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Discovery
Author: Soulseeker

Rating:  NC-17
Fandom:  The A-Team
Warning:  Contains m/m relationship, discusses rape, torture, child abuse, strong language and gay bashing. I'm pretty sure that's every thing.
Pairing:  F/M
Parts:  1/?
Summary:  Hannibal and B.A. finds out about Murdock's and Face's relationship. Let's just say that they aren't too pleased. Takes place before, during and after 'Curtain Call'.
Beta:  the wonderful, wonderful smokey duck.
Disclaimer:  I owe nothing except my cat, dog, ferret and husband. You're welcomed to three out of four. I get to chose, though.
Comments?  You betcha!

Notes: Words between ** are suppose be in italics

 

Discovery

Hannibal and B.A. swiftly let themselves into Face's newly acquired beach house. That last brush with Decker and his men had been too close for comfort. They had spent the last hour checking out the area around the beach house, looking for Decker bugs. Pest free, Hannibal picked the lock and they strolled into the safe house.

Hannibal frowned. His lieutenant was getting sloppy if he didn't know when someone was picking his locks. And he had not been particularly quiet about it either. He was going to have a nice long chat about security as soon as he saw Face. Speaking of which, where the hell was the con man?

There was soft music playing and Hannibal noted that the dining table was set with two plates, both meals half eaten. A small vase with roses and two silver candlesticks with half-burned candles completed the romantic lunch setting. It seemed that Face had company. But where were Face and his new lady at? Maybe they'd just gone for a quick stroll on the beach.

B.A. hissed to Hannibal, holding up a man's silk shirt that he'd just found crumpled up on the floor. Hannibal grinned. Or maybe they weren't strolling at all. The music ended and the two men could hear the subtle squeak of a bouncing bed in the now silent house.

Hannibal looked at B.A., the jazz making his eyes light up. "Maybe we should surprise them," Hannibal whispered. "It'll teach our lieutenant to keep his mind on security protocol."

B.A. gave a muffled giggle at the thought and followed his leader. The Colonel led the way, following the rhythmic sound. Every few minutes, there was a male moan or sigh. Even once a giggle. Hannibal and B.A. grinned even more. Whoever this chick was, she was certainly talented. Hopefully she had sisters. Or friends.

Hannibal spotted a trail of Face's clothes. First came the shoes, one by one, then socks, and near a half opened door, a pair of discarded pants. 'This girl must really be something,' he thought, 'for Face to just throw his clothes everywhere.'

B.A. was thinking the same thing as the squeaking became faster and louder. They could hear muttering, but nothing distinctive. Reaching out, Hannibal quietly pushed the door all the way open. On the floor was a pair of silk boxers. Hannibal and B.A. were about to yell 'Surprise', when they noticed a pair of cotton boxers right next to the silk ones.

The two men stared in stunned disbelief at the floor. More incriminating evidence was found, another pair of strangely familiar pair of men's pants and shirt laid nearby. Their eyes, against their will, trailed up from the floor to the squeaking bed. The one male voice, they realized too late, had been two. The silk sheets were half-way off the bed, the pillows were thrown on the floor. They were greeted with the sight of Face's bare ass, muscles flexing as he slowly and steadily pumped into his partner. His *male* partner.

Long hairy legs were wrapped around Face's hips, muscular arms caressing his back. Hannibal and B.A. were too shocked to say anything, their voices locked in horror at the sight before them. They just couldn't believe it. Lt. Templeton Peck, conman and womanizer, was fucking another man. And by the sounds the two men were making, enjoying every minute of it.

As if sensing something was wrong, the man under Face raised his head and looked over Face's shoulder. Large brown eyes grew larger as he spotted their audience. Hannibal and B.A. felt their world rock once again as they stared into Murdock's frozen face. They watched as shock filled the pilot's face and he suddenly stiffened in dawning horror.

Murdock tensed as he saw the beginnings of hate and anger darken the eyes of his now former friends. His throat locked and he was sure that his heart had just stopped. All of his fears and nightmares had just became a reality.

Face had just sunk deep into his lover's body when he felt the change from hot passion to tensing fear. Afraid of another flashback, Face looked up from the long neck he had just been nibbling on to the now bloodless face of his lover. Murdock's eyes were round with terror and focused directly over Face's shoulder. He barely breathed.

"Murdock, love, what's wrong?"

"I'd like to know the answer to that myself, Lt."

Murdock flinched at the menace in Hannibal's voice as Face looked over his own shoulder. The conman groaned at the sight of his two teammates standing in bedroom doorway, glowering at them both. Face forced himself to stay calm. Panicking would get them nowhere and it just might make matters with Murdock even worse.

He felt little pinpricks of pain radiating from his shoulders and knew that Murdock had unconsciously dug his fingernails into his flesh. Murdock's erection, which had been rubbing quite pleasantly against Face's stomach, had suddenly wilted in the face of his mounting terror. The smell of fear from the pilot also softened his own cock and Face privately mourned the loss.

Reminding himself to stay calm for his love's sake, Face addressed the two men in the doorway. "If you wouldn't mind giving us a bit of privacy to get dressed, we'll talk about this in the living room. Unless, of course, you want to have it out with the two of us stark naked."

A slamming door was his answer. Murdock flinched again.

"Guess not," Face flippantly said to the now quiet room.

The blonde looked down into the face of his best friend . . . his lover . . his soul mate. Murdock's face was still pale and his eyes were glued to the closed bedroom door. His rigid body began to shake with fine tremors running though his muscles. Face caressed his beloved's cheek until large, child-like eyes finally focused on him. He looked into those brown eyes and saw fear and panic. Face spoke slowly and calmly to him, trying to reassure the frightened man that everything was going to be alright.

"Murdock, love, I'm going to pull out now, ok?"

He waited until he got a tiny nod before he began to move slowly and carefully out of his lover's body, keeping eye contact the whole time. Murdock was so badly tensed up that Face knew that any abrupt movement could cause damage. And the last thing Murdock needed right now was to experience pain in a bed or see blood on his own body.

"I'm gonna clean both of us up now, ok?"

Another small head movement and Face left their formerly cozy nest and went to the adjoining bathroom. Murdock kept his eyes on the blond the whole time. He felt empty in his heart as well as his body. He had already known that he was going to lose Face someday, he'd just not counted on it being this soon. And not only was he losing Face, but Hannibal and B.A. as well.

The pilot had seen those looks of anger and disgust before. He knew what those looks meant. He felt dirty, wrong, and knew that the others would blame him for tainting Face. Because they were right. He had sullied Face's honor and goodness with his filthy body and now they were going to take his angel away from him for good. He was going to be left alone again, so that they could save Face from him. And they needed to save the blond, because Murdock knew that he was disgusted and filthy-minded and his soul would burn in Hell. He was nothing, garbage, and he never should have contaminated Face's purity with his ugly, twisted self.

Murdock flinched as something warm and wet touched him. He had been so lost inside his own head that he hadn't noticed Face's return. He wanted to tell the other man that a simple washcloth would not scrub away his filth. Bleach wouldn't even be enough to scour his Devil spawn's body. But fear still held his throat locked tight, and he could only look on in mute misery as Face tried to clean up the sewer that masqueraded as a real person.

Face had seen the flinch and gently patted a quivering side, trying to bring comfort. His warm palm made long sweeping circles from nipple to hip. By the time he finished cleaning Murdock and took a few quick swipes at himself, the shaking had abated somewhat. But Murdock had yet to utter a word, and that worried Face. He hoped that this would not result in a bad setback for the pilot.

The blond leaned up and, keeping one hand on the slight waist, he framed his lover's face with the other. He was successful in maintaining eye contact with the other man. He softly and gently tried to get Murdock to respond to him.

"Murdock, honey. Please talk to me. You can trust me, you know that. You're safe with me. I love you. Please say something. I promise you, everything's going to be all right." Face kept his voice low and soothing, somehow knowing that anything less would drive Murdock deeper inside his mind.

Murdock's body burned hot and cold, his teeth chattered a little as he finally said the only thing that came to his mind.

"They hate me."

Face's heart sank at that softly spoken, pain-filled sentence. Of course Murdock *would* think that. Face knew that the pilot had almost no self-esteem and couldn't understand why the whole world didn't love Face as much as he did. In his reasoning, if something went wrong between them, then it was entirely *his* fault. Face had spent years trying to build him up, trying to make him see that he did deserved to be loved, that he wasn't responsible for every little thing that went wrong. And he'd been making progress. Up until now.

"No, no, love. They don't hate you. They don't hate *us*. They're just surprised, that's all. Once we talk to them, everything will be just fine."

But Murdock was already shaking his head, a few tears already escaping. "No! No, you're wrong. You didn't see their eyes, Face. They look just like my .." Murdock's voice trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.

"Murdock, Hannibal is *not* like your father. And I'm not David. I'm never going to leave you. We talked about this, remember? It's you and me. Forever and ever. Remember?"

There was an unconvincing nod and Face sighed. They'd had arguments in the past about this fear of Murdock's. But once the pilot got an idea in his head, it was hard to shake out. Murdock's father had disowned him when he found out that his only child was gay. Ever since Face and Murdock had decided to become a real couple, the pilot had had a mind-numbing fear that Hannibal and B.A. would desert him and take Face away forever if they ever found out about the two of them. Nothing that the blond could say would persuade him that that idea was total nonsense. He'd lost one family and deathly afraid of losing another.

"I'm waiting, lieutenant!" Hannibal's voice bellowed from the living room.

Murdock flinched again. Face suppressed a sigh, and instead smiled reassuringly at Murdock. "We're being summoned. Let's get dressed and get all this taken care of. Then we can come back to bed and pick up where we left off." He gave the pilot a leer and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. Instead of laughing like he usually did, Murdock just silently started to get dressed, picking up his discarded clothes. Face sighed again and followed suit, choosing clean clothes and loafers as his were mostly decorating the rest of the house.

Hannibal puffed on his cigar as he paced and B.A. was a solid presence on the couch. The shock and anger had yet to dissipate and the longer they waited, the angrier they felt. They had both briefly talked while they waited for their lieutenant and captain. They wondered aloud about how they could miss the signs that two of their teammates were, well, *that* way. How long had it been going on? They'd shared rooms, and sometimes beds if necessary, with both men before. They both wondered if the other two had lustful thoughts about them. B.A. had been especially upset because both Face and Murdock had helped out at the daycare center. Had one of them touched one of his kids and he not known it?

The big man's fists tightened in anger at the thought of one of 'those' people turning one of his kids 'funny'. He realized that Murdock could not help being 'that' way. He was crazy for a reason, after all. But Face, what was Face's excuse? He knew that the blond could have any woman that he wanted, so why go after other men? The sergeant was positive that it had to be Murdock's fault. The dude was always coming up with weird ideas, but this took the granddaddy prize of all time.

And Face had always played along with all the craziness before. So maybe that was how the two of them ended up in bed together. Face had just innocently played along until he got caught up in the madness. Well, B.A. wasn't going to let a good friend go down the wrong path. Not if he had anything to do with it. No sir, he'd just have to get Face away from the fool long enough to get him to start thinking straight again. Get him back into dating girls again. Yeah, that's what he'd do. B.A. would save Face even if it was the last thing he'd ever do.

Hannibal had been thinking almost the same thing, but he'd come to a different conclusion. Had his second-in- command become bored with women? Was that why he'd seduced Murdock, for the challenge of it? And why the Captain? Lord knew that Face would screw anything wearing a skirt, but *this*? Hannibal knew that sometimes romance had to take a backseat when the army closed in on them. Had the blond become so obsessed with sex that he had to have a ready access to it?

Murdock was the innocent here, almost child-like in his trust at times. Had Face taken advantage of that? Was this nothing more then a game for the conman? Hannibal thought about the past, about all the times that Face had been the only one able to reach Murdock when the pilot retreated deep inside his own mind to escape the atrocities of the P.O.W. camp. Had he felt powerful when he had taken care of Murdock? Was that it? Was he now using sex as a form of control? Did he get a sick satisfaction over using someone else? Murdock had a fragile mind, he needed to be protected from predators like Face. This was going to stop and Hannibal was going to be the one to stop it.

The two men looked up as one when they heard footsteps approach. Face and Murdock appeared, holding hands. As soon as Murdock saw the disapproving glares, he tried to pull free, but Face held him tight. His blue eyes flashed with defiance, as if he dared them to say anything. Murdock just hung his head, trying to disappear from sight.

While Hannibal and Face glared daggers at each other, Murdock was finally successful in pulling loose. He headed for the couch until a glare from B.A. stopped his progress. Heart pounding in dread, Murdock folded himself up in one of the over-stuffed chairs decorating the living room. Knees up, arms around his legs, Murdock gave off nervous vibes of 'please don't notice me' and anxious tension. He made himself as small as possible in hope that everyone would just ignore him. He would have to get used to being alone again once everyone left him.

No one said anything. The air was thick with tension and high emotions. Hannibal was the first one to break the oppressive silence. His voice was laced with steel. It was his old commander's voice, his 'don't fuck with me' voice. It was the voice that demanded instant obedience.

"I want to know what's going on right now."

The conman stood facing him, barely a few feet away. Once upon a time, not too long ago, that voice would have had him rushing to obey, to carry out any orders. But not now, not anymore. Hannibal's and B.A.'s reaction had severely pissed him off. And he let it show in his own tone of voice.

"Has it been so long for you that you don't recognize two people making love?"

"Don't be flippant, lieutenant! I want to know what kind of game you think you're playing!"

"*Game*?! We're not playing a game, Hannibal. We happen to be very much in love!"
Seeing the grimace on his C.O.'s face, Face started to press. Hannibal didn't want to hear anything but his own version of the truth; that this was just a one time thing and then everything would go back to normal.

"What's the matter, Colonel? You upset because you found out that you have a couple of queers on your team?"

Face saw the growing anger in the other man's face, but he still continued. It was as if he couldn't stop himself from talking. He wasn't angry because Hannibal and B.A. found out about them. He was angry that their reactions only reinforced Murdock's fears. Face had expected surprise, maybe even a *little* bit of anger, but not the looks of disgust in his team-mates' eyes. All of his reassurances, his long pep talks to build up Murdock's confidences, all of his speeches that everything would be ok, meant nothing now.

Now Murdock was afraid, and when he was afraid it pissed Face off. And when Face was pissed off, he did what he always did. He lashed out at like a wounded mountain lion at the cause of his lover's trauma, in this case, Hannibal and B.A. And the weapon he used was his mouth.

"What's the matter? Can't faggots be in the military, too? Do you think us limp-wrist pansies can't be real men? It must really stick in your craw to learn that you can't control everything. For people who've always preached tolerance, you two are the biggest hypocrites I've ever met. I bet that right now, B.A.'s wondering if he's gay. After all, Murdock did share his blood with him. He's liable to catch queer any minute now. How 'bout it, B.A.? Feeling the sudden need to wear pink and buy a spoiled poodle? At least now, all that jewelry won't go to a complete waste. Us faggots are great at accessorizing just about anything!"

As the arguing turned into shouting, Murdock curled up tighter and tighter. Every fear that he'd harbored about the inevitable confrontation was coming true. Yes, Face was defending their love, but for how long? How long could he hold out against both Hannibal and B.A.? How long did he have before Face turned on him, too? How long before he would be left on his own, once again?

Only this time, he wouldn't have his grandparents there to pick up the pieces. He 'd have no one there to hold him back from the yawning chasm of madness. When he was rejected for the final time, he'd welcome the coming insanity with open arms. Murdock would rather feel nothing, think nothing, *be* nothing then to be consumed once again by the heart-wrenching pain of being completely alone. And, like always in times of great distress, Murdock's mind wondered.

By now, Hannibal was raging back at Face, ranting about keeping secrets, breeches in security, and the fact that Face had taken advantage of a man who was mentally unbalanced. What did Face know about love, he argued. The conman used people like cheap Kleenex. He was only with someone until he got what he wanted and then he dumped them, leaving other people to pick up the mess. He was not about to let Murdock be one of Face's many discarded conquests. Not on his watch!

Both men were now sporting clenched fists, aching to take a swing, but somehow unwilling to be the first to lose total control. 'Lose control and lose the battle,' Hannibal had said in the past. The colonel had always taken great pleasure in poking his opponents, stirring up a hornet's nest, so to speak. If they became mad enough, the ability to think, to strategize, was greatly reduced. They did stupid things and always got caught with their pants down.

And now, Hannibal and Face battled with each other and with themselves. Neither one of them was going to give the other the satisfaction of losing control. Doing so would make them look weak, and neither one of them would stand for that.

Disgusted by the whole display, B.A. tuned them out and focused his irritation on the pilot. The man was curled up in the chair, head pressed down into his boney knees, a white knuckled grip around his legs. Each shouted insult seemed to cause the pilot to shrink lower and lower. B.A. had only seen Murdock react like this a few times before in the camp. He would sit, balled up in a corner, trying to disappear from everyone and everything. It took a lot of talking from Face to get the fool to come out long enough to eat what little they were allowed. Like a turtle in its shell, Murdock refused to move, to eat, to respond to anyone or anything. He and Ray couldn't straighten out the rigid body even when Murdock fell into an exhaustive sleep.

And now, just like it had before, the sight of Murdock in that position sent a cold shiver down B.A.'s spine. The big man watched in detached fascination as the other man began to shake and cover his head with trembling, clutching hands.

Murdock felt the beach house melt away the longer Face and Hannibal shouted at each other. The cawing sounds of the sea gulls, the sharp tang of ocean water and the warmth of the sunny day were replaced by the lowing cattle, brittle smell of dried hay and the sharp bite of the fall air.

He and David were in the last stall, kissing and shyly touching one another's clothed body. They knew that there was more to it then this, but neither of them felt ready for that. Just holding each other, breathing each other's scent, tasting the love they both felt, was the biggest thrill they'd ever had.

Suddenly, H.M. felt an explosion of pain in his back. Gasping in shock, he fell to the rough floor of the barn. Splinters dug into his hands as he slowly and painfully turned his head. His back felt as if it had caught on fire as he realized that his father was standing over him, the old milking stool hanging in his upraised arms, already broken by the blow across his back.

David had already taken off, escaping without a scratch. H.M. watched as his father discarded the broken stool and take off his belt, winding it around one large, work-worn fist so that the heavy buckle swung free. Hate, anger and disgust clouded his father's brown eyes, twisting his features into something that H.M. had never seen on his beloved father's face before. Sure, the old man was strict with his son and H.M had had his share of whippings before. But he had never had his father look at him as if he was some 'thing' to be feared and hated.

"Pa, I ."

H.M. never got to finish his sentence as he saw the hand with the belt in it rise and fall. He was barely able to cover his head as the heavy buckle sliced his arm open. The pain flared anew as he shuddered to think of what that would have done to his face.

He looked up into his father's face, red with rage and hate. He froze there, fear striking him mute. His father began to shout, spit flying onto his only son's upturned face. The young boy was helpless against the onslaught.

"Shut up, sinner! Spawn of Satan!! Heathen! Unnatural harlot! You are no flesh and blood of mine! You will burn in Hell for your sins! I have no son, you are *dead* to me! Do you hear me? I have no son! Get out! *Out*, I say! Get off my property you whore, you filthy slut, you unclean Sodomite! I will not have your perverted *filth* tainting a God fearing home!!"

The heavy fist descended again and all H.M. could do was to cover his head as blow after blow rained down upon him. He wanted to explain, to plead with his father to understand. But all he could do was huddle in a tight ball as the fiery pain exploded throughout his body. But the worst of it all was the names, the hateful names his father still called him. A whimper escaped though his tightly clenched teeth.

Once B.A. heard the whimper, he'd known that Murdock was completely lost inside his head. He'd never known Murdock to cry out in pain, not even when Face had cleaned the bloody whip marks across his back in the camp.

The baseball cap fell off without a sound as Murdock's grasping, shaking hands continued to try to ward off invisible blows. Another whimper escaped unnoticed by the shouting men. But B.A. had heard. He had heard and seen enough to know that Murdock was in trouble and no matter what he might feel about the pilot, the big man knew that he would have to do something to help.

Crouching next to the huddled man, B.A. reached out and touched a trembling shoulder. The resulting flinch started B.A. and so did the mumbling that he could now hear under the raised voices of his teammates.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry .."

There was a sudden silence, a cessation of shouted insults. B.A. looked up and saw that Face and Hannibal had momentarily frozen, staring at them. The only sound now in the room was their harsh, angry breathing and Murdock's muttering. This time, Face was the first one to break the silence.

"Get your fucking hands off him!"

Blue eyes blazed with anger and B.A. flinched. He'd never had Face look at him that way. The conman was looming over him before he could blink.

"What did you do to him?!" he snapped out.

"Didn't do nothin' to 'im, man. He just started doin' this."

Face continue to glare until the other man abandoned his post. The blond knelt in front of the trembling man. Face found that his own hands shook as he stilled the clutching, pulling hands. He knew exactly which flashback this was about. He spoke softly to his traumatized lover.

"It's alright, now. You're safe. He can't hurt you anymore. You're safe. It's ok. You're safe."

Hannibal and B.A. glanced at each other, concern written in their faces. The colonel's brief thought that Murdock might be faking just to stop them from fighting, fled. They had both seen this before, in the camp and when all four of them were on the run together.

After they had broken out of Fort Bragg, they'd located Murdock in that hellhole of a first hospital. Rescuing him had been easy, it was the following months that had become difficult for them all. During the months of behavior like this, and worse, the suspicion that Murdock was pulling their collective leg began to disappear. What had driven the idea home that the pilot was seriously ill was when he tried to hurt himself.

They hadn't seen Murdock this bad off since getting him into Westwood. The kind pilot simply did not have it in him to pull something like this for attention.

"Get out." The harshly spoken demand came out of nowhere, snapping the two men out of their memories of the past. Face repeated himself, "Get out, *now*."

"Face, what's wrong with Murdock?" Hannibal wanted answers.

The blond slowly stood up and faced his two teammates, his hands in white-knuckled fists by his side. His stance was wide and bracing, shielding Murdock from their view, guarding his lover from hurt. He kept his voice calm and low so that the trembling man behind him would not panic any further, but Hannibal and B.A. heard the deadly tone in Face's voice.

"I want you two out of my house. *Now*. Murdock's upset and I can't calm him down if you're here. So leave. This conversation is over."

"I'm not leaving until I get an explanation, lieutenant."

Face recognized the bulldog expression on his leader's face. Nothing short of a grenade was going to get Hannibal out of this beach house.

"Fine," he bit out. He fought for his own control as he tightly enlightened them on Murdock's flashback. "You want to know what this is all about? Do you *really* want to know? I'll tell you. When Murdock was a kid, he and another boy fell in love. At least, it was love on Murdock's part. His bastard of a father caught them one day in the barn, kissing in a deserted stall. Just kissing! He flipped out and nearly beat Murdock to death. Called him all kinds of nasty names and kicked him off his property. He told him that he wasn't his son anymore. Murdock managed to walk ten miles to his grandparents farm with a broken arm and bleeding all over the place. Ten *miles*, Hannibal! He was thirteen years old and he was nearly dead by the time he reached their farm. They took him to the hospital, had him patched up and tried to talk some sense into his father. But the fucker wouldn't listen, wouldn't even let them get Murdock's clothes or anything else. The bastard burned everything that belonged to his own son. And not even that was enough for the old man. They lived ten miles from each other, ran into each other in town, even went to the same *church*. But his father refused to speak to him, he looked right through Murdock and acted as if his only son didn't exist.

"How could a father do that to his own son? Murdock's grandparents raised him after that, poured every bit of love they had into him, but it still hurts him to this day that his father hated him with his last breath. And the boy he was caught with? The one that swore that he loved Murdock? He turned his back on him, too. Murdock went to see him after he'd healed, to tell him that his grandparents knew what happened to him and they still loved him. They wouldn't have to hide and meet in secret anymore. That little son-of-a-bitch told Murdock that he wasn't a fucking fairy and broke his nose. He promised to do worse if Murdock came around him again. Murdock was thirteen and already had his heart ripped apart. It's no wonder that he's afraid of losing us, too. So now you know. So get out of our home and leave us alone."
Face turned his back on his team mates and tried to sooth his distraught lover. He heard the front door close and heaved a sigh of relief. He knew that it wasn't over, but at least he could concentrate on calming Murdock in peace.

He ran his now steady hands over Murdock's head and hands, an action that had calmed the upset man down in the past. He spoke in low, hypnotic tones to break through all of Murdock's barriers.

"Shhh, shhh. It's alright, baby. I'm here. You're safe with me. No one's going to hurt you here. You're safe. You're *safe*."

He continued with the petting and crooning, and gradually, the whimpers tapered off. The hands stopped clutching and the shuddering eased off. Face kept it up until large brown eyes appeared, staring sadly at the conman.

Murdock stared at his angel. He'd been trapped in Hell, his father screaming hate at him until he felt everything shatter inside. He'd been trapped in terror and in pain until a smooth loving voice silenced the torrent of hurtful words pouring out of his father's mouth. Silenced at last, his father faded as Murdock followed that angel voice back to reality.

He was curled up on a chair, Face in front of him with that beautiful smile gracing his face. Staying still, he looked around, his glaze flickering from one corner of the room to the next, his eyes never staying still. Hadn't B.A. and Hannibal been here? Were they in another room and getting ready to pounce right now?

Seeing the tension creeping back in, Face caught Murdock's attention. "It's ok," the blond reassured the other man. "They left. I made them leave. It's just you and me again."

"They're gone?"

"Yeah, they're gone."

"For good?"

Damn, why did Murdock have to sound so hopeful? Face hated to burst that one bright bubble. "No, not for good."

The pilot's expression crumpled and he began to hide his face again. However, Face wouldn't let him. Bringing up his chin with his cupped hand, he swiftly kissed Murdock and replaced his fallen cap.

"Hey, there. I meant what I said before, baby. I'm here for you. I'll *always* be here for you. No one and nothing is ever going to tear me away from you. I love you too much to let that happen. Don't you still trust me?"

Murdock stared into those deep blue eyes. Of course he trusted Face. He trusted him with his heart and soul. Mind and body. *Literally* with his mind and body. Before Face, Murdock had been a virgin in every sense of the word. After the disaster with David, Murdock hadn't trusted anyone enough to get close to because he was afraid of another betrayal. That is until he met Face. Face had been patient with him, listening to all his fears and banished them with the light of his love. And, if it hadn't been for Face, Murdock would've stayed lost in his head in the camp, never coming out into the light again. Sometimes though, he wondered if that was a blessing or curse.

"Of course I trust you, Face. Always have."

Face smiled his special smile, the one he only bestowed on Murdock. The pilot felt all warm and mushy inside every time Face looked at him like that. This time was no different. All the bad feelings and memories quickly fled in the light of that smile. He gave his own tentative grin and then yawned.

"Tired?" asked Face, concern coloring his voice.

Murdock nodded. Emotional melt downs tended to wear him out.

"Come on," Face tugged Murdock to his feet. "Time for a nap before dinner."

He led the other man back to the bedroom and quickly straightened the covers and pillows as Murdock toed off his shoes. He crawled in fully dressed and looked at Face with sad, trustful eyes.

"Stay?"

Face didn't have the heart to refuse him. Taking off his own shoes, he stretched out beside the pilot, who latched onto him in a near bruising grip as if he was afraid that the other man would suddenly abandon him. The blond waited until the other man had settled down, rubbing smooth circles across his shoulders and back. Murdock drifted off into restless dreams as Face hummed, 'You are my sunshine'.

As the last bit of tension left his lover, the still awake conman began to make his own plans. If Hannibal and B.A. couldn't be made to see reason, he'll take Murdock and run. He had enough cash and connections to do it, everyone else be damned. He wasn't going to be separated from Murdock. He knew that neither of them would be able to survive without the other. He felt himself drift off to sleep, thinking of fake I.D.s, false histories, and disguises. The house remained quiet until morning.

************ ********* ********* ******

Hannibal paced in one of the many warehouses they owned a percentage of. He and B.A. had taken refuge there, staying in one of the backrooms that had been converted into a bedroom with two bunk beds for such times as this. It was nearing midnight, but Hannibal still paced, his mind whirling with all the information he'd learned just that afternoon. B.A.'s soft snores filled the night silence as Hannibal chewed on his unlit cigar.

He had known that Murdock was estranged from his father, but he had never known the cause of the rift until now. In 'Nam, he had watched as the impossibly young pilot faithfully wrote two letters a day; one to his father and one to his grandparents. He never knew what was in those letters, only knowing that the censors would black out any potentially confidential matters.

And, as slow as the mail was, he still saw Murdock hand his letters over to be sent back to the World. And at the end of every month, he watched as Murdock was handed back packs of unopened letters refused by his father.

Hannibal watched in near fascination as his captain merely put the letters away without a word or show of emotion and start a new letter. Upon further reflection, Hannibal noted that while Murdock talked a great deal, much to B.A.'s annoyance, he very seldom mentioned anything from his personal past. All he knew of Murdock was that his mother died when he was five and that he went to live with his grandparents at the age of thirteen. Almost nothing was said about the man who had raised him between those years.

But Face had known. Face had known exactly what happened between Murdock and his father and he'd been angry at a man he'd never met. What else had his two teammates been hiding from everyone?

Hannibal sighed and sat on the edge of his bed. He was tired, but his mind was too keyed up to rest. He could tell by the way Face had gone into a defensive mode that this had been going on for some time. There hadn't been any 'It only happened this once' or 'We were both drunk and didn't know what we're doing' excuses.

So how was it that he missed the signs? He admitted that the two men shared rooms more often with each other then with himself or B.A. And with the hotel walls as paper thin as they usually were, neither B.A. or he had heard any obvious signs of a couple having sex in the next room. The colonel was also a very observant person, but he hadn't noticed any touching or looks between the men that one usually sees between two love birds. So he wondered how in the hell the two of them got away with everything practically right under his and B.A.'s noses.

Hannibal looked over at his sleeping sergeant. *He* certainly wasn't being kept away by any doubts or problems. They'd discussed the situation in the van on the way to their now temporary home. B.A. had been firmly convinced that Murdock was the one who had led Face astray. And Hannibal was just as sure that it had been Face who had started it all.

The big man had pointed out that Murdock was always hugging or touching or hanging on just about everyone. But, thinking on it now, it really didn't seem so odd at the time. Murdock usually had a lot of pent up energy and that was one way that he expressed himself. Besides, in the camp Murdock had rarely let anyone near him. Sometimes not even Face had been allowed to touch the cringing pilot. Any attempts to do so usually caused Murdock to howl in fear and start throwing himself against the bars in terror, further injuring himself in the process.

B.A. continued to point out that Face didn't act 'that way'. Actually, by being in the movie business, Hannibal had encountered plenty of homosexuals in the entertainment racket who seemed straight. Hell, you couldn't swing a dead cat by the tail in a crowded room without hitting at least two openly gay couples. And who knew how many are still in the closet?

Besides, neither of his teammates gave out any vibes that screamed, 'Look at me! I'm a screaming Queen!' Sure, Face dressed nice; expensive suits, silk pajamas, hundred dollar shoes. Even under the cover of gun fire, the blond still looked like he'd just stepped out of the cover of GQ.

Also, the two men didn't exhibited any tell tale signs of homosexuality. No lisps, no prancing, mincing walking, no checking out other men's asses. In fact, Face and Murdock acted pretty much normal. Well, Hannibal reflected with a wry grin, as normal as Murdock would ever get.

The older man shifted, trying to get comfortable. He needed to get some sleep, he had to be on his toes for his talk with Face the next day. They had to get this resolved, one way or another for all of their sakes.

A quick check of his illuminated watch told him that it was 3:06 a.m. Well, make that later that day. He'd call late, make sure he wasn't 'interrupting' anything. What he needed now was sleep. And a plan.

The late morning sun pried open a pair of deep blue eyes. Face stretched, muscles contrasting, bones cracking and popping from inactivity. A huge yawn and a belly scratch later had him searching for the clock radio, curious as to the time. He was stunned to find that it was after nine in the morning. He and Murdock had slept though dinner, the night, and breakfast the next day.

Speaking of which, Face smiled down on his still sleeping lover, his body a warm, comfortable weight against him. The pilot's mouth was half opened, drooling on Face's chest. In other words, Murdock looked his usual adorable self.

Face wiggled a bit, trying to tease Murdock into wakefulness. The other man merely latched on tighter to prevent his pillow from running away. The blond grinned impishly and, using the tip of one finger, lightly circled Murdock's ear. The sleeping man reached up and scratched the affected ear and drifted off again. Face ran the same finger under the still sleeping man's nose, scratching the whiskers. Murdock only snorted and rubbed his face against Face's chest, getting rid of the irritation. Face sighed in defeat. He had wanted to tease his lover awake, but the usually light sleeper might as well be in a coma for all the good it was doing him now.

The conman wiggled and shifted until he was out of Murdock's clutching embrace. Maybe the smell of coffee would do the trick. He could certainly use a cup himself. He padded off on socked feet in search of caffeine, leaving a dead-to-the- world Murdock still sprawled out on the bed.

Murdock jerked awake, disorientated and confused. This wasn't the V.A. The bed he was in wasn't the hard, narrow single bed he was used to in the hospital. This bed was large and now cold with just his body occupying it. A sunbeam sliced though the half opened curtains of a nearby unbarred window. The cry of sea gulls echoed outside, bringing memories back to Murdock.

He was in Face's beach house and earlier that day, Hannibal and B.A. had walked in on them while they were making love. His usually tan face paled as he remembered the confrontation, the shouting and his own retreat into his head. Face's voice had brought him back and they had both laid down for a nap.

But, now he woke up alone. Murdock remembered his dreams in full color and surround sounds. Hannibal and B.A. dragged Face away from him. And Face turned his back on Murdock, declaring 'Don't be stupid! I could never love something as disgusting as *you*!" Those images mixed with the memories of his father and they played over and over. He'd been paralyzed with fear and shame, unable to wake up from the horror his mind saw fit to torture him with. But, now he was awake. Awake and alone.

Murdock's heart felt heavy and his gut clenched in fear. It was obvious to him what had happened. Face had finally had enough of him and he had left; left without even saying good bye. Well, he just got what he deserved, after all. You never said goodbye to trash before you threw it away. He felt like crying, but couldn't summon up the strength to do it.

Murdock heaved a deep sigh. He needed to get up soon and make his way back to the V.A. But he couldn't find the energy to do that, either. He then realized that he'd have to hoof it back, after having spent nearly everything he had on him for a present for Face. Which he never got to give to his now former lover. He idly wondered if the store would take it back, but decided to keep it as a memento. He needed something physical to remember his lost love and family, now that he was left with nothing but memories. He was so lost in his misery that he totally missed seeing Face walk into the bedroom, two cups of hot coffee in his hands.

Face was struck by the waves of unhappiness coming from the man sitting forlornly on the bed. 'He must still be upset from yesterday', he thought.

"Murdock, everything's going to be alright. I promise."

Startled, the man on the bed flinched and stared at Face as if he had never seen the other man before.

"You're still here?" he blurted out.

"Of course I'm still here. Where else would I be?"

A guilty look crossed the pilot's face as brown eyes began to look everywhere but at the other man in the room. Face frowned as Murdock suddenly found the bed spread extremely fascinating.

"I told you that I wasn't like David. I'm not going to abandon you. Why don't you believe me?"

Murdock fought a trembling lower lip when he heard the disappointment in his lover's voice. Still staring at the bed spread, he said, " I . . . I believe you, Face. It's just that . . . just that I dreamed that Hannibal and B.A. dragged you away from me. And . . . and that you turned your back on me. And . . . and then I woke up and you weren't here and . . . and I just thought that you left me for good. I'm sorry. I'm just being stupid again."

Blue eyes softened as Face placed the coffee on a bedside table and gathered the distraught man up in his arms.

"You're not being stupid, honey. The dreams just got you upset, that's all. The same thing would've happened to me if I had woken up alone."

There was a muffled, "Really?", somewhere in the vicinity of Face's neck.

"Yes, really. I'm making you a promise, Murdock. No one, not Hannibal, not B.A., not anyone else, is ever going to break us apart. It's you and me, forever."

"Heart promise?" asked Murdock very softly.

"Heart promise," Face whispered back, fighting the tears that wanted to come. Heart promises were very special promises. Ones that wasn't ever made lightly and could never be broken. Promises of dinner dates, movies, quiet days together were often broken due to jobs and close brushes with Decker, or Hannibal deciding that they all needed extra training. Those promises were broken and mended on a regular bases.

But heart promises were made *from* the heart *to* the heart. Face had made a heart promise to get Murdock out of the P.O.W. camp alive. And he did it. Or rather, it had been Hannibal's plan, but he had been the main one to take care of Murdock; tending his wounds, getting food and water down him, talking him back to reality when the other man was too far into himself to know where he was or what was happening to him.

Face had also made a heart promise to never leave him feeling alone. The team had made visits when he'd been too sick to be broken out for jobs. They wanted him to know that they were still a team, still a family. And Murdock had gotten better, more grounded in reality thanks to Face's love and attention. So if Face had heart promised that they would be together, no matter what anyone said, then that was that.

Murdock came out from his hiding place and smiled at his lover. Then he took a deep, cleansing breath. "One of those coffees for me?"

Face grinned, picked one up and held it out of reach. "What do I get for it?"

Murdock reached up and pulled the blond's head down. Nibbling on the lower lip, Murdock slipped his tongue into the warm, receptive mouth for a long, slow kiss. Tongues dueling, Murdock's hands reached into the blond's shirt and began to play with the tight nipples, causing all of the blood in Face's body to head south. Murdock then tangled one hand in the conman's blond hair, deepening the kiss and causing the other man's hips to twitch in anticipated bliss. Just as Face began to moan in pleasure and wonder how quickly he could tear their clothes off, the pilot reached over with one hand and liberated the coffee.

"Thanks," he told Face, leaving the bed to drink standing up. The conman sat there looking confused, bewildered, and still rock hard, wondering what the hell just happened. He blinked a few times until his sluggish mind worked out the problem. He pouted at his now grinning lover.

"You don't play fair."

"Nobody plays fair when it comes to caffeine, baby." After a quick glance down, Murdock cheekily added, "Did you bring a cup for your friend?"

Face and Murdock looked down at the very persistent erection shouting for attention. Face frowned at the offending body part as Murdock looked smug. 'Damn it! And he had a right to be,' the conman thought. The man always could get him hard even in a blizzard. Hell, just being around the other man made him hard and aching even without kissing or touching.

There was a devilish glint in those brown eyes as Murdock asked, "Need any help with that lil' problem you seem to be having?"

Face matched his grin. 'Oh, good!' he thought. 'Murdock was definitely in 'the mood''. But his mind shifted gears when he glanced at the clock. No, no, no. Not good, not good at all. He had to have Murdock back for his eleven o'clock appointment with Dr. Richter. The fact that Murdock liked this particular doctor was sort of strange, to Face's way of thinking. Any other psychiatrist and Murdock had no problem blowing off a session. But if there were no jobs involved, Murdock always made sure that he was back at the hospital for his appointments. If Face was an overly jealous man, he would be concerned about this doctor/patient relationship.

Once, he had asked about this Dr. Richter, Murdock had told him that the man had always tried to treat him like an equal. He didn't treat the pilot like an idiot child and talked down to him like many of the other doctors did. So, Face always tried to get Murdock back on time for his sessions. And the fact that Murdock did seem to be somewhat on a more even keel was an added bonus.

Face heaved a regretful sigh. "Sorry, baby. But after washing up, changing your clothes and fighting traffic, you'll just have time to make your appointment. But we can always make up for lost time later."

Murdock frowned at this information. "But I don't have to be back 'til Wednesday."

"It *is* Wednesday. We slept though most of Tuesday. I guess we were more worn out then usual."

And didn't that sound more disappointing then it should have? Murdock just nodded, downed his coffee, went to the bathroom and started shaving. Face joined him at the double sink and matched the pilot's economical movements with his own.

Freshly shaven, they changed clothes and left without bothering to fix anything to eat. Neither of them had much of an appetite anyway. Face would be back later to clean, refill the fridge and to clear out any belongings. Although the owners wouldn't be back for another week, the house now felt tainted to the conman.

He had just dropped Murdock off a block away from Westwood with a quick kiss and a promise to call later, when the car's mobile phone rang. There were only three people who had that number and he had just left the most important one.

Face picked up on the fourth ring after deciding to just get everything over with once and for all.

"Warehouse number four, thirty minutes," Hannibal said and he immediately hung up without waiting for a reply or argument.

Face rolled his eyes. That would just give him enough time to fight traffic again and to make sure he wasn't being tailed. He had a perverse urge to drag it out and arrive a full hour after the deadline. But, that would just delay the inevitable and make things worse. If he had any chance of making Hannibal and B.A. see reason, pissing them off wouldn't do it. He'd be a good little soldier and arrive exactly on time.

Hannibal watched as the slowly ticking clock hand land on the last minute of the deadline. There was a short beep of a horn followed by two long blasts. Face's corvette. He nodded to B.A. who opened the huge doors. The red stripped car smoothly pulled in, the blond its only occupant.

"Where's Murdock?" he asked as Face shut off the engine and B.A. rolled the huge doors closed.

"He had a session that he didn't want to miss. Besides, I don't want him upset again. Whatever you two have to say, you can say it to me," answered Face as he shut the car door a little more loudly then necessary.

Hannibal sighed and kept his temper. Face already had his guard up, making the tense confrontation already more volatile then it had to be. He picked up a long neck bottle of beer from an ice chest and held it out to Face. The blond stared at it as if was a bomb about to go off. Hannibal sighed again.

"Look," he informed the tensed man. "B.A. and I had decided that if we're going to have this talk, then alcohol should be a part of it. We're trying to make this as friendly and as relaxing as possible. I'm sure that you'll agree that there's no need for a fight."

Face still looked suspicious as he bypassed the offered bottle and fished one out himself. He waited until the other two took a healthy swallow of theirs before tasting his own. Too many years of drugging B.A.'s food and drink made him leery of this sudden comradely.

The beer was icy cold and strong as it slid smoothly down his throat. He had accustomed himself to drinking wine, champagne, brandy; fancy stuff that a penniless orphan from California would know nothing about. They had drunk warm beer in 'Nam; the five of them sitting in the base bar at a rickety table in the hot, dusty afternoon. He and the others had traded insults, jokes, stories and gossip about their families, their pasts and what the enemy was up to. Good times and bad times. God, how he missed Ray.

They sat down with Face purposely sitting a bit away from the others. Each man set lost in their own memories, until at last, Hannibal broke the silence.

"How long has this been going on?"

Face put down his drink and fiddled with the label, half peeling the now soggy paper off the sweating bottle. "Do you mean the first time we had sex or when I fell in love with Murdock?"

B.A.'s hand tightened on that word 'love'. He relaxed his fist before he shattered the bottle and took another swig.

"The very beginning," clarified Hannibal.

So, his leader wanted all of the dirty details. Face mentally shrugged and began his story.
"It was on our second R and R in Hawaii. We spent most of that time bar hopping, drinking, trying to pick up girls and trying to forget about the War. The last night there, drunk and horny, we fell into the same bed. I don't know who started the kissing or when we passed out, but we woke up the next day naked and sticky. Both of us expected the other to start a fistfight, but the longer we sat there, the more *right* it felt."

Face took a deep swallow of his beer. "We decided," he continued, "to become sort of like fuck buddies. The fire base had no grown women and both of us wasn't the type to go after children. Kissing, hand jobs and, eventually, blowjobs kept the sexual tension off. We were careful, no one ever suspected or became suspicious. We hung around each other just as much as before. Even got to know each other better. We were friends in the beginning, I guess that made all the difference in the first place."

"And when did you two 'fall in love'?" Hannibal would have rather chewed glass than have this conversation.

"Murdock said that it was love at first sight for him. But, he never said anything, afraid of a repeat of the past I guess. As for me, I realized that I loved him the day he was shot down and we heard nothing for three days. You guys remember that?"

Hannibal and B.A. remembered those agonizing days of old. Murdock had just dropped them off from their own completed mission when the call came in. Some grunts had been cut off, trapped between the enemy and the last pilot had been forced to abandon them after catching shrapnel trying to extract them. Murdock wasn't the only pilot available, but he was the only one who volunteered.

Hannibal and the others tried to go with him, but they were sporting their own set of injuries and Murdock vetoed the idea. Instead, he lifted off with a group of Cherries who had just arrived on the base a few days before and had never seen combat. Hannibal ordered Murdock to take Jersey with him. The man might have a bandaged leg from a severe burn, but he was the best door gunner available.

Hannibal, Face, B.A. and Ray had huddled around the radio operator listening in for any bit of news. The rescue went perfectly, no dead and minimal wounds to the trapped grunts. No one was left behind.

Ten minutes into the flight back, Murdock reported engine trouble. Immediately after that, they lost radio contact. The longer the silence lasted, the bleaker they felt. Hannibal organized search parties against the Brasses orders. That was *his* pilot that was missing out there and, by God, they were going to find Murdock.

But without any further flight coordinates, they were flying blind trying to retrace the route. They found no sign of the downed helicopter and even the ground searches couldn't find any sign of a crash. Murdock and the others had just disappeared.

The more time that had passed with no word, the more frantic Face got. If he wasn't catching a ride with an air search, he was walking the bush with a ground crew. B.A. and Ray had to force him to rest, to eat, to sleep in order to keep himself going. The longer Murdock went missing, the worse the scenario became. He was either dead or captured. And as a pilot, he would have been better off dead then as a P.O.W. The V.C. was notorious in their hatred of pilots.

Then, in the middle of the third night, the sentries on duty had a hell of a surprise. Two wagons loaded with hay, pulled by oxen, both driven by men older then Moses, pulled up to the barbed wire gate.

The old men spoke no English and the guards spoke no Vietnamese. It was a tense confrontation and just as one of the grunts was about to shoot one of the old men out of frustration, a Southern voice sounded from one of the mounds of hay, asking if the Wizard was in. And then Murdock's head popped up, scaring the hell out of the Americans.

Then, one by one, the other missing men popped up like daisies in the Spring. After getting the wounded off to the med tent, they all sat around in the base bar as Murdock told an incredible story of their journey back.

However, Murdock refused to explain anything until twenty pounds of rice was loaded into the wagons. Anxious to hear about the adventure, Face had cashed in on some favors and arranged for the delivery. He also threw in a few cases of canned meat into the bargain. Anything to thank the men who had brought Murdock back to him.

The 'chopper had taken a hit, forcing the aircraft down. Stray shrapnel had taken out the radio and navigations systems and Murdock was flying blind. Several klicks off course, Murdock managed to land the bird in the thick jungle, well away from any current conflict.

There they were, surrounded by the thick jungle, no radio, no help, with only a group of F.N.G.'s, wounded men and no compass, Murdock guided them all out by his own homing instincts. They stripped the aircraft of everything useful and what they couldn't carry, they destroyed. They didn't dare to toss a grenade into the 'chopper for the fear of drawing every V.C. in the area to them.

Murdock had taken point, shouldering most of the weight and one of the walking wounded. He kept them a slow but steady pace back to civilization. They managed, by some miracle to avoid any V.C. patrols in the area by hiding in the thick bushes at the slightest sound.

On the morning of the second day, they came across a small village. Well, really a few leaning huts clustered together. They stayed hidden until Murdock was positive that they were friendly to G.I.'s and not V.C. sympathizers.

The occupants of this small place consisted of mostly old people, women and very young children. Murdock overheard one of the elders mention that his son had just sent back word that he was fine and recuperating in an army base hospital.

Murdock then approached the villagers, hands in the air and speaking their language. He explained the situation and asked if there was a radio nearby so that he could call for aid. The oldest elder suggest a better solution. Two of the village men would transport everyone back to the nearest base for the exchange of two ten pound bags of rice. He knew that those bags of rice would be enough to feed the entire village for a full year or more. It would be a small price to pay to keep the children from starving as the working men were fighting for their freedom.

After discussing it with the elders, it had been determined that the safest and best route would be to get them back to the fire base that Murdock had just left. They helped to hitch two wagons to the remaining oxen and depleted the hay field to fill them. Then, the Americans buried themselves in the middle of both wagons, hiding themselves from view.

Murdock knew that he was taking a chance to trust these strangers. He had no idea if they might be taken to safety or turned over to the first V.C. patrol they came across to for the much needed money. Indeed, several enemy patrols tripped over the two elders. The Americans froze each time, praying that the encounter would be brief, praying that the enemy bought the hogwash the old men were telling about taking the hay to a nearby village in hopes for an exchange of food, and they prayed that no one sneezed from the tickling, itchy straw.

The old men kept a slow, steady pace and the Americans had decided before time to go without food and very little water. They hadn't wanted to chance relieving themselves out in the open and increasing any chance for detection. For two days and two nights, they stayed silent, still and starving until one of the elders driving Murdock's wagon mentioned that they had reached their destination.

Face's voice drew them out of their memories. "The whole time he was gone, the only thing running though my mind was that I couldn't remember what he looked like. I could remember his arms around me, his kisses, his laughter, but his face . . . I kept drawing a blank. It scared me, terrified me in fact, that I couldn't see his face when I closed my eyes. I remembered every girl or woman I dated or slept with. I saw them as clear as if they were standing right in front of me. But I couldn't remember what the last thing Murdock said to me before he left on that mission. I couldn't stand the thought of not seeing him again. That's when I figured out that he was just more then a quick lay when I couldn't pick up a nurse. More then just a fuck buddy when there wasn't any other option left. I was head over heels in love for the first time and I couldn't let him go until I knew how . . . if, he felt the same about me."

"And did he?" asked Hannibal. Face's speech had moved both of the listening men, but that didn't make everything hunky-dory. In fact, it opened up even more questions then before.

"Yeah," answered Face. He took another swallow of beer. "It took me nearly two weeks to get up the courage to tell him how I felt. The best I could hope for was for him to laugh at me, tell me I just lost my head over getting nookie on a regular basis. The worst thing I could think of was for him to take my head off, tell me that it was just fucking and that it didn't mean anything. Or just spread the rumors that I preferred men and just wait for someone to frag me.

"But, he didn't do any of that. He asked me to repeat myself and I told him that I loved him again. Then his eyes started to sparkle, like he had just been told that Santa Claus was real and he wanted Murdock to fly his sled. His whole face lit up, it was like nothing I've ever seen before. And I've been faithful to him ever since."

Hannibal snorted at that, earning a piercing glare from the conman.

"Come on, Face. Don't try to pull any of that shit with us. We've seen you with one beautiful lady after another. We've seen you kiss them. Don't try to say that you've been celibate with those girls. That's complete bullshit!"

Face slammed his bottle down hard, causing the table to rattle. Hannibal and B.A. had to grab their own drinks before they spilled. The blond gave both of them a long, piercing blue glaze.

"Those women," he explained, "were nothing but a cover. A shield. A beard. A way to throw everyone off track. If I had suddenly stopped dating, you would've both wanted to meet the special 'woman' who had finally caught me. I couldn't very well tell you guys that I was seeing Murdock, now could I?"

"So, you were just using those girls?" asked Hannibal.

Face's eyes went cold and hard. "I never 'used' anyone. In fact, most of the women I escorted are in the same boat as I am." At his team mates' blank looks, Face sighed and explained. "The majority of my dates are lesbians who're still in the closet. I take them to restaurants, clubs, or anywhere else their co-workers, friends or family might be at. They see a very beautiful couple out on the town and they're relieved that their suspicions were unfounded. That is, until Mom and Dad start pressuring the ladies about getting married and having children. Then, we break up. And you guys only see what I want you to see; a gigolo who goes through women like used tissue."

"And how does Murdock take all of this? After all, if you're so in love with each other, why go through with the charade? It has to hurt him to see you doing this, no mater if it's make-believe or not," said Hannibal.

"Yeah," B.A. jumped in. "We seen you kissin' those girls. Don't try to tell us it's all an act!"

"It *is* all an act, even the kissing. It always felt like I'm kissing my sister, if I have a sister that I don't know about. Which is still likely as far as I know. And usually the women tell me that I kiss alright, for a guy that is. And as for Murdock? Who do you think thought up the whole idea?"

At the stunned silence and the incredulous looks being shot at him, Face laughed. 'Guess they didn't expect that lil' fact,' he chuckled to himself.

"Yeah, it was Murdock. I was all for telling everyone, but he wouldn't hear of it. He wanted it to remain between us. There are special clubs in L.A., ones that cater to the gay community. So, if I need arm candy for a few days, I go to one of the bars and pick a girl out. I explain my . . . *our* situation, tell them about my 'family' and show them Murdock's picture. And, if they think it's some kind of trick, I give them some phone numbers of my previous 'girlfriends' . A few phone calls usually seals the deal."

"Face, why didn't you just say something before? Why go through this ruse?" Hannibal asked.

The blond looked at him as if he asked Face to put on a skirt and do a belly dance. And then he just looked sad as he explained.

"We were in the army, Hannibal. The military didn't have a high tolerance for homosexuals back then, or even now. The best scenario would have been a dishonorable discharge as a sexual deviant. I would have been fine if that had happened. I could have found a job anywhere. But Murdock? He would have been destroyed, career wise. Not even his extensive record of commendations, metals, or acts of bravery would have gotten him hired to fly a hot air balloon. Take away his pilot's license? You might as well put a bullet in his head right now."

Face finished his beer and opened another one. All this talking was making him thirsty.

"But we ain't in the army no more. Why continue to lie?" protested B.A. He had been mostly silent until now. "Why didn't ya'll say somethin' before now?"

Face shot him a look of pure disbelief. The big man had to have been joking. Although, B.A. wasn't known as a prankster and he rarely cracked a joke.

"We had the answer to that question yesterday, B.A. Don't you remember that scene you two walked into? Murdock was afraid that you guys would take it bad. I kept telling that his fears were all nonsense. I told him that you two would be happy for us, be there for us, still be our family. Boy, do I ever feel stupid for believing in that fairy tale!" That last sentence was said in an angry, sarcastic huff.

Hannibal kept a rein on his own temper. They had both lost it yesterday and look where it had gotten them, tearing at each others' throats like a pack of hungry wolves.

"Let's all calm down now," he ordered. That earned him a glare from both Face and B.A. "Let's all just forget about yesterday, forget that *all* of us acted like complete jackasses."

The sergeant opened his mouth and Hannibal shot a warning glare at him. B.A. snapped his jaws shut with an audible snap. Hannibal continued, "You have to admit Face, that all of this has come as a big shock for us. We had no idea that this 'thing' you two have going on existed. We didn't know that you're both gay."

The handsome blond smoothed his tie in order to get a grip on himself. He had automatically bristled at the insinuation that his and Murdock's commitment to each other was a 'thing'. It was as if they expected him to say, 'Why of course you're right. What was I thinking? You have certainly opened my eyes. I guess that I'll go out now and find a nice respectable female and marry her right away.'

"Lets get one thing straight here. I'm not gay. I'm not attracted to *men*. I'm just attracted to *Murdock*. There's a big difference there. Women can still turn my head, but that's all to it. I've been completely and utterly faithful to Murdock."

Face polished off half his beer. Hannibal was nearing the end of his first one and B.A. was still nursing his one. The big man wasn't much of a drinker, one was usually his limit. Except in 'Nam and it had been a really bad mission. Then he just drank until he blocked out the memories of pain, death, and blood for awhile.

"Face, you said that most of the girls are lesbians. What about the rest?" asked Hannibal.

"The rest? Usually they're girls who've just ended a bad relationship. The guy's an ass or abusive or just a plain old creep. I'm the transition guy, the rebound man. I make them feel good about themselves, attractive, and wanted. They all know the score, they know I won't get physically involved with them. There's a lot of hurt women out there who just want to feel safe with a man without the pressure of sex. I provide that for them until they're ready to find someone else, someone they can have a full and complete relationship with. I'm someone who they can talk to about anything, someone they can lean on without being judged. A big brother type that will protect them from the wolves at their door who are just interested in using them."

The other two men exchanged an astonished look. If all of this was true, then their lieutenant wasn't as shallow as they had been led to believe. Hannibal had the sinking feeling that the younger man was telling them the truth, and his entire perception of the man tilted once again.

"You couldn't have kept this a complete secret from everyone. You had to have some help in the past, no one is that careful. Surely, someone else knows about you two."

Face just looked sad as he said, "Ray knew. He was the only one who knew."

"*Ray*?!" B.A. exclaimed. "Ain't no way that you could've told Ray and he'd kept it a secret. You gotta be lying!"

Face glared at the bigger man. "I never really meant to tell Ray anything. It happened in the camp. Murdock had been taken again, you two were on burial detail and it was just me and him in that cage. In my defense, I was delirious with a fever at the time. I told Ray all about me and Murdock. After we had escaped and were in the hospital, Ray told me what I said and asked if it was true. I tried to blow it all off, pass it off as just a fever induced dream. But then he told me about a cousin of his that was gay. A group of rednecks found out, beat the shit out of him and dragged him behind their truck for five miles. Ray found him dead in a ditch with the word 'faggot' carved into his chest. The kid was only nineteen years old. That kid was more then a relative to him, he was Ray's best friend. Ray, more then anyone, understood the need for secrets."

Face finished his second and reached for a third. He told himself that he needed to stop, that he might lose control of his mouth and *really* say something damaging. But then he told the little voice to fuck off. Murdock was upset, Hannibal and B.A. was angry, and he was out of the closet and defensive about his teammates' attitudes. He needed to get good and drunk. Lord knew that he deserved it.

Face took a long drink, wondering what else they had to say. He wasn't kept waiting for long.

"Maybe that's why the fool's in a nut house. His head's all messed up and no wonder."

Face snorted at B.A.'s statement.

"They took homosexuality off the mental disease list back in the early seventies," Face snidely informed him. "Why don't you move into the eighties with the rest of the world? Besides, it was the camp that drove him off the edge. I still don't know how he kept himself together until after we were arrested."

"Face," Hannibal injected. "Murdock was near the edge when we met him. He was more then a little crazy long before we became P.O.W.'s."

"Yeah," B.A. agreed. "We went though just as much Hell as he did and we didn't end up in no rubber room. We were beaten and starved too, so how come he ended up funny in the head?"

"Because we weren't *raped*!" shouted Face, anger and fury on his face. Then he paled when he realized just what he had revealed. He had never meant to say those words out loud, had vowed to himself long ago to never utter a word of what really happened to Murdock all those years ago.

 

Face avoided looking at the shocked expressions on the other men's faces. He stared at his beer as the little voice that had warned him about the dangers of it now mocked and laughed at him. He wanted to find that voice and strangle it.

The warehouse was completely silent except for the distant sounds of traffic. Face's words hung heavy in that suspended quiet, the word 'rape' echoed throughout their minds.

Face sweated as his heart pounded. He dreaded the up-coming explosion, the accusations, the yelling. He had told Murdock that he would take care of him, that the pilot had nothing to worry about. Well, both of them could start worrying now.

"What do you mean by that, lieutenant?" Hannibal's voice was eerily calm. Too calm and collected.

Face looked up. They were both staring at him, both wearing that 'I didn't just hear what I thought I just heard' look in their eyes. He just prayed that Murdock would eventually forgive him of this breach of trust.

Face cleared his throat.

"I said that Murdock was raped in the camp. General Koa and his guards repeatedly raped him. They raped all of the pilots and told them that if they ever breathed a word about it to anyone, General Koa would kill a prisoner. You guys remember the random executions. Remember how that bastard would drag some poor sap out in front of us and slice his throat for nothing? Koa did it to keep the pilots quiet about what was going on. No one knew what rule they broke, what signaled them out for death. They did nothing to deserve a death like that. Murdock stopped talking completely by that time. He didn't want to risk one of us by accidentally saying something. He was protecting us and we didn't even know it."

"He told you that he was raped? He actually said those words?"

"Not at first. He didn't have to. I knew long before I was able to get him to confess about it."

"Then how do you know it was rape? Maybe he really wanted it and didn't want you to know about it." B.A. asked. "Dude could've been askin' for it."

Those words had just left B.A.'s mouth when Face's fist caught the big man by surprise. B.A. tumbled backwards, chair and all. A furious Face stood over him, hands in fists, cold hearted hatred in his eyes.

Hannibal had known the sergeant had gone too far as soon as the last word left his mouth. The colonel quickly grabbed the enraged blond from the back into a bear hug to prevent B.A.'s upcoming murder. He had a hard time keeping Face still.

"You son-of-a-bitch! " Face practically frothed at the mouth. "Don't you *say* that! Don't you *ever* say that! Nobody asks to be raped! Do you hear me?! You wouldn't be saying that shit if it had been Amy or Tawnia or your *mother*! But *no*! Just because Murdock's a man, he must have been asking for it! You don't know jack-shit about what *hell* he went through!"

B.A. gingerly got up and touched his swollen lip. The finger came back bloody. He felt regret and shame for saying that about one of his good friends. If his mother had heard him say such a thing about a woman, she would have tore his butt up but good with an old fashioned whipping.

"I'm sorry, man. I don't know why I said that," B.A. apologized. "I deserve the bloody lip for just thinking it."

Hannibal still had a firm hold on a trembling blond. He waited until the shaking stopped, until all the tension drained out of the angry man's body. When he judged that the conman had control again, Hannibal slowly released him.

Face just stood there, motionless while a weary B.A. kept a sharp eye out just in case. He wasn't going to be taken by surprise again.

"A doctor once said that to me," Face said out of the blue. The other two men said nothing, just letting Face get everything out of his system.

"Once we got out of the camp, neither of us had been in any sort of mood or condition for making love. Then came the mission and prison. After we went on the lam, Murdock hadn't been in any sort of shape for anything more strenuous then trying to survive his own mind. It was after we got him into Westwood and I started to think, to remember about his past behavior, that I recognized the signs that had been staring me straight in the face. I didn't say anything at the time and he didn't say anything to make me suspect the truth, but I *knew*.

"The flinching, the loss of appetite, the excessively long showers, the way he always slept with his back to the wall, the fact that he stopped talking at all, the night terrors, his fear of being touched, the way he avoided looking anyone in the eyes. His complete and total withdrawal from us and the rest of the world. All those neon signs that blared out that he had been a victim of rape. I knew that the docs at the V.A. were doing their best, but I wanted to help him . . . help us both."

Face looked at B.A. and the big man could see the hurt, the raw pain that the memories were causing. Tears hovered in those big blue eyes, but he refused to let them fall. He had cried enough for his lover's pain in private, he wouldn't show any sign of weakness now.

"I went to every doctor in the phone book, every psychiatrist and psychologist listed, hoping to find some answer, some magic formula to fix Murdock. They all said the same thing. That there was no such thing as a male rape victim. Can you believe that bullshit? One doc said that Murdock had been asking for it. That a man could fight off an attacker, so if a guy was raped, then he asking for it, that he *wanted* it. That quack actually believed the horseshit he was spreading. I went to the Medical Board and had his license legally pulled. I couldn't imagine any woman going to him for help and being told that she had asked for it because she was wearing a short skirt at the time of the attack."

Face snorted in disgust and continued. "'Fight off an attacker'. Were you able to fight those bastards off, B.A., starved, sick and weak? Were you able to fight them off when six of them tied you down to the top of a table and used a whip on your naked back? Were you able to stop them from holding a hot poker to your feet, close enough to blister but not close enough to permanently maim you? Were you able to stop them from tying your hands over your head for so long that you lost all feeling in your arms? Were you able to stop them from cutting your body and rubbing salt into the wounds? Were you able to stop them from doing hundreds of other things they did to you just to see if you would break? If *you* couldn't have stopped them, someone who was in better physical shape then all of us, then what chance did Murdock ever have against them?"

There was silence once more. B.A. felt sick and it had nothing to do with the beer. It was what Face had said. B.A. had fought his captors, they all did, but they weren't able to stop the torture and interrogations. Murdock never stood a chance after being ratted out as a pilot. The V.C. had a special hatred for pilots and it was a miracle that Murdock had survived the camp at all after he had been singled out.

"Five years," Face blurted out. He was still standing, but his hands trembled from the tension. "It took five long years before Murdock let me hug him again. It took two more years of patience and understanding before we were able to become intimate again. And after all this time, we still have to make love facing each other and with a light on."

Hannibal and B.A. grimaced. They really didn't want to hear about the dirty details of their teammates sexual activities. But Face went on, his eyes holding a loss that would never be filled.

"He has to see me. He has to see my face to know whose making love to him. Even now, he sometimes has flashbacks to the rapes. One minute everything is going fine and the next he's panicking, fighting me, nearly hysterical with fear. I have to stop immediately and get away from him no matter how close I am to coming. Because if I continue, it'll be just like I was the one raping him. Do either one of you know what that feels like? To have your partner look at you with pure terror? That's a real mood killer, I'll tell you.

"It shreds my heart every time it happens. He ends up in a corner of the room, shaking and rocking. I can't even hold him to comfort him. Then he goes into the bathroom, throws up and takes a five hour long shower. *Five* hours, Hannibal. And then he comes out and apologizes to me. Every. Single. Fucking. Time."

Face gave a mirthless laugh. "*He *apologizes to *me* for something he can't control. Can you believe that? Isn't that some knee-slapping joke?"

Face looked them both in the eyes. The pain was gone, replace with a cold determination and stubbornness. It was a look that Hannibal knew well. The blond's voice and manner reeked of self-control.

"Murdock and I are together. Accept it or not, I don't really give a damn. All I care about is making sure that Murdock knows that he's loved and safe. I will *not* let anything or anyone hurt him. We don't need anyone's approval," blue eyes bore into B.A.'s face, "or permission," a flick to Hannibal's face, "to be together. Try to come between us, try to break us up, and we're gone gentlemen. Out of here for good. I can lay my hands on enough cash and I.D.'s to make a good head start. And we'll keep running until I know that we're safe from everyone who wants to hurt us."

Face let his ultimatum sink in. His now steady hands moved in a familiar habit, smoothing perfectly placed hair and unwrinkled tie.

He left them standing there as he opened the big warehouse doors and got into his car. Cranking the corvette up, he coldly informed them, "I would strongly suggest that neither of you contact me or Murdock until you have a job for us."

He gunned his engine and screeched out of the warehouse, leaving behind the smell of gasoline and burned rubber.

B.A. looked worriedly at his silent commander. Hannibal had lit a cigar but hadn't uttered a word. Unable to bear the quiet, B.A. spoke.

"You really think that Face will take the fool and run?"

Hannibal thought about the question for a minute. Face's defensiveness, the soft look in his eyes whenever he spoke Murdock's name, the righteous anger over the pilot's violation, the grief over lost time, the honest love that sounded so true and right coming form those perfect lips, the final tone of his voice as he announced his alternate plans if they weren't accepted as a couple. If Murdock had been a woman, none of this would have been a problem. In fact, Hannibal would have gone out of his way to protect the couple himself. But Murdock wasn't a woman and therein lay the dilemma.

Still, Hannibal couldn't help but be impressed over his lieutenant's protective stance. Nothing and no one was going to get in his way, he and B.A. included.

"Yeah, B.A., I really think that he'd do just what he said he'd do. It's just what I would expect from someone who really loves another person. If we want them to stick around, we are going to have to accept them as they are."

"I ain't gotta accept nothin'! It ain't right or natural what they're doin'! Somethin's gotta be done 'bout this!"

Hannibal pinned B.A. down with a glare. "They've been together for over ten years, B.A. It's not like this is a summer fling. I don't want to accept this either, but I also don't want to lose Face and Murdock. They'll run, B.A. and we might never see them again. They're our teammates, our friends, but most importantly, they're our family. The four of us only have each other. So get your head on straight, sergeant. We might not like it or accept it, but we *will* work together. Do I make myself clear?"

B.A. sullenly nodded and stomped off to his van, snarling under his breath about the day care center. He left in a cloud of smoke and burned rubber, leaving a very depressed colonel behind.

Hannibal waited until the air cleared and then closed the big rolling doors. He was between movie shots right now and had the day free. A whole day with nothing to do but think. He sighed, sat down, and finished his beer.

Murdock had been raped. Suddenly, a lot of his past behavior made sense. The more he thought about it, the more he remembered about the past he would rather forget.

All of the pilots had exhibited the same type of behavior that Murdock had shown. The excessive flinching, the loss of eye contact, loss of appetite despite the fact that they were already on a starvation diet, the way they all just seemed to give up spiritually, mentally, and physically the longer they were in that camp. Hannibal had put it all down as a reaction to the extra interrogation sessions that they had been put through. Koa had hated them with a vengeance that made no sense.

Eventually, the Cong general had separated all of the pilots, moving them to an out of sight location in the camp. Face had been frantic with worry the whole time and Hannibal hadn't blamed him. When they finally escaped, Murdock had been the only pilot left alive. And he had been barely hanging in there himself at the time.

Rape.

Four little letters. Such a small word for such a heinous and violent crime. Hannibal had known two women on the sets who had been raped in the past, and he had personally wanted to hunt down the bastards and make sure that they would never attempt anything like that again.

And now he'd found out that one of his own men, a man who was like a son to him, had been raped. And from what Face had revealed, it hadn't been once or by just one guy.

What kind of living Hell had Murdock suffered through? It would have been bad enough if it had been a stranger, someone you wouldn't ever see again except in nightmares. But to see them every day that they were held captive? To go through the pain of rape and not able to say anything in order to protect your friends? To have your rapists mocking you as you sat in a small cage, starved and beaten down, knowing that it would never end unless death claimed you? It was a wonder that the man was able to have sex again at all.

Although, even now, Murdock was not whole, was not well. He still suffered from flashbacks, from night terrors. Many a time, the quiet night had been ruptured by panicked screams and incoherent yelling in Vietnamese. He, Face and B.A. had witnessed Murdock's withdrawal from reality during those times. It would reduce the proud man to a shivering, feral animal crouching in a corner, attacking with flailing fists at the first sign that anyone was approaching him.

They'd sat for hours during those dark times, talking and singing to a man who looked at them with no recognition in his sleep-filled glaze. Sometimes he came out of it, blinking in confusion and bewilderment. Other times he drifted off into restless dozing in the corner, twitching, flinching, jerking awake frequently at the slightest movement or sound from one of his concerned friends. Thankfully, those dark days were mostly behind them.

Hannibal couldn't imagine how Face felt when he realized that his boyfriend had been violated in that way. He knew that if it had been Maggie who had been raped, he wouldn't stop at anything in order for her to feel safe and secure once again. He didn't want to see the look in her eyes that Face had described. Not in someone he loved.

Anger rose up in Hannibal's heart. If he ever got Koa back in his sights again, he would pull that bastard's balls off himself with his bare hands. And then he would shove them down Koa's throat until he choked on them. Too bad that the General was in jail for smuggling dope, Hannibal longed to feel his hands around that rapist's throat.

Shame also mingled with the white hot anger. Shame that he had not been able to protect one of his men from being raped. Shame that he had not known from the start that something was seriously wrong with the vast personality change in all of the pilots' demeanors. Shame that if he *had* known about it in the first place, he still would have been helpless to prevent it. Was this how Face had felt then? Or now?

With a roar of pure rage, Hannibal threw the bottle in his hand at the nearest wall. It made a satisfying shattering sound, the smell of spilled alcohol filling the air. The broken glass glittered like jewels on the floor. He felt strangely empty and for the first time in his life he had no plan, no direction, no adversary, no idea what to do next.

Sighing heavily, he decided that a walk might do some good. Clean, well, less smog-filled, fresh air to clear his mind and the exercise would be an added bonus. Maybe, just maybe, he might be able to not think for awhile.

Grabbing his sidearm and his jacket, he closed the big doors; leaving a scarred wooden table full of beer bottles and melting ice, two over-turned chairs, and the feeling of sadness and disappointment hanging in the air.

TBC

Author's notes: For anyone unaware of the terminology, here are some definitions.
Cherry: New soldier arriving in Vietnam and had not yet seen combat or very little combat. Also used if the guy is the newest one on the team.
F.N.G.: Fucking New Guy. Sort of self-explanatory. Ones who have yet to see combat and who have not proven themselves.
V.C.: Viet Cong, the enemy.

 


Discovery by Soulseeker
Discovery 2 by Soulseeker
Discovery 3 by Soulseeker

 

 


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