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Ghost of the Past

By Mimi

 

Rating NC-17

 

Summary: Fifteen years after the fact, Hannibal and Face cross paths with the lieutenant's first C.O. from Viet Nam, and Hannibal learns just how Face ended up with his A-Team. Originally published in 1998 in Sugar & Spice's Beneath the SurFace fanzine.

 

Warning: Slash, language, attempted rape.

 

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

 

Hannibal Smith gathered his belongings from the back seat of the studio's limousine as the driver turned the big car into Costa del Oro, the street on which Face had scammed their latest abode. The distinguished silver-haired actor eased forward in the seat, anxiously peering out the windshield as Harry pulled the Cadillac up to the curb of Number 1011.

 

"Harry, great ride - can't thank you enough." Hannibal grinned at the aging driver.

 

"No problem, Mr. Smith," the older man replied, genuine affection for his latest passenger ringing true in his voice. Mr. John Smith was not only one of the all-time great movie monsters, he was one of the nicest as well. "Pick you up in the morning at six? That'll put us at the studio by seven," Harry asked, nimbly exiting his seat and coming around to open Hannibal's door.

 

The leader of the A-Team winced. "Seven? Is that what time my call is?" he replied dully, knowing Harry was fully aware of the schedule.

 

"Yes, sir, Mr. Smith. To get you there on time, I'll be here early, I'm sorry to say." The driver all but giggled. "I'll have coffee, the Daily Racing Form, and the morning paper all set for you."

 

Hannibal grinned, some of his humor returning. "Well, that'll at least ease some of the sting," he grumbled good-naturedly, giving the chauffeur an affectionate slap on the shoulder. Hannibal straightened up on the sidewalk, surprised to find Face's white Corvette pulled up in the carport.

 

"Looks like your manager made it back early. I thought you said he wouldn't return from Cannes until Friday," Harry wondered aloud.

 

Hannibal tried, unsuccessfully, to withhold a lecherous grin. Harry was a great, old-fashioned kind of guy, but Smith wasn't sure the driver would understand the relationship he had with Templeton Peck.

 

"Hmm, I thought that's what he told me. Ah, well, probably ran out of girls or something and decided to rest up on the patio, poor boy," Smith chuckled, mock concern in every syllable.

 

"He sure does like the ladies," Harry whistled, returning to his car. "See you in the morning, Mr. Aquamaniac." The driver waved a quick farewell, and maneuvered the car out of the cul-de-sac.

 

Hannibal watched the vehicle disappear, a smile playing on his lips. "Like the ladies? Yeah, well..." he laughed and headed for the front walk, nearly upending one of the local joggers.

 

"Ooops, sorry!" he called after the burly man. The runner politely waved, all forgiven and Hannibal watched him make his way out the cul-de-sac.

 

Smith cocked his head as the man ran off, feeling that the jogger was somehow familiar. Deciding that it was only the fact that he'd seen the man so often around their street lately, he shook his head. "That guy is gonna run himself into the ground," he said to no one but himself as he started up the walk, squinting against the glare of the late afternoon sun.

 

Upon entering the house, Hannibal called out for his lover. When he received no response, he set his articles on the entrance hall table and made his way through the house's elegant foyer and into the main hall.

 

Face had really outdone himself scamming up this piece of real estate. Too bad we can't put a down payment on this place, Hannibal thought longingly as he ambled across the intricate slate flooring, past the dining room and kitchen, and into the vast livingroom. The ceiling suddenly vaulted twenty feet above him, skylights flooding the great room with warm California sunshine. Gazing out the huge glass windows that made up virtually the entire back wall of the house, Hannibal searched the grounds beyond. The property sat up above the beach, a hundred yards beyond the garden. Walled in by a magnificent six-foot boxwood hedge, the beautifully landscaped grounds were shielded from prying eyes.

 

Sure enough, Hannibal could see a slender, lean-muscled man stretched out on a lounge alongside the shimmering water of the garden pool.

 

Incorrigible, he thought fondly, stripping off his jacket and tie, dumping them on the simple, elegant wicker sofa. Hannibal had kicked off his shoes by the time he reached the sliding door and paused, looking out at the Pacific Ocean. It was a magnificent view, watching the pale orange sun melting into the horizon.

 

Shaking his head from the scene, he descended the steps into the garden. The gentle sounds of waves breaking endlessly on the beach beyond immediately sent the colonel into a relaxed mode and he stalked silently up to the lounge chair.

 

Face was fast asleep, lying on his back, chic mirrored sunglasses hiding his blue-green eyes from the sun. The lieutenant had been down in the heart of Hollywood, trying to rustle up some decent work for his favorite client and Hannibal hadn't seen hide nor heard from him for three days. Face had given brusque instructions when he'd left Sunday night just to tell anyone who should ask that Jerry Johnson was off to Cannes and to take any pertinent messages.

 

Hannibal smiled indulgently and removed the fashionable eyewear before feasting his eyes upon the younger man. He always thought Face looked good, but after even so brief a separation as three days, the colonel found his lover more desirable than ever. A perfectly proportioned, lean-muscled, golden-skinned body, sun-streaked blond hair carelessly ruffled in the light breeze, heavy dark brows relaxed in slumber, and thick, sooty lashes casting shadows on the chiseled planes of his face which this late in the day was beginning to show the barest sexy hint of a shadow.

 

Hannibal had to suppress a deep groan of desire as he studied his lover and his groin began to twitch with life. To his amusement, and great delight, Face had opted to rid himself of any tan lines and was clad in nothing but a strategically placed towel, safeguarding the family jewels from ultraviolet exposure. Hannibal couldn't help but laugh. Face's entire body was a soft shimmering bronze-except for the generous flesh between his legs which, from experience, Smith knew would be a luscious vanilla white.

 

Jesus, I'm starved! All I can think about is food.

 

Actually, now that Hannibal was up close, Face's skin was more than just bronze. There was a definite pink cast to it.

 

I wonder how long he's been out here? The colonel laughed unsympathetically. Is he gonna be pissed when he wakes up... hmmm...guess I could wake him up. He paused and glanced at the reddening sky. Nah, sun's going down anyway.

 

With a bemused grin, Hannibal shook his head and retreated into the house to change and fix something to eat. After divesting himself of his suit, swapping it for his beloved if battered bathrobe, he hunted through the kitchen for a snack. If he ever wakes up, he's gonna want to go out and disclose all the stints he's lined up for me.

 

The cabinets proved a barren wasteland inhabited only by a box of water crackers, a jar of Spanish olives and three cans of creamed corn. Creamed corn? Who the hell bought that? I don't remember us getting them... The refrigerator proved a bit better, offering a grapefruit, three navel oranges, some leftover Chinese take-out (which the colonel decided had lived long enough, pitching it into the trash) and two slices of an artichoke-anchovy pizza from last night.

 

Eh, wonder what's in the freezer. Pizza'll win if I can't find anything more appetizing in the deep freeze.

 

As Hannibal pulled the door open, a tub of Cool-Whip fell out onto the floor and rolled half way across the kitchen before coming to a halt. Hannibal glanced at it annoyingly and perused the contents of the freezer. Oh, great! Two ice cube trays with one ice cube each. I hate it when he doesn't refill them. A box of Freezer-pleezer hamburger patties with three and a half missing. Guess Murdock stopped by for lunch. Half a gallon of rocky road ice cream. Can't stand the nuts... Frozen macaroni and cheese. Nah... Jesus! Not a thing to eat.

 

Hannibal sulked as he traipsed across the floor to retrieve the runaway whipped topping. Snapping up the tub he moved back to the refrigerator meaning to replace it then shrugged. Well, things are pretty bleak when Cool-Whip is the most appetizing food in the house. Hope you've had your beauty rest, Lieutenant, cause you're about to wake up. We're goin' out for some sustenance!

 

Hannibal closed the freezer door and padded in bare feet out to the patio, tub still clenched in his hand. He pried off the lid after slipping through the glass door, and stood over the unsuspecting Peck. He stuck his finger into the dairy dessert and shook his head at the recumbent man. "C'mon, Sleeping Beauty, time to rise and shine," he murmured, dropping a dollop of the topping onto Peck's bare stomach.

 

Much to his surprise, Face didn't wake up, and Hannibal watched the white gob of cream begin to melt and slide off Peck's belly. Unexpectedly, Smith's cock lurched to life at the sight. Hmmm....

 

As a sly, lewd grin creased his handsome features, Hannibal let another chunk of the frozen topping drop from his fingers, hitting Face in the middle of his chest. This time, the sleeper murmured a drowsy complaint and shifted slightly, sending the melting cream in a trajectory that would bring it into contact with his left nipple. Smith was transfixed, his genitals becoming rapidly aroused as the newest bit of Cool-Whip bumped, then slid slowly around the tiny brown nub before slipping over the arch of Face's ribs.

 

Hannibal shifted uncomfortably, very glad he'd opted for nothing other than his robe. The third hunk of frozen topping was dropped, with unerring accuracy, onto the sensitive flesh of Face's lower belly, just below his navel. That one finally got a response as it sat there unmoving, thawing on the lieutenant's heated skin.

 

"Huh... what... Han'bl?" Face stirred, a confused note to his voice as his sleepy mind tried to comprehend the assault of frozen dairy topping over his body. "When'd you get back?"

 

Peck fought to bring himself into a sitting position, rubbing blearily at his eyes before he noticed the devious grin on his lover's face and the tub of Cool Whip in his hands.

 

"What the hell are you doing?" Face sputtered, more alert as he gaped at the melting cream. "Hannibal! Can't you just tap me on the shoulder? Shit!" Peck brushed in annoyance at the little bits of frozen confection.

 

"Yeah, I could just tap you on the shoulder, but that's not half as enjoyable," Hannibal laughed, watching avidly as Face brushed not only the Cool-Whip off his belly, but the towel as well. Before the startled younger man could react, Smith had dipped his fingers back into the tub and dropped another bit of topping right between Face's legs.

 

"Yeoww! That's cold!" Peck half-choked, half-laughed. "Will you quit it?" he yelled, struggling to extricate himself from the lounge chair.

 

Hannibal moved quickly, rapidly straddling both Peck and the chair. He sat down roughly

across his lover's thighs, his erection thrusting through the robe. Face chuckled when he saw it.

 

"Oh, so that's it. I should've known!"

 

Adjusting his backside to a more comfortable position, causing Face to wince slightly, Hannibal grinned broadly. "You know, I came in, saw you here, looking all medium-rare and it made me hungry," the colonel explained. "So I went back inside and the only thing worth eating is this Cool-Whip." Hannibal paused and thrust four fingers into the tub, drawing out a generous helping. "But up until a couple of minutes ago, I didn't have anything to put it on..." His voice trailed off as he let his bright blue eyes drift down to stare meaningfully at Peck's exposed genitals.

 

Face followed his gaze. "Uh, you're not thinking of - yikes!' The lieutenant jumped as Hannibal clutched at his cock through a fistful of whipped cream. Peck struggled to unseat the heavier man, twisting in the freezing grip and starting to laugh uncontrollably. "Hannibal! STOP! Please! That's cold! You know what happens when I get this cold - shrinkage! Hannibal!"

 

Despite Peck's disastrous prediction, Smith could feel the heavy, flaccid shaft in his hand begin to twitch under a barrage of fondling. In short minutes, Smith had the younger man's cock hard, pumping it mercilessly under the unique lubrication. Face stopped struggling to free himself and began struggling to increase the friction. He lay back against the lounge and thrust upward, feeling Hannibal's grip tighten while the colonel's other hand coated his chest with the rapidly thawing topping.

 

"Oh, God, Hannibal..." Face muttered, wishing Hannibal's mouth would warm the freezing places on his skin.

 

As if in answer to his silent prayer, Hannibal fell upon his partner's glistening skin. He licked through the cream to taste the fine saltiness of Peck's body, biting gently at the hard brown nipples, coaxing them to demanding arousal. His mouth nipped a trail of kisses upwards until he reached the passionate mouth and he seared the sensuous lips with an inflaming kiss.

 

Not to be outdone, Face gripped his lover's head with one hand, brutally pressing their mouths together as their tongues wrestled in a hot embrace. Peck's other hand thrust between their slick bodies to find Smith's throbbing erection. With a groan of desire he gripped it firmly, caressing it with strong, demanding strokes, finally forcing it to rub against his own aching cock.

 

Hannibal broke off his oral exploration of Face's mouth, moaning with barely contained passion. This wasn't how he'd imagined their reunion to go but one reason Hannibal was so successful as a leader was his ability to adapt. When Face's hand gripped his shaft, running a slick palm agonizingly over the over sensitized head, Smith shuddered. The strangely erotic feel of the Cool-Whip and the overwhelming, rapid arousal of his partner, coupled with their having been apart for several days had left him too eager, too ready. He spasmed helplessly as Face's hand continued to milk his spurting organ, adding his own cream to the thawed Cool-Whip coating Face's slick belly and groin.

 

When the spasms finally eased, he lay heavily on the lean body under him, dimly aware of Face's urgent thrusting and that he'd lost the tub of Cool-Whip. Rousing himself to satisfy his lover, Hannibal crawled off the lounge and knelt alongside it, all his attention focused on the cock before him.

 

"C'mon, Hannibal," Face panted, tangling his fingers in the colonel's silver hair.

 

Smith relented, giving his partner a wicked smile. He reached out and enclosed the thick shaft with one hand, letting the other cup and squeeze Peck's tightly drawn up balls. "Where're we goin'?" Hannibal teased.

 

The glib reply won him a murderous look even as he pumped his fist up and down the straining erection. He caught his breath as he watched the cock shuddering in his palm and finally leaned closer.

 

"Mmm, never had such a treat," he murmured before engulfing the head of Face's cock with his mouth.

 

Peck arched against the tormenting lips, the throbbing waves of ecstasy beginning to close in. He twisted against the erotic sensations as Hannibal nibbled and sucked the remaining whipped cream off his tortured shaft.

 

"Oh, God, Han'bl... it's good... so good..." he panted as his colonel's mouth returned the sensitive head of his cock, the strong tongue swirling around, rubbing insistently at the tender underside.

 

"C'mon, kid, let it go..." Hannibal moaned as he felt the sudden strong throbbing along his lover's shaft.

 

He barely had time to cover the hot, moist cockhead before his mouth was drenched with the pulsing jets of Face's delicious salty fluid. Hannibal could feel Peck's body relaxing after his powerful release but still the colonel continued to suck at the satiated organ. Finally, though, he let the warm, flaccid cock slide from his lips, and gazed mischievously up into his lover's sultry eyes.

 

"And here, I thought there was nothing to eat in the house," he chuckled softly. Face grinned and stretched luxuriously.

 

"Yeah, well, if we're gonna get technical, I'm not in the house, Colonel."

 

Hannibal climbed to his feet, retrieving both Peck's lost towel and the tub of Cool-Whip. "Mmm, true... and as much as I love the feast you provide, I'm still hungry," Smith complained, playfully. He reached a hand down, pulling Face upright.

 

"Insatiable," Peck muttered, the mock hurt think in his voice, but he extracted himself from the lounge chair, towel in hand. "S'pose this means we're going out?" he muttered heading for the house.

 

Hannibal laughed as his eyes followed the delightful, firm curves of his lover's ass. "Um, well," he said, peering into the nearly empty container, "at least to get more Cool-Whip. We're all out."

 

"Ha!" Face's voice sounded slightly muffled as he disappeared down the hall toward their bedroom. "I'm never gonna be able to set foot in the frozen foods aisle of the supermarket again without getting a hard-on."

 

Hannibal cocked his head to the side, pausing as he closed the sliding door. "Hmm, that could be interesting," he said more to himself as he followed Peck.

 

*****

 

"Hey, Face, let me dress you for tonight," Hannibal asked suddenly as they were drying themselves after their shower.

 

Peck straightened and gave the colonel a skeptical look. Hannibal had sounded much too  bright. with his suggestion.

 

"Ah," the lieutenant stammered. "I, ah, don't think so, Hannibal. I haven't quite recovered from the last time you tried that and ended up matching my pale gray moleskin trousers with your own red checked denim shirt." Face toweled his hair briskly. "Nope, definitely not. You had your chance that one time."

 

Hannibal grinned annoyingly, even though he knew the lieutenant couldn't see him from under the towel. "Aw, c'mon kid. I'll let you choose where we eat," Hannibal offered hopefully.

 

The colonel knew nothing of the phrase "bribery will get you nowhere". In his experience with Face, it often got him everywhere.

 

As Hannibal suspected, Face paused and thought about the offer. He finally turned wary sea-green eyes on his lover. "Really?" he asked, heavy brows rising upward.

 

"Scout's honor," Smith swore, giving the Boy Scout salute, as near as he could remember it.

 

Face wavered, his sensual lips twitching at one corner. "Any place I want to go?"

 

"Any place."

 

"No matter how expensive?"

 

"No matter."

 

"And you'll foot the bill?"

 

"Absolutely, drinks, appetizers, main courses, even desserts and after-dinner sherries."

 

Peck was still unconvinced. "And all you want in return is to pick out my clothes?" His voice took on an air of incredulity.

 

"Well," Hannibal corrected, moving closer to his still damp lover and quickly wrapping him in an ardent embrace. "I believe I said dress you, so I get to pick 'em out and put 'em on your gorgeous hide," Hannibal murmured, nuzzling into Face's throat.

 

The younger man was having a difficult time processing the odd request, especially when Hannibal's insistent lips traveled along his jawbone up to his left ear, and began worrying the sensitive lobe.

 

"Um... well... I guess... as long as you don't do that denim-moleskin thing again," Face muttered breathlessly. "Aw, quit that, will ya? I'm trying to think here," he suddenly demanded as Hannibal traced his ear with the tip of a hot tongue.

 

"Yeah, I know," chuckled the colonel, unrepentant. "Why do you think I'm doing this?"

 

Sighing with pleasure, Face managed to push the older man away. "Just get on with it, will ya? I thought you were hungry?" Peck's voice was slightly agitated as he moved back into the master bedroom, a towel tucked neatly around his hips.

 

Hannibal followed, coming up behind the sleek, golden form as Face leant over his bureau.

 

"Uh-uh, remember? The deal is I dress you," the colonel reprimanded, stealing the slinky black silk briefs out of his lover's hand. He tossed them aside and encircled Tem from behind, his hands stroking the smooth, hard chest.

 

Face huffed but leaned back into the caress. "Oh, fine, what do you want me to wear?" He tried for a bored, unaffected tone but missed.

 

Hannibal grinned lewdly as he recognized the pleasure in Peck's throaty response. "Hmm, well let me see," Smith began, pressing tighter into his lover and leaning them slightly forward. He dropped his right hand into the drawer and rummaged through the contents, first picking up then discarding pair after pair of expensive underwear. "Um... nope... nope... nah, this won't do..." he muttered, sliding his left hand around Tem's slender hips to pull the towel free. "I better inspect the body parts to be covered before I make a decision."

 

Face tried to inflict his most annoyed gaze on the colonel but failed when Hannibal's hands began slow, firm caresses of his hips and buttocks.

 

"Oh, this is very nice. It's a shame to cover it up," Smith muttered, as he gently squeezed the neat, firmly rounded globes.

 

Face was instantly terrified. "Um, Hannibal you said you'd dress me. That means you have got to put something on me. I'm not about to go out naked." Face started to laugh at that mental picture. "Boy, the military'd be on us like ants at a picnic! 'Colonel Smith, fully clothed, and Templeton Peck, totally naked, have just been spotted dining at Chez Louis. Approach with caution. The lieutenant sure ain't carryin' a weapon but you never know about Smith,'" Face mimicked, causing Hannibal to burst out laughing.

 

"Oh, I don't know, Lieutenant," Smith all but cackled, trying to control his laughter. His hands slid around Face's hips to fondle the younger man's genitals. Peck groaned with desire. "Seems to me you're carrying a mighty fine piece right here," the colonel chuckled, stroking along the swelling shaft more firmly.

 

"Hannibal!" Face suddenly admonished, tearing himself out of the older man's grasp. "If you want to go out and get dinner fine, but we're going now! I'm not about to eat at midnight." He paused in his mock tirade and gave Smith a blatantly sultry look from under his thick lashes. "We can be doing other things then."

 

Hannibal sighed. "Is that a threat or a promise, Lieutenant?"

 

Face's eyes crinkled with amusement. "Whatever." He gave a noncommital shrug.

 

"You're right, let me see what we got here." Hannibal returned to sorting through silk briefs and boxers. "Nope, just can't quite find what I'm looking for," he murmured several seconds later. Turning quickly to face his impatient lieutenant, Hannibal suddenly brightened. "Why, Face, that's it!"

 

Peck frowned. "What?"

 

Hannibal moved towards him, holding out his arms towards the younger man's groin. "There! You're already wearing the proper under attire." Hannibal announced triumphantly.

 

Face rolled his eyes heavenward. "You have got to be kidding? You don't want me to wear anything under my clothes?"

 

Hannibal smirked, confirming Face's suspicion. "Oh, all right," Peck snapped, "but you better pick out something decent for me to wear. I'm not going around like the Emperor in his new clothes."

 

Hannibal gave a slight bow and moved toward the walk-in closets. He threw the doors open with an exaggerated flourish and disappeared inside, muttering incoherently.

 

"And it better not be anything itchy," Face warned, his anxiety increasing.

 

The lieutenant became more nervous as the minutes passed without Hannibal making a decision. He tried to peer around the wardrobe door but was promptly shooed out by his commander. Fretting, the younger man sat anxiously on the edge of the magnificent king-size bed and tried to be patient.

 

Just when he was thinking about sending a search party into the vast closet, Smith appeared, beaming from ear to ear. "I have got it!" he announced theatrically.

 

Face's eyes narrowed. He couldn't quite see what the colonel was hiding behind his back. "Yeah, and I have a feeling I'm gonna get it..." he muttered, petulantly. "Well, c'mon, show me. What assault have you conducted on my wardrobe this time?"

 

With a grand gesture, Hannibal swung into view slick black leather slacks with matching jacket, and a black silk shirt. "Ta dah!"

 

Face's jaw dropped open in amazement. "You want me to wear that? People'll think I've escaped from a funeral."

 

"No, no, no," Hannibal corrected indulgently and moved forward to place the garments on the bed. "Don't you remember 'Russ Dorsett'?"

 

The lieutenant cast a pouting glance at Hannibal. "You're dressing me up as some small-time Mafia hood?"

 

"Yep!" Hannibal quickly slipped the silk shirt on his harassed lover before he grabbed the pants and dropped down in front of the still-stunned Peck. He eased the trousers over the lieutenant's bare feet and slid them up the long, bare legs. "C'mon, kid, stand up, will ya?"

 

Face made sure Hannibal knew how exasperated he was with an explosive sigh. "You know, on our way to dinner, why don't we stop at the VA? I think Murdock could get you admitted for the night." Despite his protests, Face stood.

 

"Oh, I know you like this," Hannibal admonished, taking his time sliding the garment up Face's lean thighs, his fingers taking liberties against the firm smooth curves of his lover's backside. He settled the leather slacks on his lover's hips, lovingly arranging Face's genitals and carefully, very carefully, raising the zipper. He saw with amusement, the held in breath the younger man released when the zipping came to a successful, non-painful end.

 

Hannibal pressed against him then, his right hand cupping and squeezing the leather-clad mound between Face's legs. "I had so much fun groping you in the tux shop on that gambling job, I've been waiting ages for you to wear these pants again." Hannibal squeezed harder, delighted when he felt Face's cock twitch and stiffen slightly through the material. "Mmm, can't tell me you didn't like it, too?" he whispered seductively in Face's nearest ear.

 

Peck swayed in Smith's arms. "We're never gonna make dinner at this rate, Hannibal," the younger man whispered.

 

"Right you are!" the colonel suddenly burst out, slapping the firm, leathered ass of his lover. "Where are your sneakers?"

 

Hannibal caught the look of shock on Peck's face. "Gotcha," he gloated. "Even I know sneaks aren't going to go with such a sensational outfit." Smith disappeared into the closet again and, moments later, emerged with Face's expensive black leather loafers and a matching pair of silk socks. "These do?" he inquired, holding them up for Peck's inspection.

 

The younger man nodded his approval. "Nicely, thank you," he replied formally, sitting down on the bed so Hannibal could slide the footwear on. "And no tickling."

 

Much to his surprise, and intense relief, Hannibal finished dressing him in a businesslike manner.

 

Patting Face's leg, the older man stood up, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "Now, give me a minute to put some clothes on and we're outta here." Smith heard his junior officer chuckling behind him as he turned back to the closet.

 

"Oh, gee, can I dress you?"

 

Hannibal laughed as he sorted through his own clothes. "Nope, not a chance, but I'll let you undress me when we get back."

 

"That's a deal!"

 

*****

 

"So, where are you taking me?" Hannibal inquired half an hour later as Face cruised the 'Vette down the Santa Monica Freeway.

 

"Well, you've kind of shot down any hopes of Ma Maison with that outfit you're wearing," Face muttered.

 

Hannibal laughed heartily. "Oh, and you think those black leather pants would have gotten you past the headwaiter?"

 

The younger man shrugged, a sly smile quirked one corner of his mouth. Hannibal considered. "Yeah, you're right. You probably would have gotten in," he purred, sliding his hand furtively up the inside of Face's thigh. He gave a tight squeeze, causing Face to jump before removing his fingers. "But I don't like to think of anyone else getting to do that to you."

 

Now it was Face who laughed. "Oh, come on, Colonel, you love it when people want what you have."

 

Hannibal shrugged. "Some things." The colonel remained quiet for a moment. "I like it when they admire what I have," he finally said, eyes sparking a bright blue mischief at his lover, "but they better know when to keep their distance."

 

Smith was surprised by his lieutenant's reaction. Face snorted, throwing Hannibal a dark, annoyed look.

 

"I can look after myself, thank you very much. And I sure hope you're not thinking I'm some piece of property, Hannibal. We already went through this."

 

Hannibal sighed. Hadn't they just! It had been one of the most boisterous arguments they'd ever had, not long after they'd become lovers. It had forced Hannibal to realize that Face tolerated his adoration but that his lieutenant was not one to be stifled by an overprotective, jealous lover. Hannibal had learned to curb his insecurities, at least when Face was around, and to trust the younger man. In return, Face immediately put down any advances from interested suitors. Hannibal had to admit that the younger man's quick tongue and biting wit was more than effective in scattering unwanted admirers.

 

The colonel patted Face's thigh affectionately. "Nah, you made that all good and clear some time ago, Lieutenant. Not to worry. So," he said, lightening the mood, "where are we going?"

 

"Oh, I don't know. Any suggestions?"

 

Hannibal searched his brain for some place Face might not have been before. "Um, well, there's a new club over in Manhattan Beach that I've heard good things about. Several people at the studio have been and said it's definitely worth a look. Good food, great service and even a show."

 

Face's eyes narrowed and he cast a dubious sidelong glance at Hannibal. "Just what kind of club?"

 

Hannibal shrugged innocently. "I honestly don't know. The place hasn't been open too long. I just overheard a couple of the girls in wardrobe talking about it. Even one of the unit directors said he'd been and that it had been great."

 

Face considered for several long minutes. "All right, but are you sure your wardrobe is up to par?" he teased.

 

"Well, if it ain't there's a McDonald's just down the block," Hannibal chuckled watching as Face pretended to retch.

 

*****

 

A short time later, the gleaming white Corvette, with its racy red stripe and two dashing occupants, pulled into the parking lot of The Crown Royale. Face hated to admit how impressed he was with the outside decor; the restaurant was located in a magnificent, sprawling Victorian mansion set up against the Pacific Ocean. There had been tasteful additions to the original grand house, and everything spoke of opulence and splendor. It was with some trepidation that Face reflected on his own apparel.

 

"I'm not sure either one of us is really dressed for this, Hannibal," he murmured as they walked toward the welcoming grand entrance.

 

Smith scanned the other patrons approaching the huge ornate doorway. "It's not even six o'clock, Face. We're still with the early birds. Look at this two guys over there. They're pretty casual, chinos and polo shirts."

 

Face followed Hannibal's line of vision to a pair of college-age boys entering ahead of them. "Well, I gotta admit, we are a bit spiffier than that. I guess we'll do."

 

Hannibal cracked him a quick pat on the ass. "As if there was ever any doubt."

 

Flustered, Face jumped around to see if anyone had noticed the colonel's errant caress. To his relief, the parking lot was empty. "Will you knock that off? You know I hate it when you do that where someone could see," the lieutenant hissed.

 

Hannibal looked hurt. "I know, kid, but I love touching you. I just wish I could do it where everyone could see. I want everybody to know you mean the world to me."

 

Face looked down, abashed. "Well, I love you too, you know that. It's just...well..."

 

"The world isn't quite ready public displays of affection from men in love."

 

Peck shrugged, catching the wise, knowing look in Hannibal's brilliant blue eyes. "Yeah, I guess that's it. I mean, we have enough trouble as it is keeping ahead of the military. Keeping ahead of the narrow minds might prove a bit too daunting"

 

"Never! Since when does the A-Team dodge a challenge?" Hannibal laughed.

 

Face rolled his eyes heavenward. "Since the leader of the A-Team doesn't want to be sleeping on the couch tonight, that's when!"

 

The older man sobered immediately though his eyes were filled with lustful dreams. "Point well taken, Lieutenant. Now, how about some dinner so I can get on with the real feasting?"

 

Hannibal knew something was up as soon as they passed into the foyer of the magnificent house. Always an observant man, his own life as well as the lives of his men, depended on his powers of observation, he noticed a lack of female patrons. Still, it wasn't unusual for gentlemen to follow their ladies to the table and bring back the coats and wraps to be checked. Still....

 

But when they were led to an elegant table situated just off to the side, accessible but secluded, Face, too, became aware of the all-male crowd. He turned speculative blue eyes on his commander but Hannibal merely shrugged. He'd had no idea this was a primarily gay nightspot. How could he? He'd, never been here before  However, he doubted that his younger lover would see things that way.

 

Face was furious. How dare Hannibal bring him here after what they'd just talked about... and to act so innocent! Fine! He wants to flaunt me, he wants to attract attention, I'll attract attention, all right Let's see how Lieutenant-Colonel Smith feels with a dose of his own medicine...

 

Hannibal was a bit perplexed by his lover's silence, though the hard line and furrowed brow on the handsome face warned him something was amiss. He collected his thoughts and chose his words carefully.

 

"Um, gee, Tem, I know you probably won't believe me but I had no idea this was one of those kinds of places. C'mon, we can get out of here without making too much of a scene," Hannibal offered the escape and rose in anticipation of his junior officer's acceptance but Face remained seated, his stubborn expression of a minute ago replaced with a totally uncharacteristic one of acquiescence. Smith cringed. Uh-oh...

 

"There's no need, Hannibal. We're here, I'm starving, and you said the food was supposed to be good. Besides," he murmured silkily, settling into a purely scamming mode that raised the hairs on the back of Hannibal's neck, "I haven't seen a show in ages. Let's hang around and sample everything."

 

The wanton inflection of the word and the come-hither look on Peck's face assured Hannibal that the younger man was up to something he wasn't going to like. "Well, I'd be just as happy with a drive-through," the colonel insisted, more determined than ever to vacate the establishment before Face could hatch whatever he was planning. "Let's go." Smith moved a few steps from the table not completely surprised when he found himself alone. Turning back to Peck, he glared at the man. "Move it, Lieutenant!" he hissed, stressing each word.

 

The nostrils of the perfect nose flared dangerously and Face's eyes turned a cold, hard blue. "You might be content with a burger and greasy fries, but I would not. I'm not leaving," he said evenly.

 

"Then you're going to walk home," Hannibal threatened, brandishing his duplicate set of keys to the Corvette.

 

To his surprise, and dismay, Face smiled brilliantly. "I'm sure I won't have any problem catching a ride - with someone," he purred, challenging Hannibal to leave him alone. Smith straightened and glanced about the restaurant. From the several pairs of eyes already turned therir way, Hannibal was sure Face was right; he'd catch a ride, but would it be home?

 

For one of the few times in his life, Hannibal was at a loss. There was no way he would leave Face alone in a place like this. On the other hand, maybe it would serve him right, but was Tem mad enough to follow through with the veiled threat?

 

He decided on a different approach. "Look, kid, I told you I really had no idea this place was a hangout," he urged, resuming his seat at the table. "Honest! And I know you hate places like this so why don't we just call it a truce and go home, huh?" Hannibal's eyes pleaded and Face felt his reserve waver. "We can stop on the way and pick up some more Cool-Whip?"

 

Face's resolve broke and a true, indulgent smile crossed his handsome features. "You sure you didn't know what kind of place this was?"

 

"I swear," Hannibal sat bolt upright and crossed his fingers over his heart, smiling earnestly. "I know this isn't your scene. I wouldn't do this to you, even as a joke."

 

Face shrugged, his smile indulgent. "No, I hate leather and the bikers and smoky dives you seem to think so amusing." Face sighed and looked around. "This place is really pretty nice. I guess it isn't so bad." He paused as he considered the colonel. "I am starving and we've got a table. I don't mind staying."

 

Hannibal grinned broadly. "Really? I don't want to have to try another Boy Scout salute."

 

"Please... I'm not sure I understood the last one, but I don't mind staying, I mean, if you don't mind. I seriously doubt you'll tear this place apart like that joint you took me to in Tarzana."

 

Smith chuckled at the memory of last April Fools' Day, when the Team had been going through an unusually quiet period. He'd persuaded Face to join him at an absolute dive. The appropriately named End Shot Bar had been filled with the roughest, rowdiest looking crowd Hannibal could ever remember seeing. In his quest for a good fight, he'd thought it hysterically funny to drag a nervous Peck, dressed in an impeccable Armani suit, through the leather-clad men. While Hannibal had counted on Face drawing attention, he'd been surprised at the medieval mentality of the bar patrons. One of the bigger men had latched hold of Face as they'd passed by and informed the colonel that he was going to have to find "someplace else to sink your cock since this tender piece of ass now has a new owner".

 

The hulking, lust-filled, half-drunk biker had suddenly found himself upended across the bar by the slender form in the expensive suit. Never underestimate Special Forces' Training, Hannibal had thought at the time. What Face lacked in bulk he more than made up for in determination. The younger man's eyes blazed at the indignity and what had followed was a knock-down, drag-out fight of impressive proportions, even better than Hannibal had hoped for. Nevertheless, when there had been a slight lull in the action, the colonel had dragged his lover-turned-wildcat out of the bar. They'd managed to get home with nothing more than a ruined suit, a black eye and a split lip between them, though Face soaked his knuckles for a couple of hours.

 

The ice in the water was tepid compared to the coldness in the younger man's look. Face hadn't talked to the colonel for a week afterward and Hannibal had begun to think he'd managed to do something the entire US military hadn't achieved - the breakup of the A-Team. However, Face's anger had finally cooled, especially after Hannibal had methodically set about to bring himself back into Peck's good graces. He admitted he was drastically wrong with his joke and that he would never try anything like that again. He offered to splurge for a new suit to replace the one Face had been wearing that night. Basically, he humbled himself as much as he dared and Tem had finally responded. Even though he'd been beyond furious with his colonel, he didn't want to face a future without Hannibal.

 

Returning from his reverie, the colonel smiled gratefully, surveying the fine linens and elegant, if casual, atmosphere. Businessmen, men of finance, professors... no, he couldn't picture a brawl like the one in Tarzana.

 

"Okay, if you're sure. I gotta admit, I'm pretty famished, too." His eyes took on a glowing, azure warmth. "Though that was one mighty fine appetizer back at the house," he muttered, keeping a perfectly straight face.

 

"I didn't hear that," came the slightly muffled reply, as Face picked up his menu and ignored the purely lecherous gaze from the man across the table. Hannibal chuckled and picked up his own menu, scanning the entrees.

 

The two men were so deep in thought it was a moment before they realized their waiter was busily setting up an ice bucket next to their table. Face was wondering if it was customary in this restaurant to assume the guests were going to order a wine, when a second waiter produced a bottle, gracefully presented over his left forearm.

 

"Dom Perignon, 1973, for your enjoyment, sir," he proudly remarked to Face, neatly depositing the expensive wine into the ice filled tub.

 

Face looked to Hannibal for an explanation and found only a curious, bemused grin. Shrugging slightly, Peck turned back to the waiter. "I'm sorry, but I didn't order that. In fact, I haven't ordered anything yet, though I must admit, I would certainly choose that particular vintage." Face bestowed an affectionate smile on his lover. "You have a good memory, Hannibal."

 

Hannibal's amusement grew. "Hate to break this to you, kid, but I didn't order it either." Turning to the waiter, Smith raised his eyebrows. "You must have the wrong table."

 

The uniformed man stood rigidly upright. "Oh, no, sir... this is a gift to your companion."

 

Face's own brows shot skyward. "Who on earth would send me this?"

 

"That gentleman sitting over there by the front window." The waiter pointed to a distinguished, stocky, steely haired man, casually reclined at a table set against the magnificent bay window overlooking the ocean. Both Hannibal and Face turned to stare at the stranger as the waiter popped the cork and made a discreet departure.

 

"So, who's your admirer, Face?" Hannibal asked, the silky notes of his voice unable to disguise the wary tone.

 

"I haven't a clue, though he does sort of look familiar." Peck stared more intently at his benefactor, overcome with an intense feeling that he'd seen the older man somewhere before.

 

Hannibal, too, felt that he'd seen the stranger, and it was with some trepidation that he remembered where. "That's the guy that's always jogging around our neighborhood," he announced suddenly.

 

Face stared. "Yeah, it is," he said slowly, sitting straight up in his seat. He thought a moment, glanced at the very expensive bottle of wine, then turned back to its giver. He knew he was about to annoy Hannibal no end, but some devilish imp took hold of him and he retrieved the bottle. Brandishing the champagne toward the man at the window, and smiling gratefully, he accepted the gift. "Would you like a glass, Colonel?" he asked, hovering the mouth of the bottle near to Hannibal's glass.

 

A rapid flicker of emotions crossed Hannibal's face, the last of which was indignation.

 

"No, I would not. Put that down - you can't accept that wine."

 

Face turned his most endearing 'orphan' look on Smith. "Why ever not?" he asked innocently. "If some stranger wants to give me a $150 bottle of champagne, I say, 'a fool and his money are soon parted'." His expression changed to one of total devotion. "C'mon, Hannibal. You know there's no one for me but you."

 

Hannibal turned once more to the man across the room, and fixed him with a cold, hard warning stare. When he finally looked at Face again, his eyes bespoke his relief. "I know. You're just worth protecting."

 

"Well, I thank you kindly, but as we both know, I can take care of some rich joker who wants to throw his money away," Face laughed pouring out the champagne but he couldn't resist a little teasing. "Of course, the way this Team goes through money, maybe I ought to try and bilk this guy for some more capital, you know, lead him on a little..."

 

Hannibal didn't miss the mischievous look Face gave him from under those long thick lashes. "Oh, I don't think so, Tem," he purred, the silky tone returning to his voice. "Then I might fly into a jealous rage and have to tear this restaurant apart."

 

Settling the bottle back into the ice bucket, the younger man laughed out loud. "Yeah, I can just see it... china flying through the air... crystal goblets tossed into the potted plants... waiters running for their lives amid the Porsches and Jaguars..." He sighed wistfully before starting to sing, "These are a few of my favorite things!"

 

Hannibal shook his head, his blue eyes twinkling merrily. Content that Face was well and truly his, he returned his attention to the menu. When he had narrowed his choices to either the delicious, though healthy, baked salmon, or the delicious and decadent filet mignon, he glanced at his companion in order to gauge what sort of mood Face was in. If he was feeling argumentative, Peck would nag mercilessly if Hannibal ordered the beef. But if he was properly aroused, Face wouldn't object. Raising his eyes, Hannibal saw his lover staring intently at their champagne benefactor across the room.

 

"What? What is it?" Smith asked, trying to keep the anxiety out of his voice.

 

Face shook his head. "This is really getting to me. I have the feeling that I know him," Face remarked, his voice soft as he tried desperately to place the stranger.

 

"Well, I told you I've seen him jogging around our house, if that's any help," Hannibal prompted, but Face shook his head.

 

"No, I mean, I think I've met him somewhere before, that I really do know him."

 

Hannibal cast a quick glance over his shoulder to find their neighbor grinning at his lover. The colonel's stomach did a slow, queasy roll. The look the man was bestowing on Peck was one of acquaintance. Clearly, their neighbor knew Face.

 

"He knows you," Hannibal said flatly, waiting for Tem's reaction, but Peck only nodded, still deep in concentration. Several more minutes went by while Face tried to place the mysterious diner. Their waiter returned and Hannibal ended up ordering for them both while his companion continued deep in thought.

 

Suddenly, Face went rigid in his seat, blue eyes huge with sudden comprehension. "Hannibal, can we go? I'm not very hungry anymore. We can pick up something on the way home." Peck didn't wait for the older man to answer; he was on his feet, tugging nervously at his jacket.

 

Smith tried to keep his jaw from falling but knew he'd been unsuccessful. "What? Tem, we just ordered," he admonished, glancing once again at the man across the room. Looking back at Face, Hannibal realized the younger man was concentrating intently on the tableware before them. He wouldn't even look up. Hannibal's eyes narrowed. "Who is he? You know him, don't you?"

 

Face licked his lips anxiously before turning honestly pleading eyes on his commander. "C'mon, Hannibal, please? Let's go eat somewhere else."

 

Smith was confused. Never in all the years that he'd known Templeton Peck had he ever seen the blond charmer so willing to avoid a confrontation. "Who is he, Tem?" Hannibal asked softly.

 

It was obvious that the man was causing his lover to relive memories that had best been forgotten. Peck pleaded once again. "Aw, Hannibal, it doesn't matter. Let's leave, huh?"

 

This time, Tem didn't wait for an answer; he was moving toward the exit, leaving a stunned Hannibal in his wake. Following the distraught man, Smith paid for their uneaten dinners, mumbling an apology to the confused waiter and followed Tem into the parking lot. He was so intent on catching up with Peck, he failed to notice that the enigmatic diner was in turn, following him.

 

Emerging into the twilight, Hannibal scanned the lot and immediately spotted Peck leaning up against the gleaming white Corvette. Hannibal paused, pulling a cigar out of his inside coat pocket, and lit it. He considered Face for several moments before walking leisurely across, coming to rest against the car nearly shoulder to shoulder with Peck.

 

"So," Hannibal began lazily, "you want to tell me what all that was about?"

 

Face shrugged, the stubborn crease in his brow deepening.

 

Nothing is ever easy with you, Smith sighed. Except loving you. "Apparently, your memory has provided our mysterious benefactor with an identity. Care to fill me in?"

 

Face turned away from Hannibal, his eyes searching the steady waves rolling onto the beach below the restaurant. "He was someone I ran across back in 'Nam, my first CO."

 

That brought Hannibal up short. As far as he knew, he'd been Face's first, and only,

commanding officer in Vietnam. It was rare that Face ever pulled the wool over his eyes, but apparently the handsome conman had done just that - for fifteen years!

 

"So, ah, there's quite a story here, huh?" Hannibal tried to keep his voice quiet but knew Face could hear the sharper tone. "I'm listening," Smith said expectantly.

 

"Well, you'll probably hear nothing but silence, Lieutenant-Colonel Smith. That's about all I ever got from him. Well, from his mouth, at any rate." The stranger leered obscenely at Peck.

 

Smith jumped, angry for letting his defenses down. The mysterious man from the restaurant sauntered over to the couple. Hannibal heard Face draw a sharp breath, his entire body going rigid.

 

"Well, well, well... if it isn't Lieutenant Peck... after all these years," the diner purred.

 

Smith came nearly nose-to-nose with the stranger. He sized him up, bright blue eyes turning ice-cold as he stared hard at the other man. Face raised his own eyes defiantly, but he couldn't hide the fleeting misery.

 

"My, you have held up remarkably well over these years, Lieutenant." The stranger paused as he ignored Hannibal and slid his eyes lasciviously over Peck's trim form, admiring the tight, leather attire. "Mmm, very well, indeed. If I'd had any idea how delicious you looked in leather, I would have requisitioned some all those years ago."

 

Face's lip curled in disgust, his distress giving way to anger. "I would've ordered you an entire side of beef, Major, or perhaps an ass - something more suited to your personality."

 

Hannibal backed up a step, staring at the... major? Major? He wracked his brain trying to come up with a major he might have run across in Nam that would fit with the man before him.

 

As he pondered the dilemma, the elegantly clad man turned his cold gaze upon Hannibal. "So, Lieutenant, you're still getting your butt greased by a ranking officer. Just like you to sleep your way to the top." The man flicked his disapproving gaze along Smith. "You joined up with Hannibal Smith and where did that get you?"

 

Peck snorted. "Out of your perverted hands, that's for sure," he muttered under his breath, but Hannibal had heard and he stared at his lover with disbelief.

 

"Tsk, tsk, still so bitter after all these years, Peck? After I saved your tender hide from prison."

 

Every syllable of the major's words dripped with a sarcasm that ate into Peck's self-control. "You slimy bastard! I would have been better off with hardened criminals!"

 

The major laughed abruptly. "As opposed to a hardened major? That's very funny," the man chortled. He sidled around the stunned Hannibal and eased closer to his former charge. " 'Cause you sure did get me hard," he whispered silkily, though not low enough that Hannibal didn't hear. Suddenly the man turned on Smith. "Does he do that to you, too, Colonel Smith? Get you hard?"

 

"Who the hell are you?" Hannibal snapped, his senses back on alert.

 

The man held out his hand, adopting an attitude of false congeniality. "Major William T. Cowan, now retired," he offered, eyeing Peck. "I never was promoted, thanks to you."

 

Face's eyes had narrowed dangerously. Smith hadn't seen Tem so angry and on edge since that barroom brawl last April. "You would have had to cover up too many molested subordinates to achieve that. You should've been the one thrown in prison."

 

Hannibal knew he couldn't stop the look of shock that transformed his face. Tem saw it and looked away, suddenly ashamed.

 

"You're still a smart-mouthed, arrogant little shit, aren't you?" the major snarled before relaxing slightly, losing his anger and opting for a more sly approach. "Has he told you about us, Smith?" Cowan asked, his eyes boring through Peck. "Did he tell you about our little tryst back in Cam Ranh Bay?"

 

Hannibal quickly collected his thoughts. He smiled innocently at the obnoxious officer. "Apparently, you weren't memorable enough for him to mention. Now that I see you, I can understand why." Hannibal oozed false charm.

 

His dig had the appropriate effect; Major Cowan treated Smith to a look of concentrated hatred.

 

Face let out a long-held breath. He knew from the moment he recognized Cowan that Hannibal was going to hear about his escapade with his former CO. Face cursed himself for not telling Smith about this long before, but it was a hated, shameful memory that he'd worked hard to bury. That it should suddenly be dragged from him made him feel nauseous, as sick as he felt when the major's hands had wandered over his body all those years ago.

 

"I'm not under your command anymore, Cowan, so get lost," Face snapped. "Go back to the slimy rock you crawled out from."

 

Cowan chuckled mirthlessly. "Haven't changed at all, have you, Peck? You know, I was shocked when I recognized you in my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago. Re-routed my afternoon runs to go by your house, just so I could make sure. Then, when I realized you'd shacked up with Hannibal Smith here, I felt an odd sense of pride. I mean, I broke you in." Cowan spared Hannibal with a condescending gaze. "I was the first one to fuck that gorgeous ass of his, Smith."

 

The retired officer, lechery on fire in his eyes, turned back towards Peck. Knowing he had the advantage of having just shocked both of his listeners, he stretched out his hand and gripped one curve of Face's leather-clad buttock. "Mmm, mmm, just as round and firm as I remember," he declared.

 

"You lying son-of-a-bitch!" Face cried, hauling backward and swinging a powerful roundhouse punch at Cowan. The blow caught the bigger man at the jawbone with a sharp crack sending him reeling backward into the side of the Corvette. Before Face could attack again, Hannibal thrust himself between the two men, his back to the whimpering major.

 

"Easy, kid, easy," Smith soothed, gripping Face firmly by the shoulders. "It's okay, Tem. I don't care what went on between you two. It doesn't matter to me."

 

Hannibal was shocked to find Face glaring violently at him. "Nothing ever went on between us, Colonel. Nothing!" Face paused to glance over Hannibal's shoulder at the wounded officer. "That bastard -" The words caught in his throat. "He- he-" Face shook his head. Even after all these years, he couldn't say it.

 

Hannibal squeezed Face's shoulders, causing the younger man to wince. He looked steadily into Tem's agonizing blue eyes and saw nothing but a long-forgotten misery. Even though Peck hadn't said it out loud, Smith suddenly understood some of what had transpired between a young, naive lieutenant and his treacherous commanding officer.

 

The anger welled from deep in Hannibal's innermost being. Smith knew he was not without fault, and one of his deficiencies came in the area of expectations. He felt everyone should hold themselves to the high expectations he had for himself, to be honorable, upstanding and honest. Sadly, from long experience, he knew this wasn't the case.

 

Setting his mind, the colonel squeezed Face's shoulders sharply, determinedly, and set his mind. "Get in the car," he ordered, shaking Face from his terrible reminisces.

 

Peck knew that tone - and knew better than to disobey it. Oddly unsure of himself, the younger man accepted the command and moved around the vehicle, climbing into the passenger seat.

 

Hannibal glanced down at the sprawled figure on the ground. His anger boiled to the surface. With a strength borne of injustice, he hauled the stunned Cowan to his feet by his shirt front. Smith drew in close, so that his nose was only centimeters from the retired officer's.

 

"You worthless bag of spit," he snarled, his voice so low only his captive could hear. "How many kids did you ruin over there? Gave you a thrill to force them into submission, huh? Well, let me tell you something, pal," Hannibal jammed his finger hard into Cowan's chest, accentuating the power of his threat, "if I ever see you 'round our place again, I'll shove those runnin' shoes of yours so far down your throat, you'll be shitting rubber soles and shoelaces for the rest of your measly life. Got it?'

 

Without waiting for an answer, Hannibal threw the burly man back to the ground. "And I warn you, like Face, there's only two hits when I fight - me hitting you and you hitting the ground."

 

The colonel didn't look back as he climbed into the driver's seat of the flashy white sports car. Instead he looked at the haunted expression on his lover's face and felt his heart twist again, but this time it swelled with love. Hannibal withdrew his own keys to the Corvette and settled himself behind the steering wheel.

 

"Face? You okay?" he asked quietly, not surprised when the younger man didn't say a word. Face still hadn't looked at him, only stared out into the dying sun as it sank beneath the gentle waves of the ocean.

 

*****

 

Hannibal pulled the car into the darkened end of an empty lot against one of the many beaches. It was full dark, and while they couldn't see the ocean any more, they could hear the gently rolling waves as they came to shore. In the dim pink light of the distant mercury lamps, Smith turned off the ignition and set about dividing the hasty dinner he'd picked up through a local hamburger joint. Face didn't say a word as the colonel set a cheeseburger and fries on the dash in front of him.

 

"So, you ready to tell me about Major Cowan?" Hannibal asked, trying to sound nonchalant around a mouthful of hamburger.

 

There was a lengthy pause and then a low admission. "I lied. It wasn't a nothing," Face shrugged, absently picking at a French fry. "You know what happened, or can imagine," he finally muttered, gazing out beyond the ocean to a part of his life lived long ago.

 

Smith finished chewing and swallowed, hesitant to press on but knowing Face would sulk if he was allowed to dwell on the past events. "I have an idea of what went on, but I don't really know. Look, kid," Hannibal suddenly turned and faced his lover, "nothing is going to change my feelings for you, especially not something that occurred more than fifteen years ago. I love you Tem, I always have. Now trust in us, will ya? Spill the beans."

 

Face dragged his eyes back from the empty view of the sea and gave Hannibal a long, measuring look. After a minute, he became aware that the older man was gripping his hand, stroking the tanned back rhythmically. Slowly, Peck relaxed.

 

"I was stationed in administration at Cam Ranh Bay, sorting out the paperwork for incoming Special Forces guys before they went on up to Nha Trang for their assignments. I didn't ask for that job, Hannibal - it was given to me." Face turned wide blue eyes on the colonel, seeking skepticism but finding none. He continued. "Anyway, I thought it was odd, a brand new Special Forces lieutenant stuck behind a desk. I mean, there were a lot of guys that had been wounded too badly to go back out in the field; they could have done desk duty." He gave a short, mirthless chuckle. "But what did I know?"

 

Hannibal remained quietly attentive, his silence and compassionate expression urging Face on with his story.

 

"Well, Cowan was my CO there, and now that I look back, I'd say he was the one who kept me in Cam Ranh. I was always uncomfortable around him. His jokes went from dirty to vulgar then to suggestive and they were directed to me, personally. I was shocked, and more than a little nervous but I couldn't quite figure out what to do about it. No way was I gonna complain to someone. It would have sounded ridiculous. In the end, I figured I only saw him two or three hours a day and I could put up with that. The rest of the time, I had free rein of the place."

 

The lieutenant leaned back against the seat, remembering. "It was wonderful when I wasn't around him," he sighed, his voice nearly a whisper. "I had more fun there than I think I did anywhere else. I learned everything there was to know about how the US operated in Vietnam and what I could bilk and from whom." Face turned and looked Hannibal square in the eye, his look clouding with memories. "I made contacts there that saved our butts more times than I could count."

 

Hannibal gave a low throaty chuckle. "Yeah, you sure did have some other line of suppliers. I always wondered where you came across all those people."

 

Face gave his first genuine smile in hours. "The old saying, it's not what you know, it's who you know. I made that my motto."

 

Smith waited but Face seemed more reluctant than ever to go on with the story. Gently, he urged, "So, where did Cowan figure into this?"

 

The smile vanished immediately from Peck's handsome face. He sat quietly, choosing a French fry with ridiculous care and chewing it methodically. Hannibal knew better than to press again, but he also knew that Face was working up to telling him. He just had to be patient. Hannibal returned to his burger, but his attention was on Tem. Finally, he was rewarded.

 

"I forged his signature on a five-day pass to Tokyo." Face gave a rueful smile. "I'd met this terrific girl there at the base. She was a nurse on her way home and so I thought I'd accompany her part way. I talked her into laying over in Japan so we could spend a few days together before she went stateside."

 

Hannibal laughed. "Lay over, or laid over?"

 

The smile returned to Peck's lips. Hannibal couldn't see Face's complexion in the dark, but he had a feeling the younger man was blushing. "Yeah well, guess you'd call it a 'laid over'. God, what a girl..." A wistful note crept into the lieutenant's voice. Taking a deep, steadying breath, Face forged on.

 

"When I got back, Cowan was waiting for me, madder than hell, brandishing that paper in front of him like a banner. He was all set to march me right up to the MPs. I always wondered why he didn't have them waiting for me. That should have struck me as odd, but all I knew was I was in deep shit. I mean, I'd bluffed his name a bunch of times, but not for anything like this. He dragged me back to his office and raged on and on about court-martials and forgery and Leavenworth. He seemed to like that part the best, going into great detail about what would happen to me in prison," Face finished, his voice trailing off softly.

 

Inwardly, Hannibal seethed at the injustice. He could well imagine the tale Cowan had spun for his young lieutenant; stories of gang rapes, being traded as property, living as a punk, all despite the fact, that since Leavenworth was under military control, it was run far differently from the typical prison. The stories would have been terrifying to a nineteen-year-old recruit.

 

Several minutes more passed before Peck continued. "I - I didn't know what to do. I knew he was right about some things. I didn't have a leg to stand on about the forgery; I did it and I reaped the benefits. He caught me dead to rights. He sensed this, that I knew I'd be found guilty and then he played up the rest."

 

Face turned toward Hannibal, past misery etched in his fine features. "Then I said something I never should have. I was so desperate to avoid being shipped home in shackles, I begged him not to prosecute, that I'd find a way to make amends. I told him I would do anything he wanted." He paused again, letting his words sink in. "I hadn't mean it that way. I only meant to bribe my way out of the situation."

 

Face was silent a moment as he considered. "You know, I look back now and I can't believe I fell for the lines he fed me. He told me we could work out a deal to keep me out of prison." The lieutenant became still and silent, his thoughts lost in the painful memories.

 

Gently, Hannibal urged, "What happened, Tem?"

 

"His whole demeanor changed in a flash. He grabbed me around the back of my neck and forced my face close to his. 'I want you, want to fuck you,' he hissed. I can still hear his voice, the way he said the words, can still smell his breath. I was so numb with shock I couldn't move... couldn't believe this was happening to me. And as I stood there, like some goddam statue, he's unbuckling my belt, forcing his hand inside my pants."

 

Face was unsure how much more to tell Hannibal but then decided to divulge the entire, sordid tale - no more secrets, no more hidden encounters. "I was terrified of what he wanted. I know I said, 'I can't' but he just kept tugging at my clothes, trying to force me over." Face's words became choked.

 

It was several moments before he could continue. "I don't know how it happened, Hannibal, but I found myself half-naked, bent over his desk while he fumbled with his clothing. I couldn't believe it was happening - to me! I suddenly woke up to what he was gonna do and I started to fight but he had my right arm hauled up behind my back and ended up dislocating my shoulder. I heard it pop, and the pain as he kept wrenching it was excruciating." Face's voice had dropped to a low, choked whisper. "The only thing I was aware of through the pain was that he was shoving his cock against my ass. The humiliation of that overwhelmed the pain; no way could I let this happen, no matter what he threatened."

 

Peck became silent, as if choosing his next words. Hannibal was surprised to see a slight fleeting smile.

 

"Fortunately for me, Cowan suffered from a hair-trigger and came before he could do any more damage." Face turned to look Hannibal square in the eyes. "Believe me, it has never occurred to me that what we do, the way you make me feel, bears any resemblance to what he did to me, but... at that time, God, I was so disgusted, to let another man do that to me. The only thing I'd ever had in my life was my pride, and it seemed like that was gone."

 

The misery in his lover's voice tore at Hannibal's heart. He'd never had any idea that Face had suffered so in his life. Once in awhile, something would come out as they traded confidences in bed and it always amazed him how much his lieutenant had overcome. But an episode like this? How many other young men could carry on through that kind of hurt?

 

"When he finally let go of my arm, I realized there was a bit of pride left. I couldn't let him get away with this. He started rubbing his hand across my ass. I think that's what finally shook me out my trance. I gave one well-timed, expertly aimed kick backward and it was all over." There was the barest hint of a smile crossing Face's lips under the dim light. "It was a great shot, hit him right where he needed it."

 

This time Hannibal was sure Face was smiling. "Passion to pain in zero point one seconds. He sure hit the ground fast."

 

But why did he say he'd had you? Hannibal hated the thought and, worse, hated doubting his lover. He had to know the rest of the story. "So, what happened after that? I can't imagine Cowan letting you off the hook, not after busting up his manhood," Hannibal tried to keep the mirth, and the anxiety, out of his words but Face heard.

 

"That one time was all he ever got from me, Hannibal. I swear, that's the truth."

 

The older man felt his doubts fading away as he listened to the impassioned admission. He leaned over and kissed Face tenderly, a kiss of loving trust, rather than passion. "I believe you, kid," he whispered in the dark, moving his lips to brush the thick eyelashes, damp with despair. "I always do."

 

But Face's misery was growing. "How could I let him... let him... let myself be used like that? Why didn't I see what he was planning? It seems so clear now."

 

"Face," Hannibal spoke quietly, "you were what, nineteen? Twenty? You were a kid, so sure of yourself. You hadn't been faced with the real world yet. Don't be so hard on yourself. It wasn't you, it was him. I seriously doubt you were the first who'd fallen into his trap."

 

Face gave a sardonic grin. "I found out later that there had been others. If I'd have known what a bluff he was I could have blown his cover and he would've been put through the wringer. I just had to threaten to rat on him, on what he wanted me to do, and he would've backed down, left me alone." Face sat a bit straighter, his eyes narrowed. "You know, I found out later that he'd had two reprimands for behavior unbecoming an officer. One of them was for getting caught in a club in Saigon with some fifteen-year-old Vietnamese boy. God, I was so stupid! If only I'd known."

 

"But you didn't know, Tem. You were just young and scared. I mean, a sentence in Leavenworth, as we all know now, is definitely not something to be taken lightly."

 

"I suppose," Peck muttered, his gaze dropping to his lap. Hannibal reached out to stroke his lover's jaw, tenderly touching Face's cheek with his fingertips. Face pressed his head into his lover's gentle hand, wishing the colonel could brush away the hated memories. Face felt tears of comfort sting his eyes. Abruptly he tore his chin from Hannibal's strong hand and brushed them away. He almost laughed with relief.

 

Smith sensed the break in his lieutenant's defenses. "So, what did Cowan mean that he'd never been promoted, 'thanks to you'?"

 

Peck became thoughtful again, his jaw stubbornly set. He remained silent for a spell before starting again. "I took off out of his office. I was so angry and mortified I thought I was losing my mind. I didn't know what to do, and my arm was killing me. I ended up in the base hospital, told them some bullshit about falling out of a jeep at the airstrip. I don't know if the doc bought the story but he popped my arm back in, gave me a sling, painkillers, and the paperwork to explain what had happened. As I sat there contemplating which story would look best on paper, I saw another lieutenant I'd met on the flight back from Tokyo. He was chasing after some uninterested nurse. Anyway, he knew something was wrong but, needless to say, I couldn't tell him. We hightailed it for the Officers' Club and over drinks, our ranting finally came around to Cowan. Seems he wasn't much liked by anybody, and that there were always rumors floating around about him, how he liked guys rather than girls, how he'd been caught with that Vietnamese kid, and others. It was hard not to laugh, you know? I mean, knew! No one had to tell me."

 

Peck settled himself, taking a deep breath. "Well, I decided right then and there that no way was I going back to work in that office so, I, ah, set about organizing my own transfer."

 

Hannibal smiled broadly. "Right to me!"

 

"Yeah, right to you," Face laughed. "I sneaked into the adjutant's office that night and filled a request for an emergency personnel transfer. Your name was on the sheet and I remembered seeing you a couple of times in Nha Trang so I embellished my resume a bit, prayed that you were still in Da Nang and immediately transferred myself - with Cowan's signature, which was a bit tricky since it was pretty hard to write with my arm the way it was."

 

Smith chuckled at the proud tone, so like Tem but... "What about the scuzz ball? What did you do to him?"

 

Face feigned an affront. "What do you mean 'what did I do to him'?"

 

Hannibal treated Face to an overly indulgent smile. "Oh, come now, it's never been your style to just walk away from a fight. I can't believe you let him get off with just a busted set of family jewels."

 

Face couldn't quite control the small grin of pride. "Yeah, well, I suppose not. I was kind of under a time restraint so I did what I could. While I waited for the transport up to Da Nang the next morning, I set up a rendezvous for dear old Cowan with a known Vietnamese cross-dressing gigolo - and made sure he got caught!"

 

Hannibal roared with laughter. "I remember! God, what a story that was. I should have known something was amiss. I had never had a request filled so quickly before. You appeared in my unit less than a week after I made the requisition."

 

Peck had to smile at Hannibal's amusement. Regardless of what went on in their lives, Face was grateful that Smith was always there to talk to.

 

When the colonel managed to bring his mirth under control, he wiped the back of his hand across his eyes. "So," he smiled, brushing away the last tears of hilarity, "what made you choose me?" Hannibal had meant the words in a light-hearted way, not expecting the sudden somberness of his companion. Instinctively, he became calm and still, waiting for an answer he had not expected.

 

Face's shoulders lifted slightly. "I don't know," he said, looking blankly out toward the gently purring ocean. "I've often asked myself that same question. I used to think it was because your voice reminded me of one of my friend's dads. He was a great guy, always there to play basketball or take us to a baseball game. He treated us all as his sons. But, now..." Hannibal remained quiet, patiently listening for further revelations. "Now, I think maybe it was because I knew you could take care of me. I would never have admitted that back then. I never thought I needed anybody, but that run-in with Cowan really tore me up. For the first time in my life, I was so infuriated with myself, I didn't know what to do." Face paused before adding ruefully, "I always know what to do."

 

Hannibal fingered the fine tooling of the leather steering-wheel cover, choosing his next words carefully. He'd rarely seen so much of Face's inner being exposed and he didn't want to risk the intimacy by saying something flippant. Cautiously, Smith moved one hand to his lieutenant's tense shoulder. He stroked it soothingly before sliding his hand around to the back of Face's neck. Firmly, he massaged the taut muscles.

 

"Tem," Hannibal's voice was soft and comforting. "Sometimes, I look at you and wonder if it's possible to love anyone more. I see couples on the street or at a restaurant and think 'You aren't nearly as happy as I am.' But just when I've decided things can't get any better, that no way could I feel even more blessed, you redefine the word love. Do you have any idea how much I adore you? How much I cherish having you with me? How much I value your presence in my life?"

 

Hannibal had to stop; very seldom had he expressed so much emotion. Unconsciously, he was drawing their mouths closer together, his heart melting at the soft, sensual, contentment shining his lover's eyes. "I will always be here for you, especially when you don't think you need me or that I won't understand. I could forgive you anything, Tem, as long as I know you'll be with me every morning and every night."

 

Their lips brushed as Hannibal spoke his final words and they were suddenly locked together in a kiss that was more than mere passion; it was desire and fulfillment and respect and commitment melding, drawing them together as one being.

 

When Hannibal finally released Face's mouth, he was breathing hard, wanting to ignore the rest of the world and reinforce his words of love with actions. It was with some regret that he pulled back slightly from his lover's passionate mouth. "Ah, c'mon, think it's time for us to go home," he muttered hoarsely, enjoying the sultry pout that played across Tem's handsome face.

 

"Not up to necking in the car, Colonel?"

 

Hannibal laughed. "It's not that. I just like to be able to stretch out and not have the stick-shift jabbing me in the ribs," he chortled as he turned the ignition. "Besides, I need to stop at Safeway."

 

Face groaned as he quickly gathered the remnants of their hasty dinner from the dashboard. "Now what? We just ate."

 

Hannibal's roar of laughter came over the roar of the 'Vette's engines.  "I know, but I, for one, have some dessert in mind when we get home, sweetheart, and we're all out of whip cream!"

 

 

Fin

 


Ghost of the Past by Mimi

 

 


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