CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

He felt the man stirring beside him. Very carefully he placed his own hand on the man's and let it lay. He looked over at Hannibal, in gentle warning. Hannibal nodded in acknowledgment - they were doing this BA's way this time.

A slight trembling started; BA pressed the hand lightly. Quieted. Eyes opening, dull, unfocused. BA started talking quietly, using his name, telling him where he was, that he was safe, he didn't have to do anything, go back to sleep if he wanted to, he wouldn't be alone, he was safe, BA would keep him safe. A deep sigh, the eyes closed once more.

BA smirked, nodded at Hannibal, and closed his own eyes.


*****

Face slept nearly 36 hours straight. It was the heavy drug-induced sleep at first. As the sedatives slowly leeched out of his system, he began stirring more often. Each time BA talked softly, and let him drift back into a more normal slumber.

Hannibal had gotten the second cabin and Murdock had taken the first break. Everyone had been calmer when he and Murdock had returned last night. They all realized, as Murdock had, that each one had their own ideas about what was best for Face and they would have to work them out together. They couldn't let their own stress and worry affect their team work again. It was an acknowledgment of each other's strengths and contributions to the cause. There would be disagreements; there would be no more splits.

They had agreed on two things. Face would not be drugged unless he became violent; he could not be allowed to injure another member of the team. The other was that Face would not be told that Stockwell was dead, or by whose hand. None of them wanted to deal with that issue. Not yet.

BA finally allowed Face to come fully awake. Murdock was with him then, Hannibal catching his sleep in the other cabin. It was much more peaceful this time. He looked around him, warily, but without the combativeness or the panic of the earlier episodes. His eyes finally rested on the big man beside him.

"Hey Face. 'Bout time you woke up. You okay?"

"Yeah." He coughed. He sat up slowly, looking around again. He saw Murdock, sitting on the other bed. Eyed him doubtfully for a moment, then nodded. Murdock grinned at him.

"Welcome back, Face."

"Yeah." Face's voice was flat, uninterested. Murdock looked closely. The eyes were still dull, expressionless. Okay, not what he had hoped, but at least he wasn't trying to run away.

"I guess you must be kinda hungry, huh? Tell you what. Why don't you go on in and take a shower, get yourself cleaned up a bit, and I'll get us some breakfast."

"Ok." Face sat for a moment longer, then moved to get off the bed. He swayed badly and BA grabbed his elbow. Face stiffened and BA let go.

"Get your legs under you first, man. I'm just gonna come along, case you need some help getting there. Ok?"

"Ok." He moved slowly toward the bathroom, eyes watching the floor, occasionally needing BA's arm to grab, and finally reached his destination. He started to close the door, but BA gently held it.

"Just till we know you're okay on your feet, Face, let's leave the door open a bit. Ok?"

"Ok."


*****

The water was as hot as he could get it, which wasn't very hot at all. He stood beneath it, eyes closed, letting it beat on his skin. He wondered why Hannibal wasn't there with the other two. They didn't say anything about him. Maybe he'd left him.

He'd been a fool to think Hannibal had forgiven him. That he would take him back. When the colonel had pushed him away, Face finally had to accept the fact. If anything, he'd gotten him away from Stockwell for the general's safety. Now, Face was with the team out of their sense of obligation. How long would that last?

He thought about BA. BA had said he would keep him safe. Safe from what? Or who? If Face had been accepted back by the team, why would he need protection? What did BA know that Face didn't?

He wished he knew where Hannibal was.

Murdock made him nervous. He wasn't sure why. The pilot had looked at him funny. Like he was trying to see into him. Spooky. He didn't want anybody looking inside him. Especially not Murdock. Murdock knew him too well already. No, Murdock was to be avoided.

He came out of the shower feeling stronger. He'd really been dizzy when he first got up. How long had he been out of things? He looked for his clothes and had a second's panic when he didn't see them. Someone had taken them. There was a pile of clothes next to the sink. He picked through them - all in his size. His gloves. Gone. Was that how they planned it? He took a deep breath. Ok. He would handle it. He had to. He put the clothes on and moved out of the bathroom.

The first thing he saw was Hannibal. Sitting in the only chair. Of course. He looked at Murdock, sitting on one side of the second bed. BA sat on the other. They were all looking at him. Had he grown a second head or something? He saw the breakfast tray by his bed. He wasn't really hungry. Don't make waves. Not now. He sat down and started eating. It was hard. He couldn't look at his hands but he couldn't let them see his weakness, either.

Out of the corner of his eye, Face saw Hannibal look at BA; BA looked at Murdock; Murdock shrugged at them both. Wondering what they were going to do with him now? Or did they have that planned out already? Is that why they'd kept the gloves, was that part of it? Did they already know? Was that why BA was going to keep him safe? Was BA part of it, or not? God, he was getting so confused.

Hannibal said something about going back to LA. He hadn't really been listening. LA? Getting him as far from Stockwell as he could? Ok. It could wait.

"Ok." He went back to the eggs. He sensed that somehow Hannibal expected something more from him. Sorry. He had nothing more to give.