CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO

October 17, 1976

5 Years, 8 Months, 15 Days

It was not quite six in the morning, the sun barely awake, as Hannibal slowly backed out of the garage. He glanced quickly at the house before continuing down the long drive, not seeing and not expecting to see any sign of life. He smiled grimly. He might not be as young as he used to be, but he could still move quietly enough not to wake those two, still bagging z's. And waking BA this early was something he definitely didn't want to do.

Okay. He had to be fair - after he'd explained to BA about Murdock, there'd been no more grumbling about the trip. He still hadn't been happy about Hannibal going alone, but one nod toward the stairs and BA had dropped the subject.

He drove through the quiet streets and onto the San Diego Freeway. This early on a Sunday morning, even the freeway seemed relatively quiet. He was glad of that. He needed to think things through before he got to the VA. Not knowing what Murdock may have said, what condition he was in when he said it, or who he said it to. Had Richter shown those officers the door? Had he been forced to let them talk to Murdock? Were they still watching the VA, even with Hannibal's red herring?

He glanced in the rearview mirror, grimacing a bit at the still black hair. He wasn't sure how he'd explain that yet. Minor problem. Richter might not even notice.

No. Richter would definitely notice. And it would be one more red flag for him.

What if Richter wasn't even there today? It might not be, as Hannibal had assumed, his weekend rotation. Maybe they'd only called him in because of Murdock. Well, that might work out better. Another doctor wouldn't notice the dye job, at any rate. And the facts of Murdock's case wouldn't change. Hannibal would still be able to find out what happened.

It would be better if he could talk to Richter, though. Richter could tell him things that wouldn't be in the reports.

Reports. That was the other sticky point. Did Murdock still have that file with him? Had the staff found it? Read it? If they had...

He frowned, barely noticing as he passed through San Diego and continued north on the 805.


*****

BA watched the van pull out onto the street and drive away. He sighed deeply, shaking his head. He hoped Hannibal wasn't going to be as careless up there as he'd been this morning. Tromping around like a damn elephant, waking the dead. Much as he hated the idea of training exercises, might not be a bad idea to make use of that forest behind the house.

Behind him, he heard Face unlocking his door. Another moment of silence, then quiet footsteps down the stairs. That one didn't need no refresher course. Even when he wasn't trying, he could sneak past damn near anyone.

BA headed across the room, following Face downstairs. He wasn't at all sure how this day was going to work out. From one minute to the next, he never knew what direction the LT was going. Last night, Hannibal said Face hadn't locked his door. Like it was a big milestone.

Wonder how many seconds it took after Hannibal left him for that to change.

BA stopped abruptly at the foot of the stairs, watching Face watching out the window. Didn't matter if he'd locked it after talking to Hannibal. What mattered was he'd left it unlocked to begin with.

He was trying.

BA straightened, nodding as Face turned and looked at him.

BA Baracus would keep trying, too.


*****

It took a moment before Hannibal realized where he was. He tried to shrug it off; he'd driven by Pendleton several times over the years. Hell, he'd even gone fishing there - well, Murdock's Uncle Tyrone had. Hannibal smiled a bit at that. Good old Tyrone had shown up a few places over the last couple years. Didn't hurt his credibility any.

Well, until now.

He frowned, rolling his shoulders and determinedly concentrating on the road ahead. There were other thoughts creeping into his head now. Memories and pictures of things he thought he'd put aside.

Platt. Even after all that crap in the camps, he'd stayed in the Corps. Was one of the Marines still over there before Saigon fell. Should've been stateside, raising a family, going to school. All he'd gotten was a body bag.

Damn shame.

Like Cook, and Shipley. He should've gotten them out along with the others. He tried really hard not to think of those two. They hadn't been his, officially, and not even for very long, but still... He'd been in charge.

Seemed to take forever to drive the twenty-some mile stretch of highway. Beach on one side, sharp foothills on the other. Marines all over both.

He didn't know what had happened to Russo. Hannibal had figured he'd stay with Platt, but he'd gotten out just as fast as he could. Semper Fi be damned. But that was okay. Ray had done the same, when he'd seen the writing on the wall. Smart. Hannibal should've gotten out. Maybe if he had, BA and Face wouldn't have stayed either. Sure as hell that robbery wouldn't have happened.

He again straightened his shoulders.

Sure as hell Wiley wouldn't have...

Shit.

Hannibal glared at the hillside and pressed down on the accelerator.

Hard.


*****

Face was looking through the front window at the empty garage. It sat at an angle to the house, a short breezeway between the two buildings. He pondered on that for a while, wondering at the logic. Anything to keep from thinking of Hannibal driving away. Wondering what had happened with Murdock. If anything had happened with Murdock.

The idea that Hannibal might not come back didn't bother him nearly as much as his own reaction to that idea. He didn't want Hannibal to disappear again. And that had both surprised him and scared him. Until he remembered. Hannibal couldn't leave. Not yet. Not until Face had a chance to make it up to him. He didn't know how to do that yet, but he would find some way. Because this was all his fault. He knew that now.

Because of Wrenn.

So Hannibal had to come back. And Face had to make it up to Hannibal, and BA. It was too late for Wiley - but then, Face figured they were even.

He softly chewed on his lip. Was Murdock his fault? He didn't think so. Murdock had been on his way to the funny farm long before the robbery. And it sounded like he'd stayed in Nam even after the guys were arrested. Which probably proved the man was crazy.

Murdock wasn't his fault. But Murdock was the reason they'd finally come looking for him. Gotten him out of the hellhole.

He owed Murdock, but how to repay him was way beyond Face's imagination right now. But one day.

"You ready for breakfast, LT?"

Face jumped. Damn it. He had to stay focused. Too many times he'd gone off in his thoughts, forgotten what was going on around him. Didn't know when that had started, but he didn't like it. Had to stay on top of things. Had to -

"Face?"

"Yeah." He could feel his face warming as he hurried across the living room. BA had been acting different lately. Almost... friendly. At least he wasn't angry all the time. Face didn't want to rock the boat there. No. Had to keep things smooth. Had to.

Not that he was much help in the kitchen. The only cooking he'd done for a long time was over a campfire. And, try as he would, he couldn't help jumping back when BA stepped too close. Finally, BA stopped and looked at him, and Face waited for the axe to fall.

"You want toast? Ain't got a toaster but we can do it on the burner there."

Face looked over at the stove. Electric. No flame. Yeah, that could work.

"Yeah."

"Okay." BA turned on the burner and laid two slices of bread on it. "Now, you just gotta turn 'em over when they start getting dark. Okay?"

Face nodded, moving over beside the stove and stared down at the bread, concentrating. He knew BA was close to losing his temper and he couldn't let that happen. Not today. Not with Hannibal gone. So no drifting off. Concentrate. On the other burner, BA had tossed bacon into their only frying pan, and was now cracking eggs into a battered metal bowl for scrambling.

He could smell the bacon now, as it started really cooking. Face shifted. BA glanced over, smiling. He was smiling an awful lot this morning. BA didn't smile. Something wrong with BA smiling. He looked down at the bread. Concentrate. The burner was on low. That was okay. Only a dummy could burn toast on the low setting. That much he knew.

The bacon started crackling. The smell got stronger. He shifted again, moving to the side of the stove. That smell followed him.

He knew that smell. Not... not bacon.

He took a step back from the stove.

No. It's just bacon. That's all. Just bacon. Concentrate. Watch the bread. Don't let it burn.

Not like...

He swallowed. Hard.

BA was looking in the cupboard now. Face had put the small stock of spices up there. BA wouldn't understand. He stepped back toward the stove. Watch the bread. Getting brown now. On the edges. Turn it over. Don't let it burn.

He grabbed the first slice by the corner, flipped it over. Hot. He grabbed the other one, dropped it half on, half off the burner.

The bacon smell was filling the kitchen now.

Like it filled the cave. Couldn't get away from that smell.

The screams.

He saw how Arnie had looked at him. Like he was some kind of monster. Couldn't help it. Nothing he could do. Nothing any of them could do. Nothing but listen to those screams and pretend he didn't hear them. Pretend it wasn't happening. Go somewhere else. Think about something else. Ignore the screams. Ignore the smell. Ignore it. It wasn't happening. It wasn't...

"Face!"


*****

He hadn't intended to stop. Maybe it was the early hour, maybe it was a lack of decent sleep the night before... maybe he was just tired, period. For whatever reason, he saw the signs for the mission and he followed them. He drove down the street, passing, again for reasons unknown, the mission itself. He pulled into a parking lot, squeezing the van in between a camper and a station wagon, habit making him check to be sure the van wouldn't be easily seen before he shut it off and stepped out. He just wanted to move around a bit, then he'd get on the road again.

Stepping away from the van, he rolled his shoulders, stretched his arms out and back. Felt good, getting the kinks out. He pulled a cigar from his pocket and, lighting it, started strolling up the sidewalk across from the mission. For a few minutes - just a few - he would pretend he had nothing more pressing on his mind than enjoying a slow cigar.

He glanced over at the mission periodically as he walked. Stone walls and plantings made it difficult to see inside the grounds, but he could see the swallows drifting above. He stopped, watching them for a few moments. Soon time for them to leave the mission, heading wherever it was they went for the winter. Reminded him of watching the birds back home when he was a kid. Huge flocks, gathering and whirling around the sky, then gradually they disappeared as the cold weather came in. He remembered that strange loneliness, watching them. Wishing he, too, was heading... somewhere.

He continued up the street. Just a little ways further. That's all.

He looked across the street again. From here he could see the bell wall, with the ages old bells gently swaying in the wind.

"Those bells were hung from a tree before the mission itself got built."

Hannibal jumped, jerking his head around to find an old man beside him. The man looked from the bells to Hannibal, smiling a nearly toothless grin.

"Some people call it the Mission of the Tragedies." They looked back across the street, the old man's head moving slowly as he looked along the long protective walls. "Yep, thing dang near died don't know how many times. First the Indians, then pirates. Earthquakes, too. Seems like God himself wanted to be rid of it." The old man chuckled. "Or maybe He was just testin, huh? 'Cause she sure didn't wanna die. Now they call her the Jewel of the Missions." The old man shook his head, moving slowly off. "Yep, now they call her the Jewel..."

Hannibal looked at the mission for another moment before turning toward the old man. But he was already disappearing around the curve. Frowning, Hannibal took one last look across the street, considering the old bells, the swallows, what the old man had said. Thought about Face - and the one aspect he hadn't considered until now.

Maybe... Hannibal felt a small surge of hope. Could the Church help? Would having him talk to a priest give him some peace? Or would it make him feel even worse? He thought about Father O'Malley. Tried to picture Face telling him what had happened. No. That wouldn't work. Hannibal couldn't see Face telling a priest about that.

He turned, tossing the cigar in the gutter, and walked slowly back to the van. Pulling out onto the street, he took one last look at the mission.

No. He couldn't see Face telling anyone about that.


*****

BA sat on the steps, chewing on burned toast. He didn't like it, but it was his own fault. One, for even suggesting toast when they had no toaster. Two, for using the burners on the stove to make the toast. Three, for telling the LT to watch the toast while he dished up the rest of their makeshift breakfast. Shouldn't have done that, not knowing Face had a habit of spacing out at the oddest of times.

BA sighed, looking out at the yard, and tossed the rest of his toast on the grass. Face, sitting on the other side of the porch, looked up. BA forced a smile and shrugged. Waited. Face looked at his own blackened slice and tossed it over the rail. BA thought he saw a smile. Yeah. That was a smile. Good.

BA smiled back."Burnt offering."

Face's eyes widened. "What?"

BA shook his head, smiling more widely now. "That's what my mama used to say when she burned something. Y'know - from the Bible?" Face abruptly turned his head, looking out over the backyard.

Damn. Shoulda remembered. The LT was Catholic. Maybe that wasn't the best joke to make. Dumb joke to make.

"Hey, man, I didn't mean no disrespect. I - " He stopped as Face tossed his plate off the porch. Waited, a wary frown forming as Face looked down and away.

"He screamed."

BA barely made out the words. "What'd you say, Face?"

Face raised his head, staring up at the sky.

"He screamed. Over and over... over and... " His voice trailed away to a whisper.

BA stood slowly, cautiously crossing the small porch. He knelt, just as slowly, beside Face, watching his lips moving as he continued to gaze upward. Whatever he was saying was inaudible.

"Face?"

Face stopped, swallowed. "He was... he was just a kid. And they... they made him... they cut off pieces of him and made him... " Face swallowed again. "They threw his body on the fire. When he died, they threw him on the fire. And the smoke came in and the smell came in and... and... "

"Face." BA took his shoulder, giving him the smallest shake. He could feel the tremor under his hand. "Face, that's... that's all done with now. Over and done with. Ain't nothin you can do about it now."

Face turned, looking straight at BA.

"There was nothing I could do about it then, either, BA. I knew it. So I just shut it out. Didn't listen. But I heard it, BA. I heard it all. I tried to shut it out but it was still there. Over and over and... "

"I know, LT. The things we all seen over there - but like I said, it's over now. And it's, it's like seeing a dog run over in the street, y'know? Ain't nothin you do can change what happened. So you just... you just gotta let it go. Can't forget it - I know that. But you don't think about it. Cause that just makes it hurt. And you had enough a that already."

BA knew he shouldn't have said that the second the words came out. Face flushed crimson and abruptly stood, nearly knocking BA over. By the time BA got his balance and stood, the screen door had swung shut, and he could hear the quick footsteps going up the stairs. A door slammed.

BA sat back on the steps, watching the birds picking at the toast in the grass.


*****

He'd been driving for well over an hour since leaving the mission. Thoughts about Face were pushed out of his head. He couldn't say he felt confident that BA would keep things from blowing up, but he would keep them under control. That was probably the best anyone could hope for at the moment. Now he had to think about Murdock and Richter. Try to come up with the right questions, the right answers, the right explanations.

Best case scenario - Murdock was just worn down from the trip, hadn't had a chance to read the file.

Fat chance.

Okay. So he'd read it. Hannibal didn't need much imagination to know what sort of 'major setback' that had caused. Which meant it was Richter's bailiwick and Hannibal would have to deal with him. He'd have to give the doc enough info so he could help Murdock without bringing the military down on all of them.

But how much was really enough?

That all depended on whether Richter had found that file. Hannibal had no doubt Richter would be waving the damn thing in Hannibal's face if he had. Telling him what an idiot he was for letting Murdock have it.

Nothing that Hannibal hadn't already been telling himself. He'd kicked himself a hundred times since that phone call yesterday. Why the hell hadn't he locked that glove box? Or put that file in his own duffle? Someplace Murdock wouldn't have looked? Having other things on his mind was no excuse. He was a military man - he was supposed to be able to handle every and all situations that came up. It shouldn't have mattered what else was going on. Just finding Murdock with it in the first place...

Hannibal jerked as a horn blared past. Dammit! That's all he needed - get himself into a car wreck. Wouldn't the Army just love that? And then where would they be? He could just see Murdock - he'd go so deep into LaLa Land he'd never find his way back. And BA, Face - hell, if they didn't kill each other first, they'd find some other way to self-destruct. BA had always had a quick temper, and it had just gotten worse since that court-martial. If it hadn't been for Hannibal - and getting involved with those kids - BA would've been in jail or dead long ago. And Face... well, Hannibal had no doubt at all what would happen to him.

Traffic was slowing now as cars, taxis and busses started maneuvering for the LAX exits. Hannibal watched as one by one, they slipped off the freeway, heading for the terminals. He felt a little tug, inside. Wouldn't be the first time he'd considered getting on a plane, heading back to the Midwest. Back to his roots. Not that it really mattered now - he had no one left back there. Still... it was home. Always would be. Except, of course, he couldn't really go home. People back there would know who he was, and, hometown boy or not, they'd turn him in. Loyalty to friends never came before the law. Not back there. Especially friends they hadn't heard from in years.

Didn't have to go home, though. He could just get on a plane... any plane. Go anywhere. Start over, fresh. Clean slate. Forget all of this. Did he really think he was the only safety net for these guys? Was he that egotistical? When it came right down to it, hadn't he done enough already? What other CO would've stuck around for Murdock? He wasn't his father, for chrissake. One day the guy would have to stand on his own two feet, make it in the real world.

BA wasn't a kid any more. Hell, was it Hannibal's fault he hadn't learned to control his temper? Was he supposed to hang around like a damn truant officer, making sure the sergeant toed the line?

And Face...

And Face.

He watched as the last exit disappeared in the rearview mirror.


*****

BA had washed up the dishes, handling them more carefully than he normally would. He didn't want to make too much noise. If there was anything going on upstairs that... well, that shouldn't be, he wanted to hear it. He'd thought about going up there, trying to talk to him, but he knew his limitations. That'd been brought home full force.

He was just putting the last plate away when a loud buzz sounded from the living room. Immediately he grabbed the 45 from the counter and rushed to the front window, peering around the edge without moving the sheer curtain. He heard footsteps upstairs, and knew Face was watching just as intensely from the front bedroom.

Moments later a large straight truck appeared around the last small stand of trees, pulling to a rough stop by the garage. Two heavy-set men in dirty jeans and t-shirts climbed out of the cab. One consulted a clipboard while the other ambled to the back and opened the wide swing doors. Only then did BA relax, seeing the truck filled with their furniture.

He put the 45 carefully in a kitchen drawer, giving the receiver for their trip line a satisfied smile as he passed. He hesitated at the bottom of the stairs. He didn't know how much of the work those two dudes outside intended to do, and knew he couldn't do it all himself, but he couldn't help thinking the more time the LT had to settle down, the better.

The two men looked BA up and down as he came off the front steps. BA knew that look and didn't like it, not one bit. But he knew Hannibal would cut him a new one if he caused problems with them. The less notice they drew, the longer the three of them could stay here. So he swallowed his pride and, while not friendly, didn't challenge them.

The men were in a hurry, and BA knew they resented working on Sunday morning. Well, that wasn't his fault - he smiled a bit, remembering Face, starting to walk out on her. He sure put the kibosh on any more delivery arguments. Then BA frowned, remembering the aftermath.

He came back to the present as the lift gate began whining, slowly descending with the first pieces of furniture. He stepped over - might not like these guys or their attitude, but he wasn't going to stand around like an overseer, either. Sooner they got this stuff in the house, sooner these guys would out of here.

"Where you want this?"

The older of the two - and the fattest - stood at the bottom of the stairs, holding the headboard for one of the beds.

"Just put everything in the livin room. I'll put it away later."

BA ignored the surprised looks the two men exchanged. Face was still quiet upstairs, and BA wanted to keep it that way. Hell, the LT could be sleeping - or he could be waiting for an enemy attack. Just never knew with that guy. BA wasn't going to tempt fate. No way.

It took almost an hour. The two movers taking the heavier pieces between them, BA hauling in the rest. He heard the quiet comments, the muttered resentment. Made his blood boil, but dammit, Hannibal was counting on him. He was a Special Forces Sergeant First Class - he had a mission to complete and by God, he was going to do it without any hitches.

The last piece of furniture was the couch. It was oversized, bulky and heavy, barely fitting in the door. BA shook his head as the movers struggled with it. Face had stood in the midst of all the couches, undecided. Then he'd looked at BA, so intensely it made BA uncomfortable. And then he'd looked over at the biggest, heaviest couch and pointed.

A perfect fit for a man like BA.

Now, watching the struggle to get the couch inside and then find a place for it among all the other furniture, BA was wishing Face hadn't been so eager to please. He started moving chairs, tables, lamps - anything to make room for it and get these guys out before the last bit of their patience ran out.

Then the old guy tripped over the coffee table. He fell, shoving the couch frantically away from him. The couch turned, pulling out the other man's hands and dropping like a boulder to the floor.

BA, standing by the stairs, started toward the first man, but something stopped him. He looked up - Face was at the top of the stairs, and his expression spooked BA.

"S'okay, man. We got it." He looked Face right in the eye, trying to sound... normal.

"So that's why we couldn't go upstairs, huh?"

BA jerked around at the sneering tone. The man who'd tripped was leering up at Face, rubbing his shin. His partner was shaking his head, a disgusted look on his face.

"You better leave. Now." BA jerked his head at the door.

"Yeah, you bet." Limping, the older man led the way outside, BA following as far as the door. He heard Face coming slowly down the stairs behind him, staying back some distance.

Which was just fine with BA.

The two movers stood by the truck as the lift gate slowly rose back into position. They continued to glare at BA, and Face, who now stood just behind him, as they stepped into the truck and backed out. BA was just starting to relax when the truck abruptly stopped, and the younger man climbed out, clipboard in hand. Scowling, he walked up toward BA.

Mumbling, "You gotta sign that.", he tossed the clipboard on the porch.

It took every ounce of will-power, but BA silently reached down and picked up the board. He scribbled across the bottom, tearing the sheet and not caring. With a small smile, he tossed the clipboard on the grass at the man's feet.

The two men looked at each other for what seemed like hours. BA could feel Face moving closer. He gave a slight jerk of his head at the mover, and thankfully, he took the hint. He reached down and grabbed up the clipboard.

Then he screwed it all up. Intentionally or not, the insult was heard.

"Fuckin' nigger fag..."

Face was flying out the door before BA even knew he'd moved. Almost too late, BA grabbed him around the waist, yanking him off his feet before he could tackle the mover.

"What the fuck?"

"Get outta here! Now!" BA yelled, half afraid Face would get loose, half afraid he'd let him.

It wasn't until the truck was disappearing around the curve that BA relaxed his hold on Face, who shoved away, staggering a few steps down the drive. He spun around, rage on his face.

"Why? Why'd you let him say that? Why - "

" 'Cause it don't matter. It don't!" BA's shoulders slumped, the tension suddenly gone. "Gotta let that shit go, Face. Let it go."

Face looked from BA to the drive, and for a moment, BA wasn't sure if he was going to start after the truck or not. Face turned, and BA could see the indecision, the frustration. Suddenly Face headed for the house, pushing past BA. He stopped on the porch. Not looking back, he said, "He shouldn't have called you that."

BA shook his head. "I know that."

Face nodded, headed into the house, and stopped again in the doorway. BA watched, waiting. Face grabbed the doorframe, shoulders sagging, and looked back.

"And I'm not."

He moved into the house. BA could hear him going back up the stairs. Slowly. He sighed.

"I know you ain't, LT. I know."


*****

He pulled the van into a parking spot not far from Murdock's building. He looked around carefully as he got out. He'd never liked the layout of the VA. Too many straight streets, with large uncluttered buildings. Way too easy to get cut off, way too hard to hide. He and BA both knew this place like the back of their hands, had traveled the streets many times, looking. Verifying. They knew where to go, where not to. Most of the damn place was a 'not to'. They'd been lucky so far; the Army had never been here at the same time they were.

This might be a first.

He'd parked on the edge of the lot, facing the street. He could bounce over the curb to the street and be off in seconds - if he got back to the van. If not - well, on foot he could disappear into almost any of the myriad of buildings. If they were typically stupid, they'd come in in swarms, hunting him. Then all he'd need was one of them not paying attention. If they were smart, they'd just wait at the exits. He'd have to come out at some point. But with Lynch in charge, he wasn't worried.

He sighed. Thinking about everything except what he should be. Like Richter and tap-dancing around all the things he didn't know. All the things Hannibal didn't know. Making sure he got the information he needed from Richter. Making sure the doc didn't get the wind up and cut off all contact with Murdock. Tricky, when he had no idea what Murdock had told Richter. Or anyone else.

Then getting hold of that damn file. He had no choice there. One way or another, he'd have to get access to Murdock - wherever the hell they had him now. Hannibal didn't even know if Murdock had read the whole thing. How much would have sent him over the edge, anyway? He'd seemed okay when they dropped him off. Well, not 'okay' okay, but...

Shit. Hannibal tried to think how that file had been organized. At what point would it have been too much? The intake? The medical?

Like it mattered. He had to get the file so Murdock couldn't finish reading it, couldn't re-read it, whatever. He had to get it before it fell into the wrong hands. Again.

His hand on the door, he hesitated. There was one thing he hadn't thought about. One thing he'd circled, touched on, but never thought about by itself. And it was the thing that was really the most important.

Murdock.

He stepped back from the door, looking out across the lawn, toward the street. What if Murdock couldn't come back from this one? This, the latest "major setback". How many setbacks had there been now? Each time, he'd come back. Sometimes fast, sometimes... but he'd always come back. And it had been a long time since the last one. He was stronger now. Hell, someone really crazy couldn't have put together this whole quest to find Face.

Except he hadn't been looking for Face. He'd been looking for Kyle. He'd been looking for a guy to tell him about a man he knew was dead. Whose death he'd accepted. It was the circumstances he couldn't deal with.

That's what he'd thought, anyway.

Hell, that's what they'd all thought. And he'd held together, all that time on the road, all that time running on one wild goose chase after another, one blowup after another. Yeah, he'd gotten a little loopy now and then. But... but he'd been handling it.

Until they found Kyle. And Kyle suddenly wasn't Kyle.

It had all been downhill after that. Hannibal knew it. BA knew it. They should've done something sooner. Should've gotten Murdock back here faster. Should've paid closer attention. To everything.

Should've never let him even know about that fucking file.

If Hannibal had had his brain somewhere other than up his ass, he'd have called Richter, put Murdock on a plane and let the guys in white pick him up at the airport. That's what he should've done. Yeah, it would've been tricky, with all the uproar, but he should've figured out a way. He should've done whatever it took to take care of his man.

He shouldn't have let him stay.

"Are you all right, sir?"

Hannibal jerked upright. A nurse was standing next to him, frowning.

"Sir?"

"Yes, yes, thank you. I'm fine. Just, uh..." He nodded toward the door. "My son..."

She smiled sympathetically.

"I understand, sir. It's hard, at first. But rest assured, he's getting the best of care here."

He nodded, and watched as she stepped through the door, giving him another encouraging smile.

Best of care. He couldn't dispute that. All the more reason he should've...

Shit. Who was he trying to kid? Murdock would never have gotten on that plane. He would never leave Face.

Hannibal straightened up, walked through the door, stepped up to the desk. Sat in the chair in the hall, waiting while they paged Dr Richter. Stared at the wall.

He'd been strong.

He had been strong.

Until Face came back from the dead.