CHAPTER SIXTY NINE

The sun had come up a couple hours before, but sitting in the windowless back of the van, he could hardly tell. It had been an uncomfortable ride so far; six people crowded together, sitting on blankets, nothing to keep their backs from banging against the metal sides. Baracus and the doctor had it the easiest, sitting up front, but even their seats were worn, almost cushion-less. With every new pothole or rock they hit, his shoulder shot bolts through his body. It was getting harder and harder to keep things in check.

No one had said much of anything for most of the trip. Smith, Murdock and Santana sat on one side, facing Kurt and Daryl. He, himself, sat with his back to the corner formed by the side door and the front passenger seat, where he could see all of them without moving his head. That's how he knew who was glancing toward him, how often, how long. His head leaned back against the seat, uncomfortable, but he could pretend to keep his eyes shut and still watch. As long as they thought he was asleep, they left him alone. Didn't see the growing distress in his eyes. They couldn't see that, mustn't see that. Never show them his weakness.

He focused on Daryl. What was his plan, now? He knew nothing would happen with the rest of them around. In fact, he counted on that. No, Daryl would want to get him away from the rest, far away, so they couldn't interfere. And that fit into his own plans perfectly. He and Daryl would slip away on some pretense, and when they were far enough, Daryl would make his move. Or try to. He really didn't think Daryl had it in him to kill coldly, for revenge. But then again, maybe this family thing really was that strong. It was risky, having an unknown in the equation. Not knowing how potent the motivation really was.

He couldn't understand that. That whole family thing. That connection. Smith put great stock in it, too. Didn't they know? Were they really that stupid? Didn't they have the prime example of that falsehood right in front of them?

He looked past Daryl, to Kurt. Now there was a pair. Two men he thought were his, thought would back him up, thought what had happened in California would carry through. Two men he thought were as close as brothers. Now, Daryl had his own plans for him, and Kurt had joined Smith's precious team. What about that connection?

And Smith, himself. Along with those other clowns. How could they act as if being a part of the team was something special, something to hold dear above anything else - had they forgotten what they had done to him? He was supposed to be part of that team, that wondrous thing, and they had turned their back on him. Let Stockwell and Barish do those things to him. And when that failed, they'd tried to turn him against Randy.

This was the connection they thought he should crave?

Of course, they had been right about Randy. He allowed himself a brief moment to wallow in the irony, the bitterness, of that. It was yet again another example of how truly worthless this 'connection', this 'family' shit was. The one person in the world he would trust with his life, and...

He closed his eyes tightly. Enough. Randy was dead, and that was good. Saved him the trouble of killing the bastard. And he would have had to. His plans would have come to nothing if Randy had lived.

He turned his thoughts back to Daryl. He wouldn't try anything today, probably not tomorrow. They both knew Smith was suspicious of him. So he would wait, lull Smith into a false sense of security. But it would be before they reached the States, before they hit the freeways and lost the opportunities of the back roads. Before Mick's people decided it had taken too long...

The van bounced in and out of a particularly bad pothole. Taken by surprise, he couldn't help the small grunt as his shoulder slammed into the door.

"BA! Pull over." Smith was looking at him. Damn.


*****

Hannibal had been watching Face and Daryl from the time the first light started filtering into the van. That 'understanding' that the two men had bothered him. Daryl's sudden change of heart, with no real explanation, Face seeming to know that Daryl was coming...none of it made sense.

Unless, of course, Mick had a hand in all of it.

For the first time, Hannibal started thinking that maybe his lieutenant wasn't as trustworthy as he would like to believe. It was the only way anything did make sense. Face hadn't allowed anyone close to him without trouble - until Mick had talked to him. And then it was only Mick's people he let into his little circle, none of the team. There had to be a reason. It wasn't just that he didn't trust Hannibal or the rest of the team; he had no reason to trust Mick, either. So why?

Because there was some benefit in it for him. Face didn't have to trust someone to use them. That had never been a part of his scams. What he did trust was his knowledge of how people thought; that innate understanding of human nature, correction, the dark side of human nature. He wanted something, and he knew how to use the greed, the vanity, the wants and needs of others to get that something. So what did Face want? Simple.

He wanted out.

Obviously, the team wouldn't help him accomplish that. But Mick could. And probably would, if he thought Face had something he could use in return. But what did Face have, what could Face get, that Mick could use? Simple, again.

Knowledge.

Not only knowledge of the team and how they operated, but knowledge gleaned over the last couple of days, knowledge freely, if vicariously, given him as he wandered the house, seemingly unaware of what was going on around him. Every detail of the plan to escape.

Except the route. Hannibal had never discussed that in the open, with the entire team. Hadn't had the chance. That had been done one by one, getting ideas, pro's and con's, and then finally, he'd let each of them know exactly how they were going. In case they got separated for some reason and would need to rendezvous somewhere along the route. There were only two he hadn't told.

So they should be okay. Mick's men were gone, chasing after hijackers. Supposedly. Instinctively, he glanced toward the back of the van, even though he couldn't see what was behind them. No, BA would have noticed anyone following them. This road wasn't that heavily traveled; headlights behind them would've immediately turned BA to evasion mode. And that hadn't happened.

No one else would have told Daryl the actual route chosen. For his sake, as well as their own. No one wanted to put him in a position of conflicting loyalties. They had taken a big enough chance just telling him about the rest of the plan.

And why tell Face? When it was almost a challenge just to get him to stay in the same room with them. When it was considered a coup if anyone could elicit any kind of positive response from him. Hannibal himself had been almost braggingly proud of getting that smile from him. Which was ridiculous. Like a bunch of uncles cooing over an infant, to see who could become a member of the elite group the child would reward with a smile instead of a cry. Ridiculous, all right. Hannibal almost blushed, thinking about getting caught up in that. If he hadn't been so desperate for some sign of the old Face, he probably would have just taken it in stride. Only someone really insecure would...

Hannibal stopped short. Only someone insecure would feel the need to seek Face's attention. Who felt their own position on the team was in need of some bolstering. Only someone who wanted to prove something to Hannibal, because Hannibal was so obviously in Face's corner. And if Face gave that person any recognition, showed any interest in that person, that person would go all out to solidify his new position of favor.

And if Face wasn't as off as Hannibal thought, he would have recognized that need. Encouraged it. Played it.

And there was only one person who would've said or done damn near anything to keep that attention. Who had that need. Who could be played that easily.

So how much did Mick know?

And where were his men, really? Waiting up ahead somewhere? Possibly with Stockwell's people? And what about Daryl? Loyal to Mick, wanting to stay with him. Until the last minute. The only one of them Face was suddenly comfortable with.

Hannibal looked over at Face again. Eyes closed, silent as a sphinx. Calm. Now. Had been noticeably nervous in the van until Daryl sat down next to him.

Hannibal found himself wishing he'd listened more to BA. He knew, he just knew, that Face was hurting, had to be. His shoulder was only just healed up, and this road had to be pure torture. And yet he kept that facade up. If he could do that, what else had he been able to hide? Hannibal had claimed to be able to see through any of Face's scams. Had he been too confident? Or was all the stress of the past few months coming to a head, making him as paranoid as Face?

The van hit a bump that jarred them all. Hannibal heard Face moan, saw the grimace that was almost immediately controlled. So he wasn't superhuman, after all. For a brief second, Hannibal thought of letting the road do what they hadn't been able to, break through that barrier of self-control Face had maintained for so long. And was just as quickly ashamed for the thought. This was one of his, and the man was hurting.

"BA! Pull over."