This is the way the world goes.
This is the way the world goes.
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Hannibal smiled as he heard laughter echoing off the lake. It seemed to come from all directions, bouncing off the water, winding through the trees. His eyes focused on the small pier of their newly scammed lakeside retreat. Sunlight reflecting off the water made him squint as he spotted two tall, thin figures playing on the end of the wooden structure.
Tapping the lit cigar, he watched as the ashes fell, catching in the slight breeze, blowing away. He felt himself slipping back into the melancholy mood that had lingered with him since the last mission...had it been a month already?
Life is so fragile. It goes by so fast. We think we are so powerful but who are we really kidding. Hannibal trained his eyes on the laughing Face, thinking how different things could have been. Ask someone what they couldn't live without and you'll get answers like coffee and TV. Ask him what he couldn't live without...
Throwing the cigar down, he ground it out beneath his boot before starting across the straw covered grass. Making his way down to the water Hannibal could see that BA had rejoined Face and Murdock on the pier. He guessed they would be heading into town for dinner as it looked like BA had finally given up on catching anything. Face and Murdock had given up on trying to teach 'Billy' to fetch and were now running around chasing each other.
Seeing Face stumble as Murdock tagged him, Hannibal took an involuntary step forward. Stopping himself, he let out a held breath as he saw Face catch himself before falling. Giving BA and Murdock a slight smile as he straightens up, Face doesn’t notice that he’s being watched. As BA starts yelling at Murdock about being careless with their 'lil brother, Hannibal’s eyes darken with guilt as Face winces and grabs his side.
It was a simple plan. He didn’t have time to figure out what went wrong. Right now he needed to come up with a new plan to get them out of here. Thinking on his feet he sent BA and Murdock around the back of the farmhouse while he a Face made their way into the woods behind the barn. He heard Face mumble something about bad plans…
“Do you have a problem, Lieutenant?!”
The angry glare in Face’s eyes died, replaced by a submissive look, “No, Sir.”
“Good. Let’s move out.”
Hannibal shook his head. He watched his young lieutenant as he gingerly sat down on the edge of the pier, leaning his back against one of the pylons. He studied the thin body, uncustomarily clad in blue jeans and a white linen button-up, bare feet resting on the warm weather-worn wood, his blond hair glinting like gold as it caught the light, too pale skin, young chiseled features…
It wasn’t often in the long years on the run that he had taken the time to look, really look at his team. They were so young. Their whole lives ahead of them. They shouldn’t be here, they should be out there living. Doing what young people do, making their own choices, dealing with their own mistakes. Not running from the government, following a crazy jazzed up old colonel…What the hell did he know…
BA could be home in Chicago taking care of his mother and running a youth center full time instead of just in-between missions. Thinking about the big man, he knew that he wouldn’t ever have to worry about BA. He could take care of himself. He knew that BA followed him not only out of loyalty but also because he thought that he needed to keep him in line and also to keep an eye on Murdock and Face. Late one night, many, many years ago they had talked about a lot of things like hero worship and Hannibal getting those two killed one day…he had even told him that he stayed because he didn’t trust Murdock or Face to ever question his plans…
Hannibal shook his head again…and why should he…look how well he listened when they did…
He was tired of fighting with Face. It seemed that they had been doing that a lot lately. Every mission, every plan…He regretted what he had said but he didn’t have time to worry about hurt feelings right now. They had led the gun toting bad guys into the woods and needed to double-back without being noticed so they could meet up with Murdock and BA.
A shower of bullets forced them to take cover in the crevice of a stone outcropping. He could hear them searching the area…
Face made a shuffling noise behind him and he cringed as one of the men turned at the sound. Without turning himself, he harshly whispered, “Be quiet! I can see them…”
He felt the fury come over him. Face had been downing his plans since they started this mission and right now he was about to get them caught…”Shut up, Lieutenant! That’s an order!”
Murdock. Who knew what on Earth Murdock would do without the team. He’d probably be working at some odd job somewhere or maybe he would stay at the VA. Even after all these years Hannibal still wasn’t 100% sure if Murdock really was insane or if it was all just an act. One thing was certain. He had kept the psychiatric world busy trying to find out. Hannibal didn’t worry about Murdock’s future. He would be ok on his own.
Shaking his head as he thought about some of Murdock’s wilder antics he let his gaze settle back on the cause of his worries. Face had his head tilted back to the sky, sunlight shining on his face. He looked so peaceful, sitting there with his back against the wood, blond hair catching in the breeze, eyes closed and a gentle smile on his lips…He wasn’t normally prone to these types of thoughts but if Hannibal were truthful with himself, he would have to admit that Face looked like a fallen angel, longing to go home.
Home. That’s something Face had never had. If Hannibal could change that he would have. He would have taken the young Face and let him know that family was more than just an empty word. He would have shown him what family was. That they stuck together, always. And that it didn’t matter if they argued and fought, they were still family. He thought that’s what he had taught the kid. Maybe he was too late. All he knew was that it was a cold reality to find that someone you thought of as a son for almost 15 years thought you would…could, just throw him away without a seconds thought.
He had probably torn down more than a few years of work trying to get Face to trust them with his harsh words that day. Even through his anger at Face not following orders, he had known that he shouldn’t have said them. He had seen the hurt in Face’s eyes as he had yelled them out. The lost look, the desolate set of his shoulders as he walked away…As he let him walk away…
…get out then because I don’t want you on my team!
…get out…I don’t want you…
Hannibal was torn between anger and sadness. He could still hear the words echo in his mind. He blamed himself for letting Face walk away and he was guilty with the knowledge that Face didn’t have anywhere else to go.
Face had not surprisingly kept himself aloof during the rest of the mission. Hannibal had meant to apologize…as soon as the mission was over…he almost didn’t get the chance…
He watched as the men made their way out of sight. Letting out a deep breath, he poked his head further out of the crevice to make sure the coast was clear…”Ok, looks like they’re gone.” He was answered by silence. Angry at Face’s pettiness, he turned, ready with an angry retort about childish behavior…
The words dying on his lips he paled at the sight before him…”Face!”
Face was still upright, crammed in the small space provided by the rock, his skin pale and his eyes closed…”Face! Answer me kid!”
Hannibal gently pulled him free and lowered him to the ground, carefully cradling his head. Pulling open Face’s jacket he drew in a shaky breath. There was so much blood…”Face? Face? Answer me…”
Silence was his only answer. Trying not to panic he shook the still form, “Come on Face? Wake up!” With a shaking hand he tried to find a pulse…”Oh, God…No!” Unwilling to believe that Face was gone he moved his fingers, trying again…
Reaching down with his other hand he grasped the radio at his belt and turned it on, “BA!…Come in BA!”
Still not finding a pulse beneath his fingertips he noticed that Face’s lips were tinged blue…”Oh shit!” Tilting the kid’s head back and taking a deep breath he started breathing for both of them…”Come on Face, don’t do this…”
one one thousand, two one thousand, pump, pump, pump…breathe…
A crackle from the radio and he heard the tiny disembodied voice of BA. “BA! Get out here! Face is down!”…breathe
His hands were slipping in the blood…Face’s blood…three one thousand…so much blood…four one thousand…breathe…
A crash of footsteps made him look up to see BA and Murdock running into the clearance…
“He’s not breathing! I can’t find a pulse!”
It was clear that Murdock was not going to be a lot of help. He had started to shake as he fell onto the ground at Face’s head and started stroking the soft golden hair. BA hunkered down opposite Hannibal and took over the chest compressions…”Come on ‘lil brother…”
…breathe…he tried to steady his hand as he reached once more to check for a pulse…Murdock was rocking back and forth now…
Hannibal looked down at his hand, gently rubbing his fingertips together…He’d almost cried as he’d felt the soft flutter…They’d almost lost him. He’d almost lost him. Had. He *had* lost him…
They had torn off pieces of his shirt and packed them into the wounds, trying to stop the flow of blood. BA had grabbed Murdock and hauled him to his feet as Hannibal had stood up holding a boneless Face in his arms and together they had started at a run back to the van…
I know you have a lot of strength left.
I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.
Crammed in the back of the van with Face and Murdock, Hannibal yelled at BA to go. They had to get Face to a hospital or they would lose him. Straitening out Face’s arms and legs he tried to make the young man as comfortable as possible as Murdock kept pressure on the wounds.
“Murdock…” Hannibal grabbed the pilot by the shoulders and shook him until he looked up. He could see that Murdock was about a hairs-breath from cracking under the stress and knew without a doubt that if Face died he would loose two men that day. “Murdock, you’re doing good. Just keep pressure on that, ok?”
The distraught pilot blinked tear filled eyes and nodded vigorously.
Hannibal ran a hand over his brow before he bent down once more to check Face’s pulse. It was thready and weak but it was there. Ripping his leather belt from his waist, he shined up the buckle and held it in front of Face’s lips, shallow breaths fogged the silver metal. Leaning into the front of the van he lowered his voice so Murdock couldn’t hear as he told BA, “He’s still with us but his breathing isn’t so good and his pulse is thready. Get us to a hospital as fast as you can.”
He saw BA nod as he turned back to Face and Murdock. Murdock had started rocking again but he didn’t know what he could do to help the pilot, so he focused his attention back to the still form of his lieutenant. Wincing as they hit a bump in the road, he almost missed the slivers of blue as Face’s eyes opened slightly. “Face?”
Hannibal watched with relief as Face’s blue eyes opened further and his lips moved slightly although no sound came out. “Face…Face, can you hear me?”
Murdock seemed to pull himself together if only a little with this new development. He stopped rocking and looked at Hannibal to do something…
“Face, listen to me…you’re going to be fine…ok? Everything’s gonna be ok…”
As he reached to check his pulse again, Face’s arms started to twitch and a second later his whole body seemed to shake. Hannibal had seen this before, even with Murdock putting pressure on the wounds, Face was loosing too much blood.
The whole event sent Murdock into a full-blown panic and Hannibal yelled at him to keep the pressure up. Seeing Face’s lips moving again he leaned down to hear what he was saying…
“I’m here kid…” He gently brushed the now sweat soaked hair away from Face’s forehead.
There was a soft wet gurgling sound to Face’s voice that made Hannibal panic. “Face? Don’t talk, kid…just, hang on…”
Hannibal gently held Face’s shoulders as he started coughing, wiping flecks of blood away from his mouth before Murdock could see them. Turning slightly, Hannibal saw that Murdock was out of it again, rocking back and forth…As long as he kept the pressure up he could deal with Murdock’s emotional state later…
“Nothing to be sorry for, kid…You’re gonna be alright, you hear me?” Leaning forward he gently stroked the clammy forehead watching as the blue eyes fought to stay open.
Hannibal blinked back guilt and tears as the van doors were ripped open and Face was pulled from his hands, “Never, kid.” Slowly moving to follow the medics, he climbed out of the van wiping at his bloody hands…
Hannibal unconsciously wiped his hands. Lost in his memories, he could still feel Face’s blood on his hands…Looking back at the pier, it looked like Face had fallen asleep in the sun…
Sitting in the hard plastic chairs of the hospital waiting room, Hannibal thought of all that had happened. Two hours ago he had ordered Face to shut up and now here they were, waiting, while Face was fighting for his life just beyond the cold steel doors of the ER.
He tried to think about what went wrong. Not just with the plan. Now that he thought about it, it had been a bad plan. Face had been right but his ego hadn’t let him see it. He thought about all the times that he and Face had fought and realized that in their long history most of the fights had been recent. Why now? What had changed?
With a grimace he admitted that it was him. He had changed. Gotten older. Gotten…old. Like every man he liked to think of himself as irreplaceable, but lately it had seemed that he was wrong. Face had been pointing out the mistakes in his logic and challenging his plans and Hannibal felt like his authority…his command was being challenged.
Shaking his head, he suddenly knew his biggest mistake had been in thinking he was the most important man on this team. Maybe he had been caught up in what BA had once called hero worship. Maybe he was caught up in his own hero worship…
Glancing up at the clock, he found that he had been lost in his own thoughts for more than three hours. Standing, he stretched the kinks out of his back and glanced across the room to where BA was sitting on the couch watching Murdock who had curled up on the other end and withdrawn into himself. He noticed that the pilot’s jacket had been taken off and he was now wearing a green medical scrub instead of his own t-shirt. BA must have cleaned him up while he himself had been out of it.
Looking down he noticed that he was still covered in blood, although it was dried now. Motioning to BA he made a gesture to his clothes and then the door to let him know that he was going to get cleaned up himself. There was no need to send Murdock into any further panic if he woke up and found Hannibal covered in his best friend’s blood…
The nurse had been especially kind, even allowing him to use one of the shower rooms only for the medical staff. He arrived back in the waiting room freshly showered and changed just in time to see the doctor come in.
The news hadn’t been good. The doctor hadn’t held much hope for survival. He had even suggested that they contact Face’s next of kin. The young doctor had only nodded sadly when Hannibal told him that they were already there.
Another two hours waiting and watching BA watch Murdock almost drove Hannibal insane. He hadn’t been able to keep the memory of telling Face to ‘shut up’, no, ordering Face to ‘shut up’ out of his head. It had plagued him. What had Face been trying to tell him? Had he been trying to let him know that he’d been hit? That he was carrying around three goddamn bullets in his body?! Why didn’t he ignore the order? Didn’t he know that he was more important than Hannibal’s pride?
No. He didn’t know. And why? Because not a few days before Hannibal himself had told him to get out, to leave because he wasn’t wanted…
It was two long hours before the doctor had come back and let them know that Face had stabilized. He quietly told them to sit as he motioned them back to the couch. Hannibal could still feel the dread as he gave them the worst possible news…
“I want you to be prepared. He’s stable, however, he has slipped into a deep coma. You’ll each be allowed in, one at a time but I think you should be prepared. We have him on full respiratory support and he’s attached to various monitors and IVs.”
Hannibal tried to steady his voice, “Will he make it?”
The unease in the dark eyes before them almost made Hannibal stop the young man from answering. “I’m sorry. It would be a miracle if he pulled though. I think you should all prepare yourselves for the worst.”
Two days later and Hannibal had been sitting in the still room listening to the steady sound of the heart monitor. Aside from the blips on the small screen and the forced rise and fall of Face’s chest, there was nothing to prove that Face was still with them.
He had thought that the worst possible outcome could be that Face wouldn’t make it. That he’d leave them. He hadn’t considered the possibility that maybe Face would live, he just wouldn’t ever wake up. Watching him lie on the crisp white sheets as the ventilator forced air into his damaged lungs made that possibility all too real.
He sat there for two more days hoping for the best, not willing to face the truth of what was right in front of him. On the fourth day Face lay silently beside him, the doctor had come to deliver another bombshell. Face was breathing on his own. They would take him off the respirator. Hannibal had almost laughed, could have cried, with relief…
“I know this is hard on you but I believe in being honest about these things. I don’t want to give you any false hope. Yes, he is breathing on his own but that is most likely due to the damaged lung tissue healing. Even if he woke up right now, I’m afraid…I’m afraid he just wouldn’t be the man that you knew.”
There it was. Face was going to be a vegetable. Even if he pulled though he wouldn’t be ‘Face’ anymore. Hannibal looked away from the man who had shattered his hopes. As he grasped the cold hand of the man he considered his son, he gently brushed a blond lock of hair away from the calm features. “I understand.”
He briefly left Face’s side to sit with BA and Murdock in the waiting room. He watched the hope die in their eyes as he passed on what the doctor had told him. He didn’t even try to control BA as he raged around the waiting room, finally putting his fist through a wall. Murdock, who had silently withdrawn into himself ever since finding Face in the woods, quietly started rocking back and forth. Placing his hands on the pilot’s shoulders he suddenly found himself with an armload of sobbing Murdock. He though of all the comforting things that he should say to calm the man down, but they stuck in his throat, unable to pass his lips.
Six days and sixteen hours after Face had slipped into a coma, he woke up. Hannibal bolted out of the hard plastic chair he now called home as he felt Face squeeze his hand. Praying and pleading for Face to open his eyes he was rewarded with tiny slivers of blue as Face obliged. “Face? Can you hear me?”
Hannibal tried to hold back tears of frustration, “Face, blink if you can hear me?”
Finally accepting the truth, Hannibal fell back into the chair. He looked up as he felt Face squeeze his hand again. He sobbed into his hands as he watched Face’s eyelids slowly blink once before closing once more…
Hannibal shook himself out of his thoughts as he heard someone walking up behind him. He didn’t even have to turn, he knew the heavy footsteps and occasional clink of jewelry could only belong to BA.
“What you doin’ out here Hannibal?”
BA followed his gaze to the sleeping Face. “You thinking ‘bout the last mission again?”
Hannibal pulled on his gloves, “Actually, I was thinking about something you said to me once.”
“I was thinking about…hero worship.”
BA was never one to talk about his feelings. Talking about emotions just embarrassed him. “Aw, Hannibal. What you go thinking ‘bout that stuff for?”
Hannibal smiled slightly at BA. He knew the big man didn’t like to talk about these kinds of things. Knew they only made him uncomfortable. “You were right. Maybe I do get caught up in it. I like being in charge, giving orders…the jazz.”
“Nothin’ wrong with that, Hannibal.”
Hannibal nodded toward their sleeping Lieutenant, “That ‘nothing’ almost got him killed.”
Hannibal heard the big man sigh. A big hand gently squeezed his shoulder, “Not you fault, Hannibal.” The hand patted his shoulder again before going away followed by more words of wisdom from the big man, “Even heroes are human.”
Hannibal whispered the words to himself as he heard quiet footsteps moving away mixed with the occasional clink of jewelry, “Even heroes are human…” Smiling he stepped onto the pier.