A Lesson in Understanding
Summary: Face and Hannibal are like father and son, their bond is unbreakable, but their communication sucks. Lately, they haven't been communicating well and that has lead to Face on 'the A-Team's version of latrine duty.' But when Hannibal mistakes a warning for more disobedience, he may very well get his X.O. killed.
Warnings: So, there's a few bad words in here and some torture. I tried not to be graphic, but it is there and if that makes you squeamish, sorry.
Disclaimer: I do not own the A-Team, sadly, or there would be another movie by now….
It was way too damn hot for this shit.
The desert air was stale and dry and felt like it hadn't moved in years. The air alone could bake you, but combined with the sun… It had to be 120 degrees out here and it was only mid morning.
Face half sighed, half growled as he did a visual sweep of the area. He grumbled as the sun blinded him and the sand remained unchanging. Taking a sip of water from his canteen, he stepped away from the relative shade of the doorway to begin his patrol. Almost instantly, he felt the oppressive heat of the sun as it pressed down on him. The material of his shirt and the gobs of sunscreen he caked on himself seemed to be doing little to prevent his skin from burning; they certainly didn't help with the heat.
Not for the first time, he cursed Hannibal and his rotten luck at getting this particular punishment. It was a shit assignment, babysitting a high level informant and his family until the CIA could move him. They were keeping him hidden well into the middle-of-no-where. The small abandoned trading post had no electricity, no plumbing, and absolutely nothing comfortable about it. It made it the perfect way, at least in the Colonel's mind, to teach Face a lesson about sticking to the plan.
This was a constant struggle between the CO and his XO. Hannibal, for all his crazy schemes, had a desire for structure and order. In his world, you always followed the plan. Even if the plan fell apart, there would always be a back up. Face, on the other hand, was the master of free form and improve. A plan was a good outline, set up a nice road map for the goal, but it was always subject to change. It had to be, because in his world you needed to be able to adapt to survive. If the two of them were being honest with each other, at least as far as the planning went, then they would realize that they were both very much different sides of the same coin. They each needed the other one to make every crazy and half cocked plan work like magic, but the two sucked at communicating.
And that was why Face was at some desolate trading post in the middle of an Iraqi desert babysitting while the others went to meet with the CIA contact. Face had improvised on the last mission and, even though it had made things turn out better in the long run, it had screwed some things up along the way. If he had explained to Hannibal what he was doing before he did it, then things might have gone a little smoother. As it was, Hannibal had been pissed, there was a lot of yelling and a lecture, and then Face had been given the A-team version of Latrine duty.
He had been here in this miserable place for three days with two other soldiers, neither of whom were B.A. Or Murdock. The two soldiers were Corporals Roy Royals, who they called Roy-Roy, and Mark Harrison, who they called Harry, and if he had to be stuck with just anybody he was glade it was them. He was the ranking officer, though, and so everything would fall back on him, meaning no screw-ups. It had been made very clear that any deviations from the plan would result in more serious consequences by both Hannibal and Morrison, a fact that pissed him off to no end. But, at least the family he was protecting was worth it.
Nadeem al-Salman, his wife Reema, and their daughter Iffat were, in Face's book, heroes. Nadeem was the publisher of a prominent newspaper in the country and responsible for perpetuating the regime's rhetoric. He was so trusted that he even was privy to state secrets. Little did the state know that Nadeem was helping to orchestrate rebellion by passing along coded messages in his paper and giving the state secrets to the U.S.
"I am not betraying my country. I am trying to save her," he had told Face one night, while watching the sunset. "I want my daughter to live in a land free of fear where she knows she can achieve whatever she works for. I want her to be proud of me. I want my wife to be proud of me. I want my country to be whole."
Equally as determined and impressive was his wife. Reema was a strong woman, full of intelligence and passion, but she was not forceful. She spoke with conviction and confidence but never raised her voice and always tried to understand other's ideas. She was equally responsible for helping to pass along the messages in the paper, and even helped to create the code. Both of these people were risking everything to help the people of their country, and Face could completely understand that. Not to mention he adored Iffat, or Iffy as she liked to be called.
Iffy was a small seven year old with a cheeky smile and inquisitive eyes. She had a bubbly laugh and an intelligent way of speaking. She loved to listen to the soldiers' stories and would often follow them around begging to help. She had taken a special liking to Face almost instantly and he often spent the evening talking with her.
In all honesty, keeping this family alive and unharmed was an honor. He would willingly lay down his life to keep them safe. He just wished he didn't have to do it in this f-ing place.
Grumbling out a tired sigh, Face approached Corporal Harris and whistled out a small tone to alert his fellow ranger. The Kid glanced over his shoulder and gave his LT a tired but grateful smile.
"Does this mean I get ta go to bed el-tee?" He asked as Face came to stand next to him.
"After you drink your weight in water and eat something," Face ordered with a smirk.
"I can do that. Hell, I'd love ta do that. It's been all still out here this morning. Nothing but sand," Harrison said.
"Not even the farmers from before?" Face asked, feeling the first stirrings of the Jazz start in his body.
"No sir. Nothing but sand," the younger man repeated.
Face nodded, eyes scanning the horizon. "Thanks Harry, go on inside. When Roy-Roy gets up tell him he switches out with me in five, but I want someone to walk the tunnel first."
"Yes sir," the corporal said before turning and walking back the way Face had come.
Face listened to his steps retreating for a long moment, eyes still staring off into the horizon. For three days everything had been still in their small little hidey-hole. No threats, nothing unusual, and nothing that screamed danger, yet Face still felt twitchy. He could still feel the hum of electric like energy that only came with the Jazz. Sometimes it was a good thing, that hum, it meant you had an idea or were coming up with a plan. But in times like this, when you were watching and waiting, it was almost ominous.
Face was hoping it was just the heat.
"Sorry sir, the el-tee is out on patrol. Harrison just got back in. He won't be available for another three hours," Corporal Roy Royals said, much to Hannibal's annoyance.
"Fine. We'll check back in at 1800. See if the Lieutenant can be available then," Hannibal said, with a great measure of restraint. For the past three days, whenever he had called in for an update or check in Face had been 'unavailable' to speak with him, an occurrence that was beginning to grate on the Colonel's nerves. But, however annoyed he was with his XO, he was going to try damn hard not to take it out on the two corporals who were under his command.
"Yes sir," Royals said and then was gone.
Hannibal switched off the satellite phone and chewed on his cigar, a glare to his expression that didn't go unnoticed by the two men walking into the hut.
Murdock and B.A. shared a look as they set down their gear. Both of them were well aware that Hannibal and Face had been...bickering… lately. Face had been acting very much like a pouting child for a while now, picking fights, escalating arguments, and just over all being a sullen shit head. Hannibal had been playing the part of the fed up parent, almost always rising to the bait. He and Face had been having yelling match after yelling match with the latest one ending with the conman's latest assignment.
Since then, the two hadn't spoken unless it was absolutely necessary and even then it was short, sweet, and to the point with no personality at all from Face. The youngest member had in fact been sounding unnervingly robotic whenever he spoke to the others. For some reason, it seemed like he was angry but nobody really knew why. Well, almost nobody…
B.A. looked over at Murdock, Face's best friend. By the way that Murdock was defending the conman, the quietness in his voice when he would simply say, "we're just not seeing the whole picture," when someone would complain…. The big guy had a notion that the crazy man knew exactly what was going on but he didn't have permission to speak about it and he didn't think things were so bad that he could break that bond with Face. So, in the mean time, everybody else was just gonna have to wonder at what the hell was going on with their youngest. Swallowing a tired sigh, B.A. looked back over at the Colonel who was still glaring at the phone in his hand.
"Talk ta Face, Hannibal?" B.A. bravely ventured and revived a snort in reply. The big man gave his counterpart a sideways look, silently asking for help.
"How's Faceman doing Boss?" Murdock asked, not quite sure if it was the right question to ask… especially when the Colonel took a bite out of his cigar and spit it on the ground. "Well… hopefully better than your cigar…."
"I wouldn't know. I only spoke to Corporal Royals," Hannibal replied; voice tight, "again. Perhaps next time you can call him Captain. Maybe even set up a coffee date to catch up, since you're so concerned about what he's up to."
Murdock cleared his throat, trying to get his foot out of his mouth while B.A. chuckled.
"Something funny, Sergeant?" Hannibal growled instantly silence the younger man.
"Uh...Uh… no sir," he stammered, standing at attention.
"What the big mudsucker is trying to say, is that he is now the one choking on his own foot," Murdock said then quickly pressed on before either man could glare at him. "What did good old Roy-Roy report, Colonel?"
"Nothing to report. So far, so good," Hannibal sighed, allowing some of his aggression to bleed away. He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table.
It had been an intense few days, even without Face's current tantrum. Being responsible for protecting another person's life was enough responsibility to drive a man insane, and Hannibal was responsible for three. It wasn't helping that the CIA agents were late and wouldn't give the Colonel an explanation.
"According to our contact, the relocation team should be on the ground in three hours. We're meeting them in Heet in five hours," Hannibal briefed his men.
"That's gonna be six hours away from Face, even if we take a chopper -" Murdock thought upload.
"I ain't gettin on no chopper. Especially with you, fool," B.A. Interrupted.
"No, B.A., no one's flying. A chopper would attract too much attention. We're taking three humvees, hoping that it'll look like troop movement and nothing else. Not my plan, the CIA's. Not sure I like it," Hannibal sighed. He was going to need a week's sleep after this mission.
"Does Facey know?" Murdock asked.
"No. I haven't been giving them updates. I'm trying not to give the family false hope. Face won't know we're coming until the last minute, with any luck."
"Well, at least it'll be a happy surprise. I just hope he doesn't shoot us if we forget to call…" Murdock joked. He only earned a glare from Hannibal and a "Shut up fool," from B.A.
"Hey el-tee, my turn to bake now," Roy-Roy called as he walked over to Face.
Face had heard his approach almost the moment he stepped out into the sand, all that fine-tuned sniper training. He didn't move from his perch on the northern fence though, eyes still scanning the horizon. "Have we swept the tunnel yet?"
"Harry just came up top from a walk, and I did one like you ordered. All was clear. Colonel checked in. Still no word on when they're coming. Not sure what the delay is, he wants to speak with you next check in."
Face scuffed and finally looked over to his second. "I'm sure he does."
"You ain't going to speak with him, are you el-tee?"
Face shrugged and then flashed a smile. "Not my fault I'm so damn busy out here in the fucking middle of fucking nowhere."
Roy-Roy shook his head with a crooked smile, "you're gonna get yourself in trouble."
"Probably," Face said with a smile before growing serious. "Keep your eyes open. Something's off."
"You on the Jazz, el-tee? Just like the Colonel?" Roy-Roy asked.
"Yeah, something like that. What time did he say he'd call?"
"1800. You actually going to talk with him?" Roy-Roy asked, sounding surprised.
"I'll think about it. Eyes sharp Roy-Roy and stick close to home."
Face nodded and then made his way inside the main building. As soon as he stepped through the door, he was greeted by a very excited little girl calling out eagerly to him. "L-T! Is it story time?" Iffy called in heavily accented English from where she sat at a small table with her mother, appearing to be studying.
A genuine smile softened the tired man's face and he shook his head. "Looks like it's school time, Iffy. When your mother says you're finished with your lesson, then it's story time."
Reema gave him a grateful look and tapped the paper in front of her before speaking in Arabic. Face watched for a moment with a wistful smile before turning his attention back to the room. Harry wasn't there, but the passageway to the escape tunnel was uncovered so it wasn't hard to figure out what he was doing. Nadeem sat on a cot, well hidden from the windows and door. He watched his wife and daughter with a sad look that pulled on Face's heartstrings.
The ranger grabbed a water bottle and walked over to the man, sitting down on the floor. He handed the water to Nadeem with a half smile and said softly, "how you doing?"
Nadeem took the bottle absentmindedly, but didn't drink from it. His eyes were still trained on his family. "She wants to play outside and it's getting harder to tell her no. We've been here so long…" he said softly, before sighing and dropping his face to his hands.
Face nodded, "I know things have been delayed. We're just making sure everything is in place. You're all safe here. It'll be over soon."
"I know. I'm grateful, please understand that. I'm just…" Nadeem shook his head, unable to complete his thought.
"A father? A husband? A man worried about the family he adores? A man trying to do what's right?" Face offered, a tired smile on his face.
Nadeem chuckled softly and shook his head. "You American's call this a peep talk?"
It was Face's turn to chuckle as he stood up and patted Nadeem's shoulder. "Something like that. Look, maybe when it get's dark we can let you all stretch your legs for a few minutes. Or, maybe Iffy can run around the tunnel. We'll figure something out. Okay?"
Nadeem nodded, "Thank you."
It was a few hours later that had Face being shook awake. The young man startled out of his sleep to come face to face with Harry. "Sorry el-tee," the corporal apologized, "Colonel's insisting to speak with you."
Face swallowed back a groan as he glanced at his watch, 1803. He sighed and rolled off the cot, looking around. He noticed the family was missing. "Where are they?"
"The tunnels," Harry said, "Iffy needed to run. Nadeem said you were okay with it, I was down with them but then the Colonel called."
Face nodded. "I got the Colonel. Go ahead back down."
Harry nodded and then headed back down to the tunnels while Face picked up the Satellite phone. "Colonel," he mumbled, making sure his voice sounded tired and strained. He wanted to convince Hannibal that he was exhausted, and honestly it wasn't too far a stretch. It was just the best way to avoid a lecture.
"Lieutenant," came the strained voice of Hannibal in reply, "Good to finally speak to you. I'd hate to think you were avoiding me."
'Or maybe not', Face sighed, "no sir. Just the way rotations fell."
"I'm sure that's all it was. What's your report," Hannibal ordered.
"Family's getting anxious. We have a seven year old who really wants to go out and play. We've been here a long time…" Face paused here, knowing that what he was going to say next was most likely going to piss Hannibal off. Too bad he just couldn't shake the Jazz. "Sir, I think we need to go to the secondary location."
There was a long pause and Face braced himself for what was going to happen next.
"Has something happened that would make this necessary?" Hannibal all but growled.
Face took a deep breath and forced his voice to stay neutral, "not yet, sir."
"Are you currently facing a dire threat or has someone come upon the safe house?"
"We've been here three days, Colonel. Somebody's gonna notice something soon. There are farms in the area and -" Face started, his voice tight. The composure from earlier was starting to leave him.
"Have you been comprised?" The Colonel barked, cutting him off.
"Not yet," Face repeated his earlier statement.
"Then until there is a reason to move, you will stay put Lieutenant. Stick to the plan, that is an order," The Colonel snapped.
Face sighed/growled out his frustration and all but hissed his next question, "How much longer is your plan going to take?"
There was another pause, and Face knew he had crossed the line but he was so damn frustrated. "We will meet you at the safe house tomorrow. And when this is over Lieutenant we will have a discussion about your attitude."
The call was disconnected with a slam on both ends. Face was almost shaking with rage. He had to lean heavily on the small table and take deep breathes to keep from smashing things.
"Bad news el-tee?" Roy-Roy asked from the doorway.
"Just pig headed Colonels. What's up, Corporal?" Face asked, forcing himself to calm down.
"All's good. Just need some water. What's wrong el-tee?" The nineteen year old asked as he grabbed a bottle of water.
"I don't know and it may be nothing," Face said.
"Is it that jazz shit you and the others get off on?" He prodded, taking a long drink.
Face smiled, he liked Roy-Roy. The kid was smart and a quick learner. He had a good future in the Rangers, same with Harry. They were both good soldiers, and Face felt like he had to look after them as well as the family. That's why he wasn't willing to listen to Hannibal, not when his instincts told him to run.
"Yeah, it's something like that... I want you and Harry to move into the tunnel and stay there with the family. Take them half way through, but don't worry them. The Colonel's going to be here some time tomorrow, so just tell them we're preparing to move. I'm going to patrol." Face ordered.
"That sounds a little close to disobeying an order, el-tee," Roy-Roy said.
"It's a compromise. We're not leaving but they'll be slightly more protected. The Colonel's not here, he doesn't get it," Face said.
Roy-Roy shrugged. "Not sure if I do either, but I trust you el-tee so no questions here."
Face nodded and then sighed. It was going to be a long night.
Hannibal chewed on his cigar, his aggravation clearly showing. His anger was coming off him in waves, filling the room with so much tension that it had driven B.A. off with a mumbled excuse of checking over the humvees. Murdock was the only one brave enough to be in Colonel's vicinity and even he was being on his best behavior.
Hannibal couldn't help his current mood; Face had been managing to push every button lately. He was tip toeing the line of insubordination, as if to dare the Colonel to formally reprimand him. For the life of him the Colonel couldn't figure out what had gotten into the kid. It was almost a sure thing that something was bothering him, but instead of just saying so, he seemed to be content with acting like a sullen teenager and it was getting ridiculous.
"Coffee, Colonel?" Murdock said, sounding oddly sane.
The smell of Army grade swill that passed for coffee reached Hannibal's nose and drew him out of his thoughts. He took a deep breath as he accepted the mug and mumbled his thanks. Murdock sat across from him, his own mug in his hands and waited for the Colonel to take a long drink. Once Hannibal sat the mug down, he spoke.
"Did you know he proposed to Charissa?" Murdock said softly.
Hannibal gave his pilot a hard look, indicating that he really didn't care about Face and his on again off again girl. He didn't really approve of her to begin with, not because she wasn't a capable soldier or an intelligent women, mostly because she and Face were so volatile. They seemed to mix as well as oil fumes and fire. But whatever Face wanted to do with his personal life was his business, and he didn't really understand why Murdock was bringing this up. However, the crazy man seemed to have a point to make and wasn't going to be deterred.
"It was 'bout a month ago. They'd been doing really well too before then. Like they finally found their rhythm, ya know? He was happy. I think she was too," Murdock went on.
"Was happy?" Hannibal prompted; giving into whatever game Murdock was playing.
The pilot nodded, a sad look on his face, "Yeah. She told him he'd hold her back. He wasn't advancing his career fast enough…"
Hannibal sighed, now starting to make sense of what was going on. Face was acting out of heartache and loss. He wasn't ever comfortable letting people into his personal life, choosing instead to lash out. He cursed inwardly, disappointed with himself for not recognizing what was going on in the first place. "She said he wasn't good enough, is that basically it?"
"Yeah… and lately, with you two arguing…" Murdock ventured.
"I've been saying it too?"
Murdock nodded and Hannibal sighed, both annoyed and guilty. "Then with sending him into the middle of the desert, basically alone, and with all the stress of constantly being vigilant, of not disappointing you or the General, of having to look for every threat…. rejection and stress, Boss. He's not himself right now. And it doesn't make it right, I mean, he's being a little shit, I know that. But… just remember that he's kinda functioning in a bad place when you reprimand him. Please?"
Hannibal nodded, "I will Captain. Thank you." He paused for a second and took a long drink from his coffee. He thought over, once again, the conversation he had last had with Face, listening to it with a fresh perspective. The kid was feeling anxious, and part of that could have been from staying in one place for so long, but Face was a sniper. He knew how to hold still. The kid had good instincts though, and Hannibal knew that. There were a lot of times when Hannibal had taken things on pure faith in his guts and had lived as the result. So why would this time be different?
"Captain, I want to talk to the CIA agent in charge," Hannibal said softly and had to hide a smile with Murdock's jittery "yes sir!"
Face stood near the edge of the fence line, finishing off a cigarette. Absentmindedly he played with a small GPS circuit that he had pulled from one of the back up phones. He had, had Harry check to make sure it was still functioning even though the Corporal was clearly confused as to why. Face's mumbled, "always have a plan," was less than helpful.
He shoved the chip in an interior pocket that he had modified his uniform to have. His hopes were that this was a highly unnecessary precaution on his part but he was taking it nonetheless. The family was safely settled into the tunnels midpoint with Harry and Roy-Roy keeping watch. Their orders were that if anything should happen, they move to the family and humvees onto the second location. They get a call off to Hannibal and they don't wait around for him. Their priority was the family, end of story. Neither kid was too happy with that, but he knew they were going to follow his orders. Besides, it was all probably just an overreaction.
It was late now, pushing close to zero dark thirty. The heat of the day had been instantly squashed by night's descent. All around him was darkness and shadow, at least, until he looked up. When he looked up he could see the mysteries of the universe laid out before him… he swore he could see every star and planet in space. It was the kind of view that he'd love to spend the night watching… if only he had someone to do it with.
'But you're not good enough for her anymore.' His mind thought bitterly as he tossed his cigarette butt away. He sighed deeply, as if he could expel all the pent up negative thoughts and frustrations. He knew his melancholy had a lot to do with being isolated from his team… he never did cope well with being alone. It was too easy for his mind to wander to the dark places where he had been conditioned to accept things no one should.
He wondered, not for the first time, if he should take up the General's offer of promotion. Maybe show Charissa she was wrong. It wasn't that he couldn't be promoted; it was more that the promotion would mean leaving Hannibal's command. And he didn't want that. Not even as annoyed as he was with the Colonel currently.
Face sighed again, eyes drifting up back to the sky, but something on the horizon caught his attention. It was a flash of light, a flicker really, like a candle. Then there was a hiss like a teakettle. And then the house exploded behind him.
In the tunnels the earth above them shook. Five people huddled together, all frozen in fear and disbelief. That only lasted a moment before the two Corporals snapped into action.
"Come on, we're moving. Nadeem, carry Iffy. Harry, you watch our sixth. Stay together," Roy-Roy ordered, his voice a harsh whisper as dirt trickled down around them. Even though they knew the tunnel was sound, it was still scary as hell and Roy-Roy had to admit he was impressed with how calm the family was, especially Iffy.
"What about contacting the Colonel?" Harry asked, moving into position.
"When we get to the humvees. We're moving silent until then."
"L-T? Where's L-T?" Iffy asked, tears in her eyes as she peered over her father's shoulder.
Roy-Roy had to swallow back the lump in his throat and the urge to go up to the house yard to look for Face. He knew that most likely, the Lieutenant was killed in the initial attack and, if he wasn't, then he'd be either injured and slow them down or be in a position to offer them cover. His orders had been to move the family to the second location. Those were orders that Roy-Roy and Harry planned to carry out.
"He's gonna keep the bad guys away from us. He'll meet us later," Roy-Roy reassured her. He prayed he wasn't lying but he didn't give anyone a moment to think about it. He motioned for them all to move and began the careful crawl down the tunnel.
It was a three-mile trek to the exit, all of which was clear. When they hit the tunnel's end, Roy-Roy motioned them to remain hidden and signaled to Harry that he was going to look around. Ascending the ladder back up to the surface, Roy-Roy cautiously opened the tunnel's cover and looked around. He was relieved to see no on in the area.
Crawling out of the tunnel, he pushed himself up into a crouch and took another look. From his vantage point, he could see that the humvees were as they had been left, undiscovered under their camouflage. His breath caught in his throats and he had to fight the urge to vomit, however, when he looked out over the burning ruins of the safe house.
Looking over the scene he could just barely make out people moving around and knew that they were searching the property. He mumbled a quick prayer for his LT, hoping that whatever he went through was quick and painless because he didn't think there was any way that Face would live. Then he leaned back over the tunnel and called softly down.
"Harry, we've got hostiles about three klicks back behind us. The safe house is burning. We're clear here but we need to move. Keep low."
"Hooah" was the muffled reply and almost instantly, Harry was helping the family out of the tunnel. First up was Reema, and then Nadeem. Before Harry handed Iffy up though, he whispered to the girl, "I know it's scary sweetheart but just close your eyes. It's gonna be alright."
He then handed her up to her father and climbed up after her. Together the five made their way the half-mile to the humvee and slipped away into the night. It was a tense twenty minutes while they drove, everyone holding their breaths. But they finally made it far enough for both Rangers to feel safe enough to call the Colonel.
"This is Eagle Nest to Eagle eye," Harry called, relieved when he instantly received confirmation.
"This is Eagle's eyeball coming back at y'all. Go ahead," came the singsong voice of Murdock.
"Eagle eye, the Nest has been compromised. We are moving chicks to secondary. Repeat, Nest has been compromised. All chicks are being moved to secondary." Harry paused for an instant here, allowing himself a moment to steel his voice, "Eagle eye, Nest is down one Eagle."
There was no need to repeat that information. The Colonel's voice spoke before Harry could speak again, "Eagle Eye is already en route. Changing direction to rendezvous at second. Going dark."
"Yes sir," Harry replied before disconnecting.
There was a moment pause before Iffy sniffles and asked, "L-T isn't coming, is he?"
Neither Corporal was able to answer her.
Hannibal felt the Jazz raging in his blood. Not his happy scheming Jazz or his panicked plan b type of Jazz. He felt the Jazz, the one that made him cold and alert; the one that curved the raw anger and fear coursing through him. There was no doubt in the Colonel's mind, which "eagle" was down and he was cursing himself for not listening to Face sooner.
After Murdock and he had talked, Hannibal had met with Agent Lee, the CIA agent in charge of the relocation. She had, reluctantly, informed him the reason for the delay was because of a suspected mole. They had taken the time to isolate the suspected leak before they had a chance to ruin the operation. Except, no one had bothered to inform the Rangers of this complication until Hannibal had forced Lee to come clean.
After that, he had tried to reach Face and tell him to move, but they couldn't get them. That was when Hannibal had ordered everyone to move out, much to the disapproval of the CIA. He didn't really care.
Picking up the radio mic so he could call the next humvee, he said "Agent Lee. I can confirm your leak. We're heading to the secondary location now."
Returning to consciousness was a hellish experience. The first sense to return to him was smell… his nostrils were filled by the stench of smoke, sand, and dust. It made him cough violently, shaking his body. The coughing made him aware of the radiating pain that traveled from his head down through his neck, back, and sides. It was a throbbing ache that spread through him in pulses. Moving made it worse.
Next, he was able to open his eyes, but not for long and not too wide. The light around him was too bright, which was strange because he remembered it being at night. He did see strange shapes in the sand, distorted and twisted by the light, so he wondered for a moment if he was dreaming. But only a moment, because then his brain became aware of the sharp, painful ringing in his ears and he knew he was awake.
He closed his eyes tightly as a wave of nausea and pain rocked his body. He tried to breath deeply and ride it out but something wrong happened and it made him groan. He drifted on the sea of agony for a long while, until he felt rough hands on him that dragged him up.
Even with his eyes closed, he felt the world spin as he was hauled to his knees. When they tried to drag him to his feet, he lost the battle with his stomach and began to retch. There were shouts and he was released. He collapsed on all four and remind there until he could no longer vomit.
When he was done, he fell to his side, panting. He didn't get to rest long before once again, he was roughly yanked up. The world tilted and spun again, but this time he made it to his feet without vomiting. He was then half dragged, half led over to a Jeep where a man sat observing the scene. He was forced to his knees and his arms were restrained in a stress position behind his back, forcing his head to bow.
Words were spoken in Arabic above him that he didn't even try to understand. He remained as motionless as he could, taking in deep and even breaths to help ease the pain in his head. He still couldn't open his eyes all the way so he sensed more than saw the boots that appeared in front of him.
"Are you aware, American?" Came the muffled voice of the man towering over him.
Face managed to look up at him, though he had to quickly look away. The man was standing in front of the fire, and his poor head couldn't take it.
"Who are you American?" The man asked, though he sounded far away.
"Wha?" Face asked, now quickly losing the ability to focus.
There was a sudden and stinging pain to his face that set his head screaming anew. His vision started to tunnel and his stomach started to roll. He knew he didn't have much time left before he blacked out again.
"Your name!" Came the voice again, and it made Face laugh because it sounded so funny in his ringing ears.
There was another slap to his face, this time, turning his vision black. Then he felt a hand at his neck, reaching for something. Dog tags his brain told him, and he got the sense he shouldn't lose those, but he could do nothing as he felt them pulled from him.
"Peck. Templeton," the voice said and there was more after that but by then darkness had claimed him.
The sun was just beginning its slow crawl into the sky by the time Hannibal and his team made their way to the secondary location. It was a small shack, on the border of the providence, a little less isolated than the other location but still well protected.
It was a relief to see the other humvee. Corporal Harrison was positioned outside, keeping watch while Corporal Royals was guiding the family inside. It appeared that they had only just arrived. All five of them looked tired and nervous, but the two soldiers visibly relaxed when they saw the three humvees pull up.
They parked a few feet away from the group, and B.A. hadn't cut off the engine before Hannibal was climbing out. Royals, who had already ordered Harrison to take the family inside, met him. "Colonel, it's good to see you," the kid said, sounding exhausted.
"Good to see you all made it too," Hannibal said, and it was true. He was glad that they were safe, truly, but he couldn't help the fear filled anger that Face wasn't with them. "I'm going to need you to tell me exactly what happened," he said, and he could feel Murdock and B.A. coming to stand behind him. They wanted answers too.
Right now they were all very much running on adrenaline. They were in the mission, their heads in the game. Neither of them had dealt with the very real possibility that Face was dead. If they admitted that to themselves then they wouldn't be able to function.
"I'm going to need that debrief too," came Agent Lee's voice as she walked up to the small group with the rest of her team.
Royals looked from her to Hannibal, a question on his face.
Hannibal gave him a quick nod of confirmation, "This is agent Lee with the CIA. Agent Lee, Corporal Roy Royals."
"Ma'am," Royals said.
"Corporal. Do you mind showing me the family?" Lee asked.
The Corporal nodded and led them inside.
Waking was less hellish this time, in the same sense that one broken leg was better than two. At least this time he was afforded the luxury of acclimation before he had to open his eyes and move. It also helped, greatly, that his ears had stopped ringing, now everything just seemed muffled.
Face slowly opened his eyes, taking in his surroundings. He wasn't terribly surprised to find he was no longer at the safe house and he suspected that he was at one of the outlying farms, at least if he had to guess. He currently was lying on a dirt floor of what appeared to be a stable with his arms bound behind him and a gag in his mouth. The smell of livestock and dust mixed with the bright early morning sun and the pressing heat made his stomach roll and it was a fight not to vomit.
Shutting his eyes, Face groaned out his misery and tried to roll onto his knees. It took several tries, his movements clumsy and stiff and his body aching. He felt like he had done a whole week of drinking and was only now drying out. Still, he made it to his knees, but that was about as far as he got. The world was tilting oddly and he had to take a few moments to gather himself. In those moments, his captors decided to make an appearance.
From his knees, Face looked up into the faces of three Iraqi soldiers, one of them appearing to be the C.O. The C.O. stared down at him, unimpressed with the dust covered, and battered Ranger.
"American," he said pulling out a cigarette, "you are named Peck."
Face stared up at him blankly, highly unimpressed. It didn't take a genius to read a dog tag, and considering his were missing, it also didn't take one to figure out what how this guy learned his name.
"You are Army, yes? And your tattoo marks you a Ranger. Specialized unit, yes? Specialized skills? What would you be doing at an old farm in the middle of the desert, all by yourself?"
One of the soldiers reached out and pulled the gag out of Face's mouth. Face coughed and sputtered and tried to work the ache in his jaw out. He was only granted a moment however before his cheek was sharply slapped.
"Answer me American."
Face took a deep breath and let it out slowly, schooling his features. He knew two things in this moment; one, the others had escaped and were safe, and two, Hannibal was going to be looking for him. If he talked he was a dead man. He knew he was going to be tortured, but he also knew all he had to do was hold out for Hannibal. If he could hang in there, it would all be okay.
His team was coming.
That belief became his mantra as he put his best mask on. "I'm just a poor lost tourist whose guide gave him the shitiest deal ever," he said, all smiles.
And that was when the torture began.
"We'd noticed that the Shepherds didn't come by like they had been. We didn't know if it had been a pattern or not, but it made him nervous. He had us move into the tunnels to wait for you. That's why we were able to escape," Royals had told them. "He called it a compromise…."
Compromise… he had to think up a compromise because Hannibal didn't listen. He had tried to tell him, but he had been too annoyed. He had snapped an order at the kid and ignored him. Harrison had said that Face had taken one of the GPS trackers out of the satellite phones. B.A. said he'd be able to triangulate a signal as long as he was at the starting point. There was something technical about why, but Hannibal didn't really bother to listen.
He was more focused on the little girl who was crying in the corner, and Murdock trying to cheer her up. "L-T is gone," she had sniffled when the pilot asked her what was wrong. "We never got to finish our story."
The little girl looked heartbroken and Harrison had told them how she had been smitten with Face. And why wouldn't she be? Didn't all the girls love him? He treated the grown ones like movie stars and the little ones like princesses, always knowing how to make them smile. Murdock had scooped her into his lap and done his best to help finish the story. By the end of it, he had chased away most of her tears, but Hannibal could see the pain in her eyes. It was mirrored in all of the team.
The CIA had ushered the family away quickly after the debriefing. Lee had apologized to the Colonel; she had been convinced that they had caught the mole before he leaked anything. But she assured him the family was safe now. He believed her; she had been mostly honest with him, if reluctant to pass along information.
The Colonel had reported to Morrison, advising that he and his team were off to do a rescue mission. At least he hoped it was a rescue. Harrison and Royals were pretty confident that Face hadn't been in the structure.
"There's a chance then, Colonel?" Murdock had asked him, desperately.
"Course there is, sucka," B.A. barked before anyone could reply, "This is Faceman we're talkin' about. He gets outta everything."
Hannibal wished he had as much faith in that statement as B.A. seemed to have. He looked at the burnt out remains of the safe house. He was standing in the place he assumed Face had been found, judging by the pile of vomit and the prints. He could see where Face had been forced to his knees and held there by two other men while a third stood over him. There were at least half a dozen other prints all around, but this set was the only one by tire tracks. So it had to be Face. He had been forced to his knees and then knocked over and dragged away to one of the vehicles. The bad guys had him, but they hadn't killed him. They wouldn't take him if they were going to kill him. So now all Hannibal had to do was find him.
"Boss, I got a signal. He's not too far away. Maybe 5 miles," B.A.'s voice broke through the Colonel's thoughts.
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go get our Lieutenant."
They had tied him to a stall post. His hands were tied behind him, hooked between two rails pulling his arms down and straining his shoulders. A rope was tied tightly around his neck, and it too was hooked through something, a ring that was just above his head. He was forced to stand on tiptoes, straining his legs and arms so he could breathe. When the strain became unbearable he would sag, resulting in him hanging himself. It was a constant struggle for balance, trying to keep himself from exhaustion and suffocation. He had even resorted to using his hands to push up on the splintered post in a desperate hope for relief. He had grown accustomed to the wooden splinters piercing his skin and digging into the tissue.
They had beaten him first. The soldiers took turns holding him up while another one used him as a punching bag. Most of the blows had been focused on his abdominal and sides. There were a few to his face at the end though, and those had brought back the sea of pain from earlier. It had resulted in him vomiting up a disgusting mixture of bile and blood. That was when they had tied him to the post.
He didn't know how long he had been like this; he just knew that he was running out of time. He was unable to support himself for very long, the ache in his legs and arms growing too strong. It didn't help that his captors were electrocuting him with a crudely made cattle prod.
His body was shaking from the effort of standing. It hurt to breathe and he couldn't get a full lungful of air. He could only take in short sharp gasps, and that panicked his addled mind. He couldn't easily swallow, so bloody drool dripped down his face onto his chest. His head roared in pain, his vision was doubled, and the world was spinning. There was nothing left in his stomach to vomit, but that didn't stop it from churning. He couldn't even scream as the electricity tore through him once again.
"Come now American. Is a simple question really worth all this?" The C.O. taunted as he watched his men continue the torture.
The prod was removed from his stomach, but Face continued to jerk and twist for a few more moments as the electricity finished with him. When it was done, and he was able to get some semblance of control, he managed to respond through a rough and choked voice, "Peck. Templeton. Lieutenant. 6737510."
He didn't quite remember when he had begun giving out his name and rank. When they had begun the interrogation, he had been cocky and flippant. He was taunting them even, saying he knew nuns who could hit harder than them. They had tied him to the post and he had switched to threats. Now, he had fallen into his survival training, something he never really took much stock in until this moment. It was like a soothing mantra, easing the screaming desire to give them what they wanted so this would end while simultaneously reminding himself of who he was. Only, it was becoming harder and harder to speak.
They were breaking him. The lack of air was making everything worse and increasing his panic. It was like being drugged but with a great deal more urgency. Even half crazed as he was, however, he knew he couldn't break… he wouldn't be broken. You couldn't break someone who was only buying time. Especially when they knew if they told you what you wanted then you would kill them. Face didn't want to die so he wasn't going to break.
The C.O. signaled to his man and he was electrocuted again. This time, bloody foam came out of his mouth and his vision darkened. His body sagged for a moment but the pressure on his throat kept him from fully passing out. It was close though.
The C.O. was growing impatient. Face could very well bet the man's life depended on bringing in Nadeem and his family but he really couldn't be bothered to bring himself to care. The C.O. approached him, gun in hand, "Is this how you want to die?" The gun was pressed against his forehead. "Do you want to die like this?"
"Peck… Templeton… Lieutenant…." he began, struggling to breathe. His words were cut off when the gun was roughly forced into his mouth.
"I should just kill you now," the C.O. hissed. Face didn't even flinch. He was too tired and too numb to the threats. They stood like that, Face uncaring and his tormentor growing angrier, for a long moment. Then the gun was removed.
Face spat out fresh blood from where the gun had gouged his cheek. "6737510…. Peck… Templeton...Lieutenant… 6737510…." he recited, gasping.
"This is going nowhere. Break his legs," the man barked out in Arabic.
However, before anyone could move, there was an explosion outside. For a moment, the only movement in the barn was Face's ragged and desperate attempt to breathe then the three captors all made for the door as the sound of yelling and gunfire filled the air. The men didn't get far before they were blown back by another explosion, this one opening the doors to the would-be prison.
The three men all scrambled to fire their weapons or to get out of the line of fire but they never had a chance. Not when Hannibal was the first one through the door. If Face could have, he would have laughed. It was all so unceremonious… he didn't even know the fucking bastard's name. Now his torturer lay dead on the dirt floor and Hannibal was shouting for a medic.
Murdock and B.A. we're racing in and when Face saw his team, he didn't know if he wanted to laugh or cry. He just knew he had never felt more relieved to see anyone in his life. He felt his body go limp from the sudden rush and that damn choking pressure on his throat got worse but he no longer had the strength to hold himself up. He wasn't worried though, not this time.
"Whoa, hang on there kid," Hannibal said, his voice tight with worry as he caught Face, holding him up. He was quickly pushed away by B.A. who told the Colonel to get his hands free. Murdock was already working on the ropes around his neck.
It was overwhelming, all the action. His team being there so suddenly, the release of his hands and neck, the sudden blood rush and the waves of pain… It was all too much. He must have blacked out because his next memory was coming to while he was lying on his back in the dirt. B.A. and Murdock we're off to the side and he could sense Hannibal at his head, holding it still. Everybody seemed worried… especially the medic that was looming over him.
"Airway's swelling shut… need to intubate…" Face could hear the words, but they were so muffled and strange… they didn't make sense.
"He's back with us… gonna struggle… not pleasant…" Face didn't like the sound of that. He started to panic again, and that was when the haze lifted enough for him to feel his body.
It was pain and agony and the inability to breathe… he panicked. He didn't know what to do, his fight or flight response kicked in to over drive and it made him struggle. He started to twist and shake… he felt water leak from his eyes. Emotion took control and he no longer was able to comprehend what was happening.
He felt two sets of hands restraining him, and he wondered when the hell had Murdock and B.A. gotten here.
"Easy Muchacho, take it easy," Murdock said. He sounded scared.
"We gotta do this Faceman. You gotta be able to breathe" B.A. said as softly as he could.
None of the words made any sense. Not when the medic had a metal claw and was reaching for his mouth. Not when he could still remember what the gun tasted like.
"Lieutenant! Eyes on me!" barked a voice that broke through all the panic and stilled him.
His eyes snapped up to look into a familiar pair of steel blue irises. He instantly felt calm.
"We have to put a tube in your airway so you can breathe. It's not going to hurt, but you're not going to like it. Don't fight the medic. This is going to help. I promise," Hannibal said, and Face listened. Hannibal had never lied to him.
Hannibal leaned back, still holding Face's gaze, so that the medic could work. Face whimpered when he felt the laryngoscope in his mouth but he felt the Colonel smooth back his hair. "It's alright Kid. Just close your eyes, everything's going to be alright," Hannibal promised and Face believed him. So he did just as he was ordered, he closed his eyes.
"Shit… I need suction," the medic growled as he peered into Face's mouth.
Hannibal looked up at the young soldier, a frown on his face. "What's wrong?"
"He's got a lot of blood in there, looks like a laceration… and he can't swallow…." the medic mumbled, sounding distracted.
Hannibal swallowed hard, trying to reign in his emotions. He'd never be able to describe what it was like finding Face in such a state. There was relief, mixed with rage and fear, and a little bit of horror. The sight of his Lieutenant hanging, with his face red and lips blue, would be in his nightmares for years to come. Then there was the demon eyes, broken capillaries that turned his eyes bright red, which came from strangulation… They were somehow more hideous than all the blood and bruises that covered the kid.
It made Hannibal wish he could kill the bastards all over again, or at least take his time killing them.
Hannibal held Face's head steady while watching as Murdock helped suction out Face's mouth, wincing at the amount of blood he saw. B.A. had taken over restraining him, but the kid wasn't putting up much more of a fight. His breathing was becoming more labored and he was showing the signs of his exhaustion. The medic had become a little more hurried; none of this was a good sign.
"Sir, the farm's secured. We've got med-vac on the way. How's el-tee?" Came Royal's voice from somewhere to Hannibal's left. He and Harrison had insisted on coming along. They wanted to help find him, even as exhausted as they were. Hannibal respected them both for that and felt a wave of pride in his X.O. It spoke to the level of respect that his soldiers had for you when they willingly give up sleep to find you.
"Not good," Hannibal answered, looking away as the medic finished the intubation. "What's their ETA?"
"Less than 20. He gonna make it?" Royals answered. He sounded scared.
"He's breathing…" the medic said.
Hannibal wasn't sure if that was a hopeful statement or not.
They had gotten Face back to base, but by the skin of their teeth. He had, had a series of convulsions on the way back, not to mention vomiting up blood and bile between each seizure…. The Medic was worried about his brain swelling, internal bleeding, his damaged airway, prolonged suffocation… the list went on. Hannibal was just worried about the kid living. Everything else, he could deal with. The kid dying, that he couldn't.
As soon as they had landed, Face had been rushed away. There was so much frantic chaos that had surrounded him; Hannibal hadn't been able to get close enough to say anything to the kid. Not that it would have mattered all too much since Face was unconscious. Had been since that brief moment in the barn. Still, the Colonel would much rather be inside the operating room with his Lieutenant than standing outside the medical tent, staring blankly at the opening with B.A. and Murdock next to him.
Morrison had found them there, all three of them watching and waiting. He had come up to Hannibal and put his hand on his friend's shoulder, "John. You and your boys go get cleaned up and some rest. I'll send for you once we have an update on Temp."
"Boys, go ahead," Hannibal, said unmoving, "get cleaned up, get some food, and get some rest. We still have medical checks and a debriefing."
B.A. and Murdock both gauged the situation, sharing a silent conversation between them. "Yes Sir," B.A. said softly and stepped away from the tent a few feet. He then stopped and waited for Murdock who was still standing next to the Colonel.
"You're gonna get some rest too, right Colonel? You're gonna need some time too," Murdock said, his voice sounding like a child's. The Captain was lost right now in a sea of fear and turmoil. He didn't have the ability to hold it together at the moment and one of the only people in the world who could anchor him was the cause of the turmoil. And that sea had swept up in it all his other anchors. He couldn't lose all his anchors…
"In a bit, Captain," Hannibal said, his voice rough, eyes still locked on the tent.
"Come on Murdock, " B.A. called softly, "I've still got some of my mama's cookies. That'll help."
Murdock looked over to his friend and 'big brother' who still waited for him. He was still lost, he was still out to sea, but B.A. was offering him line in. It wasn't the strongest line ever, because the crazy man could see all the pain and fear that the other held tightly on to… but it was a start. "Cookies sound good… your mama always makes the best…."
"You better believe she does," B.A. said, putting his arm on the Captain's shoulder and guiding him away.
"Can we save some for the Colonel?" Murdock asked, sounding a little better.
"Sure we can," B.A. answered.
"I'm gonna ask mama to make him his own batch," B.A. answered, a hitch in his voice. And then the pair was gone… out of Hannibal's range of hearing. But Morrison was still there.
"Eyes on me, Colonel," the man said firmly but kindly to his former X.O.; unknowingly he echoed the earlier order Hannibal had given Face. But then again, wasn't it from Morrison that Hannibal had learned the order in the first place? Hannibal slowly looked from the tent to his friend, his eyes showing his thoughts. "You will get a shower. You will get some food. And you will get some rest. Understood?"
"I have never seen him so scared, Russ," Hannibal answered softly.
Morrison nodded, understanding, the kid was like a son to his friend. The preliminarily reports that Morrison had heard, had warned him that the young man was in bad shape. He didn't have the full story yet, but he expected there to be a fair amount of guilty feelings to it. Hannibal was protective of all his boys, and when he couldn't protect them, he could be too damn hard on himself.
"He's in the best place possible for him right now. And he's stubborn enough and cocky enough to not let a few Iraqis beat him. His damn pride wouldn't take it." That last remark got the barest twitch of a smile. "Go on. Take care of yourself and the rest of your boys. As soon as there's an update, I'll let you know."
"Thanks Russ," Hannibal said. He didn't know if the conversation with his oldest friend helped to make him feel better or not, but he still knew an order when he heard one. Even if it was wrapped in well meaning…
Two days and counting…
Face had a severe concussion. He had been bleeding from his spleen, but it was a minor tear that they were able to repair. He had a total of four broken ribs and the rest were bruised. His kidneys had been bruised and were still draining blood, but they were healing well. His hands had had wood embedded in them so deep that the doctors had been forced to perform minor surgery to get them out. He was going to need physical therapy for his grip after this and have to retest for his sniper certification. His heart when he had first been brought in was in an abnormal rhythm and had to be shocked to correct it. As it was, there was still a murmur that the doctors were monitoring. But it was fading.
What they had feared were seizures from his brain swelling had thankfully just been a result of blood flow returning to his limbs and not actual seizures. Still, the jerking was terrifying to witness. Equally as terrifying was the vomit and fluid in the young man's lungs that threatened his weakened state with aspiration pneumonia. Then there was the matter of his airway.
The kid's throat was swollen nearly shut. If the medic hadn't gotten the tube in when he did, Face would have needed a trach. Currently, he was still receiving assistance from a ventilator. He was also still hocked up to several IVs and a monitor and under constant care.
Two days and counting, and Face was still unconscious. The doctors all reassured Hannibal that his Lieutenant was not in a coma. That there was too much brain activity and he was too responsive for him to be anything else but "deeply asleep". They tried to assure him it was a good thing too, that his body needed the rest. It had a lot to recover from, and it needed to focus all it had on that recovery. He supposed they were right. He had no reason to doubt them. He just didn't find himself very reassured.
He was not an expert, but he could still see the ugliness of the abuse the kid had suffered. His skin was pale, even as sunburned as it was, except for where the bruises healed. He was still too dehydrated and there was the fear of malnourishment now, with him being unable to eat. They were talking about a feeding tube, but the doctor in charge wanted to hold off. He didn't think it was needed right now. His eyes were still so blood shot, Hannibal could see them almost glowing red when the nurse would do her neuro checks. It was disturbing.
"Colonel?" Murdock called from the entrance to Face's 'room'. The camp's hospital was small, and there wasn't really an ICU, even though they were equipped for one. Normally critical patients were flown out to Germany as soon as they were stable, however, with Face's airway and head trauma, the doctor's didn't want to risk an evac. Not until Face woke up. So, the staff had set up a makeshift room for the Lt in a more isolated portion of the camp. The Colonel and the rest of his team had been given special permission to be there, under the strict orders that they were only in there one at a time. The three had set up a makeshift rotation so that they could still complete their scheduled duties, but their friend wouldn't be alone.
"Your turn, Captain?" Hannibal asked, his voice gravely. He was so tired.
"Yes Sir," Murdock said, shifting normally, "I brought you coffee…"
Hannibal sighed and stood up to stretch. He looked down at his Lieutenant, a smile tugging at his lips when he watched the young man twitch. The kid was fighting, his body doing its damndest to show that it was still working. Face still wanted to live. He found himself grateful for that, he didn't know what he would think if Face had been lying still for the last two days. "Thanks Captain," he said as he took the offered mug.
Murdock nodded, eyes locked on his friend. He was still struggling to hold it together, but he was doing a much better job. B.A. had been wonderful for that, taking care of everyone the best he could. He had managed to Skype with his mom and made each of the other speak with her, even Hannibal. It had been a much-needed thing for all of them, her words of guidance and comfort. So had been the calls to Face's guardian, Father Maghill, the elderly priest's calm understanding and hopeful words with the news of his 'son's' improving condition. All of this helped, but the Colonel was still worried. So were B.A. and Murdock. They would be, as long as Face was on the vent and unconscious.
"Any changes?" Murdock asked, hopeful.
"Nothing to report. Doc says he's still stable and not to worry. Just let him rest," Hannibal answered, taking a sip of his coffee. He'd kill for a cigar right now, but he couldn't find where he had put them.
Murdock nodded and walked over to his friend, "I brought Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy… think he'll like that?" The Captain had been spending his time with Face reading to him. "I'm not sure he liked the book I brought yesterday, so I hope he likes this one. It's one of my favorites."
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Hannibal reassured. The pilot nodded and settled into the chair that Hannibal had left. The Colonel watched him a moment, concerned about the strain that his pilot was under. Perhaps when this was all over, the Colonel could convince Morrison to give them all some leave. With a tired sigh, he left the pilot to it and went to check on his other 'boy'.
Four days and counting, and now there was finally some good news. Face was starting to wake up, and the hospital staff was already having trouble keeping him from moving around. B.A. had noticed it first; he had been talking to the younger man and said his name. Face had turned his head towards him. At first B.A. thought he was seeing things, but then Face did it again. So B.A. told him to squeeze his hand, and Face did. B.A. had first gone and gotten the nurse who had confirmed his assessment. She had told him to leave so that the doctor could evaluate Face and the Sergeant had gone to get Hannibal and Murdock.
Now, all three of them were there in that small room, waiting. Face had to be put in restraints to keep him from pulling on the tube. Nobody much liked it, but since the kid's throat was still swollen, it was necessary. Still, the doctors said it was a very positive sign, it indicated that Face still had motor control and spacial awareness. More importantly, it showed his brain was still capable of identifying problems and solving them, all good indications that there was no brain damage. Now they just needed him to open his eyes.
That would come almost thirteen hours after B.A. first noticed Face waking up. Hannibal had ordered both Murdock and B.A. to get some sleep, and the two had camped out on chairs in the corner of the room… a creative compromise. Hannibal was seated next to Face, reading, with one hand resting on the bed next to his Lieutenant when he felt the light tap on his hand. Confused, he looked down at his hand to see Face's finger poking him. A smile on his face, he looked up and met the kid's eyes.
"Welcome back Lieutenant," he said softly, adjusting his position so that he could better see his boy. "B.A., Murdock, wake up," he called, and he could hear the other two moving. Face pulled on the restraints, weakly struggling, and tried to fight the tube in his throat, his blue eyes shinning with confusion and fear. "You're alright Lieutenant. You're in the hospital. That tube's helping you breathe, that's all. You kept trying to take it out, but it needs to stay in," Hannibal said, trying to reassure him.
"Facey?" Murdock called, drawing the younger man's attention. He smiled down at his friend, relief and excitement shinning through. "B.A.'s gone ta get the doc. I told 'im you'd prefer a nurse, but I don't think he's listening."
Face looked up in his friend's eyes, and some of the fear in his own expression eased. He was clearly starting to recognize his surroundings, a very good sign. "You're going to be alright, Kid. Once your throat stops swelling, we can get that tube out and get you out of here," Hannibal added, drawing the kid's attention back to him.
There was a question in Face's eyes that he couldn't verbalize, but Hannibal could understand all the same. Whether it was because of the years that they had worked with each other, or the tightness of their bond, Hannibal was the only person in the world who could read Face like a book. "Yeah, Kid. We're all alright too. We're just tired. Everybody made it back," Hannibal reassured, knowing his Lieutenant was checking on his family; making sure everyone was accounted for. Because that was what his boys did, they took care of each other before they worried about himself.
"Hey Faceman, ya lazy fool. Finally woke up, huh?" B.A. teased from the door, more than a little relieved.
The younger man looked over to him and managed a small wave before B.A. was forced to move by the medical staff that were coming in. Reluctantly, the rest of the team were forced to leave as well, though they each promised to be "just outside" while the doctors and nurses did their jobs.
Eight days and counting; the tube had been removed a few days before and while Face needed to be on a nasal cannula, he was certainty doing a lot better. The cannula was mostly a precaution at this point, just extra oxygen to help. He had passed almost all his neruo checks; the only thing questionable was his memory. That was to be expected and didn't seem to bother the doctor. Traumatic amnesia may have even been a blessing in this case, with all the kid had been through. The important thing was that he knew his name, where he was, and what he had been doing right before the attack.
Other good news was that he was off the heart monitor, the murmur now being undetectable, and only on a saline IV. He was refusing any painkillers stronger than Tylenol, and was constantly saying "I'm fine" whenever asked. His kidneys and spleen also seemed to be recovering well, with little to no long lasting affects. The bruises were starting to fade, his throat, while still raw and sore, was recovering, and even his eyes were returning to normal. The kid was bouncing back, he had about six months of therapy and would have to clear several psych evals, but he was recovering.
Hannibal sat with him, working on paper work while he dozed. Tomorrow, the kid was being sent to Germany for a week before being sent back to the States for medical leave. He was going to be at Walter Reed for a month before he was discharged to physical therapy back at Fort Bragg for the remainder of his recovery. As for the rest of the team, Morrison had worked a deal to give them three months of leave and then a four month training schedule at Fort Bragg mumbling something about, "you're useless when you aren't all together."
So for the majority of Face's recovery, the team would be with him, and for that time they wouldn't be, Father Maghill would be. The Father would be meeting Face in Germany, thanks in part to Hannibal, and flying back to Walter Reed with him. The goal was not to let the kid be alone unless he asked to be. Everyone was well aware of just how well Face did when he was hurt and alone, and they were all going to do their best to avoid it.
Hannibal was just reading over a report when he heard the first whimper. Frowning, he looked up to his Lieutenant. The young man's face was distorted, his brow was sweating, and his body was tense. There was no question about it; the kid was having a nightmare. "Temp," Hannibal called softly, letting his Irish tenor fill the air, "Time to wake up." When there was no reaction from his Lieutenant, Hannibal reached out and tapped his leg, once again speaking to him, "Temp, wake up."
This time, Face startled awake. If he had had the strength, he would have shot up, as it was his eyes snapped open and he gasped for air. Hannibal remained still, not speaking and holding his breath. He was giving the kid time to adjust to reality, to allow his mind the ability to catch up with his body. It took longer than it normally would have, but eventually Face seemed to shake himself free of the nightmare. "You back with me Lieutenant?" Hannibal asked, once he saw Face looking around.
The kid snapped his eyes over to Hannibal, startled by his presence, but the surprise faded almost instantly when he recognized his Colonel. Leaning back into the pillow of the cot, he sighed, "Hey Boss."
"Hey yourself, Kid. You alright?" Hannibal asked, studying the other man closely.
Face tried to smile, but couldn't really pull it off. He didn't have the energy to con anyone at the moment, or even to find that inconvenience frustrating. "I'm fine," he said, though the words were flat and an obvious lie.
Hannibal closed the folder he had been reading through and tossed it lightly onto the side table. "Sure you are. That's exactly why you're going to tell me what's going on in your head," It was an order, and the sigh Face gave in response told Hannibal that he knew it.
"Can I have some water first?" he asked, sounding unhappily resolved.
Hannibal chuckled as he dutifully poured a glass and handed it to his Lieutenant. The kid had to hold the glass with both hands because of the still healing lacerations to his palms. It was amusing to watch, because he slightly resembled a toddler when drinking. "Thanks," Face said as he set the glass down with a grimace. Hannibal nodded, satisfied that his throat sounded less rough, less gravely. He had no doubt that it was still sore as all hell though.
"So, how are you?" the Colonel asked after allowing Face some time to gather his thoughts.
There was another sigh, and Face shifted in the bed so that he was looking at the wall and not at his C.O. He stared blankly for a moment, the wheels in his head turning before he finally said, "I think I remember parts of it." The words were soft, barely loud enough to be heard, but yet clearly understood. The weight of them almost felt like a physical blow.
"Why do you think that?" Hannibal asked, choosing to focus on the unusual phrasing Face had chosen instead of the actual memories, at least for now.
"I can… I shut my eyes and I feel something around my neck. I smell dirt and smoke. I can feel…" Face gulped, swallowing back the words. Whatever he had been about to say, Hannibal sensed it bothered him more than he was willing to admit.
"You feel what?" he pressed gently, leaning forward.
"Something in my mouth… They forced something in my mouth…." Came the answer and there was a mixture of disgust and shame in the admission and Hannibal understood why. There were certain things that another person could do to someone to break them.
"Lieutenant, eyes on me," Hannibal said softly, drawing the younger man's gaze to him. "Templeton, you weren't raped. The doctors told you that, right?" Hannibal's voice was kind, but firm. He knew better than most the nightmares of the kid's past and the dark places his mind could go when he was scared and alone.
"They did," Face said, and he took a deep breathe in and let it out slowly. "I have this… memory? It's vague, but before you came in… the guy in charge… the one asking questions… he was angry and he took his gun and forced it in my mouth. I can't tell if it's real or not though…"
Hannibal took a sharp breathe in, replaying in his mind the words that the medic had said when he tried to intubate Face…. The laceration that had taken ten stitches to close and the three teeth that had needed to be wired in place as a precaution. They had initially thought it had been a result from either the beating Face had suffered or the concussive blast he survived. Except, nobody really believed those explanations because they just didn't add up. Now Hannibal could see why. "I think you may be remembering some of it. That sounds like the source of the laceration to your mouth," Hannibal commented, though he didn't know if he was being reassuring or not.
Face frowned, and ran his tongue carefully along the stitches. "I almost gave in," he said after a long moment. "I almost gave up… I would have told them anything… just to breathe…"
"There's no shame in that, Kid. You know that," Hannibal said softly, his voice adamant. He meant those words, he believed them, and he wanted Face to know it, to believe them too.
"I know what they tell us in survival training, I just didn't think it would… I don't know," Face said, and he sounded tired. He was wearing himself out; Hannibal could see it.
"Face, what you went through was bad. You survived something that most men couldn't. So what if you almost gave in. So what if you almost talked. No one on this Earth could blame you if you had, and the truth of it is that you didn't. They didn't break you, so stop thinking about the 'what if'. You'll drive yourself insane."
"I'm already insane… I just hide it better than Murdock," Face said with a yawn.
"No you don't. Besides, we're all the crazy ones, Murdock's the only one of us who's perfectly sane," Hannibal responded and smiled when he got a smile, a real one, from the kid. "Speaking of Murdock… when were you going to tell me about Charissa?"
Face groaned and Hannibal had to swallow back a laugh. "He told you?" Face all but whined.
"I was ready to formally reprimand you until he told me, so yeah. You better thank him, Kid. He's one hell of a defense attorney," Hannibal said, trying to keep his tone light. It was hard though, his X.O. had been through so much with in such a short time, there was no way Face was coping with everything. What Hannibal needed to know, was just how far down the rabbit hole he was, because it would make all the difference if he were to be able to go back into the field.
"I decided to hold off on the promotion the General offered me. I'm not ready for it yet," Face said tiredly. "She didn't understand…"
Hannibal sighed, understanding that all too well. Face had been offered a Captain commission not too long ago, and he had been thrilled. The only problem was, he would have had to leave the unit. Hannibal, while incredible proud of his X.O., didn't think he was ready to be in charge of his own unit and had told him as much when Face had spoken to him on the matter. Face had apparently agreed with him….
"And because of that, she doesn't think you're good enough for her?" Hannibal scuffed.
"I don't think it's like that… I mean… she's assigned to the DOD. She's more of a politician than on the front lines… I don't think she gets it. What you have to do out here… what it takes to lead people… I've still got to figure that out too. It's easy being a Lieutenant; I just follow orders. Being a Captain… having to think up the orders…. I'm not ready for that."
Hannibal chuckled, "I think that's the most responsible thing I've ever heard you say."
"Don't get used to it. It's probably just the concussion and lack of air speaking," Face said with smile that was then covered up by a yawn.
"Get some sleep Kid, we'll talk more later," Hannibal ordered, watching Face settle back down.
"Yess'ir…." He slurred before drifting off back to sleep.
Hannibal watched him a moment before settling back to his reports. Over all, he had no doubts that Face was going to recover, and come back strong. He was just really grateful that Father Maghill was going to be there when the kid landed in Germany. It was going to do him some good to be able to speak to the Father; he was well overdue for a confession.
There was a soft whimper from the bed, and Hannibal rested his hand on Face's arm. "Easy there Kid, all's well," He said softly, again letting his Irish tenor fill the silence. This time, it worked, and the younger man stilled and settled deeper into sleep. Yeah… he was going to be fine, it was just going to take a little time. But as Hannibal had told himself earlier, he could handle anything so long as his boy lived.