WHY? DON'T I LOOK OKAY?

By Aeiu

"Don't say it, Lieutenant," Hannibal ordered as he shook his finger at the slightly amused Templeton Peck who was lying in bed. "I'm warning you! Don't say it!"

"I know you don't want to hear this but it's the truth," said Peck as he looked up at his colonel standing above him. "I'm fine."

Hannibal closed his eyes and silently counted to ten, he knew that most of the grey hairs on his head could be directly attributed to the blonde lieutenant with the angel face and forked tongue. As he looked into Face's guileless eyes and listened to the steady unwavering voice; for a moment, he believed the lies that came from Face's mouth.

The A-Team's latest case had been hard on everyone particularly Face who had to go undercover to get the goods on a gang of vicious muscle-men trying to run a protection racket in the city. Face had set himself up as a low level weapon supplier who would be able to arm the gang with the type of weaponry they were looking for as they tried to expand their area of operation. He had barely had a chance to say 'Why me" when one of the beleaguered businessmen tipped of the gang leader to Face's true identity.

He was grabbed as a hostage to be used to capture the rest of the team. Unwilling to play the Judas Goat and unable to keep his sarcastic wit under control, his captors decided they would be better served to use the glib conman as an example than a hostage.

It took a high speed chase with a running gun battle and an overturned car for the rescue mission to be completed. All the team felt a stab of fear when they started pulling men out of the smoking car but were unable to find the missing lieutenant.

For an awful moment they thought they had followed the wrong car until Murdock heard a faint knocking coming from the locked trunk. There they found a bruised and battered lieutenant trussed up for his final ride.

After they delivered the bad guys to the local police with all the evidence they had recovered from the vehicle; they rushed Face to a nearby hospital where the final damage was tallied at severe contusions, three cracked ribs, a possible concussion, and a host of small cuts and bruises. Hannibal planned to allow his injured man to recuperate at the hospital, for a few days under an assumed name. But when BA spotted some nosey police officers asking too many questions they were forced to sign Face out, against doctor's orders, and move him back to an apartment he had scammed for himself in uptown Los Angeles. The last words the doctor said echoed in Hannibal's ears; "Keep a sharp eye on him. Don't leave him alone. A relapse might be fatal."

"I was there when the doctor talked to you," Face said in his oh-so-calm slightly patronizing voice. "He said I might have a concussion and to watch for signs of discomfort. Well, it's been hours since we got back and no discomfort. I'm fine."

"Don't even try to tell me you're not hurting, lieutenant."

Face shrugged his shoulders without even the smallest wince. "A little, "he conceded, "but nothing a good night sleep won't cure and that's all I've got planned to do."

"Someone's supposed to be here to keep an eye on you," Hannibal insisted.

""You've got to be up early so you can be on location for the movie shoot tomorrow. BA, probably, has something lined up to do at the children's home and Murdock should get back to the VA before they start looking for him. I'm sure the doctor was just being overly cautious. I'll be fine on my own."

"It's only a day long shoot. I'm going to have Murdock stay with you. I'll drop him off at the VA when I get back."

Face sighed dramatically. "It's really not necessary but if it'll make you feel better, Murdock can stay."

The unexpectant compliance made Hannibal start to rethink his plan; a reasonable Peck was a dangerous Peck. He was either hurt a lot more than he admitted or he had something up his sleeve.

"Okay," Hannibal said suspiciously, "I'll have Murdock spend tonight here and I'll take over for him after that."

"By tomorrow you'll see there was nothing to worry about."

"And you'll stay here."

"Where else would I go?"

Hannibal fixed his lieutenant with an accusatory glare.

"I promise I'll stay here," agreed Face.

"No gallivanting around, no women."

"Ever?" asked Face as his lips crinkled upward in amusement. "I can't promise that."

"Until you're all healed up."

"I'm not a child," Face whined. "I promise, I'll stay here and not have any women in. Murdock will be here so you don't have to worry. Now you'd better get going so you'll be ready for shooting tomorrow."

"Do you need anything, kid?" Smith said reluctant to leave his friend when he was in pain.

"Hannibal!"

"Okay, fine. I'll see you tomorrow."

"I'll be here," Face promised.

Hannibal's famed instinct for trouble warned him that something was not right with Face's acquiescence. But he couldn't see anything to make him suspicious about the lieutenant's intentions. He closed the bedroom door worried that he had missed something.

HM Murdock leapt up as Hannibal entered the living room. "How's Facey doing?" he asked.

BA snorted from the couch as he put down the magazine he was reading. "I don't know how he is but I can tell you how he says he is. He's fine."

Hannibal chuckled in response. "That's exactly how he says he is but the doctor wants someone to keep an eye on him. He's okay with Murdock staying here."

"Do you think he needs to go back to the hospital?" Murdock asked worriedly. "He's usually pretty insistent that he doesn't need anyone watching over him unless he's really in pain."

"True," agreed Hannibal, "but I got the feeling that our lieutenant has some plans for the evening and wants to get rid of me."

"That sounds right," laughed BA as he gestured over to Murdock. "He knows he can talk this fool into anything."

"Oh yeah," retorted Murdock. "Does an autumn day, Mario Andretti, Lynch's niece, a red boa wrap, a leather thong, and a pint of chicken fat ring a bell?"

"Oh, yeah," BA said as his eyes turned downward. His face reddened in embarrassment as he thought back to that disastrous afternoon. But the more he thought about it, the more fun he remembered having as the bad afternoon turned into a particularly wonderful evening.

"Oh, yeah," BA repeated as he looked up with a faraway gaze and his lips curled up in a smile. "I remember."

"Colonel," Murdock said as he inched closer to Hannibal, "He's scaring me."

"I know the feeling," Hannibal agreed. He never learned the full details of that day but neither Face nor BA seemed to mind the extra laps they had to run for punishment and Lynch started carrying extra ammo and doing a lot more target practicing. "That's why I think it'd be best if the two of you stayed here. You can watch each other's backs if he starts trying to pull a con."

"Aye-Aye, Mon colonel," Murdock said with a smart salute. "I will not let the lieutenant pull the wool over anyone's eyes."

BA merely nodded in agreement as he picked up his magazine and started to read.

As Hannibal started to leave he turned back to face his men. "Remember I don't care if every Playmate of the Year for the best ten years comes knocking on the door. He doesn't go out and they don't come in. He can be tricking when he wants something. So be alert."

He tried to look wise and stern but it was impossible when he knew they were both thinking about what Murdock had dubbed 'The West Point Noogie Occurrence'. He thought the Canadian Mounties had taken the moose incident too seriously and the police sketch didn't look a thing like him.

"Like I said," Hannibal chuckled to himself as he tried to remember how Face had talked him into mooning the visiting Canadian Prime Minister, "he can be tricky and it can be quite a ride."

An hour passed quietly as BA continued to read and Murdock played a game of solitaire on the kitchen tale.

"The problem," Murdock mused as he laid his cards on the table, "is it always starts out so innocently. At first you're leaving to get some orange juice for his sore throat and the next thing…Whammo! Naked Karaoke Night. I still can't go back to that club."

BA put down the magazine and looked at Murdock skeptically. "Naked karaoke? Face talked you into naked karaoke?"

"Actually, it was my idea," Murdock admitted reluctantly. "He said we needed a diversion and it seemed like a good idea." He paused for a moment. "You know Amy has a nice singing voice."

"Amy!" BA said as his eyes got wide. "Amy was with you?"

BA thought back to the reporter's strange behavior about eight months ago when she couldn't look any of them in the eye and he caught her threatening Face's manhood. Face had said it was nothing but it was weeks before he allowed himself to be left alone with the angry young woman.

"Did I say Amy?" Murdock asked as the blood ran from his face. "I didn't say Amy. Amy definitely wasn't there. And if she was there, she definitely wasn't naked. I'm just a crazy man and I don't know what I'm talking about. Nope. Nope. No Amy. No naked Amy. Amy definitely, definitely wasn't there."

Murdock sucked in air as his rambling ended. "Please don't tell her that I told you," he begged.

BA started to laugh when he noticed a pale Faceman standing at the door into with a blanket draped around his shoulders.

Murdock's lips thinned as he followed BA's gaze. He got up, marched over to Face and lightly poked his friend in the chest. "What are you doing up?" he asked accusingly. "You march yourself right back into bed."

Face grinned amicably as he listened to Murdock's stern words. "I had to go to the bathroom. Do you really want to know what I was doing in there?"

Murdock blushed but kept his hand up as Face tried to enter the living room. "Where do you think you're going?"

Face easily evaded Murdock's hand as he walked in and carefully sat himself onto the couch. "I'm bored," he whined as he pulled the blanket closer around him. "And lonely. There's no one to talk to in there."

Wrapped in the blanket with large soft eyes and tousled hair, he looks like a lost little boy thought BA as he got up and sat at the kitchen table. He gathered the cards that Murdock had laid across the table and shuffled them. "Do you want to play some cards?"

"Yeah," said Face as he went over to the table and picked up the cards BA had dealt out to him. He flashed his friend's a small smile of gratitude as his perused over the cards.

The three of them played cards for several minutes when Face looked up shyly and said, "You know…"

As BA and Murdock listened they felt the rabbit hole open under their feet.

TAT**H&MC**TAT***H&MC

"It's settled, I'm not going," declared retired Judge Milton C. Hardcastle as he looked down at his friend and crime fighting partner, Mark McCormick.

"But judge," Mark said as the pitch of his voice began to rise. "you've got to go. The dinner is in your honor. He didn't want to whine but if it would get the judge out of the house for the night, he was fully prepared to release his inner five year old.

"Look at you. I can't leave you alone."

"What?" Mark asked as he looked down at his body lying in his bed. "The hospital released me, the doctor said that you only had to watch me for the first twenty-four hours and that's about over. I'm fine."

"The doctor," Hardcastle pointed out, "said you should stay in the hospital for a few days. You're the one that was so anxious to get out of there."

"You've seen the stuff they serve in there. It's bad enough to be in the hospital without having to eat their food too. If there was anything really wrong with me, they wouldn't have let me leave."

Hardcastle wiped his hand across his face in frustration. It was another case of an easy job which went wrong. He had pulled Joey Watkins' file from his collection of people who had slipped between the cracks of justice. Joey was a low level criminal with suspected mob ties that had gotten away with murdering a police officer. It was a simple enough job to set McCormick up as a pusher with customers who was looking to make some extra money. McCormick got hired by Watkins and the police got interested when it turned out Watkins was getting his drug supply from Edward Bartitello who maintained a façade as a local businessman and charity organizer while running a crime organization.

The police wired McCormick for sound to record the delivery of cocaine between Watkins and Bartitello. But Watkins had graduated from a low level criminal without dreams to a low level criminal with dreams of making one big score. He had sent the kid out to exchange a suitcase full of baking soda for $150,000.00 while he prepared to make off with the drugs for himself.

Bartitello had not been amused. He and his boys questioned McCormick about the location of the drugs with a baseball bat and brass knuckles. They got a few solid blows in before the place had been raided and the kid had been rescued.

Hardcastle remembered the fear in the pit of his stomach as he watched Bartitello's men release their grip on McCormick and let him fall to the floor unconscious. Then Bartitello pulled out a gun so he could take personal revenge on the man who tried to cheat him. It had been too close.

He had been relieved and annoyed when McCormick quickly regained consciousness and led the high speed chase to catch Watkins before he got away with Bartitello's stolen drugs.

McCormick's legs wobbled as he marched Watkins into the open arms of the police. His stomach and chest took the brunt of the assault; along with the knife slash across his upper arm. But it was the bleeding lump on his head which caused the doctor the most worry. Any blow which caused a person to go unconscious was probably a concussion and those were always tricky.

Mark denied the blow to his head had caused him to fall bonelessly to the ground. The emergency room doctor prescribed a long stay at the wards which the kid started to complain after the first few hours.

McCormick was released from the hospital early, only after he and the judge promised that he be watched for any injury induced distress for the first twenty-four hours and no strenuous activities for the next week. The day was up and McCormick seemed overly anxious to be alone in the house.

"What's going on?" Hardcastle asked. "Why do you want me out of the house?"

"Juuddge," McCormick whined as he saw his plans for the evening threatened. "It's not that I want you out of the house. The invitation has you listed as a speaker."

"I think the Long Beach Auxiliary Republican Women's Legal Moratorium Dinner will somehow survive with only six retired judges giving their theories about crime instead of seven."

"That's not the point," McCormick said with straight sincerity. "The point is they're recognizing all the long hard years you put on the bench and are giving you the opportunity to tell your story and inspire them to do their part to fight crime in their own backyard. It's a big honor for you. An anxious public was waiting to hear your words of wisdom."

Hardcastle humphed; if the kid kept talking, he was going to have to get out his hip boots. "Look, McCormick," he griped, "don't make me say it. I don't want to go and leave you alone when you're hurting and likely to go out and do something stupid to make yourself hurt more."

"Judge, why would I want to go out and do something stupid when I have everything I need right here; a nice bed, TV, good book, snacks, and the knowledge that if I went out and did something stupid you'd kill me. Now go. You promised them that you'd go. I'll be fine."

"Are you sure?"

"I wouldn't be happy knowing that you were stuck here looking at me when you could be out there solving the LA crime problem."

"And you won't go anywhere?"

"I promise I have no intention of going out and doing something stupid."

"You'll take your medications?"

"As soon as I start hurting."

"You're still pretty pale."

"I'm fine. I promise you, I'm fine."

"Okay, but I'm not going to stay for the whole thing so I'll be back early."

"You don't have to treat me like a five year old," Mark pouted. "I'm fine."

Hardcastle suppressed the urge to pat down the wayward curls on McCormick's head as he sat up in the bed with his arms crossed in front of his chest looking like a sulking five year old. "I'll be back by midnight."

"I'll be here," McCormick promised.

He breathed a sigh of relief as Hardcastle left the gatehouse. He watched as the judge drove away and waited a full thirty minutes before he climbed out of his bed and began to dress.

As he made his way to the garage, he reassured himself that his conscious was clear. He didn't have any intention about going out and doing something stupid, he was going out to spend some time with his brother, Templeton Peck. He would take his medication when he was hurting; it wasn't his fault if his definition of hurting was different from the doctor's or the judge's. And he definitely was going to be back by midnight because he didn't intend on explaining why what he had said wasn't really a lie.

The only thing that worried him was how he was going to get to Templeton's newest home. He could feel the pull of the stitches along his arm and his stomach ached horribly as he hobbled to the garage. He knew it would hurt worse when he tried to bend himself to fit into his cramped car but he wasn't going to miss a chance to visit with Tem.

"Damn," muttered McCormick as he walked to the front of the house. The judge's pickup was parked in the driveway with the driver's door open and the keys dangling in the ignition. McCormick read the note stuck on the windshield.

Don't forget what you promised. Back at Midnight. Put gas in her before you bring her back.

"Donkey," chuckled Mark to himself. "Can't you even pretend to let me get away with it?"

He sobered up as he drove away from the estate. He figured the judge knew where he was going and who he was going to see. But he was never really sure how much the judge knew and how much he denied, even to himself, that he knew.

"It's too bad we all have to play this stupid game," mused McCormick as he drove away.

Abandoned by his father at age five, his entire knowledge of family was his mother and he had lost her a couple of years later. After that, it had been a lifetime of orphanages, foster care, and detention centers; coupled with a strong desire for the stability of a family and a sense of loss. He had despaired of ever feeling the sense of belonging that he wanted until he had been shanghaied into spending the foreseeable future as a partner to a crime fighting judge.

Neither of them had started out with the notion that they could ever be friends but in a short amount of time, it had gone beyond friendship and they had become like family.

If he thought life had thrown him a curveball by bringing Hardcastle in his life, it was nothing like the shock of finding out he had a brother who was an escaped convict for a crime that he didn't commit and was working as a soldier of fortune with a group of friends that were, also, on the run.

Templeton Peck's early life was eerily similar to his own except he couldn't even remember his mother. It wasn't fair that the same fate which had brought them together also conspired to force them to stay apart.

He was on parole with strict conditions about associating with criminals. He risked having his parole revoked every time he and Tem got together.

While Hardcastle couldn't give his approval to the meetings; he seemed willing to turn a blind eye. He knew the judge didn't approve of what he was doing but he suspected it had more to do with putting his freedom as risk than any condemnation for the A-Team's activities; particularly when the team had helped his hometown get out from the threat of a group of survivalist that tried to take over.

Things weren't any easier for Templeton. While he got along famously with Tem's friends, Murdock and BA; their meetings were still a secret form Tem's commander, Hannibal Smith.

According to Tem, Smith didn't have any animosity against him but he considered him a loose thread which could lead to the team being compromised and captured. Smith had all but ordered Templeton not to have anything to do with him.

Neither wanted to do anything to endanger the other but neither was willing to give up something they had just found and had wanted for so long.

As he drove to his meeting, he mused on the irony that the only way he could be with one family was to lie and betray the other.

Still when had his life ever been fair or, even, made sense.

TAT***H&MC***TAT***H&MC

"It's not like Hannibal has anything to get mad about," thought Murdock as he stuffed some trash into the dumpster. "We're keeping him inside and he's not going to do anything strenuous."

He knew that it was only partially true. While the colonel wouldn't be mad about the plans for the evening, he would be furious when he found out who they were with. Murdock thought back to the big fight Face and Hannibal had over McCormick. It had been the worst he had ever seen.

It had happened shortly after the kidnapping misunderstanding; Hannibal had said that he thought Mark seemed like a great guy but they were endangering themselves, the team, and even that Judge Hardcastle by insisting on meeting.

First off, Mark was on parole that made him vulnerable. It was way too easy for any law enforcement agency to put him back in jail on any pretext. It wasn't unthinkable that Mark would be given trading his own incarceration for that of his brother's. Then Face would be devastated either by the brother's betrayal or by guilt of Mark's sacrifice.

Besides the threat from law enforcement, there were the bad guys to consider. The more Face met with Mark, the more likely it was someone would figure out the connection and the more likely Mark would find himself used as a pawn to capture the team. Another thing that would eat away at face's soul if Mark was to be harmed by someone trying to get revenge against the team.

Then there was Judge Hardcastle, Hannibal didn't like him or trust him. He knew there was a strong bond of loyalty between Mark and the judge. He thought the judge was too straitlaced and by-the-book someone who put the letter-of-the-law above what was right and moral. He was afraid the judge would pressure Mark to turn the team in. He knew the judge would have no difficulty protecting Mark's freedom and safety at the cost of Face's wellbeing.

Murdock knew Hannibal had Face's best interests at heart. The colonel had examined the situation, saw the most likely outcome was bad and wanted to protect Face from the hurt. But Murdock knew the colonel was wrong.

Without even knowing of each other's existence, Face and Mark had been searching for each other their entire lives. There was a possibility, a good possibility; their seeing each other would end badly. But life was often messy and you had to take big risks to have big rewards; like the reward of discovering you weren't alone in the world.

Hannibal had stopped just short of ordering Face not to have anything to do with Mark and Face had stopped just short of quitting the team. Hannibal might have regretted his directive but he was too stubborn to admit he was wrong. He expected his team to follow his lead and refused to believe anything less than full compliance from his team members.

Despite Face's discretion, Murdock thought Hannibal knew or, at least, suspected that Face met with Mark. He just pretended it wasn't happening to avoid the inevitable battle if he tried to stop it. Still Murdock doubted Hannibal knew that he and BA were in on the conspiracy and had chosen Face's side.

"What a mess," thought Murdock.

Murdock lifted his head and turned to the left when he heard someone shout out a greeting. Despite the subterfuge and mess, his face broke out in a smile when he saw, Face's brother and his friend, Mark McCormick walking up the parking lot.

"Mark!" yelled Murdock as he bounded forward and wrapped the young man in a tight bear hug. "It's good to see you."

"Geez, Murdock!" Mark all but screamed as the lean lanky body seemed to press on every cracked rib and bruise on his body. He put both his hands on the aviator's shoulders and gently pushed him back as he tried to catch his breath.

"It's good to see you," Mark said as he tried to recover from the pain.

Murdock looked over the young parolee with an experienced eye. He had seen the same things on a more accomplished lair with similar DNA; the barely suppressed panting breath, the forced smile that couldn't meet the pain filled eyes, the slight list of the body, and the false air of confidence.

"You're hurt," Murdock guessed. "What happened?"

"No, I'm fine," McCormick insisted before he flinched under Murdock's disbelieving glare.

"Okay," he admitted. "I did get banged up a little bit working that last case with the judge. But it's not that bad."

"Shouldn't you be back at your place recuperating?"

"No. Tem and I had to cancel our last two get-togethers because we were working on cases. I can't let him know that I got hurt working for the judge. You know how he worries."

Murdock nodded sagely. It was a point of contention between the two brothers. Despite his own circumstances, Face was totally against the arrangement between Mark and Hardcastle. He thought the judge was too inexperienced to be trying to bring criminals to justice and had a bad habit of putting Mark's life at risk.

"Don't you think he'll notice you're hurt?" asked Murdock.

A sly smile broke out on Mark's face. "Not if you help me. Now that you're here, we can convince Tem to play cards for the night and he won't have to know I got hurt."

Murdock shook his head and pursed his lips as he considered the irony. Face had convinced him and BA to do the same thing barely a couple of hours ago. He didn't want Mark to know he had gotten hurt while working a case.

"Come one. Please." Mark said beseechingly.

"He could teach me a few things about puppy dog eyes," thought Murdock as he looked at those large begging eyes.

"Okay," agreed Murdock. "But BA's here, also. I better let him know what's going on."

"Good idea," Mark said as he started to move stiffly forward. He bit back a groan as he felt his muscles protest. "If he hugs me, I'll probably pass out."

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine."

"It's got to be some weird 'I'm fine' gene mutation," thought Murdock as he helped McCormick up the steps.

TAT***H&MC***TAT***H&MC

"Man, it hurts to watch those two," BA griped while he gathered additional snacks from the kitchen.

Murdock nodded his head in agreement. They had been playing cards for about forty-five minutes. While it was obvious to him and BA that the two brothers were hurting, they seemed too caught up in pretending that everything was okay to notice the other one was in pain.

The stiff movements, suppressed groans, and clenched smiles seemed to get worse with every passing minute. He strongly suspected that neither one of them had taken their pain pills and it showed with every movement that they tried to make. Still he and BA had promised to keep their secret despite the ridiculousness of the situation.

"Don't worry," Murdock said, "I got a plan."

He helped BA carry the chips and soda pop back into the room where the two brothers chatted amicably. Though they didn't look alike, there were similarities the two shared; mostly their stubbornness and their unwillingness to admit when they were hurting.

As the snacks were doled out and the cards dealt; Murdock began playing with a small pencil, rolling it across the table from hand to hand. Without warning, he flicked it with his fingers and watched as it rolled madly across the table, between the two brothers, and fell with a light thud to the floor.

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Murdock. "Could you get that for me?"

Both, Mark and Face, stared at Murdock with unguarded expressions of shocked betrayal, then they turned to stare down at the offending pencil which lay so far below them. Simultaneously, they both bent down for the pencil and, simultaneously, a loud groan tore from their lips as aching muscles protested against the unwanted movement.

"You're hurt?" they both asked as they stared into each other's eyes.

Despite the pain both their friends were in, Murdock and BA sniggered as each brother unconsciously mirrored the words, actions, and expressions of the other. The laughter stopped as an argument broke out between the two brothers.

"It was that Hardcase wasn't it?" Face shouted as his temper flared. "He got you hurt!"

"What about you?" McCormick retorted. "Did your colonel put you out as bait again?"

"We don't have a choice about what we have to do! You should!"

"I do!"

"Shut up!" ordered BA as the two brothers further comments died on their lips. "It is what it is. No sense fighting over it. Enjoy what you got."

The flame of anger died quickly in both brothers' eyes.

"It's just that I worry about you," Face admitted.

"I know," Mark agreed. "I worry about you too. You've got every cop in the world looking for you and you're going against some really mean guys."

"Yeah, but I got the team to look after me."

"I got the judge and he does look after me."

Face sighed, he didn't like Mark's situation but he knew Mark trusted Hardcastle. He knew Mark didn't like the team's situation as a wanted fugitive from justice and he thought Hannibal was a little too enthralled with the jazz to realize the risk that he put his team in.

Such a mess.

"It'll be okay," Murdock comforted. "You, both, got a lot more than you did a year ago. Now why don't you two take your pain pills and lay down before you hurt yourselves."

"I can't," said Mark. "I still got to drive back and the pills make me loopy."

"I'll drive you," offered Murdock. "If Face agrees to be good and lie down; I'll drive you back and BA can follow behind and bring me back."

"I'll drive him back," BA stated as he held out his hands for McCormick's keys.

"That'll work," said Murdock slyly as he held out his hand expectedly. "You drive Mark and I'll follow behind in the van and bring you back."

"There ain't no way that I'm letting you get your hands on my van," BA yelled. "You'll try something crazy and wreck my van. You're too dangerous to let loose on the streets. I'll take a cab back here."

"Guys," Mark said, "I didn't drive the Coyote out here. I drove the judge's truck."

"Oh," both BA and Murdock said disappointedly. They looked forward to a chance to drive Mark's red racing car.

"Okay," BA said to Murdock, "You drive Mark back and I'll pick you up and bring you back." "You," he said to Face as he pointed his finger at him, "will take your pills and lie down. We'll be right back and I don't want you doing anything stupid."

"Nice to know how I rate against your van," McCormick mumbled.

"Don't take it personally," Face said as he patted Mark on the shoulder. "We all rate below his van."

"Got that right," BA said lightly. He knew that he'd tear the vehicle apart with his bare hands and sell the pieces to keep his team and his new friend, Mark, from harm.

"At least you're trusted not to do something stupid while you're lying in bed," Face quipped.

"A lot you know," Mark answered. "The judge says I could get in trouble even if I was handcuffed, gagged and tied to a hospital bed with two broken arms and a broken leg."

BA and Murdock nodded. It sounded just like something Hannibal would say to Face.

"See you in a couple of weeks?" asked McCormick.

"Yeah," answered Face. "I'll let you know if I move. Be safe."

"You too."

TAT***H&MC***TAT***H&MC

Hannibal was pleased at the progress that had been made in the fifteen days since Face's injuries. The bruises had faded and the kid no longer seemed to be in any discomfort. It was perfect because he had called a team meeting at Face's new residence to tell them about a new case that had come up, one that promised to be lucrative for the fluctuating finances.

Face had seemed to be particularly chipper as he greeted the colonel and sat him at the large table in the condo's fancy dining room where the BA and Murdock were already seated.

Before the colonel could say another word, Face excused himself saying that he had some snacks to go with the pot of coffee which sat on the table. A moment later, Face returned with a large platter of cupcakes, cookies, and the largest grin the team had seen on him in a long time.

Hannibal whistled appreciatorily at the delicious amount of treats on the table. "Which young lady did you scam for these, kid?"

"No scam. Colonel," Face said. "A pair of sisters. It seemed I inspired great sympathy in them."

"These are great," Murdock said as he inhaled another cupcake while BA silently devoured cookie after cookie.

The teams made a mutual decision to halt all further planning until the last of the snacks were gone.

Murdock knew that Face wasn't worried about the loss of a few of his pastries. Face had proudly shown him a refrigerator and freezer full of cakes and treats along with the letter that had accompanied the package that Mark had brought by the night before. It had read:

Dear Templeton:

Zora and I met you and the members of your team when you were up in Clarence a few years ago. Mark is our adopted nephew therefore you are our adopted nephew also. He told us how you had gotten hurt helping other people. You have to be more careful, young man!

Zora and I hope you are feeling better and have sent you some cakes. Don't let Mark con you out of any of them as we sent him more than enough.

We'll say prayers for you and Mark to keep you save.

Your new aunts,

May and Zora Hardcastle

P.S. If it's not too much trouble could you send us a picture of Mr. Smith? He's a cutie.

Murdock remembered the joy in Face's eyes as he said to his friend, 'I've got aunts'. Yeah, the whole situation was a mess and there was a chance it could all end badly but thinking about the happiness Face and Mark brought to each other's lives; it was more than worth the risk.

He could only hope that the colonel and Hardcastle would think so.

THE END

"