CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

"Okay, ma'am, just sign these and you're all set to go." The clerk smiled brightly, hoping to bring a little cheer to the patient.

The patient wasn't cooperating. Glaring at the hopeful perkiness, she scribbled her signature on the bottom of at least six pages and shoved them back. As the clerk scurried from the room, Carla slid out of the bed and grabbed her clothes from the closet. Thank God someone had had them cleaned and mended.

She took a cab directly to the office. She was not surprised to find it almost empty of personnel, even though not even 24 hours had passed. Only the last of the clean up crew were still around. A couple of them nodded to her as she swept by on her way to Stockwell's office. Correction. Stockwell's former office.

Hers now.

She would have new people coming in within hours. Different people. People loyal to her. Who would do what she told them, when she told them, and without question. She had a lot of damage control to take care of, a lot of fence mending. A lot of planning.

There was also a little matter of that hole in her shoulder...


*****

Hannibal had at first been relieved when Face reached for him. That was a good sign, right? But then he realized that Face was hanging on too tightly; his body wasn't trembling - it was shaking, violently shaking. He had yet to say anything other than one mumbled "Hannibal". The man was in a full blown panic.

Hannibal looked to a wide-eyed Murdock and stunned BA, helpless. The pilot immediately went for their medical bag. BA moved toward Hannibal, wanting to help, not sure how. At the same time, Hannibal started gently to disengage Face, trying to make eye contact. Face immediately let go, shoving himself back and away, up against the headboard. His eyes were pain filled and wild and Hannibal knew he'd just made the first mistake. He tried to reconcile this turbulent Face, with the long, untamed hair and beard, with the smooth, almost fussily neat Face he'd known before. He couldn't do it.

He reached out again, hoping to reconnect. Face nearly fell off the bed trying to get away. Murdock raced over to the other side of the bed, syringe in hand. As Face went flying toward the door, BA grabbed him around the waist. There were a few moments of continued struggle before the sedative once again did its job and Face slid moaning to the floor.

Damn.

BA was kneeling on the floor, arms still around the limp body. He glared at Hannibal and Murdock. Neither of them could return his look. He looked down at Face, the glare dissolving as he hugged him a little closer.

"Well, that went well." Murdock's voice was heavy with sarcasm. "Score one for 'no professionals', huh, Colonel?"

"That'll be enough, Captain." Hannibal was not about to get into a debate about that issue. "You want to see him in a prison psych ward until they can shove the needle in, you go get your damn professional. Accept it. It's not gonna happen!"


*****

BA had his own ideas about Face. And one thing he knew for sure. Neither Hannibal nor Murdock were gonna "stick" him again. The poor guy was pumped so full of stuff it was no wonder he didn't know which side was up when he came to. Sure, it was a lot easier when he was out cold, but that didn't make it right. If he had to throw the other two out of the cabin, he was gonna make sure Face got all that out of his system before they moved another inch. He didn't care if the cabin was a shambles when they left. And that's exactly what he'd told Hannibal.

He was sitting on the bed, near, but not touching, Face. He knew the other two saw this as some kind of challenge to them to stay away, and they didn't like it, but that was okay. It had never bothered him to use his bulk to his advantage. He also thought that if he was right there when Face started coming to, then maybe Face wouldn't be so scared. And that's all he was now, really; just plain scared.

He knew there was a lot of stuff going on in Face's head, lots of stuff he didn't understand, but he'd seen it before. They all had. It had just been a long time. And mostly, they hadn't had to deal with it first hand. Even Murdock had been in the VA most of the bad time. Now they had to really deal with it. And he knew that Hannibal and Murdock were gonna lock horns more than once while they were at it. That was okay. He'd be there to make sure they didn't go too far with that. And to make sure they didn't hurt their friend in the process. Just like now. This was BA's job. Protectin him. That was somethin he understood.


*****

Hannibal was outside the cabin, leaning against the van, puffing slowly at his cigar. He was watching the stars. There was something soothing about that. God's in his heaven, all's right with the world. Maybe if he kept saying that, he'd believe it.

He was trying to not think about Face. About that fiasco of earlier in the night. He should have held onto him. Just let him hang on as tight as he wanted. Sometimes, maybe, that's all anyone really needed. Just someone to hang on to. Well, hell, live and learn. Hannibal was an action person. He'd have to learn to mellow - some. There'd be a lot more mistakes made over the next months. (Months. Yeah, it was going to be a long haul.) Hopefully they'd do more things right than they'd screw up. They had to. He was dead set in his conviction that they couldn't take Face to a shrink. Not a reputable one, anyway. There were laws. Doctors had to report criminal acts. Like murder. And that would have to come into it. Could hardly help a man cope with guilt if they didn't know why he felt guilty.

Hannibal threw the stub on the ground. Man, it was cold. He couldn't believe they'd been so lost in this thing they hadn't even noticed the season. Lost was the watch word, all right. They'd been behind the eight ball from the git go on this whole damn mess. Right up until that very last night at Stockwell's... Hannibal would not dwell on that. What had to be done was done. End of story.

He looked at the cabin. He should go in soon. He needed to talk to Murdock. They had to get straight. Hell, they were all exhausted, physically and emotionally. That was one reason he kept sedating Face. Maybe it wasn't the best thing for him right now, but, damn it, he had to think of the whole team, too. He knew Murdock was right on the edge and he wasn't much better. They needed a little down time. That's why he'd decided to stop in here for a few days. Just let everyone wind down a bit. And if that meant drugging the man, well...damn.

In the morning, he'd get a second cabin. Two would stay with Face. The third would get a quiet place to relax and sleep undisturbed. Two or three days like that, they'd all be ready to move on.

Feeling better for having a plan, if only a simple one, Hannibal strode back inside. He'd make sure the team was taken care. That's what he did best.


*****

Murdock had watched as BA took control. He'd lifted Face up and got him re-settled on the bed, and with another glare at Hannibal and Murdock, sat right on the bed beside him, daring anyone to come near them. He had then proceeded to tell them both that they could toss their 'dope' down the toilet because it wasn't going into Face again. Hannibal had tried to reason with him, but it was useless. It was at that point that Murdock left.

He knew that both BA and Hannibal were doing what they thought was right for Face. He couldn't really blame them for that. But they really had no idea what they were dealing with. He knew. He'd spent nearly 20 years finding out. Who else would know enough? No one they could go to.

Murdock knew Hannibal was right about that. No reputable doctor would put his career on the line for a murderer. That just didn't happen. But nothing said Murdock couldn't 'consult' with Dr.. Richter, as long as he didn't know - or guess - what had happened. Or that it was Face they were talking about. Yeah, he could get around that stuff. He'd have to.

He sighed deeply. He should have seen this blowup coming. He'd seen it in so many families at the VA. The stress would get to them and they would implode, fighting among themselves. Sometimes they were able to work it out; sometimes not. This family had to.