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Up To A Point Up To A Point - Chapter 1 part 1 (Sequel to Opposites Attract)
by Live Lady Roadkill

Disclaimer: A-Team owned by Stephen J. Cannell etc.
Rating: NC-17
Comments: Please
Warnings: SLASH-m/m consensual --severe emotional trauma- thoughts and memories of attempting suicide Note: I changed the title mainly because it no longer fits the story---- It has evolved where no one is truly an 'opposites' anymore.--- The new name came from a passage to from a Louis L'Amour book called The Walking Drum:

"Up to a point, a man's life is shaped by environment, heredity, and movements and changes in the world about him. Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame their parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, This I am today; That I will be tomorrow."-Louis L'Amour, The Walking Drum

Additional note--- WARNING!!!! This is unedited. Forgive the bad grammar and misspellings for now. It will be corrected soon (I hope....).

 

Part 1

Murdock is now sane and was calming down. He seemed almost...... dare he think it?...... Normal. BA's secret was out in the open to his friends and he found his voice. He wasn't sure what to think about it. He thought it was good for BA to speak out and tell them who he really is. Hannibal looks as if he will really settle down and for him........... Face was making cranes. Everyone else seems to be getting their lives together and moving on....... They had everything he wanted and actively sought out for years and it came to them. He toyed with the idea that he picked this time to breakdown because he couldn't stand the peace around him. As long as there was a crisis and everything was moving about him he didn't have to pay attention to the problems within. Or that's what Dr. Freeman would probably want him to think. He didn't want to think. As long as he didn't think the hole in him didn't seem so large. He whispered. "Another crane for Hannibal...... who knows? .......... Maybe for Murdock and BA, too."

He popped the carefully folded paper and it formed a perfect origami crane and tossed it over to the ever-growing pile of origami cranes. Origami animals cluttered the entire room but no one seemed to mind them. When Murdock's gift of books arrived a week ago he didn't feel up to reading anything at the time. After a few days more of resting, his mind wanted something to chew on other than itself. He soaked in the essays of Mark Twain and was becoming a quick study in Shakespearean sonnets, measuring the meter against the rhyme of the verses. Another mystery about Murdock was being uncovered through this experience. Murdock always seemed to be a walking set of encyclopedias over the years and Face thought it was because he had read the entire set...... every year. The psyche ward can be mind numbingly boring when he wasn't in therapy. The staff attempted to create distractions and therapeutic activities but Face wasn't into that sort of thing. He preferred his privacy and they left him alone to do what he pleased when he wasn't having a session with Dr. Freeman. When he didn't feel like reading or thinking, he'd make origami animals. He created an entire zoo for Cassy in no time at all. It didn't take long for him to go through his entire supply of paper Murdock sent to him and he would pass along requests through the nurses and Oscar for more paper. It was the only thing he would ask for. Everyday like clockwork, Oscar or one of the nurses would drop off a fresh supply of colorful paper from Murdock. They marvel at his growing collection and skills at the ancient art of paper folding. It kept him calm as he thought of different ways to manipulate the crisp colorful sheets of paper. For now, he was focusing on cranes.

He looked up when he heard the door opening as he reached for another sheet of paper. He smirked at Freeman's quizzical look and nodded a greeting. "Interesting collection you have here, Face."

Freeman picked up one of the paper animals and toyed with it. Face continued with the intricate folding seemingly to ignore Freeman's presence. Freeman knew he was paying attention and said, "You've certainly been obsessed with cranes the past couple of days."

Face only glanced at Freeman briefly without breaking his pace in the folding. "The origami book says it's good luck to have a thousand cranes at a wedding. Hannibal's getting married when we get our pardons."

"He's a lucky man to have you as a friend for you to wish him all this good luck. But at the rate you're going he can get married by the end of next week."

Face stopped folding and shrugged. "In that case it wouldn't be such a bad idea. He better marry her before she wises up."

"You think she'd change her mind in time?"

"I KNOW Hannibal. If there is a way to make things more.......interesting...... He'll do it rather than take a more sensible approach. And Carla is the most sensible person I know."

"I guess the old saying, ╬opposites attract,' is true."

Face chuckled. "You don't even know the half of it."

"Oh? Is that so? ........ Does it have anything to do with your other two friends being gay?"

Face's jaw dropped and he began to work his jaw to try to ask how he knew. Freeman didn't want to distress Face any further and quickly explained. "You already know your friends have been by here everyday since you've checked in and I've talked with them on several occasions. Murdock is especially concerned for you and he's trying to be helpful. Which he has been in showing me how dedicated he is to you and the rest of your friends. Don't worry about anyone finding out they're gay. I know how harsh the government can be on gays because a considerable number of my patients see me because they are forced to keep their sexuality a secret. Murdock told me you had a difficult time in accepting it in the beginning."

Face didn't know whether to be angry with Murdock or to be thankful. He begrudgingly returned to folding cranes. "I acted like a complete jerk over the whole thing but I'm okay with it now."

"Must have been quite a surprise."

Face snorted. "Knocked me for a loop and a half more like it."

"How did you come to accept it?"

Face shrugged and with a quirky smile, said, "Don't know.......Manic depression must makes you accept anything and makes it seem perfectly normal or you just don't give a damn about those kind of things anymore."

"You don't give yourself enough credit. You've made that decision to accept them the way they are on your own, not your illness...... In fact it was Murdock that diagnosed you, I just confirmed his suspicions."

"He's seen a lot of things in the VA. Maybe he ought to send a bill to Stockwell."

Face completed the crane and tossed it over with the others. "What time is it?"

Freeman smiled and looked at his watch. "They'll be here in half an hour."

Face pushed the pile of paper aside shaking his head. "No they won't."

"What makes you say that?"

Face slowly stood up and straightened out his pajamas and bathrobe. He was grateful they started letting him wear his own pajamas a couple of days ago. Hospital psyche wards had a thing about everything being a privilege that had to be earned which annoyed Face. "I know them too well."

He walked over to the mirror and flicked a comb through his hair, "They never show up on time."

To prove his point there was a knock at the door. Face sighed heavily and said, "Show time...... Come in!"

Dorothy peaking in behind the door. "You have some visitors."

Freeman half expected Face to plaster on a fake smile and force out some laughter. Face did make an effort to smile and stand up straighter but he couldn't maintain it for more than a few seconds. He glanced at Freeman for support as Murdock raced into the room, dropping a bag of books by the door. Freeman nodded his approval as Murdock stop short of hugging Face waiting for a signal from him to let him know it was okay. "It's really great to see you again. I missed you so much Muchacho."

Face reached out to hug Murdock and Murdock quickly pasted himself onto Face nearly knocking him off balance. "I missed you too, buddy."

The others trailed in and waited patiently for Murdock to let Face go so they could get a look at him. Face took note of Murdock's clothes but remarks on them could wait till later. Hannibal waited patiently for Murdock to finish his hug, BA and Frankie looked on uncomfortably as if they didn't like hospitals as a general rule. Frankie was a bit antsy waiting his turn to hug Face but changed his mind because while Face did look better he looked frail. When Murdock let go Hannibal stepped forward and held his hand out to shake. "You're looking better kid."

Hannibal flinched as he remembered that Face asked not to be called ╬kid' anymore. But Face didn't even react to it. It was as if he had forgotten the matter altogether. Face grasped Hannibal's hand and forced himself to look him in the eyes. He was still ashamed of the events that led up to his hospitalization and he relaxed when Hannibal's eyes reflected his gladness in seeing him. Hannibal gave him a gentle pat on the back as he let go of his hand not really wanting to.

Frankie hesitantly step forward and Face gave him a quick hug. Frankie asked the question that was on everyone's mind. "How're you doin,' man?"

Face nodded to BA to acknowledge his presence and provoked a nervous smile from him and he turned to Freeman. "Care to tell'em?"

Freeman slowly shook his head. "No. It's up to you to tell them what you want them to know."

Face's eyes fell to the floor and sighed. He looked back up and gave a quick glance at Freeman before looking at Frankie again. "I'm better than I was a week ago......I suppose anything could be better than then."

Face looked at Freeman for approval and got a nodding smile in return. Frankie grinned nervously and said. "Yeah, I suppose.......What's with all the paper animals?"

Freeman stood up and began to make his way to the door. "I don't want to intrude on your visit, so I'll step out and give you some privacy."

Panic flashed across Face's eyes briefly and was calmed by a knowing look from Freeman. They've talked about the visitation the day before and Face had to accept that his friends cared about him and they weren't going to go away. It occurred to Murdock that they had just walked in on Dr. Freeman's pep talk to Face to prepare him for the visit. He made a mental note to make sure they show up on schedule in the future as he stepped in to put Face at ease. "Hey doc, do you think Face will be ready for a day pass in two weeks?"

Freeman slowed his progress to the door and looked at Face. "What do you say?"

Face shrugged and sat on his bed among the cranes. Freeman ask, "Why do you ask?"

Murdock smiled broadly not taking his eyes from Face. "Cassy's first birthday is in two weeks and I need to know where to throw the party. It wouldn't be the same without the godfather there. If we have to, we'll bring the party here."

Freeman laughed at the thought of having a little girl's party in the psyche ward. Face looked hopeful, almost begging Freeman with his eyes. Freeman nodded thoughtfully. "I don't see why not. You've made a lot of progress and if you continue with it, you could be ready for an outing by next week."

Face relaxed and Freeman lingered a moment longer to politely acknowledge each of the men. Face now had something to really look forward to and Face nodded to Freeman that he didn't need a baby sitter to be alone with his friends now. Hannibal picked up one of the many stray cranes on the floor and gave Face an amused quizzical look, Face became painfully aware of the hundreds of cranes scattered throughout the room. "Developing an obsession kid? I thought this was Murdock's department."

"The Fool ain't no fool no more."

Frankie stopped picking up cranes off the floor. "He's not?..... That outfit says otherwise."

Face looked at Murdock's clothes carefully. He was wearing his jacket but the familiar tan pants, plaid shirt, T-shirt, high top sneakers and baseball cap were gone. Face looked him up and down from his lace up loafers, to his expensive looking jeans on up to a very nice plain looking forest green pull over sweater. "Fatherhood looks nice on you, Murdock."

"Fatherhood had a little bit to do with it but not all of it............But we're not here to talk about my change in wardrobe. How are you REALLY doing?"

Face caught himself as he was about to spit out the automatic response he had programmed himself to say and Hannibal smiled at him. A sadness crept up in Hannibal's smile as Face muddled through his thoughts for an honest response. "I don't know."

Murdock sat down next to Face and put an arm around his shoulders. "That's okay Face. After what you've been through it's okay not to know anything for a while......... We have some great news for you. Wanna hear it?"

Face smirked a little at the stupid question. Of course he'd want to hear anything Murdock had to say. "Hannibal you tell'im."

Hannibal watched Frankie continue with picking up cranes off the floor for a moment before sitting down in Freeman's vacated seat. "We don't have to go on missions anymore except for a few domestic jobs here and there. But no more missions where our lives will be in constant danger."

Face couldn't believe his ears and he knew Hannibal was serious. Face choked out his words. "H-h-h-h ....how is th-that possible?"

Murdock rubbed his back with a big grin saying, "Here's the kicker...... We're going to teach the government why they couldn't catch us for fifteen years."

"Y-you guys are going to teach them to catch us?"

Hannibal pointed out, "╬WE' are going to teach them. You're in on this deal too, kid. When you're ready you can join us..... BUT.... not a moment sooner. I want you back and I want you back in working order first."

Frankie giving up on collecting all the paper animals off the floor sat down on the windowsill. "Just think of the fun we could have with our ╬students.' Boy! This is so sweet."

Face's eyes met Hannibal's. His gaze was strong and steady for a few moments. Hannibal thought he detected a flash of excitement as Face's gaze dropped to the floor. "None of this make sense.......Why would he do this?..... Did Stockwell do this because of me?"

Face felt Murdock squeezed his shoulder. "This wasn't Stockwell's doing. It was Carla......... Stockwell's too dense to be this creative."

Face felt an overwhelming sense of relief wash over him. He was worried that he wouldn't be of any use to them for a long time. He unknowingly hugged himself and bowed his head breathing in deeply. He felt like he could finally breathe easily, he could stop holding his breath as the pressure lifted off of him. He felt Murdock's other arm go around him and pulled him over a little. "This isn't a trick, is it?"

BA spoke. "It's the real thing Faceman..... Carla's in charge of us now."

Face pulled out of Murdock's embrace and thought. "We're safe? Really safe now?"

He had not realized he had spoken his thoughts as Murdock answered his question. "Yeah, we're gonna be safe. Except from stubbed toes and hangnails but we're safe now."

Face took a very deep breath and ever so slowly, he exhaled. Hannibal could see the tension drain from Face's frame before his eyes and something within Hannibal told him the old Face was gone forever. No more elaborate scams. There would be still scams because it was in his blood but he wouldn't be as brash as he was before. What Hannibal mistook for a lot guts in Face over the years was apathy towards himself. Face didn't care about himself enough to be cautious and that was part of his extraordinary luck. He could see that Face's ╬luck' had run out. "We're almost free kid...... You get out of here as quick as you can because we need your personable skills..... The feds don't have a sense of humor at all."

Face rubbed is mouth nervously. "I can't believe it........ This is too perfect...... Murdock, BA.... You've got to keep him and Carla from going at each other's throats to make sure this works."

Murdock winked at Hannibal and scooted over so that Face could lie down. "They're already butting heads but we'll keep them from killing each other till you're there to do it."

Face shoved a pile of cranes onto the floor and adjusted the hospital bed to a comfortable sitting position before plopping himself back into a pile of pillows. Face groaned and rolled his eyes at Murdock's remark. He realized BA was still standing and it seemed like he was trying to put as much distance between them as he could. "BA, sit down. ......."

One look from Murdock told him most of the story. He felt the little bit of happiness he had gained in the time of their visit drain away. BA reluctantly sat down in Face's chair as Face watched him, not sure what to do or say to him. BA was never difficult to read. He always wore his emotions close to the surface or right on the surface. It was clear to Face to see that he was blaming himself for his condition. Face waded through the mud in his mind trying to find a way to tell BA that it wasn't his fault without embarrassing him too much. "Listen BA...... You can't break what's been broken already and I've been...... broken for a long time now. ..........You've made me realize that and I couldn't handle it because it was the truth. And when the truth hurts so much there's something wrong. .......

Murdock gave Face's legs an affectionate pat. "I knew there was someone really smart behind those baby blues."

Face ignoring Murdock said, "Got that BA?"

BA twitched his lip to the side like a child who had just received bad news and nodded. Face sighed and leaned further back into the pillows. "Good."

Face picked up one of the stray cranes that got a little mashed by him crawling into bed and began to smooth the crumpled wings. Murdock hopped up to his feet and retrieved the bag he had brought with him. "That reminds me..... More paper for your origami and some more books."

Face sat the formerly crumpled, now wrinkled bird aside on the night stand and Frankie picked up a paper giraffe completed with hand drawn spots from the dresser. "What's with all the birds?"

Face sighed and gave Hannibal a defeated glance while accepting Murdock's newest gift of books. "They're for the wedding."

Frankie had forgotten about Hannibal's impending marriage to Carla in the midst of the turmoil of recent weeks. It was good to be reminded of things to come..... good things.

".......Uh...... Thanks kid....."

Hannibal picked up one of the cranes to study it, unsure what to make of it. He was thinking that Face had really flipped his lid as he nervously studied the crane and Face. Murdock almost squealed as he began to gather the paper birds on the bed. "Face that is a fantastic idea!"

Hannibal and BA exchanged a worried look and Hannibal watched Murdock fling the birds in the air, but carefully so he wouldn't damage the paper. Murdock grabbed the rollaway table and moved it between him and Face so he could sit on the bed with Face resting on the reclined bed. Murdock opened the new package of paper he had brought with him and began to fold it into the paper birds. Face shook his head thinking that it was good to see that not everything has changed that much since he had been in the hospital. Murdock looked up from his folding to see Face looking at him in amusement. He looked real tired to Murdock but he looked good..... A hell of a lot better than he did the previous week. Murdock grinned and winked at him. Face sighed and grabbed a piece of paper to fold. Hannibal was still confused by the birds but folding the paper along side of Murdock seemed to give him a reprieve from what was going on inside his head. Frankie returned the giraffe to its rightful place, asked, "Is it hard to do?"

Murdock moved over to make room for Frankie and said, "No, not at all........ Com'ere and we'll show you."

Face was totally absorbed in what he was doing that he was a bit startled when Frankie sat down opposite of Murdock. Murdock proceeded to show Frankie how to make the cranes. BA thought it must be some sort of fraternity thing that crazy people did and he wanted to stop Frankie from intruding in on them but Frankie's mistakes were amusing Face. He sat back and watched Face become more placid with each fold. BA glanced at Hannibal careful unfolding one of the birds to see how it was done. Hannibal decided to leave it up to the rest of them to put it back as it was, handing the deconstructed bird to Frankie. BA and Hannibal watched Face with Murdock and Frankie for a while.

Hannibal thought Face didn't need to talk anymore, he was surely talking enough in therapy to wring all the talk out of him. Hannibal was content to be near him without him trying to drive them all away. Frankie soon gave up on the birds and started making paper airplanes and flying them around the room. Murdock made a couple of airplanes to and a competition developed between him and Frankie. Face stopped making cranes and sat back and watched as Murdock and Frankie began to argue over the finer points of paper airplane construction from a standpoint of a pilot and a standpoint of a special effects expert. Hannibal noticed a little bit of light returning to Face's eyes as he watched the bickering commenced. He noticed Hannibal and BA watching him and he smiled. It was a little smile that reflected his embarrassment but a real smile. He asked, "How's Cassy doing?"

Face was relieved to see that Murdock and Frankie continued with their little spat about paper airplanes. BA gave the two an annoying look. "Growin' like a weed..... She's almost getting up and standin' by herself now. It won't be too long till she'll be able to walk."

Face nodded thoughtfully as he envisioned Cassy awkwardly like a newborn foal getting up only to tumble over on its own feet. He thought, ╬I'd like to be there but don't wait for me. If you can do it, I want you to do it.' He pushed the rollaway table aside and asked, "Will her grandfather be there? Mr. Klienman will want to see how well she's doing with his own eyes. He should be there."

BA hadn't thought about that and he called Murdock over. Murdock ceased the arguing with Frankie to BA's relief because he thought if the nurse or the doctor walked in on them, Murdock would be committed again and so would Frankie. Murdock sat on the edge of the bed and listened to BA. "Face wants to know if we should bring Cassy's grandfather out and maybe one of her aunts, too."

"That's a great idea!..... I want find out a little more about Jody and what she was like as a kid so we can have an idea of what to expect. I grew up my cousins but they were all boys."

BA growled, "I have three sisters and the only thing I noticed about girls is when they turn into teenagers they live in the bathroom."

Frankie pinched BA's cheek and said, "So that's what happened to you.... Not enough mirror time?"

BA swatted Frankie away. Frankie successfully avoided the swat laughing. "That's okay. I have five sisters and cousin Rickie, who counts as a girl in my book, making it six. Girls are no different than boys till they're about four years old. You'll have plenty of time to figure things out before then."

BA doubted Frankie and waved him off dismissive-ly. Frankie shrugged and Face said, "Frankie's right."

Everyone turned their attention to Face, wondering how he knew this. Murdock launched an airplane at Frankie and said, "I've been meaning to ask you about how you know so much about babies. You are really great with taking care of Cassy. You know everything about diaper rashes and what she needs better than any of us."

Face fingered his bathrobe belt and suddenly found his foot brace interesting. "........ Uhm..... uh..... I would help out in the nursery at the orphanage.......... The babies liked me and the nuns let me help."

Face tugged at he bathrobe belt and a sadness filtered into Murdock's eyes. "You must of gotten a lot of practice in."

"Too much practice if you ask me......"

Murdock gave everyone a glance and nodded towards the door. Hannibal was glad to have a way out as he stood up. "I gotta get going kid. Carla will need to be relieved of some of that paperwork soon before she buries herself in it. Forgotten how much paperwork there is when you're trying to do things through the proper channels in the government."

Under normal circumstances Face would have laughed up a storm at the idea of Hannibal doing things by the book but he just nodded. Hannibal and BA filed out he room giving Face a pat on the shoulders and promised to check on him the next day. BA grabbed Frankie and pulled him out behind them leaving Murdock with Face. Once the door was closed Murdock hugged him, pulling Face over against his chest.

Face talked very little about his days in the orphanage and what little Murdock knew of those days, he thought Face had a pretty good childhood out of it. He'd always go to the reunions at the orphanage at great risk of his personal safety to get reacquainted with old friends and people who had been his surrogate family. Murdock understood that in spite of a good childhood provided by the orphanage there was a hidden darker side to it that Face never spoke of. Being picked over and passed over for adoption time and time had to wear on any child. Murdock wondered one time how many times Face was passed over for a younger and cuter model. Murdock could only imagine how degrading the process could be and how that effected a child's self-esteem. Face pulled away and rolled on his side with his back to Murdock. Murdock rested a hand on Face's arm and he dryly said, "It sucks, doesn't it?"

Face nodded. Murdock sighed, shaking his head and listened to the deafening silence in the room for a few moments. "It must have been really hard to see all those babies get adopted time after time. Especially for a little boy....... Babies give you so much unconditional love but it's a lot of work I'm finding out. It's a lot harder than I ever dreamed of it being. But you've worked so hard and didn't get the benefit of that work. ...... I can't tell you how much I admire your courage, Facey. You have to be the most courageous of us all."

Face peeked back over his shoulder and said, "Are you having a relapse or something? I don't think we can handle two crazies on the Team."

"Will you get your foot out of your mouth and listen?....... You're ruining a moment here."

Face sighed and heavily dropped his head back on the pillow. Murdock squeezed his arm. "I promise not to embarrass you............ too much."

Face groaned and Murdock chuckled a little. That was one thing he loved about his relationship with Face. They could be so candid with each other no matter what. "It took a lot of courage to love those babies one after another knowing that they may be taken away. It took a LOT of courage to keep yourself open like that knowing you'd get hurt sooner or later..... I see that in you with Cassy whenever you are with her. I see that you give her everything that you are in exchange for nothing at all. That's the real you Face ....... And I have news for you Face. She will be around for you to reap the benefit of it. Even BA now understands that Cassy is just as much yours as she is mine and BA's."

Face muttered something he was told by a wise old nun after a baby he was quite taken with was adopted and he was taking it hard. "She belongs to no-one but herself. "

Murdock had to strain to hear him but he heard him. Murdock grinned. "I know that but you know what I mean...... No matter what happens, you will always be a part of Cassy's life. That, Face, is a promise that can not be broken."

Face swallowed hard and tears stung his eyes. He felt Murdock pull him over on his back and he didn't fight it as he rolled over with guidance. Murdock was gentle and patient, and with a quirky smile, he said, "You have a lot to learn about being crazy...... I'm going to teach you how to talk backwards. It sounds just like German in a Japanese accent."

Face raised an eyebrow as he watched Murdock take his shoes off and stood on the bed while offering his hand. "If you're going to be crazy, you might as well get some enjoyment out of it. Now repeat after me......deah im sin bridy namoot vahi....... C'mon, say it..... deah im sin bridy namoot vahi."

Face carefully repeated the phrase syllable by syllable. "Okay, I said it now..... what did I say?"

"I have too many birds in my head."

Face sat up and shook his head as Murdock thrust his hand out to Face. He looked up at Murdock and said, "You're still crazy..... I can't believe I thought for a second that you weren't."

"Don't you ever forget it sweetheart.... Now are you comin' up here or what?"

Murdock began to lightly bounce as he waited for Face to accept his hand. Face gave in and slapped his hand in Murdock's. He was startled by the force of Murdock yanking him to his feet. Murdock steadied him and their eyes met. Murdock's eyes were a steady calm sea of brown and for a moment Face was calm as he was. Murdock began to lightly bounce and it was all Face could do to keep his balance. But Murdock kept him steady and Face feeling a bit ridiculous but found himself lightly bouncing along with Murdock. He couldn't fight the impulse as he maintained eye contact with the giggling Murdock. After a few unsure jumps, he got the feel of the rhythm and began to release Murdock but Murdock wouldn't let him go. He wasn't going to let Face fall and Face prayed that no one walked in the room as he slowed down a bit. He hadn't had any exercise to speak of since he checked in except for an hour of physical therapy for his foot everyday. Murdock sensed he was tiring and helped him down. Face watched Murdock sit on the edge of the bed and put his shoes back on. "I'll talk to the doc and see if it's all right to bring Cassy in a few days. She misses you a lot. But until he gives the go ahead, you're going to have to settle for the rest of us."

Face nodded. "Murdock?............."

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"Hey, don't thank me. I haven't done anything you haven't done for me a hundred times........But even if you haven't........ I would still do it..... We all love you and one day you will see that it's true."

Murdock smoothed his hair down where the jumping around had sent it flying and sticking out in all directions. Face smiled at how Murdock was coping with normalcy. "A little dab of hair gel will keep it manageable."

Murdock grinned. "Thanks Face. Can I give you a piece of advice on being crazy?"

Face wasn't exactly comfortable with the term crazy but to humor Murdock, he said, "Sure."

"Lay off the cranes. You're pushing it. I recommend fifty cranes a day. That's enough to keep everyone concerned but it looks like you've been doing about two or three-hundred a day. Now that's stark raving mad in my book. I don't think you're ready for a straightjacket yet...... You've gotta take these things in stages Face...... Stages."

Face gave Murdock a playful shove and smiled broadly. It was a genuine smile shining through the tiredness. "Go on and get out of here. I don't want to keep you from Cassy a moment longer."

"You don't keep her waiting too long either. She misses you, Face. .........Need more paper tomorrow?"

Face looked around the room that was cluttered with cranes and other paper animals. "No.... I think I will be cooling it for a while..... Take those on the dresser for Cassy, please."

Murdock removed the books from the bag he had brought with him and carefully filled it with the paper zoo created by Face. Face looked at his new books and wondered why Murdock chose the books he did but the question could wait for another time. He didn't want to stall Murdock further.

Freeman watched Murdock leave the room with the bag of origami animals. When Hannibal, BA and Frankie left the room he was informed by the nurses and he almost walked in on Murdock and Face while they were jumping on the bed. He listened to their conversation briefly before stepping away. He knew any doctor worth his salt could only help their patients up to a point. Beyond that point, it's up to the patient to help themselves with the help of family and friends. Face's friend, Murdock knew exactly how to handle him, it was if he knew Face better than he knew himself. From his conversations with Murdock he thought the man had the potential to be a damn good psychiatrist but he didn't see him pursuing it. His passions lie elsewhere.

Part 2

Carla shoved a handful of papers in its proper file and dropped it in the ╬out' bin and reached for another file in the ╬in' bin without looking. She felt a hand on her wrist and looked up to see Hannibal looking back at her. "It's almost midnight. Don't you think it's time to call it a night?"

Carla leaned back in her chair heavily after looking at the clock, 11:38. She and Hannibal had been working for what it seemed to be non-stop for days on filling out all the proper forms and writing letters to all the right people to get the ╬school' off the ground. It was little wonder that Stockwell didn't outright fire her. He needed someone to do the work. She had regretted asking Hannibal to help her from the first moment on. It had been one argument after another since then. Hannibal dropped another file in the out bin and Carla picked up and opened it. "Hannibal..... You have the figures all wrong. I thought we've went over this enough times..... We have too stay within budget."

"It can't hurt to add a few extras. The military always came up with what ever I asked for and I never had to justify it."

Carla felt her temper rise and said, "I want to stay out of the red and keep everything legit and above board. How can I do that if you keep messing with the numbers?"

"Can we discus this in the morning?"

Carla clinched her teeth and was too angry to respond in a civil manner. Hannibal rubbed his eyes and said, "It's too late for you to drive home and you're obvious pissed. I'm assuming that you will be sleeping in one of the guest rooms tonight."

Carla shook her head. "I'll get over it..... let's go to bed."

She could be mad at him about his creative approach to paperwork but she was determined not to let it stand in the way of her personal relationship with him. She wasn't about to let Stockwell come between them. Hannibal was determined to make it work because he didn't think Face could handle another mission ever again. Or at least, another one of Stockwell's suicide missions. Not to mention a sane Murdock hadn't been field tested since the last time he was sane in Vietnam.

Hannibal always had faith in Murdock but it took him a while to figure out Murdock's limits when he rejoined the Team after Vietnam and now he was in the same position once again. He also had to factor in Murdock's new status as a father and BA's lover, and the effects of Face's break down into the equation. While Murdock could be extremely adaptable and think quicker than any of them on his feet, Hannibal was beginning to see him as a human being and not his personal magician anymore. All of them were his personal magicians in their own ways. They were always waiting for his command in the past but things were different now. Somehow he didn't feel it was his place to command them anymore. He no longer recognized them as ╬his' men. They were their own persons now and he thought this was civilian life starting to settle in. A life he could get used to with Carla by his side.

Hannibal nodded respectfully and followed her out the door, turning out the lights as he shut the door behind them. His bedroom at Langley was quickly becoming ╬their' bedroom with all the late night work sessions. He was quickly gaining a deep appreciation for Carla's job and her patience as he attempted not to try it.

Carla quickly changed into her nightclothes and got into bed with her back turned to Hannibal. Hannibal leaned over to kiss her goodnight and she drew back away from him. Hannibal sighed and sat up against the headboard. "Hey..... we need to talk."

Carla pulled the blankets around her tighter. "About what?"

"You know about what....... When we cross the bedroom threshold we leave work behind. I will not allow it in the bedroom or our bed."

Carla rolled over on her back and looked up at Hannibal. "Hrmph ...... Easier said than done."

"You take everything personal........you need to learn how to separate yourself from your job."

"But why do you always contradict me?"

"Listen ..... I'm not attacking you when I do the things I do. I do the things I do to get the job done and get it done right. When I change things around in the paperwork, its experience talking. I'm not trying to make Stockwell look bad at your expense. I would never do that to you..... Now can we discus this in the office tomorrow? "

"It's that simple to you?"

"Yes it is."

Carla rubbed her forehead and twitched her mouth. She was annoyed that Hannibal was so right about this and it made her a bit more angry. She sighed and said, "I don't know if I can be that clear cut."

"It takes a bit of practice but work stays out of the bedroom. Okay?..... If you want to be mad about things that happen in the office be mad in the office....... I can sleep in the guest room tonight."

Carla let go of her anger and shook her head. "No. That won't be necessary...... You're right."

"That must have hurt to say that."

Hannibal grinned and Carla pulled her pillow out from beneath her head and swung at him nearly knocking him out of bed. Hannibal recovered and laughed. "I deserved that..... Feel better now?"

Carla did feel a little better and she glared at him in amusement as she returned her pillow beneath her head. "We'll talk about it in the morning."

"Does this mean we can have make up sex now?"

Carla rolled her eyes and said, "Go to sleep, Hannibal."

Hannibal chuckled as he turned out the lamp on the end table. He leaned over her and kissed her on the lips before settling down close to her on his side, draping and arm across her waist. Carla placed her hand on top of his and nestled closer to him. She could tell by his breathing that he was thinking and she turned her head to him in the dark room after several minutes. "Something on your mind Hannibal?"

Hannibal was a bit surprised by the question and wondered how did she know. He was becoming more in tuned to Carla since they became physically involved and thought why wouldn't she be doing the same with him. "Thinking about our visit with Face today."

"How do you think he's doing?"

"He's trying too hard ....... I thought it would get easier with each visit but it's not...."

"It must be hard to see him that way. If you like, I'll go with you tomorrow. I'd like to see him too."

"He would like that......... Maybe you can help me figure him out. There are times when he looks at me like he's accusing me of something and he's so full of hate. And there are other times he looks like he's let me down and he wants to crawl under a rock or something..... It's getting to be a bit uncomfortable to visit him now."

Carla pat Hannibal's hand. "I'm no psychiatrist but I've watched the two of you interact enough to know that you're his father figure and...."

"Huh?"

"It's very obvious sometimes. There are times when it seems like he hangs on every syllable that falls from your lips........ When we were in the Middle-East and things were looking bad, he would be constantly looking at you for reassurance of some kind. I don't think he's even aware of it and you re-enforce it by calling him ╬kid' all the time."

Hannibal remained still, like a dear caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. It took him a few moments to find his voice. "I don't know about that."

Carla smiled in the dark and said, "You wanted my help and I'm telling you what I think. I'm no expert and it's pretty obvious to me."

".......I had no idea. ...... During the first few years on the run, I was what you would call ╬fatherly' towards them because they were so young. None of them had a real understanding of what the implications were to being on the run. When they sobered up to what we've gotten into, I treated them like men not boys."

"You still treat them like boys."

"I do?"

"Face it Hannibal, you have four kids already and when one of them is in trouble, you act like any responsible father. That's one of the things that attracted me to you."

"If that's so, I have a lousy track record. One going into the nut house as one was released after fifteen years of residing in one, two of them are gay and I didn't know it. The most recent addition is still young and stupid enough to get us all killed if one of us isn't watching him closely. Though he does have a lot of potential he has no business being under Stockwell's thumb and I'm responsible for him being here. They spend more time keeping me out of trouble than anything else ....... I'm no candidate for father of the year, that's for certain."

"You're being sarcastic now........ You let them be who they are and they know they can depend on you and you them. Based on first hand experience you haven't been THAT much trouble. And if I can't bring work in the bedroom, you can't bring Stockwell. I don't want to hear his name when we're off duty, especially when we're in bed."

Hannibal chuckled. "No problem there."

Stockwell had been behaving more mysterious than usual lately and Hannibal wondered what could he possible be up to because Stockwell was always up to something. But he chose not to dwell on that subject for the time being because Carla was right about him not having a place in their bed. It was crowded enough as it was. He would think about how to find out what the ol' General was up to eventually and his instincts told him that he WAS up to something. The man was a bit too ...... compassionate towards Face when Face went to him for help and he was being very understanding of the circumstances of them not being able to go on missions in the recent months. Not like it was after Face recovered from being shot in the restaurant a year ago. Face had barely enough time to recover physically before Stockwell sent him with them on missions again. He remembered how he pushed Face to get back into physical shape for the good of the team with very little complaints. Murdock complained upon Face's behalf and Face would always reassure Murdock he could handle it......

"............ Hannibal?"

"Hmmm?"

"I know what's happening to Face is very difficult for you and if you want to talk, you know where I am. I also encourage you to talk to his doctor. He can explain things better than I can. I can only guess at what's going on now."

"I'll talk to him tomorrow."

Hannibal yawned and moved a little closer to her. He drifted off to sleep soon afterwards with Face weighing heavily on his mind.

Stockwell made his way towards the south doors of the Pentagon where his limo was waiting for him. He had successfully negotiated for a new team to do the work that the A-Team no longer did. They were criminals but had the special skills that were needed to get the job done if they didn't kill one another first. He would keep the two teams separated and in the dark of each other's existence. He was known for getting things done in Washington DC with no questions asked about how he had accomplished these feats and he has had very little to show in recent months.

The A-Team has out lasted all of his other teams he had assembled in the past. The other teams did not last more than two or three months, five at the most. Things were different with the A-Team now. Everything was different...... everything. While the evidence says the A-Team, within a ninety-five percent probability that they were as innocent as they claimed to be, there was always the five percent chance they weren't. In the beginning, once he had most of the key pieces he had admitted that they did look convincingly innocent to him but could not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were.

So he offered them the mission for pardons deal to pay off their debt to society for all the laws they broke over the years while trying to remain free. He had to have them because he had a special case that needed to be accomplished and he didn't really expect them to survive. He thought he was taking care of two birds with one stone. Exposing a top ranking Venezuelan official that had carefully covered his connections to drug trafficking and getting rid of the A-Team at the same time, who had been a constant embarrassment to the law enforcement agencies throughout the years. But they came back after uncovering a very sophisticated operation and did it in such a way that no one could cover it up and deny it ever happened. They had a certain style and humor in the way they approached their work that Stockwell could appreciate.

They came back time after time that he felt he could set his watch to them. Unlike his other teams he had assembled, along with the fact they always came back, they could hold intelligent conversations and they constantly challenge him in interesting ways. If the truth be known, he actually enjoyed his verbal sparing session with them and through the verbal exchanges he had come to know them a little bit at a time. The more he came to know them the more he began to believe in their proclamations of innocents. But now he was sure of it. One-hundred percent. If only he could confirm a piece of evidence that came into his possession nearly two months ago.

A war diary left at the Vietnam Memorial wall. People left tokens, letters, war souvenirs and other items before the wall as if making an offering of peace to their demons. The US park services would collect these items at the end of each day and catalogue them. Sometimes they would end up being on display for the public to see and letters and pictures were published. Someone made an offering of a diary about a year ago and it took this long to make it's way into Stockwell's hands.

There was no name to it and no indication whom it belonged to. It was a typical war diary written by a scared boy who was trying to portray an ╬spit-in-the-eye-of-danger-I-don't-give-a-damn' attitude. The diary had a lot of details█names, dates, places, missions and other things. But the former owner of the diary neglected to mention his own name. It was as if the author didn't think much of himself to even mention himself or write his own name in the diary. Though the diary didn't have a name to it, it did reveal a lot about its author. Other than the fact the soldier stayed in trouble since setting foot in Vietnam, he had a typical Vietnam experience up to a certain point.

The reason why the diary was directed to Stockwell was because it mentioned the A-Team repeatedly. Among the entries was a certain Colonel Morrison. His name appeared frequently along with names of the different members of the A-Team. There were a few names that were close associates of Morrison that were questionable. Most of the men were dead but one name besides John Curtis stood out and Stockwell put the missions on hold using Face's injuries as an excuse to he can investigate this further. He had to find that person so he can be sure. He had to be sure because if he could prove to himself that they are innocent. Face's breakdown, along with Carla's proposal was buying him all the time in the world that he needed.

He didn't mention what he was doing to anyone because he didn't want to be persuaded or influenced in any way. Plus, he couldn't give Face false hope, even he couldn't be that cruel. Stockwell was very conservative with his compassion and he only reserved it for those who have truly deserved it. From what he read in the diary, coupled with the official history of the team, it was little wonder that Murdock and Face, both had breakdowns. When Face came to his office asking for his help, he wasn't surprised in the least bit.

When Stockwell laid eyes on the diary he immediately recognized the script█it was Face's handwriting.

Part 3

About a year ago---

He didn't know where he was going but he knew Stockwell's men would be looking for him. He took side streets and alleyways. ╬Funny thing,' he thought, ╬This the first time I've been alone since Stockwell got us.' It felt good to taste freedom once again, no matter how brief because Stockwell's men would eventually catch him. He was on their turf and wasn't able to leave it. Not yet. He still needed to be under a doctor's care for just a little while longer because he still couldn't handle solid food very well. He had ditched his doctor's appointment so he could enjoy this bit of unplanned freedom. He was due to get his stitches removed. That appealed to him but he saw the opportunity to escape his guards and took it.

He smiled to himself at the satisfying thought of panic his absence would cause. He strolled down alleys savoring every minute of it, envying the bums and homeless people who made the streets their home. He didn't have a home, he had a fancy prison with a guy who was even more mysterious than he was as a jailer. But when Stockwell looks upon him, he feels like he's being read like a book. He hated Stockwell and hated him for making him feel like this.

He would have to return in a few hours because he didn't want to worry Hannibal, BA and Frankie too much. Then he had an idea. He would go get Murdock and have a day on the town like they did in LA. He quickly made his way over to where Murdock worked now that his feet had purpose. Everyone was worried about Murdock but they reserved all their attention for him during his recovery. Murdock will be surprised to see him.

It took him a half an hour to make his way over to the tiny restaurant and when he tried the door I was locked. He cupped his hand against the window and saw movement inside. He tapped the glass to get their attention and he was greeted by the blonde woman, whom recognized him. He couldn't recall her name as she quickly unlocked the door. Once he was inside and she re-locked the door she gave him a quick hug. "I'm so glad to see you again! You must be feeling better to be out and about. We're getting ready for the lunch crowd........ Murdock!..... Your friend is here!"

Murdock walked out wiping his hands on an apron and a smile instantly lit up his face at the sight of Face standing in the door, then his looked turned into concern. "Face! It's great to see you!....... Is everything okay?"

Murdock carefully gave Face a quick hug, careful not to press against his stomach. Face slapped Murdock on the back as he accepted the hug. "Yeah, everything's fine...... Gave the keepers the slip and thought we could spend the day together like old times."

"You had a doctor's appointment today. Don't tell me you skipped out on it."

"Okay, I won't tell you."

Murdock folded his arms and shook his head ruefully with a sigh. He slowly put an arm around Face's shoulder to guide him into the inner part of the restaurant. "You're going to reschedule that appointment and I can't leave Sal and Gina alone with the lunch crowd."

Gina smiled and said, "If you want to take off and spend the day with your friend, go ahead. Papa and I can handle it. You two are real heroes and Murdock has refused everything we offered him in gratitude in helping save us all from...from......"

Gina faltered. That night was still a difficult thing for her to deal with and Murdock dropped his arm from around Face's shoulder to give her a protective hug. She clamored for him for a moment as Murdock shushed her. "Shhhh...... It's all right Gina. They can't hurt any of us again."

Gina closed her eyes fighting back the tears for a moment and Face felt sorry for her. She wasn't used to seeing people hurt and he was glad for her. But he wasn't used to getting hurt like that either. Face looked down and remembered what his hands and shirt looked like covered with his own blood and pieces of his own flesh. He jerked his head up to tear himself from the memory. When he looked at Gina still clinging to Murdock, he realized they were standing within several feet of where he had been shot and he flinched at the echo of the sound of the gun going off in his memory. Gina was calming own and Face reminded himself to breathe. He placed a comforting hand on Gina's arm and said, "Everything is okay and it worked out."

Gina withdrew from Murdock's embrace and she accepted a little kiss from Murdock before he released her. Face smiled as Murdock locked eyes with her and placed a loving hand on the side of her face before letting go of her. Gina was in love with Murdock. It was plain to see. Gina regained her composure but Murdock still held her hand in case she needed his support once again. "You go with your friend and have a good time. Me and Papa can call my Aunt Rosia to help out today."

"You sure?"

"Take my word for it. You've more than earned it and I know Papa will insist on it."

"Papa will insist on what?"

They all turned to see Sal exiting the kitchen. He froze when he recognized Face. "Aaaaahhh! One of the heroes has come to pay us a visit at last!...... Come ! Come!..... Sit!..... Anything you want is on the house forever. I insist."

Murdock grinned as Sal's Italian accent thickened in excitement and Face was helpless against Sal's enthusiasm. Face reluctantly sat down as Sal excitedly went through the menu off the top of his head. Murdock reeled the old man in. "Sal..... Sal..... Sal..... He can't eat any of that yet."

"Well, why not?"

Face smiled weakly. "I can't eat anything solid till doc tells me it's okay."

Sal looked apologetic as he remembered Face has been shot in the belly. Sal followed Face's condition like a religion during his hospitalization and knew that bullet ripped up his intestines pretty bad. Sal wasn't going to let that stop him from giving his hero some sort of nourishment. He was a restaurant owner and what would his beloved Mamma think if someone walked out without eating something. "How about I whip up a nice homemade soup for you."

Something in the old mans demeanor made it impossible for Face to refuse and he slowly nodded. Murdock called after Sal as he raced into the kitchen. "Don't make it too rich.... Okay, Sal?"

Gina pulled out a chair and looked at Murdock. "Sit down. You are not allowed to work today or I'll have you fired. Give me the apron."

Murdock twitched his mouth in amusement and removed his apron. Gina accepted it and playfully poked him in the ribs before following her father into the kitchen.

Murdock sighed and sat down with Face watching him. "So when are you going to break up with her?"

Murdock swung his head around in surprise. He reminded himself who he was with. He could not fool Face for a minute and he slumped a little with his arms on the table. "She's a great girl but.... I dunno..... There's something missin' and I can't get in sync with her..... I wanna break it off with her now but you saw how she was a minute ago. I can't do that to her until I know she's all right about what happened here."

Face nodded sympathetically. "The sooner you do it the better you both'll be...."

"I know......... Are you okay being here?"

Face shrugged as he avoided looking at the place where he fell to the floor after he had been shot. "I'm okay with it. It's not as bad as I expected it to be. I hardly remember most of it."

Murdock looked at him skeptically but decided not to push the issue in the restaurant. Gina returned with a couple of tall glasses of tea for the two men. She set them on the table and rested her hand on Murdock's shoulder. "So what are you two going to do with your day?"

Face smiled at Murdock's guilt ridden eyes as Gina rubbed his shoulders a little. He could tell that Murdock had slept with her and that was going to make things more difficult for him when he breaks up with her. Face looked at Gina with a flashy smile and said, "I think I'd like to look around town. We've been here for a few months now and I haven't been to any of the sites."

Gina went to the register counter and pulled out a pamphlet from the shelf below. "This will help you decide. Washington is so large that you have to carefully plan where you're going or you won't get anywhere."

Face accepted the tourist-y type pamphlet that turned out to be a cartoon map of all the main points of interest in DC. He pretended to be interested in the map. "Thank you. I'm sure we can find a few things to do."

Face was now beginning to understand why Murdock didn't feel like he could connect with her. What you saw of Gina was what you got. She was simple and sweet. Nothing complicated. "I'll see how Papa's coming along with your soup."

Face smiled sadly as Gina gave Murdock a little peck on the forehead before leaving them alone once again. Murdock looked perfectly miserable and Face opened the pamphlet to try to distract him a little. He missed treating Murdock with little day trips and little outings for hamburgers and sodas. It was something they both looked forward to and needed. Face wanted to visit the Smithsonian but he thought Murdock could use a bit of cheering up and some advice on how to go about breaking up with Gina. A museum wasn't the place to speak to him about that. They needed to be out in the open and have the ability to get away from people when they got too close. He imagined that Murdock would want to press him about the shooting too and he would feel a bit more comfortable outdoors if the topic came up. "Let's go to the Washington Mall. We can hit a lot of the major sites at once."

Murdock looked up from stirring his tea and he sadly smirked. "There's a lot of walking involved...... You think you can handle it?"

Face shrugged. "We'll take it as it comes. Okay?"

Sal came out with a tray of two very large bowls of hot steaming bowls of soup complete with a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven. "I fixed my Momma's mushroom soup. She always made a lot of it when I was sick as a boy. It always made me feel better."

Murdock nodded to answer Face's question. "That's great Sal. I love Mamma's recipes..... Wait till you taste it Face. You'll love it."

"I'm sure I will. Anything'll beat BA and Hannibal's cooking."

Murdock chuckled as Sal placed the bowls before them. Sal waited patiently as Face and Murdock sampled the soup. Face was very impressed with what Sal had done with the mushrooms. Mushrooms weren't his favorite food but he liked this as he quickly dug into the soup after the first taste. He was starved for flavors as he savored the creamy taste of the soup with a hint of roasted garlic, rosemary and so many other herbs and spices blended across his tongue. He almost forgot the other two men's presence as he heard Sal's hearty laugh. Murdock looked over at Sal who was very pleased with Face's reaction. "I think he likes it, Sal."

Face gave an embarrassed grin and swallowed another mouthful. "This is heavenly..... The best thing that I've had in a long time."

"I prepare a batch for you to take home with you."

Face nodded appreciatively as he placed another spoonful in his mouth."

Murdock pat Face's knee. "Slow down. You're going to get sick if you continue eating that fast. There's always more."

Face nodded and tore off a piece of bread to dip into the soup. The bread was every bit as divine as the soup and it was a pity because he could only have a few bites of solid food at a time. He slowed down as Murdock told him to and savored the bread in his mouth. Murdock enjoyed watching Face taking a lot of pleasure from the simple meal. Once they were finished with the meal, Sal and Gina saw them off with a large thermos of the soup for Face.

They went to Murdock's apartment so that Murdock could change out of his work clothes. Face hadn't been to his apartment for more than a few minutes at a time. Murdock took his time in changing his clothes and he hollered from the bedroom, "I've been meaning to tell you I've packed everything from the warehouse before I came out here to find you when Stockwell got you guys. Some of the boxes are in the closet by the door. I thought you might want to keep everything here for now..... I don't mind keeping it for you."

Face's curiosity was up. He hadn't thought of any of his stuff they left in the warehouse in years and Murdock went through the trouble of bringing it all the way from LA. He thought it deserved a peek. He pulled out the smallest box that had his name on it. It was a bit heavy for it's size and he was very careful not to strain himself. He carefully opened the box. The box was packed with books and large bag of coins he had collected in the orphanage. He picked up the bag that contained two quarts of coins he had pinched, filched, traded for and conned. He smiled as he opened the cloth bag and pulled out a handful of coins.

They were mostly common foreign currency but when he was a boy he thought if he had a coin from every country he would have all the money in the world. It was an obsession for about six years and he would beg every foreign visitor to the church and orphanage for a coin for his collection. He out grew it when he was thirteen. He was a teenager and teenager didn't do silly things like that. Face chuckled as he rummaged through the coins picking out special coins, looking at them and returning it to fish out another one. He could only remember how he came into possession of a few of them.

Murdock leaned against the door jam watching Face go through the coins. It was good to see Face happy and he watched him till Face noticed him standing there. He quickly returned the coins to the bag. "My coin collection from when I was a kid. You ready?"

Murdock regretted that Face noticed him. He seemed very happy for a few minutes. It was the first time he's seen Face relaxed since they've been in DC. "I'm going to put the soup in a smaller container for later. Sal gave us way too much. I'll fix a couple of sandwiches for me so the soup will be all yours. You stay put. I'll take care of it."

Face nodded and returned to the rest of the contents in the box. "Thanks Murdock."

"Don't try to put the box back. I'll do it. You shouldn't have carried it to start with."

"Yes Mom!"

Murdock laughed as he disappeared into the kitchen.

Face began to look at some of the books. His communion bible, a few religious texts that were required reading at the catholic school he attended and a few of diaries. The sisters encouraged the children to keep a journal or diary. He picked up the oldest and grinned broadly and opened it. It revealed the awkward script of a seven-year-old Templeton Peck and he read a random passage. "I was sick again today. I like it when Sister Alberta helps me with my homework in bed. She is very nice. She brings me popsickles to make my throat feel better."

He recalled that he was sick a lot during the first few years he was in the orphanage. He swallowed hard as it occurred to him that was the reason why he wasn't adopted. No one wanted to adopt a sickly child and by the time he got where he wasn't sick all the time he was too old to stand a good chance of being adopted.

He sighed heavily as he returned the diary back and picked up the last one. He expected this one to be another childhood diary but instead it was his diary from Vietnam. His thoughts of his childhood in the orphanage were abruptly cut short and completely forgotten. Murdock's voice interrupted his thoughts before he could form them. He quickly tucked the diary into his jacket. He didn't mind Murdock finding the rest of his stuff, not that Murdock would go through his stuff. He didn't want Murdock to find this. "Hey Face?.... You think you can handle coffee now?"

".....uhm..... Y-yeah.... I-I guess I can have a few swallows."

Murdock bounded to the door with a bag. "Lets go before the lunch traffic hits..... don't worry about that. I'll take care of that when I get back."

Face forced a smile on his lips and followed Murdock down stairs to the car.

They joined in with the tourists and blended in with them. Even though Face had some serious reservations about taking the White House Tour, he did it to humor Murdock. The diary in his jacket was beginning to weigh on him as he recalled some of the things he had put in it. He looked up at Murdock who was being coaxed down from the lap of the Lincoln memorial by the park's security. He couldn't help but to chuckle as the exasperated security people pulled him down and Face stepped up to them. "I'm sorry. He got away from me..... He usually behaves himself when he's out in public but my brother's....... a little slow. I promise it won't happen again.... Isn't that right Tommy?"

The security person let go of Murdock and his shoulders sagged, looking ashamed. Murdock gave a goofy frown and nodded slowly. "I promise not to climb on the statue again."

The security people looked sympathetic at Face. "We understand. Just don't let him climb on the monuments. Not only can he hurt himself, the next guard may not be as tolerant."

Face nodded eagerly and grabbed Murdock by the elbow giving it a firm shake. "You hear that Tommy? You shouldn't climb on everything you see. It's a bad thing you did."

"Hey..... go easy on him. He didn't harm anything. Just keep a closer eye on him."

Murdock began to screw up his face and started to cry. "I'm sorry Danny. I didn't mean to make you mad. I promise not to do it again. You're still taking me Disney next month aren't you? You promised!"

Face placed a patient arm around Murdock and steered him clear of the guards. "I'm not mad at you. You could have hurt yourself. You scared me......" Face yelled back to the two men who pulled Murdock down from Lincoln's lap. "Thanks for your help!"

Once they were well out of hearing range Face growled at Murdock as he was snickering. "What are you trying to do? Get me caught and sent back to Langley?"

"I'm sorry Face... it was too good to pass up. I guess I should be more careful because this is your day. We have a few hours of daylight left. Lets see that map and see what else we can do."

Face fished out the map and unfolded it. They've already seen everything they wanted to see within the area. Murdock looked over his shoulder and his eyes zeroed in on a place he wanted to go since he moved to DC but didn't want to go by himself. Face noticed Murdock's demeanor had drastically changed and he quickly followed Murdock's eyes to where he was looking on the map, The Vietnam War Memorial. Face felt clammy and swallowed hard. "You wanna go to the Wall?"

"No.......Not today."

"You want to go."

"Not today!"

Face studied Murdock for a moment and could tell he really wanted to go. He didn't really want to go but something within him wanted to..... no...... needed to. He looked at Murdock hopping from foot to foot nervously and avoiding looking at him directly. Face refolded the map and grabbed Murdock by the elbow. "C'mon, we're going.......... I ........need to see it........ and I know you do too."

Murdock was stunned speechless as he allowed Face to drag him along till he recovered his senses enough to walk beside Face unassisted.

They were silent during the ten-minute walk to the Vietnam Memorial area. Murdock gasped at the sea of graves of Arlington seen in the distance and Face didn't even glance over to him. Face didn't want to acknowledge the graves. They made a note of the number of people gathering in the area where the Wall was located. Face glanced over at Murdock as they followed the crowd filing into the entrance. Murdock looked like he was having second thoughts but was determined to do this as he looked around wildly. Face placed his hand on his shoulder and that calmed him down. They saw a lot of people dressed in fatigues and uniforms that looked old and worn, like their owners. Some of them looked every bit as hesitant as they were and

Face looked around for security people and making note of all the ideal places to make a quick get away if the need should arise. But his mind froze when he saw the black marble rise gradually out of the side of the hill as they approached. Both men stopped in their tracks to take it all in at once. "It's all right sons...."

They both turned around to see a weather beaten man in a wheelchair. His legs were withered from the lack of use due to years of paralyzation. His clothes looked like they've seen better days and Face expected to see missing teeth when he smiled at them. But the man had all his teeth. It took the three men a few moments to realize they all were about the same age and the man pointed to the wall. "It's always hard at first.........Some people say once you've been to it, you can't get enough of it. Other's say once is all it takes....... Me? ....... I come here about two or three times a week..... I guess some of us have more demons than most but don't feel sorry for me.... No siree. The wall and I are friends. I know every square inch of her. C'mon, I'll introduce you to her...... M'name's Digger....."

Both Face and Murdock stared dumfounded at Digger as he expertly wheeled his chair around them leading them down the path. Face was the first to find his voice. ".... I'm Face and this is Murdock...."

Digger nodded. "Pleased to meet you and let's not ask about each others units and where we were stationed at█that's all nonsense..... You're here for her. Talk to her and she'll listen and she'll listen good."

Murdock grinned a little at the funny looking man in the wheelchair who was their self appointed guide. The man seemed possessed and Murdock wondered what were his demons that he picked up along the way during the war. He felt a comrade-ship with this man as he relaxed under Face's touch. He knew they shared a kinship as he glances at the man's crazed but determined eyes. He seemed to be determined to live and that was all he had. Murdock leaned into Face's touch and thought he was lucky to have more in his life than an inanimate object. Before they realized it they were almost to the halfway mark and Murdock caught his reflection out of the corner of his eyes. He stopped to look at himself beyond the names engraved in the shiny black marble.

Face stopped with him, thinking Murdock recognized a name. He eyed Murdock closely while looking for the name he thought Murdock might have notice but he saw none that he knew. The look on Murdock's face compelled him to hold his question for later. He began to massage where his hand rested on Murdock's shoulder.

Murdock couldn't tear his eyes away from the reflection of himself in the black marble. "I need to be alone." His voice sounded like an echo but full of conviction. Face stared at Murdock for a moment before squeezing his friend's shoulder firmly. "Okay..... I won't be far away."

Murdock barely nodded and Face reluctantly stepped back from Murdock. Murdock continued to stare at his reflection with Face's behind him thinking, ╬That's the way things have always been between me and Face. Always standing behind me ready to catch me if I should fall.'

Digger rolled up next to Face and he was almost startled by his sudden reappearance. "The wall's talkin' to him. Let him be. This is his sacred time...... you need to find your own sacred time. The wall will speak to you too. It speaks to everyone if they give it a chance."

Face sighed and saw that Murdock really wanted to be alone and he walked a little ways with Digger but not far from Murdock. "You carry your friend around a lot, doncha?"

Face stared blankly at the man and wondered how did he know that about them.

Digger rolled closer to the monument and leaned over precariously to upright a picture that had been blown over by the breeze. With this done he returned next to Face with a look of satisfaction. Face looked at the picture of two boys with an arm draped over the other's shoulders. He picture was tattered and wrinkled with a tint of yellow. There were hundreds of items left at the foot of the wall; flowers, medals, pictures, stuffed animals, a set of old car keys, a pair of combat boots, a birth announcement, letters and personal notes, pieces of shrapnel......

Digger grinned and whispered, "She's talkin' to you man. Listen to what she's tellin' you........ No.... don't look at me..... stay with the feelin'. I'll look after your friend till she's done tellin' you what she needs to tell you."

Digger rolled away as Face watched him in the reflective material. He had no idea what Digger was talking about and dismissed it as the ravings of a poor old soul. Digger reminded him of the old coot every town has that seem to know everyone's business but everyone paid no heed to. To get attention they would do things that no one could ignore. He looked down towards Murdock. Murdock hadn't moved and seemed oblivious of everyone around him. Face sighed and decided to give Murdock more space and strolled a little further up the pathway. He watched a small group of veterans hugging and holding each other through tears when they've found another fallen comrade's name and proceeded to make a rubbing of the name. Face was interested in the offerings left by the wall. He studied them and came across a picture of a very beautiful teenage girl in an elegant ballet costume with a pair of very used toe shoes propped against the picture. The picture had a note on it: Daddy, I made it! I was accepted in the Julliard School of Ballet last month. Mom says you would be so proud of me. I love you. Patricia.

Face's heart went out to that little girl in the picture. She couldn't have been more than an infant if she was even born before her father died. He was mesmerized by the picture, the note and the toe shoes, and he spoke on her father's behalf. "I couldn't be more proud."

Face jerked his head up in surprise and looked about himself in confusion. Murdock was still communing in his spot and Digger was close to Murdock, looking after him like he promised. But Digger was looking over at Face. Digger's wild eyes were laughing at him, seeming to say, ╬I toldja so.'

Digger nodded encouragement to him and waved him to go on. He ignored Digger and turned away. He sighed and looked up at the names trying to figure out who was Patricia's father. There were too many names. Anyone of them could be him and he gave up and looked at the other items left behind.

He came across an opium pipe, a helmet, a deck of cards, a pack of cigarettes, a handful of poker chips and bottle of Jack Daniels all lumped into a nice little heap. He tried to imagine the story or stories behind the collection of items. He smiled at the images his mind conjured up. It was probably similar to a common night he had experienced before he joined up with Hannibal and imagined it was a gambling debt being paid off. He bent over to straighten the pile of oddities and he felt his diary shift beneath his jacket. He froze for a second and placed his hand over the diary to keep it from falling out as he stood back up. He pulled it out and looked at it. It hadn't been opened since the last entry was made over fifteen years ago. Only days before they were captured and thrown into the stockade. He didn't want to read it or be reminded of the past. It was dead and gone. The small book felt heavy and he thought, ╬This is the perfect place to leave this.'

He looked up and down the foot of the wall trying to find just the right place to leave it. He didn't want it to be mistaken for a gift to someone. He knew a lot of the names written within the pages of the diary were on the wall somewhere. He looked at the corner of the wall about a half a dozen times before he thought that would be the place to leave it. Face forgot about Murdock for the time being and made his way to the corner of the monument. He was about to prop it up against the corner when he had this overwhelming desire to read at least one page of the diary. He struggled between reading and not reading a page of it for several long moments. His curiosity won out.

He opened it reverently and read the first passage his eyes fell upon. "I killed my first gook in hand-to-hand combat today. I thought he had me for sure and he would have if I hadn't been wearing my pack. The bastard came up and rushed me from the side with a knife. I swung around to see what Allen was yelling at me about and the knife went into my pack. Several other gooks came out charging at us. None of them had guns. Shit! They were all crazy. The knife fell out of my pack and I managed to grab it before he could and stabbed him in the throat. I didn't mean to do it but it was either him or me. I watched him die slowly while drowning in his own blood. I wanted to help him but everyone else was cheering me and how would that look if I tried to help the one that tried to kill me? All of the gooks were killed and only one of us was wounded. The look that gook gave me as he died told me it was nothing personal. Nothing about this war is personal anymore."

The memories flooded back. The crimson color of blood against skin and the jungle floor and the smell of it. The air was heavy with the smell of warm blood in the thick jungle air. The laughter of his unit around him as the men that they've been told were his enemies lay dying at his feet. He wanted to help them so bad but he couldn't.

Face slammed the diary shut and wanted to throw it at the wall. He sucked in a sharp breath and regained control of himself because his stomach was hurting. His gunshot wound brought him back to reality and wondered if the Vietnamese soldier felt the way he felt when he was lying on the kitchen floor of the restaurant. Only that soldier didn't have friends around to try to keep him alive. His friends were all dead or dying right along next to him. It was hopeless for him and he knew it. Face had his friends and people working to keep him alive and to get him out of there. He had hope. He always had hope when Murdock was nearby. He tried not to think of the pain and kept as quiet as possible so Murdock could concentrate. Murdock knew what needed to be done and Face couldn't distract him. He wanted to talk to Murdock but he knew the coke-head wanted an excuse to finish him off. He didn't want to die and if he died Murdock would go berserk and get himself killed along with everyone else. So he stayed quiet. Murdock wouldn't let him die and when Hannibal came he knew he would take care of everything. Hannibal always knew what to do when things didn't look good.

Face looked at the diary and thought the rest of it should remain unread. He propped the diary against the corner where there were no names listed. He stood back and looked at the little book sitting alone in the corner. It seemed so insignificant against the great marble slabs. He took a deep breath and looked up to see his reflection in the corner and he saw Murdock standing behind him. He spun around so fast that he hurt his stomach with the sudden movement. He gasped at the pain and hugged his stomach. Murdock leapt forward to support him before he toppled over. It took him a few moments to recover and Murdock was strong enough to hold him up. "Easy does it Muchacho. You know what the doc said about taking it easy and I think spinning is on the list of ╬don'ts' for sure."

Face caught his breath and slowly straightened up as the pain ebbed away. Face took a tentative step and was relieved that it didn't hurt that much. Murdock pat Face on the back and Face smiled at him. "You want to go home now?"

Murdock nodded. "I'll drop you off at Langley. I want to make sure you get there safely and also make sure you get another doctor's appointment."

Face nodded in agreement. "I promise to make another appointment. You can just drop me off at the end of the driveway."

"Oh, no you don't. I'm going with you. I'll take some of the heat that you're gonna get from Stockwell. He's gonna blow his stack for sure when you go back there."

"My point exactly. I'm already a target and I don't want you caught in his cross-hairs, too."

"I already am, so shut up and let's go..... Where's Digger? I wanna say goodbye to him."

They both looked around and Digger was nowhere to be found. They looked for him for several minutes before Murdock waved to Face. "C'mon..... I don't think he wants to be found."

Face gave Murdock a quizzical look. Murdock shrugged. "Don't ask..... I just know how he's thinkin'."

Face gave Murdock's back a friendly slap before draping his arm around Murdock's shoulders to walk back to the car. "I wasn't going to say anything, buddy. Lets get back and get it over with, okay. The sooner we get back, the sooner Stockwell's lecture will be over with......... You okay?...... You really zoned out there for a while."

Murdock grinned a little and nodded.

Part 4

The spring days were getting warmer and longer, and the birds were gathering nesting material wherever they could find it. One particular sparrow was determined to nest in a hanging planter, despite the groundskeeper's effort to dissuade it. After watching the groundskeeper clear out the partially built nest for the second time Murdock decided to step in to defend the little bird's choice of nesting place. He smiled as he looked out the kitchen window to see the sparrow busy at rebuilding her nest. The little bird reminded him so much of Face. Determined and stubborn with a spirit that is unique to Face and the sparrow.

His attention was diverted from the flitting little bird to his daughter playing at his feet in her pajamas. Cassy was an early riser and he hoped she will grow out it and real soon. She woke up earlier than usual and BA would be joining them in a short time. He watched Cassy pull the pots and pans out of the cabinet as he cooked a simple breakfast of cream of wheat for the three of them. To his relief, Yvonne had gotten the hint that the morning was for him and his daughter, and left Cassy alone until everyone left for their daily visit to their friend in the hospital. Since Yvonne started leaving them alone in the mornings, this time in the kitchen had became more exclusive to Murdock, BA and Cassy.

Murdock wished the hospital would allow kids to visit in the psyche ward but even if they were allowed, he didn't think Face would want that. Face was doing very well considering what he'd been through in the recent weeks. In the quiet reprieve of the morning Murdock had been playing out the events of the past year off and on since Face had been committed. The warning signs have been there for all to see if they had only stopped and opened their eyes and looked. But they were all caught up in their own private dramas. BA had caught on to Face's problems but didn't know how deep they ran. Murdock sighed as he glanced down at Cassy. "Still waters run deep, right baby?"

Cassy followed her father's voice and she looked at him expectantly, dropping the lid of a saucepan. Murdock smiled and set the pan of cream of wheat to the back of the stove to cool. He flipped a dishtowel over on his shoulder and picked her up. He glanced over at the steaming pot and determined that it would take a short time for it to cool enough for Cassy to eat it. The sparrow seemed to be inviting them outside to enjoy the morning air. Murdock removed his bathrobe and wrapped it around Cassy before stepping out because it was a bit chilly. He sat down on the patio chair and pointed out the birds going about their morning routine. "Look at the little bird. See she's building a home so she can have her babies....... Oh, there she goes! Watch her fly......."

Murdock watched the sparrow disappear into the distant and kissed Cassy on her forehead before inhaling the scent of her hair deeply. Her sweet baby smell was comforting to him. Soon she will be walking and talking. He had missed the first eleven months of her life. Missed many milestones and he was more than a bit troubled that Jody did not tell him she was pregnant with his baby. Now that he had sometime to think about it, he felt he had been cheated out of so many opportunities. He gazed at his daughter in his arms and ran his hand through her hair. She had the misfortune to inherit his fine unmanageable hair along with so many other traits. He smiled sadly as she looked up at him with her soulful brown eyes full of curiosity. He tapped the edge of her nose making a popping sound for effects and Cassy grabbed his hand and babbled pseudo words and syllables. Her first birthday was four days away and her grandfather, an aunt and a young cousin were going to be flown in for the special event. A month had passed since she had come into their lives and now that he had a grip on reality and Jody's family has had sometime to grieve for their loss, he had questions that needed to be answered. Questions that only Jody's father and sister may know the answers to.

The bird had returned with some more nesting material and Cassy noticed it. She watched the bird with intent and pointed at it. Murdock pulled the bathrobe around her snugly, thinking, ╬Why didn't you tell me Jody? Why did I have to find out the way I did? I wouldn't have taken her from you. I could have been there for both of you if I had known. Why did you have to die for me to find out that I had a daughter?' Cassy began to reach for the sparrow and Murdock sighed. He watched her intensity in observing the bird's activities and smiled proudly. She definitely was intelligent and patient. Which was going to be a good thing in the future with parents like him and BA. "You like the bird? Daddy can fly but not like a bird. Someday Daddy will teach you to fly. Would you like that? Would you like for Daddy to teach you to fly?"

"As long as she doesn't expect me go with her."

Murdock looked up to see BA standing at the kitchen patio door. "G'morning.....When she does take up flying, you're going to have to get over your fear of it."

"Hrmph......... She can fly all she wants if that's what she wants to do but I'm staying on the ground."

Murdock making airplane noises, handed Cassy to BA. "Breakfast should be cooled enough....... I'm going to visit Face right after breakfast. Want to come with?"

BA's eyes fell to the ground momentarily and he slowly nodded. Murdock sighed sympathetically and followed BA back to the kitchen with his mind still on Jody. BA placed Murdock's robe on the back of a chair and set Cassy in her high chair as Murdock began to dish up their breakfast. Once the bowls were set on the table Murdock put his robe back on and sat down. "I thought you weren't beating yourself up over Face any longer?.........Let Daddy put your bib on you Cassy.......... It isn't your fault. Face said so himself. If you are bent on blaming yourself, we all share in the responsibility in neglecting him. And if there's a reason for it, it's because of me. I've been the center of his attention for years."

BA looked away angered. Murdock sweetened Cassy's hot cereal a little and began to spoon feed it to her. "If you're going to mad, be mad for the right reason...... so what is it that you're mad about."

BA picked at his breakfast with his spoon and said, "It should have been me doing that."

"Doing what?"

"Doing what Face did for you."

Murdock paused in his feeding of Cassy and stared at BA long and hard. Cassy grasped the spoon in her father's hand and pulled at it. Murdock returned to the feeding of his daughter, stealing glances at BA. He wanted to talk to BA about his feelings about Jody and the circumstances of how Cassy came to be with them. He would have to discuss this with him before the Klienmans arrived for the birthday celebration but not now. Murdock felt deeply for BA. Not only had BA had been suffering in silence, afraid to let his true feelings be known towards him but felt powerless to help him in the way he wanted. He began to understand BA's past behavior towards Face's pampering and tolerance of his irrational whims over the years. BA had been jealous of Face's relationship and closeness to him. BA's guilt was a lot more complex and went deeper than he initially thought. Guilt from the jealously; guilt for not stepping forward proclaiming his feelings towards Murdock a lot sooner; guilt for not being the one to give Murdock the primary care that he received; guilt for being so hard on Face and possibly still feeling guilt over thinking he caused Face's current state. "You were there for me all the time, BA. You stopped me when I went too far in my head. ........ Face did what he thought was best in indulging me in everything that popped in my head. He let my brain rattle until I wasn't afraid anymore. He didn't understand what was going on but he did what he thought was best. You kept bringing me back when I got too out of whack."

Murdock wanted to say so much more but they had to be careful. Murdock silently cursed the house that they were in and all the bugs and surveillance cameras posted throughout it. He needed to reassure BA and he couldn't without risking exposure of their secret. They both looked at the reason why they couldn't reveal that secret just yet. Cassy smacked her mouth while looking down at the floor for one of many toys that were scattered about. Cassy's toys were scattered throughout the common area of the Langley compound. It was becoming a everyday sight. Murdock expected Stockwell to say something about it but was surprised when Stockwell carefully sidestepped or stepped over the many toys without making a comment. Murdock scooped up the toy handing it to Cassy. "We'll talk about this more later and it's NOT YOUR FAULT. None of it is."

"Let's drop it before we say something we shouldn't."

BA glanced at the hidden camera and Murdock plastered on a big fake smile and waved enthusiastically at it before turning his back to it. He threw BA a glance reinforcing his last statement of this discussion not being over.

Agent Fong transferred about a week ago and now agent Harrison stepped into the role of Abel nine as chief surveillance officer of Stockwell's operation. Fong had given him very sufficient warnings of the A-Team's antics and boldness. In the short time he had been there it didn't take long to discover that the guards had a fairly large betting pool about different aspects of the A-Team's lives and one of the ongoing bets is whether or not any of them were ╬queers.' After the infamous taped kiss between Baracus and Murdock the debate and the betting pool really heated up on whether they were just playing or whether it was the real thing. The ╬queer' betting pool was now a little more than three hundred dollars, the largest pot in the history of Langley that didn't involve a sport. Harrison was going to allow the betting to stand because it gave the men something to look forward to and kept morale up. However, the betting pool that involved the very personal nature of a person's sexual orientation made him uncomfortable.

Harrison decided to come in a few hours earlier every morning to catch up on his new job by reading up on past reports and view past surveillance tapes at random to get a feel for the people he would be watching. On almost every tape he viewed, one of them looked right at the camera and waved, blew kisses or stuck their tongues out at it. Very childish antics but they were letting everyone know they were aware of the guards watching every move they made. Harrison shut off the VCR as the tape showing Murdock planting a big wet kiss on the camera lens. It wasn't something he needed to see this early in the morning. He didn't understand why Stockwell insisted on having camera surveillance on them twenty-four hours a day. It was a waste of time since it was very obvious that they knew they were being watched and apparently Stockwell trusted them enough to let them come and go as they pleased in recent weeks. They observed Carla's curfew religiously and they showed no signs of flight.

Harrison sipped his coffee and looked at the live feed surveillance throughout the compound. He grinned at Murdock's daughter pulling out everything in the lower cabinets. Typical toddler activity. Murdock was obviously a good father as he tolerated the clattering of the pots, pans and lids. Harrison watched for a bit longer and noticed that Carla was stepping out of Hannibal's room wearing a bathrobe on another monitor. He was well aware of Carla's involvement with Smith, everyone was. Their engagement had been the main topic of discussion among the guards.

Harrison thought the guards were worse than a bunch of bored housewives when it came to gossip. He listened to the gossip to get a feel for the place and the people and placed a few friendly bets in the betting pool. He didn't approve of the betting or the gossip but he liked the relaxed atmosphere and he was determined to maintain it. He was willing to overlook the bets and gossip as long as it didn't go too far.

He looked back over to the other monitor to see Captain Murdock wrapping his daughter up in his bathrobe to go outside and take in the morning air. Harrison sighed. These men were not the hardened criminals he had expected and they didn't need to be watched. They posed very little flight risk in his opinion and he was going to have a talk with Stockwell about reassessing the need for internal surveillance. The team was very aware of the surveillance and they were very careful about what they said and did within the vicinity of the bugs and cameras. It was pointless to go on because it was a waste of man hours and equipment maintenance. All they were recording were typical everyday activities of what seemed like an odd extended family that happened to live under one roof. They've already proven that they could take off anytime they pleased based on past reports. They always came back and that was before Carla became involved with Col. Smith, Capt. Murdock's daughter arrived, and Lt. Peck's hospitalization.

The only one who didn't seem to have a reason to stay is Sgt. Baracus....... Unless the rumors were true about him and Murdock and they weren't acting on the tapes that had been mysteriously erased. He glanced at the monitor once more and speak of the devil himself. Baracus had joined the Captain and his daughter and was holding the toddler. He watched them for a short time and decided that based on what he read in the reports so far and the fact they had stuck together over the years since breaking out of Ft. Bragg, they were going to remain together. He doubted that Baracus was gay and if he were, he was the strangest gay guy Harrison had ever seen. Harrison sighed and turned off the monitors one by one when he saw Carla, now dressed, walking arm in arm with Smith towards the kitchen for breakfast. He only kept the outside monitors on to view the grounds. He recorded random clips off of past tapes and prepared to argue his case to Stockwell about discontinuing the surveillance inside the house. He made a point of adding Murdock kissing the camera lens because that clip would be useful in proving his point.

Hannibal knocked at the door softly and when there was no answer he glanced at Carla as he cracked the door open a little. Face was in bed and had his eyes closed. Hannibal carefully pushed the door open to allow himself and Carla to enter. He was relieved to see that Face was letting up on making paper cranes and other origami animals. Murdock had been toting them off to Langley as he made them to unclutter his hospital room. Carla noted the dark circles and gaunt look about Face. He was having a difficult time and now she understood Hannibal's concerns towards him. Face had been awake recently. His half eaten breakfast left on the tray and the book balanced precariously in his hand was evident of that. The book looked as if were going to fall onto the floor any moment and Hannibal attempted to slide it out of Face's hand. Face immediately stirred and opened his eyes looking for the person that was taking his book. He relaxed when he saw it was Hannibal. "Sorry kid, didn't mean to wake you."

"No.....I wasn't asleep....... Just trying to clear my head a little bit........... Carla?"

Face sat up and ran his hand through his hair, self conscious of his appearance and the crumpled state of his pajamas and bedding. Hannibal adjusted his blankets as Face smoothed his hair and clothes to make himself a bit more presentable. "I didn't know you were coming."

Carla smiled as Face and Hannibal worked together in making Face more presentable and took his outstretched hand in hers. "Hope you don't mind me dropping in on you."

Face savored the non-clinical touch and reluctantly released her hand after they exchanged an affectionate squeeze. "No. I don't mind. It's good to see a fresh face around here."

Face seemed to be in a conversational mood and Hannibal was relieved. Carla sat down in the nearest chair. "I would have come sooner but I thought you would be a bit overwhelmed with everything."

Face nodded and he gave a tired sheepish grin. "I really didn't want anyone to see me like this."

"Must have been embarrassing."

"Yeah.......... Very. And it still is a little."

Face relaxed as Carla smiled warmly at him. He settled back against the pillows and asked, "Anything new?"

Hannibal shook his head. "No kid. All is quiet on the home front for now. Just waiting for you to get well and rejoin us."

Face was so preoccupied with Carla that he had almost forgot that Hannibal was present. He was a bit startled. "The doc gave me a day pass for Cassy's birthday. It's only for a few hours but I'll be there for the big event."

Face's eyes twinkled in triumph when he made the little announcement because he earned it. He worked for it and earned it without scamming anyone for it. He didn't expect the present company to understand this but he knew Murdock would. It felt good to him to earn something as simple as a day pass to a toddler's birthday party. Carla picked up on how proud he was of himself and covered her confusion. "I'll make arrangements for the limo to pick you up. Just let me know the time."

Face nodded.

Carla noted that Face was avoiding looking at Hannibal. She grinned mischievously, winking at Hannibal before turning her attention to Face. "We almost have the paperwork done and it won't be too long before we'll be conducting classes. I don't see how any of you stood working with Hannibal for as long as you have. I've been working with him for less than two weeks and I'm ready to choke him already."

Face's eyes darted from Carla to Hannibal and back to Carla once again. Hannibal pretended innocence and Carla playfully glared at her fiancee before looking back at Face. Face gave Carla a sympathetic look and said, "If you break the engagement, would you consider going out with me when I get out of here?"

Hannibal's jaw drop as Carla accepted without hesitation. "It's a date but I think I'll keep him for a while longer. I think I have a chance to housebreak him."

Face enjoying the little joke added, "In that case make it a week after I get officially released."

"I don't mind saying this but I think we all should be candidates for sainthood now."

Hannibal rolled his eyes and said, "I'm not THAT bad....... Am I?"

Carla looked back over her shoulder at Hannibal as Face nodded eagerly. Hannibal noticed that Face was now looking him in the eyes without the wounded or accusation look..... At least for now. "Okay. Maybe I am as bad as you say I am but I get things done."

Face sighed and almost in his old manner of speaking with a slight whine to his tone, he said, "In the wake of a path of destruction, no matter the cost. Yeah...... I do have to admit that you get things done."

There was a lot of truth in what Face said and without meaning to, his words cut Hannibal like a knife. Face expected him to laugh and throw a come back line at him but when he didn't Face became uncomfortable. Face eyes followed Hannibal from where he was standing behind Carla and he sat down on the edge of the bed. Hannibal looked guiltily at him. "I'm sorry Face. I never realized that I was that overbearing."

"H-H-Hannibal I-I........"

"I'm sorry...... I will make amends to you. I don't know how but I'll figure out something."

"Hannibal......."

Face didn't know what to say as he listened to Hannibal apologize to him, not quite believing his ears. Freely admitting to him in front of Carla that he was fallible. "Hannibal ...... please don't do this."

Hannibal looked confused. "What?....... I shouldn't have pushed all of you so hard."

"Don't apologize........ That's not you. You're never sorry for anything and you shouldn't be............. I got myself into the mess I'm in now without any help from you.........."

Face clamed up when he remembered Carla was sitting next to him. "......... Don't apologize to me."

Hannibal was confused. "Alright......... but I'm not leaving today till I know things are okay between us."

Face sighed and slowly nodded. "Fair enough....."

"Why don't you want Hannibal's apology?"

Carla was asking a reasonable question and it deserved a reasonable answer. She held his hand and he liked that. He bit his lower lip as he struggled with his thoughts to find an answer that made sense. He stared at his hand in Carla's for a moment before steadily looking her in the eyes. "I don't know why.......... It doesn't feel right.............. It's not at all his fault that I'm where I'm at. It would be too easy to accept his apology and let him take the blame for everything. ....... I know....... I would have ended up in the mental ward eventually even if I hadn't met him. If anything, he's kept me out of one up till now....... I've never felt right in the head for as long as can remember."

Carla noticed Face's palms were starting to get sweaty. She looked to Hannibal to see if he wanted to handle him. Hannibal gave him a stern look. "I can't agree that you landed here on your own but if you want to believe that kid......I don't think I can convince you otherwise....... BUT..........but you aren't going through this alone. Being a team has kept us alive this long and as a team we are going to get you through this."

Face glared at him and Hannibal glared back. "You're not going to drive us away, Face. If you want to be mad, be mad. I don't have a problem with that but the harder you try to push us away the more we're going to be in your face, pushing you right back. I don't pretend to understand what's wrong with you and if you want to be mad at someone, be mad at me. I can take it. Just don't hold it back.......... Deal?"

Face looked away and withdrew his hand from Carla. Hannibal asked again. "Deal?"

Face reluctantly nodded

"Care to shake on that?"

Hannibal offered his hand and waited for Face to respond in kind. Face stared at the hand for several long moments and shot an angry glance at Hannibal who was still giving him a stern look, challenging him to accept the ╬deal.' Face stopped himself from shoving the hand away and looked Hannibal in the eyes with a scowl. He hesitantly placed his hand in Hannibal's and Hannibal gave it a firm shake but did not let go. Face swallowed hard, suddenly feeling childish, he withdrew his hand slowly from Hannibal's strong grip. "I won't apologize to you anymore as long as you don't give me a reason to apologize, kid. It's about time we all grew up some."

He got the message. Hannibal wasn't going to give up on him no matter what he did and he may as well accept it right now. Face hugged himself and he became aware of it when he felt Carla place a hand on his arm. He was embarrassed and he grasped her hand. He slowly exhaled the breath he didn't know he was holding and lifted his eyes till his met hers. He nodded to indicate that he was okay when he saw worry in her eyes and he glanced up at Hannibal. Face seemed to space out for several moments before he spoke. "Deal."

"Okay then.......Is there anything you want me to do for you?"

Face was relieved that Hannibal didn't want too dwell on his irrational bout of anger and he asked himself, ╬what do I want?' The response he got was too much to bear as he felt an emptiness well up inside him. His thoughts retreated to simpler things. Things he could handle at the moment. "..............Yeah."

"What is it?"

"Pick up a birthday gift for Cassy and have it wrapped for me."

Carla squeezed his arm and said, "Sure, we'll do that."

Face told them what he wanted for her and where they could find it. The remainder of Hannibal and Carla's visit was an exchange of controlled pleasantry between Face and Hannibal that made Face uncomfortable. He enjoyed Carla's company but was relieved when the left to go about their day and filling his request for Cassy's birthday gift. He hoped BA, Murdock and Frankie's visit would come later that morning so he could have the afternoon and evening to himself. He was angry at Hannibal but he felt strangely secure in his anger and he drew strength from it.

Part 5

Hannibal followed Carla out of Face's room and they walked arm in arm to the elevator. Hannibal was preoccupied with Face's mood and wondered how much more he could take, Face could take, they all could take. His thoughts wandered back to when Murdock had been committed. He had very little contact with Murdock during the first year of his institutionalization and relied upon reports from Face about how he was doing. He remembered the first time Face had scammed him out of the VA. Face dealt with Murdock when he became manic or panicky, which he was during the entire time during his first few outings. He had serious doubts that Murdock would ever be of any use to them anymore but Face kept insisting he would if he was given enough time. Face was the one with the faith. He believed or rather tricked Murdock into believing everything was going to be okay. If it were up to Hannibal, he would have restricted their contact to periodic visits between jobs. But Face kept the faith, he always had faith though he did complain and come across as being pessimistic.

Face draped an arm protectively around the frightened pilot as his eyes darted around wildly and spoke to him in soft and hushed tones. Hannibal looked on with skepticism as Face coaxed Murdock to eat his lunch. BA stuffed some French fries in his mouth exchanging a worried glance with Hannibal as he watched the heartbreaking scene unfold between the two younger men. Face had scammed Murdock out of the VA two hours earlier to give the rest of them an opportunity to spend time with him. They had been back in LA for six months and this was the first time Hannibal and BA had physical contact with the Captain. Face did keep them inform of his condition during his visits to the VA but nothing could have prepared the other two men for what they saw. Murdock was a walking skeleton and Face said he was much improved. If this was an improvement, he did not want to imagine what he looked like before Face started scamming his way into the VA. Murdock's eyes had an unearthly glow about them as they darted around him nervously. Face would take a small bite of food and place the remainder of it in Murdock's mouth to prove that it wasn't poisonous and he was fearful of contaminating the spoon with his hands if he touched it. This would be a ritual with them over the next year to get Murdock to eat while he was outside the VA. Face took a heaping spoonful of mashed potato with gravy and took a half a bite of it before offering it to Murdock. He praised him like he had pulled off a difficult flying maneuver when he hesitantly took the food in his mouth and looked around like someone was going to hit him. Hannibal thought if this was what they were going to go through just to get Murdock to eat he wondered how they were going to get him up in the air again. He was paranoid of being poisoned and he wouldn't eat unless someone he trusted would eat it first. Face smiled sadly at the wary look Hannibal was giving. "Good Murdock, good. This has got to be the most you've eaten in a long time...... Would you like some ice cream?"

Murdock responded in a quiet voice. "No........ Want some more potatoes."

Potatoes were Face's least favorite food but anything to get any food no matter what kind or how much inside Murdock as Hannibal offered his mashed potatoes to the cause. "How about it if Hannibal feeds you?"

Murdock sat up straighter and craned his neck towards Hannibal like a frightened squirrel. "It's okay buddy....... See? ......... Hannibal you've got to help me out here or I'm going to get fat here."

Face offered a spoon of food to Hannibal and Hannibal pulled back in disgust. BA looked annoyed at Hannibal. "Let me try."

"Eat a third of it..... Need to prove to him that we can eat the same food before he'll trust you."

Hannibal noted that Murdock didn't mind them talking about him as if he weren't there. He watched BA take a bite of food from the spoon, then Face took a nibble before Murdock would accept the remainder of the food on the spoon. Murdock watched carefully as he watched BA take a nibble and then Face, watching them carefully for signs of food poisoning before taking the final bit. Hannibal shook his head as he watched the young Captain accept the food while he nervously pulled at his hair at the stress of the change in routine, His hair was peppered with gray and white hairs that looked so out of place on the young man. He pulled a couple of strands out and Hannibal made a move to stop him. Face put a hand out to stop Hannibal. "No..... Let him do it. It keeps him calm and believe me, you don't want to upset him."

Hannibal sighed as he cringed inwardly as each strand of hair was plucked from his scalp. "We've gotta face it Face. He's not going to be ready for anything for a good long time."

Face shot an angry look at Hannibal. "He can and will do it...... You just need to give him a chance to get a hold onto whatever it is that is disturbing him."

"I don't know who's more delusional here, Murdock or you."

Face gave Murdock a pat on the back before changing places with BA. BA joined Face in being angry at Hannibal's attitude about Murdock. Face maintained physical contact with Murdock as he began to eat for BA. "Give him a little time. You haven't seen him since Vietnam. He's completely different when he's not scared. Right now he's just scared. Give him a chance to become reacquainted with you."

Murdock eyed Hannibal as he accepted a spoonful of food from BA while getting a little bit on the corner of his mouth. BA gently scraped the excess food from his mouth and coaxed him to clean the spoon before getting another spoonful. Hannibal sighed. "He can't even feed himself. How do expect him to be of any help?"

BA swallowed his half of the spoonful of food and offered the remainder to Murdock. "Do what Face says. Give him a chance to trust somebody again. ........ He can't be all crazy."

Murdock's eyes twinkled at BA's defense of him. BA smiled at him. He prayed that Face was right and he wanted to believe his own words, too. He wanted the old Murdock back so bad. ╬His' Murdock that could never be truly his. BA's fantasy world with Murdock came crashing down when he learned that Murdock had a complete mental breakdown. He put an arm around Murdock like Face had done earlier and was rewarded with Murdock leaning into his touch. This was more than he ever got from Murdock in the past. He felt guilty as he thought Murdock's insanity would work to his advantage. He could touch him in an affectionate manner without raising suspicions. Hannibal looked at Murdock enjoying his meal. "What do you want to do, Captain."

It took Murdock a few moments to realize he was being asked a question. Face smiled as Murdock opened his mouth expecting more food to be transported into it. He was already more relaxed than he had expected him to be during his first outing. Murdock looked around confused and Face asked, "Hannibal want's to know what you want to do?"

Murdock looked from man to man and calmly said, "I want to fly."

He said it with such conviction that they all thought he was sane once again but it was fleeting. He maintained the serious gaze and looked up at Face with hope. Face gave him a pat on the shoulder. "You will and that's a promise....... You ready to go back to the VA?"

Murdock shook his head and opened his mouth for another bite to be fed to him by BA.

Hannibal cringed inwardly at the memory of how Murdock was. Face worked miracles with Murdock during the first couple of years. He was so glad when Murdock relearned to feed himself because he had a very high metabolism and they all gained some weight when they began to take him on missions. Murdock and BA were working as a team to bring Face back and he was determined to play a more active role with Face's recovery in hope of getting him back a lot sooner.

Carla tugged his arm a little. "You did the right thing in there."

Hannibal sniffed the air deeply and pulled out a cigar. He fingered it and knew he had to take it easy on them because his supply was getting low. Face always supplied him with his cigars and it didn't feel right to get them himself. He smiled sadly at Carla and pocketed the cigar once again. "I should have given him permission to be mad a lot sooner or maybe he wouldn't be in his present condition."

"You don't know that."

"That's right...... I don't.

Carla sighed. "You know what I mean........ Let's not argue over this. Face doesn't need this."

Hannibal nodded absentmindedly and was relieved to see Murdock and BA entering the lobby as they stepped off the elevator. He marveled at how far Murdock had come over the years and was glad he was wrong about Face's assessment about his future. He compared the bone thin demonic ridden person of the past to the seemingly well adjusted being standing before him. The difference was night and day. If Murdock could do a one-eighty, so can Face. He just hoped it doesn't take over fifteen years this time. Murdock smiled. "Beat us to him this morning, huh?........ How is he today?"

"He's in a bit of a bad mood."

Murdock rubbed his mouth nervously and swallowed hard. "Thanks for the warning. ......... I'm starting to understand what I put him through."

BA jammed his hands in his pockets and Carla smiled sadly. "We all want him to come back to work."

Murdock grinned. "I'm going to tell him you said that, sweetheart."

"Just for that you can checkout a lease property Stockwell had secured for the school. Here's the address and keys."

BA groaned, accepting the keys and paper fished out of her pocket. "C'mon before she drafts us into the paperwork, too."

Murdock grinned weakly and said, "We'll check it out for you right after we visit Face."

"Thanks."

"No problem."

Murdock and BA walked to the elevator and Murdock jabbed the button. "Hannibal's taking this whole thing really bad...... Good thing he and Carla are together."

BA nodded. "Wonder what Face did to upset ╬im like that?"

"What makes you think Face did something?"

"He's always done it before."

"I'm sure Hannibal did his share."

Murdock jabbed the elevator button again as his anxiety rose a little. BA was right. Hannibal did seem a bit upset and he wanted to check on Face and do some damage control if necessary.

They picked up on Face's mood immediately. He was annoyed to have another set of visitors so soon and made no attempt to keep it a secret. Murdock sat down on the corner of the bed as he noted the deep furrows on his forehead. "What's wrong Facey?"

"Nothing............"

"I don't believe you. What did Hannibal do to you?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

BA could tell Face meant business. "Murdock....... Leave him alone."

Murdock ignored BA and scooted over closer to Face. "You can tell me anything, you know that?

BA growled. "Murdock......"

Face rolled over on his side with his back to them. "I'm tired and I don't want to talk to you about what Hannibal said. I don't have to tell you everything."

Murdock was stunned because they shared everything before. "Y-y-you're just upset."

Face turned over and said, "Damn right! I am upset and I should be!"

BA pulled Murdock back. "That's enough from the both of you."

Face looked at BA incredulously and sighed. BA released Murdock and said, "Drop it Murdock. Cassy's birthday is a few days away and he doesn't need to be wound up before then."

"I didn't mean to make things worse, Face."

Face sighed in resignation and thought the quickest way to get through this is to pretend to be okay. "It's okay. ........... How's the birthday girl?"

Face accepted a hug from Murdock looking pleadingly at BA, who seemed to becoming an ally in buffering him and Murdock lately. "It looks as I she'll being saying her first word soon and we're a bit stumped on what to get her. You've already bought her everything she could possibly want."

Face shrugged and looked apologetic. "What's she trying to say?"

"BA and I differ in opinions here. I think she's trying to say daddy and BA thinks she's trying to say ba."

Face gave a tired smirk. "I'm going to have to get out of here soon and teach her to say, ╬Face' to save her some trouble."

Murdock and BA scowled a little and Face neatly folded his hands and laid them across his chest. "Don't care for that?"

Murdock sat back down on the bed and placed his hand on Face's. "Not really but it would be okay if she did."

Face was relieved to see the fighting was truly over and slipped a hand on top of Murdock's. "When are the Klienmans flying in?"

"In two days, why?"

"Just wondering that's all."

Murdock winked at Face and raised his hand and kissed his knuckle. "We'll behave. I promise."

Face withdrew his hand and made a disapproving sound. "Behave Murdock. You don't know them and how they feel about homosexuals. If they find out about you they could take Cassy away from you."

"How do you know this?"

"Been doing some reading. In Virginia, being gay is grounds for being an unfit parent. Don't do anything stupid till we get our pardons and get back to California. Okay? The laws are more sympathetic towards gay couples there."

"Always looking after me. Huh?....... You're suppose to be resting and focusing on getting your head screwed on straight not playing my paralegal....... I think it's so sweet that you're always looking after me all the time that I want to give you a big wet one on the mouth."

Face threw his arms up around his head and plaintively cried out. "BA, keep him off of me, will you? When was the last time the two of you were....... Uhm......... alone?"

BA rolled his eyes and growled, "Murdock........ What has gotten into you lately?"

Murdock laughed as Face's head emerged from it's hiding place. "Don't worry Muchacho. I guess I haave the jitters about Jody's family coming in a couple of days."

"You have nothing to worry about. Everything will be fine."

"That's enough about me. You ready to bust out of this joint?"

"I've been looking forward to seeing Cassy again but I'm worried ........."

Face shrugged.

"Don't worry about a thing. It's just us. I'll be there to walk you through. It's not going to be easy to start with but once you realize that nothing is going to break because you've been in a mental ward, it'll be a breeze. I guarantee that....... Besides that, we'll all be there for you."

Face dropped his head back on the pillow and looked over at the picture of Cassy on the dresser. He wanted to change the subject and he noticed Murdock's out fit. He smirked. "Have you been raiding my closet while I've been gone?"

Murdock grinned and looked down at his chocolate brown slacks and designer plaid shirt to match. "No. Your clothes are a bit short on me. ...... You like it?"

Face eyed the clothes with a touch of envy. He couldn't wait to get into his clothes and out of the pajamas for a while. The hospital had a rule against patients wearing street clothes in the hospital. Face figured it was a way for the staff to identify patients and visitors. But not only that, Murdock had impeccable taste in clothes and thought he would go with him the next time he went shopping for clothes. Face yawned and BA took that as an opportunity for them to leave. "C'mon, let's let him get some rest."

Face threw BA a look of gratitude and said, "I wonder when I'm going to get past these tired spells if ever."

Murdock pat Face's shoulder. "As long as you need them to last...... I'll see you tomorrow."

Face stifled another yawn while nodding. Murdock reluctantly got up to leave. "Do you need anything?....... Books?...... Art supplies?...... notebooks?"

Face shook his head. "Not for now."

"Okay. I'll call you this evening."

BA pulled Murdock out the door by the jacket. It was part of there routine because Murdock never wanted to leave. "See ya' tomorrow l'ttle brother."

"Bye BA."

Face took a pillow from beneath his head and pushed it on his face and groaned heavily. "I wish they would give me a break..........."

Murdock yanked his collar from BA's grasp. "Why do you always do that?"

"We'd never get out of there if I didn't. Faceman needs his rest."

"But every time?!?!

"This is not the place for this."

Murdock noted a couple of nurses staring at them and thought BA was right. This should wait till they get outside. When they were in the van Murdock looked curiously at BA. What's bothering you, babe?"

"Nothin'..... it's what you are doing that's botherin' Face."

"Like what?"

"You pawing all over him and kissing him all the time."

"We've always done that before."

"Face doesn't like it."

"If he didn't like it then why would he put up with it all these years?...............oooooohhhhh ......... I get it now. You're jealous."

"Am not."

"Are too"

BA pulled out the address Carla had given them earlier and Murdock pulled out the DC area map. They argued the entire way. Murdock was thoroughly pissed off by the time they arrived at the location. He was beginning to realize how emotionally drained he was and wondered if he could manage to keep his cool till after Cassy's birthday party. Or at least till Face has returned to the hospital after the party. Murdock waited patiently for BA to open the door to the good-sized government type building. They went through the two story building making mental notes of what it could be used for and a list of modifications that needed to be completed. Murdock liked one of the upstairs labs and he walked around and inspected it closer. BA was still pissed at him for some reason he couldn't fully understand. He decided it would be best to have it out now instead of at Langley. "BA, what's eating at you? ....... Are you really jealous of me and Face?"

BA glared at him. "Hrmph...."

"Hey! ..... There's no reason to be jealous. I know it seems like we are a little too friendly but that's the way we've always been. You know we....... You and me.... ..... have to be more careful about how we are. We have to be above suspicion because of that tape."

Murdock wrapped his arms around BA's waist and said, "I want to give the countertops a test drive."

BA did not return the smile and he was still silent. He was really mad when he didn't talk and he didn't even react to the suggestion of having sex. Murdock released BA and tried to read him. "WHAT IS IT BA? I can't read your mind."

"Do you like Face?"

"What kind of question is THAT?................. whoa here now........... If you're thinking what I think you're thinking. You can stop thinking it RIGHT now because for one thing I LOVE YOU and I love Face but not in that way. Face is straight. You're my one and only guy and don't forget that."

BA turned away and grumbled. "If Face were gay, you'd be with him and not me."

Murdock felt like someone had just ripped him wide open.

Murdock clinched and unclinched his fists several times as BA's words rang in his ears. "If Face were gay you'd be with him and not me!' When it finally registered deep within him, something snapped. The pressures of sanity and sudden parenthood, fears of Jody's family coming for Cassy's birthday party, the stress of worrying about everyone, especially for Face and everything else suddenly seemed to over power all the self-control he had gained over himself was now lost to him at that moment. It was too much to bear to have the person he loved more than anyone else doubt his love for him when it was all he could do to keep his hands off of him when he was near him. Murdock tackled BA taking him totally by surprise and BA pushed Murdock off of him in confusion. Murdock landed on his back panting heavily and he slowly got his knees. "Don't ever say that again or even think it!"

Murdock removed his jacket and proceeded to get back to his feet. BA offered his hand and Murdock pushed it away as he stumbled to his feet and threw the jacket across the room. "How dare you think that!! Think that I don't love you?"

Murdock charged at BA again and BA was ready for him this time. He was confused but he yelled. "I think you wished Face were gay!"

"No I DON'T!!! and I'll prove it to you!"

Murdock roughly kissed BA forcing his tongue deep in his mouth while climbing up him and wrapping a leg around BA's waist. Murdock began to hump him, rubbing his crotch roughly against BA's thigh while groaning and grunting in desperate satisfaction. BA attempted to peel Murdock off him in disgust but the look in Murdock's eyes bore down to the core of his soul. Murdock clung to him as he continued to hump him, he growled. "Give it to me like I know you want to. ........ I want everything you wanted to give me NOW!! I can take it, now give it to me!!! I want to really feel it!!!"

Murdock had opened the vault that BA thought no one knew he had deep within. The guilt he felt for sleeping with other men before Murdock. How he'd fantasize about Murdock while with those men. How he felt like he was using those other men to satisfy his physical cravings to be with Murdock before they became lovers. He had little doubts that those men used him because of the ridiculous myth about black men in bed. He even exploited that myth to get just about any gay man in bed, especially the ones that shared physical characteristics with Murdock. All his former lovers were brown eyed, lanky, hyperactive men. BA lost control and shoved Murdock against a countertop. He wasted no time in pulling Murdock's pants down and Murdock grinned devilishly once he realized he was going to get what he asked for. He freed BA's penis from his pants frantically before twisting around and bending over the countertop, turning his bare butt up to BA. He looked over his shoulder and said, "I would never do this for Face."

Before Murdock could do or think anything else, BA spit on his hand and quickly rubbed it on his penis. Murdock braced himself as he felt BA push inside of him with no other preparations. He threw his head back and howled in pain and triumph. He clawed at the smooth countertop in desperation as he panted against the pain as BA pushed all the way inside of him. He wasn't in control anymore and he savored the feeling of being out of control as he writhed and flailed beneath BA's forceful plunge. He concentrated on regaining his power of speech before BA realized what he had done and after a few grunts, he rasped, "That's what I want. ....... Do it! I want to really feel you the way you want me to feel you!......... Give it to me!"

Murdock held his breath when he felt BA begin to withdraw. He waited to see what BA would do and his head swam in the depth of a familiar madness that had been an old friend of his for too long when he felt BA push back inside him with a little more force. He laughed hysterically for a moment as he futilely tried to get a hold on the smooth surface of the countertop. He wasn't in control of anything and it felt good. BA began to thrust so hard that it was beginning to get difficult to breathe and yet he did manage to push into each of BA's thrusts. What seemed to be an eternity for Murdock was actually a few minutes and BA regained his senses and pulled out. Murdock fell on the floor without BA behind him to support him. He was delirious and between panting, he asked, "Why did you stop?"

BA looked down at his penis. It was streaked with Murdock's blood and Murdock laid there on his back confused not registering that he was hurt. BA pulled his pants up and kneeled next to Murdock. "I'm sorry Murdock, I'm sorry....."

Murdock became aware something wasn't right with him as he moved and that his insides were pooling with blood. He pulled away from BA to keep him from seeing how bad he was. BA being stronger of the two pinned Murdock down and rolled him over on his stomach. Murdock struggled against BA until he heard a bone-chilling gasp from BA when he felt him spread his cheeks. Murdock collapsed on the floor and let reality sink in.

"You need a doctor."

Murdock groaned and laid on the cold linoleum floor. He was beginning to feel the pain of the tear inside him but he mostly felt the pain from BA's eyes. "It's not your fault......... I shouldn't have goaded you that way."

BA fell back from Murdock and sat heavily down next to him. He buried his forehead in a hand and looked over at Murdock. "It's both our faults........and you really need a doctor but where can we take you?"

Murdock sighed in relief that BA wasn't going to blame himself completely for this. He felt completely responsible for pushing BA into this but he wasn't going to argue with him over who was responsible for it. "Freeman...... He knows about us and can be discreet."

"But he's a head doctor. "

"He's an MD. He has to know what a general practitioner knows."

BA made a move to get up to help Murdock up and Murdock protested. "No. Just let me alone for a bit.........."

BA retrieved Murdock's coat and covered him as he lay on the floor. BA sat close to Murdock and slipped his hand up his shirt and rubbed his back gently. Murdock closed his eyes and began to evaluate what had happened moments earlier. He sighed heavily. "Everything seemed so much easier when I was insane ........ I wasn't afraid of anything then. Nothing to worry about because everything seemed to work out........... I can never go back to that........ can I BA?"

BA wanted to get Murdock to Dr. Freeman as soon as possible but he wanted Murdock's cooperation and was willing to say anything. But something in Murdock's tone provoked him to think about his answer. "No...... Not that I minded you when you were crazy. I think you know that being not crazy is the best thing for you."

"BA?"

"Yeah?"

"I love you."

"Let's get you to Doc Freeman before an infection sets in."

Murdock nodded and BA said, "You stay here. I'm going to get the first-aid kit from the van."

Murdock didn't want to be left alone with his thoughts but he really didn't have much choice at the moment because he was beginning to hurt. He didn't consciously choose to be sane, it sort of just happened over the past year. His brief revisit to insanity moments earlier made him realize he had to choose one and stick with it because what he did was very dangerous. He couldn't be insane anymore because he had a daughter who needed him to be the best father he could be. He had a lover that deserved to be cared for with grace and tenderness. A friend, who was very sick and needed stability. "No more visits to happy land,' thought Murdock as he waited for BA to come back with the first aid-kit, "Our relationship can't take it anymore.'

BA returned and gave him first-aid. One look at BA while he was helping him put his pants back on told him he had come to a similar decision but different.

BA waited in Freeman's office trying to get a grip on what had happened earlier that day. To think he was capable of hurting Murdock like that made him feel worse than he's ever felt before. He stood up when Freeman entered the room. "He's getting dressed."

"How is he, really?"

"Four stitches, that's how he's doing. I should report this to the rape crisis center but I want to hear your version of events to see if they match his version. Care to tell me what happened?"

Freeman was angry and BA cringed at the mention of rape. He lost control and hurt Murdock,........ He did rape Murdock. "I-I-I shouldn't have ............. Done that when we were mad at each other. I shouldn't have ......ha-have........"

"That's right, you shouldn't have. Now give me one good damn reason why I shouldn't report you."

"That's enough, Doc."

Freeman and BA looked up to see Murdock entering the room. He was clumsily dressed and walking stiffly. Freeman said, "I thought I told you to wait in the examination room."

Murdock snapped. "I don't listen very well............ I told you what happened and how it happened. We BOTH lost complete control....... I lost it in the head for a few moments and pushed all his buttons in the right order. We're both sorry for what we've done."

"But that's no excuse for him being that rough."

"Listen Doc, you don't know me. I can do a tap dance routine that'll make your head spin off ....... You may be good at what you do. Trust me when I say I'm better at what I do. And you better be thankful that I have a conscious or we all would be in a hell of a lot of trouble."

Freeman studied Murdock and saw an edge of danger seeping through his eyes. Freeman maintained his eye contact with Murdock as Murdock's eyes bore down on him. Murdock was attempting to shake him up and he heard BA fidget. BA placed a hand on Murdock's arm to remind him that Freeman wasn't the enemy. "He's trying to help, Murdock...... Does it hurt?"

Murdock sighed heavily. "S-sorry..... I didn't mean it. I don't know what's come over me."

Freeman, still not too happy about Murdock's physical condition and equally not too happy that he was trying to psyche him out, eyed him closely. Murdock gingerly sat down in a vacant chair shifting his weight over to one side. Freeman waited till he was as comfortable as his injury would permit him to be. BA placed a hand on his shoulder. "He's just scared of being normal. He's not used to being afraid."

Freeman noted that Murdock didn't do anything to withdraw from BA's touch. If anything, Murdock seemed to welcome it and it calmed him. Freeman then took note of what BA said. "Is this true, Captain?"

Murdock glanced nervously at BA and hesitantly nodded. ".......... I've been crazy for most of my adult life and didn't have the sense to be afraid of anything."

"I don't like to use the term crazy."

"Well, that's the way I see it. I've been crazy for fifteen years and I even liked it most of the time. If that's not crazy, I don't know what is."

Freeman nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, I can see that. ....... Do you think of yourself as dangerous?"

Without hesitation Murdock answered, "Yes, ........if I'm provoked and I can provoke others at will if I need an excuse to attack someone. I had CIA training and I took to the training a little too well."

After having personally experiencing this minutes earlier, Freeman knew Murdock wasn't putting him on at all. "But you didn't intentionally provoke your partner into attacking you, did you?"

Murdock glanced at BA apologetically. "I did provoke him but I didn't mean, too. I was angry at him for something he said."

"What was it that he said?"

Murdock sighed and gave BA another nervous glance. "He said that if Face were gay, I would be with Face instead of him."

"How did that make you feel?"

"How do you think it made me feel? It made me feel like he thought that we were a mistake when we got together......... We were never a mistake. That was when things really began to straighten out in my head."

"How long have you been together?"

"Nearly five months."

BA added. "Our first night together was........"

Murdock waited for him to finish but BA seemed to be struggling with something so Murdock finished the thought for him. "Our first night together was my first homosexual experience. I didn't realize it then but I was always gay. Everything happened so fast that I didn't have time to think things through. I don't regret it, not for a second. While he wanted to wait and take it slow, I manipulated him into taking the fast track."

Freeman leaned back in his chair. "A lot of changes in a short period of time......... Sexuality is a powerful aspect of a person's life. You've discovered an major part of yourself, discovered you have a daughter that you didn't know existed and your friend, whom you've depended upon for so long becomes suicidal and is committed. Not to mention all the nuances I don't pretend to know involving your line of work are weighing on you. A person can only take so much but you need to be careful in the way you express yourself and find a way to adjust to all these changes while adjusting to being....... Dare I say it...... Normal?"

Murdock smirked and gave an embarrassed nod. "I understand what you're saying. ......One thing at a time."

"I would like to schedule a regular time for you to see me if you don't mind."

Murdock winced as he adjusted his position and eased back in the seat with a sheepish glance. "I think I could use some advice on how to be "normal.' Every time I felt I was a danger to anyone I stayed in the VA.............. I can't let myself loose like that again....... Never again."

"You're a very intelligent man and I don't think you will again. It only takes you one time to learn a lesson completely and understand the consequences fully. I can see why Face is so guarded of you. He thinks the world of all of his friends but he holds you in the highest esteem."

"Thank you and we feel the same about him..... now can you help me convince BA that he didn't rape me........ It was my fault. I pushed him beyond the limit and I literally asked for it. I shouldn't have lost control like that."

BA shrank in his seat as Freeman and Murdock's attention focused on him. "I-I'm sorry....... It won't happen again."

Murdock put an arm around BA's shoulder and squeezed him. "I know big guy....... I promise not to loose my head like that again, either."

Freeman pointed out, "You both lost control. But you both are willing to own up your own role in what happened this afternoon. ...........We tend to take liberties with people we feel the most secure with and sometimes things can get out of control. However ......... THAT doesn't excuse your actions."

Freeman sighed at the two thoroughly chastised men before him and wrote on a prescription pad. "This will be for the pain and the possibility of infection............ No sexual activities for three weeks at the very least. Is that clear?"

Murdock nodded. "Very."

Freeman turned to BA. "Make sure he gets plenty of bed rest for the next couple of days and talk to him about what happened. I'm going to prescribe a liquid diet for him till he is comfortable with regular bowel movements. Be sure he stays on it for about four or five days."

Murdock paled at the thought of going to the bathroom in his current state and Freeman added, "I'll schedule an appointment with you when you are able to sit for an hour. Now go home and get some rest."

BA accepted the paper that would relieve Murdock of the pain he had inflicted on him. Murdock asked, "What about Face? He expects me to visit him everyday."

"You should have thought of that before......... I'll tell him you aren't feeling well and that you will be indisposed for a couple of days...... It'll be technically the truth."

"Thanks Doc."

"Don't EVER make me cover for you again."

Murdock froze at the firmness in Freeman's statement. Freeman moved to help BA get Murdock to his feet but stood back and watched. BA anticipated Murdock's movements and tucked his shirt in and straightened his pants while being careful not to hurt him any further. BA tied his shoes for him and Murdock used his shoulder for support before catching Freeman observing them. Murdock realized he didn't ask for BA's help, there was no need to ask and neither did he protest because he knew he needed help. Freeman's eyes made him consciously aware that they did not need to speak to get what needed to be done. He was lucky. They were lucky, all of them. Hannibal, Face, BA and himself had been like this for years, they were closer than most families.

Part 6

Murdock clinched and unclinched his fists several times as BA's words rang in his ears. "If Face were gay you'd be with him and not me!' When it finally registered deep within him, something snapped. The pressures of sanity and sudden parenthood, fears of Jody's family coming for Cassy's birthday party, the stress of worrying about everyone, especially for Face and everything else suddenly seemed to over power all the self-control he had gained over himself was now lost to him at that moment. It was too much to bear to have the person he loved more than anyone else doubt his love for him when it was all he could do to keep his hands off of him when he was near him. Murdock tackled BA taking him totally by surprise and BA pushed Murdock off of him in confusion. Murdock landed on his back panting heavily and he slowly got his knees. "Don't ever say that again or even think it!"

Murdock removed his jacket and proceeded to get back to his feet. BA offered his hand and Murdock pushed it away as he stumbled to his feet and threw the jacket across the room. "How dare you think that!! Think that I don't love you?"

Murdock charged at BA again and BA was ready for him this time. He was confused but he yelled. "I think you wished Face were gay!"

"No I DON'T!!! and I'll prove it to you!"

Murdock roughly kissed BA forcing his tongue deep in his mouth while climbing up him and wrapping a leg around BA's waist. Murdock began to hump him, rubbing his crotch roughly against BA's thigh while groaning and grunting in desperate satisfaction. BA attempted to peel Murdock off him in disgust but the look in Murdock's eyes bore down to the core of his soul. Murdock clung to him as he continued to hump him, he growled. "Give it to me like I know you want to. ........ I want everything you wanted to give me NOW!! I can take it, now give it to me!!! I want to really feel it!!!"

Murdock had opened the vault that BA thought no one knew he had deep within. The guilt he felt for sleeping with other men before Murdock. How he'd fantasize about Murdock while with those men. How he felt like he was using those other men to satisfy his physical cravings to be with Murdock before they became lovers. He had little doubts that those men used him because of the ridiculous myth about black men in bed. He even exploited that myth to get just about any gay man in bed, especially the ones that shared physical characteristics with Murdock. All his former lovers were brown eyed, lanky, hyperactive men. BA lost control and shoved Murdock against a countertop. He wasted no time in pulling Murdock's pants down and Murdock grinned devilishly once he realized he was going to get what he asked for. He freed BA's penis from his pants frantically before twisting around and bending over the countertop, turning his bare butt up to BA. He looked over his shoulder and said, "I would never do this for Face."

Before Murdock could do or think anything else, BA spit on his hand and quickly rubbed it on his penis. Murdock braced himself as he felt BA push inside of him with no other preparations. He threw his head back and howled in pain and triumph. He clawed at the smooth countertop in desperation as he panted against the pain as BA pushed all the way inside of him. He wasn't in control anymore and he savored the feeling of being out of control as he writhed and flailed beneath BA's forceful plunge. He concentrated on regaining his power of speech before BA realized what he had done and after a few grunts, he rasped, "That's what I want. ....... Do it! I want to really feel you the way you want me to feel you!......... Give it to me!"

Murdock held his breath when he felt BA begin to withdraw. He waited to see what BA would do and his head swam in the depth of a familiar madness that had been an old friend of his for too long when he felt BA push back inside him with a little more force. He laughed hysterically for a moment as he futilely tried to get a hold on the smooth surface of the countertop. He wasn't in control of anything and it felt good. BA began to thrust so hard that it was beginning to get difficult to breathe and yet he did manage to push into each of BA's thrusts. What seemed to be an eternity for Murdock was actually a few minutes and BA regained his senses and pulled out. Murdock fell on the floor without BA behind him to support him. He was delirious and between panting, he asked, "Why did you stop?"

BA looked down at his penis. It was streaked with Murdock's blood and Murdock laid there on his back confused not registering that he was hurt. BA pulled his pants up and kneeled next to Murdock. "I'm sorry Murdock, I'm sorry....."

Murdock became aware something wasn't right with him as he moved and that his insides were pooling with blood. He pulled away from BA to keep him from seeing how bad he was. BA being stronger of the two pinned Murdock down and rolled him over on his stomach. Murdock struggled against BA until he heard a bone-chilling gasp from BA when he felt him spread his cheeks. Murdock collapsed on the floor and let reality sink in.

"You need a doctor."

Murdock groaned and laid on the cold linoleum floor. He was beginning to feel the pain of the tear inside him but he mostly felt the pain from BA's eyes. "It's not your fault......... I shouldn't have goaded you that way."

BA fell back from Murdock and sat heavily down next to him. He buried his forehead in a hand and looked over at Murdock. "It's both our faults........and you really need a doctor but where can we take you?"

Murdock sighed in relief that BA wasn't going to blame himself completely for this. He felt completely responsible for pushing BA into this but he wasn't going to argue with him over who was responsible for it. "Freeman...... He knows about us and can be discreet."

"But he's a head doctor. "

"He's an MD. He has to know what a general practitioner knows."

BA made a move to get up to help Murdock up and Murdock protested. "No. Just let me alone for a bit.........."

BA retrieved Murdock's coat and covered him as he lay on the floor. BA sat close to Murdock and slipped his hand up his shirt and rubbed his back gently. Murdock closed his eyes and began to evaluate what had happened moments earlier. He sighed heavily. "Everything seemed so much easier when I was insane ........ I wasn't afraid of anything then. Nothing to worry about because everything seemed to work out........... I can never go back to that........ can I BA?"

BA wanted to get Murdock to Dr. Freeman as soon as possible but he wanted Murdock's cooperation and was willing to say anything. But something in Murdock's tone provoked him to think about his answer. "No...... Not that I minded you when you were crazy. I think you know that being not crazy is the best thing for you."

"BA?"

"Yeah?"

"I love you."

"Let's get you to Doc Freeman before an infection sets in."

Murdock nodded and BA said, "You stay here. I'm going to get the first-aid kit from the van."

Murdock didn't want to be left alone with his thoughts but he really didn't have much choice at the moment because he was beginning to hurt. He didn't consciously choose to be sane, it sort of just happened over the past year. His brief revisit to insanity moments earlier made him realize he had to choose one and stick with it because what he did was very dangerous. He couldn't be insane anymore because he had a daughter who needed him to be the best father he could be. He had a lover that deserved to be cared for with grace and tenderness. A friend, who was very sick and needed stability. "No more visits to happy land,' thought Murdock as he waited for BA to come back with the first aid-kit, "Our relationship can't take it anymore.'

BA returned and gave him first-aid. One look at BA while he was helping him put his pants back on told him he had come to a similar decision but different.

BA waited in Freeman's office trying to get a grip on what had happened earlier that day. To think he was capable of hurting Murdock like that made him feel worse than he's ever felt before. He stood up when Freeman entered the room. "He's getting dressed."

"How is he, really?"

"Four stitches, that's how he's doing. I should report this to the rape crisis center but I want to hear your version of events to see if they match his version. Care to tell me what happened?"

Freeman was angry and BA cringed at the mention of rape. He lost control and hurt Murdock,........ He did rape Murdock. "I-I-I shouldn't have ............. Done that when we were mad at each other. I shouldn't have ......ha-have........"

"That's right, you shouldn't have. Now give me one good damn reason why I shouldn't report you."

"That's enough, Doc."

Freeman and BA looked up to see Murdock entering the room. He was clumsily dressed and walking stiffly. Freeman said, "I thought I told you to wait in the examination room."

Murdock snapped. "I don't listen very well............ I told you what happened and how it happened. We BOTH lost complete control....... I lost it in the head for a few moments and pushed all his buttons in the right order. We're both sorry for what we've done."

"But that's no excuse for him being that rough."

"Listen Doc, you don't know me. I can do a tap dance routine that'll make your head spin off ....... You may be good at what you do. Trust me when I say I'm better at what I do. And you better be thankful that I have a conscious or we all would be in a hell of a lot of trouble."

Freeman studied Murdock and saw an edge of danger seeping through his eyes. Freeman maintained his eye contact with Murdock as Murdock's eyes bore down on him. Murdock was attempting to shake him up and he heard BA fidget. BA placed a hand on Murdock's arm to remind him that Freeman wasn't the enemy. "He's trying to help, Murdock...... Does it hurt?"

Murdock sighed heavily. "S-sorry..... I didn't mean it. I don't know what's come over me."

Freeman, still not too happy about Murdock's physical condition and equally not too happy that he was trying to psyche him out, eyed him closely. Murdock gingerly sat down in a vacant chair shifting his weight over to one side. Freeman waited till he was as comfortable as his injury would permit him to be. BA placed a hand on his shoulder. "He's just scared of being normal. He's not used to being afraid."

Freeman noted that Murdock didn't do anything to withdraw from BA's touch. If anything, Murdock seemed to welcome it and it calmed him. Freeman then took note of what BA said. "Is this true, Captain?"

Murdock glanced nervously at BA and hesitantly nodded. ".......... I've been crazy for most of my adult life and didn't have the sense to be afraid of anything."

"I don't like to use the term crazy."

"Well, that's the way I see it. I've been crazy for fifteen years and I even liked it most of the time. If that's not crazy, I don't know what is."

Freeman nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, I can see that. ....... Do you think of yourself as dangerous?"

Without hesitation Murdock answered, "Yes, ........if I'm provoked and I can provoke others at will if I need an excuse to attack someone. I had CIA training and I took to the training a little too well."

After having personally experiencing this minutes earlier, Freeman knew Murdock wasn't putting him on at all. "But you didn't intentionally provoke your partner into attacking you, did you?"

Murdock glanced at BA apologetically. "I did provoke him but I didn't mean, too. I was angry at him for something he said."

"What was it that he said?"

Murdock sighed and gave BA another nervous glance. "He said that if Face were gay, I would be with Face instead of him."

"How did that make you feel?"

"How do you think it made me feel? It made me feel like he thought that we were a mistake when we got together......... We were never a mistake. That was when things really began to straighten out in my head."

"How long have you been together?"

"Nearly five months."

BA added. "Our first night together was........"

Murdock waited for him to finish but BA seemed to be struggling with something so Murdock finished the thought for him. "Our first night together was my first homosexual experience. I didn't realize it then but I was always gay. Everything happened so fast that I didn't have time to think things through. I don't regret it, not for a second. While he wanted to wait and take it slow, I manipulated him into taking the fast track."

Freeman leaned back in his chair. "A lot of changes in a short period of time......... Sexuality is a powerful aspect of a person's life. You've discovered an major part of yourself, discovered you have a daughter that you didn't know existed and your friend, whom you've depended upon for so long becomes suicidal and is committed. Not to mention all the nuances I don't pretend to know involving your line of work are weighing on you. A person can only take so much but you need to be careful in the way you express yourself and find a way to adjust to all these changes while adjusting to being....... Dare I say it...... Normal?"

Murdock smirked and gave an embarrassed nod. "I understand what you're saying. ......One thing at a time."

"I would like to schedule a regular time for you to see me if you don't mind."

Murdock winced as he adjusted his position and eased back in the seat with a sheepish glance. "I think I could use some advice on how to be "normal.' Every time I felt I was a danger to anyone I stayed in the VA.............. I can't let myself loose like that again....... Never again."

"You're a very intelligent man and I don't think you will again. It only takes you one time to learn a lesson completely and understand the consequences fully. I can see why Face is so guarded of you. He thinks the world of all of his friends but he holds you in the highest esteem."

"Thank you and we feel the same about him..... now can you help me convince BA that he didn't rape me........ It was my fault. I pushed him beyond the limit and I literally asked for it. I shouldn't have lost control like that."

BA shrank in his seat as Freeman and Murdock's attention focused on him. "I-I'm sorry....... It won't happen again."

Murdock put an arm around BA's shoulder and squeezed him. "I know big guy....... I promise not to loose my head like that again, either."

Freeman pointed out, "You both lost control. But you both are willing to own up your own role in what happened this afternoon. ...........We tend to take liberties with people we feel the most secure with and sometimes things can get out of control. However ......... THAT doesn't excuse your actions."

Freeman sighed at the two thoroughly chastised men before him and wrote on a prescription pad. "This will be for the pain and the possibility of infection............ No sexual activities for three weeks at the very least. Is that clear?"

Murdock nodded. "Very."

Freeman turned to BA. "Make sure he gets plenty of bed rest for the next couple of days and talk to him about what happened. I'm going to prescribe a liquid diet for him till he is comfortable with regular bowel movements. Be sure he stays on it for about four or five days."

Murdock paled at the thought of going to the bathroom in his current state and Freeman added, "I'll schedule an appointment with you when you are able to sit for an hour. Now go home and get some rest."

BA accepted the paper that would relieve Murdock of the pain he had inflicted on him. Murdock asked, "What about Face? He expects me to visit him everyday."

"You should have thought of that before......... I'll tell him you aren't feeling well and that you will be indisposed for a couple of days...... It'll be technically the truth."

"Thanks Doc."

"Don't EVER make me cover for you again."

Murdock froze at the firmness in Freeman's statement. Freeman moved to help BA get Murdock to his feet but stood back and watched. BA anticipated Murdock's movements and tucked his shirt in and straightened his pants while being careful not to hurt him any further. BA tied his shoes for him and Murdock used his shoulder for support before catching Freeman observing them. Murdock realized he didn't ask for BA's help, there was no need to ask and neither did he protest because he knew he needed help. Freeman's eyes made him consciously aware that they did not need to speak to get what needed to be done. He was lucky. They were lucky, all of them. Hannibal, Face, BA and himself had been like this for years, they were closer than most families.

Part 7

Sleep evaded BA as he tossed and turn, twisting the bedding into knots. What had happened during the day weighed heavily on his mind in spite of Murdock's assurances. He had hurt the one person whom he had vowed to protect with his own life and had broken a most sacred trust between lovers. He will always be reminded of what he did every time he touch Murdock in an intimate way in the future........ if he could bring himself to touch him in that way again. BA always knew he was capable of violence, he was trained in the ways and used his training well. But he never thought he could turn it on towards his own and not just anyone........ Murdock. The one that he loves. He hurt him in the worst possible way another person could be, in the most intimate way. He had raped him, clear and simple. Murdock may be able to forgive him but he would never be able to forgive himself.

He sat up and looked at the time. A little past midnight and it had been an hour since he had checked on Murdock. Before he knew it, he found himself trudging quietly towards Murdock's room. When he and Murdock returned after their stop at the pharmacy they walked in the middle of Stockwell's men removing all the surveillance equipment. Hannibal was happily assisting them in the removal encouraged them to join in on the fun. They both would have loved doing so if their minds weren't heavily weighed from the events that unfolded hours ago. They used the fact that Carla wanted a report on the building as an excuse to get Murdock up stairs where he could get as comfortable as he could and get some rest. BA found a portable typewriter so that Murdock could come up with something to satisfy Carla and Stockwell. BA would later find out that day why Stockwell had ordered the removal of all surveillance equipment inside the house. Hannibal seemed so satisfied with the little victory and if BA wasn't so wracked with guilt over raping Murdock, he would have felt sad for Hannibal. Hannibal was used to winning major battles and conflicts, now he was reduced to getting excited over winning a small household battle with Stockwell. It was just too...... common.

Even though all of the surveillance equipment had been removed, BA checked anyway. Once he was satisfied that they were still gone he went inside Murdock's room. Murdock's bed was empty and BA went to Cassy's crib to find she was in it, sound asleep. Murdock would be nearby because he wouldn't leave Cassy alone for long. BA lingered at the crib and gently stroked her cheek with a finger. She didn't stir and he thought Murdock would be back soon so he went to the bed and straightened out the bedding. It was a tangled mass of cloth like his own and he noticed it was cold. Murdock had been gone for sometime and BA suspected something was wrong, really wrong. He checked on Cassy one more time before searching for Murdock in the dark house. He went down stairs and searched the common areas finding no-one. He was on his way to wake Hannibal when he walked past the bathroom and remembered it was the only place he hadn't checked. He knocked on the door and heard a muffled groan. "....... Y-y-yeah?"

He found Murdock and he didn't sound too good. BA opened the door and walked into the glaring light of the small room. It took several moments for BA's eyes to adjust before he saw Murdock sitting haphazardly on the toilet with a big wad of toilet paper in one hand. He looked ashen. "Murdock?"

Murdock chuckled and coughed weakly. "Almost fell off and now I can't get up."

BA steadied him and noticed he had been sweating profusely and the sweat was drying. BA sighed heavily and closed his eyes as he remembered Dr. Freeman's warning about bowel movements being difficult for him to pass for the next few days. He imagined Murdock almost passing out while sitting on the toilet. Murdock made an effort to get up and winced. " Ahhhhg........... I don't think there has ever been a time when I wished I would die than a few moments ago......... I'd rather be shot rather than go through that again."

BA grimaced and decided that the toilet paper would be too abrasive and propped Murdock back so he wouldn't fall off. He found some of Cassy's baby wipes that he thought would be better, along with Murdock's pain medication. He opened the bottle to find that there were a number of pills missing. He sighed and knelt next to Murdock. "How many did you take since we got back?"

Murdock looked at the pill bottle in BA's hand. "Six."

BA thought there was something a little off about him that was more than the pain and he put the pills in his bathrobe for safe keeping. "Murdock........ The directions says to take two every four to six hours. You've taken enough to last you almost a day."

"Needed it....... Have a high tolerance for meds. Been on stuff ten times stronger than that stuff."

BA remembered that during the first years in the VA, Murdock had been on some very powerful anti-psychotic drugs in his time and he would have easily built up a strong tolerance for the mild painkiller. So he didn't worry too much about it. "........ C'mon ....... Let's get you to bed."

"Okay Mudsucka."

BA helped him wipe himself and after making sure his stitches were still intact he helped him pull up his pajama bottoms carefully. He cringed when he looked at what was in the toilet before flushing it. It had traces of old blood that they were told to expect along with regular body waste. BA guided Murdock back to the bedroom. He would have carried him but it would have caused him a lot more pain than the walking would have. He helped him into bed and Murdock did have the wherewithal to ask about Cassy. BA checked on he for him. "She's sound asleep."

BA sat on the edge of the bed and looked over at Murdock lying on his stomach, hugging a pillow. "That bad?"

Murdock nodded slowly. It would be pointless to deny it in view of the evidence. BA thought he wasn't going to sleep anytime soon and since the surveillance cameras have been removed, it would be safe to stay with him for a few hours. BA took the pills and placed them in the top drawer of the dresser before crawling next to Murdock to lay on his side. Murdock smiled a little to himself and carefully inched his way over next to BA. Once he was settled against BA's stomach he gave into the achy-ness with a whimper. "BA?"

"Yeah?"

"Is it raining?"

BA was confused by this question and he listened for anything to indicate rain. "No."

"I think it should rain."

BA let go of the fear he did not realize he had of touching Murdock and began to stroke his back. "Why?"

"Don't know........ Just want it to rain. That's all."

"Are you in a lot of pain?"

Murdock was silent for several long moments before answering. "I'm just uncomfortable......It only hurts when I move......... I'm scared for us."

BA's hand drifted up to Murdock's neck, needing skin to skin contact with him. "........ I'm scared for us, too."

"Can we start over..........tabula rasa?"

"What? ...... tab...u...?"

"...... Clean slate...... Can we start with a clean slate?...... Start over from the beginning?"

"Plain English Murdock."

"I've been thinking a lot......... Face isn't the only con on the team. I've been manipulating you into a lot of things I knew you wouldn't do if I hadn't tricked you into doing what I wanted."

BA was confused and he knew it wasn't the drugs talking. "................How's that? What makes you think you've tricked me into doin' things?"

"'Cause I know I have......... The night I found out about you were gay was the beginning of me finding out I was gay, too. We should of talked about it........ instead of you know......... Jumping into bed. I took advantage of you when we should have talked about it. I should have gotten to know you in that way and talked to you about how proud I was to be the first to know this about you........... All I could do at the time was think about how turned on I was by the idea that you've waited for me for all that time and I wanted to fulfill my own cravings at the time. I tricked you into sleeping with me that night."

BA stroked Murdock's hair lovingly and chuckled softly. "I wanted to be taken advantage of that night and glad of it. But you weren't the only one taking advantage of someone's vulnerability. I knew I shouldn't have just accepted your offer but I've been wanting to make love to you since the first time I laid eyes on you."

"Yeah?..... You did?....... See what I mean? We should have talked about stuff like that then........ I should have gotten to know you in that way before we made love........ Maybe what happened today wouldn't have happened if we had."

BA gently planted a kiss on Murdock's forehead. "You are just coming to terms with what it really means to being gay, aren't you?....... I'm sorry for that Murdock, I'm sorry for everything."

"No more apologizing. Okay......... We've both said and did some very stupid things since our first night together. There's nothing we can do to change that now. So let's work on the things we can change."

Murdock rolled stiffly into BA with some pain but not as much as he thought it would be, so that BA could spoon him. BA hugged him closely as Murdock settled his head against his arm. Murdock sighed contentedly. "This is what we should have done our first night together. Held each other and talked instead of screwing our brains out."

"Yeah......... But the screwing part was a lot of fun."

Murdock giggled. "It was...... A LOT of fun....... Remember, we have innocent ears present, not that she'd know what we're talking about for another twenty or thirty years I hope."

BA chuckled. "Dream on........ There were grade school kids at the daycare center that knew more about sex than I did at twenty-five."

"What?!?"

"Ssshhhhhh."

"You're kidding me."

"Wish I were...... Sorry to say Cassy'll be growing up not like us but we'll talk about this later when she's a little older."

Murdock smiled to himself in relief. BA was still secure in the idea of "them' enough to speak of raising Cassy. He was worried all afternoon that after BA had hurt him BA would figure he wouldn't want him anymore. He was prepared to fight to get BA back as his lover again. If BA still felt this secure in light of the events of that afternoon he could talk about what was really at the root of what tipped it all off. "We need to clear the air about Face."

BA stiffened a little and Murdock felt BA nod. "I know how close you are to him, I've always known."

Murdock affectionately rubbed BA's arm that was around his waist. "I'd be lost without him........ "

"I know ...... and he is lost without you."

Murdock looked over his shoulder in surprise. "Yeah, he is........... he has had no real function since Stockwell got us. Stockwell gives us what we need and sends us on our merry way, leaving Face's one main talent unused. That's like telling an artist he can't paint........ Might as well cut his hands off."

"Then I come along and take away his favorite past time. Playing with you and your silly invisible people."

"It was inevitable........ and I don't see the invisible things anymore. Not since I got Cassy.............. No wonder he fell apart........ He thinks he's useless. That's enough to make anyone with a strong work ethic fall apart."

"Face?..... has a strong work ethic?...... Hrmph........ If anything, he has a strong get-out of-work ethic."

Murdock elbowed BA in the ribs. "It's hard work to do that......... to get others to do it for you............ You have nothing to worry about where Face is concerned. I love you and only you in that way......... Face and I are very close, closer than brothers because we've .............. we've......."

"I know.......... needed each other."

Murdock sighed. "Yeah..... That and he's seen my soul and now I think I see his."

"You do what you need to do for him........ I'll try to understand and not get jealous. I was a fool to believe I understood him."

Murdock chuckled. "You have nothing to be jealous of, babe. ................ I like this."

"Like what?"

"This........... Us lying here, you holding me and we're talking. Just talking freely."

"I like it, too."

"Let's do it again tomorrow night, too."

"Under the condition that you go to sleep now. You need to rest like Dr. Freeman toldya to.......... How are you going to explain you stayin' in bed for a couple of days?"

"Tell them I have the stomach flu.........one of those things people don't ask too many questions about. I'll skip my morning dose of pain killers to be more convincing if I have to."

"They'll move Cassy in with Yvonne."

"I'm not able to pick her up at the moment anyway."

Murdock could tell BA was looking apologetic and he sighed. "I think you should go back to your bedroom. I don't want us getting caught."

"Don't worry about that. You go to sleep and I'll hold you for a while longer."

It did feel good to be held and he didn't want to fall asleep alone that night. So he didn't argue with BA and trusted him to stay awake for however long it was that he was going to stay. "G'night, Love."

BA smiled. "G'night, Fool."

It didn't take Murdock long to drift off to sleep in the security of BA's arms and in the knowledge that they were going to work things out between them in the near future. BA held him till he felt sleep creeping upon him. Murdock stirred slightly when he slipped his arm from beneath his head gently. He had been thinking about Murdock and Face for the previous hours. Murdock and Face were like lovers without the sex but they could never be a real couple even if Face were gay because they needed each other too much. Their needs would drown the relationship before it got out of the harbor. BA felt bad for attempting to force Murdock to choose between them and in that attempt they had hurt each other in the worst possible way. BA marveled that Murdock was giving him another chance without hesitation. He felt once they start moving on again, that they had absolutely nothing to fear because they've already been through the worst. BA picked up a couple of fresh diapers and carefully took Cassy out of the crib without waking her to take her to his bedroom. Murdock needed his rest and Cassy would wake him up in a few hours.

Face looked in the mirror with a sense of satisfaction as he snapped his arm to straighten out the sleeves of his shirt. He was finally permitted to wear his clothes and walk the grounds unattended. Cassy's birthday was tomorrow and Murdock and BA were going to bring Cassy by for a short visit before picking up the Klienmans at the airport. He looked forward to seeing Murdock because he had been ill with the stomach flu for the past two days. It felt strange to step outside the hospital room without his pajamas as he hesitantly approached the nurse's station. He was greeted by one of the nurses on that floor. "Hi, Mr. Peck. Is there something I can do for you."

Face nervously wet his lips and looked down the hall. "Hi Gale..... uhm......yeah...... I'll be in the rose garden and I'll be back before eleven o'clock."

Gale smiled and wrote it down in the patient logbook. "Enjoy your walk."

"Uhm...... thank you."

Wearing shoes was such a strange sensation for his left foot. It hadn't had a shoe on it in nearly three months. He had completed his physical therapy and no longer needed to wear the brace. The therapist recommended an athletic bandage for a few more weeks but he wasn't going to be on his feet for long. He walked with a little limp that wasn't that noticeable. A person who was familiar with Face's walk would pick up on the limp immediately but to every one else it look like a slight strut.

He looked around for a nice spot for the visit to take place. He found a nice spot that was well away from the main area enough to give them the illusion of privacy and it wasn't long before he saw what he was waiting for. BA was carrying Cassy as they strolled into the main area. Face walked up to them and glance nervously from BA to Murdock while stealing glances at Cassy. "You feeling better? I missed your visits for the past couple of days."

Murdock held his arms out for a hug and Face hesitantly accepted. "Yeah. I'm feeling much better now. ..... But hey, look at you! You've graduated out of pajamas. It took me eight months to do that. It's only taken you about four weeks."

Face grinned in embarrassment as he stole another glance of Cassy in BA's arms. She looked at him as if she was thinking about something. He was familiar to her but couldn't make up her mind. Face smiles at her bright red coveralls with a little white sweater with a string of pansies embroidered through out the knitted material. "I guess I've been away too long. She doesn't remember me."

Then without warning she reached for Face. BA steadied her as Face took her into his arms and hugged her. BA and Murdock exchanged a glance and a grin. Murdock gave Face a pat on the back and said, "She said her first word yesterday."

Face looked delighted. "What was it?"

Murdock grinned broadly. "No."

"That's an excellent word for her to learn."

BA raised an eyebrow and looked at Murdock in triumph. "See I tolja it was a great first word for her to know."

"What's the matter Murdock?...... You're walking funny."

Murdock swallowed hard. He should have known Face would pick up on the change in gate. His long lanky confidant strides were now a controlled conservative pace. "Uhm......... still have some bad stomach cramps from the flu."

"Aren't you worried Cassy might catch it?"

Murdock shrugged a little. "We figure if she hasn't caught it by now, she isn't going to catch it."

A lie. Face kissed Cassy on the forehead and focused his attention on his goddaughter. Cassy laughed and squirmed as he tickled her belly. "Have you been a good girl?"

Cassy replied, "No!"

Face cracked up and started laughing out right. Cassy scrunched up her face and pulled at Face's ear. "How's about a kiss?"

Cassy planted an awkward kiss on Face's cheek and BA rolled his eyes. "Another pair of X chromosomes in his hands."

Murdock elbowed BA and hushed him. Cassy squirmed to be put down and BA shook his head. "Don't let her get dirty. We still need to pick up her grandpa up at the airport."

Face nodded and put her down on her feet and held her up by her hands so he could walk with her in front of him between his legs. Murdock tucked his hands in his pockets and watched Face play with Cassy. He seemed blissful for the time being and wondered how he was going to be when he returned to Langley tomorrow. It was going to be a difficult transition for Face to step into the environment that held so many memories for him. BA placed a hand on Murdock's shoulder and he whispered. "You were right about Face needing someone to take care of........ He looks like he doesn't have a care in the world right now."

Murdock nodded as they followed Face guiding Cassy while occasionally swinging her forward by her arms as they walked towards the area Face had selected. Once they were at the picnic table, Face picked her up and cuddled her. "How much do the Klienmans know about Langley?"

Murdock got nervous. "Uhm....All they know is they're coming for a birthday party and will be staying with us for three days. Didn't think to prepare them for Stockwell or the guards and stuff like that."

Only Face would think of those things. Murdock leaned carefully against the table as BA carefully watched him for any distress. He had taken a dose of painkillers an hour ago and they seemed to be kicking in. Murdock sighed. "We haven't told them about the name change either....... How are we going to explain that to them?....... "We changed your granddaughter's name to protect her from guys that would love to see us dead along with half the government agencies in town if they knew we were alive.' Somehow that's going to cause some problems."

Face nodded sympathetically. "Tell them the truth. Tell them your job requires an alias and since Cassy's too young to understand, Stockwell ordered that everyone refer to her alias till you return to civilian life again."

"The thing is.....is that we're keeping her name the way it is when we go civilian. We like it."

"Oh..... One thing at a time, Murdock. They may like her new name because at the funeral I got the impression that Harold wasn't too crazy about the name "Autumn Angel' to start with."

Murdock nodded thoughtfully. "You maybe right about that....... Their house was nice and they looked like they had some standing in the community."

"No."

Everyone turned their attention to Cassy's word and laughed. Face gave her an exaggerated kiss. "Or maybe not........... Just get through till tomorrow without messing up and I'll be there to help smooth things out with them."

"Face, I....... We can't ask you to do that. You don't realize how stressful the first time out of the hospital is gonna be for you............ You remember how I was?"

"I am a bit nervous about it...... heck...... the idea down right scares me. But I figure if I have something to do I'll be okay."

BA looked skeptical and he glanced at Murdock. Murdock gave him a critical look and nodded while folding his arms. "What about you and Hannibal? I have no idea what went on between the two of you the other day but I can feel the tension between the two of you and I don't have to be in the same zip code."

Face shrugged slightly. "I feel like I betrayed him in a way when I didn't go to him........ Instead I went to Stockwell for help. I don't know what came over me that day......... I don't really remember much about it except that I knew I had to get to Dr. Freeman as quickly as possible."

BA sat down next to Face and put an arm around his shoulders. Cassy standing in Face's lap with Face's hands around her waist to steady her, planted an awkward toddler kiss on Face's eyebrow. BA smirked as Face smiled sadly as Cassy clapped, saying, "No!"

BA pat his shoulder. "You heard her...... Doncha worry about it."

Murdock chuckled a little. "You did the right thing for you that day. What ever was right for you was right for us all, Sweetheart. And don't worry about the memories about that day. We'll keep them for you till you're ready for them. ...... As for Stockwell, I still don't trust him as far as I can throw him but I'm getting the feeling he's not as bad as we're making him out to be.....I mean, look at the evidence."

BA growled and Cassy laughed at him. "He's up to something. I just know he is."

"I wonder why I didn't go to either of you...... Nothing made sense that day."

Murdock sighed. "Who says everything has to make sense, Face?....... Look at all of us here. Tell me one thing that about us all that's made any sense."

Face thought Murdock might be right and grinned a little. "You and BA being gay and being together doesn't make a bit of sense to me at all. It's a miracle that Cassy's conception took place in the first place."

Murdock nodded and looked at his little miracle. "Glad to see you're able to talk about it openly without being embarrassed by it anymore."

"Well, I can't say anything about BA because I didn't spend that much time with him when we weren't on a job. But looking back over the years, I can now see that you were gay all along. All this time to myself has given me time to think about everything for the first time in my life and I mean really THINK." With a sly grin, Face added, "You were very feminine at times and when I needed to be with a real woman who cared about me. All I had to do was break you out of the VA."

Murdock burst out laughing and his injury began to hurt him a little. He began to regain control of himself as soon as the pain became a little more than annoying. Face's observations were more accurate than he'll ever know about his primary role in bed. "This is very rich, Muchacho. I'm glad that you are getting some thinking done but you shouldn't be wasting your time thinking about the origins of me being gay. You should be working on the things that'll get you out of here."

"I'm doing a lot of that too. I get a little bored when all I do is think about me."

"So me and BA are your entertainment? I think you need another batch of books. Anything specific in mind?"

"I like the books you've gotten me so far. I trust you to pick them out for me."

Murdock nodded and looked at his watch. "Would you like some books to read to Cassy?"

"Yeah...... I'd like that."

"BUT...... The books will be yours."

"Okay."

"Listen Muchacho, we have an airplane to meet....... You get plenty of rest and we'll see you tomorrow. "Kay?"

Face nodded and gave Cassy a hug and a kiss before reluctantly handed her over to BA. Murdock stroked her hair and said, "Wave bye-bye to Uncle Face."

Cassy waved and babbled, "Buba."

Everyone's eyes flew wide open and Face laughed in delight. Cassy's second word was directed at him and Murdock praised her. "That's right...... buba."

Cassy repeated the word and waved at Face. "Buba.......... Bubububa."

That word made Face's day as he pat her on the back. "You guys better go or you'll be late and I have a session in a few minutes too."

Face watched them disappear around the corner of the building, wishing he could go with them. He was glad he had an open discussion about them being gay without feeling the least bit uncomfortable about it. But the main thing that he focused on was Cassy. He smiled to himself and headed back inside the hospital. "Buba....."

Part 8

Once Face reported in at the nurse's desk he went to Freeman's office for his semi-daily session. When he was initially committed, he saw Dr. Freeman everyday except for Sundays. The sessions were short and very intense, and Dr. Freeman chose the subject, which Face didn't like too well. But he trudged through them anyway in the spirit of cooperation and in the sincere desire to get, as he put it, his 'head screwed on straight.' Slowly the sessions evolved into longer and more casual meetings but just as intense. He was allowed to talk about what he wanted most of the time and today he wanted to talk about Cassy's birthday party. His day pass was already approved and he imagined Freeman will want to talk about tomorrow based on Murdock's warning earlier.

Freeman's door was open and waiting for him as usual. He walked in nodding a greeting to Freeman before sitting down. "Murdock and BA brought Cassy with them today. She's starting to talk now and she said a new word during the visit....Frankly I was a bit worried about her because other babies I've been around start talking sooner."

Freeman smiled. "You're quite taken with her."
"Yes, I am. She's very special to us all."
"It's very generous that your friend allows everyone to be as involved with her as much as all of you are. She's a lucky little girl."
"We've all missed out on settling down and having a family because of the situation we were in. I'm glad it was Murdock.. He deserves it."
"Why Murdock and not you?"
"Murdock didn't have to join us. He wasn't wanted by the law but he............ delayed his.............. recovery so he could be with us. ..Uhm.... We decided that if we were ever caught and Murdock was with us, he would have the insanity defense. No court could touch him then."
Face felt uncomfortable revealing one of the core secrets of the team but he knew Freeman was bound to the ethics and rules of confidentiality of his profession. Freeman raised an eyebrow slightly as the mystery to why it had
taken a man as intelligent as Murdock so long to be 'cured.' Freeman nodded slightly and looked critically. "And what about you? I've seen your records and you're quite good at creating alternate identities. You could have
disappeared into the mainstream and no one would be any wiser. All of you could have gone your separate ways and left Los Angeles. But you chose to stay and stay together."
"And you want to know why?"
"No. I think I already know why. You must answer that question for you. Why did you stay?"
Face's eyes dropped to Freeman's feet as his mind raced. Freeman was right. He didn't have to stay. None of them really had to stay. He could have created alternate identities for all of them and could have scattered across
the country to lead somewhat normal lives. Face tried to imagine his life without Hannibal telling him what to do, without him telling him he did a good job with a simple, 'Nice, Face, nice.' He could not imagine his life without Murdock. Murdock became the brother he never had in Vietnam. He could not leave Murdock behind, sane or insane. Though he did not understand BA, he did know BA was a pussycat beneath the gruff exterior. BA was always there for any of them when they were in trouble. Face never had someone willing and able to beat up someone else on his behalf. The experience of being beat up by the resident bullies occasionally at the orphanage was still a bit fresh in his mind when he met BA. Face was in awe of BA for about a week after the incident where BA came charging to his defense before he got up the courage to ask him why he did it. BA's response bonded Face to them for life. 'The unit is a family and family take care of their own. An' we need family out there in that mess if we're gonna git of here alive.'
That was the key to the A-Team's ability to survive and pull off the impossible time after time. It was the first time Face felt a sense of stability. He could depend on them and he was determined to become as dependable to them as they were to him. He began to hone and perfect the skills that had gotten him through the orphanage as a weakling and began to become the con man's con man. He wasn't going to deny his new family anything.

Face looked up and fidgeted a little. He wondered why he had forgotten that after all these years. "I couldn't leave them. They were the only family I had. ..........There's a priest and a few nuns that I was very close to at the orphanage. We stayed in LA because of that and I grew up there and I knew it pretty well."
Face was stunned and the color drained from his face. Freeman smiled at him. "They must care about you a lot to run that much of a risk."
"We-w-we've all made sacrifices........"

Freeman shook his head in amusement. "Why are you denying that they care about you?"

Suddenly his mouth felt like it was full of cotton and fear welled up from an unnamed source. Dr. Freeman and he had developed a system. When he was at a complete loss for words, he would describe how he felt. He fought to get some moister in his mouth and Freeman quickly poured him a glass of water handing it to him. His hands trembled as he accepted the glass and sipped at it till the shaking subsided. "I-I-I'm terrified...... Afraid and I don't know why. But I know if they get too close, they will all go away."

Face scrunched up his face in concentration wanting to withdraw from the feeling but Freeman looking at him forces him to stay with the feeling. Freeman took the glass from Face's hand. "...... and?"

"........It's old but fresh. That's what comes to mind when I think of letting them get too close...... Doesn't make a bit of sense........."

"Do you want them to be close to you? To know you?"

Face nodded without hesitation. "But I can't........ they'll go away if I do."

"Look at the evidence, Face......... You ARE close to them. Murdock and BA have made you the godfather to their daughter. You love that little girl and you're not going to walk away from her because of who you are. Your fate is permanently sealed with them. It seems to me that they're not going to go away by choice."

Freeman decided to let up and explore what he suspected could be the core of Face's problem for another time. He wanted to prepare Face for his first outing and wanted it to be an enjoyable experience as much as possible. "What did you get Cassy for her birthday?"

Face was relieved for the sudden shift in subject but he was curious. "Wh-why are you changing what we're talking about, Doc?"

Freeman grinned broadly as he thought that once Face was straightened out, he'd make an excellent psychiatrist. But then he thought that about Murdock, too. Freeman guessed they would have to have an innate understanding of psychology to do what they do and be as successful as they were. "I think its best not to continue the line of questions at the moment because it's important that you are prepared for tomorrow."

"You're scaring me, Doc.......... Am I.....Am I ....... Going to have another breakdown?........ I've seen this happen to Murdock several times. He would seem like he's doing a lot better but ...... but........"

Freeman sighed. This was like treating another doctor and he looked steadily into Face's eyes. "That's what we're here to prevent, Face. And don't worry about your friend Murdock. This is about you and only you."

Face nodded thoughtfully but his mind was heavy with worry and Freeman reeled him back in. "You want to go to that little girl's party, don't you?"

"Save it for later?"

Freeman inclined his head in confirmation. "For nearly a month we've been laying the ground work for the real work that lies ahead of you. You've worked hard to get to this point. Let yourself enjoy tomorrow for what it is and don't worry about anything else. And since you seem to respond to direct orders, I'm giving you a direct order to have a good time tomorrow. You've earned it. If I have to I'll go to your CO and tell him to give you that direct order."

Face closed his eyes and slumped in his chair in defeat. "So....... How close am I to the proverbial minefield?"

Freeman didn't have to say a word and Face opened his eyes to Freeman studying him. "That close?.............. Oh joy.................... Why do I feel like I'm backed up in a corner on this one?"

Freeman thought that maybe Face being completely aware of what was going on wasn't such a bad idea after all. "Because you are and whether you realize it or not, you've been in that corner for a long time. And it'll be my job to help you navigate your way out of that minefield. Okay? There will be plenty of time for that but for now....... I'm giving you a direct order to enjoy tomorrow. Is that understood?"

A hesitant grin crept up on Face's lips and he slowly nodded. They spent the rest of the session focused on lightening Face's mood and talking about what to expect. Face walked out of the office feeling he was on solid ground but his corner was growing smaller. Soon he was going to have to walk through that minefield, real soon but not tomorrow. He had his goddaughter's birthday party to go to.

 

 

Murdock watched the private jet slowly creep up close to the limo before coming to a complete stop. He took a deep breath and looked over at BA for support. BA smiled confidently as the chauffeur opened the door to let Murdock out to greet his visitors. He stepped up to the base of the planes stairs as it unfolded from the door. The first to appear was one of Stockwell's assistants. Then a middle aged woman appeared with a two year old boy in her arms followed by Harold Klienman. Murdock overheard the woman say in a hushed voice, "Be nice Daddy."

Murdock was concerned when he noticed the pinched look Harold was giving. "Was there a problem with the flight?"

The woman smiled warmly with a hint of apology in her voice. "Daddy's upset because security went through his things before we got on the plane."

Harold grumbled. "They opened Angel's presents."

"They can be re-wrapped....... Hello, I'm Dana. We've met at my sister's funeral."

Murdock couldn't recall her but was grateful that she had cleared up that little mystery right away. "I'm sorry about that. I guess I should have warned you that security is tight. And who is this little guy?"

Dana shifted the toddler and removed his little league cap. "This is Harry."

Murdock took the little boy's hand and shook it. "How do you do?..... You must want to get reacquainted with your cousin."

The little boy smiled coyly and Murdock winked at him causing him to giggle and bury his face in his mother's shoulder. Murdock shook Harold's hand and waved them over to the limo. Harold's peeved attitude dissipated a little at Murdock's interaction with his grandson. "Where's my granddaughter?"

"Cassy's in the car...."

"..... Cassy?"

"Oh........ uhm...... I changed her name....... I'll explain everything once you're settled. Okay?"

Harold and Dana exchanged a look as they were herded towards the limo. Dana hesitantly asked, "What's her new name?"

Murdock could tell that she was trying to be helpful and kicked himself for not thinking about all the little things like, Stockwell's security, Cassy's name change........ and BA. Dana froze as she noticed the big black man with a menacing looking mohawk holding what was obviously her niece. "Uhm.... BA, this is Jody's sister, Dana and her son, Harry. Dana, this is BA, one of my friends who's helping me with Cassy. And this is Harold Klienman, Jody's father. Don't worry about the big guy here. Don't let his looks fool you, he's a real pussycat."

Dana chuckled nervously as she hesitantly seated herself across from BA followed by her father. Harold asked, "What about our luggage?"

"It'll be taken care of."

Murdock sat next to BA and Cassy climbed over to him. "Lets get you and Harry strapped in and we'll be on our way. Dana didn't realize she was staring at BA when Murdock put Cassy in the car seat and began strapping her in. Dana noticed there was a second car seat next to Cassy's and she set about strapping Harry in too with Murdock's assistance. Once the cousins were secure Murdock tapped the ceiling to signal the chauffeur they were ready. Murdock hadn't realize how strange this all must seem to them. He had grown accustom to the perks of working for Stockwell and took it for granted. "The plane and the limo belong to my boss."

Harold watching Cassy and Harry investigate each other from their car seats tore his gaze from his granddaughter who he hadn't seen in over a month to study her father. "Exactly what do you do?"

"I'm a pilot mostly but I'm not at liberty to tell you what else I do."

"National security?"

"Something like that............ Please, don't ask questions I can't answer. I suggest you stick with questions I can answer."

"Hrmph............... How does a lunatic go from a nut house to working for the government ...... whatever branch it is you're working for?"

Murdock chuckled. "You got me there."

Dana chastised her father. "Daddy! That's not nice....... I'm sorry Mr. Murdock......"

"Not necessary at all........ He has every right to be upset. I'm sorry I didn't give you proper warning about what to expect. It's been unusually busy at work. And please, just call me Murdock. No need to be formal. We're all her family here."

Murdock looked adoringly at Cassy starring at her cousin. Dana asked, "What's her full name now?"

Murdock beamed. "Cassandra Ann Murdock."

Harold nodded approvingly. "It's a hell of a lot better than Autumn Angel Joy, that's for sure. At least she won't grow up to be a hippy now."

Murdock was grateful that he didn't ask why they changed her name. Murdock winced but Harold thought it was the idea of Cassy's old name. His pain medication was wearing off and BA noticed the wince too. In the anxiety of meeting Cassy's blood relatives he had forgotten about Murdock's delicate problem. He knew Murdock had the pills on him but he also knew he wouldn't take them in front of the Klienmans. Langley was a half an hour a way and Murdock won't be in agony but close to it if he didn't take the painkillers before then. He had to think of a way to get him to take his medicine, so he decided to use the excuse they've been feeding everyone else at Langley. "Don't forget to take your flu medicine."

Murdock sighed and settled the Klienman's fears. "Don't worry, I'm not contagious....... Been on the road to recovery for four days now."

Murdock pulled out a pill bottle from his pocket and BA handed him a bottle of water from the mini refrigerator along with two baby bottles of apple juice. BA offered each of the toddlers a bottle and smiled as Harry greedily accepted it and fingered the rings on BA's massive hands while he sucked on the bottle. Dana smiled at this and marveled at how happy Cassy seemed to be as she adoringly looked at BA. "That must be some boss you have to allow you to tote baby bottles in the wet bar."

Murdock chuckled after he finished washing down the pills. "You don't know the half of it. .......... One more thing....... About the place you'll be staying at. It's heavily patrolled by guards. It'll be strange at first but you'll get used to it."

Harold's jaw dropped. "What are you?....... CIA or something?"

"I used to be CIA...... Please, no more work related questions."

"Daddy, settle down. ....... You must admit that this all a bit.......... disconcerting."

"Yeah. I understand but it's not forever. We're under contract and as soon as we meet all our obligations we'll move back to LA so you can visit Cassy anytime you want."

Dana looked interested. "When will that be?"

"Barring any setbacks, by the end of the year."

Dana nodded thoughtfully. "We've brought a few things you might like to have. Pictures mostly. Along with things like her outfit and blanket she was brought home from the hospital in and a newspaper clipping announcing her birth."

Murdock's eyes began to moisten and it took a moment for him to find his voice. "...... Thank you........ I would have been there for them both if I had known. I would have."

Murdock glanced at Cassy tugging at the strap that secured her to the car seat and took a sharp breath as he remembered how he had learned about her existence. Jody had to die for him to find out about her. Dana's voice brought him back to the present. She looked so much like her younger deceased sister. If she'd dye her hair blonde like Jody did, she would be an older version of Jody. "Jody knew you would have been but we couldn't convince her to tell you at the time."

Harold took one of Dana's hand in his own and squeezed it lightly. "That's enough of this now. It's all in the past and there's nothing we can do to change it. We're here to celebrate her. There's already been too much regrets where all of us are concerned."

Murdock hastily wiped his mouth and sighed. "You were close to her, weren't you?"

Dana nodded. "........ Very."

Murdock wet his lips. "When Jody was pregnant with Cassy....... Did she have morning sickness and when did Cassy start kicking?"

Dana let out an unexpected choking laughing sob. She beamed though tear-laden eyes. "She was a fool, you know?"

Murdock chuckled sadly. "We both were."

Dana began to answer Murdock's questions as they made their way to Langley. They were so caught up in recounting the details of Jody's pregnancy and the first eleven months of Cassy's life that Harold and Dana barely noticed the guards as they pulled into the driveway.

Part 9

Harold sipped his coffee as he watched from the game room's picture window the changing of the guards and wondered what are earth could they be wanting to keep out. Frankie came in the room holding Cassy by her waist off to his side, making airplane noises. Cassy was laughing and holding her arms out as Frankie said, "It's a bird, it's a plane...... No. It's the birthday girl! And she's coming in for a landing........ Uh-oh...... she's not too good at this. She hasn't had a successful landing to date."
Frankie froze when he saw Harold. Harold smiled easily at them and Frankie smiled back at him uneasily but continued with Cassy's "crash' landing into the couch and carefully tumbled her onto the floor. "Looooook out Cassy! Oooooooh Nooooooooo! But wait. She's okay! Our hero will fly another day."
Cassy squealed in delight as Frankie held her upside down by her ankles and she reached for the floor. Once Cassy was securely on the floor and crawling among her toys Frankie glanced at the pool table. "You play?"
Harold shook his head. "Not in years."
"Murdock will be down in a little bit. He's been sick lately."
"He and Dana were up half the night talking about Jody and Cassy. I didn't expect them to be up first thing. ......... What do you do here?"
Murdock told him that Harold was asking a lot of questions and to be careful of him. Harold had ignored him for the most part the evening before and Frankie was suspicious of his sudden interest in him. He could tell that he had been judged by his hair, clothes and youth. "So, you think I'm stupid or something?' Frankie reminded himself to be polite to him. ".......Sorry, I'm not liberty to say anything to civilians about what we do but when I'm not working for Uncle Sam, I'm an FX man in Hollywood."
"You're kind of young."
Frankie shrugged a little. "I'm gifted............. A word of advice to the wise here........... Be careful what you ask and of whom you ask it of. Okay? Murdock had to pull a lot of strings and we all pitched in a few favors to get you here. So don't blow this deal for everyone."
Harold raised an eyebrow as his realized he had misjudged he youngest member of the team. Frankie folded his arms defensively and leaned against the pool table while glancing at Cassy. "Next question please? Because when you're through asking me questions you know I can't answer, I'll leave so you can take your foot out of your mouth in private."
Harold nodded approvingly and thought, "This kid is sharp.' Frankie was looking a bit peeved at Harold because Harold obviously thought because he was young he must be stupid as well, while wondering if the ol' geezer was going to ask one too many questions and ruin it for them all. Harold seemed to cave in and Yvonne walked in carrying Harry. She put him down on the floor and he toddled over to Cassy and they played with her toys. Yvonne smiled at the two youngsters playing together in their pajamas. Frankie beamed at Yvonne. "Today's the big day. Did they keep you up too late?"
"They both slept like angels. But their parents were a different story."
Frankie laughed. Harold wanting to smooth over the uncomfortable conversation between him and Frankie earlier, said, "Careful now. Dana will want to take you home with us if you keep this up."
Yvonne chuckled softly and Frankie winked at her as she sat in the floor with the babies to play with them. Frankie glanced warily at Harold. "I'm leaving in about an hour to pick up Face. I imagine Murdock will sleep for a little longer. So, if there are any questions, ask BA and Hannibal or Carla."
"Carla?"
"The boss lady. You can't miss her..... The tall, beautiful, leggy, blonde lady."
Harold sighed and nodded. Frankie left and Harold looked at his grandchildren playing with the nanny with questions eating away at his insides. He debated on whether or not to grill the nanny but decided against it. Her intelligent eyes told her she knew more than he did but wasn't going to let him in on what she knew as she stole some glances of him from time to time. He turned back to watching the guards while sipping his coffee.

Frankie was relieved to get away from Harold and knew Yvonne could handle him, not that she could tell him anything. She had been with them for a month and has possibly picked up on a few things. What she knew was only known to her and like any good professional government employee, she wasn't going to tell what she knew. He thought Murdock was sleeping in a little too late in spite of the late hour he and Dana stayed up. He knew BA and Dana were having breakfast together and Frankie figured that BA and Murdock were staying as far apart as possible to ensure that no one noticed them. Since everyone found out about their secret, Frankie noticed the little looks exchanged between the two and the casual touches. He even noticed that Murdock movements were becoming more fluid in a subtle way, becoming more feminine. Frankie decided that since he noticed it, he was going to have to talk to Murdock about it. He walked into Murdock's bedroom and shut the door behind him. Murdock had his head beneath a pillow to block the morning sunlight. "Murdock......... Murdock!"
He shook him awake and Murdock rolled on his back, shoving the pillow off his head and began to rub his eyes. "Murdock....... You awake, man?"
Murdock slowly sat up and squinted his eyes against the bright morning light. "Yeah............ Is everything okay?"
Frankie nodded. "Grandpa is making a nuisance of himself but everything's okay......... Uh....... There's no easy way to tell you this but to outright come out and tell you that you've been walking more like a girl lately. I suggest you put a stop to it till we get out pardons."
Murdock reddened because he thought it was due to his stitches that Frankie wasn't aware of. "......I wasn't aware that I was doing it."
"I've noticed it for some time now......... Just thought I'd tell you so you will be more careful."
Murdock reddened further and smiled sheepishly. "Thanks Frankie. ........... Didn't know you were checking me out."
"Shut up. It's nothing like that. It's a Hollywood thing."
Murdock laughed. "Right............ You going to get Face?"
"Leaving in a couple of minutes."
"I wish he'd take the limo."
"And what's the matter with me picking him up?"
Murdock slowly stood up and put his bathrobe on. "Sorry. Didn't mean anything by that. It's just that it's strange that he used to jump at the chance to use the limo all the time."
"Yeah, it is a bit weird but a lot of things about him hasn't been the same since he's been in the hospital."
Murdock caught a faraway look in his young friend's eyes. "Frankie?"
"Yeah?"
"He's going to be okay........ He's not going to be like me. I don't know how much you know about the way I was but he's not going to end up like that. He's not gonna be a straightjacketed drooling mindless idiot."
Frankie swallowed hard and Murdock nodded. "Yeah. I was like that for a while. Unlike me, Face has us every step of the way.......... He could be a lot worse........ a lot worse and don't feel sorry for him. Okay? He's very lucky............ Go get him and bring him home to us."
Frankie nodded and started to open the door. Murdock followed him closely. "And Frankie..... Thank you. We may not seem like we appreciate what you've done for us. I guess me, BA, Face and Hannibal have been together for so long that we don't have a need to say thank you anymore. Just because we don't say it doesn't mean we're not grateful for everything you've done for us, especially me. You are so good with Cassy and you've made it easier for Hannibal and Face to accept me and BA the way we are."
Frankie wondered where this was came from but accepted it for what it was, a straightforward "Thank you.'

Murdock watched Frankie disappear down the hall and gathered a change of clothes to wear for the day before going to the bathroom. As he walked he focused on his walking, wondered what was feminine about his walk but decided to take Frankie's word for it and made his steps a little more determined. Talking to Dana late into the night made him more aware of things. Particularly about himself. When Dana asked him about his stint in the VA made him review the years with a keen inner eye, the inner eye of a parent. For the first time he wondered how was he going to explain it to Cassy when she was old enough to understand. He didn't worry about explaining his sexuality to her because he would have BA with him when that time came. But his mental illness and why it took him so long to become well again was a different thing. Would she be embarrassed? Murdock sighed and pushed those worries to the back of his mind. Right now he wanted to worry about his daughter's birthday party preparations and his guests that he was neglecting at the moment.

Face reminded himself to breathe as he carefully tucked the hospital ID bracelet under his cuff when he heard a knock at the door. "Uhm..... Come in."
Frankie stepped in with a big toothy smile and clapped his hands together before rubbing them together enthusiastically. "Ready to go?"
Face smiled nervously and quickly nodded. Frankie's smile got impossible bigger and Face picked up the festively wrapped box off his bed and walked out the door as Frankie held it open for him. Face walked over to the nurse's station and told them he was leaving. One of the women smiled and scribbled something down on his chart. "Enjoy yourself."
"Thanks."
Frankie smiled. "You okay with this?"
Face nodded and took a deep breath. "Yeah. I really am. How's everybody?"
"Murdock's nervous as hell and Mr. Klienman is asking questions that he's been told we can't answer every two minutes. But everything else is okay I think."
Face sighed and then they approached the front doors to the hospital. He made a conscious effort to keep his pace constant and casual. He was surprised to find himself begin to panic a little as he stepped into the parking lot and getting further away from the hospital's safety.
"Face?....... You don't look so good."
Face jerked his head over to Frankie and forced himself to breathe. "Guess I'm a bit nervous, too."
Frankie stopped and placed a hand on Face's shoulder. He remembered his conversation with Murdock earlier. "It's gonna be all right, man. You're gonna be around your friends, don't forget that. Okay?"
Face grinned a little and Frankie shook him lightly. "And Cassy will be there, too. Tell me what you got her."
Shaking his head and feeling reassured a little, Face walked with Frankie to his car. "No. I'm not telling you............ Frankie?"
"Yeah?"
" ....... Something on your mind?"
"Nothin'......... Something Murdock told me this morning that my mind's chewing on."
"What is it?"
"It's nothin'"
"WHAT is it Frankie?"
Frankie decided to go with the partial truth. "He thanked me for helping out with everything."
Face choked on laughter as Frankie opened the car door for him. "I thought it was something serious."
Frankie shrugged a little and Face caught a hurt look in his eyes. "There's something more to it, isn't there?"
Face smiled. They still needed him and with much satisfaction he pried into Frankie with his eyes as he pulled out of the hospital parking lot. "Why does it bother you that Murdock thanked you for helping out?"
Glancing at Face, he shrugged once more. "Something else Murdock said about you guys not having to thank each other because you don't need to."
"Oh."
Face stared ahead and thought Murdock was right. "And you feel like he told you that you were not one of us when he "thanked' you?"
"It's no big deal. I could never really be one of you."
".............To be fair.............. You can't be and you're lucky that you're not................... but you are a part of us."
Frankie sighed and nodded slightly. "You gonna be okay today?"
Face smiled sadly and snickered a little. Frankie nervously glanced at him. "Face?"
Face laughed out loud making Frankie more uncomfortable. "I'm okay Frankie...... I imagine I'm going to be asked that a lot today."
Still nervous, Frankie giggled a little while stealing glances at Face. "....... Uhm...... okay."
Face gave Frankie a pat on the shoulder. "Really. I'm okay. Okay?......... I just remembered how everyone reacted to Murdock when we first started breaking him out of the VA. I never thought I'd be in his shoes. Of course, I'm not nowhere near as bad as he was."
"Yeah?"
Face nodded thoughtfully and smiled reassuringly at Frankie trying to contain his feelings about the irony of it all. "Yeah."

BA nodded a greeting to Murdock as he walked in the rec room. He stepped over some toys to pick Cassy up from her play. "Good morning, Birthday girl. Ready for the big day?"
Cassy squirmed and reached towards the floor to where Harry was playing. Murdock chuckled and put her back down. Yvonne smiled and said, "Guess she doesn't care....... Yet."
Murdock understood what she meant. "I CAN wait till she's sixteen....... When she gets bored let me know and I'll give her a bath."
Yvonne bounced a toy horse across the floor imitating a gallop for the children. "I'll bathe both of them...... I don't mind."
"At least let me help."
Yvonne sighed and nodded. "I wonder why you keep me around here. You don't let me do what I'm hired for."
Murdock laughed. "You're more of help than you know. ...... All right........ I'll start backing off from time to time but not today."
Yvonne eyed him carefully like she didn't believe him. "All right then. I'll be ready to bathe them in a few minutes."

Harold watched this interaction from the doorway. He thought, "Yvonne's a decent young woman. She would make a good mother for Cassy and they obviously like each other very much. Captain Murdock seems to like her a lot too. ....... Not bad, Captain, not bad.'
Murdock noticed Harold looking over towards Yvonne and the babies playing but at that moment Face and Frankie walked in. "Face!"
Murdock walked past Harold and gave Face a quick hug after Face passed the gift over to Frankie to keep it from getting crushed. Harold immediately recognized the man from Jody's funeral. He seemed to be a lot thinner and a little pale by comparison but he was no longer getting around on crutches. Face gave Murdock a pat on the back before pushing him off and he quickly extended his hand to Harold. "Hi, Mr. Klienman. Hope you are enjoying your stay."
Taking his hand and giving it a quick shake. "Please call me Harold........ and everything has been good."
"That's good to hear. Now where's the birthday girl?"
Murdock pointed over to where she was and Face nodded respectfully at Harold. "Please, excuse me. I haven't spent a lot of time with my goddaughter in sometimes."
"Been away?"
Face nodded. "You could say that. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
Face slipped by them before any of them could say another word and Murdock smiled broadly. "As you already know, that's Cassy's godfather and he takes his duty very serious."
Harold nodded and thought Cassy was definitely in good hands in spite of the weird living situation she was in. Murdock watched Face settle in the floor and Yvonne introduced Face to Harry. Even though Face wanted to focus on Cassy, he gave Harry equal attention. Murdock sighed and shook his head. He and Frankie exchanged a glance and Frankie nodded. "C'mon, Frankie. Let's go start getting things set up."
.........................

Face adjusted the little plastic purple hair bow in Cassy's hair that Murdock insisted on. Face would have chosen a real silk ribbons instead of the plastic imitation but Cassy was Murdock's daughter and he thought the plastic imitation bows were cute. Face sighed, as he looked at Cassy in her party dress while only half listening to what was going on around him. Cassy hadn't touched the floor since his arrival two hours earlier and no one seemed to mind him carrying her around like the little princess for the day that she was. Even BA seemed to approve of him doting on her non-stop. Harold stood next to him and watched the festivities being set up outside. Face was a little startled when he realized Cassy's grandfather was there and wondered how long he had been standing there. He thought, "The hospital's making you soft Face. Thank heavens Hannibal didn't notice this.' Face smiled warmly at Harold. "Hope this isn't too overwhelming?"
Harold chuckled. "You have a gift for understatements my boy and I have a feeling that there's a lot more going on here than meets the eye."
Face adjusted Cassy's position on his hip as she hugged her favorite toy at the moment, a hot pink monkey, while watching her father and Uncle Hannibal set up her party on the lawn. Face nodded as he glanced at the elderly man staring at him. "And you want to know exactly what it is, don't you?"
Harold's eyes told him he did and Face swallowed hard. The man before him wasn't the distraught old man he met a month ago. Face could tell that he was still grieving for the loose of his youngest daughter but he was no longer in the state of shock. Face did all the talking a month ago at the funeral and Harold was expecting him to do some more talking because he wasn't really satisfied with what the others had told him. Face straightened out Cassy's dress to be doing something. "Yes........... but I'm not at liberty to discuss what you really want to know and I don't think any of us ever will."
"National Security?"
"Yeah, something like that but it's a little more complicated.......... But you have nothing to worry about. Cassy is safe. Soon this will be over and we'll be returning to civilian life. We'll be going back to California and you'll be a short ways away from her....... So don't ask any questions you know we can't answer, please."
Harold smiled hesitantly. "That's the straightest answer I've gotten from anyone since our arrival......... I believe you but on a personal note, may I ask you a question?"
Face thought his hospital ID bracelet was showing and he was relieved when he checked his wrist. "Sure, go ahead."
"Why are you speaking so freely on Mr. Murdock's behalf? Not that I mind the idea of you in particular, being so personally involved in my granddaughter's life but do you think certain decisions should be left up to her father?"
With an embarrassed shrug while remembering that Harold knew about Murdock's stint in the VA's mental ward, Face said, "I didn't realize I was doing that. ....... I guess we've always been overprotective of Murdock and have made most of his decisions for him over the years. Habits are hard to break, I guess."
Harold raised an eyebrow and nodded thoughtfully. "He seems to be okay to me....... A little eccentric, but okay. I feel better knowing that Cassy has a godfather who will look after her father as well as her."
Face grinned broadly. "You have nothing to worry about, sir. Cassy was totally unexpected but she will always be put first. We all treasure her...... I've known Murdock for nearly twenty years and he's always put himself last."
Harold seemed satisfied and most of his concerns were laid to rest. They both looked on at the party preparations as Face thought about how they've made most of Murdock's decisions for him. He wondered if what they did was fair to Murdock. Murdock didn't complain about it over the years and seemed to be content. Maybe he should let go and turn over control to the guys for a while. The mere idea of him letting go sent a wave of panic through him and Cassy picked up on the panic. She turned her attention from what was taking place beyond the patio to him. Her father's eyes looked through him and settled him down. Face kissed her forehead lightly in gratitude and hugged her close to him briefly. Suddenly he felt uncomfortable when he realized he was depending on a one-year-old baby to keep him calm. That was not right. Not fair to her at all. He shifted her and looked over to Harold. "Could you take her, please...... I have to ......."
Face's mind raced as Harold looked at him in confusion. Face began to do some of the breathing exercises as Harold took his granddaughter from the paled Face. "What's the matter?"
Face bent over a little, resting his hands on his knees and said, "Panic attack...... I'll be okay...... give me a minute."
With Cassy secure in his arms, Harold looked really concerned. "Do you want me to get somebody?"
"In a minute...... I need to explain something to you first."
Face straightened up as he regained marginal control over himself. "I know this looks real bad.......... I give you my word that I believe Murdock is the best father any child can ask for and things are totally crazy around here........... He's...... we're trying hard to show you that we are providing her with a good and loving home."
"Maybe you shouldn't try too hard. It's obvious that Cassy is happy here and that's all that matters to me and Jody......... Now what's your story son?"
Face sighed and saw no way out of it. He looked the elderly gentleman in the eyes and unbuttoned his sleeve that secured his hospital ID bracelet. "I'm currently out on a pass from a psychiatric ward ....."
"Oh....... I see. Do you want me to get one of your friends?"
"Please, don't hold this against us."
"I'm not and why should I? ....... Shell shock?"
Face was confused by the term but remembered it was an old term for Post Traumatic Stress Disordered. He nodded. "Manic depression, too."
"Okay, I'll go get one of your friends. Do you prefer someone in particular?"
"Hannibal..... I don't want Murdock to worry. It's Cassy's day and I don't want him to take an ounce of attention from her."
Harold nodded and went to get Hannibal as Face stood by the door frozen in fear, watching them. Harold handed Cassy off to Dana who was still chatting with Yvonne on the patio with little Harry sitting on a blanket playing quietly. Harold followed Hannibal in and once he was sure they were out of hearing range of the others, he said, "He's having a panic attack."
Hannibal nodded. "Could you go get me a wet hand towel, please......... Too much excitement for you, huh kid?"
Harold disappeared and Hannibal noted the fear in Face's eyes as Face gave him a nervous grin. Face looked out the window, unable to move. "Don't let them see me like this."
Hannibal smiled easily and casually draped an arm around Face and guided him to a private den off to the side of the room. Once in the room and seated, Hannibal steadied him with firm hands on his shoulders as Face gave into the panic attack with his head between his knees. "Easy does it kiddo....... That's it.......... You're okay.........."
Hannibal chuckled nervously and Harold walked in with a cool damp towel, handing it to him. Face began to regain control and Hannibal pushed him against the back of the chair, placing the towel in his hand. "Feel better kid?"
Face closed his eyes and swallowed hard as he nodded carefully. It took several moments for it to register what the towel was for and he placed it over his entire face and held it there for several seconds. He savored the feeling of the coolness and dampness of it as it absorbed the cold sweat forming on his forehead. Hannibal gave him a pat on the shoulder and noticed that the hospital ID bracelet was dangling free for all to see. He carefully tucked it beneath Face's sleeve and proceeded to button his cuff for him. Face pulled the towel away from his face and watched this while glancing at Harold standing in the doorway. "Hannibal......... don't. It's what I am for the time being."
Hannibal froze and felt awkward for a moment before nodding. He pulled the ID bracelet down and buttoned the cuffs, making sure the bracelet was visible. Looking over his shoulder at Harold, he saw that the man seemed to understand what was going on. "Everything's under control ....... You go ahead and join the rest of them. We'll be joining you soon."
Harold understood that Hannibal wanted to make sure everything really was under control and did as Hannibal wanted him to do. He left but not before giving Face a nod. Face didn't feel embarrassed anymore and he dabbed the towel across his forehead a little. "You okay, now?"
"Just got scared of loosing control for a few moments there, that's all."
"Face, you did loose control .......... You want to go back to the hospital?"
Face felt a strange sense of peace wash over him and he smiled at Hannibal eerily. "No."
"Kid, you're scaring me a little here......... Give me one good reason why I shouldn't take you back right now."
Face fingered the now exposed hospital ID bracelet for all to see. "I lost control and the world didn't fall apart on me........... Harold, a complete stranger, helped me."
Hannibal sighed and shook his head in bemusement. "I don't get you Face ....... But whatever you need ......."
"I'm going to sign over power of attorney to you. Can you have Carla draw up the papers and bring them by as soon as she has them together? Right now I'm practically a ward of the state and I'd feel better if you were in........ control of that sort of thing. If I should get to the point where I'm incapacitated, I don't want strangers deciding things for me."
"Face?............ You are getting better, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I am but this is just a precaution.... I'd feel better to know that my life is in your hands."
The hair on Hannibal's neck and arms stood up as a chill ripped through him. Unable to speak, Hannibal nodded and felt tempted to snatch the towel from Face's hand and apply it to his own face. "If that's what you want."
"It's what I want and I also want to make myself useful and help with my goddaughter's party."
"Whoa, whoa here, Face. Hold on and give yourself a couple of minutes to pull yourself together a little tighter here."
Hannibal pushed Face back as he leaned forward to get up. Face grinned and said, "Yes, sir."
Hannibal shook his head a little as Face leaned back in an almost docile manner and relaxed. "Face you are scaring me even more here, kid."
"Huh?"
"You're following orders the first time around and you only do that when it's a matter of life and death."
The grin disappeared and Face studied Hannibal for a moment. "I'm sorry about all this Hannibal. If I could change things I would. I've tried to do it all by myself but I now know I can't do that without help anymore."
"No one has asked you to do it by yourself, kid."
"You're wrong there. I asked it of myself......... I demanded it of myself."
"And look where it has gotten you."
"Yeah....... Looks where it's gotten me."
Face fingered the hospital ID bracelet and Hannibal pulled a chair over and sat down in front of Face. "I would like to know what's going on in that head of yours. So I can figure out what to expect from you and figure out when to expect you back on duty."
Face smiled sadly but his heart skipped a beat at the prospects of working once again. "....... What do you want to know?"
Hannibal regarded him carefully and scratched his jaw with his thumb. "How long have you been suicidal?"
Face's eyes widened and he froze into place. His felt tears begin to form as the question rang in his ears. The only person who welcomed him speaking of the subject was Freeman but he longed to talk about it with someone whom he shared a history with, someone who knew him. "I went to Vietnam to die............. I wanted to die for a long time. Sometimes the urge was stronger than other times."
It felt like a weight had lifted off his chest with that confession and it made him a little dizzy. Hannibal was unreadable as he looked at Face for several long moments. "Why?"
Face closed his eyes slowly and chuckled a little. "Because Leslie left me........ She was the love of my life. The first person who I thought loved me and accepted me for who I was. ........ I've been thrown away by my own parents and rejected by people that came by the orphanage to adopt kids time after time........"
Hannibal nodded as understanding dawned on him. "I'm sorry........ I didn't know."
"How could you?"
"That's a long time to want to die, Face. Why didn't you say something before?"
Face shrugged. "I guess I was afraid to say anything."
Hannibal gave him a pat on the wrist that had the hospital bracelet on it. "For now on...... I want you to tell me these things. Understood?"
"Understood."
"........... You don't feel that way anymore, do you?"
Face shook his head slightly. "No. Not anymore........ All my cards are down to you, Hannibal. I've never been as much as I claimed to be but........"
"But nothing, Face. I don't want to hear you say anything like that about yourself anymore. I didn't put you on my team because you had nothing to bring to the table. Is that clear, Lieutenant?"
Face's eyes sparkled. "Uh..... Hannibal?...... I'm not a Lieutenant.........I'm really a Master Sergeant..... I scammed my rank. Thought lieutenant sounded a bit more sophisticated."
"I know. That's why I picked you to be my supply officer. Why are you coming clean about that after all these years."
"I've lied so much that I don't know what's the truth anymore....... It's something I need to do...... Confess what I know is the truth in hope that the rest will come to me."
"You are MY Lieutenant and don't you think otherwise."
"Yes, sir."
Hannibal smacked his lips and sighed. Face could see another question forming. "What is it, Hannibal?"
"I thought you were an orphan."
Raising an eyebrow, Face said, "You know I am."
With caution, Hannibal pointed out. "You said, you were thrown away by your parents."
"I did?"
Hannibal inclined his head slightly. Face shook his head and said, "Must be the stress talking because I know my parents are dead."
Not wanting to put anymore stress on Face, Hannibal nodded in agreement. He took the towel and folded it before playfully pressing it to Face's face. "You relax for a few more moments before we join the others."
Face laughed and accepted the towel. "Yes, sir!"
Hannibal's mind wondered about what Face said about being thrown away and rejected as a little boy. He was beginning to understand his Lieutenant for the first time and remembered the angry young man he met a long time ago. He had a lot to be angry about but it seems like he had been carrying it around and turned it in on himself or else he wouldn't have been suicidal for as long as he had been. He gave Face a playful shove. "That's enough, Lieutenant. Are you trying to take a nap or something?"
Face pulled the towel off and grinned.

Once they rejoined the others, Hannibal hovered close to Face. He helped Dana put the finishing touches on the cake when one of Stockwell's assistants appeared. "Lt. Peck, the General wishes to speak to you."
Hannibal jumped to his feet. "Tell the General that he's busy right now."
Face raised his hand to Hannibal. "What does he wants?"
"He didn't say. He just requested to speak with you ......... alone."
Face wiped his hands and looked at Hannibal. "I'll be okay. I'm kinda curious about why he'd want to talk to me......... Hey, it'll be okay Hannibal. The man is paying my hospital bill. He's not gonna damage his investment."
Hannibal felt uneasy about letting Face out of his sight but he thought Face was right. Stockwell did save his life and made sure he got the care he needed. But that didn't make him feel any more comfortable. He connected with Face earlier, really connected with him without Face pushing him away or breaking the connection. He always felt a bit possessive of all his men but he felt Face was really his now. Not that he could truly possess another human being but he felt as if he was the first person to truly connect to Face since he was a small boy. Hannibal reminded himself that Face was a grown man but he was a grown man that is going to give him power of attorney as soon as Carla draws up the papers and Face signs them. Once that's done, Stockwell may be footing the bill for Face's treatment but if Face required it, he was going to decide on the course of treatment.

Face hesitantly stepped through the door that was being held open for him. He reminded himself to breathe and was beginning to wish he had brought Hannibal along.
"Lieutenant, thank you for coming."
Stockwell got up from his seat and waved him inside. "Have a seat."
"Uhm..... Thank you."
Face sat down in the chair that he sat in when he was asking Stockwell for help only weeks earlier. He tried not to fidget when he was seated. Stockwell removed his glasses and asked, "You've made a lot of progress since the last time I saw you."
"That's the understatement of the week."
Stockwell smirked and let a little laugh escape while reseating himself. "Guess you're right. I just wanted to make sure that your treatment was satisfactory."
"It's more than satisfactory."
"Good....... Good."
"Who was it, Stockwell?"
"Pardon?"
"Who was it that was close to you that committed suicide?"
Stockwell leaned back in the chair heavily and regarded him thoughtfully. "How did you know?"
"I've had a lot of time to reflect and think about a lot of things lately. One of those things happen to be how did you know exactly how to deal with me. You did everything right down to the smallest thing.. ................ Who was it?"
Stockwell fingered his glasses on the desk and looked up at Face. "My father........... He killed himself eleven years ago."
"I'm sorry to hear about that........ What were the circumstances? ........ That is, if you don't mind my asking."
"No. I don't mind you asking. If anyone has a right to ask ............," Stockwell sighed before continuing, "He had Parkinson. My brother and sisters knew he wasn't handling it very well and we learned all the warning signs after he was gone."
"So you learned everything afterwards and I .......... I benefited from your loss."
"Yes, it would seem so."
"What was he like before?"
Stockwell picked his glasses up and looked at him in amusement. "He was a civil engineer, a fair man and a good friend to have in any situation. ........... But I think you should put your thoughts to more productive uses for now on and focus on getting back into working form."
Face grinned sheepishly. "Actually, I'm looking forward to having a respectable career as an instructor."
"I'm glad to hear it. You may return to the festivities."
"One question before I go."
"Yes?"
"Why?"
Stockwell tried to cover up his confusion but he knew he was unsuccessful. Face elaborated further. "Why did you save me? Why did you let Murdock and Cassy stay here without putting up too much of a fight against it? And why did you not force us to take on missions for the past two months? Tactically speaking, what you've been doing doesn't make a bit of sense to me."
Stockwell put his glasses on and studied Face for several long moments before speaking. "You've been doing a lot more than reflecting and thinking."
"Everything you've ever done has made some logical sense in a warped sort of way. Up until recently. I've grown accustom to that warped logic of yours. It's almost as if you've grown to care about us. Like your father, I think you're a fair man. So what gives?"
Stockwell opened a desk drawer and pulled out a book. He carefully placed it in front of Face. "This is what gives. When you came into my service, the circumstances pointed to your innocence but in my mind I thought there was always a possibility that you were guilty. A slim possibility but a possibility nonetheless. I now think otherwise."
Face recognized the book. It was his diary that he left at the Vietnam War Memorial a year ago. He thought he had seen the last of it and hope to never lay eyes on it again. His voice was barely a whisper when he asked, "How did you get this?"
"That's not important right now but I think you should take it back."
"You've read it?"
Stockwell nodded and Face's jaw tightened. Stockwell push the diary towards Face a little more. "I don't think you understand what you've written on these pages. When was the last time you've read it?"
Face wasn't able to think and he swallowed hard. "I haven't read all but one entry since I've written it."
Stockwell gave him a look of astonishment. "That explains why you didn't use it for your defense during your trial."
"Face's eyes widened in excitement but he still couldn't bring himself to touch the diary. "It te-tells you who killed Morrison?"
"Perhaps........ There's a real good possibility that it does. Who was your CO before Smith?"
In confusion Face answered him. "Major Michael Fields .......... He couldn't have done it."
"Oh?.......... Then why did they find his body not far from Morrison when they began to dig out after the attack? He was four-hundred miles from his command post. You mentioned a few other people who was chummy with Morrison and frequented the base at great distances from their bases and had connections to the enemy. I counted five strong possible suspects within these pages."
"You believe that we're innocent, now?"
Stockwell folded his hands and rested them in front of the diary. "Yes."
"One-hundred percent?"
Stockwell nodded.
"That's why you've been so nice to us lately?"
"I prefer to call it being fair ....... I believe the punishment should fit the crime and the only thing the A-Team is guilty of is destroying public and private property, and bruising the egos of certain personalities in the military over the years."
"I wouldn't accuse Lynch and Decker of having personalities.............. Oh God........ This is the miracle I've been praying for since this whole nightmare began and I've been sitting on the answer all this time."
"Possible Answer........... You're not out of the woods yet. I'm basing this on my gut instincts. You and Smith and the rest of you will have to figure out who it is and how he did it. I can't engage in this search because it's not my area."
Face hesitantly reached for the little book and his hands began to shake. He clinched his hands tight to stop the shaking and he chuckled nervously. "You've read it all, right?"
Stockwell nodded curiously. Face snatched the book up and smacked his mouth in frustration. "I don't get why I'm afraid of what's in it. I wrote it."
"There's nothing in that book that I haven't written myself during Korea. Except those ramblings of a scared boy may have a significant impact on your status as a criminal along with your friends. But remember this......... I don't know about the existence of that book."
Face clutched the diary in both hands, scarcely believing it was back in his possession once again. Stockwell smiled at him when he looked up. "I think you had better return to the festivities."
"Guess I better before Hannibal comes barging in here ............. Thank you for everything."

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Up To A Point by Live Lady Roadkill

 

 


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