CHAPTER THREE

Hannibal shut the door to the apartment and leaned heavily against it. It had taken all his concentration not to close his eyes and sleep on the drive over. Three whole blocks. He had to have a shower. Hot as hell to clean up, ice cold after to wake up. But first he had a phone call to make. And he wasn't going to be nice this time.

It took several rings before the phone was picked up.

"Yeah..."

"BA, I want you at the hospital by ten."

"Wha...I don't know, Hannibal. I gotta..."

"You 'gotta' nothing, BA. They're taking out the tube this morning. That means he has to be awake. That means he needs us there. Both of us. Ten o'clock. Sharp." He hung up.

Hannibal practically slammed the phone down. He looked at it, looked at his hand, still gripping it tightly. Looked at the tremble.

Why the hell did he feel so angry?


*****

BA stood there, listening to the dial tone, then sighed and placed the receiver gently down. There was no getting around this. He knew, eventually, he'd have to go. And when Murdock had told him about the tube yesterday, he'd known Hannibal would be calling him. He took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling. He almost hadn't answered the phone. Almost. But he knew if he hadn't, Hannibal woulda been over here.

He looked at the clock. He had a couple hours to kill before he had to be there. He stood in the middle of the living room, staring at the carpet. Not thinking, but thinking a mile a minute. Maybe that was how Murdock felt sometimes.

"...he needs us there..."

Maybe BA needed to be there. For BA.

Maybe it was time.

Forty minutes later, he was walking down the corridor toward the ICU. He stopped at the desk. He felt ashamed that he didn't even know what room Face was in...

"Can I help you?" A petite nurse stepped up to the desk. Her name tag said "Sandy".

"Uh, yeah, I'm lookin for..." Damn, what name had they used? "Uh, Tim..."

"Oh, you must be BA. John said you would be coming, but I didn't realize you'd be here so early. Tim's over here." She bustled around the desk, smiling at him. He followed mutely. She wasn't giving him time to prepare. He really wanted some time...

She took his arm gently, leading through the door. Right up to the bed. He looked everywhere but at him.

"I know it's hard." She spoke softly, close to him, not wanting Face to hear. "I understand why you haven't come to visit before this. I've seen it many times before. Especially with this kind of injury." She stepped back a little, still speaking softly but apparently not worried about Face hearing the rest. "He's still pretty much out of it, but he'll be gradually waking up now. Once he's awake enough to understand what we're doing, the doctor will proceed with the removal. He's done well when we've removed it temporarily, and the doctor thinks it's time to get rid of it completely."

Sandy smiled up at him. Encouraging. No condemnation. No judgment.

"Do you want to look at him now?" Voice again soft. A gentle hand on his arm.

He took a breath. And looked.


*****

Hannibal had stepped out of the cold water feeling almost human again. A couple cups of coffee, strong coffee, and he was ready to go again. He knew, of course, that it was only a temporary fix. Just as he knew Sandy was right about his needing to take it easy. The last thing the team needed was for Hannibal to land flat on his back.

They were in enough trouble already.

He wondered if BA would actually show up at the hospital. He hoped so. He really, really hoped so. Selfishly, he wanted someone else there, someone to help carry the load. But he also knew BA needed to be there. Needed to face the demons. And it was also true, what he had said to BA.

Face needed him. He needed all of them.

Hannibal wished Murdock could come. But he didn't dare chance it. Murdock had been almost polar opposite to BA in his reactions. In the jeep on the way to the hospital, he'd stared at Face. Never looked up, not all the way in. Just held his hand and stared. And afterward, in the recovery room, when Face had been covered in bandages and blood, and tubes and machines had practically hidden him from view, Murdock had stood by the bed and stared, moving his head to see around the apparatus. Looked him over as if memorizing every inch of him.

Never said a word.

Never expressed any emotion.

Just...stared.

Only when Hannibal told BA to get Murdock out had he reacted at all. In anger. And yet, the moment BA took his arm, he shut up and walked out, albeit sullenly.

Hannibal had kept in touch with Murdock by phone, letting him know what was going on. He knew things were not going well for him. He was so easily distracted, many times Hannibal had to repeat himself. He'd also kept in touch with Dr. Richter. They were both worried.

Maybe, once Face was better, once he had healed up some, they could bring Murdock to visit. Either at the hospital, or the apartment. Maybe he just needed to see Face, to make sure he was okay. Alive, at least.

Or maybe it would push him right over the edge. It was so hard to tell...


*****

It was both better and worse than he had expected.

The better was that most of his face was covered with gauze. A heavier bandage covered the area over his left cheek, eye and forehead. No blood. No dirt. No gore.

The 'worse' was the fact that most of his face was covered in gauze. What little skin BA could see was either pale, almost dead looking, or marred by angry red slashes. Where the scars would be. The lesser scars.

He looked again at the heavy bandage. That's what had pushed him away to begin with. Knowing what was under that bandage.

Or rather, what wasn't.

"Are you okay?"

He'd forgotten about Sandy, still standing close by, hand on his arm. He looked down at her.

"Yeah. Yeah. I'll be okay." He looked back at Face. Even knowing what he did, he felt better now. Somehow, he had hope. Face looked so much better, with clean, white bandages. Like someone was supposed to who was healing, who would get better. He would get better. BA could think that, now.

Sandy looked at him closely, nodded. She pulled a chair up, nearer the bed. Giving him a last encouraging smile, she quietly stepped out of the room.

BA stood for another moment, looking at him, thinking, planning. Then he slowly sat down in the chair, reached across and took Face's right hand, careful of the IV. He held it gently, but firmly.

He wanted Face to know he was there.


*****

It was getting lighter. He remembered that. From before. Everything would get lighter, and then there would be voices. There would be pressure, on his neck. And then it would get hard to breathe. The pressure would be back and miraculously, he could breathe again. It had happened several times. Each time, it was a little easier.

This time, the voices said something about letting him do it on his own. He wasn't sure, exactly, what they meant, but he tried to nod his head, let them think he understood. It hurt to do that, though. A lot. He tried to talk, but his mouth wouldn't move. At all. He started to panic. The voices came back, closer. Something about wires. Wires. They'd wired his jaw. Because of the accident.

Okay.

Yeah.

The accident. He remembered that. Mostly.

BA's monster machine. Something had gone wrong. He hadn't seen what, just heard it. And then something hit him, hard, in the head. And shoulder. His side. Hard. He remembered the pain, terrible pain, and watching his jeep careen to the side, rolling over. And then he'd blacked out.

There were just snapshot memories after that. Bright lights. Voices. Pain.

And Hannibal.

He opened his eyes a little wider. Well, his right eye. There was something covering the other one. He tried to look for Hannibal, but it was hard to get his eye to move. It hurt, even that little movement hurt. Damn.

And then he was there. Hannibal. Leaning down close. Smiling. But even with his fuzzy vision, Face knew he was worried about something. It was there in his eyes. Hannibal was talking to him, saying something, but Face couldn't quite make out the words.

Hannibal moved away. Again, Face felt panicky. He didn't want to be left alone. He tried to call out, but his voice wouldn't work. And those damn wires...

And then BA was there, in Hannibal's place. Holding his hand. Talking to him. His voice was different from Hannibal's. Dumb. He knew their voices were different; it just seemed like now he really noticed it.

He tried to smile at BA, but he was getting tired again. At the same time, he didn't want them to go. Not now. He tried to squeeze BA's hand, to hold him there. It must have worked.

BA squeezed back, and didn't go.