CHAPTER SIXTY SIX

BA expected a couple good hits and Face would be down. The cocky little S.O.B. would learn he wasn't going to get by with this crap any more. BA was gonna teach him but good.

That's what he expected.

What he got was a professional. Someone who knew every trick BA knew, SF trained, Nam hardened. Who had learned a few tricks over the years. Who liked baiting his quarry. Who had no fear, no compunction to hold back. Who used assumptions about a 'useless' hand to his advantage. Quick. BA was quick. This guy was quicker. Like a terrier going after a Rottweiler. What BA expected was short and easy.

What he got was hit. And hit hard.

Intimidation - a big part of BA's repertoire and something that had always worked with Face before - was useless now. The usual single hard hits that would take out an opponent easily, missed. BA realized that Face knew how he fought and was taking every advantage. That made him mad. Real mad. He started changing tactics. Moved to street fighting. His fists started hitting their mark, at least partially.

His opponent was a fast learner, changed his own maneuvers, hits getting harder, faster.

Bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet, Face looked at him, sweating but grinning. A glint in his eye. Like he was enjoying it.


*****

Hannibal felt like he was in some kind of surreal movie. He was following BA and 'Face' like a cameraman. He could almost see the slight camera movement as it focused on their backs moving to the back yard. He should stop it. He didn't want Face hurt. But a little part of him really wanted to see the other guy's ass kicked. A big part of him, actually. The part thinking about Maggie. So he held back. When it was over, when this guy was battered down, then he'd move in. What BA had done physically, Hannibal would do mentally. They'd beat this guy and then get Face back.

They squared off, 'Face' actually grinning. BA scowled. He was here to teach him a lesson; 'Face' was acting like he was having fun. Ridiculous. Hannibal knew he was going to get creamed. Was he so far gone he didn't realize that? Was that why he'd pushed for this? Because he'd finally gone totally over the edge? BA took the first swing, missed, and the ridiculous joke ended. The grin vanished. Dead serious now. But something still there in his eyes. That exultation Hannibal had seen at the Christmas tree lot. Hannibal remembered now - he was dangerous.

BA hadn't seen it. He started out as if he was going to take 'Face' easily. He took a couple more swings, which should have connected and downed the lieutenant. They missed completely. 'Face' wasn't where he was supposed to be. Ever. He seemed to know exactly what BA was going to do before he did it. Under different circumstances - no, under any circumstances, it was pure art. Despite himself, Hannibal found himself watching in admiration. Unbelievable.

Both men were wringing wet with sweat. BA had some noticeable bruises and cuts. 'Face' had barely been touched. He was bouncing on his feet, grinning like a hyena, a bit of blood running from his nose and lip. This wasn't supposed to happen. Never had Hannibal imagined that Face could take on BA like this. But maybe that was because their Face didn't have the confidence this guy had. Their Face relied on his quick wit and fast mouth to get out of fights. This guy had taken on terrorists single handed. Face avoided fights unless there was no choice. This guy loved violence. It was a completely different scenario than either he or BA had imagined.


*****

He could feel the energy surge. Electricity. Tingling. His kind of Jazz. Yeah. This was what he'd been preparing for. The showdown. Taking on BA Baracus. After years of his threats against Face, after years of toeing the mark for fear of displeasing him, years of being made to feel like a jerk because Face always backed down. Talk about killing two birds with one stone - BA and Face in one shot. Not that he was going to kill anyone. That would defeat his purpose. Knowing he could was enough. Knowing that no one would be able to stop him if he wanted to, that Face couldn't do anything about it unless he let him, that he was in total control of what happened. Having that power. It was better than drugs and it flowed through him like dam bursting.

He grinned. You don't intimidate me, Big Guy. Nossir. BA took a couple swings at him. He ducked them easily. He knew BA's style. Went for the quick hard punch, didn't like sparring. Well, tough, bud, that's what you're getting. He bounced out of the way a couple more times, backed off, made BA think he was retreating. He pounced instead, getting a couple good, heavy hits on BA's cheek and eye. A little blood. Saw him blink in surprise. Didn't hurt him much. Hadn't tried to. Wanted him off balance. The hurt would come soon enough.

He watched him getting madder and madder. Good. BA was an excellent fighter, but his big problem was his temper. If he lost it, his fighting didn't actually get sloppy, but it wasn't as controlled, or as effective. BA changed his tactics. Got in a couple glancing blows. That's okay. Got your number now, Big Guy. He came right back at him, hitting faster and harder. Time to show you what I can really do. Faster, harder. In. Out. Combining hits and kicks. He was hurting him now. He knew where, he knew how, and when was whenever he wanted. No Face holding him back. Nothing holding him back. Nothing. You're mine, Baracus, all mine. Watch me. Find out what's been waiting in here for you all these years.

He was sweating buckets but it felt good. Damn, he hadn't felt like this since overseas. Even Houston wasn't this good. But now it was time. Time to bring Face out. Time for his surprise.


*****

Hannibal saw it. Something was wrong. Something about the guy...suddenly he didn't look so sure of himself. He'd hesitated for just a fraction of a second, come back looking...confused? Something different...God, it wasn't him anymore. It was Face. Their Face.

"BA!"

The alarms were going off. Intruders? Shit!

"BA! The alarms! Stations!"


*****

Face stared at the man in front of him. What the hell had happened to BA? And why was Hannibal looking at him so strangely? Where was Murdock? He was sweaty and tired and his hands - both of them - hurt like hell. What was going on here?

He jumped at Hannibal's shout, only now aware of the alarms. And just as suddenly, the alarms stopped. Murdock came running out of the back door, Maggie right behind him. Face was totally lost. I don't understand this at all.

Don't worry about it, bud. This is going to work out better than I'd hoped.

What do you mean?

Just wait, bud. Just wait.

Maggie ran up to Face. "Are you all right? Are you hurt?"

"I...I don't think so. I..."

"He's not the one you need to look at, Maggie. BA's got some good cuts there..." Hannibal was angry. "He did a pretty good job on him."

Face wasn't the only one staring at Hannibal now. Murdock and Maggie looked from BA to Face to Hannibal.

No way. I didn't do that. BA would kill me before I laid a hand on him.

You had a little help, bud. You can thank me later.

What...?

"What's going on here, John? What kind of bull-headed stunt are you pulling now?"

"Don't you go blamin Hannibal, Maggie." BA was starting to calm down. He looked at Face through swollen eyes. "I had it in mind to do this for a long time. It jus happened to come down today."

"And you just stood by and let it happen? And just whose side were you rooting for?" Maggie was glaring at Hannibal. Obviously she had no intention of spreading the blame.

"Hey, I tried to stop it. Your buddy over there insisted we go through with it." Hannibal gestured angrily at Face.

What? Now he was really confused.

"If you had jus told us what happened that night, we coulda dealt with it then. He'd'a been gone."

"There was no reason for him to be gone, BA. He didn't do anything wrong!"

"Talkin dirty to you and hittin you for defendin yourself ain't wrong?"

Talking dirty to Maggie? Hitting her? I hit Maggie? I did that?

"He was out of his head with fever, BA. Good Lord, how thick headed are you? You've never been delirious before?"

"I never did nothin like that!"

"What about you, John? Were you going to take your turn at him when BA was finished?"

"I had a plan. Nothing physical. But we need to get rid of him once and for all."

"What? Get rid of him?"

Oh, God...

"You don't understand, Maggie..."

"Damn right I don't understand, John Smith. What is going on with you people? How could you..."

"It's not what you think. If you'll just calm down for a minute I can explain..."

"That's going to be some explanation!"

Face had been backing slowly away as the argument raged. Don't want to be here. Not now. Not any more. He couldn't believe what he'd done. Now he understood why BA was so angry. Not just Mama. It was Maggie. He remembered the ugly bruise on her face. How neither she nor Hannibal would tell him the truth about it. Wouldn't tell him that he was the bastard that had done that. And now they had finally had it with him. It took BA coming back to make them realize the mistake they'd made not getting rid of him back then.

Hey, don't worry about it, kid. I'm not leaving you. We can make out just fine, just us. Right?

They wanted BA to beat the shit out of me.

Yeah, well, that didn't happen, did it? Kinda gave 'em a surprise there, kid. I wouldn't let them hurt you, kid. No way.

"Face!"

Face jerked around, startled. Murdock was running after him. The others were still talking. Arguing. He was tearing the team apart. Just being there.

"Face!"

"Go away, Murdock." Face was tired. Worn down. He didn't want to talk.

"Face, listen to me. I know it's you, Face. It's not that other guy now."

I can shut you down right now, bud. Get rid of him.

"Please, Murdock. I don't know what happened back there, but I know why. I'm leaving. That's what they want."

"No, Face, no! That's not it at all. They don't want to get rid of you - it's him! He's the one they want out. They just want you back - our Faceman! Not that cold blooded snake you gave up to."

"What?"

Enough, bud! Get rid of him. Now. Or I will.

No, no, you won't.

"Face, we can't let you go. You're part of the team. Face, you're my friend! My best friend!"

Face suddenly felt hope. It made sense. All the things Hannibal and BA were mad about - he hadn't done those things. He hadn't. The bad stuff only happened when he gave up control. When 'he' showed up. He had to take that control back again. Even against the blood.

Can't let you do that, bud.

"Murdock! Stay with me! Please!" How had he fought him off before? He'd gotten angry - had taken the energy from the anger. He didn't have that now. He had to have help. Murdock.

"I can't do it alone. He'll bring on the blood..."

"I'm staying, Face. I'm here." Murdock didn't know for sure what Face meant by the 'blood', but he had a good idea. The flashbacks. He knew then that that's how the other guy had come back - he'd used those to control Face. Only now Face was asking for help. Things would be different now. He grabbed Face's arm.

"You fight him off, Face. You can do it. We can do it."

Nice knowin you, bud. You're goin far far away.

"No. No, I'm staying. I'm staying..."

Murdock took a quick glance back at the yard. Hannibal and BA were slowly walking toward them.

"Guys! C'mon! Hurry!"

Hannibal glanced up at them. Recognizing instantly what was happening to Face, he started running. BA, still reluctant to deal with this whole crazy 'other guy' thing, wasn't in such a hurry. Not to mention he hurt like hell. But he kept heading toward them.

"He's trying to fight him off, Hannibal, but he needs help."

Nodding, Hannibal put his hands on either side of Face's head, making him look him square in the eyes.

"Listen to me, Lieutenant. You're not going anywhere. Understand? We're gonna get rid of this guy so you can have your life back! We are going to get rid of him. It's not just your fight. We are with you, understand?"

Face nodded as best he could with Hannibal's iron grip on him. Hannibal could see the fear still in his eyes, the doubt.

He's lying to you again, bud. Can't you see it? He don't want you! He woulda let Baracus beat the shit out of you! I stopped him! I did!

"You fight, Lieutenant! Like you've never fought before! I'll be right there with you!"

The blood was raining down on him, on all of them. Torrents of it. He focused on Hannibal's eyes. Help.

"BA! Get over here!" Hannibal wasn't asking any more. It was time to end this shit.

BA reached them, hurrying at Hannibal's tone. Looking at Face, he hesitated only a second. He put his great arms around Face, almost encompassing Hannibal and Murdock at the same time. He would go along with it. He had to. He'd seen the real Face now. He held on as tight as he could without squeezing the breath out of him.

"You ain't gonna let him win this time, Face. Or you answer to me! Now get rid of that sucka!"

Face felt the energy building. He was taking it from them. From the team. They were giving it to him. Helping him fight. They wanted him. Not the other guy. He'd made a mistake, giving in to him. He wouldn't do it again.

The blood was running off all of them now. Face choked on it but he refused to give in.

Let go, bud. Just let go. I took care of you, man. I did. All those months over there. You owe me. You owe me!

No! I don't want you here any more. Never again. Never again!

The blood was thickening. Face fought back the panic. Looked into Hannibal's eyes. Felt Murdock and BA holding on. Fight it. Fight it. I can win now. I can win...