CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

October 10, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 8 Days

Murdock woke up just as the sun was filtering through the curtains. He looked over at Face, sound asleep in the other bed, although still propped up against the wall. He looked behind him, relieved to see Hannibal asleep. Nothing worse than a CO who's strung out like he'd been last night.

Murdock got out of bed, careful not to wake either man. He could hear the shower running in the bathroom, then smelled fresh coffee and headed for the kitchenette. He looked over toward the television, hoping that file would be out where he could get at it, but he really knew better. Hannibal had his methods. Depending on how things went with Face today, he'd probably have a team meeting later and then both Murdock and BA would have a chance to look over the file. They'd have to, to help Hannibal figure out where to go from here.

He leaned against the counter, sipping at the hot coffee. Where did they go from here? Murdock certainly hadn't thought about that yet. He'd been focused on finding Kyle Hanson. He glanced at the floor. He still felt guilty about that. He really hadn't cared a fig about Hanson, or what their questions might do to him. Maybe because he knew Hannibal was looking out for him, in essence. But still, fellow soldier and all...

But ever since he'd seen Face in that room...he squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't want to remember that. He was glad, so glad, that Face had been out like a light. Maybe Face hadn't even known what that bastard had done. Okay, so the guy wasn't right in the head, but still...shit. At some point, Murdock would have to tell Hannibal about that. One more thing they'd have to ask Face about, and oh, so carefully. He would just as soon have Hannibal deal with that. Preferably when Murdock was safely home at the VA.

He was such a coward...

He took another sip of coffee. Nothing like going off on a tangent; anything from thinking about the hard stuff. Like, where did they go from here? Murdock wouldn't kid himself; Hannibal would definitely make him go back to the VA, and no amount of arguing would change that. He couldn't pull the same kind of stunt he had to get back to the hospital. He'd just be running away from the people he wanted to stay close to. Not to mention, Hannibal still had to talk to him about that little bit of insubordination. He couldn't believe he'd actually done that. Nobody crossed the colonel.

He smiled softly. Face sure came close. Almost like it was a game, to see how far he could push Hannibal, without going over the line. And Hannibal...Hannibal seemed to enjoy letting him do it. Like he was seeing what Face could come up with, if he would wiggle out of it, or if he could actually convince Hannibal to do things his way. Murdock loved to watch the two of them go at it.

His smile faded. He loved to watch it, just like the others did, because they were all waiting for Face to get drop kicked by the colonel. Waiting for the sparkle in Hannibal's eye to turn to a spark. It hardly ever happened, but when it did...Face never backed down. Even when he had to do it Hannibal's way, he let him know he still didn't agree.

Win or lose, Face never gave in. Neither did the colonel.

Maybe that was the reason Hannibal always had Face's back, even if Face didn't realize it. And the reason Face admired Hannibal, even when they fought. Maybe that was why the rest of them were...jealous. He hated to admit it, but it was true. They were jealous of the way Face and Hannibal were together.

Where did they go from here? Murdock sighed, looking over at Face on the one bed, Hannibal on the other. BA and Murdock had to keep Hannibal on track. Keep him from wearing himself too thin, like he had last night. That was their job now.

Because without Hannibal, Face was lost.


*****

Hannibal woke at the first moan, soft as it was. He squinted at the light coming through the window. He heard another moan, and immediately was up, grabbing the wastebasket, scrambling for the other bed.

Face was on his side, holding his stomach. Hannibal shook his head, glancing at BA and Murdock as they came hurrying over.

"Bucket brigade, guys. Hope you haven't eaten yet..."


*****

Longway shifted in the chair, trying to contain his impatience as his CO continued to read through the pile of paperwork on his desk. Both men were frowning, one with irritation, the other with skepticism. Finally, Colonel Franklin shuffled the papers together and looked up.

"You realize, of course, just how fantastic the whole thing appears. Even with the prints."

"Yessir, but..."

"Peck's miraculous resurrection is hard enough to swallow, but you've shown very well how it might have happened. But explain to me how in God's name Smith found him, and why they were even looking for him after all this time."

Longway almost smiled. He'd had those same questions running through his head since the prints were finally verified. And he thought he had the answers.

"I don't believe Smith was looking for the lieutenant. I think he was looking for Sergeant Hanson. Several people have made inquiries about the sergeant over the years - and that included the pilot from the Hanoi job."

"The pilot was never considered part of that scheme."

"Yessir, I know that. But he flew most of their missions - you don't forget or ignore someone like that, Sir. I believe Smith, Baracus and Parish have kept in contact with Captain Murdock. And it was through that contact they found out about Sergeant Hanson - and the fact that Sergeant Hanson was supposedly the last American to see Peck alive."

Colonel Franklin sat a little straighter, eyes narrowing. "Go on."

"I think Smith went looking for Hanson because he knew it was their last and only hope of coming up with the money."

Franklin's jaw dropped but he quickly recovered. "The money? What the hell...?"

"Sir, none of the money from the robbery came out of the jungle with Smith."

"Yeah, they claimed they burned it."

"I don't believe they did. Lieutenant Peck was known to have a lot of contacts over there - on both sides of the DMZ. I think he was given the task of secreting that money before they even left North Vietnam. Once they returned stateside, and a sufficient amount of time had elapsed, Peck would retrieve the money, again through his contacts, and they'd all live very, very happily."

"But..."

"But then Peck got killed - or so they thought. And they were arrested. Shortly after that, Captain Murdock finds out that Peck was actually a POW - or had been. And that Sergeants Arnhold and Hanson had been with him. We know that Arnhold and Murdock were in contact, but Arnhold wasn't with Peck long enough for any confidences. Hanson was. And according to Arnhold, those two were friends.

"Smith, Baracus and Parish escape, get back in touch with the captain. He tells them about Hanson. Again - there's a chance, even though small, that Hanson can tell them what Peck knew about the money."

Franklin still looked skeptical. "That still seems like an awful lot of effort on the chance..."

"On the chance of recovering nearly three million dollars - at today's exchange rate, Sir." He smiled grimly at Franklin's look. "Divided among the three remaining men...I think they had sufficient inducement to locate Hanson. And now that they actually have Peck, instead..."

"Fat lot of good that will do them. The man's batty as hell."

"Which only gives us a golden opportunity to capture these men once and for all. Smith's going to be more vulnerable now than at any other time. He's not trained to deal with a head case. None of them are. We can issue an alert to all the nuthouses and clinics between here and Los Angeles. The minute they show up..."

"Now, just wait a minute, Major. That's one hell of an undertaking. Why, there must be thousands..."

"All we have to do is make use of civilian law enforcement - the FBI, the locals. They have the means to do this the fastest and most efficiently. After all, Peck is wanted on felony assault charges, and they consider him dangerous.."

"Yes, but..."

Longway knew it was time to play his trump card. "Colonel, I realize this is a major effort we're talking about. However, there is one other consideration. The recovery of that money might just induce Hanoi to be a little more...forthcoming about the remaining MIAs."

Franklin sighed, and Longway knew he had him. Washington had refused to pay what they called "bribery money", but this wouldn't be a bribe. More a gesture of good faith.

"What about that colonel...Lynch, is it? Isn't he 'in charge' of hunting down Smith and his men?"

Longway shrugged. "Begging your pardon, Sir, but the man's totally inept. We can do this much more effectively. However, if Smith thinks Lynch is still in charge..."


*****

Hannibal pulled a set of sweats out of the shopping bags, and handed them to Murdock.

"Why don't you get the shower going? BA and I will see if we can get him in there without..." He stopped, not quite knowing the word he wanted to use. "Just get it ready for him. Oh, and uh, make sure you clear it."

"Clear it?" Murdock stopped, puzzled.

"Yeah...your meds, any aspirin, razors...that...sort of thing."

"Hannibal..."

"Just do it, Captain."

He turned back to the bed, where BA was already talking softly to Face. He straightened his shoulders, and stepped over, and BA straightened.

"I ask him if he wants to take a shower, and he nods his head, just a little, but he don't move after that." BA, for once, let the helplessness sound in his voice.

"It's okay, BA" Hannibal sat gingerly on the bed, close enough so he could talk softly, far enough so Face wouldn't pull back. Over the course of the morning, they'd learned that spacing pretty quickly. He kept his voice low, but stern. "Face, Murdock's running a shower for you. He's got your clean clothes in there, and he's waiting. So you need to get up now. I know you're still pretty shaky, so BA and I will help you. We'll just walk beside you and you can grab hold or let loose, whichever you want. But you need to get up. Now."

Hannibal stood up, BA just behind him. Another moment and Face slowly pushed himself to a sitting position. He leaned on his arms, looking decidedly lopsided, and then moved painfully toward the edge of the bed. Once his feet were on the floor, Hannibal positioned himself on one side, BA on the other, still leaving that space. Face hesitated, then slowly reached up, first for Hannibal's arm, then BA's. Hannibal resisted the urge to grab his arm and help pull him up. He could feel the shaking as Face made first one, then another attempt to stand, before finally getting to his feet. Hannibal smiled.

"Third time's a charm, eh, Face?"

He got no response, but then he hadn't expected one. They made their slow way across the room, and Hannibal could feel the pressure lessening on his arm. Face was still weak from tossing his cookies all morning, but by the time they reached the bathroom door, he was only using the others for occasional balance. Hannibal reminded himself that Face wasn't helpless; yesterday's actions told him it would be good to remember that in the near future.

Murdock stood by the door, smiling encouragingly, but Face never looked at him. So far, he hadn't looked at anybody. Not directly. Hannibal had caught some glances, but Face always looked immediately away.

Not good.

Face closed the bathroom door, and Hannibal heard the click of the lock. Almost immediately, the door opened again, just a sliver, and just as quickly, closed. Click. Open. Shut. Click. Three more times before finally the door stayed closed and locked. Hannibal had no idea what Face was trying to do, but apparently he was now satisfied with whatever it was.

He turned back to the bed and began stripping the soiled linen. Murdock and BA grabbed the clean bedding from the bureau. That had been a close call. The maid, not seeing a 'Do Not Disturb' sign, had knocked and walked in. Luckily, BA was in the bathroom, emptying the latest wastebasket, and the door had shielded Face from her view. Murdock had quickly intercepted her, apologizing and explaining that his uncle was ill, deftly taking the bedding from her as he ushered her back outside.

It took only a few minutes to make up the bed, and the three men almost simultaneously plopped down on the other bed. Murdock looked at the bathroom, where the shower could still be heard.

"So, Colonel?"

"So?" Hannibal was sitting on the edge of the bed, calm, eyes closed.

"So what do we do now? What did Cleary tell you? When do you want us to read that report? Are we heading back to LA soon? And what about Jenny? We should let her know what's going on..."

"Murdock, please!" Hannibal rubbed his face, sighing heavily. "Okay. Right now, we stay put, at least until I know Face is completely dope free. What Cleary said and what's in that report are things that we don't need to go into detail about, at least not now. Suffice it to say that Face has a lot of problems, obviously, and we all know where they came from. We'll head back to LA as soon as Face is ready. As to Jenny, I don't know yet how to contact her without it being intercepted. We can't afford to give the military any clues whatsoever as to where we are. Hopefully, they're thinking we're already on the way to LA, so we'll give them a 'head start' there. That way, if they do trace us through Jenny, they'll have to regroup and backtrack."

"So what happens when we get back to LA?" BA spoke this time, staring calmly at the wall.

"I don't know, BA. It all depends on Face. We'll have to find someplace where we don't have to worry about being spotted, and where we can keep an eye on him, not let him take off again."

They were silent for a few minutes. Murdock was chewing on his fingernail, a frown on his face. BA picked absently at the bedspread, then spoke softly.

"How long you spose it'll take? I mean, until he's...okay?"

"I don't know, BA."

"I mean, I know it ain't gonna be quick, but like, a couple months?"

"Could be."

"Longer?"

Hannibal looked up at the ceiling. "Probably."

BA turned, looking at him hard. "You got any idea how we gonna do this, Colonel?"

"No, BA. I have no idea..."


*****

Face stepped out of the shower, wrapping the towel around his waist carefully. He grabbed a second towel and studiously started wiping up the floor. He reached across to get at the corner, his arm rubbing across the still-raw scrape on his chest. Grimacing, he stood, looking for the gauze to redress them, but the bathroom was empty. He stopped, puzzled. The bathroom was totally empty, save for the bar of soap and shampoo tube in the shower, the towels and his clothes. He ran his hand gently over the countertop. There were several damp spots, and he could see several small circular outlines in the corner. A couple of whiskers were stuck in the rim of the sink drain, but no sign of the razor. For the first time, he looked in the mirror. The marks around his neck stood out, obvious.

He sat abruptly down on the stool, crushing the wet towel in his hands.

They knew about...

He looked bleakly at the door, a shudder running through his body.

What else did they know?


*****

BA had retreated to the television once more. Hannibal was on his way to the bus depot, and a locker Cleary was supposed to leave the meds in. If he'd been able to get them. Murdock knew that wasn't going to be as easy as it sounded and hoped this wouldn't get the doctor into any trouble. Or get Hannibal caught breaking into the locker. He shook his head. Hannibal was known for spur of the moment plans; distracted, his plans just got careless.

The bathroom door finally opened, and Face came out, dressed in a dark blue sweat suit. Murdock had looked at the suit as he laid it out in the bathroom, thinking Face would look like some hot shot track star in it. Instead, he looked like some kid wearing his big brother's clothes. It had been obvious Face had lost weight; the suit just emphasized how much.

"Hey, Face! Feeling better?" Murdock grinned, hoping for at least a smile in return.

Face nodded, staring at the floor, and slowly made his way over to the bed. He stared at it for a moment, finally glancing over at Murdock.

"Maid service, at your service!" He snapped off a jaunty salute, but Face was already staring back at the bed. Murdock frowned, uncertain. "Uh, it's okay, Face. You can lie down. It's just...fresh sheets, is all." Murdock smiled when Face looked toward him again. "Uh, we should probably redress those scrapes, anyway. Make sure they don't get infected, y'know. Right, BA?"

BA finally looked up from the television. "Yeah, we need to do that." He spoke to Murdock, looked at Murdock. "I'll get the stuff."

It was obvious Face wasn't as matter-of-fact about the prospect. He had immediately moved back, so he now had the wall behind him, and Murdock didn't miss his quick glance at the door to the room. BA hadn't missed anything either. Sighing, he turned and headed toward the bed, jerking his head at Murdock, who stepped around him and went for the med kit, listening for trouble.

"Now, let's just get this straight, LT. Ain't nobody gonna hurt you, or do nothin they shouldn't, but we gonna have to fix those, and we gonna have to do this more'n once. So you just sit down here and do what you're told, and we'll do what we gotta, and then it's done. Right?"

Murdock wasn't sure which he was less happy with - the no-nonsense tone of BA's voice, or Face's response to it. Almost at the first words, Face's head went down, and when BA pointed to the bed, he sat immediately.

Just like a trained dog.

Murdock spread the salve, and, despite his harsh tone, BA was gentle as he wrapped the gauze around Face's wrists and ankles. There was a bit more tension when BA told Face to lie down so they could do his chest, and even more when they had to lower his sweat pants a bit to do his waist, but eventually they finished. BA stretched and headed for the television as Murdock put away the supplies, but both men kept an eye on Face. He'd waited until they were well away from the bed before he rolled over to his side, back to the room.

As Murdock settled into the chair by the door, he noted that Face had yet to look anyone in the eye.


*****

Old habits die hard. He'd been ready to tell them he could do his own 'fixing', but when that voice had come at him, he knew better. Knew what happened when he resisted. Not that it wasn't tempting.

He didn't want to be here. Not when he didn't know what they knew, what they didn't. What they wanted from him.

They had to want something. Why else would they come now? But what could he give them? They were the heroes. What would they want with him?

He looked at Murdock, seated by the door. Watched the glances over at him.

Maybe they didn't want him.

Maybe they just wanted to keep him dead...