CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

He kept his eyes closed. He knew the minute he opened them, the room would spin out of control. He knew that because his head was still buzzing. Slowly, carefully, he turned onto his side, moving his head just as slowly until he felt the cool softness of the pillow on his cheek. There. Better. A few more minutes and the buzzing would go away and he could open his eyes.

He wondered, idly, if he had gotten on the bed on his own, or if Randy had done it. Probably Randy. The last thing he remembered was trying to get up off the couch, falling back down, and wishing angrily that Randy was there. Which he wasn't. He never was, anymore. Never there when Sam needed him. Not for a long time. Always showed up after it was too late. Or when he wasn't wanted. One day he wouldn't show up at all. Sam was surprised it hadn't happened already.

He couldn't figure out Randy any more. He thought he'd known everything that was worth knowing about him, but obviously he had been wrong. It had been a shock to see him helping Smith, but he could explain that away. Maybe he shouldn't have, in retrospect.

But Clifton. That was different. Totally different. Clifton had tried to turn Randy against Sam, tried to make Sam question himself. Hell, Clifton had done everything he could to kill them, all those months ago. And yet Randy had stopped Sam from destroying that evil.

How ironic that Clifton had managed to destroy that which Sam held most dear, had used Sam himself to do it, and hadn't even tried. Sam knew he'd made a mistake. He should have killed the bastard outright. But then, that wasn't the only mistake he had made.

He sighed. Pulled the light blanket closer around him. It was hot in the room, but he felt cold. He always felt cold any more. Damn. He opened his eyes and met the glare of the late afternoon sun fully in the face. Shit! Why did he never remember to close those damn blinds?

Stifling a groan, he pushed himself up to a sitting position, sliding his legs over the side of the bed, hung his head to squelch the dizziness before trying to move any further. He really needed to quit drinking. Really. It was just so much easier this way. Not having to deal with Randy. Randy just went away, just like Smith, just like Baracus, just like Murdock and all the rest. The more he drank, the further they went. And he wanted them all far, far away.

So why wouldn't Randy go away? Go away, and stay away...


*****

He heard the bed creaking and unconsciously tensed. Took a deep breath, exhaled slowly. Just relax. Take it as it comes. Maybe today would be the day. He'd 'slept' longer than usual. Days like that, he sobered up a little more. Sometimes that was good, sometimes not so good. Randy kept hoping that one time he would decide not to open that first bottle. Decide to pull himself together again. But Randy also knew that wasn't likely to happen.

Not until he decided which 'himself' he was going to pull together.

Silence from the bedroom. Had he fallen back asleep? Randy was tempted to check, but knew from experience not to. The last time he'd opened that door Sam had taken a shot at him. Granted, he hadn't been totally awake, and was still in a drunken haze, and yet...the shot had come way too close anyway. And there had been no apology afterwards. Sam had merely told him he should have known better. And he should have, actually.

He'd hidden all the guns the next day, after Sam had gotten sufficiently inebriated not to notice Randy's actions. He either hadn't noted the absence of the weapons, or no longer cared. After all, Sam didn't need a gun.

Randy moved quietly into the kitchen, started fixing some soup. Hopefully, he'd get Sam to eat something today. Some days he would, others he wouldn't. When he did, he ate ravenously. When he didn't, he was more easily riled.

Randy heard the bed creak once more, knew now that Sam was getting ready to make an appearance, and realized how much he was dreading it. This was no way to live. For either of them. But Randy had no idea what to do about it. He could, of course, cut off the booze, force Sam to dry out. Try to keep him dried out. But that wouldn't solve the big problem. And Randy had no idea how to handle that.

The soup was just about ready when the bedroom door opened.


*****

Sam stood in the doorway, smelling the soup, watching Randy stirring it slowly. He was hungry, but he knew he wouldn't eat any of that. He didn't eat anything if he hadn't watched Randy fix it start to finish.

Instead, he moved unsteadily into the kitchen, ignoring the hesitant greeting from his former friend. He reached inside the fridge, grabbed a six pack and made his way back to the couch. He didn't really feel like a beer right now, but he needed something in his stomach. He noted the frown on Randy's face as he popped the top off the bottle. Tough.

Randy turned off the fire under the soup, glanced over at Sam, and poured two bowls. Without saying a word, he brought one over and set it on the coffee table. He retreated to the kitchen, taking up his own bowl, leaning against the counter, watching.

Always watching now. At first, he'd tried talking. Trying to 'explain'. Like he could talk his way out of the betrayal. Make it seem like he had done all those things for Sam's own good. Sam knew better. Now. After the first couple of days, he'd thought maybe Randy was sincere. The way he'd kept talking about their promise to each other not to hurt anyone. Reminding him that they had always watched out for each other. Of course, he'd ignored the fact that circumstances had changed. But he made it all seem so reasonable, Sam had started to believe him.

But then Sam had started planning. Wanted to get back on track, go after Stockwell. But everything he mentioned, Randy negated. He wanted to take a break. Said they needed to rest up before going back into that again. Sam didn't like that; not one bit. So he'd decided to head back to civilization, alone.

He'd known better than to be obvious about leaving. He wasn't willing to give Randy that much. So he'd waited until Randy was asleep, and sneaked out. Had been almost to the main road when Randy caught up with him.

That's when he really knew where Randy's allegiance was. Randy first had tried to talk him out of leaving, but when Sam insisted, had turned his back and started walking, Randy tackled him. He hadn't been expecting that. Otherwise, Randy never would have taken him down.

They'd ended up back at the cabin, both bloody and exhausted. Sam had angrily grabbed a beer. Then another. And another. At first, it was just to get away from Randy's voice, his 'reasoning', his lies. But then he discovered that alcohol actually allowed him to think more clearly, without the garbage of his and Randy's 'history' dragging him down.

And it made him realize what he hadn't seen before. Made him think about that history. The Randy he had known, had befriended. Realized that the Randy he had known was Barish's creation. Not a real person.

That had shaken him. Badly. Made him think back to Smith. That whole mirage. The confusion he'd felt the first few weeks with them. The loss he'd felt when he'd realized the truth. That the people he had been told were like family to him, were, in reality, complete strangers. The betrayal he'd felt. And he'd flown to Randy. The person he knew. He knew!

He'd thought about the time they'd spent in Minneapolis, their reunion. The completeness he'd felt. He had his life back. And then to realize, to understand in all certainty, that it, too, was just a lie. Barish's lie. That's what he'd thought.

But then he had realized something else.

Stockwell had given Randy back his 'memories', too.


*****

"I'm glad you're here. Very glad."

"Nothing would have stopped us from coming, Colonel. They're both good men. We want them brought in, safe, unharmed."

"Stockwell?"

"Not happy, but who cares? He knows, no matter how many Ables or agencies he uses, you're still the best bet of getting them back. He may put up a fight, but he'll do what you want."

Hannibal smiled, absently. He knew Stockwell was a pragmatist. He'd counted on it. "You've been briefed?"

"Yeah. Your other men are not in on this?"

"They will be if I tell them to, but I'm not sure it's wise right now. Feelings are..."

"Understood. Well, Kurt did some checking around before we came out. Don't ask me how he does it, but he can make these databases sing to him. Came up with a couple possible locations."

Hannibal looked at Kurt, grinning widely. "I knew there was a reason I wanted you guys on this."

"Well, don't get too optimistic. A couple of these are pretty thin. But there is one that piqued my interest. It's a small acreage on one of the smaller lakes in northern Minnesota. Boundary Waters area. Belonged to a Mr. and Mrs. Max Lindstedt. They passed away several years ago, place has been empty since. But the owner has paid the taxes every year on time - except last year. The taxes were on the delinquent list, were just paid up in full a couple months ago."

"About the time Randy and Face disappeared."

"Right. That's what caught my attention. Did some further checking. Apparently the property was left to the Lindstedt's grandson, their only living relative. They raised him after his parents were killed in a car accident."

"Randy?"

"Maybe. The grandson's name was Gerald R. Lindstedt. He disappeared shortly after the grandparents died." Kurt looked at Hannibal and Daryl. "I thought we might take a run up that way, do a little fishing."