Chapter 1: A - D
All Face wanted was to leave it behind. He desperately wanted his old life to be a memory. It hadn't been washed out in the first years of his enlistment so now his hopes banked on being killed in action.
Ann had had enough. One would have thought it was her husband's bisexuality that did in the marriage, but nothing could have been further from the source of this particular matrimonial downfall. No, Hannibal had been his thoroughly loyal and gentlemanly self throughout their eight years, six of them married. They had a child together two years before and for anyone on the outside looking in, it was a stable and loving relationship. It was in fact loving on both their parts, but the stability escaped them. Ann simply wasn't suited to the role of the martyr-like military wife fretting over the return of her soldier husband. She could no longer live with the stress of worry that was completely, utterly out of her control. Hannibal couldn’t give it up. Ann claimed it wasn’t that he couldn’t, rather it was because he wouldn’t.
BA had taken the brunt of the blast wave while shielding Face from the worst of it. Hannibal was beyond grateful he had protected his man, but then again he watched as Face blamed himself for the condition the Sergeant was now in. He hadn't left BA's bedside since he was released from his own post mission exam. Hannibal set a hand on the young man’s shoulder. Without moving his eyes away from the unconscious man in the Army hospital bed, Face acknowledged the contact by tilting his head to rest his ear on the back of Hannibal's fingers, carefully, slowly brushing it along the bone and tendons there. "I came here to die ..... not be responsible for the death of one of the bravest men I know."
“I just spoke with his doctor. He’s stable. He won’t be up skipping rope anytime soon, but the doc is confident he’s out of the woods.”
"Babe? That you?"
"Beau. I thought you would have been asleep hours ago."
"Couldn't do much more than doze in a half-empty bed."
"Well, I think I can help you with that."
College graduate. He was a real college graduate. And with those two words Face could be transformed from an enlisted soldier to an officer. He, along with Lewis, Schreiber and Demming, would soon be off to the new assignments for which they had been accepted. Having made a pact, they had all signed up for and been accepted into the training program required to join the elite special forces known as the 75th Ranger Regiment. Who could have guessed Face would be the only one to complete the training.
"Corporal? What can I do for you BA?"
"Hannibal, I need to talk to you 'bout something."
"Sure. Have a seat."
He really didn't want to take a seat. Didn't want this conversation to last too long, still he took a chair. Even though it was meant as an offer, BA always felt the need to please his CO. "This thing you have going on with Face."
"Not blind, Boss. I can see it's more than a Colonel tight with his Lieutenant."
Hannibal remained silent. Waiting to see where this went.
"It's ... Well, it goes against what I was taught to believe."
"I was taught it's wrong. It's a sin."
There didn't seem to be a follow up. Hannibal pressed, "And?"
"And I don't know."
Hannibal had let him carry on long enough to allow himself the time to form a complete thought of his own. He had the gist of it, but wasn’t quite sure in what direction BA wanted to go. "Have we been too public? Do we need to take pains around you?"
BA was taken aback by the forthrightness, kinda hoping he was wrong about the two men. Maybe wishing Hannibal would deny their involvement.
He wasn't sure if Hannibal was angry. Didn't seem to be. He opened his mouth to continue, but didn’t really know what to say. His thoughts leading up to talking with Hannibal hadn’t covered this being so open. "I don't know, man. I just know it's there and I needed to tell you this. I want to understand, but it goes against...I don't know, man."
"BA. Are you looking for a way out of the team?"
"No! Nothing like that."
"Then what? You've told me how you were raised. You've told me your beliefs. What would you like to hear from me?"
BA only shook his head, eyes cast to the floor.
“Face and I have been together for a long time.”
“I care deeply for him.”
“Yeah. I figured that out early.”
Hannibal couldn’t help but smile. He liked BA. Though the man could lose his temper in spectacular fashion, he had been doing an admirable job of reeling it in. Face had told him about coming across the big guy sitting on the floor listening to guided meditation on his tablet.
The Colonel decided it was best to hit this head on. "For me, Face is what I had been waiting for. He's my intellectual equal. He has a sense of humor that for me never gets old. He knows what I need before I do and I have an insatiable desire to make him happy, make him feel secure. I'd like to list everything, but I also don't want to make you more uncomfortable than you already are. Let's just say he completes me. I love him. For his part? Guess you'll have to ask him."
"I can see you love him. I can see he loves you too. But Hannibal, it's not something I would ever condone outside of your situation. It bothers me, a lot.”
“Does it make you angry?”
“Not really. But for me...” he trailed off.
"Is the problem you’re bothered by not being bothered? Are you unsteady because you aren’t angry?”
“I don’t know, man. It’s not something I would ever .... do.”
Hannibal steepled his fingers and took a moment. With index fingers still together, he turned his hands in a point toward the Corporal before he continued, “BA, think on that a little while. But please, don't try to put yourself in our shoes. Think of it as something different than what you've otherwise been exposed to. That is, in such a direct way. Think it over for a few days. Then I want us to talk about it again. Sound good?"
“Yeah. That sounds good.” BA wasn’t placating. He actually felt a little better having broached the subject.
“If that’s all, you’re dismissed.”
BA was almost to the door when Hannibal spoke again, “BA, this is between you and me. Face won’t know about this talk unless you give me the okay.”
Did she really just throw him shade? It’s not like he really wanted to score with the woman, but it was part of the job after all, wooing the ladies. But not this one. She acted like Face was nothing but an obstacle in her path. Something to navigate around, circumvent.
Murdock couldn’t help but stare. Face took a double take when he felt the pilot’s eyes on him. "What are you looking at?"
"You. I've been watching you, and I'm worried."
Face knew better than to ask. And yet, "How so?"
"Well, it's a bit disturbing to see the team's Love Doctor hit the ground and cry 'Medic'!"
“Do you think I’m losing my touch?” Face asked as he examined himself in the bathroom mirror.
Hannibal wrapped his arms around the man’s waist from behind. Setting his chin on Temp’s shoulder he addressed him in the mirror, “I hadn’t thought so, but come to bed and we’ll test exactly how effective your touches can be.”
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Chapter 2: E - H
Every now and again the plan comes together. Sure his men, and especially the brat, rib him about the fact ninety percent of the time a wrench gets thrown in the works. But this time even the guys, his harshest critics, were impressed with how this last job went off without a hitch.
The boss looked smug. A well deserved smugness Face thought. He was laughing and shaking his head. “I can’t believe we actually pulled it off.”
Hannibal’s arm slung around Face as he was handing over a cigar, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
“Ever the optimist, arn’cha Boss? ‘It’ll hold,’ he said. ‘What could go wrong?’ he said,” Face snarked as they watched the little bridge collapse taking the crate containing all their firearms with it.
Frank was apprehensive about meeting Ann’s ex. He didn’t understand how his wife-to-be could be so nonchalant regarding her ex husband’s bisexuality. She said she had known from the beginning John’s proclivities. He never hid it from her and made a point of her knowing early on. It also was never an issue considering his one track devotion to her.
The fact that Frank knew this about the man was at first lost on him. He simply didn’t comprehend the enormity of the trust bestowed on him. It was during the time of DADT that the subject was broached. It somehow passed Frank right by that he was being entrusted with knowledge, which if found out, could destroy little Sarah’s father’s career. It didn’t truly dawn on him until the night before their first meeting would take place. However, Frank questioned in his own defense how long a man who is, let’s say, light in his slippers could escape detection in the military. He was rather stumped as to how the guy had managed up until that time. His mental picture of an effeminate desk jockey didn’t jive with what he knew of the US Army.
His preconceived notions about the man were blown out of the water the next morning when he met the tall rugged soldier who went by the moniker “Hannibal.” His height, his uniform with the chest full of medals and commendations, his deep voice, and firm handshake threw Frank for a loop on the steps of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church on the occasion of Sarah’s First Communion.
Several months later Frank chose a tenuous trust in Ann when she told him of spending the afternoon with Hannibal and his serious love interest, another soldier who went by the name “Face.” Their first meeting wasn’t as earth shattering for Frank as it had been with Hannibal. Face was easily as ruggedly masculine as Hannibal, but to Frank his charm seemed studied.
Yet over the last few years he came to appreciate Face too. That studied demeanor turned out to be a cover for shyness at being thrown in as the wildcard in this circle that revolved around one particular little girl. Yeah Face was alright. And besides, he couldn’t argue with how much Sarah adored him.
“Face has been injured.” Frank passed the news onto Ann as she walked in the door from their garage, hands holding plastic grocery bags.
“Oh no. Is it bad?”
“Bad enough he’s being transported to a hospital in Germany. He’s been stabbed.”
“Stabbed! How the hell did that happen?!”
“I didn’t get the whole story. You know how they are about classified information. Anyhow, it seems they’re in the middle of some campaign and none of the team can go with him.” Frank took a bag from his wife’s hand.
The call from BA had come in an hour prior. Though he had heard stories of the apparently massive Sergeant, he had never met the man, nor the fourth member of the Alpha team Hannibal headed up. Wasn’t sure he wanted to, truth be told.
Ann was putting away the few items she picked up on her way home from a house showing. “So, what? Are they sending him back to Iraq then?”
“No. He’s coming home. Well, as soon as he’s stable enough for that long of a flight.”
“John’s probably worried sick about him. Is that who you talked to?”
“No. It was Sergeant Baracus who called.”
“Anythting we can do?”
“I asked. He said there really wasn’t much to be done, but Hannibal wanted us to know so we could decide if or when we wanted to tell Sarah about it.” He took the coffee beans from a bag and put them in their spot in a cabinet.
“Should we see if he’d like to come here to convalesce? You know. Since John won’t be coming back with him.” Ann took the old bag of coffee from the cabinet to grind. Cup of coffee sounded good right about then.
“I thought about that, but we may not want to subject Sarah to him being hurt. Might be too hard for her to see. You know how attached she is to him.”
“You’re probably right,” she quietly sighed. “I’m pretty fond of him myself.”
“Yeah. He’s alright.” He thought of the young man and how Sarah adored him. Okay, he liked the guy too. It was hard not to. “Ann?”
“Hmm?” She didn’t look up from filling the reservoir of the coffee maker.
“Get ahold of Hannibal. Find out what they need. Okay?”
“They may not know yet.” She had a point.
“Tell him we’re here to help. He can just let us know when they know.” He thought for a moment. “See if he’d like one of us to go to Germany.”
That got her attention. “Do you really mean that?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“I can’t get away now, Frank. We’re well into the busiest season. People are looking for houses now. Want to get everything done and settled before the start of the school year.”
“Tax season is pretty much done. We’re working on extensions. Nothing the office can’t handle without me.”
Ann looked him over. She huffed a laugh and shook her head. “I’ll see what they need.”
“Why you looking at me like that?”
She stretched her arms around his neck and kissed him sweetly. “Because I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by some mighty fine men in this life.”
“General Morrison. It’s got a nice ring to it. Congratulations Russ. Sometimes the Army gets it right.” Hannibal was grinning from ear to ear. “You can’t imagine how proud I am of you, how happy I am for you.”
“Thank you, Hannibal. Coming from you that means the world to me. My hope is I’ll live up to that sentiment.”
“Getting that kid to respond to you has been a miracle, Hannibal.”
“He has some serious self esteem issues.” Hannibal swirled the amber liquid in his glass.
“This is the US Army. We’re not suppose to be concerned with shit like that.”
“How many other young men washed out over the years, decades, Hell since Washington’s time, because we’re not supposed to be concerned?”
“Couldn’t even venture a guess, my friend.” Russ held up the bottle of Genfiddish.
Hannibal reached forward with his glass accepting the offer of refill. “We’re kind of a new Army, don’t you think?”
Twisting around to put the bottle back on the little table beside him, Russ wasn’t following. He had a glancing thought it maybe because he and Hannibal had been up most of the night solving the world’s problems over this just about empty bottle of booze. Best to be sure, “How do you mean?”
“Even thirty years ago, a kid like Face would have been in the stockade essentially for not conforming. The manly thing to do would be to punish him until he bucked up or could be tossed to the curb.”
“You’re right there. Still plenty around brought up that way.” Russ leaned forward conspiratorially, even briefly looked around the tent that had been occupied by the two drunken men alone for the past four hours. “I was told to get rid of him. Cut him loose. If he made any rumblings set up a path to court marshal.”
“Is that a fact?” Hannibal could only shake his head. “What a loss it would have been.” Not only for himself, but for the Army as well. “I like to get to know my men. Expecting them to be ... to be cookie cutouts doesn’t fully develop a man’s strengths.” His eyes were on the amber liquid holding oil-like to the walls of his glass. “It would have been a damned shame to lose a soldier like Face all because he didn’t conform like the average Joe.”
“You’ve got some asset there, Hannibal. Keep the boy focused and you may very well be a footnote when that young man’s biography is written.”
Hannibal couldn’t help but laugh, “Ya got that right.”
Hannibal. That was a hell of a name alright. Face had heard of the Major on and off from almost the time he had enlisted. He was known for crazy stunts that brought exponential returns. Being assigned to the Major maybe his best hope for not making it out of the desert alive.
"How is he?" Murdock approached Hannibal as he watched over their LT: BA's sounding board; Murdock's best friend; and Hannibal's XO and life partner.
"Think he's finally given in to the pain meds. He's sound asleep."
"It should only be an hour and a half or so before our extraction is here. I'll stay with him so you can get some sleep."
Hannibal's eyes returned to the sleeping man whose head was cradled in his lap. He shook his head. "No. Thank you. I’m good where I am.”
Chapter 3: I - L
"I love you."
"I love you too."
Jettisoned out the door of the chopper BA saw a flash of Mamma B reaching for his hand. Like the moment a photo is snapped she appeared above him, smiling her smile, her arm extended to him. He thought he heard her say, “Hold my hand, Scooter,” as she would do when he was a child. The instant their hands clasped Mamma was gone and in her stead was Face.
It was nothing short of a miracle the bird dipped just then seemingly scooping him up from his plunge into the sky; however, without the additional tug of Face’s hand it wouldn’t have mattered. It had happened all too quickly. The wind pressure and force of air from the chopper blades would have been too much even for BA to cut through in order to grasp onto anything for purchase.
His heart was a triphammer and he honestly feared cardiac arrest. It wasn’t until Face had closed the door and briefly clasped his neck did the big guy remember how to breathe. Although it was only Face in the back with him, with his eyes closed he heard, “You’re gonna be okay,” spoken to him by his mamma.
“Got a problem with that, Lieutenant?” Hannibal was looking at him pointedly. “What do have against a high paying job?”
“Exactly how do you think we’re going to get BA there?”
The pair were finishing up a lunch of fast food.
“Hadn’t thought of that.” Hannibal crumbled the wrapper his burger had arrived in. Dropping it in the takeout bag he stood from the sofa. Taking his coffee cup with him he headed for the kitchen. “I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”
“Knew you’d come through, BA.” Hannibal was smiling wide as he stroked her curves. She was a beauty alright. He was certain when Face saw her he would go a little weak-kneed. Her sleek lines and shape fashionable in another era. Polished and aglow he couldn’t wait to present her to Temp.
“Don’t forget Murdock. He’s become a close second to Face in procurements,” BA pointed out.
“I’ll be sure to thank him.”
He had originally spied the 1965 Corvette Sting Ray alongside a barn while traveling through rural Georgia on his way to Atlanta. He could have taken I 185, but he had given himself plenty of time to stroll, if you will, along the side roads. This was when he enjoyed driving, when he could tool along in no hurry.
He had traveled this route before; although, this was the first he had seen of the car collecting farm field dust in the hot Georgia sun. Perhaps it was the set of the sun on that day, but the car seemed to call to him, flashing an SOS of sorts off a bit of chrome.
On his return trip south to Benning he instead took the highway to hasten his arrival home, the car forgotten. Forgotten until BA mentioned the following Saturday afternoon over hamburgers and beer he needed a new project. Walking the big guy out to his girl that evening Hannibal made plans with him for a drive north to a certain farm the following day.
Farmer George Kenison pocketed the cash Hannibal turned over and assured him he wouldn’t need to accompany the flatbed BA would arrange to collect the car. He’d be sure to give the driver access to the Vette by moving the old snowplow out of the way. Clapping Hannibal on the back, he thanked the Colonel still a little surprised how things worked out.
He was set to retire, turning full control of the property over to Carol and Gil, his granddaughter and her husband. He had let things slide here and there these past twenty years until he had several certified junk piles scattered about. He had agreed to let a scrap collector come clean the place up. It hurt to know the car he’d impressed his young wife-to-be with so many years ago would meet a junkyard fate, but he had neither the time nor resources to refurbish the old Chevy himself.
The black van carrying the two soldiers had just turned south out of the drive when he again pulled out the roll of bills to count once more. He looked skyward to tell Dorothy he’d be going on that shopping trip after all. He knew she’d approve of him spending his windfall on spoils for their great grandson who would be joining the world in a month’s time.
“Did you hear that?” Face asked.
“Hear what?” though he knew damned well.
“Sounded like someone pulled in the driveway. You expecting anyone?” he said as he moved to the front window of their home. “Holy shit! It’s BA and Murdock. Wait til you see what they’re driving.”
Hannibal found he had to get a move on to catch up with Temp who was already at the front door. The guys were climbing out of the sleek fiberglass clad beauty. BA’s eyes glanced Hannibal’s way who returned the silent question with a nod. When the two men were alongside the Vette BA called, “Hey Face. Catch,” before tossing the keys his way.
“Really? Gonna let me drive it?” Face was all smiles.
Sidling up close to him Hannibal nudged, “I should hope so. It’s yours after all.”
Face went from smiling to befuddled in a heartbeat.
“Happy Birthday, Temp.”
“Know what my favorite birthday present of all time was?” Temp asked as he typed away on the laptop. It was Hannibal’s birthday. Though never one to get too excited over the occasion, Face could feel the waves of melancholy radiating from the man.
“I can guess. Wish we didn’t have to leave it behind,” Hannibal lamented. Temp’s prized Vette was only one of so many things they had to give up to this life on the run.
“You know, as much as I loved it and love you and the guys for making it happen, it was still just a car. This year we’ve been on the run has really put things in perspective. What’s truly important, ya know? There are things we’ve lost that we need to find ways to regain.”
“Is this when I ask, ‘Like what?’”
“Okay. I’ll bite. Like what, Face?”
“Like....” he smiled as he turned the laptop around to Hannibal. “Like Skype,” he said beaming.
Hannibal took in a sharp breath when he saw the young woman there on the screen, “Sarah?”
“Hi Dad! Happy Birthday!”
Letting Hannibal slip from his mouth was a sight the former Colonel could never see enough times. Face’s blue eyes looking up at him over the expanse of his stomach and chest, rose lips slightly swollen. The vision could still, after what now seemed like a lifetime, cause his abs to tighten as he felt the familiar fluttering this man could evoke in him.
Lying on the sectional a John le Carré paperback still in hand, pages down on his chest, Hannibal looked peaceful. Face couldn’t help compare this sight to an image conjured uninvited of stressed blue eyes as he watched another plan blow up spectacularly, mind searching for a Plan B. Face wondered if the day would ever come when they would no longer be on the run, no longer having to take these crazy jobs. A day when a plan didn’t involve the possibility of someone losing their life.
What he wouldn’t give to see the man sleeping comfortably on the extra long expanse of upholstery wake with this same relaxed expression on his face instead of the perpetual look of worry he wore, the inequity of their situation resolved. It simply wasn’t right that this man, who had spent his life in service to his country, was now a criminal. Where was the justice in punishing him with a life on the road for breaking out of prison to prove, successfulły mind you, he was innocent of the crime for which he’d been accused?
They had all been thrown into the same situation, but for Hannibal it was a cape of chainmail. Face, BA, and Murdock had all been exemplary soldiers under his command; however, in their souls they didn’t have the dedication to the uniform the boss did. They were frustrated and angry over the treatment they received from the Army. But it was only the boss whose heart was broken.
Face did all he could to lighten Hannibal’s load. He wasn’t fooling himself. He knew what he did was nothing more than throwing bricks in the Grand Canyon.
Besides, any logistical assistance he may lend would never be enough to waylay the hurt. He would never be able to put a dent in John’s singleminded belief that the Army would one day see the error and welcome him back with open arms. But until that day, that day Face was positive would never come, he will do what he can to help shoulder the burden.
The one thing he could supply in abundance turned out to be the easiest for Face to give. That was his loyalty to and his love for Hannibal.
He bent over to press a kiss to his forehead, thankful he didn’t wake the formidable yet battered warrior. He took some comfort in seeing the corners of the man’s lips lift a skoach, imagining he had just become a part of a winsome dream.
Chapter 4: M - O
Murdock had only met Face that same morning, yet even with the blue-eyed wonder's incessant bitch fest he was drawn to him. The pilot thought he was clever and funny as hell. Although, after putting the bird down in the middle of nowhere with engine failure, Murdock could see Face wasn't well.
They were actually only out in the direct Texas sun for a little over an hour before stumbling into the all but forgotten Western town, but the youngest of them was near collapse. Face fell apart when Hannibal went out to call for a pickup, an extraction from this no-name town, which it turned out wouldn't be there until morning. The call was made from a diner where he was also able to scrounge up dinner for all of them with BA's last $30.
Murdock's eye was swollen and beginning to color. He was clutching one hand in the other under his chin. Wide-eyed, he stood in the corner of the motel room while BA wrestled Face on the far bed. Having just walked back in the door, Hannibal had a difficult time putting together the scene before him.
Face was sitting up, BA towering over him. The dirty blonde’s hands were being held up and out to either side. It was clear Face was losing the match. It was also clear this wasn't a friendly tussle.
Dropping the bags and cans on the side table Hannibal skirted the near bed. "What the hell is going on?" He tried to wedge his way between the two men, trying to dislodge BA. "Let go of him Corporal."
"He didn't mean it Hannibal. I know he didn't mean it. It was just an accident." Murdock was babbling.
"He's out of his mind," BA struggled to spit out. "He roundhoused Murdock."
"Fuck you! Get off. G’ fuck off!" Face was barely understandable. "I have to find him!"
"Face!" Hannibal was still forcing his way between them.
"It wasn't his fault. I was trying to stop him." Murdock was now on the opposite side of the bed. "There's sumthin' wrong with him."
"Face!" Hannibal was able to turn his head with both hands.
Upon seeing Hannibal, surprised recognition suddenly appeared on the LT’s face. All the fight left him. BA needed to brace himself when the counter force dropped away.
Face was looking up at the Colonel. "John?" He sounded terribly weak.
"Let go of him BA."
"Yes I'm sure. Let go."
Face was gazing at Hannibal now seated in front of him on the edge of the bed. The younger man leaned in, fisted hands on Hannibal’s chest. He pressed forward attempting to expand the area where their bodies touched. "I was so worried. How did you find your way back?"
"I don't know what you mean, Kid. I only went for some burgers." And then to BA, “What the hell happened?”
The Corporal relayed to him how the feverish Face had lost it when they stopped him from following Hannibal out the door, punching Murdock in the process. As the Lt. Col. listened, he could feel the waves of heat coming off his Lieutenant.
Whatever bug Face had acquired in Mexico it seemed to have blossomed under the Texan sun. A good hour later Hannibal finally had him back in bed after cooling him with damp towels in the tiny bathroom. From where they sat at the little table BA followed Murdock's gaze to the two men on the far bed. The sick Second Lieutenant was holding tight as Hannibal murmured to him, stroked his back and pressed lips to his hair.
It would be a long night for those two, the man sporting a Mohawk decided.
This was some strange way of getting back in the Army.
“Man, this was so much easier when it was just three plastic cups.”
"No! I don’t mind at all. We'll all have a great day together. Of course I don't mind," Face protested as he lifted the delighted seven-year-old. "How have you been, honey? You know I've missed you."
Hannibal's daughter leaned back in Face's arms before declaring Frank, her mother's new husband, wasn't as strong as Face. "He says I'm getting to be a big girl and I'm too heavy to pick up."
Ever the diplomat, Face countered with, "Then this will be our secret."
Hannibal's chest tightened slightly as he looked on the scene and the realization came to him. The separate parts of his life had somehow formed unnoticed into his new family.
No one knew where they were. There would be no calvary coming to the rescue. It was up to the team and the team alone to get themselves out of this disaster. Hannibal's plans never went off without a hitch, but this plan of General Singer's was a cluster fuck.
Hannibal was desperate to find the emergency escape. The one that would get his boys out of this mess alive and in one piece. No one could have predicted the crazy scheme Murdock was concocting would actually work. Hannibal just smiled at him as the four climbed out of the jeep when they returned to camp. He couldn't help himself. It filled him with pride the way these three disparate men always were there not only for him, but more importantly, for one another.
"Oh mein Gott! Er hat eine Waffe! Er hat eine Waffe! EINE WAFFE!
Face had seen Kyle moving toward Sosa while reaching for his gun. Couldn’t very well fire his weapon with the entire concourse looking in his direction, now could he?
He looked back on Sosa. He hadn’t been wrong, she certainly is a beauty. But the anger, where had that come from? She walked out on him so why was she so pissy? She walked out and left him to slog through his love’s debris with no answers. Even now, she had told him back at the FOB her fondest memory was of leaving him.
Thank God for Hannibal. Thank God for him showing up that night out of the blue. What had Sosa called him, “Your precious Hannibal?” No, that wasn’t it. “Your beloved Hannibal.” She had been trying to get a rise out of him, spread that anger around some. Too bad for her she picked exactly the wrong thing to say.
It all passed through his mind in a flash. He hadn’t been aware he had allowed himself to be swallowed by the crowd and hadn’t looked back again. There were more pressing matters, like getting back to his beloved’s side.
“Overkill is underrated, my friend.”
Sometimes you just couldn’t argue Hannibal’s logic.
We’re just past the halfway mark.
Chapter 5: P - S
“Pike... He’s a thug. He’s a cartoon character. Come on.” Hannibal underestimated the man.
Pike was dead. The man had underestimated the team.
“Quit looking at me like that. If you’d just listen for a minute you’ll see how simple it is. So I get into Tuco’s by.... Hey! Really Hannibal? Really? You’re just gonna walk away?”
“Quiet.....shhhhhh.....Don’t fight me. Don’t fight me, soldier,” Hannibal whispered as he pressed on the man’s chest, keeping him on his back. “I know it hurts, but you need to stay quiet.” Hannibal looked around him, mind spinning. He needed a way out of this before the Sergeant lost too much blood from the wound or his leg from the tourniquet.
A sense of panic came over him when he couldn’t find Face. The kid had just been there. He searched the room of the gutted house, now really only a store of debris. Through the broken window he could hear voices not far off. Murdock was due in the next ten minutes. Someone had to warn him it wasn’t safe for him to fly in. The men outside no doubt had access to a launcher and mortars. Sometimes it seemed like they all did.
Searching his brain for an answer that wouldn’t involve drawing attention to their position and his wounded man his thoughts were interrupted by a somewhat familiar sound he couldn’t quite put a name to. There were several muffled claps that seemed to be coming from overhead. What the fuck was that and where the hell had Face gone?
His attention was snapped back to BA lying on the floor below the blown out window. Hannibal and Face had maneuvered him there to be out of sight. What they gained in cover they had lost in every move being amplified out the open window casing. BA was restless from pain, couldn’t lie still. Hannibal knew, even in the dark, he was slipping into shock. The large mass of soldier was starting to quake.
Hannibal laid his own chest across BA’s, wincing at the slight scraping sounds his boots made on the floor which to him thundered loud. He thought he could hear the distant sound of a chopper cutting through the night sky. And where the fuck was Face?
He rubbed a reassuring hand on BA, circling the downed man’s shoulder with one mighty paw. His heart blanked on him. He couldn’t decide if it had skipped beats or double timed them when his LT touched his back saying, “We need to move fast boss before they figure out what’s happened.” The kid could move as silently as on cat paws in just about any situation.
Looking in the direction of his LT he could just make out the cylinder Face was unscrewing from his weapon. He quickly enough put it together with the sounds he had heard. “How many?” He asked the sniper.
“Five. One more and my suppressor would have been spent.”
Hannibal knew exactly to what he was referring. Face had started packing US Navy developed disposable silencers capable of suppressing up to six firings. The clapping sound was distinct to the unit. He gave it only the briefest of thoughts though as he situated himself and helped their Sergeant to his feet.
Face approached dropping his satchels at Hannibal’s feet. Before BA could object, Face bent down and scooped him into a fireman’s carry. Never stopping his forward motion he was out the door before Hannibal had stood from retrieving the LT’s equipment.
The three reached the town square five doors down as Murdock was landing. Hannibal cringed a little for BA as Face foisted him roughly into the chopper. He understood there was no time for coddling. It would have to wait until they were in the air.
Pitching the packs in first with Face catching them, Hannibal dove in the door. Face grabbed at his vest to expedite his entry. As he was slid unceremoniously across the floor of the chopper Hannibal joined Face in shouting, “Go, Murdock!”
“Repeat. You are engaged in unauthorized warfare on United States Military Personnel,” Hannibal watched the GPS tracker as the air battle crossed the border, “... over United States airspace.”
Tuco was brought up short. “What?”
Hannibal started slow, “Alpha. Mike....” before he was joined by his boy, “Foxtrot! In other words, Adios Mother F...!”
Rain ricocheted off the tin above, clattering out a hyperactive beat, making up for what it lacked in rhythm with ferocity. Hannibal considered himself selfish for the thought that had passed through his mind; if it were only a little louder it would completely cover the sound of their Captain's distress. It hurt him to think it. It hurt him to hear it, yet there wasn't much he could do to quiet the man beyond what Face was already doing.
As the leader of their little band he felt incompetent and powerless when it came to Murdock's "wobbles." He was grateful for Face, who seemed to always know exactly what to say and do during these downturns. He was also thankful to BA who could with his quiet often wordless understanding communicate he knew perfectly well how Hannibal was feeling when these moments were upon them. A master of wordless expressions such as the one just then when he silently dropped a hand on the boss' shoulder for only a second or three before continuing on to where he was bound.
Spread starfish across his bed, Face was this close to purring. Hannibal lay atop him, arms wrapped around his chest. With Face on his stomach Hannibal nuzzled into his neck, his lips searching upward until he found an ear, “God I’ve missed you.”
Chapter 6: T - W
Thanksgiving is a time for family. It’s a time to reacquaint with what is the most base in one’s life. The holiday is most often met with a gathering, a coming together.
That year it was for Sarah Smith a time to gather everyone she loved most together to eat the jello mold with marshmallows her mother taught her to make. The wiggling bit of architecture on a plate could only be described one way. It was spectacular. The various heights created by the mold were impressive on their own, but add to it the movement, the jello jiggle, the bits of white cloud suspended in a red atmosphere and it became a work of art. A work of art Sarah created herself. She had learned this new skill in response to her mother and step-father’s acquiescence to her month-long pleads to have her other two dads join them for the holiday.
Ann, Frank, Hannibal and Face managed to get along well enough. Though with that many cooks in a kitchen devoted to raising Sarah there were the occasional skirmishes. They had all been together before, but never spent an entire day in each other’s company as they would on Thanksgiving.
Honestly, he hadn’t been looking forward to the day; however, when the last dish was washed and the second football game was played Frank had to admit it was a pleasant day all around. Ann was nursing a cocktail; Hannibal was outside smoking a cigar; Sarah was snugged in tight next to Face, both suffering the effects of tryptophan overload, snoozing away on the sofa. Never in his wildest, thoroughly conservative dreams would Frank have considered this group to be a great family model, but here they were and he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“This is beyond nuts, boss.”
Hannibal couldn’t help laughing, “It gets better.”
“Underachiever.” The word stuck out like a sore thumb as Hannibal read the file of a young Lieutenant Russ was foisting on him. Just what he needed, another surely young man to fill the gap left by the last surely young man who did good and had graduated out of Hannibal’s care. Kid goes by the name “Face.” What was up with that? He flipped to the next page and his question was answered. Staring up at him from the file was a handsome, washed out blonde with incredible blue eyes. At least I’ll have something nice to look at, Hannibal thought to himself.
Undemanding and languid, Face charted his territory. Nosing along Hannibal’s jaw he sucked behind its hinge just below the ear. Without fail he’d huff a laugh as John tilted his head and lifted his shoulder. No, it hadn’t taken the brat long to find his two ticklish spots. Okay, four, two on each side.
Face decided he would visit the others later. Would need John’s pants off to do them justice. For now, he’s happy with the head tip. He steered clear of kissing John’s ears as well, avoiding driving in the wet sounds of his mouth. That was sure to set an erection in motion. Not the objective here. This wasn’t about carnal lust, it was about how much Face loved this man.
Hannibal’s steady demeanor, his earnestness when he whispered, “I love you,” touched Face as he never had been before. They had been fools to separate. Face couldn’t believe what an even bigger idiot he had been afterwards to fall for Sosa. Thinking back now it was embarrassing what a wreck he had been after she walked out on him.
He and Hannibal hadn’t been a couple for years, but they still cared, still loved each other; unfortunately, they had made such a mess of their relationship they couldn’t continue on. Or maybe it was just him, Face thought to himself. Couldn’t keep Charissa happy either. O for 3: Leslie, John, Charissa.
Hannibal was different than the other two though. He’s somehow connected to Face. Case in point, that night he showed up out of the blue at Temp’s place while the LT was tearing through his music collection and everywhere else for that matter looking for his Steely Dan CD. John had eventually taken him by his biceps, forcing him to concentrate.
He hadn’t understood why Face was so frantic, why he had torn his place apart looking for an easily replaced CD. He also couldn’t explain what had drawn him to Face’s home that night. Not until he had a firm hold and the younger man looked through swimming eyes saying, “I think she took my Steely Dan. When she packed her things I think she took it.”
Hannibal stayed with him that night. Listened to him as he raged, petted his head as it lay in John’s lap. He held him as they fell into restless sleep on the couch.
It was just shy of two more years before they wound their way back together, predictably to Murdock’s and surprisingly to BA’s relief. And here they were on the sofa in the living room of Hannibal’s off base house in a quiet, Georgia subdivision. The guys would be coming over soon to watch BA’s beloved Chicago Bears get their asses whooped, again.
Hannibal gave the briefest of thoughts to firing up the grill, but couldn’t pull himself away when Face turned on his own brand of affection. This wasn’t sex, and whether they were expecting company or not in wouldn’t go there. This was reaffirmation of what they meant to each other.
And there it was. The sensation of fluttering in John’s chest when Temp curled into him, thighs alongside Hannibal’s own, knees pressed to the back cushions, almost sitting in his lap. His cheek nuzzled in just below John’s throat, one hand sandwiched between them, the other holding firm to his shoulder. Just about his entire six foot frame contained within John’s arms.
A simple kiss to the top of Temp’s head and a peck on the lips in return were the response to hearing BA’s van pulling in the driveway. Face uncurled himself from the sofa, turning to stand. A hand took his and he lingered for a short moment looking down at the two entwined together. After a reciprocated light squeeze their hands separated as Face went to meet his friends at the door.
"Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary." BA quoted Mahatma Ghandi as he sat across from the couple in a diner.
Hannibal replied with a Ghandi quote of his own, "It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence."
“Valium?” Face was trying to work with him here.
“No.” BA was having none of it.
“You know, BA? We’ve been through this before.”
“And yet you just don’t seem to get the message. I’m not getting on the plane.” With these words BA collapsed forward into Face’s arms. Looking beyond the shoulder of the big man, Face saw their pilot, empty syringe in his hand.
“So. Lorazepam it is,” Face noted.
“Don’t let him fall on his face. He gets mad when that happens,” Murdock offered.
“I know Murdock. Mind giving me a hand?”
“Oh. Right, Facey.”
With three fingers held in front of Face’s eyes Hannibal asked after a particularly crushing blow to the younger man’s temple, “How many fingers am I holding up.”
The answer was a confident, “Blue.”
“Where are you going, Dad? ... Dad!”
Face was looking over his shoulder as he settled into the chair Hannibal had just vacated. Sarah heard him say her dad’s name through her computer speakers. When her stepdad turned to face the Skype screen he slid into an apologetic smile. “This is hard for him, kiddo.”
“Did I say something wrong?” She shifted and adjusted the just out of view bundle she held.
“No! No, honey. Let’s give him a minute. See if he comes back, okay?”
“Let me see what you have there.”
Sarah momentarily shifted off the screen. When she straightened they were both in view. Face felt an immediate sting behind his eyes. A huffed out, “Oh,” was the only thing he could confidently muster around the lump in his throat.
He’d seen thousands of images and more than a few of the real thing before, but this was different. He felt a loving ache in his chest, different than any he had ever known. Blinking fast, he tried to clear his vision. Unable to tear his eyes away from the sight on his screen, he wiped at the moisture on his cheeks.
“Here we go. I’d like you to meet Jonathan Robert Smith Reilly.”
“Oh god Sarah. That is one of, if not the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. The two of you are gorgeous.” He wiped at his eyes.
“Go get your glasses. You’re seeing things. I look like hell.”
“Oh no, honey. You look beautiful.”
“That’s what I keep telling her,” a gentleman’s voice chimed in from somewhere out of view.
“Where are you Paul?” Face asked the screen.
Sarah’s husband, Paul Reilly, poked his head into view above the baby’s head. “Hey, Face!” He was grinning from ear to ear.
“Thanks. Is Hannibal alright?”
“He will be. This is just really hard for him. Not being able to be there. I think it hit him harder than he expected.”
“I wish you guys could be here,” John and Temp’s son-in-law lamented.
“You know I wish you were here too,” Sarah added.
“I know baby.” His eyes went back to the newborn swaddled in a blue, waffle weave blanket. “I know.” He took in a deep breath, letting it out with a shudder. His eyes welled again.
“Tell Dad we all love him.”
“I will.” He wasn’t sure how long they had been on the Skype call. Briefly thinking he didn’t give a damn if it could be traced. “But I have to go now, sweetheart.”
“I love you,” Sarah said with a smile.
“We love you too. He’s beautiful. I’m so happy for all of you.” He soaked in more of the image before him. “We’ll talk again soon.”
He found Hannibal sitting on the back step of the little ranch house set on a carpet of pine cones and needles shed by the ancient canopy overhead. “Hey,” he said softly, sitting beside his man.
When Face had first seen the photo of the sad little house situated amongst the pines he knew it was where he needed to take John. The grind of their lives and work was visible in Hannibal’s eyes.
He talked to BA about the need to give Hannibal a break. It was decided BA would take Murdock to Milwaukee where they’d meet up with the duo driving from Chicago, his mom and Aunt Rose. Face would take Hannibal to the woods of Oregon.
“The baby is beautiful,” Face ventured.
“He sure is, isn’t he?” Hannibal had his knees tucked up, long arms wrapped around, looking off into the trees.
Temp reached around to pull John to him. Hannibal lost his grip around his legs, allowing Face to easily settle him in under his chin. There was no need for words. He knew what John was thinking as he began to tremble and hitch in his arms.
This life. This terribly unfair life had robbed them of so much. But this blow had been one of the most debilitating. There was nothing to be done about it but hold John as he wept for the loss of his family. Held him as he grieved for the loss of freedom keeping him from his daughter and newborn grandson.
Chapter 7: X - Z
"X-ray is down that hallway with the blue line on the floor. There is a check-in desk and waiting room," the elderly volunteer at the hospital reception desk informed Face and BA.
Once in the radiology department it took no time for Face to get them in the exam room.
"Oh baby. You're going to be fine," Face cooed and soothed.
"Luckily it's only a dislocated finger. It's back in place. They just went to get a splint in the right size," Hannibal informed Face.
"'Only a dislocated finger'? How did this happen?!" Face demanded with a glare before turning his attention back to the injured appendage he cradled in his hands.
"It's okay. It doesn't hurt anymore." Looking down the patient said rather disappointed, "But I'm not going to have a scar."
Face didn't know how to respond to that. He had a "wait-what" run through his head. "You wanted a scar?" totally confused.
"I thought it would be GOAT!" was explained to him with a grin.
Face crinkled the corner of his eyes. "What does that even mean?"
"GOAT! Greatest of all time."
"Tell me what happened, honey," Face said while brushing hair back.
"It was an accident, Temp. These things happen. Relax. It will all be fine," he heard from behind.
"What is wrong with you, Hannibal?! She's just a little girl!"
"Come on, Temp. It's not like I permanently broke her." Hannibal looked to the Sergeant. "Help me out here, BA."
"Don't look at me, Boss. My heart's just come back under control since we got the call."
Hannibal stood, covering the distance to Face's side in three long strides. Placing an arm around his shoulders to pull him in close he cajoled, "You would have been proud of how brave she was."
Face was calming, "That true, kiddo?"
Sarah nodded her head up and down. "Only cried for a minute. Right Dad?" she beamed up to Hannibal.
"That's right, Sweetheart."
"Why are you crying?" Sarah wondered.
As John snugged him a little closer Face answered her honestly, "I'm just happy you're okay."
“XO extraordinaire. That’s how I explain it.” Hannibal wasn’t parting with his MacCallum 18.
“Don’t you mean conman of the year?” Russ asked pointedly.
“Semantics,” Hannibal mumbled.
“I’m supposed to be running an orderly and high functioning FOB here, Hannibal.”
“And I firmly believe you are excelling at just that.”
“Look Hannibal, I give your boys a lot of leeway, but I have to question some of the tactics used.”
“What tactics are those?”
“I don’t know what they are! That’s why I’m questioning them! One afternoon you and I are talking about scotch and the joys of a smooth blend, two days later I walk in on you drinking a premium label!”
“I’ve been meaning to mention that. Lately you’ve gotten into the habit of walking in unannounced.”
“This is my goddamn tent!”
“If you’re going to be like that, I’m taking my scotch and leaving.”
Russ looked like he was about to pop a clutch.
Hannibal finished the last finger, leaving the glass on the table beside him. He tucked the bottle back into the canvas sack he’d used to carry it across base. Making his way to the door he flipped a thumb back the way he came, “Yours is on the seat of your desk chair.”
Russ closed his eyes, dropped his chin to his chest and shook his head, “Thank you, Hannibal,” he sing-songed.
“I’m only the courier. Thank Face.”
“I’ll be sure to do that.”
“Cocktails in my tent or yours tomorrow night?”
“I’ll see you back here.”
“ ‘night, Russ.”
“YOU OWE ME! You're gonna tell them we're innocent! You owe me...”
Morrison had sold out. Had sold out and it irked him, even after everything, Hannibal was still an honorable man. “Hannibal, it's meaningless! What are you fighting for now, you and those boys? Your rank, your reputation? They're shit! You're convicts! Plates, no plates, you are federal fugitives, and when they're done with you, Hannibal, they just burn you!”
“You spin me right round baby, right round. Rotors are good, sir!”
“Who is this guy?” Face wasn’t convinced, but he also had an unwavering belief in Hannibal. If he wanted this crazy ass pilot, Face would trust him, question him, but trust him.
Hannibal kept his hands to himself. It was an exercise in control. Fingers tingling with the need to touch, but he wouldn’t allow it. His young LT had been utterly exhausted upon his return from his excursion into the desert.
Face and Lt. Wells were the best of the best marksmen the US Army had to offer. They were seldom assigned together. An unspoken agreement surrounded them. Like a royal family, the crown and successor traveled separately. In the event of disaster one would remain to carry on.
Number one rule for snipers, when the enemy turns in your direction it’s time to leave. Sending Face and Wells together gave the two mobility they wouldn’t have alone. As one took a shot, the other covered them by then immediately taking a shot of their own, drawing uncertain attention away from the first shooter who made their way to a new spot. The second moved to another location and they began again, continuing until all targets had been neutralized.
Besides the mental energy spent hopscotching around their targets they had also made a nighttime trek across six kliks of open desert to get to the encampment situated at an abandoned airfield. Lying silently amongst the outcroppings until the sun set, when they once again hiked back out.
Halfway into the return journey Wells pulled her handset to tell those waiting on them they had been successful. A quarter of the way from where their extraction waited they heard the sound of jets in the distance. It was the first round to negotiate the reclamation of the airstrip now that the operators of the anti-aircraft weaponry had been eliminated.
Hannibal was almost as exhausted as the young shootists. Having waited anxiously with the extraction team for more than twenty-four hours to hear from the two. Hannibal didn’t nap as the rest of the soldiers had, taking turns waiting and being on the lookout for the elite soldiers. He wouldn’t sleep until he knew whether the two walked away from their mission safely. Unlike the others waiting, it was secondary if they had or had not been successful. That his young man was returning to him was what mattered most to the Colonel.
When he had heard they were successful and would be at the extraction point within the hour Hannibal had, instead of relaxing with relief, become more agitated until two columns were seen in the full moon along the desert horizon. Hannibal watched as the two soldiers meant to pick up the marksmen dawdled about, not in any particular hurry to set out. The Colonel couldn’t wait longer. He commandeered a Jeep and set off to retrieve the two himself.
Before any objections could be made Lt. Wells had popped into the front passenger seat. What could Hannibal do? Wells was thanking him profusely for coming out for them. Hannibal of course was gracious. Turning the vehicle around he glanced in the rear view.
“You good back there, Face?”
Face turned his head barely to one side and tipped it while smiling at his man. “I’m good, Boss. Just a little tired.”
With Face seated behind him, Wells was none the wiser as Hannibal looked in the mirror once more to be met with that smile still directed at him.
“We’ll have you two in your tents sleeping like babes in no time.”
Face tucked his hands under his pillow. Laying there in the tangled sheets, rolled up on his side, using every bit of self control he could muster to not touch those graying wisps feathering his companion’s forehead. He should be sleeping, but he can’t seem to close his eyes to the view with his senses still tingling from being loved as he never had before.
They had been pussyfooting around each other for years. Each never sure if the time was right. This night it seemed it was. There hadn’t been any alcohol involved, no death defying feat to bring a “life is too short” rush, no earthshaking event to precipitate Hannibal holding his hand out to Face. Nothing and no one coerced Face to set his own hand in the one offered.
And yet he did.
Their circling of each other like two cats had finally culminated in the knowledge they were meant to be. At the very least they were meant to give it a try. Something had tipped the scale earlier in the evening. If asked, neither man could have said what it was, only that the time had come and they could both feel it. They both knew it. They each innately understood it.
They had spent so much of their lives together there hadn’t been much mystery left. That is with the notable exception of exploring each other’s bodies. Sure they had touched, they had hugged, they had even spooned, but they never asked for nor given permission to discover the most hidden and private parts of each other.
That had all changed with Hannibal’s hand extended out, palm up, silently asking Face to take a chance.
There you have it.
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