Decker was thinking a lot of things when he saw that familiar face in the hall outside Captain Murdock's hospital room, but mostly he was thinking they didn't stand a chance.
Templeton Peck hadn't bothered with the usual disguises of doctor's lab coats or fancy suits. He was dressed for a fight and armed to the teeth and Decker wasn't a moron – the nurses had seen him coming and let him through. Decker didn't blame them, these days. He might have done the same thing in their place.
Murdock was a step behind Peck, dressed in his usual jeans and sneakers, his t-shirt replaced with a long-sleeved shirt because no one showed skin they didn't have to these days, even in triple-digit California heat waves. He clutched a small duffel in one hand and Peck's arm in the other.
Peck had his weapon drawn and Decker didn't believe he'd hesitate to use it for an instant. Years of cat and mouse with the A-Team had taught him respect for their aim, if nothing else – in all the gunfights and shootouts they'd been in, they'd never killed anyone by accident.
Which only meant that if Peck shot him today, he wouldn't miss. Decker might have been afraid once, staring down the barrel of a gun held by one of the best shots in Special Forces.
Not these days. There was nothing left to be afraid of in a clean death.
"Move," Peck said and Murdock was giving Decker a look, a warning, a seriously, do you think you could stop him that would have pissed Decker off once.
"Get out of here," he said to his men.
"Get to work!"
They scattered and Peck watched him with narrowed eyes. Not sure if this was a trap, waiting for Decker to give himself away.
"I'm not interested in arresting you," Decker said. "I mean, I'd love to punch you in the face once, just for the satisfaction of it, but I don't think there's much point left to arresting you."
"What does he mean?" Murdock asked and Peck's face tightened. So he hadn't filled the captain in just yet. Television and radio were strictly censored in the hospital, newspapers had been banned weeks ago. Murdock didn't have any way of knowing how far gone it all was.
"It's bad out there, is all," Peck said, pitching his voice to be soothing. Decker had always been a little fascinated at the way they treated the captain. How they could throw him into combat with one breath and treat him like something infinitely breakable the next. It was what had made it so damned hard for him to be sure the captain was faking. "The army has better things to do than worry about us."
The army no longer gave a shit about the A-Team, would be a much more accurate way of putting it. If things didn't get better soon, Decker wouldn't bet money on there being an army for much longer. Not like there had been before, not like the army he served. Something different would survive. Of that he was certain.
"My men are gone," he said. "They're barricading the ground floor doors and windows."
"You're making a stand here?" Peck asked in disbelief. "Are you crazy?"
Murdock snorted and Peck turned a little, gave his friend a glance that was mostly relief and a little part desperate.
Decker shrugged. "I wasn't planning to." But he'd been there when the tipping point broke and he'd stayed, helping the hospital staff keep the patients safe. There was no phone service, hadn't been for days, and he and his men had planned to wait until the initial chaos died down a little before they set out to help with the cleanup.
He felt a little like a coward, waiting three days in a mental institution, but none of his men had the gear or the weaponry to risk facing the infection head on. So they waited and watched, and the chaos only got worse.
"This place isn't secure," Peck said and for a moment it wasn't like they were facing each other down the barrel of a gun. "Decker, you have to get your people out of here."
"And the patients?" Decker asked. "I can't take them through that city. Half of them aren't capable of any kind of stealth, the other half couldn't handle what they'd see."
"What would they see?" Murdock asked, his fingers tightening on Peck's arm. "Faceman?"
"Nothing good," Peck said. "There's nothing good out there, Murdock."
"Half the staff has already abandoned their posts," Decker said, "and who can blame them? But the patients can't protect themselves."
Their was a sadness in Peck's eyes that told Decker the con artist had already considered all of that and long since reached the inevitable conclusion. "So what are you going to do?"
"Delay the inevitable," Decker said.
"What do you want with us?" Peck asked.
Decker could read the man like he'd never been able to before – but had he ever been face to face with Templeton Peck in a situation like this before? Cons and tricks, pursuits and showdowns, but he didn't think he'd ever just stared Peck in the eye while all the man's cards were on the table.
Peck would shoot him and step over his corpse if that was what it took. And he wouldn't regret it for however long he managed to survive.
But he could see a different regret there – for the nurses and doctors who hadn't left, for the patients who couldn't defend themselves. Peck would regret leaving them. He'd still do it, to save Murdock, but that he would regret.
"Help me do it," Decker said. "You have an escape plan. Can it be adjusted? Can you help me save them?"
Peck was already shaking his head while Murdock stared at them both with wide, dark eyes. "There are more than a hundred patients in this hospital, Decker."
"Some of them are gone," Decker said. "Their families came and got them, or they checked themselves out. Some of them…won't have to come."
Peck went very, very still. "The nurses-"
"It was their idea."
It hadn't been put into action yet – wouldn't until they were either overrun, or ready to run themselves.
"Have you been out there?" Peck demanded, and Decker could hear the strain in his voice, the horror of what he'd seen. It made him admire a man he'd only ever despised, that he'd come though all that to save one man who might have already been dead. "Even if we could find a bus or – we couldn't get it anywhere. The streets are blocked."
"Then help me hold this place," he said fiercely. "You're a good shot – the captain, too. Help us hold the line until relief comes."
"Relief isn't coming," Peck said. "Decker, no one's coming. There's nothing left out there. If there's an army or a national guard it's not coming for us."
"Faceman," Murdock said and just like that it was like Peck broke a little.
He lowered the gun and turned, wrapped his free hand around the back of the captain's head and pulled him down until their foreheads touched. "I thought I could do it," Peck whispered and Decker could barely hear him, but he could see the look on Murdock's face, the confusion, the worry, the growing fear. "I thought if I could just get in and out fast enough-" He laughed. "Hannibal wanted to come get you himself. I thought he was just being a worrywart."
Smith had known Peck wouldn't do it. Wouldn't walk away from people who couldn't defend themselves, not if he could help them. Decker licked his lips and his mouth tasted sour. He wasn't proud of talking the lieutenant down from his rescue attempt – but he couldn't walk away, either.
"I've abandoned hundreds of people to death over the last two weeks," Peck said. "Why couldn't I do it this time?"
"You've never abandoned anyone you could've helped," Murdock said, honest conviction in every word. "Whatever happened out there, you couldn't change."
"But we can help these people," Decker said.
Peck laughed and shook his head. "No we can't." He wasn't wrong.
"We can try," Murdock said. He dropped his duffelbag, wrapped both arms around Peck's shoulders and hung on. "We can delay the inevitable."