March 15 --- Losses

Holiday: Everything You Think is Wrong Day

Trust is like a paper, once it's crumpled it can't be perfect again. - Auliq Ice

At first, Hannibal thought it was just the suddenness of it. So unexpected it left them all a bit dazed.

First, Stockwell hadn't shown up for the debriefing after they returned from the Sarnoff job. Unusual - but fortunate, since Face hadn't been able to get out of bed that morning, paying for that car jump. He hadn't actually been hurting, but he was clearly uncomfortable. So not having to deal with the general on that front was clearly welcome.

Stockwell did show up the next day, but didn't bother with a debriefing. He merely glanced at each man before handing Hannibal a large envelope, and abruptly left. Inside was the paperwork for their pardons and a short typed letter, very formally thanking them for their service. Stockwell's signature was scribbled at the bottom. The last item was a smaller envelope containing four airline tickets to LA for that evening, and a "company" credit card with BA's name on it. Hannibal grinned at the relief he saw - not only would BA not have to fly, but he'd be able to ensure his 'baby' got back to California safely.

There followed a few short hours of organizing, packing, racing for the airport - and suddenly they were standing in the lobby of a two star hotel not far from LAX. They had reservations for four days, also paid for by Stockwell's organization. After that, they were on their own.

A quick call to the van assured Hannibal that BA had gotten away without problem. He was just pulling into a motel near Toledo and would finish the drive to Chicago in the morning. It had already been agreed that BA would spend a few days with his mother before resuming his trip.

They ordered room service, strangely not wanting to go out of the room. Hannibal figured it was a remaining distrust of Stockwell and his methods. That, and having their weapons currently in Toledo. So stay in the room, knowing what surrounded them, what their escape routes were, setting up a rendezvous point - that was the mindset. Tomorrow, maybe the day after, they could safely assume that Stockwell had actually kept his word.

Hannibal woke in the morning, confused. They were supposed to take turns at watch, but no one woke him up. He checked the others - Frankie and Murdock were both sound asleep.

Face's bed hadn't been slept in.

A quick look through the suite proved Face wasn't even in the room. Hannibal looked into the hall. No one there. Frowning, he quickly dressed and headed downstairs, taking the stairs. No way he was getting caught in the elevator. He stepped into the back hall, cautiously moving toward the lobby.

If it hadn't been for the low whistle, Hannibal would've missed him entirely. He sat on a folding chair in a back corner, looking a bit worn but wide awake. Despite his irritation, Hannibal couldn't help noting that the position not only gave Face a full view of all routes to their floor, but a pay phone was only steps away.

"What are you doing down here, Face?"

"Looking out for Stockwell's goons where it would do the most good." A subtle hint that Hannibal hadn't been as cautious as he should have been?

"You had first watch."

He shrugged. "I would've switched if I started getting sleepy."

Hannibal looked around. The day staff was moving into place, and a few other guests were coming down for breakfast.

"C'mon, let's get something to eat."

Face looked surprised. "What about the others?"

"I don't think we need to worry about Stockwell right now. They can eat when they wake up."

Another shrug and he followed Hannibal into the dining room. Hannibal headed for a back corner out of habit. Once their order was taken and a pot of coffee delivered, he looked closely at his lieutenant.

The last few months had definitely taken their toll on him. He still wasn't completely back from getting shot, but it was more than that. His eyes were dull, and he did things almost automatically, rather than taking a real interest. He was just not acting like Face, and Hannibal realized he hadn't for a long time.

"So what's going on, Face? You don't act like you're happy to be rid of Stockwell. I thought you'd be the one turning cartwheels."

Face was silent for a long time, fiddling with his fork. Finally, he sighed.

"I guess I just... I'm not sure where I want to go from here."

Stunned, Hannibal didn't know what to say. Face pushed on.

"I don't really want to leave the team, but it just seems like... like I need to. At least, for a while. I need to see if, well, if I can... function, on my own."

"Face, my God, if any of us can function on our own, it's you! I know you've done some stuff that didn't work out, but that was only because of the military fucking things up. You've got the brains, the know-how, the - "

"That may be, Hannibal. But I don't know if I've got the judgement I need. There are things I should've seen and didn't. Things I kept seeing and chose to ignore. Now, with the pardons, I don't have an excuse anymore. I need time to... to look at myself and make some decisions. My own decisions."

Hannibal couldn't respond as the waitress brought their orders. As soon as she left, Face stood.

"I'm really not hungry, Colonel. I'll send the guys down for breakfast."

It didn't surprise Hannibal, when the three of them returned to the room, to discover Face and his belongings were gone.