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John “Hannibal” Smith had been 18 when he met Mary-Ann, the prettiest girl in all of Texas. He’d been in love, it had been 1970, Vietnam. He’d been young, and stupid and ridiculously patriotic and he’d been watching the news for years, scowling at those idiots who were protesting the war. Couldn’t they see it was needed? So as soon as he’d turned 18 he’d enlisted and was deployed.

His love affair with Mary-Ann was the only thing that got him through the loss of his idealism and helped him deal with the realities of war. Watching her in the medical tents, looking after the wounded soldiers with a smile and a laugh, her whole manner so beautifully warm and comforting.

She was the first to call him Hannibal, as he began to prove his worth to his superiors, telling him all about a period of history he’d never had an interest in before, she’d lent him books on the subject, but he’d always pretend he’d never had time to read them (though he devoured them when he could) and made her tell him everything she knew so he could listen to her voice.

She was what got him through ‘Nam, and then, in November of 1972 he was sent home, and she came with him. They were going to get married, he’d promised her that, just as soon as they got settled back on American soil, because he loved her and she loved him, but he’d been injured, held in a camp for weeks, months, what felt like years.

He tried, for months he tried. To leave ‘Nam behind him, but he was 20, and he felt like he’d aged 100 years. When he hit her, just that one time in April ’73, when he’d flashed back to the camp and she’d startled him he’d known he couldn’t marry her, couldn’t tie her down to him while he was a wreck. So he’d left a note begging her to wait for him and sought help, checked himself into a VA hospital in LA and did his damnedest to get his head fixed.

He never wrote to her, and he promised, if he got out and she had moved on he would deal with it. It took years, far longer than he’d thought, before he felt stable enough for the outside world. 5 long years, and when he’d gone looking for Mary-Ann he’d found out she’d died.

He didn’t let himself get pulled down again; instead he fixated on the Army. He’d met Mary-Ann there, and it had made sense, more sense than civilian life in any case. So he’d reenlisted and everything had just gone on from there.

And then, in 2001 he’d gotten the mission in Mexico, and while making his plans and checking into the area and all the available resources he would have he’d stumbled across the file of one HM Murdock and his heart froze, because that picture, of a straight faced young Captain, had Mary-Ann’s eyes, and Hannibal could nearly see all of her warmth and humour crowding in there, like the boy was waiting for the camera to stop whirring before he started to smile, and laugh.

He devoured that file (all of it he could, frowning angrily at the blanked out pages marked as CIA CONFIDENTIAL) and he had to force himself to put it away, lock it in a drawer so he couldn’t reread the notes at the back again and again and curse himself.

His boy, and there was no doubt at all, even though the birth certificate names him anyway, that HM was his. He felt a smile cross his lips, she’d named him Hannibal, she’d always joked about it, calling their first son Hannibal. He realised he’d been too stupid to realise what she’d been trying to say before he’d left her.

His boy, his son, was locked away in a mental hospital in Mexico, dumped there after the last CIA blanked mission in his file. His grandparents, Mary-Ann’s parents, who Hannibal had never met, had died when the boy was still just a child, 17, and there had been no one to fight for him, to visit him or pull him out.

His son was in a VA hospital, at 25 years old, barely older than Hannibal had been himself, and he hadn’t checked himself in, he’d been committed, and Hannibal couldn’t help but wonder if that was himself that had put that seed of insanity into his son. He reworked his plan, because he’d be damned if he left his son to rot away there, not without something on the outside to try to get better for.

His boy was a pilot. He’d make damn sure he got to fly.