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Nowhere to Run
Summary: As the only survivor of a POW camp, Face must find a way to avoid
being captured by an insane NVA General bent on revenge.
Warning: Non-consensual rape.
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Making slow but steady progress, the van wove its way in and out of the downtown Los Angeles traffic towards its destination. The occupants inside were more pensive than usual, not unexpected given the circumstances. Amy finally blurted out, "Why would Face miss YOUR meeting?"
Nobody seemed eager to offer an explanation as there were numerous reasons why he might not show up for a scheduled meeting; however, there were very few acceptable ones. And never in the thirteen years that these men had known one another had anyone missed a business meeting, a check-in, or an appointment that Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith had called.
They wanted to think the worst, that Face was in trouble and COULDN'T make the meeting; assume that he was no longer in control of his own destiny. If the truth be told, that was the only approach any Colonel could have taken, and that was exactly how they were proceeding. But knowing their teammate, it was difficult to believe that he didn't oversleep, forget, or overbook his calendar, especially since lately he's been anything but himself, mostly appearing out of sorts and preoccupied with something.
Hannibal silently scolded himself for not "butting" into his lieutenant's life a little more, asking a few more questions and generally keeping a closer eye on him. But he'd passed it off as Face running a scam that involved a lot of coordination and great timing and it was probably taking all of his effort and attention to pull it off.
"Bery goot qvestion," Murdock said in a thick accent, imitating their latest German client. Unfortunately, he didn't add anything more and Amy stared at him, thinking that was odd.
They drove a few more miles before Hannibal asked, "Where's he staying?"
"At the high-rise on Sunset and Park," BA muttered.
Hannibal's expression was one of approval, he knew of the luxury apartments in the high rent district and realized they weren't too far away. But that meant he only had a few more minutes to consider his options, and they were few.
BA turned down a side street and headed into the late afternoon sun. A few minutes later, he pulled the van over to the curb just across the street from the luxury condominiums.
Distant sirens prevented anyone from immediately moving and then a sudden commotion caught their attention. Pedestrians and merchants alike scattered as gunshots rang out from the doors and windows of the opulent apartment suites. Fleeing out the side door was Face, half dressed and wielding his .357 magnum and being pursued by several well-dressed Asian men. Bursting out the front door of the luxury complex were three more Asian thugs wearing black suits and recklessly firing while simultaneously shoving the parking attendant out of their way. Two more thugs emerged from a black limousine, which was parked in front of the circular driveway, and joined the others in their pursuit.
Dumbfounded, Murdock muttered, "What the...!"
The distant sirens closed in and a Military squadron of three cars surrounded the driveway and the immediate area. Decker jumped from his car, aimed his gun and yelled, "Halt, Lieutenant! You're under arrest!"
Astonished, the team watched unnoticed from their parking spot on the street. Their eyes fixed on the scene unfolding in front of them.
The gunfire continued to erupt and shards of glass and cement filled the street. Face was trapped between the thugs and Decker, both unloading their weapons on him.
Quickly sizing up his lieutenant's predicament, Hannibal yelled, "Go BA!"
The van jerked out of its parking space and BA sped up the street, cutting off any late arriving military or police cars. Slamming on the brakes, he spun the tail of the van around so that the now opened side door was less than 30 yards away from the center of attention.
Hannibal shouted, "Face!"
Face looked anxiously at the van, but then he hesitated.
"C'MON!" Hannibal yelled.
To everyone's surprise, Face didn't dash for the safety of the van; instead, he frantically looked around for another escape route. Suddenly, he ran into traffic on an adjacent boulevard. Drivers spun their cars around and slammed into parked vehicles in their attempt to avoid this errant pedestrian.
Hannibal was stunned, but recovered quickly and ordered, "Give him cover!" Murdock opened fire on the thugs and Hannibal returned fire on Decker.
Face wasn't quite so lucky as he was struck by a car, rolled over its' hood and then onto the road. The frightened driver jumped out and ran around to him, only to be met by the barrel of his gun. Acting on pure adrenaline, Face hissed through gritted teeth, "I need to borrow your car. I'll try not to wreck it." And he staggered around and got into the late model sports car and floored it.
Realizing their quarry was getting away and being prevented from advancing by the men in the black van, the Asian thugs backtracked and piled into their limousine, squealing down the driveway and sending smoke everywhere.
Decker, who was momentarily startled by Peck's decision, also reacted to the change and shouted orders to the other cars, "SERGEANT! Follow that limousine! WILCOX, stay on the sports car! CRANE! LET'S GO!" He slammed the door and hung on while his Captain swung the green sedan around and drove straight for the A-Team van.
"See if we can pick him up at the next block!" Hannibal shouted, ignoring the fact that Decker was in hot pursuit. Taking corners on two wheels and skillfully avoiding cars and people, BA moved with speed around the block, seemingly unbothered by the green sedan trying to overtake them. He skidded onto the main thoroughfare directly behind the red sports car, a second later, Decker skidded onto the main thoroughfare narrowly missing the black limousine. Sirens were bringing up the rear of this very unusual procession.
Traffic was heavy and maneuverability was difficult, combining that with extreme pain in his left side, and Face wasn't feeling his best. He looked in his rear view mirror just in time to see the black van skid around the corner and fall in line behind him. "Shit!" he mumbled. 'Losing the limo and Decker would have been easy; losing BA is going to be a different story,' he thought.
The sports car hurled through traffic with apparent ease, running lights and dodging cars. Veering sharply, Face turned onto a road that led to an abandoned industrial park. The caravan followed him as he hoped they would. Several minutes later, Face watched in his side view mirror as Hannibal blew the tire out of the limousine and it careened into a fence and over some abandoned cars, landing on its top. That left Decker and another carload of MPs.
As if they could read each other's mind, Face turned right at exactly the same time BA turned left, leaving Face with a satisfying thought: 'now I can lose BA.'
The confusion was only momentary with Decker following the van and the second green sedan following the sports car. Hannibal smiled, he knew they had them now; but he was still bothered by Face's erratic behavior. Putting that thought behind him, he concentrated on getting rid of Decker.
"Do you remember where that gully is?" Hannibal asked, with a hint of a smile.
"Oh, Hann'bal. I don't want t' take mah van over that gulch. I just aligned the tires."
"Sorry, but it's unavoidable. Decker would like nothing better than to put us away, and I for one want to live long enough to find out what's going on with your lieutenant."
"He ain't MY lieutenant! He pro'bly got mixed up with someone's daughter, that's why everyone's after him."
Amy, who thought the calm nature of the conversation was at extreme odds with their rough ride, pointed out, "Do you guys see that hill up ahead of us?"
Much to her dismay, BA pushed the accelerator to the floor. At speeds that were far too fast for the terrain, the van hit the natural ramp to the drain and catapulted over the dry riverbed, successfully landing on the other side. When the dust cleared, the occupants of the van collected themselves as BA turned the vehicle around and came to a halt. They peered back towards the green sedan: it had not faired as well. The car's bumper did not clear the dirt ramp, forcing its rear to flip up, resulting in the car going airborne. Once it landed, it rolled several times and landed on its' hood. Several moments later, through the dust and smoke, they watched as Decker and Crane slowly emerged from the upside down sedan. Satisfied that they were okay, Hannibal pulled a cigar from his breast pocket and said, "Let's go get Face."
They crept slowly through the maze of the vacant warehouses, wondering just where they were going to meet up with him. As they turned a corner, they saw the second military sedan flipped over and the MPs standing around looking dazed. Still puzzled at not seeing any sign of Face or the red sports car, they continued to drive slowly through the park.
Murdock quickly pointed out the windshield and said, "Look! Up there! Does that look like your lieutenant, BA?"
Across the barren field and on the other side of the chain fence, they watched a red sports car fly up the entrance ramp and merge with the heavy traffic on one of LA's busiest freeways.
BA and Hannibal looked at each other as did Murdock and Amy. Finally, Hannibal said, "Let's get outta here."
Face pulled off the road at one of the coastal overlook spots. If he wasn't hurting so bad, he might have enjoyed the view. He felt his leg and his arm for any possible broken bones and was relieved when he determined he didn't have any, but he figured his elbow must have jammed into his ribs, which was why they hurt so much. For the first time in an hour, he wasn't running on adrenaline and he could actually take a minute and think about what happened. But excruciating pain and feelings of guilt clouded his thoughts, so he just leaned his head back, took a deep breath and tried to make sense of the last couple of weeks.
The ride was eerily silent, each undoubtedly trying to reason Face's actions. Amy's journalistic nature erupted and the questions started spewing off her lips, "I don't understand. Why were those men chasing him? And who tipped Decker off? And most importantly, why didn't he race for our van? Why did he choose to practically get himself killed over coming with us?"
Murdock had a few questions of his own but they were from a different angle, "Did you see that look in his eyes? It's been a long time since I've seen him look like that."
"Yeah, Hann'bal. He was scared, and the Faceman don't often get that way."
"Yeah, I saw it," Hannibal reluctantly agreed. "Those men in suites, they looked like Vietnamese. What would goons like that want with Face?"
Nobody had any idea what the answer was so they just shrugged.
"I say we find him," BA stated.
"But he could be anywhere," Amy pointed out. "Face knows the city like the back of his hand. He probably has an open invitation to spend the night with any number of beautiful ladies," she added, slightly exasperated.
That thought was definitely on their minds. He knew many women and each would probably give up something of value if he would give them some of his attention.
As an afterthought, Amy added, "For that matter, he could scam his way onto any number of different transports and be in another state by midnight."
"But he's hurt, and the Faceman doesn't perform too well under those conditions," Murdock pointed out. Then he added excitedly, "We could look for him at the VA. Sometimes he goes there to visit me after one of his dates."
"Murdock, you're not at the VA, you're here... with us," Amy said, pointing out the obvious.
"Got any better suggestions?" he harrumped.
"Where does he usually go when he's run into a snag on one of his scams?" she persisted.
"He usually stays with one of us," BA growled, displaying an outward annoyance that was for effect only. For some unexplained reason, he actually liked it when Face came to visit, but he didn't want the others to know that.
"What about the place he's staying at now. He might go back there?" she added hopefully.
"He won't go back there now that Decker knows about it," Murdock explained.
The conversation lagged and there was a feeling of frustration in the van. Hannibal, who had remained silent during most of the conversation, stated, "I bet I know where he'll go." Without elaborating, he just told BA to drive South, back into the city. The ride was long and quiet and he sat pensively, wondering what kind of trouble his young lieutenant had gotten himself into.
For the first time all day, Face felt lucky. In the back of the car, he had found a stack of clothes that had just been picked up from the cleaners. After some rummaging, he gingerly slipped on a crisp white shirt. With over a day's worth of facial growth, no morning shower and cuts and bruises over his body, he wasn't at his best, but at least now he had a shirt.
He drove back into L.A. and waited until the sun went down before he ditched the car and started walking. He wasn't in the nicest part of town but he knew the area well and hoped that his less than tidy appearance would work to his advantage. His painful leg forced him to walk with a heavy limp and, with several miles to cover, he silently cursed himself for not having parked closer. But, the car would be found and the immediate area searched and he didn't want that extra burden. He staggered up streets, down back alleys and over fences toward his destination.
"We've been sittin' here for three hours. He ain't gonna show," BA grumbled.
"He'll be here. He has nowhere else to go," Hannibal confidently said.
The van was parked in the shadows of a dark alley, which was across the street from The Sacred Heart's Orphanage. It was almost midnight and the streets were empty. Hannibal had had time to think about his lieutenant's behavior, and to worry. Murdock and BA were right about that look in his eye; not since Nam had he seen it, and he didn't like remembering the circumstances around which he saw it then. Something really had him spooked for him to avoid the team and openly refuse their help.
Murdock interrupted his thoughts, "Look, over there!"
In the darkness, they watched as a lone figure slowly limped up the street. As the figure got closer, they could see that it was Face.
"Let's go get 'im," BA growled.
"Wait a minute," Hannibal soothed, stopping BA from opening his door with a light touch. "Let's give him a little space."
Face limped down the sidewalk, scanning the area for anything unusual, and, fortunately, not paying much attention to the dark alley. The grounds around the orphanage were fenced so when he approached the front wrought-iron gate, he tugged on the handle. "Damn!" he whispered, it was locked. Tired and frustrated, he hit the lock, sending spasms of pain through his already aching body. Leaning heavily against the fence, he realized just how lonely he was. Now, more than ever, he wanted to be with his friends, but he knew he couldn't. He glanced up and down the sidewalk, still not noticing the van or its' occupants across the street.
Murdock felt a tremendous amount of sorrow for his friend. Face was a survivor and he rarely displayed any vulnerability, but right now, Murdock felt like he was watching him as a small boy, frustrated and feeling alone. He maintained silence even though he wanted to race from the van to be nearer to him.
Face resigned himself to the idea of entering the orphanage the only other way he knew, and so he started counting the iron poles in the fence. Limping up the sidewalk, he stopped when he came to 61, which was about 30 feet from the gate. Using his right hand, he pulled on the pole. Much to his surprise, the pole came lose relatively easily, much easier than he had remembered as a kid. He had 12 inches to squeeze through, which he managed to do. Then he replaced the pole and limped across the grounds to the church. Much to his dismay, that door was locked too. 'Shit', he thought. 'Since when does a catholic orphanage lock its' church doors?' By now, his side was really hurting and his leg was really throbbing and he just wanted to lie down. The night was too cold to stay outside so he took a deep breath, ready for the next part of the 'break-in'.
Murdock commented, "He's really hurting."
Hannibal stared intently. Yes, he was indeed hurting. But the pain just wasn't from his body, it was from inside him.
"Why don't we get him?" Amy asked.
"Because he's not ready to be 'gotten'," Hannibal answered.
Not exactly sure what he meant, she didn't pursue it. But Murdock and BA knew. Hannibal only intended on making sure Face was going to be all right tonight. He never had any intention of apprehending him. And as long as he knew where Face was, there was plenty of time to make a move.
By now, Face had limped over to a huge old tree. Suppressing the pain, he hoisted himself up to the first branch, then to the second, and so on, until he was barely visible against the night sky. Once he was where he wanted to be he shimmied out along a branch and then dropped onto the roof of the dormitory. The pain shooting through his side and leg were almost enough to send him careening over the side, but he held tightly and squelched any cries that wanted desperately to escape his lips. 'I don't remember this being quite so difficult,' he thought ruefully. 'Then again, I don't remember being in such a predicament.' He dragged himself to a window, and slowly pulled it open. A second later, he disappeared into the safety and warmth of the only home he ever knew.
BA chortled slightly, "Geez man, he musta been a handful when he was a kid."
Murdock and Amy agreed, breathing a sigh of relief that he'd made it out of the cold and into safety. Even Hannibal enjoyed watching his lieutenant in action and admired his rebellious nature. For a moment, he pictured the nuns and priests trying to control their blond haired, blue eyed ward, but there was no controlling Face and he knew from first hand experience that he could be difficult when he wanted. And he figured this was going to be one of those difficult times. "Come on, let's go."
Sister Mary wasn't shocked at all when she opened her door and standing before her was not one of her young residents, but the man she thought she might never see again.
"Templeton!" she smiled and threw her arms around him.
"Sister Mary-mom," Face said, calling her by the nickname he'd given her and one which she enjoyed.
"Did you sneak in here?" she chastised. Then added, "I've asked the maintenance man a dozen times to fix that window...," they both knew she'd done no such thing. After noticing him favor his side, she observed, "You're hurt. What happened?"
He nodded his head and discounted his injuries. "Nothing for you to worry about."
Being extremely intuitive, she knew he wasn't about to open up to her. She brushed a loose strand of hair out of his eyes and tilted her head. Knowing when to ask questions and when to leave something alone was paramount in her role as a mother to so many children. She quietly asked, "Would you like to get some sleep?"
He smiled gratefully and nodded. She led him to a small room with a bed and a couple of chairs, but before she left, she took his hand and looked up into his tired eyes and said, "Let God be with you tonight." She kissed him on the cheek and then left him alone.
Face gingerly sat down on the bed, realizing just how exhausted he was. His mind kept getting invaded with the look on Hannibal's face when he opted for the boulevard instead of the van, the thugs that held him captive, Decker, Viet Nam, the POW camp,.... He shook his head back to the present coming to one conclusion: he needed to get away, he needed to get far away until he could figure out what to do. But where could he go? He wanted to tell his friends what had happened, but that would only endanger them. Tomorrow he'd plan his escape, not forever, just until this problem went away. He wiped his hand across his face and moaned, wishing he'd asked for some painkillers. Only managing to remove his shoes, he laid back and fell asleep.
His night was plagued with nightmares and when the bright sunshine streamed through the small window, Face was almost thankful. Still half asleep, he thought that at least now he could figure out what to do. But he felt something in the room, a presence of some kind, and with lightning speed, he went for his gun! Only it wasn't there! He bolted straight upright, gasping at the pain and stiffness of his entire body. Stunned, his eyes darted around the room.
"Good morning, Lieutenant."
Face moaned at the voice and the presence of his colonel, "Shit, Hannibal," and tenderly he lay back, well aware of the three men in his room. "What are you doing here?"
"You missed a meeting with our new client, or did you just forget about it?"
"You shouldn't have come here," Face quietly retorted.
"Really? Why don't you give me a good reason why we shouldn't be here?" Hannibal challenged.
Face remained silent, cursing himself for not being more careful.
BA was just about ready to speak when a quick glance from Hannibal stopped him. Instead, BA just shook his head, displaying his lack of understanding and confusion surrounding his blond headed teammate.
Murdock walked over to the bed and sat down. "Let me take a look at your arm. You took a nasty hit by that car." Murdock pulled the bedcovers back and unbuttoned the cuff, pulling it up his forearm. There was a long scrape but not much blood, and severe bruising. He continued to examine the arm above the elbow, then touched around the shoulder and collarbone. Satisfied that nothing was broken, he asked, "How's your ribs?"
Murdock lifted up his shirt and examined his ribs. He didn't have to touch them as they could see the dark blue black of the bruising setting in. Nothing they could do about it but wrap them tightly. Without even asking, Murdock pressed on his thigh.
Face jerked and hissed, "Jeez! Murdock! Let me know before you do that, will ya?"
"Sorry, you're damn lucky you didn't break anything, Faceman," he added as he continued to probe down the leg, much to Face's annoyance. When he was finished with his examination, he walked back over to his chair, leaving Face grimacing in the aftermath.
"You care to explain what's going on?" Hannibal asked.
Face was feeling worse than miserable. If he could have crawled into the woodwork, he would have. For a split second, he thought this might all be just another one of his nightmares, until he opened his eyes again and saw all three of them staring at him, waiting for an explanation. An explanation he wasn't prepared to give. "No."
Hannibal wasn't daunted. In fact, he rather liked the challenge. He had so many avenues available to him that his biggest problem was deciding which one to take. He figured he had time on his side so he decided to back off, for now. "Why don't you get a shower; we brought you some clothes. Murdock will stay and keep you company." There was no reaction from Face so Hannibal and BA left the room.
In his mind, Face repeated what he'd just heard, 'Murdock will stay and keep you company.' What Hannibal really meant was 'Murdock will stay to make sure you don't try to leave.' He slowly rolled out of bed and stood up, an agonizing motion at best. Murdock followed as Face limped down the hall and into the bathroom. Surprisingly, the bathroom was large enough to accommodate both of them, but Face didn't see it that way.
"Do you mind?"
"Sorry, Faceman, no can do. Hannibal wants me to keep you company."
"Hannibal wants you to make sure I don't go anywhere."
"Well, you did surprise us yesterday."
"Oh, come on, Murdock, where am I gonna go?" Face whined, spreading his hands around indicating the lack of escape routes in a bathroom.
"I've seen you get out of too many spots to question it." Then, remembering his method of breaking into the orphanage, he added, "Besides, you've probably got a tunnel dug behind the sink or something."
Face resigned himself to an audience and began to slowly undress. He knew what Murdock was going to see but he really did want a shower and there were already too many things he had to explain to try and start covering them up now, this was just one more topic on the list. And so he dropped his pants and turned his back on his friend. Then he dropped his shirt.
"Face!" Murdock gasped. "What happened? Who did this?"
Ignoring Murdock's questions, he stepped into the shower and let the warm water engulf him. For the next ten minutes, he just let the soothing hot water caress his cuts and bruises. Ten minutes later, he turned the water off. Ten minutes after that, he was limping back to his room with just a towel wrapped around his waist.
Murdock followed behind, trying to piece together the various components of this rather bizarre problem. "Face?"
Face held his hand up, indicating he didn't want to answer any questions. Instead, he said, "Thanks for the clothes and the other stuff. I hate being that filthy."
Murdock stared out the window while Face got dressed. He couldn't stop thinking about the welts across his back. What kind of trouble had he gotten himself into? His thoughts were interrupted when Face demanded, "Where's my gun?"
Murdock turned and saw that he was completely dressed and looking around for his .357. His eyes showed anger, tinted with fear.
"Murdock, where did you put my gun!"
"Hannibal has it."
"I want it back," he stated angrily.
"Well, let's go then," Murdock opened the door so Face could limp through.
Seated around the kitchen table were Hannibal, BA and Sister Mary. She greeted Face, "Now that's more like the Templeton I remember," she said, referring to his clean appearance. She gave him a hug and he leaned down to receive a kiss. "I knew you wouldn't mind seeing your friends this morning since you always spoke so highly of them. Can I get you something to eat?"
"No, no thank you," Face said, feigning a slight smile. Out of respect for her, he hid his anxiety about his gun well, but he didn't think he could control it for very long.
"Nonsense, you look like you haven't eaten in days. It'll just take a minute," she insisted, as she scurried across the room to prepare a meal for them.
Face sat down across from Hannibal and in a whisper hissed, "Where is it?"
The look on his face was worth noting and Hannibal took note. This was one of those rare opportunities where they could see their teammate visibly shaken. He nodded at BA who smoothly removed the gun from its hidden spot and placed it on the table.
"Shudn't leave somethin' like that lying around with kids," BA grumbled.
Ignoring the comment, Face snatched it up and held it under the table, checking the barrel. He released the breath he didn't know he was holding after determining the gun was just as he left it, fully loaded. Color returned to his face and he noticeably relaxed. He then tucked it down his pants, and covered it over with his jacket.
The silence lingered.
Breakfast was served and BA was especially grateful for the big plate of eggs, sausage and biscuits. There was only small talk during the meal and afterwards Face rose and said, "If you'll excuse me...", and he limped out of the kitchen.
Hannibal thanked Sister Mary and rose to follow but was stopped by her voice, "Colonel Smith?"
She hesitated, the worry evident across her brow, "Please take care of him."
"We're trying to, Sister."
"I know. But he can be difficult to keep up with," she said, offering understanding.
"Yes, we know. But we'll take care of him, don't worry." And out the door they went. They stayed several paces behind and followed him around the building, across the grass and into the chapel. He walked down the center aisle and sat in the first pew.
The three of them followed him through the door. BA crossed himself and they sat silently in the last pew, waiting patiently for their friend.
Face prayed. He silently said many prayers that he'd said as a child, at times surprising himself with his ability to remember every verse. He was aware of his friends presence but forced himself to ignore them, this was more important right now.
Forty-five minutes later, he'd said his last prayer and began to leave, only he had stiffened up considerably and was really in a lot of pain. Remembering his three teammates seated in the back row only made his journey more difficult. 'If you would just leave me alone,' he thought. Using the back of the pew as a crutch, he leaned heavily on it, staring at his friends. 'I know you mean well, but you can't get involved in this.' Realizing his injuries were going to be difficult to overcome, he looked away from his friends and down to the floor.
'It's working,' Hannibal thought. The approach he was taking was simple: wait him out. His body language was indicating that he was weakening, even though the slump was almost imperceptible, Hannibal caught it. But he wasn't going to be fooled into thinking that Face was caving. Whatever trouble he was in, it was bad enough for him to show a side of himself that he doesn't let too many people see.
Murdock walked down the aisle and asked, "You look like you could use some help."
Looking into his friend's deep brown eyes, Face gave a halfhearted smile, losing some of his anger and being actually grateful for the assistance, "Yeah, I guess I could."
In an awkward display of help, Murdock assisted Face down the aisle. When they got even with the others, BA growled, "Hey man, you're gonna sprain his other side! Move outta mah way!"
Murdock moved aside, but not before saying, "Just be careful with THAT side!" He was going to say more but the scowl from BA stopped him and so he let BA slide in next to Face.
It was easier to use BA as a crutch since he was shorter and stockier and could support his weight easier. BA assisted him out of the church with Murdock and Hannibal following. They made their way down the sidewalk and then veered off on a narrow path that took them through some trees. On the other side was a small pond with benches. It was a very beautiful place, quiet and serene.
BA helped Face sit on the bench, then watched as he stretched out his leg and pressed his arm to his side tightly, catching his breath. BA and Murdock stood near with Murdock tossing grass and weeds into the water. Hannibal sat down next to him. Several minutes later, he was breathing normally. Hannibal retrieved a newly wrapped cigar from his breast pocket and admired it, he didn't like to actually light up this early in the day, but he did enjoy fondling and holding one, and it was killing time.
"I remember the first time I found this place," Face reminisced. "I hid in those bushes over there, and watched a prospective family play with one of the boys they were thinking about adopting. Eddie, that was the name of the boy, was dressed in his best clothes and on his best behavior. I remember thinking how lucky he was, that they wanted him to be their son. Later that week, Eddie left this place to begin a new life with his new family. I missed him, a lot."
His friends listened to his story with interest. He wasn't prone to talking about his childhood so when he did, they listened. "Do you ever wonder what happened to him?" Murdock asked.
Face was deep in thought, staring into nothingness and barely hearing the question. After a few moments, he shook his head and answered, "Nah. A month later he ended up dead." A hint of cynicism crept into his voice, "He was beaten to death. The family didn't bother to tell anyone that the father was a violent man."
Sometimes it was easy to forget the harsh realities of their friend's world when his behavior was at such odds with it.
Face let the warm sun beat down on him to the point where he just wanted to sleep. He stood and hobbled to a patch of thick grass and laid down. Using his jacket as a pillow, he dozed off to sleep.
Murdock and BA meandered back over to Hannibal; Murdock sat down where Face had been sitting and BA stood in front.
"Remember those goons that we saw leaving Face's place?" Murdock quietly asked and waited a moment until he received affirmation from them, "Well, they left their mark."
Hannibal's expression barely changed even though he fully understood the meaning of those words.
"Man, what's goin' on with him?" BA grumbled. "And why don't he want our help?"
With a shrug, they all turned to stare at their friend, and wonder.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully with Face offering very little information. Throughout the day, at least one of the team members was with him at all times. By early evening, when just Hannibal was around, Face finally confronted him, "Look, I appreciate your wanting to help me, but you can't. So PLEASE leave."
The two of them were alone in the kitchen and it was the first time the topic was broached. Hannibal jumped on the opening and calmly asked, "Help you with what?"
Face's anger was mounting, "Would you please just leave! I don't want your help, Colonel!"
'Calling me by rank, huh? Okay, I'll play.' "Lieutenant, it would be in your best interest to tell me what's going on. I certainly don't think you need an order..."
"Damn it, Hannibal! Don't you understand! I DON'T WANT YOU HERE!" he shouted, slamming his hand down on the table and causing stab like pains to wrack his side.
Hannibal didn't so much as flinch; but he did feel he was making progress. Placing the cigar smugly between his teeth and folding his arms in front of him, he calmly replied, "We're staying."
"Like Hell you are!" Face challenged.
Their eyes locked and it was unnerving to Hannibal to see this sudden change in his lieutenant. But he held his stare defiantly until Face pushed back from the table and stood. All of a sudden, he watched as Face's body swayed and his hands reached out for something to steady him. Hannibal jumped up and caught him just as his equilibrium gave out. Surprisingly, he collapsed onto Hannibal and held tightly. With Face's body pressed against his, Hannibal could feel the heat emanating from him. He whispered, "Hey, take it easy kid." Elevating his voice, he called, "BA? Murdock?"
Pushing through the door, they both entered, followed closely by Amy and Dr. Sullivan. Hannibal grinned when he saw her and commented, "Great timing, Doc." And then to BA, "You want to give me a hand here?" Gently, they eased Face down onto the wooden chair.
Maggie immediately saw the flushed color and felt Face's forehead, commenting, "He's burning up. How long has he been like this?"
"It just started. We were having a nice conversation and he got dizzy. I caught him before he hit the floor."
"Can we move him someplace where I can examine him?"
A short time later, Face was laid down on his bed and the doctor was taking his vitals. When she was done, she began to undress him, beginning first by removing his gun. To her surprise, he grabbed her wrist and glared at her.
"Face?" she said, stunned at his reaction. "I have to examine you."
Face wasn't interested in an explanation; he just knew he didn't want to be without his gun and didn't exactly want to be examined. He felt Hannibal sit down on the bed next to him and take the .357 from Maggie's hand. "Face, I'll hold onto it and I won't leave this room. If I do, I'll leave it on the bedside table for you." Tucking the gun down his waistband, he pried Face's fingers off of Maggie's wrist.
But Face wasn't easily placated and so Hannibal turned to Maggie and said, "Give me a minute alone with him, okay?"
She nodded and left the room, joining the others in the hallway.
After the door closed, Hannibal began, "Face, you took a nasty hit yesterday. Maggie needs to examine you, and she can't do it with this," he tapped on the gun, "and she can't do it unless you cooperate. Besides, you're not going to be much good to us, or those goons, if you don't get any better."
After lying flat for a while, he had begun to feel better. Reluctantly, he agreed to the exam but defiantly stated, "I'll do it," referring to undressing himself. He swung his legs slowly over the side of the bed and sat there a minute before he unbuttoned and removed his shirt, feeling Hannibal's eyes boring down on his back. Then he removed his pants. He sat on the side of the bed staring at the floor and waiting for his colonel's comments.
Hannibal had seen these kinds of marks before and he knew the type of apparatus that inflicted such pain and torture. Resembling a short bullwhip, it was made from a native plant of Southeast Asia. The long strands of this plant were tightly woven to form a rope. The plant's sap contained poison that wasn't deadly but was excruciatingly painful when scraped against skin. It was usually the first phase of many in a Vietnamese torture session.
Calmly, Hannibal's only remark was "Some unfinished business?"
Not wanting to engage in conversation, and still wanting the team to let him deal with his own problem, Face remained silent, continuing to search for ways to convince his very stubborn colonel to leave this one alone. Surmising his options were limited, he tried a new approach on his CO. Very softly, he said, "Please Hannibal, please let me deal with this. You don't understand and I don't want you or Murdock or BA to get hurt."
Hannibal's tone changed and he very soothingly asked, "Who's after you?"
"If you make me beg, I will. If it will make you see reason. Please just let me handle this."
Hannibal remained silent, but Face knew his colonel and soon realized that pleading wasn't going to convince him to leave. He had one last card to play and he hesitated in playing it. This approach was genuine to Face's heart and he never wanted to discount his feelings for his colonel in this matter. But he had little choice. Turning sideways, he looked into his colonel's blue eyes and softly stated, "If you leave, I'll make it worth your while." Not knowing how this proposition would be received, Face sat motionless, feeling his heart pound inside his chest and squelching the movement deep inside his groin.
Hannibal's stomach jumped and his heart skipped a beat. He'd dreamed about this day and figured it was only a matter of time before they would get together. There was nothing he wanted more than to make love to his young and handsome lieutenant; but not under these circumstances. This was not how he pictured their first encounter and he'd never make a trade of any kind for sex with him. He went to reply but was cut off.
"Don't say anything, yet," Face whispered. He shifted his position so he was facing him more squarely and leaned over towards him, giving Hannibal the most sensuous kiss he could ever have imagined. When it ended, Face pleaded, "Please Hannibal, if you want to do the right thing, let me take care of this."
Hannibal's heart ached. It was rare to see his friend, an expert conman, in such a state. The kiss was meant to give him insight as to what was to come and it was better than he thought possible, but the way he figured it, he didn't have a choice. He would never leave any of his team alone to fight against a foe that seemed to have mastered at least one form of torture. Saying in a very soft whisper with eyes that matched his pain, Hannibal replied, "I can't."
Defeated, Face turned away, his eyes downcast. Weak and exhausted, he didn't say anything more.
Hannibal got up, opened the door and motioned to Maggie. As she walked past, he whispered, "Make the exam short and then give him some pain killers and something to help him sleep."
There was something in his voice that made her look at him; he was genuinely sad.
Hannibal stayed in the room while she conducted her examination. Upon seeing the welts on his back, she started to make comment, but Hannibal said he knew about it and that she should continue with her exam. She knew what kind of marks they were as she had seen the pattern a handful of times before, but thought it best to follow Hannibal's request. When she finished, she stated, "Well Face, you don't have anything broken and you don't appear to have any internal injuries. I suspect that the fever is due to a reaction from the Ciphertivius plant." She pulled a syringe from her bag and gave him an injection. Since Face was unresponsive, she said to Hannibal, "This will allow him to sleep tonight."
Several minutes later, Hannibal pulled the bedcovers over him and he and Maggie left the room.
Once in the kitchen, BA and Murdock were anxious to learn of Face's condition.
"He'll be fine if he gets some rest," Maggie explained. "Somebody mind telling me who used the Ciphertivius whip on him?"
"The what?" Amy asked.
"Never mind," Hannibal interrupted. "Something's really got him turned around," he said, remembering the kiss. "Murdock, why don't you go and check out the place where he's been staying. Look around and see if you can find out anything. Take Amy with you."
"I better go with them in case those goons in the limo or Decker is still 'round."
"Good idea, BA."
After they left, Maggie sat down next to Hannibal and stated, "You're worried, aren't you."
"I can't figure this one out. I don't know who the players are and I don't know what's at stake. What I do know is a member of my team is in a very bad situation but refuses any help."
"He won't tell you anything?"
"Nope. He's tried every tactic he's knows to get me to back off, he's desperate and I don't know why."
Several minutes later, after he finished his coffee, he said, "Let's hope there's some clue at his apartment."
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