Warning: Team Member Death, grieving, language, violence, alcohol abuse, non-explicit sex
Characters & Pairings: Face/Murdock, Face, Hannibal, B.A., Murdock
Summary: The Team has learned to accept a lot of things while on the run but the sudden death of one of their own may be the hardest.
A/N: This is a story that I started in late 2012 and got 2/3 through before my muse went kaput. Today, 2 1/2 years later my muse decided that I needed to finish the final third.
Face hadn’t expected life on the run to be a breeze, nothing ever was. But he definitely hadn’t been prepared for the miserable, sometimes thankless existence they’d lived for the last two years. There were a lot of things a career as a soldier of fortune didn’t offer; a steady income, a stable place to live, hell, at times even warm food was short on demand.
There was no such thing as vacations anymore and he sorely missed having his own personal space. They still took breaks occasionally, like after the job in Georgia 8 months ago when they’d spent three days at the Russells’ beach house. Though it was nice to rest, there had been no space and all four of them were on top of each other the entire time.
After their latest job had gone quicker and easier than expected, Face had thought it was the perfect opportunity to approach Hannibal with the possibility of downtime. Presenting it as a house finding mission, Face had casually tacked on ‘callyouguysinfivedaystomeetup’, as if the breezy attitude would convince the Colonel that it was a good idea.
Hannibal had looked from Face to Murdock, not saying anything as he chewed thoughtfully on his cigar.
Face was about launch into the defense he’d prepared for when Hannibal undoubtedly voiced his disapproval, but the older man had just sighed and waved them off.
At the dismissal, Face and Murdock were out the door and down the highway faster than ‘I love it when a plan comes together’ could even be uttered.
And with their teammates a state away, Face and Murdock were alone for the first time in a very long while. Once they’d arrived at the secluded lake house Face had scammed, they'd set out to spend every minute in naked bliss.
Midday swims, horseplay and racing against each other in the water until they’d tumble to the blanket on the shore, where their laughter soon turned to the gasps and moans of unhurried love making.
Evenings in the gigantic California King, the two of them lying close as they watched episodes of ‘Monty Python’ and laughing like they hadn’t seen them a million times before.
And just last night, Murdock’s harsh chant of ‘harder, harder’ echoing around the room while Face’s hands braced his shoulders. Each solid thrust had pressed H.M. face down into the mattress. Rough and fast but afterwards there'd been soft, loving murmurs as they sleepily slotted their spent bodies beside each other.
Out of all of those things, Face believed that this could possibly be his favorite. Cradled against Murdock’s body as they moved in the perfect rhythm they’d found in each other almost instantly, two years ago.
“Temp.” The pilot panted, tugging Face down into a hard, sloppy kiss as he shuddered beneath the conman.
Face, still plunging deep into his lover’s pliant body, had a second to marvel at how sharp and focused Murdock became immediately after orgasm. But then the pilot was grinning devilishly as he rolled his hips and Face was gone, charging blindly after his own release.
Unlike H.M., Face was practically incoherent after sex, mumbling wordlessly against Murdock’s sweat slicked skin. As his breathing returned to normal, the conman contently drifted until the pilot started shifting with discomfort.
“Uhf, no more dessert for you. I swear you’re heavier than when we got here.” Murdock playfully chided as Face moved off him with a grumble and stretched himself out onto the rumpled sheets.
As he lazily rubbed a palm over the leg Murdock had flung over his, Face cracked his eyes open to see the pilot smiling widely at him.
“Let’s go into town.” Murdock answered, skimming fingers through Face’s damp hair.
“Mmm, nap.” Face pouted, the power of speech still mostly eluding him.
Murdock watched him with calm, steady eyes before nudging his shoulder. “Come on. Lunch.”
“We have food. Plus, town means clothes.” Face patted the pilot’s ass as Murdock laughed and nuzzled alongside him.
“Let’s stay right here.” Face murmured into the pilot’s shaggy hair. ‘I want this all the time.’
“You can sleep but I’m going.” Murdock started to move and Face wrapped himself stubbornly around his slighter frame.
“I need to shower.”
Face made a disgruntled noise as Murdock pried himself loose and padded off towards the bathroom.
“Wanna join me?” He questioned suggestively.
“Nope. Napping and not feeling guilty about it at all.” Face stated; pulling the blanket over his head as Murdock made a flustered noise.
“I’ll remember that refusal!”
Face didn’t know how long he’d been asleep when his cell phone rang.
‘I am so getting some of these sheets.’ He thought absently as he answered the phone. “Hey buddy, I swear I’m up. I’ll meet…”
“Mr. Lawrence?” The unfamiliar female voice asking for him by his current alias had the same effect as being doused with cold water. He bolted upright, gripping the phone tightly.
“Who is this?” He asked warily.
“My name’s Sheila. I’m calling from the Columbus County Hospital for Mr. Lawrence. It’s about Mr. Milton. There’s been an accident.”
The moment Face hung up the phone everything became a blur. He moved, but didn't fully take in his surroundings until he was standing at the nurses’ station, shoving a fake ID at the woman behind the counter.
“I’m here about Kenneth Milton. Someone called. Is he alright? What the hell happened?” Face inundated the nurse with a barrage of questions as he tried to keep his panic in check.
She glanced at a chart on the desk then fixed him with a calm expression. “If you have a seat in the waiting room a doctor will be right out.”
The moment she turned away, Face tried to get information from the other nurses, his frustration only ramping up further as each one smoothly rebuffed him.
When it was clear there’d be no answers, he grudgingly went to the waiting area where he paced like a tiger in a cage until a short, balding man came through the door.
“Mr. Lawrence?” The man asked, then outstretched a hand. "I’m Dr. Morgan."
“Jesus fuck, finally. What’s going on?” Face demanded, not even minding the older couple that gasped at his blasphemy.
“Would you please come with me?”
He followed, though they didn’t go very far, stopping just around the corner before the doctor turned and looked at him.
“There was an accident. Mr. Milton was hit by a truck while crossing the street here in town.”
At the words Face felt the panic coil tight and dangerous in the pit of his stomach.
“Where is he?”
A look flickered over the doctor’s features and Face’s alarm turned to icy dread.
Dr. Morgan shook his head. “I’m sorry…”
‘No, no, no.’ Face’s mind raced as he grabbed the doctor by the coat. “Sorry? What do you mean sorry?”
Practiced demeanor quickly became distress as the other man struggled to extract himself from Face’s grasp. “Mr. Lawrence, we did everything we could.”
“What? No… this…” Face’s hands slipped from the doctor's lapels. This was wrong. The rushing in his ears was too loud, making him misunderstand what was said.
Once released, the man's sympathetic air quickly returned. “Is there someone you can call?”
“I want to see him. Let me see him.” Face pleaded as he started to shake.
“Alright. We can do that.” A reassuring hand was placed on his arm and it took everything in Face not to violently shrug it off.
Standing in the cold, sterile air of the morgue, Face tried not to gag as bile rose in his throat. Mouth sour and suddenly filling with drool, he took a shaky breath, willing himself not to vomit.
Hot slobbers. That’s what Murdock was always calling it. Murdock. Murdock. His best friend. The one person he believed he’d never find, right there in front of him for so long before he’d even realized it.
Their first job had gone off relatively well and despite their injuries Face and Murdock had whooped and snickered in the van all the way back to the safe house. The excitement and elation that radiated from the pilot had Face feeling completely laid bare, so much so that he hadn’t even hesitated before he’d leaned over and crushed their mouths together.
Murdock had frozen for the tiniest of seconds before clinging to him, responding with as much fervor in return. Gasping for air, they parted and the pilot had given Face a look like he’d finally gotten the punch line of a joke Murdock had told ages before. And when B.A.’s irritated huff of “’bout time” had come from the front seat, the pair just burst into more peals of laughter.
'That’s Murdock.’ As Face’s eyes slid over the sheet covered body he jerked when someone patted his hand.
“Mr. Lawrence, the identification’s already been made. If you don’t think you can...” The brunette attendant looked up at him with kindness but he shook his head, stopping her before she could go any further.
“There are injuries that Mr. Milton sustained on the right side of the body that you should be aware of.” She continued, but Face only vaguely listened.
He could do this. Had to. He didn't have a choice.
He nodded and she pulled back the sheet, effectively shattering the small sliver of disconnected calm he’d been tenuously holding onto.
“Oh, buddy.” Face’s lungs contracted and he wheezed as he reached out. “Baby.”
Murdock. His crazy, amazing best friend. The love of his incredibly fucked up life, lying so still on the table. It shouldn’t be like this. He shouldn’t be like this.
Traces of blood still matted the hair Face’s fingers had heatedly tangled in just that morning. He gently touched the left side of the pilot’s face, carefully avoiding the right, marred by bloody road rash.
A hand was at his shoulder. “Mr. Lawrence…”
“Stay away from me.” Face sobbed as he leaned over and burrowed against the lifeless pilot’s neck.
Over ten years. Some part of him had been in love with Murdock from the moment the pilot had landed that piece of shit helicopter after the Tuco fiasco. It’d taken him so long to admit it and now, in an instant, it was gone.
No more trying to keep a serious expression while the pilot rambled on during the middle of a con. No horribly timed, yet amusing discussions of extragalatic blancmange puddings during sex. He would never again see that unadulterated look of amusement in green eyes even when Murdock knew his actions would make B.A. angry.
‘Bosco. Hannibal.’ Dark spots suddenly swam in Face’s vision as the sheet was put back in place.
“I need… I gotta make a call.” Face stammered as a male attendant that hadn’t been there before, steered him towards the waiting area again.
Once alone tears obscured his vision, making the phone hard to see. Frantically wiping at his eyes he hit the button and waited, breath ragged as he listened to the ringing.
“Hannibal.” He choked as soon as the line picked up.
“Face? What’s going on?”
“Columbus County Hospital.”
Hannibal’s voice was clipped and brisk and no more questions were asked. “We’ll be there.”
At the dial tone Face slid the phone into his pocket and looked down at his hands. Hands that had run over Murdock’s warm, breathing body only a few short hours ago. Fingers that had trailed over sides and danced over ribs, causing the pilot to laugh and squirm under him.
Should have gotten your lazy ass up. He tugged at his hair, the pain doing nothing to stop his mind’s own accusations. This is your fault. You couldn’t even be bothered to get out of bed.
His head shot up in confusion at Hannibal’s voice. There’s no way they could already be there. He’d just called.
Face stared dumbfounded at the Colonel then at the clock over the older man’s shoulder.
Three hours. How had three hours slipped by?
“What’s going on, man? Where’s Murdock?” B.A. asked; the mask of annoyance usually in place when speaking of the pilot replaced by genuine concern.
“My fault. Oh god, all my fault.” Face groaned before he was being hauled up and slammed hard against the wall behind his chair.
B.A.’s fists were knotted in the front of his shirt and the big man was so close Face could feel his breath with each word.
“What the fuck did you do, Face? Where’s Murdock?”
Face shook his head as unguarded tears streamed down his cheeks. “Gone. Bosco, he’s gone. I wasn’t there. I should have been there.”
“B.A., let him go.” Hannibal pulled at the mechanic's shoulder and B.A. seemed to fold in on himself as he let go, sagging into a chair, as hands came up to cover his face.
Hannibal stared at Face and the conman had never felt so terrified. Hannibal Smith, the strong, stoic Colonel now stood in front of him, eyes bright and confused. “What…?”
He didn’t have a chance to get anything else out as Face shoved past him and bent over the trashcan in the corner where he began to violently vomit.
He heard Hannibal’s voice tugging at him in the enclosed space of the car but he couldn’t look at the other man. He didn’t think he could take any more of the lost expression the Colonel hadn’t been able to shake for hours.
At least with B.A. there’d been anger and accusation in the glances he’d thrown the conman’s way. And Face took a strange comfort in that, knowing that someone else blamed him as well. Because it’s your fault.
Instead Face stared at the neatly hung rows of tools on the far end of the lake house’s garage. His head throbbed, an almost blinding pain that radiated from his left eye. His stomach sour and throat raw from puking, from screaming. He yanked the hair at the nape of his neck and didn’t quite remember even leaving the hospital, much less getting back here.
“If you sign these papers we can contact Dees for transport so you don’t have to. They’re the only funeral home in town.”
Closing his eyes Face heard Hannibal sigh before a big hand was placed on his forearm.
“I just need your signature here so we can release Mr. Milton’s things to you. Give me a little bit and I’ll have someone bring them up.”
Milton. “That’s not his goddamned name!” Face had wanted to shout every time it’d passed someone’s lips. Not his real name. But no one would ever know, except the three of them.
Hannibal’s hand started drumming a familiar tattoo, one Face had seen the Colonel tap on skin countless times over the years. A technique used to draw someone, Murdock, out of themselves.
Face didn’t even think the older man had been aware of the gesture until Face flattened a palm over his hand, effectively stopping the motion. He saw a flash of recognition before Hannibal turned away. “Come on, kid. We should get inside.”
Face didn’t touch the wall switch when he walked into the bedroom, light would only draw attention to Murdock’s stuff. They’d only been at the house for three days, but in true fashion, the pilot’s belongings had exploded all over the place the moment they'd got there.
“Fuck.” Face growled, stumbling over something that he immediately snatched off the floor. One of the pilot’s sneakers.
“Fuck. Fuck this. Fuck you.” He shouted, launching the shoe across the room. The action was immediately followed by a crash when the lamp in the reading area hit the floor.
Face’s body shook as anger flared up. Anger towards the stupid, fucking driver of the truck. And Murdock, because he knew how the pilot could be, he’d get wrapped up in something and not pay attention. Face had pulled him back from busy street corners many times.
But not this time. His brain howled, saving the brunt of his anger for himself. You weren’t there when he needed you the most.
Face crumpled to the bed where only 12 hours ago he’d been tangled up with the pilot. Snippets of songs, words in unfamiliar languages had fallen from his lover’s smiling mouth as he drew Face in and held him close. Making love like it was the first time, neither of them knowing it would be the last.
His hands desperately grabbed at rumpled sheets that still smelled like them. Like Murdock. Burying his face into the pilot’s pillow, he breathed in a scent he knew would be gone too soon as he wordlessly wailed.
“H.M.?” Face jerked awake, his hand automatically reaching out to the empty side of the bed. Dim morning light was coming in through the windows and when his brain caught up he felt the room tilt.
He sat up, dragging the hospital bag to him and dumping it into his lap. He stared at the random items that only Murdock could have brought sense to. Slot machine tokens from the Vegas job six months ago, an unopened bag of sour gummi worms, the pocket watch that’d stopped working long ago that had belonged to H.M.’s grandfather. Murdock had confided in Face the reason it had stayed broken was because he didn’t want to replace even the tiniest bit of the watch that’d meant so much to the old man.
Fingers trembled over the red baseball cap before he upended it and brought it to his face.
It should have been disgusting. Murdock was sweaty by nature and Face couldn’t even remember the last time the cap had even seen the inside of a washer. But he didn’t care as he inhaled deeply, taking in the strong smell of dirt, sweat, Murdock.
A hesitant smile tugged at his lips at the faint scent of citrus. The expensive shampoo that he’d bought for himself. The bottle had magically emptied way too soon even after he continuously switched his hiding places for it.
A brutal stab of longing shot through him and Face closed his eyes trying to regain his bearings but was met with memories instead.
Face had to hand it to Hannibal; this could have possibly been the absolute worst plan the Colonel had ever come up with. Throwing him into a house with two complete strangers, one of which they’d only two weeks ago plucked out of a mental hospital.
“Team building.” Hannibal had amusingly grinned around his cigar and Face had known that nothing was going to change his mind. But it didn’t mean Face had to like it and he wasn’t going to, just to spite the old man.
And nothing would change Face’s mind, not even the awesome smells that’d started coming from the kitchen.
The pilot stood at the stove humming a vaguely recognizable tune while wearing a t-shirt and cargos, both baggy on his too skinny frame.
“Pull up a counter, Faceman.” He’d drawled without even looking away from the bubbling pot. “I don’t bite…unless you’re into that sorta thing. But I ain’t supposed to ask, so you probably shouldn’t tell.”
He had winked over his shoulder as Face leaned against the counter.
“What are you cooking?”
“A little of this and a little of that. Wanna taste?” He’d held out the spoon in Face’s direction.
As he cautiously tasted the concoction, the Lieutenant noticed the other man's smile that’d been fractured and wholly manic a short time ago was now calmer and less scattered.
“Shit. That’s good, man.” Face had stated and his shock had been met by a warm laugh.
“Gramma Murdock’s world famous chili, with a little special kick from yours truly.”
‘Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.’ Face had thought after his own laughter had quickly joined the pilot’s.
He had eventually found out what the special kick had been when months later he had come into the kitchen earlier in the Murdockian cooking process. Plaster of Paris.
Face lowered the hat, his chest tight as he tried to take something more than shallow breaths that wouldn’t fill his lungs.
“I can’t do this.” Face loudly announced as he moved off the bed, the remaining contents of the bag spilling from his lap onto the floor.
Hannibal heavily sat down at the table and ran a hand over his face, feeling older than he ever had, even more than after going on the run. Morning had come too soon, his eyes burned from lack of sleep and he was in dire need of a cigar. The last one had been smoked as they’d sped down the interstate after Face’s call yesterday. Since then he'd had to settle with a pack of cigarettes that didn't cut it but he'd still already gone through more than half of.
He looked to B.A. sitting opposite him and sighed.
There would have been no one that could have doubted how much the pilot meant to Bosco if they’d been in the garage the night before.
B.A. had raged, ripping things off the walls, boards and nails creaking at the force. He’d sent tools scattering when he upended a work bench. He’d screamed blame, at the driver, at Face and at the military for putting them in the position in the first place.
Hannibal had leaned against the car and forcefully tamped down the urge to join B.A. in his violent grief. He had ignored the heavy pangs in his chest as Bosco finally slumped to the floor in sudden, deafening silence.
He had gone to B.A. then, hand tightly gripping the other man’s broad shoulders as they shuddered with his quiet sobs. Hannibal tuned out his own clawing sorrow; knowing that he needed to stay focused when his boys needed him like never before.
“What are we gonna do, Bossman?” B.A. asked, voice cracking with overuse, his expression utterly gutted.
The words, “I don’t know” were the only thing that flashed through Hannibal’s mind before loud ringing drew their attention away from the question.
Hannibal moved quickly to the counter and picked up Face’s cell phone.
“Hello? No, he’s still sleeping but I can help.” He avoided B.A.’s inquiring stare as he hmm’d in acknowledgment to the person on the other end of the line. “Yes. Thank you.”
He hung up and saw Bosco’s hands tighten into fists, as if steeling himself against the words he knew were coming.
“That was the funeral home.”
“Face.” Hannibal called out, standing in the hall. He knocked once more and when no answer came, he opened door.
Looking around the empty room, he mentally added the smashed lamp to the inventory of things that would need to be replaced before they left.
“Face?” He stepped towards the equally vacant bathroom. “Where the hell are you?” He muttered before bending down beside the bed to go through Murdock’s duffle bag.
“We need you to bring clothes for Mr. Milton.”
Hannibal didn’t know where Face was but this was one thing he could do so the kid didn’t have to.
He pulled t-shirts and pants out of the bag, the garments severely wrinkled from having been shoved haphazardly into the duffle. The Colonel shook his head fondly at the memory of how many times Face had tried to show the pilot how to pack to no avail.
Hannibal felt a slight awkward flush as his eye caught the bottle of lube sitting on the bedside table.
He’d known, of course. The pair wouldn’t have been able to hide it, even if he hadn’t, with great discomfort, witnessed their coming together after their first job on the run.
He didn’t understand, and yes, there’d been tense moments and shouting in the months that had followed. But then Hannibal saw that the relationship hadn't interfered with the job and nothing had changed in their day to day life. That it was still just Face and Murdock. The difference pretty much only being the need for one less bed in the house. They were still his boys, his team and so he’d let it go.
He got back to the task at hand. And as he placed the clothes on the bed, he was thankful that there’d at least been a brief bright spot of happiness for the pair to enjoy, before...
He stood up, grabbing the least creased shirt and pants as he heard Face’s phone again.
When Hannibal walked into the kitchen B.A. looked at him with befuddlement. “Face is at the funeral home.”
“What?” Hannibal’s eyes flicked to the two sets of car keys sitting on the counter. “How?”
15 miles. That’s how far it was from the lake house to town…and how far Face had decided to run that morning.
"What else was there for me to do, Boss?"
As he watched the men in front of him Hannibal was struck by a sense of déjà vu.
B.A. dug one of his shirts out of a bag in the back of the van before handing it to Face. The conman, sweaty and exhausted, shivered against chilled morning air as he pulled the shirt on.
They’d been here before, the three of them. In an almost identical van as they hurdled down the road away from Tuco and towards a Mexican hospital, towards Murdock.
B.A. leaned close to Face; something whispered that had the Lieutenant nodding vigorously as his eyes glistened and his hand clamped down hard enough on Bosco’s bicep that Hannibal saw his knuckles whiten.
“I’ve got more stuff to go over but they said you can…” Face, voice tired and flat, vaguely gestured away from the waiting area where Hannibal and B.A. sat. “Let me get Roberta.”
“Face, I’ll take care of it. Are you sure you don’t need help?” Hannibal asked, even though he knew his offer would be rebuffed.
“No, I got it.” Face swallowed dryly, his throat making an audible click. “Go. Go see H.M.” He ran a hand over his mouth before ducking back into the office.
“Take as much time as you need.” The young woman, Roberta, spoke softly before leaving Hannibal and B.A. and gently closing the door behind her.
Hannibal’s heart tumbled painfully in his chest as they moved to where Murdock was laid out.
The Colonel had always prepared himself; they all had, for the possibility that there’d be a time when one of them wouldn’t come back from a job. They lived a dangerous life, certain death being almost inevitable…but this, this was different. The random tragedy of it made the whole thing harder to even begin to come to terms with.
Hannibal looked down at the pilot and was jarred by the lack of substantial visible injuries. He’d countless times seen the Captain in worse shape just dust himself off and move on.
“Severe internal trauma.” The nurse had quietly informed them and he had done his best to take Face’s weight as the younger man sagged against him.
“Damn, Bossman. You couldn’t have picked him some better damned clothes.” B.A. grumbled as he smoothed out Murdock's shirt.
The absurdity of the words and motherly action cut sharply through the Colonel’s grief and Hannibal turned to see nothing but understanding through B.A.’s tears.
And at the sight of Bosco reaching for one of the thin hands he’d infinitely batted away from him over the last 10 years, Hannibal felt his eyes well up and knew there’d be no staunching the flow this time.
Four in the morning and the phone call had B.A. and Hannibal packing up their belongings from the third house in as many months. Leaving once again with more of their ever shrinking cash reserve gone and another one of Face’s fake identities burnt.
It shouldn’t have been like this. They’d seen too much and gone through even more, but without Murdock the team was falling apart and B.A. hated feeling like there wasn’t any way to stop it. Hated that if Face staggered back to the house in the same night he left, never mind if it’d be with minor injuries, they counted it as a victory. It was still better than when he’d disappear for days on end, leaving B.A. and Hannibal to scour every square inch of whatever town they were in for their missing teammate.
That where Murdock’s constant chatter and ridiculous antics should have been was now a space filled with stunted and hushed conversations. The overpowering silence only held off by B.A.’s new found habit of leaving T.V.s or radios on, even after he’d left the room.
"Whatcha doing big guy?"
B.A. heard the question from his vantage point under the carriage of the van and knew not answering would only cause more noise.
"Working, fool. What does it look like?"
"Well from here it looks like two of big ol' mudsucka feet sticking out from under this van." Murdock's grinning face briefly appeared down by B.A.'s feet.
"Man, you gonna keep talking or you gonna let me work on my girl in peace?" B.A. began turning the wrench again when an answer didn't come, but didn't get half a twist before there was scuffling and grunting then Murdock slid underneath the van with him.
"Need any help?"
B.A. knew Hannibal tried so hard to keep things together. To get them back on their feet, with ideas and plans for potential jobs. But even as the Colonel did what he did best, B.A. knew the only thing that would happen when they got up from the kitchen table where rushed diagrams were etched on scraps of paper, was that they’d continue to quietly move around each other, only making things worse by taking their grieving on alone.
Rubbing a hand roughly over tired eyes, B.A. watched through the windshield as Hannibal approached the van, barely contained anger brimming just under his composed surface. If there’d been anyone else in the jail’s parking lot, not that there would be at 4:30 in the morning, they’d have only seen the calm features of the older man. But after more than 10 years under his command, the mechanic knew different.
B.A. didn’t say a word when the vehicle was flooded with the stink of cigarettes and booze as Face with a black eye and blood on his shirt, flung the side door open and shakily climbed in.
After a brief struggle to get it closed, the conman gave up and like every other time they’d done this, crawled into the darkness at the very back of the van. Where B.A. knew that out of sight of the two other men, Face would curl up around the cremation box that had been given to him with whispered sympathies at the funeral home, what felt like a life time ago.
When they'd made it to three months in their newest place Hannibal was surprised. He had thought that springing Face from the last jail had quelled the younger man's urge to go out and drown his grief in drinking and fighting.
Unfortunately, what Hannibal hadn't realized was that all it meant was eventually the fighting was going to take place within the house and between each other.
Something that had just begun, judging by the way wall suddenly shuddered against his headboard and the burst of shouting that woke him from deep sleep.
He quickly left his bed and hurried down the hall, turning the corner into the living room in time to see B.A.’s fist connect with Face’s jaw. Their shouts and blows against each other echoing around the room as he rushed to separate them.
“Stand down!” The order fell on deaf ears, the pair too worried about drawing blood from the other to care.
Hannibal barely missed having his nose broken by Face when he’d stepped in between the two men as words failed to do the job. He shoved B.A. hard against the front door as he caught the conman’s right arm in a tight grip.
“What in the hell are you doing?” The older man growled as he looked at each man. Face with a split lip and a bruise already swelling up where the mechanic’s fist had landed and B.A. with blood leaking from his nose and eyebrow.
“Let go of me.” Face slurred, trying to pull away. “I’m not some fucking kid.”
“You sure as hell aren’t acting like an adult.” Hannibal countered, relaxing his hold on B.A. as the fight went out of the mechanic.
“No? Oh, I’m so sorry I’m such a fucking disappointment.” Face spat bitterly as he yanked his arm again. “That I’m not handling things the way you think I should.”
The words pulled Hannibal up short and he looked at the younger man, really looked and what he saw, what he’d missed the entire time, made the Colonel sick to his stomach.
Unwashed greasy hair and pale skin took the place of the carefully constructed appearance Face had taken pride in for as long as Hannibal had known him. Glassy, blood shot eyes were dark rimmed from lack of sleep. His face puffy from too much of the cheap alcohol that stung Hannibal’s eyes with every exhale Face made.
How had he let it get this bad? How had he let his boys fall apart like this?
Hannibal loosened his hold as Face stared at him, searching. Blue eyes filled with something so base, unrecognizable and the Colonel realized that in 15 years, this was the first time he’d ever seen the kid with his guard completely down.
“No.” Came the response, instantly angry and defensive as his gaze flicked from Hannibal to where B.A. still blocked the door. Before anything else could be said Face turned and bolted out of the room, the back door slamming shut at his exit.
“You can’t go after him now.” B.A. had said while Hannibal stitched up his eyebrow. “He’ll be back. Just needs time.”
3:42 a.m. Hannibal read the stove’s digital read out and turned the low heat on the pot of milk. He settled at the small kitchen table, dropping his head into his hands with a weary sigh.
“Hey, bossman can’t sleep?”
“Jesus.” Hannibal hadn’t been able to hide his shocked jump from the chuckling pilot.
“Mmm, not this week.” Murdock verified as he had silently padded to the fridge and pulled out the milk before he’d begun to dig through the counters.
The Colonel had always had trouble sleeping, something Murdock with his own strange nocturnal habits had been aware of. The pair had routinely kept insomniac company over the years.
But the sleeplessness had only gotten worse when they’d gone on the run. Especially in the last few months, since the team’s dynamic had shifted once again and in a way Hannibal felt he had no control.
He watched Murdock as one hand stirred the milk while the other scratched between his shoulder blades at an angle that would have been awkward for anyone else.
The same as countless other times they’d sat together in the middle of the night but Hannibal still couldn’t stop the uncomfortable twinge when he’d noticed the pajama bottoms the pilot wore belonged to Face.
“How’s it taste?” Murdock had asked minutes later after placing the glass of warmed milk in front of him.
“Good.” Hannibal had responded. “Did you add more cayenne this time?”
“Nope. Still the same as Gramma made it.”
“Murdock, what did you do?” The older man had questioned warily as the pilot’s gaze held steady.
“Same stuff. But I did warm it up here and this stove’s not the same as the one at Benning. Most definitely different from my sandy little camp stove in Iraq.”
Hannibal took another sip of the warm, familiar liquid and shook his head. “It shouldn’t matter where you cook it. That shouldn’t change the...”
Murdock’s small but triumphant grin had cut the Colonel’s words off with an almost audible snap.
As Hannibal stared at the milk in realization Murdock slid from his chair. “I’m heading back to bed, sir. Glad you understand it’s still the same.”
The bubbling of the boiling liquid on the stove brought Hannibal out of his thoughts and to his feet. Shifting the pot to the backburner he started looking through the spices on the rack.
He’d let his team, his boys down when they needed him and each other the most.
Both of them, but especially Face. Hannibal had been so worried about pushing his second in command too hard. Not understanding that the younger man had needed help to get out of the quicksand before being dragged down and suffocated.
Time. Hannibal knew B.A. was right but it’d been two days and there hadn’t even been a call from Face or any sign of him at the various bars in town or thankfully the jail.
“God, kid, I’m sorry. I should have known. Should have seen.” Hannibal said to the empty room as he rubbed a hand through his hair.
“It’s not your fault, boss. It’s mine.”
At the response from the familiar but tired voice, Hannibal turned in his chair. “Face.”
The conman stood at the back threshold, still exhausted but eyes clear and sober.
“You alright?” The Colonel asked; as Face shut the door behind him as he entered the house.
“I don’t…” Hannibal watched the other man’s gaze dart around the room before it zeroed in on him. “No, I’m not.” The pure honesty of the answer had Face sinking into one of the chairs.
“It’s my fault. I should have gotten out of bed. If I’d gone…” Face began to shake, fist against the table as his words started running together. The blame on himself, the anger, the shame.
The force of the admission surprised Hannibal but he let Face have it, like he should have months ago. Seeing all of it spoken aloud, something Face hadn’t done since that first night at the hospital; the weight being eased with each admission.
“I can’t do it. I’m sorry. I let you down. The team…Murdock.”
Face put his head in his hands, voice lower, raw and exposed. “I can’t even smell him anymore. I wake up and it jars me. He’s gone. My best friend. I never had to bullshit him. Hell, I couldn’t. He could see right through it. Always. But he loved me anyway.” Face looked up and met Hannibal’s eyes. “No one else has ever, ever done that. All these shattered pieces and he was the glue that kept me together.”
“Yeah, Crazy Glue.” B.A., voice thick with emotion as he walked into the kitchen and placed a hand on Face’s shoulder before sitting down. “I’m sorry I punched you in the jaw.”
“No, Bosco, I’m sorry.” The conman apologized as he wiped a hand across his face. “Trust me, I needed it.”
The three of them sat around the table, talking and making plans, ones that would come around this time. And as the sun started to peek through the windows they found themselves speaking at a normal volume; finally discarding the quiet tone they’d become so familiar with.
“Bosco! Hannibal!” Face called out, turning away from the man he was speaking with when his teammates stepped through the hangar door.
"We really gonna do this?" B.A. asked Hannibal as he glanced at the helicopter while Face continued talking with the pilot.
"It's what Murdock would have wanted." Hannibal responded, then added. "Plus, I think it's time. It'll do Face good. All of us good."
Once inside the helicopter the pilot introduced himself as Mike before taking off. They flew for miles over the city and toward the ocean where Face stood up, grasping the familiar box to his stomach as he looked out the open door.
"You sure you don't wanna help, Bosco?" He winked at B.A.'s disgruntled face then turned back to the view of the ocean as B.A. muttered,
"Crazy just like Murdock."
The water of the lake sparkled like diamonds as the sun set low over the trees. Deep oranges and purples bouncing off the calm surface that Face and Murdock sat watching from the shore on a blanket they'd taken from the lake house.
Murdock kept shifting restlessly against Face's chest, which the conman recognized as a sign of irritation.
"What's up, bud?" Face asked; running a hand down the pilot's arm.
Murdock looked out at the water not meeting Face's eyes, his features schooled in seriousness, "We're not gonna be running forever are we?"
"No, hell, no." Face promised then leaned forward to nuzzle behind Murdock's ear.
"When we're done," Murdock paused but still didn't look at Face, "Can we still have this? Like this right now?"
"Always." Face answered as he bent and kissed Murdock's shoulder before the pilot twisted around, all trouble gone from his eyes. "I love you."
"I love you." Face whispered as he took the lid off the box and held his arms out, letting the ashes go into the wind.