CHAPTER ELEVEN

He sat in the car, staring at the ocean in the distance. It was almost time. He glanced apprehensively at the two other cars. Tourists, or late night party-goers, catching some sleep before moving on. He thought about hitting the horn, waking them up, but that might mean a confrontation. No way. All he could do was stare at the cars, willing them to leave. He couldn't do this with an audience.

Just over a month ago, he'd been released from the hospital for the second time. Before leaving, a cosmetologist who worked for the plastic surgeon had stopped in. She had spent what seemed like hours showing him how to use makeup to help hide the scars. Hannibal and BA had been there, and watched everything, seemingly fascinated and deadly serious. When she stepped back from her handiwork, she smiled brightly and proclaimed him "The Pirate Prince".

In his opinion, the woman needed serious empathy training. Either that or her jaws wired. He preferred the latter. He hadn't worn the makeup since, despite the cajoling from his teammates. There was really no reason to, since he never left the apartment. Never.

It had become a very big problem for all of them.

Both Hannibal and BA had been very patient and understanding, at first. They hadn't forgotten the panic when they left for the hospital and were prepared for it when he was released. Fortunately, he was so eager to get out of the hospital and get back to the apartment, it wasn't as much of a problem. A few days later, Hannibal had tried to get him to take a walk in the park a couple blocks away. It had been early morning, with very few people out and about.

He'd gotten as far as the patio before the panic struck. Hannibal had offered to do the Hollywood shtick again, to no avail. The more he coaxed, the more pressure Face felt, the more trapped, and he ended up shoving past Hannibal, practically running back to his room. Hannibal had waited until he'd calmed down and then apologized.

Eventually, though, Hannibal and BA had quit trying to coax him. They lost patience, arguments ensued. Of course, since he had such a difficult time talking, the arguments consisted mainly of their haranguing him about hiding out instead of getting on with his life.

If they only knew how desperately he wanted to get past the panic. He needed to get out. He had to.

He just couldn't.

Unfortunately, it wasn't only his "hiding out" that was causing problems. Neither Hannibal nor BA were used to sitting around, doing nothing. Despite Hannibal's declaration that they would take care of Face, there really wasn't much to take care of. He wanted to be as independent as possible, but it was hard. His depth perception was off, and it seemed like he was always knocking things over; then one of the others would insist on cleaning up the mess. Hannibal and BA were constantly forgetting and coming up on his blind side, startling the hell out of him. Then Face overheard Hannibal turn down a couple of jobs. Jobs they should have taken. Resentments built up on both sides. Mainly they lived together in relative peace, but when arguments occurred, it took longer and longer to smooth ruffled feathers.

The only really positive thing that had happened over that month was Murdock. True to his promise, he was working hard with Dr. Richter. In fact, the doctor reported that Murdock was talking more openly now than he ever had, and he was getting nearer and nearer to what he'd been before the accident.

Hannibal was surprised and elated; BA and Face just looked at each other and smiled. News about Murdock became one of the highlights of their days.

A week ago, he'd had to go back to the hospital's clinic, an ordeal he both looked forward to and dreaded. They would not only be taking the cast off his arm, but removing the hated wires from his jaw. Both more than welcome changes, but he hardly slept the night before, thinking about going outside. Hannibal made a couple late night phone calls, out of his hearing, and Face unknowingly ended up with a heavy dose of tranquilizers that morning. He was back in the apartment before he actually realized he had left.

Face let out a deep breath. Looked at his watch. It was getting late. He looked for the other two cars. One had left, one remained. He shook his head, frustrated. The longer he stayed, the more chance his plan would fail. Hannibal and BA would be waking up any time now. It wouldn't be long after that they would discover he was gone.

He reached over to the passenger seat, nervously adjusting the items lying there. His hand shook. A lot. He tried deep breathing, trying to calm down. He was not going to blow it now. Not after going through all that hell getting here.

It had taken him almost an hour to get out of the house. He'd stood at the front door, grabbing the knob, letting go, grabbing it again. Walking away, pacing. Trying again. Thought about postponing the whole thing until another night. Arguing with himself.

In the end, it was panic overcoming fear. He'd heard BA stirring, mumbling as he wandered down the hall to the bathroom. Face had stood by the front door, paralyzed. What if BA came out to the kitchen? Everything would be ruined.

He heard the door to the bathroom close. He swung the front door open, slipped through and closed it quietly behind him. Stood there, heart racing, glancing quickly around to see if he was observed. All quiet. Moments later he was at the car, picking the lock. It took way too long. Finally, it clicked. He put the car in neutral, pushed with all his might, and practically fell into the driver's seat as the car slid past. He let it glide into the street and swung it around to the curb, hitting it hard. Not giving himself time to think, he fumbled to hotwire the car and then wheeled carefully away.

The place he had chosen wasn't far, thank God. They had passed it on the way to the hospital, and both Hannibal and BA had tried to get him to at least drive there with them. He'd liked the look of the place and had wanted to go...

Well, he was here now. After a slow, nerve-killing drive through the darkness. He'd almost cried in frustration when he'd seen the other two cars there, but he wasn't about to quit now. He would just wait them out. And he had. The second car started up as the sun's corona was lighting the sky behind them. Seconds later, he was alone. Ready.

Hannibal's car was parked where the guys could readily see it when they drove down this way. He wasn't sure which direction they would take first, but eventually they would have to pass by here. They would see it, and they would find what he'd left in it. Eye patch, wallet, keys, a set of clothes. All neatly folded on the passenger seat. He would have no further use of them. They would find the car, see the pile on the seat. They would hurry to the railing and look down to see the ocean crashing wildly against the rocks far below.

And they would finally be able to get on with their lives...