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This page last viewed: 2017-10-21 and has been viewed 2542 times
Rated: PG 13 for cursing
Thanks to many, including, Ange and Wallygator for the first hands of friendship, Reckless for being the first to offer to help with the beta, Roady for the support, Jipster for great beta reading, and Fingers for wonderful feedback. Plus everyone on the A-TeamFanFiction list for comments.
Summary: Face knows that lots of choices are made in a lifetime. Were they all right? Or were there choices made for him that he never suspected?
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me, but to Stephen J. Cannell and whoever bought the rights to the series. Don't sue me. You won't get anything!
Templeton "Face" Peck stood at the mailbox of his latest high-rise
apartment and stared at the envelope in his hands. The handwriting
was somewhat stilted and not at all familiar to him. His gut was
twisted into knots that didn't make any sense to him.
Somehow, he knew that whatever was in this envelope was going to
change his life, forever. He'd had that feeling once before, when he
had opened the letter from the Army recruiting office and learned
that his application for enlistment had been accepted and that he was
to report immediately for assignment. His gut had been right on
then. After finishing boot camp, he had been assigned to active duty
in Vietnam. It seemed that fate had decided his destiny for him the
day he'd entered the recruiting office to escape the pain of losing
the only person he had ever truly loved.
Soon he had met the strange but surprisingly well-meshed Special
Forces unit that had become his family and his home. He should not
have been eligible to join the elite team, but its commanding
officer, one Colonel John Smith had 'arranged' things and soon he was
the fourth member of the A team. His life had never been the same.
'Would he change any of it?' He wondered to himself as he tapped the
envelope thoughtfully against his palm. 'Not really. In fact, not
Dismissing the thoughts of fate and destiny as foolish, not to
mention that his life was confused enough without adding some other
monumental event to it right now; he tossed the letter onto the table
inside the door of the apartment and hurried down the stairs to the
parking lot. He was late to meet the others for lunch and talk about
what their next mission should be. Hannibal was on some kick about
the make-up girl from his latest creature feature being involved with
the mob and wanted to "look into it". Face shook his head to think
of how little make up girls were paid and expected a dramatic drain
on the team's financial reserves soon.
The attractive blond man slipped into the flashy white corvette and
wheeled into the streets of L.A., heading for the restaurant on Tenth
Street where the team was meeting to discuss the case and observe
this mobster in action.
Twenty minutes later Face arrived and became immediately embroiled
in the debate of how involved Candy, the make-up artist, was or
wasn't with the mob. Before a decision could be reached, Candy
herself solved the dilemma for them by showing up on the arm of a
notorious mobster, looking quite happy and content.
"Uh, Hannibal, isn't that your poor, oppressed Candy now?" Face
gestured to the entrance.
"Yeah, man, she don't look too unhappy to me..." BA growled.
"Well, I guess she must like the tough-guy type." The oldest member
and the leader of their team shrugged. "It's good thing you guys
didn't talk me into getting involved. She'd never go for a sensitive
guy like me." He smiled jovially at the simultaneous groans of the
men around him.
"Hannibal, you know as well as I do that you were trying to convince
us to meddle in her business. Don't try to put this near miss off on
us!" Face lectured his colonel, knowing that the other man would
never admit that he had made a near mistake, much less a near
"Now, Lieutenant, I was just testing your deduction skills and your
instinct. I'd hate for you guys to get soft while we're between
cases." Smith lit the ever-present cigar and puffed contentedly.
The three men finished their meal and were soon off to their
individual cars to travel back to Face's apartment for a much
needed "financial meeting." Cash was low and they needed a case or a
scheme to generate some revenue. Face had just such a scheme in mind
but he needed the help of his best friend and sometime business
partner, HM Murdock. Therefore, he detoured by the VA and donned his glasses and lab coat to spring the team's pilot and resident
A mere ten minutes and one totally confused, but definitely smitten
nurse later, Face and Murdock left the VA lot en route to the
apartment and the rest of the team.
Face and Murdock entered the living room, already involved in the
ongoing debate of whether or not Murdock could be as suave and
persuasive as the Faceman. It was old familiar ground, but neither
man ever seemed to tire of the cycle of 'Yes, I can' and 'No, you
can't' verbal sparring that it produced. Finally, exasperated with
trying to convince Murdock that his success as a conman wasn't
entirely due to his good looks and impeccable wardrobe, Face cut off
his last argument.
"Look, Murdock, we'll debate this another time when you're not
so...doggish about it, okay?" Face waited for his response before
approaching the other team members.
"Arf, arf, Facey master. Murdock, your faithful companion will obey
your orders." The taller man panted, with his hands bent before his
chest. He attempted to lick the cheek of his friend and sometimes
Ducking to avoid the affectionate gesture, Face watched as Murdock
frolicked over to the couch and sat on bended knees, panting at the
"Oh no, Murdock, not the dog thing again. I tol' you that if you
ever did that again I was gonna to have you put in the pound.
Hannibal, you better make him stop!" BA reached for Murdock and
yanked him to his feet.
Canine yelps from Murdock resulted in Face bodily placing himself
between the two men. "Would you guys please keep it down? My
landlord is still upset about our 'borrowing' his truck the other
day. You're going to get me evicted!"
Murdock licked his imagined wounds and started to pace away from the
angry black man. The pilot/puppy began to paw through the papers on
the counter in search of potential treats or chew toys. He discarded
several items then started to study an unopened envelope. "Hey
Faceman, who ya' know in Hawkinsville, California?"
Across the room, Face stopped mixing drinks abruptly. The expensive
crystal decanters rattled loudly against each other as his fingers
went lax. His expression was one of disbelief.
"Was it something I said?" Murdock looked at Hannibal and BA. He
shrugged and waved the envelope in Face's direction. "Yoohoo,
Faceman. Earth to Faceman!"
"Murdock, why did you ask? What have you got there?" Face had
snapped to attention, crossed the room and grabbed the envelope from
the waving hand. He inspected the item, realizing that it was the
letter he had tossed aside earlier. He noted the postmark was indeed
from Hawkinsville, California. There was only one person he knew
there and he'd never expected to hear from that person again.
This handwriting certainly did not belong to that individual. Face
knew that script well; from rereading the last missive he had
received nearly four years ago. He shrugged inwardly and broke the
seal on the envelope.
Face withdrew a single, folded sheet of paper. The thud of his heart
in his chest grew more rapid as he read the words again and then a
third time. Swallowing hard, he looked up at the rest of the
occupants of the room.
"Uh, you know, this isn't really a good time for this meeting. Why
don't you all go and we can do this some other time? You don't
really want to hear me go on and on about our fiscal fitness." Face
went to the door and opened it. He waved his arm and waited for his
bewildered teammates to file past him.
"Lieutenant, what is that? What's going on?" Hannibal stalled at
the door and attempted to grab the letter.
Face quickly pocketed it and shook his head. "Nothing, Colonel,
really. Just a bill, that's all...." He went on when his gaze lit on
an obviously curious Murdock. A curious Murdock wouldn't stop until
he knew what was in the letter and Face wasn't ready to go there
yet. "Oh and Hannibal, drop Murdock off for me, will you? I'm not
really feeling well. Too much rich sauce on that pasta, I think."
He all but pushed the team out the door and slammed it in their
face. Any other time, he might have tried something more
complicated, more convincing, to persuade them to leave. But that
required more concentration than he had at the moment. After they
had all left, he pulled the paper from his pocket and looked at it
again. "Only one way to know for sure." His reflection in the hall
mirror nodded agreement.
He went to the phone and started to dial a number he knew by heart.
His shaking hands froze over the keypads. What if they wouldn't talk
to him? Or what if they did? What was he going to say over the
phone? He swiftly replaced the phone receiver and walked instead to
the bedroom closet, withdrew a suitcase and started to pack.
Ten minutes later, he loaded the suitcase into the car and headed for
the open road. Hawkinsville was four hours away and he had lots of
time to think about what he had learned from that letter. So how
could it be, that the only thing he could think was 'why'?
Meanwhile, in the familiar black and red van, Hannibal, Murdock, and
BA were sitting in the rear of Face's parking lot, waiting on
Hannibal's hunch to pay off.
"Man, what makes you think that Face was lying? He did look funny in
the face. Maybe he was sick from that fancy food." BA, ever
impatient, didn't like to just sit around and wait on things to
"Oh, great Baracan one. Anyone with eyes could see that the Face guy
was terribly upset about something..." Murdock was obviously about to
launch into a full scale, but utterly insane lecture on how BA should
pay more attention to the feelings of others.
Hannibal cut Murdock off before his rambling could irritate the
Sergeant into bodily harming the pilot.
"Now, Murdock, leave BA alone. Besides, I see Face's 'vette leaving
now. Follow him, BA. I've got a feeling that we are heading for
Hawkinsville..." Hannibal clenched the cigar between his teeth and
narrowed his eyes against the flash of headlights on chrome bumpers.
BA turned the big van expertly and worked it into the stream of
traffic far enough behind Face, so as not to be noticed.
Hannibal had a real bad feeling about this. He knew who Face knew
in Hawkinsville, even if Face didn't know the Colonel knew. He
thought back on their last night in Hawkinsville and one particular
conversation. Face has seemed rather reluctant to leave the small
town and Hannibal had questioned him about his sudden desire for the
quiet, rural life.
At that time, Face had given him a rather nonchalant reply about
escaping the smog and noise of the big city. Hannibal had a few
vague doubts, but knowing that his second in command would not talk
unless he was ready, had accepted the half-truth.
Several hours and interminable rounds of Murdock's own version of "99
Bottles of Beer on the Wall", Hannibal's suspicions were confirmed as
they reached the sleepy city limits of Hawkinsville, Cal.,
"I remember this place now, Colonel. We busted some mangy, no good,
drug runners here who were trying to keep the good folks of this town
quiet about their illegal activities. Them outlaws nearly had the
town completely cut off to the rest of the world." Murdock, calm for
the moment, sat up and looked around.
"You're right, Captain. And I do believe that Face stayed behind on
that one to help the businesses rejuvenate their bank accounts after
it was over...one Meagan Burkes and her father in particular. He was
here, off and on, for nearly three months." He knew exactly how long
Face had been here and exactly when he had come home, for good.
"Rejuvenate their bank accounts, nothing! Face was trying to
rejuvenate his little black book with that Meagan Burkes!" BA
"Well, let's just find a place to stay and some food and watch for
Face. He may need us."
The team obeyed their colonel's orders and soon pulled into a
combination motel/restaurant and booked rooms for the night.
Templeton Peck exited his car in front of the General Mercantile and
stretched his legs. He had driven straight through, no stops, and
saw no reason to delay now. He looked again at the letter that he
had read over several times as he drove, considering how to go about
this business. He had no clue what to say when he finally saw her,
but he decided that it would just come to him, like everything else
did, so he entered the store to look for her.
The storefront was deserted. No customers, no workers, no nothing.
The sign clearly said 'OPEN' and the door was unlocked. He wondered
if there was a problem. Face walked to the back and heard the voice
of the person he sought. He could just see the pair beyond the stack
of packing crates near the door.
""Look at you! Look at your shoes! It hasn't rained in a month, how
on Earth did you find mud?" Her words, although admonishing, were
Face edged closer to see the two speakers. The small, high voice he
heard next took his breath away.
"But Mommy...I just took Dreyfus for a walk. It's not my fault he
found mud and made me go through it! You should punish Dreyfus, not
me." The argument was couched in the most calm and logical tone Face
had ever heard come from any child, except himself of course.
"Natalie, that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I
can't punish Dreyfus, I can't see Dreyfus." The petite brunette
stood after removing the muddy Keds from the feet of the tiny, little
person in front of her. She braced both hands on her hips and waited
for the next excuse.
"Well, that's even worse isn't it, Mommy? Dreyfus shouldn't hide
from you at a time like this!" The tiny voice began to move as its
owner started to look around for the naughty Dreyfus among the boxes
of stock stored in the back room. "Dreyfus, come out now. Mommy has
to punish you. You've been a very bad dog!" The words were filled
with all the proper indignation that this situation obviously called
for. "Mommy, I'm so sorry. I can't seem to find Dreyfus anywhere!"
"Natalie Michelle, you stop that this instant...." The mother's voice
trailed off as she focused on the miniature perpetrator.
From his position near the door, Face could just see the back of the
barely thigh-high child. Her shoulders drooped and she sighed as
she turned to face her mother. Her face was solemn and her bright
blue eyes were huge in her face. The sandy blond hair was bobbed off
shoulder length and swung about her pixie face. She had apparently
resigned herself to her fate, when she caught sight of him standing
in the doorway.
Grasping for any port in this maternal storm, she began to speak
quickly, "Mommy, I know that I been bad and that Dreyfus has been bad
and we'll be right here when you finish with that customer." She
sat, primly, on a box. Her hands folded over her denim-clad legs and
she bestowed an absolutely angelic smile on her mother.
"What? Oh!" Meagan Burkes spun around, already apologizing for the
delay. "I'm so sorry...OH!" She stopped and stared at the man who had
moved further into the room.
He glanced for long moments at her then his gaze was drawn back to
the child. She was beautiful. Her blue eyes pleaded with him to buy
something, anything. She needed just a few more minutes to plan how
to get herself out of her latest scrape. Face found that he couldn't
refuse and stepped closer to the little girl. His hands longed to
reach for her, just one touch, but he didn't want to frighten
her....she didn't know him at all.
Instead, Face knelt to her level and spoke, "You know, Natalie? I
just saw a big ole shaggy dog, looked like a Dreyfus to me, running
across the back lot, and boy was he muddy!"
"Oh boy, thanks mister! I bet that was my dog. I'll go get him,
Mommy and you can punish him good!" She jumped off the box and ran
out the back door calling, "Here Dreyfus!"
He straightened and faced the mother. "Meagan."
"Well, she just seemed so desperate. I mean it couldn't be her fault
that Dreyfus took her through that mud." His blue eyes sparkled as
he recalled the look on Natalie's face as he offered her a way out of
"No, that's not what I mean. Dreyfus isn't real, Temp. He's
imaginary." Meagan shook her head negatively. She looked up briefly,
but couldn't hold his gaze for long.
"Yeah, I figured." The previous humor disappeared from Face's eyes
as he watched Meagan avoid him.
"Why are you here, Templeton?" Meagan crossed her arms over her
body in a protective gesture, but valiantly, she met his eyes boldly
Face figured that the truth actually was the most appropriate defense
at this time and simply pulled out and handed over the envelope. "I
got this in the mail this morning."
Meagan reached for the slip of paper. Her fingers brushed against
the tips of his and she jerked away quickly. She gulped away her
immediate response to his touch. It was just as she remembered,
quick, fiery, and all consuming. Exchanging hands, she rubbed her
tingling fingers on her jeans before opening the flap.
She read the words and gasped. Her mind whirled with questions. Who
in the world would have sent this? No one knew, no one. She hadn't
even told her father. Meagan had remained silent when questioned,
allowing her only family to believe that Natalie was the result of a
one-night stand, instead of the creation of the relationship with the
only man she had ever loved, Templeton Peck.
"I can assume you didn't send that then?" Face walked closer to
her. She looked pale and he feared she might faint.
Just as he got within reach, she stepped back. She held up her hands
to stop him from touching her. "No, stay right there."
"Meagan, I would never hurt you. Surely, you know that." His
bewilderment was apparent.
"Not intentionally, no. But you could hurt Natalie." She drew
herself up to her full height of five foot two inches and dared him
to deny it.
Ignoring that particular implication for now, he grasped onto the
fact that she hadn't denied what the letter had stated. Natalie was
his daughter and Meagan had never told him about her. What he wanted
to know now was, why? Why hadn't she told him? She had sent him on
his way, four and a half years ago, probably knowing that she was
pregnant with his child. Why?
"Meagan, why didn't you tell me?" Face ignored her warning hands and
reached for her arms. He touched her and felt the heat of her skin
through the thin T-shirt she wore. He sucked in a deep breath at the
feeling. It was still the same.
Before Meagan could answer, the back door slammed open and little
feet pounded the floorboards. Meagan pulled out of his grip and
looked him deep in the eye, pleading for some more time and for his
silence, before turning her attention to the little girl.
"Mommy, Mommy! I saw Grandpa! He's coming now." Natalie bounced in and pulled on her mother's hand.
"Why don't you go let him in the front door, honey?" Meagan
struggled to control the shaking in her voice. How many times had
she dreamed of seeing them both in the same room? She'd dreamed, but
never dared to hope...and she didn't dare hope now. Now matter what
he said, she had to make Temp go...for his own sake.
"But Mommy," she giggled, "it's open!" She rolled her eyes at the
man still visiting with her mother.
Face smiled back and whispered conspiratorially, "Well, if I was your
Grandpa, I sure would like to be met by such a pretty little girl
when I came in."
The girl giggled again, but went to the door to so as she was told.
Face turned back to Meagan.
"Temp, please just go."
"Meagan, we have to talk about this."
"I know. I...meet me at the park this evening, about nine. I'll put
Nat to bed and have someone sit with her. Now just go!" She whirled
away and entered the front of the store, careful to pull the door
closed between the two rooms.
He watched the door close against him and knew that he had to play
this very carefully. He suddenly feared that his entire life might
depend on it.
Face checked into the local motel and out of habit, he glanced down
at the registrar. "It never hurts to know who your fellow guests
are." He grimaced as he saw familiar handwriting and one name in
particular, Smith Johnson. 'So they did follow me...what else did I
expect....you'd think that the Colonel could at least pick a new
alias that I wouldn't recognize...' He made note of their room
number as he picked up his suitcase and his key.
After dropping his suitcase in his room, he decided to go confront
them. If he was lucky, he could send them back to LA. Hoping to
startle them, he picked the lock on the door and quietly slipped in.
They were all gathered in the room registered to Smith Johnson and
Face was the current topic of conversation. He wasn't particularly
surprised. He leaned against the doorframe and loudly cleared his
"Uh hum, excuse me, but didn't I leave you guys in LA?" Face raised
his eyebrows in question.
Three guilty faces, attempting to look innocent, turned to him. No
one spoke for a long time until finally Face did.
"Now look, guys. I know I ditched you kind of fast back there, but I
really need to handle something alone. So will you please leave me
alone so that I can do just that? Go home and I'll be in touch,
"No, we won't. Not until we know that you don't need us." Hannibal
refused as the others nodded their agreement. His cigar came out and
he chewed on it thoughtfully, waiting for Face's response.
"Hannibal, this doesn't have anything to do with a case or business.
This is strictly... personal, all right?"
Hannibal studied the face of his second-in-command. He saw truth,
but not total truth. Face was hiding something. And he wasn't going
to admit in front of all the others. Hannibal thought fast and
bought some time for him to work on Face, alone.
"Look, Face, we'll go, but not tonight. It's getting late and I'm
tired. It's past the Aquamaniac's bedtime."
Murdock and BA caught on and also feigned tiredness. Face shrugged
and made them promise to leave first thing in the morning. After
they agreed, Face left telling them that he was in the room down the
hall and to yell if they needed him.
Hannibal waited ten minutes then followed Face to his room. He
knocked quietly, surprised when the door opened before his hand even
"Save the excuse, Hannibal. I knew you wouldn't just leave it be.
Come in." Face held the door open further and waved him in.
He stepped to the small table and offered the Colonel a seat. At the
accepting nod, Face sat at the table across from the other man. They
sat in silence for a minute then the younger man spoke.
"Well, aren't you going to ask?" Face sat back and mentally prepared
himself for the inquisition he expected.
"No, you'll talk when you're ready, not before. I know that."
Hannibal pulled out the now rather abused cigar and looked for a
Face automatically leaned forward again, lit the cigar and perused
his leader and friend. While Hannibal wasn't the best friend and pal
that Murdock was, he was one of the few people that Face trusted,
with his life and, this time, perhaps even with his secrets. "Hannibal, did you ever want to have a family, kids, white picket fences, the whole shebang?"
"White picket fences, huh? No kid, I can't really say that I did. I
guess a wife would have been nice to come home to at the end of a
long, hard day. But I can't imagine that one might have stayed
through what we've been through, can you?"
"Hmm...maybe not. But it might be nice to try, you know? A normal
life, a routine, 2.5 kids and big shaggy dog named Dreyfus?"
"Dreyfus? You okay, Face?" Hannibal was genuinely puzzled. He
figured this had to do with a woman-- one woman in particular-- but
where was the talk of kids and dogs coming from?
"Oh, never mind, Hannibal. Just take the team and go back to LA, all
right? I'll be in touch." Face waved away the concern as easily as
he did the cigar smoke that wafted around his head. Maybe no secrets
were to be shared tonight. 'Just as well,' Face thought. 'Never was
much good at sharing them anyway.'
"No way. I'm not leaving you here alone. What if Decker gets wind of
where you are? Alone, you'll be vulnerable. We're staying!"
Hannibal jabbed the air in front of him to emphasize his decision.
"Fine, but you'll stay out of the way, right? I mean, I'm a big boy
and I don't need any of you around to 'help' me through this one."
Face whined just a bit, knowing that it annoyed the Colonel and that
it might get Hannibal off his back.
Hoping that his earlier hunch that Meagan Burkes had contacted Face
for some reason was right, Hannibal played his trump card and waited
for the reaction. "So you going to tell me what Meagan Burkes wants
or not?" He was not disappointed.
Face jumped up from his spot at the rickety table and paced to the
window. "What are you talking about Colonel?" He sputtered then
turned, his handsome face completely masked and calm.
Only those who knew him best knew that this 'oh so calm' façade,
along with his millions of others 'faces' was Face's best self-
protection mechanism. Hannibal recognized this and called him on it.
"Don't give me that innocent look, Lieutenant. I know that there was
more than your usual dalliance with the Burkes woman..."
"You know? How do you know that? I never said anything." Face was
bewildered. His last meetings with Meagan had been long after the
Team returned to L.A.
"She came to L.A. about three months after the case. She used the
same drop she used to connect with us in the first place. Said she
needed to see me and asked about your life here. Said she wanted to
know more before she committed herself to anything further. I
thought she was looking for a way out because she was scared, so I
gave her one. Told her that we moved around a lot and that a serious
attachment like a woman might get us in trouble. She asked me not to
tell you that I saw her. When you came home all broken up about
leaving her, well, I just figured it was best left alone." Hannibal
said this all matter of factly, in his best 'on the jazz' voice. He
hoped Face believed him. At the time, Hannibal had thought he was
doing the right thing. The anger growing on his friend's face
convinced him that he had not.
The blond man stared at him in astonishment. "You saw her and you
never told me? You told her that she would get us caught and you
never thought I needed to know this? Do you know what you've cost
Face could only stand in front of the colonel for long moments as he
contemplated what he had just heard. Four years of Natalie's life,
lost to him because Hannibal... He forced his mind to stop. It was
more than he could cope with for now. His voice was strained as he
continued. "My God! How...? Never mind. I've got go now. Don't
be around when I get back. I don't want to see you right now!" He
strode to the door and exited the room.
Hannibal heard the 'vette roar off and winced at the sound of tires
squealing. "Do I know what it cost him? Not exactly, but I'm damn
well going to find out." Hannibal's mind was whirling with
possibilities and he really hoped, for the first time ever, that he
was wrong, very wrong about what his head was telling him.
He rushed back to the room he shared with BA and Murdock and grabbed the keys to the van. He left just as quickly, never saying a word to the surprised men who waited there.
"Hey, man! Where you going with my ride?"
Restless and agitated, Face paced the strip of sand that separated
the stream from the grass. The small stream ran through the center
of the park where he was to meet Meagan. The area was far from the
path used by the rest of the park's walkers. Surrounded by trees,
you had to know the clearing was there to see it, and Meagan had
assured him that only a very few people knew. It had been 'their
spot'. Face stopped abruptly, sat down under the shady pecan tree
and began to remember.
He and Meagan had started coming here soon after realizing how they
felt about each other. While sitting on the red plaid blanket with
Meagan next to him, Face had felt a sense of peace and belonging that
he had never felt before. He belonged with the team. He knew that.
But this was different, more intimate, more personal. He was meant
to be with this woman at this time, maybe even forever, who knew?
Certainly a lot of his time had been spent considering just that.
One day, right before returning to LA, while looking into her gray
eyes, the conman had told her what he had said to no one in more
years than he could recall. He had said, "I love you." And he had
meant it. He promised to return soon so they could discuss what
their next move was. On that afternoon, he had made love with her
for the last time. There, in the warm sun, with the birds and clouds
soaring overhead, Face showed her exactly how deep his feelings for
her were and he had thought she felt the same.
Soon, he left for LA and their mission, determined to ask Hannibal
for advice about how to join the two parts of his life as soon as
possible. In the weeks that followed, Face grew lonely for her and
the feelings he felt with her and his mood showed it. Naturally, the
others had assumed that he was just cranky about being pulled away
from his latest 'girlfriend'. He saw no need to enlighten them, just
yet. Not until he knew just what to do.
Three weeks later, Face had returned to Hawkinsville. He spent
several days with the woman he loved and seriously thought about
asking her to marry him. However, her father was a suspicious man
and while he appreciated the help the team had given to the town and
to him personally, he didn't like Face and Meagan would never leave
her father anyway. He was older and not well and she was all the
family Wallace Burkes had.
Soon, a close brush with Lynch sent Face scrambling back to LA and
the safety of the team. He promised to return soon and Meagan sent
him off with passionate kisses and sad eyes.
Not long after, still recovering from the last plan gone wrong, Face
had returned to his apartment to find her letter, her last letter.
Meagan had written that she couldn't live with the worry that he
might not come back to her or that he might not come back at all. A
clean break is what she asked him for, no calls or coming back. He
was already disregarding this as he headed for the phone when he read
the last lines.
Besides, I'm not sure that I really ever loved you anyway. I think I
loved the idea of you, the conman, and the fugitive. I don't think I
can love Templeton Peck, the orphan with no past and no apparent
She hadn't signed it or said anything more-- she didn't have to. The
parting barb had hit its mark with complete accuracy. Right dead
center of the nearly buried part of him that still felt the pain of
being abandoned by his parents and his friends as they were adopted
or moved to foster care.
For months, Face managed to convince himself that it didn't matter.
After all, Meagan Burkes was just another woman. He even almost
believed it, until he thought he saw her getting out of a cab near
his apartment. Running after her, calling her name, Face imagined
her turning and embracing him and saying that this was all another
When he realized that the woman wasn't Meagan, the fresh wash of pain
and disappointment brought it home to him that she wasn't just
another woman. Meagan Burkes was the woman he was to love, no matter what. Sure, he had moved on and continued to see the beautiful women who were his trademark. But in his heart, he knew, they weren't
Meagan and never would be.
Now, back in the spot where he had been the happiest, Face felt more
miserable than he had in a long time. Thumping his head back against
the rough tree bark, he groaned, asking aloud, "What am I going to
"You don't have to do anything, you know." Meagan's voice answered
him from the nearest break in the tree line.
Face's eyes flew open and locked with hers. She held his gaze for
mere seconds before turning away, walking to the edge of the water to
nudge small pebbles with her toe.
Suddenly nervous, Face pushed himself from the ground to his feet.
Not knowing just exactly what to do with his hands, he pushed them
into his front pockets and cleared his throat. He stepped up beside
her, glanced sideways at her profile and studied her face. Her eyes
were downcast and her teeth worried her bottom lip. Face wanted to
hold her, tell her not to worry. He would never do anything to hurt
her or Natalie, but first he had to know.... so he asked.
"Meagan, I'm not sure just what to say to you. I want to ask a
million questions, about you and Natalie. I want to know all there
is to know about that little girl, my little girl...but mostly, right
now, I just want to know why? Why, Meagan, did you keep her from
"I wasn't keeping her from you. I was keeping you from us." For the
first time, she faced him and looked him right in the eye for more
than a second or two. As if hugging herself for comfort, her arms
crossed over her stomach tightly.
Incredulously, Face stuttered, "What? Meagan, that....that's the
same thing. What are you talking about?" His hands were out of his
pockets and gripping her arms tightly.
"No, Temp, it isn't. I know that you don't understand. I'll try to
explain if you'll give me a chance." Still face to face with him,
Meagan uncrossed her arms and placed her hands on his bare
forearms. "Please, let me try to explain, then I'll tell you
whatever you want to know about Natalie."
"Fine, talk." Face released her abruptly and stepped away. His arms
tingled where she had touched him. He wasn't ready for that right
now. He needed answers, not emotions.
Meagan walked back to the tree and sat. Plucking a blade of grass,
she used it to trace patterns in the sandy dirt as she began to speak.
"I found out about Natalie just before you were here for the last
time. I couldn't wait to tell you about it. I even went to Los
Angeles to look for a place to live there. I thought it would be
easier on both of us if I were closer. I went to your apartment
first. Even though I knew you probably weren't home yet, I wanted to
be there when you did get back."
Smiling sadly, she recounted her eagerness to see him. "I went
straight to your door. I was about to let myself in with the key I
talked your landlord into giving me when I heard this woman around
the corner talking about you. I didn't see who she was talking with
at first, but the next thing I knew there were military police
everywhere. I just managed to get into the stairwell before they
realized I was at your door. This really angry, loud man started
yelling for you to come out and then he let the others bang the door
She shivered as she recalled the near mad glint in the officer's eyes
when he realized that the apartment was empty. "It scared me when I
realized that if I had been there already they would have used me to
get to you. Or you might have been there with me and not really
paying attention to what was going on. I don't think I really
realized until then that it was all real." Her fingers had stopped
using the grass as a stencil and were now twisting it mercilessly.
Cast downward, her eyes were hidden from him as she paused.
"What was real?" Face, absorbed in her words, found himself sitting
next to her on the ground close enough to touch. But he didn't.
"The fact that you're a wanted man, that the Army really was looking
for you and that madman wasn't going to stop until he caught you
all." Meagan stopped twisting the blade of grass and finally looked
up at him again.
"Madman? That would be Lynch. He found me about that time as I
recall." Voice tinged with light humor, Face informed Meagan of the
madman's name. To himself, he thought bitterly, 'So now the blasted
military has cost me even more than my own life, it's cost me, my
daughter's. I could have kept them safe from it all, couldn't I?
But once again, I didn't have the chance to find out...thanks to good
ole Uncle Sam.' He brought himself back to the present when Meagan's
voce continued with her explanation.
"Whatever. Anyway, I didn't know what else to do, so I found the
Chinese laundry and discovered that Hannibal was already back there.
He said that you were on your way back to me. We talked for a while
and by the time I was ready to come home, I knew that I couldn't tell
you about the baby. I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to not
say anything that I almost didn't go home. At the same time, I knew
I had to see you once more." Shrugging almost apologetically, Meagan
continued briefly. "I just couldn't help myself."
"I heard about your conversation with Hannibal. But not until today,
I'm so angry I could just explode." Restless again, Face stood and
renewed his pacing. "When I think about what his high-handed
attitude cost me...."
Meagan rose and put herself in his path and demanded, "What are you
talking about? Why are you angry with him? He's your friend, your
family, he loves you."
"He loves me? He told you that you might get us caught! He's the
reason that you didn't tell me. That I missed the first four years
of my daughter's life. What kind of friend is that?" Angrily, Face
demanded the answers.
"He's the kind of friend that can keep you alive and out of prison.
I couldn't. He was right. I would have gotten in the way. You
would have been more concerned with Natalie and me than with watching your back. Meagan's voice was low and soft, as if the words were painful even now.
"But Meagan, I....cared about you. I would have loved our daughter,
too. I want to know her. I want to know you again." Beseechingly,
he asked her to see reason.
Meagan blinked and slowly answered, "Okay."
"Okay?" Her sudden acquiescence threw him off balance and he stared
at her, uncomprehending.
"Yes, okay. I told you I would tell you about her. I'll do better.
I'll show you. Come to the house tomorrow. We'll be home until
noon. I have lots of pictures and you can even spend some time with
Natalie if you want." Her tone was calm, accepting.
Face smiled broadly. "Really? I can see her?" He reached for her
hands, wanting desperately to be in contact with her, at last.
She pulled away from his attempted hold. Her gaze was sad as she
looked at him. "Of course. I've never wanted anything more than
I've wanted to see the two of you together. She's so much like you."
"Meagan, can we talk about us, our future?" Face tried once more to
hold her hands.
She whirled away from him, hugging herself tightly again. "No, Temp,
there is no us."
"No us? You meant what you said in that letter?" Harsher than he
intended, his voice brought her back around to him. He held the
offending paper in his hand. He had brought it, as well as the more
recent, anonymous one.
"That letter? No, I didn't mean it, not like that. But it still
holds true. There can be no us.... no happy ever after, not then,
not now." She bravely struggled to keep her voice even and
convincing, to continue to hide the tears he couldn't see shining in
Too hurt by her continued rejection, Face missed the near tears and
slight tremor in her voice. "I can see her, but I can't be her
father?" He watched as the slim back stiffened in what he took as
When she did not answer, Face disgustedly threw the letter to the
ground. "We'll see, Meagan. We'll see." The anger towards her that
he had been trying to push down broke free and he spoke low but
clear. "You won't keep her from me. I have the right to know her
and she deserves to know that she has a father that cares." He
strode away from the stream and into the growing darkness.
Holding her sobs until he was out of hearing, she watched as he
walked away from her and the pain she had inflicted on him. She
dropped to her knees and gathered the papers. Holding them to her
nose, she inhaled the scent of him that lingered where he had
clutched them tight. She whispered to herself, "To keep you safe and
free, I sent you away once and I'll do it again. Even if it breaks
my heart.... again...."
Hannibal stood at the edge of the park and watched as Face stalked
away from the stand of trees. The colonel had arrived only minutes
after the younger man and had been about to go to him when Meagan
Burkes arrived and followed Face's path into the secluded area.
Twenty minutes had passed and now his second in command had left the
grove, alone and agitated. Face was already angry with him at the
moment, and Hannibal knew it would do no good to try to speak to him
in his current state. Instead he decided to go directly to the source
of his agitation, Meagan Burkes. Waiting until Face was out of
sight, he then advanced on the trees, quietly.
He paused, listening closely for indications that the woman was still
there. He got it in the form of muffled sobs. Hannibal cleared his
throat gruffly and stepped into view of the woman kneeling on the
"Oh...Mr. Smith. I should have known you were close by." Meagan
stood quickly and dried the tears from her face. She swallowed hard
and struggled to appear calm.
"Ms. Burkes. Yes, you should have known I would be close by. We are
a team and we don't let anyone go anywhere they might be in danger,
alone." Hannibal pointedly remarked.
"You think I'm a danger to him...?" It wasn't really a question. She
already knew the answer in her heart.
Seeing no point in denying the truth, Hannibal replied, "Yes, I do."
The woman nodded slowly, still holding tight to the papers in her
hand. She stuffed them into her front pocket and began to walk
away. Before leaving the clearing, she turned and reassured the
colonel. "Don't worry. I think so too....you'll be able to take him
home soon enough."
Hannibal watched her walk away and pondered her parting
words...."Somehow, I don't think so, not this time...."
Murdock watched from the motel room window for either man's return.
Something was very wrong with this situation and he just couldn't put
his finger on it. He knew Face was here for some very specific
purpose, probably related to Meagan Burkes. He also knew that Face
had cared for her more than he had cared for any woman since his
college sweetheart, Leslie. What he didn't know was what had
Hannibal so stirred up.
Hannibal generally let them live their own lives, only interfering
when it jeopardized the safety of the entire team or one of its
members. Therefore, it followed that Face was in danger. But why
was he refusing to allow Hannibal to help? That was certainly what
Face appeared to be doing....
The familiar roar of the 'Vette's engine brought Murdock out of his
reverie. Face jumped over the door, something he only did when he
was in the greatest of hurries or when he was extremely upset. Since
he lingered at the side of the car, watching Murdock watching him, he
obviously wasn't in a hurry.
Just then, the pilot heard BA open the door of the room with the ice
and soda he had just went after. BA spoke gruffly to Face in the
parking lot, but got no response. The big man came into the room
grumbling about Face's moods, obviously perturbed about being
ignored. Murdock, carefully staying out of the irritated man's way,
was just about to head for the door anyway when Face looked directly
Face twisted his mouth in thought and suddenly beckoned Murdock to
join him. He walked swiftly to his room and opened the door, waiting
for Murdock to join him before closing the door behind them. "Where
did Hannibal go?"
"Don't know, Facey....probably after you...where did you go?"
Murdock stuffed his hands in his pockets and tried to appear casual.
"Crazy, Murdock, I went crazy." Face sighed and flopped on side of
the bed closest to him.
"Well, umm, you know, I've been there and I got to say, it is not the
best place to be." Murdock walked to the chair across from his
friend and sat down to wait it out. Face would, undoubtedly, choose
the longest possible way to spill whatever was eating at him.
"Murdock, we've been together a long time, right? The team, I mean,
not just us..." Face didn't wait for an answer. "Not once in all
the years since we were thrown together have I questioned that
Hannibal would do the best thing for the team and it's members. So,
why now? Why would he do this to me?"
Murdock, seeing the look of anguish on the normally calm face before
him, decided to try to push the matter ahead a little quicker. "Face, what are you talking about? Of course Hannibal always does what's right for the team. He's always looking out for all of us, especially you. You've given us all more trouble than 10 broken mirrors..."
"Trouble? What trouble? I don't get us into trouble...Hannibal's
the one with the jazz flowing through his veins..."
"Nope...nuh uh... I don't mean that kind of trouble. I mean, your
kind of trouble...you keep secrets, you don't talk about anything to
anybody and eventually it all builds up and blows just like Old
Faithful and you pull some crazy stunt, like running off alone and
worrying us all to pieces. A lot like today...."
"Ah well, Murdock, you know...." Face had the grace to look
"Yeah, buddy, I know..." Murdock settled into his chair, crossed his
legs and held ready an imaginary notepad and pencil. "Now let Dr.
Murdock help you with your woes."
Face looked askance at his friend, shook his head briefly before
replying, "Okay, Murdock, but I am NOT laying down!"
With the utmost respect, Murdock intoned, "Whatever makes you
comfortable. I'm here for you."
Seemingly doubtful once again, Face almost backed out, but the
gnawing in his gut wouldn't let him. He took a deep breath in and in
one fell swoop, he laid the bomb on his impromptu counselor. "Meagan
Burkes and I have a daughter and I just now found out about it and I
think Hannibal kept me from them on purpose."
Imaginary or not, the pen and paper in Murdock's hands fell to the
floor as his hands and jaw dropped in disbelief. "You wanna run that
by me again, muchacho?"
"OHHHH!" Face leapt to his feet and paced around the cramped room.
One hand raked through his hair while the other clenched at his
side. "That letter, this morning? That was from someone here in
Hawkinsville. It said that Meagan Burkes had a baby girl 4 years ago
and that I was the father. It also said that they needed me, whether
they knew it or not and that I should come see them." The
agitated man ended up propped on the radiator behind Murdock, head
bowed and hands clasped together between his knees. "Hannibal told
me today, that four years ago, Meagan came to LA asking about our
lives....He told her that she would get us caught....I think she sent
me away, from her and our child because of that. How could he be so,
so, so ...."
"So Hannibalish?" Murdock supplied.
So caught up in his own anguish was he, Face never heard the door
open or saw that Hannibal was listening intently to this entire
Murdock, realizing that the two men had to work through this on their
own, motioned their leader in and stood to leave.
"Murdock! Where are you going? I need...." Face began. He turned
to stop the other man from leaving and saw Hannibal heading toward
the center of the room. "I told you not to be here. Hannibal, I
"And I mean this, kid. I'm not going until we've got this straight.
I didn't know about this baby. I would never have tried to keep that
from you....but, if she asked me again, I'd say the same thing....an
attachment like a woman could get you and the entire team caught by
Decker." Hannibal stared at the younger man unflinchingly. "And if
you would just stop to think about this, you'd agree with me."
"Think about this? Think about this? What do you think I've been
doing all day? Ever since I opened that letter, this is all that I
can think about...I have a child, who might have needed me, wanted
me.... and I've let her think that I didn't care, that I didn't want
her. I, I KNOW how that feels and I've promised myself for years
that if, if I ever had a child, I'd never let them feel like that!"
Face was nearly completely out of control at this point, pacing
wildly and aimlessly around the small room. When he quit talking, he
found himself in Hannibal's face, jabbing his finger against the
other man's chest.
Murdock stood by, on guard to insert himself between the two should
things become more volatile. Hannibal and Face normally got on very
well. But the same, shared qualities that made them think and act in
perfect accordance on a mission also brought them head to head,
locked in willful battles on personal levels.
Hannibal waved the pilot away while discarding his cigar. Hannibal
then stepped back from Face and crossed his arms over his stomach.
He spoke slowly and calmly, hoping against hope to not have the fight
that Face was obviously spoiling for. "Face, I know that you must be
very hurt, but..."
"How?" Face demanded. "How do you know? You've never been told that yes, you have a child; yes, you can see her, but no, you can't be her
father, can't tell her that you want to know her and hold her and
help her find her invisible dog."
"Okay, fine, I don't know exactly what you mean...but I'm willing to
listen and to try to help you find out if this woman is telling you
the truth...." Hannibal knew Face already believed. He could
practically see the Lieutenant's mind whirling with plans for this
child. Unfortunately, Hannibal was not quite as likely to believe in
the happy ever after that Face was and until he saw more proof, that
kid could belong to the milkman, and he needed to make Face see that,
too. Hannibal waited for the violent response he expected. He didn't
"How dare you.... How dare you try to tell me that Meagan's lying to
me? You don't know her the way I do...." Infuriated beyond all
control by the cool expression in the Colonel's eyes, Face finally
lost his control. He turned away quickly only to whirl back and
plant his fist in the seemingly taunting face before him.
Face was not the muscle bound giant that BA was, but when he meant
it, he packed a hell of a punch and he meant this one more than any
other, ever. Hannibal dropped in a heap at his feet.
From his spot near the door, Murdock raced toward Face before he
could lean over to repeat the action. Pinning Face's arms behind his
back, he yelled for BA and tried to talk to the heavily panting man
in his arms. "Face, now you gotta calm down. Come on,
now...breath...let's go over here and sit down now...."
Expecting the worst, BA burst through the door, brandishing his
weapon. He looked around, wildly, for the enemy, but saw only his
own men. "Whatch you yelling about, fool? Why is Hannibal on the
floor?" He slammed the door behind him, propped the gun next to the
man on the floor and leaned over to pull him to his feet.
Shrugging off the arms holding him, Face put some distance between
himself and the recently assaulted man. More in control now, he
regretted hitting Hannibal but not enough to apologize for it. So he
waited, in silence, to see how Hannibal would explain the situation.
Accepting assistance from the sergeant to stand, Hannibal looked
steadily at Face while speaking to the room in general. "It's okay,
men. We had a misunderstanding, but we're going to work it out now,
right, kid?" He wiped the trickle of blood from the corner of his
mouth with his handkerchief then tucked it back into his pocket.
Defeated by the apparent forgiveness, Face nodded yes, then dropped
to the chair, and tried to massage away the headache starting to
throb in his temples. Giving up, he finally looked up to meet
Hannibal's eyes. Guiltily, Face tried to look away, only to have his
gaze captured and held. Once again, he thought he should apologize.
Face knew he had been so out of line in hitting his Colonel, but damn
it, he just couldn't deal with it any more. Hoping to avoid further
confrontation, he sighed heavily then spoke, "Hannibal, let's just
save this for morning, humm? I'm tired and testy and we're just
going to fight about this anyway."
"No dice, Lieutenant. What affects one of us, can affect the team
and this is definitely affecting you. We're going to work this out
between us right now and in the morning, we'll deal with Meagan
Burkes." Hannibal sat gingerly on the chair across from Face.
The familiar refrain was issued and Face, as well as the other
members, knew that no one was going anywhere until this was
"What are ya'll talkin' about, man?" BA glowered at the other
three. He sat down on the corner of the bed as Murdock took the spot
closest to Face, behind him on the radiator.
Face, knowing that there was no other way around it, started the
story over at the beginning. Beginning with the letter that morning
and his meeting with Meagan and Natalie at the store and ending with
his confrontation with Meagan this evening at the lake, he laid the
whole story out for them all to rehash.
Each man thought about what he had heard, then spoke up one at a
time. Murdock began the conversation. "So, you're telling us that
this woman had a child that she claims is yours and she won't let you
Face shook his head. "No, I can see her, tomorrow in fact. But I
can't tell her who I am. Meagan says I could hurt her without meaning
to. She won't take that chance."
BA growled, "I know you, Faceman, and you' a lot of things, but you
wouldn't ever hurt no kid, no mor'an I would."
"I don't think she means it that way, big guy." Murdock jumped back
in and thoughtfully cupped his chin. "I think she don't want the kid
to get attached, knowing that Face can't really just hang out around
here in Hawkinsville."
Face nodded in agreement then looked to Hannibal who had been silent
up until now. "Well?"
"I know you don't want to hear this, Face, but how do you really know
that this child is yours? Do you have any proof?" Playing the
devil's advocate was usually Face's job, but this time Hannibal
willingly stepped in.
Quickly but calmly, Face responded, "I know Meagan Burkes and what
kind of person she is. I know that she lo....cared for me and that
she has no reason to lie. What does she have to gain by lying? I'm
not rich or powerful, hell; I'm a wanted man. I'm probably the last
guy she ever pictured as being the father of her child. Besides, she
didn't write the letter. She was surprised to see me, blown away
actually. She had no idea I was coming."
Pausing to allow this to sink in, Face remembered. Going back to
that morning, he remembered how his heart had jumped at the first
sight of the little girl who had called Meagan, 'mommy'. His breath
hitched all over again as he heard her tiny voice calling to the
invisible dog, Dreyfus.
Face had seen lots of cute kids in his time but none of them had ever
reached out and grabbed him the way Natalie had, just by looking at
him with those eyes. Eyes that looked a whole lot like the ones he
saw every morning in the mirror.
"Hannibal, you didn't see her. She's...just...perfect. Her eyes are
blue and she's got the tiniest little voice. Murdock, she's got an
invisible dog, named Dreyfus. BA, she's smart I tell you. She's got
her mother wrapped right around her little finger." As Face spoke,
he paced again, going to each man and looking him in the face as he
spoke about the child. Stopping suddenly, he swallowed hard and said
with finality, "I can't take the chance that she is mine and not try
to know her, Hannibal. What if she needs me some day? I couldn't
live with that."
"I know, Face. Just take it easy. You'll see her tomorrow and try
to work something out with her mother. In the meantime, do you have
any ideas who might have written that letter?" Unable to look over
the niggling doubt in the back of his mind, Hannibal tried to give
reason to it instead. Something just didn't add up here.
"No, not really. I guess I haven't given that much thought."
Curiosity now began to set in and he thought about who might know
about him and Meagan and their relationship four and half years
ago. "I guess her father might know or her friend, Kim. She was
around a lot that summer. I really don't care. I could kiss whoever
sent it. I don't think Meagan was ever going to tell me."
After another few minutes of discussion about the origins of the
letter, the others began to stand to go back to their own rooms.
Murdock, lingering behind, looked back at his friend, "You want
someone to stay? I could bed down on the floor, if you don't want to
"No thanks, Murdock. I don't think I'll be real good company right
now. I'll see you in the morning. I want you to go with me to see
Meagan. I want you to know Natalie."
"No problem, I'll introduce her Dreyfus to Billy." Murdock snapped
to call the invisible dog to his side then exited the room, leaving
Face alone again.
Face walked to the door and locked it behind his friends, his only
family until now. Anger again began to bubble inside him. No matter
what Hannibal had or had not said to her, she should have trusted him
with the knowledge of their daughter. He would have tried to take
care of them. What if something had happened to Meagan? Natalie
would have been alone.... an orphan.... Face vowed that would never
happen and knew that, no matter what, he would be father to that
little girl, regardless of what her mother said or did.
(Author's notes: ****** indicate start and stop of flashback
Meagan Burkes walked along the quiet streets of the town she had
grown up in. She moved without really seeing where she was going and
without really needing to.
Mrs. Bratton had always lived in the big brown house on the corner of
First Street. Her front window was always lit this time of night by
the soft glow of her antique glass lamp. And she could always be
seen peeking around the white lace curtains at whoever was walking
Mr. Perkins had always run the local pharmacy, just as his father
before him. The front glass still shone from vinegar applied with
old newspaper and the sign still read, "Open six days a week".
Various other businesses lined the streets and as she walked past
them, the owners waved or spoke briefly as they went about the
business of closing their livelihoods for the day. She answered in
kind, not really hearing their words.
Hawkinsville had been the same for as long as she could recall,
except for the six months during and after the town's 'occupation'
by the drug runners. The A Team arrived and soon had the situation
under control. Those were months that Meagan didn't think she would
ever forget. Nor did she want to. She had ended up with the most
precious things in her life, her daughter and her memories of the
love that produced her. Standing under the lone streetlight, she
could see in her mind's eye, the scene they had made when they
arrived four years ago.
The entire town had turned out for the impromptu town meeting called
by the mayor, Judy Henderson. Determined to stop the renegade team
from further destroying her town, the mayor had demanded that Wallace
Burkes call off the A Team, only to be interrupted by the arrival of
several of the more destructive drug runners who had started all this
Shooting weapons and shouting obscenities, they had busted up the
meeting, grabbing the mayor and trying to pull her from the podium
into their trucks. Suddenly, a black van arrived and out jumped the
four men. Brandishing weapons of their own, they had used their
element of surprise and quickly corralled the three tormentors and
delivered their first message.
The older gray haired man grinned wildly at the men currently held at
bay. Insolently lighting the cigar he pulled from his pocket,
Hannibal spit the end on the man's dusty black boots. Pointing the
now smoking end in the slime ball's face, he drove his message
home. "Tell your boss that this town is now off limits to him and
his goons. And if he knows what's good for him, he'll clear out of
the state entirely."
Sneering, the captive warned Hannibal, "You don't know who you're
messing with, pal! My boss is going to kill you clowns."
Laughing, Hannibal had deferred to handsome man on his right. "Hey
Face, did you hear that? This guy thinks he can scare us. Are you
"Only of his fashion sense, Colonel. I haven't seen boots like that
since 1973." Face nodded his head toward the man's feet.
"Yeah, they're real bad, Colonel. I wouldn't even wear them."
Murdock shook his head, while clicking his tongue mournfully.
"You're right, guys. Show these guys what we think about
unfashionable footwear, Captain." Hannibal and Face stepped away
from the line of fire just as Murdock sprayed the ground before the
captives with a flurry of rounds from his M-60.
Stumbling backwards, the men began to run for their lives. Knowing
their message would be delivered, post haste, Hannibal let them go.
Turning to face the now excited crowd, Hannibal called out, "Who are
Meagan and Wallace Burkes?"
Stepping forward, "I'm Meagan Burkes." She held out a still shaking
Stepping smoothly into place, Face shook and held her hand just a
second longer than necessary. He glanced at the older man then spoke
in that ultra smooth voice. "Ms. Burkes, you've just hired the A-
Even now, four and half years later, Meagan could still feel the
tingling in her hands from that first touch. Oh, he had been so
smooth. Obviously a man used to getting what he wanted, Templeton
Peck had been absolutely stunned when she hadn't immediately fallen
into his arms. Ruefully, she shook her head at the absolute hilarity
of the chase she had led him. She had determined early on that she
would not be used and left behind by this gorgeous man. What she
hadn't counted on was that he could be so persuasive. Despite
herself, she had watched the defenses crumble between them and the
next thing she knew she had found herself in his arms....
Before she could follow these thoughts to their conclusion, she found
herself approaching the General Mercantile. She glanced through the
front window. Her father was standing with the phone in his left
hand, a sheaf of papers in his right, obviously engrossed in his
conversation. Easing the door open a crack, Meagan could just hear
the last of his conversation.
"I hear you, Jerden! Now you hear me, I will not be intimated
anymore.... I've done what you wanted. That's all that I can do." A
pause, punctuated by Wallace Burkes' gripping of the phone cord and
twisting it violently, followed. "I understand. Yes, as soon as I
know...." He slammed the receiver back into the cradle and heaved a
mighty sigh. The papers in his right hand were nearly crumpled as he
shoved them back into the manila envelope on the counter. He next
bent over and secreted the envelope away. Determinedly, he
straightened and reached for the wooden handled straw broom and went
about his closing chores.
Outside, Meagan wondered who her father was talking to...she knew no
one named Jerden in this town. Who could he be talking to in such a
manner? As if she didn't have enough in front of her. Now she had
to try and figure out what her father was up to...sometimes she felt
like she had two children. But for now she had to get him to go
home. He was tired and above all she had to look out for his
health. He certainly wouldn't. And then maybe she could get a peek
at what was in that envelope.
Meagan waited for a very few minutes then entered the front door of
the General Mercantile. The bell jangled overhead as the door swung
open. Her earliest memories were of this store and sitting on the
big, shiny oak counter as her father waited on customers. She was
always here or so it seemed to her. She went to school, of course,
but after school, she came to the store and when she was old enough,
she went to work. Now she was the primary caretaker of the business,
but still no matter how she tried, her father insisted on closing the
doors personally, everyday.
Meagan saw him now, sweeping the wooden floor and putting away
merchandise that had been mislaid by customers during the day.
Deciding that she would use a more indirect approach to make him call
it a day, she approached him. "Dad, you have no business sweeping
this floor. You know that Kim will do this in the morning before she
"Kim? Why is she opening? That flighty girl hasn't got sense enough
to open!" Wallace Burkes slowly turned to face his daughter. His
gray eyes were slitted in suspicion and he harrumphed his
displeasure. His hands, dark and work roughened, gripped the broom
handle tighter as Meagan attempted to pry it from his grip.
Momentarily giving up, Meagan answered his question with studied
carelessness. "Oh no reason, really. An old friend called today and
is coming to visit in the morning."
"Old friend? What old friend?" The broom stilled, the hands
clutched it tighter.
"No one you know. I met them in college." Meagan swallowed the lump the lie caused and focused on keeping her voice level.
Suddenly very interested in his daughter's friends, Wallace Burkes
shuffled to stand near her. He eyed her closely. "You only went to
the community college in Tate. Who would come to see you that I
"Dad! I am a grown woman. I know lots of people that you don't!"
Desperate now, she hoped that anger might work where innocence had
"Don't sass me, girl! Is it that Peck man? Is he here?" His voice
was gruff but his hands shook slightly as they laid aside the broom
to reach for a fallen box of crackers.
Gasping aloud, Meagan spun to where he had crouched on the
ground. "Dad! What do you know about him?"
"Hmmph...know enough. Is he here?"
Meagan stared at him, licking her lips nervously. Slowly, she pulled
the letters from her pocket, separated the sheets and handed the
correct one over. "Did you send this?"
Guiltily, he glanced at the paper. He cleared his throat and
asked, "Now does look like my handwriting?"
"That's not what I asked, Dad. Did you send this letter?" Louder
now, she demanded answers.
"So what if I did...that boy has to own up to his responsibility. He
never was trustworthy. Ran off and left you high and dry, in trouble
and without any real support."
"Dad, how dare you do this? I never said that Templeton was
Natalie's father. How can you do this to us?" So angry that her
voice shook, Meagan nearly yelled, all the while thinking rapidly,
trying to find a way out of this impossible situation.
"Well, he is, isn't he?" The older Burkes defended himself.
"It really doesn't matter. I chose to raise Natalie alone, Dad. I
made my own decision, the best way I could. You had no right to
interfere in this..." Suddenly weary, Meagan slumped against a wall
and sighed heavily.
"Of course it's my business. You are my daughter and Natalie is the
light of my life, of my old age. I need to know that you are taken
care of." He wore his indignation like a shield.
It was a posture Meagan knew well. And also one she know how to
handle. She turned it around on him. "Yeah well, you are the only
family that we have, too. So who were you talking to on the phone
before I came in? You were very upset and you know that the doctor
says you shouldn't get too upset. It raises your blood pressure!!"
Meagan watched as he thought rapidly. She smugly waited for him to
respond. Her dear father, he could dish it out but he never could
"Well, fine then...you just see whoever you want to see in the
morning. I hope Kim totally screws up the register tape, just like
last time, since you are the one who has to deal with such things....
my blood pressure, you know." Wallace Burkes now gathered his
indignation around him like a cloak and swept past her to his
apartment above the store. He harrumphed and left without another
word... about anything.
Meagan pushed away from the wall and followed his progress up the
stairs. She wanted him to shut up, but she also wanted to know if he
had that letter sent and why. Too late, he slammed shut the door
between the stairs and his entry way soundly and she heard the lock
snap into place. So much for getting anything else out of him
She finished the sweeping, returning the broom to its place behind
the counter. Bending to retrieve her keys from their shelf under the
counter, she caught sight of the small safe there. He father must
have stuffed whatever was in that envelope inside. She quickly
dialed the combination, hoping she recalled it correctly. She never
used the safe, it was for her father's personal papers and she had
never needed to get in it.
The door swung open and she reached for the manila envelope.
Crouched behind the counter, she opened the tiny, gold brad and
pulled out papers. Meagan was just starting to read them, when the
phone jangled loudly in her ear.
Gasping, she reached instinctively for the line that also rang in her
father's upstairs apartment. Before she could answer, she heard her
father's voice speaking. "Jerden, is that you...damn fool pager
works I guess...don't know why you can't just stay at home and answer
your phone like anyone else. I think they may be here. Yes, I think
at least one of them is. Peck, that's right. Fine...." The phone
clicked and Meagan stared at her end. Dear lord. Her father had
sent that letter. Who was Jerden and why was her father telling him
about Temp and the rest of the team?
Meagan heard the floorboards above her head squeak and knew that
Wallace Burkes was coming back down for something. She pushed the
papers back into the envelope and shoved it back into the safe.
Slamming the door shut, she grabbed her keys and raced out the door.
She barely made it out of the store before her father entered the
Walking over to the door, his steps now heavier than ever, Burkes
checked the locks and pulled the blinds. He scrubbed one hand over
his beard-roughened face and tapped his chin thoughtfully as he spoke
aloud. "All right, Wally old boy. Sure hope you know what you're
doing here. If you don't, she may never forgive you. And I wouldn't
He checked the safe, found it secure and retired to ponder his
harebrained scheme and to pray, it never hurt to pray.
The next morning at exactly nine o'clock, Face jumped out of the van
in front of Meagan's house. He turned to walk up the drive, only to
be called back by Murdock. "Hey Facey, you sure you don't want me or
someone to go with you?"
"Um Yeah, Murdock, I'm sure. But you're going to be back in two
hours, right?" He looked to Hannibal for confirmation.
"Two hours, Face. We're just going to take a drive around town,
check out the lay of the land. Then we'll be back. " The colonel
tapped his watch and repeated, "Two hours..."
After watching the van drive away, Face approached the door with
butterflies rampaging through his stomach. He wiped sweaty palms on
his jeans and reached for the doorbell. Before he could ring, the
door flew open and he was nearly swept aside by the miniature
hurricane that blew through.
From the kitchen of the home floated Meagan's voice. "Natalie, get
back here this instant and finish your breakfast."
The hurricane whirled to a stop. The shoulders drooped as the girl
accepted defeat. Noticing their visitor for the first time, Natalie
stage whispered to him, "If you go in there, Mommy's going to make
you eat oatmeal..." Without another word, she turned and trudged
slowly back into the house.
Grinning, he followed her inside and stood at the kitchen doorway.
Natalie climbed into her chair and picked up the spoon, playing with
the food more than eating it. Meagan, turning to scold her for
trying to sneak out of the house, once again started at the sight
that greeted her.
"Oh, you scared me! I should be used to that, I guess...."
"Sorry, Natalie let me in, sort of...." Face offered by way of
Meagan spoke automatically, "Nat, what have I told you about talking
"Sorry, Mommy." Her tone indicated she was anything but.
Face watched the exchange mutely. His heart pounded as he heard
Meagan's words echoing in his head. "Talking to strangers,
strangers, strangers..." He knew he was a stranger to the little
girl, so why did the thought bother him so? Despite his inner
turmoil, his pleasant façade never wavered. There would be a time
and place for his argument about why he was a stranger to his own
child, but this wasn't it. Today was going to be a good day. It had
Feeling a bit awkward now, watching the mother and daughter going
about their morning routine, Face finally ventured to ask, "Did I
come by too early? I had the others drop me off. I can call them
back, if you want?" It was obvious that was the last thing he wanted
"No, not at all. Natalie is an early riser. We've been up for a
couple of hours." She jerkily removed the bowl from in front of her
daughter, simultaneously wiping the girl's chin with a napkin. "I
told Nat that an old friend was coming by and that you really wanted
to get to know her. She's been chattering, non-stop, all morning,
about what she wants to show you."
Unsure what, exactly, Meagan had told the child, Face nodded. He
still had the butterflies floating around and he was unused to
feeling so out of place and unsure of himself. "Show me?" He smiled
at the suddenly, very interested Natalie. "Hi, Natalie. How's
Dreyfus this morning?"
"Fine. Are you mommy's old friend?"
"Uh yeah, I guess that would be me." Spreading his hands before him,
he agreed with her assessment.
"Natalie, why don't you take him into the living room and show him
the pictures you picked out this morning?" Meagan turned to the
sink, "I'll be out in just a minute, okay?"
"Yes, Ma'am." Obediently, she tucked her hand into his and pulled him
out of the room.
Swallowing hard, Face allowed himself to be lead to the comfortable
couch. He watched at the girl clambered up into the center of the
cushions before sitting down next to her. Her sticky hand left his
to reach for the first album. He discovered he missed the contact
and wanted to grab it back, just for a minute or two. He satisfied
himself with just watching her now serious face instead.
Natalie placed the heavy book on her lap and opened it to the first
page. "Hey mister, what's your name?"
Before Face could answer, Meagan walked into the room. She had
overheard the question and rushed forward to answer for him. "Oh
sweetie, this is Mr. Peck. Templeton Peck."
Giggling, "That's a funny name." Natalie covered her mouth with her
hand at her mother's admonishing look. "Well, it is...."
"You know what Natalie? You're right. It is a funny name. How about
if you call me Face? My friends call me Face and I really want to be
your friend." His smile faded as he looked from his daughter to her
mother. She had rushed into answering for him like she expected him
to just blurt out that he was Natalie's father and that she could
call him 'dad'.
Once again unable to meet the hurt in the blue eyes that stared at
her, Meagan dropped her gaze to the carpet. After a few seconds,
taking a deep breath to steady herself, she approached the couch and
sat on the other side of her daughter. She asked lightly, "What are
you showing Face now, honey..."
Forty-five minutes and four albums later, Natalie declared herself
bored with the activity by pushing the books off her lap. Recognizing that her daughter was about to drag Temp away to some other activity, Meagan decided to intervene. They needed to discuss Natalie and what to tell her and she really needed to tell him what she overheard the night before at her father's.
"Natalie, why don't you go upstairs to your room to play and we'll be
up in a while?"
Shrugging her shoulders, Natalie headed for the steps at full speed,
calling over her shoulder, "See ya, later, Face!"
Meagan made sure she heard the door upstairs slam then turned to her
companion. "Well, welcome to storm central. That was hurricane
Natalie..." Her attempt at humor fell flat.
"Meagan, we have to talk about this.... I'm not going to just walk
away from her. I can't...I know what it feels like to be left behind
and that is the one thing that I just can't allow myself to do."
Facing her squarely, he began the inevitable discussion.
"I know." Spoken so quietly, she had to repeat herself to be sure
that he heard her. "I know that. I won't ask you to leave her. But
I just don't think we should just blurt out that you are her father.
There are just too many other considerations...."
"I agree that it's complicated, but it's not impossible. Nothing is
impossible." He flashed her the trademark smile and gained not even
the smallest hint of a response. "Meagan, I wish you would try to
see it my way. I've never had family. Not really. Hannibal,
Murdock and BA are like brothers. But it isn't like having parents
and a home to return to. I've lived in a million places and none of
them were home. I don't want Natalie to ever feel like that." The
words came out, slowly. He had never really voiced these feelings to
anyone before. He didn't talk about it, ever.
"She doesn't feel that way. She has me and Dad and we have a home.
She's a happy little girl."
"Yes, she is. And you've done a great job raising her. She's smart
and polite and she's just beautiful. But I want her to have more. I
want her to have a father. I can be that. I need to be that." Suddenly hearing this in his own words and voice, Face realized just how true this was. He needed that little girl in his life. Not just for now, but forever...
He had known about her for less than twenty-four hours, yet he couldn't imagine leaving here and never seeing her again.
Once again, he blessed the unknown person who sent that letter.
Unfortunately, the natural order of this line of thought brought him
back to Hannibal's parting words this morning. 'See if Meagan has any
idea who sent that letter.... Something isn't right here and we need
to know what it is.'
"Look, Meagan, I'm not going to just walk in here and expect to be an
instant father. I know that she needs time to know me. Right now, I
just want to spend a little time with her and get to know her, too.
Does that sound reasonable to you?" Face reached for her hands,
grasping them gently between his own.
Gazing at their entwined fingers, she nodded slowly. The heat from
his skin soaked into hers and she remembered how his hands had felt
on her body, running up her arms and over her back. Cupping her face
as he kissed her lips, tangled in her hair as he...
Suddenly, she jerked her hands away, breaking the contact, but not
the memories. Never the memories. God how she had missed him when
he was gone: gone and never coming back. As well as she knew that
she had sent him away the first time, she also knew, that he would
have to go again and that the day might come, when he wouldn't come
back at all. She knew how it felt to lie in bed at night and wonder
and worry and she was determined that Natalie would not suffer
through that, ever. She had to keep Temp from telling their daughter
who he really was. But for now, silence ruled and she didn't know
exactly how to break it.
Watching her pull away from him, Face felt many emotions, none of
which he really understood. He felt the return of the anger, aimed
at Meagan, for keeping his daughter from him. He felt joy, knowing
that he was going to have the chance to know her now and in the
future. Just now, holding her hands in his, he had lost sight of the
anger and felt.... something...what he wasn't sure. Desire? He was
still attracted to Meagan, for sure. Looking around the house, where
he first came to know the Meagan he had loved, he wondered if he
still loved her.
Love was not something he was extremely familiar with. He had loved
Leslie, this he knew. But that had been a young, innocent love. He
had thought he loved Meagan, deeply and passionately. But when it
had become evident, four yeas ago, that she wasn't coming back to
him, he had buried that feeling deep and now he wasn't sure what he
had really felt.
What he did know was that he had a lot to deal with and right now, he
had to assume the role of Lieutenant and see what he could find out
about the origins of the letter that had brought the team back to
this town. He thought 'After all, I have my orders, right? And if
it gives me some much needed space to sort out all this mess, well
then I just got lucky, right?'
Shaking himself from his reverie, he cleared his throat and addressed
Meagan. "Uh, Meagan, I really need to know if you know anything about
who sent that letter. I wasn't thinking just real clear at first and
this could very well have been a trap. Hannibal is going to be here
soon with the others and well, you know how Hannibal can be...."
Grateful for the reprieve from the previous, highly charged topic,
Meagan began to tell Temp what she knew. She had decided the past
night that she should tell them everything. Maybe she would get real
lucky and they would leave right away...maybe not...
Either way, she had to tell them. She and her father and this town
owed the entire team their loyalty and she had no idea what had
possessed her father to lure them here and then
"My father had that letter sent. He told me last night. I
confronted him and he admitted it." She sat on the edge of a chair
and waited for his reaction.
"Your father? But, if he knows I'm Natalie's father, why hasn't he
said something sooner? I mean, I am not exactly his favorite
person. He made no secrets of that. Why wait until now?" He
shrugged his shoulders, a gesture of confusion. "And in the letter
he said that you and Natalie needed me. Is there something wrong?"
"No, not that I know of....I was just as confused as you are, still
am to a certain extent." The doorbell rang at that moment. "I'm not
expecting anyone besides you, is that your friends?" She watched as
Face checked his watch. Looking out the front window cautiously, he
saw the familiar black van and nodded that it was okay for her to
open the door.
"To a certain extent? Did he tell you something else last night?"
Face quickly resumed the conversation as the other three filed into
"It's not what he told me, it's what I overheard and saw." She drew
in a deep breath and said the words she thought she'd never have to
say again. "I think I may need your help again, and I mean all of
you, the A Team."
Ushering the men into her kitchen and offering them chairs and iced
tea, Meagan debated exactly how to start to tell them what she
suspected, without making her father look terrible. She was saved
the trouble when Face began to report to his commander.
"Hannibal, Meagan told me that her father sent that letter and she
was just about to tell me what she thinks is going on around here."
Face remained standing by the counter, next to Meagan and nodded to
indicate that she start to speak.
Taking a deep breath, she outlined what she had seen and overheard
the pervious night.
Five minutes later, Hannibal sat back and lit his cigar. He thought
for a few moments, and then spoke directly to her for the first time
since entering her home. "So, Ms. Burkes, you think that your father
lured us here to get us captured, but you think that he did so under
duress? You think that this Jerden character is threatening him with
something and that something may have something to do with your
grandfather, who you never met?" His tone was dubious and the way he
said, "Ms. Burkes" made it all too clear that he didn't really
believe her or trust her, for that matter.
"Yes, the papers I saw, clearly, were from my grandfather's
construction firm. They were dated nearly 40 years ago. I have no
idea what they were about. The phone rang and I overheard Dad tell
someone named Jerden that Temp was here and he sounded nervous or
scared or something." Upon speaking Face's name, Meagan's gaze had
darted toward him, as if measuring his reaction. The blond smiled
reassuringly and she nodded in appreciation.
"Look, lady, I'll be honest here. My first instinct is to pack up
and get the hell out of town. You father is up to something and I
don't like it." He paused and before he could complete the thought,
Face interrupted him.
"Hannibal, we can't just leave this...what if he is in trouble? They
need our help." Face paced about the kitchen.
"Kid, if you would let me finish... I said that was my first
instinct. Not my decision. We'll see what we can find out about all
this and then I'll decide what we do about it." He stood up to
indicate that this 'meeting' was over and was about to head for the
door when a flurry of activity was heard above them.
A door slammed and footsteps pounded down the stairs. Natalie began
to yell at the top of the stairs, "Mommy! Mommy! Are you finished
talking yet?" Her voice grew closer and soon she appeared in the
door. She skidded to a halt and her eyes grew wide and the sight of
the men gathered in her house. Suddenly shy, she ran to her mother
and hid behind her legs. Peeking out from behind her, she observed
Face grinned widely and approached the girl and her mother. "Hey
Natalie, these are my friends. I'd really like for you to meet them." He watched Meagan for acceptance; she nodded and stepped away
from her daughter.
Holding out his hand, Face smiled and waited for her to come to him.
The tiny child looked from him to her mother then back again. She
seemed to make up her mind and reached for the large, warm hand
offered to her.
Face walked the few paces to his team and began the introductions. "Natalie, this is H.M. Murdock."
"Hello, Miss Natalie, you can call me Murdock or you can call me H.M.
or you can call me Fred, just so long as you call me when it's time
for cartoons. Do you like Scooby Doo?" He ended the banter with a
big loopy grin and a wink. He offered his hand to shake.
Natalie giggled and shook his hand politely. He shook hers with
exaggerated force, causing her to giggle harder.
Next, Face led her to BA. She shied back against his legs and looked
way up to the big man's face. She held herself rigid until the
fierce features relaxed into a gentle smile. Just like all kids, she
knew then that this one was not to be feared. "Natalie, this is BA.
He's kind of big, but..." He didn't have the chance to finish before
the girl stepped boldly to the other man and tugged on his pants leg.
"Where did you get all that gold?"
Her question seemed to tickle the big guy and he chuckled. Leaning
down to afford her a better look, he touched the tip of her nose
gently. "I tell ya what, Little Bit. You be a good girl and do just
what your Mom tells you to and I'll tell 'bout it some time."
"Okay." Happily, she fingered the biggest necklace, shaped like a
moon, once more then turned her curious gaze to the last man she had
yet to meet.
Face, feeling more nervous than he understood, turned his attention
to the man as well. "Natalie, this is Hannibal Smith..." At a loss
as to how to explain this man to his daughter, he simply left it at
Hannibal, never exactly comfortable with anyone under the age of 18,
just nodded and said, "Hello." He looked at her for a minute or two
then turned away. There was no denying the resemblance was there.
The child looked just like Face. Her eyes, young and innocent,
reminded him of the first time he saw Face....
Face had been just that, all those years ago. Extremely young and
innocent in ways that no one really knew. At the same time, those
ever-changing eyes told the colonel that this smart aleck Lieutenant
had seen more fear, and rejection in his years than anyone child
should have. He had decided, right then and there, that he would do
everything in his power to make sure that the kid didn't have to ever
face anything like that again. When he had failed at that, in the
POW camps, he had at least made sure that he didn't have to face the
terrors alone. Intellectually, Hannibal knew that he had done
everything in his power to keep Face safe. They had all been abused
and tortured during that time. But his heart just couldn't accept
that reasoning. Even now, nearly 15 years later, he renewed his vow
to protect his men and most especially this one, the youngest one.
No matter how this thing with Meagan Burkes and her father turned
out, Face would know Natalie. Face deserved that happiness and all
children deserved to know the people who loved them, even the grown
Forcing himself out of his reverie, Hannibal returned his attention
to the room. Natalie was talking rapidly to a smiling Face. He
watched as she whispered something in her new friend's ear, then she
sidled past her mother, who was suitably distracted by Murdock and
his lecture on how to raise the best geraniums.
As Hannibal looked on, Natalie reached her goal, looked back at Face
and grinned conspiratorially. She stretched, on her tiptoes, for the
cookie jar on the counter top. Frowning in consternation, the would-
be sneak realized that the ceramic apple container was pushed back
further than normal and was beyond her reach. Searching for an
answer, her gaze lit on the near-by man. She looked up at him while
tugging slightly on his gloved hand.
Looking into the familiar blue eyes, Hannibal knew he couldn't refuse
them, no matter which face they were looking at him from. He grinned
first at Natalie, then at Face. Wiggling his eyebrows, he stealthily
reached over and pushed the cookie jar closer to the edge, then
stepped between the girl and her mother, effectively blocking the
view of the 'crime'. His reward was a pair of million-dollar grins
and a chocolate chip cookie.
Shaking his head, he raised the cookie in a silent toast of sorts to
the girl and her father, munching happily on their 'illegally'
appropriated snack. Hannibal watched the ear-to-ear grin spread
across his friends face. He thought, "What the hell? Face is
happy...so am I!"
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