CHAPTER THIRTY THREE

BA watched silently as the jeep moved up the gully. It was too far away, yet, to make out the occupants, but BA was ready, regardless. He'd already alerted Hannibal; if they were the wrong people and, by some small chance, got by BA, he'd be more than ready for them.

He'd been out here for some time now. Hannibal was keeping an eye on the rest of the perimeter; it was easy enough, since it sat on a huge plateau of sorts, nothing but flat land surrounding it. A person could see for miles. From the small spot of shade provided by a couple of large boulders, BA could keep an eye on the only way in, the only vulnerability.

Even in the shade, it was hot. BA wiped the sweat trickling down his face. It was uncomfortable, but he preferred it to being on watch at the trailer. He didn't want to be there, not now, not yet, at all. Didn't want to be there when Face woke up, didn't want to listen to no more talk about bein dead.

The jeep came to a halt down below. He recognized Nick, now, and the other guy looked familiar. BA had seen him around the village. So it was probably okay. He clicked the radio a couple of times. He wouldn't speak until he knew for sure. He waited until the two men had climbed to the top of the gully, and stood, catching their breath.

"Who you got with you, Nick?"

Both men jumped, startled at the disembodied voice accosting them.

"It's okay, Sergeant. This is our Doctor Feist, from the village. Charlie wanted me to bring him out with me, in case you guys were here and needed some help."

"Charlie okay? Why ain't he here?"

"He couldn't get away. He's got FBI agents all over. Said they were his bodyguards." Nick looked around, trying to see where Baracus was hidden away. There were only a couple of places, some rocky outcroppings, some scrub brush, but he couldn't see any sign of him. His voice echoed around the gully; he could be anywhere. "I don't know what's going on, Sergeant. I'm just doing what Charlie asked me to."

"What about him?"

"Ed knows me, Sergeant. I treated him for his headaches. I'm not here to cause anyone any problems." The doctor, too, was looking around. He found the disembodied voice slightly unnerving.

BA looked at the two men for another few moments. They didn't sound like they were lyin, and those had been prescription painkillers. He grudgingly admitted he trusted Nick; didn't like him much, but he trusted him.

"Okay. Go on up. The colonel will be waitin for you." BA watched as they walked past, then got Hannibal on the radio. His voice was cool, clipped. BA sighed; Hannibal had slipped back into his commander shell. Protectin himself. Not that BA blamed him. That was all any of them were doin now, protectin themselves. They'd all be livin next door to Murdock if they didn't.

Might not be so bad, if a fella stopped to think about it.


*****

Hannibal was waiting in the doorway when the two men finally reached the trailer. Charlie had slipped Nick a detailed note with the directions to the place, but it was hard to follow with few real landmarks. By the time they saw it, they were both hot and dusty.

"Gentlemen." Hannibal's voice contrasted with the politeness of the word. The tension was obvious. "The patient's inside." He paused, looking at Feist. "You've seen him before?"

"Yes, sir, I have. Don't worry, I..."

"He's worse now. Shot in the leg. The shit beaten out of him. Do what you can." Hannibal stepped aside, holding open the door, a cool gaze following both the doctor and Nick as they walked past him.

Nick knew that Ed lived a very simple life, but he hadn't been prepared for this. He tried to keep his shock hidden, not knowing how Smith might react. He was, quite frankly, loathe to engage Smith in any way.

Dr. Feist seemed to have no such inhibitions.

"I beg your pardon, Colonel, but it was quite a walk up here. I wonder if I might bother you for something to drink?"

"Certainly, Doctor." Smith, still cold as ice, retrieved two glasses from the cupboard and filled them with juice from the refrigerator. He handed off the glasses, and stepped back, leaning almost casually against the cupboard.

Feist took a couple long swallows before setting down the glass and moving to his patient, all business now that he was refreshed. Nick sipped his drink more slowly, watching Smith out of the corner of his eye. Nothing in the man's demeanor did anything to change Nick's opinion of him. It was clear to him that this "team" considered Ed an obligation, nothing more. Charlie had said that "somehow" Sinon had gotten to Ed. How had that happened, if Smith had known who he really was? Why wasn't Smith with him? Why hadn't the whole team been with him? If they had...

And now, they were acting like it was some kind of imposition for them to be here at all. Smith, especially, leaning against the counter like Ed was just some stranger...

Nick turned to the window, unable to look at Smith any more. He would talk to Charlie as soon as he got back to the village. Tell Charlie to send these guys away. Now. And he and Nick would take care of Ed, make sure he wasn't bothered by them ever again. Make sure he had the peace he'd been looking for. The peace Nick and Charlie had probably destroyed by bringing these men here.

They owed him that, at least.


*****

Murdock saw the jeep sitting in the gully ahead of him, and drew his pistol as he slowed the van. He didn't see anyone around the jeep, but that didn't mean anything. Normally he would have assumed either BA or Hannibal would be on watch, but so many things were out of whack any more, who knew?

He shut the door quietly, grimacing a little when he heard something else fall off the van. BA would have his head in a basket, that was for sure. Especially since Murdock wouldn't be able to tell him exactly why the van had ended up the way it had. Maybe, if he just told him he'd had a run-in with the goons at the airfield, that would suffice. Or maybe...

"MURDOCK! What'd you do to ma van, Fool!"

Oh, shit...

"I'm sorry, BA, really, I am. But I ran into some trouble at the airfield, and..."

"Look at it, man! Look at it!" BA had bounded down the slope and was circling the van in angry strides.

"Hey, BA, really, it looks worse than it is. I mean, it's running just fine, just like always. It just doesn't look, well, like...it...used...to..." Murdock looked helplessly at BA, who had suddenly stopped and stared at him.

For a long moment, the two stood perfectly still, Murdock wondering if BA was going to beat him into the ground, or just launch him like a rocket, and BA glaring at him. And then, just as suddenly, the glare was gone, and BA looked...sad?

"You right, Murdock. It just looks bad. I can fix that." BA looked at the van, the front end flattened, paint scraped off en masse, windshield spider-webbed. "Looks don't mean a thing."

Murdock felt a lump in his throat. For a moment, he wanted to rush over to BA and hug him. Tell him that everything was going to be fine, that everything would work out. But he couldn't do that. Not only would BA flatten him, but he wouldn't believe him, either. BA would fix the van. But he'd know that was the only thing he could fix.

BA almost shook himself as he stepped abruptly away from the van.

"Nick brought a doctor. They're up there now."

"How is he?"

BA looked down at the ground, the anger back, almost visibly shimmering around him.

"They shot him, Murdock."

"Wha...?"

"I didn't see it right away. But they shot him in the leg. It was clean, through and through, but..."

Murdock didn't wait for anything more. He sprinted up the slope and raced for the trailer.

BA stood for another moment before turning back to his van, picking idly at the chips of paint. He should've told Murdock the other thing. About Face thinkin he was dead...


*****

Dr. Feist stood up and moved over to Hannibal. He smiled softly.

"You fellas did a good job. The bullet wound looks very good; there shouldn't be any problems with it, as long as you keep it clean." The smile faltered a bit. "The injuries to his face...he had talked about reconstructive surgery. That he was supposed to have that done in a few months."

"Yeah."

"I'm no expert, Colonel, but frankly, I'm not sure that's not going to be possible now. You should have a plastic surgeon examine him as soon as possible; there may be something they can do, but..."

"But what?"

"The injuries were healing, but, well, the new insult to the already damaged tissue...and these aren't incisive wounds. More like tearing." The doctor sighed. "As I say, a plastic surgeon..."

"Yeah, I heard you the first time, doc. I'll see what we can do."

Dr. Feist nodded. "I see you gave him some of the headache medication. Keep doing that. It won't hurt him to sleep through the next couple of days. Probably do him good. I'll stop out later and see how he's doing. If everything looks good, we'll gradually take him off the painkillers. I gave him a shot of antibiotics; I'll leave some here for you. Now, Ed doesn't have a phone, so if anything happens..."

"We'll get to you, don't worry."

Dr. Feist looked at Hannibal, right in the eye.

"How are you doing?"

Again, that cool calm gaze.

"I'm just fine, doc."

The skeptical twist to the doctor's mouth said he didn't believe that for a minute.

"I know this probably won't do any good, Colonel Smith, but if you, or any of your men, want to talk, I'm there. This can't be easy for any of you."

The gaze wavered for a split second before taking command again. "I appreciate that, Doc, but we'll be fine. Just fine."

Dr. Feist nodded and headed for the door.

"I'll see you in a couple of days, then."

Hannibal watched as Nick silently followed the doctor out. He heard Murdock's voice, fast and low, and the doctor's responding tones. Hannibal moved over to the bed, looked down at Face, sleeping deeply, peacefully.

"Now what, kid? Now what?"