ONE STEP AT A TIME
Summary: I never particularly like the episode 'Hot Styles' but it does provide
character details and a suitably incompetent baddie...
Warning: Some violence and swearing and a character does get hurt...
The black van eased to a halt behind a queue of stationary traffic, red
taillights snaking into the distance. This was just the latest
frustration in a bad day for its occupants.
"Murdock, why don't you go see if you can find out what's happened up
"Sure thing, Colonel." He hopped out of the van. "You gonna call Face
and say we'll be late?"
"Why? I imagine he's well occupied by now." Hannibal couldn't picture
his lieutenant being alone for very long, all he had to do was bat his
eye lashes and he had women falling at his feet. The colonel was rather
annoyed when Peck had calmly announced that he would be making his own
way up to Flagstaff for their latest case. It had meant that there was
no one to conciliate between B.A and Murdock. It had been a hot day, a
very long trip and everyone's nerves were stretched to the limit.
"But he'll worry. He won't sleep if he's worried and you know what he's
like if he doesn't get his beauty sleep. We'll never here the last of
"Shut up Fool!" Was Baracus' opening to the conversation. "An' get
goin'!" He'd had more than enough of Murdock's ramblings for one day.
Murdock opened his mouth to retaliate. Hannibal sighed heavily and
tried to keep his voice calm. "Somehow Murdock, I don't think sleep will be
too high on his agenda right now. Please just go and find out how long
we're likely to be stuck here."
"He may think he's Gods gift, but he'd better have some damned good
excuses when he finally decides to show his face around here!"
It was three days later and Hannibal's patience had finally run out.
His lieutenant had failed to show up or even answer his phone. He would
have been concerned except for the fact that Face had wanted time to
himself, which usually meant he had plans and was too easily distracted
when left to his own devices. Their clients had decided that they didn't
need the team's help after all and Murdock. well that was another
"That's the last time he makes his own way anywhere if he wants to stay
with this team!"
"Aw, c'mon, Colonel, you know that ain't true. He'll fix you with those
baby blue eyes of his and you'll believe anything he says. Happens
"Not this time, Captain. Never again am I going to let him get away
with anything unless it."
"Hannibal! Faceman ain't here. So don't keep goin' on 'bout what you
ain't gonna let him do while I'm tryin' to watch T.V. An' Murdock, just
button it!" B.A.'s expression was murderous and defied argument.
The two men settled in front of the television in an uneasy silence as
the newscaster prattled on about local affairs.
"And finally." She said, shuffling her papers and reading from the
autocue in a very serious manner. "Hospital Authorities here in Flagstaff
are anxious to trace relatives of a young man who was seriously injured
on Monday night when the car he was driving plunged off Interstate 17,
some ten miles south of the city. The man is believed to be in his
early thirties, has blond hair, blue eyes and a very distinctive scar on
his right thigh. Anyone with information regarding his possible identity
should contact the Flagstaff Medical Centre as soon as possible."
Two pairs of shocked brown eyes fixed themselves on Hannibal who
shifted uneasily before switching off the set
"Now we don't know yet. it could be anybody." Never the less he was the
first to reach the door.
"So when can we take him home, Doctor?" Asked Hannibal as they sat in
the hospital waiting room, having finally persuaded the sceptical woman
that they were, in fact, the nearest thing to relatives that Templeton
Peck had ever known.
"Home?" She echoed incredulously. Sometimes Dr Rachel Jordan wondered
why she bothered. She had just spent the best part of thirty minutes
trying to explain the man's injuries and now it appeared that they'd not
heard a single word. "Gentlemen, I don't think you quite understand what
I've been saying to you."
"Look, Doctor, you now know who your patient is, so you must understand
why he can't stay here." Hannibal stated patiently. Dr Jordan simply
glared back at him as if she didn't understand what he was talking about.
She reminded him very much of a younger Maggie Sullivan; both were
equally pretty and extremely stubborn.
"Mr Smith. I do not really care who my patient is, or what he's done
the past. At the moment all I care about is keeping him alive. He's as
safe here in his present condition as he would be anywhere else in the
country. What happens when. no, if he recovers is a different matter.
Right now he's staying put." She let go a long sigh, as Smith seemed
determined to object and tried to keep up a professional appearance. "Look
maybe it would be easier if I showed you."
"Murdock, B.A., I think we should make sure that Decker doesn't take
advantage of Dr Jordan's little mistake in putting an ad out on local
T.V. Why don't you scout round outside and maybe put out a second
broadcast that this guy has been identified. I don't care who he is as long as
he has no connection with our Faceman."
"But, Hannibal, why.." Murdock began
"I think your colonel might be right. " Interrupted the doctor rather
sheepishly. "We put the appeal out on national syndicate. We just didn't
expect to be dealing with the A Team! And it would be better for just
one person to visit with him at a time."
"OK, man, but don't be too long. Me an' Murdock want to see Faceman
"Don't worry Mr. Baracus, visiting on ICU is rather restricted." D
Jordan responded, totally misjudging the real meaning behind the black
man's words. Besides he won't be going anywhere for some time."
At first glance the figure on the bed appeared to be merely sleeping,
but Hannibal Smith knew that that was just wishful thinking on his
behalf. As he walked further into the quiet room his eyes took in the array
of technical equipment surrounding the bed: infusion pumps, cardiac
monitor, naso-gastric feed and a ventilator. Each item quietly and
efficiently fulfilling it's own part in the overall plan - to keep the patient
Hannibal became aware that Rachel was speaking to him. Dragging his
attention away from his stricken friend he turned to focus on her.
"In a way he was fortunate to have been thrown clear before the car
went up in flames. It could have been so much worse."
"You call this lucky?!" Hannibal was incredulous as he indicated the
ominously silent figure on the bed. Apart from his face, which had
miraculously escaped severe disfigurement, hardly a square inch of Peck's
firmly muscled and tanned body was visible through the dressings and heavy
"He could have been horribly disfigured or even killed." Rachel pointed
out gently. "At least he has kept his looks."
Smith reached out to touch the lieutenant's hand and was repulsed at
how cold and clammy the skin felt. He took a deep shuddering breath to
try and bring his emotions back under control. "So, what's the score,
Doc?" He asked deliberately keeping his tone light and unconcerned.
The act didn't fool anyone.
Two weeks later the tableau remained almost unchanged. The ventilator,
monitor and some of the dressings had been removed but Face remained
deeply unconscious. Hannibal appeared to have taken root on the plastic
chair beside the bed. B.A. and Murdock took turns to keep him company
and to aggravate each other in the nearby waiting room.
The bleeping and clicking of the various medical machines was currently
being augmented by a similar but far more human and rather irksome
"Murdock, why don't you find something else to imitate?" The colonel's
mildly spoken suggestion was in reality more of an order. "And
preferably outside. We could all do with a break."
"Yeah, an' preferably outta the country too, 'cos I don't ever want to
hear from you again, sucker!"
"But Hannibal, I can't leave now! I haven't even started on the angry
mudsucker yet." This provoked an ominous growl from the black man, which
as usual Murdock totally ignored. "He'll miss me and if he cries the
tears'll run down and rust his gold. Then he'll blame me and it won."
His missive was cut short as a massive bejewelled fist grabbed a
handful of T-shirt at the base of his throat and dragged him, protesting
vehemently, from the room.
As silence descended once again Hannibal sank down heavily on the hard
chair and sighed. Whatever people might think of his sergeant's
attitude his heart was definitely in the right place. His attention was
quickly drawn back to the bed. Was he imagining things or had Face just
Face slowly floated back to consciousness, wishing to God that he had
not. He'd had hangovers before but never anything to compete with this.
What the Hell had he been drinking?
He slowly turned his head and saw Hannibal sitting beside him, albeit
"Mornin' Hannibal." It was slightly hesitant and more than a little
croaky and slurred but at least his voice still worked, despite his throat
being so sore and dry.
Hannibal almost jumped out of his seat.
"Face!" He took a deep breath and swallowed a couple of times before
continuing with a slightly calmer approach. "Hi, kid. How do you feel?"
".feel better once my head falls off. Musta been one hell of a party,
"Sure was, kid." Hannibal decided that it would be best to humour the
young man at least until he was certain of what Face was talking about.
The Faceman raised a hand to rub the grittiness from his eyes but was
pulled up short. Funny, his arm seemed to be caught on something. He
tugged harder and set off an alarm as he pulled the intravenous infusion
from its pump.
He reached out to switch off the alarm - he couldn't even remember
setting the clock before he went to sleep the previous night - but only
succeeded in knocking his wrist against a solid object, which his
befuddled mind told him should not be there.
"Ow! That hurt!"
Hannibal had to laugh at the wounded tone in his lieutenant's voice; it
matched his startled and tousled appearance perfectly.
Peck stared at the offending object; he didn't recognise it. Slowly it
dawned on him that the only familiar thing in the entire room was
Hannibal, although he looked slightly odd with fuzzy edges. He swallowed
painfully and his respiratory rate soared indicating to his commanding
officer the state of panic that had engulfed him.
"Easy. just take it easy son." Soothed Hannibal, as he rested a hand on
his friend's shoulder in an attempt to calm him down. It helped a
little, as did the sedative injection which the nurse quietly introduced
through the I.V. "You've had an accident and you're in hospital, but
everything's gonna be just fine now."
"Oh." Was all that Face could think of to say, his silver tongue
deserting him as his eyelids drooped and he sank back into a more natural but
Hannibal and the ever present nurse exchanged relieved smiles. The long
wait was finally over.
The next time Peck awoke it was in a much clearer state of mind, his
sight was more focussed too. Whatever had happened to him could not have
been that serious he reflected as he felt completed relaxed and pain
He looked around the stark white room noticing that he was attached to
a couple of infusions and that his left arm was encased in heavy
From this position, flat on his back, Face couldn't see much out of the
window; his view being obscured by the cradle which kept the weight of
the sheets off his legs. He lifted the bedclothes to take a quick peek
underneath. Both of his legs were still there although resting in foam
supports. Apart from that and a urinary catheter he was embarrassed to
find that he was completely naked.
"And what do you think you are doing young man?"
He was startled to hear the unfamiliar voice. Turning his head to the
right Face discovered that Hannibal's chair was missing. In its place
were two pairs of stockinged legs. Raising his eyes he noted that one
pair was attached to a young girl in a nurse's uniform, while the others
apparently belonged to a doctor wearing a stethoscope around her neck.
They had obviously been checking something against the clipboard that
the nurse held in front of her.
Old habits die hard and so Face switched on what he hoped was one of
his most dazzling professional smiles. "Hi, girls."
"Hello Templeton." Replied the nurse, inwardly wincing at the wan smile and the total exhaustion so evident on the man's pale features. "My name is Cathy and I've been taking care of you for the past three weeks." She smiled at his obvious puzzlement but made no comment. Gesturing to her companion she continued. "This is Dr Rachel Jordan, who is in charge of your care. I'm sure that between us we can answer any questions that you may have. But first you must get some rest. Before we let you get back to sleep would you like something to drink?"
"Yeah.. I'd like a . a shot of whisky." He joked feebly
"Sorry, its just water." Cathy gently put out her hand to support his neck as he struggled to rise. "No, don't try to sit up, just use the straw. That's right, take it nice and slow."
"Thanks." Face was grateful for the girls assistance, not sure that he would have coped with the difficult process of drinking on his own. He couldn't remember ever having to drink from quite that position before and found it very awkward, almost managing to choke a couple of times in the effort. He fervently hoped that he wouldn't have to do it for much longer.
Exhausted by his meagre efforts he fell back into a deep but natural sleep.
For the next two days Face floated in and out of his exhaustive sleep, vaguely aware that the team was with him and of the nurses bustling around the bed. When he finally awoke properly Rachel and Cathy were once again hovering over his charts.
Aware that her patient was awake Rachel Jordan moved to sit on the edge of the bed and smiled down at the handsome, bemused young man on the bed.
"That better?" She asked rhetorically. Deciding that the man was probably rational enough to take in some facts she glanced briefly at her colleague. "Cathy, would you mind leaving us for a few minutes?"
"Sure. I have to look in on Mrs Zymack, I'm sure its about time she was turned. Just buzz me if you need anything" There was a short silence until the door closed behind the retreating figure.
"You know, Templeton, you really are a very lucky man. For a while back there we didn't think you were going to make it. But, as your friend's say, you're a fighter and that will play a very important part in your rehabilitation."
"Rehabilitation? What are you talking about?" Peck had a sneaky suspicion that he wouldn't like the answer. He ran his hand through his hair and was shocked to encounter merely short stubble on his head. He studied the doctor's face, his scrutiny making her uneasy. "Just give me back my clothes and I'm outta here."
"I'm sorry Templeton. I know you don't like hospitals, not to mention doctors very much but please try and be patient with us." She looked at him with pity filling her large hazel eyes; Face didn't like that at all. "Do you remember anything about the accident at all?"
He took a few moments to think about this then shook his head slightly. "No I don't. I know this probably sound crazy but I didn't know I'd been involved in one 'til someone mentioned it. I think it might have been Hannibal. I seem to vaguely remember him talking to me at some stage but I still don't know if I really believe it."
"Oh well, lets see if we can help you then. You were found lying at the bottom of a steep incline just off I-17 and brought here. That was just over three weeks ago, you've been unconscious virtually ever since. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I don't think that you'd accept anything else." She stood up and walked over to the window, staring out at the parking lot as she continued. "As I'm sure you've already noticed you've sustained several deep lacerations, which are mostly healed now. I don't think there will be too many ugly scars for you to worry yourself about."
"You've been talking to Hannibal. er Colonel Smith, haven't you, right?"
"Yes. He's been rather worried so I think it helped having someone outside the team to talk to. He really is an interesting guy. Thinks a Hell of a lot of you too but tries his damnest not to show it." Rachel smiled warmly at the thought of their enduring camaraderie. "Anyway, apart from numerous cuts and bruises you also suffered several cracked ribs, dislocated your left shoulder and broke several bones in your right leg and foot during the fall. You even stopped breathing a couple of times, but I think that was due to the head injury. We had to operate to remove a small blood clot which is why we shaved your head - you're well over the worst of that now."
"You know I knew that there must've been something to explain the headache. I thought it was just a hangover. Well if that's all, thanks for your help, but I really do have to be going." Face joked, trying to lighten the atmosphere in the little room. He pushed himself into a sitting position balancing himself on his elbows and blinking to clear the dizziness his exertion had caused. "That is all.. Isn't it?"
"Templeton! Please don't do that!" The doctor was by his side in a split second, gently but firmly pushing his shoulders back to the firm mattress. You have to stay flat on your back for at least another couple of weeks. That way we'll be able to tell whether the damage is permanent."
"Permanent?" He echoed quietly. Alarm bells had started ringing in his head. He apparently had several broken bones in his leg; even after all this time there should still be some pain, discomfort at the very least. But there was nothing. No feeling at all.
Rachel reached out to touch the side of his face and looked straight into the wide frightened blue orbs. "When you were thrown clear of the car your back was broken. I'm so sorry Templeton, you are paralysed from the waist down."
Hannibal's body eventually caught up with B.A. and Murdock in the visitor's restaurant. His mind was reliving the events of the past few weeks, blaming himself for his young lieutenant's condition and feeling totally inadequate to deal with the situation.
'.That's the last time he makes his own way anywhere. Never again am I going to let him get away with anything.' His own words returned to haunt him, increasing his inner turmoil.
"Hannibal, d'you want another cup of coffee? Colonel?" Murdock reached out and gently shook the older man's shoulder.
"What?" The colonel jerked back to the present. "Did you say something? I was miles away."
"Just asked if you wanted a refill."
"No, this is just fine, Captain." He took a sip from his cup and promptly spat out the stone cold liquid, spluttering slightly.
"You sure about that?" Murdock's eyes danced with amusement but, for once, he made no inane comment, merely getting up and wandering over to the service counter.
"Hannibal, I ain't seen you this quiet since the Faceman was shot up so bad in 'Nam." Commented B.A., once he was certain that the captain was out of earshot. "There's something real wrong with the kid this time too, ain't there."
The colonel had forgotten just how perceptive his burly sergeant could be. He looked up to see concern etched all over the man's dark features just as Murdock returned with three cups of steaming coffee.
"Yeah, B.A., I'm afraid there is." He waited until Murdock was settled and contemplated his coffee. "I've just been talking to the doctor. It seems that Face is awake and fully orientated at last and knows the full extent of his injuries." He paused to light up yet another cigar, looking at his friends through the acrid smoke to judge the effect of his next bombshell. "He's going to have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He's paralysed."
Murdock blanched visibly. He was thunderstruck, just couldn't believe it. His 'little brother' had always been so fit. so active. so vital..
B.A. made a fist and brought it crashing down onto the table spilling most of their drinks and swearing under his breath. After a few minutes silence he asked. "How'd Face take the news?"
"You know Face. He hasn't said a word."
Hannibal sauntered along the hospital's main corridor towards his lieutenant's room. He was happy that after over four weeks the kid now seemed to be making good progress and that his memory, except for the accident itself, remained virtually intact.
The urgent voice from behind him made him pause with his hand on the push plate. Turning he saw Dr Rachel Jordan hurrying toward him, white coat flapping in her wake.
"Colonel Smith." She said slightly breathlessly as she drew to a halt beside him. "I'm glad I caught you. I'd like to have a word with you before you go in there."
"Sure." He agreed cautiously as several dozen possible reasons for her request invaded his thoughts and dissolved his previously unworried demeanour. "What's happened? There's nothing wrong is there?"
"Not exactly." The doctor replied cryptically. "At least there's been nothing unexpected in a case of this nature. But I think there are a few things that you need to be aware of, so that you can all help more with his rehabilitation."
Silence descended until they had reached the little quadrangle around which the hospital's spinal wing had been built. The sat down on a wooden bench proclaiming itself to have been donated 'in loving memory' by the grieving relatives of one George Samuel Wright.
"I assume that you've told your friends about Templeton's condition?" She queried, receiving a nod in confirmation. "How have they taken the news?"
"To say they were shocked would be rather an understatement." Admitted Hannibal wearily. "You know its real hard for us to accept that he's never gonna be able to walk again. But then I suppose if it's that difficult for us it must be damn near impossible for the kid. Even though he's always had such a healthy attitude towards life."
"Yeah, that's rather what I was afraid of." Rachel sighed as she contemplated a particularly striking bloom in the nearby flowerbed. "It would certainly help if you guys had a more positive approach to what's happened to him. You have to help him understand that he can still play an important part in whatever he chooses to do and so that he can make the most of his own life."
"Thanks for the pep talk, coach." He patted her hand and smiled ingratiatingly at the young doctor. "Don't worry, doc, we'll all be sweetness and light from here on in. He'll get so much damned encouragement from us that you'll soon wish we'd never had this little talk."
"O.K." She laughed. "But that's not really what I wanted to talk to you about. Colonel."
"Oh? And what could be more important than keeping the kid happy?"
"Its more a matter of his state of mind, I'm afraid. You understand that he suffered from a serious head injury don't you?" There was a resigned nod from the silver head. "Well after an injury as severe as this there are usually a number of complications such as loss of concentration combined with sudden and almost inexplicable mood swings. Even the most trivial and everyday occurrences are likely to be met by extremes in behaviour, mainly anger and bitterness. He's as likely to snap your head off as laugh at anything you say without provocation. He's already started doing this with some of the staff. Hopefully this will improve given time." Rachel spread her hands in a gesture of uncertainty. "Add to this his total frustration at being unable to physically cope with even the simplest of tasks and I think that you, Captain Murdock and your other friend are in for a real rough ride, at least until he fully comes to terms with his condition. Please don't take anything he says too personally. He probably won't be totally aware of what he's saying and his emotions will be really near the surface for some time to come."
"Thanks for the warning, doctor." He smiled warmly at the young woman. "But it'll be O.K. My lieutenant is a pretty levelheaded kid. most of the time. Don't worry, Templeton is an expert at keeping his emotions in check its. er. almost a way of life for him!"
"I hope so, Colonel." She muttered, far from convinced by his optimism she watched his purposeful stride as he walked back into the hospital complex. "For your own sakes I just hope you're right."
"Its about time you guys showed up. D'you know what its like just lying here, listening to the walls, with only Godzilla here for company?" Peck indicated his nurse with distain.
Over the past few weeks Face had grown increasingly irritable and frustrated. To Hannibal's mind this was quite understandable. He was well aware of his young friend's unease at the way he was, by necessity, being treated and his embarrassment with his current predicament. He felt very sorry for the nurses too, knowing what a handful Face could be and how much he hated having to be dependant on anyone.
"Sorry, kid, we would have been here sooner only the van doesn't run at the speed of light." Teased Hannibal with an innocent shrug.
"Yeah, it's only an oversight on B.A.'s part, but I'm sure he'll work it out real soon." Murdock grinned at the sergeant who simply glowered in return. "Anyhow we brought someone along to keep you company. Sorry it's not a leggy blonde but you're not quite up to that yet." He added impishly, delving into the bag at his side and throwing it's contents towards his friend.
"Gee, thanks Murdock. It's just what I always wanted." Muttered Face sarcastically as he caught the small grey teddy bear that reminded him so much of Bogey.
"You're welcome, Facieguy. You'd better be careful what you say to him though'." The captain placed his hands over the little bear's ears as if it wasn't supposed to hear what he was saying. "He doesn't know that his brother was massacred in a tree in Zulabwe, he thinks he just got lost at a Boy Scout jamboree."
The lieutenant stared at the ceiling and mentally counted to ten; it didn't help. He had completely lost patience with Murdock and, it would appear, with just about everything else. Trying to change the subject he turned to glare at the black man. "B.A., what was wrong with the 'vette?" He asked, irritation evident in his clipped tone.
"There weren't nothing wrong with the 'vette, man." Replied the sergeant indignantly. "I checked it out myself!"
"Well, if there was nothing wrong with it then what the Hell happened?! I wasn't. I'm not that bad a driver!" Face yelled, his eyes blazing with ice bound fury.
Hannibal could see the big man's hackles start to rise. He wasn't used to getting this sort of verbal abuse from his younger companion "Uh, B.A., why don't you go fetch the new transportation?" He suggested quietly before turning back to the lieutenant. "And you, just calm down. Lay off B.A., kid. You know none of this is his fault anymore than it's mine, or Murdock's. Try and think a little before you open your mouth next time, huh?"
"Sorry Hannibal." Peck did not sound particularly repentant but some of the fire had faded from hi eyes.
"Well, what d'you think Faceman?" Asked Murdock as B.A manoeuvred the shinning new wheelchair into the room. "Just your size. No previous owners, comes complete with automatic transmission and hydraulic suspension, maximum speed sixty-five miles an hour - on an interstate and in the van of course. Oh yeah, and the colour is just a perfect match for those baby blue eyes of yours. C'mon Face, what d'you say?"
Face didn't say anything. He simply turned his head away but not before Hannibal noticed the moisture threatening to overspill his eyes.
With an almost imperceptible gesture the colonel motioned to the others to leave the room and moved the short distance to sit on the edge of the narrow bed. "Something wrong, kid?" He asked nonchalantly. After an age, during which Face made no attempt to answer, Hannibal reached out and turned his friend's troubled face towards him. "You know Face, it might just help to talk about it."
"I don't know. It just seems so stupid." Peck wiped a hand across his eyes. "You wouldn't understand."
"Try me. I'm a good listener and we're not goin' anywhere for quite a while." This produced a weak, watery smile from the young man on the bed.
"No, I guess not." He pauses, running his hands through his short spiky hair and blinking to clear the moisture from his eyes as he wondered where to begin. "You know Hannibal, lying here all this time. I thought. hoped that maybe they'd got it wrong. That one day I'd wake up and be able to walk outta here." He glanced towards the wheelchair and continued in a strained voice. "But seeing that. that just confirms it."
Seeing his friend's distress Hannibal didn't speak but gently lifted him forward and held him quietly while the young man cried into his shoulder; the agonies of the past weeks shed at last.
"Templeton, this isn't the end of the world." The colonel soothed, still holding and gently rocking the distraught man. "You've still got the team. If there's anyway for you to beat this, whatever it takes we're going to find it together."
In the doorway, unobserved by either man, Rachel Jordan stood and smiled. At long last the young man's defences had been broken. Perhaps now they could start to rebuild his shattered life.