CHAPTER EIGHT

"Tem..."

He heard Hannibal try opening the door.

"Tem! Open the door."

"Go away, Hannibal. Please."

"Unlock the door and then I'll go away."

Liar.

"Open the door, Lieutenant. Now."

"I'm not your lieutenant any more, Hannibal." He knew no one heard his whisper. But it was true.

"You open it, or BA will. Your choice."

He moved to the door. Leaned against it as he spoke.

"I'm not going to do anything, Hannibal. I just want to think. I need to think."

He heard BA's voice. Couldn't make out the words.

"Okay, Tem. We'll leave you alone. For now. But lunch is at 1200 hours sharp. That door better be open then."

"Sure, Hannibal."

Sure.


*****

"So?" BA looked at Hannibal across the kitchen table. His head had been pounding badly when he arrived, and it was only getting worse. He couldn't be sure if convincing Hannibal to let Face have some time alone was for Face, or because he himself couldn't deal with any more that morning.

"So, I'm glad his meds are out here and not in his room." Hannibal smiled sourly.

"I don't think he's thinkin that way, Hannibal. I think he's just tryin to sort things out." BA absently tapped the table. "Maybe we oughta get the two of them together. Might be the best for both of them."

"Oh, yeah. End up with both of them on the funny farm. We're close enough to that already."

"I don't think so. Maybe not seein each other, just havin to imagine what the other is like, might be worse. Least if they met, they'd know. Y'know?"

Hannibal closed his eyes. BA was probably right, but he knew he couldn't make that decision. They were in way over their heads.

"I'll talk to Richter about it. See what he says. But it won't happen right away. He's got to go back into the hospital next week for some more work. The doc said he'll look a little better after that. Then we'll see."

"Until then?"

"Until then we stick to the plan." He glanced down the hall toward the locked door. "And after lunch, you take that damn lock off his door..."


*****

BA was packing up the rest of his stuff, preparing to move into the apartment with Hannibal and Face. Normally they preferred to have separate places, to lessen the chance of them all being captured. BA would have kept to that practice, but Hannibal insisted. Face needed them all together.

BA wasn't so sure of that.

At exactly noon, Hannibal had headed down to Face's room, BA reluctantly following behind him. The last thing any of them needed was a confrontation. But Face had stepped out just as they reached his door. He hadn't said anything, just stood there, waiting, looking down and off to the side. Hannibal had watched him for a minute, like he was waiting for an apology or explanation. When nothing happened, he'd just said lunch was ready and walked back to the kitchen. Face had immediately followed him, leaving BA standing in the hallway.

The rest of the day, Face had done whatever Hannibal asked him to. Hannibal took it to mean Face had spent the morning coming to terms with himself, and had decided that he needed to follow Hannibal's protocol to get on the road to recovery. BA wasn't so sure.

Face would always do what Hannibal wanted. Eventually. But he rarely did it without at least a token argument, or exactly the way Hannibal wanted it done. He always had to throw in a little Jazz of his own. Submissive was not a word BA thought Face even knew.

But that afternoon, that's exactly what Face was. Submissive. Not just submissive, either. It was like he wanted someone to take charge of him. That he wanted to be told what to do, when to do it. Like he didn't want any responsibility for himself at all.

Hannibal had accepted it. But BA couldn't. That wasn't Face.

The only time he'd shown any interest at all was when Hannibal was going through his hospital appointments. Then he'd wanted to know exactly what procedure was going to be done and when and why. BA hadn't thought he'd paid much attention to the doctors the day of his release; he was all attention today. And BA didn't like that either, for some reason. Maybe because it didn't seem like Face was planning his future.

More like he was trying to fit Hannibal's schedule into one of his own.

BA shook his head again. Hannibal might be willing to believe in Face's turnaround. BA knew better.

With a final look around his rooms, he sighed and walked out. Face needed them, yeah. But not the way Hannibal thought. Maybe not the way Face thought, either.


*****

He'd spent the last three days thinking. Planning. In minute detail. It served two purposes, really. One, it made sure he wasn't overlooking anything. Second, it kept him from thinking about...things. He wouldn't allow himself to sink into self-pity. Nor would he allow himself to wallow in guilt over the others. He had a plan now. He just had to follow through.

Easier said than done. Especially where Hannibal was concerned.

The afternoon of Face's 'rebellion', Hannibal had had a conference with the three of them. The colonel thought it was time they talked about the accident, and the...aftermath. Get it all out on the table. Hannibal didn't want any more hiding, any more pretending.

Right.

It had been hard, but he'd done it. Been honest, but not quite. He couldn't be. He didn't dare let everything out. There were things he'd been thinking and feeling that he couldn't re-visit. The thoughts that crept in at night, before the artificial sleep hit him. The fear and the anger and the frustration that made him want to lash out at everyone and everything.

He wouldn't go there.

Instead, he convinced them that yes, he had felt all those things, but that was over now. Now he just wanted to move on.

No use crying over spilled milk, right?

At first, they hadn't accepted it, but Face used all his talents. His looks may have been destroyed, but inside he was still the Faceman, Conman Extraordinaire. There were tricks he knew that he'd never used on the team before. It wouldn't have been fair. But now...

What was it they said? All's fair...

He'd gotten through the conference finally. Hannibal was satisfied. He wasn't sure about BA. Something about the way he kept looking at Face said he wasn't buying it. Not completely. Well, it didn't matter. BA could have all the doubts he wanted. As long as he didn't act on them.

Then Hannibal had asked him if he wanted to see what he looked like. Hannibal thought he should, that he needed to. Face refused. Flatly. He didn't want to and didn't need to. That, at least, was the truth.

Why would anyone want to look at that?

Even BA accepted his words this time. If Face wasn't ready for it yet, no problem. After the next set of operations, then, maybe...

That's what he was thinking about now. They were supposed to leave for the hospital in a few minutes. He'd be there for four or five days. They were going to do some more repair work on that nerve, the one that made the left side of his face look like it had melted. But it could still take months before it was healed enough to make him look semi-normal.

And they were going to give him a patch to replace the dressing over his eye. They couldn't do anything else yet. Not until they fixed the bones around it. He'd checked Hannibal's calendar. Another three, maybe four operations.

He wondered what he would look like when they were all through. Shook his head.

Like it mattered.

"Ready, Tem?" Hannibal stood in the doorway, Face's bag in hand. BA was waiting in the car. Face nodded and walked ahead of Hannibal to the front door.

And that's when he realized his plan wasn't going to go as smoothly as he'd hoped.

He couldn't step outside.


*****

Hannibal almost ran into him, so abruptly did Face stop in the doorway. Like he'd turned to stone.

"Tem? What's the matter?"

Face didn't answer. Just started shaking his head and backing up.

"Tem?"

"I can't." He threw a quick glance up at Hannibal before looking down at the ground again.

"Hey, don't worry. It's just the car. No van. Okay?"

"No. I can't. I can't go out there." He turned as if he was going back to his room.

Hannibal stepped in front of him. "You can do this, Tem. I'll be right there with you. So will BA. Nothing's going to happen."

"They'll look." He swallowed hard. "They'll see."

Hannibal stepped back a bit. Sighed. So much for Face's declarations that he was 'okay'. It was one thing when he was in here, safe. Where there were only people who accepted him, regardless. Out there were people who wouldn't understand. Who would stare. Who would bring it all home to him again.

So now what? They couldn't just let him hide forever. And he had to go to the hospital.

"Wait right here. Don't move. Understand, Lieutenant?"

Face just nodded. Hannibal hurried to his own room.

By the time he got back, BA was standing in the door, questions all over his face. Hannibal just held up his finger for him to wait. Reaching down, he gently raised Face's head so he was looking at him. He forced himself not to look at the eye. Carefully, he settled a pair of sunglasses on Face. Then, just as carefully, he put a hat on him. It was a little big, but not too much. Just enough so it settled down a bit lower than normal. Finally he adjusted the collar of Face's jacket so it was up around his neck.

It didn't hide everything, but enough.

"Hollywood Incognito. Okay, kid?" He smiled at him, encouraging.

Face nodded. Hannibal thought he could see his right eye blinking fast.

There was a moment's hesitation at the door, then the three of them headed out to the car, BA and Hannibal protectively flanking Face. They entered the hospital the same way.