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Vie Temps Passe (was Time's Past)
by Charon

DATES WRITTEN: April 5th, 2001 - April 8th, 2001
RATING: PG-13 For Language
ARCHIVE: Sure
DISCLAIMER: Not Mine. If They Were I Would Treat 'Em Better. No money Has entered My Hands For This.
WARNINGS: BREEP BREEP Death Story BREEP BREEP (Blame The Plot Aliens!)
SUMMARY: Set In 2008, Some Bad Things And Some Good Things Happen To the One Surviving Member Of The A-Team, But For A Reason
COMMENTS: As Long As You Pay Attention To The Warning, Sure.
AUTHOR's NOTES: Not Beta'd, Spell-Checked, or Grammar Checked Beyond My Own Abilities

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Part 1

Vie Temps Passe

2008

Templeton "Faceman" Peck, former military Lieutenant and criminal, turned current CEO of A-Team Software and Development, sat in his home office, and sighed. He sipped a very excellent wine from a cut crystal glass as quiet classical music played from the ultra- modern stereo equipment across the office, and he sighed. His eyes wandered around the expensively furnished room, then he finally looked at the wall over the mantle of his fireplace.

He contemplated the last eighteen years of his life and inhaled deeply. The A-Team had finally been pardoned after a particularly messy mission in Iraq in 1990, and had explored their various options separately for a couple years. They'd had plans to get back together and continue what they'd been doing since the fiasco in Vietnam that had put them on the run from the Military, until they had been captured by a harsh, but fair General of a Super-Secret Government Organization, but fate had unkindly intervened and their leader, Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith had died of cancer. In the year 2000, they had lost Captain H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock to a terrible helicopter accident over a forest fire, and then in 2003, Sergeant Bosco "B.A. - Bad Attitude" Baracus had been killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago. After that, Face had been left completely on his own.

However, before any of that had happened, he'd gone into the computer business and of course, had made it a success. Then, thanks to Murdock, had met an absolutely wonderful woman and had married her. Face smiled, and couldn't believe that in May, he'd have been married for ten marvelous years. He knew that if it hadn't been for her, he would have given up after B.A.'s death.

However, there were three separate weeks out of every year that he spent completely by himself without work, friends, or even his wife around him, and they were the three different weeks of his friends' deaths. He was in the middle of observing B.A.'s death that particular week, and as she always did, his wife had kissed his cheek and left the house to visit her relatives. She had left him to grieve the team's loss on his own, which was how he preferred things, and was grateful for her understanding.

He stood and went to the fireplace, then gazed at the three large, framed, shadow boxes that resided on the wall over the mantle, and smiled fondly, though sadly.

In the first box was a white, Australian jacket, a cigar, and a picture of Hannibal, an older man with white hair and laughing, bright blue eyes, with his arm thrown around a younger Templeton's shoulders.

The second box held a leather jacket with a painted tiger's head and emblazoned with the words "Da Nang 1970" across the back. Also in the box was a Captain Bellybuster hat and a picture of Murdock, a tall man with thinning brown hair and a grin that took up half his face. He leaned against Face, and had his arm draped casually over one of Faces shoulders, while his other made bunny ears over the Lt.'s head.

Face saluted the last shadow box and drank from the glass as he gazed at the bright red, long sleeved shirt, flanked by a gold cross on a gold chain, a gold necklace with the letters B.A. on it, and a gold pinky ring that B.A. had once loaned to Face to use to marry one of their clients many years before. Face had asked B.A's Mother for permission to have the jewelry, and she had sent them to him days before she had joined her son in what Face knew had to be heaven. Also in the box was a picture of Face with B.A. next to him. B.A.'s large hand rested on the smaller man's shoulder, and to anyone who didn't know him, a grimace on his face under the mohawk. However, to Face and the other members of the team, they knew that the corners of the bigger black man's mouth were turned upward in an indulgent smile.

Face swallowed with difficulty as the pain of his loss washed over him. He started to lose himself in his memories of the past, but was suddenly jolted as the phone rang.

Part 2

He turned the music off, turned up the lights, and picked up the receiver. "Peck." He answered, and flopped into his large leather chair behind the desk.

"Mr. Peck." Came the familiar voice of his Vice-President, Alan Greenwood, and Face grimaced. He knew that whatever information the younger man had was important because everyone knew not to disturb Face on his special week off. "I'm really sorry to disturb you, Sir. But it's happened."

"Already?" Face sat up sharply and almost spilled the wine from his glass onto his lap. "I thought that deal wasn't going to be ready for another week."

"I know. But I just got the news from an inside source. Even as we speak, our holdings are being bought up. We've got two of our banks calling in the loans, and they say if we don't pay them off in the next two days, they'll sell them. And you know who'll buy them up. He's already made a bid."

"Damn." Face ran a hand over his face, and grimaced. "I'll get right on it, Alan, but it doesn't look good."

"Yes, sir." the Vice-President said sadly. "In that case it's been nice working with you, Sir." He hung up and Face fell back in his chair. He'd known his main rival had planned on a move on Face's business, but had it on VERY good authority that the man hadn't been able to move on him for another week because he didn't have the ready capital. with that information, Face had put his efforts into holding the man off the following week after he returned to work from his Grief Week. The only thing Face could do at that particular week to save his business would be to liquidate his own assets, but he knew he'd never be able to do it in time to save the company. He knew he and his wife would survive the loss, thanks to his intimate knowledge of the Stock market and such things, but the business had been their main source of income. At least he could always rebuild. Hannibal had always taught him that just when things looked their bleakest, you could look around, and out of what others would consider junk, could come the most amazing and workable piece of equipment. He made am mental note to call his wife in the morning, and went to bed, where he dreamed of the happier times when he'd been with his friends.

He had just finished breakfast the next morning, when a knock came at the door. He answered it himself as he'd given the servants the week off, and raised his eyebrows in surprise as he saw two people, one tall, dark, swarthy, and male, while the other was blonde, attractive, well-built, and female, on his porch. They both held briefcases, and without a greeting, the man held out a business card.

"Are you Templeton Peck?" He demanded, and Face nodded.

"Yes. What can I do for you?" He looked at the card.

"I'm Agent Olkane and this . . ." He indicated the female as they held up their identifications for his shocked examination. "Is agent Westcott. We're with the Internal Revenue Service."

"The I.R.S.?" Face stared at them. "What's this all about?"

"Yes, we're the I.R.S.." he answered with smug, self- assurance. "There have been reports of illegal activities on your part, and we're auditing you. You will turn over any and all business papers and records as well as any and all personal papers and information to us. You are hereby notified that any and all assets you have, including your properties and all bank accounts are frozen, pending charges once our investigation is completed. All freezes and liens are effective immediately."

Face was floored. "But . . . but I do all my taxes myself." He protested. "I haven't done anything . . ."

"That's what they all say, Mr. Peck." The woman answered as she handed him an Official-looking envelope. "We'll be back in two days to assess your home and all of its contents. We'll also be placing agents at your front gate to make sure that nothing leaves here that isn't supposed to." she misled insincerely. "So if you wish to leave your house, I would suggest you take the bus."

"You can't do this!" Face exclaimed, but they both smiled, and he was chilled to the bone by the sheer ferocity in them.

"We're the United States Government, Mr. Peck. We can do anything." The man said, then nodded. "Have a nice day." The two agents left, and Face collapsed against the door.

The one thing Face had always made sure of was that his taxes all been done by himself, and done correctly, even though it chewed at him to do so. However, he had known that his status as a former criminal, despite the pardon, or maybe because of it, would always put him under close scrutiny of the government for potential criminal activities, and he'd wanted to avoid that scenario at all costs. The very scenario he'd just gone through. He'd always been brutally honest and incredibly scrupulous in doing his taxes, and he knew beyond any shadow of any doubt that he'd done nothing wrong. He put his face in his hands, and wondered how he was supposed to tell his wife that not only had they lost the business, they'd lost everything else, he was going to be up on possible charges from the I.R.S., and he didn't even have the ability to pay their very expensive group of lawyers to defend him from any of it.

Listlessly, he dressed, and later in the afternoon was almost afraid to open the door as another knock resounded throughout the front hall. He hesitantly opened the door, then smiled as he admitted an older man in a Priest's outfit.

"Father Timothy!" Face shook the man's hand and smiled at the man who had taken over the Children's Home after Father Magill had died. "I Didn't expect to see you today. My visit to the Shelter isn't for another week."

"I know, my boy." The man answered. "And I hate to come to you after you've done so much for us already, but we've just learned that one of our financial backers has just dropped out unexpectedly, and to be quite honest, we're broke. We were counting on his latest donation to keep our doors open over the next six months, but we don't have enough to even make it to the end of this month. If we don't come up with $10,000, we're going to have to close our doors, and all of the children will become wards of the state and go to their orphanages. They've become a family, Templeton, and it would be very detrimental to them to be split up. I've come to ask if you'd be willing to help us out. Just until we can find another donor."

The pain that crossed Face's face and filled his eyes was almost tangible and he fell into a chair. "Oh Father." His voice was choked. "I wish to God I COULD help you. You know me and my wife love those kids, don't you? You know we'd do anything to help them, but I've just had the absolute worst string of luck you can imagine. I've lost my business to a rival and everything else to the government, and I don't have time to get anything together for anyone. I haven't even had a chance to call my wife and tell her what's happened!" He held his hands up, completely helpless in his grief. "I'm so sorry, Father! I really, really wish I could help you out, but right now, I'm not even sure what to do to help myself."

"I am sorry to hear of your troubles, my son." The Priest's voice was thick with sadness and compassion, and laid his hand on Face's bent head. "But remember, the Lord never gives us more than we can handle. I don't know what we can do, but I will pray for you."

Thank you Father." Face smiled sadly. "Every little bit helps." He escorted the Father out, then went back into his office and spent the rest of the afternoon alternately on the phone and staring up at the shadow boxes, wondering what his friends would have thought of him at that moment.

Part 3

He'd managed to get hold of his wife, and with her assurance of her love for him, she'd told him she'd be on the very next flight home from London. He wandered around his house aimlessly until he got tired of the constant circles his mind turned in, and he finally turned on the TV to the news.

"And in our latest news." The attractive woman on the screen said. "There's been yet another air tragedy. Betrain Airlines Flight number 101 from London, England disappeared off the radar at approximately 4:00 PM this evening, and is presumed to have crashed into the ocean. Search and Rescue operations are being launched even as we speak, and the Airline is attempting to reach the families of the ticket holders. More information will follow as we get it."

Face stared at the television screen, his face awash with disbelief as something shriveled up deep inside him and a cold fear gripped his heart. That was the very flight his wife was supposed to have been on. He dove for the phone and dialed the airline, but only got an answering machine with a pre-recorded message asking that if he were checking on a passenger on Flight 101, to leave the name, and they would return the call as soon as they heard something.

Dutifully, and with his voice a thin, almost unrecognizable parody of his own, he left the name of his wife on the machine, then hung up. He stood, clenched his hands into fists and stared at the shadow boxes that held the last remnants of his life, and he refused to cry. He still had his friends, and until he got confirmation from the airlines, his wife. There was no way he was giving up when he still had those things.

He jumped as the doorbell rang, and, with his shoulders slumped in defeat, he walked to the door. He stared as Father Timothy entered, and they clasped hands. "Father. What are you doing here?" Face was puzzled. "I didn't think you'd be back . . ."

"I know, my son." Father Timothy smiled broadly. "But the most marvelous thing has happened."

"Oh? What?" Face smiled though it was thin and his lips trembled. "I could use some good news about now."

"I got a call this evening from someone asking about our last auction. You remember the one. You donated that trunk of A-Team memorabilia, remember?"

"Yes, of course." Face nodded, puzzled. "But what's that got to do with anything?"

"Well, the man who bought the trunk called again, and wondered if I had anything else from The A-Team. It seems he was a huge fan of the teams when he was a child, and is assembling quite a large private collection. Anyway, he wanted to know if I had anything else of theirs at all, preferably anything personal, but he'd take anything I had at all. He's willing to pay top dollar for anything I can give him, and my son, if you heard the numbers he was throwing around, it would have made your head spin! I wondered if you had anything else you could give me that I could sell to him. Anything at all would help, AND it would allow us to keep our children just a little longer and try to find another backer."

Face held out his hands and looked helpless. "I'm sorry, Father. I gave you everything I could spare for the last auction." Face shook his head.

"Please, Templeton." The father begged. "Don't you have anything? Anything at all? I hate to do this to you, but we're desperate."

Face looked at the older man, and then thought of the children. He pictured their faces in his mind as he and his wife had entered the shelter with their gifts and their smiles. He closed his eyes and thought back to when he'd been he had been an orphan and wondered if anyone in the world had cared that he was even alive, and had then been grateful for whatever attention he could get from anyone. Then he remembered whose loss he'd been grieving. It had been B.A.'s. B.A. had loved children . . . all children. B.A.'d done anything he could and at any time he could to help children in trouble. Even when they were cocky, over-confident eighteen year old Cons. Face smiled sadly, then squeezed his eyes tightly shut and swallowed the sudden lump that threatened to strangle him. There was only one way he could truly honor the man's memory, and he inhaled deeply as he made his decision..

"Actually, Father, come with me." He led the older Priest into the office, then over to the mantle. "These are all I have left." He whispered and couldn't keep the throb of pain from his tone. However, he cleared his throat, and his hand trembled as he unlocked, then opened the shadow boxes. "These are exactly what that guy wants. I know who you are talking about, and he's offered me several thousand dollars for these before. I'm sure you could easily get $10,000 out of him for them. Enough to keep the Shelter doors open for the next full, complete six months." Reverently, he took out the articles from the boxes and handed them to the Priest.

"Are you sure, my son?" Father Timothy looked at Face, and compassion was etched into every wrinkle on his face. "I know how much these have meant to you. I know how much it must hurt you to part with them."

"They'll mean more to the children than to me right now, Father." Face forced himself to smile. "And besides, if you don't take them then the I.R.S. will, and all things considered, I'd rather you have them. Just keep them out of sight. I don't know if the I.R.S. agents outside will actually go so far as to search the car of a Priest or not, and if they find them, they might take them away from you . . . at least the gold."

"God will provide, my son. I have always said that."

"Yes, Father." Face answered dutifully, and couldn't keep the tremble from his tone. He showed the Priest out, closed the door, then clasped his hands over his chest as his heart threatened to shatter into a million pieces. His entire past had just gone out the door with Father Timothy, and his entire future lay with the uncertainty of an airline. He stumbled to his bed, but it was a long time before he could sleep as the tears he'd fought over the last two days finally came.

Part 4

The next morning dawned beautifully, but Face didn't see it as he automatically went through the motions of morning. He stumbled into his office and checked the answering machine for messages, but there were none. He called the airline back, but there was still no word about his wife. He knew that with the I.R.S. agents outside his gate, he wouldn't be able to go to the airline personally, and the forced inaction ate away at him.

He studiously ignored the gaping holes the empty shadow boxes made in the wall over his mantle, and sighed. It was cold comfort at best, but he was pleased to know that the I.R.S. wouldn't get the few things he had truly treasured. The shrill ring of the phone broke into his thoughts, and he looked at it almost in dread as he slowly picked it up.

"Peck here." He said, and raised his eyebrows when he recognized the very excited voice of his Vice-President.

"Sir!" The man exclaimed, out of breath as if he had been running. "Sir! We've caught a break!"

Face sat up. "Take a deep breath Alan. What are you talking about?"

"I've had my ear to the rumor mill, Sir, and I've discovered that there's a way to save out company! I've learned that a smaller company across the state is in financial trouble. They are absolutely ripe for a take-over. Sir, we can buy out their options, then walk in and take them apart, liquidate their assets, and that'll give us some money, time, and room to maneuver out from under the take-over of our own company!"

Face sat forward as his business mind slipped into overdrive. "But, who are these people, Alan, and why do they want to sell?"

"Want to sell?" The Vice-President sounded confused. "But, they don't want to sell. They said something stupid about the company being a family thing and they want to hold onto it no matter how badly it's doing. They have absolutely no idea how the business world works. Not like you and I do. But, really, Sir, that's not important right now, and it certainly isn't the point of my call. The point is that if we move now, we can just go in and basically throw them out. They aren't strong enough to resist us, and don't have the time even if they could. The point is, Mr. Peck, that we can save ourselves!"

Face leaned back in the chair and rubbed his chin. He thought seriously about what it would mean to him to have the company saved and at any cost, but then his eyes were drawn to the empty shadow boxes. Hannibal was gone, in more ways than one, and Face's life was almost literally over. However, he'd just been handed a golden opportunity to save some part of it. He could, indeed, just go in and take over the smaller company and get his own business back. That was, after all, the way the world worked, especially the business world. Alan was right about that.

However, Hannibal's face kept coming into his mind, and he frowned. There was no way he could or should be answerable to a set of honor codes that were literally dead in the kind of business world that Face moved in. However, as he looked into the empty shadow box, Face could almost see the disappointment in Hannibal's eyes as Face actually contemplated doing to someone else exactly what they had fought for so many years to keep others from doing. If there had been one thing he'd learned from Hannibal, it was that honor and compassion always came first, no matter how many times in the past Face had protested that very lesson. Face knew that he wasn't about to dishonor Hannibal's memory and his teachings just for his own personal gain. He hadn't up to that point in his life without the team, and he wasn't about to do it then either. He sat forward in his chair and leaned his head in his hand.

"So, let me get this straight, Alan." He said, his voice pleasant. "You basically want me to okay some pretty strong arm tactics so that you can go do to someone else what's being done to us?"

"Yes, sir." Alan's voice was still excited. "And by doing that, we not only get revenge on our rival, but we'll save our company and our own employees as well!"

"Be that as it may be, I will not save it at the expense of what integrity's left to us. If we're going to go down in flames, we're going to do it with dignity. So you can just forget any and all plans of a hostile takeover of anyone else's business. And if and when the I.R.S. lets me come into the Office, I'll make that announcement myself, and let the employees put the blame completely on me." Face scowled into the phone. "Oh, and Alan, as one of my last orders of business as President, you're fired." He slammed down the telephone, and with that loud sound of finality, he knew he'd just sealed his fate as a failed businessman. Even as he thought that though, he couldn't stop the small smile of satisfaction that crossed his face at the thought that at least Hannibal would still like him, even if it was in his own mind.

No sooner had he sat back in the chair, then the doorbell rang. With a groan, he contemplated ignoring it, but then shook his head. As much as he wanted to, he couldn't run from the rest of the world. He slowly made his way to the door and stared when he opened it as I.R.S. Agent Westcott on the steps.

"Mr. Peck. I have a proposal for you." She smiled. "May I come in?"

"I suppose. If you must." He answered barely civilly, and led her into the office. "I thought you weren't going to be here until tomorrow. What can I do for you?"

"It's more of what I can do for you." She took off her suit coat and revealed a barely concealing camisole top. "You see, I know who you are, who you were with, I know who you were, and I've wanted to meet you for as long as I can remember. My mother knew you in the late 80's and often spoke of you and your . . ." She licked her lips. "Talents. So, I arranged to meet with you."

"Arranged . . ." Face was confused. "What do you mean by 'arranged'?"

"Oh, really, Templeton." She smiled widely. "Surely you, with the background you have, recognize a con when you see it?"

"A con? Are you saying that I'm NOT being investigated and charged by the I.R.S.?"

"Oh no, that part's real. But as for what happens next, well, that's completely up to you." She grinned and slid over the top of his desk, which gave him a very good look at the kind of shape she was in. "You see, we can get along very well . . . or very badly. I can be a very good friend, or a very bad enemy. You don't want the I.R.S. as your enemy, Mr. Peck."

Face stared at the woman, absolutely convinced he had suddenly gone insane. "Are you telling me that if I sleep with you, you'll get this tax mess that you obviously started, cleared up?" He looked at her as she sat on his desk and spread her legs on either side of his chair and her high heels rested on the curved wooden arms.

"I'm telling you that if you'll agree to be my lover and do exactly what I want for as long as I want, you'll get to keep your precious home and all of your other things. Or at least a goodly portion of them." She waved her hands around the room and smiled, then leaned closer, her hands on his shoulders. "I can make all your troubles go away with one stroke of a pen. And I can also be of all kinds of assistance in other parts of your life too. The I.R.S. is very . . . persuasive, Mr. Peck."

Face looked at her ample attractions, and had to agree with what she'd said about being persuasive. His face grew thoughtful as he mulled her words over in his mind. There really wasn't any way he could extricate himself from his current situation by himself, and almost literally sitting in his lap was a grade A, number One opportunity to be able to put all of it behind him. He put his hand to his mouth, and felt the hardness of the simple gold wedding band as it pressed against his flesh, and he blinked, then his eyes strayed to the empty shadow boxes.

In his mind's eye, he saw the jacket and the hat that had belonged to Murdock, and found his memories back at the day of his wedding. Murdock had loved the woman as much as Face had, but the pilot knew that the woman had loved Face, and not himself. With the generosity of his heart and spirit and the loyalty to his team that he was so famous for, Murdock had not only willingly backed out of his pursuit of the woman, but had given her into Face's arms at the alter. The only thing he had asked was that Face love her and take care of her and keep her safe and happy. All feats, which right up until those last few days, had been almost too easily accomplished.

"I'm married." He finally said to her, and to his surprise, she laughed.

"So?" She asked, then shrugged. "So am I. However, if your frantic phone calls to the airlines were any indication, your wife is already dead, and doesn't even factor into anything we have."

Face's stomach clenched, and he was glad that Murdock was dead and couldn't hear how the woman's life that they both loved, meant so little to another human being. Murdock's gentle, loyal, loving spirit would have been crushed, and Face felt nothing for himself and his temptation, but loathing and disgust. He almost flew backward, and in his haste to escape the woman, he stumbled, and the chair smashed into the wall.

"We don't HAVE anything." he declared angrily. "We're never GOING to have anything, and to tell you the truth, I'd sooner sleep with a Black Widow spider than you." Face's voice was cold. "And speaking of you." He raked his eyes over her as if she were something disgusting he had to wipe off his desk. "You aren't even a pale imitation of my wife, and couldn't even begin to be any sort of replacement for her any more than could a common street wh . . ."

"Watch it, Mr. Peck." She was no longer seductive or beautiful, and her face turned almost purple with the force of her rage. "You don't know who you are messing with. Remember who I am and what I can do."

"Oh, I know who you are. And I know what you can do." He spit. "But, I'd rather spend a hundred years in prison in a cell with a guy named Brucie, than even one minute in my bedroom, or anyplace else for that matter, with you."

"A hundred years?" She snarled. "I can, and will, make that happen. That fool of a partner of mine will believe anything I tell him once I flash these." She indicated her ample chest. "You've turned down the wrong offer, Mr. Pecker!"

"And all that you've just managed to do, is to prove that I've done the right thing." Face handed over her coat and briefcase. "And now I would appreciate it if you would leave my house before I have to have it fumigated. You can show yourself to the door." He held his head high and stayed in his office until he heard the outer door slam, then almost collapsed in on himself. He grabbed the mantle to keep from falling over as his hand jerked, presumably from the adrenaline that had flooded his system. He looked up, squinted at the glass of what had been Murdock's shadow box, and saw the reflection of a tiny, odd light that glowed a bright red.

Part 5

Without blinking, Face gazed at the light for a few seconds, but it didn't change, so he knew that he wasn't hallucinating. He walked across the room to the shelf where he kept the hidden security camera he used for special meetings with particularly nasty clients, and looked at it oddly. He KNEW he hadn't turned it on as he never did when he was on one of his 'vacations' and he couldn't even remember if it had a tape in it or not. He righted the chair that had smashed into the wall when he'd reacted to Agent Wescott, and nodded as he realized that the chair had probably knocked the sensitive mechanism and turned it on.

He opened up the camera and pulled out the tape, then looked at it as his mind clicked into high gear. If the camera had turned on when he'd smashed the chair into the wall, then maybe, just maybe there was enough of Wescott on tape to at least open Agent Olkane up to some suspicion of his partner, and MAYBE get him to ease up on the investigation of Face.

It was a start at least, and more hope than he'd had a mere hour before. He fixed himself lunch, and forced himself to wait another hour before he went for the phone to call the airline. However, just as his fingers touched the receiver, it rang. He started violently, shocked by the sudden noisy intrusion, and his voice tremored as he answered.

"H . . . hello?" He tried to steady his shaking nerves, but almost ended up completely unglued as he recognized the voice on the other end of the phone.

"Hello, Darling." The cheerful feminine voice greeted, and Face collapsed against the back of his chair almost in a faint. He was able to hold onto the phone through sheer force of willpower only, as he forced his eyes to clear of the blackness that had given him a bad case of tunnel vision.

"Oh my god, Beautiful." His voice shook badly, and it was hard for him to speak with any clarity as he pressed the gold band on his finger to his lips and closed his eyes as his heart whispered a prayer of gratitude. "I thought I'd lost you." He almost wept. "I thought you were gone. A . . . are you all right? What happened?" His questions came out in a rush and his words tumbled over one another, but he had to hear her voice tell him that she was all right and alive.

"Of course I'm all right, Sweetheart." She soothed. "It was just a small fender bender and I was knocked out for a few seconds." She sounded puzzled. "But, how did you hear about it?"

"The plane. It . . the plane." Was all he could say, and there was a long pause.

""I never made the plane, Darling." She finally said. "But what about it? Did something happen to it"

"It . . . it went down. In the ocean. They're still searching. I . . . I thought you were on it. But . .. but you weren't?" He realized his question was inane, as it was obvious that she wasn't, but he needed the reassurance, and she gave it to him.

"No, Darling, I wasn't on the plane. In fact, I never even made it there. But, I did have one of the most bizarre days of my life." He heard her familiar laugh and pictured her smiling face in his mind. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to be able to hold her in his arms, kiss her, and make mad, passionate love to her until she was weak, for only then could he be satisfied that she was truly still alive. However, he had to be content that she was just able to speak to him, and he smiled as she continued. "I'm serious, Darling. You see, I was supposed to be on that plane, but the whole day seemed to go wrong from the very moment I got started."

"So, what happened?" He asked, glad to be able to talk to her at all, even if it was about something as mundane as a day in his wife's precious life.

"Well, it happened when I woke up. My shower didn't work at first, and when I finally got it to, once I got dressed, I couldn't find my shoes. I didn't just lose them once, Darling, but I managed to misplace them three times." He pictured her animatedly speaking with her hands and body language as with her voice, and couldn't stop the grin that crossed his face. "And then I lost my keys to the rental car. Then, would you believe that the stupid suitcase kept popping open all on its own? I finally got completely fed up and tied it closed with my bathrobe sash, but then the elevator I was on got stuck between floors!" He couldn't stop the chuckle that forced itself past his lips, and she snorted into the phone. "Oh sure, you laugh. but if it had been you, it wouldn't have been so funny." her voice was petulant, and he cleared his throat.

"I'm sorry, Beautiful." He apologized, even as the grin almost split his face. "Please, go on."

"You're not sorry at all, but I should know by now not to expect any sympathy from you." He heard her shift the phone to her other ear, then she continued. "Anyway, you'd think that would have been the end of the day, right? Not! Would you believe the that the rental car I was using absolutely refused to start!? Well, by that time I was cursing the fates and luck and anything else I could think of and called a cab. So, we're on the way to the airport, and damned if the cab didn't rear-end someone who'd gotten stuck at a traffic light and I hit my head on the window. The police and the cab company people absolutely insisted that I go to the hospital and get checked out for insurance and liability purposes, but when I got to the hospital, they kept losing my paperwork! They had to take TWO sets of x-rays because somehow the first set got fouled up and SMEARED of all things! I didn't know it was even possible for an x-ray to GET smeared! THEN they had a whole bunch of electrical problems and I didn't get out of there until almost 3:30 A.M.. Well, by then it was just too late to go ANYWHERE, and I was just so tired that I went right to a hotel and fell asleep. I just woke up a few minutes ago, and decided to let you know what happened and not to expect me until sometime tomorrow, which is, of course, tomorrow where you are."

"I'm so glad you're all right." He swallowed as he thought of how close he had come to losing her forever. "I thought you were dead."

"Oh Templeton." Her voice was hushed with compassion and thick with pity and unshed tears. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I swear, if I'd known about the plane, I would have called you right away. I mean everything just seemed to happen so quickly and it was one thing right after the other, and it was just so bizarre."

"It . . . it's not important, Beautiful." He inhaled deeply and smiled. "All that's important to me right at the moment, is that you're all right. If . . . if I'd lost you on top . . . on top of everything else, I don't know what I would have done." His hand shook and he forced himself to steady it.

"And speaking of all of that other stuff, I'm coming home on the very next flight, out of here, My Darling. I don't care what time it is or what happens. Nothing's going to keep me from you now."

"No." Face ran a hand over his eyes and he felt the tears as they pricked and burned behind his eyelids and reflected briefly that he hadn't cried as much in the last ten years as he had in the last three days. He shook his head and couldn't believe it had indeed been only three days. "No Beautiful. Please, could you just stay with your relatives for just another few days?"

"But darling!" Her protest was immediate and loud. "My place is with you! He again heard laughter in her voice, and marveled at her ability to laugh in even the most trying of times. "I know it's been ten years, but you really don't think I'm too old to remember what we promised each other at that little shindig we called our wedding, AND in front of a thousand of my parents closest friends, do you? In sickness and in health, in good times and bad and all of that? Anyway, you're certainly going through bad times now, and I want to be there for you. "

"I know, Beautiful." He told her. "And right now, I'd LOVE for you to be here, but tomorrow the I.R.S. is going to take the house . . . maybe." He looked at the tape in his hand. "It's just . .. it's just that I don't want you to have to see that." He swallowed and tried to sound matter-of-fact about the whole thing, but the shame in his tone sounded loud and clear to someone who knew him as well as she did. "So please, Beautiful, will you do me this one favor, and stay in London for a few more days?"

"I don't like it Darling. Not one bit." The anger throbbed in her even tone. "But I'll make a deal with you. Three days. No more no less. I'm coming back in EXACTLY three days. Whether you're in the house, a prison cell, or in Central America, I'm coming home and I'm going to be with you, no matter what." He knew better than to try and argue with her, and nodded.

"Three days." Face agreed, though he knew he really had no choice. "Thank you Beautiful." He took a deep breath, then released it. "And just in case I don't say it enough, I just want you to know that you are still the most beautiful, most wonderful woman in the entire world, and there isn't anyone who could even BEGIN to take your place. In other words, I love you Beautiful."

He closed his eyes and heard the sudden, enveloping warmth in her voice. "And I know you know that I love you too, Gorgeous." He heard her sigh, then the humor crept back into her tone. "However, your oh-so-accomplished flattery will NOT get you any more extra time. three days, my Darling, and then I'm coming home." She sighed. "Besides, I miss you desperately, my Love."

"And I you." He told her, and she heard the truth of his words in the unconscious sincerity in his tone. "I'll see you in three days then, Beautiful."

After a few more words of love, the two hung up and Face leaned his head on his desk and once again tears came. However, unlike the tears of the night before, his tears of that afternoon were of joy and thankfulness to whatever or whomever had made his wife have one of the most bizarre days of her entire life. He owed someone, somewhere a huge and completely unrepayable debt of thanks.

Suddenly, his prayers of intense gratitude were interrupted by the harsh jangling of the phone, and Face almost screamed in frustration. He was tempted to rip the damned thing out of the wall, but he gathered his control and took a deep breath, then sat straight in his chair.

"Peck here." He answered.

"Mr. Peck." An older man's voice sounded. "I don't know if you remember me, but my name is Marcus Wellington."

To say Face was surprised would have been a massive understatement. Over twenty years ago, the team had rescued Wellington's daughter from a particularly nasty drug lord in South America. "Yes, Sir. I do remember you, but it's been a very long time. What can I do for you?"

"Well, I just got the news from a business associate of mine that the MiniEase Corporation has made a run on A-team Software and Development. Is this true?"

"Yes it is." Face sighed and rolled his eyes. "I can see good news travels fast, but, I have to ask, what can I do for you, Mr. Wellington?"

"Well, if you'll remember, my Company was in the computer business. We still are. However, we weren't a very large company, and were content to be such."

"I know all this, Mr. Wellington." Face nodded. "I did the background check on you myself when you hired the team."

"Then, as you'll also remember, the company's been in my family as some form of a communications company for decades." He sighed. "And truthfully, the only reason we're still really holding onto it is because of the family history and our extremely loyal base of well-established customers, both here in the US and Overseas. However, the harsh truth of the matter is, we're in rather delicate financial straights. You and the others saved my daughter at great risk to yourselves, and I can never forget that. Your Colonel even got shot in his efforts, but still brought my daughter home safely. I will NEVER forget that, Mr. Peck, and the money that I paid you wasn't nearly enough to thank you for what you all did. It is in that same vein then, that I have a proposal for you." He stopped, and Face nodded.

"Go on." He prompted.

"I was wondering if you'd like to buy my company."

What?" Face almost stared at the phone as he thought back to the conversation he and Alan had the night before, and he frowned suspiciously. "Mr. Wellington, has someone put you up to this?"

"No, of course not." The older man sounded offended. "It's just that I know you'd never have thought of this yourself, knowing how fair you and the team were about the payment for my daughter, despite one of you being injured in the effort, so I thought I'd call and make you this offer personally. I thought you could buy out my company and liquidate it, then use the funds from this place to shore up your own Company and delay MiniEase Corp. from it's hostile takeover - if not be able to stop it outright."

Face pursed his lips and sat back in his chair as he exhaled slowly. "Mr. Wellington, speaking strictly as a businessman, I could do that. However, do you mind if I ask what brought this proposal to mind? After all, from everything I've heard through the rumor mill, as well as from what I remember about the first time we met, it was always pretty well understood that you'd never want to sell your company for any reason."

"It's really not a matter of wanting to sell or not, Mr. Peck. It's a matter of doing it or losing the company through a takeover like the one you're fighting. Our finances are so that we too are now open to a hostile take-over, and the rumor mill has it that someone might attempt it, even though we are only a small company, despite having small holdings in Japan and Germany."

"Japan AND Germany?" Face couldn't believe what he'd heard, and sat forward. "But, Sir, those are prime markets." Face's eyes narrowed and he tapped his fingers on the desk, as his mind turned over rapidly, completely caught in 'Business-mode' as his wife had once called it.

"I know this, but as we are the Home Company and small besides, we just don't have the resources to tap into those markets properly right at the moment. Again, those foreign companies are family- run, and inherited, and, like us, though they have a well-established and loyal customer base, they too are in trouble. The big Corporations are slowly pushing them out of business. And, speaking strictly in the business vernacular, you know it's just not good business to hang onto something that's not making much more than JUST enough money to keep the doors open."

"Look, Mr. Wellington." Face's forehead creased as ideas sped in rapid-fire progression across his mind. "I've got a Counter- Proposal for you, but I need you to listen carefully before you say anything, especially as it all hinges on something that I have to do tomorrow and I'm not sure what the consequences will be, okay? I was going to expand my markets into Japan and Germany next quarter anyway, and was already looking for locations when the news came from MiniEase about their proposed takeover. However, you've already got holdings there. What say we MERGE our two companies, rather than having me buy you outright? That way YOU get the protection of the larger business, WE get the financial stability of an established client base as WELL as an already established Japanese and European market, which we DEFINITELY have the resources to tap. All of this will easily make all of our creditors happy, and will force MiniEase to either put up more money for their take-over bid, or drop out of it completely."

There was a slight pause on the other end of the phone, and Face heard the smile cross the older man's face. "And I get the added bonus of not only keeping the family name on the company, I get to keep it in the family, after all, I assume that Wellington Production will be labeled as a Division of A-Team Software and Development?" Marcus Wellington's voice was steady, and Face knew he'd made the right decision as he nodded.

"Of course, Mr. Wellington." Face agreed.

"Then I like your Proposal, Mr. Peck." The man said, and Face nodded again.

"And so do I, Mr. Wellington, but like I said, I can't make a move until after tomorrow morning. There's something that I absolutely have to do first, and my entire future hinges on it."

"I see." The older man answered. "Well, good luck then, and I shall call you back tomorrow afternoon around one and see how things have gone. Thank you again, Mr. Peck for my daughter, and for being willing to work with me on keeping the company in our family."

"No problem, Mr. Wellington. I understand completely how important family is." He picked up a dual picture frame that had his wedding photo in one side, and a shot of the entire team on the beach in the other, and smiled. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Good luck, Mr. Peck."

"You can call me Templeton, Mr. Wellington. After all, if everything goes well, we'll be partners."

"And you can call me Marcus." The older man answered warmly, then they both hung up.

Face gazed at the tape in his hand as if he were afraid it would melt or disappear if he put it down. He inhaled deeply and sat back in his chair. There was no way he was going to watch the tape before he put it in the VCR the next morning. He couldn't. Whatever was on it, or not, as the case truly may have been, would still be there the next day and he didn't want to take the chance of it being ruined before Agent Olkane saw it.

With a sigh, Face placed the picture frame back on the desk, then went to bed.

Part 6

The next morning found Face carefully dressed and composed, and he took a deep breath as he answered the doorbell. He admitted the two I.R.S. agents, and took a minute to study them. Agent Wescott looked smug and very haughty, while Agent Olkane just looked professional. They'd added two very tough looking agents to the team, and they stood silently behind the main two and were obviously there to protect Olkane and Wescott in case there were trouble.

"Mr. Peck." Agent Olkane spoke up, his voice calm. "These are Special Agents Rafe and Brown."

"They will be assisting us in searching your house, confiscating your papers, computer, and any and all records, as well as assessing your home and possessions for any and all value." Agent Westcott smiled, and he could easily picture her in a horror film, with spiders dropping off a honeyed tongue. "I assume you are ready to be investigated."

"I am." he said, and turned to Agent Olkane. "Let's start this in my office." He led the way, and they followed him, where piles of papers, computer disks, and manila envelopes were set on the desk and the coffee table.

"You seem to be taking this rather well." Agent Olkane said, as he looked around the room as if he expected to be shot, while the other two agents awaited their orders.

"I've done nothing wrong." Face said with a smile. "And all my documents are in order. However, before you begin, there's something I'd like you to see first." Without giving them a chance to reply, He picked the remote from the desk, and with his fingers mentally crossed, pressed the play button.

The TV came on, and the four agents watched as the door to the office opened, and Face's mouth fell open as he watched himself lead Agent Westcott into the office. Somehow, the Security Camera had caught the ENTIRE encounter with Agent Westcott from her very first word to her last, and a shocked silence reigned in the room as the tape played. When it ended, four pairs of accusing eyes all turned to Agent Wescott at once, and she stood and scowled at those assembled.

"This is an outrage." She said. "That isn't me! It's an actress he obviously hired to play me!"

"That could be true, except for one thing." Olkane said. "There's a heart tattoo on your shoulder with the words 'I Love The I.R.S.' in the very same spot with the very same words on the supposed actress' shoulder. Care to explain that, Agent Wescott? In fact, I'd like to hear your explanation for all of this, and I'm sure the boss is going to want to hear the explanation too."

Rather than answer, Wescott made a break for the door, but Agent Brown stepped in her way, as Agent Rafe slapped cuffs on her and arrested her. Agent Olkane turned to Face, his face scarlet with embarrassment.

"You can't know how sorry we are about this, Mr. Peck." He said, suddenly VERY contrite. "I had no idea . . . no one did. Um . . we're going to have to take this . . ." He glanced at Wescott, then the VCR. "And the tape, back to the office and get this all sorted out . . ." He looked at Face, but he shook his head.

"I can't let you do that. Not yet. That tape stays with me and I inform you now that I WILL be pressing formal charges against Agent Westcott. I'll decide later what I want to do about the entire I.R.S., after I put this tape into my lawyer's hands this very morning." He pointed at the office door. "So now, if you'd please get out of my house and take ALL of your agents with you, I would appreciate it. I would also like you to get it done as quickly as possible or I will go to the media with this. I know that the government would really like to avoid THAT at all costs."

"You're right, Mr. Peck." Agent Olkane nodded. "With all of the bad press the I.R.S. has earned in the last few years, this . . . unpleasantness . . . is NOT something the media needs to learn about. In fact, we will do our utmost to see that former Agent Wescott gets just what's coming to her." He almost stumbled over himself to leave the mansion, and the other two agents practically dragged Westcott out with them.

Face shut the door and resisted the urge to dance as he made his way to the VCR, then ejected the tape. He knew that, once again, fate had stepped in and pulled him out of what could have been a VERY disastrous situation. However, even in the midst of his euphoria over the almost resolved situation, he couldn't help but wonder how the security camera, which he knew beyond any shadow of any doubt had been off, had been turned on JUST in time to record Wescott's blackmail attempt.

However, he had one more thing to do before he could truly celebrate, and he went to the phone. Impatiently, he waited for the connection, and grinned as the sleepy female voice answered the phone.

"Hello?" His wife yawned into the phone, and he kissed the receiver.

"Oh my goodness." The beloved voice laughed. "This had better be my husband, or I'll have to report an obscene phone call."

"What if it's your husband making the obscene phone call?" He asked, and she laughed.

"The I should be glad this isn't a 1-900 number. We could be here for a while and would have one hell of a bill to pay." He heard the sheets shift under her as she sat up. "Seriously Darling, you sound happy. What's up? Besides me, that is?"

"Beautiful, if I answered truthfully, I'd get my face slapped." He listened to her laughter as it rolled pleasantly over him, then grinned widely. "Seriously, we're saved, my Love."

"Saved?" She was confused. "What do you mean?"

"Everything." He swallowed and glanced up at the shadow boxes, then away. "Well, almost everything at any rate. I'm merging with another business and it'll block the take-over attempt, and the, and I quote them directly, unpleasantness, with the I.R.S. turned out to be one hell of a mistake . . . AND one on their parts."

"Ooooohhhhh." She cooed. "That doesn't happen very often. But this merger thing. Are you sure it's what you want?"

"There's all kinds of new opportunities coming with it." he told her enthusiastically. "But that's not why I called you. I want you to come home today. No, scratch that. I want you to come home now."

"Oh gee, Darling." She chuckled. "I don't know. I thought I couldn't come back for three days. And with that understanding, I absolutely filled my Social Calendar."

"If you don't come home right now, Beautiful, I'll send the police after you, and I know how much your parents would Love to have them screeching onto their private lawn . . . especially at this time."

"Oh no." She laughed. "We couldn't have that. Well, if that's my only alternative, then I'll be home as soon as possible."

"I'll be counting the hours." He answered.

"And so will I. But now, if I'm going to get there soon, I've got to get myself semi-decent." She sighed. "so much for sleeping."

"Only semi-decent?" He asked, and she laughed.

"If I were fully decent, tonight would be rather boring, don't you agree?"

"No night with you would ever be boring, Beautiful." he told her and she giggled.

"Handsome and Ever-so-Charming. Could any woman ask for more in a husband?" she blew him a kiss. "Seriously, Darling, I'll see you later. I love you."

"I love you too, Beautiful. I'm waiting for you."

"Then hang up so I can get off the phone and get ready." She laughed, and he followed her directions.

He called his lawyers, who promised to send a courier for the tape, and then Face waited impatiently for one o'clock to arrive, when Wellington would call. Face fought the unprofessional urge to call him first, and tapped his fingers on the desk as he stared at the phone and willed it to ring. "Peck here." He almost yelled as he picked up the phone after the first ring at exactly one o' clock.

"Marcus here. Are we a go?" The older man asked without preamble, and Face knew he liked the man.

"It's a go." He confirmed. "We can have the lawyers draw up the papers this afternoon and fine-tune the arrangements over the next couple of days. We should make the announcements as soon as possible, however, just to throw off MiniEase." Face told him.

"I can have a Press Release drawn up immediately and send it you later today for your approval." Marcus said, and Face nodded.

"I'll be here the rest of the afternoon if you need anything."

"I don't think I will, but I'll keep your number handy just in case." Marcus confirmed, and the two men ended the call.

Face looked at the calendar on his desk and sighed. He only had one more day left in his week of mourning, and it had been one hell of a week. He'd made B.A. the same promise he'd made the others not to forget them, whether they all knew about the promise or not, yet, most of B.A.'s week had been taken up by his life going from instant hell back to normal, and Face had indeed gotten sidetracked form his friend.

Face gazed up at the empty shadow boxes, then away. He had his business, his wife, and his home, as well as his fabulous riches. Hell, with the attempted blackmail of the I.R.S., he could even name his own price as far as the US Government was concerned. He had everything he'd ever wanted, and yet he felt the hole as it ripped open inside him open like a badly healed gash, and anger over- whelmed him.

That hole had been closed for almost twenty years, and had been held closed by the mementos in the shadow boxes. However, with the loss of them, there was nothing to comfort him in his grief and sorrow. For the first time in a long time, his memories seemed to mock him, rather than comfort him, and he knew that he had to get away from the black holes in the wall over the mantle that were the physical representations of the bleeding, gaping hole he felt inside of himself every time he thought of the team and what he'd lost with their deaths.

He ran, almost blindly, across the lawn to the garage, looked at the selection of cars, and walked over to one that had a space all of its own. He hadn't driven it in years, but he'd taken very special care of it, and knew that it would run at a moments notice. Almost reverently, he pulled the tarp back, and gazed at the white, 1984 Corvette with the red stripe that had shared a good portion of what he considered one of the best times in his life. Tears blurred his eyes as he remembered the teams reaction the first time they had seen the sleek sport scar, and slowly ran his hands over the paint that looked as new as the day he had bought it. He climbed into the familiar seat, turned the key in the ignition, and as the car started, he revved the engine, floored the gas pedal, and spun out of his driveway.

He opened up the engine fully and headed off into the hills. He rode over the familiar, winding roads as easily as his mind rode through his memories, and he finally slowed down to normal cruising speed. He felt the cool breeze blow through his hair, and he sighed as he finally realized what he'd done. He'd told Wellington that he would be at the house for the rest of the afternoon, but then had taken off without leaving his cell phone number with the man.

With a sigh, Face stopped the car, turned around, and headed back to his house. Just as he'd cleared the bend, he saw a massive, 18 wheeler Semi truck as it barreled down the road right toward him. The steering wheel suddenly jerked out of his hands and the car spun to the left. He watched, horrified, as the semi swerved, and the cab of the truck made a turn to the right. Face and the semi's driver narrowly avoided the head-on collision, but the huge trailer sideswiped the Corvette, and the passenger's side crumpled. Face braked, but the momentum of the sideswipe carried him into two complete spins. The driver's side of the Corvette slammed into the rocky, unyielding wall of the gouged out mountainous hill as the semi toppled over, and crushed the entire back section of the car.

Part 7

Face opened his eyes and wondered why he couldn't move anything other than his head, and then even that was only slightly mobile. He tried to look around, but was only able to see the crumpled passenger's side of the car, the completely twisted front, and the severely dented metal truck as it towered above him. Then he remembered.

He remembered the truck and his desperate fight to avoid the collision. He was suddenly hit by a massive, excruciating wall of pain, and every part of him felt heavy and useless, as blood poured down his face from a gash in the side of his head. He tried to inhale, but coughed as his stomach and chest constricted tightly. He felt blood run from his open mouth even as it trickled down the back of his throat and he tried to shift but he lay partially on his side, pinned on all sides to the seat. His left arm was pinned between his hip and the door, while the steering wheel looked as if it had tried to become one with his chest and stomach. He couldn't feel anything specifically below his chest but pain, and he reflected that may have been a good thing as the entire front of the car seemed to be squashed tightly around him. He turned his head, and for a moment gazed at the trailer that lay on the back of his car and looked as if a slight breeze would bring the whole thing down on his head.

"Face?" He thought he heard his name, and he tried to turn his head toward the voice, but pain exploded throughout his neck and head, and he let it drop back to the seat as another hoarse cough expelled blood down his chin. A moan escaped him, and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut. "C'mon, Face, open your eyes." The voice called to him again, and he knew it couldn't possibly have been who he'd thought it was.

As if to prove it to himself, he cracked open his eyes, then was almost destroyed by a coughing fit as it sent spasms of agony through his already pain wracked body. He forced his eyes to stay open as he stared at the blurry figure of a white haired man in a white Australian jacket and blue jeans as he slowly materialized beside the car, his blue eyes filled with compassion and no small amount of pity.

"Han . . . Hannibal?" Face asked, and he couldn't stop the tears that ran down his face. A small part of him was disgusted by his lack of control, but the rest, the part that was pinned into the car and in agony and shock, could've cared less, and the tears continued to fall.

"Hey, kid." The man greeted softly, and Face knew it really WAS Hannibal as he lit up a cigar.

"Y . . . you're dead." Face whispered and wished desperately he could touch the man before him.

"Yeah."

"Am . . . am I?" Face didn't really want to know, because if he were dead, and in as much pain as he was, then he must've gone to hell.

"No." Hannibal shook his head and approached the car. "Not yet." He ran a hand over his face. "You know, sometimes this Guardian Angel rap bites the big one." He ran a hand over Face's bloodied cheek. "All I can do right now is wait. I wish I could get rid of the pain for you."

"Not . . . dead . . . yet?" Face asked. "Am . . . am I going to . . . be?"

"I don't know. I won't know until you start to let go." He sighed. "We knew this was coming, but we didn't know it'd be this soon."

"We?" Face was very confused, and fought to stay conscious.

"Murdock and B.A. are with me. But they're wait . . ."

"Not anymore." Murdock's voice came to them and Face gasped in shock, then cried out in agony as he saw the tallish brown eyed man and the bigger black man next to him as they faded into view. Face wanted to reach out to them so badly he could have screamed at whatever it was that denied him the contact he so desperately needed and wanted. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing but a sob and blood escaped him.

"Got tired o' waitin'." B.A. said gruffly.

Hannibal cleared his throat. "The rules say only one of us could show up. You two were supposed to stay behind." Hannibal said sternly, though he grinned widely.

"But Colonel." Murdock blinked innocently at him. "The rules didn't specifically say how LONG we had to wait."

"Didn't like that rule anyway." B.A. snorted.

"Still watching over . . . the team, aren't you?" Face smiled weakly.

Hannibal looked at him seriously. "I made you guys a promise, Face. I told you I'd always watch over you, and I meant it. And there was another promise I'd made to you a long time ago."

Face was confused. "Pro . . . mise?"

Hannibal nodded. "Yes. You see, back in the camp, you, Face, begged me to promise you to not ever let you die alone." He looked at Face his blue eyes were laser like in their intensity. "I made you that promise on my life and not even death could make me break it."

Face felt the sobs constrict his chest even more than it already was but his tortured aspect wouldn't allow even the smallest sound to escape. "I . . . I miss you guys . . . so much."

"I know, Face. I wanted . . ." Hannibal gazed at Murdock and B.A. as they stood silently but strongly by, a unified force in their support of their stricken friend and comrade. "WE wanted so many times to tell you we were still there for you."

"I have . . . have to know." Face said in a strangled tone. "Were . . . were you in pain . . . when you . .. " He couldn't finish but his eyes flitted from one team member to the other and they knew what he was trying to say.

"Not at the last." Hannibal assured him and the other two shook their heads.

"My death was instantaneous." Murdock assured him with a soft smile.

"I was numb for a while before I went, so it din't hurt too bad." B.A. told him, and Face smiled.

"Oh good." He sighed with relief. "I was so afraid . . ." He ran out of strength to speak.

"We know." Hannibal said and looked around as sirens sounded in the distance. "Look, Face. Help is on it's way. You just have to hold on for a little while longer. You've got to know that it's not your time yet."

"What . . . what do you mean" Face squeezed his eyes shut and shuddered.

"Hannibal told you that we expected something like this?" Murdock knelt by the car and reached out and touched Face's shoulder. "Well, it seems someone . . . a very powerful someone . . . wanted to claim you."

"Claim . . . me?" Face sighed and felt himself relax as he grew incredibly tired and lethargic.

"Stay wit' us!" B.A. snapped, and Face started.

"Yeah." Hannibal nodded, then scowled. "Seems someone thought you'd be an easy mark they could use to make their sphere of influence greater over the weaker members of the human race. Seems your rather . . ." He paused, not quite sure how to continue, and Murdock grinned.

"Dubious." He filled in. "Your rather dubious past brought you to the attention of someone who doesn't hold the best intentions for the human race, and was certain he and his minions could use you. However, because of us, they lost you." He bowed with a flourish. "Never really thought we were all THAT much of an influence on you."

"Influence?" Face was more and more confused by the moment. "What do you mean?"

"We kept ya' honest." B.A. growled, and Face couldn't help the incredulous smile that played over his battered face.

Hannibal laughed. "Or as honest as we could."

"I always knew that." Face blinked at them. "I thought you knew that too. I would have been so lost without you." He sighed. "But you died." He lowered his head and his eyes closed. "You said you'd never leave me alone, but you did. Just like all the others."

"Are you so sure, Lt.?" Hannibal's voice was sharp. "Take a good look at the last few days."

"The last few . . . days? I somehow . . . screwed up, and badly, though." Face protested weakly. "I lost . . ."

"You didn't LOSE anything, Sucka'!" B.A. exclaimed angrily. "It was TAKEN from you. They was testin' you!"

"Testing?" Face tried to shake his head, but it hurt too much, and he exhaled a breath that he could ill afford.

"They thought they could lure you back to their side without our physical presence there. They took the business, then your house, then they tried to take your wife." Murdock supplied gently.

"And when they couldn't get you back that way, they took US. Or rather, the things that made you think of us. They tried to get our influence out of your life, thinking that you relied only on the physical presence of those objects to give you any kind of moral strength. What they didn't count on, was that moral strength was an ingrained part of you as the person you are, and not the person you were, or the person you could have been." Hannibal's voice reflected the deep pride he had in his Lieutenant, and he smiled.

"But . . . but I was so tempted to give in to them." Face closed his eyes, ashamed of his weakness, especially in the face of the faith his friends so obviously had in him. "It . .. it would have been so easy to give in to what they wanted."

"But you didn't give in." B.A. frowned. "We didn't LET you give in, and we didn't let them take ANYTHING from you that you couldn't afford to lose."

"It . . . it was you." Face looked at them in sudden understanding. "You kept my wife in England and off the plane didn't you?"

"Yeah, but it wasn't easy." Hannibal couldn't keep the grin from his face as he glanced at the other two. "It was definitely a Team effort, and one hell of a challenge. That's one determined little lady you got there."

"Do you have any idea of how hard it is to actually hide one pair of shoes three times?" Murdock's eyes gleamed with humor and Face couldn't help but smile, weak though it was.

"And it ain't easy foulin' up X-rays either!" B.A. threw in.

"Although I have to admit it was kind'a fun playing with the shower." Hannibal laughed and Face raised his eyebrow at his former Commander, but couldn't find it in his heart to chastise him as the Colonel continued. "And that's not all we did either." Hannibal said. "I reminded Wellington of what we had done for him 20 years before, and then made it so he'd hear the news about your company."

"And as for that I.R.S. wench. . ." Murdock laughed. "I loved the look on her face when she saw the tape that I so kindly provided by turning the security camera on."

"You saved me." Face swallowed and licked his bloody, swollen lips. "And you saved my wife. There's no way I could ever repay you for that." His voice grew weaker and his agony faded somewhat as a bone numbing chill seeped to the core of his being. The other three looked at each other, torn between their duties to the Higher Power that allowed them to be there at that moment, and their need to alleviate the suffering that tortured them as much as it did Face. However they all knew that it wasn't Face's time yet and they had do all in their power to keep him with them as long as they could.

"Dammit Lieutenant!" Hannibal snapped. "You've got to stay awake! Don't make me make it an order! We told you it's not supposed to be your time to die yet, and after all that we went through for you, you can't give up now. Hold on!"

"I . . . don't know if . . . I can." Face wept. "It . . . hurts." Face wanted desperately to do as his friends demanded, but it was harder to retain consciousness with every second that passed.

"I know it hurts, Face." Hannibal's voice was low with compassion, and he touched Face's shoulder. "And I'd give anything to be able to stop it, but you need to give the rescuers just a little more time to reach you." He looked over his shoulder down the mountainous hill in consternation. "Although, by rights, they SHOULD have been here by now." His blue eyes narrowed and he stared down the hill with a laser-like intensity. "I don't like the feelings I'm getting here."

As if his words were an omen, the wind that habitually blew through the mountains, suddenly kicked up, and ominous gray clouds rolled in and obscured the sun. A horrible, grating sound of metal as it scraped against metal rent the air, and the wind shook the unstable semi trailer until it rocked over the deformed back of the car. Hannibal scowled at the air around them as Murdock and B.A. suddenly straightened and their Other-Worldly senses alerted them to the fact that there was much more wrong with the situation than nature could account for.

"Colonel!" Murdock suddenly shouted over the force of the wind. "It's them! If they can't take him one way, they're going to try another!" An agonized groan left Face as the car shuddered around and beneath him and the trailer rocked harder over him as an unseasonably cold rain pounded down on them.

Hannibal was pissed. In fact, Hannibal was so far past pissed that there wasn't a word for how furious he truly was. "B.A." He snapped, his voice sharp as his eyes glittered with an Angelic type of Jazz that none of the others had ever seen before. "Get over by the trailer. Keep it as stable as you can for as long as you can. Murdock, cover Face. I'm gonna go see about getting those rescue crews up here, and NOW!" He faded out, and Face sighed as Murdock appeared in the car. A soothing white glow enveloped them as he gently cradled Face's shoulders.

"It'll be all right, Face." He smiled. "You'll see. You've just got to hang in there with us for just a little while longer."

"Yeah, you heard what the crazy foo' said, little brother." B.A. said, his voice steady and reassuring. "We ain't gonna let nothin' happen to ya."

"I'll . . . try." Face let his head rest in Murdock's lap as his eyes closed slowly. "I'm . . . I'm just sorry . . . you had to go through . . . all this just for . . . for me." Face said with a sigh and a soft smile that reached his pain-darkened blue eyes.

"Don't be. We aren't." Murdock stroked Face's sodden hair away from the injured man's marble-like aspect, and they all looked up as the sirens screamed up the hill.

"Yeah." B.A. growled as he placed his hands against the trailer as it rocked slightly, and steadied it. "So don't talk crazy. We'll get you out o' this, you just keep breathin'."

"What a surprise." Hannibal's voice was thick with sarcasm as he faded back in. "There was a tree blocking the roadway. With a little help from some friends . . ." He looked up at the sky and nodded as the sirens screamed closer and louder. "It managed to blow across the road and down the hill. As you can tell, they're on their way."

"Oh god." Face moaned as his body shivered violently with cold, and sent waves of unbearable agony throughout him. "I can't . . . can't hold on much longer." He heard the emergency vehicles as they screamed to a stop at the accident site, and knew that without his friends near him, he'd've died after the first wave of pain had hit him.

"They're here, Face." Murdock whispered. "They'll get you out, and you'll be back at home with Beautiful soon. I know you still call her that, and I know how you still feel about her. You just think about her, okay? She still needs you, Face, and loves you more than she did from the moment she set eyes on you." Murdock sighed. "And I know for a fact that she wouldn't make it very long without you." Face looked up at him and opened his mouth to speak, but suddenly shuddered convulsively as the core deep, bone-numbing cold tried to once again claim him. The only thing that kept him from giving up at that moment was the warmth of Murdock's hands, and the thought of what his wife might go through without him.

The rescue trucks and police swarmed over the scene, and did what they had to do, then an EMT tried to get Face to speak with him, but it was all Face could do just to remain conscious. He knew, despite his best efforts and those of his friends, that he'd slipped into extreme shock, and he also knew with a frightening certainty and clarity that if he let himself fall completely into unconsciousness, that his death wouldn't be far behind. As those thoughts whirled through his mind, he watched dully as the Emergency personnel literally cut the car from around him.

It was a slow process, and they were almost done, when the trailer suddenly slipped sideways. The Emergency crew jumped away, but B.A. leaped onto what was left of the back of the car, and caught the trailer as it plunged toward Face's head. Even with his Other-Worldly strength, the painful strain it took on B.A. was more than obvious, but he grunted and held on grimly as the Emergency personnel jumped right back in the moment the trailer stopped its downward plunge.

The pneumatic rescue equipment was already in the hands of the rescuers, but because of their positioning, they couldn't insert it far enough into the area it needed to be to release Face's upper body. Murdock grabbed the end and jammed it further between the seat and the door, and it expanded so that Face's arm and hip was released. The pneumatic device was then used to cut away the steering wheel, and Face's lower torso and legs were loosened enough to be released. However, no sooner had they gotten his legs loose, than the trailer slid across the wet pavement, and even B.A. couldn't hold it.

Desperately, Murdock pushed and Hannibal pulled on Face as the emergency people all but ripped the man from the car. There was no time to be gentle, and Face screamed as every nerve seemed to blaze with tormented agony all at once. The trailer suddenly plunged downward, and with what could only have been described as an angry shriek, it crushed the rest of the car where Face and the others had been mere moments before.

With shaky proficiency, the rescuers prepared Face for transportation, and in a scream of sirens, sped from the scene to the nearest hospital. Hannibal grinned at the other two as the storm whipped angrily, but uselessly around them. "We told you!" He shouted into the raging winds. "You don't mess with The A-Team!" He and the others laughed triumphantly, then disappeared, and the storm subsided to a glorious sunset.

 

One Month Later

"Darling, are you SURE you should come home this early?" Face grinned up at his wife from the wheelchair, as she gazed down at him worriedly as they entered the house, and he kissed her hand.

"Another day of hospital food, and I was going to scream." He told her brightly. "Besides, I really need to get back to work."

"Gee." She snorted good-naturedly. "And I thought you couldn't live without me. How silly of me."

"That goes without saying, Beautiful." He yanked her down to him and placed a passionate kiss on her VERY responsive lips.

"Rest, Darling." She giggled into his mouth. "That's what the Doctor said. He said you needed rest."

"He also said I needed physical therapy. And this is DEFINITELY physical therapy." He told her as he pulled her into his lap, but suddenly, someone cleared his throat, and the two of them looked up. She jumped out of Face's lap, and both of their faces were scarlet with embarrassment.

"Father Timothy." Face greeted as he fought to get his composure back, and held out his hand. "Uh . . . what are you doing here?"

"You gave me the key and asked me to check up on the place, while you two were in the City, remember?" He laughed at the couple. "So I was doing exactly that. I also had to drop some things off for you, especially now that we've found a new sponsor in addition to you and Mr. Wellington." The wide grin almost split his face in half. "In fact, with this new one, We'll be able to keep our doors open indefinitely."

"You've got a new Sponsor!?" Face's eyes lit up and he gripped his wife's hand tightly. "Father, that's wonderful!" He grinned, and Father Timothy nodded no less enthusiastically.

"I left the things for you in your office if you want to look at them." The Priest told him, and Face nodded.

"Sure." Face waved his hand in the direction of the office. "Lead on, Father." He shifted in his chair and his wife pushed it into the office. Face looked at his conspicuously empty desk and was confused. "I thought you said they were in my office."

"They are. They're over there." He pointed at the fireplace, and Face's eyes followed the finger. His mouth suddenly dropped open, and his breath caught painfully in his chest.

"It . . . it's not possible. How . . ." He tried to speak but couldn't, for over the mantle, in the shadow boxes, were the very items he'd given Father Timothy almost two months before.

Slowly, painfully, Face rose from the wheelchair. He almost fell, but found his wife beside him and he leaned heavily on her as they gingerly hobbled over to the shadow boxes. "Welcome home, Darling." She whispered softly in his ear and smiled as he opened the boxes, then reverently, lightly, and slowly ran his fingers over the clothing and the jewelry as if he were afraid they'd disappear.

"But . . . but I don't understand. I . . ." He was helpless in his emotion and his eyes were suspiciously bright.

"This is a first." The older Priest grinned. "Templeton Peck, speechless."

"No it's not." His wife laughed. "You remember him at our wedding. It took him ten minutes to stutter out the 'I Do'."

Face ignored the comments made at his expense and couldn't tear his eyes away from the shadow boxes. "Where did these come from? I thought they were gone forever." He looked from one to the other for an explanation, and they finally took pity on him.

"I contacted the man who bought them from Father Timothy and told him the circumstances and everything that happened." She snorted. "And a greedy little bastard he was too. He didn't seem to care anything at all about you or what you'd suffered, and I knew he'd never give them up." His wife answered, and the Priest nodded.

"After she told me what happen Ned, I went to him as well." Father Timothy shook his head. "He told me in no uncertain terms that he wasn't going to give them back, so I left." He shook his head, confused. "But, in one of the most bizarre turn of events I've ever experienced, the very next day, he called and told me to come and take the things back." the Priest shook his head. "He actually said he didn't want them any more, and he was sorry he'd ever accepted the haunted things in the first place."

"Haunted?" Face raised his eyebrows at the Priest, and the man nodded.

"His exact words." Father Timothy shrugged. "I have no idea what he was talking about . . ."

"I think I might." Face grinned at the picture of Hannibal, and could have sworn the twinkle in the blue eyes was brighter than it had been. "But please, go on."

"Well, there isn't really that much more to tell. He practically shoved the things into my hands, and then gave me a check for another five thousand dollars and said I'd be getting one every four months. Then he shoved me out of the house."

Face's wife spoke again, and laughed. "And then Father Timothy called me and told me the guy had given them back. He and I spent the better part of last evening put them back in the shadow boxes exactly as you had them, so they'd be here when you got here tonight."

"I don't thank I can ever thank either . . ." He chuckled, then around at the room. "ANY and ALL of you enough for everything you've done for me." He looked at both his wife and Father Timothy as he drooped wearily, and they both helped him to lay down on the couch. "I'm sorry about that." He apologized with a faint smile. "I guess I'm still a little weak."

"Well, I'd better go and let you get some rest." the Priest smiled. "I'll see you next week."

"Okay, Father." Face answered, and closed his eyes as his wife led the Priest out of the room. Face's eyes snapped open and he stared at the shadowboxes, then sighed happily. "Still there, looking out for me, aren't you guys?" He asked with a grin and felt more settled and content than he had in years. He looked over at the door as it opened, and his wife walked in. He gazed at her as if he hadn't seen her in years, and was grateful that his friends had fought as hard as they had for him.

He held out his hand and she took it, then he pulled her down to him and held her warm body against him. "Darling!" She squealed. "I thought you were tired!"

"I was until I saw you, and then all of a sudden I had the strength of thousands." He grinned at her and their mouths met in a deep kiss of love and passion. He tilted his head back and gazed at her lovely face as she responded to his physical advances, then he caught a reflection of a tiny red glow in the glass of Murdock's shadow box, and he grinned.

"Some privacy if you don't mind." He said as he laughed, and the light winked out as his wife gazed at him and obviously wondered if he were all right. However, without another word, he pulled her back into his embrace and she melted against him even as Face smelled the unmistakable scent of Hannibal's cigar. The last thing Face heard before he was lost in the warm willing arms of his wife, was Hannibal's voice as he said the only thing that could possibly have summed up Face's entire life up to that very moment.

"I love it when a plan comes together."

The End

 


Vie Temps Passe by Charon

 

 


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