The only sounds Face heard were his own labored breaths, his footfalls and the rustling of leaves he brushed as he ran by. It was hot, so very hot and damp. How could the air hold so much moisture? Every crevice and fold of his skin was slick. It was nothing like the dry heat in the desert.
He looked back behind himself repeatedly. He didn't know if he was being chased. He didn't even know why he was running. He only knew he felt compelled to keep going. He couldn't slow down, he couldn't stop, he couldn't waver in direction.
This oppressiveness weighing on him was from far more than the tropic environment. He had to evade this cloak descending over him and the only way he knew how was to run and keep running. Another check over his shoulder told him he wasn't in danger of being taken from behind. Untwisting to again look forward found him stumbling, his feet all but skidding out from under him. He windmilled his arms to halt his forward progression, his foot sliding into a vine on the jungle floor. There just ahead was a figure.
Only a few yards beyond stood someone just off the path he would have forged. This stranger was holding a rifle aimed directly at him. He recognized it immediately. It was an old Soviet 7.62 AK-47. He turned his head with the intent of backtracking. That idea was wiped clean when the weapon was raised to shoulder level in preparation to fire.
His arms flew upward, "No! Don't!" His heart pounded. He could hear the rush of blood from his carotid as it pulsed below his ear. He instinctively knew this man was dangerous. Dangerous beyond his weapon.
"Không di chuyển!" was shouted at him.
"I won't. I promise. Please point your weapon down." Face waived both arms in a downward motion.
"Không di chuyển!" came again. This time the muzzle of the gun jerked upward. "Giơ tay lên," ordering Face to raise his hands along with the verbal not to move.
"Okay. Okay. They're up. I'm not moving. I won't move." He was breathing hard. The combination of the run, the adrenaline and the heat all rolled in a tight bundle of fear was forcing the air in and out in mighty huffs.
"Trên đầu gối của bạn," was ordered.
"Okay," Face agreed as he followed the order dropping to his knees.
The man took a step forward looking over the Lieutenant kneeling on spread knees with his hands now on the top of his head, well in sight. The soldier lowered his weapon to the height of his chest paying more attention to the examination of Face than the direction his gun was pointing.
Face was analyzing too. Trying to determine the distance between them and taking in all the foliage all around them. They were too far apart, he and this Viet Cong soldier. There was no out. A dive into the vegetation would result in a spray of bullets that would find him whether the other man actually saw him or not. The space between them would mean bolting headlong to his death.
The fear of capture was rising in him. He had a memory of it, vague and shifting as though it were seeking stability on a sand slope. He had never been captured. He couldn't have a memory of it. His attention snapped back to the person with all the power in this little stand off. The soldier had let go of the weapon with one of his hands, raising it to his mouth. He held the half-cupped hand beside his lips, at the same time taking in a deep breath.
His call or whistle or whatever the hell he was about to do died with him where he stood. As he crumbled to the soggy floor of the forest like so much litter another figure rose from behind. This man was enormous; wide and muscular, an African American. He bent down to retrieve the Bowie knife that had noiselessly severed the soldier's cervical spine.
Without emotion the brickhouse wiped the blood from the blade along the shirt of the dead man. Certainly not a stranger to death being a US military trained sniper, Face watched in fascination. Again brought up short by a hand clapped over his mouth and a tug to his arm encouraging him to stand.
On his feet he was pulled into a warm chest by sure and steady arms. It was a hug. It was dripping in affection and relief. It was over as quickly as it began.
"You okay?" The whispered voice asking was familiar but somehow distant in the microprocessor of his mind. He could only nod.
Another whisper came. This one from the black soldier. The voice even in a whisper deep as distant thunder, "You alright, Faceman?" Again he could only manage a nod in response before he was whisked away into the dense tangle of undergrowth and vines.
Face followed the blonde. At least he thought the man was blonde he couldn't tell exactly under the camouflage helmet. He could only see a short trim in the void between the helmet and the collar of the old style fatigues, tigers. There were no rank insignias on any of them. He knew he was a Lieutenant. He also knew the man in the lead was a Colonel and the man bringing up the rear was a Sergeant. He couldn't explain it. Not anymore than he could explain understanding the orders given to him in Vietnamese much less knowing it even was Vietnamese.
They had been steadily moving uphill, nothing steep, nothing dramatic, but they were definitely moving upward. He was comfortable with these men. He felt an instinctive trust. The oppressive fear had somewhat lifted being in their presence.
They stopped their forward trek while the Colonel put the prick he had been carrying on his back to use. The old PRC-25 Radio had a quaintness to it, but seemed as appropriate as two left shoes. Verbal communication was not used. Instead, the soldier tuned in a frequency, but instead of speaking into the mouthpiece he twisted the dial off frequency and back on in what Face realized was a code. It wasn’t one he could readily identify, though it was somewhat familiar. If forced to describe it he’d say it sounded like a Pig Latin version of Morse Code.
Within a few minutes of again hoisting the radio the size of a backpack Face heard the unmistakable sound of a bird. The swoop of the rotors were accompanied by a cacophony of electronics and the whirring of engines. As the rotors picked up speed their music moved into a percussion solo. The air was filled with the sound of the helicopter preparing to lift off.
Face was busy looking down at the ground on the lookout for the goddamn vines that were everywhere. A trip and fall waiting to happen. His focus occasionally lifted to the Colonel ahead who seemed to instinctively avoid the hazards as though he had spent what was beginning to look like a lifetime in this tropical mess. Without warning the vines and trees and foliage, some he was sure were houseplants back home, suddenly dropped away. It felt as though a perimeter had been set up to stop the plants in their tracks.
The pace picked up and became a low hunched dash for the helicopter which in itself was looking suspiciously like a colt anxious to break early from the starting gate. Face's hand was captured in a vice grip. The Colonel stopped but kept Face's momentum moving and he found himself hurled into the bird like the last skater in a game of crack the whip.
"There's blood on the back uh his head," the Sergeant noted as the three of them settled, the bird climbing into the sky.
"How did this happen?" the Colonel was asking as he reached with both hands to examine the wound. "Let me see."
Face weaseled away. "Leave it."
The Colonel tried to take his hand to pull him close but Face quickly crossed his arms, a hand in each armpit.
"Are you sure you're okay, Face?" The blue eyes were swimming in concern. Face couldn't help but notice this man was quite handsome. He was the epitome of the term boyish good looks.
Face was so caught up in the strange surroundings and the two men being ferried along with him he didn't answer the question.
"BA. Radio ahead. I want a medic waiting the moment we land."
BA? Face's brain stuttered. Before he could try to make sense of it the Colonel was shouting to the cockpit, "Murdock! ETA."
"I'll have us landed within 45 minutes, Hannibal."
"Can you make it faster?"
"Will do what I can, Sir."
Who the hell are these people? Face could feel panic rising. His ease with these men was failing as quickly as it had come on. He glanced out the open doorway of the chopper. There was jungle everywhere.
"Face. I'm not asking. I telling you. Let me check that wound."
This time Face was a little too freaked out to consciously move away. This Hannibal's hands were deliberate as they moved along his scalp, deliberate and gentle as he outlined the egg shaped lump developing under a slice in the skin. When done one hand cupped around the back of his neck. It pulled him close. "You need stitches. We're having you looked at as soon as we land. I don't want to hear any arguments. Am I clear?"
Face’s unease was splintering between confusion and fear. He couldn't wrap his head around these two men named Hannibal and BA. And the answering voice from the cockpit, it didn't sound anything like his friend Murdock. Not his voice and the man at the controls sounded sane. At least from the few words he had spoken he seemed sharp and on point. The terrain below was similar to the jungles of South America where he and his Hannibal had been sent on covert missions. Is that where he was? South America?
"Where are we?"
"I don't know what you mean. What province?"
"What's so hard to understand? Where are we? Columbia? Venezuela?"
Those blue eyes looked perplexed. "We're still in Nam." Now that expression was massively worried. Turning his head, but not taking his eyes off Face he again yelled to the front of the bird, "Get a moved on Captain. Face is injured."
“I can head north, Sir. There’s a MUST unit about five kliks closer, but it’s in the wrong direction.”
The Colonel studied Face who was looking out the side of the bird and made a decision he hoped was the right one. “Get us back to base.” He knew the nurses, medics and surgeons there. He trusted them to take care of his young man.
The bird lurched as its speed increased. Face let himself be pulled in as the Colonel's arms entwined him. He didn't struggle or try to move away. He needed the embrace. It surprised him to realize the touch was familiar and unlike when this Hannibal tried to initially examine his wound, he found himself nestling into the contact.
Of course they weren’t in South America. Face thought to himself. Why would there be a Vietnam Cong soldier there? The question returned to him. How did he understand the soldier’s Vietnamese orders? He spoke fluent French, German and Arabic. He could also read and understand the other Romance languages: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and Catalan. He was slowly picking up Afrikaans from Murdock, but he knew none of the Asian languages.
He closed his eyes and pressed deeper into the embrace.
"It's alright, Tem. We'll have you looked over. See if there's anything wrong."
Oh there was definitely something wrong. He didn't know if it was his wound, but none of this was right. He felt concrete had been poured all around his head. There was a song starting to play in the background of this scene, otherworldly and rhythmic. He'd know the voice anywhere. Robert Plant was singing Rainbow. It was becoming clearer, emerging in the foreground. The pounding rhythm of the rotors dropped away letting the song fill his ears.
He listened as it played on Hannibal's bedside radio. The Colonel couldn't manage to wake to the alarm on his phone when he was home and in his own bed in Georgia. So he kept his alarm clock radio much to Face's chagrin. Though this morning he had to admit it was welcomed far more than being startled awake by his phone or worse, the alarm setting on the clock.
He reached an arm out only to have it land on empty sheets. He remembered Hannibal had said he had an early meeting on base. He had told Face to sleep in, saying he would be tied up all morning and would call. Maybe they could meet for lunch before going into the office. It explained the radio. Hannibal would turn off the alarm and tune in Face's favorite station to play low as he slept on.
Rainbow wound down and Face rolled to shut the radio off. In the shower he hummed and quietly sang along with the song now firmly entrenched in his head.
“Pocket full of hearts
A world that’s filled with love
A love that carries all before
The passion and the flood
I lie beneath the rainbow
Now your tears have gone
And I will sing my song for you
And I will carry on”
He carefully washed his hair, being particularly cautious of the stitched cut atop an egg sized lump on his scalp. It was the remains of a stupid accident. Checking the warehouse section of the sniper training course for hidden dangers he managed to stand straight up into a support beam, a buttress. It was in an area not meant for pedestrian traffic. Face had noticed a wadded piece of paper off in a corner. He picked up the offender, smacked his head when he stood and crumbled back to the floor. He swore he hadn’t blacked out, but his fellow arms-handling instructor told him he was out for several minutes.
Stepping out of the shower, the dream became distant and had already slipped into the realm of wild, but vague and only half remembered. Coffee was definitely in order. He was dressed and standing at the kitchen counter grinding beans when his phone rang.
"Hannibal. Thought you were in your meeting all morning." He nestled the phone along his shoulder as he filled the French press with grounds and hot water.
"I am and more. Looks like this is going to drag on. We've barely gotten started. I'm guessing this is going to run into lunch and the afternoon. Sorry. I was looking forward to lunch together."
"That's alright. I'm going to head into the office. I need to get that program downloaded to your computer. Hope I don't have to call IT in, but after the failed attempt yesterday that maybe where I'm headed."
"I'll probably be through before you then. I'll pick up dinner. Think everything we have is frozen. How does Thai sound?"
"Nothing. That actually sounds really good."
"I'll see you later then Temp. I love you, Babe."
"Love you too, Beau."
Face finished his coffee and grabbed his briefcase, setting off for the base. They had been back at Benning from the desert for a little over two weeks. Besides work on the shooting range Face remained as much of a second to Hannibal here at home as he was in the field.
He wasn't looking forward to his project. He knew it was going to take several calls to IT which always started the same. Power down for the count of ten. Well, better him than Hannibal who had no problem using computers, but absolutely no patience when it came to maintenance, updates and repairs. He backed his vintage Vette out of the drive.
The 1965 Corvette Sting Ray had a distinctive rumble all its own. It was a sound Mrs. Larson and her Corgi, Winslow, recognized before looking his way. Winslow perked up knowing the nice man who sometimes gave him treats was in the vehicle. Mrs. Larson waved as Face motored by, waving and smiling in return.
The classic two story house he shared with Hannibal was in a relatively quiet neighborhood. Hannibal had bought the house on a whim. Someone had told him about the brick Colonial going for a song. The thought of his own home in a section of town not known for being a soldier enclave had him reading and signing more bits of paper his realtor handed him than he thought even the Army could dream of for a single transaction. But sign he did and never looked back.
A regular visitor to the house prior, Face had given up his studio apartment, also off base, when he and Hannibal finally had their mutual revelation and moved his few belongings into his new home. Though when noting a few belongings that was aside from his vast wardrobe and formidable arsenal of hair and skin products. The bathroom cabinets were stocked full of what Hannibal called “lotions and potions.” A second bedroom closet held his overflow of suits, ties, shirts, shoes plus sweaters on the shelves and a small dresser full of all manner of underwear and socks.
He had given away the few pieces of furniture he had and set about redecorating his new home. Hannibal was surprised by his domestic streak, but had to admit the floor plan worked better after furniture was rearranged and the framed photos on the mantel were a nice touch. Face had donated the mismatched plates and bowls in the kitchen replacing them with a set of substantially heavy, solid white dishes. There were three sizes of plates, two sizes of bowels, coffee mugs and assorted serving pieces. None of it fussy, but all matching. When Hannibal opened a cabinet and actually took in all of the contents he felt decidedly adult.
Bit by bit Face moved about the house moving this and replacing that until one evening when they were returning from deployment, Hannibal walked into the house and it struck him as a home. There was nothing fancy, nothing over stylized, but the feeling of stepping into a frat house was gone. It was comfortable, easy to care for and welcoming.
Temp loved the house. He loved the location. He loved the neighbors. There were three retiree households, one of which was occupied by Mrs. Larson and Winslow. There were John and Temp at one end of the block and down several houses and across the street, were Bill and Carol. The two couples brought up the DINK brigade. Face didn’t have a clue what they were talking about when one evening the other three were in peels of laughter over the self imposed designation. “It stands for double income, no kids,” Hannibal explained.
The remaining families of this neighborhood group were headed by forward thinking liberals. They may or may not have, at first, embraced John and Temp to be the token gays, but the two men had become just part of the crowd. Their relationship status seldom mentioned or thought of whether they were present or not.
Seeing Winslow reminded him to pick up dog treats. No doubt the little dog would be joining them for the barbecue planned at Tony and Brea’s home the coming Saturday evening. At first John jabbed him for the affinity he had for the short legged pooch. But he too soon became enamored by the big dog in the little dog’s body.
His shoulders were being hauled up and back to place him in a kneeling position from the all fours he had been on. He was being pounded hard with the thrusts just barely staying on this side of the line to abuse.
In his ear, breathy and lascivious, “Like that, Tem? Want more? Want it harder?”
Face felt he was being brutalized. He strained forward, but the arm clamped around his chest tightened.
Again in his ear wet and filthy, “You’re not going anywhere. We’re not done here.”
Face began to struggle in earnest. He tried to wrest himself from the grip which had increased from around his chest with one arm to also around his waist with another. The engorged member inside him in direct contrast to his own, swaying and jerking from the motion.
Behind him the movements were coming harder, more erratic. His struggles drove it on. One hard slam and he heard the loud grunt of effort as the cock was driven in deep then ground in even further. It had been hard and animalistic. This wasn’t making love. This was being fucked. This felt like being used, like he was a hole.
The grip around him loosened and he took advantage. Pulling away, not being able to stop himself falling forward the dick was yanked from within him. He was left with an even more empty feeling. It was physical as well as emotional. He couldn’t stop the choking and sob from emanating as he buried his face in a pillow. He felt naked beyond the lack of clothing. One word wouldn’t leave his mind, “used.”
A hand landed on his back. It slowly swept across his shoulders, slowing further to knead, gentle yet firm. Then the same voice filtered in his ear asking gently, “Face. Hey. What's going on?"
"Leave me alone."
"What?" The hands were trying to turn him. He resisted, but knew it was futile and found himself being rolled. "Are you crying?"
"Please, just leave me alone."
"Tem. Tell me what's going on. Oh god, did I hurt you?” A hand cupped his cheek.
His eyes were squeezed shut in the hopes that not seeing would make it not real. Would make the ache in his ass not continue to grow. Then the words came out without a prompt on his own part, "I can't be just a fuck toy."
"What? Where is this coming from?" There was no reply. "Tem?” It was a plead. "Come on. You know you are anything but a toy to me."
"How? Face, you need to talk to me."
"How would I know that?"
"Face, I love you. You know that."
Face didn’t know what to believe.
"Hey." A stroke of his fingers along Tem’s cheek.
But he wouldn't let Face brush him away. "Don't what?” He paused. “Face talk to me."
"Why?!" Face blurted out angry. "Why did you say you love me?"
"Because I do."
Face turned his head away. “I didn’t know that.”
"Of course you do. I’ve told you before. Maybe not often. I didn't think I had to." Then with his sarcasm firmly in place he asked, "Want me to go all Alan Alda on you?" As soon as he said it, he knew it was wrong. “Oh Tem. I’m so sorry.”
Suddenly only one thing seemed to become important. “That’s not my name.”
Hannibal was lost. “What’s not your name, Baby?”
“My name’s Temp. Temp with a ‘p’.”
Now Hannibal didn’t know what to think. “You told me years ago you didn’t like Temp. Said it sounded too much like temporary. Come on, Baby. What’s this about.”
“Baby. Don’t you think I’m a little old for that?”
“Tem? You’re worrying me. You’ve told me time and again you love it when I call you ‘Baby’. Come on. What’s this all about?”
Something triggered for Face. He would melt when that word came from Hannibal’s lips. It made him feel cared for and loved. And the other? He didn’t remember being left on the church steps, but growing up in the orphanage so many priests and nuns had come and gone. Nothing had been permanent, that is until Hannibal. He remembered it now, telling the Colonel he didn’t want to be called Temp.
He peered around the room, saw the clothes thrown about. It came back to him. The two of them crashing into the room. Lips locked as they pulled and pawed at each other’s clothes. Impatient to get the party started, the clothes fell where they were removed. He remembered it was going to be quick, hard and fast. It would be just the way he was craving it.
Murdock and BA had gone out for sandwiches and a movie. He and Hannibal had the condo to themselves. With the guys gone they could be as loud and rough as they wanted. The quiet sweet stuff could wait for later. That was for when they weren’t alone. They would do that with Tem on top, gently rocking in and out of Hannibal as he whispered and smiled down on him.
“I’m tired.” This seemingly came out of the blue, but in fact exhaustion had poured over him.
“Come here, Kid.” Hannibal bundled him in his arms. Kissing him, he pulled the blankets up over his young man’s shoulder. “Tem?”
Green blue eyes looked up to him.
“I do love you, Baby. Don’t ever doubt it.”
“I love you too, Hannibal.”
“I know you do kid.”
Sitting in the recliner, his socked feet lifted by the lounger he looked around the tidy living room of their home in Georgia. He didn’t feel as though he was waking from a nap. Didn’t feel he had been sleepy at all. He could hear the back door open and close. And there were John’s familiar footsteps.
“Hey Babe.” Hannibal leaned over to kiss him. Cupping his cheek in one of those large paws, Hannibal moved his hand up to Temp’s forehead. “You feeling alright?”
“Yeah. I’m fine.” He tried to drop his head, but John’s fingers were there under his chin urging him to look up.
“You don’t look fine. You’re pale and you feel warm.” He studied that face, those vivid blue eyes. “Come on, Temp. You want to go to bed? Maybe lie on the couch?”
“I don’t want to go to bed.” He was afraid of what his dreams may bring.
“Had dinner yet?”
Face honestly didn’t know and only looked at the worried man hovering over him.
“You know what I saw we have all the makings for?”
Face just shook his head.
“Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.” He smiled. “Sound good? My mom used to make that for me when I wasn’t well.”
He lost his nerve. He couldn’t tell him about these strange blackouts or dreams or whatever the hell they were. “We have tomato soup?”
“Well it’s a creamed tomato and basil bisque, but it’ll do.” He scanned his young man again. “Sure you don’t want to go to bed?”
“Yeah. I’d rather be down here with you.” He had a feeling their time was limited. It had been growing and was something he found he couldn’t shake. Every single moment was precious. He didn’t know how. He didn’t know when, but one day this would all disappear. It would all fall apart.
“Okay. You get on the couch. I’ll get you a blanket.”
“I'm right here kid. Settle down.”
“Piss off! You're not Hannibal? Where is he? What did you do with him?”
Face spun, looking from one man to the next. His eyes moved to the door. It was obvious he was going to make a run for it. Hannibal didn’t wait for him to make a move. He grabbed him hard around the stomach, knocking the air out of him and hauled him to the sofa. Face gasped and immediately started swinging and slapping. Hannibal had him. He wasn’t going anywhere. These spells were coming more frequently and try as he might, Hannibal didn’t understand.
The two men had slid into a habit of no public terms of endearment, no overt displays, but Hannibal forgot all that, “Face. What's happening, Baby?”
Looking down on his handsome young man, who was now settling, Hannibal blinked to refocus. He was seeing things. For just a split second Face's eyes weren't their lovely blue green. They had flashed startlingly bright blue. Only a glimpse, and it was gone. Then Face’s entire frame seemed to change, somehow transform. It wasn’t anything visible, but Hannibal felt a distinct difference. He had returned to being his Face again.
“Hold me. Please hold me.” Face was grasping at him, frantic.
Despite Murdock and BA’s presence Hannibal lifted him, pulled his chest to his own. Face held tight.
“What's happening?” Face asked into Hannibal’s neck.
Hannibal could feel a tremor fire through the long muscles of Face's back. “I don't know Baby.”
“I feel like I'm slipping away. Like someone is inside my head. Taking me over.”
He was bolt upright in bed, heart racing, palms damp. Looking to his left John slept on. He eased out of bed, grabbing a sweatshirt off the chair. Wiggling into it in the upstairs hallway he quickly noted by its extra long length he had picked up one of Hannibal’s. He made his way down the hall to use the bathroom at the end. He hadn’t wanted to disturb John flushing the toilet in the master bath. When through he headed downstairs to the kitchen.
He took a slug of the nighttime cold medicine that had found a home alongside the spices, having never migrated to a medicine cabinet. This was beginning to be a regular occurrence. Putting himself back to sleep with the elixir. These nightmares were becoming not only more frequent, but more realistic. The floaty, off-kilter feel of dreamland was taking on more and more of a gritty realism.
Lying back on the bed he began to doze. As though splashed with cold water a thought came to him. He knew it was ridiculous, but that didn’t mitigate the fear of being caught in one of these fugues and not being able to escape. Lying on his side, eyes wide open, he stared into the night-filled room.
Hannibal and BA walked into the scammed condo and were taken aback to find Face in Downward Dog. His straight blonde hair falling forward, he wriggled his hips about. Bending and straightening his legs he then pressed his heels to the floor.
"What are you doing Tem?"
"What’s it look like, Boss?"
Hannibal looked to BA for guidance and wordlessly mouthed “Boss?”. BA only shrugged. “You’re going to have to help me out here, Kid.”
"Yoga?!" BA sounded like he had been personally offended.
"Calisthenics and coursework not enough for you?" Hannibal asked to the partially inverted man.
"It's limbering and peaceful."
"Ain't nothin' peaceful about this life," BA grumbled.
"Which is why this is beneficial," Face replied matter of factly.
"Crazy hippy garbage."
"Now BA, if it's not hurting you, just don't pay attention," Hannibal urged gesturing about with his cigar.
Face was spread out in Warrior II pose. "You might want to give it try, BA."
BA only growled as he left the room.
"All those muscles would probably get in the way anyhow," sounded muffled. Face was now in Puppy Pose giving Hannibal a bit of a thrill before easing down to Child's Pose.
"When did you learn to do this?"
Face was sitting on the soles of his feet, Hands at Heart, eyes closed. "I didn't learn persay. It's come to me organically."
"Face, are you alright?"
"Yeah, I feel great." He stood by placing his hands to the floor while lifting his knees. Hannibal cringed as he watched him roll over his toes to land the soles of his feet on the floor before uncurling to stand.
"Going to take a shower. Be ready in half an hour. We're still on for the Uncle and Nephew con, aren't we?"
"Yeah....Yeah.” Hannibal was more than mildly distracted. "You need to spring Murdock from the VA first though."
"I keep forgetting he's there."
"You keep forgetting what now?"
Face looked at him as though Hannibal was the one who had said something off the wall. He looked to his side before asking, "Did I just say that? Man. I must have done that headstand a little too long."
Hannibal was at a serious loss for words.
Face's expression changed to questioning, a bit confused. "Was I really just doing yoga?"
"Tem?" Hannibal was worried. "You think you had another one of those ...... spells?"
Face's head didn't move as he looked about, mouth open as though midway through a word. When his eyes landed on Hannibal he said, "I'm just going to take that shower."
The meditation bell on the iPad rang softly and brought Face back to his conscious level. Opening his eyes he was half surprised not to be in a shower. He ran a hand through his curls.
Standing he looked around feeling lost. Taking a step he tripped over the stack of folded towels he had used as a cushion for his meditation. The present flooded back to him. They were in Northern California in the guest house of a vineyard. They were there to drive out the modern day carpetbaggers making life a living hell for the vintners.
Bending down to pick up the towels, he thought of how he missed his own cushion, but it was long gone. Had been left behind when they were forced to climb out the back windows of that place east of Portland. Hearing movement down the hall sent him into alert.
Creeping along the corridor he was convinced he would find the other Hannibal. Not his, but rather the cocky Vietnam vet. Carefully bending his head around the corner he let out a half sob of relief when he saw the long legs and broad shoulders of his man.
The sound had Hannibal spinning on a heel. When he saw Face he was confused. "You okay, Babe?" worried over hearing the choked exclamation. That along with Face appearing to be this close to tears had him striding across the room.
When he was within three steps Face launched at him, wrapping his arms around Hannibal's waist. John instinctively pulled him close, his own arms tight around Face's shoulders. "Hey. What is it? Why are you trembling?"
"I'm so glad you're here. I ..." and he caught himself. "I didn't know you were back."
Hannibal turned his head to lay a cheek to Face's forehead. "I saw you were meditating. Didn't want to disturb you. Did you get your yoga in?"
Face had no idea if he did or not, but went with, "Yes."
Hannibal was now examining his face carefully, with intent. "Come sit down, Babe."
They both heard footsteps and turned to see BA coming through the door with Murdock close behind.
"Okay Hannibal I managed to..." but cut himself off when he glanced at their LT secured in Hannibal's arms. "Faceman. You okay, lil bro?"
Face didn't know how to answer and tightened his hold on Hannibal. BA didn't miss the gesture. He opened his mouth to speak, but Murdock beat him to it.
"Facey. You coming down with something? You look so pale." He was across the room in no time, placing the back of his hand to Face's forehead. "Doesn't feel like you have a fever."
Hannibal could feel a tremor run through his young man. "He's not feeling well. I was just taking him upstairs." Hannibal put a hand to the back of Temp's head as he buried his face into John's shoulder. "Come on, Babe." Holding firm he shepherded his man to the staircase leading to the upstairs bedrooms.
BA and Murdock shot each other questioning and worried looks. When the other two men were well up to the second floor Murdock said quietly, "There's something seriously wrong with him. I can see it. And I know he hasn't been sleeping. There's something wrong, BA."
"Hannibal will take care of him. Don't worry." But he knew the pilot couldn’t help it. He was worried too, and with good reason. There was definitely something not right going on with Faceman. With the other two upstairs and otherwise occupied, it was up to him to distract Murdock. "Come on, Crazy. I need help checking over that chopper you and Faceman found. Help me gather up those tools in the den."
Upstairs Hannibal was having some difficulty getting Face to their bed.
"No. I don't want to lay down." He was clinging to John.
"Come on, Babe. I know you haven't been sleeping. I know you've been up for at least four full days now."
"I don't want to sleep. Please don't. Please just..."
"Just what?" He waited. When nothing was forthcoming he urged again, "Just what, Temp?" Again nothing. A bit forcefully this time, "You need to lie down."
"I'm afraid to sleep! Okay?! Happy?!" Now he was pulling away, but Hannibal wasn't letting go.
"Talk to me, Temp. What's happening? Let me help you."
"They're getting worse."
"What's getting worse?"
"The nightmares," he all but whispered. "The other night I dreamt I had been shot. I was at this Italian restaurant and I had been shot. The guy that did it wouldn't let Murdock call an ambulance. I could feel my life leaking out of my body. I can't take it anymore, John. I...I don't know what to do."
"Okay. First we're finding you a doctor. We'll go from there. I can't imagine being plagued with nightmares is that uncommon. We'll..."
"The thing is is they're not really nightmares. They aren't disjointed like dreams they're literal. It's like I'm ...." He stopped himself. He thought he was beginning to sound a little off balance and he hadn't even gotten to the worst part.
"It's like you're what? Tell me. Help me understand."
Face just looked at him. God he loved this man. His patience, his kindness, the rumbling voice so soft spoken, his humility, ....it was all so different than the other boisterous Hannibal. That Hannibal was of another time. A time when men were still expected to show their bravado. A time when a group of soldiers for hire were macho and unyielding. It was so ingrained even though the other Hannibal loved his Face, he was stilted in showing it. Even when they were alone it was less free flowing than the easy comfort he found with John.
It was so different from what Temp was accustomed to. It was different enough if things had been another way, if he had met the other Hannibal he never would have become involved. There was nothing wrong with the other Hannibal. He just wasn’t someone Face would have sought out. He often felt the feeling was mutual. Yet neither voiced it, not wanting to hurt the other.
There was little romance, though not totally absent, less expressive. The time was different and they couldn’t be open. What they had didn’t fuel Face. It didn’t fulfill his desire, it remained gnawingly deep. This need for the easy affection of his Hannibal. Even the affections of the other men. His Murdock loved him and let him know thoroughly, sometimes daily. And BA. He may not say much, but was always there to listen.
It wasn’t the case with the other two. Murdock was kind and good natured, but obviously not as emotionally damaged as his dear friend. He recalled trying to figure out what the hell was happening with Hannibal. Trying to understand why he didn’t show as much outwardly love and attention, he tried talking to his friend. Murdock had said, “Faceman, you know we don’t do emotions.”
He had gone to BA wanting to know if he had seen a change in Hannibal. BA brushed him off. Belligerent as always, unless of course he was taking gleeful pleasure in one of the other team member’s misfortune. Told him, “I got better things to do than talk about that nonsense.”
It irritated Face enough for him to fire back, “Yeah, like perfecting that damned Mandinka of yours.”
BA had stopped in his tracks, “What did you just say?”
Face just flattened his tie with a palm and put his hands on his hips.
“How do you know this isn’t a Mohawk? How do you know that?”
Face wasn’t interested in getting involved in a discussion about cultures. BA didn’t have time for him, fine. He didn’t have time for BA. “What? Was it a secret?” He spun on his heel leaving the big man to wonder what else Face knew about Madinka tribesman.
Face came back to to find John holding him at arms length by the biceps. A look of worry on his face. “Babe. Where did you go?”
“What do mean?”
“Temp, you stopped talking. You were far away.”
“What? I can’t be quiet for a minute. You forgetting how you complain I talk too much?”
“It was over five minutes, Babe.” He continued studying his man then announced, ”We’re getting you to a doctor.”
“We have to finish the job.”
“To hell with the job. You’re more important than any job.”
“What about the other two. They...”
“They’ll agree with me. You are far more important than a job. They love you and care about you too. I’m putting my foot down. This is the way it’s gonna be.”
“You're not my Hannibal!” anger poured from Face.
“Face. Hey. Easy, Kid. It’ll pass.”
“You're not my Hannibal! Get away from me!”
“Faceman. Whachyu on about?”
“Who are you people?! Where's my Hannibal? Where’s the rest of my team?!” He looked at each of the three shocked men in turn then let his eyes set on the Colonel. “You,” he started in a low growl. “You’re going to tell me just what the fuck is going on here.”
From across the room he lunged at the Colonel. BA was poised to handle the situation physically. Hannibal flashed him a short back off shake of the head just as Face grabbed for him. Hannibal maybe older, he maybe sporting a little paunch, but he's soldier through and through. He ducked perfectly to his right positioning himself to trip Face and catch him in a tight hold in one easy move. He held tight as his Lieutenant thrashed in his arms.
“Let go of me! Let go!” Face was sobbing and weakening.
“Shhh. It's alright, Tem. Relax.”
Frustration, hurt, anger, confusion wracked him. But it was nothing compared to the overwhelming sense of loss. He needed to be held in those arms. He needed the quiet understated strength. He needed that sweet nature. He needed his Hannibal. He so desperately needed his touch, needed his reassurance. Needed his understanding. Needed to be able to melt into his giving and gentle nature.
Last thing he remembered hearing was, “Sit back, Baby.”
“Can you hear me, Babe?” Temp had collapsed into John. He tried guiding him to walk the few steps to the chair, but Temp had gone limp in his arms. It took some maneuvering but Hannibal was able to scoop him up to carry him to the bed.
“BA! Murdock!” He looked down to Temp who lay eerily still. Vision blurred he called out for BA again. Before he could get Murdock’s named out the two were rushing in the room.
BA’s heart dropped and Murdock’s stomach rebelled when they saw their Colonel’s panicked expression as he leaned over the bed.
“What’s happening, Boss?” BA asked as he went into medic mode.
Murdock had his hands clutched together, “Facey.”
“We need an ambulance,” Hannibal’s voice was barely above a whisper. You would have thought he had barked it as an order the way Murdock hopped to attention and pulled his phone out to dial 911.
“When they get here, I want the two of you out of here. I want you gone,” Hannibal said lowly to BA who leaned over the prone man as well.
“I’m not leaving you, Boss.”
Hannibal looked up to Murdock, on the phone, reading the address they were at off an envelope he found on a table. “You will get him out of here and you will protect him. Don’t argue with me.”
BA too looked up at their pilot and saw the shaking in the man’s hand threatening to vibrate the phone right out of it. “Okay, Boss.”
John threaded his fingers through Face’s hair. BA had to physically pry Hannibal’s fingers off their XO’s hand. “Le’go, Hannibal. I need to take his pulse.”
“No! Oak Cross Road. OAK Cross. Shit!”
“I lost my bars. Disconnected. Check your phones.”
They each pulled a cell phone from their pockets.
“Nothing,” BA stated.
“Nothing,” Hannibal repeated.
“I’ll be back as fast as I can.”
“Wait! Where are you going?”
The only answer Hannibal received was the sound of footsteps taking stairs two at a time and a slam of the screen door.
“We need to get him out of here. Get the van.”
BA was up like a shot. Downstairs barging through the back door he saw the top of Murdock’s head sprinting through the rows of grape vines. He was headed to the large stand of trees. BA knew what he was up to, but still ran to the shed behind the house. He wasn’t waiting.
The swing doors were open and BA was climbing into his baby. Just before slamming the door home he heard it. It was the chopped song of a bird in the distance. He was back out of the van, face to the sky, a hand held to his brow to shield the sun.
No. He wasn’t mistaken. Murdock had the helicopter in the sky.
The pilot hadn’t quite stopped all forward momentum before touching down. The skids did just that. BA bolted for the backdoor of the house. Reaching the screen door handle just as Hannibal appeared on the other side. He held Face in his arms.
Hannibal woke to Face snugging in close. He was on his side facing Hannibal, his arms folded tight, hands between their chests. Hannibal had him wrapped in his arms, an unconscious response to Face’s unconscious request for contact.
They didn’t do this. They especially didn’t have this type of contact when the other two men were present. At least they didn’t use to do this. But things were different now. There was something wrong with Face. Something very changed. He seldom was the wisecracking, complaining smart ass Hannibal got such a kick out of.
It seemed to Hannibal that man was gone. Somehow he had been replaced by another. This man could still scam and take care of procurements, but it was done with far less flash and zeal. He so often seemed bewildered, lost.
The two of them had from all the way back to the jungles and rice patties of Vietnam a symbiotic relationship. They both had needs. They were both willing to fill those needs for the other. It had only rarely been spoken, yet they each knew they were loved by the other. Obviously men such as themselves, living in that time had to be cautious, had to keep at arms length.
Yet over the years Face would go through fazes of needing more. This of course was in contrast to when he seemed to not even recognize these men he was so intrinsically tied to. Hannibal was no psychologist, but he had a belief it was due to cracks in Face caused by the stress of their existence.
Hannibal was accepting Face always was in need whether he overtly expressed it or not. He needed to be held. He needed to be caressed. He may have often given off an air of indifference, but he had become more reliant on Hannibal. Had to have him near. It could surprise him how open Face could be not only to him, but also with the other two. For a few years there, Hannibal was concerned about schizophrenia, maybe one of those split personality disorders. He couldn’t always follow it and far too often wondered which Face he was speaking with.
Making love to him had changed. To begin with Hannibal was now calling it “making love.” He and Face for so many years had shared a roll, screwed around, fucked. After some tight fixes and close calls it could be considered a release in response to the stress, a sexual healing. Hot, dirty and quick, there was a lot of laughing involved. More often now it was so much more intimate and expressive. Hannibal couldn’t say he didn’t enjoy this change of events. He did however occasionally want to relive old times and Face would go along. But he knew the younger man’s heart wasn’t in it and Hannibal would always finish with gentle caresses and whispered words of endearment. Only then would Face breathe easier and relax into Hannibal’s arms.
It seemed to have settled though, Face had settled. Even if on one plane Hannibal felt that Face wasn’t fully involved with him. There was a certain distance there despite the need for attention and physical contact. And yet Hannibal found himself with his arm over Face’s shoulder without remembering putting it there. It had become more and more easy as their time unfolded. He was getting on board with this new way between them, at least to a certain extent.
And here they were now. Face pressed tightly to his chest. To Hannibal it felt desperate and he in turn couldn’t turn the younger man away. As he tightened his hold ever so slightly, Face in his sleep rounded his shoulders forward to be engulfed more fully in Hannibal’s embrace.
Hannibal needed to rise. It was early morning and the bathroom was singing it’s siren song. He gave Face a final gentle hug. Moving the whisp of fading blonde bangs with the edge of his hand he placed a kiss on Face’s forehead before gently stroking a thumb along his cheekbone. When he stood he saw BA across the room watching him. He pulled on a pair of jeans, went into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.
Stepping back out of the bath, Hannibal’s face was freshly washed, his teeth brushed and hair combed. He hadn’t wanted to take a shower yet, concerned it may wake the sleeping man. Pouring a styrofoam cup of horrible coffee from the in-room coffee maker he was aware of stepping lightly to the table where BA and Murdock both sat.
BA wasted no time. “Hannibal, I know what you and Faceman get up to, but I’m telling you I don’t want to see it.” He looked firmly at the Colonel. “You do what you gotta do,” he continued in his whisper, “But lately I been seein’ way too much of it.”
Before Hannibal could respond Murdock spoke up. “There’s something wrong with Facey, BA. He’s different. You know what I mean, don’t ya Hannibal?”
Hannibal slowly nodded his head. “Yes. I know what you mean.”
“I ain’t blind. But I don’t know why you gotta encourage it.” BA folded his massive arms across his chest.
“I’m not encouraging anything, BA.” Hannibal took a sip of his coffee. His forearms formed a V leading to his coffee cup at the point. Looking far left, a little over his shoulder he took in the sight of the sleeping man. “He’s become needy.”
“Well what he needs most is to buck up and get over it. We can’t be going soft,” BA still kept his voice low.
Hannibal understood exactly what BA was saying. It was hard to argue. Their lives depended on being on their toes. Depended on taking risks. Depended on being swift and concise in their actions. But none of that had changed in their Lieutenant. He was spot on as always, if not more so than in the past. The difference was a sadness that loomed over the youngest of their group.
Hannibal was taken aback when Murdock opined as if he had read his own thoughts, “He just seems so sad.” Studying the sleeping form he whispered more to himself than as part of the conversation, “It’s like he’s become someone else.” Murdock took another sip of his coffee.
Still in a whisper he continued. “You know how we used to rock out to Zeppelin in Nam? Well Robert Plant, their lead singer, he’s gone solo.” Both men looked at him wondering if there would be a point. Because you know there wasn’t always one when it came to their Captain. “Face was humming and singing this song I never heard before. He said it was Robert Plant. Song called Rainbow. I said I thought he was wrong cause I know everything he’s done. Make a long story short we went to Tower Records and flipped through all the Led Zeppelin, all the Robert Plant and both of The Honeydrippers. We even went back to check Band of Joy and The New Yardbirds. There was no song called Rainbow on any of them.
“So ya know what he says to me? He says, ‘It must be the other Face.’ I asked him what he was talking about. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I have another life. I don’t really belong here. And honestly, I don’t want to be here. But here I am.’ When I asked about it he said I wouldn’t understand. Said no one would.”
They all watched as Face roused and reached an arm out to where Hannibal had been. When he touched nothing he bolted half upright, eyes wide and alarmed he quickly scanned the room. Upon finding Hannibal sitting at the table he blinked. All three men could see him visibly shudder then relax. He lay back down to the bed, rubbing his eyes. For a moment he covered his face with both hands. He said nothing and didn’t look at the other men again as he rose. Gathering clothes on the way he padded to the bathroom.
Hearing the shower turned on Hannibal knew Face was out of earshot. “I understand what you’re saying, BA. But, can you understand I can’t deny him the comfort and closeness he needs?”
BA looked through the small opening in the curtains. The motel room window was smeared from a half-assed cleaning job. Judging by the smudges straight across the lower edge he surmised a previous guest had a dog. It was rather bleak outside, threatening to rain. It was just as bleak as the atmosphere inside. “I understand, Hannibal.”
It hurt to see BA like this. Hooked to monitors that were beeping and humming and spouting off numbers and graphs. Occasionally a BP cuff would tighten around an arm before slowly exhaling to generate a digital readout. There was an IV dripping away taped to the back of the once mighty man’s hand.
He was no longer the larger than life character he had been thirty years prior. Lying in this VA Hospital bed one would be hard pressed to believe he was once one of the last of the celebrated strongmen. His muscles had waned leaving behind the creped and over stretched skin that once covered them. His head was shaved bald. He no longer sported the Madinka cut. Gone too was the gold. He had donated it to Children’s Hospital in Chicago. A gift given in the memory of his mother.
This was his third “coronary event” as the doctors put it. Face still didn’t know what was wrong with saying heart attack. Be that as it may, here BA was back in the hospital and this time it didn’t look good. It in fact looked very bad. According to his son, Laurence, they didn’t know if he would even make it to the hospice care facility.
Face didn’t know how to feel about this. BA hadn’t been at all content being cared for by his son. Didn’t matter he eventually accepted, if not grudgingly, Hannibal’s and his relationship. He had still been estranged for years from his only son since the young man came out and moved to California. Didn’t matter Laurence worshipped the ground his legendary father walked on, BA had a hard time looking him in the eye. Yet here he ended up with the young man and his husband in a beachside bungalow, far from his beloved Chicago.
He had become all over weak and short of breath on a good day. When Face spoke to him or visited it seemed he was always on his way to or from a doctor appointment or just returning home from another hospital stay. It seemed a cruel twist fate had meted out to the once strong and proud man.
But then again, Face didn’t particularly like the idea of being the last surviving member of the A-Team. For someone who for years had felt he didn’t belong, fate appeared to have a rather shitty twist for him too. He was in his seventies and wasn’t feeling old. He could go on for another twenty years, holding the torch, answering the questions, retelling the tales. And he didn’t want to. He felt apart from it all, separated. He couldn’t shake the feeling even all these years on this wasn’t the life he was meant to lead.
When Hannibal had died back in ‘94 he had felt completely set adrift. Stockwell had finally released them from their gilded prison. He and Hannibal had stayed together; although, he suspected Hannibal stayed with him out of loyalty, out of a sense of responsibility. For Face’s part he loved Hannibal, but couldn’t honestly say he was in love with him. Yet he was dedicated to him and felt tied to him. Felt there was something inside that needed him and couldn’t survive without him. But survive he did when Hannibal fell dead while walking from the kitchen to the living room of their condo. He’d spent the subsequent years feeling guilty that he didn’t, couldn’t, give Hannibal the love he deserved. He wondered if having never developed another relationship afterwards wasn’t a self imposed penance.
It was only five years after Hannibal’s death Murdock was killed in a freak accident. Leave it to him to be the only person to be killed and the only person even injured who wasn’t on the train when the commuter derailed. Face couldn’t help thinking it was fortunate both men dropped like stones. It was hard enough watching BA struggle through these last few years, much less being the man himself.
Face had hugged Laurence and told him to call anytime, day or night. Laurence’s husband, Jamal, followed out into the hallway to thank him. He needed to tell Face how much his presence was appreciated. Face cupped the young man’s cheek and told him to take care of Laurence and repeated if he was needed, he was only a phone call away.
Face let out a deep breathe. He knew when he had just squeezed BA’s unresponsive hand it would be the last time he saw him alive. It had given him solace to kiss BA’s cheek, something BA would never tolerate while awake. He turned to make his way toward the elevator, glancing in the room next to BA’s drawn to it by an all but forgotten yet familiar song.
His heart all but stopped and he soundlessly gasped as an erratic tremor jolted through him. He had to step aside, move out of sight. Or at least move out of direct view. He leaned to look again.
There in the room was his Hannibal.
He didn’t know what it meant. This rumination in his head saying his Hannibal. Without prompt an image came clear to him. Years of clouds faded and dissolved laying it bare. This man with grey hair and soft rumbling voice was his.
And like that, it was becoming jumbled. The man in the room was younger than himself. Hannibal was sixteen, seventeen years older. This wasn’t Hannibal. Hannibal didn’t look anything like this man yet he still had an affinity for him.
Handsome and all legs he was murmuring to the patient in bed. There was a Happy Birthday mylar balloon tied to the hospital bed headboard. John was leaning toward the patient from the bedside chair. Though he couldn’t see it he could tell by the motion in his shoulders he was stroking and petting the head of the person there. Face could feel the sensation of that large hand threading through his own hair.
Leaning farther in John whispered then stood. He was so tall. Six foot four came into Face’s mind. He straightened what appeared to be a birthday card on the nightstand. Bending down he kissed the atrophied man on his forehead, brushing nonexistent hair back and away even though it was close cropped, not even an inch long.
Without the muffling of sitting close in he could hear the words, “Happy Birthday, Temp. I love you, Babe.” He stood straight, his eyes firmly on the bed’s occupant. Face could hear a sniff and watched as he wiped at his eyes before petting the head again. It was then Face keyed in on the iPod on the bedside table, behind the greeting card. Robert Plant singing an hypnotic song. A song he somehow knew so many years before.
“I'm reachin' for the stars
In the sky above
Oh, I will bring their beauty home
The colors of my love
And I will be a rainbow
Now your storm is gone
And I will bring my song to you
And I will carry on”
Face had to move away as Hannibal turned to leave the room. His eyes were down to the floor, not seeing Face until he was well into the hallway and Face was in his path. John barely glanced at the older man saying a simple, “Pardon me,” as he skirted around.
Face watched him walk down the hall only about thirty feet from where he stood, turning right just before the elevators into what he knew was a waiting room. Frozen in place Face began massaging a bicep with the opposite hand. Within a minute Hannibal was stepping back into the hallway. He was followed by a man Face knew was Murdock in one of his crazy Hawaiian shirts. Then BA stepped out sporting a Mohawk, not Madinka, but single swath of Mohawk.
A fourth man stepped into the hallway as well. A little younger than John he had dark brown hair with blurred bits of white mingled in along his temple. Tall, handsome, blue eyed. He solemnly shook the hands of both BA and Murdock. Hannibal lifted his arms, a great wingspan calling his brood. BA and Murdock both moved in, captured in Hannibal’s embrace, a kiss placed on the head of one then the other.
This was his Hannibal, affectionate and unabashed.
As the two team members stepped away the fourth man placed his hand on John’s back. He turned the former Colonel as they all said a final goodbye. The elevator doors opened with a single press of the call button and the two men stepped inside. Before the doors were completely closed he saw Hannibal drawn in by the brunett for a hug.
The vague feeling of loss that had haunted him for decades became full blown. It surrounded him with a crushing pressure. Trapped between two worlds he no longer knew to which he belonged. He hadn’t lived completely in one or the other, always with a sense of having stepped into the wrong room only to find the door locked behind him.
BA and Murdock walked up the hallway. Murdock had nodded as he passed. Taking only a couple more steps he stopped, twisting at his waist to look back. “Facey?” He seemed confused and sought out BA who was already in the room. When he returned his gaze to Face all recognition was gone. “I’m sorry, sir. I thought you were someone else.”
Face watched as the two men moved bedside to shower “Happy Birthdays” on the man he could now identify.
“Did you see that, BA? He moved his eyes!”
“Yeah, I saw it. I don’t think it means anything, man.” He rubbed Murdock’s shoulder.
Face couldn’t watch any longer. He closed his eyes, yet could see himself. He could see himself through the doorway of a hospital room, standing in the hallway. Then he heard a voice close to his ear, “Happy Birthday, Facey.”
His eyes shot open and he stumbled backward. Murdock was leaning into the man on the bed, holding a birthday card open for him to see. But those clouded yet still startling blue eyes weren’t directed at the card. They were focused on Face standing in the hallway.
Face spun when he felt the pain shoot up his left arm. He half trotted half stumbled to the elevator. He could hear talking around him, but not the words said. He hit the elevator call button repeatedly, willing it to respond. The pain had radiated from his arm and now had a firm hold of his chest.
“Sir! Can you hear me? Can you answer me?”
He lolled his head in the direction he thought the voice was coming from. Before he crumbled to the floor he could hear Murdock’s voice calling from further down the hall. “Nurse! Nurse! There’s something wrong with Lieutenant Peck!”
Face was on the floor, his head turned back the way he came. Down a ways he could see a scrambling of feet. Rubber soled nurses shoes interspersed with black boots and Converse Allstars.
He closed his eyes and was back in the desert. The pain in his arm and chest had vanished as quickly as they came on. When he again opened his eyes he was wound tight in long arms with a rumbling voice purring into his hair.
“Love you too, Beau.”
Listen to Rainbow
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