As a career soldier Lt. Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith had developed quite a reputation for himself. He was a man with a plan. Often one so far fetched his peers and superiors laughed the details off as part of his droll sense of humor. Problem being, not everyone confirmed with him which case they were dealing with. This of course led to Hannibal being able to say with conviction that his most recently executed plan had been green-lighted by default. That is he wasn’t directly told no.
Those assigned under him were quickly sorted out as those who could roll with their CO and those who would be better off reassigned. It took a special individual to impress this particular officer. He sought out likeminded soldiers though at first glance an outsider may not see the similarities. Brave, inventive, and extraordinarily talented in their niche were what the Colonel looked for in men for his team.
Many a time first encounters with the man produced questions as to whether there maybe two Hannibals. His gentlemanly manner didn’t mesh with his reputation as a fearless, modern day musketeer. Not necessarily soft spoken, he did however project a mildness that belied his assertiveness. It was observation of his doggedness that etched out his dominance to onlookers.
Interestingly, it wasn’t an affectation. The US Army is full of men and women who study and practice their presentation. Not Hannibal. His demeanor wasn’t developed by way of emulating others. His is firmly rooted within himself. It was a projection of the morals and values that guided him.
One never questioned his confidence. It simply wasn’t considered the man could possess self doubts. The concept didn’t slot in with the legend named Hannibal Smith. Admittedly this wasn’t a regular visitor to the Colonel’s psyche, but it also wouldn’t be fair to depict one of the Army’s finest as infallible or untouchable. Like anyone else he had his hesitancies and uncertainties. It was just these things Hannibal would be confronted with this afternoon.
He made his way toward the northwest corner of Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta, expectancy tingling his senses. His wait would soon be over. He’d been looking forward to this rendezvous for a week now. Been planning on it since before he flew out of Georgia to D.C.
It had been five days since he had last been in Face’s company. Yes, he ticked the days off in his head but stopped himself from including hours and minutes. That would have been ridiculous; although, if pressed he could have sputtered out four hours sixteen minutes. The anxious feeling that ran marathons just beneath his skin was surprisingly welcome. It was the physical manifestation of hope for more good things to come. Aware of the need to reel it in, he was becoming a master at unobtrusively schooling his features out of a goofy grin before anyone’s attention was drawn.
Standing four inches over the six foot mark Hannibal’s physical self image had never fully developed along with his body. Rather than the towering and sturdy soldier who possessed an elegance of movement to which others couldn’t help but respond, he still pictured himself as the overly long and lanky young man who entered West Point so many years ago. He was certain the young officer was going to realized what he had signed up for and disentangle himself from the situation.Until that day came Hannibal allowed himself to be enchanted by his good fortune.
He found himself secretly behaving like a high schooler in love. Or maybe not so secretly. He did his best not to be caught out while daydreaming about azure blue eyes; although, he was sure PFC Reilly knew something was afoot. More than once his personal secretary had found himself repeating the address, “Sir?” or clearing his throat to get the Lt. Colonel’s attention.
He was also sprucing himself up. Thinking to himself it was convenient he didn’t have to explain to anyone his recent underwear overhaul. Out with the old, in with the new. He also wasn’t so reluctant to purchase street clothes as he had been in recent years. Case in point, earlier in the afternoon he’d shopped for just the right new tweed jacket to wear for an early dinner followed by a movie. Luckily the young woman working in the upscale big and tall shop seemed to be having as good of a time making the correct choice as he was. It could have been agony.
As he exited, his new friend Kiki wished him well and included, “Not many men come in here caring that much about their clothes for a single date, much less admitting it. They’re very lucky to have you.”
Hannibal of course responded he was the lucky one.
Back to the hotel to shower and shave for a second time that day before sliding on jeans along with the new shirt and tie Kiki had been on the money picking out to compliment his new jacket. The suite he had for the next two nights in anticipation of Face spending the entire weekend with him needed a touch up. He gathered the assorted sundries that he had managed to scatter about and called for housekeeping to bring fresh towels, handing over a folded stack of damp ones in exchange.
Face was catching a ride to the city with a fellow soldier who was heading for Louisville. He and Hannibal had agreed to meet outside the park before their early reservation at Legal Seafood. Hannibal knew he was ahead of time but had simply run out of things to occupy his mind back at the hotel.
Once ensconced within an invisible ten foot perimeter of his subconscious making, he took in the scene around him. It seemed relatively quiet for a late Friday afternoon. He noted how few people were on foot. Looking down beyond the park entrance he imagined what a lovely private walk he and Face could enjoy.
Pushing the fronts of his jacket back, his fingers retreated into the front pockets of his jeans. Pacing within his self imposed boundaries, performing a modified goose step as he swung the prolonged length of his legs, found him kicking at stones in his path. He thought of the man he would spend the evening with.
He’d been peripherally aware of the young officer some time prior to making his acquaintance, most likely due to his moniker. Though there were no other Hannibal’s about, at least that he knew of, there were plenty of nicknames associated with historic figures. But “Face?” That was a new one to him.
Their first encounter came to him, a smile spreading at the memory. At one of the ubiquitous and seemingly perpetual social events at Fort Benning Hannibal had excused himself to step out to the parking lot for a smoke. Adam, that’s Lt. Colonel Danier to you and me, had admonished him not to cut and run. They had come together and promised not to leave the other alone to a night of introductions and correct manners with superior officers and their wives.
Making his way through the crowd he had his cigar fished out and was conducting a self pat down for a lighter. Distracted by his unproductive search he hadn’t realized the door was opening in front of him until it was too late. He found himself with arms full of another soldier who had been too busy talking to his friends to see the man in the doorway, much less avoid the collision.
The cigar squirted out of Hannibal’s grip like a wet bar of soap. Fumbling to catch it in the commotion it tipped off a finger only to be caught by a hand that seemed to reach out of nowhere, a living mechanical bank. The Colonel still had an arm around this impromptu dance partner and only came aware after the cigar had disappeared from sight.
“Oh god. I’m so sorry, sir,” the young man babbled.
“What the...” Hannibal was a bit stumped as to how he had become entangled with this ... then he saw them, those blue eyes. It had only been a flash, but he could have told you then they would from that moment on be firmly planted in his mind’s eye where he would always be able to summon a memory of them.
“Your cigar, sir.” The handsome young man took a step back breaking the contact between the two. He held the treasured roll of tobacco up between a thumb and index finger. “I’m really sorry. That was totally my fault.”
Hannibal took the cigar saying, “Quite alright. The important thing is my smoke is intact.” He flashed the kid a smile for good measure before stepping around and into the night.
Giving up on trying to figure out what had just happened back there he again commenced the search for a light. Taking the Cuban from where he held it between teeth to free up both hands he determined he would need to go back inside for a light. That is until a Bic flicked bright before his eyes.
Hannibal made no reply before leaning into the flame. With the stogie coaxed into glowing he struggled not to smile like some bygone Southern lady. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“Please, keep it, sir.” A palm was extended with the royal blue lighter offered.
“I’m not going to keep your lighter.”
“Really. Take it.”
“But don’t you need...”
“I don’t smoke. Please accept it with my apologies.”
Hannibal’s smile spread as he took the lighter, “Thank you Lieutenant...?”
“Peck. Lieutenant Templeton Peck.”
“That’s a mouthful of name.”
“My friends call me Face if that works better for you.”
It certainly did. So did Temp and so did Babe. And a funny thing... Hannibal has that lighter to this day. Emptied long ago of butane it accompanies him wherever he goes. He likes to think it’s his little secret. Face runs across it now and again, but keeps the sightings to himself. As Hannibal stood on a corner watching people shuffling by this little bit of downtown Atlanta he handled the Bic in his jacket pocket. It helped soothe the electric anticipation coursing through him.
It had only been a few days, but Hannibal found himself missing the young man from the morning of his departure. During down times he envisioned the warm smile Face would cast his way. At night he would imagine being in his arms. He thought of the thrill he got from something so simple as his touch. It was a little frightening how quickly and utterly taken he had been from their very first meeting, and now after being separated, how much he yearned for that contact. He couldn’t help thinking it was more akin to the romantic films of the ‘40s than anything in his own life.
He checked his watch. It was time. Another three minutes and it would be straight up four o’clock. Again he fruitlessly scanned all directions. It seemed Temp would be late. If there was one thing he could bank on, Face was either early or late. Never once had he known him to be right on time.
Hannibal’s mind again wandered to that first meeting.
“I should get inside. The guys are already a little ticked that I was late. Ya know, making everyone late.” Face was walking backwards toward the doors of the officer’s club. “I’m really sorry about slamming into you like that, Colonel.”
Hannibal cast a smile to him and could see him relax just a notch. “No harm done, kid.” He thought of something as the LT turned to walk into the social. “My friends call me Hannibal.”
Face spun to again walk backward several paces. His only response was a smile. Hannibal found it shy and utterly charming.
Returning inside after his smoke Hannibal made a stop at the bar before joining the circle of officers and wives Adam had been caught up in. His buddy looked across to him and gave him a relieved nod. Hannibal couldn’t help but laugh.
“Tell me. What’s so funny, young man?” Louise Pritchard, General Prichard’s wife asked.
Hannibal didn’t miss a beat, “When I looked at Adam I had to laugh again at a joke he told me earlier.” Adam smiled nervously. He hadn’t told a joke. “You want to tell it, Adam?” Hannibal had mischief in his eye.
“Naw. Go right ahead.” Adam lobbed back.
“Oh, alright,” as if Adam had twisted his arm. “So I bought my friend an elephant for his room. He said ‘Thanks.’ I said ‘Don't mention it’.”
Silence ... for the count of three before the punchline seemed to roll over the group sending them into peels of laughter. Hannibal was laughing along and shot a quick look at Adam who all but thanked him out loud for not making “his” joke off color.
Hannibal just smiled along when Mrs. Prichard asked Adam where he heard it. “That’s an old one,” he replied. “I can’t remember where that came from.”
“He’s got a million of ‘em,” Hannibal offered.
“Oh do tell us more”, Edie Fletcher urged.
Adam looked to Hannibal slowly shaking his head as he gave his now ex-friend the stink eye, without a word he conveyed to Hannibal he would pay for this.
“Yeah, Adam. Tell us another one.” Hannibal knew it was safe. The two friends pulled stunts like this on each other regularly.
Adam wouldn’t be stumped. He began firing off jokes and riddles one after the other. “Two cows are grazing in a field. One cow says to the other, ‘You ever worry about that mad cow disease?’ The other cow says, ‘Why would I care? I'm a helicopter!’”
Interspersed amongst the jests, puns and witticisms Adam made up nonsense on the fly before looking to Hannibal, eye brows raised, leaving it to his friend to come up with a punchline. “So a Priest, a Rabbi, a Maharishi, and a Mawlawi all walk into a bar and the bartender says....”
“What? Is this a joke?” Hannibal finished to more laughter. Between laughs he’d take an inventory of those present in the club. He still hadn’t seen the kid since he came in from the parking lot. He did, however, see Nancy Drake headed their way. Adam had been trying to start something on the intimate side with the Major for weeks and it appeared his efforts were about to pay off. She stepped up to the group alongside Adam, who was delighted to see her.
Hannibal announced he’d be on his way home. With Major Drake there to keep his buddy company he could leave guilt free. After five minutes of long goodbyes he stopped at the bar to drop off his glass. One more look-around, much to his disappointment, produced no evidence of the handsome Lieutenant.
Settled in behind the wheel for the drive home Hannibal piloted his Laredo in the direction of the main gates. He had been contemplating his twenty minute drive to his off-base home, a house he’d purchased a few years before, when he slid into a grin and slowed to a stop. The young LT stepped forward from where he’d been leaning on a fence and climbed into the passenger seat.
As Hannibal eased off the brake he asked, “Where have you been?”
“I was standing right behind you.”
“Get used to it.”
Hannibal thought that probably wouldn’t be a problem.
“Great jokes by the way. Your friend’s funny as hell.”
“That he is. There’s just something about a joke well told.”
”Yeah,” Face agreed before launching into one of his own. “My friends say there's a gay guy in our circle of friends... I really hope it's Todd, he's cute.”
Hannibal guffawed. Stealing a quick look at his passenger, his contemplation shifting from the drive to the destination. He was finding it physically impossible to be rid of his smile. In no time they were surprising themselves with how easy and comfortable their conversation came.
That evening Face spent a chaste night at Hannibal’s. He later told his gentlemanly suitor how much that meant to him. He felt most people, both men and women, just wanted to add his name to their list of accomplishments. There and then Hannibal swore, if he could help it, Face wouldn’t have call to feel that way again. He had an overwhelming desire to do this right, to make this count and make it last.
His rumination was cut short by a dog nudging his hand. On a leash, the friendly, albeit slightly damp, Labrador had dragged the young woman walking him in Hannibal’s direction.
“I’m so sorry. Sometimes he just has to say hello.”
Hannibal bent to scratch behind a chocolate colored ear. “It’s not a bother. He’s a handsome beast.”
“In general he’s a good judge of character too,” the blonde noted.
“His record remains intact,” Hannibal joked.
“Come on Ollie. Time to head home,” she said pulling on the dog’s harness.
Hannibal watched as the two hurried across the street until he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. There was a young man approaching obviously lost to the world, his ears stuffed with earbuds. A backpack was slung around one shoulder as he stared at the ground, lips moving, presumably silently mouthing the words to a song. Hunched shoulder’s confirmed a misty rain was in the air.
Checking the time the Lt. Colonel now noted Face was officially late and by more than he would have presumed. He was used to the younger man showing up out of breath gasping out excuses and apologies; however, from his vantage point Hannibal didn’t see him in any direction. He was beginning to feel self conscious. Felt less like he was waiting and more like he was loitering.
The air had grown stagnant with a dense, heavy quality about it. He thought the light drizzle would give way to the predicted storm sooner than expected. Along with the change in atmosphere there came a change in his mood.
Checking again, it was half an hour past their agreed upon time. This was beyond Face’s customary tardiness. A thought flitted by. Had something happened to him? The call he received several weeks back came to mind.
“Hi Face. What’s up? We still on for tonight.”
“Uh, that’s why I’m calling.”
“There a problem?”
“Yeah. I’m not going to be able to make it.”
“Oh ... I’m ...” Hannibal found himself sputtering. He’d been dry curing the rib roast for several days and prepped as much as he could in anticipation of making this meal for Face.
“I’m really sorry. I was looking forward to it.”
“Tied up with something?”
“You could say that. I’m in the hospital.”
“What?! What happened? Are you alright?”
“I am now. Food poisoning.”
“Are you serious? Where are you? I’ll be right over.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“What if I want to?”
Hannibal could have sworn he heard Face blush over the phone.
Could something have happened to him on the way? Maybe his ride was later than he thought or they were postponed. Maybe the offer of a ride dried up. No. If that was the case he would have called. He would have ... Unless. Maybe he’d changed his mind.
That thought made his stomach turn. It couldn’t be the case, could it? Not after the previous weekend. Not after he had given himself over so completely. Not after Temp had responded in kind. Not after what transpired that night in words, then again later without.
Face had taken his homemade paneer from the fridge and cut it in large slabs. He was cooking a dinner at Hannibal’s as a kick off to what promised to be a long leisurely weekend. Standing back up from fetching a frypan out of the lower cabinet he found himself enfolded in arms. Hannibal had been late coming home. Always amazed how a man of his size could be so stealthy, Face’s heart pounded loud from the surprise.
It didn’t last. Hannibal soon enough found his arms full of a laughing Templeton. “Sorry I’m so late,” he said placing a kiss to the back of his young man’s neck.
“It’s fine. Gave me time to make the cheese. I’m ready to start cooking. You hungry?”
“Famished. What are you making there?”
“Sandwiches. Paneer basted in garam masala with arugula and avocado.”
“You spoil me.”
“That’s easy. I love you,” slid from his mouth as he sprinkled spices in the olive oil glimmering in the pan. There was a delayed reaction before he spun around to look at the damage he had caused. It was way too early in their relationship to be professing such a thing. Hannibal thought he looked nothing short of panicked.
Apparently the look on Hannibal’s face wasn’t much different.
“Oh,” Temp whispered. “I ... I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have...” he stumbled. His eyes dropped to the floor.
With thumb and forefinger to his chin Hannibal demanded their eyes meet. “Why are you sorry? Didn’t you mean it?” He slid into a grin as Face tried to read the situation. “I think I’d be very disappointed to find it wasn’t true.”
“Really?” Temp seriously didn’t know.
“Yes, really. It would be nice if you felt the same as I do.”
Temp search his face, looking for the lie.
John raised his eyebrows in question.
His answer was a kiss that ended much too quickly when they got a whiff of smoke from the olive oil now burning in the pan.
No. Face couldn’t have changed his mind. If he had he would have called. Wouldn’t he? He scanned the area again. No sign of the LT.
He’d give him another ten minutes. After that he’d head back to the hotel. Or he could call Face. No. He would seem needy. How pathetic would that be? Especially if Face had indeed changed his mind.
The phone appeared in his hand as if by it’s own power. He hadn’t consciously pulled it from the interior jacket pocket. The device was showing there was one reminder notice. Tapping the icon he read the reminder he had entered several days prior. Meet Face, 1500hrs NW corner Cent. Olympic Park.
He scanned the vicinity again. Pedestrians were scarce. It was becoming more and more evident he had been stood up. He noted the sun was lowering in the sky to his left though it was barely visible beyond the storm clouds marching toward him.
It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time he was stood up. There had been the girl whose name was lost to him back in high school. And what about the fellow cadet at West Point? That was probably for the best. But this isn’t. Face had said he loved him completely. John thought it was true. And there he stood on a corner, hoping beyond hope it was indeed true.
Something registered in his brain. If the sun was setting to the left...
He groaned while stuffing the phone in his pocket before tearing off down the sidewalk. He hadn’t gone twenty yards when a sizzling crack of lightning sounded behind him. The temperature had been dropping and the first few splats hit the sidewalk around him. The gentle drizzle was gone. He hardly registered the havoc letting loose in the sky.
He thought he would run out of breath before reaching the far end of the block. As the rain bled heat from his body he thought surely he would drop. What a fool his brain clearly stated for him so there would be no questions.
Reaching the corner of Baker and Park Avenue he skidded to a halt. His heart plummeted downward from his chest, he was pretty sure it had sunk to the ground. The corner was empty. His jacket whirled outward as he spun in place searching the area. The rain had driven all pedestrians off the sidewalks.
Unaware he had been holding his breath, air now escaped him in a desperate sob. His eyes dropped to the sidewalk, heart as heavy and dense as the concrete below his saturated shoes. How had he managed to bungle this so badly?
He needed to call Face.
With a thought of his phone being damaged by the watery onslaught, the decision was made in his rain-soaked head to go in the restaurant to make the call. Looking up, kitty corner across the intersection to Legal Seafood, his eyes met those of the man under the overhang, turning from the doorway of the eatery.
It was Face.
Air again escaped him in a huff upon seeing the smile slide across the handsome young man’s face. Later he wouldn’t be able to tell you the route he took to negotiate the intersection and traffic. He only knew his senses were once again returning to him.
“Hey! ... Oh my god you’re soaking wet.” Face’s initial look of delight swiftly changed to concern. He took John by the hand and was urging him toward the door. “You’re going to get sick.”
Between the sudden loss of adrenaline, lack of breath, and the beginnings of full body shivering Hannibal couldn’t respond.
Inside the vestibule Face could feel the trembling in Hannibal’s hand. “Turn around. Let’s get this jacket off.” Face had spun his man and slid off the wet garment. Removing his own jacket he fitted it over Hannibal’s shoulders.
The sudden sense of warmth amped up Hannibal’s tremors to visible.
“Did you get a hotel room?”
Hannibal only nodded.
Face was thumbing his phone, “The hell with dinner and the movie. I’m calling us a cab. We need to get you in a hot shower. What hotel are you at?”
“The Ellis,” Hannibal managed to get out, wondering somewhere in the back of his mind when or even if he had ever taken three showers in one day.
“I’ll be right back. I’m just going to cancel our reservation.”
Face was back in a moment bringing a chair with him. “Here. Sit down, John. The cab‘ll be here in a couple of minutes.” He leaned against a wall looking out the doors intent on seeing the cab the second it arrived. Making conversation he said, “We can eat at the hotel, okay? I’ve been before. It’s excellent.”
“We can order room service,” Hannibal added first, thought out second. “That is, if you’d like.”
“I’d like,” Temp said through a smile.
John noted the affectionate expression and felt himself warming by a few degrees. Subconsciously his mouth spread into a grin.
Face’s attention returned to searching the street. After a moment or two, without turning his eyes away from the view of the road he confessed, “I was worried. Thought you’d changed your mind.”
Hannibal huffed quietly and asked, “Why didn’t you call?” He was now out of the chair, stepping up to stand beside the young man.
“Thought it might be a little pathetic. Ya know? Especially if you had changed your mind,” Face admitted keeping his eyes resolutely forward.
“I know. Thought the same thing myself.”
“How do you mean?”
“I thought you were late or maybe had changed your mind, but I was just a fool waiting on the wrong block. And for the record, Face. I won’t be changing my mind anytime soon.”
”Actually I was right on time and you missed it.”
Hannibal’s gaze joined his love’s out to the street as he realized how often he slipped into a smile while in this man’s company. He knew it was because of the draw Face had on his heart. Like a beacon guiding him in search. Guiding him to the love of his life. And there stood Temp, the light of the love he’d found.
Fool In The Rain
John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Well there's a light in your eye that keeps shining
Like a star that can't wait for night
I hate to think I been blinded baby
Why can't I see you tonight?
And the warmth of your smile starts a burning
And the thrill of your touch give me fright
And I'm shaking so much, really yearning
Why don't you show up and make it alright?
And if you promised you'd love so completely
And you said you would always be true
You swore that you never would leave me baby
Whatever happened to you?
And you thought it was only in movies
As you wish all your dreams would come true
It ain't the first time believe me baby
I'm standing here feeling blue.
Ha! Babe I’m blue.
Now I will stand in the rain on the corner
I watch the people go shuffling downtown
Another ten minutes no longer
And then I'm turning around, 'round.
And the clock on the wall's moving slower
Oh, my heart it sinks to the ground
And the storm that I thought would blow over
Clouds the light of the love that I found.
Light of the love that I found
Light of the love that I found
Oh, that I found
Hand that ticks on the clock
Just don't seem to stop
When I'm thinking it over
Oh, tired of the light
I just don't seem to find
Now my body is starting to quiver
And the palms of my hands getting wet
I got no reason to doubt you baby
It's all a terrible mess.
And I'll run in the rain till I'm breathless
When I'm breathless I'll run till I drop
And the thoughts of a fool's gotta count
I'm just a fool waiting on the wrong block,
Light of the love that I found
Light of the love that I found
(Unfortunately I couldn’t find a video with the lyrics onscreen)