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This page last viewed: 2017-05-25 and has been viewed 2440 times
Summary: Amy suspects Hannibal has feelings for Face, but things might be different than she thinks. A midnight conversation with flashbacks to the Vietnam-era. Non-slash.
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine and no profit is being made.
The question was a whispered one, but in the silence of the night it sounded like a thunder, especially to one not counting on it. Dang it, he thought he was the only one awake but he found himself staring into Amy Allen’s eyes.
“What?” he answered, keeping his voice low.
“Can I ask you something?” was the soft reply. “It might be personal though.”
“Well, we won’t know until you ask, won’t we?”
He thought he saw a faint smile. It was hard to tell out here in the dark woods.
“Okay, well. I just wondered… What is it between you and Face?”
“Me and Face?”
The amazement in his voice was true. He didn’t see this one coming.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I know you’re very protective of your team and that you love these guys, but…”
“But Face seems to be different. Almost like… Like he’s just a little bit more special to you. I don’t know, it’s just a feeling I had, but the way you treat him, look at him… It’s different.”
He swallowed. Was it that obvious? But then the others must have noticed too. Why haven’t they said anything? Or maybe they didn’t dare say anything.
“Different how?” he croaked.
“I don’t know. Just different. Like there’s something more there. That he means more to you than just a friend.”
He thought hard. He didn’t know what to say. Fortunately for him, Amy wasn’t finished yet.
“Take tonight for instance,” she said, her voice still soft. “You’ve just been staring at him, watching him sleep for I don’t even know how long. And you haven’t even once looked at BA or Murdock. So why him? What is it that’s making Face so special, huh?”
He looked away from the reporter, to her left, where Face was lying fast asleep. His lieutenant didn’t have a clue they were talking about him. He gave Amy a small smile.
“Look at him,” he said. “He always looks so peaceful when he sleeps.”
Amy turned her head to look at Face, not sure what to think. She had to admit he was right. The small creases that had begun to form around his eyes were gone. He truly looked angelic.
“But…” she muttered.
“It’s not what you think,” he told her. “Face is like a son to me.”
“But so are Murdock and BA, right? I mean, that’s always how it seemed.”
“Of course. These are my men. This is my team. I give them an order, I depend on them following it. I depend on them for so much more. I trust them to keep me safe.”
“Face is the one I promised to keep safe.”
He looked up at Amy.
“Not a promise to him though. No, I promised myself I wouldn’t let anything happen to this kid.”
“But why? Why him?”
“Because… He was just a kid. When I first met him I mean, in Vietnam.”
“Will you tell me Hannibal? Please?”
He sighed. He didn’t know if he wanted to tell or not and even if he did, was this the time or place to do so? He looked around to where the rest was sleeping and his eyes rested on his lieutenant once more.
“Okay,” he said after a while. “I’ll tell you. But you have to promise me this whole thing stays between us.”
“Good. Well, the story starts in ‘Nam I guess. I was assigned a new supplies officer, because my last one got hit by a mortar. I’d read the guy’s file, 20-year old who had run into a lot of trouble since he arrived in ‘Nam. Petty things, but still… Insubordinance, fights, more of that stuff. I was not looking forward to this trouble-shooter. It sounded to me like they were happy to see him go.”
He smiled. Amy looked up to him.
“We’re talking about Face, right?” she asked. “I mean, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to start a fight.”
“Well, maybe not now, but he was a feisty kid, you know. But you’re right, he doesn’t seem like the type. Anyway, like I said, I wasn’t looking forward to having this kid shoved onto my plate. But quite frankly, I was surprised when I first saw him. He didn’t seem like the type to cause problems.”
“What did you think of him then, when you first saw him?”
“The first thing?”
“Yeah. What was your first impression?”
“Well, the first thing I thought was how that hair got passed the inspection. I mean, he had a head full of blond locks instead of the normal crew cut. It was quite an eye-catcher.”
Amy laughed. So did Hannibal. He could remember it all very well…
15 years earlier…
He was standing outside his office. Well, office… It was more like a tent, but it was his quarters nonetheless. He was expecting his new supplies officer today and he hadn’t liked what he had read about him. He seemed to be nothing more than trouble and trouble was something he didn’t need in his camp. Then again, he had to admit that he was also somewhat curious. He didn’t know what to expect and that got his juices flowing.
There it was, the truck bringing the fresh fish. It pulled over by the mess tent. There were only 3 men coming out, besides the driver. A tall, slender man who looked about 30 years old. That couldn’t be him. Second, a short, stocky figure appeared. He looked older as well, but right behind him stepped out a kid, long blond hair casually stroked backwards. He had a certain charm about him.
“How the hell did he manage to avoid the crew cut?” he muttered to himself.
He also let out a small snort. He had a feeling this young man was going to be a real piece of work.
“Peck! Report to me ASAP!” he yelled.
The young man turned around to see who was calling and spotting the colonel, he waved. The colonel smiled. Yes, this was going to be a real piece of work. With that thought, he stepped into his quarters.
A couple of minutes later there was a rap on the cloth that served as a door.
“Enter!” he yelled.
The young man stepped through the door, striking his hand through his hair.
“Damn,” the colonel thought to himself. “This is just a kid. He can’t be more than 18 years old.”
“Lieutenant Peck reporting as ordered, sir!” the kid spoke.
“At ease,” was the colonel’s reply. “Lieutenant huh?”
“Made it up the ladder pretty fast, did you?”
The ‘sir’ was spoken at a certain tone. It wasn’t respectless, but there was something there. Something that told him that this kid wasn’t going to be easy. He eyed the kid, trying to figure him out. The kid looked back at him, a certain defiant look in his eyes. It seemed as though he was doing some measuring up of his own.
“How old are you kid?”
“Old enough to get killed. At least the government thinks so.”
“I asked you a question.”
“I’m 20, sir.”
There was the ‘sir’ again. He seemed to like this situation. Enjoy the silent battle between them. The colonel couldn’t help but smile himself. The kid reminded him of someone he once knew. In fact, he remembered it well. He had been the same.
“Very well, if you say so. Well, you’ll be our new supplies officer. You have already found your barracks?”
“Good. I hope we won’t have any shortages anymore.”
“I’ll do my best sir.”
“So, he reminded you of yourself?” Amy asked.
“In a certain way, yes. He was checking me out. Tried to see what kind of stuff he could pull or not. I did the same thing.”
“You didn’t ask him about the hair?”
“No, I didn’t.”
He turned around to where the other men were sleeping. He thought he heard one of them stir.
“Shall we go somewhere else?” he asked. “I don’t want any of them listening in. Besides, all this whispering isn’t exactly good for my voice.”
They got up and walked up to the van that was parked a couple of yards away from the camp.
“Okay, so that’s how you met Face. Then what?”
“Well, over the course of the next few weeks I learned that he often cheated at cards, but no one could prove it. Quite a lot of men had already lost their money to him and a tension arose in the camp. And tension… well, it’s bad. When the word came out we were going over the wire the next day the tension broke and there was a huge fight. In the end, all fingers pointed at Peck, so I had no choice but to put him in the brig.”
“But they had set him up.”
“Probably, but that wasn’t the point. Putting him in jail caused things to quiet down and I needed things to be calm before any major attack. So the next day we went over the wire, Face being in the brig. We lost a lot of guys that day and part of me was glad that he wasn’t out there with us. I mean, he was just a kid.”
He stopped for a moment.
“Of course, I didn’t know until later that it had been a scam.”
“Yeah. He started a fight so he would get thrown into the brig. That way he wouldn’t have to go over the wire. Quite clever actually.”
“Yes. And like I said, a good one. It wasn’t until 4 or 5 times more that I realised he was always involved in something on the night before we were going over. I could slap myself in the face for not catching that earlier.”
“So what did you do?”
“I sat him down to talk about it.”
“What did he say?”
“He said that he had business otherwise that were too good to leave by getting himself killed. I asked him of course what those other things were, but he wouldn’t tell me. Later I found out he was running a club for officers.”
Hannibal sighed. There were a lot of memories drifting by…
15 years earlier…
“This is the fifth time you’ve conveniently gotten yourself locked up before having to go over the wire.”
The kid looked up at him. What was that in his eyes? Was it a flicker of fear? Being caught? Or was it the same daring look as always?
“You do realise that next time, you’re going over. No matter what.”
“Why won’t you go in the first place?”
“Well, maybe I don’t fancy the idea of getting killed. I’ve got a far too booming business to give it all up.”
“What kind of business?”
“Won’t tell you, sir.”
There it was again, the ‘sir’, the defiant look in his eyes. The kid had been nothing but trouble so far, but he couldn’t help liking him. There was something about him…
“So the next time we went over the wire I made sure he was there with us.”
“Yeah. BA had been under my command already and Murdock occasionally flew us on missions. He was one of 5 pilots assigned to us.”
“Ah, so Face was the last one to join?”
“If you look at it that way, yes.”
“Okay, go on. I won’t interrupt again.”
“Everything went great. He was great. It was like he had it, right from the start. His aim was perfect, he was smart, tactical. I was really happy to have someone like that on my team. But on the way back we were ambushed. He got separated from the rest of us. By the time we got to him he had changed. He looked terrified, wouldn’t talk. He wasn’t injured, but he wasn’t talking. Not for days. I put Murdock in a bunk next to him, hoping he would talk to him, but he would not speak about it. After this, he did his job. He fought over the wire when necessary, but never with the same inspiration he had the first time.”
“Did something happen while he was separated?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I think not, but I can’t be sure. Fact is he changed. He wasn’t so outgoing anymore. Rarely showed his face in the mess. He was different and I didn’t like it. It was just then you see that I got orders to form a 5-member attack unit. A small group of handpicked men that were fast and effective. They called them ‘A-teams’. I was to lead such an A-team and I had my men picked out: BA, Ray, Murdock as our pilot… and I wanted Face for his many talents, both in combat and outside. I needed someone who could get me things in the middle of the jungle. Who could take over command if I were down. Besides, he was also an excellent sniper. But he would need to get the Jazz back.”
“There it is,” Amy said. “The Jazz.”
“He had it. That was the thing I saw in his eyes. That was why I had liked him from the start. Kid had the Jazz…”
“But he lost it.”
“Yes, he did. And I didn’t know how to get it back to him.”
Hannibal stared into the open space. He thought back about those days in Vietnam. The doubts he had. He had been given the green light for his A-team. He knew he had the right crew when he had seen the kid in action. He was the missing link. The person he had been looking for. One he could trust to lead the team out if he wouldn’t be able to. The kid had a good way of reasoning and his actions were often bold and unexpected. This kid had it in him to become just like himself, and he needed that. But he had also felt guilty. Guilty about dragging this kid onto missions that were almost suicide. He knew the kid was scared, he had seen it in his eyes more than once. And he had every reason to be scared. He still didn’t know the kid’s real age, but he assumed it couldn’t be more than the 18 years he had given him on their first encounter. And why shouldn’t an 18-year old kid be afraid to die? These missions could very well mean the end and no 18-year old should be forced to take part in this.
And then the kid started getting cold feet. He felt it had something to do with the first time he got over the wire. After they got separated something had changed in his eyes. The Jazz, the look that had been there before, it was gone. Something must have happened, but he could not get the kid to talk. Yet there he was, having to assemble a team with their first mission only days away. He had decided to have a talk with the kid.
He snapped out of his memories and looked up at Amy’s face.
“Sorry. Lot of memories you know.”
Amy nodded that she understood. Hannibal swallowed. She was looking at him, waiting for him to continue his story.
“Like I said, I didn’t know what I could do to let him snap out of it. To get him back on track. I figured it must have had something to do with that first time over the wire, so I decided to sit him down for a talk.”
He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking back at that conversation that had taken place so many years ago…
15 years earlier…
He watched the young lieutenant strolling on the grounds, his hands in his pockets and his face blank. He wasn’t sporting his usual dashing smile and that made the colonel uneasy. The young man was clearly troubled by something. He decided this would be the time to do it. If he didn’t do it now, he might not get another chance. He strolled over to where the lieutenant was standing, lost in his thoughts.
“Lieutenant,” the colonel said.
“Oh, hello colonel. I hadn’t seen you there.”
“Taking a stroll?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I got bored lying down. Figured I’d stretch my legs.”
“Mind if I walk with you?”
The young man looked up at his CO. He didn’t know what to think. What was the colonel playing at? Hannibal smiled. He could see the confusion in the kid’s eyes. You couldn’t accuse him of being slow.
“Sure, you can tag along.”
He flashed one of his smiles, albeit not a dashing one.
They had walked for several minutes in silence when Hannibal decided this was the time.
“So, do you mind telling me what happened?”
Hannibal found two deep blue eyes staring at him.
“Happened when?” the kid asked.
“You know when. You’ve been keeping your mouth shut about it ever since. So tell me, what happened?”
A small flicker across the kid’s eyes. He would’ve missed it if he wasn’t paying such close attention to it. What was it? Fear? No, he didn’t think it was fear. He waited for the kid to start talking, but he didn’t. Instead he walked away, off the base, straight into the jungle. He had a hard time keeping up with the kid’s pace.
The kid stopped walking. Well, running was more like it. But he didn’t turn around.
“Running away isn’t helping kid, but even if it did… you don’t go running into the jungle. Charlie can be anywhere you know.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay. Just don’t do it again. Now, what happened out there that day lieutenant?”
“If I tell you, will you promise to never mention it again?”
Hannibal nodded. All he wanted was to know what happened.
“Well, everything was fine up until we headed back… when we got ambushed?”
He put it into a question, asking Hannibal for confirmation. He got it.
“Bullets were flying left and right and I couldn’t see where the rest of the unit was heading and… well, I panicked. Chose the wrong way.”
“You got separated, I remember.”
“Right. Well, that’s basically it. I got separated and it scared the hell out of me.”
“Yeah, that’s it. I’m not proud of it.”
“Hang on,” the colonel started.
He had a feeling there was more to it. He had seen the young man tell too many lies to just believe him now. Besides, he had seen something in the kid’s eyes only moments ago. He thought he knew what it was now: hesitation. Had the kid been thinking about telling the truth before he had ran away?
“I’m not buying it,” he finally said.
“Your story. I’m not buying it. You got spooked being separated, I can understand that. But I don’t think you’re the type to carry that around this long. So… my guess is something about that incident got you thinking and it won’t let you go.”
The kid looked away. It seemed as though a little bit of the wall started crumbling.
“Why are you so interested?”
“Because I want to make sure it won’t happen again when you’re on my team. I can’t have one member freak out. It will endanger the rest of the unit.”
“Yeah, team. I’m forming one. Special Task Unit. Only 5 men. Quick and dirty missions.”
“Suicide missions you mean.”
“For any other unit… yes. But not my team. They are handpicked… the best.”
“The best, huh?”
“The best. That’s why they call it an A-team.”
“Okay, so where do I come in?”
Hannibal smiled inside. There was that defiant look again. Something he hadn’t seen in a while.
“You come in through the front door kid. I knew you were perfect for the job the moment I saw you.”
“No buts. It’s you I want kid, but I need to know who I’m getting on my team.”
“What makes you think I want to be on your team?”
“The Jazz, kid.”
“The Jazz kid, the Jazz. I’ve seen it in your eyes the first time we went over.”
“What’s ‘the Jazz’?”
“It’s something that kicks in, makes you move, gets your juices flowing. Something like ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. It’s the greatest rush and when you’re on it, you can beat anything.”
“Gets your juices flowing?”
“Well, yeah. Or something like that. You can’t explain the Jazz. You have to feel it and I know you have. The way you handled things out there, I really felt as though I had found my second in command.”
“Wow, wait a second. Second in command?”
“Yes. You’ve got the brains kid, and I’m more than happy to teach you how to use them.”
“But… I need to know what I can expect from you. If you can’t loose these demons I can’t use you.”
The kid seemed to think it over. He could see the kid was interested in this team. And he was peaked by the mention of the Jazz.
“Okay,” he finally said. “I’ll tell you the story, but the same rules apply.”
The colonel nodded. “Of course.”
“Okay. Well, I don’t really know where to start. I guess it started when I was a kid. I could never stand being alone. I grew up in an orphanage. There’s always someone there, around you. Very hard getting any privacy, but I didn’t mind. I like having people around.”
“Why is that?” the colonel interrupted.
“I don’t know. I guess it has to do with everyone I ever cared about walking out on me. My mother died when I was 4. That’s when I started wandering the streets. My dad I don’t know. Father Magill ran the orphanage I grew up in. He picked me up, took me off of the street. I had friends at the orphanage, but they all left to live with their new families. No one ever came to pick me up. But, time and again I would make a new friend and they would leave again. I think that’s why I like people around me. I always felt awful when they left and I was standing there in ‘our’ room, alone. I still don’t like sleeping alone.”
His mind seemed to drift off slightly as he said this. The colonel remained silent and waited for him to finish his story.
“Then in college I met this girl, Leslie Becktall. She was amazing. She was… well, I guess you could say I felt like she was the one. We started dating and after about a year I decided to give her my fraternity pin. You know, sort of a pre-engagement gift. But when I got to her place with the pin I only found one of her friends. She told me Leslie had left, had quit college and left. She didn’t even say goodbye.”
He paused. This obviously had had a big impact on the young man.
“She walked out on you as well,” the colonel stated. “Then what?”
“Then? I quit college, joined the army and here I am.”
“So how does this affect you now?”
“Well, I haven’t really given it much thought, but when I got separated…”
“Well, I thought for a moment you’d left me. You had walked out on me.”
He didn’t dare look Hannibal in the eyes. He felt ashamed that he had thought so ill of his fellow soldiers.
“We never leave anyone behind, lieutenant. And I can promise you now that I personally will never ever leave you behind.”
He patted the young man’s shoulder.
The kid looked him in the eyes now. He could see the emotions in there, but he also saw the gratitude.
“Now, next time we go out there you remember: you won’t get left behind. I promise.”
The kid nodded.
“And I’ll make sure I’ll keep you safe, son,’’ the colonel thought to himself.
The conversation had fallen silent. Amy didn’t know what to say and Hannibal was still lost in his own memories.
“Of course, I wasn’t able to keep him safe.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were captured by the VC one time. Face was their favourite playmate. I think they thought he would be the first to talk, but he never told them anything. Made me proud, you know. He never folded.”
“Then why are you looking so sad?” Amy asked, seeing the sadness in Hannibal’s eyes.
“Because… They did god knows what to that kid and I had promised myself I’d keep him safe.”
“But that wasn’t your fault Hannibal. It really wasn’t. It’s just a situation you got into and you had no control over.”
“I know, but I still feel guilty. I don’t know what they all did to him. He has never talked about it.”
“I’m sure he isn’t holding it against you Hannibal,” Amy tried to reassure him.
He thought about it for a while before he spoke again.
“Let’s get back to the campsite.”
Amy looked at him go. She felt there was still something bugging him, but she didn’t know what it was. When they arrived the colonel sat on the same spot again, looking at the still sleeping lieutenant.
“What is it Hannibal?”
“Just look at him. He’s still a kid really. Older than he was in ‘Nam, sure, but he’s still a kid whose life could’ve been so much different if I hadn’t dragged him onto the team.”
There it was. The guilt. That’s what’s bugging him, Amy thought.
“He shouldn’t have had to deal with all of that. Or all of this for that matter.”
“No,” he cut her off. “I couldn’t keep him safe and I’m still trying to make up for it.”
“Hannibal, that really isn’t necessary.”
“You don’t understand.”
“No Hannibal, you don’t understand. Don’t you see you’ve given Face everything he ever wanted?”
“A family. A family that doesn’t run away from him, but runs with him. You’ve given him a home.”
Hannibal looked at Amy. He knew she was right. Then his gaze settled upon the young man with the blond hair, casually stroked back and he saw the kid getting out of the truck again. That moment he had first set eyes upon him had changed the kid’s life. That one moment in time. That one moment he knew he would always regret. He knew Amy was right, that Face had a family now. And he could be damn sure he would never leave him, but he couldn’t help but feel sad. Guilty even. He knew that feeling would never change. He knew that he would always feel that small pang of guilt if he set eyes on his lieutenant. And he made himself a promise: no one would hurt or harm this kid in any way ever again or they would be taken care of by Hannibal personally. He wasn’t going to fail the kid again. Never again…
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