CHAPTER FIFTY

October 12, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 10 Days

He looked up carefully. Cautiously. Saw Murdock, turned in his seat so he could watch him. Looked back down. He didn't want to talk to him. Didn't want him to see. Didn't want any of them to see. He pulled his coat tighter around him. Kyle's coat. No. It had never been Kyle's.

He pulled softly at the cuff. It should've been Kyle's. If Kyle had just gone with Arne, he would've been the one with the new coat, with the right name on it. If he'd just gone with Arne, instead of...

He looked up again. Murdock was still watching. And if he looked up a little more, he'd probably see Hannibal watching in the mirror as well. Always watching.

He didn't know what happened. He should've taken Murdock down, right then and there. It's what he did. He always fought back. Except when he should've fought the hardest. After Kyle died. After he went back...

If Murdock hadn't said that, about that girl, the waitress...she was pretty. Very pretty. But...God, he hadn't thought about a woman that way for...He felt a sudden shudder. Just the thought of...another shudder swept through him.

"You cold, Face? We got blankets back there."

He shook his head, quickly. Didn't look up. Didn't want Murdock to see...didn't want any of them to see...to know...

He closed his eyes. Tight. Think of something else. Anything else. Jenny...no. No, not Jenny. Not Dao Quy. Not Leslie. None of them. None of them. Nothing like that. Something else. Something else.

Anything else...


*****

"You cold, Face? We got blankets back there."

Murdock frowned when Face just shook his head. He was shivering, even with that heavy coat on. Murdock kept watching, just in case, and was relieved when he seemed to drift off to sleep a few minutes later. Murdock didn't turn around until Face's body relaxed.

Hannibal was watching. Not Face. Watching Murdock. He gave Hannibal a small smile. I'm okay. Really. Hannibal turned around. Yeah, I'm okay, Colonel. I've only shoved my friend back those proverbial two steps.

He sat back in the seat.

My friend.

My friend?

Had he ever thought of him in those terms before this? Not consciously. Not deliberately. Face had told Father O'Malley that Murdock was his friend. Had he really thought that? Or was it wishful thinking?

Was Murdock his friend, back then?

Maybe he thought that because Murdock didn't shut him down all the time. Murdock didn't trust him, but...but why was that? Murdock closed his eyes. Why didn't any of them trust Face? So what if he had 'deals' going. He only did what a thousand other guys did; he just happened to be very good at it. And anything the guys needed, or wanted, Face did his best to get, whether they asked him to or not. He knew BA respected the way Face handled himself in the boonies, whether he'd admit it or not. And Hannibal...Hannibal depended on him, again, admit it or not.

Wiley. So easy to see it now, of course. Whether it was jealousy or looking out for the team or just genuine dislike, Murdock still hadn't decided. But he could see now how Wiley had been the one constantly harping on what Face did or said. Making mountains out of molehills. Especially after Ray left. And that stuff with the Marines. Saigon.

Saigon was what did him in. Hannibal was the only one besides Face who really knew what had happened there. Rumors all over, but no facts. Not even for the team. That's what kept Face out. Gave Wiley the ammunition he needed.

Murdock looked back at Face. He was frowning in his sleep, shifting around, and then slowly relaxed again.

Maybe Murdock had been the only friend Face had back then, even if it was a twisted sort of friendship. But Murdock knew he wanted to be Face's friend now. And it wasn't out of guilt. Anyone who'd gone through whatever hell Face had, and come out of it in one piece, however damaged, was someone to admire. Someone worth being friends with.

He would be Face's friend now. Come hell or high water.


*****

Hannibal pulled a cigar and lit it, calmly rolling down the window at BA's glare. He was turned partway around in his seat, so he could watch Murdock without his noticing. He wasn't so worried about Face right now, as he seemed to have calmed down. But he knew damn well Murdock would be blaming himself for the whole incident. Well, it was a pretty bone-headed thing to do. But that was partly Hannibal's fault. He should've put the kibosh on Murdock's antics before it got to that point.

He knew that smile of Murdock's was just for show. And knew, thankfully, that Murdock really thought he was fooling everyone. As long as Murdock thought he could bluff his way through, Hannibal could work around him. Give him choices that either gave up the pretense or forced him to play along. Either way, he'd do what he needed to.

He sighed. If he'd had any idea things would've turned out the way they had, Murdock would still be in LA. No way he would expose him to this. If Murdock lost ground, he'd never forgive himself. He smiled humorlessly. One more on the tote board. Quite a record for the 'great' Hannibal Smith.

"Hannibal..."

He turned quickly, not liking the tone of voice at all. Murdock was watching the back, and Hannibal leaned over to see. Face was asleep, but jerking, almost spasm-like, and mumbling fast and furiously. Hannibal glanced at BA, who just shook his head and pulled over. Immediately Hannibal moved to the back.

"Should we wake him up?" Murdock was only inches away; Hannibal could practically feel the worry dripping off him.

"No, not yet. That might be worse than the dream." He spoke quietly, trying to hear what Face was saying. His actions were uncomfortably similar to those of that first day at the motel, when they were cleaning him up, and Hannibal wanted to know why.

Face was jerking more violently now, and his voice was becoming panicky.

"Hannibal..."

"What's he saying, Murdock? Sounds like a name..."

"Sounds like...Mary? No...Harry. He's saying Harry."

"Who's Harry?"

Murdock suddenly backed away, and Hannibal looked at him sharply. "Murdock? You know who Harry is?"

"I...I don't know." He looked nervously toward the front of the van. "I...I might. But I think we need to wake him now, Hannibal. We need to wake him up."

"Why?"

"We just do, Hannibal. Wake him up."

Hannibal frowned, but Face was getting more and more panicky. Whatever he was dreaming, and whoever this 'Harry' was, it wasn't pleasant.

"Face! Face! Hey, kid, wake up! Wake up, Lieutenant!"

He woke almost immediately, eyes staring straight at Hannibal, filled with a fear Hannibal hadn't seen since Korea. Instantly, Face turned away, and Hannibal could see the crimson blush spread around to the back of his neck.

"Hey, it's okay, Face. Just a dream. That's all. Just a dream. It's over now."

Hannibal didn't know if Face even heard what he was saying. He refused to look up. Hannibal sighed and moved back to his seat, giving Murdock a look with promise - he wasn't done with him yet.


*****

They stopped near Guymon, Oklahoma, a little after six that day. Hannibal had intended to drive straight through to LA, but the number of patrol cars they'd seen, even on the back roads, made him nervous, and they'd turned north. Face had refused to leave the van when they stopped for lunch, and ignored the sandwiches they brought back from the store. BA had stared out the windshield for a few minutes before informing Hannibal they would stop at the first decent motel they came to that evening. And he didn't leave any room for discussion in his tone.

Hannibal almost smiled at that. BA may not be at all happy with the way things were going, and it was obvious he wasn't comfortable dealing with all the "head stuff", as he put it, but he wasn't going to let that get in the way of taking care of the team. And Hannibal realized that Face had become a member of the team, finally. When it happened, he wasn't sure. At what point had BA and Murdock come to that same realization that he had? That the man described by Arnhold, the man that accepted beatings and risked death to keep others safe, that had survived alone in the jungle for God only knew how long, was not some unknown sergeant, but their own man. Their LT.

Theirs.

Now Hannibal just had to try and convince Face of that. Somehow he knew that was going to be crucial to Face's recovery. He didn't think it would happen otherwise.

The motel was really an old ranch house with some rooms added on. Old, but clean, comfortable looking, an attached restaurant. Nearly empty, from the look of the parking lot. Off-season. They could see the lights of Guymon, but nothing else.

Perfect.

Hannibal was surprised but relieved when Face got out of the van without protest. Granted, he waited outside with BA while Murdock and Hannibal checked out their adjoining rooms, but that was a small thing in his mind. The real test came next, as Hannibal and Murdock joined them outside.

"Feel like eating in the restaurant, Face? We could..."

"Okay." Face was looking out over the cornfields, barren now.

Hannibal frowned. "You're sure?"

"I said, okay."

There was the slightest edge to his voice that made BA stiffen, but Hannibal just nodded and led the way into the restaurant. The hesitancy of the morning was gone now; Face did a quick thorough check of the room and then headed for a table in the corner, ignoring the booths along the wall. Once again, he sat facing the door, but this time he had no one sitting next to him. Murdock sat across the table from him, BA and Hannibal on adjacent sides.

Apparently no one wanted to repeat the mistakes of the morning.

Face didn't bother looking at the menu. He listened to what the others chose, and again followed Murdock's lead. Hannibal wasn't sure he liked the way Face was learning to cope with the situation, but it did make for a calmer atmosphere. On the surface, at least. He wasn't sure if either BA or Murdock caught the undercurrent, but everyone seemed willing to play along with the facade.

The meal went relatively smoothly, if quietly. Murdock was almost as subdued as Face, leaving any conversation to BA and Hannibal. That consisted of perhaps five minutes deciding what time they would leave in the morning.

They were walking to the rooms when Hannibal announced he and Murdock were going to check the perimeter. BA looked a little surprised, but after a quick look at Murdock, nodded. Hannibal stepped closer, away from Face's hearing.

"No news programs, okay, BA?"

Face didn't appear to care what their plans were. He waited outside the room until BA unlocked it, then wandered inside. BA gave them one last glare before following. Hannibal sighed. BA would have to start getting used to Face, one on one. There was going to be a lot of that in the next few months.

He and Murdock walked slowly down the drive, toward the road. For some reason, Hannibal wanted to be some distance from the motel before they spoke. Something told him this was not a conversation he wanted to chance anyone else hearing.

"Okay, Murdock. Who's Harry?"

Murdock looked down at the ground for a moment. Obviously he wasn't comfortable with this, and that just made Hannibal more apprehensive.

"I think he's a guy from the hospital, Colonel. The nurse said his name was Eddie, but given how doped up Face was, he could've gotten the name wrong."

"Okay. And just who is Eddie, or Harry - and why would Face be having nightmares about him?"

"He was another patient there." Murdock swallowed, and wouldn't look at Hannibal. "I...I'm not really sure how to tell you, Hannibal..."


*****

BA was channel surfing, trying to find something that would fill in the time, but not push any of the LT's buttons. Seemed like there were a lot buttons just waiting to be pushed, too.

Face had wandered into the adjoining room. It made BA wary, so he'd followed, watching as Face checked the door lock, just like he had that bathroom door back in Mobile. Checked the windows. Looked in the closets, the bathroom. Checked that lock as well. It was spooky. Never said a word, never looked at BA. Just like BA wasn't even there.

Then they'd moved back into the first room. Same thing. Checking all the locks, the doors, windows, bathroom, closets. Then he'd carefully moved the big armchair into the corner, facing the door. Sat down, put his head back, closed his eyes. He hadn't moved after that.

BA finally settled on a sports channel, but he wasn't really watching. He wondered what it was that Hannibal and Murdock were talking about. Had to be one of two things. Either that bad dream Face had had, or Murdock himself. He didn't think it was the dream; figured Face would have them. So it had to be Murdock.

He glanced over at Face. Still hadn't moved.

Murdock was falling apart, that was easy to see. Not that BA expected a full-blown "episode", like that doctor called them. But little by little. That deal this morning just made it more obvious. But BA had seen it coming. Knew Hannibal had, too. When he was serious, he was too serious. When he was happy, too happy. No in-between. Even when he was quiet, it was like he wasn't even there any more. Gone off into his head.

BA looked over at Face. His eyes were open now, but BA couldn't tell if he was watching him, the television, or nothing at all.

Murdock wasn't there yet, where Face was. BA hoped he never went there. Murdock was a different kind of crazy. He stayed in the real world, just bent it here and there. Just enough to keep the bad stuff away. And he had those pills, too, so if you caught him quick enough, he could reign it in before it got away from him. Still drove BA up the wall, but...

At least he wasn't dangerous.

BA jumped when Face suddenly got up from the chair. Started wandering again. He went into the other room, and BA could hear him checking everything again. He didn't follow this time. Face didn't act like he wanted to get away. More like he wanted to make sure nobody could get in. BA wasn't sure if that was good or bad.

Face came back in, checked the room and went back to his chair. This time he sat up straight, staring at BA. Like he was thinking about something.

"BA?"

The voice was soft, calm. That was good.

"Yeah, LT?"

"Where's Wiley?"


*****

"Hannibal?"

Hannibal heard the voice, but it didn't quite register. Just like he felt the breeze, but didn't. Saw the lights from the town, but didn't.

"Hannibal?"

He took a deep, shuddering breath and turned back to Murdock. "Yeah?"

"Uh, you don't think...I mean, he couldn't done more than..."

Hannibal closed his eyes. Seeing the hospital room. Face on the bed...

"No. He was strapped down so damn tight...blessing in disguise, huh?" The last words came out bitter, cold. Angry.

"Yeah." Murdock's voice was low, sad. "What are you going to do, Hannibal?"

"I'd like to get my hands on those fucking ass holes at the hospital, but that wouldn't solve anything, would it?" Hannibal paced across the drive, yanking a cigar from his pocket, holding it so tightly he nearly broke it in half. He stared up at the stars, trying to focus. Trying not to think how Face had felt, having that done to him, helpless to stop it...trying not to think how he, himself, would have felt.

Realizing how Face would feel, having that on his mind, being around them.

He stared at Murdock."That's why he acted like he did that first day, isn't it? He thought it was happening all over again. He thought we were...shit!" He looked at the crumpled cigar, tossed it in the ditch. "I'll have to talk to him. Get him to talk to me. I can't let him keep that to himself, brood on it. And make sure he knows it wasn't us."


*****

"Wiley?" BA could feel his jaw drop. That was the last thing he expected. "Uh, he's gone, Face. He died."

Face's expression didn't change. "When?"

BA sighed. " 'Bout three months ago. He got cancer."

Face nodded, slowly. "You saw him?"

BA scowled. "Yeah, I saw him. We was with him right to the end." He saw a flicker of emotion from Face, felt a wave of guilt sweep through him.

"All of you were there, when he died?"

BA wasn't sure where Face was going, and he didn't like talking about it. "No. Hannibal was, but Murdock and me didn't get there until after he...until after."

Again, Face nodded slowly. He sat back in the chair, put his head back, closed his eyes.

BA watched him for a moment before turning back to the television. The man had problems, sure, but that was...that was just cold, man. Stone cold. He stared at the screen, the excited voices of the crowd in the background. But he was seeing Face, calmly closing his eyes, dismissing BA. Dismissing Wiley...