ACK! Where does the time go? I am so sorry it took me this long to update (reason being I changed the story halfway through and so had to rewrite this chapter). Anyway, now it's done, all mapped out and we're back and ready to roll again! Thanks for being patient :)

lunaz: Thanks. I try ;)

trauma: Well...okay, it wasn't soon and definitely not as soon as I would have liked, but here's an update :)

Jullian Gray: Thanks :) Future chapters will be up – hopefully – sooner...


It took two hours to get to Chicago, even with Hannibal's driving, and when the phone rang again he almost ram-raided a grocery store answering it.

"Yeah?"

Hopes of hearing the mystery caller – or even Face – disappeared as Murdock's twang came on the line.

"Hannibal, brake!"

Hannibal hit the brakes instinctively. Seconds later the passenger door was yanked open and Murdock leapt in. "Hit it!"

Hannibal hit it, accelerating away before the pilot had closed the door.

"Man, am I glad you showed up, colonel! I managed to hitchhike this far an' I figured this'd probably be the way in you chose. I been waitin' an' watchin' the road for forty minutes."

"Why didn't you go on ahead?"

"'Cause it's too far to walk. Take a right up here." Murdock pulled out a pistol, checked it carefully, then replaced it in his waistband. Hannibal glanced at it.

"You expecting trouble?"

"You're the one who said Faceman was dyin'!" Murdock snapped the seatbelt shut across his waist as Hannibal took a right without bothering to brake.

The colonel winced. Normally someone who preferred brutal truth to gentle lies, he still couldn't help wishing that Murdock had been a little more euphemistic.

"Do you know where this place is?"

"Oh sure, I been askin' directions while I was waitin' for you. It's about fifteen minutes' drive."

"Fifteen minutes?" Hannibal punched the steering wheel in frustration. The van was already going as fast as was possible, but that was far too slow as far as he was concerned. Face needed them now, not in fifteen damn minutes!

A car pulled out in front of them without looking and Hannibal slammed a clenched fist onto the horn several times.

"Goddamnit!"

"Hannibal!" Murdock grabbed the colonel's arm and managed to wrench it off the horn. "Will you cool it!"

"Face—"

"Was well enough to call for help, so he can't be that bad."

"Face didn't call me, Murdock." Hannibal overtook the car, glaring out at the driver, who didn't even look around. "I don't know who did."

Murdock stared at him, not believing what he'd heard.

"Did it ever occur to you that it might be what we in the A-Team technically call a trap?"

Hannibal shook his head curtly. "No. It's not Decker's style, even if he knew what had happened between me and Face. Besides, the guy who called said red ball one, grass is cut. Decker doesn't know our codes. Nobody except us knows our codes. Which way?"

"Left." Murdock double-checked the seatbelt, then clutched at the armrest for added security as Hannibal screeched around the corner on two wheels.

Man, I knew there was a reason the big guy don't let him drive, the pilot thought grimly. There was no doubt that Hannibal was right though; grass is cut referred to a stabbing or other blade-related injuries, and if it was a trap, then Decker could only have obtained those code words from Face himself, since Murdock hadn't told him and the pilot was sure Hannibal and BA hadn't.

Despite its rather poetic name, River Avenue was a nasty looking neighborhood, with graffiti adorning the walls, most of it gang sigils, obscene words and body parts. Both Hannibal and Murdock could feel unfriendly eyes watching them as they got out the van, the colonel taking care to lock it after him.

"So where—" Murdock began.

"Hannibal!"

A young boy raced towards them and flung his arms around the astonished colonel's waist with such force that he knocked him off balance, burying his face in Hannibal's shirt.

The colonel unwound the clinging arms and pushed the boy away firmly, but not ungently.

"Do I know you?"

The kid shook his head, tears streaking down his cheeks.

"Hannibal, you have to help! You have to...he said you would, he said, he said you...but you have to do something!"

Hannibal dropped to one knee and caught hold of the boy's shoulder, steadying him. "Easy, son. Easy. Just...calm down, alright? Breathe."

The boy obeyed, taking in huge gulps of air. "Are you Hannibal Smith?"

"Yes. Yes, I'm Hannibal Smith. Are you the one who called me?"

"Uh huh. You gotta help Mr Goddard, Hannibal, you just gotta!"

"Who's Mr Goddard?"

"He's my neighbor, he's hurt real bad. You gotta do something!"

Hannibal tightened his hold a little. "Listen to me. I'll help your neighbor if I can, but first you have to tell me who gave you my number and where he is."

"Mr Goddard gimme the number and said I had to say that about red ball four and bag is torn but I don't know what he meant but he said it was for emergencies and..." The boy's voice broke off and his chest hitched once or twice, then he went on. "And I think it's an emergency 'cause he's dying."

"D'you livehere?" Murdock asked.

That was stretching the word to breaking point, Hannibal thought. People didn't live in places like this. They just existed, like animals in a lair.

The boy shook his head. "No, I live a couple blocks away. I used to play with a kid here only he and his family moved away last week."

Hannibal raised his eyebrows. "So what're you still doing here, kid?"

"Running errands for Mr Goddard. Me and my friend used to go out and buy food for him during school vacation 'cause he doesn't like leaving his apartment an' he paid us a dollar a day, only now my friend's gone an' there's just me and when I brought the food back today I found him..." His voice trailed off. "He's in the bathroom, number fifty three. He's bleeding pretty bad and I put some bandages on but you gotta do something!"

"Alright, kid. Alright. You go on home; we'll take it from here." Murdock glanced at Hannibal as the kid raced off, no doubt glad to be out of there. "Think it's Face?"

"I think we better find out." Hannibal was already striding towards the entrance to the apartment block and the pilot hastened to catch up.

"Man, this place is a dump!" Murdock spoke loudly, not because he was angry or wanted to embarrass the people responsible, but because the sound of a baby bawling its lungs out behind one door and separate rock tracks coming from behind two others made normal conversation impossible.

"No wonder we couldn't find him." Hannibal moved along the corridor. A discarded syringe crunched under his boot and the colonel felt a shiver of revulsion trickle down his spine. "I wouldn't keep my dog in a place like this."

"Billy concurs with that statement, colonel." Murdock hopped over an overflowing trash bag that was writhing with maggots. Apparently taking the trash out was too much work, particularly when there was a hallway just outside the front door doing nothing.

The door to number fifty three was ajar, and Hannibal and Murdock exchanged looks. Both men were thinking the same thing: trouble.

The apartment itself was tiny, no more than a studio bedsit. A wall bed – unmade, stained and sagging badly in the middle – took up most of the space, with a TV positioned on a rickety table at the end. Drink stains had been trodden into the carpet (at least, Hannibal hoped they were drink stains. If they weren't, he didn't want to know about it). Plates encrusted with leftovers had been tossed carelessly in the sink and left there to soak for so long that small white globules of fat were floating in the cold water. Another plate was down by the side of the bed, with not only last night's remains on it but last week's too. Clearly this Mr Goddard, whoever he was – and after seeing this squalor, Hannibal wasn't much inclined to believe it was Face – didn't believe in washing up.

There was an open carton of milk on one side. The colonel didn't need to test it to know it was rancid; that smell was the strongest of all, mixed with sour sweat and leftover food.

"This can't be right." Hannibal's voice was muffled; he'd clamped a hand over his nose and mouth as soon as the stench hit him. "Face wouldn't be caught dead in a place like this."

He picked his way through the mess on the floor to a door and pulled it open, revealing a bathroom that was, if possible, in an even worse state than the rest of the apartment. Damp mould covered the ceiling and was starting to spread down the walls, and the soap was floating in scummy water, the dish surrounded by its own little dark patch. There was a ragged towel hanging from a hook, and the toilet could do with being cleaned. And flushed.

All of this, however, was driven out of Hannibal's mind when he saw Face lying unconscious on the floor, blood pooling around him and a stained razor still in the man's lifeless hand.

Oh. No. No, no, no, no...

Murdock shoved Hannibal roughly to one side and dropped to one knee. "Faceman?"

No response. The pilot reached down and rested two fingers in the lieutenant's neck, then glanced up at Hannibal.

"There's a pulse, colonel, but it's very weak. Looks like our little buddy managed to get some bandages on him."

The 'bandages' were socks. Filthy socks, and the kid had made the common mistake of tying them far too tightly and making them more tourniquets than bandages, but he had managed to stop the worst of the bleeding and had probably saved Face's life...although Hannibal didn't like to think about the infections his lieutenant had most likely picked up in the process.

Well, that at least we can fix once we get him out.

"Face?" Hannibal knelt on the other side. "Can you hear me? Face!"

There was no answer, although Hannibal supposed that wasn't surprising. Given how things had been between them when Face had walked out, even if the lieutenant was, by some miracle, still conscious or semi-conscious, he might not want to acknowledge them.

Hannibal was shocked to see how much weight Face had lost; if he'd been slender before, he was now emaciated, every single rib standing out against his skin. Not only that, it looked like he hadn't bothered taking care of himself; stubble covered his jaw and his clothes were stained, not just with food and drink but now his own blood.

"Face!"

The lieutenant still didn't respond, didn't give any sign he'd heard Hannibal and the colonel felt a chill run through his body. Seeing Face in this state was bad; knowing that he was partially responsible for it was ten times worse. Death was an accepted part of their lives; each member of the Team knew that they could die on any mission, at any time.

But not like this. Please, not like this.

Face couldn't die. Hannibal refused to believe that he'd gone through everything that had happened during the last weeks to find the lieutenant, only to have him die a short while later without even regaining consciousness. Even life couldn't be that unfair.

"Think we should get him to hospital?" Murdock asked in a more subdued tone. Fighting wouldn't help Face now.

"No." Hannibal didn't stop to think; his answer was automatic. "There's nothing they can do that we can't. Besides, I got him into this. I plan to get him out."

"If he'll let you," Murdock muttered, not quite under his breath. Hearing him, Hannibal whirled.

"Well, do you have any other suggestions?"

"Not really, no," the pilot admitted after a long pause.

"Right." Slightly mollified by Murdock's answer, Hannibal bent down. "Give me a hand here, would ya?"

Murdock's eyebrows shot up. "Colonel, you can't be serious! I mean, don't you think that takin' a comatose body downstairs in full view of everyone is gonna attract a little bit of attention?"

"Murdock, I don't care! The only thing that matters to me right now is getting Face somewhere safe and out of this squat!" Hannibal paused, took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. "Besides, a neighborhood like this? People probably see dead bodies being hauled back and forth every day."

There was a nasty silence as Hannibal realised what he'd just said.

"Faceman ain't dead yet, colonel." Murdock's voice was very quiet.

"I know. So help me get him downstairs and maybe we can keep it like that. No, on second thoughts, wait a minute." Hannibal gestured to the pilot. "Give me your jacket."

Murdock blinked but complied, shrugging off his brown flight jacket and handing it over to Hannibal, who managed to get Face into it. The sleeves just about covered the makeshift bandages around Face's wrists, along with the worst of the bloodstains, and Hannibal hoped that it would be enough. He didn't want other people – even strangers – seeing Face like that. He wasn't sure why; it just seemed wrong to him, somehow.

"Alright. Let's go."

Murdock looped one of Face's arms over his shoulders, Hannibal taking the other, and between them they hauled the unconscious lieutenant more or less upright.

The corridor was still deserted, although the baby was still wailing behind one of the doors and hard rock music was still belting out of another. The two were probably connected, Hannibal thought grimly as he and Murdock maneuvered Face down the stairs and out to the waiting van.

A quick detour on their part got them some first-aid supplies and another, longer and much more expensive detour got them a large, three-bedroom apartment. Usually Hannibal didn't bother splashing out hundreds on a place he wasn't likely to spend much time in, and his ability to take care of himself meant he was rarely bothered even in the low rent district. This time, though, he wanted somewhere nice, somewhere to flush the memory of Face's squat out of his mind. A hotel room wouldn't have been private enough, somehow.

Hannibal glanced at Murdock. "I'll get Face. You get on the phone to BA and tell him where we are."

The down side, of course, was that an unconscious Face attracted more attention here than he had back where Hannibal had found him, but the colonel managed to pass this off by saying Face had been ill and over-exerted himself. As excuses went, it wasn't likely to win any originality awards, but it was plausible – just – and so he managed to get the lieutenant into their new temporary home without any problems.

Pushing open the door to the spare room, Hannibal lowered Face onto the bed and stared down at him. The lieutenant had lost a lot of blood. Maybe too much.

No, don't think like that.

"Colonel?" Murdock wandered in, somewhat hampered by the large bowl of water he was carrying. "I got the first aid stuff an' BA says he's on his way, but he's drivin'."

Hannibal stared at the pilot, grateful to have a target to vent his emotions on.

"Driving? From LA to Chicago? Two thousand miles? Couldn't he have gotten in a plane this one time?"

Murdock shrugged, depositing the bowl on the bedside table. "I guess he figured we could do what had to be done."

That was true enough – there was nothing BA could do for Face that Hannibal or Murdock couldn't – but still...

"Then again," Murdock added, "mebbe he thought if you were busy bein' mad at him, you wouldn't be able to worry about the Faceman so much. How's he doin'?"

"Probably a lot better since we got him outta there." Hannibal unwound the filthy socks from around Face's wrists and handed them to Murdock. "Do me a favour: go and burn these or something. I'll try and get him cleaned up."

A closer examination showed that the bleeding had mostly stopped. The socks had stuck to the cuts and removing them had torn the scabs off, causing a slow dribble that didn't last long.

Hannibal picked up a cloth and dunked it in the water, then used it to clean the grime and dried blood off Face's wrists. During the procedure, the lieutenant didn't so much as twitch.

Replacing the cloth, Hannibal unscrewed a bottle of antiseptic, poured a generous amount onto a wad of cotton wool, then hesitated.

"Face?"

No response. The colonel couldn't tell if Face was unconscious, semi-conscious or playing possum – knowing Face, anything was possible – but he thought he owed it to the kid to warn him.

"Face, I don't know if you can hear me in there, but if you can, I guess it's only fair to warn you that this is going to sting like crazy."

Reaching down, he took one of Face's wrists and started sponging it. There was no reaction from the lieutenant, even when Hannibal moved onto the other wrist, leaning over Face's body to do it.

Why, kid? No, that wasn't the question, Hannibal realised; the question was, why now? Had something else happened in the last six weeks, or had it just been a case of everything building up and up until the lieutenant had finally broken under the pressure?

Or had something else happened? Had Face done this, or had he pissed off someone else who had tried to kill him and make it look like suicide? Hannibal didn't think that was likely, but it was better than thinking Face could really have done something like this to himself and so he clung onto it as a fragment of hope.

Yeah. Even if he was serious, he changed his mind. He gave the kid the number and the code words he needed to call for help.

Well, whatever the truth was, there was only one person who could tell him and he was currently lying unconscious in bed. He'd cleaned the injuries, patched the lieutenant up as best he could. Now all he could do was wait.


Okay, so that's it for another chapter! Hope you liked it and if you read, please review!