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Fish

Fish
by HannibalFan’52 and Jullian Gray

Rating: PG-13

Summary: The Team’s time in the stockade at Fort Bragg, seen through their thoughts

Notes:

1. CYOA: cover your own (insert favorite euphemism here)

2. ‘short arm inspection’: Army slang for a genital exam

3. ‘Fish’: prison slang for a new prisoner; sometimes has homosexual connotations

4. SOS: short for ‘s**t on a shingle’, aka creamed chipped beef on toast (I’ve had it; it deserves its nickname!)

5. Popular Mechanics: monthly magazine that includes build-it-yourself projects in each issue

Warning: Consensual m/m relationship; mention of rape, suicide (nothing happens); some violence (mostly off-screen)

Spoiler: ‘The Summer of 1973’, by Jullian Gray

Disclaimer: The canon characters are, of course, the product of Stephen J. Cannell’s fertile imagination. I can only hope I’ve done justice to his creation.

**********

Hannibal:

The inside of a troop transport is a very boring place to be. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Only this time, we’re not troops…we’re prisoners…

I look around at my men. B.A. sits quietly, but I can tell he’s fuming. I’m proud of him, though. This proud man, with a history of punching out officers when he feels he’s been wronged, has a tight rein on his anger. It’s evident from the jingle of the shackles that encompass his wrists and ankles, and the chain running between them. This ability will serve him well where we’re going…

My lieutenant is another matter. For all intents and purposes, he is sitting to attention, staring straight ahead, his shackles still. But I can read his body language better than anyone, and it screams defeat. This poor kid, who should never have been in a war zone in the first place, is about to suffer the consequences of a matter that never concerned him…

Morrison, you son-of-a-bitch! It’s bad enough you hated my guts, but that should have been kept between us. To involve my men, who had no part in our quarrel, is unforgivable. You’re beyond my reach now, but there will be a reckoning…

B.A.:

I can hear the gears change as the driver down-shifts, and feel the truck slow. I had a few brushes with the police back in Chicago, but that was small stuff. Nothin’ to make my Mama too upset. Nothin’ like this. This is like to break her heart. She’ll know I’m innocent, but to see her ‘Scooter’ in jail…

Hannibal sits across from me: loose, eyes half-closed, head back against the side o’ the truck. Pity the fool who thinks he’s beaten, though. His body may be still, but his brain is already tryin’ to find a way outta this mess. He looks calm, but man! I just know he on the Jazz…

Little brother, now, is a different story. He takin’ this hard. He had some hard knocks growing up, but nothin’ in his life has prepared him for this. It’ll be up to me and the Colonel to protect him…

Face:

The truck slows; the guard is checking over the credentials of the driver and escort. Then the truck speeds up again, and we’re inside the stockade…

Guards banging on the side of the truck, shouting at us to get out. Rifles covering our every move as we stumble out of the back of the truck, movement hampered by the shackles we all wear. At least we‘re not humping our duffle bags, as well. It was bad enough when it was the NVA, but these are our own guys…

They’re none too gentle as they shove us through the door and into the processing office. Hurry up and wait, as usual. I can’t even talk with Hannibal and B.A. to pass the time. There are two guards for each of us, and they keep us far away from each other…

There’s the usual paperwork. Orders and files to hand over, releases to sign, that sort of thing…

I squeeze my eyes tight shut. I hope I didn’t hear right. Please, Lord…did he say…medical…exam…?

Hannibal:

Seeing as Bragg is a maximum security prison, regulations require we submit to a comprehensive medical exam. Don’t know why; they’ve got our medical records from ‘Nam. CYOA, I guess…

Or maybe I should call it by its right name - a strip search…

Doesn’t bother me, but Face? Parts of it are going to be humiliating for him, especially the ‘short arm inspection‘, and I can see him trembling already. I want so badly to put my arms around him and comfort him, to let him know it’ll be all right, but I can’t. The guards won’t let us near each other, for one thing. More importantly, it would put Tem in danger, and I won’t do that. His good looks will attract enough unwanted attention as it is. If it were known he has a male lover, it would be infinitely worse…

B.A.:

We stand in line for physical exams, stripped down to our skivvies. Little brother’s shakin’ already, I can see it. The thoroughness of this is gonna terrify him…

The guards…the look in their eyes is disgustin‘. They lookin’ at him like he’s a piece o’ meat. The good looks that worked so well in ‘Nam when we needed somethin’ could be the death of him here…

I’ll do what I can to protect him, even if I cain’t be with ‘im. I’ll put the word out not to mess wi’ my little brother, and I know the Colonel will, too. But we can only do so much…

Face:

The Colonel and B.A. have had their physicals, and now it’s my turn. At first it’s not too bad. The doctor checks my lungs, heart, and so on – all the usual stuff. Looks at the scars on my back and chest; compares them to the notes in my medical record…

But now…

Lord! I wish Hannibal would look at me…

Oh, God…no…please…no…

Hannibal:

I’ve dug the fatigues out of my duffle bag, as ordered, my dress uniform neatly folded and stowed. As I dress, I look over at Face to see how he’s doing, and it’s as bad as I feared…

He’s standing to attention, glassy-eyed. I can tell that he’s retreating into that little safe place in his mind, blocking out the indignities currently being visited on him…in front of a snickering audience, no less. I can’t approach him, so I try with all my might to reach his mind, to offer comfort the only way I can. I’m afraid that he may start to suffer flashbacks to the camps, and if he does, it could put him out of our reach forever…

B.A.:

I look at Face, the little brother o’ my heart, and I ache to pound these guards who are gittin’ their jollies watchin’ him bein’ humiliated like this. But it wouldn’t do no good, and I cain’t disappoint the Colonel like that…

I wonder if they know this scared young man is Special Forces…that, one-on-one, he could rip them apart if pressed too far…

That would be an interestin’ sight…

Face:

I feel a presence in the back of my mind…calming…soothing…

I cock my head slightly, mentally embracing it…

Hannibal:

I see a little hitch in the way Face holds his head, and I know I’ve reached him…

Finally, it’s over, and he’s permitted to get dressed. His movements are almost mechanical as he does so, and I can see his hands are trembling so badly he can hardly button his shirt. It breaks my heart to see it…

I promise you, kid, I will get you out of this, if it’s the last thing I do…

God damn you to Hell, Morrison…

Face:

I steady my breathing as I try to button my shirt. For a moment, I thought I was back with Charlie…only the knowledge that Hannibal is here kept me from freaking out…

Now that the ordeal is over, we’re escorted to the cells…

They separate us. I look at B.A., and see the fury bottled up inside this intensely loyal man. He nods to me - a tiny thing, unnoticed by the guards – before he’s led away…

Hannibal, looking so stoic. He doesn’t deserve this. If I could take this all on myself, I would, but I can’t. His eyes, so intensely blue, so full of love, are the last thing I see before they pull me away. The clang of the gate closing behind me sends cold shivers through my soul…

Hannibal:

Christ! what have I gotten this kid into? It’s bad enough my street-wise Sergeant is paying for the bad blood between Morrison and me, but Tem…? I see the terror in his eyes as they drag him away from me, but beyond that there is trust…and love… I make a silent promise: I will get my men out of this…somehow…

I look at Face and raise one eyebrow. Once he calms down, he’ll understand. I’ve always taken care of my men to the best of my ability; I don’t aim to stop now…

B.A.:

I hate leavin’ Face and the Colonel behind, but it’s obvious they ain’t gonna let us be together, not even in the same cell block. I tried to give Face a nod of encouragement, but I don’t know if he caught it…

I saw the look that passed between him and the Colonel, though. Not somethin’ the guards would pick up, o’ course. Take someone who knows them like I do to see it…

They may keep us apart, but we’ll find a way to stay in touch. When the Colonel puts his mind to a problem, there’s always a way…

**********

Face:

I feel Hannibal holding me, wiping away the dirt and blood from my last interrogation session. I’ve managed to doze a bit, but the pain keeps me awake. Murdock’s given me some water and a bit of rice. It’s all I can do to keep it down.

As the light grows, I open my eyes and look through the bamboo bars of our cage. They’ll be coming soon…

I must protect Hannibal and the others. B.A. tries to stop me, of course, but I slip past him, as I always do, and start taunting the guards before he can get anywhere near me. It’s gratifying to know that my friends will be spared for one more day…

They force me face-down on the interrogation table. My lower lip is bitten through more than once; it’s swollen, and feels infected. But I will never give them the satisfaction of hearing me scream…

I brace myself as I hear the bamboo cane come slashing down…

B.A.:

Screams!!

I nearly fall out o’ my bunk when I hear them. They’re faint, ‘cause they comin’ from another cell block, but I know it’s Face. He’s finally givin’ voice to all the screams he swallowed whole in the POW camps…

He’s had nightmares ever since we escaped Chao and his goons back in ‘Nam, but Hannibal’s always been there to keep ‘em at bay. Now, he got to suffer through ‘em alone. It must be tearing the Colonel apart somethin’ fierce to hear it, and not be able to do nothin’ about it…

The guards are shoutin’, bangin’ their batons on the bars, tryin’ to git little brother to shut up. Ain’t gonna happen, suckers, so you just better git used to it…

Hannibal:

Screams!!

I lay awake, waiting for them to come, as I knew they would. Oh, how I long to reach through the bars of my cell, to reach out in even a vain attempt to comfort you, but that would only put you in more danger…

So, I have to lie here, unmoving, pretending to be a cold-hearted bastard, and listen as guards beat on your cell door and yell at you to shut up. But you can’t hear them. In your mind, you’re half a world away…

Tem…oh, Tem! I turn my face in towards my pillow, hiding the tears as your screams rip through my soul…

*********

Hannibal:

One day is much like another in prison. We’re marched to meals, to the showers, and out to the exercise yard. Beyond that, there’s nothing much to do other than read or sleep, but I’m not interested in either, so I stare out the window for hours on end…

I see a flash of gold down in the exercise yard. Somehow, I just know it’s Tem, off by himself, the late autumn sunlight turning his hair to gold. It’s what inspired me to call him ‘Sunshine’, and to dredge up that old song. Somehow, when we sang it, we never made it past the chorus that everyone knows. But today, it’s the verse that haunts me, because it describes what’s been happening every night since this whole nightmare started…

The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping,

I dreamt I held you in my arms.

When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken,

So I hung my head and cried…

Face:

I keep pretty much to myself in the prison yard. Who wants to associate with a con artist and bank robber like me, anyway? Maybe it’s just as well…

Some of the bigger, meaner guys congregate in groups. I see them throwing glances my way, and I hear the word ‘fish’. It’s like being called ‘pretty boy’. I’ve seen that hungry look too many times before, and it scares the Hell out of me…

I finger the cross that hangs around my neck. It’s the cross Fr. McGill gave me when I left for Viet Nam; the one Hannibal retrieved from that NVA guard the night we escaped from the POW camp…

Oh, Lord! What did I do to deserve this? Please, God…what unforgivable sin did I commit to be punished like this…?

Do I even believe in You anymore…?

I look around at the barred windows overlooking the yard. Which ones hide Hannibal and B.A. from me? Do their windows even face this yard…?

I’m tired…so tired. I don’t know how much more abuse I can take. I could defend myself; I am Special Forces, after all. That won’t help if they gang up on me, though; I’d be dead meat - literally…

Hannibal is the only one who’s ever been gentle with me, who’s ever loved me. There have been a few women in my life, but Hannibal is the only one who has understood. How can I ever explain my past to any of the women I meet? Would any woman have anything to do with me, if she knew? What would Leslie have done, had she known about what happened at the orphanage? Maybe that’s the reason I could never get involved with any one woman. Maybe God - or whoever - knew what He was doing when he led me to Hannibal…

Even if I never see him again, I’ll always treasure the short time we had together…

**********

Hannibal:

I can see them down in the yard, circling like sharks. How many times Face has seen this, even before the camps, I can’t begin to imagine. Before, it always brought out his defiant streak. Now, even from this distance, I can see the fear in his eyes when he thinks of 30 years at the mercy of these predators. That fear could get him killed, or drive him to suicide, and I’m not about to let either of those things happen. Even if he did survive it, he wouldn’t even be 50 years old. Way too young to have his spirit broken like that.

In ‘Nam, he trusted me. I can’t betray that trust now…

Face:

I look up at the housing blocks and think how it would kill Hannibal to see me raped again. But what, I wonder, would hurt him worse? To know I‘ve become some bully‘s whore? or to know I’ve hanged myself in my cell? Either way, it would break his heart, but if I did it myself, at least he’d know it was my choice, and that I’m at peace…

And maybe…someday…he’d be able to forgive me…

**********

B.A.:

I watch for Face whenever I can. Sometimes we pass each other when our cell blocks are bein’ moved from one area of the prison to another, but we cain’t acknowledge each other’s presence. That would attract the attention o’ the guards, and that’s the last thing we want…

So far, my block-mates are keepin’ their promises to leave him alone, though I can see some o’ them want to mess with him so bad. But they know if anyone so much as lays a finger on him, they got B.A. Baracus to answer to…

Little brother must be wondering why he ain’t been attacked yet; I know he’s seen the looks he been gittin’. Sometimes it pays to be a angry mud-sucker…

*********

Face:

Staff Sergeant Downing’s been messing with me for several days now. He keeps putting me at the end of the line when the block’s being marched somewhere, making caustic comments under his breath about the nightmares I‘ve been having. Calling me a mama‘s boy…and worse. I hope this doesn’t mean what I think it does…

But, of course, it does. I knew it couldn’t last…

He’s stopped me as I try to leave the showers. His hand’s on the doors as they close in front of me while the rest of the block is marched back to their cells. So…I’m stuck alone with a bully who weighs about half again what I do. And I know the rest of the squad is going to be back as soon as the other prisoners are safely locked in…

I can see the look in his eye; he’s just itching to have a meek little lieutenant at his beck and call. Well, he’s not going to get him. I can’t take this anymore. No one will ever touch me that way again. I’m determined to go out fighting, if I have to…

Suddenly, I’m calm…and I’ve stopped shaking…

He swaggers towards me, backing me into a corner, his hands already on his zipper…

Good-bye, John. Always remember…I love you…

**********

Hannibal:

Solitary?! Face is in solitary?! We’ve only been here a week…!

The official story is that Face attacked a guard. Bullshit! Face promised to be on his best behavior, and that young man’s word is his bond. And even if he did do it, it would only be under extreme provocation…

The word on the prison grapevine, however, tells a whole different story. Seems a guard by the name of Downing made the mistake of trying to rape my Lieutenant, and the young man showed him he was no push-over. Kid’s a scrapper, make no mistake…

Word has it that it took no less than three guards to take him down. And considering the fact that several guards are sporting black eyes and other injuries today, I believe it. The kid must’ve put up one hell of a fight. I am as proud of him now as I have ever been. He’s a son any father would be proud to acknowledge…

Still, I’m sick at heart that it happened at all. I can’t influence the guards the way I can my fellow prisoners. There’s only one thing for it: I’ll have to see the warden…

B.A.:

If there’s one thing I cain’t stand, it’s a bully. ‘Bully’ is just another word for ‘coward’; only difference is, a bully makes himself feel good by takin’ it out on the ones who cain’t…or won’t…defend themselves. Little brother’s worth ten o’ them any day. Only thing holdin’ him back is that he’s afraid of bein’ so out o’ control, he’ll kill someone without meanin’ to…

If I ever get th’ chance, those suckers gonna pay! They got my word on that…

Hannibal:

Sitting outside the warden’s office. Some colonel by the name of Lynch. I can only hope he won’t live up to his name…

He’s playing games with me, making me wait like this, thinking he’ll intimidate me. Well, sonny, I’ve been playing games like these since I was knee-high to a toadstool…

I know it’s going to take some mighty smooth talking, but there are those who swear I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone. If there was ever a need for the old Smith charm, it’s now. A man’s life is at stake here - the life of the man I love; I can’t afford to blow it…

Finally escorted into his office, I play the good little soldier. I stand to attention, salute smartly, and request permission to speak. Even though I’m staring at the wall behind him, I can see he’s a smug little bastard - dirty-blond hair, little moustache, a condescending look in his eyes…

This know-it-all paper-pusher is probably here because he’s botched every other post he’s been assigned. I could make his life hell, but that wouldn’t serve my purpose, so I’ll just mess with him a little…

Of course, he throws it in my face that the great ‘Hannibal’ Smith, commander of the A-team with the best mission record in ‘Nam, is now no better than a common criminal. His ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude sticks in my craw, but I hold my tongue. My turn will come…

At last, he tells me to stand ‘at ease’, but I make it the most formal ‘at ease’ he’s ever seen. I’ve got to keep on this bozo’s good side if I’m going to protect Tem…

I make a formal request to have Lieutenant Peck and Sergeant Baracus moved to my cell block following Peck’s release from solitary. Lynch seems to find this amusing, pointing out their bad conduct records. I respectfully remind him that their behavior changed after they had been assigned to my Team, and that their conduct as prisoners has, to date, been exemplary. If Peck has lashed out against abuse, he’s no different from thousands of other young men who suffered at Charlie’s hands in places like the Hanoi Hilton, and cannot be blamed for his actions…

Then I play my trump card. Looking him straight in the eye, I formally request a medical examination for Lieutenant Peck, to be compared with the notes from his arrival exam. Any untoward injuries would prove it was my Lieutenant who was attacked, not the other way around. This, of course, would reflect badly on Lynch, though I don’t need to tell him that…

He still hesitates, so I sweeten the deal: any punishments my men incur, I will accept in their stead. Now, this appeals to him. He’s just itching to see me ‘put in my place’. But he doesn’t know my men like I do…

So, the bargain is struck. Tem gets moved to my cell, and B.A. to the one next door, effective the date of Tem’s release from solitary two weeks from now. I sign all the necessary papers, accepting responsibility for their actions…

Dismissed, I salute, and leave Lynch’s office under guard. My face doesn’t betray a thing, but inside I’m jubilant. Lynch thinks he’s got the upper hand…

To quote Bugs Bunny: he don’t know me very well, do he…?

**********

Face:

I hear footsteps approaching my cell, but I don’t bother to look up. I know what’s going to happen. It’s happened every day for…I’ve lost count…

A voice orders me to my feet. I frown; I don’t recognize it. But I get to my feet as quickly as the pain will let me. If I don’t, it’ll only be worse…

Today, though, the orders are different. I fall in with the escort, going blindly wherever they take me, as long as it’s away from here...

Hannibal:

I’ve been counting the days in the traditional manner. There are now fourteen scratch marks on the wall by my pillow. Today’s the day. B.A.’s already been moved into the cell next to mine, and Tem’s gear has been brought from the other cell block. All we need now is the young man himself…

I hear the clang of barred doors opening and closing, the sounds getting closer. Now I can hear footsteps, but mixed in with the measured tread is a shuffling that makes my stomach clench, and I hear shocked murmurs from the other cells on this block…

I stand back as the escort halts in front of my cell. The sergeant-at-arms unlocks the door, then barks the required orders. Face nearly stumbles as he executes an abrupt right-face, then marches forward like a robot to the center of the cell until commanded to halt. Finally, the door is re-locked, and the escort dismissed…

I’m almost in tears when I see how badly Face has been beaten; I can barely tell it’s my Lieutenant. One eye is blackened; the other swollen almost shut. So many bruises, cuts, and scrapes. I shudder to think what the rest of his body must look like…

It never ceases to amaze me how much abuse this young man can suffer and still keep going. He’s like a Timex watch: he takes a licking, but keeps on ticking…

I watch in horror as my lover sways on his feet before collapsing in a heap. I kneel beside him to help him, but my heart sinks as he cringes, scrambling across the floor until he’s crouched with his back to the wall, instinctively seeking a defensive position. He stares at me, wild-eyed, and I sigh as I realize that Tem doesn’t recognize me, and is now afraid of me…

Face:

The escort stops. The sergeant-at-arms opens a cell and orders me inside, then locks the door behind me.

It’s been all I could do just to get this far. My knees buckle, and the next thing I know, I’m huddled on the floor…

No… oh, no… there’s someone in here with me… can’t let him touch me… can’t… let him… have to… get… away…

Safe? No… not safe… but I can defend myself… no one can get behind me here…

Anyone tries to touch me, I swear I’ll kill him… so help me…

B.A.:

A four-man escort passed my cell a minute ago, and stopped in front of Hannibal’s. Is that Face…?

Aw, man, what did those suckers do to him? Even the most hardened guys on this block are shocked at the sight. It’s bad enough just lookin’ at his face. I dread to think what the Colonel’s gonna find when he checks him over. He’s movin’ slow, so I know it cain’t be good…

I hear movement in Hannibal’s cell, and a resigned sigh. I know that sigh; it means little brother’s in rough shape, and Hannibal’s in for another long bout of nursin‘…

If I ever git the chance, those suckers are gonna learn the meanin’ of pain…

Hannibal:

Oh, my poor Tem! What in Heaven’s name have they done to you…?

I have to be calm. If I’m not, if I let my anger show, it will only frighten him more…

I can see the look of panic in his eyes, and I know he’ll kill me if I’m not careful. That Special Forces training served the Team so well in the jungles of Viet Nam, but it’s a liability here. He’s an animal at bay, and I have to be careful…so very careful…

I don’t care what the other inmates see; I’ll do whatever I have to do to bring him back…

I sit cross-legged on the floor, well out of his reach. It‘s a position that basically leaves me at his mercy, because he can move faster than I can get out of his way. If nothing else, it shows I trust him, and that I’m not a threat…

I try talking to him, saying anything that comes into my head. Inconsequential things, mostly. I just want to get him used to the sound of my voice again. But I’m not getting through to him…

In desperation, I start humming quietly. Just a simple little tune, but one that means so much to us. I hum it over and over again, and finally put the words to it…

You are my sunshine…my only sunshine…

You make me happy when skies are grey…

Face:

A voice… soft and gentle… a song… I should know that song…

Hannibal? Oh, thank God! Hannibal!!

Hannibal:

I don’t know how many times I sing it through, or how long it takes, but I finally get a flicker of recognition. Slowly, I reach over and take his wrists in one hand, while brushing the sweat-plastered hair from his eyes with the other…

I feel him stiffen at my touch, but I quietly order him to stand down. Our eyes lock; tentatively he calls me ‘Hannibal?‘, and I know he’s back…

B.A.:

I hear murmuring from the cell next to mine. It’s the Colonel’s voice, and though I cain’t make out the words, I know he talkin’ to Face. Only trouble is, Face ain’t answerin’…

Now Hannibal’s hummin’, and that can only mean one thing: Face’s too far gone to reach easy. Only that would have the Colonel singin’ that song like that…

Finally, I hear little brother cryin’. That hurts, too, but at least I know he gonna be all right…

Hannibal:

Suddenly, those beautiful blue-grey eyes fill with pain and shame. I pull him into my lap, and he comes willingly. I rock him as he sobs, his hand in a death-grip on my shirt-front, telling me how he’d been cornered in the showers, and swearing over and over that Downing never touched him. I wouldn’t have blamed the kid even if it had happened, and I tell him again and again that he did good, real good, and I’m so very, very proud of him…

Face:

I’m heart-sick to know how much I’ve disappointed John. I promise him that Downing never touched me…beg him to believe me…

His arms just tighten around me, holding me close, his breath soft in my hair…

‘I know, baby…I know…you did good…real good…I’m so very proud of you…’

His forgiveness, his acceptance, mean more to me than anything else in the world…

B.A.:

I stand at the bars of my cell and glare around the block. These are tough guys, some of ’em maybe even murderers. I can see, though, that they’re shocked at how bad Face was beaten, and him just a young kid. I think we may have some allies here…

Hannibal:

Finally, he drifts off to sleep. I pick him up and place him on the lower bunk, then make myself as comfortable as I can, sitting on the floor next to him. If he wakes in the night, I want to be ready…

Even though he’s resting, he whimpers in pain as I open his shirt and look over his other injuries. It looks like his entire body is a mass of bruises, and many of them are fresh. It’s obvious to me that much of this damage was sustained over the two weeks Tem spent in solitary. I’m going to demand a medical exam, at which I will be present, then file a formal complaint against Staff Sergeant Downing and his slime-balls. Lynch may not like it, but right now, I don’t give a damn…

There’s another reason I stay between him and the cell door. If any guards decide to mess with my Lieutenant again, they’ll reach him over my dead body…

B.A.:

I hear whimperin’ comin’ from Hannibal’s cell; as it builds to the point of screams, I know the nightmares are startin’ agin. Immediately, I hear movement, and I know Hannibal’s holdin’ him close, whispering so low nobody can make out the words. But I know what Hannibal’s sayin’; Lord knows I’ve heard it often enough…

The screams subside back into whimpers, then into silence, and I know Face is getting’ his first decent night’s sleep since we got here…

Face:

I feel Hannibal holding me, wiping away the dirt and blood from my last interrogation session. I’ve managed to doze a bit, but the pain keeps me awake. Murdock’s given me some water and a bit of rice. It’s all I can do to keep it down…

As the light grows, I open my eyes and look through the bamboo bars of our cage. They’ll be coming soon…

I try to get up, to start taunting the guards, but find I can’t move. Something is holding me back. I find Hannibal’s arms are wrapped so tightly around me, keeping me safe. His words echo in my mind: Shhh, Tem; I’ve got you, baby; I won’t let them take you…

My breath catches in my throat as I relax against the warmth of his body and let sleep wash over me...

Hannibal:

I’m drowsing when Tem starts to whimper; by the time I’m awake enough to realize what’s happening, he’s gearing up to full-fledged screams…

Regulations be damned. I climb onto the bed and pull my baby into my arms, whispering soothingly into his ear as his tears soak my shirt, reassuring him that I’ve got him, that no one is going to take him away from me again…

Finally, the tension in his body ebbs, and he slips into an exhausted sleep, a restful sleep, for the first time since our arrival. But even in his sleep, I feel the hitch in his breath as if he’s still sobbing…

I’ve had it. There’s no way in Hell I’m going to put Tem through any more of this crap. We are getting out of here ASAP; I just have to find a way…

*********

Hannibal:

I was right: Lynch didn’t like it one little bit. However, he had to concede that Face’s injuries were not consistent with the report filed by Downing and his squad. They are now cited for disciplinary action, and Downing is assigned outside sentry duties. I’m not a vengeful person, but no one treats my men like this, especially not Tem…

Face:

I hate being afraid all the time. John shouldn’t have to protect me like this. At least, the physical wasn’t as…shall we say ‘comprehensive’?...as the last time…

The injuries weren’t as bad as Hannibal feared, though they’ve taped my ribs, and I still have some trouble walking. Nothing’s broken, which makes a nice change, but still…

Later, our block is marched to the exercise yard. It’s the only time each day when we can mingle with inmates from other blocks. The mix is different each day…

After two weeks of daily beatings, I’m definitely not feeling my best, so I turn my back on all the pick-up games that are going on, and saunter slowly around the walls…

Big mistake…

Hannibal:

I try not to hover around Face in the exercise yard; it might give the other inmates the right idea. So, I keep my distance, ready to move in if anything goes wrong…

I see B.A. in conversation with a fellow inmate; he, too, is keeping a weather-eye on the situation. I think we’ve got the bases covered…

In the meantime, I keep planning. We need to have a destination for when we get out of here. Wandering aimlessly is the downfall of many an escape attempt…

Family is out; that’s the first place the MP’s will look Which means we can’t go to Michigan. As much as my sister Elizabeth would do anything to protect us, I won’t put her or the rest of my family in the cross-hairs. That goes for B.A.’s mother, too, so Chicago’s out, as well. No one really knows where Face is from, not even the young man himself, so we don’t need to worry about that

Texas? None of us has family there, but there’s still a connection. They know our favorite pilot, H.M. Murdock, hails from there, so they’ll snoop around his hometown, too, just in case…

Speaking of Murdock, none of us knows where he is. Maybe we should find out which VA hospital he’s calling home, and head in that general direction. After we locate him, we can settle on our final destination…

I see B.A.’s head lift, and follow his gaze. There are two scuzz-balls who apparently have designs on my Lieutenant. I can see Tem on the verge of panic…

B.A.:

Out in the yard, I’m talking mechanics with a couple o’ other guys, keeping an eye on Face as he walks around the walls, tryin’ to keep out o’ everyone’s way. Too bad it ain’t workin’…

I see a couple o’ bruisers headed for little brother, and I don’t like the look of ‘em, so I decide to keep an eye on things. Good thing, too. They headed straight for Face-man. As I get near ‘em, I see little brother spot ‘em, too. He’s backin’ up, a scared look in his eyes. Just as I step in front of him, I sense Hannibal movin’ in from the other side…

If this gets rough, my block-mates won’t git involved, I know that, but at least they can prevent it from becoming a riot. I can beat these ugly suckers no problem, but I cain’t start nothin’. I won’t do Face any good if I’m in solitary, so I just stand my ground as Hannibal talks them outta doin’ anythin’ stupid…

**********

Hannibal:

Face has been dragging all day. It’s not just the physical injuries; those will heal in time. No, it’s the spiritual damage, so much of it built up in such a short lifetime…

I try to get him to talk, but he won’t even look me in the eye, much less speak to me. It’s not until after lights-out, after I take up my post on the floor by his bunk, that he lets his anguish surface…

The kid cries out in his pain. Why? he wants to know. Why did God desert him…desert us? What can I tell him…what can I say that he will understand? What do I believe myself? I’m twice his age - and more - and I have no answers for him…

One thing I can tell him: if he needs something to believe in, he’ll find it in my love for him. That is one thing that will never change…

Face:

I feel Hannibal holding me, wiping away the dirt and blood from my last interrogation session. I’ve managed to doze a bit, but the pain keeps me awake…

NO…!!

My eyes snap open, looking around to see who screamed, but all is quiet…

Poor John! He’s sitting on the floor next to my bunk, asleep. His face is relaxed and peaceful, a rare thing for him. I reach out with one finger and gently touch his hair, and he murmurs quietly. Even in his sleep, his hand comes up to give mine a gentle squeeze before it drops back into his lap…

I reach under my pillow and smile. The ‘springs’ under the mattresses are flat, flexible pieces of metal, sort of like the stuff used for watch springs, woven through larger squares of stiff wire. I’ve managed to work loose a piece about five inches long. It’ll take a bit of doing, but I think I can fashion a workable lock-pick out of it…

*********

Hannibal:

Well, we’ve gotten our work assignments. B.A. goes to the machine shop, since he trained as a mechanic in ‘Nam. Face is assigned to the prison library, but he doesn’t have to report until the doctor declares him fit. This means leaving him behind in our cell while I’m in the kitchens. It worries me, but so far the other guards are keeping their distance. I guess they don’t want to end up like Downing…

Face:

I move down the chow line, B.A. beside me, acting as my bodyguard. Looking at the serving trays, I sigh, wondering if I can eat any of the food. It’s Friday, after all…

Someone hands me a plate. When I look at it, I see it contains a large serving of fish. I look up to see Hannibal, a stern look on his face, but with love in his eyes as he reminds me to eat. So typical of John to remember I was raised Catholic, even in a hell-hole like this…

B.A.:

I see Face do a double-take as we go through the line. Colonel’s there, dishing out the grub. I see him catch little brother’s eye and mouth somethin’, probably remindin’ him to eat. He lookin’ a mite scrawny at that…

I look at my plate after Hannibal puts somethin’ on it. Cain’t figure out what it is, but at least it ain’t ‘SOS’, or any of that other lousy stuff we had in ‘Nam. Knowing th’ Colonel, though, it might even be edible…

**********

BA:

Machine shop ain’t so bad. It’s pretty much like the motor pool back in ‘Nam. Never done no oxy-acetylene welding before, though. It’s kind o’ fun…..

When I ain’t there, I’m in the library, catchin’ up on back issues of Popular Mechanics and keepin’ an eye on little brother. There ain’t much for him to do, really, so he spends a lot of time readin’. Financial stuff, of all things! Man, that ain't gonna do him no good in here...

Face:

It's nice and quiet here in the library. There are a few other inmates working here, so I don't have to do any climbing or anything. I'm still too stiff from all those beatings, but it's getting better, and the bruises are fading...

A couple of the guards were talking the other day. They were looking over at B.A. and me and muttering under their breath. They couldn't know that, thanks to my training in 'Nam, my hearing's so acute I can hear a snake piss on cotton, so I heard every word they said...

They're aware of who we are, of course. They've heard about our escape from Chao's camp, and how we brought back a lot of other POW's with us. They‘re pretty impressed...

Lynch, though, is under the impression that bamboo and rope are no match for concrete and steel...

Boy, Hannibal's gonna love that...!

Hannibal:

It’s been a couple weeks now since Face got out of solitary. He’s starting to look more like the young man I fell in love with. Not that I wouldn’t love him anyway, mind you. He’s my life…

So, Lynch thinks he can do what the whole NVA couldn’t, huh? I consider it a point of honor to break out now. Age and treachery will overcome youth and enthusiasm every time, as they say…

Timing the guards’ rounds is the next step…

**********

Hannibal:

We will get out of here. It’s only a matter of time. Only trouble is, time is one thing we don’t have, especially if Tem is going to be well enough to travel. Add to this the fact that the date for the court-martial has been set. The orders came through this morning. We only have a couple of weeks…

What a way to start the New Year...

Face:

The lock-pick is coming along nicely. The problem is: where to store it so it won’t be found? I’ve been lucky so far…

I’ve pulled a couple of buttons loose on my shirt, and convinced the guards to get me a small sewing kit. Can’t have military prisoners looking sloppy, now can we? I’ll hide it behind the name-tape on my shirt. I’ve been frisked often enough to know that they never think of patting down a person’s chest, plus the fact that the tape is stiff enough to disguise what’s hidden behind it…

B.A.:

Hannibal’s brooding. I know he’s worried…

We cain’t be seen talking together too much. Everything we do and say has to be open. No hidin’ in corners, hangin’ back after meals, or they’d know we’re up to somethin’. So, just like in ‘Nam, it’s up to Hannibal to do the plannin’. We just have to follow his lead, and be ready t’go…

Hannibal:

Tem’s convinced me to start sleeping on a bunk instead of on the floor. He’s right; I need to be in peak condition if we’re going to get out of here. Smart-ass kid has the nerve to ask if I’m actually working on a plan, but then he flashes that grin, and I can’t be angry with him. I guess I deserve it for making him eat…

I feel all right about moving since the nightmares don’t seem to be bothering him as much lately, but I’ve taken the bunk above him so I’m still close by if he needs me. There‘s another advantage, too - if any guard tries anything at night, I can drop on him from above…

**********

Hannibal:

One problem is clothing. Getting out of here in fatigues would be tricky. Dress uniforms would be better. But afterwards…

If the hunt is on immediately, fatigues would help us blend in with the search parties. If we get away clean, dress uniforms would attract less attention. Either way, I want to collect our gear on the way out…

We can’t plan too closely. There are too many variables, too many things that can go wrong. We have to stay flexible. It’s what kept us alive in ‘Nam; it’s the only thing that will get us out of this…

Face:

It’s hard not being able to just laugh and chat with Hannibal and B.A., like we did before we were set up by Morrison. But with guards just spitting-distance away from reveille in the morning to lights-out at night, it’s hard to relax., much less plan anything. Once again, it’s fallen to Hannibal to get a plan to come together…

Let’s just hope this is one of his better ones…

**********

Hannibal:

Well, the court-martial starts tomorrow.

The guards have brought our duffle bags and personal effects from storage. It’s time to take out our dress uniforms. I hang mine from the head of my bunk, away from the cell door, as does Tem. I know that, in the next cell, B.A. is doing the same thing.

If we’re going, it has to be tonight…

**********

Hannibal:

My eyes snap open, and I look at my watch. 2:30 A.M. It’s time to go…

I slip quietly out of my bunk, landing softly at the foot of Face’s. I’m about to take hold of his wrists and wake him when I notice he’s already looking at me, an amused grin curling his lips. A moment later, he’s on his feet…

Quickly and quietly, we make up the dummies in our bunks. Face taps me on the shoulder and nods towards the next cell, where barely-audible movements tell us our actions are being duplicated by B.A. I nod in acknowledgement…

Pulling on our dress uniforms, we quickly stow everything in the duffle bags, shoes on top. That done, Face slips up to the cell door…

Face:

Hannibal stands at the head of the bunks with the duffle bags as I reach through the bars. Inserting my homemade lock-pick, I fish around until I catch the wards inside the lock…

Thanks goodness for Army efficiency! The locks have recently been lubricated, so I’m able to turn the wards easily, with barely a sound…

It’s hardly surprising when the door swings forward on its well-oiled hinges…

Hannibal:

I bring our gear out of the cell as Face moves to work on the lock of B.A.’s cell. Watching him is like watching a master at work. One of these days, I’m going to have to ask him where he learned to do that…

B.A.:

I see the door of Hannibal’s cell swing open. Next thing I know, little brother’s grinning at me as he works the lock on my cell. In less than thirty seconds, the doors are relocked, and we’re standing on the landing outside the main door to the cell block…

Hannibal checks the stairwell above and below our level. He watches as the guard on the lower lever lets himself into his cell bock to start his round, then motions us forward…

Hannibal:

I sense, more than hear, my men following me down the stairs. Even the clips holding their bags closed don’t make a sound, they move so smoothly…

Tem works his silent magic on the main door leading to the processing area. Now there’s only the guard at the main desk to worry about…

I see my lover tense, a bitter look on his face…

Face:

My hands tremble slightly as I think of the day, all those weeks ago, when we first arrived here, and of all the humiliation we were put through…

This is the door, the final door. The door through which I entered a living Hell, convinced that I’d never see my beloved John again…

Looking out, I recognize the guard at the desk. He was one of the escort who…

No…don’t think about it…

It gives me a savage pleasure to push the door open and let B.A. through…

B.A.:

Guard’s awake, but he ain’t alert. Fool’s readin’ some girlie magazine. He’d never have survived ‘Nam. Sucker’s lucky he only got B.A. Baracus to deal with, and not Charlie…

Not like that’s gonna be a problem…for me…

Hannibal:

I put my hands on Tem’s shoulders and pull him back against me. I can feel him shaking…in rage? in sadness? I can’t tell, but I feel him relax as he leans into me…

Face:

I feel John’s hands on my shoulders, his body rock-solid behind me, as we watch B.A. at work. He doesn’t speak, but I know what he would say…

‘It’s all right, baby…I’m here…’

Hannibal:

I smile as B.A. deals with the one guard we aren’t able to evade. It’s nice to see the startled look in his eyes before he’s knocked unconscious. My Sergeant takes the man’s own hand-cuffs, using them to fasten his hands behind his back. He then gags the guard securely before stashing him in the head…

Looking around, I see the door to Lynch’s office. I’d dearly love to leave him a farewell note…

Tem glares at me, as if he can read my mind. Well, maybe he can. Anyway, he’s right. A stunt like that could cost us our freedom if found too soon…

Maybe I’ll mail him one instead…

Face:

At Hannibal’s signal, we put on our shoes, shoulder our bags, then form up and head out the door to the parking lot…

We’re almost there…

**********

Hannibal:

The things we learned in ‘Nam out of necessity are serving us well now. I don’t have to speak to tell my men what they need to know. A gesture, a nod, a raised eyebrow – this is all it takes...

As we slip out into the parking lot, I look around. Once I spot Lynch’s staff car, I look at B.A. and jerk my thumb at it. A nod tells me he understands; the next moment, he’s under the dashboard, hot-wiring it…

Tem looks at me inquiringly. I love the look on his face when I indicate we’re going out the front door…

Face:

Hannibal’s got to be kidding! The front door? Only the Colonel would want to brazen it out like this…

B.A.’s got the engine running now. Hannibal gestures to the guard hut; B.A. nods, then slips into the darkness. In the meantime, Hannibal points at me, then the driver’s seat. Oh, no…I roll my eyes, causing him to grin that manic grin…

He’s definitely on the Jazz…

I pull my cap’s visor down low, and put my trust in Hannibal…

B.A.:

I take up my position behind the guard hut and signal the Colonel. I know Face ain’t liking this, but he’ll feel better once we outta here…

Me, if this Downing sucker is on duty, I’m gonna enjoy poundin’ him one for little brother…

Hannibal:

Face pulls up to the gate and stops the car. As the guard steps out of the guard hut, I quietly ask him if this is the guy. At his nod, I start to grin…

Downing salutes and asks if he can help me; I point to Face and say he can start by apologizing to my Lieutenant. The look on his face when he sees Tem is priceless…

It gets better when B.A. steps up behind him…

Face:

I don’t know about this. Hannibal’s on the Jazz again, and there’s nothing I can do but follow his instructions. So, I pull up to the guard hut…

There’s a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as Downing steps up to the car, but, on Hannibal’s cue, I flash him a dazzling smile. No doubt about it; his double-take is one for the books…

Now, if we can just make it out of here…

B.A.:

Sucker’s watching Hannibal and Face, so I slip up behind him. He starts bad when my hand falls on his shoulder and I spin him to face me. He’s good at dishin’ out pain; let’s see how good he is at takin’ it…

I drop him with one blow to the face, telling him it’s payback for what he did to little brother. It makes me feel real good to leave him bound and gagged in the guard hut. He won’t be wakin’ for hours…

Hannibal:

With Downing safely stowed, B.A. takes over the wheel, driving sedately through the gate and out to the highway.

Which way do we go from here?

I consider our options. First of all, it’s winter, and there’s precious little in the line of warm clothes in our duffle bags. So, logically, we should head south.

Of course, Lynch knows the exact contents of our bags, and he’ll figure that out quickly. Paper-pushers are so easy to read…

I instruct B.A. to head south on the Interstate. We’ll take this olive-drab chariot as far as its full tank of gas will take us, then head north…

*********

Hannibal:

Well, we’ve been on the road for a couple hours now…

Time for a pit-stop. We have no money, so we can’t get any food, but that’s nothing new. We went hungry plenty of times in ‘Nam; we’ll find something, even if we have to catch it ourselves…

As we pull into the parking lot of the next rest stop, we catch a glimpse of movement in the shadows. The headlights briefly pick up several men struggling…

Face:

I slip out of the car as B.A. slows down, then make my way through the shadows towards the figures we saw in the headlights. They turn out to be one oddly-dressed, bearded man fighting off three armed thugs…

As I approach, I see two of the thugs push their victim to the ground as they wrest a briefcase from his hands. They run off, leaving their companion to aim his pistol at the man cowering on the ground, begging for his life…

I can’t let this happen…

B.A.:

I drive slow, watchin’ the two suckers wi’ the briefcase as they head for their git-away car. Hannibal taps me on the shoulder, signaling me to swing wide and take up a position so we can head ‘em off…

Hannibal:

B.A. swings the car around, and I watch as Face makes his way towards the man on the ground. I see the determination on his face as the third scuzz-ball takes aim at the man on the ground…

As soon as he’s in position, he launches himself at the thug, shoulder-butting him out of the way…

Face:

I catch the guy in the side just before he pulls the trigger, and we fall to the ground, rolling and kicking. He’s armed; I can’t take any chances if I’m to come out of this alive. Pushing his chin up and back with one hand, I grab his gun-hand and slam it repeatedly on the concrete until his fingers relax and it falls from his grasp…

As he continues to struggle, I rear up and land a hard right to his jaw. He won’t bother anyone again for a while…

B.A.:

The two suckers wi’ the case see Face knock out their friend, so they high-tail it to their car, peeling out, leavin’ him behind. Hannibal motions for me to block ‘em…

I can burn rubber with the best, and I’m in their way before they go 20 yards. Tryin’ to git around us, they jump the curb an’ plow into a concrete planter…

They’re shook as they climb out, tryin’ to escape on foot, but me and the Colonel, we’re too fast for ‘em. Before they can draw their guns, we got ‘em up against the car, helpless…

Hannibal:

Twisting my sleaze-ball’s arm up behind his back, I relieve him of his pistol and slip it into my pocket; I know without looking that B.A. has done the same. We force our prisoners over to where Face is helping the victim to his feet…

He introduces himself as Yakov Goldblum, a Hasidic diamond merchant. He looks askance at my Sergeant, but is so delighted when B.A. hands him his briefcase. Opening the case, he shows us what we have rescued for him, thanking us profusely; I tell him that we were happy to help…

We shake hands, but as we turn away, Mr. Goldblum lays a hand on my arm, asking me to wait. Reaching into an inside pocket of his long coat, he pulls out a thick manila envelope, from which he extracts ten $100 bills. He presses them into my hand, explaining that it is 10% of the value of the stones he’s carrying…

Stunned, I try to explain that we didn’t do this for money, but he dismisses my protest. To him, it is worth it to know that there are still people willing to help strangers in trouble…

I look at my men, thinking that we may just have found our calling…

Face:

I can’t believe what’s happened. Only a couple hours on the lam, and we already have some working capital! Hannibal hands it to me for safekeeping. What does he think I am? the Team’s accountant…?

Hannibal insists that Mr. Goldblum take the credit for capturing these hoodlums, asking only that he forget he ever saw us, and he is happy to comply. We leave the bad guys tied up, so they won’t bother anyone before the police arrive…

Which means we’d better get going…

B.A.:

I can hear the Colonel callin’, but I ain’t leaving ‘til I’ve searched the suckers’ car. I’m happy when I come up with a couple more pistols and a fair amount of ammo. If we come up against Lynch’s men, I want t’ be able to at least keep ‘em pinned down while we found a way out…

At Hannibal’s suggestion, I head south again, but take the first exit we come across. From here, we’ll make our way north, usin’ the back roads to make it harder for the MP’s to find us…

**********

Hannibal:

Well, that’s it…the car’s out of gas. Our luck seems to be holding, though, because there’s a nice, thick stand of bushes not far away. We push the car off the road, hiding it well. It’ll be a long time before the MP’s locate it…

We arm ourselves, hoping and praying that we don’t have to use the weapons. After all we went through in ‘Nam, none of us wants to take a life ever again. We will do everything possible to avoid that eventuality…

So, now we’re on foot, duffle bags over our shoulders, slogging our way north…

Face:

Some people say it’s darkest just before the dawn. It certainly seems like it right now, especially with few street lamps along this stretch of road. It’s nearly 6:00 AM by my watch; the sun won’t be up for another hour yet. That gives us a nice bit of cover, and we want to take advantage of it, getting as far as we can before we have to find some kind of shelter…

**********

B.A.:

It’s a little after 7:00 AM, and the sky is startin’ to turn grey. It’ll be dawn soon, and traffic’ll pick up. Colonel better start thinkin’ about what to do about someplace to hole up for th’ day…

I hear a heavy rumblin’ behind us…

Face:

We turn at B.A.’s shout, and see a semi coming up behind us, fast. As it approaches, Hannibal steps to the side of the road and sticks out his thumb. I can’t believe he’s doing this…

Much to my surprise, this beautiful, shiny-new rig actually stops! Hannibal opens the door and climbs up …

The conversation starts pleasantly, but then I see the Colonel’s face fall…

Hannibal: I drop my bag and climb up after opening the passenger-side door, giving the truck driver my best smile. At first the conversation is light, and I let the trucker assume we‘re soldiers on leave, hitching a ride to the bus depot. Then he frowns, staring at my shoulder patch. This does not bode well…

Suddenly his face lights up. Am I Special Forces? he asks. Tentatively, I nod, gesturing to my men to be ready to run. He reaches over and shakes my hand. It seems a SpecFor commando team led by a nut-bar colonel called Hannibal-something pulled his younger brother’s squad out of a tight spot in ‘Nam a couple years back, and he’s never forgotten it. Now, he likes to give lifts to SF guys, in hopes of someday doing a good turn for the guys who saved his brother’s life…

As I step back, he tells us he’s heading for Pennsylvania, and we’re welcome keep him company. I accept, thinking we should be able to pick up some civvies at one of the truck stops. Looks like the Smith luck is holding…

I let my men climb in first, and let them get settled in the sleeping space behind the cab before I join them…

**********

Hannibal:

Well, we’re on our way. B.A. dozes against the far wall; Tem does the same, his head in my lap, my fingers stroking his hair. I take first watch, chatting with the trucker as dawn lightens the sky.

It won’t be long before they miss us. By then, with any luck, we’ll be well out of their reach…

At least for now…

End…?


Fish by Jullian Gray and HannibalFan'52

 

 


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