CHAPTER EIGHTY SEVEN

He sensed, rather than saw, Hannibal. A prickling on his skin. Seconds later, he caught the scent of his cigar wafting through the crowd.

"Hello, Face."

He didn't turn around. Forced himself to relax, took a casual sip of his beer - the second, or third?

Okay.

"Hello, Hannibal."

Good boy. Voice firm, low, calm.

"Didn't expect to find you here." As if Hannibal had made a habit of dropping in himself.

"I like the ambience."

Hannibal moved in on the chair just vacated beside him. Nodded at the bartender, who obligingly set a beer down in front of him. Hannibal took a small sip, puffed on his cigar, and grinned at his lieutenant.

"I could get to like this place. How about you?"

"I already like it, Colonel. A lot."

"Maybe a little too much?"

There was just a hint of reprimand in the voice. Again, he felt the pricking over his skin. Images of a knife slashing through skin swept through his mind. He glanced around, instinctively looking for the others, felt himself relax when he realized Smith was alone.

All alone.

"I'm fine, Colonel. I like it here. I'm staying."

"You really think that's a good idea, all things considered?" Hannibal took another small sip of his own beer. "I was thinking we could take a walk, clear our heads a little. What do you say?"

He took a deep swallow from his glass. The pricking would not go away. Stupid. It was just a damn dream. It didn't take a genius to figure out the meaning behind it.

Maybe they wouldn't have to talk. Maybe they would just walk. Maybe Hannibal was willing to wait until tomorrow to talk.

"Face?"

Shit. Hannibal would grab this chance. He would never hold back if opportunity allowed him to charge.

"I said, I like it here."

He heard Hannibal shift on the chair. He knew Hannibal wasn't used to Face directly opposing him, any more than Face was used to doing it. But he did not want to leave the bar - not with Hannibal.

The bartender reappeared, set two more beers down in front of them. He looked up, surprised. He hadn't ordered anything.

"My treat, Lieutenant." Hannibal grinned over at him, but the grin was cold. Like the one he used on the bad guys.

Exactly like that.

"I can buy my own drinks, Colonel."

"You don't have enough money. Not for the number of drinks you want. And definitely not enough to outlast me. I can wait as long as you can stall, Face. I got all night."

"What about our deal?"

"Deal?" Hannibal sipped his beer. "You mean, if you want to leave, I let you? That's still on. But is that what this is? Your bon voyage party? You hitting the road when you're done here?"

"I...I don't know. Maybe."

"You tell Father Magill that?"

No, of course he hadn't. Hannibal knew that. Just as he knew Face would never just walk out without telling the priest. He took another deep swallow of his beer, tasted the bitterness...

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Hannibal glance at his watch.

"Going to be last call pretty soon. Got any plans for then?"

"No." He glanced around the bar once more. Still no sign of BA or Murdock. Had Hannibal really come here alone? Was he willing to trust Face that much? Maybe...

Or maybe they were just lying in wait for him outside.

Maybe he was cut off...

"Where are the rest?"

"Waiting at our apartment. Why? Would you like to see them?"

"No."

Hannibal could lie as well as he could. Didn't mean anything.

"Last call, gents! Last call!"

He stared at his glass. This was it. No more stalling. And nowhere else to go.

Maybe they wouldn't have to talk. Maybe they would just walk.

Maybe the sky would fall.

He sighed, pushed his glass slowly away and stood up from the bar. He finally looked directly at Hannibal.

"Okay, Hannibal," his voice low, soft, resigned. "Let's walk..."


*****

They walked out of the bar. Hannibal knew Murdock and BA were watching, out of sight. He assumed - no, he knew - they would be extremely careful not to be seen. Face was no dummy. And, alcohol or not, he would be watching for them. Hannibal hadn't missed those searching looks in the bar.

They strolled down the street, occasionally jostled by the crowds exiting other bars, restaurants, clubs. LA never slept; everyone had some place else they could go, something else they could do until the sun climbed over the tops of the buildings. The two of them had nowhere to go, much to do.

Hannibal figured Face hadn't had too much to drink; he hadn't had time. A couple beers, maybe. Nothing in his walk would indicate he'd had anything. That was good. Just enough to relax him, not enough to cloud his thinking. Hannibal would be able to find an opening, start the talk, and know that his lieutenant could digest it.

It also meant his lieutenant could turn on him unhindered.

They must have walked for nearly thirty minutes without saying a word. Gradually, they moved away from the business district, into an area of small shops mixed with equally small houses. Very few people were on the street here, and traffic on the roadway slowed to nearly nothing.

"Father Magill's been helpful, then?"

For a few minutes, Face didn't answer, and Hannibal was concerned he had been shut out.

"You could say that, yeah."

"I guess there are still a few things that need clearing up, though, huh?"

Face gave a bitter chuckle. "You could say that, too."

"I'm sorry about Randy, Face. Not just...well, I'm sorry about all of it."

Silence.

"I've had time to think things over, you know. And I talked to Randy, back at that cabin."

Face glanced over at him, then returned his look to the sidewalk ahead of them. Still he said nothing.

"He wasn't a bad person. Not what I had thought. Not often I'm wrong about someone, but I was wrong about Randy. And I was wrong about how we dealt with your friendship with him."

Face snorted. "You think?"

Hannibal frowned. He didn't want to get into an argument, but he could understand Face's anger.

"Yeah, about time, huh? I made a lot of mistakes, Face, I freely admit that. But I've learned from them. It won't happen again."

Face stopped abruptly, stared off into the distance. Although his responses, or lack of them, hadn't been encouraging, at least Face hadn't tried to ditch him. Hannibal decided to press his luck.

"Things will be different now, Face. With BA and Murdock, too. We all had a chance to get to know Randy, and find out some of the things you two went through. We found out we didn't have to be jealous of him any more."

"Jealous?" Face's voice was incredulous. "You were jealous?"

Hannibal chuckled. Of course, Face would never have thought of that.

"Hell, yes. I guess it had never occurred to any of us that you could have a life completely outside the team, that you could have real friendships outside of ours. Never occurred to us that you didn't need us."

Face was openly staring at him now, the emotions flickering through his eyes so fast Hannibal couldn't keep up with them.

"We kept shutting you off when you'd bring up Randy because we didn't want to be reminded of that. We didn't want to be told that we weren't necessary to your life. And I think we were also afraid that you would decide to leave us and go looking for him. We were stupid."

"But, I did leave you."

"Yeah, and that was our fault. Our plan backfired, big time. If we had accepted Randy in the first place, maybe you wouldn't have felt that need. Instead, maybe you would have come clean and let us help you, help Randy.

"And maybe Randy would still be alive..."

Hannibal knew he was taking a big chance, saying that. But he knew Face had to have thought about that.

"No, that wasn't your fault, Hannibal. If I hadn't turned on him, if I hadn't screwed up, we never would have had to go to Mexico to begin with. I turned on him, and he died because of it."

"Not true, Muchacho."

Face looked up sharply, as both Murdock and BA stepped slowly out of the shadows. Hannibal was afraid he would take off, but instead he just shook his head.

"I should have known." There was no anger in his voice, just resignation.

Murdock smiled. "Randy did what he wanted to do, Face. He could've asked any of us for help, but he didn't. He wanted to play a lone hand, and he knew better than anyone what his chances were."

"But..."

"Murdock's right, Face, and you know it." Hannibal's voice was firm but gentle. "We all made mistakes, all of us, including Randy. We could spend the rest of our lives thinking 'what if', but it wouldn't change the fact that Randy made his own decisions. He always did."

"So, you ready to come back wi' us now, Face?"

Hannibal sighed. Leave it to BA to forge ahead like a bull in a china shop. But the look of surprise Face gave them surprised Hannibal.

"You still want me back, BA? After all this..."

"Geez, Face, how dumb are you? Why you think we kep after you to begin with?" BA shook his head in disgust. "We was jus waitin for you to get done here."

"But, Hannibal and I made a deal. If I wanted to leave..." He looked suspiciously at Hannibal. "You had your fingers crossed, didn't you?" Half angry, half amused.

Hannibal just grinned as Face shook his head.

"C'mon, Face, let's go home..."