The team's L.A. escape had only taken place three days prior and in an effort to get as much distance as possible between themselves and the military there'd been barely any stops and definitely not enough sleep as they all took turns driving the late model Honda Civic that Face had scammed at the beginning of their trek.
As exhaustion dug its claw even deeper into every part of his body, Face stared blankly at the trees whizzing passed the window. The dark stretch nearly indistinguishable from the countless miles that'd come in the many hours before.
Face ignored the way his eyes burned and ached to close for even just a little while. Instead he continued to keep watch.
On the road going by.
On what lay ahead.
But more importantly, on Murdock.
The pilot, who needed it the most out of all of them, was at the present, asleep. Head in Face’s lap and his entire lanky body stretched out, taking up almost the entire backseat of the compact car.
It was alright, though.
Face didn’t care that he was pressed uncomfortably against the backdoor and his legs had fallen asleep as long as Murdock was safe, breathing, alive.
Face let out a ragged breath as he slid a hand under Murdock’s shirt. ‘What if Lynch hadn’t taken the head shot? What if he’d gone for the chest?’
With fingers skimming over the warm skin of Murdock's back, Face glanced up just in time to catch Hannibal's gaze in the rear view mirror.
‘Fuck this.’ Face defiantly glared at Hannibal before looking back down to where the bruising from the gunshot spread out along the right side of Murdock's hairline. ‘Come on, Boss. We’ll do this right now. I don’t have the patience to hide anymore.’
Face was sharply brought out of his antagonistic thoughts when the car drifted toward the side of the road, hitting the rumble strip as B.A., beyond dead tired, nodded off.
The vehicle's loud and violent shaking caused B.A. to jerk awake behind the wheel and had Murdock bolting upright with hands outstretched. “No, no, no!”
“Hey, hey, buddy, it’s ok." Face attempted to sooth while Murdock, with unfocused, wild eyes, stared passed him. Tentatively reaching up to cup his cheek, Face instructed. "H.M., look at me.”
“I don’t…” Murdock’s face went sheet white while his shaking hands started slapping at the switches on the door handle.
Quickly realizing what Murdock was trying to do, Face reached passed his frantic and unsuccessful movements to get the window down.
“Bosco. Stop the car.” Hannibal instructed; leaning over the seat, all of his focus on the pair in the back.
Cold winter air rushed in through the half open window as Murdock stuck his head out and threw up what little he’d eaten earlier in the evening at a disgusting off-the-highway diner.
“You alright?” Face asked; wiping Murdock’s mouth with his own coat sleeve once the pilot sat back in the seat.
“Sorry. Up too fast, everything got spinny.” Murdock smiled feebly.
“Bosco, you good?” Face questioned as they lurched to a complete stop.
“Hell no. I’m beat, man. Can’t keep my damned eyes open anymore.” B.A. admitted; while eyeing Murdock over Hannibal’s shoulder. “You ok, fool?”
“Right as rain, big guy.” Murdock flippantly assured, even while continuing to visibly shake.
“Man, you’re full of shit.” B.A.’s gruff response was diluted by undisguised worry wavering in his voice as pulled back onto the road. “You get any puke on the car you’re cleaning it up.”
“Boss, we gotta stop." Face pleaded; running a hand through his hair in agitation. “We need sleep. Real sleep. Where the hell are we anyway?”
“Pennsylvania.” Hannibal offered while pressing a large hand to Murdock’s sweaty brow. “You sure you’re alright?”
“Hunky Dory, bossman.” Murdock nodded and Hannibal turned his attention to B.A. and the road ahead.
“Pennsylvania? I think it’s safe to say we can stop for a day or two.” Face tried to keep the irritation out of his voice.
“Hannibal, please. We’re all worn out.” Face wearily pointed out as Murdock’s hand slipped over his thigh as the pilot laid his head on his shoulder. “Look at B.A. He can barely keep us on the road anymore and swerving is not gonna help us if we catch the eye of a trooper.”
“We should be far enough ahead now that stopping for a few hours won’t hurt.” Hannibal pointed through the windshield at the upcoming green highway sign that boasted a list of motels and eateries.
B.A. shook his head in agreement.
Face groaned when they stopped at the first motor lodge they came to off of the exit. Half of the lights were off on the sign and the others buzzed in and out.
‘Just think of sleep not bedbugs or mold or God knows what else.’
Murdock caught Face’s displeasure and whispered into his ear with mock sympathy. “I know it’s not the Ritz, babe, but at least it’s a place to stretch out for some ol’ fashioned shut eye.”
Face flicked Murdock gently on the arm then got out to get the rooms.
When he came back out the rest of the team was unloading their duffle bags out of the trunk.
As usual they’d planned ahead for just in case and stashed the bags, that now held what amounted to everything they owned, in lockers at a bus station on the outside of L.A. before their meeting with Lynch.
“Face, when you get done come back out here with me for a bit.” Hannibal said lighting his cigar as he dropped his own bag next to a picnic table set up in the lot.
“Ok, boss.” Face followed Murdock into the room and as soon as the door closed he dragged the pilot into a tight hug.
“What’s up?” Murdock quizzed; leaning his head to the side enough to watch Face’s expression.
“Well, I’m 100% sure me and Hannibal are about to have ‘the talk’.” Face scoffed uncomfortably.
“Ya’ mean the birds and the bees and why are you screwing your teammate talk?” Murdock drawled; resting his chin against Face’s shoulder.
“Yeah, that’s the one.” Face sighed; hands worrying the thick leather of Murdock’s coat.
“I’ll come with you.” Murdock twisted free then reached for Face’s hand.
“No, no. I got this. You’re still not feeling well and you need sleep.” Face objected; fingers rubbing lightly over the most prominent bruise that stretched from Murdock’s crown to nearly his ear lobe.
‘So this is what it’s like to have a “Dad talk”.’ Placing a final kiss to Murdock’s forehead he moved for the door.
He didn’t know if he should be thankful or not for growing up with the nuns at St. Mary’s.
Without the overpowering fluorescent light of the room, Face was pitched into total darkness until his eyes adjusted enough to make out the ember red glow of the Colonel’s cigar. He let it guide the way to the picnic table where he took a seat directly across from Hannibal.
His heart pounded loudly as the surrounding silence stretched on for what felt like hours, even though Face knew it’d only been five minutes tops.
“How long?” Hannibal finally asked.
“Since Al Qahirah, so over a year and a half.” The truth coming easier than he’d expected.
Hannibal made to say something but Face interrupted him.
“No, Hannibal, you need to listen to me first.” He took a deep breath and continued so he wouldn’t lose his nerve.
“You may not understand what’s going on. But trust me when I say it’s good. We’re aware that the team comes first. That’s never been a question. I know that a hundred percent. This team is the only family either of us have and no matter what we want for each other, that will always be overridden by what’s best for our family.” Words he hadn’t dared admit out loud, now tripped out of him, fast and free. “You know why I was so angry at you when you took me out of Pensacola?”
“Kid, did you really think they were going to let you out? After only six months?” Hannibal’s words held just enough disbelief to sting.
“Not think, Hannibal, they were.” Face verified with pride, even if their current situation voided it entirely. “You’ve known me long enough to know, I’ll get what’s needed, and what I needed was get Murdock the hell out of Germany. I couldn’t do that locked up. You know things weren’t good there for him. You know the shit they were doing. Hell, they wouldn’t even let him have phone calls.”
The last admission had Face’s throat clenching painfully and he took a moment to regard the door to he and Murdock’s room.
“I found this psychiatrist back in L.A. named Richter, supposedly the best fucking doctor on the West Coast. Murdock doesn’t know about any of this. If it’d been up to me, he would have come first. I chose you. I chose the team because I knew that’s what Murdock would have wanted.” Face announced bitterly, defiantly. “You’re my family, Hannibal but that doesn’t mean I’ll let us be split up again.”
Hannibal sighed; putting out the cigar. “Face. Relax. I can’t split any of us up, obviously and even then...”
Like they didn’t already have enough shit to worry about, now he had to process, this. Hannibal wished he hadn’t seen the interaction between the two. The one so obviously not for others eyes while they were in Germany.
Hannibal was glad it was dark out because he couldn’t deal with looking directly at Face right now. He hadn’t known any of the stuff Face had just told him about Pensacola. He’d had his own plan in order to get him and his boys’ out. Hadn’t thought that Face might have been working on one as well.
But then he hadn’t known about the two of them then.
How had he so blindly missed this? A year and a half? Then he realized it hadn’t been noticed because they’d made sure it wasn’t visible. He had never once doubted their dedication to the team and wasn’t going to start now even if his head was starting to pound from thinking about all the sneaking and lying the pair had been doing over the period.
Face stood up, breaking his thoughts.
“I’m done, Hannibal. I’m going to bed. I’m fucking exhausted.”
Hannibal heard challenge in Face’s voice but the fatigue that ran straight through it was even stronger, so he let it go.
The shower was the first thing Face heard when he returned to the room. Quickly stripping he walked into the bathroom and opened the shower curtain to step in behind Murdock, who was leaning against the tile directly underneath the water.
Face placed a hand at the small of the pilot’s back. “Hey buddy, how you feeling?”
Murdock made a non-committal grumble in response.
“Uh, huh. Scoot up. This shower’s small.” Face reached over him for the showerhead. “Fuck, man, this water’s scalding.”
“Feels good though.” Murdock maneuvered around until he could look at Face directly. “How’d it go?”
“Ugh, gimme 10 minutes. You’re right. This is the best damned shower ever.” Face deterred; running his hands through his hair.
“Really?” Murdock laughed. “What about that one leave we had in Greece? That was a pretty epic shower.”
“The shower was ok. It was the sex that was epic.” Face grinned; running his hand down Murdock’s side. “You never answered me. How’s the head?”
“SSDD, darlin’, SSDD.” Murdock conceded.
“You don’t get shot in the head every day. Come here.” Face gripped Murdock’s hip tightly as he once again ran his other hand through the pilot’s hair along the tender bruising.
“Will I make it, Doc?” Murdock sobbed dramatically.
“Hmmm.” Face pondered, turning Murdock’s head from side to side for inspection. “I think the patient will make a full recovery.” Face affirmed with a solemn nod.
“Hallelujah!” Murdock shouted; throwing his hands up.
“Oh, shit this is the greatest bed ever.” Face groaned, sliding in between the stiff sheets that covered the lumpy mattress.
“Are you sure you didn’t get shot in the head?” Murdock gawked in disbelief.
“Shut up. I’ll complain about this place in the morning.” Face chided; punching his pillow into vague submission.
“What’d Hannibal say?” Murdock pressed; drawing Face out of his relaxation routine.
“Can I please just enjoy the comfort of this disgusting bed? We’ll talk about it later.” Face heavily sighed; cracking an eye open when he felt Murdock shift closer.
“I promise.” Face swore as the pilot looked at him warily. “It’s not bad. I think. I can explain better after sleep.”
“Mmm.” Murdock grunted, rolling over onto his stomach as he shoved his face in the pillow.
“One of these days you’re gonna smother yourself like that.” Face laughed as Murdock flipped him the bird then burrowed deeper into the threadbare pillows.
When Face woke up he was surprised to find Murdock’s side of the bed cold and empty.
“Murdock?” Face’s confusion quickly turned to panic when he saw only his bag on the chair.
He jumped out of bed, yanking his jeans on before throwing open the door.
“What the fuck?” His heart was beating double time as he scanned the empty parking lot.
A feeling of dread that he hadn’t felt since he was five, really too young to understand such things, slammed into him.
Left. He’d always be left.
Rushing to Hannibal and B.A.’s room he threw the door open to find it vacant as well.
“This cannot… Bosco! Hannibal! Murdock!” Face shouted as he tore from the room and into the bright sunlight.
Murdock was snatched out of sleep by Face’s thrashing and yelling.
“Face.” He clicked on the bedside light and rolled over. “Shhh.” Murdock murmured when tears leaked out of the conman’s tightly closed lids. He drew a hand across Face’s wet cheek. “Temp, wake up.”
Face’s hand grabbed his wrist tightly as his eyes flew open, dark and dilated.
“Hey, hey you’re alright.” Murdock moved to sit up; bringing Face with him.
“Sorry.” Face apologized, wiping at his face.
Murdock attempted to run fingers through Face’s hair but the other man shifted away from the touch.
“What happened?” Murdock softly led.
“Nothing. Let’s just go back to sleep.” Face closed up as he fell back onto the pillows.
Before Face could protest Murdock was wrapped around him and his hand instinctively came up and slid through the pilot’s hair as he stared at the ceiling.
Murdock kissed his neck, willed the pulse point under his lips to relax as Face exhaled.
“It was you, B.A. and Hannibal. I woke up and you were gone.” His voice hitched and Murdock pressed himself tighter against Face’s side. “It’s stupid, I know.”
Murdock leaned up and looked at him. “When I was 18, I was absolutely, a hundred percent in love with Bobby Dean Taylor and I made the decision to tell my grandparents. Because you know, our love was so Earth shattering that I needed to sing it from the hilltops.” Murdock waved his arm and smiled when he got a low chuckle from Face. He placed a quick kiss on Face’s lips before continuing.
“I had it all planned out. I was gonna get up with my Granddaddy and tell him before work. I stayed up all night, sick with worry. When I finally fell asleep I dreamed Granddaddy chased me out of the house when I told him. Made me live in a tent at the back of our 20 acres and every time I tried to come up and talk to Gramma he’d come chasing me in the truck. When I woke up I was so terrified that I just stayed in bed. Never told him; never told either of them. So no, it’s not stupid in the least.”
Face’s fingers were stronger now, running along the base of Murdock’s skull. “What happened to Jimmy Dean?”
“Bobby Dean!” Murdock chuckled. “The Earth shattering love only lasted for about two more months after that.”
Face turned his head away and Murdock knew something big was coming. Beautiful, confident Templeton Peck could be so insecure sometimes it hurt his heart.
“I just don’t want to disappoint Hannibal. I don’t know what I’d do if this…” Face started to roll fully onto his side but Murdock held his arm and pushing him flat before crawling to straddle the conman’s body.
“Hannibal has not been nor is he right now disappointed in you.” Murdock announced confidently.
“Never been?” Face scoffed in disbelief. “Oh, I can think of plenty times. What about the time we set fire to the Mess? That looked like disappointment to me.”
Murdock waved a disregarding hand, “Pshaw. That was more directed at me. You, my love, were just an innocent bystander,” his haughty British accent slipped at the questioning look in Face’s eyes at his endearment.
“So he’s not going to rush out and get a big ole’ rainbow sticker for the car but it’ll be ok. We’ll get there eventually, it’s just gonna take some getting used to.” Murdock watched Face shake his head in the affirmative even though his brows were still knit with anxiety.
“This,” Murdock ran his fingers in circles on Face’s chest, “This is awesome. We are awesome. Hannibal has to know that.”
“Do you trust me?” Murdock asked when Face didn’t respond.
“Always.” Face confirmed as Murdock leaned over and gently brushed their lips together.
“I got you.” Murdock smiled before Face leaned up; kissing him hard while the conman’s hands held desperately to his back.
Murdock had Face when he was stretching those long arms out to reach the bag on the chair, not wanting to move from underneath the pilot, almost dragging them both off the bed.
And Face had Murdock as he used his mouth, hands and entire body to pull Murdock to him, so close and deep. Both of them gasping and crying out as they moved together.
Face didn’t wake when the knock came early the next morning but Murdock was up immediately, throwing clothes on as he crossed the room and looked out the peephole. Seeing Hannibal, he opened the door and stepped out.
“Face’s still asleep.” Murdock announced steadily meeting Hannibal’s gaze.
The Colonel nodded. “I sent B.A. to get breakfast. Let’s talk for a minute.”
Murdock followed Hannibal’s long strides to the lone picnic table in the middle of the lot.
“Alright, Bossman let’s get this over with.” Murdock clapped his hands together as he flopped down onto the rickety wooden bench. “Just promise me, no Lady Gaga lyrics.”
Hannibal looked at him quizzically.
“What? Just because I like guys doesn’t mean I listen to Lady Gaga. If that’s the case you might need to add Bosco to the list in need of a Dad talk.” Murdock snickered.
Hannibal started to respond but his eyes were drawn to something behind Murdock.
The pilot turned and saw Face in the doorway, brief panic washing over his features before he saw them at the table.
“Shit.” Murdock muttered as he jumped up and made his way over to Face. “Hey, sorry I didn’t want to wake you up.”
“No, it’s alright. Everything ok?” Face asked; eyebrows furrowed with worried.
“I think so?” Murdock began. “We just came out.”
“Yeah, we kinda did.” Face huffed as he reached for Murdock’s hand.
“Oh, Face, shut up.” Murdock rolled his eyes. “Come on; let’s go see what Hannibal’s got in store for us. I already made him swear to no Lady Gaga.”
They sat down and Face realized how much easier this would have been if he’d let Hannibal talk last night. Now he had to sit here in the light of day and watch as Hannibal’s eyes flicked between the two of them, no emotion on his face what so ever.
Murdock tugged at the frayed end of his sleeve and stared off towards the highway.
Face turned from the Colonel; smiling when Murdock’s foot brushed his.
Hannibal cleared his throat and they both popped back to attention.
“Boys.” He started but then Face interrupted.
Hannibal held his hand up, “You had your say last night and now it’s my turn. I trust you both to not only do what’s right for yourselves but me and B.A. as well. And at this time that’s more important than whether or not I understand what’s going on between the two of you.”
Hannibal watched them without saying anything else.
“So, um, that’s it?” Face cautiously proceeded.
“No, it’s not.” Hannibal continued. “I have to deal with this on top of our situation right now. I will not take on something else. You have to tell B.A. That’s your responsibility.”
Face and Murdock glanced at each other.
“Do we have to tell him?” Face asked with panic in his voice.
“I’m sure eventually you’ll have to, yes.” Hannibal sternly glared at them.
“Ok, so next time we have to fly we’ll let him know right before we inject him.” Murdock suggested.
“Oh, good idea” Face said with a snap of his fingers. “He’ll be so angry about us knocking him out he won’t worry about anything else we told him.”
Hannibal’s expression softened as he joined in the pair’s laughter as they continued with ideas until B.A. came back with breakfast.