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Title: The Walk

The Walk

by Live Lady Roadkill

 

Disclaimer: A-Team owned by Stephen J. Cannell etc. The song The Walk belongs to Sawyer Brown

Rating: PG-13

Comments: Please

Warnings: Serious health trouble and a LOT of angst..... Nothing more

 

 

 

The Walk

(written by Mark A. Miller and Mac McAnally –Sawyer Brown)

 

Down our long dusty driveway

I didn't want to go

But I set out with tears in my eyes wondering

Daddy took me by the hand

Looked out at the school bus and his little man and said

"Don't worry boy it will be all right"

 

'Cause I took this walk you're walking now

Boy, I've been in your shoes

You can't hold back the hands of time

It's just some thing you've gotta do

So dry your eyes I understand just what you're going through

'Cause I took this same walk with my old man

Boy, I've been in your shoes

 

Down our long dusty driveway

I set my mind to go

I was eighteen and wild and free and wondering

Daddy took me by the hand

Looked at the world and his grown man and said

"Don't worry boy, it will be all right"

 

'Cause I took this walk you're walking now

Boy, I've been in your shoes

You can't hold back the hands of time

It's just some thing you've gotta do

So dry your eyes I understand just what you're going through

'Cause I took this same walk with my old man

Boy, I've been in your shoes

 

Down our long dusty driveway

This time we both would go

He had grown old and gray

And his mind was wandering

Daddy took me by the hand

Said," I know where we're going and I understand

Don't worry boy, it will be all right"

 

'Cause I took this walk you're walking now

Boy, I've been in your shoes

You can't hold back the hands of time

It's just some thing you've gotta do

So dry your eyes I understand just what you're going through

'Cause I took this same walk with my old man

Boy, I've been in your shoes

 

Yes I took this same walk with my old man

Boy, I've been in your shoes

 

~)~)~)~)~)~)~)~)~)~)~)~

 

The heart attack took everyone by surprise. There were no warnings and no one even suspected the possibility. Hannibal always seemed invincible and who'd have thought his own body would give out before one of Stockwell's missions could do him in?

 

It happened when they were returning from a particularly straightforward mission. They barely broke a sweat over it and were pleased to have gotten through another one. Then they settled in for the long flight back to Langley in the early hours of the morning with the sun soon to follow them across the Atlantic Ocean. The flight was smooth and they slept through the morning peacefully until a few hours after the sun caught up to them.

 

They were on schedule to land at the airport in two hours and they riffled through the small refrigerator for something to eat to hold them over until the plane touched down. BA was dozing under the influence of drug-laced milk and Frankie munched on one of the prepackaged ham and cheese sandwiches that were a week old.  Not surprisingly, they weren't too appetizing to Face. Frankie only ate it to stave off the hunger pains till they could get to real food, the hot kind with flavors. Face opted to wait the couple of hours. Murdock would eat anything and he devoured three of the sandwiches and two stale lemon flavored muffins with the poppy seeds in them. Hannibal declined any food for reasons Face thought were similar to his own.

 

Frankie and Murdock passed the time playing cards and Face and Hannibal started deciding what to report to Stockwell. Hannibal made his usual jokes and sarcastic comments as they went along. It was a simple mission and it didn't take long to decide what to put into the report. With that out of the way, Hannibal spoke of plans for the upcoming week assuming that Stockwell didn't have anything on his agenda for them.

 

Face remembered it clearly. Hannibal was smiling pleasantly and was about to laugh about something. Face always knew when Hannibal was going to laugh. The way the corners of his eyes would wrinkle up and his eyes would get this glint. The laugh never made it from his lips. Hannibal's jaw dropped and he had a blank expression that he tried to shake off. Face caught the dry expression as Hannibal said, "I guess I need to get some more sleep when we get back."

 

Then his complexion took on the color of paste and he started rubbing his left arm. Face sat forward when he noticed the sudden change in Hannibal's coloring. Hannibal shook his head like he was trying to shake off a feeling of discomfort and then the pain etched across his features. Face leapt to his feet and caught him as he was falling forward. "Hannibal?!?"

 

Face caught Frankie and Murdock's attention as he supported Hannibal, keeping him from falling to the floor. Hannibal clutched his arm and worked his mouth through attempts to breathe. His eyes were wide as he gasped. Murdock dropped everything in his hands and leapt over the seat between Hannibal and Face, and him.

 

With panic in his voice, Face asked, "Hannibal?... What 's the matter?"

 

Hannibal choked out, "I don't ...know."

 

A split second later, Face's mind formulated the words 'heart attack.' Murdock helped Face settle Hannibal back in his seat and one look in Murdock's eyes told Face he wasn't the only one who had come to that conclusion. Hannibal gasped once again and they saw that he was an angry red color in the face. Murdock turned his head back to Frankie who was making his way next to Hannibal too. "Go tell the pilot we have a possible heart attack onboard... Hurry!"

 

Frankie stopped for a second not sure he had heard Murdock correctly. One look at Hannibal, now clutching his chest told him he had heard correctly and he turned on his heels towards the cockpit. Face quickly unfastened Hannibal's collar buttons and Hannibal groaned as he clenched his teeth. Murdock checked his pulse quickly and said, "Let's lay him out on the floor."

 

They took the greatest care in placing him on the floor of the cabin of the airplane. Face snatched a blanket, one of them had used in the early morning hours, to cover Hannibal. Hannibal gasped, "God.. The pain."

 

Face and Murdock exchanged a look of fear. Hannibal had never complained of pain before. Frankie had come back with a response from the pilot. "The ETA to the nearest airport is forty-five minutes."

 

Frankie powerlessly stared at Hannibal on the floor as the two men made attempts to make Hannibal more comfortable. Face stroked Hannibal's hair back and said, "Take it easy and breathe.. Breathe," while keeping a hand on his neck to monitor his pulse. His mind raced thinking this cannot be happening. No way this could be happening.

 

Murdock got up and started rummaging through the first aid box beneath the seat and found some nitroglycerin pills. He handed them to Face before resuming his rummaging. "Get these in him."

 

Then he found what he was looking for; an oxygen tank with a mask. Just as Murdock was placing the mask over Hannibal's face, Hannibal spasmed, clutching his chest, his whole body was taunt. Face held Hannibal the best he could and then he locked eyes with Hannibal. Face saw nothing but disbelief in Hannibal's eyes. Face pulled him close and then Hannibal's eyes rolled into the back of their sockets and he went limp in his arms.

 

Murdock pulled Hannibal out of Face's arms when he didn't feel a pulse and lay Hannibal down as gently as time could allow. Hannibal's head bobbed lifelessly backwards and Murdock caught it with a hand then eased it to the floor. Face ripped open Hannibal's shirt as Murdock coolly said, "There's no pulse and he's not breathing."

 

Murdock tilted Hannibal's head back and pinched his nose. Without any further delay, he forced his own breath into Hannibal's chest. Face positioned his hands over the middle of Hannibal's bare chest right between and below his nipples, waiting for Murdock to complete the second breath. He waited a second and saw Hannibal still wasn't breathing and he got directly over Hannibal and began to pump firm and steadily.  He counted breathlessly to five and Murdock was already forcing air into Hannibal. Face readied to pump again as he noted the pasty color settling further onto Hannibal's features. He thought, 'No, no, no, no, no. Not like this!'  Murdock lifted his head and checked for a pulse as Face was pumping Hannibal's chest again. He felt a pulse as long as Face was doing compressions. As Face pumped he now noticed Hannibal was paling further. Face ignored the pain in his arms as he worked.

 

After several rounds of this, Face began to growl as he counted and threw in threats and obscenities among the numbers. Murdock shouted to Frankie to inform the pilot as to what was going on and glanced at BA. BA may not get a chance to say goodbye, but he wasn't ready to say goodbye to Hannibal yet. None of them were. He joined Face in yelling at Hannibal while they worked on him as he lay there, lifeless. The only movement Murdock saw from Hannibal was the slight jarring motions caused by Face doing compressions. Murdock didn't think about what Face was seeing as he bent over forcing air down inside of Hannibal again. As he breathed for Hannibal, Murdock didn't feel like they were really there. Nothing felt real.

 

Frankie came back and managed to tell them that the pilot says there's an ambulance waiting for them at the airport as he stood there not believing what he was seeing. He just stood there, praying silently, unable to take his eyes off of them.

 

Murdock felt a gasp and he pulled back and quickly checked for a pulse. He found one. It was weak but it was a pulse. He checked Hannibal's breathing. He was breathing on his own again and he quickly fumbled with the oxygen mask and opened the valve as Face held the mask over Hannibal's face. His breathing deepened a little. Face wasn't ready to sigh in relief as he swallowed hard as he begged Murdock with his eyes to tell him Hannibal will be all right. Murdock checked Hannibal's pulse again and said, "Getting stronger, but its fast," Then looking at his watch, Murdock looked grim as he panted. "Twelve minutes."

 

It's been twelve minutes from the time the symptoms were noticeable until he started breathing again. Face's quick mind did the math and knew that meant that they still had at least thirty-three more minutes in the air and then there's the ambulance ride. Who knows how far the hospital was from the airport? Those twelve minutes seemed like a lifetime ago and now they were going to wait another lifetime until they landed.

 

Murdock looked exhausted to Face and Face noticed himself breathing heavily too. His arms and shoulders were beginning to ache. He vaguely remembered his arms protesting from being pushed beyond the limits of their endurance.

 

Frankie had just come back from informing the pilot that Hannibal was breathing again and he crept over and bent over with hands on his knees next to Murdock as Murdock adjusted the oxygen valve one more time. With so much hope, Frankie asked, "He's gonna be okay... right?"

 

Frankie waited anxiously for a response, unable to take his eyes from Hannibal's drawn features. He took a step back to give Murdock more room and Frankie glanced at Face as he found another blanket to put over Hannibal.

 

Murdock made a grab for a pillow in one of the seats and gave a curt nod. "That's the plan, Frankie. We hope so."

 

Murdock's voice was so serious. Totally devoid of the humor that made Murdock, Murdock. He carefully lifted Hannibal's head and set the small pillow behind Hannibal's neck; tilting his head back a little to help Hannibal breathe. Then he pulled at the cushions from the seats to prop Hannibal up a little. His attention was totally focused on one thing. Frankie thought Murdock felt dangerous with all his energy focused like that. Once Hannibal's upper body was elevated, Murdock bent over with a hand next to Hannibal's head on the opposite side of him and spoke in a commanding voice. "Hannibal. I want you to open your eyes if you can.... Hannibal."

 

He was unconscious. Murdock sat up and smacked his mouth in frustration. Then he looked around while thinking of something more he could possibly do to improve the situation. He was distracted for a moment when Face started going around the plane searching for anything that Murdock may have missed earlier.

 

Face found a flashlight and he lifted each of Hannibal's eyelids and flashed the light into his pupils. Murdock sat back when he saw that the pupils were at least responsive to light stimuli.  He slumped on his knees without taking his eyes from Hannibal and took a deep slow breath and slowly let it out after holding it for a few seconds.  Face tucked the blankets around his commander. He was cold and clammy to the touch. Too damn cold. Beads of sweat had been forming on Hannibal's face and neck.

 

Face couldn't feel anything. He couldn't allow himself to feel. Not until Hannibal was in a hospital. He had his moment of panic at the very start and that was all he was going to permit himself to feel. Face tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry.

 

Hannibal was breathing a little stronger. They could see it. Frankie continued to pray as the soft rising and falling of Hannibal's chest mesmerized him. Exhausted, Face sat on his hip as close to Hannibal as he could possibly get. He checked his pulse again and timed it this time. It was getting stronger, but it was still weak compared to normal. It was also still fast. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat from Hannibal's face and neck with care.

 

Murdock busied himself with the tank of oxygen and checking Hannibal's pulse constantly. Face thought he better leave him alone and turned his attention to Hannibal. He set his hand on the older man's shoulder and clinched the blanket that covered him and Face covered his mouth with his nervous hand as he stared at Hannibal.

 

He still couldn't feel anything.

 

Hannibal's skin was still a bit pasty. More of a gray color actually. Gray surrounded by pale. With each breath the gray changed to a pale color. Face clutched the blanket at Hannibal's shoulder and waited for time to continue it's slow steady march. Face dropped his hand from his mouth. "Frankie, go ask the pilot for an up to date ETA."

 

Frankie did as he was told. That was one thing he had learned in his time with the Team-follow orders no matter how insignificant because it could be life or death for all of them. Frankie nodded and took one more, good look at Hannibal before heading back to the cockpit.

 

Murdock glanced at Frankie leaving before resting his gaze on Face while stealing glances at Hannibal. Still under a heightened sense of urgency, Murdock said nothing. He stopped fiddling with the valve and monitored the flow of oxygen going to Hannibal. Face let go of the blanket and slid his hand beneath to pull Hannibal's hand out. He carefully clasped the limp hand between his own. It was cold. He held the hand between his own, rubbing it gently trying to transfer some of his own warmth over to Hannibal.

 

Grateful that Murdock had settled down, Face thought he owed Murdock. He seemed to know exactly what to do. Face knew what to do too, but when it came to Hannibal and this experience  his brain had been slow on the draw. He reminded himself to pull Murdock aside and tell him what a good job he did.

 

Frankie had returned and told them the new ETA and also the destination. An island community off the Chesapeake. Hannibal needed more than what a small community hospital could offer.

 

Face relayed a question to the pilot through Frankie-how much further to DC? DC had state of the art equipment and highly trained doctors. When Frankie came back and told them twenty-five more minutes He thought, 'Too long.' All the equipment in the world and all the best doctors wouldn't do Hannibal a bit of good now if he should have another heart attack before arriving in DC, Face thought a good doctor would be as satisfactory as everything in DC as long as they got Hannibal to him as soon as possible. He told Frankie to tell the pilot to land the plane on the Chesapeake Island.

 

Murdock nodded his approval and carefully said, "We need to get him ready for landing."

 

Face had Hannibal's palm against his, measuring Hannibal's hand spread against his own. Hannibal's hand was bigger and surprisingly softer. The gloves, thought Face as he tucked the hand back under the blankets, the gloves had protected them against the elements over the years. His hands were neatly manicured. He always took care of himself. The military had taught them all to take proper care of themselves.

 

Murdock went in search of the backboard that was always standard equipment in planes, leaving Face with Hannibal. Face would glance at Murdock searching from time to time. He still felt nothing. Murdock found the backboard, a long piece of wood with straps and hand holds all around the edges.

 

With great care they moved Hannibal onto it and strapped him down. Murdock took notice of BA still slumbering in his seat. He went over to get BA ready for the landing as Face focused on making Hannibal as comfortable as possible.

 

Everything else was a blur to Face after that. They landed smoothly as the pilot took extra care to set the plane down as gently as possible to keep from jostling Hannibal around. The paramedics were onboard the plane before the loading ramp could drop completely down. As they were loading Hannibal up into the ambulance, one of the paramedics said, "A member of the family can ride with him."

 

Face wasn't sure why he did it or even that he had done it, until he actually said it. "I'm his son."

 

Murdock nodded his approval and Face jumped into the ambulance with Hannibal. Face stayed out of the way so the paramedic could do his work through the blaring of the sirens. Face stared wide-eyed at the tubes going in each of Hannibal's arm and the beeping of the heart monitor. The length of the needles made Face cringe when the paramedic put them in. During the twenty-minute ride, Hannibal began to regain consciousness with a drip of dopamine to get his pressure back up along with some nitroglycerin and saline running through him   The paramedic took his vitals and smiled reassuringly at Hannibal. "We're almost at the hospital. Your son is here with you, so sit back and try and take it easy."

 

Hannibal's eyes were glazed as he blinked and attempted to do as he was told. He wasn't sure if he heard the kind looking black man correctly. 'Son?' He was beginning to recall some of the details as to why he wasn't able to sit up and why it was painful to breathe. He continued to be in a complete daze until the time he arrived at the hospital. Then he looked up to see Face walking next to the stretcher. Face was holding his hand, looking down at him with worry, as the lights on the ceiling passed by in quick procession above him. Hannibal tried to grin as his mind cleared enough to piece the con Face put together, so someone could be with him. He thought, 'I love that boy.'

 

Then his hand felt empty as they pushed him into a room and he watched Face watch him go behind the door.

 

~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_

 

Hannibal woke up in a Washington DC ICU hooked up to every machine imaginable. He had been awake a few times before but he couldn't rise above the haze. He drifted in and out for a while becoming more aware a little at a time. With awareness came confusion. It took some time to figure out that he was in a hospital. He had a vague recollection that Face had been there talking with a doctor. But that felt like a long time ago. Slowly he remembered. Heart attack. Face had told him this after they were prepping him to be flown to DC by helicopter. His condition was too serious for the small community hospital to handle.

 

His mind slowly processed this information and he felt himself rise further into consciousness. He was beginning to feel his surroundings as time flowed around him. He'd had another heart attack. He didn't know how he knew this. He had wires and tubes everywhere monitoring and maintaining his bodily functions. Then he felt someone holding his hand and carefully cracked his eyes open a little and looked down.

 

Face was sitting in a chair asleep, leaning over on the edge of the bed with his head lying on his arms and his hand firmly grasping Hannibal's. Even with eyes going in and out of focus, Hannibal could see there was several days' growth on Face's cheeks and chin and he was still wearing the same clothes he wore on the plane.  Hannibal closed his eyes and sighed. His breath was difficult to catch and a nurse walked in.

 

When Hannibal sensed motion in the room, he cracked his eyes open again and noticed he had the nurse's full attention. She was nice looking but had an air of seriousness about her. Hannibal thought she could be around forty years old. She softly spoke with a firmness that demanded his attention. Reminded Hannibal of an old drill sergeant he once had when he first enlisted. "Do you know where you are?"

 

His mind responded with an elementary answer. Hannibal attempted to form the word 'hospital,' but his mouth was dry. Seeing the problem right away, she poured him a cup of water and held the cup to his mouth, offering him a straw. The simple act of sucking a little water was labor intensive. He didn't get enough to satisfy his thirst, but enough to moisten his mouth. He made another attempt to speak but the effort of drinking the water took what little energy he had out of him. She asked, "Do you want more?"

 

He nodded. Seeing that he was unable to sip from the straw, the nurse removed the straw and carefully tipped the cup to his lips with a towel beneath his chin to catch the spill. She was very patient with him and once he was done, he began to look around a little as his eyes became focused a little more. She asked again, "Do you know where you are?"

 

Hannibal nodded slightly. He barely whispered the word, "Hospital."

 

"What's your name?"

 

Hannibal started to feel his body even more as he closed his eyes slowly. He was in serious trouble here. He cooperatively whispered, "Hannibal Smith.. John."

 

The nurse nodded with satisfaction. "Are you in any pain?"

 

Hannibal swallowed hard and nodded slowly. He mouthed the words, "A little."

 

"Where?"

 

"Chest."

 

The nurse took a closer look at the monitors and turned back to him. With kindness in her voice she informed him, "That can be expected. I'll talk to your doctor and he'll adjust your pain medications. He'll be here in thirty minutes."

 

"Heart?"

 

She quickly judged Hannibal as the type of person who was no nonsense and would want to know the truth up front and straight up. The nurse nodded. "You've suffered a massive myocardial infarction three days ago and another one early yesterday morning."

 

Hannibal slowly closed his eyes and attempted to take a deep breath. He stopped half way into the breath because it hurt too much. He opened his eyes again and took notice of Face. The nurse smiled. "He hasn't left your side since they brought you in. This is the first time I've seen him resting."

 

Hannibal studied the sleeping man who was holding onto his hand. He whispered, "He's a good boy."

 

With that said, Hannibal drifted to asleep. After a short nap, Hannibal woke up to Face's stirring. The nurse was waking Face up with a gentle hand on his shoulder. "You said you wanted to talk to his doctor when he came. He'll be here in a few minutes."

 

Not letting Hannibal's hand go, Face rose up and rubbed his eyes with his free hand. "Any change?"

 

The nurse smiled and nodded at Hannibal waking up. "He woke up briefly, but why don't you judge for yourself."

 

Face, seeing Hannibal make his way back to consciousness, anxiously waited for a positive sign. "Hannibal?"

 

Hannibal not fully awake yet managed a slight nod in response to his hearing his name. Seeing Hannibal awake, life returned to Face's eyes and he breathed, "Oh, thank God...", then in a soft voice, he said, "You gave us all one hell of a scare... BA, Murdock and Frankie are here. They're down the hall in the waiting room."

 

Hannibal inclined his head and tried to force moisture into his mouth. The nurse showed Face how to give him a drink. Face dribbled water on Hannibal's chin and embarrassingly wiped it up. Hannibal didn't care. He was relieved to have his mouth wet. Face looked over to the nurse and asked, "Why is he still breathing hard like that?"

 

Hannibal's breathing was a little labored and Face wasn't accustomed to seeing anyone, let alone Hannibal have difficulty breathing.

 

The nurse was about to answer Face's question when the doctor entered the room. Face seemed to be familiar with the man as he took note that Hannibal was now conscious. The nurse handed a metal covered binder to him. "He regained consciousness a half an hour ago for approximately five minutes and he was alert and cognitive. He regained consciousness again only two minutes ago."

 

The doctor flipped the binder opened and glanced at Hannibal as quickly absorbed what was written in the chart. He then gave his full attention to Hannibal. "You know where you are?"

 

His mind cleared a little more, Hannibal nodded tiredly. He half mouthed the words and half whispered with effort, "ICU.. How bad?"

 

The doctor nodded and moved next to Hannibal. "I'm Dr. Booker and your son tells me you would want it straight."

 

Hannibal thought, 'Still playing that game?. I'll go along.' He inclined his head a little. He felt Face squeeze his hand as he listened to the doctor tell him how serious his problem was and realized he didn't need to hear the rest. He could figure out that he'd never fully recover. He struggled to stay awake so he could ask the doctor some question but his body gave out. Face looked at the doctor after seeing Hannibal was fast asleep again. "Isn't there some operation or something?"

 

The doctor sadly shook his head. "I'm sorry. The only thing that'll do him any good is a heart transplant and his age disqualifies him. We've already fitted him with a pacemaker and that's all we can do for him for now, except make him as comfortable as possible. If you'd like, I can recommend a few of my colleagues for a second opinion, but they'll tell you more of the same."

 

Face tore his eyes from Dr. Booker and stared glumly at Hannibal lying in the hospital bed with tubes up his nose and in both arms, wires running out from beneath the thin hospital gown hooked up to a machine that was beeping steadily. The squiggly lines on the monitor told him that something was not right. Dr. Booker had showed him what a normal heart reading should look like.

 

They all had gotten a crash course on layman's cardiology in the past few days. Face was the most attentive of all of them. The doctor at the island hospital reassured him that he made the right decision in getting him to the closest available hospital and they did everything correctly. That was very small comfort to Face.

 

Face only nodded in response. "Thank you, Dr. Booker."

 

The doctor stood up, sorry for not being able to be of more help. "Your father is getting the best care available and if you think of anything that'll make him more comfortable, let me or one of the staff know. We'll see what we can do."

 

The doctor was talking like Hannibal was a sick and dying animal that someone didn't have the heart to put down and put out of his misery. Face swung his head around at the doctor with a shocked look on his face. He let Hannibal's hand go and walked out the door and motioned the doctor to follow him. Once outside the room, Face stuffed his hands in his back pockets to keep them from lashing out at the doctor if he said something he didn't want to hear. He gathered his strength and asked, "Is he going to die?"

 

Dr. Booker wrapped his arms around Hannibal's chart and looked into Face's begging eyes. He carefully picked his words. "There is a possibility that he will not survive... And there is a possibility that he will make it. BUT, you must prepare for both possibilities."

 

Face jammed his hands further into his back pockets and he looked away while he blinked back tears forming in his eyes. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. His voice cracked a little when he asked, "What are his chances?"

 

Dr. Booker eyes gentled as he said, "It's too soon to tell. I'm sorry. But we'll do everything that we can for him. He has a lot going in his favor... He was physically fit to begin with... More fit than a lot of men half his age and you and your friends acted immediately and got him to the nearest hospital."

 

Face frowned and nodded. He felt safe enough to take his hands out of his pockets now and he ran a hand tiredly through his hair. He sighed and looked at the doctor. "You said we must prepare for the possibility that he'll survive. What is there to prepare for if he makes it?"

 

With greater care, Booker chose his words. "He's suffered permanent damage. He may recover some strength with time, but he'll never be like he was before. You may have to provide him with around the clock nursing care in the beginning. And then there's the possibility of brain damage. Judging from what I've seen so far there is little evidence of that. He knows who he is, where he is and why he's here. According to what you've told me, he was without a heartbeat for over ten minutes and yesterday morning, he was in complete heart failure for an additional four minutes. During this time he wasn't getting an adequate oxygen supply to the brain."

 

Face shook his head not wanting to hear anymore. "You're saying he could be ...mentally slow or something?"

 

Booker slowly nodded. "It is likely he may suffer cognitively and physically ... He will be physically impaired because his heart will be too weak to move the blood supply around fast enough, but if he suffered brain damage in the motor areas of his brain.."

 

Face had heard all he could stand to hear. He was being told that Hannibal may not survive and if he did, he'd be an invalid. He curtly said, "Thank you."

 

He marched back into Hannibal's room and focused on keeping himself calm. There was no way Hannibal was going to be an invalid or be mentally defective, or die on them. He and Murdock worked too hard to lose him now. Then the nurse came in and watched over both Hannibal and Face. When Face was visibly calmer, she said, "Why don't you and your friends go home and get some sleep."

 

Face shook his head. "He wouldn't leave me and so I'm not gonna leave him."

 

She respected this and suggested, "At least go to the cafeteria and get something to eat. I'm sure your friends would like some news on him and you can do this over a hot meal."

 

Face sighed and glanced at her. She smiled encouragingly. "I'll be here with him until you get back."

 

Face thought the guys needed to know some more current news on Hannibal's condition and also he had to tell them what Booker told him. He felt he needed to prepare them for either possibility even if he didn't want to believe it himself.  Reluctantly, with a little more convincing from the nurse, he left Hannibal with her. He decided after talking it over with Murdock and BA that he'd ask for a second opinion.

 

 

Part 2

 

One month later.

 

One of Dr. Booker's predictions came true. Neither of them were easy to accept, nor less painful. Hannibal lived.

 

'If you'd call this living,' thought Face bitterly as BA pushed Hannibal in the wheelchair with an oxygen tank strapped to the back of it. Hannibal was a shadow of his former self. He had lost so much strength and weight. His cheeks were sunken in and his skin wrinkled around the dark circles around his eyes. His eyes were the only things that gave any hint of his former self. He still had that stubborn look in them.

 

He had spent another week in the ICU before he was moved to the intermediate care ward where he began his rehabilitation. They waited breathlessly for signs of mental deterioration for the first week after he was moved out of the ICU. It had been difficult to judge his mental state because he was on so much medication. The pain medications were lessened over time and with each decrease in dosage, it became clearer that he was mentally intact, much to all their relief.

 

While they worried less about his mental state, his now weakened heart began to pronounce itself clearly as his physical state clearly deteriorated over the days and weeks. He had gone from a tall, strapping, fine specimen of a man to a withering, bird like creature.

 

He was now being checked out of the hospital, only to be checked into a long-term care facility. Face could not bring himself to say 'Nursing Home.'

 

When it became clear that Hannibal was going to make it, Dr. Booker and the other doctors began counseling Face on preparing for the strong possibility of long term care. When it was mentioned to Hannibal that they were going to take him to Langley and hire a staff of nurses to look after him while they were gone on missions, he reacted strongly against that.  He didn't want Stockwell and the rest of them tripping over him at Langley where he'd be in the way. Besides, Booker discouraged them from this. Hannibal needed the proper facilities to manage his health. Face personally and reluctantly checked into nursing homes and even the local VA in DC. When Booker recommended one place in particular, Face checked it out and thought it was a good choice.

 

It was clean, with plenty of space and a large staff. The current residents were very pleased with the care they received. He talked to a few of the patients that were in the recreation room when he was given the tour of the place. He talked mostly with men who appeared to be about Hannibal's age. The only complaint he got from one naturally, ill-tempered gentleman was that the staff wouldn't let him have sex in his own room. Face chuckled at the man's predicament and he apologized.

 

He picked a few other people at random throughout the nursing home and spoke with them. Just about everyone he spoke to seemed to be alert, happy and as healthy as their physical problems permitted them to be. There were a couple of them who had mental deficiencies, but like everyone else, they looked well cared for. At every turn there were staff; LPNs, orderlies and nurses, looking after the patients. Face dropped in on the place at random times and was satisfied to know that he could leave Hannibal here while he, BA, Murdock and Frankie were out on missions. They even had the entire history of the place checked out. No citations or penalties against them for ill treatment of patients.

 

Stockwell still expected them to live up to their part of the bargain and so did Hannibal. Stockwell was footing the bill for most of Hannibal's care, but Face and the guys were paying for the perks such as a private room and around the clock sitters until Hannibal was able to manage his own basic care, if that was possible. He could barely stand up by himself without getting totally out of breath now. Face personally interviewed over six-dozen LPNs to fill the five positions needed for the around the clock care Hannibal would need.

 

Face left nothing to chance and yet he felt like he was doing everything wrong. Hannibal looked around his new home for the times when they were on missions. Face had introduced Hannibal to each of the LPNs who would be taking care of him until he got to where the staff of the nursing home could manage him. Right now, he needed specialized care and would need it for a while. One of them was walking up to them and greeted them all. Hannibal smiled at her. Hannibal recalled that her name was Lynn. Face also took the pain to pick pretty women LPNs to Hannibal's satisfaction. After dealing with nurses in the hospital and seeing Hannibal's embarrassment when it came to his personal care. Face hired two men LPNs to keep his embarrassment to a minimum.

 

Hannibal thought the place was exactly the way Face described it to him, even down to the guy who complained that he couldn't have sex in his room.  Face had told him everything so there wouldn't be any surprises. BA pushed him into a room that already had some of his things waiting for him. Murdock was staring at his shoes while making his way inside the room. The place reminded him of the VA where he spent so many years in the mental ward. He felt uncomfortable leaving Hannibal in a place like that.  It was big and spacious.  Lynn said, "I'll do your unpacking after your friends leave. You can tell me where you want everything and I'll get you settled."

 

Hannibal sighed and nodded. It had been a bigger adjustment to let other people do things for him than having his health taken from him. Frankie started poking around the room and gave his nod of approval. "This is much, much nicer than the place where my Dad is."

 

Murdock thought, 'It better be for the price tag Face is shelling out for it.' Lynn removed a suitcase from the bed and suggested, "He needs to lie down. The trip over here would take it out of him."

 

Hannibal smiled a little to try and convince her that she was wrong. Face gave him a knowing look. "Hannibal, her job is making sure you get well, so let her do her job."

 

Hannibal gave Face a wink. Hannibal reminded himself that he had to cooperate or he might end up back in the hospital and he did not want to go back there. He did feel exhausted and in determination of doing a little something for himself, he lifted his feet from the footrests of the wheelchair and kicked them with effort out of his way. BA had to fight himself to keep from pulling Lynn back and lifting Hannibal to his feet for her. Lynn proved to be strong as Hannibal put his arms around her shoulders as he was instructed. She lifted him to his feet with surprising ease.

 

Face swallowed hard when he noticed how Hannibal's clothes sagged on him and no longer fit him. He made a note to buy Hannibal some new clothes when they got back from Stockwell's latest mission. Lynn carefully let Hannibal sit on the bed with little assistance from her once he was on his feet. The simple act of standing and taking a couple of steps to turn around so he could sit down left Hannibal a little winded. With Lynn's help, Hannibal adjusted the tubes in his nose that gave him the extra oxygen he needed. His fingers spidered across his face as he made sure the tubing didn't have a kink in it to disrupt the flow of oxygen. This was hard for all of them to watch.

 

BA moved the wheelchair aside after Lynn had removed the oxygen tank from the rear cart. Once Hannibal had caught his breath he looked from man to man. They all were slumping from the guilt bearing down on their shoulders. Hannibal spoke in a whispy voice. "Hey, I'm not dead yet. So stop acting like you're at a funeral."

 

Frankie squirmed uncomfortably and Murdock nodded. "Sorry."

 

Face felt like Murdock was apologizing for not doing more for Hannibal on the plane. "I wished you'd reconsider staying at Langley. Stockwell is almost never there anyway."

 

Shaking his head, Hannibal said, "I'm not going to give Stockwell the satisfaction of seeing me like this."

 

BA winced at the weakness in Hannibal's voice. He'd never get used to that, or the look of frailty. Face sighed as he went through the shoulder bag he carried in with them. It contained all of Hannibal's medication. "Stockwell isn't gloating over this. He was actually concerned about you."

 

BA growled at Face for mentioning this, then he said, "Stockwell was more worried about us not going on missions than anything else. We were lucky to've gotten time off to look after you."

 

With a sigh, Hannibal nodded his appreciation to BA. Hannibal suspected that Stockwell may have been a little worried about him because he approved some expensive specialist to see him and even had the doctor flown in on one of Stockwell's planes. Hannibal looked over to Face. "I'd rather lick my wounds in peace,  kid."

 

Pausing from rummaging through Hannibal's bag of medications, Face nodded that he understood. After seeing that all the medications were there he handed it to the LPN. "Lynn, could you please see that this gets to the pharmacist right away?"

 

Lynn accepted the bag and said, "It'll be a few minutes."

 

"We won't leave until you get back."

 

Lynn nodded at Face's smile and left. Face turned back to Hannibal with his hands deep in his pockets. "If you change your mind, just let me know. Alright?"

 

Hannibal folded his arms and whispered, "Fair enough. But I don't think I'll change my mind."

 

Murdock stepped up and lightly nudged Hannibal on the shoulder with a wink. "Stay away from the green Jello with the carrots and fruit stuff in it. It's a classified government experiment."

 

BA rolled his eyes. With a smile, Hannibal said, "Really? Thanks for the warning, Captain."

 

"No problem, Colonel."

 

Hannibal then got serious. He looked at each of them hard and with a firm voice, but the whispiness remained. "You guys have a job to do. I don't want you thinkin' about me while you're out there. That sort of thinkin' can get you killed. Face is now in command. You do what he says from now on."

 

Face opened his mouth and his eyes widened. BA nodded and Murdock looked wild-eyed from Hannibal to Face and back to Hannibal again. Frankie shifted uncomfortably and smiled at Face. Murdock rubbed the back of his neck and glanced at BA. BA and Murdock accepted the change in command. Frankie, not from a military background, did not know what the significance of this was. Frankie followed everyone's orders, so this meant very little to him. The only one who was having a problem with this was Face.

 

"Hannibal.. I can't do this."

 

Hannibal's bore right into him. Normally bright blue, his eyes appeared steel gray framed by dark circles. The grayish-ness of his eyes made him more unnerving. "You can and you will, Face. I'm out of commission and I will never be able to go back out in the field again. So I'm useless as a commander now."

 

As Murdock started protesting, BA set a firm hand on his shoulder to settle him. BA and Hannibal had been in more battles in Vietnam and had seen command change frequently. Commanders would get killed or promoted and the next in line would step into the role. Murdock was a pilot and the change of command affected him very little and Face was unceremoniously handed over to Hannibal after two months in Vietnam. Hannibal had been Face's commanding officer for nearly twenty years and he had never experienced a real change of command. But this change in command put him in the role of commander.

 

Hannibal understood how much of a shock this must be to Face as he gave his last official command to the others with a dismissive nod so he could talk to Face alone. BA stepped up to Hannibal and offered his hand. Hannibal shook it and Murdock did the same. They each exchanged a meaningful look. Frankie, not knowing what else to do, followed BA and Murdock's example. Hannibal shook Frankie's hand and gave him a gentle pat on the arm before he let him go.

 

When they had left the room, Face whined, "I can't do this Hannibal."

 

Hannibal folded his arms and said, "You're ready. You've been ready for years. If you had been able to continue your military career, with very little doubt, you'd be a full colonel by now. But unfortunately, circumstances did not allow that."

 

"But, you just can't hand over command to me just like that."

 

"I just did it, Face. I've taught you everything I know and you've even taught me a thing or two over the years.... I understand what you're feeling because I felt those same things when I was given my first command."

 

Face shook his head not believing what he was hearing. It was hard seeing Hannibal like this; unable to walk across the floor or do simple things for himself. While his body was only a shadow of its former self, his mind was as sharp as ever and his eyes still held a power over Face that he never could figure out. The strength had gone out of his voice but the authority was still there. "Face, I'm not in command anymore. I can't be."

 

Face put his hand over his mouth and refused to look at Hannibal. Hannibal, in his whispy voice, said, "And don't try to do things the way I would do them... Don't even attempt it. You have your own way of doing things and I've seen that way. I admire your way. You can be very creative."

 

Dropping his hand from his mouth Face sighed. "You're determined to do this, aren't you?"

 

"It has to be done, Face. I won't be there anymore to help you. You've got to learn to stand alone starting now but don't be afraid to lean on the others. That's what they're there for, but they'll be looking to you for the answers. It'll be easier than you think, but it 'll also be the most difficult thing you've ever done."

 

Face already was feeling the pressure and he stared at Hannibal. Hannibal's gray lips smiled at him. "I've been there too. After all, you are your father's son."

 

Face helplessly smiled at the con that kept him by Hannibal's side during his stay in the ICU. The hospital rules were clear on only letting family members be with the patients. Shortly after Hannibal was moved to the intermediate care ward, they tried to correct the assumption that they were father and son. No one paid any attention to it and went on saying things like: 'Your father didn't sleep well last night.' Or 'Your son is here. He'll be with you in a few minutes. He's talking with your doctor.'

 

Hannibal looked around his new room. "This a nice place, but I don't want to be left here all the time."

 

Face understood. Hannibal was telling him to stay alive and keep the others alive too, so they could come and visit him when they were home from missions. Maybe, when he got a little stronger, take him out for the day when he could get a doctor's approval. Face nodded. "I don't want to leave you here at all."

 

"Kid..."

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Don't worry about me."

 

"Only if you don't worry about us."

 

Hannibal smiled and shook his head. Face sat down on the edge of Hannibal's bed and Hannibal grasped Face's hand like Face had done his during the worst of his stay in the hospital. "It'll be alright."

 

Face sucked on his lower lip and nodded. Then he turned to Hannibal. "How is it that you're so calm about this? If it had been me, I'd being spitting mad at the universe right now."

 

Hannibal sighed heavily. "What good will it do me to be pissed off? .. What's the first thing I taught you?"

 

Face gave Hannibal a curious look and hesitantly said, "Everything and every situation is an opportunity waiting to be discovered or created."

 

Hannibal nodded satisfied. "Now I could be pissed and sit back and moan about my bad health. What good will that do me? I'm way past retirement age and you're long overdue to take command. If I hadn't had that heart attack or if I had died, I would've missed watching you have your own command. See what you're really made of. ... I know my prognosis isn't good, but I know I'll be around long enough to see that and that's what matters."

 

Unashamed, Face felt tears forming in the corners of his eyes. He hoped that he'd be able to do what Hannibal wanted him to do. The older man's inner strength amazed Face. Hannibal nodded towards the door. "Go on now. Your men are waiting."

 

Face felt Hannibal softly squeezed his hands and he reluctantly stood up. Hannibal offered his hand to shake like he did for the others and Face firmly shook it. Face then stepped back and gave Hannibal a sharp formal salute. Hannibal had never demanded that his men salute him. This was the first time Face had ever formally saluted Hannibal, complete with heel clicks. Hannibal respectfully returned the salute. With this done, Face took a long look at Hannibal before looking from Hannibal to the door. Face sighed and turned his attention back to Hannibal. "I'll see you when we get back and don't get thrown out of this place before then. There's not a better place around."

 

"I'll do my best." Hannibal's gray lips smiled and watched Face walk out of the room while looking back at him. Lynn had been quietly waiting by the door and Face nodded his appreciation to her as she went back in the room. She had already been clearly warned about Hannibal's stubborn streak and didn't need any further instructions. Face had made sure she and the others who would be taking care of Hannibal were informed about every last detail he could think of that could effect his care.

 

Lynn settled Hannibal down so he could rest and direct where he wanted his stuff placed as she unpacked. He couldn't wait until they got back so he could ask Face how did it feel to be in complete command for the first time. He knew Face would make him proud.

 

It had been difficult watching his own body deteriorate over the past month, but he still had his mind. It was a bit slow going in the beginning, but once the pain medications were decreased, his mind sharpened. He constantly reminded himself that at least his mind was intact and as long as that was intact, he still could be dangerous. He smiled as he could see Stockwell thinking that he wasn't a problem anymore. 'Yup, I am still dangerous.' he thought as he settled back with a satisfied grin. He could keep Stockwell from chewing Face up at every turn. He looked over to Lynn and asked, "Could you get me a typewriter?"

 

Lynn nodded and asked, "You want to write your family?"

 

"Yeah. I want to write to Uncle Sam and a few others."

 

Face walked down the hall from Hannibal's room He was stopped by someone who wanted him to sign some last minute paperwork to finalize Hannibal's admission. He handed over the clipboard and said, "If he needs or wants anything, get it for him and send me the bill. No matter what it is."

 

The clerk politely nodded and disappeared behind a door. Face looked back in the direction of Hannibal's room. His guilt tugged at him once again.  Hannibal had saved him from being put in the stockades before he had even met him and now he was doing this to Hannibal. What a way to thank the guy.

 

~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_

 

When he first met Hannibal, he was sitting in the stockade waiting to be shipped back to the states for punching a superior officer. When he was introduced to Hannibal, Face thought Hannibal was going to make or break him trying. He had seen it so many times in his life. The orphanage nuns, the football coaches, the high school teachers. All of them wanted to save him and they thought they could do it by being tough on him. When he met Hannibal he suspected that he was there to attempt it, too. Face was dreading being saved again. But when he was marched out with Hannibal, he was taken to a tent where he met BA and Murdock for the first time.

 

Murdock was settled haphazardly in a hammock with a German shepherd dog lying comfortably with Murdock's arms wrapped around the dog's neck. The dog was one of the mine-detecting dogs Murdock had temporarily liberated him from the base kennels. Murdock was petting the dog between flicking the ashes from his cigarette onto the dirt floor. BA and Ray were going through the weapons and cleaning them. There were a couple of other men with them and they were smoking cigarettes and playing poker in the corner. All of them were sweaty and gritty looking. Unlike most of the men Face had seen in his short time in Vietnam, these men were smiling genuine smiles, not the drug induced, hazy smiles that was so commonplace.

 

BA and Ray nodded their greeting  to Face. Murdock smiled easily and looked at the dog. "What do you think Billy? Is he okay?"

 

Billy lifted his head, obediently sniffed towards Face and then turned to lick Murdock on the face. Murdock stretched his neck and turned his head away trying to avoid getting his face washed by the dog's tongue. Murdock held his cigarette out of the way. Then the hammock tipped over causing Murdock to fall. He was laughing and Billy jumped clear of the falling pilot.

 

Face leapt forward to assist the lanky pilot to his feet only to be tongue assaulted by Billy.

 

Murdock pushed Face away saying, "I'm fine. Just let me be."

 

Murdock made himself comfortable on the dirt floor and Billy settled back down next to him with his sniffing duties complete. "Billy, likes you. You must be okay then."

 

Face turned around to see Hannibal shaking his head in amusement. With a smile he offered his hand and said, "Welcome aboard, kid."

 

He hesitantly shook Hannibal's hand.

 

~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_

 

That was so long ago...

 

Face returned to Hannibal's room, but didn't go in. He listened as Hannibal told Lynn about his plan to write to his 'Uncle Sam' and Face rolled his eyes. He could just imagine what Hannibal was going to write to the government. He smiled a little and then leaned heavily against the wall next to Hannibal's door for a few moments to listen. Face silently apologized to Hannibal for having to leave him there. He swallowed his thoughts as he straightened his tie up and ran his hand down his chest before standing up straighter than usual.

 

He tilted his chin a little higher and walked out to the van with a confidence he did no feel. The guys were waiting for him and he was annoyed to find Frankie sitting in his seat. BA quietly said, "You sit up here, Face."

 

Murdock jerked his head a little towards the front passenger seat to encourage Face to go ahead.

 

Face sighed and swallowed hard. This was real and it was happening. He opened the door and climbed into Hannibal's old seat. He glanced at BA nervously when he closed the door and BA smiled at him. Face slowly smiled back at him and glanced back at Murdock and then Frankie. Murdock winked at him.

 

Face turned back around and settled down confidently. "Let's go see what Stockwell wants."

 

Face reminded himself that he had been taught by the very best.

 

 

~fini~

 


The Walk by Live Lady Roadkill

 

 


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