Author's Note: This story takes place during the eight or so years the team was in the Army, before the plates and Lynch's involvement. I'll be posting a new chapter next Monday!
Warnings: Language, mild gore, and feeeeelz :P
Chapter 1: We Go Out
Face awoke to a throbbing in his chest and head that very nearly sent him toppling back into oblivion. Drawing in a shaking breath, he tried to remember what had happened and how he'd wound up feeling like Bosco had thrown a truck at him. He remembered the mission, getting the surveillance photos of the enemy's base safely on the copter's black box… they'd been on their way back, he and Murdock, when….
Forcing his eyes open, Face was instantly bombarded by blinding light. He squinted, blinking rapidly till his vision adjusted and the desert came into sandy focus. He was facing his right, head and chest resting uncomfortably on the controls in front of him, looking out the smashed window at the gritty landscape and the bits of chopper resting here and there where they'd fallen. Smoke obscured the scene and he coughed, the pain in his chest flaring and speaking of cracked, maybe broken ribs.
"H-Hey, Facey? You awake?" Murdock's voice sounded strained and a pang of worry caught in Face's chest. He shifted, biting back a cry as he discovered another injury in his dislocated left shoulder. He managed to turn his head to face Murdock who was slumped in a similar position. The pilot had his right hand braced against the controls in front of him, his helmet discarded at his side. Dried blood matted the pilot's unruly brown hair and obscured his expression which was… happy? Face frowned, levering himself off the controls slowly and painfully.
"Murdock? What happened?" Face coughed, waving away a cloud of smoke and displaced sand. The front window had been cracked in several places and the dusty sand thrown through the cracks when they'd crashed was trickling down from the dash, spilling across the dials like miniature waterfalls to land in Face's lap. Murdock didn't answer right away and Face took the moment of silence to look his friend over more thoroughly. It looked like Murdock had taken a rougher beating than he had. Face could see a cut on the captain's head, just below the hairline, that was the source of the blood running down his cheek. More cuts and bruises decorated the man's arm and face but it was what he couldn't see that got Face's heart pounding against his abused ribs. Murdock's left arm was hidden from sight but by the way the guy was leaning on his right – like a tent hanging off only one pole – it meant the left was about as useful as Face's dislocated one. On top of that, Murdock was shaking, really shaking, and the lopsided smile on his face wasn't enough to hide the pain and fear in his eyes.
"We… uh… we had a bit of a m-mishap involvin' a G-TAM."
"G-Ground t'air missile." Murdock hung his head and panted breathlessly, fingers curling slightly where they clutched the broken meter in front of him. Face scrambled to assemble his thoughts.
"Okay… Okay, does the… does the radio work?" He winced as his ribs protested loudly but was rewarded for the effort of speaking by Murdock's head bobbing slightly.
"Yeah… Yeah, I put in a… I called in some… some help a l-li'l while ago. Sh-Should be here soon." Head somewhat clearer, Face was just able to make out the words Murdock whispered to himself. "Okay… I get it… st-stop hurtin' already…"
"Murdock? Murdock, what hurts?" The captain's head stayed down, resting on his arm which was locked at the elbow, looking like it was the only thing keeping the wounded man from crumpling forward against the dials like Face had been moments before. "Murdock, you gotta help me out here. We're gonna be fine, but you need to tell me what's wrong so I can make us a plan, okay, buddy?" Murdock's head rose a few inches and he glanced over his arm toward Face, gaze drifting across the Lieutenant to rest somewhere behind the conman's seat. When Murdock spoke, his voice was stilted and strained but Face recognized the fear in his friend's tone and it sent his own dread leaping up a few notches.
"Th-… Th'missile h-hit our side." He swallowed thickly, licking his lips and painting them red with blood. "M-My door blew in an'…" A strained breath, "…I think… I think it's in me." Face felt his blood run cold, his mind refusing to understand the situation and he hated himself for making Murdock speak again since it obviously hurt him so much.
Murdock lifted his head a few inches more and Face suddenly saw how pale his friend was.
"Th'door, it's in… it's in my side an'…" He grimaced, drawing in a trembling breath between clenched teeth. "… an' my arm's b-burnt up pretty bad." Mind still not comprehending the horrible scene Murdock was painting for him, Face struggled to unfasten his seatbelt, talking frantically past the rush of panic in his chest.
"Okay… Okay, just lemme get outta here and I'll check it out, okay? Cripes… Just hang tight for a minute, bud." It took him longer than he liked but his fumbling fingers managed to get the belt undone and he kicked his door mostly open, gritting his teeth against the pain. His ribs screamed at him for rest but he pushed all his pain to the back of his mind as he hauled himself out of his seat with a groan. The world was too bright and hotter than seemed right with the chilling coils of dread winding around his heart. The chopper's nose was pressed into the sand dune that had failed to cushion their fall. That left Face to make his way around the tail, weaving between scraps of metal and plumes of smoke and stumbling on the rocky, sandy ground until he'd reached the other side.
There he stopped and just stared for the longest few seconds of his life.
The missile had hit the side, incinerating the interior as well as severing the tail from the body in an instant and rendering the chopper useless even under Murdock's expert guidance. But it was the cockpit door that drew and held Face's horrified gaze. Huge shards of metal bent inward, charred black and jagged along the edges.
The biggest of these was thrust into Murdock's side, spilling blood down the twisted grey metal.
"Oh man… holy-" Face finished with a string of curses in his head, voice cut off by his own jarring half-run toward his friend. The cockpit window was broken out too, glass shards still glittering across Murdock's lap. The captain was breathing hard, hair plastered to his forehead with sweat and his whole body shivering. Shock, Face's mind unhelpfully supplied, and he cursed whoever had shot off that missile to a slow and painful death. The pilot's left arm hung at his side, angry red burns running from hand to elbow. "Murdock? Come on, look at me, man."
Murdock's head rose, pain fogged eyes meeting Face's and struggling to maintain contact. Face scrubbed his good hand down his face, suddenly and terribly lost as to how to proceed. Trying to open the door was out. In fact, removing the hunk of metal from his friend's side was out entirely, at least until the rescue team arrived to stop the bleeding which would inevitably get way, way worse when the thing came out. Face estimated about two or three inches for the metal currently thrust between his best friend's ribs and that thought alone made him feel sick and dizzy. That left damage control and keeping Murdock awake until they got here. Face squinted up at the sun, trying to figure how much time they had till nightfall. He groaned aloud when he saw that their early morning mission had officially become a midday mission… and the uniform jacket across Face's shoulders had become heavy and oppressive in the noonday heat.
Thankfully, Murdock wasn't wearing his. It'd been hard enough for the General to get Murdock into fatigues at all, let alone into the uncomfortable desert camo sweatbox of a jacket. The captain had opted instead for the sandy-brown tee and camo pants for which Face was eternally grateful. No jacket meant Face didn't have to choose between cutting the thing off and probably hurting Murdock further in the process or leaving him to roast like a gunpowder-nuked steak on the eccentric pilot's grill. Face wiped the sweat from his brow and met Murdock's eyes.
"Okay, just gimme a sec." Face prepared himself for the onslaught of pain he knew would come and slowly began working his arms out of his jacket. "Won't be much help if I pass out from heatstroke." Murdock nodded and returned his gaze to his lap while Face struggled and pulled and finally got his good arm out of the sleeve. Sweating more from the agony burning in his shoulder and chest than the heat, Face finally freed himself and tossed the jacket aside, turning back to his friend and the ruined chopper. The conman then struggled to get his mind to muddle out a list of injuries from most severe to least so he could start somewhere but Murdock's voice cut him off partway.
"Fa-ace?" The name broke on the captain's lips and Face's eyes focused on his friend's ashen features. The Lieutenant fought hard to control his breathing, the tight, panicked gasps making his ribs burn with pain. "I d-don't th'nk I c-c'n…" Face lunged forward with a startled curse, catching the shaking pilot awkwardly with one hand as Murdock's arm gave. The pilot's chest heaved against Face's arm as Murdock gasped, eyes clenched tightly shut as he fought off a wave of agony.
"Murdock? Come on, man, don't give up on me already!" Murdock's good right arm came up and clutched at Face's sleeve, his panting breaths growing frantic. "Hey, hey! Slow down! Calm down, just breathe deep. Come on, you were doin' it just a second ago, you can do it now." Right? Please, be able to do it now! Murdock struggled against his lungs for a few seconds more before his breathing fell into a sort of even rhythm. "There you go… just like that, just breathe."
Face twisted to scan the blinding desert for any sign of rescue. No choppers. No plume of dust kicked up by jeeps. They were utterly alone and the panic was clawing its way up Face's chest. He had no way of knowing how long ago Murdock had made contact on the radio. Help could be here in minutes… or they could take hours and that was time Murdock just didn't have right now.
Something warm thumped down on his arm and he looked back to find Murdock's head resting limply against him, warm, shaky breaths tickling his skin. Cursing softly, Face shifted, trying to find a better way to hold his friend up because leaning him forward was out of the question. The hunk of metal in his side would only do more damage if he did. With his left arm useless, Face was forced to lean down, maneuvering his head and shoulders through the cockpit window and bracing his good arm across his friend's chest, keeping Murdock in his half-slumped position.
"Hey, Murdock?" Face let out a huffing laugh. "I don't want to sound like a broken record but I need you to look at me." The only response he received was a slight tensing of the captain's muscles. "Come on, man, I really, really need to see those crazy eyes of yours. Look at me, pal." The blood matted head on his arm shifted, lifting slowly and weakly until Murdock's pain-teared eyes met his. Seeing his friend's strength dwindling, Face leaned his head forward, catching Murdock's sagging brow with his own and levering his head up, wincing as his dislocated shoulder hit the window frame.
"There you go. Okay, we're gonna be okay. Just keep your eyes on me, alright? I'm gonna get you outta here, you hear me?" Brows meeting, noses touching, eyes locked, Murdock stared into Face's eyes and swallowed hard.
"It h-… hurts." He drew in a shaky breath. "Face, it… it hurts l'k hell." He swallowed again, wincing and breathing hot, coppery breath on Face's chin. The Lieutenant's chest was screaming at him to stand up straight… that or fall down, but he couldn't do either. Not without breaking contact and if he did that, he didn't know if he could get Murdock back again.
"I know, buddy, I know. Help's on the way, okay?" Murdock didn't answer, too busy taking in tight, shallow breaths. The miraculous, blessed sound of an approaching jeep sounded behind him and Face let out a breathy chuckle. "See? What'd I tell ya? Just hang tight, bud. Cavalry's here." Face gently pulled back, letting Murdock rest his head on the conman's arm again while he turned to the jeep that was racing toward them over the dusty ground. They'd seen the chopper, were headed right for it, but somehow, Face still felt the need to shout to them.
"Hey! Come on, hurry up! I've got a wounded man here!"
The jeep stopped a few feet from the wreckage, sending a cloud of dust billowing across the way. Face coughed, adjusting his hold on Murdock as the captain coughed too, speckling the dials in front of him with blood.
"Come on!" Face's voice was growing frantic now, the only thing keeping him from shouting further being the medics that rushed out of the dust cloud, setting a stretcher and supplies on the ground before heading his way. Face shifted, trying to give the medics a better view of his friend.
"Don't touch the door!" he warned, moving so they could see the hole in the door. "He's stuck. The door – the metal piece there – it's got him pinned." Impaled was too horrible a word to use aloud but Face thought it… and he had to swallow the nauseous horror in his throat before he could speak again. "His arm's been burnt and his head's banged up pretty bad too." The medic, Sykes, his uniform said, nodded once and reached past Face to support Murdock's body.
"Go on, Lieutenant. I've got him." Face hesitated, unwilling to leave his friend but common sense won him over. He couldn't help Murdock by getting in the way. Straightening, he gasped in pain, stumbling and nearly tripping on the bits of metal strewn across the desert floor. Sturdy hands caught him and he cried out as they jostled his arm. A flurry of movement later, he was seated in the back of the jeep, a young medic wiping the blood off his face and saying something about a possible concussion. Face ignored him. He was watching the man over by the chopper door, watching him call a colleague over, watching them exchange worried looks, watching as the second man hurried to a second jeep that'd pulled in beside the first.
"Pike?" Face spat, glaring at the man who'd just stepped off the desert-tone jeep.
"Peck. Nice to see you too. Looks like you boys got in a bit of an accident." He flashed Face a greasy smile before making his way to the passenger side of the chopper. Face watched him, eyes moving to the medics again who were working around the hunk of metal, trying to slow the bleeding. Pike came back into view, the chopper's black box in his gloved hand. "Nice work keeping this thing intact. I guess the mission's not a total loss after all."
Face started to say something less than friendly, but the medic he'd been ignoring must've been warning him to brace himself because his angry retort was cut off by a yelp of pain as his shoulder was shoved back into place. The medic apologized, wrapping Face's shoulder and digging out a sling from his pack while Pike smirked and turned to Sykes, who'd left Murdock with another.
"The Captain's in bad shape but I think we can get him out if we can rig something to cut through the meta-"
"What?" Face and the medic spoke at the same time but Pike ignored Face's outburst, focusing on the man in front of him.
"We don't have the time. We're in enemy territory and we've made enough of a scene here already. We don't need to waste any more time on a man who obviously won't survive the trip back to base."
"I can save this man, sir! I just need-"
"This is my command, Lieutenant." Pike glared poison at the older man. "And I say we go."
"Or maybe you'd like to explain to the General why our entire rescue team and the mission's photos wound up in the enemy's hands?"
The medic frowned at Pike and Face's heart froze as he nodded sharply.
"What? Pike, you can't do this!" Face shoved the young medic off him, ignoring the pain in his ribs and the sling that hung loosely around his neck, not yet adjusted to fit around his arm, and clambered out of the jeep to face Pike on even ground.
"This is my team, Peck. I can do whatever I deem necessary." A smirk played at the corner of his mouth and Face felt a rage unlike anything he'd ever felt before make his blood boil. Pushing down the urge to break Pike's nose, he opted instead for a "drop dead" glower.
"I'm not leaving him."
"Fine by me. You can come along or I can complete your mission and deliver the photos to base while you and your dear Captain Crazy over there get riddled with bullets. Makes no difference in my mind."
Face opened his mouth to display some of his more colorful language but Pike cut him off.
"Except… I don't think the medics will play along with your plan, Peck. They're pretty stubborn about leaving men in enemy territory."
"Sounds like they're on my side then," Face snarled back, hatred making the blood pound in his ears. Pike just smirked at him.
"I said 'men', Peck… half-wits like your Captain don't qualify."
Face's vision blurred and by the time it cleared, Pike was on the ground, dazed, his nose gushing red and more than one good dark bruise growing on his face. Leaving Pike to the medics, Face stormed over to the copter, keeping his hurt arm wrapped around his ribs because if he didn't, they might just fall out… at least it sure felt like it. The medics had left, packing their things into the jeeps, the only signs of their work being the bloodstained gauze wrapped around the entry point in Murdock's side and the slightly more awake look in the pilot's eyes. Probably due to the pain they'd inadvertently caused while working. Murdock looked up at him as he reached the window, green eyes meeting his with a confused frown.
"Face? Wh-What's goin' on?" The Lieutenant took in the way Murdock's arm was shaking, barely supporting him, and he leaned against the window frame, pulling the sling from around his neck.
"Here…" It took some doing, and Face's newly set shoulder was sending a hailstorm of pain through that side of his body, but he managed to get the sling rigged across Murdock's chest and around the seat. "Can you lean on that?" he asked softly, trying and failing to ignore the argument brewing over by the jeeps. Sounded like Pike wanted to move out but Sykes was making a fuss. Murdock tested the makeshift harness gingerly, leaning gratefully into it when it didn't give, and let his arm drop to his lap.
"No problem." Face glanced at the group to his right. Looked like the medics were winning... but somehow, Face got the impression they were only arguing against leaving him, not Murdock. The pilot's gaze followed his, eyes flicking from the argument to Face and back. Pike had just thrown up his hands in defeat, stalking to his jeep while the head medic headed for the copter. The man stopped just close enough for Face to hear him properly but not close enough to see the wounded pilot. Probably his conscience giving him grief for abandoning a wounded man. Face was less than sympathetic.
"Lieutenant? We need to head out."
Face shook his head, fixing his most determined glare on the man.
"No. Not till he's out." The medic sighed, shoulders slumping.
"Look, we can't just yank him out of there and we don't have the time to cut through the-"
"You don't know that."
"The enemy could be on us any minute, Lieutenant! We just don't have the time!"
"Why? Because Pike says so?" Face's voice had risen to a shout, the awfulness of the situation making his chest feel tight. They couldn't really expect him to leave his best friend out here! Not like this.
"Because that's the way it is, Lieutenant! My job is to save the men that I can save and that's you. There's nothing I can do for him now!" The medic swung a hand at the chopper and Face opened his mouth to argue, to say anything and everything in the vain hope that it would save his friend, but Murdock's strained voice stopped the words tumbling in Face's mind. Stopped them dead because his friend's voice was soft and pained and trying not to sound scared.
"F-Face? It's okay, I w-… I want…" He trailed off, fear-bright eyes seeming to say the exact opposite of the words slowly forming on the Captain's lips. "I want you t'go."
"No, Murdock. I'm not-"
"Face. You n-need t'go. You're… You're h'rt too. You can't jus' st-stay out here." Pain glazed eyes watched him and Face frowned, unable to understand what he should do when Murdock's eyes were speaking so clearly against his voice: I can't stay out here either. I'll die.
"Go. I'll be okay." Murdock's voice argued back. "I'll be okay. Y-You said so… right?" A choked, forced laugh. There was no mirth in the weary green eyes.
I won't be okay, not if you leave. We both know that.
I don't want to die here… not alone.
Finally, Murdock gave up and closed his eyes, cutting off the frantic messages and focusing on breathing instead. Face watched him for a moment, heart in his throat and lungs burning. Finally, he turned his attention back to the medic.
"I'm staying here, doc. Go on back to base and make sure you let Colonel Hannibal Smith know that you left two of his men in the desert to die." He was thankful his voice was steadier than his legs which felt like they were made of jelly. Turning away from the medic's shocked expression, he locked eyes with his best friend, pulling the canteen from his hip and thanking God it had survived the crash. He unscrewed the cap, reaching past the broken glass to help Murdock lift his head. "Here, drink this." Murdock accepted the water gratefully, taking a few sips and breathing a sigh of relief as Face used a bit more to wipe the worst of the blood and sweat from the captain's face.
Face wasn't expecting to be taken from behind. He certainly wasn't expecting the prick of the needle in his arm or the sudden, shouted orders for the men to help load him into the jeep. Face struggled, body howling at him to stop but heart screaming to keep fighting. Somewhere, he heard Murdock's startled voice call his name and he lunged for the chopper which seemed further away than it had a few seconds before. Somehow he broke free, just for a moment, just long enough to rush to the window and lean down to catch Murdock's eye, willing him to believe the frantically muttered words.
"I'm coming back, buddy. I swear, I'll get Hannibal and we'll come back for you. I'm not leaving you out here, okay?" Murdock's eyes watched him fearfully but he nodded, jaw clenching with determination. Face glanced at the medics who were arguing heatedly with one of Pike's Sergeants. The first jeep had already left, its dusty trail still visible in the distance and from the sound of things, the Sergeant was eager to follow. Blinking back a drug-induced haze, Face turned back to Murdock, reaching out to rest a hand gently on his friend's shoulder.
"I need you to promise me something." Murdock looked up into his eyes as Face hesitated, afraid to suggest the possibility of Murdock's death. "I need… I need you to promise me you'll be here, okay? And… and promise me you'll be… you'll be alive when we get here."
"I p-… promise."
A ghost of a smile flickered at the corner of the captain's mouth… then he was gone, replaced by the confusing swirl of bright desert and medic's arms. He fought, he couldn't help it. They were pulling him away from his teammate, an injured teammate who needed his help. But the desert was growing darker and his limbs heavier. Blackness enveloped him and he hated it, even as he drifted off into drugged sleep.
When Face awoke, it was to the buzz of voices, the clatter of men at work, the chop of helicopter blades and a warm weight on his arm. He shifted, opening his eyes with difficulty and scanning the sun-dappled interior of the tent. Hannibal sat beside the bunk, a hand on Face's arm and an unreadable something in his blue eyes.
"Colonel?" Face rasped, trying to remember what had happened and why his CO would be looking at him with such a strange expression. Was it disappointment? Anger?
No…. Memories flooded back in a whirlwind of images: Murdock shaking, one arm braced against the panels, the awful, huge chunk of metal in his side, blood spilling down its jagged edge, pain filled green eyes pleading with him not to leave even as his voice begged Face to go.
Face's eyes widened and he struggled to sit up, fighting against Hannibal's restraining arm.
"Hannibal! We have to go back! We have to-"
"Face. Face! Look at me, kid!" Face didn't want to. He didn't want to confirm his suspicions, didn't want to see the pain and loss in the older man's eyes… didn't want it to be true. But the soldier in him couldn't ignore a direct order. He met the frost blue eyes, pleading silently for Hannibal to have a plan, something to fix this, make it right again.
"H… How long was I out?"
Hannibal hesitated before saying in a soft voice, "Three days."
Face let out a short, breathless laugh.
"What? You're kidding, right?" The look on the Colonel's face said clearly that he wasn't. Three days. Three days since the crash… but it felt like only three hours… maybe less. Hannibal was talking again but Face's mind was still reeling. This could still all be a dream. It wasn't too late… not yet… right?
"Pike brought you back three days ago, said your chopper was hit and you'd radioed base for a rescue team."
"No… no…" He shook his head. This couldn't be right.
"Face, by the time he found you, you were overheated, injured, and hallucinating. The medics all attest to that." Hannibal's voice softened and he put a hand on Face's shoulder. "He's gone, Face. He was gone when Pike got there."
"No…" Face was growing frantic now. He'd seen Murdock, spoken with him; he spoke with him after Pike arrived. This couldn't be right. Even as he opened his mouth to tell Hannibal, explain what he'd seen and how things had really happened, a small voice in the back of his head reminded him: it had been three days. Hannibal might not know what had happened before the rescue team reached the base but he wouldn't lie about this, he had no reason to. Surviving three days alone in the desert with only a half-filled canteen would be hard enough… doing it skewered on a metal spike was impossible. But that meant…
Hot tears stung his eyes and he turned away, not wanting the Colonel to see. He took a few deep breaths, trying to force back the tears and just think past the gnawing ache in his chest. It was no use. And along with the pain grew a terrible guilt. He'd promised Murdock, promised he'd come back. He might not have said it out loud but he'd sworn to himself that Murdock wasn't going to die out there… and then he'd left. He could still see those fearful, pain-filled eyes, still hear the cracked, strained voice calling his name as he was hauled away by medics who were far too strong for him to fight. He could still see Pike's smirking face as he spoke casually about leaving Murdock to die.
A burning rage replaced the pain and before he could think rationally about anything, Face had shoved Hannibal's hand away and stood, stumbling dizzily but headed for the tent's door and blind to everything but the memory of Pike's sneering face etched in his mind's eye. Something caught him around the chest and he lashed out blindly, snarling curses and threats meant for Pike but aimed at anyone who could hear. A pang of agony flared in his chest and he gasped. When his vision cleared, he was sitting on the edge of the bunk, Hannibal and B.A. across from him, both sitting on the neighboring bunk. Hannibal fixed an incredulous look on him.
"What on earth was that about, Lieutenant?" Face didn't answer, still catching his breath and mentally cursing his ribs for slowing him down.
"He was shoutin' something about Pike. Said he was gonna kill him." B.A.'s voice was low and concerned but it got Face's attention.
"I am gonna kill him. Don't try and talk me out of it, boss. Not after what he did."
"Which was what exactly? Face, he led the rescue team that saved your life!"
"He killed Murdock!" Face's voice was a broken shout but he didn't care; he needed them to know the truth. Then maybe they could help him think up a fitting end for Pike.
"Murdock…?" Hannibal's voice was a hoarse whisper, dawning comprehension glowing in his eyes, but he waited for Face to continue. Beside the Colonel, B.A.'s fists clenched tightly, a dangerous glint entering his dark eyes.
"He was alive when I woke up, banged up real bad, but he was alive. There was this…" He scrubbed a hand across his face, trying to wipe away the memory of bright-red blood on dark grey metal. "The missile hit the side, near Murdock's door and… and there was this big piece of metal that'd been shoved in- into his side." B.A. cursed softly but Hannibal remained silent, prompting Face to continue with a small nod. Face took a deep breath, ordering his thoughts. "I kept him awake till the rescue team got there, but…" Here his jaw clenched tightly. "All Pike wanted was the photos. If I hadn't been up and moving… he probably would've left me there too."
"What are you saying, Lieutenant?" Hannibal's voice was sharp and angry but Face recognized it as protective rage. He already knew what had happened. He was just waiting for Face to confirm it. So he did.
"He left Murdock there, told the medics there was no time to cut him free and that he was pulling out with or without them." Pike's team had been the medics' only protection, weighed down as they were with their first aid supplies. Without the rescue team to provide cover fire, they would've been sitting ducks. "They grabbed me, drugged me up with something and split." Something dangerous flickered in Hannibal's eyes and he stood abruptly, fists clenched, and headed for the door.
"Hannibal? Where you goin'?" Bosco Baracus was not a man to be easily intimidated but the look the Colonel turned on him would've been enough to stop a full grown grizzly in its tracks and it definitely stopped the Sergeant.
"To negotiate an execution."
Five minutes later, Hannibal stormed into the General's tent, Corporals and Sergeants scattering in front of him like birds from a storm as he moved to the General's desk. Morrison frowned up at him across a desktop of maps and files.
"Colonel." The greeting was wary and stiff, no doubt due to the murderous look in the Colonel's eye.
"You fool. You unprincipled, ignorant waste of a uniform!" A single look from the General cleared the room in an instant and Morrison glowered up at Hannibal, remaining authoritatively seated, although the terseness of his tone suggested he was close to losing his cool.
"Do you have a purpose for this visit, Colonel Smith? Or are you just here to sputter curses at me for saving your boy?"
"You knew." Hannibal pointed a finger at Morrison's chest, rage making his voice a dangerous wolf's snarl. "You knew when you sent Pike that he'd bring back that box, no matter what the cost. You knew if you sent me, I'd do the right thing and choose my man's life over some blurry photographs of a half-built base!"
"Of course I did, Smith, that's why I sent Pike! We needed someone with a cool head to go down there and retrieve the images before the enemy got their hands on them and found out we knew the base's location!"
"Damn the base! Damn the images! You sent a glorified assassin on a rescue mission for a black box, not my men!" Hannibal shook his head, letting out a bitter, humorless chuckle. "How a gutless old degenerate like you ever became General, I have no idea!"
"You traded my boy's life for a worthless pile of postcards, Russ!" Hannibal slammed his hands down on the General's desk, glaring hatred across the maps at the man. Morrison was silent, clenched fists shaking with rage as Hannibal's voice lowered to a contemptuous growl. "And I will never forgive you for that."
"What do you want from me, Hannibal?" Morrison's voice had risen as well now. "I had to get those photos back. That was my job, that was Pike's job, and it got done. That's all the government goons care about! I'm sorry your boys got caught up in all this but we're in the middle of a war here, Colonel. Men die and there's nothing you or I can do about it."
Hannibal straightened, blue eyes cold as they regarded the man he'd once called friend with disgust.
"You, Russ. You left my boy out there and covered Pike's tracks when he fetched your stick. What I want is my pilot back here where he belongs… but since there's nothing you or I can do about that… I want Pike-"
"Shut up, Morrison, and let me finish. I want Pike grounded from all missions until such time as I see fit to release him."
"And how long would that be, Hannibal? Years? Because I don't think-"
"Not years, General. If I find my man alive, he'll be free to go as soon as I return." Hannibal turned to leave, stopping at the door as the General's voice followed him.
"And if you don't?"
Hannibal turned a stormy glare back to the General.
"Then I take what I'm due."
With that, Hannibal Smith swept out of the tent with an indomitable purpose burning in his mind. Rescue… or revenge.