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When A Plan Comes Together

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  Four men, lined against a brick wall with hands tied behind their backs, feet bound, and mouths gagged, sat in a sunken outdoor space between a large brick apartment building and the street above. The first wore a finely tailored suit and looked equal amounts of nervous and annoyed. The second sported a blue t-shirt beneath a well-worn leather jacket and seemed utterly lost in his thoughts. The third sat straight and attentive despite the awkward position of his hands tied behind his back and bound feet. He appeared the oldest of the bunch with white hair, though his face held a youthful appearance. The fourth man was an incredibly muscular black man with a warrior style haircut and gold hanging from every part of him. Their assailants, two teenagers, covered in grease and itching for a fight, paced back and forth before them, discussing what to do with their captures.

  “I say we knock ‘em off now,” snapped one, waving his handgun in the air.

  “Shut up, man,” said the other. “Rich said to wait until he got here.”

  “I don’t like it,” said the first boy, shaking his head. “I don’t like it. Broad daylight. Someone is going to catch us.”

  As he spoke, a baseball seemingly fell from the sky and bounced several times on the concrete pad they stood on, rolling to a stop by some broken pottery and dead plants.

  “What the hell!” cried the boy with the gun, spinning to face the ball. “Where’d that come from?”

  The other boy scrambled onto some packing crates and peered out onto the quiet back street, making sure no one was around. “I don’t see anyone,” he shrugged. “Probably just some kids.”

  “Hey, pal,” came a voice from the end of the opening, “mind throwing my ball up?” Both teens turned to see who was speaking and saw a teenage girl crouched at the edge, looking down. She flashed a big smile and nodded, “Hi. That’s my ball. Can I have it back?”

  “Hey, get out of here, kid,” demanded the boy with the gun, concealing it in the back of his pants. “Get lost.”

  “Geez, man, settle down,” said the girl, sitting, so her legs swung over the edge, feet tapping against the brick wall. “I just want my baseball back so we can keep playing.”

  “Yeah, well, today isn’t your lucky day,” said the second boy, approaching her with a threatening gate. “Either get out of here, or I’ll come up there and make you wish you had.”

  “You two seem uptight,” said the girl, utterly unphased by the harsh remarks. “Hey, why do you got those guys tied up? Are they criminals? Are the police coming? I can go to the police if you need me to.”

  “No!” cried the gunman. “Look, kid, just get lost. Brian, get her out of here!”

  The second boy Brian looked at her, menacingly, “I mean it, shorty, get lost. If you aren’t gone in the next five seconds, I’m gonna come up there and teach you to respect your elders.”

  “Alright, pal, sheesh,” said the girl, standing up. “So much drama. I’ll go get another ball, I guess.” She came around the edge of the opening, and before either boy knew what was happening, she had tipped over a rack of starter plants sitting on some metal shelving. The area was used by one of the apartment tenants as a sort of miniature outdoor garden and held all kinds of pottery and terra cotta pots.

  Both boys fell to the ground underneath the mass of metal and dirt, and the girl instantly dropped into the opening, picking up her ball. “Honestly, boys,” she said, tossing it up and catching it, “you could have just thrown it back.”

  “You little beast!” cried Brian, scrambling from under the rack and running towards her. As if she hadn’t a care in the world, the girl threw the baseball at him with the force of a professional pitcher and followed it up with a hard kick to the face, knocking Brian backward on top of the rack. By now, the boy with the gun had crawled out and was scrambling to free it from his pants. The girl had him on the ground with a well-placed kick and sweep of his leg before he could think, and she pulled the gun from his pants, tossing it towards the four captive men. Looking up, the girl smiled at one of the captives, the bulky black man.

  “Hi,” she said, tipping her head. Without breaking eye contact, she reached up and grabbed a glass bottle that she brought down with a smash on the boy’s head below her. She turned, kicking Brian in the face as he attempted to stand, then picked up an entire box of glass jars. “These boys aren’t very nice,” she said, addressing the four men, as she dropped the whole box on Brian’s head.

  Both boys were entirely out cold and streaked with blood.

  The girl hurried over and began untying the first man, finely dressed, who looked suave and debonair. When his hands were free, the man ripped his gag off and began working at his bound feet.

  “Say, who are you? Supergirl?” he asked, his voice mixed with awe and puzzlement.

  “No one,” said the girl, stepping over broken glass and pots. “See you around.” With a running leap, she placed one foot halfway up the brick wall and propelled herself upward, grabbing the street level eight feet above her. She hoisted herself up and looked down, smiling as the first man untied the other three. “Bye,” she grinned, before turning and disappearing down the street.

  The baseball lay forgotten on the ground.

  “I believe we just encountered Wonder Woman,” said the man in the leather jacket, now working to free the brawny, gold layered man.

  “Anyone recognize her?” asked the older man.

  It was a negative response from all.

  “I think she came here on purpose, Hannibal,” said the black man, addressing the white-haired man. “She didn’t seem all that interested in the baseball. I think she dropped it in here just as a distraction.”

  “I believe you’re right, B.A.,” said Hannibal, rubbing his wrists where the ropes had been. “Hey, Face, you and Murdock tie those two punks up.” Face, the finely dressed man, and Murdock took the ropes that had been around their wrists and tied up their attackers. Hannibal slipped the gun in his waistband. “Let’s get these kids out of here and take them back to their boss,” said Hannibal. “I guess we all learned a lesson today about walking one by one into a dark room.”

  “You mean we all learned a lesson about listening to you when you’re on the jazz,” grunted B.A., glaring with irritation at Hannibal.

 

 

  The four men sat together in their hotel room, Hannibal deep in discussion with Face about where they were going from here now that they had completed their job. They were the A-Team, a group of vigilantes that were hired by civilians and governments alike to do dangerous tasks that only men of their elite abilities could handle. They were accused of a crime during the Vietnam War that they did not commit, forcing them into the underground and on the constant run from the military.

  Hannibal, real name John Smith and the leader of the group, was a Colonel and the one full of ideas. Faceman, real name Templeton Peck, was a Lieutenant and the con artist/lady charmer. Murdock, a Captain, was their pilot. He was supposedly clinically insane and was the only member of the team to reside in a set facility, a military psychological hospital that he broke out of regularly to work with the team. B.A., the brawn, and mechanical genius was a Sergeant and often beat down the toughest of advisories with just his fists.

  “I say we split the revenue and head back for Los Angeles,” said Face. “I can just taste that 1964 Mabeit Edes from The Club Illusion. A beautiful girl under one arm and an equally gorgeous one under the other.”

   “Speaking of which,” said Hannibal, biting off a cigar, “how much is our take?”

  “Individually and taking out a few little personal expenses, we each encountered around four hundred dollars,” said Face, avoiding eye-contact with the Colonel.

   “That’s it?” asked Hannibal, lowering his eyebrows as he lit the cigar.

  “Oh, don’t hound me, Hannibal,” moaned Face. “I need a vacation.”

  “Your whole life is a vacation, Face,” snapped B.A.

  “Hey!” said Face, starting to stand. His reply was cut short by a knock at the door.

  Hannibal glanced at the others, then went over, swinging the door open.

  It was the girl.

  “Hi, how are ya?” she smiled, nodding.

  “Fine, and you?” asked Hannibal.

  “Fine,” she nodded.

  “Won’t you come inside? We’re dying to meet you,” said Hannibal, stepping aside. He held his cigar in his right hand and the door with the left, but he was ready to grab the girl on a second’s notice if she tried to run off.

  “Thanks,” she nodded, walking past him, hands tucked into her pockets. She wore a sleeveless t-shirt and black joggers with high top shoes. Fashion wasn’t the first word that would come to mind upon seeing her, but something in the glint of her eyes and the flash of her smile made up for her relaxed clothing choice.

  “I’m Hannibal,” said the man, shutting the door and turning to face the girl. “Now it’s your turn.”

  She smiled at him, “Hi, Hannibal. I didn’t come to introduce myself. I need information.”

  “Information?” asked Face, approaching them. “What kind of information? How old are you anyway? Twelve?”

  “Oh, you’re hilarious,” said the girl sarcastically. “I’m twenty-one, thanks.”

  “That’s a lie,” smiled Face, sitting on the edge of a comfortable chair. “But we’ll let bygones be bygones. Continue.”

  “All I need to know is which one of you is John Smith,” said the girl, glancing around the group. “I know it’s not him.” She pointed at B.A. “Good grief, that would be a shock. Hey, big guy, you ever had a kid?”

  “What? No,” said B.A. gruffly, looking sharply at the girl.

  “And why, my dear, must you know that?” asked Murdock, waltzing towards them.

  “I’d tell you, but I don’t want to,” she smiled.

  “Let me guess,” said Face, “you work for Decker.”

  “Who is Decker?” asked the girl, a look of genuine puzzlement crossing her face.

  “Uh, Face, I don’t think that’s it,” said Hannibal, sticking his cigar between his teeth. “Look, kid, what do you want?”

  “That’s what I want,” she shrugged. “I don’t need you guys to do anything, and I’m not going to tell anybody where you are. I just want to know which one of you is John Smith.”

  “I am, sweetheart,” said Murdock, smiling.

  The girl looked him dead in the eyes and chuckled, shaking her head. “Nah.”

  “Shut up, Murdock,” said Face, playing along. He was a conman and could pull off a far better lie than the pilot. “Look, kid, I’m John Smith. What do you want from me?”

  The girl looked at him intently, then turned her gaze to Hannibal. “So it’s you,” she said. Her eyes changed instantly to an emotion Hannibal couldn’t quite put his finger on, though he almost gathered it was grief. Reaching behind her, the girl pulled a very well-worn photograph from her pocket. None of the team could see it, but she looked back and forth between Hannibal and the photo before nodding and sighing deeply. “Well,” she said, smiling, and sliding the picture back into her pocket, “I thought it was you, but I needed to make sure. I guess that’s all I needed. See you around, fellas.” She dashed towards the door, all four men directly behind her. Expertly sliding beneath Hannibal’s grasp, she yanked it open and tore down the hall, Face right behind her.

  By the time he reached the front door of the hotel, the girl was gone.

Chapter Text

  “You sure this is going to work, Hannibal?” moaned Face, shifting in the driver seat of the van. He didn’t see the importance of waiting around for the mysterious girl when they could be on the way back to Los Angeles.

  “She’ll show,” nodded Hannibal, a cigar between his teeth. He leaned his seat back, crossing his arms. “Shouldn’t be too long.”

  Almost instantly, Murdock’s voice rang out through the trees. “Colonel! We got her!” He scurried up the van, crawled into the back, and slammed the door shut. Face started the engine and drove the van hastily down the dirt road running through the woods a few miles outside of San Diego; Murdock chattered on endlessly about the elaborate trap he and B.A. had set. After a short drive, he instructed Face to stop near a clearing, and they parked off the road.

  “Let me go, you big gorilla!” came a girl’s cries through the trees as the men jumped out of the van. “I will keel haul you and sell you to a tribe of eunuchs, you stupid cur!”

  Hannibal let out a laugh when he heard the girl’s shouts. “What a kid,” he said through his cigar.

  “Uh, through there,” nodded Murdock, pointing straight ahead.

  The three men tramped through the brush and crawled around trees for about one hundred feet until they came upon B.A., standing beside the girl. A rope that B.A. had slung over the tree swung the girl by her ankles.

  “Got her, Hannibal,” said B.A. “We lured her in and caught her.”

  “Four grown men can’t even keep me contained without fighting dirty,” snarled the girl, twisting and turning as the rope spun her in a slow circle. “Hey, the blood is running to my head. Can I get down?”

  “No, I wanna talk to you,” said Hannibal, taking his cigar from his mouth and frowning.

  “Well, go ahead and talk,” said the girl. “I’m getting out of this.” She grunted, flexing her abs, and lifted her body until she could grab the rope around her ankles. Pulling herself up, she swung her upper body over the branch and began to untie the rope.

  “Let her be,” said Hannibal. “She can’t go anywhere. Now, first of all, what is your name?”

  “I’m not telling you,” said the girl.

  “Well, you aren’t going anywhere until we find out,” replied Hannibal, smiling.

  “That’s what you think,” said the girl, letting the rope drop to the ground. The team had not expected her to continue going up the tree, but that’s precisely what she did. Face, though, reacted instantly, and it only took him a second to scramble up behind her and wrap his arm around her waist. “Let me go!” she yelled, violently thrashing in an attempt to shake him loose.

 “Hey, stop it!” cried Face, wrapping his free arm around the trunk as her fists pounded against him. “You’re going to kill us both!”

  B.A. stepped underneath and opened his arm, “Drop her, Faceman.”

  Face did just that, and the girl let out a yell, dropping ten feet into B.A.’s arms.

  “Gotcha, kid,” said B.A., half reassuring the girl that she was safe and half reminding her of her capture. The big man swung her around, holding her by the upper arms, to face Hannibal.

  Face dropped down beside them and groaned, “She hit me in the chest.”

  Hannibal stepped closer, looking the girl over carefully, but before he could speak, she had hoisted her weight up, resting on B.A.’s hands, and lifted her foot at lightning speed to connect with the big man’s groin. B.A. let out a shout and released his hold, and the girl used every second to her advantage, shooting off into the trees.

  “Face! Murdock!” said Hannibal, nodding after her. Both men tore into her path, and Hannibal put a hand on B.A.’s shoulder as the man sank to the ground in pain.

...

  After a five-minute wait, during which B.A. created a deep indent in a tree by way of his fist to vent the pain, Face and Murdock reappeared carrying the problematic girl. Murdock had her by the legs, while Face held her arms, and she was swinging back and forth, kicking as she tried to free herself.

  “This kid is causing me a lot of grief, Hannibal!” snapped Face. “She got me in the kneecap!”

  “It’s your fault,” said the girl. “You, pretty boy, are the reason God created the middle finger. What do you all want with me?”

  “I could ask the same of you,” said Hannibal, stalking over. The two men set her upright, and Hannibal grabbed her by the shirt, yanking her close in a scare tactic, “Who are you, kid? Why did you track us down? We drove our van out into the middle of nowhere, and somehow you showed up. Why? What’s your interest in me specifically?”

  “You guys don’t learn,” sighed the girl, a slight smile pulling at her lips. “But, I like the way you try.” Her foot met with Hannibal’s groin, and he shouted, dropping to his knees instantly as he released his grip on the girl. She didn’t have a chance to move before B.A. scooped her up under his arm and stomped across the clearing to a tree stump.

  “You’re a naughty little girl,” he bellowed, sitting down and dropping her over his right knee. “You need to be taught some manners!”

  “Hey, stop!” cried the girl, kicking, and squirming.

  “Murdock, get over here, fool!” demanded B.A. “Hold the kid’s legs.” Murdock dashed over and dropped down, grabbing both the kicking feet - noting the girl wore sneakers just like his own - and holding them tight. With that, B.A smacked her hard, though he didn’t use the full potential of his strength.

  “No!” yelled the girl, twisting as much as she could in B.A.’s iron grip. “You can’t do this! I have rights as an American! My lawyer will hear about this!”

  Hannibal, limping painfully, approached and groaned, leaning against the tree. “Make her tell us her name, B.A.,” he said, holding himself awkwardly as he gritted his teeth. Face place a hand on the Colonel’s shoulder, wincing as he imagined the pain B.A. and Hannibal were feeling.

  “Yeah, B.A.,” he nodded. “It’s the least we can do for the blessings she has bestowed upon us thus far.”

  “I’ll never tell you!” yelled the girl, one arm wrapped around B.A.’s left leg and her free fist pounding the ground. “This isn’t fair!”

  “Neither is kicking a man below the belt,” said Hannibal, resting his weight against the tree.

  “Just say your name, kid,” said Murdock, wincing when B.A. landed another smack. The pilot was never one to enjoy seeing a child in pain.

  “No!” she yelled. “Ow!”

  B.A. shook his head, “I don’t like doing this, little sister, but you better speak up, or we’ll be at it all day.”

  “You’ll get tired before I give up,” shot back the girl, cockily.

  “I don’t get tired,” replied B.A., forcefully. “And if I did, I’d just switch out with Hannibal.”

  The girl groaned and glanced over at Hannibal and Face as if measuring her options. Being whacked for the unforeseeable future did not seem like the best choice. She sighed and groaned, “Okay, okay! I’ll tell you! But you gotta let me up first!”

  “No way, kid,” said B.A.

  “You should mind your elders, missy,” said Hannibal. “Didn’t your parents ever tell you that?”

  “Ironically, I suppose the answer would be yes,” grunted the girl, gritting her teeth. “Hey, you’re hitting harder!” Another hard smack.

  “I’m getting impatient,” said B.A., “Figured I’d speed up the process.” He felt incredibly bad. He’d never so much as accidentally hurt a child before, but this one had a whole lot of attitude that needed fixing.

  The girl growled, hitting the ground hard. “Okay, you can stop! My name is Felicity!”

  B.A. relaxed his grip but didn’t let the girl rise, “Last name?”

  “Not for public use,” said Felicity, groaning as she realized B.A.’s knee was digging into her stomach.

  B.A. swatted her again in response, and she yelped.

 “No, please!” she cried. “I’m serious! It’s…it’s important.”

  “Alright, B.A.,” said Hannibal, approaching, “stand her up but don’t let her get away. Hey, little lady, if you kick anyone again, I’m going to take off my belt and really warm you up. Understand me?”

  The team knew Hannibal would never for any reason take his belt to a kid, and Hannibal almost regretted the empty threat the second he said it, but the girl didn’t know. Now standing with her arms locked in B.A.’s grip, she blushed deeply and nodded, eyes on the ground, “Yes, sir.”

  “Alright, so your name is Felicity,” said Hannibal, twirling his cigar between fingers. “And you won’t tell us your last name. Why did you track us down? Do you need help?”

  “No,” said Felicity, her shoulders slumped. “Just wanted to see you.”

  “What is this?” asked Face. “Some adrenaline kick? Brag to your friends you met the A-Team?”

  “You wish you were brag-worthy. I’m actually jealous of all the people who haven’t met you, hotshot,” said Felicity, shooting Face a fierce glare. “It’s not that. You wouldn’t understand.” Face bristled, but Hannibal put out a hand to stop him.

  “Where are your parents?” asked Murdock, coming around to stand by Face and Hannibal.

  “My mother’s dead,” said the girl. “I live in a foster home back in San Diego.”

  “Where’s your daddy?” asked Murdock.

  “He went to war,” said the girl sadly.

  B.A. loosened his grip slightly as the girl spoke. He had a big heart for children, and finding out the girl was in foster care pricked him. “Was he killed?” asked the big man.

  Felicity, standing still for the first time, dropped her head and said nothing.

  “Alright,” said Hannibal, stepping closer, “where did you learn to fight?”

  “I lived on a ranch in Montana with foster parents for a while,” said Felicity. “The cowboys taught me before they got arrested for drug laundering.”

  “Well, sounds like you have an interesting past,” said Face, raising an eyebrow.

  “Oh, that’s not much,” shrugged the girl. “The one before that was a wanted arsonist, and his wife killed the mayor of Charlotteville while I was living with them.”

  “Let me guess,” said Murdock, “the one you're with now is a Nazi?”

  “Sadly, no,” said Felicity, her eyes regaining some of the glinting mischief that had been there when they first met her. “Wouldn’t that make a great story, though? Look, fellas here’s the truth. I wanted to meet a member of the A-Team named John Smith because when I was a kid, someone I lived with used to talk about him. I just…” she stopped for a minute, taking a deep breath and meeting Hannibal’s eyes, “I wanted to know what you were like. I needed to know if the stories were true. If you were a criminal, or if you had been falsely accused.”

  “Well, what did you decide?” asked Hannibal.

  “Haven’t yet,” replied the girl. “But, I’m leaning towards innocent. Your eyes are too nice.”

  “And why the intense need to know me?” asked Hannibal.

  “Uh, Colonel,” interjected Murdock, “might I have a moment of your time, sir?”

  Hannibal glanced at Murdock and nodded, following the pilot a few feet away.

  “Um, look, colonel,” said Murdock once they were out of earshot, “I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but the girl has given some huge clues as to why she is searching you down.”

  “Yeah, how so?” asked Hannibal, glancing over his shoulder at her.

   “Well, remember when she came to the hotel and said something along the lines of if B.A. were John Smith, it would be a shock?” asked Murdock.

  “Yeah, what of it?” asked Hannibal.

  “Well, today you told her she should mind her elders,” said Murdock. “And then you asked her if her parents had ever told her that and she said that ironically, she had to say yes. Now hear me out, Colonel, but if she had to say yes just because you had told her that, and she’s all fired up about meeting you, and it would have been surprising if you were black, and someone she used to live with talked about you, what are the chances, or the possibility, of that being your little girl?”

  Hannibal, entirely shocked by Murdock’s assessment of the situation, stared hard at the captain, his mouth slightly ajar. “What?”

  “Well, just think about it, Colonel,” said Murdock, hands up to calm Hannibal. “Is there any way possible, pardon my suggestion, that you could be that little lady’s daddy?”

  “Murdock, that’s…” Hannibal trailed off, his eyes locking on the girl in B.A.’s grasp. The boldness that child possessed practically screamed his bloodline. He sighed, “I mean, it’s possible. Yes, the necessary steps were…yes.”

  “Now, I’m not saying it means anything, but that senorita has a whole lot of moxie and behaves in a way that B.A. would call ‘being on the jazz.’ Remind you of anybody?” said Murdock, crossing his arms.

  “Murdock,” said Hannibal, fingering his cigar, “I…how could that be…I can’t…” he sighed. “Well, there’s one way to find out. Don’t say anything, okay? Don’t even tell B.A. and Face. I wanna talk to her alone.”

  “Sure thing, Colonel,” nodded Murdock, clapping Hannibal’s shoulder.

  The two men walked back to B.A. just in time to hear Face threatening Felicity. “Look here, sweetheart, if you push me too hard, I’ll give you another dose of what B.A. just doled out!” he said.

  “You couldn’t hold me down!” shot back Felicity.

  “Oh, you wanna bet?” snapped Face, starting to remove his jacket.

  “I would agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong!” snapped Felicity, wriggling in B.A.’s grip.

  “Kid,” said Hannibal, ignoring the interchange, “does the name Jenny Hale mean anything to you?”

  Felicity said nothing, but the look of surprise in her eyes told Hannibal what he needed to know.

  “Mmhmm,” nodded Hannibal, his cigar dangling from his fingers, forgotten, “I see. Your initials wouldn’t happen to be F.S., would they?”

  Felicity dropped her head.

  “B.A., let her go,” said Hannibal. “You guys go wait in the van. I wanna talk to the kid alone for a while.”

  “Alone?” asked Face. “Colonel, if we leave, this devil is hightailing it out of here, and we’ll never track her down! Not after the smacking B.A. gave her. She’ll never search us out again.”

  “She won’t run,” said Hannibal, never taking his eyes off of Felicity. “Give us a few minutes.”

  “Let’s go, guys,” hustled Murdock, pulling the rope down from the tree and beginning to coil it as he walked. “Give the colonel and the kid some space.”

  The three men left, Murdock pushing B.A. and Face along, and Felicity stood still, staring at her shoes. Hannibal sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.

  “Okay, kid,” he said, “what’s your story?”

  “She wanted you to come back for her,” said Felicity, a tinge of resentment in her voice.

  Hannibal looked up, “Jenny? I did. I searched everywhere.”

  Felicity’s cheeks reddened, and she scuffed her shoe at the ground, “Well, we moved to Hawaii after you went to prison. When she learned what the A-Team was doing, we moved back to San Diego, and she hoped you would find her. But…she died.”

  “How did she die?” asked Hannibal, a heavy feeling of emotion washing over him.

  “Cancer,” shrugged Felicity. She shoved her hand into her pocket and pulled out an extremely worn piece of paper. “For you. From her. Explains it all.” She held it out, gripping it with the ends of her fingers, and Hannibal gently took it from her, unable to stop the slight shaking in his hand.

  Jenny.

  He was holding a note from his beloved Jenny.

  As soon as he escaped from prison, he had searched for her throughout California. But it was as if she didn’t exist. The move to Hawaii explained it. Jenny was originally from Hawaii, the daughter of a well-to-do lawyer. Marriage was the lovebirds’ plan after Hannibal returned from Vietnam, but that had fallen to pieces after his arrest.

  “How old are you?” asked Hannibal as he slowly unfolded the paper, careful not to tear it.

  “Thirteen,” mumbled Felicity.

  That sounded about right. Hannibal had gone back to Vietnam in 1971, and if the kid had been born in the summer of ’72, it would line up correctly. “Have you read this?” he asked.

  Felicity shook her head. “No, sir.”

  Hannibal turned slightly away and silently read the note, soaking in every word written by the girl he had once loved.

  ‘I know I should have told you this years ago, but I was scared. I couldn’t tell you I was pregnant because you were leaving for Vietnam and I didn’t want it on your mind. Then when they accused you of treason, I was terrified of what would happen to the baby, and I stayed quiet. After our daughter was born, I told her about you from the minute I held her in my arms. I wanted her to know that her daddy was not a criminal, but a good, honest man. She is six-years-old now, and I desperately wish I had told you. I see now it was wrong of me to withhold this. Please know that I have raised this girl to think of you the way I thought of you: as a gentleman and a hero. I was diagnosed with cancer three months ago, and the doctors tell me I don’t have much longer. I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I had to write it. I had to tell you. Please love her, John. She’s the most wonderful child in the world. You gave me the greatest gift anyone ever has when we created this precious girl together. I know you’d love her if you could know her. This note must make very little sense, but I’m tired and fading in and out. I needed to write it. Always yours, Jenny.’

  A picture that had rested in the fold of the paper slipped into his hand. It was Jenny and himself many years ago; they were gazing tenderly at each other, huge smiles telling the world they were in love.  A single tear slid down his cheek, but he brushed it away before Felicity could see.

  Felicity hadn’t moved, shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other. Hannibal turned back to her and, without warning, grabbed her shoulders and held her steady so that he could look her in the eye.

  “What’s your full name?” he asked.

  Felicity blinked and moved uncomfortably in his grip, “Uh, Felicity Smith.”

  “You got a middle name?” asked Hannibal.

  “What’s your middle name?” asked Felicity.

  “I asked you first,” said Hannibal.

  “I asked you second, and two is more than one,” replied Felicity.

  Hannibal frowned and sighed, “Felix.” He’d always hated it.

  Felicity narrowed her eyes, unknowingly matching Hannibal’s expression exactly, and blinked, “That’s what she meant. Mama said she named me after you, and I didn’t understand how. She reversed our names. Johanna. Felicity Johanna must be a form of John Felix.” Felicity trailed off her sentence and dropped her head again, finding herself unable to maintain eye contact with her new-found father.

  Hannibal sighed and let go of the girl, beginning to pace back and forth as he retook interest in his cigar. After a few seconds of silence, he cleared his throat, “Where did you go after she…”

  “Foster home,” replied Felicity. “Been in the system since I was six.”

  “Sounds like you’ve gotten some real beauties,” said Hannibal.

  “The California foster care system is a joke,” scoffed Felicity. “The unlucky kids get adopted and never escape.”

  “How’d you find us?” asked Hannibal.

  “My foster father hired you,” said Felicity.

  Hannibal stopped and spun to face her, “What? Paul Cecchi?”

  Felicity nodded, “Yep.”

  “The guy that hired us to cover the fact that he was the drug dealer?” asked Hannibal. “That’s your foster father?”

  “Yes,” said Felicity. “I convinced him to hire you. I told him it would be a good cover. It was the only time he’s ever listened to a word I’ve said. And for your information, the case is reopened. He escaped from jail last night. Came to the house this morning and took me with him to use me as collateral in case you found him again. I escaped.”

  “And came to tell us,” finished Hannibal.

  “No,” said Felicity, shaking her head. “I was just going to leave the note in your van and take off. I figured you’d find out about Cecchi sooner or later.”

  “Take off and go where?” asked Hannibal, stepping close to her again.

  Felicity shrugged and went back to kicking the dirt, “Anywhere. I lived on my own a couple of years back after I ran away from a children’s home. Did fine until the state caught me.”

  “Does Cecchi know you’re my kid?” asked Hannibal.

  Felicity shook her head, “No. No one does. The name John Smith is pretty basic, so my birth certificate has never clued anyone off. Mama told everyone my father was killed in the war so that no one would suspect anything.”

  Hannibal was quiet for a long time, suddenly incredibly interested in his cigar. He paced back and forth, and Felicity could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he processed everything. Finally, Hannibal sighed and tucked his cigar behind his ear, “Alright, well, first things first. We gotta find Cecchi.”

  “You just did.”

  The voice came from within the trees, and within seconds, Hannibal and Felicity found themselves surrounded by men with guns. A tall, sophisticated looking man with a glamourous smile stepped into the clearing and nodded towards Hannibal.

  “Smith,” he grinned, “I figured on finding my kid. Didn’t think she’d have the leader of the A-Team with her.”

  “I’m not your kid,” snapped Felicity.

  “Shut up, ya little brat,” said Cecchi. “Ray, bring her over to me.” A brawny man grabbed Felicity and dragged her to Cecchi, who latched onto the back of her neck with a solid grip. “Alright, get Smith, and let’s get out of here before the rest of the team shows up. We have all the collateral we need now,” smiled Cecchi, dragging Felicity along beside him.

  The little group made their way through the trees for about half a mile. A small hill brought them out of the woods and out onto a dirt road. Cecchi’s cars were there with several more men with guns. Felicity and Hannibal climbed into Cecchi’s private vehicle along with Cecchi and two henchmen, and then they pulled away.

  “Did you leave a note?” asked Cecchi, directing his question towards the man sitting across from him in the limo.

  The man nodded, “Wrote your name in the dirt. If the rest of the team goes to find Smith, they’ll know who took him.”

  “Excellent,” grinned Cecchi. “Now, I have a little conversation that needs having with my daughter.”

  “Too bad she’s in college,” said Felicity.

  “Not your sister, sweetheart,” said Cecchi, putting his arm around Felicity. “I meant you, my love.”

  Felicity stiffened in his grasp but didn’t fight as he pulled her close. Hannibal could see the faint glimmer of fear in Felicity’s eyes and figured Cecchi must have mistreated her.

  “Now,” said Cecchi, “what would make you go and run away from your daddy like that? And go to the A-Team much less? Don’t you know they are the ones that put me in jail? That doesn’t seem very nice of you.”

  “I didn’t run away from my daddy,” mumbled Felicity. Only Hannibal understood what she meant.

  “Now, baby,” chuckled Cecchi, “enough of this silly talk. You know full well that your mother and I filed for your adoption three days ago before all this dirty business came up. Now, when the papers go through, you’ll be legally ours, and all of this parental disdain you seem to have will need to disappear. I can’t have my little girl denying my authority.”

  “I thought an adoption couldn’t take place unless all immediate relatives of the child have been examined by the courts and confirmed unfit to care for the child, or have denied wanting the child,” said Hannibal, sitting uncomfortably with a gun jammed in his side.

  Cecchi smiled at him, “Well, that’s right, Mr. Smith. We’ve handled all that. Felicity has no close relatives. All grandparents and both parents are dead. Now, what would be your interest in the matter?”

  “Your facts aren’t straight, Cecchi,” said Hannibal. “She does have a living relative. You can’t adopt her until he’s signed her over to the state.”

  “Oh, is that so, Mr. Smith?” grinned Cecchi. “And who might that be?”
  “I happen to know this girl’s real daddy,” smiled Hannibal. “And I don’t think he’ll be too willing to let you have her.”

  Cecchi’s face clouded with confusion, and he chuckled, “Her daddy? He’s dead, Smith. Killed in the war.”

  “Mm, not quite,” said Hannibal. “That’s what her mother told people. Do you wonder why she came to the A-Team? My lieutenant, Templeton Peck, just happens to be the biological father of this child. He’s been searching for her for ages. That’s why we showed up here in the first place. The drug laundering was just a side plus for our trip. As long as Peck has breath in his lungs, he won’t rest until he has his kid back. You’ve certainly messed with the wrong people this time, Cecchi.”

  “Peck?” said Cecchi, a mixture of disbelief and concern in his eyes. “I don’t believe that. You’re just a fast talker, Smith.”
  “No, it’s true,” nodded Felicity, understanding what Hannibal was doing. If he claimed to be her father, they would just kill him, and it would all be over. Improvisation ran strong in their blood. “Peck is my father. He was going to marry my mother, but then he was arrested in Vietnam.”

  “If that’s true, then why is your last name Smith?” asked Cecchi, shooting an accusation filled glare at Hannibal.

  “Simple,” grinned Hannibal, tipping his head back, “her mother used our last name. I’m Felicity’s…”

  “Grandpa,” piped up Felicity, cutting off Hannibal. He had fully intended on saying ‘uncle,’ and the concept of being this child’s grandfather was not pleasing to him. He glared at his daughter but said nothing. The corners of her mouth turned up just enough for Hannibal to know she had done it on purpose to tease him.

  “Is that so?” asked Cecchi chuckling. “Well, Grandpa, how would you like to tell us how to find this girl’s dad, or I’ll kill you right in front of her.”

  “Sounds exciting,” grinned Hannibal, maintaining his ever-present cool. “How were you planning to kill me?”

  Cecchi frowned, unhappy with Hannibal’s lack of fear. “You’ll find out soon enough,” he said, shifting in his seat and pulling Felicity tighter against his side.

  It didn’t take long to arrive at Cecchi’s home. It was on the outskirts of San Diego in the upper-class residential community and surrounded by thick walls and a massive gate. Guards let them through, and Felicity shivered, hating the idea of being back in the home she had been stuck in for the past eight months.

  “Ah, home at last,” smiled Cecchi. “Dax, leave us off at the front door.”

  The driver pulled up beneath the column lined overhang and Hannibal, Felicity, Cecchi, and the two men with them climbed from the limousine. Hannibal quickly surveyed the home, as he had trained his eye to do when arriving anywhere new, and noted first that it must be worth well over a million dollars. The gardens surrounding it were pristine, and several fountains decorated the well-kept lawn.

  “Inside,” said Cecchi. “You two guys go check on security. I don’t want the A-Team getting in until I’m ready for them.”

  “Yes, Mr. Cecchi,” nodded the two men, and they ran off towards the gate.

  Cecchi removed a gun from his pocket and nodded towards the house, “Come on, Smith. Get inside.” He had a tight grip on Felicity’s shoulder and pulled her along beside him as they approached the house. The inside was even more extravagant than the outside if that were even possible, and the marble floors stretched across an open concept first floor, showcasing a beautiful staircase directly in the middle of a grand entry. “Let’s go upstairs, pal,” said Cecchi, nodding towards the stairs. Hannibal did as ordered, walking in front of Cecchi, who was pulling Felicity along. Once upstairs, they went down a short hallway, and Cecchi nodded to a door. “Go in there,” he ordered. They all stepped in, and Hannibal found himself inside a bedroom. Cecchi shut the door and smiled, “This is Felicity’s room. I can’t imagine what makes her run away. This whole chance is a child’s dream to live like a princess with a rich daddy. I think she’s just ungrateful. What do you think, Smith?”
  “I think money can’t buy happiness,” said the man, running options through his head as to how to overpower Cecchi.

  Cecchi chuckled, “It works for me. Sit in this chair.” He picked up a straight-backed chair and set it in the middle of the enormous room, facing away from the bed. Cecchi was smart, maintaining a reasonable distance from the Colonel so no sudden moves could knock the gun from his hand. Hannibal did as he ordered while Cecchi stepped back, the weapon never lowering. “Felicity,” said Cecchi, “go downstairs to my office and bring back a roll of duct tape. Be back in two minutes, or I shoot your grandpa in the leg. Go!”

  Felicity tore from the room, knowing full well that Cecchi would shoot Hannibal if she didn’t obey. She found the duct tape in the toolbox the man kept in his supply bureau, then raced back to her bedroom.

  “Good girl,” grinned Cecchi. “With ten seconds to spare. Okay, tape his hands behind the chair and then wrap it around his chest and legs. You know what I want.”

  Felicity reluctantly obeyed, wrapping it around Hannibal’s wrists as loosely as possible. She knew it was pointless, though, and if she didn’t do a good job, Cecchi would know. Felicity did Hannibal’s legs next, securing them to the chair’s legs, and then his middle section. As she worked, Hannibal spoke.

  “What do you want, Cecchi?” he asked.

  “Simple,” grinned Cecchi. “When Peck gets here to rescue you, I’ll make you and him sign a document completely relinquishing any guardianship over the kid. Then, I’ll shoot Peck in the head. Might as well erase the daddy all together, huh? But you, Smith, you are worth more money. The bounty on your head is considerably higher than Peck’s, and I’d rather make some dough off of you than bury you in an empty field. I’ll call in the military and give them you and Baracus.”

  “Did you forget something?” smiled Hannibal. “You’re an escaped prisoner.”

  “Not escaped,” chuckled Cecchi. “Never was in jail. The sheriff will tell you that.”

  “Oh, is that right?” asked Hannibal. “And how much did it cost you to convince him of that?”

  “Barely a nick in my savings,” grinned Cecchi, setting his gun down on the dresser now that Hannibal was taped securely to the chair. “Now, old man, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some disciplining to dish out to a very naughty little girl of mine.”

  “No, wait, please,” said Felicity, setting the duct tape down and backing away from Cecchi.

  The man smiled as he stepped towards her, “Now, Felicity, darling, you know I love you more than I can say. You’re my pride a joy. And because I love you so much, I have to teach you what is right and wrong. You’ve been disrespectful today, and Daddy isn’t thrilled with your attitude.”

  “You don’t love me,” snapped Felicity, stumbling back against the wall.

  Hannibal eyed her curiously. This child was not the same girl that had beat up the two teenagers in the alley the other day or brought B.A. Baracus to his knees. She was a child filled with fear. What horrible things had Cecchi done to her to make her react like this in his presence?

  “Now, how can you say a thing like that?” asked Cecchi, leaning against the wall in front of her. “I’ve given you a beautiful home, put you into a wonderful school, given you every opportunity in the world, and promised to make you my child. What more must I do to prove I love you?”

  “You’re a horrible person,” said Felicity, shrinking down.

  “That’s a naughty thing to say,” clucked Cecchi, shaking his head. “Come here, love.” He reached out, taking Felicity by the back of the neck, and yanked her across the room, the girl crying out in pain.

  “Let her go, Cecchi!” yelled Hannibal. “Whatever anger you want to release, give it to me instead.”

  “Always the hero, aren’t you, Smith,” laughed Cecchi. “This isn’t about a rage release. It’s about teaching my daughter to fear me.”
  “I’m not your daughter!” shouted Felicity.

  “See, complete disrespect,” said Cecchi, throwing Felicity hard against the bed.

  Hannibal twisted in his bonds, but the tape was too tight despite Felicity’s attempt to keep it loose. He couldn’t see what Cecchi was doing behind him, but that fact just made him angrier at the man’s harsh treatment of Hannibal’s daughter. It amazed the Colonel at how much emotion he already had towards the child, though he had only known she belonged to him for barely an hour.

  “Please, sir, no!” cried Felicity, as the sound of clinking metal was heard.

  Hannibal knew Cecchi was removing his belt.

  “Come here, baby,” said Cecchi, grabbing the girl and yanking her to the edge of the bed. He flipped her over and used one hand to grab the waistband of her pants, keeping her from wriggling away.

  He beat her long and hard.

 By the time Cecchi finished, Felicity had gone from shouting to screaming into the blankets, to sobbing, to complete silence.

  It was just as torturous for Hannibal to listen to it unfold behind him. He remembered his empty threat to use his belt on her earlier and his stomach tightened, feeling immediate remorse. What kind of idiot threatened to hit a kid right after meeting them? He didn’t claim to be good with children, but refraining from physical threats seemed like an obvious given. Hannibal could have kicked himself.

  “There!” said Cecchi, finally stopping. He restrung his belt and leaned down, shaking his daughter. “Felicity. Felicity, darling?” He rolled her over and realized she was unconscious. A slight twinge of guilt washed over him, but nothing that amounted to any remorse. “Huh, kid’s getting soft. I used to be able to beat her a lot longer than that before she knocked out.”

  “You slimeball,” seethed Hannibal. “How could you do that to a kid?” He was feeling more enraged than he could remember being in a long time, and he ached to be free of his bonds for a chance to beat Cecchi into the ground.

  “It’s called parenting, Smith,” chuckled Cecchi. “Maybe if you were any good at it, you wouldn’t have let your daughter get knocked up before marrying the boy, huh? Tell me, is Peck a smart man? Will he allow me full guardianship of his daughter before I blow him away, securing her with a solid future? Or will he die trying to win her back?’ 
  “Neither,” said Hannibal, watching as Cecchi came back around into his view, “he’ll pin you to a wall and free the kid and me. Then, once I have my hands on you, I’m going to beat you into a fine powder and throw your ashes into the ocean. But I’ll make it long and slow, so you feel every punch to its full extent.”

  Cecchi chuckled, “Sure, Smith. You tell yourself that. I’m going to go and set up a little welcoming committee for your men. You stay here and take care of the kid, huh? Sit tight for a while, pal.” He landed a jovial slap on Hannibal’s shoulder, then left the room, locking the room from the outside.

Chapter Text

About ten minutes after Cecchi beat her, a man came in and tied Felicity’s wrists to the end of the bed frame, but other than that, Felicity and Hannibal were alone. When she finally came to, Felicity groaned and tried to move but found herself secured tight.

“Oh, gosh,” she moaned, twisting in the ropes.

“Kid?” said Hannibal, snapping to attention. “You okay?”

“I haven’t been okay in seven years,” mumbled Felicity. “Hang on. I have a pocket knife.”

It was quiet for a minute, and then Felicity was by Hannibal’s side, cutting the tape loose. The second he was free, he had Felicity by the shoulders and was looking her over intently, “Kid, I’m serious, are you okay? He beat you senseless, you know.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” said Felicity, stiffening in her father’s grip. “He does that every so often. It’s not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal?” asked Hannibal frowning. “This man is trash, and I’m going to make sure he gets what’s coming to him.”

“We can’t leave this room,” said Felicity, awkwardly sliding free of Hannibal’s hands. “There are guards everywhere in this house. I haven’t snuck out to play baseball in four months. My flyballs are really slipping.”

“Listen, kid, what do you think he’ll do?” asked Hannibal. “Any idea how he’ll handle this?”

“I don’t spend any time with the man,” said Felicity, shrugging and leaning against the wall. “I can’t tell you how he thinks. I guess that Cecchi’ll set up a perimeter facing out from the house and wait for the other guys to show up. I figure he’ll kill the big guy straight off, then bring my ‘dad’ inside and get him to sign whatever agreement Cecchi’ll make up. Then he’ll kill Peck and turn you over to the military. He covers all his bases all of the time. Nothing will go forgotten.”

“What about you?” asked Hannibal.

“Me?” huffed Felicity. “He’ll adopt me, send me to boarding school, then marry me off to a rich kid to get in league with some foreign billionaire. That’s what he did with his two daughters.”

“Sounds like a promising future,” said Hannibal. “We’ll have you out of here by tonight. Earlier if we’re as good as usual.”

“Yeah, then what?” asked Felicity, arms folded and unmoving from her spot against the wall.

Hannibal, checking out the windows and escape options, turned to face her, “Then what? How so?”

“I go where?” asked Felicity. “Back to foster care? Circle back to Cecchi? I can’t tell them what he’s done. I’m a foster kid. I’ve told more stories to more people, and every time they just say I’m lying. Sometimes I am. Mostly I’m just terrified of what will happen to me in a new house. If you get me out of here, I’m taking off on my own.”

“No, you’re not,” said Smith, walking to the bedroom door and cracking it slightly. He sighed as he closed it, “Two men at the end of the hall. Armed. When we get out of here, you are staying with the team until I figure out what to do next. You’re my kid, aren’t you? Besides that, I want our blood tested. We’ll have to have Face do it, so no one finds out your mine. I don’t doubt that you are, though. You have too much of me in you.” He grinned at her as he said it, then held his hand out. “Give me your knife.”
“Why?” asked Felicity, fishing it from her pocket and dropping it into Hannibal’s hand.

“What’s over the banister right outside your bedroom?” asked Hannibal.

“A landing about ten feet down,” shrugged Felicity.

“Can you jump it?” asked Hannibal.

Felicity nodded, “I do all the time. Except I got caught once. But, yeah, I physically can.”

“Okay, we go out and over,” said Hannibal. “Then down to the first floor, and from there, who knows?”

“Do you always make such elaborate and detailed plans?” asked Felicity, unmoved from her position against the wall.

“Isn’t it exciting,” grinned Hannibal, tucking the knife into his front pants pocket. “Ready?”

“I ain’t going,” said Felicity, shrugging.

“Now what is this?” asked Hannibal, hands on his hips. “I saw you beat the crap out of two guys in an alley the other day, and then you take out B.A. with one kick. What has you so wound up about this place?”

Felicity’s face clouded over, and she seemed to shrink into herself, “Nothing. Just don’t wanna do it.”

“Now, why are you so scared?” asked Hannibal. “I’ve seen what that man can do to you. Wouldn’t you jump at a chance to get out of here?”

“Two things,” said Felicity, standing straight and glaring at Hannibal with an intenseness any of the team would have found reminiscent of the Colonel himself. “First, get out of here for what? Kick around with you for a little while to see if you care enough to want me or to get rid of me somewhere? And second, the odds of us making it out of this place alive from jumping over a railing with a pocket knife are slim to none, and I just found you. I don’t want you dead, yet.”

Hannibal drew back, not having expected such a passionate outburst from the girl, but kept his cool and shrugged, “Alright, suit yourself. I’ve been in worse situations. As for kicking around with us so I can get rid of you, I promise that won’t happen. I’m a rather loyal kind of guy, and when I find out I have kids, I do everything I can to take care of them.”

“Oh, yeah, cause this happens regularly,” scoffed Felicity.

“Nope, just this once,” said Hannibal, pulling a cigar from his pocket, “but you can say I’ve never let one down yet. I like a clean track record, so I don’t plan on dropping you anytime soon.”

“Why should I trust anything you say?” asked Felicity, glancing at the door and thinking about the drop from the railing. “You’re a criminal, aren’t you? Besides that, I seem to remember you threatening me with a belt.”

Hannibal colored immediately, and his energetic mood stilled. “I – I didn’t mean that,” he said, locking eyes with his daughter. “Look, I don’t know anything about kids. I’m also not the kind of guy to necessarily apologize even if I’m at fault. But I can tell you right now that I am genuinely sorry I threatened you like that. I could use the excuse that I didn’t know who you were, but I was still a jerk for saying it even if you weren’t mine.”

“You didn’t seem like the type,” said Felicity.

“Like the type?” questioned Hannibal.

Felicity groaned when her back touched the wall after shifting slightly, causing Hannibal’s stomach to tighten. The poor girl was obviously in pain. “Not the type to beat up on me,” she grimaced. “I’ve been through enough guardians that I’m pretty good at reading them right away. It surprised me when you said that because you didn’t seem like the type. Okay, so you threatened me, and now you’ve apologized. That doesn’t give me any reason to trust that you’ll not send me back into the system first chance you get.”

“What have you got to lose?” asked Hannibal.

“A rich husband from Malaysia,” said Felicity, smirking. “Okay, fine, let’s try. If we can get into his office, we’ll find guns and ammunition. He probably won’t be in there right now. Oh… I don’t know. How long was I out?”

“About two hours,” said Hannibal, a curl of smoke escaping his lips.

“Okay, lemme think,” said Felicity, squinting, “yeah, I figure he’s down at his business office in the city now, and he’ll be back about five. So if anyone is in the office, it’s a few guards. I can handle that. They won’t shoot me, and I’m better at fighting than they are.”

“I don’t fully believe that you learned all you know from a couple of cowboys,” said Hannibal, shaking his head.

“We both have secrets,” said Felicity, a hint of a smile playing at her lips. “Maybe I’ll tell you someday. For now, let’s go. I’m hyper. Well, I’m usually hyper. But now I’m hyper and hungry, so double negative.”

Hannibal chuckled, “Haha, I love your spirit. On the count of three. One…two…” he pulled the door open, and in a second, they were both over the railing and dashing down the stairs below, the guards in the hallways shouting and chasing them.

“This way,” called Felicity, spinning around a corner. She pushed a door open and came face to face with a guard, promptly punching him in the face and landing a well-placed kick between his legs. Hannibal grabbed the guard’s gun and shook his head.

“Boy, you love to kick there, don’t you,” he said, stepping into the room and slamming the door behind them, locking it.

“Gets me where I need to go,” nodded Felicity, running across the room and pulling a drawer from the desk. “Key to his weapon vault is in here.”
“Weapon vault?” asked Hannibal.

“That cabinet,” said Felicity, nodded to a large oak cabinet. “He’s got the most random stuff in there. Even a bazooka.”

“Now that could come in handy!” chuckled Hannibal, his eyes lighting up.

“No,” said Felicity. “I broke it.”

“You what?” asked Hannibal, watching as she unlocked it. Someone smashed hard into the door, and Hannibal shot at it as a warning.

“I broke it,” said Felicity, swinging open the cabinet to reveal a large stockpile of guns and even a crossbow.

“You broke it?” asked Hannibal, shooting again as the door flew open, and two men appeared.

“Uh, yeah,” said Felicity, pulling down an automatic and peppering the doorframe with bullets, driving the guards back. “Accidentally on purpose.”

“Who taught you to work a gun?” marveled Hannibal, grabbing the rifle from her. He hated to admit it, but it scared him immensely to see his child handling such a heavy-duty weapon.

“John Wayne in the movies,” said Felicity, pulling out an ammunition belt and draping it over her shoulder. “Gotta plan, colonel?”

“Grab that second belt and let’s go,” said Hannibal. “Think we can get over that wall across the yard?”

“As of four months ago, when I hit my last flyball on a beautiful spring evening, yes,” nodded Felicity. “Simple as being a highly skilled ninja.”

“Well, let’s go,” said Hannibal.

The run from the house to the wall was over in less than ten seconds, but it seemed to take forever to the father and daughter. Bullets peppered the ground around them, and the pounding of feet on the drive warned them of oncoming assault. Felicity went up and over the wall smoothly and quickly. She spun around and reached down for the gun slung over Hannibal’s shoulder. He passed it up, using the handgun he’d taken from the guard to hold off the men in the yard.

“Need a hand?” asked Felicity, reaching down. Hannibal grasped her hand and hoisted himself up and over, bullets spraying the wall below him. They both dropped to safety on the opposite side. “Where to?” asked Felicity, handing back the rifle.

“The van,” grinned Hannibal, nodding towards the GMC Vandura careening around the corner at the end of the street. The two ran down the pavement, and the van door rolled open as the vehicle slowed to a crawl, allowing them to jump in.

Face grabbed Felicity to steady her and forced a smile at the girl, “Well, good to see you are still part of the fun.”

“Don’t look now, but there’s one man too many in this van, and I think it’s you,” smiled Felicity, shoving herself free of Face’s grip.

“Oh, sure, sling Groucho Marx at me,” nodded Face, steading Hannibal as the man leaned out the door, shooting at the oncoming attackers from the front gate.

“Get us out of here, B.A.!” shouted the Colonel, sliding the door shut.

The van took a hard right and raced back the way it came, leaving tire marks on the pavement and throwing its occupants hard against the side. Murdock let out a whoop and hung out the window, firing rounds at the cars taking pursuit.

“They’re hard on us, big guy!” he yelled, grinning as he shot out the tire of the front car. “Keep us moving!”

“What do you think I’m doing, fool?” roared B.A., steering tightly around a corner. “Colonel, where are we heading?”

“Try to lose them in denser traffic,” answered Hannibal, reloading the stolen rifle. “Then, we head for L.A.”

“L.A.?” chimed Felicity. “Aren’t you going to stop Cecchi?”

“Not with you, sweetheart,” said Hannibal, handing the rifle up to Murdock. “Too dangerous. He might try to steal you back and make the job harder.”

“So you are going to toss me off,” said Felicity. “I thought as much.”

“Hey!” snapped Hannibal, grabbing Felicity’s arm, “I promised you we would do no such thing. We’ll leave you with a colleague of ours, and you’ll be safe until we get back. You’re just a little girl, and we certainly can’t keep you around for a fight.”

“Little girl?” steamed Felicity, her face flushing with emotion. Hannibal seemed wound and aggravated, and she could only assume it was due to her presence. A daughter? Now that would certainly throw a kink in the chain he currently called life. His entire existence revolved around danger and crime. Having a child to care for would only make things infinitely more difficult. Naturally, he would be annoyed with her.

“Face, get her in the back,” said Hannibal. “Keep her safe.”

He pulled the side door open again and leaned out, peppering bullets towards the oncoming cars.

Felicity didn’t fight as Face pulled her into the back of the van, but she did force back tears. What else could she have expected? Of course, Hannibal wasn’t going to welcome her with open arms. He had not even known she existed until a few hours ago, and she had done nothing but made his life harder since jumping into it. Felicity decided it had probably been wrong of her to track him down in the first place. Now Hannibal would have to live with the knowledge that he had a child he could never protect or give a proper life. It was selfishness that had driven her to him, though she had convinced herself it was a longing for love.

Hannibal was having similar emotions, though while Felicity pondered over the anxiety of loneliness, he was suffering from the fear of any harm coming to his child. The very idea of bullets flying by the van that she was in terrified him and the adrenaline caused him to cast aside all thought of sense. He stood up, balancing himself with one hand on the top of the van and quickly shot out the front tires of the last two cars on their tail.

“Hannibal!” shouted Face, reaching out to grab him around the waist. “What are you? Crazy? Oh, why would I even ask such a stupid question? Get back in here!”

“Got ‘em, B.A.,” said the Colonel. “How are we on fuel?”

“Plenty to get home,” replied the sergeant.

“Good,” nodded Hannibal. “Let’s go. We’ll regroup there and come back to take Cecchi down once and for all.”

Felicity sat on the floor in the back, her emotions raging and changing quickly from inadequacy to irritation. She didn’t even look up when Hannibal crawled back to join her.

“Are you alright, kid?” he asked, taking her arms in his hands. She jerked away and glared at him, saying nothing. The Colonel sat back on his heels and stared at her, “Hey, now, what’s all this? I did just save your life, you know.”

“Your colleague in L.A.,” said Felicity, avoiding eye contact, “is that code for a children’s home?”

“Haven’t you been listening at all?” sighed Hannibal. “I told you I wasn’t giving you up. Her name is Tawnia Baker, and she is a reporter for the L.A. Courier Express. We trust her, and she works with us often. You’ll be safe with her.”

“Why can’t I help you fight Cecchi?” asked Felicity, finally raising her eyes to meet Hannibal’s. She decided if he was going to be a bully, she could be fierce right back. Was he a bully, though? Felicity couldn’t think clearly enough to decide.

“Because you’re thirteen-years-old and there has never been a reason in the entire universe for a thirteen-year-old girl to join in a battle over drug laundering,” replied Hannibal. “I just got you; I can’t lose you right away.”

Felicity was shocked to hear the sincerity in Hannibal’s voice and see the glint of fear flash through his eyes.

“Just got her?” Face piped up. “Don’t tell me we plan on keeping this kid around. She hasn’t done anything but roast me since we picked her up.”

“I don't wanna lose you either,” mumbled Felicity, dropping her eyes to her lap.

Emotion clutched Hannibal’s heart, and before he could stop himself, he had pulled Felicity forward against his chest, holding her tightly. She was his daughter. His very own little girl. His flesh and blood in his arms. Felicity was the perfect mixture of Jenny and himself. Hannibal felt like he was simultaneously looking into a mirror and the face of his past love. Felicity shifted in his grip, and Hannibal thought she meant to free herself, but it was only to throw her arms around his chest and hold him tightly.

Face turned to Murdock with a perplexed look on his face. The pilot ignored him, merely staring back at the father and daughter with an amused smile. Murdock giggled, “Ah, so cute.”

“Cute?” asked Face, running a hand through his gelled back hair. “What is even happening?”

Hannibal felt Felicity moan against his chest and suddenly remembered the beating she had taken. “Oh, I’m sorry, kid,” he said, relaxing his grip around her back. “Say, are you alright? We should get you to a doctor. B.A., on second thought, head for Bad Rock to Maggie Sullivan’s place.”

“No, I’m okay!” insisted Felicity, pushing back from Hannibal’s chest. She scooted back from the man, slightly embarrassed at having been so close to an almost perfect stranger. Though was he a stranger? She felt like she’d known him her whole life based on stories her mother had told and things she would read in the papers. It felt funny to hear him called Hannibal. The news clippings she had once been brave enough to keep only referred to him as Colonel John Smith. Felicity wondered where the name Hannibal had originated. Hannibal was a stranger. John Smith was a part of her life since birth.

“How about you let someone else be the judge of that,” said Hannibal. “Let me see the damage.”

“I don’t think so!” snapped Felicity. She closed her eyes, instantly berating herself for yelling. If she and Hannibal were going to get along, she was going to need to stop her temper from exploding every few minutes.

“Colonel, perhaps I can be of service,” said Murdock, climbing from the front seat and crawling back. “Uh, how about you just get yourself up into the seat and let me talk to the little girl?”

Hannibal gave Felicity a worried filled look before sighing and pulling himself up into the seat by the back door. Murdock took Hannibal’s place on the floor and smiled at Felicity.

“Hey, kid,” he said. “So, um, I take it you got hurt?”

“No,” said Felicity, feeling strangely calm with Murdock. “No, I’m okay.”

“Cecchi beat her with his belt,” said Hannibal, his voice loathing.

“That jackass!” snapped B.A. from the front. “I want to beat his head in with a lead pipe!” He hadn’t stopped feeling like a jerk since he’d smacked Felicity. Once his head had leveled, and the pain subsided, he couldn’t believe he had done that to the kid. Hearing what Cecchi had done fueled his anger and consciousness simultaneously.

“Oh, sweetie, that doesn’t sound too good,” said Murdock, keeping his voice calm. “Where’d he get you?”

“Uh, my back and shoulders,” said Felicity, blushing again. She inwardly decided she would never need makeup if she were going to keep coloring so easily.

“Until she was unconscious,” added Hannibal.

“Oh, gosh, kid, how about you let old Murdock take a look?” pleaded Murdock, leaning forward but not interfering with Felicity’s personal space.

She looked between the pilot and her father, twisting her shirt nervously. It felt awkward to let Hannibal look, and she didn’t exactly feel at ease around the big man wearing gold who had smacked her and the man wearing a full suit that seemed equally aggravated and terrified of her presence. Felicity glanced back at Murdock, his kind eyes somehow assuring tenderness. For some reason, she trusted him, and her back hurt an awful lot. Felicity sighed, nodding, “Okay. I’m alright, though.” Felicity swung around, so she was between the two back seats, and Murdock was behind her.

“I’ll be real gentle, I promise,” said Murdock, lightly grabbing the bottom of her shirt. He lifted it and stopped before he even got half-way up her back. The wince on his face told the watching Hannibal everything he needed to know.

“Take us to Bad Rock, B.A.,” he repeated. “We can leave her with Maggie instead of Tawnia. She might be even safer there. No chance of Decker showing up unexpectedly.”

“Hey, Colonel, you wanna hand me that first aid kit?” asked Murdock, pointing over Felicity’s shoulder. Hannibal pulled the box up from under the passenger seat and handed it back.

“Who is Maggie?” asked Felicity, balancing herself on the inner armrests of the middle seats.

“A doctor who we know,” replied Hannibal. “She’s a wonderful lady and can take care of you until we finish with Cecchi.”

“Hannibal, I may just be stupid, but am I missing something?” demanded Face. “Who the heck is this kid?”

Hannibal said nothing, looking down with a heartwarming fondness at Felicity. She looked back, relishing the affectionate gaze and never wanting it to end. Felicity understood now that his harshness earlier had been out of fear for her life. Hannibal Smith could push around anyone he wanted, but underneath his militaristic commands and crazy notions, he could be soft.

“Yeah, who is she, Hannibal?” insisted B.A. from the front.

Hannibal let out a slow chuckle and brushed back a loose wave from Felicity’s eyes; those eyes that looked so much like dark versions of his own.

“Felicity Smith,” replied Hannibal proudly. “My daughter.”

Chapter Text

Bad Rock was just ten minutes away when Decker found them. Sirens blaring and dust swirling about the tires, the military police cars bore down hard on the van.

“Hey, man, what do we do?” asked B.A., smashing the gas pedal to the floor.

Hannibal crawled into the back of the van where Face was already scrambling over the backseat to gather guns. “Murdock, keep the kid down and out of sight. If something crazy happens and he manages to get ahold of us, you take Felicity and try to beat it. Decker doesn’t need to know either one of you is a part of this.”

“You got it, Hannibal,” nodded Murdock.

“If we have to stop, let the three of us get out, and then you take off,” continued Hannibal.

Something fluttered in Felicity’s stomach upon hearing her father use her name. Was that the first time he had said it? She was reasonably sure it was. Felicity felt Murdock’s hand on her shoulder, and she bristled, wanting to argue that she would rather stay with Hannibal. But she was smart enough to know that if the military knew Hannibal had a daughter, life would be even harder for all of them. She decided to hold on to the hope that they would escape the oncoming cars.

Face threw open the back doors of the van, and he and Hannibal began peppering the oncoming cars with bullets, aiming for the tires. Felicity watched nervously, clinging to the back of the seat as Murdock crouched down beside her.

“Come on, honey,” he said, “don’t need you taking a bullet on top of everything.” Keeping wary of her bruised back, Murdock lowered her to the ground and held her in front of him, safe from oncoming bullets.

“I’m not scared of getting shot,” said Felicity, twisting in his grip.

“Well, you sure seem anxious,” shot back Murdock, reading the fear in her eyes.

“Not for me,” she replied, finally turning her body against Murdock’s grip and kneeling, peering over his shoulder at her father.

Realization washed over Murdock, and he chuckled, “You know, you are every bit your daddy’s daughter. Not a bit of fear for yourself but want to protect everybody else. That’s how he is with the people we help.”

It seemed an odd time to discuss Hannibal’s character as bullets whizzed past them, and sirens wailed, but Felicity found it momentarily comforting to hear she was like her father. It made her heart swell with pride as she held the colonel in very high regard, despite the short time she had known him. Her mother had often told Felicity that she was very much like her daddy, but with nothing to base it off of, Felicity could never be sure. Now she could see an identical copy of her eyes and smile every time they faced each other. Hannibal’s laugh was just a lower version of Felicity’s. And their personalities…Felicity was surprised at how similar they were.

“That’ll hold him!” laughed Hannibal, pulling the upper half of his body out the back of the van to give a parting nod to Decker. “Both tires! Nice shooting, Face.” The two military police cars sat side by side, where all four front tires had deflated. The two men pulled the back doors shut and crawled into the front of the van as Murdock returned to the passenger seat, and Felicity pulled herself up into the chair behind B.A.

“B.A., forget Bad Rock,” said Hannibal. “We gotta get out of here. Head back to L.A. We have the fuel?”

“Just enough,” replied B.A. “No more chases or side trips, though.”

“When we get back, we’ll leave Felicity with Tawnia, and she can take her back to Maggie,” said Hannibal, lighting a cigar to calm himself. He always got jumpy with excitement after a good chase, and the nicotine calmed him.

“I don’t need a doctor,” said Felicity, twisting sideways to face her father. “This isn’t the first time I’ve taken a beating, you know. I healed fine the other times.”

“No deal, sweetie,” said Hannibal, tucking his lighter away. “I don’t like having you in pain. I want Maggie to look you over and make sure there is nothing internal going on. Actually, Murdock, get Tawnia on the phone and have her meet us half-way.”

“Sure thing, Colonel,” nodded Murdock, picking up the van phone.

“But I wanna stay with you,” whined Felicity, scooting forward. She held her hands out as if to put them on Hannibal’s leg, but stopped and drew them back. She wasn’t sure if he would feel comfortable with her doing that.

Hannibal, the ever-observant military strategist, noticed her hesitation and turned to face her, holding his arm out. “Come here, kid,” he invited. Felicity responded instantly, moving to sit on his lap and bury herself in his chest. A tingling feeling shot through her body, and she fell into a state of bliss, tucked tightly against her father’s tall, muscular physique. Hannibal’s arm rested lightly over her shoulder, mindful not to brush her back. “Listen, honey. I think you’re a smart kid. In fact, I know you’re a smart kid from first-hand experience. You know very well that you can’t come back with us unless we want Cecchi to have an edge. Now, Tawnia will take good care of you, and Maggie is the best doctor I’ve ever come across.”

“The cutest, too?” teased Face from the backseat.

Hannibal gave him a half-hearted glare, taking a long draw on his cigar. “Mm, now, I promise you, sweetheart, that we’ll be back to pick you up before you even realize we’re gone,” he said. “I’ll even stop off at Cecchi’s and pack up any stuff you have there.”

“I don’t want his stuff,” said Felicity, voice muffled in Hannibal’s shirt. “It was never mine.”

Hannibal understood. Cecchi would probably buy Felicity his favored style of clothing and belongings, never bothering to ask what she would prefer. It dawned on Hannibal why Felicity wore such old, tired clothes. They were probably the only things she had left that truly belonged to her.

“Okay, then I’ll collect our payment from Cecchi’s safe to pay off the job he hired us for, and take you shopping when we get back,” smiled Hannibal. “First thing we’ll buy is new shoes.”

Felicity looked up and laughed, her expression a carbon copy of Hannibal’s. “Now that I wouldn’t mind.” Her Converse were dirty and worn, and the left one was held on by wrapping the laces around the diminishing sole. There were holes along the base, and the right one had faded until it was hardly black anymore.

“Uh, I might be of some assistance when it comes to clothing,” offered Face, leaning forward. “I’m rather voiced on the topic.”

“From what I’ve gathered,” said Felicity, turning her head towards Face, “you and I have incredibly different styles. One of us has taste, one of us does not. I can try to give you pointers, but I’ll think you’ll just always be poorly dressed.”

“Hey!” snapped Face, recoiling at a direct hit to his pride. “Hey, Hannibal, this kid has been on my case since the second I met her. Can’t you make her stop? She hasn’t said a single nice thing to me.”

“When I think of something nice about you, I’ll say it,” said Felicity.

“Hey, Murdock, what did Tawnia say?” asked Hannibal, ignoring Face as he found the banter rather funny and had no intention of stopping it. Of course, he loved Face like a son and would never want him harmed, but a little teasing never hurt anybody.

Murdock spun his chair slightly and reached back, patting Felicity’s knee, “She said she’d meet us in Lancaster. Bringing our gear from B.A.’s place, too.”

“Perfect,” grinned Hannibal. “See, kid, we don’t even have to go for gear. We’ll be back faster than I anticipated.”

“Mm, okay,” said Felicity, resting back against Hannibal’s chest.

Safe.

It struck her hard that for the first time in many, many years, she felt completely safe. Theoretically, she was probably in the most danger she had ever been in, but as far as trust went, Felicity knew Hannibal would do whatever it took to take care of and protect her. This man who had known her for part of a single day would shield her at all costs, and he didn’t even need to say it for Felicity to realize it was true. Something about his personality radiated the truth. She could understand why her mother had been so in love with Hannibal. Underneath his wild, goofy, unpredictable façade, Hannibal Smith was a truly honorable man.

The waiting was distressing.

Maggie had bathed Felicity’s back with warm water and then applied some ice, followed by an ointment. The doctor had convinced Felicity to lie down and rest for a while, desperately wanting an excuse to talk alone with Tawnia. After making sure the girl was comfortable on her guest bed, Maggie slipped back into the living room and found Tawnia pacing the floor, hands wringing in anxiety.

“I just wish I was with them!” said Tawnia. “I could be helping!”

“I know,” sympathized Maggie. Often, she daydreamed of joining the team and being with Hannibal, fighting with Hannibal…living …talking. Perhaps even marrying him. She never shared these desires with anyone, and she hardly placed any weight on them herself. Hannibal was just someone from her past who had ridden off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Now he was thrust back into her life with a child and an unspoken history, and she hadn’t even seen him in person. Maggie could understand Tawnia’s restlessness. She felt it herself.

“I mean, who even is this kid?” asked Tawnia, throwing her hands in the air as she paced. “Hannibal just said, ‘take my girl to the doctor in Bad Rock’ and expected me to go along with it like I was completely aware of what was happening.”

“He does have the ability to commandeer situations,” smirked Maggie. “Even if the participants have no idea what’s going on.”

“I didn’t even know he had a daughter!” exclaimed Tawnia, resting her hands on her hips and glaring at the floor.

Maggie smiled and sank into a chair, trying to calm her wildly beating heart. Just hearing Hannibal’s name started the butterflies in her stomach. “Neither did I,” she sighed.

Tawnia groaned and dropped onto the sofa, crossing her legs. “Oh, those guys. They are so tiresome at times! How do you know them? Did they work here at some point?”

Maggie nodded, the memories of Hannibal’s mouth against hers, kissing her hard and passionately. She took a deep breath and leaned her head back, “They did. You know how they are. Work fast; move on. I haven’t seen him…them in over a year.”

Tawnia was too worked up to notice Maggie’s slip, and she let out an exasperated groan, “Oh, I could just kill them at times! They have no idea how hard it is to wait around without any idea of what’s going on. They are always right in the thick of the battle while I do all the boring work.”

“You know nothing more about the girl?” asked Maggie, her thoughts steadily pulled to whatever woman Hannibal must have known in the past. Was she still alive? Did Hannibal love this mysterious mother of his child? Had their fleeting kiss been just a ruse on Hannibal’s part to keep Maggie on his side?

“No,” shrugged Tawnia, interrupting Maggie’s wild thoughts. “Murdock just raced past me as he loaded guns into the van saying something about Hannibal’s daughter and to keep her comfortable until we got here. Then Hannibal kissed the kid’s head, and they were gone. I couldn’t even see the van through the dust B.A. made peeling off as fast as he did. Did you ask her anything?”

“Um, no,” said Maggie. “I didn’t want to excite her. She seemed agitated and nervous.” Just like the two of us, thought Maggie.

“What a different name, too,” mused Tawnia, standing up to pace again. “Felicity. It’s pretty, I suppose. I wonder who the mother is? Why didn’t the guys tell me about her before?”

“They didn’t know about me,” came Felicity’s voice from across the room.

“Now, you are supposed to be resting!” admonished Maggie, her doctoring senses kicking in as she rose from her chair.

“I can’t,” said Felicity, stepping closer, hands deep in the pockets of her joggers. “They are out there fighting because of me, and I can’t even help.”

“What’s going on?” begged Tawnia, starving for information.

“My foster father,” mumbled Felicity, nudging the carpet with her sneaker. “He’s in the drug business, and they are trying to take him down.”

“Foster father?” asked Maggie, the term giving her even further perplexion over the child’s past.

“My mother’s dead,” said Felicity, shifting her weight from side to side uncomfortably, “and I’ve been in foster care for years. I finally tracked down Hannibal, and now he’s gone and left me when I could be helping.”

“Oh, believe me, I know the feeling,” said Tawnia, crossing her arms. She could read the disappointment in Felicity’s face, though, and tried to offer some comfort, “But imagine what it would be like for Hannibal to have you fighting with them. He wouldn’t be able to concentrate. He would be so concerned about your safety.”

Felicity glanced up and shrugged. That hadn’t occurred to her before. “Yeah, I guess,” she mumbled.

“Okay, well, not to change the subject, but did Hannibal know about you?” asked Tawnia. “How did you meet him?” Her journalistic nature was never one to skirt about a subject.

“Uh, no, he didn’t,” said Felicity. “I knew who he was, so I convinced my foster father to hire the A-Team as a cover for the drug business. Then I told the team what was happening, and somehow Hannibal and I got captured and…I dunno. It’s been a long day.”

Questions bombarded Maggie’s mind. The child’s mother was dead? Had Hannibal been married to the woman? How had Hannibal and the girl escaped the apparent capture Felicity mentioned? Maggie took a breath to calm her voice and tried to tune into her job as a medical caretaker. The girl was hurt, and Maggie needed to keep her still. “You said you were beaten,” said Maggie, placing a hand on Felicity’s shoulder. “What happened?”

“Cecchi,” said Felicity, her voice practically a whisper. “My foster father. He’s a bad man.” She fell silent as a mixture of rage and fear rushed through her. She would give anything to be fighting alongside her father right then instead of sitting alone with two strange women miles away from the action. Felicity wanted the pleasure of punching Cecchi square in the face for the torturous life he had given her. “Say, look, you’ve worked with them,” she said, nodding at Tawnia. “Let’s take your car and go back. We can do things from the sidelines. Help when they don’t even know they need it. I know what they’re up against, and I have an inside twist on what will happen. Cecchi is fairly predictable.”

“And Hannibal is, too,” said Tawnia. “Well, maybe predictable isn’t a word that should be associated with Hannibal. But in this case, if we show up after he made me take you away, he is going to be a furious man. Let me put it this way: I had never seen him look at someone the way he looked at me today when he told me to take you here and keep you here. He meant it, Felicity. As much as I would rather be with the team, I’m not going to mess with whatever high Hannibal is on today.”

“And I want you to go right back to that bed!” said Maggie, leading Felicity back towards the guest room. “There is no use pacing around and worrying. You need rest, and now is the perfect time to get it.”

“No way I can sleep,” moaned Felicity, slumping forward onto the bed and burying her face in the pillow. “Stupid Cecchi,” came her muffled voice.

“Yes, dear,” nodded Maggie, arranging the blankets. “Now, you go to sleep, and I promise to wake you the second we get any news from the team.”

Maggie left, closing the door behind her, and Felicity jumped up. In a flash, she had slipped out the window and was running around the house to Tawnia’s car. Felicity had watched Tawnia tuck the keys under the visor. It was not actually Tawnia’s personal car. The drive up had been one long rant about her vehicle being in the shop and a friend loaning her his. From the way Tawnia ground the gears the entire trip, Felicity was fairly certain driving was not the journalist’s forte.

It only took a second to start the engine and pull away, driving softly so as not to alert the women inside. Then Felicity was home free. If she could make it to the highway, she could get back to San Diego without any problems. A few road signs and a decent sense of direction brought her out onto Interstate 5. Felicity was mindful of speeding. The last thing she needed was a cop chase with no license at thirteen-years-old. Thank goodness for living on a ranch for a few years. She had learned more skills there than in any other home. Driving a stick was indeed coming in handy.

Felicity had no plans on what she intended to do once arriving in San Diego. She didn’t even know where the team was or how they planned to take down Cecchi. But Felicity didn’t care. Her father was going to fight a dangerous man, and she was not about to let him get killed. How she intended to stop it, she had no idea. But with the miles dropping behind her and the city drawing closer, Felicity felt raw energy bubbling in her veins. The anxiety of the day almost slipped off of her as if it had never existed. Her head was clear. A smile spread across her face as she shifted and sped up, worries of speed traps fading from her mind. A sort of electric wave shot through to the tips of her fingers, and Felicity let out a chuckle. She was on the jazz. And nothing was going to stop her.

Chapter Text

“How can you risk staying in one place?” asked Felicity, looking over the tiny apartment above the Chinese laundry. “Doesn’t the army catch on after people visit you downstairs? Or visit Mr. Lee, I guess.”

“No one has talked,” shrugged Hannibal. “Besides, Decker wouldn’t be smart enough to think I’d live in the very place out of which I do business. But I have a back window and roof hatch, just in case. And this is just one apartment. I’ve got lots of hideouts. You can sleep in there.” He pointed towards the tiny bedroom off the kitchenette, which itself was barely large enough for the two of them to stand in.

“No,” said Felicity, glancing into the room. “You will. I’m fine.”

Hannibal pulled open a cupboard door and took down a mug, “No. I said you’ll sleep in there. No kid of mine is sleeping on the couch in her own home.” Hannibal set the mug down and turned to open the tiny window over the sink. “You know this is your home now, right? No more living in the streets or foster care joints. I’m taking proper care of you from here on out.”

“You can’t sleep on the couch either,” said Felicity, hoisting herself onto the only seat available: the counter.

“I can,” said Hannibal, turning on the tiny coffee maker by Felicity’s leg. “I’ve slept in worse places. Do you drink coffee?”

“I don’t drink anything except for bourbon on the rocks and straight tequila,” said Felicity, turning sideways so Hannibal could open the drawer below her and retrieve a spoon.

Hannibal smirked. “Water?” he asked, though it came out like a statement. He opened another cupboard and pulled out a filmy, chipped plastic cup.

“Do you have individual cupboards for every dish you own?” asked Felicity.

“No, I keep my plate and bowl in the same one,” replied Hannibal, turning on the tap and filling the cup. He handed the drink to Felicity and then opened the refrigerator, bending over to search for the quart of milk he had left there the week before.

“I’m sorry,” said Felicity, taking a sip of water. It somehow tasted both flat and metallic.

Hannibal stood upright and set the almost-empty milk carton beside his coffee mug. “Sorry for what?” he asked, glancing with slight puzzlement at his daughter.

“For kicking you,” said Felicity. “You apologized for threatening me, so I guess I oughtta apologize for hurting you.”

“Kicking me? When did you…oh, yeah,” nodded Hannibal, grimacing slightly. He swore he could still feel the pain between his legs. “Promise me you’ll never do that again.”

“I won’t,” nodded Felicity.

Hannibal poured himself some coffee - so weak it wasn’t much more than dirty water - and added the rest of the milk from the carton. “About your…fighting,” he said. “Where exactly did you learn to handle yourself? And guns for that matter.”

“I told you,” said Felicity. “The cowboys.”

“And I don’t buy that,” said Hannibal. “But suit yourself. I’ll figure it out eventually.”

“Nothing to figure out,” said Felicity, jumping down from the counter and following Hannibal into the tiny living room, the unappealing water left forgotten. A worn-out couch, that was the ugliest brown color Felicity had ever seen, sat under a window across from a small television, perched on a suitcase. Costumes and make-up cases filled the tiny space in a manner that wasn’t exactly messy, but void of room to make them neat, either. “Are these the things you use in the movies?” asked Felicity, nodding to the array of clothes.

“No,” said Hannibal. “I play mostly monsters, and the studios have those costumes. These are my disguises.” He settled onto the couch and patted the leather jacket draped over the armrest, “And this is my favorite piece. Your mother gave it to me. I can’t fit in it anymore - muscle mass.”

“Oh, sure,” smirked Felicity.

“But I’ll never get rid of it,” sighed Hannibal, running his fingers over the stitching in the shoulder. “It’s one of the only things I have left from her. A miracle that I have anything. After we escaped from prison, I took a big risk going to our storage locker. I can’t believe I didn’t get caught.”

“Storage locker?” asked Felicity.

“Yeah, Jenny and I had put all our things into a small locker while I was serving overseas,” said Hannibal. “We planned on buying a house after we got married.”

“She never told me about that,” said Felicity, sitting down beside her father and eyeing the jacket. She wanted to look it over but didn’t feel right touching it without Hannibal offering.

As if reading her mind, Hannibal picked the jacket up and handed it to her, “Try it on, kid.”

“It’s enormous,” said Felicity, trying to hide her excitement as she stood up and slid her arms into the sleeves. She was wearing her father’s jacket. A jacket her mother had given to him. The nostalgia from a memory she hadn’t even been a part of washed over her like a wave.

“You’ll grow into it,” said Hannibal, taking a sip of his coffee. He made a face. “Ugh, weak. We’re going out for dinner so I can have some strong stuff. You know, kid, you’re tall for your age.”

“I know,” said Felicity, running her fingers over the jacket. It was so heavy it pulled her shoulders down, but she didn’t want to take it off. “People often think I’m a lot older than I am.”

“Is that how you managed to drive a car to San Diego?” asked Hannibal, his tone stern, but his eyes teasing.

 

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS BEFORE

 

Felicity found her arrival in San Diego met with extreme disapproval from the entire team, who discovered her leaning against Tawnia's car just a block away from Cecchi's home. The amount of will-power it took Hannibal to stop from shaking the kid until her brain scrambled was astronomical. Still, he merely bit hard into his cigar and glared at her, letting Murdock do all the talking and ushering Felicity into the van. He would not allow himself to turn into Cecchi when it came to discipline. There were other ways to handle a teenage girl. What those ways were, Hannibal had no idea, but hurting her wasn’t the answer. Hannibal was well aware that Felicity avoided eye contact with him for the first ten minutes they were together, but he never took his eyes off of her, doing his best to make her feel small and uncomfortable. He could restrain himself from exploding at her, but not from assuring her of his irritation.

“And what exactly do you expect to do here?” Face asked, fiddling with his rifle.

“Help,” Felicity responded, shrugging.

“Sweetheart, you are doing precisely what your father would do in your shoes, and I hate it,” said Murdock, visibly more stressed out than anyone else. He had taken a particular liking to Felicity and was very upset by her appearance just moments before they attacked Cecchi’s home.

“Hannibal, what are we gonna do with this kid?” asked B.A., equally worried for Felicity’s safety. B.A. had many soft spots, but children were his biggest one.

“Let her stay,” said Hannibal, his eyes still glued to Felicity, who had yet to look directly at him. The wrapper on his cigar was beginning to come loose as he dug his teeth deeper into it. Hannibal couldn’t remember the last time he had been this uptight. “We can’t turn back. We already sent Cecchi the message. If this is going to work, we have to go in now. Murdock, keep Felicity with you. She’ll be safest there.”

Realizing she had no idea what the plan was, Felicity glanced at Murdock and found annoyance on his face. Maybe coming back hadn’t been so smart, after all. The entire team seemed upset with her. She risked a glance at Hannibal, but his eyes were boring a hole into her soul that seared her consciousness. Coming back had been a stupid idea.

“Okay, B.A.,” said Hannibal, once the van was along the sidewall of Cecchi’s yard, “let’s go.” B.A. parked, and he, Hannibal, and Face scrambled from the vehicle, carrying rifles and grenades.

Murdock pulled himself into the driver seat and turned the van around, shaking his head the whole time, “Oh, missy, your daddy is not a happy man. Didn’t you listen to a word I said when we were taking you to Tawnia? He’s nervous that you’re going to get hurt. How is he supposed to do his job correctly with the weight of his daughter’s safety prying on his mind? Oh golly, it’s been a long day. Felicity, do you see my puppies back there?”

Felicity, shifting awkwardly around the seat in the back of the van, looked up and narrowed her eyes, “Uh, your puppies. Mr. Murdock?”

“Yeah, my dog Billy’s pups,” nodded Murdock. “His first litter. Well, his lady’s. He’s just the papa. I’m babysitting while Billy and the missus are at the dog park. Please don’t call me Mr. Murdock. Just Murdock or H.M. or whatever you want. I’ll even answer to Oh, Handsome One.”

“Uh, okay,” said Felicity, recalling the ride earlier when Hannibal had whispered something to her about Murdock being crazy. She played along, “Well, the puppies seem fine.”
“Oh, thank goodness!” sighed Murdock, resting his head against the back of the seat. He made a sudden turn and parallel parked the van against a curb. “You stay here and make sure they don’t eat the padding out of the seats. B.A. would be madder than a hornet if that happened. I gotta run, so don’t leave this van, or Hannibal will blow a gasket. Angry Hannibal is Scary Hannibal. Don’t make him go there, kid.”

Then Murdock was gone.

Felicity sat in the van for almost two hours, anxious and worried, before the team came stumbling back, covered in dust and nursing bruised jaws. No one said anything about how they had beaten Cecchi, but the relieved sigh as Face sunk into his seat told Felicity that the A-Team had prevailed. When they found Tawnia’s car, Hannibal grabbed Felicity by the arm and pulled her out of the van to ride back to Bad Rock with him. The father and daughter drove in silence for almost ten minutes before Hannibal let out a long, exasperated sigh and visibly let his muscles relax.

“Don’t do that to me again,” he said, his voice low and steady.

“Sorry I was an idiot,” said Felicity, crossing her arms and sinking into the seat.

“You wanted to help, I get that,” said Hannibal, twisting slightly to relieve the tension in his neck, “but it was dangerous. You’re not on your own anymore, and you have to obey me when I tell you to do something. If you get hurt…” Hannibal trailed off.

Neither of them said anything for a few minutes.

Finally, Felicity broke the silence, “I understand. I’m sorry. I was so scared Cecchi would kill you, and I wanted to be with you. But I get what you’re saying. I won’t do it again.”

Hannibal sighed and reached over, taking Felicity’s hand in his. “Why’d you have to get so much of me?” he chuckled. “Your mother was perfect. I’m just so…” Hannibal paused.

“On the jazz?” Felicity offered.

Hannibal grinned, “Yeah.”

“I don’t mind,” said Felicity. “Being like you, I mean. Wouldn’t have met you if I wasn’t.”

Hannibal chuckled again, “No, I guess not. At least you have your mother’s nose.”

Felicity laughed, “Yeah, at least there’s that.” She looked out the window, keeping Hannibal’s hand tightly in her own. “How’d you take down Cecchi?”

“Efficiently,” replied Hannibal. “He won’t be getting back out anytime soon. And I made sure he left with two black eyes and a broken nose. Probably broke his jaw, too.”

Felicity knew that was because Cecchi had beaten her. Hannibal had wanted revenge.

The tension between them slipped away. Fatigue from the long day replaced it. Time and road moved behind them, and before long, darkness crept over the highway. The father and daughter were alone except for the occasional glimpse of B.A.’s taillights up ahead. The deep feeling of freedom that overtook a person when driving on an empty highway at night surged through Felicity, and she relished the quiet moments with Hannibal. Pressing her forehead against the cold window, she stared at the glittering stars. It wasn’t something she often saw over the lights of San Diego. “Do you think she knows I found you?”

“Huh? Oh, Jenny? I guess she probably knows,” Hannibal nodded. He squeezed his daughter’s hand, clutched in his own for the past hour. “She wouldn’t want me being an irresponsible father, either.”

“You haven’t been,” said Felicity. “One day in and you’re the best father I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot.”

“Thanks, kid,” said Hannibal, releasing her hand for a second to shift gears. “I don’t plan on letting you or your mother down. And you’ve got a whole team of men in that van up there to hold me to it.”

 

REUNION AND HEARTBREAK

 

“My car!” exclaimed Tawnia, bursting from the doctor’s office and running towards the vehicle as Hannibal and Felicity climbed out. “I can’t believe you stole it!” The light from the front porch flooded the lawn, casting a long shadow as Tawnia stopped short several feet from the road.

“You said it was your friend’s car, not yours,” said Felicity, groaning as she stretched. “And, you ruined the clutch.”

B.A.’s van sat beside them, and the rest of the team had jumped out to walk around before settling in for the trip back to Los Angeles. B.A. nodded, tapping his sneaker against Tawnia’s front tire, “I can smell it.”

“Thing was so bad I burnt it out just driving through town,” said Hannibal. “Your friend is gonna love getting this thing back.”

“Hannibal!” said Tawnia, her tone flat from her shock. “You…you…you have to fix this!”

“I’m sure you’ll figure out something, kid,” said Hannibal, landing a friendly slap to Tawnia’s shoulder. He barely glanced at her as he walked past, his eyes fixed on the woman who had just stepped onto the porch.

Maggie Sullivan.

“Hello, Maggie,” he greeted with a nod.

“Hannibal,” replied Maggie, extended her hand in greeting, an irrepressible smile tugging at her lips.

Hannibal strode up the front steps and accepted her hand lightly, but immediately stepped backward, tucking his fingers into his pockets. “Um, thank you for helping the kid. We appreciate it. I appreciate it.”

“Of course,” nodded Maggie, sensing discomfort in Hannibal’s manner. It confused and, though she hated to admit it, disappointed her. “I would certainly love to keep her here for a few days, but I suppose you’ll be moving along.”

“Yeah, we should get home,” nodded Hannibal, moving one hand to rub the back of his head. “I’ll keep an eye on her and make sure she heals. What do I owe you?”

The question delivered the final blow Maggie needed. She raised her head indignantly and glared at Hannibal, “Nothing, of course. I can’t believe you would even ask that, Hannibal.” She could thoroughly discern the man’s desire to leave, and it cut her to the heart. Apparently, their connection had been nothing more than a short fling.

“You’re a good woman, Maggie,” nodded Hannibal, barely making eye contact. “Thanks again.” He turned to face the others, “Alright, let’s hit the road. It’ll be past midnight before we make it back.”

“You could stay the night,” offered Maggie, in a final attempt to communicate with the man she had loved in secret for so long.

Hannibal turned and gave her a quick smile, “Oh, thanks, Maggie, but we should get back. I have a great monster part, and we film tomorrow. You understand.” He hurried down the steps without so much as a glance back.

Maggie’s heart had broken.

 

FACE’S APARTMENT

 

“Just because you’re the leader doesn’t give you the right to commandeer my home!” insisted Face, running his fingers through his hair. “I mean it, Hannibal!”

“What’s the desk girl’s name?” asked Hannibal, settling onto the plush couch set nicely in the middle of the beautifully furnished living room.

“Oh, uh, she’s…” Face mumbled a bit, knowing he’d lost the argument. “Alright, fine, alright, alright. You and the kid can stay. But if she says one nasty thing to me, I’ll…” he stopped and put his hands on his hips.

“Don’t worry, pal,” said Felicity, turning from the enormous painting she had been studying, “I can’t say anything mean about something you don’t even own.”

“Oh, gosh,” moaned Face, pulling off his jacket and laying it over the back of a chair. “It’s precarious enough, staying here alone. I have to entertain the desk girl as often as possible to keep on her good side. I’m telling you, Hannibal, if anyone finds you here, much less the kid…” He sighed.

“Do you ever end your sentences, or do you just sorta let them hang around without a punchline?” asked Felicity, climbing over the back of the couch and cuddling in beside Hannibal.

“See!” shouted Face, jumping to his feet. “You know what? I’m going to bed. I can’t take this. It’s been an unbelievably long day, and my ego has taken a harsher attack than I can ever remember. By a thirteen-year-old child, nonetheless. Goodnight, Hannibal. Please don’t take my good cigars.”

Face, stressed and exhausted, locked himself into the master bedroom, his muffled voice sounding through the door as he muttered to himself.

Hannibal pulled Felicity close against his chest and rested his chin on her head, “You feel okay?”

“Yeah, doesn’t hurt as much since the doctor helped me,” replied Felicity. “She’s a very nice lady.”

“Mm, Maggie? Yeah, she’s okay,” said Hannibal, his body practically sinking into the soft cushions as he realized the extent of his exhaustion. “How about some sleep, kid? I can barely keep my eyes open. Good thing Face let us stay. If we had to wait for B.A. to take Murdock back to the hospital, it would have been practically morning before we got home. I’ll show you to your room, mademoiselle.” With a groan, Hannibal pushed himself off the couch and stretched, exhaling deeply. Felicity popped up beside him, just as tired but still full of the energy that always possessed her. “Leave it to Face to con a three-bedroom penthouse. It’s like he subconsciously knew we’d need it,” said Hannibal, pointing Felicity towards a bedroom.

“Hannibal,” said Felicity, pausing in the bedroom doorway, “you have to work tomorrow?”

“Yep,” nodded Hannibal, leaning against the wall. “Gotta shoot a vital attack scene. You can stay with Face until I’m through, and then we’ll head to my place.”

“Stay with Face?” cried Felicity. “Oh, tomorrow is going to be my favorite day ever.”

“Oh, don’t be like that, kid,” yawned Hannibal. “Face isn’t all that bad. Give him a chance. He can take you shopping and get you some decent clothes.”

Felicity frowned but nodded, “Yeah, okay.”

“Good night, kid,” said Hannibal, turning down a side hall. He didn’t make it very far before Felicity had swung past and barreled into his chest, burying her face into his shirt. He grinned, hugging her back.

“Thank you,” Felicity whispered. “Thank you.”

 

PRESENT

 

“Let’s do the diner at the end of the block,” said Hannibal, putting his arm around Felicity’s shoulder as they strolled down the sidewalk. “They make the best coffee around, and I need some major caffeine.”

“You know she really likes you,” said Felicity.

Hannibal stopped walking and looked down at his daughter, “What?”

“Maggie,” said Felicity, stepping back so she could look Hannibal in the eye. “The doctor. She really likes you. I think she was disappointed when you sorta brushed her off last night.”

“I didn’t brush her off,” said Hannibal, beginning to walk again as he shoved his hands into his jacket pockets.

“See, this is what you did last night,” said Felicity, jogging to catch up with his long strides. “You stuck your hands in your pockets and walked away. She’s crazy about you. I heard her tell Tawnia you worked in Bad Rock once. I suppose she fell in love with you then.”

“Fell in love with me?” snapped Hannibal, his eyebrows furrowing as he stopped again and faced his daughter. “Now what on earth would make you say something like that. You barely know either of us.”

“She has a scrapbook of you,” shrugged Felicity. “All newspaper cut-outs of stuff the team has done. And when she was fixing me up, she couldn’t stop talking about you and asking questions. And her eyes were all shiny, and she kept smiling. She’s definitely in love with you.”

“You have no way of knowing that’s true,” said Hannibal, starting to walk again. “And there is nothing wrong with putting my hands in my pockets.”

Felicity fell into a jog again, wishing he would slow down, so her shorter legs could keep up, “Okay, but you were a little weird with her. I mean, even I noticed that you barely looked at her. And she seemed like she wanted to lean right in and kiss you.”

Hannibal stopped so quickly that Felicity ran into him. “Kiss me?” he asked, pulling Felicity around in front of him. “Don’t say things when you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re all defensive now,” said Felicity. “Probably because you like her back.”

Hannibal looked like he was about to fire back with an argument, but he stopped and stepped away, crossing his arms, “Okay. Last year we had a little fling. It was nothing, though. Barely worth mentioning. Maybe she thought it was something more.”

“You do like her, though,” said Felicity. “You were nervous around her because you like her back, but you were conflicted because you were thinking about my mother.”

Hannibal’s icy blue eyes locked with Felicity’s dark ones, and for a moment, she thought he might turn around and walk right back to the laundry. But it only lasted a second until he softened and dropped his gaze to the ground, “You might be right. Say, how’d you get so smart, anyway?” Mustering his unbreakable façade, Hannibal threw an arm over his daughter’s shoulder and continued toward the diner.

It was a terrible attempt to close the discussion, but Felicity said nothing more. She was scared to push him too far, and they’d only been together for a couple of days. There was no use in putting a wall between them this soon into the relationship. Felicity leaned into Hannibal, matching his stride and allowing herself to enjoy the warmth of his arm. She was going to dinner with her father. Her real father. She was safe from the monster that had wanted her purely for investment purposes. Hannibal had saved her. For now, life was good. Felicity would even go so far as to say it was great. For the first time in her life, she felt like a constant missing section had filled to overflowing. She’d found her father, and she couldn’t remember when she’d been so happy.

Chapter Text

Having a kid was no walk in the park. Four times in one week, Hannibal found himself practically handed the opportunity to take a knock-out girl with incredible legs home and politely declined. Sure, he was good-looking and charming, but four times in one week? The women were suddenly hanging around him like they usually did with Face. And Hannibal couldn’t deny that the temptation was strong. Yet every time he would think of Felicity, excitedly waiting for him to come home so she could tell him all about skateboarding with the boys from across the street or playing basketball at the youth center at which B.A. volunteered. And as much as he hated to admit it, none of the women hanging around him held a candle to Maggie.

He had just declined a bombshell brunette wearing nothing more than a bikini and roller skates who had begged him to join her at the bar. Hannibal had politely refused and hurried to his car, suddenly anxious to see Felicity. The final scene for his current film wrapped today, and Hannibal had gotten it into his head that he should take Felicity to meet Kid and Dana Harmon, good friends of his from many years ago. He also planned on moving Felicity and himself to a little house he sometimes used in the run-down suburban area of the city. It had more room and would keep them a little farther out of the public eye. Hannibal had not even entertained the idea of taking Felicity to stay in his trailer on set. He absolutely could not risk anyone finding out he had a daughter. If the government ever found her…Hannibal hated to think of what the outcome could be.

The dead-end alley where he usually left the car was as empty as usual, and he threw the keys into the back seat where he always kept them. No one stealing a car would ever look for keys in the back seat. No one stealing a car would ever steal the lemon Hannibal drove. He unlocked the back door of the laundry and shut it hard behind him, so Felicity would know he was there. In the regular hustle and bustle of avoiding the military and a prison sentence, uneasy feelings were quite normal for Hannibal, who never let them get to him. He would just react and adapt. But today, as he thudded up the backstairs of the little apartment, he couldn’t shake the weird twinge in his gut.

“Hey, kiddo!” he yelled, leaving the hall door open and dropping the mail on the counter. Why he still got mail, he had no idea. It came addressed to the previous apartment owners, and for the past four years, he had continuously received their magazines and junk mail. Hannibal grabbed a slightly soft apple and stepped into the living room. “Felicity?” The apartment seemed empty. Odd. She had been home before him every night for the past week. She was probably at the youth center or running around with some other kids. The reassurances Hannibal convinced himself with did nothing to settle the feeling in his stomach. He hated it. His gut feelings were rarely wrong. “I’ll go down to the youth center,” he said out loud. “She’s probably there.” Taking a bite of the apple, Hannibal hurried back down and out to his car.

***

“Hi, B.A.,” greeted Hannibal, finding the gold-layered man perched on a stool, fixing a roller skate for a little girl with pigtails and a skinned knee.

“How’s it going, Hannibal,” nodded B.A. “Just give me a second to finish this.”

“I don’t need you for anything,” said Hannibal, slapping B.A. on the shoulder. “Just wondered if the kid was around. She wasn’t back at the apartment.”

“Felicity?” B.A. handed the skate back to the child and smiled. “Alright, you be careful now, Lucy. Don’t go so fast, sweetheart.”

“Thanks, B.A.,” grinned the little girl, hurrying off to join her friends.

B.A. stood up and shook his head, “No, man. I haven’t seen her today. I don’t think she likes me very much.”

“Huh, oh well,” shrugged Hannibal. “I’m sure she’s around. And she probably doesn’t like you very much because you spanked her.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” said B.A. “She sure needed a firm hand, but knowing how Cecchi treated her makes me sick. I’ve tried to apologize three times this week, and she avoids me like the plague.”

“You didn’t know how Cecchi treated her before,” said Hannibal. “She kicked us hard enough to deserve something. We weren’t aware of the circumstances then, and I think we were both in too much pain to think straight.” Hannibal blushed, and he looked down, “To tell you the truth, B.A., I didn’t even think twice about threatening her. I mean, sure, I would never have done it, but when I grew up, that sort of thing was commonplace.”

“I know, Hannibal,” sighed B.A. “Same for me. It doesn’t excuse what I did, though. Most kids I help are hurting mentally, and I can tell. She just seemed wild and unpredictable, and I didn’t stop to look through the tough act she was putting on. She kicked me hard, and I retaliated. Now I’ve been paying for it ever since. I’ve never met a kid I didn’t like and who didn’t like me back. I really messed up good with Felicity. Made a poor example of myself.”

“Well, if I can track her down, I’ll make sure she listens to what you have to say,” assured Hannibal. “Don’t worry too much, B.A. I felt like the biggest jerk in the world, but she could tell I meant it and forgave me when I apologized. She might be a wild one, but she’s got a big heart. She craves physical touch and a sense of trust in a relationship. You know what I mean. You’ve seen kids come here who are treated like trash by their guardians. No one in their lives to hug them or take care of them.” The depth of his analysis didn’t even faze Hannibal, utterly unaware of how in-tune the description of his daughter had been. Fatherhood was coming more naturally to him than he had ever imagined possible.

“Yeah, I know what you mean, Hannibal,” nodded B.A. “It just makes me feel worse for what I did.”

“Don’t,” said Hannibal. “Won’t do you any good. You and I both know you’ll never do it again, and you can relinquish that guilt by talking to Felicity and showing her just how big of a sentimental softy you are. Once I find her, that is.” He seemed to remember what he had come there for in the first place, and Hannibal’s expression immediately took on a worried hint.

“Want me to help you look?” offered B.A.

“Yes,” said Hannibal, answering far more quickly than he had intended. The feeling in his stomach was growing stronger. “Yeah, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure,” agreed B.A. “I’ll just let the kids know I’m leaving for the day.”

Hannibal nodded and paced back and forth as he waited for B.A. It wasn’t as if Felicity was doing anything wrong. He hadn’t told her she needed to be back by any specific time. There had to be a perfectly logical explanation. She could be any number of places doing whatever it was kids did these days. Maybe she was at the arcade.

“Where do you want to start?” asked B.A., leading the way to his van. Hannibal decided to ride along and come back for his car later.

“Uh, maybe the skate park? Though I don’t think she’s there. I scanned it when I drove by and didn’t see anyone. How about that arcade a couple of streets over,” suggested the colonel, trying to appear calm.

“Sure thing, Hannibal,” said B.A., starting the van and pulling away from the curb. He could sense Hannibal’s unease. B.A. had always been able to tell when Hannibal was nervous, though the times were few and far between. When they did come, small talk tended to calm him down. “You work today?”

“Yeah, finished filming that picture,” nodded Hannibal, knowing B.A. was trying to distract him and appreciating the sergeant's attempt. “I was thinking about heading down to the Fairway racetrack for a couple of days. Meet up with Kid and Dana. He races there this weekend. Haven’t seen them in a few years, and they’d like to meet Felicity, I’m sure.”

B.A. nodded, “Yeah, man. It would do the two of you good to get away. Spend some time with family.”

“The Harmon’s aren’t exactly family,” said Hannibal.

“That’s like saying we aren’t family,” shot back B.A.

Hannibal glanced at his sergeant, “Okay, B.A. You’re right.”

“If I were you, I’d swing around and spend a couple of days with that lady doctor from Bad Rock, too,” said B.A., clicking on his blinker and turning down a side street. “You brushed her off a little heavy the other day.”

“Oh, B.A., not you, too,” moaned Hannibal. “Felicity said the same thing. I did not brush Maggie off.” He stuck a cigar in his mouth and fished through his pockets for a lighter.

“Look, Hannibal, I don’t mean to pry in your business, but that lady looked awful disappointed when you walked away,” said B.A. He stopped and slammed on the brakes. “Look,” he said, pointing down the street. A man was standing on the sidewalk, hands above his head, facing away from them. A few feet away stood a masked figure, pointing a gun and gesturing wildly with his free hand.

“Seems like we could be of assistance,” said Hannibal, lighting his cigar. “Pull up fast, and if he runs, keep me close to him so I can jump.” B.A. pulled ahead and stopped beside the masked figure as Hannibal threw open the door and stepped out, his pistol gripped tightly in his hands. “Drop it, pal!” shouted Hannibal around his cigar. The person hesitated before dejectedly dropping the gun and lifting his hands.

“Oh, gee, thanks, Hannibal!” said the victim. “I thought I was going to lose my watch.”

Hannibal turned to look. “Face?” he said. “What are you doing down here? And dressed like that? What do you mean ‘your watch’?”

Stripped of his typical formal attire, Face was wearing a torn t-shirt, dress shoes, and boxers. He groaned and shook his head, approaching the masked figure. “This guy came out of nowhere and demanded my watch. My watch! After all that I’ve been through today, this punk dared to want my only remaining dignified apparel. Who are you anyway, pal?” Face reached out, yanking the hood off, and raised an eyebrow. “Hey, you’re just a kid!”

The bright blue eyes of a teenage boy stared back before the curly dark head dropped, and the boy sighed, “Yeah. And I wasn’t going to shoot you. The gun isn’t even loaded.”

“He’s right,” said Hannibal, having retrieved the weapon from the sidewalk. “Empty. What are you trying to prove, kid? Don’t get yourself messed up in this lifestyle. There are jobs to find if you need cash.”

“I know,” mumbled the boy. “It’s not my choice.”

“Not your choice?” shot back Face. “I feel like it was all up to you to jump out of that alley and threaten to shoot me if I didn’t give you my watch.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” said the boy. “Look, are you going to call the cops or what?”

“We aren’t exactly ones to involve the law,” said Hannibal, tucking both guns into his waistband. “You seem like a smart guy. How about I keep this gun, and you figure out a way to make better decisions. Everyone has a choice, pal. No matter what.”

“Easy for you to say,” said the boy, scuffing at the sidewalk with his sneaker. “But if you aren’t going to call the cops, can I go now? You have my gun and the watch.”

“You’re just going to let him go, Hannibal?” asked Face, running his hand through his sweat-soaked hair.

“Hey,” said B.A., coming around the van he had parallel parked, “don’t I know you? You’re Ryan Walker. I’ve seen you at the youth center. You were there earlier this week. You and Felicity were playing basketball together.”

“Felicity?” said Hannibal, snapping to attention. He pulled his cigar from his mouth and stepped closer to the boy. “Do you know Felicity, son?”

Ryan took a step back, a look of wild terror filling his eyes, “What? No! I don’t know any Felicity. Look, I don’t know who you guys are or what you want. I’ve never been to no youth center!”
“Yeah, you have!” said B.A., stepping closer to Ryan. “You’re Ryan Walker. What are you hiding, kid? We can help you if you’re having problems.”

“No!” cried the boy, spinning on his heel and tearing off down the sidewalk.

B.A. and Hannibal reacted in a split second, hot on Ryan’s trail. Face moaned and threw his hands up, “Oh, here we go. I’m having the worst day of my life, and now we are chasing down a kid who tried to shoot me. Why not?” He began to run after the others, though it was more of a half-hearted jog than an attempt to catch the escapee.

Face rounded the end of the block and stopped short when he saw B.A. and Hannibal standing in the middle of the sidewalk, turning in circles and looking around wildly.

“Where’d he go?” said B.A., his eyes roaming up the fire escape on the building across the street. “Kid just disappeared.”

“I dunno, B.A.,” said Hannibal, “but he knew something about Felicity. Did you see how scared he got when we said her name? We gotta find that punk and see if he knows where my kid is.”

“Now, Hannibal, you don’t know that,” said Face. “Felicity’s probably back home waiting for you to show up. Just because the kid looked scared doesn’t mean Felicity’s missing or something.”

“Yes it does, Face!” said B.A. “Felicity is missing. We’ve been looking for her. Say, what happened to you anyway, man?”

“She’s missing?” asked Face. “And it’s a long story involving a blonde who shall remain nameless and my car getting stolen. How do you know Felicity’s missing?”

“She isn’t in my apartment or any of her usual spots,” said Hannibal, twirling his cigar nervously through his fingers. “That guy knows something for sure. Let’s split up. He can’t have just disappeared. Face, you go up that fire escape. B.A., head down that street across the road. I’ll keep going down this way to the end of the block. Meet back here in twenty minutes.” Without waiting for agreement, Hannibal spun and jogged down the sidewalk, looking into the various shop windows and groups of bystanders.

B.A. sighed and nodded to Face, “You sure you’re okay, man? You look pretty run down.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” assured Face. “Let’s worry about the girl for now. I don’t like Hannibal in this mood. He’s not even on the jazz. This is his reckless mood, and reckless Hannibal is far worse than crazy Hannibal.” B.A. crossed the street, and Face sighed, staring up at the fire escape. “This day started so well,” he sighed.

As he climbed, Face became awkwardly aware of how exposed he was. His boxers were…well, underwear. And his t-shirt was torn open directly over the left side of his chest. If anyone saw him climbing the fire escape above a corner store, whatever assumption they made would be wild indeed. Upon reaching the roof, Face stretched, letting his sore muscles burn with much-needed extension. It was his fault for hitting up a bar at noon. Who hooked up with a waitress in the middle of the day? And the minute they set foot in that sleazy apartment, he should have seen the rest of the scenario like an open book. It didn’t take long for the girl to strip him down to his underclothes, handcuff him to the radiator in her room, and steal his car keys. The last thing she had said was something about her boyfriend loving the new threads, and then she was off, tossing the handcuff’s key a few inches from Face’s feet. He had just gotten that suit pressed, too.

And then some kid had tried to steal his watch! What sort of day was this? If Felicity was just messing around somewhere, Face fully intended on chewing her out for a grand finale to a fantastic afternoon.

“Look, Brian, or Ryan, or whatever your name is,” said Face, scuffing along the dirty rooftop, “if you’re up here, just come out and tell me where Felicity is. I really can’t take anything else today.”

“If you’ll kindly follow me,” came a voice from behind Face, “I can bring you to the girl.”

Face spun around and found himself nose-to-barrel with a pistol.

“Oh, uh, heh!” he stuttered, slowly raising his hands. “Uh, look, pal,” he said, surveying the finely dressed, middle-aged man holding him at gunpoint, “I don’t want any trouble. If you have Felicity, I’ll take her and be on my way, and no one will be the wiser, eh?”

“Come on, pal,” said the man, jerking his head to the side as a sign for Face to start walking.

“Oh, sure, sure,” said Face, hurrying to do as he instructed. The last thing he needed today was to be shot dead on a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles wearing nothing but a t-shirt, boxers, and a Rolex. “Uh, where are we going?” he asked, figuring it was probably through the door just ahead.

“Down there,” said the man, pulling the door open and nestling his gun snuggly into Face’s ribs. “Walk.”

“Okay, no need to get rough,” said Face, measuring his options at overtaking the guy. It didn’t seem probable. They were about the same size, and with the suit, Face couldn’t tell how muscular his foe was. Not worth attempting until he had a better grasp on the situation.

They went down two flights of stairs, putting them to where Face figured was the third story of the building. The man shoved him into a large room with around twenty cots and pushed Face down onto one.

“Sit there,” he ordered. “Hey, Kyle, come in here!”

There was a pounding of feet outside, and then a tall, broad-shoulder boy with flaming red hair burst into the room, his body practically vibrating with energy. “Yeah, Jack,” said Kyle, bouncing back and forth.

“Go get Ryan and the new kid for me,” said Jack, sinking onto the bed opposite of Face. “They have a visitor.”

Kyle flashed a grin that sent a shiver through Face’s body and nodded, “Yeah, sure, Jack. Right away.” He left just as noisily as he arrived, and Jack smiled, watching the door slam shut.

“Kyle’s my best kid,” he said, pacing back and forth. “I can count on him for anything. How’d you find Ryan, anyway?”

“Uh, Ryan?” asked Face, wondering upon what kind of operation he had stumbled. “He held me up and demanded my watch.” Somehow, Face was pretty sure Jack did not have a problem with what Ryan had done.

“I see,” said Jack nodding. “Guess he didn’t get away with it, huh? It is a pretty nice watch.”

“Oh, uh, thanks,” nodded Face, starting to worry that this guy might try to take it.

The door opened again, and Ryan stumbled in, looking pale and nervous. Felicity tripped in behind him, shoved through the doorway by Kyle.

“Felicity!” cried Face, jumping to his feet.

“Face!” she responded, a look of puzzlement on her face. Her mind reeled, wondering why Face was here, and why he was in such a state of undress.

“So you know this guy,” said Jack, addressing Felicity. He nodded to Face and then jerked his head at Felicity, “She your kid, fella?”

“No,” said Face. “But I’ll be taking her with me, though. If you show us to the door, we’ll get out of your hair.”

Jack threw his head back and laughed, giving Ryan a hard shove onto the cot, “Ah, you’re a funny one, pal. Kyle, take this idiot and lock him up on the fourth floor. He’ll be excellent collateral for getting the girl to work. She doesn’t seem to want anything to happen to him.”

“Well, in all honesty, I think he’s an absolute schmuck,” shrugged Felicity, taking a step back. She was shifting around, obviously nervous, and refusing to make eye contact with Face.

“So you don’t mind if I shoot him?” offered Jack, lifting the gun to aim at Face’s head.

Felicity glanced at Face anxiously and then at the floor, rocking her weight from side-to-side, “Uh, no. I mean, don’t do that. If you shoot him, my dad will kill me.”

“Oh, thanks, it’s so nice to know you care deeply about me,” said Face, plastering on a sarcastic smile. “Look, Jack, how about you let me and the kid go, and whatever it is you have running here can keep going, and we’ll never say a thing. I can personally guarantee not to call the cops. I have a little outing with the law myself, and if you let us go, we’ll let you do whatever it is you do here. How’s that sound?”

“Lock him up, Kyle,” repeated Jack.

“Oh, come on,” groaned Face as the big kid took him roughly by the shoulder and pulled him from the room.

“And take his watch!” shouted Jack after them.

“Oh, great!” exclaimed Face. “This day could not possibly get any worse.”

 

Felicity watched as Face walked away, and a feeling of regret surged in her stomach. She knew the reason she mistreated him, but she was embarrassed to admit it. She had a bit of a crush on Face. It was awkward, of course. The man was, after all, in his forties. He was old enough to be her father. Of course, it was nothing serious; it was the same feeling she got watching Magnum, PI whenever Magnum would flash that dorky grin. But it made Felicity act funny around Face, and she hated it. Their day of shopping had brought her to the realization that Face was as gentle as he was awkward with her, though he seemed unsure how to treat a teenager. Her previous enjoyment of teasing him had disappeared, and now it was more a defense mechanism to fight the threatening blush he brought to her cheeks.

“Alright, listen up, punk,” he said. “You are going to go out and bring in some revenue after we’ve trained you a couple of days. I’m sending Kyle to watch you on your first job and make sure you don’t pull anything funny. He’ll have a gun. You better do good work, or we’ll shoot that baby-face guy. Got it?”

“I’m not stealing anything for you,” said Felicity, glaring determinedly at her captor. “This whole operation is going down. When my dad finds you guys, he’ll tear this place apart from the top down. And you won’t see it coming, either.” She stopped, realizing she shouldn’t have even let on that her father could take on such a feat.

“Oh, yeah?” asked Jack, giving Felicity a hard shake. “And just who is your daddy, anyway?”

Felicity blushed, looking down, “Um, nobody important. I was just…”

“Trying to act like a big shot?” scoffed Jack. “Whatever. Here’s Kyle back. Kyle, take this kid down to the office and give her a run over of what we expect. This moron and I are going to have a long talk,” chuckled Jack, pulling Ryan up off the cot.

Kyle jerked his head towards the hallway, telling Felicity to follow him. She did, glancing nervously at the boy called Ryan. He was the one who had held the gun to her ribs on the sidewalk, whispering that Felicity had to follow him or get shot. She vaguely knew him, recognizing him from the youth center. He had seemed like a friendly kid.

“You coming, dope?” snapped Kyle, slapping the back of Felicity’s head.

She hissed under her breath, rubbing the spot he had hit, and followed him down the hall. “Where are we going?” she asked, scanning her surroundings to figure out where the stairs to the fourth floor were. If she could find Face, maybe they could escape.

“To train,” replied Kyle, pushing open a beat-up door and nodding Felicity inside the room. The second she stepped through the doorway, a wall of sweat and dust hit her, almost make Felicity sneeze. Heavy curtains blocked the windows, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light. She finally realized they were in a medium-sized room set up like a gym, though the equipment was all ancient and relatively rusty.

“Welcome to the gym,” said Kyle. “Most of the guys work out here. We don’t have many girls. Most girls don’t have what it takes.”

“To work out?” asked Felicity, still confused.

“No, idiot,” said Kyle, rolling his eyes. “To lift. We steal things. Girls get scared. If you don’t steal, Jack threatens to kill your parents or your grandparents or your freaking dog. Whatever it is that makes you do what he wants. Girls just sit there and cry. It isn’t worth it. Must be Ryan thought you could pull it off.”

“Ryan?” asked Felicity, gingerly running her finger over the bar of a bench press, rust chipping off at her touch. “Why did he bring me here?”

“We have to recruit someone every few months,” said Kyle, crossing the room and flicking on a light switch. Two bulbs hanging from the ceiling came to life, giving the room a yellowish glow. “Ryan picked you because he was too scared to try for anyone else. But if you pick a dud, Jack gets real mad. So Ryan must have thought you had something special. Do you know karate or something? Ever been in trouble with the police?”

“What? No,” said Felicity, shaking her head. “I’ve just played basketball a few times with Ryan. I don’t know what he thinks I can do.”

“Well, let’s find out,” said Kyle, shifting energetically from side to side. “You ever lifted anything before?”

Felicity blushed. Did stealing guns from a psychotic foster father and using Tawnia’s car count? She shrugged in response, not sure what Kyle wanted to hear from her.

“I’ll give you the basic run-down,” said Kyle, dropping his muscular frame to sit on a weight bench. The boy’s drop in stature was the exact moment for which Felicity had been waiting. She grabbed the cast iron weight disc beside her and awkwardly tossed it into Kyle’s lap. He caught it, his shoulders dropping from the unexpected movement, and before he could react, Felicity had kicked him solidly in the jaw. Kyle released the disc and fell backward over the bench. Spinning around, Felicity followed up with a kick to the back of his head, removing whatever coherence Kyle had left. The big teen fell forward, hitting the ground with a hard thud and a deep moan. Felicity turned and ran.

 

Once in the hall, Felicity looked around and fought for a sense of bearings. Even her location in the city escaped her. After Ryan led her off the busy sidewalk and down an alley, Felicity had climbed into a waiting car where she was blindfolded. She knew she was a significant distance from home, but where exactly, she did not know. They hadn’t removed her blindfold until Felicity was in a sort of office, so her concept of stairways and exits was empty. She decided to try the left and hurried down the hall, being wary of making too much noise and listening for oncoming footsteps. Luck was with her. A staircase appeared to her right, and she scrambled up it, furiously working through her mind how she and Face would escape once she found him.

Felicity realized she had no idea which floor was the fourth floor, where Jack had ordered Face taken to be locked up. She hurried to a window at the end of the dirty hallway and looked out the grime-covered glass. A quick evaluation gave her the peace of mind that this was the right floor, and now she needed to figure out where they had locked up Face. Turning to survey the long row of doors and off-shooting hallways, Felicity sighed. Finding him would be a job. She groaned and slumped her shoulders, realizing her back was on fire. Kicking Kyle had reopened some of the lashes across her back, and she was feeling quite sore.

A loud kick against the door beside her surprised Felicity so much she fell backward against the wall and gasped.

“Uh, Face?” she whispered, figuring no one else would have a reason for kicking a door from the inside.

A muffled moan was the only response she got.

“Hang on!” she said, trying the doorknob. It turned, but the door wouldn’t budge. Felicity glanced up and noticed a deadbolt barring her entry. She grinned and slid it free, flinging the door open. She stopped short when she found herself peering into a dark closet with nothing more than a chair on which sat a gagged, middle-aged woman, bound and crying. “Uh, you aren’t Face,” whispered Felicity. She pulled the woman’s gag off and immediately regretted it when loud, uncontrollable sobs pierced the air. “Hey, hey, lady!” snapped Felicity, her heart pounding, “quiet down! They’ll hear us! Lady, please.” She swiftly attempted to untie the ropes securing the woman to the chair, but the knots were intricate and tight. A shadow fell across the doorway, and Felicity looked up to see a grinning Jack wielding a gun.

“You’re good, kid,” he chuckled. “Can’t believe you got away from Kyle. I see why Ryan snagged you. Come on. I want to start you as soon as possible. First thing tomorrow, I’ll send you out. We’ll do well with you, I’m sure.”

Chapter Text

It took Hannibal precisely one hour to figure out what had happened. The details he had no way of knowing, but the basic structure was evident. Face had gone up the fire escape. Either Ryan or someone connected with him had found Face and taken him somewhere. The man in the corner store spoke broken English and seemed to have no idea what happened on the floors above his business. The doors from the street access all proved locked, and upon investigating the roof, Hannibal found the entrance there was barred as well.

“Something big is going down, B.A.,” said Hannibal, instinctively reaching for a cigar. His hand met an empty pocket, and he remembered he had used his last one. He hated thinking without smoking. “Okay, we can either break into this building that we don’t even know for sure they are in, or we can…what else can we do?”

B.A., checking the perimeter of the roof, tucking his thumbs into his belt, and turned to face Hannibal. “I say we check the building. We have nothing else to go on,” he said, ready to smash the jaw of anyone who had brought harm to Felicity or Face. His burden was also for Ryan, who obviously could use help, and B.A. yearned to provide whatever support the teenager needed.

“Works for me,” said Hannibal, pulling his gloves from his pocket. “Would you do the honors?”

B.A. braced his hands on the doorframe and kicked in the wooden door. It burst open, jutting downwards slightly as it hung from one hinge.

“Thanks, B.A.,” acknowledged Hannibal, hurrying down the dim stairway. The two men stopped outside a second door but found it unlocked. They entered a long hallway that smelled of must and mildew, and Hannibal motioned for B.A. to go to the right while he took a left. Every door on the floor opened into the same variety of room; a chair here, a pile of books there, dust catching the sunlight, a broken cup. The place was abandoned and untouched. The two men met up at the end of the hall and exchanged their finds. “Nothing here,” said Hannibal.

“Place is emptier than a bar at sunrise,” said B.A., shaking his head.

“Let’s go down,” said Hannibal. “I saw the stairs down this way. Could be a dead-end search, but I won’t be content until we’re sure.”

“Agreed,” said B.A.

They descended to the second floor and stopped short when they heard voices down the hall. Hannibal peered around the corner and saw a tall, muscular boy stumbling toward him. He was muttering, and Hannibal caught a few of the words. “Stupid girl…show her…when I’m through with her…” The boy stopped a few feet from where Hannibal and B.A. were hidden and pushed a door open, closing himself into the room.

“Did you hear him?” asked Hannibal.

“Yeah, something about a girl,” whispered B.A.

“He was hurt,” said Hannibal. “I bet it was Felicity. Let’s go.”

The colonel and sergeant positioned themselves outside of the boy’s door, Hannibal holding his pistol and B.A. handling the empty gun they had taken from Ryan, just if they needed it for persuasion. B.A. kicked the door in, and they both entered quickly, finding the teen slumped down in a chair.

“Hey!” cried the kid, jerking to his feet. “Who are you?”

“Interested bystanders,” replied Hannibal. “You seem hurt. Get beat up?”

“Look, you can’t be here!” snapped the kid, growing angry almost instantly. He glanced down and seemed ready to bend over when Hannibal clicked his tongue.

“Uh-uh, pal,” ordered the colonel. “I see that gun on the table. Don’t touch it. B.A., close the door.”

B.A. followed orders, though it didn’t close precisely the way it should after being kicked in, and then he went to the boy’s side, grabbing him by the shirt, “You better tell us what’s going on here, kid.”

“Hey, lay off!” bellowed the boy, staggering under B.A.’s grip. He stood significantly taller than B.A. and was very nearly equal in muscle mass. But he seemed absent-minded, distracted by the blood dripping from his lip, and unwilling to fight.

“First, tell us what we want to know,” said Hannibal. “What’s your name?”

“Kyle,” said the boy. “Look, I don’t know who you are, but I have rights. You can’t just burst into my room like this and demand information!”

“Sure we can,” said Hannibal. “Who beat you up, Kyle?”

“Just got in a fight with some other guys,” replied Kyle. “No big deal.”

“Coming down the hall just now, you said it was a girl,” growled B.A., shaking the boy.

“Ow, okay, okay!” said Kyle, lifting his hands in defeat. “It’s just embarrassing, is all! My mom hit me a few times for drinking. Geez, leave a guy alone.”

“I don’t buy that,” said Hannibal. “It didn’t happen to be a teenage girl, did it?”

Kyle glanced at him nervously and laughed, “What? Come on, man, look at me. Do I look like a girl could hurt me?”

“Answer the man!” ordered B.A., loudly.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” cried Kyle, his face soaked in sweat. B.A. and Hannibal could both tell the boy was nervous and lying.

“Come on, B.A.,” said Hannibal. “Grab his gun and bring him with us. They have to be in this building.”

“They-they aren’t!” stuttered Kyle. “Th-they aren’t here! Jack moved them just a few minutes ago! Took them across town!”

“Who’s Jack?” asked Hannibal, getting more and more hyper the more he learned.

“My boss!” said Kyle. “Look, don’t shoot me, please! I’ll tell you everything! He moved them to a second base near State Avenue over by the cannon park. No one is in this building!”

“I think he’s lying, Hannibal,” said B.A. scooping up Kyle’s gun.

“So do I,” nodded Hannibal, glaring at the boy. “Let’s go. Bring the kid.”

B.A. motioned for Kyle to walk in front of him, and the three stepped out into the hall. Following Kyle’s instructions, they found the stairs and went down another flight, landing on what Hannibal figured was the second floor. Voices came from a closed door down the hall, and Hannibal pointed towards it, motioning for B.A. to follow him.

“You better keep quiet,” B.A. hissed to Kyle. He hoped the kid wasn’t brave enough to try something.

Hannibal stopped outside the door and placed his hand gently on the doorknob, listening for a second. He froze when he heard the sarcastic tones of his daughter, who seemed to be giving someone a piece of her mind. Without a second thought, Hannibal flung the door open and stepped in, gun raised.

A man stood in the middle of the room, holding Felicity tightly by the shoulders, and they both turned to see who had entered so boisterously.

“Hannibal!” cried Felicity, trying to wrench herself free. The man pulled her tight against his chest, though, instantly yanking his gun from his holster.

“Well, hello,” nodded the man. “I’m Jack Walker. And who might you be, sir?”

“Hannibal Smith and you are holding my kid,” said Hannibal, stepping closer. “If you’d be so kind as to let her go, I might spare you a shot to the head.”

“Well, see, oddly enough,” smiled Jack, “you are holding my kid. Kyle, I had more trust in you. How’d you let these gorillas get ahold of you?”

“I tried Jack,” insisted Kyle. “They had guns!”

“Here’s the deal,” said Jack, tightening his grip on Felicity, who was struggling with annoyance, and pain, under his arm, “let Kyle come over here, and I’ll give you back your girl.”

“No deal,” said Hannibal. “We want our friend, too. Where’s Face?”

“Oh, him,” sneered Jack, rolling his lip, “now that is more than I’m willing to offer. See, I have a lot at stake here. If I let you all go, you’ll just go to the police and turn us in. I need collateral so I can regroup and move my operation for safekeeping. You can have either the girl or the pansy.”

“Face is not!” snapped Felicity, bristling at the insult. She twisted hard in Jack’s grip, kicking at his shins.

“Hold on there, baby girl!” yelled Jack, jabbing the gun into her side. “Keep a hold on yourself.” Felicity stilled, her heart thudding as the barrel dug under her ribs. “Mr. Smith,” he nodded, “the question remains. Who would you like to take? One. Not both.”

“My daughter,” seethed Hannibal. “But send her over first.”

“As you wish,” grinned Jack, releasing his grip on Felicity. She stumbled forward and turned to give him a searing glare.

“I’d hit you, but I’m against the abuse of livestock,” Felicity said, drawing herself up to full height, which was a good five inches shorter than Jack.

“Come here,” said Hannibal, momentarily impressed by her insult but just as quickly intent on getting her out of there.

Felicity’s demeanor seemed to change, and she turned, running to her father’s side. The second her arms were around his chest Hannibal felt a wave of relief, and he nodded to B.A. to release Kyle.

“Alright, pal,” said Hannibal. “We’ll be on our way. Face knows how to contact us. I expect to hear from him in the next hour, or I’m going to tear this little operation into a million pieces and save you for the grand finale.”

“You’ll hear from us,” smirked Jack. “I’ll walk you to the door to make sure no side trips occur on your way out.”

Hannibal had hoped that wouldn’t be the case, but he couldn’t figure out a way around it that didn’t include a shoot-out. And he refused to do that with Felicity anywhere in range. “Naturally,” Hannibal grimaced. He had no intention of leaving without Face, but he hadn’t quite worked out how to pull that off. Not that this was in any way a problem to him, though. He generally worked things out moments or seconds before the situation happened, and it always went exactly as he planned it.

“If you’ll just go to your left,” invited Jack, pointing towards the door.

B.A. backed out, keeping his gun on Jack, who in turn kept his weapon on Hannibal, and in this way, they made their way down two more stairwells to a street door. B.A. and Jack slid past each other, and the two groups stood a few steps apart.

“Have a wonderful day,” nodded Jack. “You’ll be hearing from us as soon as we make arrangements with your friend.”

“It better be quick, or I’ll be back with a lot less control than I have right now,” threatened Hannibal, sliding the lock over and opening the door. “And if I find out you’ve hurt one hair on his head, I’ll reciprocate the honor tenfold.”

“I’m shaking,” smirked Jack.

B.A. stepped out behind Hannibal and shut the door, finally lowering the gun. “What do we do now, Hannibal?” he asked.

“Are you alright,” asked Hannibal, only half-aware of B.A.’s questions as he turned his attention to Felicity.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” nodded Felicity, making a face as Hannibal ran his hands over her hair and arms, seemingly patting her down to make sure there were no injuries. “I promise, they didn’t hurt me. I tried to find Face, but no luck. They have other people locked up in there, too. Best I can figure he gets kids to steal for him and threatens to kill their parents if they don’t. It seems weird. I imagine there is a bigger operation going on than just that. Doesn’t seem worth all the run around to make it work. He’d have to pawn everything off, and the profit doesn’t seem like it would make up for the funny Oliver Twist deal he’s got going here.”

“Any clues inside what the main workings are?” asked Hannibal, proud of his child’s evaluation and eager to take down this Jack Walker for something big.

“I’d guess drugs,” shrugged Felicity. “I lived with Cecchi long enough to know a drug operation when I see one. Seems like some of the kids are dealing, and some are stealing. I don’t know why he needs the cover, though. I’d guess he’s working for someone bigger, and the thievery performance is in case the police come in. Whoever’s over this Jack Walker guy is covering his tracks as best he can.”

“B.A.,” said Hannibal, “feel like running a drug bust?”

“I feel like cracking the skulls of anyone threatening these innocent kids,” growled B.A., slamming his fist into his palm.

“Let’s get Murdock,” said Hannibal, grinning for the first time since losing Felicity. “This should be fun.”

“Can I help?” exclaimed Felicity, rising onto her toes in excitement.

“Absolutely not,” said Hannibal, tucking her against his side as they walked back to the van. “I’m taking you down to a little house I have across the city and leaving you there.” He tensed when Felicity whimpered and pulled back. “What? I thought he didn’t hurt you?” he said, instantly alert.

“He didn’t,” assured Felicity, pulling her father back toward herself. “It’s just my back. Still a little sore from Cecchi. I’m fine. Don’t worry.”

Cecchi. The beating Hannibal had given him hadn’t even scratched the surface of the anger the colonel felt toward the drug-lord that had hurt his little girl. He gritted his teeth and gently lowered his arm back over Felicity’s shoulders as they continued to the van.

“You have a house?” asked B.A., referring to Hannibal’s previous statement.

“Safehouse,” nodded Hannibal. “Just acquired it last week. No one knows about it. She’ll be safe there, and we’ll call Tawnia to stay with her.”

Felicity, a bit put off by being talked about while she was right there, groaned, “Oh, please let me help you get Face back, Hannibal! It’s my fault they have him!”

“It ain’t your fault you got dragged into that mess,” said B.A. “We’ll get Face back, and we don’t need to worry about you getting hurt while we do it.”

“Say, how did you get dragged into that mess?” asked Hannibal as they neared the van.

“That Ryan kid held a gun to me and made me get into a car they had waiting in an alley,” she replied. “But I don’t think he’s one of the bad ones. He’s nervous, and I think he’s probably got a lot at stake if he doesn’t do what Walker tells him.”

“Yeah, I’ve known him for a few months,” said B.A. “He seems like a good kid.”

Hannibal slid open the side door of the van and let Felicity jump in, “There are probably lots of good kids there. We’ll figure out just what mess Walker has cooked up over there as soon as we get Murdock to help us.” Hannibal climbed into the passenger seat and glanced at the phone, hoping they would hear from Face before too long. “B.A., head south, and I’ll show you where the house is. I’ll call Tawnia right now, so the line is free for Face.”

Felicity sat sideways on the seat behind her father, keeping any pressure off her healing back and listening as Hannibal made plans with Tawnia. She was in no way happy about being dumped off at a house to wait out whatever excitement the team got to have, freeing Face and bringing down the drug business. But if the past week had taught her anything, it was that Hannibal got very nervous anytime Felicity was in some sort of danger. Just two days before, Felicity had shown Hannibal a skateboarding trick only to have him confiscate the board and tell her she was never to do something that outrageous again. It wasn’t until she pointed out the advanced tricks the other kids did, overshadowing the simple kickflip Felicity had done, that he agreed to continue letting her board.

Felicity smiled to herself, kicking the toe of her sneaker against the back of B.A.’s seat. As annoying as it could be to her sense of adventure, it was awfully comforting having someone worry about her.

“Quit kicking my seat,” snapped B.A., reacting on impulse as he would to Murdock.

“Quit putting your seat where I’m kicking,” shot back Felicity.

B.A. grimaced and sighed, “It’s fine, Felicity. I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

Felicity blushed. She knew B.A. had been trying to be friendly, and she had been avoiding him like the plague. “Yeah, it’s fine,” she said. “Thanks for rescuing me today.”

“I’d rescue you any day,” said B.A. “You’re a special girl, and if you’re Hannibal’s family, you’re my family.”

Someone claiming her as family in a positive light was not something Felicity was entirely familiar with, and it surprised her. She set her feet on the seat beside her and chuckled lightly, a laugh similar to Hannibal’s, “Thanks, I guess.” She wanted to say more but had no idea how to respond.

Hannibal smiled, sensing that his daughter was opening up to B.A.’s attempts at friendship, and lit the cigar he kept stashed under his seat in the van, “I love it when a day starts coming together.”