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Timeless

Timeless

by SnowFlake


(c) September 2001

Rating: PG

Summery: Face is having a rough night about 2 weeks after their escape from POW camp.

Warnings: Reference to torture, nothing graphic.

Disclaimer: Darn, I still don't own 'em. All characters are the property of Stephen J Cannell and his playmates. I only borrow them and have made no money from this story.

Authors note: This story is for Niki, who a while back was feeling blue, and told me she wanted to see a follow-up on Something To Hold On To. I hope you're doing better, sweetie.Thank you to the regulars: Cath, Mel, and withcbaby, for helping me with this story.


Silent. Too silent.

Face pressed a shaking hand hard over his mouth, holding back the turmoil that threatened to escape.

It had started innocently enough half an hour earlier; a feeling of unease, a slight creeping of the skin had brought him back from the restless void between almost-sleep and almost-waking. It felt list something kept brushing against the fine hairs of his arm.

His hearing suddenly, unexpectedly peaked, magnified the way it did when your guts told you something was wrong but your brain had yet to pick up on it. He froze in mid-motion under the covers, holding his breath. His guts tightened as the silence wrapped itself around him, painfully forcing the air from his lungs with its lonesome embrace.

A violent shiver traveled through his body, his t-shirt was damp with sweat. He let his hand roam over the starched covers (blue, washed out blue. He couldn't see it in the darkness, but he knew it was blue). The sound of fingers against the rough fabric wasn't much, but it was better than the silence. Anything was better than the silence.

Anything.

The covers rustled as he gathered them tightly around himself and swung his bare feet down onto the floor. His fingers lingered on the light switch. He finally withdrew his hand slowly without turning the night stand lamp on. Morning would come soon enough, accompanied by cold, harsh light. It would reveal all that had been mercifully forgotten, if only for a moment, in the dark of night.

If he had a say in anything, morning would never come again. Ever.

He lifted a hand in front of his face in the darkness, and turned it around slowly, wiggling his fingers. They didn't feel right. Numb, but not quite. The ropes, forcing his elbows together behind his back, had been so tightly tied he'd lost all feeling in his arms and hands a couple of hours into one of the 'attitude adjustment' sessions. His fingers hadn't worked right after that.

He reached out, and groped blindly for the watch on the bedside table, clumsy fingers trying to identify the various objects in the dark. Book (not even opened). Pens. He cursed silently as they clattered to the floor. Cigarette pack. Lighter. There. The watch. He brought it close to his eyes to try to make out the time. 3:14 a.m. He more sensed than heard the soft ticking of the watch. Still plenty of night left.

The floor was cold under his feet as he limped across it. The window was reluctant to move, and he had to use both hands to force it open an inch. Despite the early hour, the south-western Tokyo suburb was alive with lights and sounds, and the noise filtered up from the streets twelve floors below, filling the room with its monotonous rumble.

He freed his left hand from the confines of the warm cocoon of blankets and ran two fingers along the chain of the tags around his neck, liberating himself from its suffocating grip. A new set of tags had replaced the ones he'd been relieved of during the first interrogation session. Exactly the same; same name, same serial number.

The only thing not the same was the person wearing them.

Face rested his forehead against the glass, and closed his eyes. Was it only fifteen days ago? It felt like an eternity. And at the same time it felt like only a moment ago. Time wasn't behaving right any longer.

Back there, towards the end, time had lost all meaning. Minutes. Hours. Days. They meant nothing. Getting through another day, surviving the next rounds of 'interviews' was what mattered. The only thing that mattered.

The moment the skids of the Huey had left the soggy ground, time had suddenly reappeared. It had stuttered momentarily, as if caught by surprise, before rushing forward blindly, frighteningly. Then, in an instant, it had vanished again.

He couldn't hold back a moan as he lowered himself down onto the chair below the window. Being forced to kneel on a concrete floor for 30 hours with your hands tied behind your neck was an efficient way to inflict lasting pain. One of many ways. Hannibal was right, he really had to learn to keep his mouth shut.

But he'd bought Murdock another couple of hours to recover. Face grinned grimly at the thought of the tiny victory (you counted them all, they were all too precious to ignore), but the smile wilted almost instantly.

The pilot had looked bad. Really bad. Sticky blood trickling down from his ear, darkening the dirty brown hair further. Shaking and semi-unconscious (never given the luxury of total unconsciousness, they knew exactly when to stop) he'd been deposited by their feet in the rain. Nothing unusual in itself, but Murdock hadn't really woken up after that one session. Not really. His eyes were open, he was moving, even eating, but he'd gone silent. Distant. He hadn't been there any more. He still wasn't.

Silence wasn't a good thing.

Face's fingers wandered unthinkingly over the watch still in his hand. It was a cheap watch, not at all like his own. He'd bought his old one in China Beach on the first R&R with the guys. All black, water-proof down to 100 ft, unbreakable glass cover. It even had a compass. Greedy fingers had ripped it from his wrist before they even reached the camp.

The bulky bandages around his wrists still wouldn't allow him to wear the new one, but he kept it in the pocket of his robe, or right next to his bed. Close at hand at all times. There to assure him that time hadn't gone AWOL on him again.

His restless fingers suddenly stopped; he couldn't hear the whispering heart beats of the watch any longer. A now familiar coldness settled over his heart, and he hesitantly held the watch close to his ear. Tick. Tick. Tick. He let out a shuddering breath, and leaned his head in his hands.

"Lieutenant?"

His head came up as the soft voice carried through the room. The door to the hallway was open, and cold fluorescent light streamed in. Face blinked, and averted his eyes from the sharp light. The squeaky sound of the nurse's shoes against the floor was heard as she made her way across the floor.

"Can't sleep?"

He shook his head.

"Are you hurting?"

He shook his head again as she gently examined the bandaged around his wrists. Silent seconds went by, and he found himself wishing she wouldn't let go. But all too soon, cool air replaced her warm fingers.

Her hand came to rest a second on his forehead, and then moved farther up, a soft caress over the short stubble on his head. He didn't like it that short. It had been shaved off to get rid of the lice. He had no memories of it being done.

He didn't remember much at all, little pieces here and there of the chopper ride to Chu-Lai. The sickening sound of bullets slamming into the helicopter as it strained to take off, dangerously overloaded. Someone's hands grabbing him, pulling him away from the open gun door as the Huey veered steeply. The rest was gone. Just wasn't there. Blissful nothingness.

"Poor thing, you're soaking wet. Let's get you into some dry clothes, okay?"

The nurse coaxed Face to his feet, and he raised his arms stiffly over his head, as she helped him out of the damp shirt. She talked softly, soothingly, as she went about her task. About the recent heat wave, about her car that refused to start this afternoon, about the non-existent air conditioning. Face didn't look down on his bare chest as she quickly checked the bandages; he didn't have to. He was reminded of the bruises, the burns, the infected lacerations with every breath.

His breath caught in his chest, and he locked his eyes on the opposite wall as her efficient hands stripped him of the pajama bottom. Just as quickly he was dressed in a dry T-shirt and shorts.

She helped him sit down again. "I'll be back in just a second." The click of the latch echoed hollowly in the room as the door closed behind her.

Several minutes passed before the door opened again.

"I have something for you, Lieutenant." She brought her hands out from behind her back and held out a small transistor radio to him. "I don't really need a radio when Nurse Campbell is on the night shift." She laughed quietly and shook her head. "That woman just doesn't know how to be quiet."

Tears of gratitude started burning behind his eyes, and he turned away, towards the window again, fighting them back. A click was heard as she flicked the power switch, and The Beach Boys filled the silent room. He felt the warmth of her skin as she reached past him and placed the small radio on the window sill. She smelled like cigarette smoke and soap and caring.

"Try to get some sleep, Lieutenant," she said softly.

He nodded, eyes rigidly fixed on the window, unseeingly staring at the early morning traffic bustling on the streets below. The heavy warmth of the blanket settled around his shoulders, and he felt her hand brush lightly over his arm before the door shut quietly behind her, leaving him in the darkness once again.

How had she known that silence had turned malevolent, evil? How had she known that it meant nothing but hurt? Loneliness. Death. Meant that the grim reaper was leering over your shoulder, about to deliver death in the form of violent AK-47 rounds? How did she know that silence only fell when the shivering man you were holding, trying to comfort, stopped crying, stopped bleeding, stopped being? That silence only fell when you were hurting so bad (inside, outside) you couldn't stay in the present?

A bitter laugh rose inside him. You're some kind of man, Peck. Afraid of the silence. It's almost as bad as being afraid of the boogey man. The light from the traffic below refracted in odd, angular patterns and he wiped the tears away angrily with the back of his hand. Those were the things little kids were scared of, not grown men. Not a Green Beret. Not a member of an A-Team. Not a member of Hannibal's A-Team.

He pulled the radio to him and hugged it tightly under the blanket. The Beach Boys continued to sing.

 

~ The End ~

 

 


Timeless by Snowflake

 

 


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