Face was out of the van almost before BA brought it to a stop at the house. He'd awakened as they pulled into the drive, although he'd kept his eyes closed. His teammates stared after him as he strode through the front door.
"Help BA put the van away, Captain." Hannibal was in no mood for arguments. BA and Murdock looked at each other. This was not going to be pretty, and neither was sure if they should intercede or not.
Hannibal stopped inside the door, listening. He heard movement in Face's room and marched in. Face was standing in front of the outer door, looking out at the meadow. The set to his shoulders should have told Hannibal the kind of mindset Face was in, but the colonel was too angry himself to take notice.
"Care to explain yourself, Lieutenant?"
"I would think that was self-evident, Colonel. The threat to the team had to be eliminated. I took care of that."
"What do you mean, eliminated?" Anger gave way to alarm. What had Face done?
"I mean, she will no longer be interfering with the team. We reached an understanding. She leaves us alone, I leave her alone. Very simple." He turned and looked at Hannibal. There was a hint of something dangerous in his eyes. "You see, I took you at your word, Colonel. As a member of the team, I did what I could. Since you refused to allow me to work with you - as a member of the team - I worked in tandem with you. Granted, it was without your knowledge, but that's not my problem. You set up the ground rules."
"Not your problem? You disobeyed a direct order, Lieutenant. You could have..."
"You need to make up your mind, Colonel! Either I'm on the team or I'm not. Don't send me off like a child one minute and then bitch about disobeying orders the next. Do you think I'm blind or deaf? I heard what went on last night - I saw what the grounds and house look like. I saved your ass, Colonel. It would have been nice to have some backup to do that, but turns out I didn't need it. I handled it just fine on my own, thank you. Just like I did for Stockwell."
"Face, I didn't send you off like a child! It was for our protection as well as yours. I told you..."
"I know what you told me, Colonel. How you'd be proud to have me on the team, even if I never did anything more for the team! How it was up to me to decide what I was ready for! Were those just words, Colonel? Something to make him feel better? Something to keep him in line?"
Hannibal felt his skin start to crawl. "Face, I meant every word I said. I swear I did. I didn't think you were ready to confront Carla. Obviously that was a mistake. I should have listened to you. I...I'm sorry, Face."
"You don't trust me, do you, Hannibal? That's the whole story. You wanted me to tell you what happened over there, and you swore I wouldn't lose you. But I did, didn't I? You may want to believe what you said, but deep down, you don't trust me. Because of what I did."
"No, Face, that's not true."
"Isn't it? What about Carla? What did you think I meant when I said I'd eliminated the threat to the team? You thought I'd killed her, didn't you?"
Hannibal couldn't answer. That was exactly what he'd thought. The anger disappeared from Face's eyes, replaced by an infinite sadness. For a long moment the two men stood gazing at each other.
"I never loaded the gun, Hannibal." He turned to the door. "I'll be leaving for Trish's tomorrow. Alone. I need time to think. Maybe we both do." Face walked out of the door, heading for his refuge. Hannibal almost went after him. Almost.
Instead, he turned and walked out the front door, passing BA and Murdock without even acknowledging them. They watched as he wandered out to the renovated barn. They had never seen Hannibal looking so lost. It took only a look for the two men to decide. BA hurried after Hannibal; Murdock went after Face, knowing he was probably in the meadow.
Hannibal was standing in the barn, looking vaguely around at the newly finished structure. He'd had such plans for this place. The ultimate team camp. A place where they could all meet and train, go over strategies, prepare for clients. Murdock would have his piloting career, BA his children's center, and they would come whenever the team was needed. And Hannibal had assumed he and Face would live here. But that had been when Face was so ill. Now, well, now he didn't know that anyone would live here.
He heard BA come in behind him. His sergeant didn't say anything, just stood there watching Hannibal.
"I blew it, BA. Face thinks I don't trust him, because of what he told me about the killings. He thinks I lied to him. For a minute, I thought the other guy had come back, that's how angry he was. And hurt. I hurt him badly, BA."
"He'll come around, Hannibal. He always does."
"No, he always did before. Not now. Before, he knew that I trusted him, no matter how angry we got at each other. Now he doesn't."
"Do you trust him, Hannibal?"
"I thought I did, BA. But I honestly don't know any more..."
Face was wandering through the meadow, aimlessly picking at the tall grass, pulling a dead blossom off an occasional flower stem. His shoulders were slumped, steps desultory. Murdock watched him quietly for a few moments before stepping up near him.
"Hey, Face. You okay?"
Face stopped, looked around the meadow. He didn't feel like talking and yet he needed to. He was so full of contradictions.
"It's all jumbled up, Murdock. I don't know who I am any more. One minute I think I'm just me, the way I used to be. Next minute, there's so much anger inside - I can feel myself disappear in it. And other times I just feel cold, like there's no feelings at all." He absently stripped the bark off a small twig he held. "No wonder Hannibal doesn't trust me. I don't trust me."
"Whoa, wait a minute. What do you mean, Hannibal doesn't trust you? Where did that come from?"
"He thought I'd killed Carla. I didn't, Murdock. I held a gun to her head, and I threatened her. But the gun wasn't loaded. I never loaded it."
Murdock studied his friend. There was something more to this. "Why didn't you load it, Face?"
"I learned my lesson, Murdock. I didn't need to fall apart with Carla and her thugs around."
"Is that the only reason, Face?"
Again, Face stared out across the meadow. Broke the twig, twisted it.
"I was afraid..."
"Afraid of what, Face?" Murdock's voice was soft, comforting.
"Afraid that if I loaded it, I'd have no reason not to kill her." There. It was out.
"Do you really think you could have killed her?"
"I don't know, Murdock! That's just it. Out there, when I lost it, I didn't think I'd ever be able to shoot again. But when I went out and found the gun, and held it, and I had a reason to need it...it was different. And when I was with Carla, holding the gun up to her head, it felt...I felt good, Murdock. I felt strong. And I wanted to pull the trigger. I wanted her dead." He threw down the twig. "Hannibal's right not to trust me any more, Murdock. I don't know what I would do if we got into a firefight. I don't think I'd want to just put the bad guys away. I'm scared that I'd just blast away and kill 'em. Be done with it. The idea of taking a life doesn't bother me any more. No more than breaking that branch and throwing it away. It's just a branch.
"I'm going to go visit Trish tomorrow. Maybe being away from all this stuff will give me a chance to pull things together again. At least figure out what I need to do now." He turned and headed back toward the house.
Murdock remained, gazing out at the meadow. He'd seen men like this, after Nam. Life meant nothing to them; they'd seen so much death and horror that death was just another 'thing' that happened. Some went even further. They developed a blood lust, became mercenaries, became criminals. They were few and far between, but they were out there. Murdock could not believe that his friend could feel that way. Because he hadn't loaded the gun.
Face stayed in his room the rest of the day and that night. Murdock knocked on his door for meals, but he just said he wasn't hungry. He opened his door only once, to ask BA if he would take him to the airport in the morning.
Hannibal spent the rest of the day surveying the damage with BA. Both Murdock and BA tried to talk to him about Face, tried to get him to talk to him again, but he rebuffed all efforts.
"He needs some time to himself." He looked at his remaining men. "BA, there's no reason for you to stay. Or you, Murdock. Time to get back to your real lives. I'll call Trish, explain things to her. If we get any clients, I'll call you." He walked away, business-like, continuing to make notes on repairs. Any further attempts at discussion were dismissed.
The next morning, Face was dismayed to find both BA and Murdock packed and ready to leave. Hearing the reason why from Murdock, he went in search of Hannibal and found him in the barn.
"Hannibal, what's going on? Why are you sending BA and Murdock away?"
Hannibal didn't look up from the papers he'd been shuffling about on the desk. "There's no reason for them to stay now. BA only came back for Molly and Joe; Murdock's been out of circulation way too long. They need to get on with their lives again. They'll come back if I need them." Face noted that he had not been included in the last statement.
"Hannibal, I...I just have to sort things out. I didn't mean to shout at you yesterday. I understand why you can't trust me any more. I really do."
This time Hannibal did look up.
"Face, I want you to know that I do trust you, to a point. But until I know that you're in control of things, and not going to give it over to...well, it's just too dangerous. I meant it when I said you would always be part of the team. But after this thing with Carla...you shouldn't have done it, Face. There were too many things that could have gone wrong. Yes, it worked out this time, but I have to know that you'll be where I tell you to be. Maybe I was wrong to send you away, but you should have gone anyway."
Face looked hard at Hannibal. "If I hadn't gone after Carla, the three of you would be dead, Hannibal. Pure and simple. I couldn't take that. Any more than I could when Stockwell came to me. Regardless of the outcome for me, I could no more run from Carla than I could refuse Stockwell. That's just the way it is." He looked down at his feet. "I wish I didn't have to go now, Hannibal. I don't like leaving things like they are between us. But I have to. I have to get things straightened out upstairs."
"Face, you take all the time you need. We may have some things to work out, but I...I still care, kid. That hasn't changed."
Face gave Hannibal a bittersweet smile, turned on his heel and walked out. Hannibal had already said his farewells to the others. He stood in the barn door, and watched as they drove away from the farm. It seemed as though the silence would never end.