CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

It was a quiet three days. Hannibal kept Face sedated, for the most part. They got some soup down him, when he was awake enough, before putting him under again. He was never awake enough to talk, which was just as well, as far as Hannibal was concerned. Murdock seemed fine, seemed to be holding up, but you could never tell. Hannibal and BA had sat down with him and told him everything that had happened while he was gone. He'd been upset with the dead thing, but no more than they had been.

It bothered Hannibal that Murdock was less than forthcoming about what happened to the van; it wasn't until the Nick came back the next day that they heard about the explosion at the airfield. About all the dead men. BA had shifted uneasily, looking at Hannibal with a worried frown. Hannibal, in turn, had looked at Murdock, but the pilot just returned the look, not a flicker in his eyes. And kept his mouth shut.

It was something he and Hannibal would have to discuss in the very near future.

Dr. Feist came out the second day, pleased with the progress, and told Hannibal he could start cutting back on the painkillers, just give Ed enough to keep him comfortable. He also left the name of a plastic surgeon up north, an old friend of his, who would be 'discreet'. Hannibal thawed considerably toward the man.

With Face sedated, Charlie still 'indisposed', and Sinon effectively out of business, the team had nothing but time on their hands. BA started working on the van, with Murdock attempting to help. It kept the two of them occupied, and out of Hannibal's hair. It also left Hannibal with little to do, other than watch over his lieutenant's sleep.

He wandered about the small trailer until he was convinced he knew every square inch. He checked out the area surrounding it, although he always stayed within hearing range. He didn't like to go out too much, anyway. It was only a few yards and he would come up against that damn pile of skulls. Any other direction, and there was nothing but scrub brush and desert. For a man of action, it was frustrating as hell.

Finally, on the third day, he decided he'd had enough. When Nick came to check on them, he asked to borrow his jeep. Leaving Nick in charge of Face, he headed for the city. Nearly three hours later, he arrived back at the trailer, a satisfied look on his face, fresh supplies in the back seat. He thanked Nick for the use of his vehicle with something nearing friendliness, mystifying everyone.

It wasn't until after the evening meal that Hannibal could be persuaded to tell the others what he had been up to that afternoon. Grinning, he pulled a cigar as the three of them sat just outside the trailer door.

"Gentlemen, we are taking a trip." He lit the cigar, took a puff, and smiled happily.

"A trip? All of us?" Murdock and BA exchanged cautious looks.

"Yep. I made an appointment with Dr. Bursey, the plastic surgeon Feist told us about. Four days from today. I also called Sandy. She's going to sneak out Face's records and have them faxed up to Bursey. He'll know all about the case when Face gets there."

"Uh, Hannibal, you think he's gonna be up to a trip like that?"

"We can fix up the van so he can be comfortable, and take a couple of days to drive up there. He'll be fine."

"What if he don't wanna go, Hannibal? He don't seem to like goin anywhere, even down to the village."

Hannibal frowned. He hadn't expected any objections. "Look, guys, Feist said he needs to see a surgeon, and the sooner, the better. There may be things that need to be done before those cuts heal up completely. We can't wait around until he decides he wants to go. He may hate it, but I'd rather deal with his anger now, instead of weeks or months down the road when it's too late to do anything."

BA and Murdock had to admit, Hannibal had a point. They couldn't take a chance on screwing up Face's future any more than it already was. The three men settled down to plan the trip, and all the problems it would certainly entail.


*****

Face blearily looked up at the ceiling. Strange. He'd never considered a coffin to have a ceiling before. But then, this didn't seem like a normal coffin. It was way too big. Maybe that was just his perspective now. Maybe, once you died, everything seemed bigger.

He thought about that for a moment, and then cautiously looked down.

Nope.

His hands looked normal.

"Morning, Face."

He jumped like he'd been shot. Murdock? What the hell was Murdock doing in Face's coffin? He turned his head and looked up at Murdock, hovering above him. It hurt when he moved. He closed his eye and turned his head away. He must be hallucinating. Murdock couldn't be here.

"C'mon, Face. You need to wake up now."

No, I don't. I'm dead. Dead people don't wake up.

"Face, wake up, buddy."

Face opened his eye again. Murdock was still there. Why was Murdock here, but BA wasn't? BA was the one that should be there, if anyone.

"Face..."

Why couldn't Murdock leave him alone? He was dead, after all. Rest in peace and all that. Although, he didn't feel dead. Then again, how did dead people feel? Did dead people feel?

"Face?"

He was getting irritated. How could he figure this all out with Murdock bugging him all the time?

"Go 'way."

He heard Murdock chuckle. It irritated him even more.

"Can't do that, Face. Today's a big day. Going to get you up out of bed today. Maybe go outside, get some fresh air..."

What? You can't take a corpse outside.

"Can't..."

"Why not? You've been sleeping too long, buddy."

"I'm not sleeping. I'm dead."

Again, he heard Murdock chuckle. Thanks, Murdock. Good to know you care.

"You're not dead any more, Face."

Face looked at Murdock, startled. Murdock was smiling at him, that soft, quiet smile he got when he knew he'd accomplished something special.

"Not dead?"

"Nope. You've been resurrected, Face. Somebody must have some pretty big plans for you."

Face thought about that, glancing about him. Was that why the coffin seemed so big? Because it wasn't a coffin, after all? But why would God resurrect him, of all people? That didn't make sense. And what about...

"BA?"

"That was just a dream, kiddo. BA's fine and dandy. Just as crabby as ever."

"Really?" If BA was alive, maybe Murdock was right about him, too. Or maybe Murdock was just imagining things.

"Sure." Murdock turned away, and suddenly BA was standing beside him.

"Tol ya I wasn't dead, Face. None of us are. Okay?"

When BA used that tone of voice, you didn't argue. Besides, Face didn't think that tone was allowed after you were dead.

"Okay..."

"I'm going to get you some breakfast, Face. Something light this first time, okay?"

Face just nodded, looking around the trailer again, still a bit confused.

Resurrected? Strange. He couldn't figure out why. But then, didn't Father Magill always say, God works in mysterious ways? This was way past mysterious. But nice. Really nice.

He hadn't liked being dead.


*****

Hannibal was stirring the oatmeal. He looked at Murdock, eyes almost twinkling.

"Good job, Captain."

"Well, his still being doped up helped, Colonel."

"Doesn't matter. I never would have thought that up."

"Yeah, but you don't do crazy like I do."


*****

BA was more than happy Face was back among the living. He knew Face was thinking that way just because of the beating he'd taken, but BA found it creepy anyway. Especially since he'd been included among the casualties. He wasn't prone to nightmares, but he'd had one last night. Following Face's ghost around a damn cemetery. BA had been crying, of all things. Then he'd turned into a ghost, too. He woke up, sweating like a butcher, and had sat by Face's bed the rest of the night.

Dumb.

Now, as he helped Face to get up from the bed and hobble to the door, he couldn't help but notice the looks Face kept giving him. First it would be like Face figured BA was going to disappear any second, then it would be like he thought BA was God or something. BA sighed to himself. He knew Face's thinking was still two hub caps short of a Buick, but those looks were almost as creepy as being dead.

It was a struggle getting Face outside and settled in the old chaise lounge, considering the bad leg and the fact his body was one big bruise. BA hadn't wanted to move him at first, but Hannibal had pointed out that he could probably use the fresh air. Considering the small trailer had housed the three of them for the last few days, BA had conceded the point. There was a nice breeze, the heat wasn't oppressive yet, and Face did seem a little more comfortable out here. Hannibal and Murdock were cleaning up inside, leaving BA alone with him for the first time in months. He had so much he wanted to say, but no idea how to start.

"Resurrected."

"Huh?"

"Murdock said I was resurrected."

"Uh, yeah." BA knew it had solved a lot of problems, but somehow, he still felt that whole thing was somehow...sacrilegious. It made him uncomfortable.

Face looked at him, and BA could almost see the gears cranking.

"You, too?"

"No. Never was dead, Face. Tol you that."

"Yeah." Face looked off into the distance.

BA sat, trying to think of how to bring up the accident, make his apologies. Wanted to talk to him about the fake suicide, why he'd done it. He wanted to, badly, but he was afraid it would just make Face hate him even more. BA looked over at him; it looked like he'd fallen asleep again. If there was a good time to talk, it might just be now, while he was still under the influence of the painkillers.

"Face?"

"Hmm?"

BA swallowed. "Face, I'm sorry, man. About the...accident."

Face sighed. "Not your fault, BA."

"That's not what you really think, though, is it?"

"Huh?"

BA pushed ahead, afraid to, but knowing he couldn't stop now. He had to get this out in the open, once and for all.

"That's why you made us think you killed yourself, ain't it? 'Cause you blamed us. Blamed me. I...I know you hate me for it, Face, but I..."

"I don't hate you, BA. That's not why I did it."

BA was perplexed. If Face didn't hate him, and Face wouldn't lie to him about something like that, then why...

"I don't unnerstand, Face. Why would you do somethin like that?"

Face actually smiled, staring out at the desert, and his voice was soft, sounding far away. "It's beautiful here, isn't it, BA?"

BA frowned. He knew what the change of subject meant with Face. He sighed. "If you like sand and scrub brush, I guess."

Face continued to smile, but there was a weariness in his voice. "That's why, BA. Because that's all it is, sand and scrub brush." He closed his eye, and despite BA's questions, said nothing more.