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Mind Games - The Aftermath
By Charon

 

DATES WRITTEN: March 5th, 2001 -

RATING: PG-13 For Language

DISCLAIMER: Not Mine. Wish They Were, 'Cause They'd Still Be on. No Money Was Exchanged With Anyone, Anyone Real At Least, For This.

WARNINGS: Mentions Of Suicide and Attempts, Eating Disorders, And Loss Of Rational Thinking Abilities

EPISODE SPOILERS: Mind Games

SUMMARY: Did The Team Really Go On With Business As Normal After Face's Fake Pardon?

COMMENTS: Sure.

AUTHOR's NOTES: Not Beta'd, Spell-Checked, or Grammar Checked Beyond My Own Abilities. Also, I Am Not A Mental Health Specialist, Nor Do I Play One On TV, So There Are More than Likely Errors. Fortunately There Were Also Lots Of Medical And Mental Health Errors In The Show. (My Mom's A Psychiatric Nurse in Real Life, So I Know that.) :-D

 

 

Part 1

 

Face sighed as he watched Murdock as he was reinstated into his room at the VA and swallowed as the man waved goodbye cheerfully, to

the orderlies. It had taken three days for the hospital to straighten itself out and it has taken the same amount of time for Murdock to walk back into the VA and admit that he'd hired for some reason known only to him and then forgotten, a blond actor to portray him. Face knew the three days wait had been deliberate, and had been set up by Hannibal, to no doubt 'let the air out of the Lieutenant's head.'

 

Face could have told him that the action truly hadn't been

necessary. The minute he'd heard the explosions on the General's

front lawn and Murdock had untied him, the air had rushed out so fast

that Murdock should have felt the breeze. However, in its passing,

what had been left in the Lieutenant's head had been only self-

loathing. Murdock had been mad at Face, enough so not to really talk

to him as he'd untied the Lieutenant, and that had hurt more than

Face wanted to even begin to admit. However, even though he had not

reacted or said as much, he was ashamed of his actions over the

pardon, and he knew he'd deserved Murdock's anger. He knew he

deserved ALL of the Team's anger.

 

And so, he had suffered through three days in the VA. He'd

tried shouting and protesting on the first day, but they had just

thrown him in isolation. He'd picked the lock on the door that

evening, but they had caught him, restrained him, then sedated him.

The second day he'd been sedated, and on the third day, they'd taken

him from the restraints, placed him in a straight jacket, and left

him in isolation. All of that combined had stopped just short of

terrifying him into silence. The team had left him completely alone

for the entire three days, and it was only when Dr. Richter had

finally shown up from a weeks vacation and checked on 'Murdock' that

Face had finally been released. He'd spent the last few hours in

Richter's office as they'd tried to find Murdock, and Face briefly

wondered if Richter and Hannibal had been in contact with one another

and had actually planned Face's incarceration. Face also wondered,

and not for the first time, if Richter actually knew who Murdock was

and who he worked with. Face shook his head and decided he was

merely paranoid, as he made sure that Murdock was safely squared away

in his room.

 

He slunk away from Murdock's room, his head down, his shoulders

slumped and his hands in his pockets, and didn't hear Murdock call

him back, so immersed in his own thoughts was he. He wondered if

maybe he should have talked to Murdock at least for a minute.

Maybe told him to tell Hannibal that Face had indeed learned his

lesson, but then decided it was better for everyone if he just

disappeared for a few hours.

 

He ran the events that had led up to his being hauled away as

Murdock, through his mind, and the more he thought, the more

depressed he actually became. He replayed in Technicolor and

Surround Sound every event, every word, and every nuance that led to

his pardon, his reaction, his manipulation, and finally, to his total

shut-out of the only people that had ever really cared for him.

 

He shook his head. There was no way to either excuse or sugar-

coat what he'd done. After all, he had completely betrayed the team.

It was as simple as that. He'd been taken in no he'd ALLOWED

himself to be taken in, and been as blind to it as any green mark on

the street ripe for the con. He'd truly and honestly thought they'd

liked him, especially what-ever-her-name was. However, they hadn't.

He'd let them manipulate him, use him, and feed his ever-hungry ego

until he'd ended up betraying and laughing at the finally proven-

valid worries of his team.

 

His team.

 

He swallowed. If they were still his team. Face knew that

Hannibal would Not in any way, shape, or form, appreciate Face's

behavior, and he sure as hell wouldn't tolerate it. Especially since

Face's actions had exposed the team to the C.I.A., General Chao, and

quite possibly, the military. Thank heavens for Intra-Departmental

rivalries.

 

His team.

 

He swallowed the lump in his throat. Hannibal and the others had

still come after him. Even though he had done what he'd done with

the writing of the book, said what he had about them and to them, and

basically laughed at them, They had defied the C.I.A. AND Chao to

rescue him and to save his life. Face knew that had the C.I.A. been

in it alone and the Team hadn't come after him, he'd have been a dead

man. He owed the team now, and owed them big time, but had no idea

of even how to begin to go about paying them back.

 

He looked up as he all but literally bumped into the 'Vette and

wondered when he'd reached it, how long he'd been walking, and at

what point he'd actually had left the hospital. Good thing Decker

hadn't been around. Face was disgusted with himself. He would have

been nabbed easy. Could still be too. All it would take would be

another pardon and he'd walk right into their arms.

 

He fumbled for the keys to the 'Vette, then saw that Murdock had

left them in the ignition. He felt he should have been mad, but

truthfully, anything bad that befell him, especially at that time,

was more than deserved. And then he saw the manuscript on the front

passenger's seat.

 

 

Part 2

 

He reeled backward as if he'd been shot, and staggered to one of

the landscaped islands in the parking lot. Once there, he was

violently ill until nothing could possibly have been left in his

system. His body quaked from the force of his exertions and he

reapproached the car, then stared down at the absolutely detested

manuscript which was both a mute accuser of, and proof, of his

betrayal. He didn't need to read it to know every word of it by

heart. His largely photographic mind could provide any word in any

sentence in any paragraph on any given page, and every single one

reeked of nothing but self-centered, self-involved, egotistical

betrayal.

 

Well, he knew he'd certainly deserved THAT parting shot.

 

He climbed into the car and turned it on, then looked up at

Murdock's window and saw that he was looking at him. Face quickly

looked away, then peeled out of the parking lot. He didn't want to

think about what his supposed best friend was thinking of him, and if

it were anything like what Face was thinking about himself, he

DEFINITELY didn't want to know. In fact, right then, all he did know

was that he wanted to be alone and that he needed to think. He

turned off his phone and drove to the one place he knew that he

wouldn't, and couldn't, be found by any of the team.

 

He blanked out his mind, and kept it focused only on the road,

until he'd finally turned onto a shoulder. He briefly paused at a

broken guardrail that supposedly kept people from driving onto the

outcropping that over-looked the ocean, but never did. Normally the

waves that crashed against the rocks far below the sheer drop soothed

and comforted his frayed nerves, but not that time. That time they

seemed as ragged as his thoughts as they crashed and crushed

themselves against the jagged, broken rocks below.

 

"Trai-tor. Be-tray-er." They seemed to say to him as they

crashed in. He closed his eyes, tapped the accelerator and the car

moved forward and he tapped the accelerator again. He cleared the two

pieces of land that jutted from either side, and he had a perfectly

clear view of nothing but miles of ocean as long as he didn't look

too far to the left or right. He looked over the hood of the car at

the ocean, then down at his foot. One more tap on the accelerator

would put him over the edge.

 

He contemplated that thought for a minute. Maybe that wouldn't

be such a bad idea. It wasn't like there'd be anyone to miss him

especially after how he'd acted. His foot hovered over the

accelerator. Traditionally, traitors were executed, and it wasn't

like he was afraid of death, or even suicide for that matter. After

all, it wasn't like he'd never tried it before. Hell, once he'd

actually almost made it, except that Father Magill had come back to

the orphanage early and had managed to save him.

 

However, traitors didn't GET to commit suicide. Traditionally,

they were judged and executed. Maybe, if Hannibal were still talking

to him, maybe he'd have something worse than death planned for Face

like a massively difficult training exercise. If indeed Face were

still on the team. If he weren't, then there was no need to hold off

his plunge over the cliff. His world was over. The isolation and

fear he'd felt in the VA, even through the drugged haze, would be

multiplied, and he knew he couldn't take being turned loose while the

team was angry righteously angry at him. If he weren't still on

the team, then Three Tap Tumble, the unofficial name Face and his

small, one-time gang had given the cliffside overlook, would claim

another car and another ghost would wail in the caves below.

 

He picked up the phone, turned it on, then dialed the familiar number. "Lieutenant." Hannibal's cold, angry voice demanded. "This better be you." Face noted the snarl in his Colonel's voice and he paled as his foot dropped a millimeter toward the accelerator. Hannibal was absolutely, totally, and completely pissed, not that Face had expected any less. But what he hadn't expected was the coldness in the man's tone.

 

"Yes." Face swallowed. "It's me."

 

"Where the hell have you been?!" Hannibal demanded. "We've

been trying to contact you for hours!"

 

"Out driving. Why?"

 

"Murdock says you didn't talk to him before you left the VA."

 

"No. Was I supposed to?" Face had actually meant the question

in all innocence, but with the mood Hannibal was in, it was taken as

a typically wise-mouthed answer.

 

"Don't get smart with me, Lieutenant. You are barely hanging on

as it is." Face said nothing as he closed his eyes. Hannibal didn't

know how close to the truth he was, as Face's foot sank onto the

accelerator. "Especially after the last time."

 

Face's voice was even and low, though it shook slightly, and he

stammered, which were the only indications of the inner turmoil that

churned his stomach and made him want to vomit again. "Do . . . do

you want me off . . . off the team, then?" There was a pause and

Face inhaled and licked his lips as the breeze ruffled his hair and

Hannibal spoke again.

 

"I honestly don't know." Face's head snapped up. Hannibal had

said he didn't know! An 'I don't know' was better than an outright 'no', and meant that there was some hope still. "I'm setting up a training exercise and I told Murdock to tell you to be here at seven o'clock tonight."

 

"It's almost eight now." Face said as he glanced at his watch.

 

"I'm aware of that, and now, so are you."

 

"I'm sorry. I had the phone turned off."

 

"Well, now you know. I want you back here by eleven o'clock

tonight so you, me, and B.A. can get an early start."

 

"But Hannibal, that's only three hours from now. I'm . . ."

 

"I don't want excuses, Lieutenant. I want actions! And the first action I want is you back here and by eleven o'clock!" Hannibal's voice booked no room for argument, and Face nodded, even though Hannibal had hung up.

 

"Damn!" Face cursed and knew he was at least three hours out of

the city as it was. With the rush hour traffic of people trying to

get to their suburbs and whatnot, he knew he'd not make it into the

city proper until almost midnight. And then he had to pick up some

clothes. He sighed and knew he'd have to grow wings if he wanted to

meet Hannibal's deadline. He threw the car into reverse, slipped

back between the broken guardrail onto the shoulder, then spun off in

a burst of speed, down the road back to the city.

 

Unfortunately for Face, he did miss Hannibal's deadline, and by

a good three hours. He dragged himself out from behind the wheel of

the 'Vette, which had not co-operated with his need for speed, and

had run out of gas just inside the city limits. He'd called

Hannibal, received a cold lecture about better preparedness and

reliability, and had been given an extensionwhich he'd also missed.

He pulled his duffel bag from the backseat of the car and felt the

extra weight generated by the manuscript he'd tucked into it under

his clothing. He walked up to the porch and hesitated in front of

the door. He didn't know whether he was still able to just walk in

without knocking or not, but the door swung almost violently inward,

and made the whole question moot.

 

"You're late." Hannibal scowled and Face almost backed up and

fled from the icy-blue eyes that had only ever before impaled the

criminals and NOT one of the team.

 

"I'm sorry." Face said and Hannibal snorted.

 

"Say that one more time and I might actually believe you."

Hannibal stepped away from the door and Face entered. He saw B.A. as

he turned away before their eyes met, and Face knew that B.A. too was

angry and that there'd be no support from him.

 

"We leave in three hours." Hannibal announced. "You look like

hell. Go get some sleep. Doctor Richter said you didn't get much."

 

"It was difficult with the injection, the straight jacket, and

the coldness of the isolation room." Face answered and Hannibal

speared him with his laser-like eyes. Face felt the man's gaze as he

appraised him coldly and analytically, almost as if he suspected Face

were again being wise-mouthed, and desperately wished he'd kept his

mouth shut even as he tried to cover himself. "But, well . . . I

guess you . . . if you've already talked to Richter, then you already

knew that." He swallowed as a nervous chuckle escaped him. "I just

thought I was being paranoid. Maybe not."

 

"And how do you feel about that, Lieutenant? Do you feel

betrayed? Maybe a little hurt?" Hannibal demanded soberly as he and

B.A. exchanged glances. Sweat beaded on Face's forehead and Hannibal

watched him carefully. Face knew he was being tested, but for one of

the very few times in his life, he didn't know what to say.

 

Did he feel betrayed? Yes, especially when he thought of being

drugged. But did he deserve to feel betrayed? No way in hell. What

he deserved was to be pushed over a cliff for what he'd done to his

friends. But, THEY hadn't told him that. Face latched onto that fact

tightly. In fact, Hannibal had chosen to make him pay for his sin

via a training exercise.

 

"I . . . I don't think . . ." Face finally shrugged helplessly. "I don't know." He finally answered truthfully. "I shouldn't. I guess I'm more surprised . . . yeah . . . surprised . . . than anything." Face held his breath as Hannibal nodded.

 

"Then you have some small idea of how we felt." Hannibal frowned. "I want you to think about this feeling the whole exercise." Face blinked and nodded at Hannibal, the only acknowledgment of Hannibal's words he made. However, inside, his feelings and his insides were in turmoil. Just what did Hannibal THINK he'd been thinking about for the three days that he'd shivered in the isolation room trapped first in the restraints, then in the strait jacket?

 

In fact, it was almost as if he thought Face had just forgotten about what he'd done. Was that really the kind of image he put forth? Did he really have the image that he could just betray his friends and all that they stood for and just pass it off as if nothing unusual had happened? If that were truly the case, then what kind of a person was he, REALLY? Self-loathing and hatred flared in him and he fought the nausea that suddenly overwhelmed him, but it was in vain and he dashed from the room. He barely made it to the bathroom before he heaved.

 

 

Part 3

 

"What was THAT about, Hannibal?" B.A.'s muted voice came

through the closed bathroom door, and Face listened as he weaved his

way to the sink.

 

"I don't know." Hannibal answered. "But one thing's for sure,

if this team has a weak link, it's him. Damn it, B.A.! How many

more times are we gonna' have to pull his ass out of the fire?! It's

not enough that he's always going off with some girl and getting in

trouble that way! No! Now he's got to go and pull something like

this! Damn it, he could have gotten us all caught...or worse,

killed! HE could have been killed!"

 

Face groaned. Great. He was the team's weak link. He'd always

suspected they'd felt that way, and with good reason too, but he'd

had to go and prove it to them. Damn it all to hell, he didn't WANT

to be a weak link! He'd show them. He scowled at himself in the

mirror. He'd show all of them that he could be strong. He'd take

everything and anything they could dish out to him on this exercise,

and he wouldn't gripe and complain not even once about anything.

With that vow, Face exited the bathroom and rejoined the other two in

the living room.

 

"You okay?" Hannibal asked and Face didn't pretend that the

inquiry was anything more than casual interest.

 

"Sure. I'm fine." He answered.

 

"Then get some sleep." Hannibal ordered and he and B.A. retired

to their rooms. Face went to his room a moment later and opened his

duffel bag. Rather than night clothes though, he pulled out the

manuscript and read until the sun came up. When the dawn came, Face

put the manuscript back and went about his morning routine. He

thought he'd get a head start on getting some of his points back, so

he made Hannibal and B.A. breakfast.

 

As Hannibal sat down to what was one of Face's better culinary

efforts, he studied the lieutenant's shadowed eyes and his own

narrowed. "Did you sleep at all, Lieutenant?" His voice was

suspicious and Face shook his head.

 

"No. It was so close to morning I thought I'd oversleep if I

did get to sleep. I didn't want to be late."

 

Hannibal scowled deeply. "Dammit, Face! When I give an order,

I don't give it just to hear myself talk. We may not be in the army

anymore, but we are still out here fighting wars and I need each and

every man at his best at all times. Do you understand me?"

 

"Yes." Face's voice was a croak and his eyes were wide as he

stared at Hannibal and mentally catalogued the situation as screw up

number one. "Yes, Hannibal." He amended, his voice perfectly

clear.

 

"Did you eat?"

 

What Hannibal didn't know wouldn't hurt him, and Face knew that

if he tried to choke down a bite of food, he'd only end up throwing

it up. That would make him look even weaker in Hannibal's eyes,

which Face definitely didn't want to have happen, so he did the only

thing he knew how to do he lied. "Yes, Hannibal."

 

"Then when B.A.'s done eating, help him load the van."

 

"Yes, Hannibal." Face answered dutifully and went to leave, but

Hannibal scowled at him.

 

"I don't remember dismissing you." The older man said, and Face

blinked.

 

"Sorry." Face went to sit back down, but Hannibal shook his

head, and Face stood at something that resembled attention.

 

"Thank you." Hannibal stood and looked Face directly in the

eyes.

 

"I've been thinking, Lieutenant." Hannibal gazed at Face

appraisingly. "You realize we had to save you again."

 

"I know . . ."

 

"How many times have we had to do this for you in one form or

another?"

 

"I . . . I don't know. I never kept track." He kept his expression straight, but the number of times racked up in his head as if on a computer screen, and his stomach churned as he went into the

double digits.

 

"I thought as much. You know it's a lot, don't you? And you

know this was by far the worst of them." Hannibal waited for Face to

say something, but Face had no idea of what it was, so he kept

silent, and Hannibal's scowl deepened. "This time, you put the

entire team in jeopardy, Face. We could ALL have been caught or

killed. You are aware of this, right?"

 

Was Face aware of it? He swallowed the bile that rose in his

throat. He was aware of it every minute of every day. He was so

aware of it, his whole body vibrated with the pain, shame, and

humiliation that the memory and the knowledge inflicted. But how

could he tell Hannibal that? Hell, the man didn't even believe Face

had thought about it ONCE the whole three days he'd been in the VA,

and he had no idea of how to convince Hannibal otherwise. Face kept

silent, and Hannibal continued.

 

"We're a team, Lieutenant you, me, Murdock, and B.A., all four

of us. What affects one of us, affects all of us. You know this at

least, right?"

 

"Yes." Face nodded, incapable of any other speech at that moment.

 

"Then you'll also know that like a chain, a team is only as good

and as strong as its weakest link, or its weakest member, right?"

 

"Yes." Face's voice was low, but he kept his eyes on Hannibal.

 

"We're not looking very strong right now, Face." Hannibal's gaze

never wavered and shame and humiliation burned in Face's body though

he gave no outward sign of it physically. Mentally he screamed,

although he knew Hannibal wasn't telling him anything he didn't

already know or deserve to hear, and he nodded.

 

"Because of me." He confirmed evenly, as his breathing

shallowed, his heart pounded, and his stomach churned.

 

"Look, Lieutenant. You're either with us, or you're not. You

can't have it both ways. WE can't have it both ways. You've got two

weeks to decide what you want. You need to decide what you want from

us, from the team, and you need to decide what you want for yourself."

 

 

Part 4

 

Face already knew what he wanted, and he certainly didn't need

two weeks to decide it. What he DIDN'T know was how to go about

getting it. He wanted to get back on, and to be able to stay with,

the team. He wanted to get what little trust they may actually have

had in him back. He knew he walked a fine line and if he screwed up

at any time during the next couple of weeks, he'd be out for good.

With a feeling that bordered on desperation, he searched his agile

mind for solutions to his dilemma.

 

It certainly wouldn't do him any good to plead. Hannibal would

only be disgusted and the others would laugh, thinking he was only

doing his expected dramatic whining. If he gave the same old sorry

excuses, Hannibal and the others would only get more pissed than they

were already. And there was absolutely no way in any kind of HELL

that a simple apology and/or asking for their forgiveness would or

COULD even BEGIN to make up for what he'd done. Not to mention that TRUE forgiveness could only be earned through actions and NEVER asked for. If there were one thing he'd learned at the orphanage, that was it. He could only ever get the team's forgiveness if/and/or when they offered it and if/when/or and they felt he'd actually earned it.

 

So, if all of his CURRENT behaviors would only make things worse

for him, then what would some of his PAST behaviors accomplish? He

hadn't really thought about what he'd done as a child/teenager to fit

into places and with people, since he'd actually been accepted by,

and into, the team. However, he knew that his whole future rested on

what he did from that moment, and he let his mind slide into the one

place he rarely went, due to the mostly incredible pain it caused

him his own past.

 

There were two things he realized that he could do. He could

become the one personality trait that each of his three friends liked

and bury the original personality so deep into his psyche it'd never

see the light of day again if he could help it, or he could just

completely reinvent himself into one person one completely

different person and again, dump the original person as if he'd

never existed, and permanently. Of the two options, he knew he

didn't have enough time to do the second one, and didn't know if he

still had the ability to do the first. However, he still had to try.

After all, how hard could it be to pick one personality type his

friends would each like and become that? He had, after all, done it

before with others.

 

Before he could do all that though, he had to figure out what

they, as a Team, needed from him and keep those traits, then dump the

traits not needed, to make room for the new ones. There were only

three traits he had that he knew were needed his looks, his

intelligence, such as it was, and his conning ability. Everything

else about him could go. He'd already given up the griping and

whining. His ego, his pride - what was left of either of them, could

go too. So could his falling for anything with real (or the female

equivalent) of breasts and legs. THAT was NOT going to be easy to

let go, but when he compared women to what he could REALLY lose,

actually. it shouldn't have been all that great of a sacrifice. Also

his get-rich-quick schemes could be let go, and so could any and all

personal scams, as they took his time and attention from the team.

The Team and what they needed from him had to be his one main focus,

especially if he wanted to keep his life the way he'd come to know

and like it.

 

So, what was left in him? A practically blank slate to begin

again. He looked at Hannibal in a completely analytical point of

view and quickly catalogued his likes and dislikes and settled on the

one thing Face knew the older man liked.

 

He liked Good Soldiers.

 

Face had never really strived to be a Good Soldier. He was a

Passable Soldier, but had never really made the decision to be a Good

Soldier until that very moment. It just hadn't been of much interest

to Face to impress a superior officer with his military abilities.

Also, the regular 'spit and polish' army had never been Hannibal's

top priority either, so Face had never really had the incentive to be

a Good Soldier. Well, he certainly had it that moment, if never

before, and never again.

 

"Yes, sir." Face's voice was crisp and clean, but he resisted

the urge to salute as he knew that Hannibal would only take that as

another sign that Face had not taken himself seriously. Face wanted

to avoid that scenario again at all costs.

 

"I'm done." B.A. finally announced, and threw his napkin down

onto his plate. "Let's load the van." He stood and left the kitchen, Face right behind him. Again, Face's aspect showed nothing, but his mind worked furiously as he thought about B.A..

 

B.A. had no use for Good Soldiers. Actually, B.A. had no use

for anything, really, especially from Face, and Face wasn't sure he

ever really did. B.A. was big enough to protect himself and he was

smart. He may not have been college-smart like Face or quick-smart

like Hannibal, or crazy-smart like Murdock, but what B.A. couldn't do

with electronics couldn't possibly BE done. And the same went for

any OTHER kind of mechanical repair or building type work. Face

smiled slightly and wondered what B.A. would say if Face ever told

him how much he truly liked, admired, and respected the bigger man

and how he'd never felt afraid when B.A. was with him, not even when

the bigger man threatened him. Face shook his head and sighed. He'd

probably just accuse the blond of handing out lines, and Face frowned.

 

"What are ya' frownin' at, sucka'?!" Face jolted as B.A.'s voice cut into his thoughts. "Hannibal said for you to help load th' van, so help load th' van!" B.A. barked out the order like the good Sergeant he was and Face grabbed some of the equipment, then followed B.A. again.

 

He smiled and nodded as it hit him what B.A. liked. B.A. liked

people who helped him when he needed it, was quiet, unobtrusive, and

who followed his orders. In other words, he like an assistant type

person. Face's mile widened and he nodded.

 

He could be B.A.'s Good Assistant.

 

"Yes, B.A.. I'm here to Help." He answered confidently and, as

any Good Assistant would, did whatever B.A. told him to do without

question.

 

 

Part 5

 

Once the van was loaded, the trip to the exercise ground was

silent and uncomfortable as Face relegated himself to the seat that

was usually Murdock's. When they stopped for lunch, in order to

start on his plan to improve his looks, he'd decided that he could

stand to lose some weight, so he ordered a salad. They returned to

the van and finally arrived at the site late in the afternoon.

 

"Hannibal, wha's up wit' this place?!" B.A. demanded. "It's a

mess!" Neither he nor Face were too impressed with what they saw,

and Face thought that B.A.'s description of the place was generous.

 

A disaster area was what he would have called it. It was huge,

but that was about all that could be said for it. Twenty yards off

the dirt and gravel road was a ramshackle farmhouse that would have

qualified as habitable thirty years before, while forty yards beyond

that was another building that once might have been a barn. The yard

in front, off to the side, out back, and between the house and barn

was overgrown, rocky, and absolutely choked with weeds. To the right

of the barn was a steep upgrade that led to a flat-topped natural

dyke, while on the other side of that was a river. There was a

sidewalk that led from the road, but it was in chunks and was

crumbled so badly that it may as well not have been there at all,

while the porch that surrounded the house listed sharply to the left.

 

"This, gentlemen . . ." Hannibal announced with a flourish of a

cigar. "Is our new base, so to speak. This is our permanent

Training Grounds. As you can see, it needs a little work." He

ignored the incredulous looks that B.A. and Face gave him and

continued. "Now, as to our schedule for the next two weeks. We get

up at four-thirty a.m., have breakfast at five-fifteen a.m., and on

the obstacle course until noon. At noon we'll break for lunch until

one, then from one until four we make the outside livable. From four

until six we break for dinner and from six until eleven we make the

inside livable. Tonight we'll set up the obstacle course and

tomorrow, tour the place and make a list of everything we'll need to

purchase in town to get this place running."

 

Fix it up? Make it livable? Face's mouth fell open. He was

absolutely hopeless when it came to carpentry and the like, and

Hannibal - hell, the entire team - knew it. Numbers, books,

acquisitions, chemistry - all the things that involved mainly brain

work - that was his forte. Even when they built the things for the

team that B.A. would come up with, they used Face mainly as the

tightener, the carrier, the holder, the steadier, the fastener, or

the taper. Occasionally they let him weld, but if he'd had any other

tool put in his hands, he was more likely to injure himself or

someone else. When the hell did Hannibal think that Face'd suddenly

become Bob freakin' Vila?

 

His blue eyes flashed angrily and he glared at Hannibal who

merely gazed back coolly and raised his eyebrows. "Problem,

Lieutenant?" Hannibal asked, his voice even and Face paled.

 

Damn. He mentally raged at himself. He'd forgotten. He'd

forgotten that he wasn't Face anymore. He had no right to be angry

or upset, or even to question anything that Hannibal told him to do

or ordered him, or expected of him. He'd forgotten why they were

there and what he'd done. He made a mental note to read the

manuscript again the first chance he got, and reminded himself to

forget he'd ever been a personality even NAMED Face. He wasn't Face

anymore. Not to Hannibal. To Hannibal he was just a soldier who was

being disciplined. Face viciously bit the insides of his lips and

tasted the sharp tang of blood as he bit back what he'd been GOING to

say and lowered his eyes in shame.

 

"No, sir." He answered as he vowed to work harder on being the

Good Soldier he was.

 

"We need to unload the van." B.A. barked. "Especially if we

want to be done by nightfall. Come on." He motioned to Face who

fixed an appeasing smile on his lips and followed B.A. like the Good

Assistant he was.

 

"Yes, B.A." He answered dutifully.

 

Part 6

 

Face grabbed onto his mental notes to himself and held onto them

in both hands with nothing less than a death grip. When he was with

Hannibal, Face ceased to exist and when he was with B.A., only the

bland affected assistant was firmly in place. In fact, the only

reason Face existed was to read and reread the manuscript to drive

completely into the farthest reaches of his mind, the reason he was

disassembling himself in the first place. No matter how tired from

the day's activities he was, he always took three hours of his nights

to read. His lunches were always salads, his dinners only half-

finished, and the only time he ate any breakfast at all was if

Hannibal and/or B.A. were up early enough to catch him before he went

out on his own morning run, even before the official start of the

day's training.

 

Almost a week into the exercise, Hannibal and B.A. stood side by

side at one of the newly repaired windows and silently watched as

Face mechanically chopped wood for the finally working, wood burning

stove. His breath puffed from his mouth into visible vapor as his

clothes sweat-plastered themselves to his gaunt figure, and

exhaustion spoke in every movement, however efficiently he performed

his assigned task.

 

"How long's he been out there?" B.A. asked and Hannibal frowned.

 

"Three hours, almost four. He hasn't stopped once. I told him

I'd get him when I needed him." He shook his head. "He looks ready

to drop, but like I said, he hasn't stopped at all, not even to rest."

 

"Faceman's been actin' real weird, Hannibal." B.A. observed.

"And he's lookin' sick. That ain't right."

"I know." Hannibal frowned. "I've tried to talk to him, to

find out what's going on with him, but all he says is, 'nothing,

sir,' 'yes, sir,' and/or 'no, sir'. One more 'sir' out of him and

I'm going to hit him, I swear I will. It's really starting to piss

me off. I thought at first he was just doing it to jerk me around,

but his behavior's been too consistent for that, even for him."

 

"Yeah." B.A. agreed with Hannibal. "And when he's with me it's

like he's a whole 'nother person. Just wears that freaky little smile o' his and does whatever I tell 'im. Never complains 'bout it and never gripes 'bout nothin' either."

 

"I know. He hasn't whined about anything here either." Hannibal nodded. "Not in the whole time we've been here. Not even when the shower was cold for the first three days. I think maybe we need to get Murdock in on this. You know how close those two are. Maybe he can get Face to talk about what the hell's going on with him."

 

"You want me to get the crazy fool?" B.A. asked, but Hannibal

shook his head.

 

"No. I'll send Face after him. Maybe giving him a chance to

ply his trade'll clear his head." He raised the window and watched

Face swing the ax again. "Hey! Face!" He called, but Face continued

to chop the wood. "Lieutenant!" He yelled louder and Face stopped

in mid-swing. He snapped to attention and almost cut his leg in the

process, though he didn't seem to notice.

 

"Yes, Sir?" He called back and Hannibal frowned.

 

"Stop that!" Hannibal snapped, and Face dropped the ax, as he

obviously interpreted the order to mean stop chopping the wood.

 

"Yes, Sir!" Face blanched at the sharpness in Hannibal's voice.

He could tell something was wrong and he knew it was with him, but he

couldn't figure out what it was. He'd done everything right that he

knew of. He racked his mind to figure out what he could have done to

upset Hannibal, but was completely mystified.

 

"Come here!" The Colonel ordered and Face gathered a large

armload of wood and carried them into the house, stacked them, then

stoked the fire. "Tomorrow morning, Face . . ." The Lieutenant

tuned out the Colonel's voice as he realized he wasn't speaking to

him and continued to build up the fire. However, he suddenly started

violently as Hannibal's sharp, angry voice broke through his

conscious mind. "Lieutenant! Are you listening to me?!" The

Colonel's voice bordered rage, and Face burned his hand on the stove

as he slammed the door shut with his bare palm, but didn't

acknowledge the pain as he turned and jumped to attention.

 

"Yes, Sir!" Face stared straight ahead and fear shot through him as Hannibal's eyes blazed and he mentally counted another screw-up.

 

"Lieutenant." Hannibal's voice thrummed with anger and Face

held himself to a rigid military precision. "I asked if you were

listening to me."

 

"Um . . . no Sir." Face swallowed and blinked as his hand

throbbed with the pain he'd obviously deserved for not listening to

the Colonel when he'd been speaking to him. "I wasn't."

 

"I gathered that. And because of it, I want you to run an extra

two miles tonight."

 

"Yes, Sir." Face nodded.

 

"And as to what I was saying, I want you to spring Murdock

tomorrow morning and bring him here."

 

"Yes, Sir." Face wanted to ask why, but questioning a superior

officer was not allowed. He couldn't help but wonder though. He

glanced at B.A. and swallowed. "However, sir, B.A. and I were to

work on the other side of the dyke tomorrow and Murdock's room isn't

finished yet."

 

"Murdock will be bunking with you until it is. And as for the

yard, I'm sure B.A. can get along without you."

 

Face paled. B.A. COULDN'T get along without him, because that

meant that Face was expendable and replaceable. And what about

Murdock staying in Face's room? If he did that, then he'd tell

Hannibal about Face's nightly reading sessions, and Face could well

imagine how pissed Hannibal would be about that, considering how he'd

reacted the first time Face had ignored his order to sleep.

 

Face almost forgot himself and groaned out loud. He hadn't

counted on adding Murdock's demands to his personality shifts so

soon, as he knew that the two he had were still shaky. He'd hoped to

have the two firmly in hand before acknowledging a third, but the

situation couldn't be helped. He bit the insides of his mouth, raw

from many repeated mutilations, and tasted blood, and nodded, as he

finally got the Good Soldier personality back under control.

 

"Yes, Sir." Face answered. "But I would like to request

permission to take my run during supper. That way I can be able to

help with the house tonight."

 

"Permission denied." Hannibal frowned. "You're not eating

enough as it is. And by the way, I will expect you to eat everything

tonight at dinner."

 

Face's eyes widened and he blinked back the disbelief and

increduality he felt at Hannibal's gross negligence and almost

outright stupidity. In order for Face to do what the team needed him

to do, he had to be attractive. In order for him to be attractive,

he had to be thin. To be thin he had to watch what he ate. If he

ate any more, he'd gain weight, and that he couldn't afford to do

not if he wanted to stay on the team. And he wanted to stay on the

team. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. Hannibal was more than likely

just testing his resolve and loyalty, so what should he answer?

Should he give the soldier's answer or the logical answer? Panic

flashed in his eyes, but he squashed it and nodded as he decided that

it was not a lieutenant's place to correct a Colonel's faulty logic.

He chewed his lips for a moment, then nodded.

 

"Yes, Sir." He answered and Hannibal's face flushed angrily and

he turned away sharply. Face literally froze in place and sweat

beaded on his forehead as he saw that once again he'd made Hannibal

angry with him, and once again couldn't figure out how. He almost

bit through his lip as Hannibal spun back around.

 

"Is there a problem, Lieutenant?"

 

"You didn't . . ." Face swallowed. "You didn't dismiss me,

Sir."

 

"Get out of here!" Hannibal bellowed.

 

"Yes, Sir!" Face actually saluted and all but fled from the

house. He ran up the embankment to the obstacle course and looked

down into the dark ribbon of river that seemed to swallow, rather

than reflect the moonlight and ran a painful hand over his tired

no, exhausted - face. He shook his head and wondered if what he was

going through was actually and at all close to approaching a worthy

replacement for driving completely over the edge of a cliff.

 

Part 7

 

All through dinner Face felt B.A. and Hannibal's eyes on him as

he made a point to choke down his dinner and even had seconds. When

dinner ended, Face felt full - overly so - and he swore up, down, and

crosswise that he felt every fat cell in his body as they swelled

with the new influx of food. Almost in a panic, he all but flew

outside and forced himself to throw up every last thing he had eaten.

He sighed as the mutilated insides of his mouth burned as if on fire

and his body shook from the violence it had just endured. He forced

himself to run an extra mile for making Hannibal mad, and then had to

run another one for returning late.

 

He made his way back to the house, and, after a stop in the

bathroom to brush his teeth, he picked up a brush and smiled blandly

at B.A., who narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "I figured I'd give you

a hand, B.A.." Face explained, his voice even. "With two of us

doing this, it'll take only half the time."

 

"No." Hannibal growled and Face dropped the brush and stood at

attention. "I want you to get to bed early tonight. You need to get

some sleep if you're going to make a convincing argument to spring

Murdock. You look like crap."

 

"Uh . . ." Face swallowed and his eyes flickered to B.A.. "Yes ,Sir." Face swallowed again and dropped the brush, then almost tottered off to his room, caught between the need to show B.A. how much the bigger man really needed him, and the need to show Hannibal he could be trusted to follow orders. However, he knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep until he read the manuscript, so he turned off the lights, pulled the covers over his head, and, just like he'd done with certain magazines in the orphanage, he read by penlight under his blankets. He heard Hannibal and B.A. as they went to bed, and he lay back and listened to the silence around him. He thought about the various ways he could show B.A. that he really did need Face, and his eyes drifted to the window, then to the barn beyond that. There were so many things he'd planned on doing with B.A. the following day, and they really needed to get them done, especially if Hannibal wanted the farm up and running on his schedule.

 

Then Face smiled. It would mean defying Hannibal's direct

orders, but once B.A. saw what a great help Face really was, he'd put

in a good word for Face with the Colonel, and maybe said same Colonel

wouldn't get so angry at a certain Lieutenant. Face dressed quietly,

slipped out his window, and then went into the barn. He wrapped a

piece of cloth around the painful, burned palm, that ooze water and

blood, then closed the barn door and went to work. He separated,

sorted, and laid out, very neatly and methodically, everything B.A.'d

talked about needing for the work they were going to do the next day.

The night passed faster - much faster - than Face had planned for,

and he'd barely finished, climbed back in the window, and jumped into

a shower before Hannibal and B.A. were fully awake. Face ran a hand

over his eyes, and tried to ignore how very badly they ached and

burned, then angrily shook off the effects of yet another in a long

string of sleepless, or almost sleepless, nights. He had a job to do

that day, and there was no way he could let a little tiredness keep

him from doing his job. Maybe he could let Murdock drive the van

back to the farm and catch a few hours of sleep that way.

 

Face thought about the new personality part he had to add to his

repertoire and sighed. He shook his head and realized that his mind

wasn't as quick to adjust as it normally was, and that his thought

processes were much slower than usual as well, both recognized by the

fact that he had trouble formulating ideas, but he knew it was only

because he was dead tired. However, he'd been dead tired before -

more than he was at that moment - although in recent years he

couldn't really recall it, and yet had still managed to function at

peak proficiency. He would manage to function again too. After all,

it was expected of Good Soldiers and Good Assistants to put aside

their own troubles, not only for their obligations, but also for the

people they were obligated to.

 

Face sighed and leaned against the sink, then sighed. As far as

obligations went, Face added a third person to his seemingly ever-

growing list, H.M. Murdock. Face shook his head in consternation and

thought about Murdock and what he may have wanted form Face himself. Face knew of only two things for certain that Murdock DIDN'T need. And one was a Good Soldier while the other was a Good Assistant.

 

Face actually smiled as he thought about the enthusiastic, active pilot. Face had often wondered, privately of course, that if what Society had labeled as insanity, wasn't just a natural extension of Murdock's child-like, exuberant soul taking physical form. Face'd never really looked too deeply for an answer to his wonderment, he had just accepted the label for Murdock that Society had given him and those like him, and had never questioned those labels even once. Face tilted his head and focused his sluggish mind on everything he knew about Murdock's state of mind.

 

Face knew that Murdock's three greatest joys were flying, his

talking, and maybe more importantly, his dreaming. Face knew from

personal experience that there was often more to what Murdock said

than just mere words could account for, and he also knew that

Murdock never really got a lot of opportunities to share either his

ideas or his dreams with anyone, because of the label of insanity

that he'd been forced to wear. He knew too that despite the number

of friends Murdock had at the VA, no one knew him like the members of

the Team did, and because of that, Murdock was often lonely, and a

lot of times, desperately so. Murdock was also easily hurt, though

most of the time he refused to let it show, when people, and

especially members of the Team wouldn't take any time to pay

attention to either his words or his dreams, or how he felt about

anything. He also had been hurt by them when they refused to take

him seriously - the few times he actually WAS serious about

something. Even Face, Murdock's supposed best friend, had blown the

man off on more than a few occasions merely because Murdock's wants

and needs had interfered with whatever minor thing, like a date or a

personal scam, the Lieutenant had going at any specific time.

 

Face scowled. That would certainly be the end of THAT. Murdock

was his friend, yes, of that there was no doubt. However, in order

to HAVE a friend, you first had to BE a friend. Well, Face didn't

know if Murdock would actually want him as a friend any more - hell -

after what he'd done to them, there was no way he could even begin to

expect that any of the Team would want him for a friend any more,

but, he could be a companion.

 

Specifically, he could be Murdock's Good Companion.

 

With that thought he grinned as he dashed by Hannibal and B.A.,

jumped into the van, and peeled away from the farm to collect Murdock.

 

 

TBC

 


Mind Games - The Aftermath by Charon
Mind Games - The Aftermath 2 by Charon
Mind Games - The Aftermath 3 by Charon

 

 


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