CHAPTER SIXTY

Hannibal was on the phone with a contractor. An old client who would be discreet. Some old habits died hard in Hannibal. Free men or not, no one needed to know what would be going on at the farm. He'd spoken with the landlord; the price was a bit steep but manageable. Thanks to Face's financial expertise it was do-able. The paperwork was being drawn up now. By the end of the month, the farm would be theirs. The day after closing, the contractors would begin work renovating the barn. He'd been promised all would be finished within a few weeks after that.

He really wished he could have had Face deal with all of this. Face could probably have gotten the farm for relatively next to nothing. And the contractor, ex-client or not, was going to be a nightmare of details and decisions. That, again, had been Face's forte. Hannibal wouldn't have had to think about any of this. And it would have come out exactly the way Hannibal wanted it.

Maybe this was all premature. What happened when they started getting clients again? He had to consider Face. They couldn't leave him on his own, not yet. Maybe never. They never knew exactly what might set him off. And right now, he seemed to be falling back, losing ground to those damn flashbacks. They had to find some way to deal with that. They had to find a way to deal with a lot of things when it came to Face.

Well, things would come together. Hannibal would make sure of that. The farm, the team, Face. He would make it all work, somehow. After all, that's what he did best.


*****

"Face, what are you doing? Are you okay?"

He swung around to the pilot. He hadn't heard him coming up behind him. Gotta watch that. And he had to watch what he said, too. How he acted. If he weren't careful, Murdock would know immediately that things had changed - and why.

"Yeah, I'm okay. Just thinking. Need to get my head on straight again." He smiled, that ingratiating little smile Face had. "Sometimes I just need a little fresh air to clear the cobwebs."

Murdock was looking suspiciously at him. How much had he seen? Heard?

"I thought I heard you talking to someone."

"Oh," he grinned sheepishly, "just thinking out loud. Sometimes it helps get things clearer."

"Sounded like a pretty heated conversation."

Pretty blatant there, Captain. Don't get too smart.

"Conversation?" he chuckled. "I guess you could call it that. But nothing heated about it. I just bounce things around, try to figure out what's going to work best." Murdock was putting him on edge. Better lay off, guy. Not the time to start pushing me. "C'mon, let's go grab something to eat. For some reason, I'm starving." He headed back to the house, leaving Murdock standing.

He would have to take it easy for a couple of days. Didn't want to be too 'normal' - not yet. It would grate on him, playing Face, but he didn't want to blow it now.

What do you mean, 'blow it'?

Nothin', kid. Relax. I'll take care of you. Just like I promised.


*****

Murdock watched Face closely the rest of the day. If it aroused his suspicions, he didn't really care. If he was right, a confrontation was needed ASAP. But he still wasn't sure. He kicked himself for not moving closer to Face earlier so he could have heard exactly what was said. He was 99 percent sure this wasn't 'his' Face; that grin at the death of the rabbit had convinced him. But if he was wrong, forcing Face into a corner could be disastrous. Whatever had happened out there, this Face seemed more confident, and already Murdock could see that his reaction to the flashbacks had changed.

If Hannibal noticed anything that day, he said nothing to Murdock about it. He'd been busy on the phone most of the day, discussing details of the barn remodeling with the contractor. Murdock was torn between keeping an eye on Face and trying to keep Hannibal from going overboard with his planning. They were still a long way from being able to take on clients. The pilot had to wonder what plans Hannibal had in mind for Face while they were gallivanting around doing good deeds. He hadn't forgotten that hospital hell. Realizing that would never happen again didn't assuage his uneasiness about the future.


*****

He wasn't really happy right now. He was discovering a few things he didn't like. For one thing, he was much physically weaker than he'd thought. It took him by surprise that he hadn't been aware of that. Face must have had him closeted away tighter than he'd realized. Occasionally he would find his knees buckling for no reason. He was forced to grab whatever was close by to stay upright; sometimes it was Murdock or Smith. He didn't like that one bit. The first time he'd had to grab Murdock's arm he'd almost shoved away but caught himself in time. Face was dependent on these guys. They were used to that. So he'd have to play along, irritating as it was. He made up his mind to get this body back in shape. Quickly.

The other thing he'd found was that he wasn't in total control of the visions. He had much more control than Face, certainly. He was stronger. He could lessen them, or make them stronger, as he had in order to teach Face a lesson. But he couldn't get rid of them. That bothered him. He wasn't horrified by the gory images as his counterpart was; it took a certain kind of fantasy-type imagination for that and he didn't possess one. But the total lack of reality in them was irritating. He wanted to make them stop simply because they gave him a headache with all the movement and lack of clarity. Like an out of whack kaleidoscope. He could see where Face would be heading off the edge seeing those constantly. Well, he'd certainly done his share to make them that way. Now he'd just have to live with it for a while, until he figured out how to make the damn things go away completely. He just had to make sure he didn't get lost in them the way Face had.

He sometimes thought about Face. He wasn't much for introspection; it interfered with the job. He really didn't treat Face very well. It wasn't so much that he disliked the guy. There were just things about him he couldn't stomach. Mostly the things that had caused Face so much trouble since the job for Stockwell. Guilt, for one. Face felt guilt. He didn't. Why feel guilty for doing something you had to? Or for sacrificing someone else to save your own skin? Especially when that someone else was bound and determined to kill you? Then again, there wasn't much of anything he did feel guilty about. Waste of energy.

Yeah, Face's biggest problems were emotions. And scruples. Guy had too many of both. His buddies thought differently. Thought Face was the smooth con artist, ladies' man. Which Face had been, when he'd been allowed to have some say in it. But he'd been kept within Face's boundaries. Was allowed to go only so far. That had grated on him at times. But back then Face had acknowledged how much he was needed. He'd kept Face from making a lot of mistakes with the ladies. And from getting his head blown off in Nam. The two of them really had worked well together. A team within a team. Stockwell had changed that.

Face couldn't deal with that job. No way. How many nights had the guy lain awake, wishing he could just end it all? Would have, too, if he hadn't stepped in. Face had let him take over. Almost completely. And then, when it was all over, he'd learned to love the freedom he had when Face wasn't there to contain him. So he'd conned the con man. Made it practically a holy mission to take Stockwell out. So Face had let him stay in control. It had been hard to give that up.

Something had gone wrong upstairs, otherwise he never would have given up that control. Face had gotten stronger, the longer it went on. Face didn't like what he was doing and let him know it. In spades. Man. If Face ever realized just how much strength was still there, he'd be history. In fact, he could feel Face trying to surface every now and then. Wanting to put the brakes on. Not this time, bud. As long as he kept away from Murdock. Murdock was trouble. He could reach Face, bring him out. That emotional thing again. Friendship. Blew him away, man.

Then again, he did kinda miss how well he and Face had worked together...