Writers note; Sequel to Riding The White Horse, best to read that one first. There is also a slash version of this fic at AO3. After Riding, it was generously pointed out it needed a carry-on, so many thank you's to my friend at L J! Hope you enjoy. TNx.
It had been two months since that mission. Two months of nightmares, of carefully hidden concerned glances, people hushing and looking at Face whenever he walked into the mess, or anywhere he was for that matter.
Two months, and Face was tired of it. If he was over being addicted to heroin, then why couldn't everyone else be over it, too?
He absently rubbed at his neck, still remembering the faint sting of the needle as it slid into his muscle. He could still remember the warmth spreading through him as the heroin hit...
It's funny, because Face couldn't remember the pain of the beatings, couldn't remember how the cuffs felt biting into his wrists, and by the look of the scars left behind, they dug in quite viciously, and he couldn't remember the agonising days of cramp... but he relived the euphoria of that fucking drug every day.
How it made him feel ...amazing.
And after two months of sympathetic and knowing looks... hell, even his team, his family, were treating him like glass, like he was going to break apart any moment... Face had had enough.
Murdock quickly stuffed his bottle of Tylenol into his pocket when Face walked into the planning tent, and smiled widely. It was so false, the lieutenant thought his face would crack.
"Hey, Facey, what're you doin' here?" the pilot asked, quickly shooting BA a glance.
"What do you mean, what am I doing here?" Face frowned. He looked at the table and saw Hannibal's little toy soldier figures, the ones he used for his plans. "We have a mission, right?"
"Yes, but you're sittin' this one out, kid," Hannibal said as he walked in, a dark haired man dogging his heels. Face spun around and blinked.
"Boss, c'mon, it's been two months. I'm cleared for active duty. I've done what, five?" he glanced at Murdock who nodded, "Five missions since then, what-"
"We're going back to Fallujah," Hannibal interrupted. Face swallowed. Oh. But...
"So?" he shrugged. He could handle that. "I can-"
Hannibal took hold of Face's elbow and ushered him into a dimly lit corner of the room. "Kid, you're not ready," he hissed softly. Face frowned. Not ready for what? To get back into the field properly? To stop these simple milk run missions that even the new recruits moaned about?
"Hannibal, that's bullshit, and you know it," he hissed back, eyes angry. "What do you think I'm gonna do, huh? Freak out? Let you all down? I'm a Ranger-"
"Who's recovering from an addiction," Hannibal interrupted harshly. Face stared wide eyed. Didn't Hannibal trust him? The colonel blew out a breath and leaned in closer. "You don't need to put yourself through going back there so soon... Trust me, kid."
Words died in Face's throat. Boss was serious, and they were going to go on a mission without him. He looked over Hannibal's shoulder at Murdock and BA, neither man could look back, and he sighed.
"Look, kid, not this time, okay?" Hannibal offered him a small smile, one that said 'I'm sorry, but...'
He knew after his addiction and intensely soul-sucking withdrawal, Hannibal was worried about his young lieutenant. But in the two months since then, Morrison's number one Ranger unit had only been doing low risk missions, and that had made Face start to wonder if he was dragging the team down.
Could this be the beginning of the end of Face's place on Hannibal's A-team?
Face moved from Hannibal's space and stood next to Murdock. He rubbed Face's arm and gave him a sympathetic shrug, which made Face's insides clench up. He hated the way people looked at him, treated him like he was going to break.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Isn't that how the saying goes? Face was starting to wonder.
A memory drifted into his mind, the team enjoying a beer and watching Top Gun, his question to them, "You know, you coulda gone on missions without me," and Murdock's words... "We're a team, Facey, family. Why would we wanna go without you?"
Just words now, no meaning.
"Lieutenant Bane will be standing in for this one," Hannibal introduced and Face stood back as Bane pushed in front of him and made nice with BA and Murdock.
He knew Bane, knew his reputation as a slick requisitions officer. Not as good as himself, though. Face didn't swindle those that were less than fortunate. He had morals.
"Right, down to business, boys," Hannibal clapped his hands and the four of them gathered around the table. Face backed away, unnoticed by his team, wondering exactly when he'd been replaced.
"Face?" Face knew it was Hannibal before the man had even said anything, but as the soft voice drifted through the dark of his room, he still didn't answer. "Face, you okay?"
The dim light from the lamp shone faintly over the bed and Face turned away, his back greeting the colonel.
"Kid," Hannibal tried again and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Mission go okay?" Face asked flatly. He knew they'd been already, he'd heard from Sherry, the mess cook.
His best friends, his team, hadn't even told him that they were going before they went.
"What do you want, boss? I'm tired," Face sighed sensing the tension starting to radiate from the older man.
"I'm sorry," Hannibal said softly. "I just found out you didn't know that we'd gone." Face turned over and blinked. The colonel rubbed his XO's leg and carried on. "Bane said he'd come an' let you know. I thought he'd told you."
"When?" Face frowned. He'd been hovering close to his team... That didn't make sense.
"Bane. When did Bane try to find me?"
"Um, around 2200 Wednesday night." Hannibal answered. He thought that when Face hadn't turned up to see them off the kid was just sulking. But, when Face wasn't there when they'd returned, Hannibal had confronted Bane. "He's just told me you weren't here when he called in... I thought..." He blew out a breath. "Kid, we were on the clock, we had to go-"
"Yeah, I know. Sorry," Face said distractedly. Wednesday night? He was where he always was on Wednesday's. Hannibal knew where, too... would've told Bane...
A small knot of cold twisted low in his belly. Something wasn't quite right.
"How'd he do?" Face asked softly, ignoring the voice in his head to shut up, he didn't really want to know how well Bane did, how perfect he was for Hannibal's unit now that Face was what... too fragile?
"He did okay," Hannibal smiled. He looked at Face, "But he's not you, kid."
Face smiled at the compliment and closed his eyes when Hannibal stroked the hair from his forehead. When he opened them, he saw Hannibal staring at him.
"What?" he asked softly.
"Get some sleep, kid, long day tomorrow," Hannibal nodded and stood up. "I'll let myself out."
"You let yourself in," Face commented with a smirk.
"Yes, I did," the colonel winked and left.
Field training exercises. Oh joy.
Hannibal had organised a day full of exercises for his unit, and Lt Bane, and the squad he'd been borrowed from.
Normally, Face enjoyed these games, but playing war with Bane and his team so far had been less than fun.
By lunch time, Murdock was sporting a black eye, thanks to some heavy rough-housing on the cargo nets, and BA now had a permanent scowl. Hannibal had torn his favourite shirt, and Face... he had a lovely bruise along his left side, boot shaped, and a set of butterfly bandages over the ridge of his right cheekbone. His left pinkie-finger had been dislocated and both knees were bloody. Hannibal wasn't impressed.
"Jesus, Face, you out of shape, or what?" he'd asked when sticking the small white bandages on his cheek. "Can't remember last time you got so banged up!"
Face just sighed and pinched his bleeding nose harder. For some reason, Bane just had it in for the lieutenant.
The second half of the day was even worse. Hannibal called a halt to the training when Sergeant Lopez elbowed Face in the ribs and BA took the man down. Bloody noses and split lips were enough.
"What the fuck is up with you?" Hannibal shouted at the men. Both teams were lined up, looking battered and bruised and covered with blood. No one answered.
"Lieutenant Peck," the colonel barked. "Anything to say?"
"No, sir," Face said, eyes front. Hannibal pursed his lips. He knew these games were rough, but this was something more.
"Sir, no, sir!" Bane barked back, good little lieutenant that he was.
Hannibal sighed. "We're finishing this session in a way that befits the US military men that you're supposed to be. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir!" came the unified response. Hannibal dismissed them.
The day ended much as it had begun, with competition fierce between the two units, and more disturbingly, with Lieutenant Bane seemingly out to make Face's life a living hell.
Hannibal's A-Team won, though.
"Jesus, Facey," Murdock whistled through his teeth when he saw the man step out of his shower stall. The bruises that littered Face's body looked painful. Face pulled the towel from his head and wrapped it around his middle, hiding the worst of them along his hips and midsection.
"S'okay, buddy," he murmured and padded over to the mirror, wet feet slapping on the wooden floor. He could see Murdock strip off and climb into the shower cubicle next to BA's, and noted the many bruises on the pilot's body.
God, it'd been a rough day.
"You think Bane and the other guys look like us, too?" Murdock asked from under the water spray.
"Oh, I think worse," Face smirked. BA had really laid into Lopez! He gingerly felt around his gums with a finger for loose teeth. "You okay, buddy?"
"Oh yeah, I'll live," Murdock said. "Lil' ol' war games can't keep me down!" He stuck his head out of the shower. "Bane had it in for you though, Facey," he frowned.
Face sighed and looked at the lovely row of little black stitches on his cheek. Yeah, Bane sure had a bug up his ass.
The door to the communal field shower tent opened again and Hannibal walked in, cigar in his mouth, towel over his shoulder. He looked up to see Face by the sink and his eyes widened.
"Don't boss," Face started, he didn't want to discuss his fitness, or, according to Hannibal, lack of. Face was as fit as he'd ever been. Okay, so he still had a few pounds to put on, but come on... And it wasn't his fault Bane had made it his sole purpose to make his day shit.
Hannibal eyed his XO, the bruises and the damage, and frowned. After Fallujah, was the kid ready for serious missions? The kind of mission's his unit usually landed were very demanding. Looking at Face again, Hannibal saw the outline of his ribs and although he'd been training and eating well, the kid was still slightly under weight.
And then there was the addiction. From personal experience, Hannibal knew about triggers and cravings, and how easy it would be to fall. He didn't want that for Face. He couldn't put the kid in that position.
Face looked up and saw Hannibal's reflection in the mirror, the man hadn't moved. "Boss?" The sudden softly spoken word seemed to snap Hannibal out of whatever he was musing and he threw Face a huge grin, opened the shower stall next to Murdock and stepped in, cigar still in his mouth. Face smiled at that and grabbed his dry hair conditioner. He hated this Iraqi sun... played havoc with split ends.
Face dressed and headed back to his bunk with Murdock, who scrambled after him, one boot on, the other swinging from his fingers. They chatted and laughed about the day's activities, especially about the time when BA had Sgt Lopez up against a tree telling him to apologise for being a brainless dickhead. Their camaraderie was short lived however, when Bane and his sergeant suddenly blocked their path.
"Bane, how's it hangin'?" Face sighed jadedly. He could feel Murdock tensing and surreptitiously stepped in front of him. He didn't want his buddy getting into yet another scuffle with these idiots, one black eye was enough.
"Hangin' to the right, if you must know, Peck," Bane smirked. Face rolled his eyes. "Where's Smith?"
"Why? You need a babysitter, Bane?" Face said and deliberately eyed Lopez, who growled and had to be held back. "Aw, gonna spit your dummy out, Lopez? Did BA make ya cry?" he sniped sarcastically. Face knew he was baiting them, but after the shit they'd put them through that day, he couldn't help it.
Fully expecting a fight, Face blinked in surprise when Bane laughed and slapped Face on the back. "You're alright, Peck," he grinned.
"Hmm, okay," Face eyed Bane warily. Murdock shoved his foot into his other boot and pulled himself up to his full height. He didn't like Bane, liked Lopez even less, and he couldn't quite figure out what was happening.
"C'mon, buy you a beer," Bane offered and before Face could refuse, he was being manoeuvred away from Murdock. The pilot stood still, frown still in place.
He didn't understand the sudden turn-about in Bane, but went willingly with them... the further away from Murdock, the better. He was still very wary, though.
But after an hour and two beers though, Face was beginning to wonder if he was wrong. Bane actually seemed like a nice guy. He was fun and charming, and his buddies all appeared to accept him. Face had a good time.
It was 0100 by the time he fell onto his bunk, fully clothed and tipsy, and smiling.
This carried on for the next few days. Face and the team carried out a couple of easy, quick menial missions, and then Bane was always there to invite Face for a beer afterwards. Hannibal didn't seem to mind, in fact, he was pleased Face was getting on with the lieutenant and his buddies. After the training exercise, the colonel had been concerned about his XO, but now he noticed Face's demeanour become easier, more relaxed, more focussed, and Hannibal loved seeing that happy-go-lucky grin on his boy's face again.
It was obvious to Hannibal that his decision to reduce the kid's role in the team for the time being had been the right one, as Face was obviously benefiting from this downtime.
Murdock, however, saw differently. He didn't trust Bane. All he could see was the bastard manipulating his friend, keeping Face from his real friends, his family. He knew Face was upset that Hannibal wouldn't let him go on the mission with them to Fallujah, knew Face saw that as a kind of betrayal, but the pilot kind of understood. Didn't like it either, but he understood Hannibal's reasons.
But now, Face and Bane had become drinking buddies, and that disturbed Murdock, made him uncomfortable, jealous even. The pilot missed his best friend. Bane was always there with a smile, a joke, and by the time the next dangerous mission came around, Face easily stepped aside for Bane to take his place on Hannibal's A-team.
It was wrong. So wrong.
"You sure, kid?" Hannibal asked as he checked his weapon. He was surprised that Face hadn't argued with him about the mission.
"Yeah, boss, next time, huh?" Face smiled, leaning up against the wall, hands in his pockets. "I mean, he's good for the job, right?"
Hannibal narrowed his eyes at his XO and slowly nodded. "Yeah, but he's-"
"Not me. I get it, boss," Face finished with a lopsided grin. "So, Baghdad, huh?"
Frowning, Hannibal holstered his weapon and chewed the inside of his cheek. Their mission was covert, need to know only... "Face, I can't..." He shrugged awkwardly, feeling uncomfortable having to keep secrets from his own XO.
Face sighed and offered the colonel a smile. "Be careful, okay," he said softly and left Hannibal alone.
He had someone to see, anyway.
The afternoon before, Bane had asked Face if he missed the action. Of course he said yes, Face missed the adrenalin high, the excitement and pure genius of boss' plans... missed being with his team, and Bane made him an offer he couldn't really refuse.
Colonel Solomon needed a forth for a few missions, while his own lieutenant was laid up in medical with a cracked skull. Face had hesitated only a moment, until the irrational voice in his head pointed out that if Hannibal didn't feel he was good enough for his team anymore, what else use was he.
And really, what Hannibal didn't know wouldn't hurt him.
Bane was secretly pleased, but outwardly thankful, making it look like the kid was doing him a huge favour. Solomon was a maniac, and if he didn't get Peck killed, the kid was sure to suffer anyway.
His plan to destroy Lieutenant Templeton Peck and take his place on Hannibal's Alpha Unit had stepped up to the next level.
Hannibal's mission ended up being a two day affair, Solomon's was twenty-four hours, and Face was back, sore and aching, well before his boss even stepped onto the base. And if he thought Hannibal was crazy, Solomon was certifiable. The mission was reckless. Dangerous and poorly planned, but Christ, the adrenalin rush was worth it.
He was still buzzing.
And when Hannibal, BA, Murdock and Bane walked into their team quarters, tired and weary, Face greeted them all with a huge shit eating grin. The fact that the four of them looked too much like a team – his team, didn't even faze him.
Murdock noticed Face's restless behaviour, the way his friend couldn't sit still, and blinked at him, an odd feeling of unease settling in his stomach, but he joined in Face's enthusiastic toast to the team, sat back and let himself unwind and tried to relax.
But the longer he watched Face though, that feeling morphed into fear. His friend was high, and not just drunk high, it was something else.
Maybe, Murdock hoped wanting to give his friend the benefit of doubt, maybe it was a new girl. He hoped to God and all things sacred that it was. But the vivid memories of two months ago were still fresh in his mind... of Face pleading for another fix, the pain and agony his friend suffered in the withdrawal, and he couldn't help but wonder.
"Jesus, Peck, you shoulda seen him," Bane laughed, friendly arm around Face's shoulder, eyes firmly on the colonel. "Dude was on the jazz, man!" Face laughed out loud, that was Hannibal alright. Bane moved to Hannibal's side and deliberately bumped shoulders with the colonel, making sure that Face saw the friendly action. Hannibal chuckled and shook his head.
A heavy feeling turned his insides over when he saw Hannibal give Bane an easy playful shove, those blue eyes twinkling with humour, and Face's smile slipped for a moment, but he quickly plastered on another. He wasn't about to let them see how much he was hurting. Fuck them. If Bane was the new wonder-boy, then so be it.
It still made his heart ache, though.
"Ah man," Bane continued and moved back beside Face, "And when those stinger's-"
"Lieutenant," Hannibal butted in quickly and gave Bane a stern stare. Need to know. Face looked from one man to the other, the moment of joviality now dampened, and shrugged. It stung that what was usually his favourite part of a mission, the after bit when they talked about it together as a team, suddenly didn't include him.
Bane hid a smirk by chugging back his beer and clapping Face on the back. "So, did ya do anything fun while we were away?" the dark haired man grinned, winking at Face.
"Oh, kept myself busy," Face offered and finished off his own drink in one gulp and grabbed another.
"Oh yeah?" Murdock smiled, mischievous twinkle in his eye. "What was her name, Facey?"
"Huh? Oh, no... I was um... helpin' out a friend," Face said absently whilst clipping off his bottle top. Murdock frowned and watched as Face's fingers started rapidly tapping the table. He laid his hand over the fidgeting digits and looked carefully into Face's eyes when the man turned to him. "What?" Face asked softly, smile still in place.
"Nothin'," Murdock said after a beat and backed off. He sat next to BA and decided to annoy the big man instead. Face turned back to Bane and laughed at something he said, and missed the concerned look thrown his way from the pilot.
"So, kid," Hannibal nudged Face as he stood next to him. "Who's this friend?"
"You helped out... who's this new friend?" Hannibal asked again, a tiny hint of something in his voice.
"Just a friend," Face repeated with a small wink. He hated lying to the boss, but in the end, what was the point of Face's existence if he was grounded from missions that made a difference in the war? He knew that if Hannibal found out about Solomon, he'd be in serious shit, so he quickly changed the conversation, leaving Hannibal wondering what the hell was going on.
"Faceman," Murdock said softly as he walked into Face's room. Face turned around and pulled down his T-shirt, but not before Murdock noticed the new abrasions he'd picked up on Solomon's mission. Murdock's eyes widened. "What happened to you?"
"Training," Face lied easily, adding with a grin, "Have to keep myself busy while you're off playing war."
Murdock frowned. "We're not playin' war, Facey-"
"I know, buddy, I'm just kiddin'." Face winked at the pilot and immediately dropped and started doing press-ups. Murdock checked his watch, it was 00:17.
"What're you doin'?" he blinked. As far as he knew, Face hated doing anything strenuous before bed, unless he was with someone.
"Bit of cardio before bed, buddy," he huffed. "Great for the body!"
Murdock sat down and blew out a hard breath. He had to ask Face. He had to know... "Faceman, are you takin' drugs?"
Face stopped mid push-up and sat back on his haunches. "What?" he asked confused.
"Are you using?"
As he realised what Murdock meant, Face stood up and backed away, a stunned hurt look on his face. "What?" He shook his head, looking at his friend as if he'd just ripped out his heart and stomped on it. "How...? After Fallujah, how can you ask me that?"
Murdock lowered his eyes and steeled himself. He hated himself so much, but he had to know. For Face's own sake. "Are you?"
"No," Face answered softly. Murdock looked up and saw the depth of hurt in the other man's eyes and leaned forward, desperately needing to take that pain back, but when Face looked away and moved to the side out of reach, Murdock sighed and nodded.
"Okay, Facey," he said quietly and left. Face sat there and looked at the closed door, his heart aching. His best friend didn't trust him, and if Murdock thought he was using, then so did the rest of them.
Face felt like his whole world was imploding, and he could do nothing to stop it.
"Peck, my man!" Bane grinned and bumped shoulders with Face as he sat supping beer from a bottle by a supply tent near Medical. "What's up?"
Face looked up. "The sky," he shrugged moodily. Bane rolled his eyes and Face gave him the finger.
"Jesus, Peck, who pissed in your wheaties?"
"Sorry, Bane. Just not good company at the moment, y'know?" Face shook his head and lifted the bottle to his lips again.
"Well, Smith's lookin' for ya," Bane said. "Looks like he shit a brick, too."
Face sighed. He so didn't need Hannibal in his face this morning. He'd chew him out for drinking before breakfast, for one. But Face hadn't slept all night. After Murdock's visit, every time he closed his eyes he was back there, bloody and beaten, high as a kite...
Bane fished in his pocket and pulled out a small tissue wrapped item. "Here," he murmured and slipped the thing into Face's hand. Face looked at it and frowned.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Look, I know about Fallujah, and I know it can help," he said quietly. Face's eyes widened and he thrust the thing back at Bane.
"No, I don't want it," he hissed, but Bane pushed his hand back.
"Just hang on to it, Peck," he said, "You can give it back to me later if you still don't want it. Okay?"
Face looked at the small innocent looking item in his hand, innocent but tempting, and just knowing what was in the little package triggered cravings he'd worked so hard to suppress... "Okay," he agreed before he knew what he was doing and curled his fingers around the soft package.
"Good man," Bane smiled and patted Face on the back.
Step two complete. It was only a matter of time now before Pack fell. Bane grinned to himself as he walked away.
Face stared at the small innocuous bag on the table. He'd locked his door and had been sat there for a good fifteen minutes... just staring...
Broken and fractured memories filtered through his head... a cold, damp room, hours, days of beatings, feelings of hopelessness... and sudden panic when he thought he was going to be raped... and then drifting, feeling listless and pain free, not caring about anything... the pain, the hurt, the fear gone... All gone...
The small voices in his head warred with each other, each screaming out how it would make everything better... no more pain... but it will ruin you, kill you... But you need it, kid, like you need air... It'll make you useful, strong...
No, you'll get addicted... you're pathetic... dead inside...
Face slammed his fists down on the table and squeezed his eyes shut. His head pounded. He snatched up the small bag and threw it in the trash can and stormed out of his room. Hannibal was still waiting to see him, and he was already late.
"The fuck have you been, kid?" Hannibal scowled when Face stepped into the colonel's office. He stood to attention.
"Sorry, sir." Face nodded when Hannibal waved off his salute and relaxed a little. He motioned to his face, "Stitches out, boss," he murmured as his excuse. It was lame, but he didn't really care. Hannibal, however, seemed content with it. He nodded, "What can I do for you, boss?"
"Sit down, kid," Hannibal said and tented his fingers. "How're you doing, Face?"
"What?" Face asked a little confused.
"How are you coping? You doing okay, kid?"
Face narrowed his eyes and looked at Hannibal sideways with a grin. "What's goin' on, boss?"
Leaning back, Hannibal shifted uncomfortably. "I want you back with the team full time, you know that right, kid?" he asked. Actually, Face wasn't so sure about that, but he nodded anyway. "But I need to know if everything is okay. Anything you wanna tell me?"
Huh? Like what, Face wondered. He wanted to know why his team, his family didn't trust him, but that just sounded desperate. "I just want to be back on the team," he said instead. Hannibal frowned at Face's choice of words.
"You are on the team. What do you mean?"
Sighing, Face looked down and worried the skin on his thumb nail. "Am I, boss?" he asked softly. "I mean, Lieutenant Bane-"
"Isn't you, Face," Hannibal said.
"Yeah, you keep saying that," Face nodded, "But he's still doing missions with you, not me." He looked up. "I miss you, boss."
Hannibal stood, walked round to Face and rubbed the kid's shoulders, thumbs massaging his neck. "I miss you, too, kid."
Face looked up to see soft blue eyes smiling at him. "Hannibal?" he murmured softly and licked his lips.
"I just worry about you," Hannibal said levelly and went back to his chair, leaving Face confused.
He was just about to ask Hannibal when his door opened and Bane walked in. "Oh, excuse me, Colonel," he apologised. Hannibal nodded and motioned the man to carry on anyway. "Corporal Baracus has turned up."
Face looked at Hannibal as the man dismissed the lieutenant with a hand gesture – five minutes. "New mission, boss?" he asked.
Hannibal nodded and Face smiled, the corners of his mouth falling again when Hannibal shook his head. "Sorry, kid, you're not ready yet," he said and Face threw up his hands.
"Give me a fucking break, boss," he all but pleaded, ignoring the disapproving glare for his outburst. "When, if not now, do you think I will be ready, huh?"
"Come on, Hannibal! I'm fit and healthy... I was signed back on duty two months ago, only to do what? Babysitting new recruits and milk runs? I'm a Ranger, Hannibal!"
The colonel sat quietly and listened to Face's tirade, his eyes seeing frustration and exhaustion and decided in his own mind that he was doing the right thing by keeping Face base-side during the more taxing missions.
"You still having the nightmares?" he asked and Face stopped still, hesitating a second too long to answer and Hannibal nodded. "Face, I want you to consider talking to Doctor Philips," he suggested.
"What? No," Face frowned. He didn't see the base shrink after his addiction, why did he need to now?
"Kid, if you're still having the nightmares-"
"I'm not, boss," Face said quickly, looking away as the lie tasted sour in his mouth. He heard Hannibal sigh.
"Templeton," Hannibal started very softly, the use of his real name made Face look up. "Remember, I know what it's like. All I'm trying to do is help you." Hannibal leaned forward. "You're exhausted, kid."
There was no changing Hannibal's mind. Once it was set, it was set in stone. Okay, so Face was exhausted right then, but it was only because he was frustrated and tired of being left out, tired of trying to prove to Hannibal that he was 100% fit for duty, and Murdock's visit the night before hadn't helped. He slumped back in the chair defeated.
"Think about seeing Philips, Face," Hannibal said and stood up. "We'll be back in three days. Get some rest."
Solomon was in the mess when Face bumped into him. "Hey, Peck," he grinned, wild look flashing in his eyes. The look unnerved Face, but he grinned back anyway. "You up for a little late night duck hunt?"
"What, sir?" Face chuckled, grimacing at the suspicious looking mound on his plate.
"The guys and me are goin' into Taji. Heard about a plot the rag-heads are planning," Solomon murmured under his breath. "S'all hush-hush, but the pencil pusher's in Kabul want the whole lot of 'em disposed of, if you know what I mean," he winked. Face frowned. He hated the term rag-head for starters, and he really didn't like these kinds of missions. Too many risks, for themselves, and innocent civilians. "So, kid. You in or what?"
But what else was he going to do? Sit in Doctor Philips office and talk about his mother? He didn't even know his mother. "Yeah, I'm in," he said.
"Great! 2300 hours, my HQ," Solomon grinned and left Face wondering what he'd gotten himself into.
Twelve hours later, Face was in the middle of a blood bath. He looked over at Solomon, Chegwin and Peters and tried to comprehend the reason why so many people had to die. Most of the soldiers were kids, barely out of their teens. The convoy they'd hit was an escort party for the children of one of the more notorious rebel group leaders. Everyone was dead, including the four teenage girls in the back of the limousine. That hit Face the hardest. When he took out the tyres of the vehicles, he didn't anticipate the speed and cold accuracy at which Solomon and his men took out the soldiers... and the girls.
"Man, that was trippin'," Chegwin shouted, adrenalin fuelled and crazy eyed. Face just looked at him. "Peck, wassa matter?"
"Aw, kid's just a little overawed by the awesomeness of us, Chegger's," Peters grinned. "How fast did we take all o'them rag-heads out, eh? Awesome! Shame you didn't get any, Peck."
Solomon finished checking for signs of life and jogged over to his team. "Okay, killer's, mission done. Let's get gone," he nodded, and they all climbed into their Humvee, and headed back to base, leaving the carnage behind.
The silence was too loud in Face's ears and he clutched at his head. His little room was closing in on him, the walls getting closer, and he growled harshly. God, what had he done? Okay, so he hadn't killed any of those people himself, but he was there, he as good as pulled the trigger of each weapon Solomon's team had.
Why did the girls have to die? Solomon had just shrugged when he asked that. "Casualties of war, kid," he'd said, no emotion, no nothing.
Face didn't belong with Solomon's team. Didn't want to be a part of any of it.
He wanted Hannibal, Murdock and BA... his friends. He wanted Hannibal, he missed the boss, working with him, the late night brainstorming, the little touches, words of praise... Face sat down and sighed heavily. God, he was falling apart. He had to get himself together or he'd never be good enough for Hannibal...
...and his eyes fell on the trash can.
BA and Murdock fell through the doors of their team quarters and immediately propped up the nearest table. "Hey, guys," Face grinned. "Good mission?"
BA grunted. Murdock sighed and shook his head. "Nah, shit storm in a bottle. Bane was injured."
"Oh. He okay?" Face asked showing concern.
"Oh yeah, bullet went straight through his leg. Clean wound." Murdock turned to Face and frowned at him. "Wouldn't o' happened if you were there, Face," he grumbled.
"Crazy fool means that Bane is fuckin' mad! Nearly got us all killed, stupid motherfucker," BA growled. He looked up, tired dark eyes oddly beseeching. "When you gonna get your act together an' come back, Faceman?"
Face was stunned silent for a moment, and then he slapped BA on the back and grinned. "I'm back, baby, just need the boss to sign me on, s'all," he said. "I mean, seriously BA, I'm going crazy sittin' around watching you guys have all the fun!"
Murdock chuckled and shook his head. "Crazy is as crazy does, Facey," he said. Face looked at him and suddenly frowned.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Hey, I didn't mean nothin' by it, Faceman, chill out," Murdock quickly answered, slightly unnerved by the sudden mood change. And then just as fast that patented Face-grin was back.
"Oh, I'm chilled, buddy! I'm-a-chillin' with my buddies," Face laughed and headed to the cooler for more beers. BA and Murdock exchanged odd looks.
When he returned, Hannibal was at the table with BA and Murdock. "Oh, hey, boss," Face smiled. "You okay?"
"Yeah, kid," Hannibal smiled warmly back, "tired, but okay. That for me?" Face handed him his beer and quickly got another.
"So, hear it was a bad one," Face said softly. Hannibal nodded. "Sorry, boss."
"So, we were just wonderin', bossman," Murdock said, "When's Facey comin' back on the team proper-like? I mean, with Lt Bane now in medical..."
Face never took his eyes off Hannibal and grinned when a small smile appeared on the colonel's lips. "How 'bout we see how fit you are, kid," Hannibal said. "0600 tomorrow, we'll start with a 5K run. Okay?"
Nodding, Face stuck out his hand. "You're on, boss," he grinned wider and Hannibal shook his hand.
At 0500, Face was wide awake. Nightmares had plagued him all night and he felt like shit. He dragged himself to his tiny washroom, studiously ignoring his reflection in the mirror, and slowly went through his morning ritual. By the time he'd finished he felt like he'd done ten rounds with Tiny, the base champion bare knuckle fighter.
How was he going to run 5 kilometres, and prove to Hannibal he was fit enough to be back on the team full time?
Just a little, kid, you just need a little... just to get you through this...
He closed his eyes and tried to shut out the little voice. But it was right. And Face stuck his hand inside his sock drawer and fished out the little bag of white powder.
"Jesus Christ, Facey, you weren't kiddin'!" Murdock wheezed when he reached his friend back at the base. Face had finished his run a good seven minutes before. Hannibal was there with a stop watch and a huge grin.
"Toldya I was fit, buddy!" Face beamed at Murdock as Hannibal clicked the stop watch again.
"Captain, you're slackin'," the colonel chuckled. "Twenty one minutes. Looks like Face is our winner today, with a new best time of fourteen minutes and seven seconds." He slapped the lieutenant on the back. Face relished the warm feeling coursing through his body, deciding that it had everything to do with Hannibal's praise and nothing at all to do with the heroin.
"So, what next, boss?" he clapped his hands, raring to go, and Hannibal let his men in on the morning's exercise regimen. Both BA and Murdock groaned, but Face practically buzzed.
By lunch time, they were shattered, but felt accomplished. BA dragged Murdock to the showers as the pilot reeked of stagnant water from when he fell off the cargo net into the soft mud, and Hannibal and Face enjoyed a quiet bottle of water under the hot Iraqi sun.
"You did good today, kid," Hannibal smiled. Face smiled back.
"So, you think I'm ready now, boss?" he asked confidently.
"I think so," he nodded, and added quietly, "How are the nightmares?"
Face knew he couldn't lie, so he hedged... "I still get them, but they're not as bad." And Hannibal seemed to accept that.
A few more minutes went by and the two men enjoyed the companionable silence. Then Face decided to broach the subject of Hannibal's concern. "Hannibal," he started hesitantly, "Um... Can I ask you a question?"
"Um... Do you, ah... Well, what I mean is... Do you..."
"Jesus, kid, spit it out," Hannibal chuckled.
"Do you trust me?" Face asked quietly. Hannibal slid his eyes over to his XO and smiled.
"'Course I trust you, kid," he said and pulled Face into a one armed hug.
"No, I mean... Boss, do you trust me?" Face tried again. The smile softened and Hannibal fell quiet beside him. "It's okay if... if you don't, I mean... I understand," Face added flatly. After Fallujah, Face wondered if Hannibal would ever trust him again. He nervously bit at his lip and swallowed hard.
"Yeah, kid, 'course I trust you," Hannibal repeated softly, fingers hesitantly touching the downy hairs on Face's thigh.
"But?" Face knew there was a 'but', and could feel his heart plummeting.
"...I know... I know what it's like," Hannibal sighed sadly. He did trust Face, that was never an issue, but he didn't trust heroin.
"What? Hannibal-" Face snapped, feeling the frustrations surfacing again. Jesus!
"Kid, the cravings, the effects of the withdrawal... It takes time," Hannibal patiently explained, but Face set his jaw and shook his head.
"Fuck that, Hannibal," he hissed. "What else do I have to do to prove to you that I'm over it, huh?"
Hannibal looked away. His heart hurt for the young man, but from his own experience, he knew what the kid was going through, and was convinced what he was doing was the right thing...
"Look, Temp, I wish things were different..."
Face glared at Hannibal, daring him to break his heart anymore... He'd had enough. This was killing him.
What he wanted... What he needed was... Face stood up and hesitated a second before murmuring that he was going for a shower.
Hannibal watched him go and sighed. "Shit. That could've gone better," he grumbled to himself.
The warmth finally filled his body and Face leaned back, absently swiping at his nose. It'd taken a few minutes until the heroin dissolved through the fine skin in his nasal passages, minutes filled with regret and self loathing and shame. He could feel the burn at the back of his throat and welcomed it, but then he didn't care anymore, he was floating on a tide of who-gives-a-shit and decided to go with it.
All the hurt and pain in his heart numbed and he felt... wonderful, carefree and empty. So what if Hannibal didn't really trust him. Face frowned, his cloudy mind jumbling thoughts around... Maybe Hannibal felt he had to say that, pitied him because Face was still too fragile after Fallujah, maybe he thought his lieutenant, his XO, would crumble and break like the fragile pathetic excuse of a man he was.
A pathetic excuse of an addict.
Face wished he'd ridden that white horse to his grave in Fallujah. Then at least Hannibal wouldn't have to be disappointed with a fuck up XO anymore. He just wasn't worth the effort.
His eyes closed heavily and Face's head fell to the side, quickly followed by his body, and he let himself drift away from everything, into the beckoning vast void... it would be so easy, he thought, one bullet, and all the pain would end.
An hour later, Face jerked awake and cursed. Hannibal was expecting them all on the shooting range at 1400 hours, and he was still high as a fucking kite. He hauled himself up and dragged his pathetic ass into the shower, setting it to cold. That shocked him wide awake. Good.
Three coffees later and Face was wired!
"Huh, thought I'd have to send out the search an' rescue for ya, lieutenant," Hannibal sniped when Face skidded to a halt next to Murdock, sniper rifle over his shoulder. The colonel decided not to make an issue of Face's tardiness because of what had happened earlier, but if he was late again...
Murdock, however, gave Face a quick once over and frowned slightly. He didn't like what he saw. The kid was ...jittery... on edge, and those cold tendrils of fear settled in the pit of his stomach again.
"Sorry, boss," Face murmured, unable to make eye contact. Hannibal sighed, but he carried on regardless.
"Right, Lt Bane, Face, sniper targets," he stated and the two lieutenant's nodded. "BA, Murdock, shooting range." The boss cocked his own hand weapon and joined BA and Murdock, who were already bickering about who was shooting what.
"How's the leg?" Face asked when he and Bane were left alone. Bane smiled brightly.
"Just a scratch." He patted the bandage around his calf. "Can't keep a man like me down!" He looked up towards Hannibal. "Besides, the boss needs me, can't be idling in Medical, can I?"
Face couldn't answer. He thought today was to prove that he was back on the team. Why would Hannibal still need Bane?
"Wanna make this interesting?" Bane asked. Face tore his eyes from Hannibal's retreating back and blinked.
"How 'bout it, Peck? Hundred bucks says you miss one," the dark haired LT grinned. Face frowned. "Aw c'mon, like I'd give up an opportunity like this," Bane hissed under his breath.
"What're you talking about?" Face wanted to know, and Bane leaned in really close.
"You're high, kid, I can tell."
Those words froze Face's blood in his veins. His eyes widened and he stopped breathing. If Bane could tell...
"Don't worry 'bout it, Peck," Bane winked, "It's not obvious to those that ain't lookin', and I won't say anythin'," he crossed his heart, "Promise. So... Hundred bucks?"
"S-sure," Face stammered, his heart pounding in his ears.
Out of the twelve targets of varying distances, Bane missed four and Face was about to take his last shot. He had hit all of his targets and had gathered a crowd of admirers for his efforts. Sniper practice was always a crowd puller on the base, and the book on Face was filling up, with bet's numbering into triple figures.
Sweat ran down Face's neck and he felt hot and uncomfortable. He looked up to see Bane smirking at him, a knowing look on his face, imperceptible shake of his head... miss this one, Peck, or else...
So Face deliberately missed. The crowd was shocked, as was Hannibal. BA crouched by his friend and shrugged. "Aw Faceman, never mind, huh," he smiled ruefully and patted his back. Murdock, mouth still agape, said nothing. Face never missed.
Bane grinned. He had Face now, time to turn the knife.
"Sorry 'bout that last shot, kid," Bane shrugged when he caught up with Face later that evening. "Wanna go get a beer?" He flashed the $100. "On me!"
"No thanks," Face shook his head. He needed to get home, to lock the door, shut out the world. "Some other time, okay?"
"C'mon, Peck..." Bane looked around before shoving a small baggie in Face's hand. "It's the least I can do. Have a beer with me."
Face's fingers closed around the soft bag and he sighed. He knew what it was, and he wanted it so badly. He nodded and Bane steered him towards their quarters.
Murdock and BA entered when Face was nursing his third beer. They made a bee-line for him, bright smiles in place, smiles that faltered when they saw Face's troubled expression.
"Hey, Facey," Murdock said and sat down. BA went for the beers. "Wassa matter?"
Face looked up and smiled, it was good to see his friends. "Hey, buddy," he said softly and rubbed the pilot's arm. He propped up his cheek on his fist and watched as Murdock started to 'stroke' the air. "Murdock, you okay?"
"Billy's worried," Murdock said very quietly, still stroking the imaginary dog. Face quelled the irrational stir of irritation that immediately welled up. He knew what was coming, but he also knew he loved his friend, and he could see Murdock was hurting. He glanced over at Bane, who was watching the pilot with barely disguised distaste at his crazy behaviour, and his insides twisted angrily
"He is?" Face said, ignoring Bane and steeling himself, giving Murdock tacit permission to carry on.
"Yeah. He has this friend... and he's real worried 'bout him," the pilot confided softly. He stepped up the stroking. "He's afraid his friend has had a ... relapse, or somethin'."
Face swallowed and almost stopped breathing. Shit... "R-relapse?"
"Yeah. He's real worried. Billy love's his friend so much..." Murdock's voice was so quiet Face had to strain to hear, but he heard the anxiety and upset clearly. "Nearly killed him last time," the pilot carried on, his eyes now refusing to look up, "An' I can't go through that again... can't lose him, Facey." Face blinked at the unconscious slip of the tongue, even though he knew who Murdock was talking about. And in that one small whisper, Face realised Murdock knew.
The heroin withdrawal was hard on all of them, not just Face, but Murdock struggled hard to cope with what was happening to his best friend, and now, Face was selfishly dragging his friends back down that dark spiralling road of self-destruction...
And in that moment, he realised he couldn't do it to them, to Murdock... to himself.
"I... I'm sure Billy's friend will be okay, HM," he murmured, carefully choosing his words, "And I'm sure he knows he loves him, and would never do anything to hurt him... again."
Murdock's eyes, bright with unshed tears, looked up. "Really?"
Face smiled honestly and nodded. "I promise," he said. And he meant it. Murdock threw his arms around Face, muffling small sob into his neck.
BA set the beers down and slapped Face on the back. "So, Faceman, you ready to come back, then?" he asked, blinking as Murdock pulled back sniffling. "I know boss is itchin' for ya to get back out there with us."
Face looked around. "Where is Hannibal?"
Murdock grinned widely. "He's talkin' to Morrison, gettin' you back with us full time," he said, eyes wide and excited. Face's insides warmed at that news and he grinned back.
"It's about time too, bro," BA nodded. "We missed ya out there!"
"Hey, I have done some missions with you since..." and his voice faltered. Since he was addicted. And that was a lie right there. He was still addicted.
"Yeah but, they were shit jobs, not like the real fun and excitin' shit we do," Murdock said. "Right, BA?"
Face fiddled with the label on his beer bottle with his thumb nail, tearing off the corner a little. How did he feel about working with Hannibal so closely again, though? Would Hannibal want to? Did he really deserve to be back on the team, pathetic heroin addict that he was?
He chewed on his lips and fought the guilt that was rising inside him, and made a decision. No more. No more heroin. He didn't need it; all he really needed was his friends, his team, his family.
"Facey, you don't look too pleased, man," Murdock frowned. Face lifted his eyes and cursed himself. Not even officially back on the team and he was already fucking it up.
"No... no, I am," he stammered. "I mean, of course I am, buddy!" He flung his arm around the pilot feeling the strange sensation of a weight lifting from his shoulders. "I'm happy! You, me, BA an' the boss... It'll be like old times!"
That made Murdock smile and Face relaxed a little, and he spent his time with his team mates rather than Bane, who sat to the side carefully hiding the rising burn of hatred he felt bubbling up inside him. He could see his place on Hannibal's team slipping away from him, and that would never do.
Bane watched as Hannibal and his team drove off in the Humvee, plan in place, covert mission ahead of them. He could see Face's smile from where he was stood, the kid was back, and Hannibal had brushed Bane aside like a discarded rag.
"You're injured, lieutenant," the colonel had shrugged. "Thanks, but Lieutenant Peck's my XO, he's back on the team full time." Hannibal's words still rang in his head. Peck... back on the team... Thanks, but...
Well, Bane thought, fuck you very much, too.
Peck was a fuck up, a heroin addict, and he was going to go down. Big time. That place on Smith's Alpha Unit was his. He blew out a frustrated breath, kicked over the nearest garbage can, and headed towards his bunk and a bottle of whiskey with his name on it.
Another flare lit up the sky and Murdock dragged Face down behind a wall. "What the fuck's up wi'you, Facey?" he hissed, his Southern accent more pronounced alongside his exasperation. "Get down, for fuck's sake!"
Face blinked and shook his head. He couldn't concentrate. Shit. "Sorry, buddy," he offered lamely. Christ, he had to get his head together, or he'd get them all killed. He knew what it was... he was coming down, in withdrawal. Face cursed himself as another gut cramping wave rolled through him, but he refused to surrender to the pain. He couldn't. His team needed him.
Hannibal and BA were several yards to their left, hidden in the doorway of what once might've been a cafe, but now was a burned out shell, and they were pinned down by an impromptu appearance of a band of insurgents apparently passing through.
Or so it seemed. Hannibal had his doubts, but then he never trusted the intel that came from sources he didn't know personally. The mission had come from Morrison, as a favour for some fuckwit CIA brown-noser in exchange for some top secret information about an upcoming CIA run coup in Baghdad.
But that didn't change the fact that Hannibal and his team were under fire and at least a ten minute sprint, across open ground, to their way out – a helicopter hidden under a camo-net.
BA was still adamant he wasn't going anywhere near than damned thing, but Hannibal was sure he was all talk... but no way was he staying behind, even if he had to knock him out and carry him himself.
Another flare lit the crumbled buildings in a soft yellow glow and Face ducked. He cocked his sniper rifle and carefully aimed it into the street, looking through the scope, searching for movement.
Murdock watched him go completely still and focussed, and then pull the trigger. "Facey?"
"I counted around five, but..." Yeah, they knew there were more. He sighed and continued his search as much as he could. Their position would be compromised soon, Face wanted to neutralise as many guys as possible so his team was as safe as he could make it for them.
"Face, get the sucker in the tower," BA's crackly voice sounded over their comm. Unit's and Face lifted his scope spying the minute movement of an enemy sniper.
A wave of dizziness clouded his eyes for a second and he lost focus. Sweat prickled his skin and he could feel his heart begin to thump in his chest. Face screwed his eyes shut and blew out a steadying breath. Focus, Peck, he mentally ordered himself.
A shot rang out and Hannibal's urgent shout tore out of the comm. "What the fuck you waitin' for, el tee? Take the shot! Me an' BA are sittin' ducks here," he growled.
Opening his eyes, Face willed his heart to slow down and his vision to focus, and he aimed steady, took the shot and shakily sighed in relief when the sniper fell silent. A last check through his scope confirmed the hit, the sniper neutralised.
He turned and sat against the wall breathing heavily, rubbed at his face and then clenched his fists to stop them shaking. He looked up to see Murdock watching him, eyes narrowed, concern etched across his features. Terrified that his friend had recognised the symptoms of his withdrawal, Face chose to ignore him, quickly grabbed his rifle and set about his mission to pick off the enemy fire.
Ten minutes and a change of location later, the team were holed up together in the back room of one of the buildings, shielded from bullets, but no way to escape other than the front door.
Face had been shot, a ricochet nicking his shoulder, and BA had been hit by exploding debris and his face was bloody and grazed. Neither was life threatening, but it brought home how fucked up they were.
"Jesus Christ, bossman," Murdock hissed when a mortar rocked the already unsteady walls of their refuge. "What's the plan?"
Hannibal drew his brows together and pursed his lips, his mind whirring with ideas and plans until something stuck, and then he grinned. BA rolled his eyes, but Murdock nodded. Boss had a plan.
"You gotta plan, boss?" Face spoke up first, hunching up when another round of gunfire crackled in the night outside.
"You betcha, kid," Hannibal winked. "The helo is a five minute sprint over that way," he pointed to his right and behind him, "and the guns are firing from that direction, right?"
All three of them nodded. Yes, the soldiers with the guns shooting at them were all to their left, up high and ground level. Too many for the four of them to take on at once.
Hannibal looked around him and picked up a plastic bottle, opened it, sniffed the contents and smiled.
The building they were in was apparently storage for a store, and, although now looted, it still had a few remaining dregs of damaged stock. But, one man's garbage was another man's treasure, or in this case, the cooking oil in the bottle was the A-Team's way out.
"Face, matches?" Hannibal asked and Face grinned and fished out a match book.
It was typical A-Team genius, bat-shit insane, beyond nuts, but perfect. The plan worked beautifully, the oil mixed with their canteen water burning madly, which distracted the soldiers enough for the team to escape, get to the helo, and then Murdock flew them all back to base, with BA wide eyed and practically rigid with fear. But he was at least on the helicopter.
The primary mission unfortunately was a bust, and Morrison wasn't too pleased, but he chewed out the fuckwit CIA man for bad intel instead.
Bane was in the team quarters when Hannibal and his team walked in, weary and dirty. BA dragged the cooler open and stood with his face over the icy waft of air that rose from it.
"C'mon, Bosco, dyin' here," Murdock whined when no beer appeared fast enough. BA grunted, grabbed four bottles and made his way over to his team. Bane watched every move. He could see BA was injured, the stark white dressing on his cheek spoke volumes, and the blood staining Face's desert camo jacket told another story.
They were battered and tired. None of the usual camaraderie present, only brooding silence as each of them drank their beers. Obviously a bad mission.
"Bad one, guys?" he asked and winced when disapproving steely blue eyes closed in on him. Oh, okay, so no talking. He sighed and finished his own beer, feeling uncomfortable, like he wasn't welcome anymore.
And that pissed him off.
"Was only askin'," he grumbled and slunk out of the door.
A light knock woke him and Bane blinked when he saw Face at his door. "Peck?"
"Yeah, um, just wanted to apologise for earlier," Face said softly, "You know... Hannibal's pissed off at the moment, but he shouldn't have taken it out on you."
Bane considered his words and then smiled. "Wanna come in?" he asked, hoping Face would stay a while... it would give him time to really turn the screws.
"Ah, no... It's kinda late," the lieutenant murmured with a small smile. "Boss wants me back on the firing range early tomorrow," he shrugged. After the hesitation on the mission, Hannibal suggested Face brush up on his skills.
"Oh? Want company?" Bane offered. "I have the morning free. I could bring you a little something..."
The look on Bane's face belied the hatred he truly felt for the man, but Face narrowed his eyes and took a step back nevertheless. "Ah, no, no thanks, Bane," he shook his head. "I, ah... don't want anymore. Okay?"
Bane closed the distance. "You sure? 'Cause you're looking a bit strung out, kid," he said lowly. "And looking like this, how long will Smith want you on his team, huh?" He cocked his head to the side. "What happened on the mission? You freeze up, kid?"
Face sucked in a breath and held it. He was right. He did freeze up, and it could've gotten BA and Hannibal killed.
"Just a little, kid," Bane purred knowing just what to say, "Not too much, but just enough to give you that edge... Or next time you fuck up, your team might pay the price. Think about it." He left Face standing there and retreated back into his room, sneer still twisting his mouth. The kid was falling... Hard.
What Face wanted to do was ride that white horse into oblivion and never come back. He'd fucked up majorly on that mission, nearly getting his team mates killed! Bane was right. He was a fuck up. But, he'd made a promise, and he was going to keep it, so alcohol was the next best thing to drown his sorry ass in. When Face opened the door to his quarters, he startled so badly that he dropped the six pack of beer he was carrying. "Jesus fuck, boss," he yelped and grabbed blindly at his chest.
"You okay, kid?" Hannibal frowned.
"No, I'm not okay! What the fuck...? I mean, why're you sittin' in the dark?" Face asked still trying to gather his wits and calm his pounding heart.
At least Hannibal had the courtesy to look a little contrite. He smiled ruefully, murmuring, "I was waiting for you, Face."
"W-waiting for me? Why?" Face asked now wary and wondering what the hell else he'd done wrong.
Hannibal turned to face his lieutenant and patted the bed beside him. Face slowly sat down. "After the other day," he started softly, "you know, when we..." he gestured vaguely between them with his hand. The meaning was clear though. "I just want to clear things up."
After their short but direct conversation that day, Hannibal had had time to reflect. All he could think about was the light disappearing from Face's eyes as his heart splintered into a thousand icy pieces, broken by Hannibal, carelessly ripped from the kid's chest.
He saw how Face struggled to cope on the mission, and had been so angry with himself for upsetting him so badly. Hannibal wondered if he'd made a mistake, maybe it was still too soon for the kid to be out there in stressful, dangerous situations, but he needed to put things right between them. Hannibal trusted Face with his life, he never wanted to hurt him, and maybe it was time to show him again.
Face sighed, a little sad, a little angry. He didn't want this conversation again. "Look, boss, you made it clear you -"
"But I do, Face, I do," Hannibal interrupted and pulled the younger man into a hug. "I'm sorry, kid, I do trust you... I trust you with my life."
Walls Face had built around himself started to slowly crumble to sand, and his heart swelled inside his chest, warming up his once cold insides. He melted against the older man and sighed deeply.
Everything from the past few weeks, the pain, the hurt and anger, the feelings of loneliness, of being lost all faded away as Hannibal's arms and body surrounded him with heat and love, and Face began to believe that maybe he was worth something, not a fuck up el tee, not a pathetic addict, but a soldier... A Ranger... A member of Hannibal's Alpha Unit.
Next morning, Face drove over to Hannibal's home and knocked on the door. As he waited, pleasant memories of the night before made him smile. They'd talked and laughed like they used to for a good two hours before Hannibal smiled shyly and said he'd had to go. Of course Face was confused, insecurities reared their ugly head, but were instantly squashed when the colonel hugged him again and said he wanted Face to get some sleep, if he was going to be doing missions with them full time again.
Face insisted he wasn't tired, but Hannibal, stubborn to the end, stuck his cigar in his mouth and gave him the look.
A huge smile graced Face's lips, and he said goodnight to his CO.
But first, breakfast. He juggled the two large take out coffee's and bag of dusted donuts and knocked again.
After a couple more minutes, Face frowned and chewed on his lip as his mind started to try and convince him the colonel had realised he'd made a mistake and was avoiding him...
"Don't be an idiot," he hissed to himself, "He's just not in 'cause he's out." And Face winced at the ludicrousness of that statement, rubbing his hand over the back of his neck. Hannibal didn't even know he was coming over this morning. It was supposed to be a surprise. He contemplated knocking again, when he heard a voice behind him.
"Ah, I don't think the colonel's in, sir," a passing corporal in a standard issue military PT kit said as Face looked around to see who it was that was talking to him.
"Yes, sir... General Morrison came by an hour ago as I started my run..." The soldier tapered off as Face nodded, headed back to his jeep and climbed in. He drove off feeling foolish for his ridiculous insecurities.
A little later, Hannibal cornered Face in the team tent, an odd look on his face.
"Oh, hey, boss," Face smiled and poured the man a coffee from the ever full carafe. When Hannibal stayed silent, the lieutenant frowned uneasily. "Boss?"
"You wanna tell me 'bout Solomon?" Hannibal said quietly. Oh shit. Face dropped his eyes and turned away.
"What about him?" he asked softly. He was sure Hannibal knew everything now anyway because he'd asked, why make Face drag it all up again?
Hannibal sighed and sat down. "Solomon, kid?" he asked again, disappointment and sadness colouring his voice. He knew Colonel Solomon and didn't care for his methods at all. He was a maniac, and a dangerous one at that. Anyone in Solomon's outfit usually ended up injured or dead, or dishonourably discharged, but the army kept him employed... he was good for the missions that no one else would ever touch. Solomon had no conscience, no scruples. He was a mercenary.
So when he caught Hannibal off guard coming out of Morrison's HQ that morning, typical stupid smug grin on his face, and bragged about how fucking crazy Hannibal's el tee was and would he be interested in letting Peck transfer permanently to his unit, a sudden cold fear washed through Hannibal. What the hell was Face doing?
Face didn't answer Hannibal. He couldn't.
"Face, listen to me," Hannibal said softly, "I just wanna know why you went behind my back. Why you went to Solomon." He paused a few seconds and then asked quietly, "You wanna leave my unit?"
Wide eyes locked onto Hannibal's. "No," he whispered, "No, of course not. I..." Face sat down and blew out a breath. "I guess I..." God, what did he say? How could he explain that he felt useless, pathetic, that he was a Ranger and needed to be all he could be, that that was all he knew.
How could he tell Hannibal that what he was doing, even if the man thought he was helping Face, was really killing him little by little every day? How did he tell him he'd fucked up, given in to temptation...?
"Temp..." Hannibal urged softly when Face sighed.
"Who am I?" the kid asked instead. "What am I?"
"I don't know wha-"
"Because I'm not sure anymore, not really," Face whispered brokenly. He looked up and Hannibal sucked in a small breath at the desolate look in his eyes. "The army is all I know. I'm a Ranger, boss, and if I can't be a Ranger, then what else is left for me? I went to Solomon 'cause he needed me. He needed me... and I needed..." He looked down and frowned, thinking back to those teenage girls that were massacred.
Hannibal's heart ached for his lieutenant. "Templeton. Listen to me," he said and waited until the kid looked up again. "I'm not gonna pretend that I'm happy you went behind my back an' went on missions for that lunatic, but," he smiled sadly, "I do understand. I'm so sorry, kid."
"Boss?" Face blinked confused. Why was Hannibal apologising?
"I'm sorry that I didn't see," Hannibal sighed. "I didn't see that I was ...suffocating you. I wanted to help you, protect you." He closed his eyes and shook his head when memories of Face's painful withdrawal filled his mind. "After Fallujah... It killed me to see you so broken, so hurt, and... and I..." Hannibal opened his eyes again and leaned closer to Face. "I love you, kid, and I'll do anything, anything to keep you safe..."
With tears dampening his lashes, Face swallowed hard at the raw emotion in Hannibal's voice. Those three little words repeated themselves over and over in his head... the boss loved him. Hannibal loved him... and he was still reeling from actually hearing them. But he had to make Hannibal understand he wasn't made of glass, he wasn't weak and fragile, he didn't need protecting...
"I know, boss," he murmured softly, "But you don't need to. I can look after myself, I have done since I was a kid." He smiled. "I love you too, Hannibal, and I love that you feel that way about me, but I'm a big boy. Give me a chance to prove that to you. Don't take me off the mission rota again."
Hannibal nodded. He could do that. For Face.
A little over a week later, Face was stood chewing on his thumb nail – a nervous habit he'd started since his withdrawal this time round, as the anxiety of letting his team down again bubbled to the surface. Although he was now clean and over the worst of the after-effects, thanks to the support from his friends, niggling doubts in his ability to be the Ranger Hannibal expected him to be still taunted him.
"It's a heck of a plan, boss," Face murmured after he'd read the notes. He looked up to see Hannibal's serious expression, and narrowed his eyes. "Don't even think about takin' me off this," he warned, needing to be a part of it, to prove to himself he could do it.
"Not thinkin' that, kid," Hannibal shook his head. He looked up when BA and Murdock walked into their planning quarters.
"So, bossman, we goin' into Baghdad, or what?" Murdock asked. Face handed him and BA a copy of the plan. "Fuck! This is crazy, man!"
"You kiddin', right, Hannibal? This is insane!" BA frowned.
Hannibal blew out a long steady breath and shook his head. "No, boys, this is it," he affirmed. The plan was the plan.
General Morrison had been given orders to retrieve a secret set of documents from a man called Shafik El Tayeb. Said set of papers was rumoured to be exact plans and lists of every rebel force in the south of Iraq. Needless to say the powers-that-be wanted that information.
But, Tayeb was a seriously important man in his circles and therefore had a huge guard detail, from personal bodyguards to numerous armed soldiers surrounding him at all times. The man was untouchable.
So, Morrison had turned to Hannibal to get the job done.
"But, I don't trust 'im," Murdock said lowly and put the papers down. He looked up to see three sets of eyes watching him.
"You don't trust who, buddy?" Face asked and Murdock's blue-green eyes turned stormy when Lieutenant Bane walked him, and the team knew exactly who the pilot was referring to.
"'Afternoon, lads," Bane grinned, and added, "Colonel Smith."
"Lieutenant," Hannibal nodded and handed him a copy of the plan.
Bane had been surprised, if a little shocked, when Smith had asked him to join them on this mission. It'd been a good week since he'd seen any of the men, silently fuming when he'd heard the team had been given a week's impromptu R&R. That meant he'd not been able to get at Peck, to twist the knife, to deal with him... once and for all!
He knew, when Peck had returned the last little package of heroin, that the kid was working to get himself clean again. Fucked up his plans, but he didn't give up. That place on Smith's team was his! No, he still had an ace up his sleeve... Peck's betrayal. He was positive the kid hadn't said anything to Smith, or the other's, about his little relapse, and he knew Smith would tear Peck apart for lying, for putting the team in danger... and that fuelled the venom in his veins. Peck would go down, one way or another.
And this mission was the one.
"Wow, colonel, this is quite somethin'," Bane blinked when he'd read the plan. Crazy didn't quite cover what he thought of it, completely nuts was more nearer the mark!
"Okay, kids, let's get to work," Hannibal said and unrolled the street plans of Baghdad.
Four hours and two carafes of coffee later, the plan was hashed and rehashed and worked until all the kinks were smoothed. It was still crazy, but the team knew their roles, and the plan for Tayeb's papers was a go for the next day.
It was straight forward in its simplicity. Get Tayeb alone, steal the papers. But execution of the plan was a little more complicated.
At 1400 hours, the team was huddled in the sewer under the building where Tayeb was reportedly staying. Armed guards and soldiers were everywhere, but their International News reporters disguises meant they had easily blended in with the crowd.
"So far so good," murmured Bane as he stripped off his credentials and yanked off his jacket. He and Face were going inside the hotel as staff, and they quickly pulled on the uniforms, hiding small weapons on their person. BA, Murdock and Hannibal were headed to the roof, BA and the colonel with abseiling gear to rappel down the outside of the building to the nineteenth floor - the floor above Tayeb.
Timing was everything.
The windows of the hotel were reinforced glass, and barred, too, so Bane, carrying small explosives, had to blow the windows from the inside before BA and Hannibal could get in. But as soon as that happened, they had literally minutes to blow a hole through the floor of the suite above Tayeb, drop down, incapacitate his personal bodyguards, get Tayeb to give them the documents, and then get back to the roof where Murdock would have Tayeb's own helicopter ready for lift off. All before they were descended upon by the hoards of Tayeb's armed and dangerous army of guards.
Piece of cake!
They synchronised their watches and parted ways...
"So, how you doin'?" Bane asked when he and Face snuck into the hotel kitchen. Face glared at him. What the fuck was Bane playing at? They had a job to do, not make idle chit-chat!
"Bane, get your head in the zone, man," he warned and checked the way was clear before motioning them to carry on.
"I was just askin', kid," Bane ignored Face and carried on. "I haven't seen ya in a while. Need any more... y'know?"
Face threw Bane a cold look and immediately slammed the man against the wall. "Look, you motherfucker, I don't know what your game is, but we have a job to do, and if you don't shut the fuck up and do your part, I'm gonna fucking shoot you myself. Got that?"
A slow grin twisted Bane's mouth. "Ooo, Peck, you sound a little strung out. You hurtin'? Maybe need a little fix? What would Smi-" A fast fist to the mouth shut him up and he sneered at Face as he wiped his bloody lip, eyes full of hatred for the man.
"You ungrateful fuckin-"
"Shut. The. Fuck. Up!" Face hissed, teeth clenched. "I don't want or need anything from you!"
Practically touching noses, Bane leaned in dangerously close, and Face could feel the hatred radiating off him in waves. "This isn't over, Peck," he growled, threatening, "You're done. Finished!"
"Oh, you're right about one thing," Face promised quietly. "This is not over." And he grabbed the lieutenant and roughly shoved him into the stairwell.
They disposed of the guards posted on the stairwell quickly and quietly before making their way up to level nineteen. Years of training meant they weren't seen or heard and when the glass blew in the suite above him, Tayeb and his bodyguards panicked. The alarm had been sounded and all hell broke loose.
BA and Hannibal smashed through the glass and landed as Face had just broken through the floor. They dropped down, neutralised the threat from the bodyguards and Tayeb, terrified out of his head, handed over the documents without even being asked. Hannibal grinned.
Back to the nineteenth, and then to the roof. BA and Hannibal went first, leaving Face and Bane taking up the rear.
Bane watched Peck as he took the steps two at a time. It was now or never. He fished in his pocket for a small syringe, uncapped it and deliberately tripped the kid on the stairs.
"What the f-" A hand over his mouth and a hard forearm pressing hard on his throat shut him up, and Bane showed Face the syringe before plunging it into the kid's neck before Face could even think about struggling.
"You're done, Peck," Bane hissed menacingly in Face's ear as his eyes rolled and his limbs slackened.
The familiar effects of the heroin registered fast and Face panicked, but his body and mind numbed too quickly before he could do anything. His world tilted, and he hazily realised Bane had hoisted him over his shoulder and was hauling him up the stairs.
Hannibal saw Bane crash through the door to the roof and his eyes widened. "What happened?" he asked as he ran towards them.
Bane schooled his features into worried concern and let the colonel take Face off him. The kid's head lolled to the side, his eyes unfocussed. Hannibal started checking for obvious signs of injury.
"I dunno, colonel," Bane shrugged. "One minute he was runnin', next he was all pale an' sweaty, sayin' he was dizzy..."
"Was he hit?" Hannibal frowned. There was no blood. What the fuck was going on?
"Hannibal!" BA shouted from the helicopter, "C'mon, boss! We gotta go!"
Looking up, Hannibal nodded, grabbed Face, and they all piled into the aircraft. Murdock lurched the helicopter forward, scattering the soldiers flooding onto the roof before manoeuvring it up and away.
"Face," Hannibal urged, slapping the kid lightly on the cheek, but he still wouldn't respond. He peeled back and eyelid and frowned. Face was high? What the fuck? He leaned back and looked hard at his lieutenant, refusing to believe he's was tripping. That's when he noticed it. It was small, but he'd seen it before... just over two months ago, in Fallujah. A small circular bruise with an angry red pin prick sized welt in the middle, on the side of Face's neck... an injection site. He glanced sideways at Bane and saw the ugly sneer he was trying to hide behind his hand and a cold wave of fear chilled him down to his core.
It was a short fifteen minute journey back to the FOB, that short as Murdock was pushing the bird to its limits – one look at Face and the pilot had 'floored' the thing, so to speak, and Hannibal had that time to think, really think back over the last few weeks.
The training session, the way Bane had befriended Face, the distance the kid had put between himself and the rest of his team, his mood swings, the exhaustion... The way Bane was always there, offering Face friendship, and fuck knows what else... Always ready to help, eager to step in when Face was grounded.
Was Bane after his XO's place in his unit? Over my dead and rotting corpse, Hannibal vehemently thought.
And then there was Murdock. Hannibal saw the strain and anxiety every time he was with Face, but he thought it was just Face being moody about being 'grounded' and taking his frustrations out on the pilot. Now, he wondered if Murdock knew something... whether Face had relapsed and fallen off the narrow path of recovery.
Things slowly fell into place. God, what a mess.
He tapped Face's cheek again and the kid moaned, flinching away from the sting, drunkenly flapping is hand in the general direction of his face.
"Kid looks like he's high, colonel," Bane frowned, feigning concern. Hannibal scowled at him. "Wasn't he on heroin?"
"Kid's clean, lieutenant," growled Hannibal, "And that wasn't his fault." He turned slightly so he had his back to Bane and looked up at BA, narrowing his eyes. BA glanced over Hannibal's shoulder at the lieutenant and back to the boss before settling his eyes on Face, and then it clicked. A surge of anger rolled through the big guy and his eyes darkened.
Whatever Bane had done to Face, he was going to pay. Painfully.
"Maybe so, colonel, but looks like he's chasin' that dragon again to me," Bane shook his head as if to be disappointed. "Shame, he was a good Ranger, too."
BA's fists clenched so hard Hannibal heard the knuckles crack over the whirring roar of the helicopter. Hannibal slowly turned to look at Bane, struggling to fight the urge to not just open the door and shove the traitorous motherfucker out.
Murdock landed the helicopter smoothly and Bane jumped out, grim expression fighting to stay in place. Inside he was laughing. The kid was done, out, and it was just a matter of time until Smith asked him to take Peck's place on his team.
"You want hand takin' him to medical, colonel?" Bane asked, wanting to see the humiliation of the kid testing positive for heroin, and then arrested for illegal drug use.
"We're not going to medical," Hannibal said quietly, dragged Face out of the helicopter and flung him over his shoulder. An airfield med tech questioned him, but Hannibal just waved him and his stretcher off... just a knock on the head, kid'll be okay...
"We're not?" Bane blinked, that wasn't good. "But-"
"Look, fool, boss said we ain't going," BA growled and pushed past him, knocking his shoulder hard, and grabbed Murdock. "So, we ain't goin'!"
Putting his hands up and backing off, Bane moved out of the way and let Hannibal and his team double time it to the nearest available vehicle. They piled in and drove off leaving Bane standing alone in the dust.
"Bossman, what's goin' on?" Murdock asked confused when he saw Bane getting smaller in the distance. "What about Bane?"
"What about him?" grumbled BA from the driver's seat, and hit the accelerator.
Hannibal, holding Face steady in the back seat of the vehicle, looked up. "Murdock, what do you about what's been goin' on with Face?" he asked. Murdock blinked before uncomfortably shifting in his seat. "Captain?"
"I... I think he's ah... I think..." he stuttered, grabbed his cap and started wringing it in his hands. "Ithinkhe'stakingdrugsagainbossman."
The words rushed out in one lone garble, but Hannibal heard them and sighed. He looked down at his XO, his friend... Jesus Christ. What a mess. "You sure?"
"I... I dunno, bossman... I hope not, but..." Murdock's face crumbled. "Boss, all the signs were there. Didya not see 'em, too?"
No, he didn't. Hannibal blew out a breath. How had he missed the signs? God, was he so wrapped up in keeping him safe he'd been so blind to see what was really happening?
"What happened to Face back there, bossman?" Murdock asked softly, afraid of the answer.
"He's been drugged," Hannibal said and looked down. Face was still high, alternating giggling and passing out. "It was Bane."
"What?" Murdock exclaimed, then his face darkened. "I knew it!" He yanked his cap back on. "I knew it was him!"
Hannibal jerked his head up. "Explain," he ordered.
"Bastard's been givin' Facey the stuff. Supplying it. Had to have been! Making friends with him, and then fixin' it so he gets addicted again! Why? 'Cause he wants on the team? No. Fucking. Way!"
Digesting what he already now suspected, Hannibal unconsciously tightened his hold on Face. True, Bane might've deliberately put temptation in the kid's way, but it was still Face's choice to give in to it.
But what support had Hannibal given him? Not a lot. He cringed as the vivid memory of that day he wavered when Face had asked him if he still trusted him flooded his mind. God, what had he done?
BA turned the ignition off and opened the door to the vehicle, helping Hannibal manhandle Face out. Murdock ran ahead and to open Hannibal's front door when a surreal moment of déjà vu stopped him in his tracks. He shuddered and bit his lip fumbling with the key, tears stinging the backs of his eyes.
"Get him settled, then I gotta go see Morrison," Hannibal frowned. He still had a mission to complete, Tayeb's documents were still in his backpack. "No one comes in," he stressed. He had to keep Face safe, from Bane, and from whoever Bane might send, because Hannibal wouldn't put it past the bastard to get the military police involved.
"Gotcha, bossman," Murdock murmured and helped BA with Face on Hannibal's huge king-size bed.
"Be back soon." And Hannibal jumped in the jeep and sped off. Murdock locked and chained the door.
Morrison was waiting with Bane when Hannibal walked into the command HQ. He eyed the lieutenant distastefully and then ignored him.
"Russ, he sang like a bird," the colonel half grinned and handed over the documents. Morrison smiled, saluting Hannibal with the thick manila envelope.
"Have a seat, Hannibal," Russ suggested and Hannibal looked at him. Morrison had a perplexed look of concern and disappointment on his face. Oh shit.
"What can I do for you, Russ?" he asked, hands leaning on the back of the chair instead. Russ sighed.
"Hannibal, about your boy-"
"Hang on," Hannibal held up a hand, interrupting him. He looked pointedly at Bane. "Dismissed, lieutenant."
Russ's brows hit his hairline, but he respected Hannibal and allowed him the minor discretion. Bane, however, was most put out. He threw the colonel a cold look and left.
"What's going on, Hannibal?" asked Russ. "The shit Lieutenant Bane's been spillin' about the kid... I take it they don't get on."
Hannibal did sit down then. "You could say that. What exactly has Bane been saying?"
"Heroin. Says the kid's been on the stuff the last few weeks," Russ said seriously. "Say's he even offered to get Bane some. Knowing Peck's reputation as a bit of a conman, Hannibal, I have to ask... Is he a dealer?"
"Jesus, Russ," Hannibal said and rubbed his face. "You have to ask that? Of course he's not a dealer! Bane is the dealer!"
Morrison leaned back in his chair. This was serious. "How'd you know that?" he asked.
"Because he nearly blew the last mission by injecting Face with the stuff to frame him," Hannibal growled. "Bane wants Face to fail, wants him gone for no other reason that I can think of other than taking his place on my team... which ain't gonna happen!"
A few minutes went by as the information sank in. Morrison trusted Hannibal Smith, not some ass licking lieutenant with tattling tendencies. When Bane had told the general about Peck, he was immediately suspicious, but had to investigate. He didn't like drugs on his base.
"Where's the kid, now?" Morrison asked quietly.
"My house, sleeping off a bad trip," Hannibal said, "And that's where he's stayin'."
The general nodded. "We'll get to the bottom of this, John," he said softly, "Go home, take care of your boy."
Hannibal stood up, thanked his friend and left.
"You okay, Facey?" Murdock asked as he gently knocked on the bathroom door. He heard a low groan and a long weary sigh.
"Yeah," came the soft reply. Face was currently attached to the toilet bowl, suffering the nausea, cramps and all the rest of the delightful fallout of heroin use. Withdrawal was a bitch. Added to the fact that this time, it wasn't really his choice... and memories of Fallujah hit him full force, too.
"You need anythin'?"
Face sighed again. God, why wouldn't he leave him to die in peace? "No, buddy, m'fine."
Murdock moved slowly from the door and sat on the bed. He felt so helpless. BA came in and sat with him, huge arm comforting the smaller man. "He'll be okay, Murdock, you'll see," he said softly. "Faceman's strong."
The toilet flushed and both men looked up as Face walked out, holding his abdomen and looking sickly and grey. He sat down and let himself fall over, head landing on the clean white pillows.
"M'okay, buddy," Face murmured, eyes closed. He couldn't look at his friends, couldn't stand to see the pity, the disappointment that he was sure to see in their eyes. God, he'd fucked up royally. "Where's Hannibal?"
"He'll be back soon, Facey," Murdock smiled and rubbed Face's arm. Back from where, though? That's what Face wondered. But then, he wasn't surprised the boss had left him. Why would he want to be with Face now, knowing what a pathetic, weak excuse of a man he was?
Face sighed. No, whatever friendship they had between them was surely over.
Another wave of cramps twisted his stomach and Face dragged his knees to his chest, curling up with a low groan. He shivered and welcomed the pain. It was his dues and he had to pay them. He felt the bed dip as Murdock climbed behind him and lay down, wrapping an arm over his side.
"It'll be okay, Facey," he whispered softly, "You'll see. Go t'sleep."
The soft snick of the door latch sounded in the silence and Face screwed his eyes shut tight and tried to hold in the desolate sobs that fought to get out, his body shaking with the effort. He felt Murdock tighten his hold and he lost the last of his resolve.
"Oh God," he gasped, tears burning his eyes. His breath hitched and the sobs increased, and he turned his face into the pillow feeling lost and heartbroken.
"Facey? Face..." Murdock urged gently and pulled the man over, hugging his friend tightly in his arms as the sobs threatened to shake him apart at the seams.
Face buried his head in Murdock's shirt, his own arms gripping the pilot's body as if he'd lose himself if he let go. He felt like his life was over. He'd lost Hannibal, lost the only person he'd ever really trusted, ever really loved... What was he going to do, now?
And all this because he couldn't say no to temptation... wasn't strong enough.
Hannibal deserved better than him, deserved better...
Murdock sniffed and twisted his head to wipe his face on his sleeve. God, his heart was breaking for Face, listening to him cry, feeling him shake, and he held on, offering what comfort he could. He would do anything to stop the pain for his best friend, but he knew only one man could do that.
"Shhh, s'okay, Facey," he continued the soft murmurings, stroking the wavy hair as he would Billy. "Bossman's gonna be here soon, you'll see..."
Face muttered something and shook his head, sighing deeply, and so despairingly that Murdock pulled back to look at him.
"What did ya say?" he asked biting his lip when he saw Face's bleak expression.
"S'not comin' back," Face mumbled flatly. "Don' blame 'im either. Fuck up pathetic excuse that I am..."
"Now you just wait a damned minute," Murdock frowned...
Hannibal returned to his place weary and frustrated. He'd stopped off at medical to pick up some industrial strength pain killers, as he knew Face would be hurting through the withdrawal. Knew that, because they'd done all this before, not so long since. He cursed himself for not seeing what Face was going through these past weeks, and vowed that he would never ever let the kid down again.
They still had to have a talk though about his slip. And Hannibal wasn't looking forward to that.
He nodded hello to BA and motioned to the bedroom. "How's he doing?" he asked quietly. BA rubbed a hand over his mohawk and blew out a breath.
"Rough, boss, but he's gonna be okay," he nodded hoping he was right. Hannibal sighed and passed a hand tiredly over his face.
"I'm gonna..." he cocked his head towards his bedroom door and headed in that direction, his steps slowing when Murdock's voice filtered through from the room. Hannibal stood and listened.
"Now you just wait a damned minute!"
The harshness made Hannibal frown, but he decided against barging in. Sometimes love was tough, and it was necessary to be cruel to be kind.
Face opened his bloodshot, reddened eyes at Murdock's tone, a small spike of anger fuelling his flagging energy.
"It's true!" he hissed, breath hitching. "Why would he want me now, huh?"
"Because he loves you, you idiot," Murdock said caringly. But Face closed his eyes as the tears started again.
"He can't, HM," he cried, "I fucked up so much... He deserves better..."
"Oh baby," Murdock soothed and pulled Face close again. "No matter how much you fuck up, Hannibal will always love you. Don't you get it?"
"I gave in, HM," Face confessed quietly, finally admitting that he gave in to the cravings and took heroin. He felt Murdock stiffen. "I'm so sorry..."
"Tell me," Murdock said. And Face told Murdock everything, from the first time Bane offered it, the way he felt when Hannibal wouldn't let him on the missions with them, and then the last mission. He missed out nothing, purging his soul to his friend, and Hannibal heard it all through the door, tears of his own falling heedlessly down his cheeks.
"And now he won't want me anymore, HM," Face whispered, "I mean, how could he?"
The bedroom door opened and Hannibal walked in. "Because I do love you, Temp, that's why," he answered. He glanced up at Murdock and the pilot nodded and left them alone. Hannibal sat by Face on the bed. "Kid, you're family... Never doubt that."
Face, still wide eyed and quiet since he saw the colonel walk through the door, suddenly whooshed out a shuddering breath and launched himself at Hannibal. "Oh God, boss, I'm so sorry... so sorry... sosorrysosorrysorrysorry..." he murmured over and over into Hannibal's shirt.
Pulling Face's head up, Hannibal cupped the hot cheeks and looked into the desperate blue eyes. "It's not your fault, kid," he said. The blue eyes filled again and Hannibal repeated, "Temp, it's not your fault..."
"But... But I-"
"Lieutenant Bane gave you the stuff, and for that he will pay, but it's not your fault," Hannibal said again, stroking his thumbs tenderly over Face's cheeks. "I shoulda seen the signs, shoulda seen the pain you were going through, and I'm sorry, so sorry, kid."
Face looked at him, "No, boss, I'm sorry," he shook his head feeling even worse now he had Hannibal's misery to blame for, too. But Hannibal saw what he was thinking and sighed, giving Face a stern look.
"Don't you dare," he pleaded, "Don't you dare blame yourself. I'll make that an order if I have to," he added when Face closed his eyes. "We'll get through this together, all of us. Okay?"
Opening his eyes again, Face saw the determined look on Hannibal's face and nodded. With the help of his friends, maybe he could get through this. "Okay."
The withdrawal this time wasn't as harsh, and after a few days, Face was feeling human again. Hannibal, BA and Murdock took turns in staying with him every night and most of the days, surrounding him with love and comfort, and security when insecurities threatened to overwhelm him in his nightmares. And as Hannibal held him in the small hours of the mornings, his mind went over and over everything again and again, and eventually he decided on a plan of action for their 'friend' Lieutenant Bane.
He was a clever, conniving and devious bastard. By talking to Morrison first, Bane had planted the seed of doubt, making it easy for him to play the innocent part in what he was accusing Face of. Hannibal's hands were tied. Until Bane said or did anything that would incriminate himself, and they had proof, hard evidence, it looked like he was going to get away with it. And that was not going to happen.
What Hannibal wanted to do was take a gun and shoot him in his twisted, evil head. Or beat the life out of him with his bare fists, he wasn't fussy, but he couldn't. Fucking rules, and the army frowned upon soldiers killing their fellow soldiers, even if they were lowlife, scum-sucking, traitorous shitheads like Bane.
It was a fine line Hannibal was walking. So, his plan had to be perfect.
"Oh, I dunno, bossman," Murdock frowned when he heard Hannibal's plan. He idly stacked up a pile of cookies and flicked them over. "I can't see Bane falling for it."
"Gotta admit, boss, the fool's right," BA grimaced and grabbed one of Murdock's cookies. The pilot scowled at the big guy.
"It'll be good, guys, you'll see. I have this fucker figured out. He wants on this team," and Hannibal waited until both BA and Murdock stopped hissing their strong objections to that, "And he'll fall for it hook, line and sinker."
"What about Morrison?" Murdock asked.
"He's left Bane to me, kid," Hannibal grinned. Oh, and wasn't that a conversation! Morrison actually started to feel sorry for the poor hapless lieutenant.
Face, who had been sat at the end of the table quietly listening to the conversation, looked up. "I still think it's a bad idea," he said softly. He was afraid for his friends. Bane was crazy, dangerous, and Face's team was risking too much for him. Hannibal walked around the table and stood behind his lover, hands gently massaging his shoulders.
"He's gotta go down, Face," he murmured and dug his thumbs into the top of Face's spine. Face let out a soft sigh. "Trust me, it'll be okay."
Murdock couldn't stop humming the theme to the Paul Newman movie, The Sting, which amused Hannibal. It was apt, Bane being the one stung this time, not Robert Shaw...
Even BA couldn't hide his smirk. Face was the only one with a worried frown.
"Hey, kid, don't worry," Hannibal soothed as he handed Face his sniper rifle. "Bane's nothing but a brown nosing, ruthless, moronic fuckwit who's gonna get what's comin' to him."
"Yeah, but it's the ruthless and moronic bits that worry me, boss," Face said. He looked up at Hannibal, "Be careful, Hannibal. Bane's manipulative and pissed off, too."
Hannibal pulled Face to him in a one armed hug and stuck a cigar in his mouth, grinning around it. Face couldn't help but smile. "Okay, kid, but trust me, Bane is going down!"
The Sting, as Murdock renamed Hannibal's plan, was to humiliate Bane as the lowlife scum he really was. Let him feel in control and at ease, before slowly stripping it all away, leaving the putrid empty shell of the evil man behind.
Humiliated, exposed and defeated.
A competitive training session was organised for the day, Hannibal's Alpha Unit versus Bane and his squad, again.
And this time, Hannibal, Face, BA and Murdock were ready, starting with a suggestive pat on Bane's back, a little exaggerated 'you did great on that last mission, kid', a hint of an allusive wink... sucking Bane right in, and the Sting was on.
Lopez fell first. On the assault course, with BA as his opposite, the soldier didn't stand a chance. Filthy and bruised, Lopez staggered to the finishing line to the sound of the gathering crowd laughing at him after Hannibal made him the butt of a joke. Lopez scowled hard, which made the crowd laugh even more.
Bane quickly dragged his belligerent sergeant off, feeling a little embarrassed and a touch of shame that the man under his command was behaving like a petulant child.
Murdock was paired with the squad's muscle, hardly a fair match, but the pilot just smiled and winked at Hannibal. Brains versus brawn. Murdock supposed it wasn't a fair match, as he was definitely taking the huge man down at the first hurdle!
At six foot three, Corporal Fisher was the size of an over grown ape, and built like one too, but the bigger they were, the harder they fell, and he was no match for Murdock's agility on Hannibal's specially designed obstacle/assault course. As predicted, he fell at the first stage, with Murdock grinning at him at the finish line.
Two down, and then it was Bane and Face.
They faced each other off, not talking, just staring. The crowd that had gathered murmured as bets were passed to and fro, who would win, who would fall first, and when.
"So, lieutenants, once around the assault course, grab your rifles at the end check point, and first one to hit all five targets is our winner." He turned to Bane, "And your squad ain't doin' too well at the moment, Bane, so fuck this up and I might have to put you and your boys on latrine and KP duty for the next month."
It wasn't a bluff and Bane's eyes narrowed. The rest of Bane's squad shot him a hard look. The pressure was on. He looked at Face again and felt a moment of uncertainty. The kid looked well. Better than well. He looked determined.
"S'not over yet, Peck," he hissed under his breath. Face scowled at him, a small smile tugging at his lips when he saw a flicker of doubt in the bastard's eyes. And he knew Hannibal was right, Bane was nothing but a thug. Moronic fuckwit was befitting.
As they walked to the start of the course, Face turned to Bane, cocked his head to the side and just smiled at him, a cold calculating smile that really struck a nerve, leaving Bane trying to control his rage as Hannibal blew his whistle.
At just about half way, Bane caught up with Face on the series of cargo nets. It was an obstacle at the back of the course, void of any spectators, and he quickly bypassed the first three nets to the last one where Face had just cleared the top. He grabbed the kid's ankle and yanked. Face fell with a dull thud onto the hard gravelly ground, and before Face registered what had happened, Bane sprinted to the start of the nets and started to climb.
Face rolled over with a groan and tried to catch his breath. A mental check assured him nothing was damaged, just the wind knocked out of him. He glared at Bane, now on the second net, and debated pulling the cheating bastard off the thing and just kicking seven shades of shit out of him, but Face knew he had to stick with the plan. So he pushed himself up, grabbed his back, and half ran half limped to the next obstacle.
Hannibal saw what had happened through his binoculars and cursed, but he held back sending BA when he watched Face get up and carry on. He trusted Face to do this, knew he could do this...
It was a part of Hannibal's plan that he'd not divulged. Face needed to confront his demons, in this case, Bane. After Fallujah, and now after his relapse and Bane, the kid was having trust issues with himself, and Hannibal, for all his words of support, wasn't the one that could heal him completely. That was himself.
And Hannibal had every faith in him.
Face glanced behind him and saw Bane approach the high walls with displeasure. The man was fit, but was a little on the heavy side, and whereas Face easily scaled the walls with agility and grace, Bane struggled.
"C'mon, Bane, I can hear those latrines calling!" Face laughed and threw the man a sneer as he sprinted to the next bit, leaving Bane growling and seething.
At the end of the course, Face grabbed his rifle and double timed it to the range. Bane was a good few minutes behind him, and the crowd had started showing the man exactly what they thought of him by focussing all their attention on Face.
Hannibal was at the range when Face arrived, sweaty, dirty and dishevelled, but determined and in the zone. He positioned himself and had hit two of his five targets before Bane even arrived.
The next three were at distances only a few snipers could hit. They were no problem for Face, who fell completely still, aimed his rifle and hit them all in succession in under twenty seconds.
Bane hadn't even fired off a shot.
"Winner, Lieutenant Peck!" Hannibal shouted, patted Face on the back, and the crowd cheered. Face stood up and looked at Bane.
"You're still a fuckin' junkie, Peck," Bane shouted harshly.
Face shook his head. "No, man," he said. "I feel sorry for you, Bane."
"What?" Spittle sprayed through Bane's teeth.
"You're a sad excuse for a soldier and even sadder excuse for a human being," Face shrugged. Murdock and BA stood next to their friends and gave Bane the same unfriendly and indifferent look. Bane invaded Face's space and sneered at him, not seeing the others anymore, focussed only on the man he hated with his whole being.
"But you're still a fuckin' junkie, and you always will be," he hissed, and lowering his voice he added, "You're weak, Peck, s'only a matter of time before you come back to me for more dope, and I'll have it waiting for you... 'cause once a junkie, always a fuckin' junkie!" He shoved Face hard. "You're my bitch, Peck, don't you forget it!"
Bane's wild eyes, filled with anger and hatred, narrowed when Face laughed at him. "Oh, Bane, you're so wrong," the kid said, his laugh turning humourless and his mouth twisting into something akin to fury. "You're my bitch, motherfucker!"
And as if just noticing the rest of Peck's team there, Bane blinked and fisted his hands so hard his fingernails dug into his palms when he heard his low, grating voice on the small Dictaphone the colonel held up.
"...s'only a matter of time before you come back to me for more dope, and I'll have it waiting for you..."
"Gotcha," Hannibal smirked quietly, adding a little louder for the crowd's benefit, "Sore loser!" And they all laughed at Bane, too.
"Yeah, they're all the same," Murdock carried on, eyes gleaming and wild, "Lies! All lies! Loser's always say shit to make the winner look bad!"
Bane saw red, pulled his arm back, but Murdock was faster and landed a hard right hook that bloodied Bane's nose and knocked him on his ass. The pilot followed him down, fists flying, and BA leapt in and pulled him back.
"Fuckin' lemme go, BA!" he growled, rage boiling. "He... Facey... Fuck! Gonna fuckin' kill 'im!"
"Captain, stand down," Hannibal ordered, but the pilot wasn't hearing. Even Face's attempts to calm him went unheard. Murdock was crazed.
"Let me GO!" he snarled, struggling against BA's hold. He wanted to kill Bane for what he'd done to his best friend, and the crowd didn't help as they started urging Murdock on, jeering, shouting 'Kick his ass'!
BA held on though, even if he was tempted to just let Murdock loose on the bastard, especially when Bane spat, "He's fuckin' crazy, man! Keep that moron away from me!"
Hannibal quickly sent for the military police. He had to do this next bit legally.
Face moved to where Bane lay and stood over him. "You're done, Bane," is all he said before he left Bane there, bleeding and humiliated and defeated.
"So, Bane is being shipped back to the State's tomorrow, then?" Murdock asked. Hannibal nodded and pulled the ring off another beer. He lifted his feet from the small water filled children's pool and smiled.
"Yep. He's gonna do hard time for possession, drug dealing, assault, and endangering missions... He has a pretty bleak future ahead of him," he shrugged and sucked on his cigar. When Bane's place had been searched, they'd found enough heroin to throw the book at the ex-lieutenant. Hannibal's plan had worked perfectly.
And Face... He was his old cocky, confident and sassy self again. Hannibal raised his can at Murdock, who answered with a huge grin before knocking his own beer against it. Life was good.
They looked up when BA and Face arrived with food.
"Ooo, steaks?" Murdock eyed the paper wrapped parcels with undisguised glee. He loved cooking steaks!
"Of course, buddy," Face smiled and placed the hefty lot into Murdock's lap, "Only the best for you!"
"Aww you spoil me, Facey!" And he jumped to his feet and fired up the huge home constructed barbeque, grabbing a hand full of shotgun cartridges on the way.
Face pulled a chair next to Hannibal's and sat down, shoulder to shoulder, and the pair exchanged a small private look. When they glanced up, though, both BA and Murdock were grinning at them.
"Guys, I wanna thank you," Face said softly, "For everything."
"Hey, Facey, s'what family's for!" Murdock beamed at him. "Besides, Bane had it comin'."
"Yeah, fool messed wit' you, Faceman," BA nodded and finished his beer. He crushed it in one hand and tossed it in the pool. "Bastard should not 'ave done that."
"We always look out for our own, kid," Hannibal smiled and patted Face's back. Face nodded and frowned as thought whirred around his head.
"Penny for them," Hannibal offered softly when he noticed the pensive look on the kid's face.
"They're not worth that much," he whispered softly. "Just thinking about Bane and my lot in life."
"Your lot in life?" Hannibal repeated watching BA and Murdock throw the steaks onto the grill.
"Yeah," Face sighed. He drained his beer and smiled when Murdock yelped indignantly as BA slapped his hand away from a bottle of antifreeze.
"The things you experience in life..." Hannibal said softly, "You can both learn from and use, or..."
"Or bury my head in the sand?" Face finished with a tiny shake of his head. He turned and looked at Hannibal. "What if it happens again, boss?"
"What? What do you mean, kid?"
"I mean, it could, right?" Face said, "And I can deal with that... But..." He wanted to say, to tell the colonel that he could deal with anything life threw at him, anything except losing his friends, or Hannibal. The older man seemed to sense what Face was thinking, leaned in and placed a kiss on the kid's forehead.
"You'll never have to worry about that," he murmured, "I'll always be there for you, kid." Hannibal palmed Face's cheeks and looked deep into the sharp blue eyes. "Always. Do you believe me?"
Face searched Hannibal's face and found nothing but love and open truth. He smiled. "Yeah."
Hannibal gently tapped Face's cheek. "Good," he smiled, before adding, "So, you want your steak nuked or napalmed, kid?"
Laughing, Face looked up to see Murdock liberally sprinkling the meat with gunpowder from the shotgun shells, and then taking a wide step back when the barbeque exploded as he flipped them over.
God, he loved this, loved relaxing with his team... his family.
Watching his lieutenant, Hannibal was amazed how carefree and untroubled the kid was at that moment, a complete contrast to who and what he was – a soldier who had seen sights that no one should ever see, a survivor who'd had to live through and endure some of the worst shit that life could throw anyone. And survive he has.
To Hannibal, Face was an enigma. He could be devious, sly and was a world class liar, an exceptionally talented conman and could sell you your own grandmother if he had a mind to, but on the other end of the spectrum, the kid was loyal, trustworthy, would sacrifice himself in a heartbeat to save his friends, and even after the life he's had, being abandoned by his parents, growing up in orphanages, drifting through the years trying to find somewhere to fit in, Templeton Peck wasn't a resentful or bitter man...
He was remarkable.
Settling his hand on Face's arm, Hannibal smiled when the kid looked at him and smiled back. Remarkable.