CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

By the next day everyone had had a chance to catch up on their sleep and regain their energy. It started snowing early in the morning with more predicted, and Hannibal decided it was time to head back to LA before they got delayed in the mountains. He was also getting a bit anxious about staying in one place too long, not yet knowing what repercussions might be coming from The Meadows.

They gathered their belongings and loaded the van. They had a bit of a problem with Face at that point. For some reason, he didn't want to get into the van. He didn't put up a fight or argue. He just stood still. Stiff. Once again, it was BA to the rescue. Murdock watched closely as BA spoke quietly to him, and again, Face actually responded, although too softly for Murdock to hear. After a moment's hesitation, BA nodded his head and stepped over to Murdock and Hannibal.

"I don't know what's going on with him, but he doesn't want any guns in the van. I said we could lock them all up in the chest, and that's okay. But he won't get in if any of us is carrying."

"I don't like that, BA. We don't know who might be coming after us. I don't want to be caught unarmed. And the chest is too hard to get at from inside."

"I'm not gonna force him, Hannibal. We can keep a sharp eye out for tails. We see anything wrong at all, we can pull off and load up. They don't know we came up this way anyway."

Hannibal shook his head, but reluctantly agreed. The three men locked away the handguns they had been carrying and Face got into the van without further incident.

The van was as silent as the cabin had been. Face closed his eyes and pretended not to hear anything that was said to him. After a few futile attempts, even Murdock gave up.

Face's behavior was worrying him, badly. With this latest incident, Face had clearly shown that not only did he not trust him or Hannibal, but he was actually fearful that one or both of them intended to harm him. And if he felt that way, they were dead in the water.


*****

Hannibal and BA kept exchanging glances throughout that first day's drive. Both knew the other wanted to talk, but they couldn't. Not with Face sitting behind them. When they stopped for lunch and again for supper, Face stayed close to BA. Not clinging to him, as he seemed to want to keep his personal space pretty wide, but keeping him within reach. It wasn't until they stopped at another motel for the night that BA and Hannibal had a chance to be by themselves.

BA told Face to go with Murdock to their rooms, assuring him that he would be along in a few minutes. Face was reluctant, but acquiesced. He looked back once, noting that Hannibal was not coming either, and then followed Murdock.

The two men looked at each other, both concerned and puzzled.

"What the hell is going on, BA? Why is Face afraid of me? And Murdock he just ignores as much as he can. Has he said anything to you about it?"

"Nothin, Hannibal. He mostly answers me when I ask him a question, but he don't volunteer. The only thing I can figure is that first night, when he was so scared of everything. He might still be thinking about that. But he acts like he thinks you're gonna do somethin bad to him, and that I can't understand at all. Even if he's not thinking straight, he should know better'n that."

"Any suggestions, BA?"

"Talk to him, Hannibal. I think you should sit down and talk to him. Let him know you've noticed how he's actin and tell him straight out you're not gonna do anything to hurt him. Maybe he'll listen, maybe he won't. But it'll give him somethin to think about."

"Yeah, I think you're right. Put the cards on the table." They started toward the room. "I'm thinking we should drive straight through to LA after tonight. We're all rested up well enough. The sooner we get some place permanent the sooner we can start getting his head straight."

"Okay, Hannibal. Got no problem with that."


*****

Murdock and BA were sitting in the corner of the room, discussing the menu. They were going to order pizza delivered to the room and the usual argument over ingredients had ensued. Face was sitting on the bed, in his usual position, back up against the headboard, hands stuffed in his pockets. The TV was on and he was staring at the screen, but no one knew if he was actually watching it. His expression never changed regardless of what went on onscreen. Hannibal had been sitting at the desk, ostensibly reading the local newspaper, but in reality he was building up the courage to approach Face. He'd been doing such a grand job of screwing things up with him he was actually nervous.

BA had told Murdock very briefly what he and Hannibal had planned. He was afraid Murdock would veto it but was relieved when Murdock endorsed it enthusiastically. He too felt Hannibal had to let Face know that no one was going to do anything to harm him, especially Hannibal.

So BA and Murdock moved to the corner and started their arguing, prolonging it so Face wouldn't realize they were setting him up. And eventually Hannibal stood up and went over to the opposite side of the bed Face was on.

"Mind if I sit, Face?"

Face tried to ignore him. If he didn't respond, maybe he would just go away. He would want Face to talk, and Face didn't want to talk. He just wanted to be left alone. He glanced over at BA, but the big guy was arguing with Murdock.

Hannibal saw the glance and sighed. Face wasn't going to make this easy at all. Deciding he had to take the bull by the horns, he sat on the bed. Wrong move.

The minute Hannibal sat down, Face was up. No way. Way too close there. Within reach. No way. He backed up as far as he could, which was, unfortunately, only a couple feet. Then he was up against the wall. He was trying not to panic. He didn't know why Hannibal's move had scared him, but it had and he wanted out.

BA and Murdock were immediately up. Hannibal stay seated, waving them back. This had gone on long enough. He would try to calm Face down, but he was also going to make sure the kid knew that Hannibal would never ever hurt him. He had to get that through to him.

"Take it easy, Face. I'm not coming any closer. I'm going to sit right here and talk. That's all. Just talk. Ok?"

Face looked to BA. BA nodded back. This was okay? Hannibal was between them. Face didn't like that. Not at all. But BA said it was okay. Face took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down, just a bit. He wanted to be ready, just in case. He looked back at Hannibal.

"Ok."

Hannibal sat quiet for a moment. BA and Murdock slowly sat down, trying to make Face realize that this was not a major deal. They had to be calm if he was going to settle down.

"Face, I'm not sure what's going on here with you and me." Hannibal talked softly but firmly. He didn't want to appear pleading. Face had to understand that he meant every word he was saying. "For some reason, you have the idea that I may try to hurt you in some way. I don't know where that came from, but I want you to know that I would never hurt you, Face. Never. I would not lie to you, you know that. I will not hurt you. You have my word of honor on that."

Face just looked at him. Hannibal wouldn't lie to him? What about the forgiveness, Hannibal? What about Stockwell, Colonel? What about the set up with Carla, Colonel? Face could feel himself getting angry. Real angry. He hadn't felt anything for a couple of days and now all he was feeling was anger. He clenched his hands tightly. Control them.

Just go away, Hannibal. Go away and leave me alone.

Hannibal looked at him some more. Finally he said, "Are we straight with that, Face? 'Cause if we aren't, we gotta get it straight. We can't keep going like this any more, okay?"

"Go away."

Hannibal sighed. He guessed that could be considered progress. At least it was something more than 'ok'. He knew Face didn't believe him yet, but at least he'd said it. Like BA had said, it would give him something to think about.

Hannibal got up slowly and went back to the chair. He casually picked up the newspaper and started reading. He would give Face all the space he needed. No pressure.

Murdock and BA took their cue. They went back to discussing the pizza, and calmly placed the order. Face stayed at the wall, watching them. He felt the anger slowly draining away. After a few minutes, assured that no one was making any further moves toward him, he slowly sat back in position on the bed and closed his eyes. When the pizza arrived, he ignored it. He fell asleep sitting up.