The Achieve of the Thing


Chapter Four

Face sat at the bar, watching the man at the corner table by pretending to be looking at himself in the mirror, half-listening to the redhead next to him, and thought about Vancouver. Or Saskatoon: there were a lot of people in Saskatoon. Despite the clownish name it was probably a decent place to live. Or Edmonton, or Calgary. Or even Montreal, though his mix of high-school and Saigon French might grate on the Quebecois' ears... Vancouver, though. Not a lot of snow in Vancouver. And it was on the ocean. So it wasn't LA. It also wasn't Langley.

He'd spotted Murdock in the shadows of the opposite corner when he came in. BA, of course, stood out like a neon sign especially up here in Toronto, but it was a civilized city. Or a smart one. At any rate, nobody was bothering him. Hannibal hadn't shown yet; Face knew he could spot him no matter what he looked like. So he nursed his Scotch and watched the mirror and waited.

And thought about Vancouver. And the redhead.

She was tall and willowy and not at all unattractive, even though she'd had a bit more to drink than she thought. And she was definitely flirting with him, even coming on to him, though as he was flirting back that shouldn't be held against her.

He thought about that as he glanced in the mirror again. He was flirting on autopilot, really, and if he said so himself, when he listened to himself he sounded pretty sincere. He hadn't done it seriously (if you didn't count the job, and he hadn't done it much for the job, either) in... a year. Just almost exactly that, only a few weeks longer. Apparently it was like riding a bicycle, he thought with a spurt of self-disgust. Funny. He didn't mind picking a lock, running a con, stealing a car, opening a safe, fast-talking someone out of a helicopter or speedboat or truck... and all of those things he could go to jail for. This was normal and accepted and ...

Hell. It wasn't like he was going to actually go to bed with her. This was just part of running the con, keeping Lysenko from thinking there was anything unusual about him. And there was no way anyone could invest enough in him after thirty minutes to be hurt when he left. Very convincing... if only you weren't actually wondering what she'd be like.

He shook himself, internally—the redhead, Lorna, didn't notice a thing—and told himself that wondering that was essentially involuntary. How many times had he wondered in the past year? How many times had he seen Frankie's gaze snagged by something very nice walking past? Follow-through, that was what counted. Follow-through or lack thereof. But he didn't quite buy it. It was one thing when you were window-shopping and your partner was there to criticize your taste and laugh at you, or you were going home to tell him about the eye-candy he'd missed. It was another when he hadn't been dead for a month yet.

Cut it out, Peck. Not now. You're working.

Almost on cue Harlan King came into the bar carrying an attaché case and looking around. Hannibal was four steps behind him, every inch the prosperous Toronto business man. They both looked out of place, which, in a bar that was accomodating the gold-draped BA, the casual Murdock, and the vaguely preppy Face, was an accomplishment. Every eye in the place was on them for a minute or so, which meant the A Team's eyes would be unnoticed. Nice.

"So," Lorna said when he smiled, "I know a nice club not far from here. They have live music, it's pretty good, and then afterwards, maybe—"

He cut her off before he was rejecting too much. "I'm sorry, honey, the man I've been waiting for just came in. Hope you have a great evening." He pulled a couple of bills out of his wallet and dropped them on the counter and then moved to join Hannibal. "Did you come up with a plan to satisfy everyone?"

"No," Hannibal said, affecting pleasure at the sight of Face.

"I'm not suprised. So we're going with Plan A?"

"Yep. If Lysenko gets away, he gets away."

Stockwell wanted the Soviet contact but BA and Hannibal were more interested in the renegade American. If Face had believed that Stockwell was even faintly interested in keeping his end of the bargain he'd have joined Murdock in arguing they should do it like the general wanted. As it was, he didn't really care. He just wanted it to be over.

He'd spent the night on the couch in Stockwell's Toronto apartment after he'd woken up once. Fortunately, he hadn't woken Murdock, so he'd been able to slip out to the living room without having to answer any questions. He might not be able to stop dreaming about Frankie but at least he could remember a very pleasant bit about sailing through Queen Charlotte Strait on the boat, with Frankie arguing to name it La Vida Dulce. Pleasant until the storm blew up, anyway...

He was tired of hiding the dreams, hiding the pain, hiding the guilt. He was more tired of having to show he could do his job. He wanted to be by himself again, without sharp concerned eyes watching his every move. He wanted more than he could have until they finished, so he wanted to finish. If it had been up to him, he'd have stolen the attachécase from King on the street.

"You ready?" Hannibal asked.

"As I'll ever be."

Hannibal watched Murdock sit down on the couch. "You're sure you're all right, Murdock?" he asked.

"No harm, no foul, Hannibal," he said. "Tore the material, barely scratched me."

"You were lucky," Face said, his voice sharp.

Murdock shrugged. "The Russky couldn't shoot straight. I'm okay."

Hannibal nodded. "It wasn't pretty, but it worked out. So, we call Stockwell, tell him we're done, and catch the train—"

"And go someplace else," Face interrupted. Neither he nor BA had sat down, but while the black man was standing near the door as if he had somewhere to go, Face was standing, positively vibrating with tension, near the kitchen entrance.

"What do you mean, Face?" asked Murdock.

"I mean, go someplace else. Someplace not Langley, Virgina. I vote for Vancouver."


"I hear that a nice city," BA put in. "Big enough to hide in, too."

Face and Hannibal both turned to look at the big man, both in surprise, though Face's was relieved and Hannibal's was not. "See?" Face demanded, turning to Hannibal. "I'm not the only one thinking about it."

"About what, exactly?"

"Getting out while we can. Before we're dead."

Hannibal regarded his second-in-command thoughtfully. "Is this about Frankie? Because—"

"This is not about Frankie! Okay, the timing, maybe. But this is not about Frankie. What happened to him could happen to any of us any day. Damn near happened today."

"But it didn't, Faceman," Murdock protested.

"But it might." Face didn't take his eyes off Hannibal. "And even if it doesn't, we're dead anyway."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Hannibal asked.

"We're all going to die," Face said. "Before Stockwell lets us go, we'll all be dead."

"Face, where's your faith? I'm working on it."

Face shook his head. "And you've been working on it for what? Almost two years? I'm telling you, he'll never let us go. This mission doesn't count, turning down this mission means you owe me two others... we're like indentured servants. Worse—like poor damned coal miners before the unions. What's that song—owe my soul to the company store?"

"Now, Face, it's not that bad." Murdock tried to soothe him.

"That's right, Murdock; it's worse." He wouldn't be soothed.

Face hadn't cut loose like this in a long time, Hannibal reflected briefly. It was almost comforting to hear him, except for the nagging suspicion as to the reason he'd been so, well, contented. For him, anyway, contented. He was going to speak, but he'd lost the chance.

"I'm telling you, Hannibal, the minute he decides he's squeezed everything out of us he can, that'll be it. A firing squad without benefit of blanks." He was pacing now.

"Stockwell wouldn't risk another trial."

"He doesn't have to. We're already sentenced. But say you're right, say he's afraid of us blowing the whistle on him. All that means is, one fine night those Ables of his will just shoot us in our beds."

"Face, they could never get all four of us."

"Maybe that's why he's making Murdock move back out."

"Face, I'd go to the Post in a heartbeat if he killed you guys."

"Well, thanks, Murdock, but somehow that doesn't really reconcile me to an early death." Face sounded exasperated. "And anyway, if he got you first we'd never know."


"I'm telling you, Hannibal, our best chance is to just disappear right now. FedEx that damned attaché case to him and grab the first train to Vancouver. Or Montreal: I speak French."

"On the run again, kid?"

"Hey." He jabbed a finger in Hannibal's direction. "I felt safer on the run than I do in Langley. A lot safer."

"It gets old after a while."

"So would we."

"Better a starving wolf than a well-fed dog?" Hannibal asked. "You should remember your Bible, Face. Better a living dog than a dead lion."

"Better a starving wolf than a dog tossed into the river with a brick tied to his neck," Face riposted. "And as far as the Bible goes, you remember what always happens to fatted calves."

"Face got a point, Hannibal," BA said. "We been with Stockwell more than two years. How long we gonna go on?"

"As long as we have to." And that wasn't a popular answer. Even Murdock, who wasn't as vitally concerned as the others, looked dissatisfied. "Look, it won't last forever."

"Neither will we," Face said. "I vote for Vancouver."

"I don't remember asking for votes."

Face and BA stared at him. After a minute BA's gaze drifted sideways to Face, his expression unreadable. Face's wasn't: nostril-flared indignation.

Hannibal hastened to explain himself. "Look, guys, I understand. You have a point. I'm not planning on ten more years. Or even two. But if we can get a pardon—"

"If." Face was a bit mollified.

"If," Hannibal conceded, "it'll be worth four years. I know this is chafing, but I ask you to remember what it was like, constantly running from Lynch and Decker and the rest of them. Not to mention that now, if we cut and run, we'll not only have that firing squad waiting for us but we'll have Hunt Stockwell's whole organization on our track."

Face blinked as that registered. Hannibal glanced at BA; he was nodding.

"I don't intend to wait much longer, but I can't agree that we've waited as long as we can. I'm asking you to give it some more time. Another year."

BA waited on Face's answer. When it came, it was a grudged but sincere "Okay, Hannibal. I hate it, but... Okay. We go back to Langley."


He shrugged massively, his gold chiming. "Awright, Hannibal. I'm gonna go down to the grocery store on the corner, buy some milk."

"Go with him, Murdock," Hannibal said. "I don't want anyone out on the streets alone, not while we've got this thing." He gestured at the attaché case. "And bring us something for dinner while you're there."

"Sure thing, Hannibal," Murdock said. "Do you suppose they have pizzas here?"

"They're Canadians," Face said. "They're just like Americans, only politer."

Murdock laughed and he and BA left. Hannibal looked at Face, who looked back expectantly. Well, they'd known each other a long time. Hannibal leaned back in his chair and said, "So, Face. How long have you felt like that?"

He shrugged. "How long has it been? Two and half years? So, I guess, about... two years, five months. Give or take a week."

"It's been a long time since you said so."

"I just have me to worry about," Face said, sitting down finally. "Frankie had his dad. He couldn't run out on him; even though I told him I could find the money he was worried he'd die before that." He shrugged. "Plus he was basically a lot more law-abiding than me."

"Is Frankie what kept you here?" Hannibal asked unwillingly.

Face repudiated that immediately. "No, Hannibal, you are. The team." Then he grinned. "Frankie kept me happy, though. Too busy to complain."

"I wish I'd known. I'd've been nicer to him," Hannibal made himself say with a wry grin.

Face smiled, and it even got a little way into his eyes. "That would have scared him to death."

"You understand my point?"

"Oh, I understand it. I'm not happy but I understand."

Hannibal really wished Face had said happy about it. He'd made it clear when they left Virginia that any expressions of sympathy were out of line. "Not in the field," he'd said. "I can do my job. Just leave me alone."

So they had, though they'd talked about him when he wasn't there. It had been harder than Hannibal had thought, not mentioning it. And several times he'd found himself wishing for Frankie. Much as he knew Face would hate admitting it, Stockwell had been right, sending them on an "easy" mission their first time out without Frankie. They'd gotten used to having him, or at least having a fifth guy, on top of what Stockwell didn't know.

Not that this had been all that easy, big surprise. But it was over and they were all fine, so, as Nietzsche had suggested, they must all be stronger. If not happier. Or even actually less happy. He was going to have to talk with BA, find out why the sergeant was suddenly ready to throw it all away. It didn't surprise him from Face, but BA? He was usually more pragmatic than that... On the other hand, you couldn't get more pragmatic than better alive than dead.

He heard footsteps on the stairs. He stiffened, seeing Face do the same thing across the table. BA and Murdock, yes, but they weren't alone. Someone else was with them. Face slid out of his chair, going for the shoulder holster he'd left on the back of the couch and taking up a position out of sight by the time Hannibal had his automatic out under the table.

The door opened, and Hannibal realized he had more than one thing to talk to BA about as the sergeant ushered his mother into the apartment.

Face was holstering his automatic while Murdock burbled, "Look who's here!" and BA said,

"Mama came up on the train from Chicago."

Hannibal shelved the question of just why she'd come to Toronto and just how she knew where this apartment was and stood up to greet her; he was genuinely fond of her, after all. "It's so good to see you again, Mrs. Baracus," he said.

She smiled at him. "It's better to see you, I think." Her eyes were twinkling but there was a bit of chiding in her voice. He wondered what BA had told her. And when...

"Now, where's Face?" She saw him and held out her arms. He let her hug him; she kissed his cheek and said, almost too softly for Hannibal to hear, "Oh, baby, I was so sorry to hear."

The blond hid his face against her; under her encircling arms his shoulders shook. She looked at Hannibal and said, "You all get now. Come back later."

They did. Outside in the hall BA looked defiantly at Hannibal and said, "I sent for her. She din't know we was alive till a couple days ago, but I thought..."

"I think you were right, BA," Hannibal said. "But let's make sure Stockwell never finds out."

Murdock was in one of the bedrooms, watching an old western on the tv. BA was outside on the balcony; Hannibal could only imagine what he was thinking. Face had been asleep in the other bedroom when the three of them had come back from the fast-food place where they'd eaten dinner and he still was. Mrs. Baracus had been washing dishes, singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", but she'd stopped when they came in and offered to make coffee. Murdock had turned her down, and she'd smiled at him, given him a hug and a kiss and said goodnight to him.

Hannibal hadn't sat down; he was standing where he could see Face when Mrs. Baracus came out of the kitchen with a cup of coffee in each hand. "Sit down," she said, and it wasn't a request. Hannibal sat. She handed him the coffee and sat down opposite him, not blocking his view into the bedroom where Face was curled up on the bed. "Scooter called me because he was worried about that boy, like you all are. But there's nothing much I can do for him that you can't. And nobody can give him what he needs, nobody can bring his Frankie back. He just needs to be loved right now, loved and put up with and let grieve. You, though," she shook her finger at him. "You need a talking to and I'm going to give it to you."

Hannibal bought some time by taking a drink. He blinked in surprise and raised his eyebrows at Mrs. Baracus: there was whiskey in it. "All right," he said, "talk to me."

He thought she was going to take him to task over letting her think BA was dead, that all of them were dead. But she surprised him "You're too mad about all this, about that Frankie."

"How should I be?" he asked. "He was on my team, and he's dead. Of course I'm—"

"That ain't what I mean," she said. "You're too mad about him and Face."

"I'm not," he protested, wondering how the hell she knew. Yet another thing to take up with BA.

"When he's in the room, and you're looking at him, you don't show it. He takes up all your mind. An' that's good. But when he's not," she shook her head. "If you even hear the word 'Frankie' you get so angry you practically spark. Yet from what Scooter tells me," and that was entirely too much, Hannibal thought, "you liked the boy."

He gave in, knowing he might as well have saved his breath. "Of course I am. I did like him. And then he turned around and did this."

"Did this?" she asked. "You make it sound like he was the only one involved."

"Face wouldn't—"

"He did, though. For a long time. This relationship isn't something that was forced on him—" She broke off and Hannibal knew she'd seen his reaction. "What happened, Hannibal?"

"It's..." His voice trailed off. This was something he'd never talked about with anyone.

BA's Mama looked into his eyes and maybe deeper than that. "Tell me," she said. "This is poisoning you. Poisoning your relationship. You can't afford that now. He can't. Tell me."

"You don't want to hear it," he said. I don't want to say it, he meant.

She shook her head. "That don't matter. Tell me."

"It was in Vietnam," he said. "In the camp." He stopped, not knowing what, if anything, BA had told her about that.

"That was a bad time," she said.

"Can you imagine what he was like at twenty? He was golden, he really was. Young—not as young as he should have been, maybe, but young. And while even then there were places in him he wouldn't let you near, he was open... Everybody liked him." He shook his head, looking back into the past at things he preferred not to admit were there. "BA adopted him right off the bat. Even Murdock, he was already starting to fall apart and coping by wrapping himself up in himself and not letting anyone in, even he let Face in right away. Ray liked him. The men loved him, and not just because he could get his hands on anything they wanted. I was the exception. I didn't want him. I'd like to think that I knew he'd get hurt with us, but I think I just didn't like his attitude. He was cocky. He sized me up and knew just how to get to me... And he did. In about a day."

"You never hurt him," she said surely.

"No. Except by not sending him away when I could have."

"You ain't God," she said. "You don't know what's going to come to pass."

"I could have guessed. Not that I ever thought we'd be captured, but you can't plan on that not happening. And once it did...Americans like screwing Orientals. They like blonds..." He laughed shortly. "The first day I met him—thank God he didn't hear it—I made a bad joke about him being pretty enough to turn a profit on. He was. And in the camp..." Hannibal didn't think he could say the words. He closed his eyes. "They took him away and they tortured him and they raped him and they threw him back to us to get him strong enough to do it again. And they laughed at us."

"What they did to him they did to hurt you," she said softly.

"Yes. I don't know how they guessed it, but they did." Not that that was entirely true. Tommy Angel... That Navy lieutenant whose father was in organized crime, that spoiled coward, he'd betrayed them all, sold them out for privileges and who knew what else. Not just their escape plans, but everything he'd ever found out about them—he'd given it all to their captors. Hannibal knew, they all knew, he'd seen the bond. He'd known how to hurt them.

When they'd found Lin Duk Coo all those years later in LA, and then Tommy Angel, Hannibal had known Face wanted to kill him. Hell, they all did, but Face... He'd kept Face away from Angel when they'd been pretending to be ready to kill him, sent Face off with Amy, pissing her off, which hadn't bothered Hannibal at all. He'd had actually been surprised at himself, after all those years, how red the rage was. If they hadn't needed him to get to the general... and if Hannibal hadn't thought about how hard Angel could have it in prison. So Hannibal had managed not to kill him, and BA and Murdock had followed his lead. Face had sublimated his rage in the plan; he'd even stopped caring about Mr. Tony's penthouse and "the best deal I ever had". He'd still wanted to put a bullet in Angel's brain at the end, but Hannibal hadn't let him. Had had to not let him, no matter how justifiable it would have been. Because it would be all too easy for Face to turn into a killer...

He pulled himself out of those thoughts and looked across the table into Mrs. Baracus's dark eyes. They were filled with kindness laid over steel, just like her son's. An implacable kindness; an Earth Mother, as long as you remembered things like hurricanes and earthquakes. She was waiting for him to continue.

He sighed. "They were all my men, I was responsible for all of them, had to protect all of them as best I could, but... out of them all, the one I'd have died for happiest, the one I did get on my knees for, the one I had to protect the most... what they did to him, it was worse than if they'd done it to me. And they knew it..." He was quiet for a minute. "They did it in front of us a time or two. I felt like my heart was being ripped out; there was nothing I could do to stop it without betraying everyone, everything, even him. And it wouldn't have stopped it for long no matter what I gave them."

"He must know that," she said softly.

"He does." He smiled but it felt crooked to him. "I'm not sure I do."

She patted his hand. "You've had to make hard choices. Being a man, being a leader, does that. But this was the right choice, and both of you know that. All of you do. The problem is, you're making a comparison between that and Frankie. And that's not right."

"It took him a long time to get over that. He pretended he was all right, but he wasn't. It was like," this metaphor he'd found years ago, it came easily to him now, "they'd found the Philosopher's Stone in reverse, transmuting gold to base metal. Not to us, no, but to Face. They hurt him... he's strong, he didn't fall apart, but he was hurt. Badly. When we got out, he'd have crawled rather than take an arm around him to help him walk. And he never played basketball or touch football with the men again. Wouldn't be touched by anyone. Except Murdock, of course, but that was..." he paused, looking for the word. "It wasn't sexual at all. He'd hold Murdock with his arms and legs and head even, but it was more like holding Murdock together than anything else. When we got to LA it wasn't any better. I think it was three, four years before he even... He found a counselor, a priest, and he got better. He got over it. Starting chasing women again, let himself be touched. But not this, not..."

"But it's not the same," she said, gently but firmly. "Not at all. If a woman is raped, are you surprised that she can make love again?"

"That's not the same."

"It is. I don't know why it took him so long. I would guess it was because he was so young, raised religious... having a priest for his counselor wouldn't have led him to loving men, that's for sure. But the point is, what happened to him in Vietnam and what he did with Frankie have one point in a thousand in common. Rape is about power and humiliation and pain and," she shook her head, "hate and evil. Frankie was love. I expect you were taught like I was, that a man loving a man is wrong. But I've come to see over my life that love, real love between two grown people, when nobody else is involved, it's never wrong."

"Do you really believe that?"

"I do. You said you liked Frankie and then he 'turned around and did this'. He betrayed you by taking advantage of Face, by doing to him what you couldn't stop the first time. Is that it? Because it's wrong, Hannibal. He didn't do anything to Face. He didn't betray you. And you didn't fail Face. Not the first time, and certainly, whatever you think about that, certainly not this time. You'll only fail him if you won't let him be a man, able to love who he wants."

Hannibal contemplated that for a while, sipping at his cooling coffee, grateful for the whiskey in it. Finally he nodded at her. "I always suspected it, but now I know BA gets his wisdom from you."

She shook her head, smiling at him. "You're just too close to it. You love that boy, and you're worried about him, and you're the one in charge so you think you should be able to keep him safe. But he's not really a boy any more. He must be thirty-five, at least."

Hannibal started to deny it reflexively and then stopped. If Face had been nineteen, which was a reasonable guess, him being a sophomore, then he was... thirty-eight. Which not only made him definitely a grown man, but Hannibal a lot older than he wanted to admit. "You're right," he said, "you're definitely right. And I have a lot to think about before he wakes up and we go—" He broke off. Where they were going she didn't need to know.

"Think nothing of it," Mrs. Baracus said, standing up. "It's my pleasure to help you, as good as you've been to Scooter and as much as he loves the both of you. I'm gonna go be with my boy for the rest of the night." She smiled at him. "You'll be all right now."

Face woke. He still felt tired, but the scents of coffee and bacon had done their work. Before he did anything else he turned his head quietly toward the other bed where Murdock would have spent the night. It was empty. He closed his eyes a moment thankfully and then sat up, wrapping his arms around his knees.

He wasn't so much tired, he decided, as drained. Exhausted. He felt as if he hadn't slept at all instead of—he reached for the slim Rolex by the bedside—more than eleven hours. He dropped the watch and ran his hand through his hair. Damnit. They shouldn't have let him sleep.

You got to do two things now, baby. You got to let yourself grieve all the way, 'cause you hurt all the way, down to the bone. And you got to let them worry, 'cause they love you.

Maybe... But they were smothering him. Worse. It was bad enough that there was so little for him to do that any halfway competent Abel from Stockwell's kennel couldn't have done; when Hannibal treated him like he couldn't even do that much...

Damnit, he was perfectly capable of doing his job. Especially nowadays. He missed Frankie like... he didn't have anything to compare it to. He'd never missed anyone or anything like this, not even Leslie. He never wanted to again. But missing Frankie didn't mean he was suddenly incompetent. They'd expected more of him when he was beaten up or shot.

This is new to them, too, baby. They don't know what to do.

They could try listening to him when he said he was fine.

He got out of bed abruptly and went into the bathroom, letting the door slam behind him. In the shower he stood under the hot water and tried clearing his mind. The job wasn't over yet; they were still in Toronto. He didn't have the leisure to fall apart like he had last night... Damn BA, anyway.

That's right, baby. Go on and cry. You got every right to.

He closed his eyes and held his face up to the pouring water. Not here. Not now. Soldiers don't cry.

You lost your love. He lost his life. Of course you gonna cry. You hurt to the heart.

After a while he found the shampoo.

Mindful of Mama's presence he wrapped himself in the biggest towel he could find to go back to the bedroom. He dressed carefully, thinking about nothing except the shirt, the tie, the shoes... He examined himself in the mirror over the dresser, adjusted the fall of his hair slightly, and nodded. Then he pushed open the door and went into the kitchen.

"Morning, Face," Hannibal said, and BA and Murdock echoed it. Mama just smiled at him.

"You let me sleep too long," Face said accusingly. "You should have woken me when you got up, Murdock."

Murdock opened his mouth and then closed it, and then said, "You looked like you needed it, Faceman."

Face wondered whatthat was about but decided not to pursue it. The other bed had been made when he woke up; he simply didn't want to hear that Murdock had slept on the couch rather than risk being woken up in the middle of the night (again). Instead, all he said was, "I didn't need more than the standard eight."

"Now, Face," Hannibal said, "maybe you did sleep nearly twelve hours, but you've been up thirty minutes and it's not even nine yet. So it's not like we've been sitting around waiting for you. Have some coffee, calm down, and say whether you think we should take the train back, or rent a car."

"A car," Face said. "Thank you," he added with a smile to Mama as she put a plate of eggs down in front of him.

"Face," BA said, "we already got the tickets for the train."

"And we have that," he lifted his chin at the attaché case.

"Nobody knows we have it."

"We don't know that." He shrugged. "Whatever you want, though, Hannibal."

"What I don't want to do is drive four hundred plus miles in a rental," he said.

He was looking at Face with that concerned look, that so-how-are-you-really look. Abruptly Face remembered the last time they'd done that, all five of them... And then he thought of all day in a car with those looks, that sympathy, all three of them in close quarters and nowhere to go to get away... "Good point," he said. "The train it is."

"That's three to one," Hannibal said, smiling.

BA smiled and Murdock sighed theatrically. Face shrugged slightly and finished his eggs. He got up and began clearing dishes off the table, shaking his head at Mama when she started to get up. "No, let me," he said. "Though I'm tempted to suggest we just leave them in the sink."

"Ooo," Murdock immediately looked curious. "Are Canadian cockroaches more polite than American ones?"

"Bugs ain't polite anywhere," BA said.

"I don't think he would be happy with us if we did that," Hannibal said.

"Well, Hannibal, that's more or less the point," Face said, unbuttoning his cuffs and turning them up to avoid getting them wet.

Murdock jumped up. "I'll dry," he volunteered, grinning at Face.

"Don't even think about getting this sweater wet," Face cautioned him. Murdock grinned at him, causing him to consider yet another reason not to be cooped up in a car for the rest of the day. Resolutely he took the thought of Murdock next to him, shoulders or knees touching, and locked it away in the file cabinet labeled later. Or, in this case, much later.

The heart goes for healing where it wants to. Don't even worry about that, baby.


Don't 'but' me, darling. You always been close. You know he'll help you all he can.

That kind of help, Face thought, he didn't need, whatever Mama might think. Wouldn't get anyway. God damn it, didn't want anyway. "When do we leave, Hannibal?"

"This morning. I want to get rid of that thing as soon as possible. The train for Chicago leaves at ten thirty; ours leaves at eleven fifteen. I'd like to let you go to Chicago, BA, but—"

"I understand, Hannibal. That trip's three times as long." BA looked at Mama. "We seen each other. We okay."

"You just take care of yourselves," Mama said. "All of you."

"Yes, ma'am," Hannibal said. "We certainly will."

So Hannibal called a cab and they packed and went to Toronto's nice, clean train station. Mama said goodbye to them all, telling Murdock she was glad he hadn't changed much, and Hannibal that he should remember what she'd said and be careful of them all. Then she pulled Face into a hug and whispered, "Remember always: you are loved so much." A gentle kiss on his cheek, and then BA put her on the train and stayed with her until the 'All aboard!'

Forty minutes later they were settling in on their own train. Face had picked up a couple of newspapers, and he suggested they not sit all together. Hannibal quirked his eyebrows but nodded. "Good idea," he said. "You take the front; BA, the back. Murdock, you're with me."

Face took his seat, hiding his relief, and opened his paper. With luck, by the time they changed trains in New York he'd be ready to spend time with Murdock again.

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6


Original Fantasy:
  Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans
Original Fan Fiction
Star Wars | Power Rangers | Real Ghostbusters
Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
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