Scars6

Scars, Part 6

Hannibal began to come around. His head still was spinning, but he knew he was awake. Trying to sit up, he started to fall back until he felt someone put a hand to the small of his back. He looked up to see Dr. Tanaka, tears streaming down her face.

Brushing aside her tears, he whispered, "Hey, Doc., it's not the end of the world."

She began to sob and he took her in his arms. He quickly surveyed the room. Murdock was angrily slamming his fist against a wall and talking to himself, BA was still unconscious by Hannibal's side and Decker was lying motionless on the other side of the room.

"He's dead, Hannibal. They killed him."

"Decker?" He started to rise to go look at the other colonel

"No, Hannibal. They killed Tem," she managed through her tears.

He froze. No. They couldn't have come all this way to fail. Not Face.

He dropped back to his knees and pulled the doctor directly into his icy stare, trying everything to keep composed. "Did you see him? Did you see them kill Face?"

"No. B-but they never brought him b-back . . . I heard a shot . . . And Stockwell had already said he didn't need Tem once he had the team . . . He said Tem was expendable."

From Murdock's direction, he heard confirmation of part of what she had said. "I heard a shot from upstairs, too." Spinning in the captain's direction, Hannibal could see that Murdock was deadly serious. Punching the wall was another sign that the captain was coming close to giving in to his rage. "Colonel," Murdock repeated, "there was a shot."

Hearing Murdock's words, Hannibal silently admitted that it was probably true. Face probably was dead. As the realization sunk in, Hannibal wanted to surrender to the grief he felt welling up inside him. He could feel it taking hold and fought against it. But he couldn't succumb. Not now. Even if he could not save Face, Hannibal was still responsible for everyone in the room and he had to keep himself and the rest of them together. Taking a deep breath, Hannibal looked the doctor directly in the eye. He had to give her some hope, even if it turned out to be false. "Now listen to me. We have an understanding on this team. Until we see a body, no one is dead. So Face isn't dead. You got that? You have to believe Face is alive." Hannibal silently urged himself to believe his words.

Her tears started to slow and she fought to regain her composure. Hannibal held her in his arms until she stopped trembling. This wasn't her fight, he thought. Damn Stockwell for putting her in the middle of this.

When she had recovered enough, she led Hannibal to Decker. Looking over his pursuer, Hannibal could feel nothing but pity for the other man. No man deserved to die like this. Hannibal prayed that he would be able to save the other colonel. Even if Hannibal had already failed to save his own son.

"Hang on, Rod. We'll get you out of this." Hannibal meant every word he said.

"Smith," the other man replied weakly.

"Yeah, Rod. I'm here."

"Where's Peck?"

Hannibal did not want to reveal the truth. Instead, he simply answered, "Face isn't here."

"Smith?"

"Yeah, Rod."

"He's a good kid. He blames himself for shooting a hostage, b-but he's a good kid . . .You raised him well . . . I tried to look out for him for you . ."

Decker's voice trailed off as Hannibal contemplated the words. Face blamed himself. Face had killed a what? Oh no. It quickly dawned on Hannibal what he had missed. How could he have been so blind? Hannibal felt a sudden surge of shame flood through him for not realizing what Face had been going through. How could Hannibal have left the kid all alone? And now, Hannibal realized, he might never have a chance . . .

No. He stopped himself. He couldn't focus on that right now. He would have to come to terms with that later -- if there was a later. Now he had to concern himself with Stockwell.

"Do you best to save him, doctor," he instructed, motioning at the injured Decker.

She nodded but then a puzzled a look came over her face. "Did you hear something?" she asked.

Hannibal listened for a moment and heard a slight buzzing coming from somewhere close by. Realizing what it was, he fiddled with his white jacket until the small electronic device fell loose from his collar. The earpiece. It had somehow fallen out of his ear, but the cord had gotten tangled in his jacket. Stockwell had probably never seen it in his haste to get the team into the basement. Hannibal never planned on luck, but he admitted that it sometimes helped. He shoved the earpiece in his ear.

"Amy, is that you?"

"Yes, Hannibal. I followed the van as you instructed. I'm just down the street."

"Where are we?"

"On a cul-de-sac in Westchester. 845 Campion Drive. Near the airport. I watched Stockwell and his man carry you inside. There only seems to be one man with him."

"Did you see Face?"

"Yeah. They took him in last. Isn't he there with you?" The worry in her voice was plain.

"Calm down, kid. We don't know anything right now. Did you do what I instructed."

As she confirmed it, a noise from behind him made him turn. Good, he thought, BA was waking up. And the sergeant was going to be pissed. He reached into his coat for a cigar, but there were none in his pocket. Obviously, Stockwell had done some type of search. Hannibal mentally wished the general would choke on the smoke from the good Havanas.

Suddenly over his ear, he heard Amy's excited voice. "Hannibal, there's movement."

"What kind?"

"Someone's going out to the van. It's the Abel-guy. He's carrying something." Her voice nearly choked. "Oh no . . . Hannibal . . . it's Face . . . and he's not moving at all."

Hannibal tried to mask the terror he felt. He knew that no one else in the room could hear Amy, and he did not want to panic the others. Murdock was already coming close to losing it and he needed the doctor to keep calm if they were going to get Decker out alive. Carefully selecting his words, Hannibal quietly spoke.

"What is Abel 3 doing?"

"He just put Face in the van and Stockwell just came outside. Stockwell is climbing in."

Hannibal smiled slightly. Stockwell must believe that he had the team locked up tight if he was going to leave them here.

"Are they pulling out?"

"Yes, Hannibal. They're pulling out and driving down the block."

"Amy. As soon as they turn, get your butt in here and bring the phone. We're in the basement. I'm not sure where the entrance is, but . . ."

Dr. Tanaka cut him off. "It's through the kitchen, the door between the hallway and the refrigerator."

"Amy. In the kitchen, there is a door between a hallway and the refrigerator. That's where we are."

In full command, Hannibal instructed BA to go to the top of the steps in case Amy needed some help with the door. Turning to the doctor, he asked if Decker could be moved upstairs. She shook her head.

"Okay, Doc. Amy's bringing a phone. I'm going to leave it with you. Call 911 and tell them to get some paramedics to the basement of 845 Campion Drive. Keep him alive until they arrive."

"What about you?"

"We're going after Face. Stockwell has him and we won't leave him behind. No matter what." Even if it they only recovered Face's body, the team owed the kid at least that much.

"How do you know where they're taking him?"

He smiled with a grim determination. "Just a little trick up my sleeve."

_____________________________________________________________________

Nancy followed the paramedics out of the house. The team had left only fifteen minutes earlier, probably only five to ten minutes after Stockwell had left, but if felt like forever before the ambulance arrived. She had helped them do their best to stabilize the colonel on the scene and then helped them load Decker on a gurney. They were now rushing him to Centinela Hospital. She still didn't know if he would make it, but she had done her best. With exhaustion and despair quickly replacing her adrenaline, she knew she would have to pass the colonel off to another doctor. Besides, her mind was completely preoccupied with the team. She hoped beyond hope that they would find Tem alive. And hoped, more realistically, that they would at least recover his body.

_____________________________________________________________________

Stockwell stopped the white van at the end of the old pier. At four in the morning in December, the place was understandably empty.

He opened the back door of the van where the lieutenant was lying motionless. Blood still streaked his back and chest.

"Cut the rope and get him out of there," he instructed Abel 3.

Freeing the rope, the subordinate grabbed Face by the hair and began to drag him from the van. But just as his body reached the back bumper, the lieutenant rolled over, bringing his left leg around and digging it deep into a surprised Abel 3's stomach.

The large agent doubled over and fell back against the railing of the pier. Face leaped after him, punching as fast and furious as possible while the element of surprise was in his favor. He knew that would last only for a few seconds. In his condition, there was little chance he could overpower Abel 3, let alone Abel 3 and Stockwell both. Even on Face's best days, the chances of that were unlikely.

His advantage was even shorter than he had hoped. Stockwell's beating had sapped most of the strength from Face's bruised and bloody body. He could see Abel 3 recovering from the surprise, so Face instinctively ducked to the right, putting his weight on the broken leg. As the leg buckled and he fell to the ground, he decided to pray that the gods of luck were favoring him.

Face reached out from the ground and wrapped his arms around Abel 3's legs. With the last bits of rapidly diminishing strength, Face forced himself to his knees, lifting the other man's legs and flipping him over the railing. Face barely heard the splash as he collapsed against the railing in exhaustion.

"I must compliment you, Lieutenant," came Stockwell's smug voice from behind him. That was quite unforseen. You know what? I don't know if Abel 3 can swim. Oh well, he was . . ."

"Expendable," Face hissed, cutting Stockwell off.

"Yes. Just as you are. Now that I have the rest of the A-Team. Turn around."

Face slowly turned his body so he was crouched with his back leaning against the railing and all his weight on his good left leg. Stockwell was standing over Face aiming a 9mm at his head. Face was too tired to do anything but roll his head back so that he was staring nearly straight up at the stars. He decided he would rather die looking at the heavens than at the barrel of a gun.

"Go ahead, Stockwell. You've won. Why don't you just shoot me and get it over with?"

The general walked towards him, a crooked smile pursing his lips. "Oh, I'm not going to shoot you, Lieutenant. If I really wanted to do that, I would have killed you in the house when I put on a little show for your friends' edification."

Seeing the puzzled look on the lieutenant's face, Stockwell answered the unasked question. "Oh, that's right. You don't know about that. Your team thinks you're already dead. A nicely timed gun shot from the kitchen if you really want to know. Right now, Captan Murdock is probably catatonic and Colonel Smith probably isn't thinking very straight. After all, you always were Smith's weak link. It helps to know one's enemy. It makes it easier to keep them off-balance, which is, of course, to my advantage.

"But I'm not going to shoot you, Lieutenant. No. You're going to take another swim. Oh, don't look so surprised. I know all about that. You see, Lieutenant, in your guilt over killing the good doctor and poor, heroic Colonel Decker, you decided to take a plunge off this pier. Don't doubt that I can fake the autopsy reports. You killed them."

Face barely heard the last part of Stockwell's plan. Nancy and Decker were dead. He knew the soldier had been dying from his gunshot wounds, but there was no reason to kill the doctor. He felt a hot burning sensation in the pit of his stomach, as the rage began to grow. "You twisted son of a bitch. Why couldn't you just let them go?"

"You know I couldn't do that, Lieutenant. It's a shame -- the woman at least. She was very attractive. I still can't picture you with her, but I think maybe you did love her.

"Well, you'll be with her soon enough, Lieutenant. Even if you survive the fall, I give you about fifty seconds with that leg before you drown. And if by some miracle you live, it won't make a difference. You'll be facing murder charges which I can guarantee will stick. So it's your choice. Death now or the gas chamber in San Quentin."

Stockwell laughed and motioned with the gun. "Now get up."

Face tried to push himself up, but couldn't. The anger and despair were like a weight pinning him down. It wasn't that he was afraid of death. Face had long resigned himself to the fact that he probably would die young and violently. But he never pictured this. He never thought he would die alone, with the team nowhere to be seen. They had promised him after all.

The thought fled as Stockwell reached forward, grabbed Face's arm and jerked him forward. Face fell onto his hands and knees.

Stockwell laughed. "I am so tempted to shoot you right now. To shoot you while you are like that. On your hands and knees would be so appropriate."

"Do it, you bastard," Face urged through clenched teeth, hoping he could prod Stockwell into ending things quickly.

Face felt a hand grab his blond hair and wrench his head backward. The force pulled him off his knees and he found himself up against the pier railing with Stockwell's gun next to his head. Stockwell continued pushing Face and he felt his shoulders falling back over the railing. Knowing the fall was inevitable and he would be dead once he hit the water, Face stopped struggling and prayed for absolution.

His prayers were interrupted by the loud horn of the van.

The van. His mind reeled. The van meant the team. If the van was here, the team was here. Stockwell didn't have them. And if he didn't have the team, then maybe . . . Nancy . . .

The sudden hope gave him new energy. He brought his arm up and tried to force the gun away from his head. He felt the bullet whiz by his head, even before the sound nearly deafened him. Trying to distract the other man, Face hissed, "Your plan's falling apart." He felt Stockwell slip back as Face planted a satisfying left knee in the other man's stomach. A flash of silver made him realize that the force of the blow had sent Stockwell's gun flying onto the wooden pier.

As Stockwell's grip on him released, Face came down on his right leg. An excruciating bolt of pain ran the entire length of his body and he fell. But even sprawled face down on the ground, Face knew he had to reach the loose gun before Stockwell did.

They both scrambled for the weapon on the ground, but somehow, despite the broken leg, Face got his hands on it first. Rolling over on his back, he pointed the gun at the general.

Face had never wanted to shoot someone so much in his entire life.

_____________________________________________________________________

"Face, drop the gun," Hannibal commanded from the pier. The trace on Stockwell's van had gotten the team to the pier just in time, but Hannibal's joy at seeing Face alive had nearly been dashed when he saw how close the lieutenant was to plunging into the cold waters. BA had hit the van's horn, distracting Stockwell enough to allow Face to escape falling over the railing and to get Stockwell's gun. But now it was up to Hannibal to save the kid from making the biggest mistake of his life.

"I'm gonna kill him, Hannibal," Face answered. Hannibal had no doubt that Face was serious.

"You don't have to, son."

Face was sitting awkwardly with the gun in hand and had slid back against the pier railing. He was holding the gun in his right hand, while steadying himself with his left. Hannibal could tell that a broken leg was preventing the lieutenant from standing. The colonel also could see that Face was near collapse, but still agitated from the adrenaline coursing through his veins. Hannibal needed to get that gun out of Face's hand before the kid did something stupid.

"Hannibal, did he kill them? Nancy and Decker?"

"No, Face. They were both alive when we left the house."

Hannibal could see that the information had an effect on Face, but the younger man still pointed the gun at Stockwell. Seeing that Face was trying to pull himself to a standing position along the railing, Hannibal slowly crept closer.

"I've got to stop him, Hannibal. If I don't, he's gonna keep coming after us. Coming after me. You know that. The only way to end this is here."

"Face. That's not true. Stockwell's going to go to jail. We have evidence. He planned the restaurant shooting. We'll turn the evidence over to the police. They'll take care of it."

Face finally reached a standing position, leaning against the railing with all his weight on the good left leg. His face remained impassive. He never took his eyes of his target.

"That's a lie, Hannibal, and you know it. Don't try to lie to me. You're not as good at it as I am. There's no way Stockwell is going down."

"You may be right, Face," Hannibal conceded. "But damn it, kid. I know you. This is not you. You're not a killer."

"You don't know me anymore, Hannibal. You cut me loose. You left me behind. You don't know what's happened -- what I've done. I'm not the same kid you once knew." Face jabbed the gun in Stockwell's direction. "If he's responsible for that, then he should die."

"That's not true, Lieutenant," Hannibal barked. "Do you remember what you swore? You promised you would never kill anyone unless you had no other choice."

"I promised I would kill him too, Hannibal. And right now I want to keep that promise even more." For the first time since he had arrived, Hannibal could detect that Face's words seemed strained. Good.

"Face," Hannibal said in a softer voice. "I made the same promise. I swore that if you were hurt, I'd kill him. But that was a promise made in anger. It wasn't serious. Not like your other promise."

"That's not true, Hannibal."

"Yes it is. If you do this, you'll regret it, son. Decker told me what you've been going through. You can't deal with what you did in the restaurant when you had no choice. Think about it. If you can't accept that, you won't be able to get over killing someone in cold blood. Even someone like him."

Face blinked fiercely. The hand holding the gun began to tremble.

"Come on, kid. Don't do this. None of us want this. Don't ruin your life for a pig like him."

"Don't come any closer, Hannibal" was the only response. Then Hannibal watched in horror as Face pulled the trigger.

_____________________________________________________________________

The blast from the gun caused Murdock to come to a sudden halt behind the van. Feeling the cold sweat streaming down his face, he could only wonder: What had Face done?

While Hannibal had been trying to talk Face out of shooting, Murdock had been attempting to slip around the white van. If he could just circle around, he had thought, just get on the other side of Face . . . When Murdock heard the shot, he was on the side of the van opposite to where his buddy and Stockwell were standing. Murdock cursed himself. If he'd just been faster. Just like the restaurant. If he'd only been faster. Shaking the icy grip that had momentarily stopped him, Murdock raced towards where he had last seen Face holding the gun.

"NO!" he screamed. "Face . . ."

Murdock wheeled around the side of the van.

Face was still standing, leaning awkwardly against the rail. The gun was still in his hand. The gun was still trained on Stockwell.

Who was still standing.

Murdock stopped cold. He could see that his best friend was trembling, his eyes wide. Behind those eyes, Murdock knew, a war was waging in Face's mind. The captain knew that reason had briefly won out and prevented Face from killing Stockwell, but how much longer could reason hold on? By the look in Face's eyes, not long.

Hannibal broke the silence, speaking softly in a soothing voice. "Face . . . put down the gun . . . It's okay . . . We're here. See, Murdock's here. BA's here. None of us wants you to do something you will regret."

Murdock saw some the fire in Face's eyes petering out.

"Come on, kid," Hannibal said.

Murdock saw the gun slowly lower and Face close his eyes. He began to slide down the railing, his body finally giving in to exhaustion. Hannibal raced forward, catching Face before he hit the ground.

"You coward!" The sound of Stockwell's voice jerked Murdock's attention away from Face and Hannibal. The general was standing, taunting Face. "You're weak, Peck. A strong man would have had the guts to do it."

Murdock lost it. His cold sweat was replaced by a roaring inferno and he launched himself at Stockwell. A right fist to the gut sent the other man to the ground. Standing over the prone general, Murdock raged.

"YOU SON OF A BITCH! You've got no clue about being strong! You think strength is moving people around like pieces in a game!"

He kicked Stockwell in the stomach. And again. Finally Murdock found an outlet for months of anger.

"A weak man would have killed you, Stockwell! Face . . .is . . . far . . . too . . . strong . . ." The pilot punctuated each of his last words with a new kick until strong arms pulled him away.

"Stop it, man! We got him. Don't kill him. This ain't doin' Face no good."

Hearing BA invoke Face's name jarred Murdock out of his fury. Relaxing slightly in BA's arms, Murdock swung around to look to the railing. His best friend was weeping in Hannibal's arms as the colonel held Face in a tight embrace.

Even across the pier, Murdock could hear his best friend's words.

"Hannibal . . .you came back."

"Of course I did, son."

_____________________________________________________________________

BA watched as Hannibal held Face close, rocking slowly from side to side. Seeing Face cry shocked the large man. He tried to remember the last time he had seen Face in tears. Vietnam, maybe. But BA couldn't remember if Face had even cried back then. Face rarely showed real emotions and never anything as painful as tears. He would whine a bit, but that was usually just for show. The Faceman buried his real feelings behind jokes and scams, never revealing his true self. Wasn't that why they had originally called him "Face"?

Damn, Faceman, what kinda hell ya been goin' through?

The sergeant looked over at Murdock, who was finishing putting a gag in Stockwell's mouth. They would leave the general tied up for the local police to find him. Amy had climbed out of the van and would make sure of that. Nonetheless, BA still let his eyes run over the knots. Most of Murdock's attention was on Hannibal and Face, so the sergeant figured it made sense to double check the bonds. They looked secure. Even preoccupied, the crazy man had done a good job.

BA wished there was more they could do to Stockwell. Given the choice, the big man would have liked to drop the general off the pier and let him swim for it. But that wasn't the A-Team's style. Visions of numerous other ways to make Stockwell suffer began to swim through BA's brain.

"BA," Hannibal's voice brought the sergeant's eyes back to the direction of the colonel and lieutenant. "Can you give me a hand with Face. We've got to get him to a hospital to have him checked out."

Before Murdock could even begin to protest, Hannibal put a hand up in Murdock's direction. "Captain. Don't start. Face needs to have his leg fixed and he needs a doctor to make sure Stockwell didn't reinjure his stomach."

BA walked over to the lieutenant and picked him up gingerly. Face emitted a low moan as the movement jarred the injured leg.

"Hold still, l'il brother. I jes need ta move ya to the van." BA looked down into Face's blue eyes as they moved. Behind the pain and exhaustion was a look that BA had never seen directed at him. With a start, he recognized the look as one he had seen Face give only in his most unguarded moments, and then only to Hannibal. A mixture of fear and anguish was part of it. But ultimately, BA knew that the look was one of absolute trust -- the type of faith one would place in a father or older brother. BA also knew that this was the first time, even in a glance, that the Faceman had ever expressed himself this openly to BA.

"BA," Face said weakly.

"Hey, l'il bro. I know. Ya don't have ta say nothin'."

After carrying Face over to the van, and setting him in one of the backseats, BA turned to get into the driver's seat. He was not really surprised when Hannibal jumped in the back, leaving Murdock to the passenger's seat. Even from the front, though, Murdock's eyes never left his buddy.

"You okay, muchacho. We're right here for you."

Not strong enough to talk, Face nodded slightly. Through the mirror on his visor, BA could see Hannibal put his left around Face and cradle him as best as possible from the other backseat. A gloved hand ran through the younger man's hair.

"Kid, we're going to have to take you back to a hospital. Do you understand me?"

Face nodded weakly. His eyelids were slowly drooping and BA could tell the lieutenant was losing his battle with consciousness.

"Face," Hannibal said a little more strongly. Then his voice took on a different tone. Even though BA could tell that Hannibal was trying to use his full command voice, he was unable to fully mask the way his voice kept breaking. "Lieutenant, you need to hear me. We're taking you to the hospital, but we're going to have to leave. Me and BA are still fugitives and what happened earlier is all over the news. You're going to have to spend some time trying to deal with everything that's happened and there's still your pardon to deal with. You still need some time to figure out what you want."

The brittleness in Hannibal's voice was a quality that BA had never heard before. He could tell that the colonel was struggling to finish..

"Face, you need to understand that we're not abandoning you."

BA could see that Face was struggling to answer, but couldn't say anything as Hannibal continued to speak.

"I promise you, Face. We're your family. We will always be here for you. No matter what happens, whatever you decide. We're here for you."

_____________________________________________________________________

Nancy was anxiously waiting for an update on Decker's condition when the van arrived at the hospital. Seeing BA carry a semi-conscious Tem through the emergency room doors caused her to shriek with joy. She reached them just as BA was setting Tem carefully on a gurney, trying not to jar the broken leg.

"Thank god you're alive," she said, grabbing his hand.

Hannibal reached the lieutenant's other side and took his other hand. "Face, do you understand what I said in the van? We have to leave before the police arrive so we don't screw up your pardon. Dr. Tanaka will take care of you and will let us know how you're doing."

"Please don't go," Face whispered.

"Face, we have no choice. Don't worry."

With his black-gloved hand, Hannibal reached out and brushed some hair out of Tem's face. Tem closed his eyes, relaxing at the caress. The white-haired man then lifted his head and looked at her with a mix of exhaustion and relief.

"Please take care of him."

She nodded, knowing that Hannibal was trusting her with the most valuable thing in his life.

He patted Face's hand. "Even though I won't be at the hospital, son. You know I'm here for you. We all are. Dr. Tanaka knows how to reach us."

"Nancy," Face corrected weakly.

"What did you say, Face?" Hannibal leaned over to hear better.

"He said Nancy, Hannibal. My name. Not 'Dr. Tanaka'." From the smile on Hannibal's face, she knew that he liked the change.

"Okay, Face. You win. Nancy knows how to reach us."

Hannibal reached across the gurney and grasped her free hand. The look he gave her needed no explanation nor response. With a quick "Come on, guys," he headed for the exit.

BA patted Tem's arms and then followed the leader out the door. Murdock leaned over Tem and whispered, "Hang in there, muchacho. I don't like this any more than you do, but orders are orders." Then he too was gone.

She leaned over Face and studied him. His eyes were glazed and she knew he was losing consciousness.

"Tem? Can you hear me? I'm going to get some help. Okay?"

"Wait." His eyes fluttered open. "I need one thing."

"What?"

"A different doctor."

_____________________________________________________________________

On December 31, 1990, Murdock hung up the phone in the van and gave his report to Hannibal and BA.

"Nancy says Face will be fine. The broken leg is the worst of it, but the break is low enough that he only needs a short cast. The hospital cleaned up his cuts and he's badly bruised, but those will go away with time. He didn't even break any ribs."

"For the Faceman, that's prob'ly some record." BA grinned at his own joke.

Murdock gave a sharp look in the big man's direction before continuing excitedly. "Doc. says he'll be released this afternoon. So Hannibal? When are we heading over to pick him up? I wanna get Faceyman a big stuffed animal and some markers to sign his cast with. I wanna draw a big Woody Woodpecker wishing Face a Happy New Year."

Hannibal sucked in on his cigar and exhaled. "We're not going to pick him up, Murdock."

"Oh come on Hannibal. You saw him. He wants to come back. Hell, he needs to come back. He's a target out there."

"Are you finished with your little speech, Captain?"

Sulking, Murdock sat back and crossed his arms. Hannibal continued.

"I want Face to come back as much as you. But I also want Face to make an intelligent choice about what he wants."

Murdock started to interrupt, but Hannibal's cold glare stopped the captain from speaking.

"Right now, Face is conflicted. Part of him wants to be here, but another part of him needs to see what the world can offer. You can see he loves Nancy, but he's afraid to admit it because of what it means for the team.

"Let me finish, Captain." Hannibal stopped Murdock from speaking again. "And that's only touching the surface of things. Ever since the shooting, Face has had a lot to deal with and not much time to do it. He's still guilty about what happened and he needs to find a way to come to terms with his actions. So much other stuff has happened since the shooting that he may need more time."

"But, Hannibal, it could take Face years to get over that guilt," Murdock interjected. He knew his best friend and how much the death of the girl must have been weighing on Face's conscience.

"You're right, Murdock. Face may not come to terms with killing an innocent for a long time. But I'm not saying he needs to get everything resolved before he decides if he wants to come back or not. He just needs to figure out how he's going to come to terms with things. He may decide that he needs help he can't get while on the run. Or he may decide he needs us to help him. Either way I'll support his decision. But it needs to be a reasoned one. I don't think that any of us, including you, would want Face to throw away his pardon and regret it later."

"Ya know how the Faceman can whine," added BA.

Murdock felt his anger returning, but he suppressed it. Hannibal was right about Face needing to come to terms with things, but Murdock was still afraid for his best friend. "What if one of our other enemies tries to go after Face?"

Hannibal looked solemnly at the captain. "That's why we're going to be keeping an eye on him."

_____________________________________________________________________

Nancy walked down the hospital corridor. She had just talked with the doctor overseeing Colonel Decker. She was still amazed that he had survived the blood loss and internal damage, but the treating physician said Decker was going to live. He might have significant nerve damage to his arm, but given the events of the past few days, Nancy figured that Decker would accept that. She wanted to give Tem the news before his discharge and hoped they might be able to spend New Year's Eve together.

She knew something was wrong the instant she entered his room. The bed was empty and the clothes the MPs had brought from the beach house were gone.

She turned and nearly ran over a nurse. "Excuse me, but do you know what happened to the patient in here?"

"Oh he left 'bout an hour ago."

Just when I went to check on Decker, she thought.

"Did he say where he was going?"

"Sorry, ma'am. He asked the duty nurse to call a cab company. Before she was finished, he had slipped out. He didn't even get his wheelchair ride downstairs."

Before the nurse had finished, Nancy was running for the elevator. Damn you, Templeton Peck. Damn you.

_____________________________________________________________________

Two weeks after he had slipped out of the hospital, Face found himself staring out the window of the beach house. He was still being watched, but the MPs no longer seemed planted on the beach. It was enough of a change that he no longer felt like a prisoner. He had found and removed the listening devices in the house, so at least he could have privacy when he wanted.

Puttering around the room with the cane seemed silly, but he was trying to follow the doctors' instructions. He figured he had a couple more weeks before the cast on his leg came off. What he needed to figure out was where he would be when that happened.

If he did decide to go with the team, he would have to find them. With his cast and the surveillance, he could not exactly go to Mr. Lee's laundry and start dropping hints.

And then there was Nancy. Though he tried to block her out, visions of her kept invading his mind. But, regardless of his decision, he knew it was too dangerous to get involved with her. If he kept the pardon, she would be a target alongside him. If he ran, it would be even worse. Anyone after the team would come gunning for her.

He regretted what he had said in the emergency room. He should never have given her any hope for the impossible, but he had corrected that by running away. He convinced himself that this was better. A clean break. She would get over him, especially if she was angry at him for disappearing. She probably had hundreds of guys who could take her mind off him. He would just have to force himself forget her too.

He just wished it did not hurt so much.

He looked back out the window at the gray January waves. The new year had begun, but all he wished was that he could go back to October and stop himself from ever walking into that restaurant. Before that, his life had been so simple. Now everything seemed so complicated.

Trapped in his thoughts, he barely heard the doorbell ring.

_____________________________________________________________________

As the door opened, Nancy saw the look of surprise cross his face. She could tell he had not expected her to come after him.

The very thought sent her into a fury and she launched herself at him. Flailing at his chest with the sides of her fists, she sent him stumbling against the wall opposite the door.

"HOW DARE YOU LEAVE ME!!!" she screamed. "AFTER EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED, HOW COULD YOU LEAVE?!? WITHOUT EVEN A WORD, YOU BASTARD!!!"

His lack of response only increased her fury. She continued to hit him, screaming all the while and making no attempt to stop the tears cascading down her face. He made no attempt to defend himself. The flurry of punches finally stopped and, exhausted from her effort, she slumped forward. He caught her, cradling her head against his chest. Her tears continued unabated as she felt his hands caress her head and heard the rapid pounding of his heart in her ear.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, the anguish evident in his voice.

Wrapping her arms around him, she held him tight. "Please, Tem . . . I need you . . . Please love me."

He held her close for a moment longer, then led her to the bedroom.

____________________

She woke the next morning to an empty bed. Her momentary panic subsided when she heard the sliding glass door in the living open and close. Tem must just be going outside.

She thought of how they had made love the night before. She couldn't think of it in any other terms. Calling it sex seemed too clinical and anything else seemed too crude. They had made love. All the emotions that had built up in the previous months -- the pain, the anger, the anxiety, the loneliness, the terror -- had driven their passion. They had shared those emotions throughout the night, alternating between ecstacy and sorrow, in the end leaving them fully exposed to one another. And when those emotions were finally released and the last barriers between them stripped away, Tem had looked at her through a veil of tears and whispered that he loved her.

Rolling over on the bed, she saw the red rose lying on Tem's pillow. Faintly wondering where he had managed to find such a thing in January, she picked it up and cradled it. For a minute, she breathed in its wonderful perfume before she began to rise. Then she saw the heavy robe that he had left for her by the side of the bed and smiled at his gesture. After all, wasn't that what a gentleman was supposed to do?

Walking into the empty living room, she noticed it was raining outside. He was out there too, on the deck just outside the door, clad only in pajama bottoms. Tem was watching the pounding surf, apparently oblivious to the fact that he was getting soaked. Nancy opened the glass door, pulled the robe more tightly around her to ward off the cold and went to him.

He did not hear her come out, or, at least, he did not acknowledge her. But he flinched slightly when she touched his shoulder and began tracing one of the scars that ran the length of his back.

"It's still not a pretty sight," he said as if from a distance. "You shouldn't be able to love someone with something so ugly."

"Tem," she said softly. "That's not true. They're beautiful."

He snorted, but she ignored him.

"They're beautiful because they are part of you, because they're part of what makes you special. They may be the marks of horrors, but they also prove that you are the strongest man I've ever known. You have taken the worst life can throw at you, but you still have the courage and strength to overcome it."

He shrugged slightly, seemingly uncomfortable with what she was saying.

"So, Doc., what Hallmark card did you pull that off?"

She knew what he was doing, but she tried to suppress the swell of anger that was rising in her chest. Unsuccessfully, she realized.

"Don't you dare," she warned in a low voice. "Don't you try to push me away. Not now. I know what you're trying to do, Templeton Peck, and I won't let you."

He turned and looked at her. Even in the downpour, she could tell the moisture in his eyes was from tears, not rain.

"I have to go," he said.

"I know," she answered slowly. "The team will be here tomorrow at two. I arranged it with Hannibal . . . And Colonel Decker."

"What?" The surprised question escaped him.

"Colonel Decker," she repeated. "I spoke to him at the hospital the other day. He issued an order that your regular guards will be sent back to barracks at twelve-thirty. Somehow, the replacement guards' orders will get misdirected, so you'll have a window until four to get out."

His shock was evident. He leaned back against the glass doors and slid to the ground. His arms rested on his bent knees.

"How long have you known?"

"Since I saw you here the first time." She smiled at the memory of how he had kissed her arm in the kitchen, but then remembered how badly she had hurt him when she struggled to suppress her real feelings.

He looked up at her wide-eyed. "Don't you want me to stay?"

"Are you're testing me?" Nancy replied, kneeling down in front of him. "Of course I want you to stay. I want to be with you more than anything else. But I know you won't be happy because you can't live like this. The army isn't going to let you run your life like you want. And there will always be Stockwells out there who want to use you to get to the rest of the team. But more importantly, the team needs you and you need them.

She swallowed hard. "And, no matter what, I'll be here for you."

"That's not fair to you," he rejoined before pausing. "You can't wait for me. You have to know, if I go back, I won't be able to see you at all. You'd be in danger from the Stockwells of the world too."

"Nobody other than Stockwell knows me as anything other than your doctor."

"It's not just that . . . I'd be a fugitive again. It's not like I could just drop by. I can't pretend. I'd be living near you, would know where you were, but wouldn't be able to see you. I couldn't take that. And what if I never get pardoned? I can't ask you to give up your life for me. No one has the right to ask that of you."

"Tem," she ran her hand down his forearm. "No one is asking me. That question is already answered. I answered it for myself when I fell in love with you."

He reached out and brushed her wet hair out of her face. With a sad smile, he added, "You're crazy, you know that? There's no way this could work."

"Maybe. But I always thought the A-Team could do the impossible. I guess I'll have to have faith." She moved closer to him, turning sideways so she could sit next to him and lean her head against his chest. His strong arms held her close.

"It's not fair," he said looking out at the waves.

"Yeah, I know."

They sat together silently in the rain and watched the waves crash against the beach. Finally, he spoke again.

"Nancy?" he asked.

"What Tem?"

"Would you tell me the rest of the dog monologue?"

_____________________________________________________________________

Nearly six weeks after the strange events at the Association for Freedom and Justice dinner, the army released the news. Lieutenant Templeton Peck had violated certain unspecified conditions of his pardon and, reluctantly, the army had been forced to revoke the pardon. By that time, the bombing of Iraq had begun, so most people took no notice. Sure there was a bit of letter writing to the Army and the Department of Justice, but the world was far too preoccupied with Scud missiles and smart bombs to concern itself with a Vietnam-era criminal. Even if he had been in the right spot at the right time to kill some gunmen and save some hostages.

Colonel Roderick Decker, recently returned to light duty, wondered at the absurdity of it all as he looked over the still photographs of Peck and Smith taken from the security camera. The A-Team had disrupted a crooked bank operation that was funding illegal arms shipments to the Middle East. The photographs were proof to the military that Peck had violated the conditions and led it to immediately rescind the pardon. Nobody seemed to think about how much the military benefitted from the A-Team's actions. After all, what were a few more weapons that wouldn't find their way into Iraqi hands?

Decker wished he knew how to find Peck so he could thank him. Not only for the weapons, but on a more personal level. Since the colonel had been shot, he had written daily letters to his son and had just begun receiving daily replies. Had he not seen how the lieutenant struggled with his demons and opened himself up to Decker, the colonel did not think he would have ever had the strength to be so honest and open with his own son. Especially when admitting his concern about what his son would soon experience when the U.S. ground forces invaded Iraq. Decker knew he owed the lieutenant.

Decker knew he had been barely able to communicate with Smith in the basement, but he hoped the other colonel understood what Peck needed and what Smith meant to Peck. He looked back at the photograph and saw the shared gleam that both men had in their eyes as they held their AK-47s. Yeah, he thought, Smith probably understood.

Punching his intercom, he spoke to his aide. "Captain, I want you to round up all of the files we have on the Bank of Hanoi robbery and the death of Colonel Morrison. I want to look everything over from the beginning."

_____________________________________________________________________

The van sat parked outside the small house.

"You sure you want to do this, kid?"

Face saw Hannibal's look of concern as he asked the question. The lieutenant reached out and grasped the colonel's hand.

"Yeah, Hannibal. It's something I need to do."

"Hey muchacho," said Murdock. "We can come with you."

"I know that, Murdock. But this is something I need to do alone." Face opened the van door and climbed out of the vehicle.

"Okay kid. We'll be right outside," Hannibal called after him.

Face started limping to the walkway. They had gone to Bad Rock where Maggie Sullivan had removed his cast, but he still felt some pain in the limb when it was cold.

Seeing Hannibal with Maggie had been a revelation. Face had to remember to ask the colonel how he was able to maintain a relationship with a woman even though he was on the FBI's Most Wanted List. A sly smile creased Face's lips. Maybe there was a way after all.

As he stared up the walkway to the house, he suddenly had some doubts. He had no idea what was going to happen, what the woman inside would do. But he had come this far and he was not going to give up now.

After all, isn't that what he had learned from this ordeal? He was a survivor. He had taken the worst that life could throw at him and he had survived. He would never pretend that he did not feel the pain and he certainly bore the scars to show the lasting effects of his suffering. But he had come through everything before. He would come through this now. It would just take time.

He reached the doorway and rang the bell. He ran a quick hand through his hair and straightened his tie. Just my nerves, he thought. Then the door opened and he found himself face to face with a woman. Though he had never seen her before, he recognized her large brown eyes.

"Mrs. Chandler? My name is Templeton Peck. I, umm, was hoping that I could speak with you. About Allison."

Fini