No man is free who is not a master of himself. - Epictetus

"Thugs in the park."

He'd thought Hannibal was just being a smart-ass again. Figured that's what they'd all thought.

He'd been wrong.

So wrong.

About so many things.

Like thinking the guys were finally over treating him like fine china that would break apart at the drop of a hat. Look at that last job before the pardons. Glued to Hannibal. Okay, so moving the piano had been harder than he'd expected. But he'd still jumped that car. Paid for it later, but he'd done the job, right? So he'd needed a little more time to get back completely. That's all. Just a little.

Hannibal apparently disagreed. Constant mamby-pamby jobs after the pardons, Face relegated to intel gathering, surveillance... Safe positions. Long, long after it was really necessary.

And then the disappearing acts. Suddenly none of the team was around, and just as suddenly showing up again, each with idiotic alibis for where they'd been, ridiculous excuses for the injuries. Suddenly he was working with the world's clumsiest men.

But he still had to check in with Hannibal. Never knew when another job would come up. Hannibal had to know where he was, how to get in touch with him.

Did they think he was stupid?

Did they think he didn't know?

Watching the others taking the chances, while he did nothing more than handle the paperwork when they ended up in the emergency room.

So much for the freedom having those pardons was supposed to give them.

Supposed to give him.

Almost a year later, and still under Hannibal's thumb.

Keeping him 'safe'.

Keeping him down.

He sighed as he lifted the suitcase into the trunk, wincing slightly. So he got spasms now and then. Nothing life threatening, for chrissake. No fucking reason to treat him like glass. No fucking reason to keep him on a leash instead of letting him do what he did best.

No fucking reason to make him just an auxiliary member.

He pulled out of the driveway, headed for the freeway. No idea where he was going. Didn't matter. He could go wherever the hell he wanted now. He had his pardon. He was a free man.

Fuck anything else.


Hannibal puffed slowly at his cigar. Trying to think of what excuse he could give Face this time. He didn't think his lieutenant would believe Murdock had fallen down the stairs again. Or that Hannibal had stabbed himself while cleaning fish. Maybe they could just stay away for a little while longer. Give them time to heal up more, think of some new reason why they'd all disappeared this time.

BA tried to tell him. Murdock nagged at him. Even Frankie tried to convince him.

Face was okay. He didn't need or want to be babied any more. He could do the job as well as any of them. And he wasn't stupid.

But Hannibal couldn't do it. He just could not do it.

He would not chance losing the kid again.

Never again.