CHAPTER FORTY NINE

Face tried to retreat. It wouldn't come for him. He didn't want to be here. He didn't want the priest here. Why had they brought him? Why? What had they told him? God, please, they didn't tell him everything, did they? They couldn't. He didn't want him to know.

He heard his voice. He wouldn't listen. He didn't want to hear. The disappointment, the anger, the shame. He drowned it out. He wouldn't listen.

What were they thinking? What did they want to do to him? Destroy him, destroy even that last little bit of him that felt like a human being? To bring Father Magill and tell him...how could they do that? Why?

The voice was going on and on. Stop it. Please. Father, please. Go away. I know. I know what you think. You don't have to tell me. Please just go away.

He had to get away. He had to. He couldn't hear this. He couldn't listen. He'd go away. Help me.

Go now. Now.

Father Magill had not understood exactly what Hannibal had meant when he said Templeton would 'go away'. Until he watched it happen. The eyes suddenly went dull and unfocused. What little emotion had been on his face sank into a blank mask. The body relaxed and stilled. There was no response at all to anything more the priest said. Templeton had, indeed, 'gone away'.

He sat for a few moments longer, saying nothing, still holding the cold hands. He offered a prayer, silently. Crossing himself, he gave the hands a last light squeeze and moved toward the house. Murdock met him at the door of the sun room, Templeton's room. They sat, watching as Mama made her way out to Face, taking the priest's place. Face had not been left alone for more than a few moments since they had brought him back.

Murdock looked at Father Magill expectantly.

"There are some complications, I'm afraid."

Murdock shrank inside. He knew it. He just knew it.

"As Templeton's priest, there's a lot I can do for him. With him. Unfortunately, I'm more than just his priest. I'm also his friend. And it was obvious to me that he did not want me here. Not as his friend. He seemed very distressed when he realized I was here. It's going to be very difficult for me to get past that, so that I can help him spiritually."

"Uh, well, can't you just be his friend for now? I mean..."

"No, Murdock. The most important reason for my being here is as his priest. I don't know if you fully understand this, but we are talking about Templeton's immortal soul. This is very serious. You may not believe this, but I do. Templeton does. There is nothing more important."

Well, there it was. That part of Face that the team had only caught glimpses of, that they knew so little of, that part of Face that scared Murdock. He didn't know why; maybe because he could do nothing about it, maybe because he didn't understand a lot about it, maybe because Face held it so solidly within himself. You couldn't grow up with those beliefs so totally encompassing you and let them go easily. Despite all the scams, all the missions, there was always that point beyond which Face would not go. He never made a big deal of it, never spoke of it, may not have even been aware of it himself. The team had just known it was there. Until Stockwell. And now Murdock knew that it was a big part of what had happened after. And the team would have to hand that all over to this priest, and hope that what he did would help and not hurt. And that scared Murdock. That had not been his intent when he had called him.

He cleared his throat, which had become tight. "We'll help you all we can, Father."

"And I will help you, Murdock. But that brings up another complication, I'm afraid. I know that you will want to know of any significant changes or revelations that might occur between Templeton and me. But I'm going to have to, well, withhold a lot. I can't break confidences, even though it might help in his recovery. Not only because I am prohibited from doing so by the Church, but because, as his friend, he may not want some disclosures discussed with others. You understand, don't you, Murdock?"

Unhappily, Murdock did understand. "Sure, Father. We can work with that. I had kinda thought of a way to get through to him, but I'm not sure if it will work."

"Well, let's hear it then. We have to do whatever we can to bring him back whole."


*****

That damn sweet poison again. Mama was trying to push it into his mouth. No. Not any more. It made Face come back when he didn't want him to. It made him weak. No more. They had tricked him once. They'd brought the priest. They'd told the priest. They had told him and now he despised Face. He would not take any more of their damn poison. Face would not come out for them any more. He would push Face so far into himself they would never find him again. So far in he wouldn't even find himself.

"C'mon, baby, take this for me, okay?"

No way. Forget it.

He felt the spoon being taken away. The picture cleared slightly. He could see discouragement on the woman's face.

You don't control me any more.

She was talking to him again. Talk, talk, talk. Were you in on it, too? I'll bet you were. You and Murdock. Gruesome twosome. Always planning. Planned it all out, didn't you? Build him up, shoot him down. Make him pay. Your way. Well, now it's my way, lady. All mine. You've done all you're going to. All of you.

Go to hell, lady. I'll meet you there.


*****

When BA and Hannibal returned with the van, Mama and Murdock were waiting in the living room and one look at the pair told Hannibal neither were happy. There was no sign of Father Magill. Face was in his repaired wheelchair, seated in front of the living room window.

"Okay, now what?"

Murdock nodded at Mama.

"Face won't take his medication and he won't eat and he won't drink."

"What do you mean, he won't? I didn't think he had a choice with you giving it to him."

"He will not open his mouth. Before I could at least get it down him but it's like he's refusin to now."

Shit.

Hannibal looked at Murdock. "Tell me this had nothing to do with Father Magill coming out here."

Murdock's silence told him all he didn't want to know.

"Okay, what happened?"

Reluctantly, Murdock told him what Father Magill had said.

"He's kinda got his own agenda, Hannibal. And now I guess Face does, too. I'm sorry, Colonel. I thought it would be a good idea."

"It was a good idea, Murdock. I think Father Magill is right. Maybe we don't see things that way, but that's how Face was raised and you don't just forget about it. We can't just ignore it. But we have to get him back on track or nobody's going to win."

Hannibal looked over at Face. "Bring me his dinner. And his medications."

"Uh, what are you gonna do, Hannibal?"

"I'm going to let Face know that he's not totally in command here."

"You sure that's a good idea? I mean..."

"Murdock, I'm all for giving Face time to heal. I'm all for helping him do that. You know that. But sometimes we have to do what's best for someone despite themselves. And I'm not going to let him starve himself to death. The time to end that notion is now. Before it goes any further."

The dinner was brought out. Hannibal had the others leave - he may have sounded harsh but he wasn't going to make this a spectacle.

"Face, we're going to eat dinner now. We can do this the hard way or the easy way. It's up to you."

Hannibal had watched Mama do this many times. He did exactly what she had done. Nothing. The only response Hannibal got was a clenched jaw. There was no change of expression, no frown - it was almost like an automatic response. Hannibal sighed.

"Okay, Lieutenant, if that's the way it's got to be..." and he pinched Face's nose shut.

Face jerked back, but Hannibal would not let go. Face had no choice now; he had to breathe. He opened his mouth to get air and Hannibal shoved the first spoonful in. Gasping and choking, Face swallowed.

"Okay, Face, now this is how it's going to be. You will eat. You will drink. Or you're going to get the same treatment until you do."

The hell with you, Colonel.

Hannibal was shocked at how quickly those eyes could focus. He suddenly found himself looking at two blue orbs that sparked with anger - no, fury. 'God, not again.'

"Face, don't even think about it. Look, I know you're upset because of Father Magill. But we thought he could help you, Face. He can, if you let him."

"You told him."

"Yes, I did, Face. He needed to know so he could help you."

"You shouldn't have."

"Why, Face?"

No reply.

"You thought he'd stop loving you if he knew."

Face started trembling.

"Face, Father Magill could no more stop loving you than we could. You know that."

What? He searched Hannibal's eyes for signs of the lie. He couldn't find it. It wasn't there.

"Face, you saved our lives. You sacrificed yourself, everything to keep Stockwell from blowing us away. How could we stop loving you for that?"

"But, I..." This was too much. Too much. "I made you kill him. I made you like me. How..." His mind was swirling in circles. He was swirling. He couldn't think.

"I killed him because I had to, Face. That was his choice, his decision, not mine, not yours. So, yeah, I am like you. I did what I had to do."

It's a trick, bud. They're full of them. They made the priest hate you.

But he said...

Bull. Don't listen to him. He's been lying to you all along.

No, no, Hannibal doesn't lie to me...he doesn't lie...

He killed Stockwell and didn't tell you. He made you think you failed.

But I did fail. And Hannibal had to clean up the mess after...

"Face! Don't leave me now, Face. Don't run away. Please!"

"I'm tired..."

"Okay. You can sleep. Just don't go away, okay? Please."

Face looked at Hannibal. Pleading. "I don't know if I can. I'm supposed to go."

"Supposed to? Why, Face?"

"I have to pay."

"Not like this, Face. Please, let Father Magill help you. He knows what to do. Will you do that, Face? Will you talk to Father Magill?"

Father Magill hates you, bud. They all do. Even you do.

Hannibal shook his head. He'd lost the battle. But he wasn't about to lose the war. No way.