CHAPTER SIXTY EIGHT

Hannibal stepped out of Dr. Feist's surgery, shoulders slumped. He fumbled in his pocket for a cigar, noting absently that his hand shook. He didn't have time to look for a light; a hand suddenly appeared, match flaring in the darkness. Hannibal looked up, startled, and saw a stranger's face in front of him. The man smiled, held the match up, and waited until Hannibal had taken a long first drag.

"How is he doing?"

Hannibal hesitated only a moment. "So far, so good. It'll take some time, but the doc thinks he'll make it."

The man smiled even more. "Good. Very good." With a nod, he moved back into the darkness, and Hannibal could make out other figures gather around him. Moments later, they all drifted silently away.

Hannibal stood still, cigar smoke drifting up into the air. These people still puzzled him. Pollyanna's, he called them. Well, maybe that wasn't so bad. From the moment the Jeep had roared through the village, they had gathered in vigil around the doctor's cabin, waiting for some word, offering encouragement.

Remarkable.

Murdock and BA were at the cabin. Hannibal had had to order them there, after the doc had given them a quick once-over. Cold showers, bed rest. That's an order, Sergeant, Captain. As good a Colonel-glare as he could muster, for good measure.

It was a testament to their ordeal, emotional and physical, that they had both complied without question. That, and the villagers again, walking with the two exhausted men, making sure they got home okay. And Murdock and BA had let them. If Hannibal hadn't been close to exhaustion himself, it would've worried him.

He didn't have energy to worry any more.

"Just call me Scarlett O'Hara," he'd thought, watching them walk away.

He looked around, up at the night sky. It was so cool, so clear, now. How could it have been such hell before? It didn't seem possible. He thought about the past twenty-four hours.

A lifetime.

Now, though far from feeling refreshed, he at least felt relaxed. Ed was out of danger, IV's pushing fluids into his body, wet cloths covering his body while fans blew over him. Feist had said it would be at least three or four days before Ed was out of the woods, but he was "cautiously optimistic". Hannibal thought about that over-used phrase. It usually meant the patient would be okay, but the doctors wanted to cover their asses, just in case. Hannibal took it to mean Ed would be okay.

Okay. Whatever the hell that meant.

His men were taken care of, Nick had taken Charlie and the dog in hand, and now Hannibal had one last task before he could rest.

Decker.

Somehow or another, he had to strike a bargain with Decker, offer him something that would allow Murdock to go back to the VA, where he'd be safe.

Something that would allow Ed to stay here in the village, unmolested.

Where he belonged.


*****

When the Jeep had rolled to a stop, Nick had motioned to some of the men gathering, and told them they needed to keep Decker "on ice" for a while. The three men who had come forward had been firm, but polite, the looks on their faces saying they expected him to go with them. Period. Had Decker resisted, he wasn't sure what might have happened.

The FBI agents - the real FBI agents - had told him about Charlie and this village of his. Totally self-sufficient, paying their taxes and otherwise wanting nothing to do with the government, not expecting or demanding any services. They just wanted to be left alone.

He'd run into people like that before. Silent, stubborn, and they almost always did what they intended to do. They just waited everyone out. Well, Decker wasn't in the business of hassling civilians. In the meantime, being shown a comfortable cabin with a shower, and later, a tasty meal brought to the door, made up for a lot. He was content to ignore the guards outside, for now.

He wandered to the window, where he could look down the way to the doctor's cabin. He wondered how Peck was doing. He hadn't looked good, at all. Decker really hoped he would be okay. And, strangely, not just so he could have the pleasure of throwing his ass in the brig. He actually felt some pity for the man - like one felt for a dog that'd been hit by a car.

But there was something about the way the people of this little enclave acted toward Peck.

He'd watched them gathering around the doctor's cabin, realizing the job he'd have ahead of him. Between tours in-country, he'd dealt with these little communes. Raids, looking for deserters. Some of them weren't as "peaceful" as they claimed, but others, like this one, were definitely into passive resistance. Funny. Those were the ones where they never seemed to ferret out the errant soldiers. Because no one said a word. No one resisted. Just stood silently around the soldiers, getting in the way, moving only when moved. And yet somehow, the Army's quarry seemed to just...disappear.

That didn't worry Decker now. The war was long over, and once these people knew Smith and his team were real criminals, he was confident they would turn them over to the military. They didn't seem to be the kind that wanted any trouble of any kind.

Smith came out of the doctor's office now, and Decker watched the interaction with the people who'd been waiting outside. They had been concerned about Smith and the others, but it was obvious their real worry had been Peck.

Strange.

How had Peck bought them off? How had he convinced them to let "Edward Mordake" stay here, and play the eccentric hermit? He had to offer them something...

That Sinon outfit? No, that had all started before Peck arrived. Although, when he thought about the information this Charlie guy had turned over to the FBI, Decker had no doubts as to where it had originally come from. Not now, anyway. It was the kind of thing Peck was best at, worming information out of places he had no business going. But he'd been accepted here long before all that shit happened.

No, he may be able to get Smith, Baracus and Murdock out of here, but until he knew what hold Peck had over these people, there was no way they'd let him go. Just like those CO's from years ago, he would just disappear until the military left.

He was still staring out the window when he saw what could be the answer to everything.

Hannibal Smith, worn and exhausted, heading for this cabin.

Decker smiled.


*****

"BA?"

"Yeah, Murdock?"

"What do you think Hannibal's gonna do about Decker?"

"Dunno. He'll come up with somethin. Always does."

"Yeah." Murdock lay in the dark, staring at the ceiling. He was bone-tired, and wanted to sleep, but he couldn't. He wanted to be down at the doc's, looking after Face, but he couldn't move. And he needed something else, too, but he wasn't sure if BA could give it to him.

"BA?"

He heard BA sigh. "Yeah, Murdock..."

"You think Hannibal will fix it so I can go back? To the VA, I mean?"

"Y'need ta go back, do ya?"

"I...I don't know. I think I might. Things are getting kinda...wobbly, y'know?"

"Yeah."

Murdock heard BA moving around. A moment later, he felt BA sit down beside him on the bed.

"Listen, Murdock. I need you to hang on, jus a little longer, okay? We all do. An' then we'll git you some help, one way or 'nother. But you gotta hang on for now. Can you do that?"

"I don't know, BA. All this stuff going on...I mean, what if Face..."

"Face is gonna be fine. Doc said so. But you go off the deep end, jus gonna make it harder on him. Look, just try to keep it together for a couple more days, jus till Face is up and around again. I'll help ya, man, and so will Hannibal. Just a couple more days."

"O-Okay, BA. I think I can do that. Yeah. I can do that."

"Good." BA clapped him on the shoulder, squeezed. "Good."

Murdock heard BA go back to his own bed, and a few minutes later heard the soft snoring. He closed his eyes, wishing for sleep.

Wishing he could go home.


*****

"You sure you don't want to wait until morning, Colonel? You could use some sleep."

Hannibal smiled at the man standing guard in front of the cabin. "No, I need to take care of this first. Thanks."

Nodding doubtfully, the guard unlocked the door, and Hannibal stepped in.

Decker was waiting, sitting calmly on the couch, a grim smile on his face. Hannibal looked around the cabin. It was nearly empty, save a few pieces of furniture. He realized, with a start, that it must be the one Cal had left.

Ironic.

He looked back at Decker, who had now gotten up from the couch and stepped forward.

"Decker."

"Smith. Quite the little kingdom here, isn't it? You seem to have a very cozy relationship with the inmates."

"It's a nice place, Decker. And nice people. They have nothing to do with you and me."

"They're harboring fugitives, Smith. Or don't they know that?"

"Let's forget the villagers for now, Decker. You and I have other matters to discuss."

"Yeah, like the resurrected lieutenant? How is he, anyway? Another miraculous recovery?"

"He's going to be okay. For now. I want him to stay that way."

"I have a job to do, Smith. Taking the A-Team into custody. All four of you." Decker emphasized the "four".

"Doing that single-handed might be a problem, Decker. And by the time you got back here with reinforcements, well..."

"Oh, I don't think I have to worry about that, Smith. I have bargaining power, y'see. A whole little commune's worth."

Hannibal straightened. "What are you talking about, Decker? I already told you these people don't have anything to..."

"I know what you said, Smith. But you're here. That's all I need. I'm sure the civilian authorities would be very interested in seeing what other 'undesirables' might be hiding out here. What odd little activities might be going on."

"You'd set them up?"

"Let's just say the DEA, customs, ATF, and, oh, yeah, the IRS - they could all get some interesting tips as to questionable activities around this area."

"You can't be serious."

"Oh, I'm very serious, Smith. Very serious. I take you in, or your friends here get a taste of their government in action." Decker sat back on the couch, smiled with a glint in his eyes. "You think about it, Smith. Take all the time you want. I'm in no rush."

Hannibal glared at him for a moment before he slammed his way out of the cabin.