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Title: Thankful For

Thankful For
by Reagan

Rating: Strong R and maybe NC-17 in one part
Summary: Thanksgiving doesn't go as planned for Face and Hannibal
Warnings: Descriptions of child abuse, rape, adult language, and violence. If any of this offends you please turn back now. You've been warned, don't come complaining to me.
Disclaimer: Stephen J. Cannell and Universal own the A-Team. That's not me. No infringement is intended and no profit is being made. All suing me will get you is my credit card debt.
Feedback: Please I'd love to hear from you.
Author's Notes: This is first person point of view. Some people don't like that but everyone who has responded said they got over it. This is a work of fiction but I tried to stay true to life as possible and believe this is a very accurate reaction to this type of scenario.

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I've been irritable and moody lately. I'll admit that. Murdock would probably say I'm a little depressed. He may be right. I'm not sure that I have an explanation for it either. I'm just tired. Tired of everything. Hiding from Decker, having an unusually high number of people shooting at me. Getting beaten up on the last couple of missions. I'm just tired. Add to the fact that I haven't slept well in the last few weeks and it's no wonder I've been silent or snappy when pushed. All three of them have tried to draw me out of my funk. I'm not normally quiet and well I think I've got them worried. I just can't muster up the desire to care or pretend. This is unusual for me. Normally I'd go out of my way to make Hannibal or Murdock happy. I also try to avoid pissing off BA. But for these last few weeks I just haven't given a damn. They're concerned. I can tell as they surreptitiously sneak glances in my direction then at each other. They're not nearly as subtle as they think. Unfortunately as bad as this morning has been, I know the day will only get worse.

Thanksgiving should be a great day. I mean really, a holiday to celebrate all the good things in our lives. What's not to like? Except that Thanksgiving is terrible. No, I won't think about all the reasons I have to despise this day. The list is long and distinguished but I know the real reason I'm agitated is because of the pending ritual now indelibly associated with this holiday. As a kid growing up in Michigan, Hannibal's family always went around the table telling everyone what they were thankful for. The Colonel during our very first Thanksgiving together decided he wanted to continue the tradition with us. So each year we go around the table explaining what we're thankful for. I've always dreaded this. I didn't want to lie to my friends but repeating the same things over and over again each year about how glad I was to be out of Vietnam, alive, and with good friends seems so cliche. Making up new things didn't seem right either. Couple this with my depression lately and I knew lunch would be a recipe for disaster.

Despite the incredible smells emanating from Hannibal's kitchen I find that I'm not hungry. I can feel the acid in my stomach churn and the glass of wine I'm drinking is probably not helping. Hannibal is giving out orders in the kitchen and I know that we'll be ready to eat soon. I zone out for a minute, but I guess he's stopped whatever he was doing because I can feel his eyes boring into my skull as I sit in the recliner in the living room.

Finally I snap. His eyes are really staring to bother me. "What?"

I've turned to glare at him and he's frankly assessing me. His blue eyes trying to understand whatever it is that's eating at me. His voice is a mix between concern and frustration. "What's going on Face?"

I go for the obvious, rolling my eyes. "You're staring at me Hannibal. It's bothering me."

The concern has now turned to anger. His crystal clear blue eyes have turned stormy and I know I'm pushing. "Don't pretend to misunderstand me, Lieutenant. Something's been bothering you. It's been going on for days. What is it?"

"I'm fine." The bland remark only fuels his ire.

"That's crap Face and you know it."

My reply is cut off as BA yells that the turkey is done and we can move to the dining room to eat.

He glares at me as I walk past. His statement stating that our conversation is not over, but I ignore him and move to help the others bring the dishes to the table.

The tension is obvious to all as we finally get seated. Hannibal hasn't stopped glowering at me and I know the other two aren't particularly happy with me either.

"You guys know the tradition so let's start with you Murdock, and go around the table."

"This is stupid." The words are out of my mouth before my brain can stop them. My mouth has gotten me into and out of a lot of trouble over the years but I don't think I've ever regretting saying anything like I do at this moment. The Colonel looks ready to explode. I can see his jaw clinch and red begin to creep up his neck. Murdock looks like I've just kicked Billy and BA's normal scowl has deepened considerably.

"Did you just call my father's tradition stupid, lieutenant?" Hannibal's words are icy and hold no small threat.

Normally, I'd fall all over myself apologizing. But today I can't seem to stop pushing him. "You'll forgive me if I don't see a great deal to be thankful for."

Whether by mutual consent or self-preservation neither BA nor Murdock are jumping into this conversation; we all seem to be waiting for Smith's reaction.

"Do you not appreciate this fine meal we've worked hard to put before you?" I can tell this isn't the issue but maybe he thinks this will be safe ground. Agree on something and expand from there in an attempt to salvage this day.

"It's lovely." My glib reply destroys that possibility.

Normally pushing someone's buttons is one of the most fun things I do, but not to Hannibal. Generally, I can tease and even poke to some extent but outright provoking to the point of anger is stupid. But everything that's been building for the last two weeks won't go away and for some reason seems to be spewing forth between the two of us here in the dining room.

"What the hell is the wrong with you?" He's practically yelling at me and I'm grateful the table is between us.

The bitterness and anger that have been festering finally spills out of me.

"Gee Hannibal, let's go over this great list of things to be thankful for shall we. First, um . . . oh that's right. We're on the run. Decker's on his personal crusade to hunt us down and throw us in front of a firing squad. We're always looking over our shoulders hiding from the MP's, the police, and anyone else who would turn us in. Did I mention the incredibly large number of people who shoot at us on a regular basis? I've got a great collection of nightmares from a fucked up childhood and time spent in that lovely pit in the jungle. Every person I meet I lie to because I can't take the chance of telling them anything about myself. And let's not forget the number of times I've been beaten to a pulp in the last few months because of some cockamamy scheme you devised while on the jazz. Oh yeah, I'm thankful. Your turn Murdock." I'm out of my chair at this point and turning for my coat. I can't stay here. The anger is coursing into adrenaline and I can feel the walls starting to close in. I've got to get out of here.

Had I noticed I would have seen Hannibal look like I punched him. His voice is harsh as he yells at me. "FACE!"

I ignore him shrugging on my jacket, grabbing my keys and heading for the front door.

"Lieutenant stop!" He orders while attempting to prevent my retreat from the apartment. He grabbed my arm while I opened the door.

I look down at his hand for a second before bringing my gaze to his. There's a burning rage in my eyes screaming out that he needs to release me. "Let. Go. Of. Me." The staccato of my words should have warned him.

"You're not leaving here." His tone is resolute.

He just doesn't understand that my need to leave is stronger than his desire for me to stay. That and I don't think he's expecting the right cross I delivered to his jaw. His head snapped back and he lost his grip on my arm . I slam the door close behind me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I drove for hours. I'm not really sure how long, but I didn't stop till my 'vette was sucking up the last of the gas fumes. It was dark when I finally arrived back in town. Eventually I returned to the apartment that I was currently using and noticed the light in the window. Assuming that one if not all of the guys were there I promptly turned the car around and left. A phone call later I had a room at the Hilton. There was just no way I was going to hash this out with them tonight. I still needed time to figure out exactly what the hell happened. I trudged into the posh hotel room, grateful to have a packed duffle of clothes I always kept in the trunk. After a shower I felt physically better but the emotional aftermath was still up in the air. I sank into the wonderfully soft mattress hoping to fall right to sleep and forget all about this horrible day.

Of course it wasn't meant to be. My mind kept replaying the scene over and over. I know I hurt Hannibal. Now that I've driven off the anger, I recall the pain etched on his visage. Pain that I put there when I implied that I got beat up because he was on the jazz. I was too busy being angry to notice that look when it originally flashed across his face. But now hours later I remember. God for years now, since I first met him really, all I ever wanted from Lieutenant Colonel John 'Hannibal' Smith was his approval. I'm like some poor puppy coming to his master begging for bones of appreciation, love, and pride.

"Bet, he's overjoyed with me right now." I mutter to no one.

Punching the pillow and rolling over doesn't make the internal diatribe go away though.

I need to make amends with him, with all of them. I just don't know how to reconcile the resentment and bitterness at where my life is at this point, with being on the team and the lifestyle we lead. I can't abandon them. They're all I have, all I've had for years. The idea of being on my own, living a normal life is what I've always dreamed of. It's just too bad that can never happen while I'm on the run from the army. I'll always be looking over my shoulder and thus I can't take the chance of dragging innocent people into this. I have no choice. I have to go back to them, to him. I just don't know how to make that enough anymore.

The thoughts replay for a few more hours before I finally drift off into a restless sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday Morning

I feel like an idiot. Two and a half days later and I'm still hiding from them. I know they're worried. I've checked in with the message service that answers my car phone when I don't. There's a couple from each of them. Some angry and terse, "where the hell are you?" Some worried and concerned, "whatever's going on we can work this out just call us." It's the third morning after my meltdown and I'm no closer to an answer than when all this first started. Which is why I'm here. I came across these cabins during my drive the other day. The peaceful wooded area near Sequoia National Park offered a place to hide and think about how to fix this gulf I have created. After I checked out of the Hilton I ended up back here that next day. I believed that I could find the answers I needed here, away from the smog, the city,...my friends. Two days later I realize that will not be the case because the answers I need aren't in me alone. So following my morning ablutions I walk out of my cabin to the 'vette. Finally making the call I needed to, two days ago.

The phone is picked up almost immediately, as though they've been waiting for my call.

"Bruno's Pizza..."

His voice is tight, I can hear the strain. Strain I've caused. "Hannibal." My voice conveys my own emotional turmoil.

"Face..." His voice fades off again but I hear the relief. There's a second where he's processing everything then the anger and worry that I've created spills forth as he continues, "Where the hell have you been? We've been trying to find you for days."

"I know..." I hope he hears and understands my contrition. "Hannibal we need to talk and not over the phone."

"Yeah kid I know. I'm here at my apartment obviously. Get your ass over here." His voice is a gruff combination of affection and still lingering anger.

"Hannibal I...I'm not ready to come back to Los Angles yet." I can't go back there. Not to the scene of my crime, not until...

"Where the hell are you? Are you okay? In any trouble kid?" Now the anger is gone replaced by honest confusion and distress regarding my well being.

"Yeah I'm okay. I just needed to get out of town for a bit. I got a cabin southwest of Sequoia National Park. It's beautiful up here. Get a piece of paper and I'll tell you how to get here."

A couple of minutes later he's written down directions and he's ready to let me go to race up here. I just can't let leave it at that though. "How are Murdock and BA?" I ask warily.

I can hear his sigh through the phone and know this can't be good. "BA took Murdock back to the VA. He was really upset with what happened. We thought it would be best if he went back to talk to Dr. Richter. He's been really worried about you kid. You need to call him and let him know you're okay."

"Damn. Hannibal I...damn. And BA?"

There's a chuckle in his voice now, "He went from angry to concerned and now I think he's back to angry again. He was not pleased with you this morning when we had breakfast."

"Shit."

Now he's laughing at me. "Yeah that sums it up nicely Lieutenant. You're in pretty deep with him." He gets all serious on me now. "I'll be there in three hours Face, then you can see how deep you're in it with me."

"Hannibal..." I try to appease this already terrible situation, but to no avail.

"So help me god Face if you're not there..."

"I'll be here." There are so many things I need to say, to tell him, but I can't. Not over the phone, not like this. I hope he understands.

"Okay." And he hangs up on me. It's as though he can't say anything else either. I shudder at the thought of the lecture I'm going to receive. This will so not be pretty. Even knowing that I deserve it does not help combat my growing apprehension."

~~~~~~~~~~~

T-minus...

I tried to keep occupied. I never knew a clock could be so slow when you stare at the face and watch the seconds tick by. Time actually seems to slow down when all I want is to get on with this. Actually that's not true. I dread this confrontation. I hate it when Hannibal's mad at me. On the other hand just sitting here waiting for him to arrive may drive me crazy. I thought about calling Murdock but I wanted to talk to Hannibal first. H.M has a way of getting to me and I don't need all that emotional baggage before dealing with the Colonel. So instead I take the path from my cabin into the woods, hoping that I can lose myself in the tranquility for a couple of hours until he arrives.

I guess it works because I'm just a few hundred meters from returning to my cabin when I hear a car pull up. The brown Impala is hidden behind some trees out of the view of the dirt road. I'm walking around toward the front door when I hear it slam. I think he's muttering curses when he comes into view from the porch. Then he sees me. He's stopped dead just a few feet ahead. His eyes are roaming over me, assessing for himself my physical condition and apparent mood. Then he's upon me, his arms wrapped around my chest pulling me into a fierce hug. I'm completely off balance. This is not what I expected at all. He pulls back one hand on my shoulder the other at the back of my neck holding me in place.

"Are you okay?" The concern and worry are obvious in his voice and eyes.

"Yeah." I'm considering the fact that my voice didn't shake a major victory.

He bobs his head up and down before saying, "Good," and releasing me.

I should have expected it. But quite frankly he's thrown me totally off-guard by his actions. I didn't even think to react as his right fist shot out, connecting with my jaw. Falling back a step or two from the impact I don't know if he's going to hit me again till he speaks.

"That's for punching me and scaring the hell out of all of us for these last three days." He growls. "Now are you going to explain what the hell is going on or am I going to have to beat it out of you?"

He's equal parts bemused affection and total frustration so I flash him a lop-sided smile. "I guess I deserved that."

"Damn right you did." He sighs, running a gloved hand over his face. "Come on kid, talk to me."

"Let's go inside. I want some water." I'm just trying to put this off for another minute or two. Now that he's here I don't know what to say. I've been walking around for hours trying to form the perfect words for this conversation and I still don't know what to say. It'd almost be funny if it weren't so pathetic. I practically talk for a living and I haven't had a problem expressing myself to Hannibal in years. We walk inside and I grab a cup filling it with water from the sink. The coolness is refreshing but I can't hide here in the kitchen. There's no need to piss off Hannibal more than he already is. I walk back out into the living area and sit in a chair opposite the couch he's commandeered.

I've never thought of Hannibal as an open person, easy to read. But looking at him now, everything's plainly written on his face, in his eyes, and even his body language through his demeanor on the couch. The anger is visible in the tightness of his shoulders and the aggressive angle of the unlit cigar he's now chewing on. Angst shines the brightest in those compelling blue eyes. They suck me in and I know that as long as I'm honest with him everything is going to be okay. There's also an underlying tension, a heaviness, on his shoulders that I've put there. I can also see the sleepless nights evident by the bags under his eyes.

Unfortunately I can't put this conversation off any longer. He doesn't appreciate my scrutiny or silence. "Hannibal I...I don't know where to start." The words tumble out because I really have no idea where to start.

"Start at the beginning."

The desire to mutter 'That's no help,' is strong but I curb it at the last moment, going instead with, "I'm not really sure where that is."

The frustration is building, "Come on kid, help me out here."

I sigh and run a hand through my hair before starting at the crux of the situation. "I want a normal life Hannibal. A life I can't have because we're on the run from the army. I've never had normal and I don't know that I ever will. And I'm so fucking bitter. Why are we being punished for something we didn't even do? We didn't kill Morrison and we had orders to rob that damn bank." I scrambled out of the chair and began to pace.

"Ya know I can kinda understand that the government needed a scapegoat back then. It reflected poorly on the army and they needed someone to blame so the shoe fell on us. But it's been thirteen years. Christ, nobody remembers and even if they do, nobody gives a damn anymore. Why are our lives still fucked up because of this? I want a normal life but I can't have that and I don't know how to make everything okay."

He's flabbergasted at my outburst. I think my venom stunned him. "Face..."

I interrupt before he can continue. "Hannibal wait, before you say anything. I don't blame you. Given the choice again I'd still go over that wall behind you. I couldn't have done six months, let alone twenty years in prison. There's no way I could have survived that so I don't regret breaking out. And it's not even that I don't like what we do. I enjoy helping people who can't fight their neighborhood bully. Putting scum behind bars and helping to make the world a better place is great. But I get this feeling that I'm missing out on what life is supposed to be. I'm thirty-four years old Hannibal and what do I have to show for it? Not a hell of a lot."

Now its his turn to sigh. My anger and resentment has deflated him. "God kid...if I could fix this for you, you know I would right?" I nod at him so he continues. "Why didn't you tell me you were feeling this way? No wonder you blew up. How long have you felt this way?"

I shrug my shoulders. "When we first escaped it was just another adventure. I was young and stupid. Turning our noses up at the army who betrayed us was a rush. Making an ass out of Lynch's befuddled attempts to capture the A-Team was fun. Then when Decker started chasing us he was just another challenge; an opportunity to yet again make the army look stupid. But lately..." I sigh again and sink into the couch my back to the arm so I'm facing him. "Escaping from the army isn't the rush it used to be. I see guys my age walking around and they're going home to their wives and kids and I wonder. Could that have been my life if things had been different? I don't know if being a husband, father, or having a nine to five job is what I'd really want. I just didn't get a choice...I think that's when the insomnia started. After that I became peevish and caustic when one of you would ask how I was doing. I didn't know how you guys would react. Hell, I didn't even know how I felt except angry. I didn't want to disappoint you and I thought this would all just go away."

"I also owe you an apology. I didn't mean to ruin you guys' Thanksgiving. Your father must have been an incredible man. Although I never met him I know because he raised a great son. I would never intentionally disrespect you or your father and I'm afraid I did that when I insulted your family tradition. It wasn't you. I've never been a big fan of Thanksgiving and when everything spilled over you were caught in my backdraft. I also shouldn't have hit you. I just had to get out of there and that seemed the only way to do it. I'm sorry Hannibal."

I can't look at him anymore. I have no idea what he's thinking but I couldn't bear it if disappointment flashed across his face. I feel the shift of the couch and now he's right next to me.

"Look at me kid." It takes all my will power to turn my gaze from my hands to his face.

"It's okay. We're okay. I know you didn't mean any harm, but Jesus kid." He sighs gently squeezing my shoulder. "These three days have been a nightmare. I can understand your frustration and need to get away, but shutting us out isn't a solution. Has anything changed?"

Now I feel the shame rising to the surface. The blush created by my guilt readily apparent. All I can do is shake my head no.

"I don't know that we'll ever come up with the perfect answer but running away isn't it. I can forgive you kid, but you've got to promise me that when you feel like this, when the walls start to close in around you or you can't sleep, that you'll come talk to me. It doesn't matter if you keep me up all night and we get no where, at least I'll know what you're thinking and have some idea how you'll react. I can't go through another three days like this kid. Do you understand?"

I feel like a total heel. Here he is being so understanding and I was such a jerk. "I'm sorry Hannibal." It's like I'm suddenly ten again and trying to beg Father Maghill to forgive me for being such a little shit.

He grins at me now throwing that arm around my shoulder and pulling me closer to him. I'm tense for a second but gradually melt into his comforting embrace. The stress fading and for the first time in weeks. I feel safe and sure of my place in this crazy world.

"You're forgiven, but I'm not the only one you need to apologize to." I can't see his face but I'm sure he's smirking at my predicament.

"Yeah I know." There's a pause for a minute before I ask, "Is everything going to be okay?" I sound so insecure but I can't help it. I need his reassurance. I need to hear Hannibal tell me everything is going to be fine. Because if he says it will, I believe him.

"Sure it will. We're a team and nothing is going to change that. Promise you'll talk to me when it gets to be to much?"

It's so hard to make that guarantee. I know that if I say yes I'll be obligated to him. Sharing how I feel isn't one of my strong points. Still he's going to keep harping at me if I don't. The choice though, isn't too difficult a one. My internal need to please him outweighs my desire to hide how I feel. Also knowing what a colossal failure keeping my feelings to myself this time was I can make that agreement.

"Yeah."

We sit in silence for the first time except there's no longer an oppressive air lingering. I don't feel the need to bolt out of the comforting embrace he's offering or to hash all these details to death. There's not going to be an easy answer, but just having shared the burden with him makes me feel immensely better. Maybe this will all work out.

"Face?" Hannibal question's tentatively.

"Hmm?"

"What happened to make you despise Thanksgiving?"

The question came out of left field and caught me so off guard I couldn't suppress the flinch that involuntarily shook me. He felt it and when I tried to pull away he gripped me tighter, refusing to allow me to physically put distance between us. Knowing that if I said nothing he'd call me on the lie I tried to blow it off. "Nothing important. It was a long time ago."

"Nothing huh? That's why you just tried to run? It's a hell of a lot more than nothing kid. Don't try to con me." There's a warning in his tone. Half of me wants to see him so I can figure out what he's thinking while the other half is grateful that I can't see his statement nor him, mine.

"This whole thing about being normal has been at the back of your mind since I first met you. Something else triggered it now. You've all but said you hate Thanksgiving. Something set you off at that table. You criticized my dad's tradition. That's something you'd normally never do. So what caused it? What happened that made you hate this holiday?" He's trying to understand, but...

"Hannibal." I say his name like a prayer. Hoping against all odds that he'll let this go, yet knowing with a certainty born of years in his company that he won't. "It was just a bad experience as a kid. I don't want to talk about it." While not a lie it's not a complete truth either.

"Sounds like you need to though, kid."

Would to god that I knew what he's thinking. I haven't looked over at his face, but I'm sure his mouth is compressed into a grim line. I can feel that his body is a tight coil waiting to spring. "It was a lifetime ago, Hannibal. Talking about it won't change anything."

At that I begin to rise out of the couch. I'm halfway up before the hand that's been laying on my shoulder jerks me back down. His other arm reaches across placing a restraining hand on my bicep, so that I'm almost encircled by him.

"We're not going to play this game again Lieutenant. You are going to talk to me. Look at me Face!" It's a sharp command in his most strident tone. It's a voice I have obeyed for years and I can tell by the growl behind it that Lt. Colonel John Smith is deadly serious. Ignoring him now is perilous at best. So with great trepidation I turn from staring at my hands to gaze up at him.

The first thing I notice is his eyes. I've never seen them like this before. Yeah sure there's anger and concern. Those are obvious but there's this other emotion or something lurking there. I don't know how to classify it. There is something there, but damned if I know what it is. The rest of his face is contorted into a fierce grimace.

"Stop with the bullshit Lieutenant and tell me what the hell happened." He emphasizes his command by tightening his grip on my arm. Now I know there's no getting out of this because he'll know if I lie. Damn him. He's always been able to tell when I lie to him. No one else picks up on it. Hell I've practically conned every person I've ever met but I can't get away with it on him. I bring up my right hand rubbing it across my face. Sighing too, my body releases the stress built up in my shoulders and I visibly sag further into Hannibal and the couch. He seems to accept the contact readjusting his hand on my right shoulder pulling me closer to him. The acceptance almost makes me smile but then I remember what I'm about to tell him and I wonder if he'll still want to hold me afterwards.

"I was eight and living with my first foster family. I had been there for only a few months, but it was great. They were so nice to me and Danny got to be an older brother. We'd play ball in the park and ride bikes all over the neighborhood. I imagine that it was normal, family like. It was so foreign to me. Like something out of Norman Rockwell painting or so it seemed. But there were times when Mark, my foster father, would look at me. And I could never figure out just what the hell he was trying to see. At first it kinda disturbed me but I got used to it. Sometimes I'd wake up and he'd be staring at me in bed. He told me that he was just so happy to have me with them, to share his love like he did with Danny."

"He was always pretty physical. A touch on my back, hand on my shoulder, hugging and the like." I'm not sure, maybe Hannibal just instinctually knew where this was heading so he started to remove the arm around my shoulders. I grabbed his hand though. Putting it back around me. Hannibal isn't Mark and letting him pull away would somehow equate them. I couldn't allow that. So I look at him with a small smile letting him know that it's okay. He squeezes me in recognition and there's a semblance of pride lighting his face at our continued contact. Gazing at him I know he didn't want to let go. He just wanted me to be comfortable. I'm sure my awe at his concern is clearly visible.

My voice is monotone. I don't know how I'm managing not to shiver either, but I sit here explaining what happened like I'm reciting a grocery list. Looking past the Colonel, I'm staring at nothing. "The gazes at night became touching. He once told me that he needed to touch me in order to reassure himself that I was really there. He said he had these nightmares where Danny and I would disappear, so he would come check on us and we appeared so peaceful he just couldn't resist. It was uncomfortable, but it seemed to make him so happy. I didn't know any better and I really didn't want to go back to live with all the kids at the orphanage again. There it was just Danny and I competing for attention instead of thirty kids for two strict nuns with steel rulers. So I suppressed my shudders and let it go. In a roundabout way I asked Danny what was going on and he just said that dad was affectionate."

"Then the contact became more intimate. He'd rub his hands over my chest, legs, and eventually my penis. One night I woke up and he was jerking off while staring at me. He said it was normal. That his body's reaction and subsequent pleasure received just meant that I was special and he loved me. I knew that it was wrong, but he made me promise to keep this our secret. Mark told me that others would be jealous of our relationship and that his job as my dad was to show me how special I was and make me feel good too."

Hannibal's gone completely rigid next to me, but he hasn't said anything yet. I don't know whether to be worried or grateful. He's waiting for the rest, even though he's got to know how this story ends.

It's getting harder to hold back these disgusting memories and cracks are beginning to show in my voice. "The first time I came I was terrified and ashamed. I didn't know what to think of my body's reaction. I was completely unprepared, but he was so proud. Praising my name in some fucked up form of worship. Telling me I was beautiful and that he loved me. That I was special just like Danny and that he would keep making me feel special only if I never told anyone our secret. He was adamant about that, threatening to return me to the orphanage if I said anything. By that time I wasn't sure if returning was a bad thing, but I didn't know who to talk to or what to say. He told me so many things. I was confused, but he said he loved me and I believed it."

My hands are shaking and my throat's a desert. Head bowed I stare absentmindedly at the floor in front of me. "The first time he brushed my prostate I passed out. You've have thought the Rams won the Superbowl. He bought me a new football and we played catch every evening for hours. Finally on Thanksgiving evening he said I was ready. Jenny was a nurse who usually worked the night shift. Thanksgiving was no different so she left us at six pm. That night I crawled in bed he came in with Danny in tow. 'Families share experiences.' Mark said, so Danny was going to watch me become an official son. Mark explained that I would always be a part of him and the family afterwards. He got in the bed behind me as he had done quite often. His fingers were slick but gentle. I had stopped tensing up. It would make him mad and he'd punish me by being rough or hit me. Sometimes both. Saying that I was being selfish and a little boy, not the man, the type of son he would raise."

"When he finally entered me I thought he was ripping me in two. God he was so big. But I'll give that bastard credit, he knew what he was doing. I was young but my body knew how to respond. I felt nauseous, but I couldn't help it. He'd hit my prostate and stroke me. Every nerve ending was on fire and my brain was fuzzy. My body was totally unprepared for all the sensations he caused. He and Danny would yell out encouragements and I couldn't control myself. I came right after he did. The three of us were so caught up we never heard the bedroom door open. I think Jenny shrieked. I was still groggy but Mark pulled out of me, flying off the bed onto the floor. They started yelling at each other. He dragged her out of the room and down the hall. Danny and I were left there not sure what to do. I have no idea what they said to each other. I could tell they were yelling but I couldn't make out the words. Sometime later Jenny came back in telling Danny to go to bed, that she'd talk to him in the morning. She told me to get dressed while packing a suitcase. Less than ten minutes later we left."

There's a bitterness in my voice now that I can't suppress. "The half hour drive to the orphanage consisted of her yelling at me about corrupting her husband. He had promised to clean up his act and it was my fault for being so goddamn adorable that he couldn't keep his hands off me. I was the devil's spawn. A minion of Satan whose mission was to destroy their marriage, by enticing him into committing a mortal sin. When we arrived it was really late and Jenny woke up Sister Marguerite. I stood in the hallway while they talked. To this day I still have no idea what she said to her but the good Sister picked up the lecture where Jenny had left off. 'I was an ungrateful bastard who ruined a home and caused needless strain on a good marriage. God was going to send me to hell for being so evil and I had to be punished for my sins.' She bent me over her desk and hit me with that paddle till I had no tears left, all the while reciting scripture and praying for my lost soul."

There are tears in my eyes now and the rancor and hatred that consumed me then is bubbling over the surface. I can't resist the parting shot. I turn to look at Hannibal for the first time since this started, bringing the story back full circle. "So that was Thanksgiving when I was eight. How was yours?"

Beyond my tears I can see Hannibal choking back his own. There's this horrified statement on his face, as though he doesn't believe me. Yet I know he does because there's a burning rage in his eyes. I've known the Colonel since I was nineteen and I've only seen his eyes that blue once before. Back in the camps when they would come for Murdock or I and occasionally BA but leave him, Hannibal would have this deadly rage visible in those blue orbs. It was a look that promised retribution for every lash inflicted on us. It's been years since I've seen him with murder in his eyes, but it's obvious John Smith has not forgotten how to kill. The next thing I know he's pulled me into a bear hug. Trying to offer comfort? Maybe receive his own? I'm not sure but I sink into his welcoming arms. I wasn't positive he'd ever willingly touch me again so I bury my head in his shoulder, releasing another torrent of tears. He's talking to me, I can hear his voice, but the words are incomprehensible. It doesn't matter though, the timbre is soothing and the hand rubbing my back reassuring. We stay like that for minutes? Hours? I don't know but his words come into focus as my tears dry up.

"I'm sorry Face. God kid I'm so sorry." His voice is like sandpaper, rough and scratchy. But he hasn't let me go and his physical presence is the only thing keeping me here instead of reliving the vivid memories. "None of this was your fault. You were just a little boy whose only responsibility was to be a kid. They had an obligation to protect you and they didn't. They. Failed. You." He emphasizes. "Not the other way around. That bastard used you. He played on your weaknesses and fears as a means of control. You were a child entrusted into his care and he abused that. Christ Face, I'm so sorry I wasn't there to protect you. No child should be preyed upon by a goddamn pedophile." He pulls away gripping my face in his hands his eyes boring into me. It's like he's trying to view my soul as he finishes. "Especially not you."

"You...you...you're not mad....at me? Ashamed?" It takes several attempts to squeak out my one fear. I'm not sure even the little boy that I was is as vulnerable as I feel right at this moment. Hannibal could figuratively shatter me into thousands of pieces with his answer and I don't think I could ever put myself back together again.

Oh god he's crumpled before me. Decimated by my question, but emerging at almost the same time is that underlying anger. Is he angry at me?

"Jesus kid. No. Hell no! I'm not mad at you or ashamed. You survived something I can scarcely imagine. The only person to blame is that son of a bitch and every other adult who has ever let you down and mistreated you. I'm angry at that slime ball and would rip him in two if he were here but I'm not angry at you." Softer now. "I could never be ashamed of you son."

My relief at his statement is tempered by the all to real reminder of Mark by that one word. I shake despite myself. Mark used to call me that and I feel so used and dirty. Now Hannibal is examining me, trying to understand the revulsion that is surely planted across my face.

"What? What is it kid? What's wrong?" Fear and worry have superceded everything else.

I can't look at him as I explain, my eyes drop down to his chest. "I...that's what he called me. When he touched me and talked to me. He called me his son. I just..." My voice trails off and I sneak a glance. Total devastation now reigns. Hannibal appears as though I've gutted him. It seems to take a minute for him to collect himself but then his eyes are burning into mine again and his grip on my head has tightened. He's brought my head up so he can stare straight into me.

His voice is so cold and biting, I wonder if he could kill with it alone. "That filthy mother fucker was not your father and you are not his son. He used words like love, family, and son to control you. He played on your fears and vulnerabilities Face in order to use you for his sick, demented sexual fantasies. That piece of shit was a goddamn liar and deserves to burn in hell but he was not your father. He's taken more from you than I will ever know but kid don't let him take beautiful words like love and family and twist them still today. Don't continue to give him that power. You, Murdock, BA and I are a team. We're a family." He hesitates here, like he has to work these foreign words past his throat. "I...I love you guys." It's not as though he doesn't believe them but he's uncomfortable sharing them, I guess.

Gaining momentum, "We're a family. My family, but Face, you, you're more than that. I don't know when or how it happened. One day you were this cocky kid with a silver tongue who was a good addition to my unit. Then we started spending time together in Nam and we became friends. Colleagues. Someone I could trust implicitly. It blossomed from there. All of a sudden you weren't just my second in command, my right hand man. You were so much more. When they would drag you out of those cages it was like Chao was ripping my heart out. I couldn't protect you from that, although god knows I would have if I could. They'd bring you back and I'd hold you during the night to try and ward off the nightmares. You weren't a solider then. You were a kid desperate for shelter and support. Kiddo, you've gotten past every wall I've ever put up and you bring out every paternal instinct I've ever had. Face, I love you. Like a father loves a son. I could never be more proud of you than I am at this moment, knowing you've survived so much shit in your life. Don't let this bastard win again, take that from us. He's had enough victories at your expense."

There are tears running down his checks now. They match mine. I feel like I'm free falling, but his hold on me is strong. My entire body is cold except where his hands are. "I...oh god....Hannibal." I'm incapable of coherent thought or speech. Never in a million years would I have envisioned this conversation but his words mean more than I can adequately express. Instead I practically launch myself at him, burying my head in his strong chest, wrapping my arms about him. I hold on, afraid to ever let go for fear of falling into some dark abyss never to return. His own arms around me are just as tight and he's once again murmuring soft words of comfort. This time I don't think they mean anything, but his voice is soothing and I feel safe. He's practically pulled me into his lap. I'm a thirty-four year old ex-green beret who's bawling in his commander's embrace but I don't feel self-conscious. That's the scariest thing. I don't know if I'm going to be able to let go of his warmth and support.

Eventually the tears dry up but he remains holding me. I'm exhausted, drifting toward oblivion when his voice calls. "Face?"

"Yeah?"

"What's his name?"

At first I'm not processing. It's like he's speaking Mandarin or something but then it clicks. "What?"

Quietly insistent, "What is his name?"

I reluctantly pull back out of the embrace to examine him. His eyes are now back to that icy calm rage that promises a swift and terrible retribution. So I try for a little levity. "What are you going to do Hannibal, kill him?"

The eyes that stare back at me are dead, his voice frozen. "Not at first."

Oh shit! He's serious. "Hannibal you can't kill him."

I don't know who's more shocked by my defense, him or me. "Face that filth raped you. You never testified did you? There was no trial. That shrew and supposed woman of god made sure of that." He utters with such acrimony and scorn, frankly shocking me. I've never even heard him this bitter about Chao. "That bastard got off scot free. He's going to pay for what he did you to kid."

Gaping at him, "So you're going to murder him? You can't be serious."

His eyes are beginning to frighten me. "Deadly serious. What the fuck is this slime's name, Lieutenant?"

Trying to reason with him. "We're fugitives from justice Colonel, wanted by the military. Don't you think we have enough trouble without borrowing more?

Hannibal shoots up out of the couch like a bullet, dumping me back into the cushions. Pacing back and forth across the room he lights his cigar more out of habit than enjoyment. His hand is compacting into a fist as his rant starts. "He's scum kid. A bottom feeder who preys on young boys who can't defend themselves. You said yourself that he's done it before. Do you think you're the last boy he sodomized? Are you positive that he's not playing the system and abusing other children? He's a rabid dog that needs to be put down and I'm going to do it. What is his name?"

Exasperated, "Hannibal killing him is not a viable solution. It's bad enough we have the military after us but the rest of the law enforcement community is not on an active manhunt for the A-Team. You murder him and the local police are looking for us. Sheriff departments, and the State Police are searching too. Maybe even the FBI is brought in. Our pictures splashed across television and newspapers everywhere. We're no longer innocent. People aren't going to hire murderers. We won't be able to help anyone, to busy hiding and running for our own lives. We'll probably have to leave Los Angeles, maybe even the country. What about Murdock, we gonna drag him along too? We gonna end up hiding in some South American country, forever seen as guilty? And all of this for what. Mark? That bastard? Vengeance sounds nice Hannibal but it's not going to change anything. He's not worth this. Not worth destroying the team and our lives such as they are."

He's looking at me like he's trying to beg me into giving him permission. He needs an outlet for his rage and I think he's terrified that I'm trying to take that away from him. "What about any other kids? We can't just ignore them."

I shake my head trying to clear my mind of the awful images he's conjuring up. He's attacking the one thing I fear. I don't know what Mark is doing these days. I honestly haven't thought of him in years till these past few weeks. I would hate myself forever if what Hannibal's saying is true, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I cannot allow him to murder Mark for his crimes. Hannibal's a better man than that and if I have to fight to remind him so be it. "I can't take care of the rest of the world. I only know that I need you. The team needs you. That's more important than he is. I didn't tell you this to send you off in some blind rage. You're nothing like him, Hannibal. Don't make a choice that brings you down to his level."

That devastated look has returned. I've sucker punched him again and he's looking around desperate for someway to fix everything. I just wish there was a way. Briefly I wonder if we can just go after him, maybe catch him then turn him over to the authorities. But I know that won't work. The statute of limitations has long since run out on his crimes against Danny and myself, not that I could testify anyway. In addition I'm still not sure about the Colonel. If he ever saw Mark in person he'd probably snap, promise or no. I don't know if I can control Hannibal. BA and Murdock would also be around. They'd want to know why he wants to kill Mark. When they find out the answer they'll probably want to help.

As for me, the mere idea of seeing him again makes me nauseous. There's no telling how I'd react. All this boils down to a potential disaster that could ruin our lives. It's funny, how is it that I would be the only one with perspective on this. Right now my job as second in command is to protect Hannibal and the others from themselves. Maybe after the incendiary rage that appears in his eyes at the mention of Mark's name fades we can look into this, but for now I can't tell him what he wants to hear.

"I can't just let this go kid." He's pleading with me. Hannibal's never done this before: ordered, wheedled, baited, and asked, sure. But at this moment he's leaning over an armchair his hands digging into the fabric with such force that his fingers are white. His face a scowl that puts BA to shame, and his eyes are boring into me, pleading for my cooperation and tacit permission.

I almost feel guilty for doing this but it's for the good of the unit and he once told me that manipulating someone in order to provide needed supplies is not a bad thing. "You can't kill him Hannibal and if you ever saw him or knew his name or where to find him there's no telling how you'd react. You'd snap his neck before the first rational thought'd cross your mind. I can't allow that to happen. He's not worth the consequences and my dad's not a murderer." I smile at this last part. It's true but I'm using the words for their total manipulation factor. I've risen out of the couch moving slowly toward him.

Instead of gripping the chair like he's trying to rip it in two, now he's holding on like it's a lifeline. Something other than hate has finally come to the forefront. His mouth opens but no sound comes out. I'm quite proud that I've managed to make a man who has a quip for every occasion speechless. Wait'll I tell Murdock.

"He'll just disappear kid. No one will ever know."

Smashing my own hand down on the chair next to us I exclaim, "Christ Hannibal are you listening to yourself? You're talking about cold-blooded, premeditated murder. About sneaking into his home at night, kidnapping him, putting a bullet in his brain and eventually burying him in a field somewhere. You think nobody is going to notice? You think his friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors aren't going to notice his disappearance? That somebody, somewhere won't see us? The van or a car we use, one of our faces, something. How long do you think it will take before they tie this back to us? If they tie this to us, it won't be long before they connect my past with him as well. He won't just disappear."

Exasperated I run my sweaty palms though my hair. "Have we spent over a dozen years on the run from the army just to turn into the one thing they accused us of? Murders? You are not going to the electric chair. Not for him. So I'm not going to tell you his name Hannibal. And you will not run off to Father Maghill or the CPS for my records. I've long since removed them. This isn't a solution, it's rage, and you know it."

"So I'm just supposed to ignore everything you've just told me and he gets away with his crimes?"

"Its been twenty-five years. Hell, he's already gotten away with it. Nothing you do now will change what happened to me then. I've never told another living soul this, but I told you. Don't make me regret that." I pause for a second before reaching out my hand to him. "Gimme your hand."

He's looking at me and my out stretched hand like I'm holding some poisonous snake. My eyes are pleading with him to take one more leap of faith with me.

"Come on Hannibal, give me your hand. Trust me like I just trusted you." His eyes flash with anger at my blatant manipulation, and I know that I'm going to be hearing about this conversation for years to come. It'll be okay though, because keeping him from doing this monumentally stupid thing is worth any coercion and the subsequent lectures I'll receive because of it.

I think I hear him growl as he reluctantly grasps my hand. "Promise me you won't ask about his name to me or anyone else again."

This time I'm positive about the growl as he tries to pull out of our handshake. I'm holding to tightly though and won't let go. "I'll look into his current whereabouts and let you know if there's anything to be done, but for now I want you to pretend he's already dead. Promise me you'll let this go."

"Face..." My name is more a sigh on his lips than a form of address.

I bring my left hand up to squeeze his shoulder and grip his hand even tighter. "Please Hannibal. You're not a killer. I don't want you doing something stupid we'll both regret. Give me your word dad."

I hear him suck in another breath this time and his hand involuntarily convulses around mine. He appears so torn. He's processing everything. It's not that I doubt what he'll choose but I think it's going to take a minute to let go of the promise of retribution.

It seems like an eternity before his head hesitantly begins to bob up and down. "If this is really the way you want it I promise to let it go for now. But this is by no means the last discussion we'll have about him. That's the best I can do kid."

Smiling genuinely for the first time today I pull him into a hug, our clasped hands still between us. "That's enough." The tension ebbs away again and I can feel exhaustion leaching the last of my strength. "Thanks...for everything Hannibal."

He doesn't say anything just holds me closer for a second, massaging my neck in acknowledgment. I think I'm leaning more on him now than my own two feet.

"Tired kid?" I feel the chuckle rumble through his chest and the warmth of affection in his tone confirms that we're okay.

"Yeah. Haven't slept much lately."

I'm sure he's smirking at me, but I don't move my head from his comforting shoulder to verify. "Tell me about it. Come on kid let's get you to bed before you collapse on the floor for the night."

His arm warps around my back and he half carries me into one of the bedrooms. Between the two of us we manage to get my shoes, socks and pull-over shirt off me. I get my legs under the covers and he pulls the sheet and blanket up to my neck. I don't remember the last time someone tucked me in and this warm sensation floods my chest. I actually feel good and I know that's because of him.

Fading fast I just have one more question. "You'll still be here...?"

He runs his hand though my hair, his voice is soothing. "Yeah son, I'll be here when you wake up."

"Mkay." The last sound I hear before oblivion pulls me under is the scraping of a chair nearby.


The End

 


Thankful For by Reagan

 

 


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