CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

"You want to try your luck at telling him about Bursey?"

Hannibal looked up at Murdock from where he was wiping down the table. When they'd arrived at the trailer - Hannibal refused to call it Face's 'home' - it had been, if not immaculate, then extremely neat. He wanted to leave it that way. Murdock was sweeping the linoleum, ala Fred Astaire. He stopped just as he was about to swing the broom down in a graceful arc, its bristles inches from the ceiling.

"Me, Colonel?"

"Yeah, Murdock. Why not? You talked him into being Lazarus, right? So what's a little trip?"

The broom came slowly down to earth, and Murdock leaned on the handle, a serious frown on his face.

"This trip is a little different, Hannibal. Face didn't really want to be dead, y'know. So it was pretty easy to give him an argument he'd accept. But leaving here? No way. You're looking at a little BA type reasoning, there."

"You know we can't do that, Murdock. Not for three days. He's got to be alert and ready to talk with the doc."

"Yeah...Uh, just out of curiosity, why don't you want to tell him, Colonel?"

"I don't think Face would accept it from me, at all. He still thinks I deserted him. Which I did not do." The look on Hannibal's face dared anyone to argue, and Murdock was not about to.

"Okay, I'll give it a try, but I can't guarantee anything." He made a couple token swipes with the broom. "You're going to have to talk to him sometime, Colonel. We all are. We got to get things straight between us."

Hannibal sighed. He knew very well that talk was long overdue. It should've happened months ago, before Face took off. He didn't know what he would have said that would have made any difference, and nothing had really changed since. Face had hidden from his troubles back then, and he was still hiding.

With a guilty heart, Hannibal realized that maybe Face wasn't the only one.


*****

Murdock stepped out of the trailer, looking for a long moment at BA and Face. Something about BA seemed more relaxed, somehow. Murdock wondered if he and Face had had a chance to talk things out.

"Hey, Big Guy. How's everything?"

BA looked up, a surprisingly contemplative look on his face. "Good, Murdock. Things are pretty good."

Murdock smiled, relieved. At least someone was making progress. "Hannibal wanted to make sure the van was ready for...you know."

"Yeah, just about. Should be done this afternoon. 'Cept for the dents and windshield..." Murdock didn't know if he was relieved or not to see the customary glare as BA stepped past him. He knew at some point BA was going to make him pay for that.

Murdock took BA's place next to Face. He sat quietly, watching his friend dozing. If one looked past the scars, bruises, and cuts, he looked almost at peace. Almost.

Well, Murdock was about to put an end to even that. He took a breath, put on a smile, and gently shook Face's shoulder.

"Hey, Face. Asleep again?"

Face stirred, looked sleepily around. Frowned.

"Where's Petey?"

"Petey?" Murdock looked puzzled for a moment. He hadn't met anyone named Petey. Then it dawned on him. "You mean the dog?"

"Where's Petey?" Face was getting worried now. Petey should've been sleeping with him on the lounge, or at least lying next to it. He struggled to sit up, felt dizziness sweep over him. "Petey!"

"Hang on, Face! Petey's with Charlie."

Face lay back down, unhappily. Why the hell was Petey with Charlie? Petey belonged to him, not to Charlie.

"I want Petey." He glared at Murdock. At least, he hoped it was a glare. He seemed to be having a problem making his face work.

"He's okay, Face. Promise. Look, I got something to talk to you about."

"I want my dog."

"I know, but we got to talk first. Remember I said someone had special plans for you..."

"I want Petey. Now."

"I understand, Face, but first..."

"Now."

Murdock sighed. This was not going to work. "Just a minute, okay, Face?" He stood and hurried into the trailer.

Moments later, Hannibal was outside, sitting down by the lounge. He was determined to be reasonable, calm, and not lose his temper, even in the face of his lieutenant's obstinacy.

"Face, Petey's with Charlie now."

"Why?"

"He's been taking care of him while you were healing up."

"When's he coming home?"

"Well, we're going away for a while."

"So?"

"So, we can't really take a dog with us."

"I know that..."

Hannibal looked at Face. Finally, they were getting somewhere.

"...but why is Petey still at Charlie's?"

Hannibal hung his head, exasperated.

"Face, I just explained. We can't take the dog with us."

"Well, why would you? He's my dog!"

"I know he's your dog, Face. But we can't take care of him when we're on the road.'

"So what? I'll take care of him, just like I always have." Hannibal wasn't the only one getting exasperated.

"How are you going to take care of him, Face? You can't even walk on that leg yet."

"I can reach the door just fine. Petey always comes when I call him."

Realization hit Hannibal like a brick wall. "Face, you aren't going to be here. You're going with us."

"What? Why? No! No, I'm not going anywhere! I'm staying here!"

"Look, Face, we found a doctor up north who might be able to help you out. A plastic surgeon Dr. Feist recommended..."

"No."

"Face..."

"No. What's the point?"

"You could at least talk to the guy, Face."

"No. I'm happy here. I'm staying."

"Lieutenant..."

"Stop it, Hannibal! I'm not your lieutenant any more. You made that clear enough!"

"I never said anything like that, Face. I gave you a choice."

"Some choice."

"Okay, Face, let's put it this way. The choice isn't yours any more. You're going with us tomorrow and that's final."

"Bullshit."

"If I have to carry you to the van and tie you in, you're going."

"Fuck you." Face deliberately turned away.

Hannibal sat back, trying very hard to get his anger in check. What was it about Face that made him so damn angry all the time? Then he noticed the slight tremors running through Face's body. Ashamed, he made one last attempt.

"Face, if I bring your dog along, will you go then? And if I promise you can come back here right after, if that's what you really want to do?"

Hannibal held his breath, waiting, hoping. It seemed like forever.

"Okay." Face's voice was so soft Hannibal almost didn't hear him. "But..."

"What, Face?" Hannibal matched Face's voice, keeping it soft, calm.

"I don't know...if I can...if..."

"We'll be right there with you, Face. Nothing's going to happen to you. I swear it."

Face just nodded, never looking back at Hannibal.


*****

Hannibal spoke with Nick when he stopped in that afternoon. Early the next morning, before the sun came up over the distant mountains, Nick arrived with the small white dog, who immediately raced into Face's arms, covering him with slobbery kisses. It was the first time in months any of the team had seen a genuine smile from Face.

Within the hour, the team was rolling away from the trailer. Face was reclining on an old gurney Dr. Feist had provided, Petey clutched tightly to his side, Murdock seated beside him. Hannibal kept glancing back, noting the pale skin, and the tension practically vibrating off Face. Murdock would look back at him, smiling encouragingly, but Hannibal could see the worry in his eyes.

It was going to be a long trip...