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Title: Turn The Page (Sequel to Up To A Point and Opposites Attract)

Turn The Page
by: Live Lady Roadkill


Rating: NC-17
Sequel to "Up To A Point" and "Opposites Attract"

Disclaimer: A-Team owned by Stephen J. Cannell etc. and the words and music of Turn The Page belong to Bob Seger (He's the man! Yeah!)
Comments: Please----Need'em, want'em and very much appreciate'em
Warnings: Warning: M/M SLASH/consensual - If you are under the legal age of consent in your area or have a problem with the graphic description of male/male sex or sex of any kind, please do not read this story. –severe emotional trauma.

 

The title is based on one of the songs of one of my favorite musical artists – thought I might share the lyrics to the song that inspired the title: Turn the Page—(Words and Music by Bob Seger)

On a long and lonesome highway
East of Omaha
You can listen to the engine
moanin' out his one note song
You can think about the woman
or the girl you knew the night before


But your thoughts will soon be wandering
the way they always do
When you're ridin' sixteen hours
and there's nothin' much to do
And you don't feel much like ridin',
you just wish the trip was through

Here I am /On the road again
There I am /Up on the stage
Here I go /Playin' star again
There I go /Turn the page

Well you walk into a restaurant,
strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you
as you're shakin' off the cold
You pretend it doesn't bother you
but you just want to explode

Most times you can't hear 'em talk,
other times you can
All the same old cliches,
"Is that a woman or a man?"
And you always seem outnumbered,
you don't dare make a stand

Here I am /On the road again
There I am /Up on the stage
Here I go /Playin' star again
There I go /Turn the page

Out there in the spotlight
you're a million miles away
Every ounce of energy
you try to give away
As the sweat pours out your body
like the music that you play

Later in the evening
as you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers
ringin' in your head
You smoke the day's last cigarette,
rememberin' what she said

Here I am /On the road again
There I am /Up on the stage
Here I go /Playin' star again
There I go /Turn the page

Here I am /On the road again
There I am /Up on the stage
Here I go /Playin' star again
There I go /There I go



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

 

Part 1

 

Hannibal thought since Face remembered what happened to him, the nightmares would end for his lieutenant. At least, that's what he had hoped for on Face's behalf once he overcame the initial shock of Face's story but all hopes were dashed about a week after the memories resurfaced. Face would talk very little and at times, he would even be completely incommunicative for days at a time. When he did talk, it was limited to short answers to only the questions he was asked. His behavior was sometimes a little bizarre at times but understandable and today was no exception. When he wasn't sedated, most of the time he could not tolerate being covered by blankets and today was one of those days.

Hannibal scooped up the blankets off the floor next to the bed and tossed them in the corner for now. Everything Face enjoyed remained untouched by him for well over three weeks: his music, Murdock's stock/tax project and his books. Everyone had a new routine with Face. In shifts, they'd have a one sided conversation with him, do a few things for him and then pick out a book and read to him for an hour or two. Murdock discovered early on that he relaxed when someone touched him and he encouraged everyone to do that when they spent time with him. Hannibal always took the morning shift. He moved over to the bed and sat down in the chair next to it. No matter how many times Freeman explained to him that this was a breakthrough for Face, he couldn't accept it as progress. But now that Face remembered, there was no going back for him.

Once Hannibal was able to think about what Face had told him and he was more than certain that Decker had eavesdropped on them. He was angry with him because he felt that Decker had taken something from him and Face. But he kept his anger in check because Decker said nothing about it and he was being more helpful to him and Carla at Langley. Carla was now back at work, resuming some of her duties with Murdock constantly monitoring her. Aside from the massages, she was growing a bit annoyed by him but she tolerated it the best she could. The massages were worth the trouble. Once Carla was back at work, Decker had told them that he was going to San Diego for a grandson's tenth birthday celebration. Hannibal knew what he was up to because it doesn't take a week to celebrate a child's birthday. Decker was in search of evidence of Face's mother and he was returning later that morning.

Hannibal couldn't wait to see if he found anything.

Hannibal looked closely at Face, trying to read him as he lay on his side tracing imaginary patterns. Something in Face's eyes gave him hope that he might talk a little. "Hi Kid. Are you interested in doing anything?"

Face stopped tracing and gave him a blank look. Hannibal gave him a soft pat on the shoulder. "If you want to do anything, just say the word."

Face resumed his tracing and on a whim Hannibal decided to take him outside. He retrieved the wheelchair from the corner of the room and Face compliantly let Hannibal assist him into the chair. Face moved like an old man, like it was causing him physical discomfort to move around, as he slowly settled into the chair. Once he was in the chair, Hannibal handed him a hairbrush to run through his hair a few times before steering him out the door. By all appearances Face looked the same, he even managed to gain five more pounds in the previous weeks. The only difference was in his eyes and his smile. His eyes were almost lifeless and he never smiled anymore.

Once they were outside, Face slowly closed his eyes and tilted his head back in the morning sun. He inhaled deeply. The lilacs were in bloom on the hospital grounds and Face seemed to get some satisfaction from this. Hannibal congratulated himself for thinking of the idea in the first place. "Where do you want to go, kid?"

Face opened his eyes and looked around to locate where the wonderful smell was coming from. When he did, he pointed to a hedge of cheerfully green bushes with large clusters of little purple flowers. This was a very encouraging sign to Hannibal. The hedge was across a stretch of grass and there were no sidewalks leading to it. He judged Face to be in no shape to walk the short distance so he turned the wheelchair around. "Hold on."

Hannibal tilted the chair backward on its two large wheels and pushed Face over to the hedge. Face tilted his head back and Hannibal glanced down at him to be sure he was okay as he pushed the chair. Face had an unmistakable look of pure satisfaction. It was momentary look but it WAS a look of real satisfaction and Hannibal grinned. Once they were next to the hedge, Face leaned over to smell a cluster of the sweet blossoms. Once he got a good whiff of the pungent, sweet odor he slumped down a little in the chair and was unreadable to Hannibal. He had a far away look but Hannibal could tell that he was thinking about something. Noticing Face squinting, Hannibal moved him to a shady spot because the brightness of the sun was bothering Face's eyes but he kept him close to the lilac hedge.

Hannibal sensed that Face wanted everything quiet so he didn't give Face the usual run down of everything that was going on in his life for the day. Hannibal felt like he was reporting to Face and asking him if he approved of his day-to-day activities. It was the only way he could think of to reassure Face that he was still an important part of their lives but he walked away in disappointment everyday when Face didn't respond one way or the other.

Face stared at the flowers for a long time and then looked away to take in the landscape of the hospital grounds. He seemed to be deep in thought and intently focused on something Hannibal could not see.

"Mama liked purple flowers, especially irises."

Hannibal swung his head around in total surprise and swallowed hard in anticipation of what Face might say next. His voice was soft and crisp when he spoke. Hannibal cautiously picked Face's hand up as Face continued to look across the landscape intently. He then slowly turned his head to look Hannibal in the eyes. His eyes were moist with forming tears and he took a deep breath. "She liked purple flowers. ……….. I don't remember her name or my name but I know she liked purple flowers."

Hannibal's heart began to pound in his chest in relief and excitement. There was life and emotion behind those words. Hannibal squeezed Face's hand and searched for words to persuade him to talk more, to keep him there with him. "Its important to know what kind of flowers your mother liked."

Face looked back out to the landscape and sniffed. A harsh kind of calm seemed to envelop him as his attention focused on the wind rippling gently through the trees. "I think her pet name for me was 'Buddy' …………. I'm not sure, but it feels like it was what she called me. ……….. I don't remember my real name or anything else about her or me."

Hannibal thought if it was true, the pet name would still apply, but he liked the 'pet' name he had given him. "You don't have to remember everything at once, Face. A little at a time is a good thing for now."

Face sucked on the inside of one of his cheeks trying to decide if Hannibal was right. In light of what he remembered of the nightmare, he decided that Hannibal might be right. The memory of lying on his mother's corpse began to paralyze him with fear and he began to tremble a little. "T-take me back inside………. But first I want some of those fl-flowers t-t-to take back t-to my room."

If he wanted flowers, Face was going to get flowers. Hannibal quickly selected a large handful of lilacs and moved Face back inside. Face focused on the flowers in his lap and he had calmed down by the time he was put back in bed. Hannibal confiscated Face's water pitcher to put them in and placed them on the rollaway table for him. Face was slipping back into his silence but he was still there. Hannibal knew he would be talking more in the near future but for now he was trying to figure out a way to live with his newfound knowledge. Hannibal casually asked if he wanted the covers on him and Face shook his head and stared at the purple flowers next to a recent picture of Cassy; a picture of her walking. Hannibal skipped reading to him and sat next to Face quietly until BA arrived for his shift. Hannibal could barely contain his excitement as he told BA what had happened earlier. BA sighed in relief as he looked at the door to Face's room. "That's the best news I've heard in a long time. It's killin' me to watch him starin' at nothin' all day long."

Hannibal nodded. "He's still staring but he's starting to stare at something now. I'm going to talk to Freeman and tell him what's going on before I head to Langley."

"Decker's back. He got back about an hour ago an' he's waitin' for you."

Hannibal cocked his head in curiosity. He must have found something and he debated on whether to stop by Freeman's office or just go directly to Langley if he was waiting for him. He could pass along Face's progress to Freeman through Dorothy or BA but he opted to tell Freeman himself to get feedback from him about what to expect next. BA and Murdock were still very suspicious of Decker and thought it was curious that he and Hannibal were seemingly warming up to each other. BA didn't like it at all but while Murdock maintained a healthy mistrust for him, he could not deny that Decker was being of great help to them. BA kept his temper around Decker, but Murdock and Hannibal kept them separated as much as possible to keep the tension level down as low as possible.

Hannibal had come to depend upon Freeman's word about Face's condition and after today, whatever Freeman said was going to be held as the gospel truth. Freeman had predicted Face's behavior almost perfectly. His only flaw was that he had predicted that it would take Face a lot longer to start communicating once again. Face only said a few sentences but to Hannibal, it was like the recitation of the entire biblical book of Psalms. Before leaving for Freeman's office, Hannibal returned to say good-bye to Face for the day. Hannibal grasped Face's hand as he lay on his side staring at the flowers. "Gotta go kid. I'll see you tomorrow. Okay?"

Face nodded and Hannibal let his hand go. He quickly pushed Face's bangs away from his eyes, eliciting a curious look from Face. Hannibal had gotten into the habit of doing this in recent weeks when Face was spaced out, not caring at all about his appearance. He needed a haircut but the lengthening hair made him look more boyish and Hannibal decided not to bring it up for now. The longer hair seemed to suit Face for the time being. Hannibal grinned in embarrassment as he took his hand away from Face's hair. "Guess you can do that for yourself now."

Face made no comment and returned to staring at the lilacs. Hannibal gave him a pat on the shoulder before leaving him with BA.

When Hannibal left, BA sat down in a chair next to Face's bed and picked up the book he had been reading to Face in the previous days. He searched for the spot where he had left off the day before when he caught Face looking at him. His eyes reflected the emotional pain he was in as well as the look of being totally lost but there was something else in them that gave BA a sense of hope for Face. When BA was told about what happened the day Face remembered about his mother, he put his fist through a wall.

Hannibal and Murdock were grateful that it wasn't one of the rock walls in the Langley house because it would have shattered every bone in his hand if he had. They were all hurting for Face, but BA took it a little more personally than the rest of them. He had seen many abused children pass through his care at the daycare center in LA and saw the devastating effects of abuse had on their lives. As well as providing a safe haven for those children, he did his best, under the circumstances, to get them out of the abusive situations and into proper foster care without getting himself caught by the authorities in the process.

The idea that someone had attempted to kill Face as a little boy made BA furious and the way they went about it made him sick to think of it. BA gave Face a smile when he noticed he was looking at him. Face sighed and BA put the book down. "Glad you're back, Face. You had us all worried about you but you're gonna be okay now. I'll make sure of it an' that's a promise. What happened to you an' your mama was a real awful thing and there's nothin' we can do to fix it. But remember this Face. You beat'em. You beat'em good when you lived an' we're gonna find out who did this an' make'em pay. An' make'em pay good. I'll make sure of it, little brother."

Face swallowed hard and return to staring at the flowers, fought back the tears. BA lowered the bed rail to sit down and he pulled Face into his arms. Face resisted at first but was too weak to put up a fight. He gave up and let BA hold him. BA was a good hugger and he felt safe in those massive arms. He didn't think he had the energy to cry but tears flowed freely. BA made sure he was comfortable as he sat behind him with his back to his solid chest so he could still see the flowers. BA began to softly rock him and Face was surprised when he instinctually settled further into BA's protective embrace. BA was warm and he could hear his beating heart, which was comforting to Face. Something in Face told him that he needed this and he no longer put up any physical or mental resistance to it. He accepted BA's comfort and relaxed. It wasn't long till he was asleep and he had no fear of the dream this time as he drifted. BA would wake him up if he dreamed.

After a quick stop at Freeman's office to inform him that Face made real contact with him a short time ago. Freeman was pleased to hear this but warned Hannibal that this was the beginning of a long, hard road ahead of Face. The real work had yet to begin. This didn't alter Hannibal's relief. He was well aware that recovery was going to be slow and hard won for Face, if recovery was possible in Face's case.

While Hannibal's faith in Face remained unshakable, he knew that Face had a serious mental illness coupled with a terrifying traumatic event that would disturb a person with the strongest of mental constitutions to their very core. He still had hopes to have Face functioning on a day-to-day basis but now he couldn't see Face out of the hospital as an outpatient in the near future, if at all. With these sobering thoughts on his mind, he wondered why Decker wanted to see him.

He quickly returned to Langley to find Decker in Carla's office. Decker was in casual civilian clothes and had never occurred to Hannibal that Decker wore anything other than fatigues and dress uniforms till then. Somehow the civilian casual clothes looked out of place on Decker and Hannibal shook his head slightly. Hannibal returned Carla's smile, which seemed a bit forced, as Decker closed a classified file and made an attempt to discreetly put it out of Hannibal's line of sight. Hannibal kissed Carla in greeting and he noticed a box with a slightly worn file on top of it. "How was your grandkid's party?"

Decker waved towards the box. "Jason had a blast………. Had time to make a side trip and checked out a few things."

Hannibal picked up the file. It was labeled 'JANE DOE 072-C48-1955.' Hannibal glanced at Decker critically as Decker gave him a summary of its contents. "She matches Pecks description almost too perfectly and was discovered thirty miles from Los Angeles in a field irrigation ditch that's now a suburb. It confirms Peck's story but there's nothing to identify her. The dates of Peck's arrival at the orphanage and the discovery of her body coincide within four days. I have to assume that someone had picked him up and dropped him off at the church. ………. Careful Hannibal, there are some gruesome scene photos in there……." Decker remembered that Hannibal had been through two wars and gave him an apologetic glance as Hannibal opened the file.

One of the pictures was of particular interest of him; an on-the-scene photo of where the body was found. He ignored the badly decomposed body of Face's mother lying partially covered in a burlap sack in the bottom of a dried out ditch. He focused on what looked to be a set of tracks in the dried mud leading away from the spot. He closed his eyes as a chill went down his back because he knew those tracks belonged to Face as a child. He quickly glanced at the postmortem examination report and OD on morphine was listed as cause of death.

Decker and Carla watched silently as he thumbed through the report. A picture of the woman's arms told him the story. She had track marks up and down both arms—she was a junkie. He could imagine what Face's life was like as a child of a serious addict. He grew up in a household with alcoholics and knew how it felt. But if this checked out, the rest of Face's story must also be true. He was given shots to keep him quiet and ultimately given a massive dose that was meant to kill him. He had absolutely no reason to doubt it now. Hannibal could not look at the report any further and opened the box. Decker made a smacking sound with his mouth and watched Hannibal carefully. "I haven't looked at anything in the box yet."

It contained everything gathered at the scene where the body was found; Clothes, used needles, the burlap sack, a child's shoe, papers and pictures and their frames. The pictures had been removed from the frames and placed neatly in an evidence envelope. Hannibal cautiously opened the envelope that contained a few heavily water-stained pictures. One picture captivated Hannibal. A school-type picture of a small boy that looked like he was trying to be happy for the sake of the camera, but it was obvious that he wasn't healthy.

"Hannibal, there's something written on the back."

Carla glanced at the other pictures and picked out a snapshot of a young woman proudly holding a bright and bubbly infant swaddled in a blanket. Hannibal looked on the back of the picture in his hand and read it. 'Buddy—age 6 ½' and a date that Hannibal presumed that the picture had been taken. When he read the name 'Buddy' it made Hannibal sick because if the date was correct on the picture, that meant Face was close to seven years old when he was found at the church and not five. If this was correct, that meant Face had been stunted by being malnourished and the drug abuse inflicted on him. "This can't be right."

He showed Carla the picture and the date on the back. He explained to her the discrepancies and Decker took the picture and looked too. Carla shook her head in pity. "He certainly looks like Face to me. If you like, I could have someone look up pictures of him after his arrival at the orphanage for a comparison. If he was abused to the extent of giving him drugs to keep him out of the way, it could have delayed his growth and that's why they may have assumed he was five at the time."

Decker remained quiet as Hannibal absorbed this last bit of information. He vacated the chair he was sitting in for Hannibal and Hannibal sat down heavily. Hannibal picked up the picture of what he presumed to be Face's mother and Face as an infant, and he tightened his jaw. The baby certainly resembled Face. He could not bring himself to look at anymore of the box's contents for the time being. Instead of five years, Face had endured possibly seven years of abuse. Hannibal picked up the child's shoe and turned over in his hands again and again. It was so small. Too small, to be exact.

Decker and Carla exchanged a look and Carla nodded. Decker eyed Hannibal closely. Hannibal seemed to be taking all of this too personally to Decker. He was beginning to regret going on the little fact-finding expedition into the past. He had all these law enforcement contacts in California that he hadn't used in years and he was in the neighborhood. He thought if it could help a troubled person like Peck, he extended his stay in California for a few more days to poke around. He had a feeling that he had no idea of the true implications of what he had just done, but he imagined that it would have been done eventually anyway. Decker cleared his throat and shuffled to the door. "I…..uhm….. have some unpacking to do. ………. Not to mention I'm jet lagged ……… You think we're ready for the grand opening next week?"

Hannibal had forgotten about the school. It was scheduled to receive its first students in a matter of days. Hannibal nodded and carefully returned the little shoe to the box. "Thanks Rod."

Decker regarded Hannibal with concern and Carla nodded to him to indicate that she'd take care of him from that point on. When Decker left, Carla returned the photos to the box. "I'll have this sent to the crime lab. We may have handled some of it but they may find something that the police weren't able to find over thirty years ago."

Hannibal sighed. "Thanks Carla. But who are we kidding here? If there was any evidence to be found, it probably got washed away because part of what Face remembers is being wet and surrounded by water. It's a wonder he didn't drown."

"It couldn't hurt."

Hannibal looked away in frustration. "Yeah……. I guess it couldn't hurt." He looked back at Carla and smiled tiredly. "He talked a little bit today and made me pick flowers."

Carla returned the smile with a touch of sadness. "That's good to hear and I bet he didn't twist your arm, either."

"How're you and junior doing?"

"We're just fine. I'm grateful that the morning sickness is letting up. I'm beginning to hate the flavor of crackers, or rather the lack of flavor."

"I'm probably just as tired of rolling around in the crumbs in bed at night."

Hannibal made an attempt to laugh but failed at it. Carla got up and picked up her purse. "Let's go home. I'm tired, you're tired and we both could use a nap."

Hannibal raised an eyebrow at this. It was barely lunchtime and Hannibal knew that Carla was avoiding Murdock's ever watchful eye on her diet. Murdock was beginning to pester him too about his health and making him more aware of his age. Making him aware that he really needed to start changing his habits so he could be around for his baby's life for as long as he possibly could. He was more than happy to escape Murdock for the time being. His physical with the gerontologist declared him to be fit for a man almost half his age and he was cutting back on the cigars gradually. He doubted that he could ever quit altogether but he thought cutting back would be enough. "Let's get out of here before Murdock starts forcing carrot juice or something worse on us."

Carla was in quick agreement with this and they were down the driveway before they paused? to look over their shoulders. On the way home, they picked up some takeout and some sinful groceries that Murdock would not approve of. Carla picked up a little book perched above the bubble gum and candy bar racks at the checkout counter, titled 'Names For Your Baby.' Hannibal gave her a genuine smile at this as the cashier rang up their selection and Carla tossed the little book on top of the pile. All the way home, Carla read out the various names she liked as Hannibal drove while he made comments on some of the names. They settled down into bed after changing into sweatpants and t-shirts to be more comfortable while they ate their takeout and 'sin' food. Hannibal snatched the little book away and Carla grinned as she made a stab at the food in the carton. "If it's a boy, he must have the name John for a middle name. It's a tradition in my family."

Hannibal was agreeable with that. "And if it's a girl?"

"I was named after my grandmother. What was your mother's name?"

"Margaret."

Carla looked thoughtfully. "I like it. It's a strong name. Would you like it as a first or a middle name?"

Hannibal chuckled a little. "Middle, because it's a little old fashion for a little girl."

Carla grinned. "Okay but I have one restriction about girl names. I am not naming a girl 'Jennifer' or any other 'J' names because there are way too many 'J' girl names running around these days."

Hannibal sighed and his thoughts wandered to Face. He thought he should call to check up on him soon. He took a bite of food and picked up the book once more and scanned the names. He couldn't find any names that he would consider for his child and he handed the book back to Carla. They laughed at some of the odd names listed in the book and Hannibal was a bit disappointed when his moniker wasn't listed. He pretended offense when Carla couldn't find 'Hannibal' and he declared the book a waste of money. Carla had finished her lunch and set aside the empty cartons before stretching out on the bed. "We have a little over six more months to find a name. It'll come to us when we least expected it. We are in agreement that the middle names will be 'John' if it's a boy and 'Margaret' if it's a girl?"

Hannibal nodded. "It works for me."

He had had all he wanted to eat and he sat the leftover food with Carla's empty cartons. Once Hannibal had settled down on the bed, Carla snuggled up against him in his arms. Hannibal thought he should be content but his mind kept wandering back to Face. Carla seemed to be lost in her own thoughts too. Hannibal traced her jaw. "What's the matter?"

Carla looked up and her eyes were filled with sadness. "I can't help but to think of Face. I mean, he always seemed so ……. I don't know ….. I don't want to say 'together' but he was so sarcastic about everything before a few months ago. And now he's crumbling to dust before our eyes. I really hardly know him like I would like to know him and its breaking my heart to see him like he is. I know you love him and I can only imagine what's this is doing to you, especially so soon after you two have come to an understanding."

Hannibal sighed and looked away. "It's killing me, if the truth be known. It seems like once he gets over one hurdle there's a bigger one around the corner for him to jump over. He jumps because I tell him to………. But this stuff about his mother …………. God, I can't ask him much less order him to do anything anymore because I'm afraid I can't handle it."

Carla studied Hannibal for a moment. "There's nothing wrong with feeling that way and you're feeling guilty about being happy about our baby. Aren't you?"

Hannibal gave Carla an incredulous look and Carla sighed. "Remember who you're talking to Hannibal. You shouldn't feel guilty at all. Face was thrilled by the news and before he recovered the memory of his mother he'd call me when I was under mandatory bed rest and keep me company when Murdock wasn't catering to me hand and foot. ………. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll have a hand in raising my own child because all of them have already made plans for the baby, especially Face. He seems to believe it'll be a girl."

Hannibal chuckled sadly. "If Face had it his way I think all babies would be girls …….. I'll have a talk with BA and Murdock about that if it bothers you that much."

"No, that's not necessary. Its that I haven't had any definite plans form in my own mind about him or her yet and BA's probably got the nursery all planned out, Murdock, I know already has designs on our child and Face was picking out preschools for 'her' before he mentally collapsed……... I hardly had time to figure out how I feel about getting ready to be a mother and they are already planning the college graduation party."

It was all Hannibal could do to keep from laughing out right. He choked down the laughter. "I didn't know they were getting that bad. Give them time and they'll cool off in a little bit and back off some."

Raising an eyebrow at him, Carla pursed her lips a little. "Oh really? I think it's kind of cute when you pitch in with Cassy.. Murdock and BA get a bit frustrated with you when you take over completely at times with her and I don't see you backing off at all."

"I take over completely? ……… Naw, I'm just helpin' out, that's all."

Carla nuzzled into Hannibal's chest. "Call it what you will, but you do tend to take over entirely and I guess I'm going to have to get used to standing back and letting them do it from time to time. I'm not even really showing yet and already this kid has a built in baby sitting co-op."

"BA would make an excellent nanny."

Carla burst into a fit of laughter. Once the laughing subsided, Hannibal got serious. "I don't know how I'd feel about letting BA and Murdock around our kid with them being gay and all. I know its stupid because I've known them almost their entire adult lives. I know they'd never do anything to hurt any kid, but I can't help but to feel uncomfortable having them around my kid."

"You're right. It is stupid. They're doing a great job with Cassy and just because they're gay doesn't make them bad people. So get over it, Hannibal. I'd trust them with my child just like you trust them with your life."

"You accept them?"

"They accepted me, so why should I not? They're decent and generous people and those are traits I'd want for my child. Isn't that what you want?"

"Guess I am going to have to find a way to get over it then. I've been mad at BA for not telling me something in all the time I've known him ………. Murdock on the other hand, I'm not the least bit surprised by him being that way. I've always had my suspicions about him."

"That's it, isn't it? You don't have a problem with their sexuality because if you did, you would have dropped Murdock like dead weight in a heartbeat if you had suspicions. You're spitting mad because it seemed like BA lied to you and because of BA's fear of how'd you react, Murdock followed BA's lead and didn't say anything either."

"Wouldn't you be mad if someone lied to you about something like that?"

"Frankly, what they do in the bedroom is none of our business, but you fail to see it from their perspective. While acceptance for gays is getting better, it's also still dangerous for them. Can you imagine what other soldiers would have done to BA and Murdock if they found out about them?"

Hannibal conceded and decided to let it go because Carla was right. They were decent and generous people. BA and Murdock were both repentant about not being totally up front with him in the beginning. He remembered how pained BA was to have been forced to tell him that he was gay under the circumstances. He also remembered how happy Murdock was about being open about the entire situation in spite of what had gone wrong. He had no idea how to fix Face's problems but his problems with BA and Murdock could be fixed with a few simple words and actions. With that potentially out of the way, his thoughts wandered back to Face.

He was grateful that BA and Murdock were there for him. He wasn't sure if he could handle Face by himself. No, he KNEW he couldn't handle Face by himself. He wondered what would've happened if they weren't in Stockwell's 'employ.' There was little doubt in his mind that instead of visiting Face in a hospital room, he'd be visiting his grave by now. Hannibal began to wonder about the young woman in the picture that was proudly holding the infant Face. She was very pretty and Face had her eyes, she had a look of intelligence about her. But he kept asking himself how could she put herself and her young son in a situation where they'd end up in a ditch in the middle of nowhere?

But then if Face's illness was indeed hereditary, that could explain a lot. Face was always spinning out of control and he would have crashed and burned a very long time ago if he hadn't had the guys to catch him or stop him in time …….. every time. Maybe his mother didn't have the right kind of friends to help her through her troubled times. If Face's past behavior was an indicator of how his mother would have behaved, the woman didn't stand a chance if she didn't have the right friends. Based on Face's recollections, that would seem to be the case. But he could never forgive the woman for Face's treatment as a small child. There was simply no excuse for it.

He could forgive her of a lot of things but not of becoming a junkie and permitting her friends to treat a small, defenseless child like that, no matter what her mental condition was. Another question bugged Hannibal, but only for a moment. Where was Face's father during all this time? If he was still alive somewhere, he probably didn't deserve Face or wouldn't understand him. Now that's an interesting thought… in this world, is Bancroft still his father? I think we have discussed this before , but I can't recall the answer at this time. Face belonged to them and they were going to take care of him.

Hannibal felt Carla kiss him to bring him out of his thoughts. He gave her a little smile of embarrassment. "Sorry. I was thinking about Face again."

Playing with Hannibal's hair, Carla sighed. "Why are you sorry? You have a lot to think about after this morning. I can't help but to think about it, too. Who couldn't help but think about it? You do what you need to do and talk to me about it. Don't think you have to do this completely on your own. Okay? I love you and I know you come with baggage, because we all do. While I don't consider Face to be baggage, its plain to see that he is very important to you, along with BA, Murdock and Frankie. Anybody with eyes can see that."

Lowering his eyes, Hannibal wet his lips a little. "I should be thinking about getting you to the alter and real soon."

Carla smiled sympathetically. "I'm not going anywhere."

"I know but neither is Face. I would mean a lot to him if he was a part of the ceremony and I don't see him getting a day pass for a very long time."

"If we have to, we can get married in the chapel at the hospital."

"You sure you want that? Most women want a big wedding with all the trimmings."

"I've done that before and it's highly overrated. The only thing you get out of it is a migraine on your wedding night, a huge bill and a nice scrapbook of pictures afterwards. I want it as simple as you can get it—a small chapel, a handful of friends, you, me, and a justice of the peace."

"I'd like that, too."

"Okay then. As soon as Face is capable of participating, we'll do it."

Hannibal sighed at the thought of finally making the beautiful creature in his arms his wife. Everything was coming together for him; he had a baby on the way and a very intelligent and beautiful woman that was going to be his wife. He and Decker had called a truce and they were actually getting along. Stockwell has made himself scarce lately. With Carla's help, he figured out what was really bothering him about BA and Murdock. He was going to talk to them both as soon as he possibly could and could see things between them all will be improving immediately.

Hopefully, with time, things could get back to the way they were. The school was promising to be a huge success. The only black cloud that was hanging over him was Face and his problems. If anyone deserves a break and some happiness, it was Face and Hannibal could not give that to him. But he could damn well try to help him get it for himself.

 

 

Part 2

 

Hannibal forced himself to study every piece of paper and picture in the Jane Doe file early the following morning. The picture that it painted made everything seem grimmer for Face's situation. He carefully photocopied everything so he could give a copy of it to Freeman. At closer inspection the file told where Face's mother had been buried, complete with the name of the cemetery and the grave lot number. He was still bitter towards her and he could not bring himself to have any sympathy for her as he was making copies of the records of the investigation into her death. Judging from the pictures, she couldn't have been more than nineteen or twenty years old when Face was born. Hannibal was still angry with her for putting a small child in that sort of danger.

With a new file in hand containing copies of everything, he walked to Freeman's open door and paused before stepping inside. Freeman waved Hannibal in when he looked up from his reading. "Come in."

He set the medical book down and glanced at the file as Hannibal placed it on the desk in front of him.

"I haven't been to visit him this morning yet. I thought it was important that you get this as soon as I could."

One close look at Hannibal told him that he wanted to talk about something important. Freeman opened the file to inspect the contents and before he could ask Hannibal what it was, he froze when he glanced at the first pages. Hannibal sat down in the chair and watched Freeman skim over the contents of the file. He was so absorbed that he picked it up and read it when he got up to close the door to his office. He glanced at Hannibal and asked, "This is going to be very useful. How did you get this?"

"Using some of Stockwell's connections, I've done some searching but came up with nothing. Colonel Decker found it for us. I think he may have overheard Face telling us what happened. He went to California last week and came back with that and a box of crime scene evidence which is now being examined by the FBI crime lab to see if they can find anything else."

Anger flared up in Freeman's eyes at the possibility of some one eavesdropping on a patient in crisis, breaching the confidentiality rules of the hospital. He would deal with Decker later but what was in his hands as the results of the Colonel's eavesdropping was going to be very useful in helping Face.

Hannibal stared at the file as Freeman read it. "He was seven years old when he showed up at the church, or close to it. Not five. He was so sick and small for his age they mistook him for a five year old little kid."

Freeman stopped devouring the contents of the file and set it down. His eyes settled on Hannibal. Hannibal shifted uncomfortably and Freeman took a deep breath while carefully closing the file to look at later. He sat down before Hannibal. "I know you want answers. We all do. What happened to Face was senseless and there will never be any satisfactory answers."

"That's the thing Face will want most…….. answers. What are you going to tell him when he asks why it happened?"

Freeman sighed a little. "I'm not going to tell him anything. He's going to have to find the answers for himself with my help, and if he lets you, with your help, too."

Hannibal snorted. "What kind of psycho babble is that? His own mother abused him in one of the worse possible ways imaginable and you're not going to tell him anything!?! You're just going poke around in his mind and get him to figure out why his mother did that to him?"

Freeman waited for Hannibal to calm down but his cool demeanor only made Hannibal angrier. He regarded Hannibal knowingly before continuing. "This isn't about his mother. She obviously made a lot of mistakes and may not have realized what she was doing, but this is not the heart of the matter. This is about Face and how he decides to deal with it, *IF* he chooses to deal with it right away. And what ever his decision is, with your help, I'll support it and take it from there."

"You really think he's capable of making that kind of a decision? With the exception of yesterday, he never speaks unless prompted. And even then he only says one word and if you're lucky, maybe two or three. He'd never get up out of bed if we didn't get him up. If you'd just make him talk, he'd just might get through it." Hannibal threw his hands in front of himself and then folded the across his chest tightly.

Freeman leaned back a little so he could get a fuller view of Hannibal and thoughtfully considered the other man's outburst. He glanced at the file before turning his attention on Hannibal. "He's made you his guardian and he's accepted your fatherly feelings towards him and has returned them without hesitation. Those were his decisions and you accepted them and respected them. He's been subconsciously carrying around the events for over three decades and it has been affecting him without him realizing it. While his emotional state is unstable, he is the same person that has made those decisions and it will be essentially the same person that'll make up his mind about what he wants to do about it after he recovers a little more. The bottom line is what Face wants to do from here."

"What if he decides not to deal with it?"

"If that was his decision he wouldn't have recalled the memory."

Some of Hannibal's anger dissipated and he looked out the window with a sense of frustration. "The mind does whatever it needs to protect itself."

"Yes, it does."

"I wish that he didn't remember it."

"He's always remembered it."

Hannibal looked sternly at Freeman. "Make up your mind. First you say he didn't remember and now you're saying he always remembered it."

"I said he could not recall the memory. He always remembered it, subconsciously speaking. His lifelong fear of needles and inability to form lasting and meaningful relationships with women is evident of that."

Hannibal's anger flared up again. "How's he gonna figure out how to deal with what his own mother did to him?"

"Why are you so angry with his mother? The woman has been dead since 1955 and died tragically. Face was so traumatized by her loss that blocked it all out for over thirty years and he's still grieving for her."

"Do I really need to spell it out to you?"

"Please do, because I'd like to understand where all your anger is coming from."

"The woman was an addict and she had a child that depended upon her. When a person has a child, their sole purpose on this earth is to do everything within their power to raise that child the right way."

"If that's the case, you've just condemned every parent on the planet because there is no clearly defined 'right' way to raise a child.."

"She was an addict."

"Yes, she was, but have you taken into consideration what led her down that road? You already know that manic depression is hereditary and its highly likely Face inherited the illness from her. When you were on the run, why weren't you angry with him whenever he got into trouble during down time?"

Hannibal scoffed. "That's different. And besides that, I've already told you that about a month ago."

"Humor me and tell me again."

With Freeman waiting for him to answer, Hannibal glared at him. "………. It was almost as if he couldn't help it."

"Face's mother may have been the same way, and she didn't have anyone like you to go get her when she was in trouble. Face's mother has made some grievous mistakes, I'll grant you that, but you don't know what led to her circumstances. I'm not justifying her actions, but Face still loves her. And for Face, that's something positive. He needs to feel like he's doing something right, and if he picks up on your disapproval of his love for his mother then you're telling him he's wrong to feel that way. He's going to be conflicted, and that'll cause him stress he can do without. If anything, I'd recommend you encourage him to express the way he feels about her and commend him for it."

Hannibal began to see Freeman's point, but he was still angry. He nodded that he understood, and

Freeman studied him closely. "I'm still curious about where all your anger is coming from."

"………Doc, don't screw with my head here."

Freeman nodded respectfully. "Okay…….. Before you go see him, I strongly suggest you get it in check and remember …….. I'm not the enemy here."

"I know that, but it seems like ever since I became his legal guardian, you've been attempting to get me on your couch. I believe in what you're doing but I'm not partial to being subjected to it."

"I wasn't aware I was doing so, but I assure you that it's in Face's best interest, as well as your own."

"I'm doing what Face asked me to, and it wasn't really necessary for him to ask in the first place. Why is the fact that I'm angry so important? Any other human being would be."

"Yes, they would. Everyone is angry about what happened to him, which is healthy……."

"Why do I hear a BUT coming on?"

Freeman gave a little smile. "But…….."

Hannibal looked annoyed. "I knew it………. Okay, I'm listening as always and I'll play along for the time being."

"I'm wondering why you are so quick to condemn his mother and not the other people that Face remembered. One of them gave him what they thought was a lethal dose of a drug, and thinking they were both dead, threw them in a ditch. Why her and not them?"

"She was the one that was supposed to take care of him."

"What about his father? He may have been one of the men who dumped them in the ditch for all we know, but apparently he wasn't around. Wasn't it his responsibility to provide a safe environment? This occurred in the fifties and the social norm of the time required fathers to provide for the mother of their children as well as their children. Why not condemn him equally?"

Hannibal was annoyed but curious. He knew a set up when he saw one and Freeman wasn't making any effort to hide it. Hannibal was curious about where Freeman was taking him, and willingly took the bait. "Okay, I'm now angry at him, too. You've accomplished a lot. Instead of one, now I'm pissed at two people. That's what I call progress."

"I'm not finished yet. Let's take it a step further."

"Okay, go on."

"How would you characterize your relationship with your own parents?"

Hannibal lost all patience in that moment and his anger rose along with him as he got up so quickly that he knocked the chair back a little. He was about to leave but something in Freeman's eyes was challenging him to stay, but they were filled with sadness for him, too. He knew if he walked out now, he'd lose that challenge. Hannibal attempted to keep the danger out of his tone when he set the chair back in its rightful place. "What do my parents have to do with anything? We're talking about Face's parents."

"No. We were talking about you. You said your family was alcoholics."

"You don't miss a thing do you?" said Hannibal defensively, but his curiosity won over again. "Yes, my father and my brother's father were alcoholics and my brother………… half brother is still battling it a

bit."

"And your mother?"

Hannibal sat back down and did not hide the fact that he really wanted to know where Freeman was taking him even as his sarcasm began to intrude into his tone. "No. Never touched the stuff. …… So what does this prove, if anything?"

The sadness in Freeman's eyes dissipated and reflected his admiration for Hannibal for continuing.

"How did you feel about your father when he was drinking?"

"I think the question should be when was he not drinking. ……..It embarrassed me and I hated him for it.. Any kid would feel the same."

"What was he like? How did everyone else treat him?"

Hannibal shot a questioning look at Freeman as he proceeded. "He was everybody's best friend. Everyone liked him except for his own family. He was always willing to do anything for a drink, and everyone knew it. He couldn't hold down a steady job, but he was always working at odd jobs for a bottle of cheap whisky. I hated him when my brother Jack and I would have to drag him out of trouble whenever he'd had more than enough. Which was quite often. He was well liked and I never understood why. Jack is ……. or rather was the same way. He's been cleaning himself up after nearly getting his pregnant daughter-in-law killed in a car accident."

Freeman looked as if he was making mental notes as he asked the next question. "And your mother?"

Hannibal sighed and stared at Freeman's brass nameplate on his desk. "She was a saint. She thought she could save the two men she married from themselves. Jack told me his father was just like mine before he died. Instead of saving them, she was driven to an early grave, leaving me and Jack to fend for ourselves. She was sick for a long time before she died, and Dad should have taken care of her but he didn't. She buried an alcoholic and was buried by another."

"How did it make you feel when she died?"

"I was eleven at the time. How do you think it made me feel? I was lost, confused, and hurt."

"……And angry?"

Hannibal's eyes flared up as he looked up at Freeman. "Now don't start putting words in my mouth."

"I'm not. Anger is a typical emotion for a child that young to experience at the loss of a primary parent. ……. You called your mother a saint. Is that how you would truly describe her as a boy?"

Hannibal gave a little one-shoulder shrug. "That's what everyone else called her for putting up with my father and my brother's father."

"So naturally you could not be angry with a saint, could you?"

Hannibal scoffed incredulously.

"Who took care of you when she was sick and after she died?"

"Jack did the best he could to look after me and himself till he followed the family tradition."

"Why was she called a saint then?"

Hannibal didn't have an answer for this and so he was silent. Freeman allowed him a moment to absorb the impact of the new view of his mother. Freeman's voice softened a few decibels. "Tell me again how it made you feel when she died. Was she really a saint?"

Hannibal fell completely silent as he sat there and watched the curtain that had sheltered the image of his mother be pulled away. It was several moments before he spoke a response. "No, not hardly but I guess I was angry at her for dying on me."

"Did you express it?"

"No. I couldn't around everyone who knew her because they practically turned her into a martyr at the funeral. All the women in town placed the blame on my father and my father went on being the best friend of all the men ……….. Now what does this have to do with Face and his mother?"

Freeman wet his lips slightly and leaned forward. "In light of what you've just told me, tell me why you are so angry with Face's mother and seem so willingly to condemn her so quickly. "

Hannibal was stunned and looked away bitterly, and began tapping a finger on his leg. "You're saying when I'm angry at Face's mother that I'm really angry at my own mother because she left me and my brother alone with my father."

"Not necessarily. Those are your words, not mine. Now look past your anger towards your own mother and tell me what you really feel about Face's mother."

Hannibal was confused by this but made the attempt to follow the orders. He tried to sort through his various angers and discovered that they were all mixed up. His anger for his own mother, just recognized and acknowledged, spilled over. "……..I can't."

"I think we have a problem then."

Hannibal nodded slightly in agreement and swallowed hard in frustration. When he realized his defenses were down, he quickly covered it up and sat up straighter. He reminded himself that he willingly stepped into this psychological mousetrap. Something else was nagging at him. Since he was already open, he may as well venture a little further. "I know when a man has something up his sleeve, and you've put something up your sleeve when I was talking about my father."

Freeman considered his options at the moment and then nodded thoughtfully. "I'm going to give it to you straight."

"I wouldn't expect you to give it any other way."

"Why didn't you, as you put it, follow the family tradition?"

"That's simple. I didn't want to be anything like my father. Why?"

With a sigh, Freeman pursed his lips momentarily and nodded thoughtfully. Hannibal knew he was going to hear something that he didn't want to hear and braced himself. But he could never prepare for what Freeman said next.

"Face used almost the same exact words to describe you when you're on the Jazz as you did when you were describing your father when he was drunk and how it made you feel."

Hannibal paled when understanding dawned on him. He shook his head unbelievingly in disgust and he felt real fear for the first time in a long time. Freeman had held up a looking glass to him and he did not like what he saw. But he could not deny it, and he resisted the impulse to walk out of the room. He looked at Freeman pleadingly. "…….. I'm almost exactly like my father …….. I spent my entire life trying not to be like him, and I'm………" He said this more to himself than to Freeman.

Hannibal began to sober up and sober up hard. He was wondering how this was possible as his mind raced on to understanding Freeman's concerns about how his relationship with his own parents was affecting Face. He could see as clear as day that it was true. He knew he had to do something and quickly. With reluctance, Hannibal asked, "What can I do about it? ………. I want Face back, and if I'm holding him back in any way, I want to fix it. Not to mention I have another child on the way. I-I can't let it happen again, let it go on to another generation."

Freeman looked at Hannibal in a critical manner, but he was proud of the older man's conclusions.

"You've already taken the first couple of steps in the right direction just now."

Hannibal rubbed his hands on his pants leg to dry some imaginary sweat from his palms. "Thanks Doc, but based on what you've told me just now, I've been contributing to Face's problems and now I need to know how to fix 'em."

Freeman sighed and leaned back with a sense of satisfaction. "You've always been there for him when he needed someone the most. There are no quick fixes or easy answers to any of this. This includes your 'contribution' so to speak, which was not as harmful as you seem to think. Unlike his mother and father, you've been around to make amends as you've made mistakes."

Hannibal smacked his lips in frustration. "That's fine and dandy but what's gonna stop me from making the same mistakes in the future? I wasn't aware that my behavior was affecting Face like that. I know he's a grown man, and I remember how it felt as a kid with my father. I don't want him to feel like that because of me anymore. I feel like I should be afraid to be around my child when it's born."

Freeman smiled sympathetically. "I assure you, I think that baby will be one of the luckiest babies alive. If you don't mind, I'd like offer my services to you."

Hannibal fidgeted a little. "….. Uhm ……. I … uh …. You think you can break an ol' mule like me?"

Freeman raised an eyebrow a little. He expected Hannibal to outright turn him down initially because it was a typical response from older men whenever psychotherapy was suggested. "I'm not in the habit of breaking people, Hannibal. In your case, I think you need to be shown how to recognize and change certain behavior patterns and how they affect other people."

"You make it sound easy."

"I'm not going to kid you, it's not. But, you have the right incentives to make you want to follow through."

Glancing at his watch, Hannibal sighed. "Well, one of those incentives is expecting me in about five minutes. Face may have lost the power of speech, but he hasn't lost his sense of time. He gets a bit anxious when I even run a few minutes late."

Freeman was very aware of the schedule they'd set up with Face in the previous weeks. A soldier's daily watch duty to keep him safe during the day. It was a good routine that he approved of. Face needed the structure of a solid routine. There were no surprises, and he knew what to expect day-in and day-out. It made him feel safe and Face needed to feel that as much as possible. Freeman wished that all of his other patients had such luxury of having friends who planned their days around them. "Of course. Stop by later and my secretary will set up an appointment for you when your visit with him is finished………. And don't worry about it anymore. We'll talk about it."

Hannibal stood up. "And none of this, 'I'm okay, you're okay,' rubbish."

Freeman waved a hand and gave a little smile. "Wouldn't dream of it. I'll get you through it as quickly and painlessly as I possibly can……. It's my personal policy."

"Good. That's what I want to hear."

Picking up the file, Freeman glanced at it. "Hannibal…….. Thank you for getting this to me. It will be very useful."

Hannibal nodded bitterly. He wished it wasn't necessary, but anything to help Face. "As soon as we get the lab reports, I'll make sure you have a copy."

"I'd appreciate that………. Have a good visit."

Once Hannibal had left the room, Freeman wanted very much to study the files. It was going to have to wait because he was expecting another patient soon and had to prepare for it. He put the file away with a sense of satisfaction.

Hannibal found Face where he'd expected him to be: on the bed with the covers off, lying on his side, staring at the flowers from the day before. No one had taken the time to put his bathrobe on him that morning. He had something to do with him and he picked up Face's bathrobe. After coaxing him into a sitting position he patiently put the robe around him. "You wanna go outside today? It's a little windy, but its warm enough."

Face made a move to lie back down before Hannibal had a chance to get his robe around him properly.

"Whoa here, Face……. Just a minute more."

Face sat back up and waited till Hannibal had his robe sorted out as Face searched the other man's eyes. Hannibal smiled at him easily and patted him on the shoulder. "We can go outside again tomorrow if you like."

Face glanced at the window and then back at Hannibal before easing himself back on the bed. Instead of staring at the flowers again, he began to stare at Hannibal as if in deep thought. Hannibal smiled and did a few odd chores around the room with Face following his every move. Once this routine was complete he sat down and nodded with satisfaction to Face. Face blinked and wet his lips a little. Hannibal's smile was fading a bit as he settled into their usual routine. Face pulled his arms close to himself with a look of expectation. Hannibal felt compelled to break the usual routine for some reason that he couldn't understand. He snorted a little while giving into the impulse and reached for Face's hand. Face met him half way and loosely grasped the other man's hand. Hannibal squeezed Face's hand as Face found something new to stare at, Hannibal's hand holding his. Hannibal watched as Face relaxed. It was clear he wasn't going to talk today, even if prompted. Hannibal thought the silence was comfortable and decided to hold off on telling Face about the daily goings on or reading to him for the moment.

Hannibal sighed heavily and got a little more comfortable without disturbing Face. Hannibal never imagined that he'd be content, sitting quietly, while holding Face's hand. He'd think it was down right absurd if the circumstances that led to them being this way weren't so serious. He glanced at Face staring at their hands clasped together with a look that struck Hannibal that Face was determined about something. He squeezed Face's hand affectionately, and that elicited a curious glance from him. Hannibal gave him a patient smile and joined Face in staring at their hands. He began to absentmindedly stroke the back of Face's hand with his thumb.

His thought wandered about freely, but he mostly thought about what he and Freeman talked about minutes earlier. The revelation of him being just like his father was a bitter pill to swallow, and he wasn't sure if he was really ready to swallow it completely. He remembered how embarrassed he was as a kid, when his father stumbled down the street in a drunken stupor. God, he hated him for that. He hated wearing the hand-me-downs donated by the church because his father couldn't keep a job long enough to bring home a decent paycheck. The lowest part was when his father showed up drunk at his own wife's funeral. A funeral that he and his brother had to plan together with the help of the pastor because his father was nowhere to be found shortly after his mother had passed away. Hannibal didn't speak to the man for nearly three months after the funeral.

He was a drunk, but everyone liked him; even Hannibal liked him, begrudgingly, but he liked him. Everyone liked him but they didn't have to live with him. Whenever his father wasn't too drunk, he could be a lot of fun to be with. He'd take him and Jack out of school in the middle of the day and take them fishing and to the movies for no reasons at all. When the power-company cut the electricity off at their home, he'd show them how to turn it back on. He always found a way around adversity to make things work for him and he always made sure he had a bottle of booze, too. His father was never angry. No, he was never angry. He always worked his way around problems, finding or creating short cuts. He always managed to stay out of jail and have a bottle of booze handy. Though he did like his father very much, even loved him, but he also hated him with a passion. Wanted him to be like other fathers. Wanted desperately not to be embarrassed. But time and time again, he and Jack would have to keep him from getting hurt when he's had more than usual and keep him out of trouble till he was less drunk. Just like Face did for him since joining the team in Vietnam.

How many times had he gone a bit too far and pushed everyone around him beyond the limits when he was on the Jazz? How many times had Face given him that pleading look when he was on the Jazz? The same look he had seen Jack giving their father and surely had given himself. All of his men treat him like a hyperactive little kid when he was over dosing on the Jazz, just like he and Jack did with their father. Kids talking and coaxing their father like a little kid. They both grew up way before their time. Then after the Jazz buzz let up, everyone would give him a look of impatience and sometimes yell at him for pulling a stunt like that. Face was usually at the forefront of the aftermath. How many times had he, himself lecture his own father about staying out of trouble? Eventually Jack gave up on the lectures and just silently guided him home. They were kids. It should have been the other way around, his father lecturing him. He never gave up on the lectures because he hoped that he could get through to him someday. Face never stopped lecturing him and Hannibal smiled to himself. BA and Murdock haven't stopped either but Face freely showed how angry it made him feel to have to reel him in when he was all Jazzed out. He'd point out how they all could have been hurt, especially him. Face had been telling him how much he means to them all along. He thought, 'I hear you kid.' He thought it would be fun to hear one of Face's lectures once again now that he understood what Face was really telling him.

While Jack was somebody else's son from his mother's previous marriage, his father treated Jack like his own flesh and blood. Strangers often mistook them for blood relations, and Hannibal remembered how proud that had made Jack feel. Jack's own father drank himself to death, died of alcohol poisoning. Hannibal surmised that it was less of an embarrassment to Jack to have a drunken father than to have a father that drank himself to death because he didn't have the sense to stop drinking when he was sick.

Strangely enough Hannibal was more like his father in more than one way. Hannibal glanced at Face hanging onto his hand. Jack and his father were more like father and son than Hannibal was. It never mattered to him that Jack was his half-brother and neither did it matter to his father. Hannibal wondered what possessed his mother to marry another drunk so soon after burying one drunk. He was too tired to think about his mother at the moment. He was comfortable thinking about his father because he was used to hating him. But then when he had that thought, he suddenly no longer felt comfortable with that idea either. The suggestion that he was just like his father opened a deep wound that he didn't know existed. To hate his father was to hate himself and there were enough problems to go around for the time being.

He focused his attention on Face and wondered if he had any nightmares. Poor kid, he thought, it's tragic enough that he had to live through it in the first place, but having to relive it on a nightly basis…….. They were lucky that Face wasn't in a perpetual state of catatonia; if he were, no one would blame him. He remembered Face telling him about the nightmare when they were just undefined nightmares, before he remembered the entire thing. Face told him that he'd wake up thinking about him because he was holding his hand the first time he woke up from the nightmare. He understood the basic comfort the simple physical contact had. Now the simple act took on a more significant meaning to Hannibal. Somehow he felt more comfortable. He felt like he was accomplishing something real with Face. He couldn't explain it to himself as Face looked up at him. The dullness in the younger man's eyes was wearing away with each passing day, but the pain was still there. Hannibal thought it always had been there but no one saw it because no one had ever seen him without it.

Hannibal smiled and sighed. He took that as a sign to break the silence that had lasted well over an hour. "I talked to Freeman before I came in this morning. We had a nice long talk about a few things. Talked about you mostly but somehow the topic got switched around and we ended up talking about me. He's roped me into being his patient, too."

Face lifted his head and looked hard at Hannibal for a moment. His face remained expressionless but he shook his head a little before settling it back down on the pillow. Hannibal thought he detected a twinkle in his eyes as Face looked at him waiting for him to tell him more. Hannibal chuckled. "That got your attention didn't it? …… Glad to see that you've been listening."

Face still remained expressionless with an exception of his eyes. He was waiting to hear more. Hannibal squeezed his hand but was disappointed when Face didn't return the squeeze. Hannibal reminded himself to take it slow. Yesterday Face spoke to him without being prompted. Today he was making it clear that he was paying attention to some things going around him. Those were viewed as major steps for Face considering the way he was in the previous weeks. "Funny isn't it? …….Freeman now has us all in his clutches. I guess it's a good thing……….. I don't know, Face. I don't know how things got all screwed up ……. Maybe it's always been screwed up and I'm just now seeing everything for what it is. ……… But first things first. We're going to take care of you first. I'll do whatever it takes to get you out of here and back to doing whatever it is that you want."

Face gave him a nervous glance and returned his focus on their hands together. Hannibal grinned a little. "Anything you want, kid. ……… I would like you to start playing the piano again. You are good, very good. ………… You seemed to like it a lot ……… who are we kidding here?…….. You were madly in love with it, weren't you? Like it was your first sweetheart or something. ……….. That's it, wasn't it?"

Hannibal did not detect any response from Face, but he knew this was true. He didn't know anything about music but he remembered how passionate Face was when he played. Hannibal adjusted his hold on Face's hand to study it. He had been amazed when he watched it dance across the keyboard making the instrument produce melodic sounds that would grab his attention. He hoped to see Face's hands dance across the keyboards once again, real soon. He glanced at the abandoned instrument next to the bed and then looked at Face. He had a tempting thought but decided against it. One step at a time. First they needed to get Face up out of bed without being pressed into it. He had no idea how long that could take, but he could wait.

"I had no idea that it meant that much to you……….. I can't wait to hear you play again. ……… Hey, how about you play something at my wedding? Carla and I decided to get married as soon as you're up for it. If you could play something that would be great………… but only if you want to. Cassy's kinda young to be a flower girl but we'll improvise………. I want you to be my best man. There's no question about that. You have to be the best man at the very least."

Hannibal felt Face squeeze his hand and he grinned broadly at the response he got from Face. "We're going to have the ceremony right here in the hospital chapel so you don't have to leave the grounds………… Take as long as you need to think it over, but make it as quick as possible. At least before it's obvious that she's pregnant. …………. I still can't believe she's pregnant and we're going to be responsible for raising another human being. ……….. I found out that they let fathers in the delivery room these days. I'm not sure if I could do that but I'm thinking about it. I'll ask Carla what she wants and probably go with that but still………… its going to be a bit creepy. I guess I'm gonna have to do it because if I don't I know Murdock will. If Murdock is in the delivery room, Carla will kill him for sure………. Murdock's forcing health food on both of us now. …….. I don't know how you tolerated him for fifteen years. Now that I know which vine Murdock swings on, looking back on a lot of things, I'd think you and Murdock were married with the way you two carried on. But not to worry, I know you're straight. It's just a hindsight observation that strikes me funny. That reminds me…….. I have to talk to him and BA. I need to tell them to stop walking around me on eggshells when them as a couple comes up in as a topic of conversation. I don't think it's gonna be a problem with me anymore. Carla's helped me realize that my problem is that I was more pissed about BA lying about it all this time than I was with the idea that they're gay………… It's really …….. well, you know … to think a man could do that to another man. But that's not my problem, not that it's a really problem………….. Maybe Freeman can help me understand why it's so important for them to be together, but I doubt it. …… Guess I'm too old to change that much. …….But who knows?. If Decker and I can get along, anything's possible. …… Funny thing about him though. He's turning out to a lot of help. A lot more help than you'd ever know ……… I'll tell you about it when the time's right and when you're up for it. ……… You probably want me to shut up by now. You don't need to hear about Decker when you're like this………….You know something?…… You're really something kid. …….. I've never realized how much you put up with ……. from me mostly. Yup…….. You're definitely something."

Face let his hand go and sat up slowly. His body language said, 'Time to go to the bathroom.' He probably had to go for sometimes, but he waited till Hannibal was winding down before going. Hannibal helped him to his feet and he walked unsteadily to the private bathroom, using the walls as support when he let go of Hannibal's supporting hand. That was about the only thing Face had insisted on doing for himself, along with feeding himself. Since going to Sidney's to pick up Face's lunches were out of the question due to surveillance on them all, they tried substituting meals from the finer restaurants in DC. Face refused to touch them. The food was perfectly fine and Murdock kind of figured that Face's loyalty wouldn't permit him to eat food from other places due to the kindness Sidney had shown him and his friends. Face would eat stuff they would bring him from Langley and Carla's kitchen but nothing from another food establishment. Hannibal hoped that eventually the surveillance would be lifted once again and if it were to be lifted, he'd go to Sidney's himself and pick up the first meal for Face.

Face returned to the bed with Hannibal's help and when he was comfortable on his side, he began the repetitive tracing of an imaginary pattern on the stark white hospital sheets. This is one ritual in the previous week that Hannibal could do without. It seemed a bit unnerving and he could do it for hours at a time. Hannibal looked for an excuse to stop it. He already had his morning shower and was shaved. Oscar and the weekend orderly always saw to that first thing in the morning. The room was neat as a pin and Hannibal didn't feel much like talking to him anymore, not that he would stop the tracing just because someone was talking. Hannibal thought it would be rude to stop him to hold his hand. It was always the same pattern, a circle with lines extending from the edges, like the rays of the sun. Face seemed to be at his calmest after several hours of this but it drove Hannibal nuts to watch him do this.

Hannibal was tired from the events of that morning and he wanted to mull things over a little before he met with Carla later that day. Carla was getting better at reading him and he knew he couldn't keep this to himself for long. He wanted to talk to her about it because it was no longer about just him; it was about her and their baby. He had to change for everyone's well being, including his own. There were no questions about it, but he had to make sure she knew what he was doing. He could imagine her reaction when he tells her he's going to get counseling. He could see her being very pleased with him and offering her unconditional support. Glancing at Face tracing the pattern, he decided he couldn't take it anymore and grasped his hand. He was very short on patience that morning. Face gave him a questioning look before settling down and let Hannibal hold his hand till BA arrived for his shift . Face took comfort in the contact Hannibal was extending him and Hannibal got through most of his thinking that needed to be done before BA arrived.

 

 

Part 3

 

'So here we are,' thought Decker as he surveyed the first group of students of hopefully many more. Most of them were all clean cut and superbly neat in their standard government suits. A few, like Decker, were donned in military fatigues. Decker watched them mill around the room nursing cups of coffee and nibbling donuts and bagels, making polite conversation or catching up on career moves, wives and kids. Though, many of the men were from different agencies, they were a close-knit group and the different agencies would often overlap, so they would be acquainted. Decker had even worked with a few of the men on various occasions and knew they were the best in their fields. Many of them were at the midpoints of their careers and were probably plateau-ed at a very respectable spot for now—near the top. If they were any better they'd probably end up in a desk job as directors or field supervisors, away from the action. Somehow most of these men had managed to win the battles of staying out in the field for a little longer. Decker thought it was strange that in exchange for a job well done, they may receive a promotion that seems like a punishment to those who truly loved their jobs. The ones who loved their jobs stood out, destined to be 'rewarded', while the mediocre agents who dreamed of a desk job were usually left out in the field.

Decker scanned the room with a critical eye and attached names to faces from their files. He was acquainted with a few but they did not approach him because his stance did not invite them over for a round of idle chitchat. He kind of felt sorry for what was in store for them. Then there were a few of them that were a bit smug. Decker looked forward to seeing them squirm under Hannibal. He smiled secretly at the thought as another student walked in. The man recognized Decker and gave him a sneering smile. He invaded Decker's space and thoughts with no regard. That was how he got things accomplished—pushing and shoving—intimidation. He was an average size man but when he was talking to anyone, he'd get too close so all the person could see was him and only him. Coupled with his personality, this made him seem larger and more threatening than he actually was. Decker didn't like him at all.

"Colonel Decker, I thought you were retiring. Why would you want to be a part of this?"

Decker relishing the thought of the smug man being humiliated real soon just smiled pleasantly. "Agent Wells."

Wells, in his perfectly crisp and pressed shirt and suit, every hair in place, looked so perfect that he seemed artificial. Decker imagined his wife would have to be just like him to have put up with him. Wells scanned the room with Decker with a critical eye and glanced at Decker. "I see all of DC's finest are in the same room. Which brings me to ask why are you here?"

Decker chuckled and looked away from Wells to hide his face. "You'll see, Wells, you'll see. …….. Why don't you join your friends."

Decker emphasized the word 'friends' because he wanted to make it clear to the younger man that he wasn't his friend. He glanced at his watch and counted people. They were all here and Hannibal should be arriving any moment.

Hannibal insisted on not interrupting his routine with Peck. Decker sensed that Peck's condition wasn't a topic that was open to discussion with him and he respected that. He read the crime scene report on the woman that was presumed to be Peck's mother. He understood why Hannibal and the rest of the team were overly protective of Peck. Putting aside all the previous encounters he had had with Peck, he had come to have some pity on the man. What little he was told and what little else he was able to pick up on, Peck had been in the hospital for a while and his mental condition was serious. The day he was eavesdropping alone was enough to convince him of that. The report was still fresh in his mind and he could not blame Peck for his current state, whatever that may be. However, he had to remind himself that these men were criminals before he became too sympathetic with them. But strangely enough, he and Hannibal were getting along for real. Nothing was forced or pretend.

Decker glanced at his watch and smiled at Wells. He started a silent countdown. '………. Six, five, four, three, two……'

Then out of nowhere, Hannibal and BA stormed into the room through the door shooting at the ceiling, and Frankie and Murdock in commando dress, swung into the room from the open windows with ropes, brandishing their own weapons, semi automatic rifles. Coffee and donuts were being dropped and agents were diving for cover left and right. Some of them were searching for their own weapons in empty shoulder and hip holsters. They had checked in their weapons at the front door. Hannibal and his men stormed the room in a very strategic manner that worked to their maximum advantage. They easily overtook the nearly twenty men.

Decker chuckled at Wells hiding beneath a table as Hannibal and his men began to round them up in a corner. Several of the agents and soldiers looked to Decker pleadingly. Wells attempted to straighten his clothes while Murdock shoved him against the wall with the butt of his gun.

Wells looked at Decker and pieced together what was happening. "I protest this treatment! Order them to stand down."

Decker thought, 'He can dish it out but he can't tale it. Big mistake Wells, you're really gonna get it now.'

Hannibal grinned and Murdock gave the agent another shove. Hannibal expected Decker to agree, saw that Decker was enjoying this immensely. "I've got news for you boy, I'm in charge here, not Decker."

Hannibal delighted in Decker's sudden change of attitude as he watched Decker walked up to the defiant agent. "Even if I were in charge, I wouldn't give them the stand down command."

Decker then looked Wells down and back up before walking away, turning his back on Wells. Wells took a lunge at him and BA shot a few rounds at the ceiling to stop the attack. Hannibal chuckled and glanced appreciatively at Decker. Decker trusted them enough to count on them to protect his back.

"Welcome, boys and girls. I'm Colonel Hannibal Smith, and these are my men, Sergeant Baracus, Captain Murdock and Frankie Santana." Hannibal silently added 'Lieutenant Peck.' "Many of you know Colonel Decker."

A couple of the agents looked astonish for reasons beyond the fact that they were being held at gun-point. One of them spoke up. "The A-Team?"

Hannibal grinned broadly. "The one and only."

There was a ripple of exclamations and another spray of bullets went off above their heads to quiet them down. The men slowly and cautiously rose from their crouching positions inspired by the noise and regarded the men with the guns with astonishment. All of them had heard about the A-Team and their exploits over the years.

Hannibal looked with approval at the hushed awe. "Now that we have your undivided attention. I'd like to bid you welcome to the first class of advanced special field tactics where you will hopefully learn to think independently of your fellow agents as well as with them. To answer your first question right away…….. We are working in cooperation with the government, …….. but not fully. My boss, General Hunt Stockwell, has given me his blessing in how I operate and before you came here, each and everyone of you signed an agreement. And in that agreement, you've agreed not to disclose any of our teaching methods to anyone or reveal who we are."

At the mention of Stockwell's name a few people exchanged nervous looks as if they were wondering what have they've gotten themselves into. Hannibal did this for the reaction he knew he'd get. Most of them reacted as Hannibal wanted. All with an exception of one person.

Wells glared at Hannibal. "Those are live rounds you're using! Someone could get hurt or even killed."

Hannibal stepped up the surly agent and took out a cigar. "What's your name, boy?"

"Agent Glenn Wells and I'm not a boy."

Hannibal casually lit his cigar and Decker folded his arms leaned against the wall watching this with great interest. Hannibal regarded Wells as if he were an annoying insect. How many times had he seen Hannibal do that when he had been in Wells' position? Suddenly it felt different watching it happen to someone else rather than having it happen to him. Decker watched Hannibal drill into Wells' confidence but Wells was standing up to it. Hannibal puffed on the cigar and glanced at Decker. "A friend of yours?"

Decker answered flatly. "No."

Wells began to cough at the cigar smoke while remaining dignified and defiant. Hannibal smiled like a shark that had caught sight of a wounded fish. "Agent Wells……. I've read your records……… quite an impressive career so far."

Wells smiled smugly in spite of being held at gun point, and Hannibal pat him on the shoulder. Then suddenly, Hannibal kicked his feet out from under him and shoved him down to the floor. Wells froze and he turned red with anger. Hannibal squatted next to him and puffed intently while watching the man freeze as BA put the nose of his gun into the agent's face. Hannibal's smile had disappeared. "The way you do things could get your co-workers killed and you also have a tendency to shoot suspects too often. Whether they are guilty or not, it doesn't matter. It's your duty to do your damnedest to bring them in without harming them. You're too quick on the draw and too slow on finding another possible way. My job will be to teach all of you this without compromising your own safety, as well as the safety of your co-workers and innocent people who happen to be in the way at the time."

One of the other agents—from the DEA—hesitantly spoke up. "But we've already been trained extensively in that area."

Decker decided to step forward at this time. He stood up straight from where he was casually leaning against the wall and strolled over next to Murdock. "I've chased the A-Team for three years and during all that time, and the time before and after that, no one has ever been physically hurt by them, aside from a few bruises and scrapes but they were usually well deserved. No civilian bystanders were ever harmed. All together,………. fifteen years and an average of ten military based confrontations a year. That's an impressive record in itself. But during this time they've had the opportunity, as mercenaries, to deal with the criminal elements. They've been directly and indirectly responsible for the capture and incarceration of over three hundred criminals. Of all of them, there has not been one fatality. Now if any of you can produce statistics that even matches that by half, I'd like to see it."

BA gave Decker a curious glance at the seeming praise. Wells held onto his anger as all of his fellow students looked down at him with one eye and kept a watch on the guns pointed at them with the other.

Hannibal stood up and all of the eyes followed him. He was at the center of attention and it felt good to him. He paced quietly before the students while puffing on the cigar and observing them closely. Wells got to his feet when BA stepped back. Hannibal thought Wells was going to be a problem but he enjoyed a challenge. "Okay, boys and girls, now that the introductions have been taken care of, shall we get started?"

With no further ado, they were guided into a room that looked like it was a replica of an ordinary car garage. Once they were all inside, the door was locked behind them before they could turn around.

With that done, Hannibal grinned like a hyena and propped his gun over his shoulder. "I think that went great."

BA began collecting all the weapons and checking them. "But that Wells guy is gonna be trouble and you go an' make 'im madder. That's not good Hannibal."

Murdock glanced at Decker and added, "Yeah, and without someone to pull you back when you're goin' too far, you're gonna get us all in trouble."

'Someone,' meaning Face specifically. Chomping down on his cigar thoughtfully, Hannibal was also wishing Face were with them. "That Wells needs to be taken down a notch or two. Too much of a loner based on his records. We'll have to keep a close eye on him and put the pressure to him. Make 'im depend on someone else for a change. But for now, that can wait. Assuming they haven't figured how to get out before then, we have three or four days to relax."

"Hannibal, I'm gonna go now. I have some things I gotta do."

Hannibal nodded to Murdock and waved him over as he walked out the door. In a low voice Hannibal dryly said, "Face was sedated last night to help him sleep."

Murdock's shoulders slumped a little and Hannibal gave Murdock a supportive pat on the back of his shoulder. Murdock looked at the hand resting on his shoulder as they walked down the hallway even as the students began to pound on the door to the sealed room.

Decker grinned when the loudest muffled voice from behind the door was unmistakably Wells' voice. Murdock acted casual and glanced at Hannibal's face. There was something different. Something missing from his demeanor. Murdock sighed and returned his attention to Face as Hannibal removed his hand to inspect his cigar. "Was he having nightmares?"

"I think so……. He won't say or he was so doped up this morning that he couldn't, either way……." Hannibal shrugged.

Murdock stared down the hall. "We all miss him."

Hannibal swung his head around to look at Murdock closely. Then slowly nodded. "After BA returns the weapons back to the locker and I've checked with the Abels about the surveillance of our students, I want to talk to you and BA for a minute. Can you stick around for a few minutes?"

"I-I gotta get to Face. He's already missed BA's usual time with him……"

"I left Carla with him. He'll be okay for a little while longer and I must speak with the two of you. Meet me in my office in ten minutes?"

Murdock nodded reluctantly and Hannibal gave him a little smile. It was then that he figured out what was different about Hannibal. He wasn't overdosing on the Jazz. Murdock saw a hint of it but Hannibal should be bouncing off the walls by now. Hannibal smiled and took off in the direction of where the surveillance control room was, along with a few of the Abels on loan from Stockwell.

Stockwell was another mystery to Murdock. He seemed to have disappeared and not even Carla knew where he was. Murdock thought Stockwell would surely be present for their big opening day. He never cared for Stockwell, but his absence made Murdock a bit nervous. Murdock decided to change out of his commando clothes and into his more comfortable dressy casual clothes. When he walked into 'Hannibal's' office, he found Hannibal searching the place for bugs. The office had a few mementos from Hannibal's Hollywood days, along with a few souvenirs from his military career such as it was, old fashioned furniture that showed a respectable amount of wear and tear. Not the antique polished stuff that Stockwell and Carla had in their offices. The routine of looking for bugs was a weary one but necessary. They found two by the time BA arrived. Silently BA joined in and they found no others. After telling the people on the other end of the bug that they were wasting their time, Hannibal promptly destroyed the bugs and turned on a motion detector that he set up outside the door of his office to deter eavesdroppers.

BA did not hide his curiosity as he sat down next to Murdock in a matching chair. "You want somethin'?"

Hannibal put his cigar out and carefully pocked the remainder of it. "Yeah, you could say that. ………I need to talk about you two."

BA and Murdock looked at each other. Murdock looked like he was on the verge of panic. "We're very careful Hannibal. We don't do anything that'll draw attention to us at all, especially at Langley……"

Hannibal waved his hands as if gently patting the air down. "Whoa here Murdock. I know you're being extra careful but that isn't what this is about."

BA watched Murdock wait for what Hannibal have to say. "What's this about then?"

"Its about you two being together the way you are."

Both of the other men went "Oh," simultaneously. They were both dying to know what he meant by that as they waited patiently for Hannibal to go on. Hannibal sat down on the corner of his desk and folded his arms. He cleared his throat a little before beginning. "Uhm……. I know I've been down on the two of you since you told me about how things were between you. I've tried ignoring it and let it be at that. But I can't, because you've been tiptoeing around me trying not to remind me of something I don't want to think about going on between the two of you. It's creating a rift in the communications department and we need to do something about it. It seems like everyone around me is telling me that its okay and I need to learn to accept it. I guess everyone may be right and I'm calling a permanent truce. I apologize to you BA for giving you the roughest time over this. I was more mad that you didn't tell me sooner."

BA and Murdock were totally surprised as they looked at each other to make sure the other heard what he heard. BA slowly turned to Hannibal and licked his lips nervously. "Uhm……. I'm sorry that I didn't tell you sooner……. I didn't think you'd understand it at all."

"I wouldn't have Sergeant……. Not right away, anyway. But I think I would've preferred to have found out a lot sooner."

"I-I'm sorry."

"Once is enough……… Now about the two of you. Not that its none of my business personally but I need to know as your CO, how are you two doing? Especially after Face and Amy's relationship blew up in all our faces and really rocked the boat for a while. Murdock, you said the two of you were having problems a while back."

Murdock was still not sure what to make of what Hannibal was doing, glanced at BA nervously. BA seemed happy but a bit dumbfounded until Hannibal asked about the trouble between them. His triumph was short lived as he remembered how he hurt Murdock. Murdock gave BA an apologetic look and turned back to Hannibal and wondered how much did he know. Murdock sighed. "We're seeing Freeman and working through it, but everything else is going smooth. We would like to find some time together to be alone. But it's been impossible to do that since the security has been beefed back up."

Hannibal surprised them both as he calmly considered the couple's dilemma. "I'll see what I can do. I think Stockwell knows we won't run without Face and as he's in no shape to go anywhere, he'll let up on security around us. He probably wanted to put on a show for Decker."

Murdock choked when he wasn't sure if he heard Hannibal correctly. BA had to remind himself to breathe as Murdock recovered first. "Th-thanks Hannibal."

"Don't do that, please. Just don't lie to me anymore about anything. That's all I'm asking and that's all I've ever asked of all of you."

"Yes, sir."

"Murdock, you go relieve Carla and tell her I'll be home a little early. I think Decker's taking to our way of doin' things a lot sooner than I expected."

BA and Murdock glanced at each other as Murdock stood up. They both were ecstatic but also concerned about Hannibal. "Uhm…… Colonel, I'm glad you're cool about me and BA an' all that, but we're wonderin' about you an' Decker. You've seem to be gettin' real chummy with him lately."

Hannibal took note of their anxiety. "I'm keeping Decker close. The closer the better, …… at least till I figure out his angle if he has one."

"Okay, Hannibal. Just had to ask because you've taken some pretty heavy hits lately."

Hannibal cleared his throat and looked away while giving a quick nod. "We all have, Captain. And we need to watch each other's back more closely. We can not allow ourselves to appear vulnerable."

BA looked apologetic. "Our only obvious vulnerable spot is Face. Anyone wants to get us, all they havta do is go after him."

"I know BA. I think about that all the time."

Murdock flipped the switch to turn off the motion detectors outside the office door. "I gotta go. Don't want to keep 'im waitin' for much longer."

Hannibal nodded. " 'Kay."

When Murdock left BA gave Hannibal a look of admiration. "Your approval means a lot to him and to me too. I feel bad for not telling you years ago. I'm sorry. I should've trusted you to ……."

"Sergeant……….. Enough said. What's done is done and we'll take it from here. …….. I think everything went well today. Doncha think?"

Hannibal didn't want to talk anymore about certain aspects of BA's life. If he wanted to talk about it, he had Murdock and Freeman for that. BA understood this. "Yeah, it was okay."

"Okay?!?!…… I think it went better than okay. It went fabulous."

BA knew better than not to down play the significance of everything. It was a new beginning for all of them that was taking form. Carla mentioned that they could continue this after their pardons and make a comfortable living at it too. BA grinned a little. "You're right. Everything went real good today. I don't like that Wells guy. He's gonna be trouble, you know that doncha?"

"Yeah, there's always one in every bunch, no matter where you go. I have somethin' special in mind for him to adjust that attitude of his. His records are good but he's not above using questionable tactics that usually end up getting people hurt."

BA shook his head as he watched Hannibal turned the motion detector back on. "We can't make 'im care."

"I know but we can put a black mark on his record. His overall performance will be rated by Decker and it'll follow him around for the rest of his career. My read on Decker is that he feels the same way about Wells, so it's a matter of applying pressure to the right place."

BA was in agreement. "It'll take a while to get Wells to crack because someone like him doesn't get that far without being cool under pressure."

"I know, but I enjoy a challenge."

BA groaned. "Don't I know it."

Hannibal stood up from his seat on the corner of his desk and smiled. "It's not like the good ol' days but

it'll have to do."

Rolling his eyes, BA slumped a little in his seat. "I'm afraid it WILL be just like the 'good ol' days.'……. Hannibal please, don't mix it up too much. Things have gotten a bit quiet and believe it or not, some of us like it."

Hannibal looked wounded. "C'mon BA, doncha miss it a little bit?"

"You're makin' fun of me now."

Hannibal settled down and grinned. "I hear you. I'm kinda liking the quiet life myself. It's growin on me and now I have to think about Carla and Junior."

With a sigh of relief, BA smirked. "I can't say I'm not surprised that you and Carla are gonna have a baby. But I never pictured it would settle you down as much as it has already."

Hannibal chuckled. "Never thought I'd ever live long enough to be a father."

BA giggled. "Know how you feel. Only it took Murdock to make me a father."

Hannibal couldn't help himself and he burst out laughing. BA joined Hannibal in the boisterous laughter.

Hannibal choking on his words, said, "Yeah …….. Only Murdock………. could manage that."

The motion detector signaled that someone was approaching the door and they began to settle down. When someone politely knocked at the door Hannibal hoarsely said, "C'min."

It was Frankie. He stepped into the room as if he were looking for someone. "Where's Murdock?"

Although, both Hannibal and BA we're trying to maintain a serious demeanor they spilled over laughing at the mention of Murdock's name. Frankie sighed in bewilderment and he nervously chuckled. He backed out of the office only to back into Decker. Frankie had not spoken to Decker. The man gave Frankie the creeps and he tried to avoid him as much as he could. "I'm….. I'm sorry. I…. Uh ….. didn't see you…. Uh …. Sorry."

Decker patiently walked around the kid that was stumbling all over himself verbally and physically. When he found BA and Hannibal laughing themselves silly, he rolled his eyes and sighed, glancing back at Frankie. Hannibal recovered a little. "Frankie, what was it that you wanted?"

Giving Decker a wary look, Frankie walked back into the office with Decker's eyes on him. "I …. Uhm …. Wanted to catch a ride with Murdock to visit Face."

"You just missed him, kid."

BA had recovered completely. "I'll be going in a little bit. You can go with me then."

"Thanks man. …. I'll be in the surveillance room to watch our 'guests.' "

Hannibal chuckled a little as Frankie flashed a toothy smile. Frankie walked a wide circle around Decker and gave him a nervous grin. When Frankie made his way out of the room Hannibal asked, "What didja think?"

Decker's eyes followed Frankie out of the room and then focused on Hannibal. He nodded thoughtfully.

"Not too bad."

Hannibal pointed waved his hand to where Frankie was standing. "Go easy on him. He's totally non-com but he's gotten good."

"He doesn't belong here in my opinion."

"I know. I'd rather have him back in Hollywood, but Stockwell snagged him for aiding and abetting during our escape from the firing squad. So if you don't mind, don't scare him."

Decker rested his hands on his hips and nodded in agreement. "I've just gotten back from the surveillance room. They are behaving just as you've predicted. They've standing around waitin' for something to happen. I still think keeping them in there for a few days is a bad idea."

Hannibal shrugged slightly. "You'll come to like it. Give it a little time. I think they're good men with an exception of that Wells character. He's got an ego on him that needs deflating."

Decker grinned with satisfaction. "I'm in agreement with you. When I was working with him on a joint operation, he was responsible for getting one of my men shot. ……. I want to make him pay for Robinson's injury—he was in surgery for seven hours and he's crippled for life because of Wells. Robinson was a good man to have in a tight situation and had a promising military career ahead of him. All of it was wasted because Wells decided to go off on his own without clearing it with anyone else. It was above the board but he was playin' hero."

"That's my take on him too. I'd like to take him out of the law enforcement game permanently."

Decker raised an eyebrow at the prospects and he nodded his approval. Seeing that BA was in agreement,

Decker warned them. "He didn't get this far without a talent for covering his tracks."

Hannibal chuckled and thought Face would have loved this if he was in tip-top shape. "Well, we managed to get under your skin on a regular basis and you're a well seasoned veteran. I think if we put our heads together we can do the same and make him slip up royally."

"Just get him to screw up enough to turn him into a desk-jockey permanently and get him out of the field at the very least. That's all I care about."

Hannibal had something else in mind but agreed with what Decker wanted, for the time being. He slapped his hands together and rubbed them together. "Shall we take a peek at them?"

Before Decker could respond, Hannibal was out the door with BA on his heels. He wondered what they were up to as he followed them to the surveillance room where Frankie was munching on popped corn while watching their students with two of the Abels. "What do we have here Frankie?"

Frankie shrugged. "Looks like their sorting themselves out."

Hannibal was proud of the younger man's observations. "Which one do you think will be the leader?"

Frankie studied the monitors closely for several long moments and pointed to one man in particular.

"There's two possibilities, but my money's on him."

Hannibal watched the man Frankie picked. A couple of people seem to be reporting to him about the inventory and he was working shoulder to shoulder with the other men. Frankie made a pretty good choice. "Why him and not any of the others?"

While Frankie muddled his way through an answer that seemed satisfactory to Hannibal, Hannibal checked on Wells. He was standing off by himself, watching the activities of everyone else in a mocking manner. Hannibal thought Wells was definitely a loner and it would make him easier to shake down if he didn't have any support within the group. Frankie had finished his assessment on his pick for the group's leader and Hannibal thought it wasn't half bad. "That's good, kid. What about the rest of them?"

Decker thought Frankie's observations were good for an amateur and Hannibal had trained him well.

Hannibal made himself comfortable as he watched the men that were trapped in the room to make mental notes on each individual. Decker wondered how many times Hannibal did this to him. Just sat back and observed. Decker took another seat. "What are you looking for?"

Hannibal glanced at Decker. "Besides weaknesses and strengths, I'm looking for quirks and how they react when they're not in control…… You know, stuff like that."

Decker nodded and settled in for a while to see what he could pick up on to compare notes with Hannibal later on.

Frankie was relieved when attention shifted from him to the monitors. He was made more aware of his status as an outsider in Decker's presence. Decker was a soldier like them. While their approach may differ from Decker, they had more in common with him. Even though they had trained him and were continuing with his training, he knew he would never stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Face had all but out right told him that. He knew of Decker from his testimony against the team during the trial and stories that Murdock and Face had told him. When they spoke of him, they spoke of him in an odd mixture of respect and distaste that Frankie did not understand. Now that Decker was working with them, he could see some of what they were talking about but to Frankie, he looked unapproachable.

Frankie did his best to stay clear from him because the ice-cold gaze scared him. Decker made no effort to be friendly towards him. While Frankie did not trust Stockwell, he did feel comfortable around him enough to be himself. Since Decker's arrival, Hannibal was spending less time with him and more time with his fellow colonel. Though he wasn't a kid, he'd looked forward to the older man's attention. He'd talk to him like he was an equal and respected him and his talents. Before Face had his breakdown, he'd hang out with him whenever Hannibal was busy. Face was fun to be with before that and easy to be with. Face would eagerly include him in the scams to get dates with the lovelier Abels. Frankie often speculated why and how Stockwell got the most beautiful women to work for him. Face told him not to worry about it and enjoy the fact that Stockwell had excellent taste in female employees. He missed his jaunts with Face.

BA was usually obsessing with car engines and Frankie couldn't get into things where he could get motor oil on himself. These days, BA had switched from obsessing from engine blocks to obsessing over Murdock and Cassy. Though he wasn't gay, he could see why BA would appreciate Murdock in a sexual way. If Murdock and his cousin Rickie weren't already committed to other people, he thought they would make a wonderful couple. But Rickie had his boyfriend of many years now and Murdock had BA who had waited for Murdock for years. Almost as long as he's been alive and that blew Frankie's mind. BA and Murdock were going to be lifers and he couldn't see anyone more perfect for BA than Murdock.

Murdock, of all of them, was his favorite person on the team. Before Murdock moved to Langley, he didn't get to see much of him during their down time. Frankie like him most of all because Murdock was quicker to forgive him and he made light of every bad situation. Murdock was like an overgrown kid and the world was his toy store, and he didn't mind if Frankie tagged along. In fact he welcomed Frankie. But like the others, Frankie felt compelled to take care of Murdock and look after him. It wasn't until recently that Frankie realized he wasn't taking care of Murdock at all, Murdock was taking care of HIM. Now that Murdock's involvement with BA is well known among themselves and he had a daughter, he no longer spent time with him like he used to.

Frankie was now very well acquainted with Murdock's daughter and his daughter's nanny. He and Yvonne had already been on four dates and no one had noticed it. He'd rather keep it low-keyed for now, and enjoy the tranquility of Yvonne's company. Frankie took notice of her the first time he laid eyes on her but shied away from her because he thought she wouldn't go for him. Frankie wouldn't have had the courage to go after the female Abels if Face hadn't been by his side pushing and pulling him along. Those women were too classy for him. Since Face's breakdown, everyone began to shift their attentions more on him and getting the school off the ground and running. That left Frankie with a lot of free time on his hands.

He always spent a lot of time with Cassy since her arrival. While his experience with babies was almost nil, he found he enjoyed the simplicity of her company. When he was spending time with Cassy, he was usually spending it with Yvonne, too. They began talking and getting to know each other. She was almost four years older than he was, spoke three different languages besides English, traveled the world as a nanny, and was a sketch artist. One day Frankie walked in on her sketching Cassy while she was asleep in her playpen and that was how it all really began. After some pestering, Yvonne showed him her other sketches. A lot of them were landscapes, a few of them were people and among them were sketches of all of them. Frankie got a bit concern when he came across a few sketches of BA, Murdock and Cassy together, but she was clue-less to the significance of them being together. There were several other different groupings of the guys, no more or no less in number of the BA, Murdock and Cassy sketches, but she had managed to capture the spirit of the relationship between the two men within those sketches.

Frankie thought if Hannibal was right about the students not figuring a way out within the next couple of days, he'd have some more time off. Then if Yvonne could arrange to get some time off, they could go on another date. But if not, that would be fine too. They had already taken Cassy out with them on their first date. It wasn't anything elaborate and because Cassy was with them, one of the Abels went with them, too. They did a little shopping and had a simple lunch at the food court in the mall. A very simple little date that wasn't anything like Face did. A double date with Face usually meant weeks of preparations and it gave Frankie a headache to think about it. Frankie had fun with Face's idea of a date but he preferred his own idea of a date where there were no elaborate set-ups, no expensive restaurants that required a PhD to get through the silverware alone. With Yvonne it was burger, soda and a movie. His kind of girl. Frankie wondered why none of the women Face dated had called him up to ask how he was doing. He thought if there were ever a time when Face needed feminine support, it would be now.

He made a few mental notes about how to slip the Abels later that night, assuming that Yvonne could get the night off. He thought would be no problem. Yvonne suggested they go out for Chinese the next time they went out and he asked a few of the Abels where was the best Chinese in DC. After getting a few suggestions, he had formulated a plan for his evening. Once this was settled he tuned into Hannibal and Decker's comments about the people they were watching on the monitors. They were snapping at each other. Frankie did not know Decker but he knew Hannibal well enough to recognize the friendly competitiveness in his tone. "……. You've gotten soft sittin' behind that desk of yours."

"You're not going to install a loud speaker in there to mess with them that way. Its bad enough you have to lock them up like this, …… but to taunt them?"

Decker's ears were turning red and Hannibal grinned. "Gotcha…… You're still too easy, you know that?"

Decker growled. "Are you ever serious about anything?"

Hannibal shrugged. "I'm serious plenty, but if I'm not having some fun, it's a waste of my time."

Frankie wondered if Decker was really listening to what Hannibal was saying between the words. He doubted as Decker shot back with the standard military answer. Frankie turned his attention from the monitors to Hannibal and Decker while continuing to eat his popped corn enthusiastically.

 

 

Part 4

 

Murdock entered Face's room quietly without knocking. Carla looked up from her paperwork she had brought with her while she stayed with Face. Face was asleep and his arms were tangled up in themselves. Murdock smiled warmly at Carla as he walked over to stand next to the bed. He touched Face's forehead lightly. It was cool and slightly damp. "How's your morning sickness?"

Carla sighed. "Its going away a little at a time. …….. He's been asleep the entire time."

Murdock frowned. "Too bad, I think he would have liked to have known that you were here."

"I think I'll have more time with him in the future with the school open."

Murdock nodded. "If you have to be somewhere, you can go now. But you're welcome to stay if you like."

Carla began gathering her things and put them in her briefcase. "You look like you want to be alone."

Murdock smiled weakly. "I guess I do and I guess I don't at the same time."

Murdock picked up Carla's briefcase as she got up. Once she was on her feet he handed it to her.

"Hannibal thinks he'll be home early today."

"I suppose I'll hear it all from him when he gets home, but I want to know how everything went?"

"It went real well, overall. Couldn't have asked for a better start."

Carla smiled. "I'm glad that all that work is paying off."

"We owe it mostly to you. If you hadn't come up with the concept, pushed it through and stuck your neck out, we'd probably be out in some foreign country right now trying to avoid getting shot up."

Murdock grasped Carla's hand and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Thank you."

Carla pulled her hand from Murdock's and gave him a one armed hugged. "It was my pleasure."

Murdock returned the hug and smiled. "Now you get goin' and get somethin' good to eat, and take care of junior."

Carla groaned a little and Murdock asked, "What's the matter?"

"Nothing."

"Doesn't sound like nothing to me. C'mon, you can tell me what's botherin' you. Everything's okay with the baby an' everything?"

Carla pulled away from Murdock and nodded dryly. "Don't get me wrong. I love being pregnant, but ever since I found out I'm pregnant, its like I don't exist anymore. I've become my pregnancy."

Murdock looked guiltily. "Nobody asks you how 'you' are doin' anymore, right?….Everyone's so wrapped up in the baby, I guess we have been overlookin' the person the baby's inside of and I'm the worst culprit, aren't I? I'm sorry Carla…… tell you what? I'll owe you a couple of foot rubs."

"You have a deal." Carla squeezed Murdock's arm lightly.

Murdock grinned a little. "You're beautiful, sweetheart."

"If this is the way I'm treated when I'm pregnant, I think I'll stay pregnant."

Murdock wiggled his eyebrows. "Careful who you tell that to or you're going to have to live up to it."

"Thanks for the warning."

"Anytime…….. and Carla, I know I'm a guy and I have no idea what its like for real…….. I pretended to be pregnant and all that but pretendin' is a world different than the real thing."

Carla chuckled. "You were pretty convincing to me at the time. …… I am curious about that though. If you hadn't been …… hurt. How would you have handled the rest of it?"

Murdock choked on his laughter. "Uhm….. Your guess is as good as anybody else's. When I was given to flights of fancy, whatever they may be, I'm makin' it up or it's comin' to me as I go along. I think the 'delivery' certainly would have been an interesting sight to see. Let me think about it for a while and I'll let you know how I think it would've turned out. Bein' sane sort of puts a drain on my creative juices, you know? Gotta think about everyday things these days like figurin' out how to keep my sanity and my family safe. And I hope I'm not bein' too presumptuous when I say I'm startin' to think of you as my family too."

"You're sweet, you know that?"

Murdock opened the door bashfully. "Aww Carla…… You better get goin' and get some rest before Hannibal gets home. He'll probably want to tell you everythin' down to the last detail about what happened today."

Carla sighed with a smile. "Good point there. I'll see you later."

Murdock closed the door when Carla left and his smile disappeared when he turned to Face's bed. Everyone had given up on keeping the blankets on the bed for him and they stayed folded in a chair next to the bed within arms reach if Face should want them. Murdock had to touch him. He carefully untangled Face's arms without waking him up. He stirred and murmured a little in his sleep. Murdock thought he heard him say, "Murdock, don't."

Thinking the trip down insanity lane must have gotten his juices flowing a bit and he dismissed what he heard as imagination. Murdock lowered the bed rail and sat down in the chair next to the bed. He propped his head on his hands that were laying flat on the bed on top of the other right next to Face's shoulder so he could get a clear view of Face's face. He wished peaceful dreams to him as he studied Face. He slipped a hand from beneath his chin and lay his cheek on top of the remaining hand. He lightly pushed the hair from the drugged Face's forehead and then he found himself tracing the outer rim of Face's ear.

Face unexpectedly pulled his head away and quietly said, "Murdock, please don't do that."

Murdock's head rose so fast he nearly gave himself whiplash. "Okay Face. …….. Face?"

Face slowly opened his eyes and looked at Murdock questioningly. Then slowly he turned away and began to stare at the ceiling. Murdock sighed and patted Face's arm understandingly. He wished the staff of the hospital and Hannibal wasn't so thorough when it came to Face's personal care. He would like to be able to do something for Face. Like give him a shave or buff his nails or something. Murdock spent most of his time with Face sitting quietly with him. Sometimes he'd give him a massage. He figured Hannibal prodded him constantly to get him to talk to him and all Frankie did was read to him during his visits. Murdock would give him daily reports on Cassy at some point during their visit. But Face needed to be near someone with no expectations from him. Murdock understood this all too well. Murdock felt compelled to touch him and picked up a hand. He began to massage each finger and the palms of his hand, working his way up the arms to the shoulders.

Murdock had reached the napes of Face's neck when Face spoke again. "How were you going to give birth to Barbara Ann?"

Murdock froze for a long moment before he forced himself to continue and he attempted to speak casually. "Y-you wanna know that too?….. You've been playin' 'possum while I was talkin' to Carla, eh? …..Hmmm …… I don't know how I would've done it. It would've been interesting anyway I thought of it. …… The logical way to go would have been cesarean but I don't think anyone would have performed the 'surgical procedure.' But I think I would've gone with the natural childbirth route. Do what every woman dreamed every man could do. ……Suffer through child birth……. But I don't really know because I'm not crazy anymore."

Face seemed to be satisfied with this answer and looked at Murdock. "I'm crazy now…… maybe I can figure it out for you."

Murdock was startled by both Face talking more and also by what he was saying. Murdock chuckled mirthfully and with relief. "You're not that kind of crazy, Face. But if you want to try an' figure it out, you go right ahead. Any theories?"

Face shrugged slightly as Murdock continued with the massage. "Don't know much about pregnant people. All I know is how to get that way and nine months later you're suppose to get an infant."

"Well you're one up on me, Muchacho."

"I'm not going to be pregnant."

Murdock chuckled helplessly. "I don't recommend it anyway. Men just can't handle that kind of pressure."

Face was silent for a time and Murdock thought he was through talking for the day. Murdock was going to savor this time. If he was going to talk more, he was going to do so in his own time and on his own. Murdock did not approve of Hannibal constantly asking him questions and prompting him to get him to talk. Murdock continued with the massage as Face once again started staring at the ceiling. "Roll over if you want me to rub your back."

Face did so stiffly.

Once he was lying on his stomach he sighed. Murdock slipped his hand beneath the bathrobe and pajama shirt so he could have skin-to-skin contact with Face. The others may get to take care of his other physical needs but only he could do this for Face. He wasn't shy about it nor did Face protest it in any way. Face always seemed to feel and sleep better afterwards. Murdock would always start at the waist and work his way up the back and this time he was almost to Face's shoulder blades when Face spoke again. "I wanted Barbara Ann."

Murdock smiled in triumph. "I think we all did. Instead of an pretend invisible friend, Cassy would have grown up with an invisible sister."

Face made a sound that resembled strangled laughter. It was brief but Murdock thought it really was a laugh. Then another extended period of silence and Murdock was working his way back down Face's back when Face said, "I wonder if anyone wanted me when I was born."

Murdock decided on something right away as he withdrew his hands from beneath Face's shirt. He began stroking Face's hair and neck in a motherly manner. Face was serious and a serious question deserved a straightforward answer. "I know for a fact you were wanted. I've seen a picture of you and your mother when you were a baby. She was holding you like you were the proudest thing in her life….. like you were a living doll. Would you like to see it?"

Face immediately rolled onto his back and looked critically at Murdock. With all the confusion going around in his mind, he was certain of one thing and that was that Murdock would not play with his emotions. He nodded slowly.

Murdock sighed. "Okay, let me make a phone call and it'll be here within the hour."

Murdock called Hannibal and Face could tell that Hannibal was angry with Murdock.

Face really wanted to see that picture and he waved Murdock over. "Let me talk to him."

Murdock grinned because he knew if Hannibal heard it directly from Face, he would get it for him in a heartbeat. "Uh…. Hannibal? Face wants to talk to you."

Murdock handed the receiver to Face and he hesitantly spoke. "Hannibal?"

Hannibal was silent for a brief moment. "Yeah, kid?"

"I-I want to see th-that picture."

"Uhm…… Okay kid. Just give me time to run over to Langley and get it for you."

"Hannibal? ……. How?"

Hannibal sighed and Face could tell that he was shaking his head. "That's going to have to wait. I think we should have Freeman around when the time is right."

"Did….. did you find out wh-who I-I-I am?"

A long pause.

"I'm sorry kid. We couldn't find any identification on you or your mother."

Face handed the phone back to Murdock and he huddled around a pillow on the bed. Murdock rested a hand on his arm and sat on the edge of the bed as he spoke to Hannibal. "Murdock here again. When do you expect to be here?"

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!?!"

Murdock calmly answered. "He was asking questions."

A short pause.

"He was talking?……… What else did he say?"

"Plenty but I think it can wait till you get here with that picture."

"I'll have one of the Abels meet me at the hospital with it. That'll be quicker."

"See you in a little bit."

Murdock hung the phone up and began straightening out Face's bathrobe the best he could with Face hugging the pillow. Face looked at him with curiosity. He seemed to be asking all sorts of questions with his eyes. Murdock warned him. "Trust me, its not good to know everything at once, but I'll tell you this much…… We found some information a few days ago and we're having it checked out and confirmed as we speak."

Face nodded that he understood. He understood all to well what they might be doing. With each passing day, he was thinking a little clearer, he was numbing himself to the emotional pain that the memories evoked. He was thinking about other things now for short periods of time, but the memories still had a powerful grip on him. He briefly thought about using his memories of the events to find police records. They would have found her body for sure and there had to be a report. Based on what Hannibal told him on the phone, no one had identified her or claimed her body.

He always took pride in how smart he was. He was a genius according to some test he volunteered for in the college psychology department to impress Leslie. Right now, he wished he wasn't so smart. He could imagine that they found the report on his mother and what was in it. He didn't have to imagine too much because he was there. He felt chilled as the memory of lying on her body overcame him and he curled tightly around the pillow that was in his arms. He retreated deep into the numbness and drowned himself in the pocket of emotionless void within himself. When he felt nothing he began to slowly uncurl himself from around the pillow.

He felt Murdock wiping his forehead with a damp cloth. With this came the realization he had broken out into a cold sweat. He opened his eyes to find Murdock's eyes filled with sorrow and understanding. If anyone around here understood it would be Murdock, thought Face. But Murdock turned his madness outwards. Face remembered how Murdock would lash out at everything and everyone in the beginning. No, he wasn't anything like Murdock. He turned everything in on himself. Not everyone could see his pain right away, including himself. 'Usually not till it was too late.' He wondered if it was too late for him overall. Suddenly, he couldn't make up his mind about whether or not he really wanted to see that mysterious picture of his mother.

Hannibal walked in holding an envelope and Face immediately reached for it. Hannibal wanted to talk to Murdock first but Face kept his hand held out, ignoring everything else. Murdock jerked his head towards Face and Hannibal thought it was a bad idea. Face looked worse than he did early that morning. But the genie was already out of the bottle. He handed the envelope over to Face.

Once it was in Face's hands Face paused as if studying it. He focused on the envelope in his hands and sat up. Murdock raised the head of the bed for him and Face leaned back into the mattress. "I don't remember what she looked like at all." He sounded ghostly.

Murdock smiled and rested a hand on Face's knee. "She's real pretty, Muchacho. It's easy to see that you get most of your good looks from her."

Face seemed to relax a bit. He was avoiding looking at Hannibal. Hannibal stood back and watched

Face's hands trembled slightly as he opened the envelope. He carefully pulled out the little snapshot that would mean everything to him for a while. The picture looked as though it had been in muddy water and the edges were warped a little. Once he got a good look at the picture his hands stopped trembling. He felt he had seen this picture hundreds of times before, like it had been sitting on a table in a frame for everyone to see everyday from long ago. He could see himself in her eyes, her mouth and cheekbones. He could tell that she was blonde but the black and white picture made it difficult to tell if they had the same shade of blonde hair. She looked so young to Face. Almost too young, but Murdock was right. She was real pretty, but most of all she loved him. Her eyes and the way she held him showed that. He was sure the baby was him and he looked like he was about five or six months old. As a six-month-old baby, he was a bubbly little fellow. "That's me and Mama…….. She's …… she's beautiful."

Murdock looked over at the picture and nodded. "Yes, she was and you were a beautiful baby, too."

Face twitched his mouth a little. "I've been wondering if she loved me."

"She looks like she's crazy about you, Face."

Face nodded a little and looked up to reveal that his eyes were rimmed with tears. He sniffed and took notice of Hannibal for the first time since he arrived. "Why?"

He was asking why did she die? Why did she leave him? Why did all those bad things happen to him? And her too? So much was wrapped up in that simple word. 'Why?' Face was surfacing. Their Face. But only for a moment, Hannibal could see that he was slipping behind the emotionless mask he had worn like a shroud in previous weeks once again and Hannibal had to keep him from doing that. Hannibal walked over to the bed and practically shoved Murdock aside. Face attempted to push away as Hannibal pulled him into a hug. "Oh no you don't. ……. I don't know what happened Face…… . She was sick and she got into a lot of trouble. She couldn't help it and you suffered for her mistakes. …… I don't think she didn't do it on purpose. She looks like she was a sweet, young kid and she loved you. …………… and its okay to love her back."

Face continued to try to push Hannibal away but Hannibal wasn't going to let him go. He couldn't return to his emotional retreat in the physical struggle. He found himself crying and unable to control his feelings. He could not fight Hannibal physically or himself emotionally anymore. He surrendered. Hannibal shifted him so he could be comfortable and the pain he had been carrying around began to spill out. Instead of fighting to get away from Hannibal he was now clinging desperately to him and unsuccessfully choking back sobs. Murdock carefully pried the picture from Face's hand to keep it from being damaged. Murdock whispered into Hannibal's ear, "Rock him. The motion will calm him."

Hannibal nodded and began to rock him a little. Hannibal soon found the motion comforting too and he began to rock some more. He didn't feel comfortable having Face clinging to him and bawling, but he knew it was better for him to do this than to keep everything bottled up inside him. Murdock had maneuvered behind Face and was stroking Face's hair and speaking softly to him, encouraging him to 'let it all out.' Murdock nodded to Hannibal to get him to say the same things. Murdock's smile reassured Hannibal's own instincts that this was a good thing and Hannibal relaxed. He carefully followed Murdock's lead, paying attention to what he said. Careful not to make any promises that couldn't be kept. "That's okay son…….. you're safe and I'm not going to let you go……."

Satisfied with this, Murdock got up to call the nurse's station and requested Freeman to get down there as soon as he possibly could. Before Murdock could sit back down on the bed Dorothy walked in. She took in the situation and Murdock reluctantly pulled her over to the corner to explain what had happened.

She was very concerned about Face's behavior. "Freeman's out to lunch but he's been paged. He should be here in a few more minutes. You should have consulted with Dr. Freeman before telling him about that picture."

"Sorry about that, but he was reaching out and I had to give him something to grab hold of before he pulled back."

Dorothy sighed and shook head. She knew it was pointless in arguing with Murdock and decided to leave him to Freeman to deal with. "I'll stay with you till Dr. Freeman arrives."

"Thanks."

Murdock went back over to the bed where Hannibal looked like he could use some help. Face had subsided from bawling to heaving sobs. Hannibal continued to rock him but he ran out of things to say that he didn't feel comfortable saying in front of other people. Murdock had retrieved a fresh damp cloth and gently, Hannibal began to dab away the tears flowing down Face's face. Watching Hannibal do this for Face made Murdock wonder how many times had Face done this for him? Face had calmed him many times during his delusional fits by rocking him during the first couple of years after he had been committed to the VA. He felt the jealousy rise within him as he watched Hannibal calm Face. Certain thoughts began to creep up in his mind. 'I got him talking again and the picture idea was mine. Yet Hannibal's waltzes in here and takes over before I have a chance to add the final touches to all the work I've done.' Murdock was now mad. Not at Hannibal, but at himself for having such thoughts.

Face's continued sobbing brought his attention where it needed to be. Murdock would later have to deal with the green-eyed monster that was making periodic appearances due to what Murdock viewed as Hannibal's poor sense of timing. He rationalized that Face needed an authority figure, more than a friend at a time like this. Needed something solid and constant to hold onto and to believe in. Murdock's chameleon-like ways, shifting from one character to another, were left behind for the most part, but not that far behind him. He was still shifting into his new roles that life had handed him and he had accepted that. So it would be logical for Face to reach for the most solid person in this emotional tornado and hang on for dear life.

Hannibal's eyes showed fear when Face continued to sob heavily. Murdock got a grip on himself and began to hum softly. Hannibal immediately recognized the tune and slowly joined in to Murdock's humming. It was contagious and Face began to settle. After humming the tune all the way through a few times, Hannibal found himself singing the words to the song. "…… You are my sunshine, my only sunshine……"

Face had calmed down and stopped sobbing. A few stray tears still flowed as he listened to Hannibal sing to him the song they would sing together when a situation seemed impossible. They had sung it to irritate their captors, to give them the appearance of not being the least bit perturb and to calm their own nerves so that Hannibal could think of a plan. The cheerful little ditty always had a calming effect on Face and it was calming him down now. Face began to mouth the words a little to himself and by the time Freeman arrived he was softly singing parts of it with Hannibal. "…….. You make me happy when skies are gray…."

When Face saw Freeman he slowly withdrew from Hannibal. Hannibal reluctantly let Face go and straightened out his robe and pajamas a little and made sure he was comfortable. Murdock wiped the remaining tears from Face's face. He was completely exhausted. Face felt like if he closed his eyes for a second, he'd fall straight to sleep. Face flatly said, "Hi doc."

Freeman had come directly from his lunch and wasn't wearing his customary white lab coat. Instead he

was wearing a nice light-brown hearing-bone tweed jacket, which was very flattering on him.

"Hi Face. Do you want to talk?"

Face shook his head and sniffed.

Freeman dismissed Dorothy and retrieved a box of tissue from a table. "Do you want to wait?"

Face nodded and took a couple of tissues from the box. "Tomorrow."

"All right then. I'm going to as you a few questions right now."

Then looking at Hannibal and Murdock. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave for few minutes."

Face grasped Hannibal's arm. "No…… want 'em to stay."

Freeman nodded and he spotted the picture of Face as an infant being held by his mother. He put the pieces together right away and had surmised that Hannibal and Murdock were playing armchair psychiatrists again. He had to quickly assess the possible damage and do damage control. "What are you feeling?"

Face politely blew his nose when it was clear that Hannibal and Murdock were going to stay. Once he was satisfied that he had done a good job of clearing his sinuses, he located the picture that seemed familiar and yet strange to him at the same time. He gazed at the picture as if in a stupor. His voice was barely above a whisper. "Everything ……. ……. Lost mostly."

"That can be expected."

"Want to stay lost."

"Why?"

Face sighed and he turned away because he was tearing up again. He was accustomed to being so in control of his outward emotions. One of the rules in the orphanage that stuck with him all his life was never let them see you cry. It was a sign of weakness. He didn't want to appear weak in front of Hannibal but he had spent the last half-hour sobbing in Hannibal's arms. He felt like he had taken a beating.

"Is that why you haven't been talking?"

Face shrugged. "Maybe."

Murdock got up off the edge of the bed and sat in a chair next to it. Freeman glanced at the other two men before focusing his attention on Face once more and asked, "It didn't work, did it?"

"For a while it did."

"You were making progress when you were talking. You want to try talking again?"

A long pause.

"I guess so."

Freeman's voice took on a slight tone of authority. "That's a weak answer. You want to try it again?'

Face sighed and glanced up at Murdock. The tears flowed intermittently and Murdock wiped them away as they fell. It was clear to Face that Murdock was backing Freeman. Face turned his head to look at Freeman. Face looked like hell. His bloodshot eyes were rimmed with wide dark circles and his nose was swollen and reddened. Hannibal felt compelled to comb Face's hair that was matted with sweat and tears. Face needed to focus on answering Freeman's question so Hannibal waited. Face chewed on his lips that looked a little grayish along with his skin as Freeman waited for him to answer. It took what little strength he had left, to form his thoughts. Face, while he couldn't form words with his thoughts, but rather felt his thoughts. He felt he could not continue like this and neither could the rest of them. "Yes."

"Yes, what?"

"I'll try talking again."

Freeman held his hand out to Face and Face hesitantly took it and shook it. Freeman smiled. "Deal."

Face gave a tired nod.

"I'll see you tomorrow for a full session."

Freeman could tell that Face wanted Hannibal to stay and he waved Murdock to follow him out. He knew he'd stand a better chance of getting the entire story about what went on from Murdock with little resistance. Murdock reluctantly followed Freeman, and handed the damp cloth he was using to wipe away the tears to Hannibal just as lunch was being brought to Face. Murdock figured Face would be asleep in moments and he hoped Hannibal would leave him be so he could clean him up when he was through talking to Freeman.

Murdock began to tell him what happened before Freeman could ask. Freeman listened to everything Murdock told him as they made their way to his office.

When Murdock finished, Freeman shook his head. "You realize you two are playing Russian roulette with him. You got lucky …… VERY lucky this time. If he took that picture the wrong way, it could have done more harm than good."

Murdock sighed. "It wouldn't have. I know him and I know what he can and cannot take. And he could not take the 'not knowing.' If he later found out that we knew the answer to a basic question, that would have caused more harm overall. He wanted to know if he was wanted when he was born and I had access to the answer to that question. That picture speaks volumes and it was exactly what he needed. If I thought for a split second that it could hurt him, I wouldn't have shown it to him."

Freeman gave Murdock a critical look. "I trust your judgment and I don't need to tell you how delicate Face's current state is. You are aware of the consequences of your actions, but Hannibal on the other hand……. He means well when he takes things in his own hands, but by your own admission, he usually leaves other people to clean up his messes."

Murdock shook his head and pointed out that what happened earlier was all his responsibility. "Hannibal didn't want to give Face the picture to start with and I talked him into it. Besides I think Hannibal's starting to realize his actions directly and indirectly affect everyone around him. ….. He seems to be …….. subdued lately."

"How do you mean?"

"After this morning, with what just happened with Face aside, he should be high as a kite still……. I mean he got to humiliate and put a guy with a major attitude problem in his place in his own 'unique' way. And he did it in front of Decker, too. Yet he's actin' like he just flicked a bug off his arm or somethin'……… I'm worried about 'im Doc. Its bad enough that I worry about Face all the time and with BA still guilt tripping over what he thinks he did to me. I don't need to add Hannibal on top of the heap. I know he's got an appointment with you in a couple of days. We need Hannibal to be Hannibal and he's not Hannibal lately. So, could you straighten him out?"

Murdock thought it was strange that he was on the verge of a fit of jealousy when it appeared that Hannibal was stealing his thunder only a little while ago. Now he was expressing his concern over Hannibal's recent odd behavior. He wanted to talk to Freeman about that, but it didn't seem to be a good time to bring it up now.

Freeman gave Murdock a thoughtful look as he considered Murdock's request. "I'm not at liberty to discuss why Hannibal is seeing me. But why is it necessary for you to have him be 'Hannibal?' "

Murdock shrugged. "It's like a constant that's always been there and as long as he's 'Hannibal,' everything seems okay."

"That's a lot for one man to live up to, isn't it?"

"I guess you're right……. Is that how he's feeling?"

"I don't know. But you might consider re-evaluating a few things where he is concerned."

"Guess we've been treatin' him more like he's superhuman in all the years we've known him. Like nothin' can hurt him."

"Just don't give him any ideas about playing armchair psychiatrist anymore. His support of Face is crucial. I don't think he would have come this far in this amount of time without Hannibal's unconditional support. I'm not down playing your own and BA's roles in this but Hannibal presence means a lot to Face."

With a little smile, Murdock nodded. "Hannibal has always been like a father to Face. We understand that."

"Very little escapes your attention does it?"

Murdock shrugged modestly. "Some of the time."

Freeman did not press the issue further and moved on to the next subject that interested him. "Now what is this about BA feeling guilty?"

Murdock looked annoyed. "He's still convinced that he raped me and he's overdoing it in the guilt trippin' department. No matter what I do or say can't convince him otherwise. I hurt him and he hurt me, but he didn't rape me."

"I see……. Maybe you ought to let him have his guilt and stop trying to convince him that he didn't do it."

Murdock was exasperated. "He didn't do anything wrong."

"He hurt you, didn't he?"

"Yeah but….."

"Let him have his guilt over that."

"BA is NOT a rapist."

"I know that, but I think he needs to figure that out on his own."

"How can he do that when's beating himself up over it?"

"We've covered this extensively, maybe its time to let it rest for a while. It has been a while since the incident."

"Eight weeks," said Murdock dryly.

"Have the two of you been intimate since then?"

BA knew a lot about sex and was experienced, but he didn't feel comfortable about discussing it with Freeman during their sessions. BA would answer Murdock's questions as they came up and show him new things when they were able to be physically intimate, but he thought talking about it should remain between him and Murdock. Murdock on the other hand had years of therapy and was accustomed to talking about anything and everything, including his sex life. Their sessions with Freeman were basically discussing ways to build a healthier relationship and getting through the stress of their current daily existence as a couple—having to hide everything and be true to their feelings at the same time to the best of their ability under the circumstances. But BA refused to talk about their sex life, or rather their lack of one. While he talked about hurting Murdock, he felt some things should remain just between him and Murdock— sacred.

Murdock nodded. "Just twice because it's getting more difficult to sneak around since security around us has been increased."

"Was it successful?"

"Well….. yeah ….. but I'm usually on the bottom position….. I prefer that position. BA couldn't bring himself to enter me, so we switched."

"Did you both enjoy it?"

"Yeah, we enjoyed it, but I think we would have enjoyed the last time more if we hadn't done it in the same building where we hurt each other in that way. We don't have many opportunities to become intimate these days and we have to grab every opportunity we can."

"How does that make you feel?"

"Frustrated as hell. It's almost as if I've only recently discovered my libido and I'm being told I can't do anything with it."

"In a manner of speaking that's true. You've recognized and accepted your homosexuality only a few short months ago. Your partner is within arms reach of you all the time and you're not permitted to explore this relatively new and important aspect about yourself and to get to know your partner in an intimate way."

Murdock groaned. "I know exactly what the problem is Doc. You didn't need to spell it out to me. It's the solution that's a problem. I feel if I don't start getting regular sex and soon, I'm gonna explode. I have a couple of decades of the right kind of sex for me to make up for."

To his credit Freeman, did not crack the slightest smile even though he found Murdock's way of putting it amusing. "You can not make up for lost time, Murdock. While most of your experience has been heterosexual, you shouldn't be so quick to dismiss those experiences. You have a child as a result of one of those experiences and I know you well enough to know that you were emotionally intimate with every woman you were physical involved with. I sympathize with your current situation but a temporary solution may be closer than you think."

Murdock looked annoyed. "Masturbation, it's not even remotely the same thing."

Freeman could not suppress a grin at that comment. "That's a good alternative, but that's not what I'm talking about. ……… This is a large hospital and certain areas have been closed due to budget cuts over the past couple of years."

Understanding dawned on Murdock immediately. "Ohhhhhh……... And what areas might those be?"

Freeman lightly drummed his fingers on his desk. "The entire top floor of the north wing for starters. I'm surprised you two haven't thought of it before."

Murdock shrugged. "I've lived in a hospital for fifteen years and the atmosphere kills the mood. But I'm willing to try it now that I have the right person with me."

"Good. Now go and look after Face and Hannibal. And tell Face I'll drop in on him a little later on today to see if he wants to talk a little sooner than tomorrow."

"Will do……. And Doc……. Thanks."

Murdock hurried back down to Face's room. He felt a bit guilty about the tingly feelings he was getting over the very promising prospects of having sex and making love on a regular basis, using their visits with Face as a cover. He decided to wait on telling BA for a couple of days till things were settled around Face. That'll give him time to set up a little picnic in one of the rooms and maybe sneak a few other things to make the atmosphere less cold and sterile. But for now he was going to make sure Face was on the right track. That was the most important thing at the moment.

 

 

Part 5

 

Cassy was teething and she had two new teeth coming in at the same time, which was making her a very irritable little girl. She had woke up crying in the predawn hours and she wasn't showing any signs of going back to sleep after Murdock put some medicine on her sore gums. So Murdock decided to get an early start on the day and spend a little quiet time with his daughter.

Since she had started walking well, she insisted on not being carried around all the time. Murdock grinned tiredly as he watched her make her way down the steps by climbing down them backwards. It was becoming clearer to them all with each passing day that Cassy was going to be headstrong and independent. With Murdock and Jody being her biological parents, Cassy had received more than her fair share of unbridled boldness in the genetics department. She was well adjusted to her new living arrangements and she was showing her fearlessness more and more everyday. None of them expected anything less from an offspring of Murdock's. Only Cassy had a double dose because her mother was just as adventuresome as her father was. Jody showed no fear of dying at the time of their whirlwind brush with death during the elaborate helicopter fiasco that brought her and Murdock together. Murdock wished Cassy could remember her mother but as the days went by, he knew his daughter's memories of her mother were fading. He had several pictures of Jody that were given to him by her sister, Dana, during her visit for Cassy's birthday party. He and Dana had been writing each other since then. He'd give updates on Cassy and ask her for advice because she had four children—two of them girls. She was always sending him pictures she'd find of Jody as a little girl to give him an idea of what to expect in the future. Dana was a great aunt and Murdock hoped to visit them again soon.

Murdock made a daily ritual of showing Cassy pictures of Jody and talk to Cassy about her. Reminding her that the pretty blonde lady was special and that she was her mother. He did not want her to forget her mother. The first few times Murdock did this it was agonizing for him, but as time went by it was getting to be a little easier. He'd remember how Jody made him felt and he was beginning to let go of the hurt he felt from her not telling him she was pregnant with his child. He was beginning to forgive her, but not entirely. If Jody had not died, there was a strong possibility that he he'd never know about his daughter's existence. He would have given anything to have been there for Cassy's first breath. It was his right as her father, but there wasn't anything he could do about it now. He wondered if she cried right away when she was born and how did she sound. He wondered if Jody had any problems during the labor and deliver. He would ask Dana in his next letter to her. Dana would probably know these things.

While Murdock planned on nurturing the budding, adventuresome aspect of Cassy's personality, he was worried about the possible troubles she could have because of it. But she was still a baby and he had plenty of time to figure out how to offer his advice to her when the time came. Unlike himself at a young age, Cassy was already promising to be a bit more levelheaded than he was. There was something in her eyes that told him that and he smiled at her progress going down the steps.

Cassy's crankiness was slowly fading away as she focused on carefully backing down the adult sized steps with her short toddler legs. One foot testingly set down on the step below while she was on her knee with her hands on the step above to keep herself steady. The going was slow, but Murdock was patient. Once at the bottom of the stairs, Murdock put up the baby gate that matched the one setup at the top of the stairs to warn sleepy pedestrians to watch for the one at the bottom of the stairs. There were baby gates everywhere to keep Cassy out of certain areas of the house and within other areas.

He coaxed Cassy to follow him to the kitchen and went to the refrigerator. He smiled at the sound of her bare feet softly slapping the surface of the floor. When he opened the refrigerator she happily pushed the door open all the way so she could look too. She found a large plastic bottle of catsup interesting and she pulled it out as Murdock grabbed a jug of milk. He watched her awkwardly carry the bottle and set it down on the floor to begin her attempt to open it. There was only a small amount of catsup in the bottom of it and thought it was harmless. The last time he attempted to get catsup out of that bottle it proved to be next to impossible.

He fixed her training cup with milk and he looked at the date on the milk jug. He swirled it around a little in the cup and in a pseudo French accent. "Hmmm the color is to perfection and it clings nicely……, " Murdock put the lid with a little spout on it and tasted it. "Ahhhh, yes! Yes! This is definitely from a nice little jersey cow named Dottie. You can never go wrong with Dottie and this week was a very good week for her. Here you go Angel. ……. What would you like to go with that?"

Cassy accepted the training cup of milk and began to drink it while looking up at him. He made a funny face at her and she giggled while scrunching her nose up. Once she had her fill of milk she set her training cup aside and focused on attempting to get at the catsup out of the bottle. Murdock twisted the lid on tighter, and she pushed his hands away and started working at the lid. Murdock wasn't going to force his attention on her and was satisfied sitting back and watching her for the time being.

He fixed himself a pot of coffee and pulled out Face's diary from his bathrobe pocket along with a little pad of paper with his notes on it. He had been studying it for about a month now and Hannibal for longer. They'd get together from time to time to compare notes, but they came up with nothing. They'd look up every officer and soldier's name mentioned in Face's diary and came up with nothing. Murdock thought if there was really something to the diary, their judgment must be skewed because their minds were preoccupied with Face's current condition.

Murdock celebrated Face's recent progress with wariness. Everyone felt like they had won a major victory when Face began talking again. While they understood the reason behind the hysterical silence, it didn't make it easier. Murdock closed his eyes and suppressed a shudder at what he imagined Face was going through. He always admired Face for his optimistic attitude with just a touch of pessimism—just enough to walk on the side of caution. And now, having a clearer picture of how much the odds were stacked up against Face, Murdock was now in total awe of both, the little boy he was and the man he had become. Face had been carrying around a whole Holy Bible's worth of demons for years and he still managed to be quick with a smile and was always ready to offer comfort to his friends.

Murdock felt like yelling at Face for not letting them get close enough to him for them to put a finger on what the problem was sooner. At the same time, he wanted to hold Face, to comfort him, cry with him and to take all the hurt away from him. Murdock felt like screaming at the thoughts of what Face had endured as a little boy. Face was hurting in the worst possible way and he felt totally powerless to do help him in the way he wanted to help him.

Cassy had toddled over to her father and was making an attempt to climb into his lap bringing him out of his thoughts of Face. He pulled her up and she gurgled happily as he smoothed her hair a little. He forcefully returned her smile as she said, "Cookie."

He sighed sadly and kissed her forehead. "No, baby. How about some toast with blueberry jam instead?"

He got up holding Cassy close to him as he went about fixing her a slice of toast with his thoughts still heavily on Face. He let her drop the bread in the toaster and made a big game of waiting for the toasted bread to pop up magically. Once she was settled into her highchair with her one slice of toast lightly coated with jam cut up into neat little pieces so she could eat them without trouble he began studying the diary once again.

After Cassy was done with the toast he wiped her off and set her on the floor to play with her toys and the catsup bottle. Murdock was starting to get tired as the sun was coming up and he laid his head on the table to rest his eyes for a few moments. Before he knew it he was asleep.

Decker thought everything was going as it should. The school was everything Hannibal and Carla had promised it would be, Stockwell was nowhere to be found for weeks now and Peck was making progress. While he had a bit of an idea of how bad Peck was and he felt sorry for the man, it was in his best interest that Peck continue to make progress. Hannibal, BA, Murdock and Frankie's morale depended upon his progress. Whenever Peck was making progress, they were in a good mood and when they were in good humor, they became easier to work with. When he found out that Peck was talking once again, everything looked better for him when it came to working with the team. Hannibal was surprisingly pleasant when he wasn't the target of Hannibal's wrath or the object of his personal amusement. Decker couldn't tell who was more surprised that they were getting along so well, him or Hannibal. He decided to put that little ongoing internal debate to the side for the moment, he had work that needed to be done at Langley before he headed to the school.

Decker had to pick up some paperwork and go over it before dropping it off at the Pentagon later that morning. He was an early riser like most career army people. He had recently started to wonder if he would be able to sleep late since he would no longer need to get up before sunrise when he retired. He walked into the Langley main house and was automatically met with the pleasant aroma of coffee. It seemed to be welcoming him. He followed his nose to the kitchen to be greeted by Cassy coated in catsup on the floor. He quickly located her father at the kitchen table. He was slumped over on the table sleeping soundly with his shoulders rising and falling slightly at his breathing. Decker softly chuckled as he looked at the happy toddler. "Well, what do we have here?"

Cassy held up a catsup-coated hand. "Cookie."

Decker sighed and looked at Murdock. The captain looked very tired and Decker knew that he and Peck were the best of friends. He was taking Peck's illness very hard and Decker couldn't hold that against him. He decided to leave the good Captain alone and let him sleep. Cassy was a very friendly little girl and it was very easy to like her. With his own grandchildren scattered across the country, he didn't get to see them as often as he'd like and there was something about Cassy that reminded him of a couple of them. Decker shook his head. "No cookie, kiddo. It's too early for a sugar buzz."

He picked her up carefully as to avoid getting catsup on his uniform. He set her on the counter by the sink and retrieved a clean dishtowel. After he wet it a little, he then proceeded to clean her up. Cassy proved to be a handful and she wouldn't hold still for him. He had to work around her squirming and dodging the dishtowel while keeping a firm grasp on her with his other hand. It took some time, but he accomplished this with optimal results. When he saw that she had an undershirt on beneath her pajamas, he removed her pajama top and set it aside. The pajama bottoms only had a few spots of the tomato sauce on it and he decided it would be okay. Once Cassy was cleaned up, he set her in her highchair and went rummaging in the refrigerator for some breakfast for her. The noise of the search woke Murdock and he quickly took in what was going on. He saw the catsup mess on the floor and the catsup-stained top lying on the countertop. Cassy's skin was still a little damp from being washed and he figured out what happened moments earlier.

Decker glanced at Murdock. He looked angry and Decker pointed to the catsup mess still on the floor. "She apparently was pretending to be a hamburger or something. ……. Where do you keep her food?"

Murdock saw the evidence and kept his cool. He checked her diaper, because it was about that time and he was right. "Don't worry about it. I'll take care of it after she's changed."

Murdock picked her up and before he left the room, he begrudgingly faced Decker. "Thanks for cleaning her up. I'll take care of the rest of it."

Decker nodded. "As you wish."

Once Murdock was out of the room he fixed a cup of coffee. The catsup mess on the floor bothered Decker and he could not leave it alone. So he cleaned it up. He used the table for leverage to pull himself up from his squatting position next to the former catsup mess. He glanced at what looked to be a diary that was left behind by Murdock. He ignored it but in the process of standing up he had knocked a couple of sheets of paper onto the floor. He picked them up and wasn't interested in what was written on them, but he did glance at them. They appeared to be lists of names and he recognized a number of them. He couldn't help but to want to get a closer look at the names. One name stood out from the rest of them and it was screaming at him to pay closer attention. Next to the names there were dates and places along with page numbers. His mouth went completely dry and he had to remind himself to breathe. He grabbed the diary and raced to the last page to find the name of THE person that was last mentioned according to Murdock's notes. He read the entry quickly. . He immediately figured out that it was Peck's diary from Vietnam.

After reading it three times he was stunned. He sat heavily in the chair and dropped the diary on the table. He rested his elbows on the table and cradled his head so he could read the passage one more time. He gasped softly. "They really are as innocent as they say……… God, may they forgive me…….. May they forgive the whole fucking government."

 

TBC

 


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