion. His one problem, he didn't like to be told what to do. A bad trait for an army man. Soon he thought he should have his stripes put on with buttons for all the times he had to remove them. Up and down the ladder he went, Corporal to Sargent to Master Sargent and back down to Corporal again. Until he met up with Col. John Smith.
This was a man who recognized what made people tick. He argued with the military tribunal that spending 5 years in jail for punching an officer, one that deserved it all told, was really not a fitting punishment. If they truly wanted to punish the young man, fine. Give him over to the Col. Col. Smith would take him out of the motor pool and put him to work in the jungle. Fighting the enemy was much better then fighting arrogant, bigoted, overblown Majors. BA agreed. And so he began his tour with Col. Smith. The high spirited officer had been in Viet Nam since '63 and was still alive, so he must be doing something right. He took the young man under his wing and taught him the difference between constructive criticism and insubordination. He also let him fix more then jeeps and trucks. Soon BA was working on helicopters and planes, tanks and washing machines. If it had a motor and it passed through their encampment, sooner or latter BA had it taken apart refitted and back together better then ever. Such success had to be tempered, however. BA had begun weight lifting in ‘Nam, just like many other young men here. But he got big. His large size, his gruff manner, and the fact that where machines were concerned he a genius made him an intimidating figure to deal with. But Smith was good at keeping the hot head under control. And BA looked up to the Col. They became friends as well as comrades.
BA was an imposing figure, not just in his physical appearance. Since their escape into the real world, BA had taken to wearing his hair in a mandika style. Sort of a modified Mohawk with two shaved patches down each side, and a beard and mustache, not to mention the 25 pounds of gold chain he wore around his neck. That was in fact, Face's fault. BA had been telling the guys one night that he didn't trust banks. Not here, not back in the states. He didn't even like paper money much. The next time Face went into DaNang to get supplies he hit BA up for 30 dollars. BA grumbled and moaned, but couldn't very well say he didn't have it, because everyone knew he did. When Face returned with auto parts and helicopter rudders he took BA off to the side, and showed BA a heavy gold chain with a large gold cross on it.
"Here." Face shoved the item into BA's hand.
"It's the first deposit in the Bank of BA." Face said with a grin. "You take your pay, and you buy gold. You can wear it around your neck, it won't rot in the jungle, and it always goes up in value."
BA stared down at the chain in his hands. "This what you took my $30.00 for?"
"If you don't want it,
I'll buy it back from you on payday." If Face was disappointed that BA wasn't
happy with the item you couldn't have known from his voice. He had realized
that BA might not have wanted it that's why he had bought the cross. Men
weren't big on wearing jewelry, and Face knew a place where he could sell it
if he needed to. But BA wasn't unhappy, he was speechless.
The item was beautiful, and he felt worth a lot more then $30.00. But he was also amazed that the Lt. had been listening to him, paying attention to what BA had said, and figured out a way to help him.
He ran his fingers over the links in the chain and then fingered the cross. "Thanks." He said softly.
"You want it?" Face asked with amazement.
In reply BA merely slipped the chain around his neck and saw where it fell against his chest. "Yeah."
Face smiled one of his smiles, the one that not only showed all his perfect teeth, but that lit his eyes. Face's smiles were rare in those days. "Good" was all he said and turned away.
The issue of rank was a strange one within the little unit. Face was second in command, but the Col. was always in control and it seemed that after him, everyone else was just part of the team. And Face wasn't one to flaunt his rank. Often he felt that he didn't much deserve it. The fact he was an officer was just because he had done two years in college, that didn't mean he was better able to lead men who had been here 3 or 4 years before him.
The name "Face" had actually
started as an insult. Hannibal had two Lt.'s that arrived within days of each
other, Face and Mike Hudson. One afternoon, just after they arrived, Hannibal
sent BA in search of Face. He called out in the mess hall.
"Hey. Where's the Lt. The one with the face." And the name had stuck. It wasn't until a month later when the term stopped being derogatory. Face, BA and three other men had gone out on a recon mission. After taking heavy fire, they pulled back. BA out front had gone ahead, the other three following. Face was in the rear providing cover. He'd taken a shot in the arm, but didn't go down, but was separated from the rest of the unit. BA had not forgiven himself. He hadn't even noticed that they had lost the Lt. until they were almost back to base.
Two days later Face emerged from the jungle. Bleary, exhausted, bleeding and dehydrated he stumbled into a forward unit that got him to a MASH. As he lay on a cot, recovering, Hannibal and BA arrived, and the deep baritone of BA's voice carried down the aisle.
"Where is he? Where's that Face?" This time it was said with concern. Face smiled to himself. He liked the name after that. It was no longer an insult. But he never let himself believe that the big, fierce Sargent ever liked him. Tolerated him, yes, liked him, no. Even now, after all this time together, more then 10 years, he knew that BA still didn't like him. Hannibal had tried to tell him it wasn't true, but Face didn't believe him.
Face was the youngest son. He was the one Hannibal worried about the most. It was a little like Face was the baby of the family. The one all the others watched out for, doted on a little too much. Maybe even spoiled a little. But he seemed to need them more. Even though he would never show it.
Face never felt he was good enough to be on the team. He wasn't good at school, like Murdock was. Murdock was brilliant. He seemed to retain knowledge with ease on any variety of subjects. He wasn't gifted with his hands like BA, except with a lock pick, and that wasn't a skill you were supposed to be proud of.
He wasn't good at strategy like the Col. He had one gift. He could talk he way into or out of almost any situation. But BA once blurted out that scamming was just like stealing, and Face had qualms about it ever since. Face hated to admit how much BA's approval meant to him. Hannibal had taken the young man aside and began a lecture, which included a finger that jabbed into Face shoulder while making his point.
"You listen, and listen good, kid." Hannibal stared down into Face's eyes. "What you scam, you scam for the good of the unit. No more freelancing, no more profiteering understood? If you're doing it for the good of the unit, it's procurement and not theft. Got it?"
"Yes, sir." Face said with a gulp.
"Don't beat yourself up over this, kid. You got a job to do, you do it the best you can." Hannibal stomped off to have a few words with his Sargent.
But more then he liked to admit the good Catholic boy from the orphanage did have problems with a little guilt now and then, and a bigger problem with feeling insecure.
It was this insecurity that was rearing its ugly head now. In a way Face was right. BA would moan in his direction that Face should have done something. But it would only be BA's way of expressing his frustration at not having been there to prevent the injury himself.
"You know BA won't really blame you."
"Yes he will." Face contradicted, then heaved a sigh. "But that's not important now. What's important is you. How do you feel? Are you hungry?"
Hannibal's stomach did a flip thinking of food. "No. I mean, I feel pretty good, but I don't want to eat." He shifted again on the sleeping bag. "I'm starting to get tired, though."
"Do you think it's the head wound or just the lateness?"
Hannibal smiled into the dark. Face was letting Hannibal decide on his own how badly hurt he was. "I think I'm just tired. My eyes are focused, the headache's almost gone, I'm thinking clearly. If I'm concussed it's mild, and adding exhaustion to my list of complaints probably isn't the best thing I could do."
"You want to…" his words drifted off as he waived out to great outdoors "relieve yourself before bed?" Face finally finished.
"You bet." Hannibal replied
with more enthusiasm then he felt. He half crawled out of the tent keeping
his ankle elevated and making sure not to bang it against the tent poles before
Face helped him to his feet, eh, foot. They went only a short way before
Face turned away slightly providing as much privacy as he could while still
being a support. When Hannibal was finished they made their way slowly
back to the tent.
As Hannibal dropped down onto his sleeping bag he realized he was more tired then he thought. The initial boost of adrenaline from the short walk had been replaced with bone wearing exhaustion. "I'm going to sleep." He said simply.
"I'll be in soon. I just
need a few minutes." Face replied. He tossed another log on the
fire and made the motions of clearing the area around the fire of any stray
branches and twigs, as though preparing for the night. In just a few minutes
he heard Hannibal's soft snores. It would be hours before Face would come
into the tent. When he did he had made a plan. Well, actually, two
plans. The first was to finalize in his mind what needed to be done to
get Hannibal out of here. The second would take longer, but seemed more
important. He needed to be very careful with this plan. This plan would
take care and all his skills as a con man. He realized that through the
years he had never been good at conning the team, and that was just what he
would have to do. He wasn't going to let himself be found in this position
again. He wasn't going to care for people that were going to get hurt
or leave. Not ever again. This was the last time. With grim determination
he started to put his plan together in his mind.
BA woke early the next morning before daylight and headed out on the road. He hadn't called Murdock because he knew that the switchboard at the VA would not have put the call threw at that hour, so he waited until he stopped for gas the first time. It was only 7:30 when he put in his call.
"Just wanted to tell you I was on the road."
"How long do you think it'll take you to get there?"
"Well, since I don't know exactly where I'm going it's hard to decide, but its gonna take me 8 hours or so to get to Chicago from here. Then I just gotta figure out which part of Michigan I'm going to."
"It's on the Lake Michigan side, above Grand Rapids, I think."
"Man, I wish they'd left better information." BA grumbled. "Course I still think I'm gonna look like a fool if I get there and ain't nothing wrong."
Murdock grinned. "Now, now old bean," he started with a thick British accent, "Tough times require tough men."
"Shut up fool." BA snarled into the phone, causing the man at the gas station to glance his way. "I don't want none of you stupid fool talk while were doing this. If Hannibal and Face are fine and they start in on me, I'm gonna tell ‘em you made me do this."
"I made you? I? Me? As if I, a crazy person, could make you, you a large angry mudsucker, do anything. From here? How did I accomplish this feat?"
"By chattering in my ear and making me crazy, too. Now shut up." With that BA slammed down the phone and went to pay the concerned man at the gas pump, got back in his rental car and headed for Michigan at only slightly faster then the posted speed limit.
After just a few hours sleep Face woke before dawn. He made sure the fire was up and got coffee started. He went out to relieve himself and just as he came back he heard Hannibal starting to move around and a low grown escape.
"Colonel?" Face used his rank instead of his name, as he knew it was a quick way to get Hannibal's back up.
"Help me out of here." Hannibal grunted, he struggled to get out threw the tent opening without knocking his ankle against anything. Face came over quickly and offered a hand. Hannibal half-crawled and half dragged himself out of the tent then sat on the ground panting for a moment. "I need…" His words trailed off. He hated asking for help, but that was what the team did for each other, so he swallowed his pride and indicated his head toward the bushes.
Face helped him to his feet and helped him out to the tree line. He again half turned away offering as much privacy as he could. Neither man said anything else until they returned to the campfire. The sun was just coming up and it was light enough to see. "I need to scout around, you start breakfast." Face stated it so bluntly that Hannibal was taken aback. It wasn't like his Lt. to give him orders, but since Face had already turned away and walked off there wasn't anything to do but comply.
Hannibal dug into the pack closest to him and pulled out the prepackaged eggs and the frying pan and started breakfast. Face returned just as he was finishing with two almost straight tree limbs. Face pulled Hannibal's sleeping bag from the tent and laid the poles over the bag measuring them for length. "They'll do." He stated and got a cup of coffee.
"So, you didn't find a stretcher out there?" Hannibal joked.
"No," Face snapped back "I didn't find an ambulance either."
"Look, kid…" Hannibal started, but Face just stood up and turned his back. "I have work to do."
Face worked on building the travois just out of speaking range. Hannibal didn't want to shout and he didn't feel up to hopping after his second in command. So he repacked the backpack and waited in annoyed silence.
Finally Face had partially dismantled one backpack, using the back strap as a chest strap for the travois. He rammed the poles down the length of the bag and tied the ends together. He placed one backpack at the top of the travois for Hannibal to lean against and the other at the bottom for him to rest his foot on. When everything was tied on, he came back to the fire. It was almost out. "Your carriage awaits." He motioned to the travois.
"You should eat first." Hannibal gestured to the other half of the eggs now cooling in the pan. Face closed his eyes, the one thing he hated was cold eggs, but he needed to keep his strength up for the day ahead. He wolfed down the eggs and drank the last of the coffee. He rose quickly and shoved the pan, coffeepot, and coffee cups into the top pack. Hannibal watched him in silence. Something was wrong, and he couldn't put his finger on it. He knew he'd have all day to think about it, so he let it slide for now. Face helped him over to the travois and got him settled on it. He quickly shucked his jacket and long sleeve shirt and tucked them between Hannibal and the backpack. The air was cold on his arms, but he knew it wouldn't be long before he worked up a sweat. He stepped between the poles and hefted the travois up to chest level. He leaned into the chest strap and tested the placement of everything to insure he didn't get blisters. "Ready?"
Hannibal gave a cheery smile. "Home, James, and don't spare the horses."
Face grunted and pulled into the strap and started his journey away from the lake and back to civilization. It would be a long day.
Hannibal kept up the cheery banter as long as he could. His ankle gave a sharp jab of pain as they hit a rock or pothole in the trail. Face never replied to a word he said and rarely stopped at all. He even drank from his canteen while he continued to pull Hannibal down the trail.
"Face, there's no need to double time it down the trail." Hannibal finally said with exasperation in his voice. He was tired and his ankle hurt and he was mildly humiliated to have to be rescued from this situation. "Face?" Hannibal again awaited a reply. "Lt.!"
"What?" Face finally snapped back.
"What's the rush, take a break?" Hannibal knew that Face had to be tired, after all, he was tired, and he was just laying here.
"I'm not camping out another night. It took us almost a full day hiking to get back there, it's gonna take me longer to get you out."
"We can camp out one more night, Face. My ankle's not that bad."
"You know as well as I
do that it needs treatment fast to insure you don't have permanent damage.
If it's in my power, I'm getting you that treatment today."
There was a stubborn tone to Face voice, even with it's strained, breathless quality. They had hiked up hill most of the way to the lake, so the going was a little easier this way, but they were currently going up hill, and Face was puffing.
Hannibal had to admire the tenacity of the younger man. A determined Face was not something to get in the way of. Hannibal had learned that about the younger man early. If you wanted to get Face to do something, just tell him you were sure he couldn't do it. Toss in a little vanity, about him not being as young as he used to be, and then just stand back. Hannibal grinned to himself. He searched his pocket for a cigar. Damn, he really wanted a smoke.
"Know what I was just thinking of?"
Face gave a grunt. Hannibal thought it sounded more like an ‘I don't care' then a ‘no', but he continued anyway. "Remember that first Christmas you were with the unit?"
"Jeez." Face had just crested the hill and was on the down hill side. "I was captured, if I remember right."
"Yeah." Hannibal laughed.
"Great memory, Colonel, thanks." Face snapped back, puzzled, as he adjusted the strap against his chest and started down hill watching his feet to make sure he didn't twist an ankle.
Hannibal shifted his weight, too, so he wasn't tipped so far back and eased some of the pressure against Face.
"No, I didn't mean that
part. Do you remember when you got back? It was just before New Years."
"You had gotten us all Christmas presents, and BA wouldn't let anybody open them until you got back. Remember? You got BA that gold chain and me that lighter, and you got Murdock his jacket. Remember?"
Face didn't say anything, but he remembered.
"BA made us bring all the presents to the MASH were they were checking you over. You had us pretty scared. You should have seen BA, if you had straightened out the pacing he did, he'd probably could have walked home."
Face thought back to the first thing BA had said to him when he saw him in the hospital. "Stupid fool, go and get captured. What the hell you thinking?"
Face had been taken aback. So much for caring concern from your team mates.
"Don't mind him," Murdock had started, "he doesn't want you to know how worried he was about you."
That day Face had taken it good-naturedly. Now he used the memory to fuel his anger. BA was the only one honest enough to tell him to his face that he didn't like him. Never had, never would. Good. One less person to worry about. BA would come unglued when he heard the Colonel was hurt and Face wasn't and it would make it so much easier to implement ‘the plan.'
"Remember?" Hannibal prompted again.
"I remember I had two broken ribs and dysentery." Face finally retorted.
Hannibal sighed; it was going to be a very long day.
Around one o'clock he finally got Face to put down the travois and stop for lunch. He fished out some beef jerky and they ate and drank in the shade of an oak tree.
"Want to tell me what's going on?" Hannibal asked.
"What?" Face flopped down in the shade and concentrated on relaxing every muscle in his body. They were making good time, but he still had a long afternoon ahead of him.
"You're awfully quiet."
‘Nothing wrong, it doesn't
matter, drop dead' all these thoughts passed through Faces' mind, but he didn't
say them. He was at a loss for words, so he did the next best thing.
The only thing he could think of that would keep Hannibal off his back.
He drifted off to sleep.
Hannibal sat for a moment and waited for an answer. He was glad to stop and get the throbbing in his ankle to lessen. He looked over at Face. He was sprawled in the shade of the tree; his arms and legs outstretched. He face slightly flushed from his exertion. Hannibal waited a moment longer and was about to ask again when he noticed the even breathing. ‘Kid's gone to sleep.' Hannibal was amazed, but chuckled to himself. ‘I'll give him an hour.' He thought.
It was only 20 minutes later that Face stirred. Refreshed from his nap, he stood and stretched his muscles then stepped back into the travois. "Let's get going." He stated simply and began back down the trail.
Face was correct in his time estimate. It did take all day to get down the mountain. He could see the car, still parked at the trailhead at just about 7pm. Hannibal had quit talking and retreated into a painful, aching silence a few hours back. Good, Face thought, the angrier he is at me the better. Face rolled his shoulders and his neck to loosen them up, gripped and ungripped the poles of the travois and willed his wobbly legs into one last push to the car. When he got there he almost dropped his load as he eased it to the ground. His legs were weak with exhaustion, but his arms suddenly felt so light he thought he could fly.
Hannibal let out a grunt as he came to rest flat on the ground. "Wow, Face, you made great time."
"Can you get in the car yourself?" Face asked as he fished the car keys out of his jacket pocket then slipped into his long sleeve shirt. The last thing he needed was to get a chill in the cool evening air.
Hannibal was taken aback, again, at the briskness of Face's tone, but chalked it up to being tired and hungry. "Sure." Hannibal said as he used the side of the car to leverage himself into hopping position next to the car. Face handed over the keys and Hannibal unlocked the car and slid into the passenger seat. He reached around to unlock the rear door so Face could load the backpacks into the back seat. Face then took a moment and cut the ties to the travois and pulled the poles from the sleeping bag and removed the chest strap. Without hesitation he tossed those into the back seat, too. He trailed his hand along the back of the car as he made his way to the drivers' door. As much as he would have like it to be, the ordeal was not yet over. He pulled at the door latch, only to see that Hannibal had yet to unlock it.
With a grin of apology Hannibal leaned across the seat and unlocked the door and held out the keys.
"I'd sure like a smoke.' Hannibal stated softly, he had been looking for a cigar in the glove box, but there was none.
"I'd like a shower. I guess we're both out of luck."
Hannibal frowned as Face started the car. "Come on, kid. You must have one somewhere."
Face backed out of the parking spot and turned the car back down the little winding road to town. "Somewhere in my pack, but I don't know where." He responded sourly.
Hannibal leaned back against the seat, crossing his arms across his chest, trying to decide if he was willing to crawl over the seat back to get a cigar. He decided he wasn't and reduced himself to a sulk in the passenger seat of the car.
As the lights of town came into view, Face finally spoke again. "Do you know where the hospital is?"
"Nope, ‘fraid not."
Face drove on in silence until he saw a gas station. "I'll ask here." He said as he pulled up and got out of the car.
Hannibal decided that now he was willing to crawl over the seat and struggled into position with his knees on the seat and methodically tore Face's pack apart until he found 5 cigars. He put the other 4 in his shirt pocket as if afraid to be too far away from his old friends, now that he'd found them. He couldn't find a match, but saw that the car had a cigarette lighter, so he pushed it in and just savored the smell of the cigar in his hands.
As the lighter popped out, Hannibal saw Face pass by the window inside the gas station and disappear for a few minutes then came back.
"I called Murdock." He said simply. "Gee Hannibal do you have to smoke that thing in the car?" Face made a big show of rolling down the window.
"Yes." Hannibal said gruffly. Normally a comment like that may have prompted him to put the cigar out, but not tonight. He'd been all day with out a smoke and his ankle hurt, and Face was just being crabby. "What did Murdock have to say?"
"He wanted to fly out right away. I told him to wait until a doc had looked at you and to wait by the phone. I didn't know what plan you might have had."
"Good idea." Hannibal leaned
back against the seat and enjoyed the cigar while he had a chance. He
knew they'd make him put it out at the hospital.
BA pulled into Big Rapids just minutes after Face had called Murdock. When he stopped for gas he made his check in call. The entire drive up he had vacillated between the feeling that this was a good idea and a very bad one. If nothing was wrong, he'd be sitting up here with nothing to do for two days and then Face and Hannibal would razz him about being a mother hen, afraid to let her chicks go out alone. He could hear the whole conversation in his head, and he dreaded placing the call.
"BA?" Murdock answered the phone.
"Face called. Just now, just a couple of minutes ago."
"Well, what did he say, fool?" BA growled.
"Hannibal's hurt. Not too bad, but Face sounded funny. Like he didn't want to tell me, but he said he was taking Hannibal to Denning Memorial Hospital. It's there in Denning. I looked it up on a map; it's only about 70 miles from Big Rapids. That's where you are, right?"
"Yeah." BA could see a map of the area from the phone booth. It had a little ‘You are Here' arrow pointing to Big Rapids, but he couldn't quite make out Denning in the failing light. "What do you mean Face sounded funny? Hurt?"
"No, I don't think so. He didn't sound too happy to know you were so close."
"Why? He think I'm gonna pound him? Is this his fault?" BA growled even more into the phone. Murdock, 2000 miles away was intimidated. ‘No wonder Face didn't sound happy' Murdock thought.
"I don't know BA, he just gave me the bare bones information. I told him I wanted to fly out tonight, but he said no, to wait until the Doctor had checked Hannibal over. Do you think that's good or bad news?"
BA pondered that for a moment. Was Face trying to save Murdock anxiety from so far away, or was it minor and they might be out of the hospital in a short time?
"My guess it's not serious, and if you leave now, they won't know how to get a hold of you. Same as before, Murdock, you gotta wait by the phone. I'll call you when I get there and tell you what's going on."
"Okay." Murdock said, but he sounded disappointed.
BA hung up and checked the map. He was close. It took him less then an hour to drive to Denning and he found the hospital not far off the main road.
Face sat in a hard plastic
chair in the waiting room of the hospital. His head was down, his back
bowed and in his hands he held a cold cup of coffee, barely touched.
He was so tired that he no longer looked up as the automatic doors opened to allow entrance to each visitor to the cold halls of medicine.
If he had looked up, he might not have been taken by surprise as two large, black, bejeweled hands grabbed him by the shirtfront and hauled him to his feet. The Styrofoam cup of coffee fell from his hands; it's contents forming a puddle on the floor between his shoes.
"Where is he?" BA barked.
Face could only nod down the hall. "Xray." He squeaked out. BA's grip was pushing on his Adam's apple and making it hard to talk.
"How bad is it?"
Face squirmed and tried to get away from the grip that now had him up on his toes. "Broken ankle." He brought his own hands up to BA's wrists and tried to get the bigger man to at least let him down a little. BA took the hint, lowering Face until he was flat-footed on the floor again, but didn't let go of his shirtfront.
"Do I need to call security?" A nervous nurse asked.
Face looked over at her and despite his tired, haggard appearance gave her a winning smile and said softly, "No, every things fine, thanks."
"Things ain't fine, Face, what happened." BA's face was just inches from Face's brown eyes glaring into blue.
Here was where the next part of Face's plan came into play, although he wasn't planning on it happening so soon. How had BA gotten here so quick?
"My fault. Hannibal went over a cliff and I didn't stop it." Normally Face would have complained that these things always happened to him that the Fate's were against him, or something else. That was what was expected. Taking responsibility so suddenly threw BA for just a moment. Then when it registered that Face had said it was his own fault BA felt there was only one thing to do. He pulled back his fist and let fly.
The blow rocked Face back on his heels. He would have dropped to the floor, or at least back into the hard orange chair, but BA still had his hand curled in his shirt. It wasn't the hardest blow that a man BA size could have delivered. Maybe it was because they were standing so close that the fist didn't have time to gain momentum, maybe it was because BA didn't really want to hurt Face, or maybe it was that by saying it was his fault, it took some of the wind from BA. Whichever reason, Face was grateful his head was still attached to his shoulder when BA let go of his shirt and stepped back. A red blotch was already forming on Faces cheek just above the beard line. BA took a hard look at Face then.
Rarely had he ever seen Face in such disarray. His hair uncombed, and two days growth of beard, and in serious need of a shower. BA's eyes roamed up and down the body of the younger man standing before him. BA watched as a hand came up to touch the bruised cheek and stop part way. Face's clothes were dirty and rumpled, his eyes were bloodshot.
"Are you okay?" BA asked eventually.
Face snorted. His normal reply would have been to put BA's mind at ease, to relinquish him from the quilt he knew the bigger man would feel for having punched him. Instead, he just added fuel to the fire. "Me? I'm fine. But you know the Colonel. Never looks out for himself, just plunges in with out looking."
BA felt his anger rise again. "What happened?"
Just then a nurse came in. "Mr. Temple, you can see your father now." She said using the alias that Face had come up with to check Hannibal into the hospital.
"You go ahead, BA, I think we've seen enough of each other the past 4 days. You go check on him." Face pushed BA toward the nurse. "This is my dad's best friend, is it okay if he goes in first?" The nurse gave a nod and BA trailed after her, reluctantly throwing a look over his shoulder at Face.
All the pieces were on the table now. Face stared at his hands, but would he be able to pull this stupid game off. If he did, he knew he would be the greatest con man ever.
Hannibal looked up when the door opened. He was expecting to see Face and he grinned when he saw BA before him instead. "BA, how'd you get here?"
"Crazy fool, Murdock, had a premonition and made me drive over here. He just knew you was hurt. So I drove on up. How bad you hurt?"
Hannibal waived down to his ankle and the doctor who was just putting the finishing wrap on the cast. "Not too bad. Ankle's busted."
"Your son did a great job of setting and splinting the ankle. If he hadn't you'd be in a lot more pain now. Wiggle your toes for me Mr. Temple." Hannibal wiggled his toes as requested. "Good. Stay off the foot for at least 3 days, then just minimal pressure. You should be able to judge for yourself how much is too much. In a week have it checked by your regular physician, or come into any ER and have a doctor check it over. Sometimes, when swelling goes down, you may need to have the cast re-done." Hannibal nodded his acknowledgement of the instructions and put his unlit cigar back between his teeth. "Those things will kill you." The doctor remarked as he made notes on the chart.
"So will falling off a cliff." Hannibal said with a grin.
"The cast will be on for 6 to 8 weeks. You'll need crutches. Here's the prescription, you can get them from our pharmacy down the hall."
"Thanks, Doc." Hannibal said as he looked at the white prescription slip with its almost unreadable handwriting on it. The doctor closed the clipboard. "An orderly will be in in a minute and then you can go."
"I hope you know how lucky you were." The doctor paused as he put his pen in his jacket pocket. "Your son really did an excellent job setting that ankle. If he hadn't we might have had to re-break it, or do surgery to fix the damage."
"I'll be sure to tell him you said he did a great job, Doc. Really, thanks."
The doctor nodded and headed out. "Face said something about you falling off a cliff?"
Hannibal grinned, this would make a great story. He leaned back against the pillows on the bed and related the last two days to BA.
"So it wasn't Face's fault? Why would he say it was?"
Hannibal shook his head. "You know Face, he's probably just feeling guilty."
BA frowned as he thought back to the desheveled man in the waiting room, and then thought about the bruised cheek. "I'm not always sure who's the craziest member of this team, you, Face or that nut at the VA, maybe they got the wrong one locked up?"
Just then an orderly came in with a wheel chair. As he came over to help Hannibal into the chair he was stopped by BA's growl. "I'll do it." For just a moment the orderly thought about insisting that this was his job, but looking at the angry man he decided that he had plenty of other jobs much more important than this. Besides, the big man could obviously handle this job. So he quietly backed out with out saying another word.
BA pushed the wheel chair down the short hall way to the waiting room. Face was again sitting in the orange plastic chair, his head tilted back against the wall, his eyes shut, but not sleeping. Waiting. BA started to call out, but Hannibal held up a hand signaling him to wait. For a minute or two the commander looked at his first officer.
This was a new side of Face. Or perhaps this side had always been there, but not seen by his teammates. This was a still, contemplative Face. Templeton Peck was usually not still. His hands, his eyes, his whole body betrayed the energy within him. He put forth an image of shallow playboy, with out much of a thought in his head. He seemed more concerned with if his lapels were too wide then with politics or pollution, more interested in his suit then in rain forests or endangered species. But the young man sitting in the waiting room of a hospital in a little town in the middle of Michigan was not the one of the image they had all come to expect. This man was serious and … Hannibal paused. What was it that was so familiar about Face right now? What was it that he recognized in the set of the shoulders, the firmness of the jaw? Anger. Face was angry, an angry that Hannibal hadn't seen since Viet Nam.
Hannibal passed the prescription for the crutches back over his shoulder to BA. "Go get these, will ya'? I need a minute with Face." Hannibal said softly.
"Sure." BA replied and read the signs on the wall to find the pharmacy.
At the sound of BA's voice, Face opened his eyes, and lowered his head. At seeing Hannibal he schooled his features into a blank mask and got to his feet. Hannibal was amazed at the change that came over Face.
"How you feeling, Colonel?"
"Fine, BA went to get my crutches. We can pay the bill and get out of here."
"I already took care of that." Face said and took up the place behind the chair that BA had so recently held. A heavy silence hung in the air between them.
"Are you sure you're okay. Do you want a doctor to look you over?"
"I'm fine." Face spit out with more venom then he intended. "Jeez, I just hauled you down a mountain for 10 hours, if there was something wrong with me, do you think I could have done that?"
"You just don't seem yourself?"
"Who do I seem like?" Face replied with sarcasm.
Hannibal just shook his head in defeat. There didn't seem to be anything he could say that Face didn't take the wrong way.
"Have you eaten?"
"Quit biting my head off. I'm hungry, I wondered if you ate while I was in with the Doc? Do you want to get something to eat or not?" More then a little of the day's frustration came out in Hannibal's voice, too.
"I can't go out in public like this, I stink, I need a shower."
"Fine, lets get a hotel room, and BA can get us some food while you take a shower, okay?"
"Yeah, I guess that'll be okay."
"Good." Hannibal tried to get his temper back under control. There was something about Face that was setting his teeth on edge. It might have just been the tiring day, or the lack of food, or the stupid accident, but he felt there was something else. Something he was missing. Something just out of reach in his tired mind. He shoved his unlit cigar between his teeth.
Just then BA came up with a pair of crutches in hand. "Okay, where to now?"
"Let's get a place to sleep, I'm dog tired, and Face is gonna kill someone if he doesn't get a shower soon."
"Yeah, man, I hate to tell you, but you stink."
Face would normally have given a smart aleck wise crack or laughed at the remark, but this time his jaw worked. "Well, I'm so sorry to be so repulsive. Tell you what, you put the colonel in your car, and I'll follow along behind in mine. Okay? Then I wont offend you, and I wont have to smell his," he said with a jab of his finger at Hannibal chest, "cigar. Which I know he'll light up the second we get out the door."
With that Face spun on his heal, fishing the car keys out of his pocket as he went and headed out to his rental car.
"It was only a joke, Hannibal." BA said softly. He already felt bad for punching Face, he hadn't meant to offend the younger man.
"I know BA, we're both just tired and hungry. I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it." BA pushed the wheel chair out the electric doors and out to his waiting rental car. In just a few minutes they were on the road again.
Two rooms with an adjoining door were rented at a near by Motel. Face was taking a long hot shower in one room while the best that Hannibal could do in the other bathroom was wash from the sink, unable to get his cast wet. BA had gone out for food. Hannibal finished first, washing two days of trail grime from as much of his body as he could reach. He pulled himself into a pair of sweats from his backpack and hopped to the adjoining door of the room Face was in. He could still hear the shower running, so he pulled over a chair and sat down heavily.
Face was just standing in the shower. He let the hot water beat against his body in a relaxing rhythm of comfort. He stood under the flow long after he was clean. Just letting the hot water open his pores, and drown the muscle ache. Tomorrow, after his body had relaxed, he'd be so very sore. Now, he was just tired. Finally, when he felt his legs could no longer support his body, he turned off the water and reached for a towel. He dried off and wiped a spot on the mirror. For a moment he didn't recognize the face staring back at him.
The man in the mirror wasn't Templeton Peck. ‘The Faceman' was a handsome, well groomed, carefree young man. This man was haggard, had two days growth of beard on his face, a surprising brown, compared to the blond hair on his head, the eyes were bloodshot and very cold. ‘So, what shall we name you?' Face asked the man in the mirror in his head. He leaned against the sink and rubbed one hand over the stubble on his jaw. Maybe he'd leave it, a new look for a new chapter in his life. He grimaced, maybe not. But he'd leave it tonight and shave in the morning. He was too tired to do anything else. He shuffled out of the bathroom in the towel wrapped around his waist and flopped down on the bed. He knew he should put on pajamas, but he was too tired for that.
"Face?" Hannibal called out from just beyond the door.
Face sighed and looked up at he ceiling. "What?"
"I want to talk about what happened." Hannibal hopped over to the doorframe and balanced there on one foot.
Face roused himself off the bed and bent over his backpack. He pulled the items from the pack, one by one and dumped them on the floor until he found a pair of flannel shorts that he liked to sleep in. He turned his back to the Colonel and dropped the towel. Hannibal turned away, too, staring into the other room. Face slipped on the shorts and then turned back the covers on one of the queen-sized beds. He gathered all the pillows in the room, from both beds and dumped them on his bed.
"Can't we talk about it tomorrow?" He slipped under the covers and let out a grateful sigh as he stretched his body over the clean, crisp sheets.
Hannibal looked back into the room. Face was under the covers, his eyes closed, his arms and legs outstretched under the covers just as they had been under the tree earlier today. Two of the pillows under his head, the rest heaped up against his left side.
"Don't go to sleep, BA's coming back with food." But Hannibal's command was met with a soft snore. He hopped back into the other room that he would be sharing with BA and picked up the remote and in frustration, flipped threw the channels over and over.
BA returned with the food, but when he went in to wake Face he saw the younger man on his side, curled up with a pillow clutched to his chest, and didn't try to wake him.
"He's gonna be starving in the morning." BA remarked.
"I know." They finished in silence then Hannibal climbed into bed and propped his damaged ankle up on the spare pillow. The sheets felt cool and clean and he stretched his aching body.
BA plopped down on the
other bed and took command of the remote control. He looked for a ball
game, and type, but when he didn't find one he settled for an old John Wayne
movie and turned the volume low. Hannibal was already asleep.
BA thought he was the first one up the next morning. Hannibal was stirring, so BA got up to check on Face, only to find the man was gone. The backpack had been emptied and all of the contents spilled across the extra bed. It looked as though the room had been tossed.
"Hannibal, Face ain't here." BA snarled.
"What?" Hannibal sat up in bed, without thinking he tried to stand, but forgot about the extra 10 pounds of plaster attached to the end of his leg.
"The room's empty."
"Take a look outside, see if the car is still here."
BA went to the window and pulled back the curtains, looking down into the parking lot he could see the car. And there in the distance he saw Face going into the diner across the parking lot.
"He's across the way. Going into the diner."
"He didn't say anything before he left."
"Not to me."
Hannibal fumed. What was wrong with Face lately? This wasn't typical guilty Face behavior, this was unthinkable.
"Get dressed, let's go meet Mr. Peck for breakfast."
BA wisely didn't say anything about the ‘Mr. Peck' remark. Hannibal was angry, and this was not going to be a fun day.
BA held open the door so that Hannibal could maneuver in on his crutches. They saw Face sitting at a booth and made their way over without waiting for a waitress to seat them.
"Mind if we join you?" Hannibal asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he dropped into the bench across from Face.
Face looked up from his paper. "Sure." He scooted across the seat. "I didn't expect you two up so early."
Hannibal drummed his fingers on the table trying to rein in his runaway temper. "What's the idea just leaving the room with out telling any one where you were going?"
"I just said I didn't think you be up anytime soon. I thought I'd be back before you woke up. I was hungry."
A waitress came over just then and stopped Hannibal from replying. "Coffee?"
"Sure." He said and accepted a mug. "Milk, please." BA responded, putting his hand over the opening of the mug before him.
She wandered off after putting two more menus on the table.
"You know better, Face." Hannibal started in again.
Face just sipped his coffee. His clear eyes came up and met the man across the table. "So sue me." He said softly.
Hannibal slapped his hand down on the table. Face didn't jump, but the people at the next table did. "Jeez, Face, what the hell's wrong with you?"
Face didn't respond, but gave a look of pure innocence, and it didn't fool anyone at the table. "Sorry, I said I was hungry."
"So that justifies you worrying the team, and insubordination?"
The waitress came back again, preventing Face from making a reply. She put down the glass of milk in front of BA and pulled out her pad and pen.
"Are you ready, or do you need a minute?"
Both BA and Hannibal quickly opened their menus as Face placed his order, Hannibal was ready by the time he finished, and then BA placed his order. They watched her wonder off again. BA who was sitting next to Face gave him a shove with his shoulder, trying to prompt him to answer.
"What do you want me to say?" Face asked folding up the newspaper and putting in against the wall behind the creamer and maple syrup. Hannibal just shook his head. "I already said I was sorry. I guess I just wasn't thinking." Contrite was not an emotion that Face had practiced a lot and it showed.
"I'm not buying into this act, Face. You've been pissed off since yesterday, and now your acting out again."
"Acting out?" Face's voice rose slightly. He was usually one to never raise his voice in public. "Acting out! You say that like I'm having a temper tantrum. I'm not a 5 year old."
This time it was Hannibal that looked around and lowered his voice. "Then quit acting like it." His voice was low and calm, even though he felt anything but.
Face shoved his shoulder against BA. "Let me out." He snapped.
Hannibal shook his head and BA just sat where he was.
"Let me out or I'll make a scene." Face said softly.
"Go ahead. Make a scene, but I'm not letting you out of this booth until we have this out." Hannibal fished out a cigar, leaving it unlit he jammed it between his teeth.
Face sat back against the seat back. He glared first at BA then at Hannibal. His jaw worked as though he wanted to say something, but no words came. His arms came up and he crossed them over his chest. The fingers on his right hand tapped his left arm for a few moments, and then he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His face changed from angry to blank. No emotion showed at all. It was a look that made BA's skin crawl. He had seen it often back in Nam. It was the expression Face used that said that he wasn't going to say anything. Face's jaw muscles worked again for a moment and then he quietly picked up the newspaper and began reading the front page, as if neither of them was there. Hannibal's eyes flashed. He jerked the paper from Face's hand and tossed it on the seat next to propped up leg.
"Dammit, Face, talk to me." Hannibal growled.
Face projected innocence again. "About what?"
"What's got your back up, boy?"
Face tilted his head. "That for one. I'm not a boy. Two, BA rushing up here like I can't handle anything. Three," His voice lowered dramatically, "I'm sick and tired of being on the run. Having to cover up who we are in order to get you medical treatment. I want out, Hannibal. I quit."
"Quit! Quit?" Hannibal was dumbfounded. Where was this coming from? "You can't quit."
"Why not? Why can't I go it alone?"
"We've had this discussion before. Any one of us on our own is in danger. We can't, as a unit, take the risk."
"What, the risk of being caught? Is that worse then the risk of being run over, or beaten up, or shot? I'm done running. I want out."
"And do what? Become a banker or a salesman?" Hannibal snorted.
"Why not? I'm good with numbers, or don't you think I could do it? After all, BA doesn't think I can do anything. Do you agree with him?"
"Hey!" BA stated, how did he get sucked into this, he was just sitting there drinking his milk, and suddenly he was being maligned.
"I think you'd be bored silly in a week. You love what we do."
"Do I? Well, I guess that's just one more thing you have wrong about me. I don't love what we do, I don't like shoot outs and fist fights and being tied to chairs and getting my face punched. I don't love lack of sleep and fast food, or cheap motels and going hungry. I don't like drugging BA to get him on planes, I don't like taking Murdock away from the VA and the people and the medicine that is supposed to make him well. I don't love any of it. I hate it all. I hate waking up and not know where I am, or if I'm gonna live another day. I don't like lying to girls and leading them on just to get a rowboat or case of firecrackers." Face barely noticed that BA's jaw had dropped open during his tirade, his eyes were focused on the man across from him. "I hate it all. And I hate you for making me do it." This time when he shoved against BA, BA got up with out thinking. Face shoved past him and out into the main floor of the restaurant. He shoved his hand deep into his pocket and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and dropped in on the table. "I've lost my appetite. I'll wait for you back in the room… if that's okay with you?" With out waiting for an answer he left without looking back.
Hannibal sat back against he booth. He felt like he'd been kicked in the gut. This was supposed to be a nice little vacation away from all the stress and strain that they had been under and instead it was a disaster. He blinked rapidly trying to process the information. His head was swimming. He knew BA was staring at him, waiting for him to do something, but he honestly didn't know what to do.
Hannibal took a deep breath. Over and over in his head all he could hear was ‘I hate you'. He had to do something. Anything.
"Hannibal?!" BA asked again.
This time Hannibal shook his head. "Let him go BA. I don't know what's wrong, but chasing after him won't help matters. Let him go."
"He's wrong to say that, Hannibal."
"No, BA, he's got a right to say what he feels."
"I don't believe he feels that way. He don't hate you. He admires you." BA's words were soft.
"Maybe he did once, BA, but he doesn't any more. He's angry. I haven't seen him this angry in years."
BA thought back to the first few months that he had known Face. The young Lt. was handsome and charming. He could convince birds not to fly if he put his mind to it, but all he wanted to do was fight. The slightest comment could set him off. He was moody and mercurial. You never knew when you'd get the fun-loving Lt. or the angry hotheaded Lt. It was as if he didn't want you to get to know him. BA shook his head as the thought took root.
"He don't want us to be able to…" he paused searching for the right word "reach him, touch him." He was frustrated with his lack of verbal skills. "He's trying to shove us away. That's why he told me your accident was his fault. He knew I'd be mad. That's why he said he hated you, to make you mad. If we're mad enough we'll send him away. He's trying to get us to send him away."
The waitress came over and brought the three plates of food and set them on the table. Hannibal took the time to consider BA's words. "Could you box that one up, he had to leave?" BA asked the waitress.
"Sure." She replied and took the plate back.
"Why?" Hannibal asked after some thought while he put ketchup on his eggs.
"So he don't have to care about us. Remember in the beginning? When he was new to the unit. He'd never tell anybody anything about himself, he'd never talk about his dreams, or back home, or anything, then one day Murdock asks him why and remember what he said? If I start to care about people, they go away. Remember?"
"BA, we've been together more then 10 years, he's got to know we care about him by now?"
"But maybe he didn't realize how much he cared about us. Maybe, realizing that you were completely dependent on him, on what he could do for you, what he had to do for you, made him realize you needed him. Maybe he's scared of us needing him."
Hannibal considered these words in silence. The only sound at the table was the two of them eating, utensils against the plate, glasses against the tabletop.
"You think he's afraid he'll let us down?"
"I think he thinks if he pushes hard enough, we'll get mad, and leave him, just like everybody else in his life."
"And if it's his idea, he's ready for it, and he won't be hurt. He's expecting it." Hannibal finished.
"Right." BA grinned. "Poor ol' Face. He never was any good at scammin' the team."
"He almost had me, though. How did you know?"
"I think I knew last night, but I thought he'd get over it with food and sleep. Last night when he kept pushing me to make me mad. That's not our Face. Mostly he tries to smooth things over, keep everybody from getting mad. But last night he just kept pushing, every chance he got."
"So what do we do now?" Hannibal had finished eating and pushed his plate away, putting his unlit cigar back in his mouth. He wasn't expecting an answer to his question, he was thinking out loud. "We need a plan."
The plan was simple, like all the best plans were. A frontal assault. Hannibal would confront Face head on, no holds barred. BA would lean up against the door to prevent escape. Plain and simple and right to the point. Just the way Hannibal liked his plans.
Face was back in the room.
Every muscle in his body was protesting from yesterday's exertion. He
flopped down on the bed and curled his body around a pillow. He had said
more then he intended. He didn't mean to say he wanted out, it was supposed
to be the Colonel's idea. But it was too late now, he had to regroup and
go along. He had also not meant to say that he hated the Colonel.
In truth that was the farthest thing from his mind, but it might have just done
the trick. He'd seen the flicker of shock in Hannibal's blue eyes.
That had hurt Hannibal more then he intended. Face swallowed hard, and
mentally kicked himself, there was no time for emotions now. He had to
be strong, keep himself willed to the task at hand.
Better to hurt a little now then to grieve over them later. If he was gone he'd never know if they were hurt or in jail or anything else. And if they hated him, they would get on with their lives and leave him alone. This was for the best. He hugged the pillow just a little tighter, then why did he feel so bad?
The door burst open and Hannibal limped in. He wanted to storm in, but he couldn't mange that yet. BA came in behind him and leaned against the door.
"Do you want your breakfast now?" Hannibal handed over a Styrofoam carton containing his eggs and pancakes.
"I'm not hungry." Face replied even as his stomach growled.
"Too bad, eat up Lt. you're going to need your strength." Hannibal sat on the other bed and passed the carton over to him.
"Strength? For what?" He put it down, unopened.
Face sat up, his determination to remain stubborn and not cooperate coming to the fore.
"That isn't a request Lt. it's an order."
"And if I don't?"
"Then BA's going to feed you."
BA stood a little straighter and glared Face's way.
"Fine." Face sighed with resignation. He moved over to the little end table and shoveled the food in. He hadn't eaten since lunch yesterday and he was very hungry. BA moved away from the door long enough to put on the complementary coffee pot and then grabbed a chair and sat between the two doors, one to the outside, one to the other room. He folded his arms over his chest and waited.
Hannibal didn't say anything until Face had finished eating and had dropped the cartoon into the trash can.
"I don't know what to say first." Hannibal started. "In all my years of dealing with small minded, arrogant, pigheaded, idiots I have to admit I was unprepared for you."
Face opened his mouth to retort, but wasn't given the chance. "If you think that a few well chosen, but impulsive words from you, in addition to a bad attitude and bad manner is going to get me to give up on you, you have another think coming. I cannot believe that you would have the arrogance to think that there is anything you could ever do that would get me to stop caring about you."
This time Face closed his mouth with a snap.
"Did you honestly believe that you could get us mad enough to send you away? That even if we did, that we would stop worrying about you?" Hannibal didn't wait for an answer. "Or we're you only thinking of yourself, that if you went away you wouldn't have to care about us anymore? Is that what you thought?" This time he did pause for an answer, but Face was unable to form one. For the first time in his life he couldn't think of a thing to say.
"Answer me Face."
"I don't know." He dropped his eyes to the bedspread he sat on, his fingers toying with the material.
"Don't give me that crap. You worked this out in you head up by the lake, didn't you."
"I don't know," he said again. "It made sense at the time."
"Jeez!" Was all Hannibal could say. They sat in silence for minutes, Hannibal considering his next words, Face trying to figure out what went wrong.
"How much of that BS that you spouted in the diner was true?"
Face shook his head, and closed his eyes. He had to swallow a lump in his throat.
"None of it, all of it. I mean, I do hate getting beat up and stuff, but I don't hate you. I never hated you." The words were so soft that BA had a hard time hearing them across the room.
"Jeez, kid, that much I knew. I meant about the scamming and jobs. Do you really hate that? Do you really want to be a banker?"
"No, yes." Face paused and looked up. "I want to settle down, but I don't want to quit doing what we do, either. I like helping those people who can't help themselves."
Hannibal grinned. He had to lean across the space between the beds to grab Face by the shoulder. He dragged on his shirt until Face came across the bed and landed on his knees next to the bed Hannibal sat on. Hannibal put his leg up onto the other bed. Face was next to the nightstand pinned between it and Hannibal's upraised leg. There was no place to go. Hannibal grabbed the younger man and squashed him in a bear hug. "I'm not letting you go with out a fight, kid. So just get used to the idea."
For a moment Face let his arms hang loose at his sides. He'd never been big on displays of emotion, they made him uncomfortable, but Hannibal wasn't letting go. For just a moment he maintained his position, then slowly he brought his arms up and returned the hug, his face buried in the strong chest.
"I'm sorry Hannibal." His voice was muffled.
Hannibal shoved him back and looked down into the sad blue eyes, and shook his head. "Really, kid, you ought to know better. I've got the best damn team that ever was, and I'm not ready to give it up yet."
Face gave a sheepish smile. "Yeah," He heard from across the room. "And you ought to know by now that you can't scam the team. We know you too well. You can't get nothing by us."
Face shook his head. "You'd think I'd know."
"Just out of curiosity, how were you planning on getting Murdock mad at you? You can do no wrong in his eyes, you know?"
"Course, he's crazy." BA muttered.
"I just wasn't gonna call him, wasn't gonna come around anymore." Face hated the way that sounded to his own ears. Murdock needed him, just as much as Face needed Murdock. He wondered if he would really have been able to pull that one off.
Hannibal snorted. "Right, like you could have done that for long. How long BA, 2 days, three?"
BA chuckled. "Three, tops. I'd bet not even that long. How long has it been, now?"
"Oh no!" Both BA and Face said at the same time.
"What?" Hannibal asked.
"I promised the crazy fool I'd call last night." BA said.
"Me, too." Face answered.
Hannibal shook his head, "Well, one of you better call him, now. He's gonna be worried sick."
"I told him I call when we had a plan, do we have one?" Face asked rising from the floor and sitting back up on the bed. He tried to cover the grimace of pain from his protesting muscles.
There was silence in the room for a few minutes while Hannibal pondered the question. "Okay, how's this? I'm supposed to stay off my foot for a few days. How about Face takes the stuff back to the camping store for what minimal refund he can get after recklessly destroying both the sleeping bag and one of the backpacks. From there he can get a flight out to LA. Murdock can meet you at the airport in the van. In the mean time, BA can drive me to his mom's house in Chicago, and we can wait for you and Murdock there. Give's BA some more time with his mother, me a chance to rest up, and you will have plenty of time to explain to Murdock why you were going to ditch him."
BA nodded his head. He liked the plan. Face narrowed his eyes and thought about it. "Can't I leave out that last part?"
"Nope, clean sweep, Lt. This isn't something I want hanging over us. But I have faith in you, you'll do it well."
Face shook his head, he was still dismayed at his own behavior.
"Yeah, Face. You'll do it good, like you do everything else."
At that Face's head came up. BA saying he did something good? Was there some strange planetary alignment? No, BA was just saying it to make him feel better.
"Thanks, BA." But from his tone, BA knew that Face wasn't buying it. He left his chair and grabbed the younger man, forcing him to his feet. For the second time in two days they were standing nose to nose, it was not a position Face felt comfortable in.
"You got this strange idea that I don't like you. That I don't think your good enough or something? Don't you?"
Face blinked. When had BA become so perceptive? BA shook him. "Don't you?"
"Yes." He whispered.
"Then you as much a fool and Murdock. You're like my little brother. And if you were my little brother when you were growing up, I'd have taught you then like I'll teach you now. Your good, good at stuff I could never do, never be. Your good with people, strangers trust you, Murdock needs you. You're one hell of a marksman with that riffle. I've never seen anybody field strip a weapon as fast as you can. I've seen you calm in situations that would make most men bolt. You got a sense of humor, even when things go sour. After all the crap you've had handed to you in your life, you still look for the good in people. I don't, not anymore, I expect the worst. I may not like some of the stuff you do, but I bet you don't like some of the stuff I do, either. So what? I trust you. I put my life in your hands. So don't want to hear any more of this crap that I don't like you. Understand?" With those last words BA gave him another shake. They were still barely inches apart. BA's dark brown eyes glared down at Face, the strong hands dug into his forearms. "Got it?"
"Yeah, BA, I got it." Face said when he found his voice.
"Good." BA let go of Face so suddenly that Face stumbled backward and sat on the edge of the bed. He was confused. His whole world seemed so different from yesterday.
"So you're okay with this plan? You're not going to skip out on us on the way to Detroit?"
"No, I'm not gonna run." Face stared down at his hands.
"Good." Hannibal lit his cigar. "Face you call Murdock, BA you call the airlines and book a flight for Face for tomorrow and then call you mom and tell her were coming. The horde is invading."
"And what are you going to do, Hannibal?" Face asked.
"Me?" Hannibal leaned up against the headboard and puffed on his cigar and gave his famous grin. "I'm gonna sit here and enjoy it while a plan comes together."
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