Disclaimer and Notes: Not mine, just playing with someone else's discarded toys. Thanks to Viskey HeroMouse, Billy, shadowwalker213, Reckless, Pam, and everyone on the ATSB list for helping to make this better than when I started. Thanks also to Misha for the final beta.
By Raine Wynd
July 1984 – Tuesday
It was well past eight o'clock when BA pulled the van into the parking lot of the hotel they'd chosen on the sheer basis that it was the first one they'd seen advertised in an hour. The A-Team was on the way back from a job in Tennessee. There'd been talk of driving straight through to LA, but the air conditioning in the van had broken, plus the van had already overheated once, and BA's temper was shorter than usual as a result. What frustrated BA the most was that he suspected it was something to do with the gunfire they'd taken sometime back, which meant a bigger repair. Wisely, Hannibal had declared they'd find a hotel and stay as long as it took to find the parts BA needed to fix the van.
Once parked, Murdock opened the van's side door on the pretext of having to walk Billy, his invisible dog, wandering off as he usually did when given the chance. BA popped the hood of the van. Smoke billowed out. He stood there a moment, looking as if he was going to curse lividly. Instead, he muttered, "Gonna need to put this on a lift," with all the intensity of a curse, then stomped off in the opposite direction, clearly angry.
The remaining two men said nothing for a long moment, both assessing the situation. Finally, Face broke the silence.
"How many rooms?" Face asked the older man who sat in the front passenger seat.
"Two. Amy gets one, the rest of us will share the other."
"You sure you want to do that?" Face asked cautiously, careful not to move. He had a lapful of sleeping female, and he didn't want to wake her any earlier than necessary.
Hannibal studied Face a moment. His gaze dropped to the woman whose head lay cradled in Face's lap, then back to Face. "Something wrong with that arrangement? You've never objected before."
"Can't a guy get his own room for a change?" Face asked. He had plans that would be easier to execute if he wasn't sharing a room with the other guys. "Considering we just made a nice profit from our last client," he added quickly.
"Given that BA's going to need a garage to fix this, this repair is going to cost some money," Hannibal pointed out.
"But Hannibal, you know I can't stand to hear BA snore."
"Wear earplugs," Hannibal said unsympathetically. "We have no idea how long it's going to take to repair the van. We might be here a while."
"Right," Face said, belatedly nodding as he reluctantly accepted he wasn't going to win the argument. "Sorry for forgetting to calculate in that factor, Hannibal."
"I'm glad we got that cleared up," Hannibal said as he stepped out of the van. "And, Lieutenant?"
Hannibal smiled genially, but his eyes were hard. "I've been watching how close you and Amy have gotten. Now, I can't stop you from being attracted to her, but you better damn well make sure that attraction doesn't interfere with the operation of this team. Understood, Lieutenant?" He stared at the younger man and waited expectantly.
"Colonel, I haven't — that's not how it is with me and Amy—" Face started to protest. How does Hannibal manage to see right through me no matter what I do? he wondered for the millionth time. He'd thought he'd been careful not to show just how interested in her he'd become.
"Yet," Hannibal countered. In a slightly gentler tone, he added, "I know you, Face. The moment you set your sights on someone, you're not going to stop until you have them. I've been appreciative of that determination more than once because it's helped the Team. You've always known where your priorities lie, even if you've had to leave the girl behind. Do I need to go any further with this conversation?"
Under other circumstances, Face would be scandalized at the thought he might be abandoning his priorities. He'd put the A-Team first in his life for nearly two decades. Despite his complaining that it held such high priority, he'd never seriously considered putting it aside. Finding someone like Amy, who nearly matched his commitment to the team with a dedication of her own, had gotten him thinking that maybe he could somehow have both the girl and the team.
Some awareness of feelings he normally kept buried had come through in the hours Amy had spent stretched across the bench seat, her head in his lap. He'd convinced himself she was off-limits, and yet his desire for her had only intensified with time and proximity. She wasn't like most of the women he spent his time with; among other things, she was more down to earth, determined, and gutsy. More importantly, she cared about what happened to him and the others of the team. The more time he spent with her, the less interested he was in society women with their racquetball games and endless social obligations.
Still…Face knew if Hannibal was talking about Face's attraction to Amy in that tone of voice, he was treading on dangerous territory. It wouldn't be smart for him to see just how much he could get away with…not now anyway.
Face sat up straighter. "Sorry, Colonel," he said. "We won't have this conversation again."
"Good." Satisfied, Hannibal walked off in the direction BA had gone.
For a moment, Face was tempted to ignore his responsibility to the team, and kiss the woman in his lap anyway. It wasn't as if any of the other guys were watching. It wasn't like they hadn't seen him kiss her, either; she'd played his girlfriend often enough in the last eighteen months. Yet Face knew his leader would be expecting him to do exactly that, which dimmed the pleasure.
With a sigh, Face tapped Amy on her cheek by her ear, waking her up.
Yawning, she sat up, stretched and asked sleepily, "Where are we?"
"An hour or so west of Tulsa," Face told her, enjoying the way she looked rumpled from sleep. As a man who loved women, he appreciated the simple honesty of a woman whose makeup had long worn off.
She ran a hand over her head, expecting to find tangled hair. "So who braided my hair?" she asked, surprised at the neat French braid.
"Murdock reminded me that the last time you'd fallen asleep, you complained about having to untangle your hair," Face said, deliberately making his voice sound more casual than he felt. Even though he hadn't done more than to help hold her so Murdock could reach her hair easily, he'd been nervous that she wouldn't like it. "He thought you might appreciate not having to worry about it."
Amy smiled widely. "I'll have to thank him. I must've slept like a rock to not notice him braiding my hair. So what else did I miss?"
"You missed lunch and the argument where BA threatened to kill everyone. You also missed the discovery that the van has some damage due to the gunshots it took a week or so ago that BA somehow missed fixing, probably because we managed not to use the van all week and he was kept busy with that bus we fixed up for our client. That discovery led to a run to a very seedy 7-11 to buy more coolant. Oh, and you also missed dinner."
She absorbed that and the fact that Hannibal was deep in conversation with a very agitated BA at the other end of the small parking lot, in full view of where she and Face sat. Face waited; aware it usually took her a few minutes to wake up, and therefore took longer to digest any information presented to her at that time.
She stared past Hannibal and BA, her eyes registering the broken neon sign. Surprised, she looked at Face. "We're actually staying in a hotel while the van's getting fixed? I thought we were trying to save money."
Face shrugged easily. "Hannibal's decision," he said in his best 'I just follow orders' tone.
She lit up at that news. "Oh, it's going to be so nice not to have to deal with a camp shower….Remind me to thank him. I take it we're to get rooms for everyone?"
Face smiled. "Whenever you're ready."
In reply, she grabbed her purse, then stepped out of the van. Face followed a moment later, pulling the side door shut behind him.
It didn't take long for them to secure the rooms. They returned outside, keys in hand. Hannibal lounged against the back of the van, smoking a cigar, while Murdock pulled out their luggage. Immediately, Murdock passed out the various duffels that served as their luggage. Murdock took possession of his own bag before locking up the gun case in the back of the van and then stepping out of the van, shutting the van door and locking it.
"So what did you get?" Hannibal asked as he blew out a stream of smoke.
"Third floor, rooms 326 and 348," Face said. "Opposite ends of the hall, looks like. It's a non-smoking hotel, all rooms, all floors. The clerk stressed that enough to let me know she didn't appreciate the way I smelled of cigar smoke, Hannibal." Face smiled to ease the sting of his words. "Never thought we'd run across a completely smoke-free hotel, but—" he shrugged, accepting the unusual situation, "—new town, new rules."
Hannibal eyed his cigar, and then deliberately smoked more of it, causing Face and Amy to grin. "So the cigar stays outside. No problem. What else?"
"The hotel's full," Amy told him. "The clerk seemed worried about whether or not we were going to stay very long."
Hannibal puffed on his cigar, then remarked, "Well. We'll see whether or not we'll oblige by leaving early."
"You asked if it was OK if I brought Billy?" Murdock said plaintively.
"It's fine, Murdock," Face assured him.
"You didn't ask," Murdock said, with certainty. "You never ask. I'll just smuggle him in anyway. They'll never know."
"Where's BA?" Amy asked curiously.
"I suggested he go for a run," Hannibal said easily, but something in the way he said it made Face and Amy aware it had been a form of punishment. "He'll be back in a half hour, but you don't have to worry about him. We'll take 348 and see you at 0630." He took the key Face handed him. "Goodnight, Amy, Lieutenant."
"Night, Hannibal," Amy said as Face echoed the sentiment.
They headed back into the hotel as Hannibal and Murdock lingered in the parking lot to allow Hannibal to finish his cigar.
"Hungry?" Face asked her as he accompanied her to her room.
Amy thought about it. "Now that you have me thinking about it, yes, I am. I saw a Denny's up the street about a block. Want to go there?"
Face smiled. "Not a problem." Deliberately, he dropped his bag off in her room, wanting the excuse to stop by later. Amy noticed, but made no objection.
While they were waiting for her food to arrive, Amy excused herself, saying she needed to let her editor know she wasn't going to be back as soon as she'd thought.
She slipped back into the booth just as the server was delivering her order.
"Either that didn't take long or the cooks are on the ball tonight," Face observed.
"Had to leave a message," Amy explained. "I gave my editor the number for the hotel; hopefully, I'll hear back from him tomorrow." She ate a bit of her scrambled eggs.
Face sipped coffee, more out of needing the prop than really wanting the drink. Even without the added caffeine, he knew he wasn't going to sleep tonight anyway. Knowing she was down the hall, knowing he shouldn't do anything with her, was going to keep him awake. He'd already partially figured out how he could be with her without Hannibal noticing…and he was more bothered by the fact that he didn't feel guilty about his plans.
"Is your editor still after you to do something more than the reporting you're doing now?"
"He did mention to me before I came with you on this trip that there might be a foreign correspondent position opening up he thought I'd be good for." She shrugged. "A year ago, I would have jumped at it."
"And now?" Face asked, interested in her answer.
She looked at him, wry amusement in her eyes. "Now, I've had a year and a half of being chased by the military, of aiding and abetting wanted fugitives in their quest to help people who have nowhere else to turn, of learning things like how to make a cannon that can shoot cabbages —" Face grinned at the memory "—and I can't imagine how my life would be if I wasn't living it like this."
"Well," Face said casually, "it would be a hell of a lot safer. You wouldn't be under as much suspicion by the Army, for one thing."
Amy considered the idea while she worked her way through her eggs and toast. When she was more than halfway through, she said, "My life was pretty damn boring before I sought you guys out."
"Amy," Face said quietly, "didn't we warn you not to fall in love with us? We're not perfect. Aside from the fact we're wanted fugitives, I lie to people, Hannibal bluffs his way through life, Murdock's crazy, and BA's just looking for a peace he's not going to find anytime soon. We're not the kind of guys you'd take home to meet your mother." He pressed a hand to his heart, knowing on some level he was trying to convince himself as much as he was her. "I mean, speaking for myself, I like to think I'm a fairly respectable man, but I know I'm still a lousy choice for someone to fall in love with. It's just bad bet."
She half-laughed. "Too late, Templeton," she said, using his real name to emphasize her point. "I already did. Did I never tell you I was already infatuated with all of you before I even met you?"
"Yes, but — Amy, you have a pretty good life. Boring is good, boring's safe."
"That's my point," she said. "It's safe. I can't go back to living like that. I know what it's like to be on the jazz now. If I take the position, I'll wonder if you're safe, if you have someone like me to help you out, if there's something I might still be able to do for you regardless of where I am."
"Not content to sit on the sidelines?" he teased her.
"Oh, God, no. Can you imagine me there?"
He chuckled. "Not really, no." His humor faded as he realized he was trying to convince her to leave. He didn't really want her to go; if she left, he might not see her again unless he made the effort. It would be harder to connect with her; she wouldn't be checking in like she did now. That meant a kind of commitment Face rarely made on a long-term basis. She'd be worth it, he knew. There was only one hitch to his plan: he had no idea if she wanted him to be a part of her life once she wasn't with the Team. He didn't want to lose her friendship, but he wanted more than that.
"But being here with us means you're taking a lot of risks," Face pointed out, needing to continue the conversation to see where it led. "You've gotten shot at, tied up, and used as bait to try and get at us. Go back to being just Amy Allen, reporter, and you have a shot at something normal."
"And I could be hit by a bus while crossing the street," she countered. "Come on, Face, you know the team needs someone on the outside. Why not me? Besides, I like knowing that I'm helping. Even if some days it just feels like I'm doing nothing else but being Research Girl."
"Oh, but you make for a very beautiful researcher," Face told her, meaning it.
She slanted a look at him. "Flattery will get you everywhere and you know it," she chided him. "It's too late for you to swell my head with compliments on how I look."
Hearing the challenge in her words, Face accepted it. "Ah, but it's the truth. You're a very beautiful woman, Amy, and I'd be blind not to appreciate it." He laid his hand on top of her left hand and met her gaze steadily. "I'm not blind."
She glanced down at his hand covering hers and looked at him warily. "What are you up to now, Face?"
He smiled. "I could say five feet ten." He caressed the back of her hand and then let it go. "But then you'd accuse me of having even more ulterior motives than I currently have."
Amy shook her head. "You're incorrigible."
Face grinned. "Would you have me any other way?"
She considered it briefly. "No, because then you wouldn't be the man I know." She grinned. "And that would be someone I'm not sure I'd like."
She ate a bit more of her late-night breakfast special before pushing her plate aside. "So what happens tomorrow?"
"We help BA find the parts or a garage so we can get back on the road," Face explained. "It's been two weeks; I'm starting to wonder if the military lost us. With any luck, we have a few more days before they find us." He shrugged. "If the van gets fixed tomorrow, Hannibal will probably want to push through the rest of the trip, which means you're next at the wheel."
Amy rolled her eyes. "BA hates the way I drive," she complained as the waitress came to the table.
"Yes, but Hannibal wants him off the wheel. BA needs a break from driving, but won't admit it, as usual."
"Why doesn't Hannibal drive?" Amy wondered.
"Because BA hates the way Hannibal drives worse than he hates the way you drive," Face answered calmly. "Plus, Hannibal will claim since he's our leader, he doesn't have to when we're all perfectly capable of taking turns."
"Any dessert tonight? The cherry pie's pretty good," the waitress interjected.
"No thanks," Face answered her. "Just the check, please."
The waitress pulled out the slip and dropped it on the table, then cleared the table of the dirty dishes. "Enjoy your evening," she said, clearly already dismissing them in her mind as she walked away.
"Does BA like the way any of us drives?" Amy wondered as they got out of the booth.
Face smiled. "No. The van's his baby."
Amy shook her head. "Men and their machines."
"And what are you driving now, hmm?" Face countered. "Who insisted on taking me along to see if I could negotiate a better price for her classic convertible?"
Amy shot him a look as they approached the cashier stand. "Least you could do after you guys reduced my old one to scrap metal."
"Yes, but you weren't willing to settle for anything less than that specific car." Face smiled at the cashier and without missing a beat, greeted and paid the cashier, adding a tip so average as to not be memorable. "Not that I blame you. Low mileage, one owner, drove like a dream, and you looked great in it. If I didn't know you, I wouldn't believe you acted as if you knew nothing about cars."
Amy grinned as they exited the restaurant. "Did you think I was too over the top? I though the look on that dealer's face when I told him — after I paid him — that he'd sold me a special edition for way under book value."
He chuckled. "No, but that part — that part was gloating, my dear. Doesn't really become you."
"Oh, as if you haven't?" she retorted.
"I," he said loftily, "do my gloating in private."
She chuckled. "Yeah, right, and I'm the Easter Bunny," she said sarcastically, then fell silent.
For a few minutes, Face let himself dream. He and Amy were a couple in love on a vacation. The worst fear they had was that someone would steal their car or something from their hotel room, maybe turn them into the next horrible tourist tragedy headline – simple, ordinary people fears, nothing like the government wanted them by any means necessary, or that they'd pissed off enough bad guys over the last seventeen years to fill a scrapbook. After touring the town, they'd go back to their hotel room and have wild, headboard-rattling sex.
I need to get laid, Face thought, painfully aware that it had been a while. Even as he thought that, he knew a huge part of the reason was walking beside him, apparently oblivious to the direction of his thoughts.
He escorted Amy to her room. "I'd tell you good night, but somehow I don't think you're going to be sleeping," he said.
She smiled wryly. "I saw some signs saying this place had a pool; I'm going to check it out. If I don't get some exercise, I'm not going to fall asleep."
For half a heartbeat, Face thought about joining her in the pool. He knew she kept a very revealing bikini in her duffel bag; it did double duty as underwear and as role camouflage. Then he reconsidered; if he followed her to the pool, he really would be tempting himself. He didn't know why tonight of all nights he felt compelled to push the line they'd drawn between friends and lovers, but he knew with a certainty that he would regret it if he did push the issue now.
Instead, he offered, "Do you need a hand with tying your top?"
Amy shook her head. "Thanks, but you should get a shower and some sleep." She smiled. "Besides, Murdock showed me a trick with tying string so that it's easier to tie without having to undo it all the time."
"I wondered what he was trying to teach you when we arrived in Kentucky."
"Knot-tying with some string he found in the back of the van. He said it was leftover from learning all about cowboys." As she spoke, she made her way over to her bag, which she'd dumped on the bed farthest from the door.
"No wonder Hannibal said we needed to see if you could untie yourself blindfolded."
"Oh, great, new things to learn," Amy complained good-naturedly while Face stepped into the bathroom and grabbed a towel for Amy. As he'd expected, the towels were stacked on a rack along the end of the shower stall, forcing him to actually walk into the bathroom rather than simply grab them off the wall.
Too many shared spaces together had left both of them comfortable in seeing each other in various states of undress. Amy had stripped off her jeans, underwear, and socks and traded them for the bikini bottom; she was in the midst of shucking off her bra and T-shirt when he stepped out of the bathroom.
Face took the opportunity, as he always did, to quickly appreciate her beauty. She was built on the slender side, but still curvy where it mattered. Her brown hair had grown well past her shoulders over the last several months. There were new scars on her skin from shrapnel and knives, permanent reminders that she'd been right in the line of fire along with the rest of the A-Team. He wished, as he always did, that she didn't have those scars, but he didn't spend more time dwelling on it. He had enough to distract him at it was.
Still, he was a man, and a man attracted to her. Seeing her breasts bare made him pause, made him grasp the towel a little more firmly than necessary, and swallow hard. Amy looked across the room at him, and she stopped trying to put on the top of her bikini. They stared at each other, both suddenly, painfully aware that they were something more than just friends and something less than lovers.
Desire, kept to a low simmer, flared to boiling. Amy breathed visibly, clearly shaken, and just as clearly aroused.
"Templeton?" she asked, her voice nearly a whisper.
He stood in front of her without knowing how he'd gotten there; the towel was dropped to the floor, forgotten. He touched her face, stroking it. She leaned into the touch, her eyes wide. He drew a breath, suddenly hyperaware of his need to breathe. Slowly, he bent his head down and pressed his lips against hers, gently covering her mouth. When he didn't meet any resistance, Face used his tongue to trace the outline of her lips, deepening the kiss. She parted her lips and kissed him back. This was familiar; he'd kissed her before, but never without the knowledge that they weren't doing it to look good for someone else.
Heat shot through him at her response and he kissed her more hungrily. She pressed up against him, and the feel of her skin against his body sent a shock through him. Instinctively, Face's hands moved to cup her breasts. They were full in his hands and he wanted to lick them, see how she responded to that. She leaned closer, arching into his touch and kissing him with passion of her own, whimpering as if she couldn't get enough.
Her whimper was like a gunshot. It made him remember this was Amy he was kissing and fondling. She wasn't some one-night stand; she trusted him, she deserved better than him, and this wasn't the time or the place to push the limits of their friendship. If he had sex with her now, he wasn't sure he could trust himself not to want to protect her the next time Hannibal ordered her to do something for the team. As much as he wanted her — and he knew in that instant that Hannibal had been right about how he'd set his sights on Amy — Face knew the right thing to do was to stop.
Hating himself for doing it, he made himself let go and take a step back. As he'd expected, she was even more alluring aroused, and he felt like a heel for wanting what he shouldn't have.
They stood there for what felt like an eternity, not saying a word. The skin between Amy's collarbone and breasts was flushed with passion, and they were both breathing hard.
Shakily, Amy pulled on the bikini top. He watched her, hypnotized by her motions. With a start, he forced himself to move, backtrack, and pick up the towel. Not trusting himself to hand the towel to her, he tossed it to her, which she caught easily.
"Enjoy your swim," he told her, forcing himself to resume a normalcy he didn't feel. He reached for his bag and walked to the door. "I'll see you at breakfast."
She nodded, unable to hide her relief at the excuse for distance. "See you in the morning."
Face forced himself to walk out of the room and pulled the door shut behind him. His mind was reeling as he walked down the hallway to the room he was sharing with the rest of the team.
I'm a fool, he thought. Did I really need to know she wants me? I thought I did, but now…all I can see is the potential for disaster. If she gets hurt —
The mere thought of it struck pain through him and he nearly stumbled.
First thing tomorrow, I need to figure out how to give us both some distance. I need time to think about how I'm going to handle this. I have to see about getting the van restocked anyway — might as well get an early start on it.
Decision made, he went to take a shower.
Face kept himself scarce the following day, inventing reasons to linger over his errands. By the end of the day, however, he found himself missing Amy. Giving in to the need he'd been denying all day, he decided to see where she was. She wasn't in her room when he checked it. A quick scan of the scattered clothing on the bed told him she was swimming. Slipping out of her room, he headed down to the otherwise deserted pool, where she was swimming laps.
"Practicing for the Olympics?" he teased her as she reached the end of one lap. He was careful to remain a safe distance away from the edge of the pool, not wanting to accidentally get splashed.
Startled, she stopped, nearly sunk, realized she had to either tread water or grab the edge of the pool, and opted to hold on to the edge.
"You're not dressed to go swimming," she observed, sounding more bewildered than the situation warranted.
"Came to ask you if you'd had dinner," he said casually.
She blinked. "Yeah, a few hours ago. Hannibal was wondering where you'd run off to."
Undeterred, he countered with, "What about dessert?"
She shook her head. "No, thanks." Still, she hesitated, as if she didn't want to push him away.
"Not even for chocolate?" He pounced on her hesitation, aware he was being far less than subtle. At the moment, he didn't feel like he had time to be subtle.
He took a deep breath, mindful of the fact that he had to be more direct with her than he would normally be with anyone else. Not only had she earned the right to his honesty, she wasn't likely to accept any of his usual methods of seduction. "Come on, Amy; don't make me eat all alone. Every time I do, some strange woman tries to pick me up. Now, normally, I'd be flattered at the attention, but the only company I want tonight is yours."
"No plans to find a woman who can't resist your charm?" she teased him, pulling herself out of the pool. Quickly, he grabbed the towel she'd left draped on a nearby chaise lounge.
"No, that's too easy," he told her as she stepped towards him, and took the towel from his hands.
"Too easy?" she asked in surprise, toweling herself off with quick motions. "Face, is there something wrong with you?"
Face looked at her, seeing her beauty as if for the first time. Desire rose in him, made him dizzy with longing. "Yes," he told her, closing the distance between them. "I haven't done something I've wanted to do all day, and it's driving me crazy."
He drew her into his arms, ignoring the fact she was still damp from the pool, and kissed her deeply. Startled by his actions, Amy didn't respond at first, but he ignored her surprise and continued to kiss her. After a moment's hesitation, she started kissing him back, meeting his desire.
He took his time in kissing her, relishing the way she gave herself freely to kissing him back. His pulse pounded as her breath started to hitch. He could go on kissing her forever. He'd always enjoyed their kisses before, but knowing she hadn't been faking her attraction to him, knowing he was crossing a line, knowing he'd have hell to pay when Hannibal found out, all served to incite him more.
This time, Amy was the one who stepped back. "I think —" she said breathlessly, "we should stop."
"Why?" he asked her. "From the way you've been reacting, I'd say you want me just as much I want you."
She held his gaze. Arousal glittered in her eyes and flushed her collarbone. "What about the others?"
"You let me worry about them. It's just you and me, here." He smiled, though he felt a twinge of guilt at the reminder he had other responsibilities.
"Shh," he said, putting a finger to her lips. "You let me worry about that," he repeated, gathering his courage to say what he wanted.
"Amy, I don't know what it is, or why, but something about you…" He shook his head slowly. "The more I'm with you, the more I want you. I tried not giving in last night, and all day long all I've thought about is how much I still want you."
"You're not saying this just because you need me for some scam?" she asked warily.
He shook his head. "Not this time," he said honestly.
Slowly, she smiled. "Then let's go somewhere where we're not going to be interrupted."
"Sounds like a plan to me," he agreed, closing the distance and kissing her again. He didn't want to stop, didn't want to pay attention to things like the fact that they were in a public area, but he made himself do so. Amy was worth waiting for. He took her hand as they headed up to her room, and couldn't stop kissing her every chance he got along the way.
Standing in the hallway outside her room, Face wished he had thought to prepare the room, to make it special for her. He wanted to stand out from anyone else she might have had before, and yet…. If he had, she might not see his desire for her as being anything other than some set up.
Amy fumbled with the key and chuckled nervously. "Damn things," she swore, finally managing to stick the key in the lock properly. She opened the door and stepped inside, moving towards the center of the room.
Following her inside, Face shut the door behind them and threw the lock.
She stood nervously before him. "Why me?" she asked. "You could have anyone."
"Just because I can doesn't mean I want to," he pointed out. "You're different. With you, I can be just me." He stepped closer. "I don't have a lot of good reasons, Amy. I'm not used to explaining myself to anyone, not when it comes to this."
She looked at him. A smile trembled over her lips. "I used to tell myself you meant nothing when you kissed me, that it was all an act, but it wasn't, was it?"
He shook his head. "At first, sure," he admitted, "but not since I really got to know you."
As if that had been the source of her hesitation, she let go of a breath she'd been holding and closed the distance. She kissed him with reckless abandon, giving herself over to a passion she'd clearly been holding back. He let himself be swept up in the storm of desire, relishing the opportunity to kiss her as he hadn't been able to before.
This time, her whimpers only served to incite the fire inside him. He needed to touch her, to taste her. The bikini she wore was little protection from his roving mouth and questing hands. She, too, seemed impatient with the clothing he wore, and equally desirous to know him. It took a bit more effort than Face would have liked to divest himself of clothing, but soon, they were both naked.
Amy pushed the covers back and slipped into the bed. He paused to fish a condom out of his wallet and place it on the nightstand before leaning in to kiss Amy again. She shifted over to make room as he climbed onto the bed. Intent on moving and pushing the covers completely out of the way, it took her a moment before she really looked at him.
Her gaze swept down his body, and then abruptly stalled. Her eyes went wide as she stared at him. Her eyes went wide as she stared at him. He knew he was bigger than the average man, and had wondered what her reaction was going to be. She said the first thing that came to mind. "No wonder you're so successful with women."
He chuckled. "Only you would say something like that to me right now," he observed, amused.
She shot him a quick smile and reached out to caress his cock with both hands. "I'm not complaining," she assured him.
At her touch, he shuddered with pleasure. She leaned up to kiss him deeply as her hands stroked his hard length once, twice, with just enough pressure that told him she'd done this sort of thing before.
He groaned even as he was grateful for her experience. "Amy," he said warningly.
Her smile was wicked, but she reached behind him for the condom. Ripping the package open with trembling hands, she managed to slip it on him.
He kissed her as she eased back onto the bed, maneuvering both of them so that she lay beneath him. He took a breast in his mouth and sent them both soaring, loving the way she arched up against him, as taut as any bowstring. Her hands pressed against his back, convulsing as they tried to hold him closer. Deliberately, he moved to the other breast, relishing her moans and the way her reactions heightened his own arousal.
"Please, Templeton," she pleaded. "I need you."
He lifted his head and met her gaze. He shifted his position and carefully slid into her. She was so wet, he slid into her a little deeper than he'd intended.
She let out a gasp.
Though he wanted nothing more than to bury himself deep inside her, he held onto his control. "You okay, Amy?"
She inhaled sharply, then exhaled. "God. Yes. I'll feel you tomorrow, but," she wiggled slightly beneath him, trying to maneuver so she could take his cock into her a little more easily, "you feel good. God. Don't stop." Unconsciously, she whimpered, clearly wanting more.
He smiled and dropped a kiss on her lips. "I'll go slow," he promised.
Tenderly, he made sure she welcomed him deeper into her body. She rose to meet his thrusts. She was on fire for him, and he for her. He could feel the heat of her body course down the entire length of his. Her legs were wrapped around his lower body, drawing him in deeper still. Her raw sensuousness sent him soaring, nearly draining all of the blood in his head and redirecting it to his cock, to the junction of his body and hers. He wanted to make the moment last, but he knew he wasn't going to be able to this time.
She couldn't control the outcry of delight as he abruptly reached between them and fingered her intimately. Shuddering, she came hard, then he yielded to the searing need for release with a loud groan.
Somehow, he managed not to collapse onto her. He stayed within her a moment, then carefully withdrew. He staggered to the bathroom where he disposed of the condom, then returned to the bed to cuddle her close.
She kissed him on his return, then closed her eyes as if to doze. After a few minutes, she asked quietly, "Do you need to leave?"
He translated her words into the worries they were, keenly aware that their passion had only delayed this conversation. "Not unless you want to kick me out," he told her. "And Hannibal knows I was out running errands. He doesn't need to know how long they actually took."
"And he wouldn't be surprised if you were gone all night because you found someone," she remembered reluctantly as she looked up at him from her position beside him. "I don't want you to go, but I don't want to cause any trouble for you." She looked at the way they were, then laughed softly. "Well, any more than we've already done."
"You won't," he promised recklessly. He kissed her deeply, wanting to chase her concerns away. Tomorrow would take care of itself, and if this was the last time he held her this way, he was going to make sure neither of them forgot it.
"Murdock, have you seen Amy?" Hannibal asked the following morning. "There's a message from her editor at the front desk."
Murdock, who was lying in the middle of a park bench across the street from the hotel, pushed his cap back out of his eyes and sat up. "Sorry, Hannibal, not since yesterday when she was doing laundry."
Hannibal nodded his acceptance of this information. "Have you seen Face since yesterday morning?"
Murdock frowned. "No. But I wouldn't worry about him; it's not a big town." He grinned. "Walked it this morning. Did you know there's a real A&W stand at the far end of town? Man, when I was a kid, I used to love going there. You know, we should go, check it out."
Hannibal smiled. He could see Murdock was just about to get up steam for yet another idea. "Not right now, Murdock, but thanks."
He headed for Amy's room. At the door, he listened carefully for any sound, but heard nothing. He hesitated a moment. There was nothing to indicate that Face was with Amy, nothing other than his suspicion, and for all he knew she could be alone. Either way, he had to know.
Hannibal straightened his posture and knocked on the door. He waited a minute, then knocked again. "Amy? It's Hannibal."
He heard something thump, then a curse, and then Amy called, "Hold on a minute." She appeared less than a minute later, pulling the door open to reveal that she was wearing a pink cotton tank top and gray running shorts. Her long hair was askew and she was running a brush through it.
"Sorry, I was napping," she apologized, setting the brush down on the dresser that lined one wall of the single-bed room. "What's up?"
He stepped into the room and shut the door behind him; the distinct smell of disinfectant spray rose to greet him. Instantly, he was suspicious; housekeeping wasn't due to arrive until after lunchtime, and it was only ten AM. As the bathroom was right inside the doorway, a quick glance into that room told him the shower curtain had been pulled back; no one was hiding there. The closet didn't have a door, either, which meant that unless Face was hiding under the bed (something that would have been impossible to do given the fact that the mattresses were all on wooden platforms), Amy was alone. Still, he couldn't shake the impression that sex had taken place here.
He wasn't entirely sure he approved of that idea, but there was no use going back if it happened. As long Amy and Face could still help the team, what happened was none of his business. Besides, Amy was going to leave them.
"I stopped by the front desk to check and see if they were still in need of our rooms for the weekend, and they gave me the message that your editor called back."
She smiled, but the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. "Oh, thanks, I'll call him back."
He studied her. She was tougher than she looked, he knew, and ten times determined to prove she was a valuable member of his team. He'd gambled that her threat of blackmail was a bluff, and been grateful that he'd been right. Yet he knew she had a life outside of the team, more so than the rest of them in some ways.
"When were you going to mention that you're supposed to be headed for Jakarta?" he asked her.
Startled, she looked at him. From the way she reacted, Hannibal could surmise that question hadn't been the one she'd been expecting. "The message from your editor said he's expecting you back in the office on Monday so you can sign the visa application for Jakarta. What does he want you in Jakarta for?"
For a moment, she hesitated. His gut told him she'd known about this for weeks, if not months, and had been debating the issue for a while. She looked away from him and stared at the heavy drapes covering the window for a few minutes before turning to face him.
Finally, she spoke, crossing her arms as she did so. "Foreign correspondent assignment. He volunteered me to go." She sighed. "It's more pay, better benefits, expense account, a promotion….but I can't imagine not being able to help you."
"Don't throw your life away on our account." He paused, sharpening his gaze as he went with gut instinct. "Or Face's, for that matter."
She stiffened at his words. "It's my life," she said coolly. "You haven't minded me risking it for your benefit."
Realizing he'd taken the wrong tactic, Hannibal switched gears. "You've said a lot about how the stories you write based on what we do is helping your career," he pointed out gently. "I was under the impression that career mattered to you."
"It does, but — Hannibal, this job offer feels like someone is trying to make sure I don't help you. Maybe Decker got someone to lean on my paper to give me this job." Amy gestured helplessly. "He did promise that he'd get me somehow."
"And maybe you've been hanging around us too long and gotten paranoid," Hannibal countered. "So what's wrong with the job?"
"Hannibal, it's Jakarta. What the hell is happening in Jakarta?" Amy asked, annoyed. "Nothing. It's the one foreign correspondent job nobody wants because it's freaking Indonesia, for God's sake. When I said I might be interested in being a foreign correspondent, I thought — as did everyone else — that it was for Paris."
"So they changed locations on you." Hannibal shrugged. "You work that for a while, get the experience you need, and then you're better off when you do put your name in for Paris. What happens if you don't take the job?"
She favored him with a cynical smile. "Probably a demotion to writing obituaries again. Maybe nothing. My editor's been pretty flexible, considering I was supposed to decide six weeks ago."
That gave Hannibal pause. "Six weeks ago you were offered a promotion, and yet you still came when I called you."
She shrugged. "You needed the help." She chuckled derisively. "What was I going to tell you? 'Sorry, Hannibal, I just got promoted, good luck with being the white knight for your new client?'" She gestured expansively. "I don't turn my back on my friends when they need help."
He considered her words. "What if I told you it would help us to know you were safe?"
Chuckling, she shook her head. "If you expect me to say that I'm staying because of a certain lieutenant, then you'd be wrong. He's a reason, sure, maybe a little more of a reason than the rest of you, but not the reason. Whether I'm here or not, you'd wonder — if not worry — if I was safe, and you know it."
Mentally, Hannibal sighed. He'd forgotten just how hard Amy could dig her heels in once her mind was made up; it had been a while since she'd argued with him. "Take the job, Amy. Life on the run doesn't pay nearly as well, the health benefits suck, and there are no white picket fences to look forward to."
"I gave up on that dream long before I met all of you," Amy countered impatiently. "Look, Hannibal, if what you're really asking is how I feel about Face, the truth is — it's been building for a while. I can't define it, I can't explain it, and I'm certainly not going to call it a reason to stay." She shook her head at the thought. "My job — I used to think it mattered. Now I'm not sure. Not if it means any help I'll give you is long-distance and possibly subject to being traced."
At her words, Hannibal's own misgivings subsided slightly. If he called her in Jakarta to fish out information, she'd answer the call in a heartbeat. She was as committed to the team as the rest of them, which made this conversation even more difficult. He knew he had one chance to convince her to go.
"I admire and respect you and am grateful for everything you've done, but…speaking as your friend, I think you'd be an idiot to pass that kind of opportunity by. The Army already suspects you're helping us; if you get reassigned, they're likely to back off. We're lucky they haven't decided to press charges against you for aiding and abetting federal fugitives. Keep hanging out with us, and it's a sure bet they will. You're no good to us behind bars."
He could see his words were getting through to her in the way she sighed, nodding reluctant acceptance.
Hannibal took a deep breath, stepped forward to close the distance between them, and reached out to place a comforting hand on her back. "Take the job, try it out for six months. If you hate it, come home, call me, tell me how much it sucked, and we'll see about getting you back on the jazz again."
She lifted her shoulders up slightly, then released the tension with a short exhale. She looked at him and asked, "You'd do that?"
"You've earned it, Amy." He smiled reassuringly, though inside he was gloating at the victory. "Now, if you need to be back in LA by Monday, I'll see what I can do to get you there. Just let me know."
She didn't say anything for a long moment. He waited, allowing her the time to make a decision, even as he was aware that his presence was forcing her hand. "I need a plane ticket."
He clapped her shoulder. "You know we can do better than that. Just tell me where Face went."
She met his gaze steadily, clearly not surprised that he assumed she would know where Face was. "He went to the garage to check on the progress of the van. Do you want me to go with you?"
"No, I need you to go get Murdock. Tell him we're going to do a bit of flying — I'm sure he's already scoped out where the nearest airport is — and the two of you will need to meet me at the garage."
Friday morning, Amy awoke groggy and disoriented. She opened her eyes and winced as the sunlight shining through the window blinds hit her, and she realized she was in her apartment in LA.
A glance at her bedside clock told her it was ten-thirty. She also realized that the only thing she had on was the dress shirt she'd borrowed from Face months ago and a pair of underwear. She distinctly remembered going to the restaurant with the team; after that, she couldn't remember. She groaned as memory slowly came back to assault her. After the team had toasted her promotion, she'd gone with them to the small regional airport where Face had managed to secure a plane. It was a small corporate jet that was in the midst of being renovated in the interior, and therefore was just big enough for Murdock, Face, and herself. BA had been relieved to find out he wasn't going, as someone had to stay behind with the van, but he'd wished her well. Hannibal had elected to stay behind as well for the long drive back.
The resulting flight was anything but smooth. They'd hit a wall of storms along the way, and lightning crackled along the wings at times. After about an hour of flying, Amy had reluctantly agreed to the suggestion she sleep through the rest of it, since there was nothing else she could do. After a moment's further hesitation, she'd accepted the medical intervention to get her to sleep. Even though Face had halved the dose he normally gave BA, the sedative had still put her out faster and deeper than she'd expected.
Head pounding, she stumbled to the bathroom, where a glass of water sat ready, along with a sealed bottle of Tylenol and a note. She downed two of the pain reliever pills and the water, used the toilet, washed her hands, then read the note.
In Face's distinctive scrawl, it read: "Sorry, I stayed as long I could, but there are MP's watching your place."
The news didn't surprise her, and yet a part of her wished he'd been more willing to risk it. Hadn't their night together meant anything?
Even as she thought that, she sighed and rested her head against the cool tile of her bathroom wall for a moment. She knew if she'd been awake, she would have been shoving Face out the door, lest he be caught. Later, when her head stopped pounding, she was going to call him. She missed Face already.
The phone rang just then. Briefly, Amy considered not answering it, then sighed and went to the nightstand to pick up the receiver.
"How are you feeling?" Hannibal asked her solicitously.
"Remind me never to drink and then fly on Howling Mad Airlines through a massive set of thunderstorms."
He chuckled. From the background noise, which sounded like he was calling from a truck stop, Amy surmised that Hannibal was calling her from a pay phone. "I heard. Listen, would you do me a favor? Go to Jakarta. Have a great time. Go be famous."
"And you're telling me this because…?" Amy asked, suddenly suspicious.
"Because I want to be sure you understand," Hannibal stressed, "that we know you were just following us for the story you could write. Any help you provided was merely in the context of making sure you had a viable story."
Realizing that Hannibal thought her phone was bugged, which, Amy realized, it probably was, she picked her words carefully. "Well. It was a pleasure interviewing you. When I'm famous, I will have you to thank."
Hannibal chuckled dryly. "Good luck, Ms. Allen. I'm glad to know you arrived safely."
Deliberately, Amy put disapproval into her tone as she answered, "Well, you made sure of it. What kind of people are you anyway?"
"Tsk, tsk. All this time, and you still don't know," Hannibal said. "We're the A-Team. We'll do whatever it takes."
She bit back the laugh that bubbled up in her throat and said soberly, "Goodbye, Colonel." She heard a distinctive click in her line. Taking a wild guess it was whoever had been listening in disconnecting, she risked dropping the facade. "Will I still be helping you?"
"We'll see," Hannibal said simply. "I'm not going to make any promises I can't keep. Now take some more Tylenol, get showered and changed, and go see your editor. Face already made your apologies; turns out, your editor was expecting you at eight this morning instead of Monday. Face got him to expect you in an hour. Don't disappoint us." He hung up.
Automatically, Amy replaced the receiver on the cradle and did as Hannibal had told her. She was halfway to the LA Courier's offices before it dawned on her that not only had she followed Hannibal's orders without hesitation, she'd lost the chance to talk to Face about the change in their relationship.
One night with Templeton Peck wasn't going to be enough to last her a lifetime, and yet… She sighed again, and told herself that was more than she'd ever expected to have.
On Christmas Eve, after visiting Murdock at the VA, Face took a chance and dialed Amy's phone number. Getting arrested and fingerprinted one week after his latest flame had decided she wasn't in need of rescuing had left him out of sorts, wondering if anything in his life was going to go right for a change. BA was spending the holiday with family. Face was supposed to meet up with Hannibal in three hours for their semi-traditional Christmas Eve dinner, but that meant he had time to kill.
Face pulled into the parking lot of Amy's apartment complex and sat for a while, contemplating his next move. He knew from previous conversations with Amy that her current schedule had her in Jakarta for most of the month. He also knew that Tawnia, who'd be the only person who might be in the know, was still in South America with her husband, and hers was a phone number Face didn't have. Contacting the paper was also an option, but this late on Christmas Eve, he was reluctant to use a 'family emergency' as an excuse for his need to know. His desire to see Amy wasn't that urgent, and if he did reach her that way, she was likely to think the team was in trouble.
He knew, too, he could easily head up to Amy's apartment and be inside in less time than it took to park his car. He didn't for the simple reason he didn't want to take the chance that she might be spending the holiday elsewhere, and waiting for her struck him as being just this side of desperate.
Plus, for all he knew, she might have friends over, friends who might not appreciate being interrupted — say, a lover. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to expend the energy in being just the old friend who'd wandered by since he was in town. A need had built up again in him: a need to see her, to hold her, to love her. She was the only woman who made him feel as if everything he was — conman, liar, thief, lover, soldier, fugitive — was someone she accepted without reservations. His mind flashed back to the last night they'd shared together and the way she'd given herself so freely.
He had never made promises to her about their relationship. In the six months since she'd left the team, the handful of phone calls they'd exchanged had been about everything else but whether or not they'd be lovers again sometime. He took comfort in the knowledge she had yet to refuse his calls. From her attitude and the words she'd said, Face could only assume she was either not holding her breath or was content to pick their relationship back up where it had been before the night in the hotel.
Face picked up his mobile phone and dialed.
After six rings, the phone kicked over to the answering machine. "Hi, you've reached me," Amy said. "Only you know if this is the right number. If it is, leave me a message. I may actually get back to you sometime before the tape runs out."
Face hesitated. He'd wanted to see her. He had no idea whether or not her home phone line was still tapped; after the initial contact, she always called him back from a pay phone. More to the point, what he wanted to say wasn't something he was sure he wanted to leave on an answering machine. He was pretty sure leaving a message that said he missed her, wanted to see her, and the distance between them really was making his heart grow fonder wouldn't go over well. It wasn't his style.
Finally, he said, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Amy. I…I just wanted to tell you that. Stay safe."
With a sigh, he hung up the phone and drove away.
Amy got the message five days later, far too late to do anything about it. Hearing it made her realize she wasn't over Face yet. For a moment, she was tempted to find Hannibal and see if he knew where to find Face. Then she remembered where she was: in an airport, headed back to Jakarta after a brief holiday visit with her mother, clearing messages on her answering machine because she'd been in too much of a hurry to make it to the airport to do it before she left home. Her flight had been delayed, and she now had time to kill.
On impulse, she dialed Face's mobile phone.
"I'm sorry," the female recording said, "that mobile subscriber is currently out of range. Please try your call again."
Reluctantly, Amy hung up the phone, silently promising herself that when she got a chance, she was going to try again. Somehow, that opportunity didn't present itself, and the promise was soon forgotten.
With a tired sigh, Amy opened the door to her apartment and staggered into her living room, hauling her luggage. The flight from Hong Kong had been an exercise in patience: four airplane changes, one delayed flight, and she'd nearly missed her connecting flights twice. Still, she reminded herself, the story had been worth it: an insider's look at how the former British colony was preparing for the future when it reverted to Chinese control.
Dumping her luggage in the living room, she moved confidently through the semi-darkness to grab a glass of water from the kitchen. Downing half of it in one gulp, she sipped the rest more slowly as she proceeded to haul her suitcases down the short hallway towards her bedroom. She was exhausted; in the last five years, she couldn't remember being home for more than a week out of every month.
Finishing the glass, she backtracked to put it in the kitchen sink, then stepped into her bedroom.
She flipped on the lights, aware that she had a bad habit of leaving high heels and clothing scattered on the floor caused by the fact she could never decide what to pack, and froze.
Not only had her shoes been neatly stacked in one area and her clothes draped over a chair, there was a man sleeping on her bed. More precisely, it was a half-naked man, who had a rather large, new-looking scar on the left side of his back, just under his shoulder blade.
Her heart stopped as the reason for such a scar formed in her brain. For a moment, she was tempted to let him sleep. She'd forgotten how watching him sleep made her feel, how she'd never publicly admitted to feeling tangled about her fascination with him. For a moment, anger surged through her — anger that he hadn't told her that he was still alive, instead of dead like she'd been led to be believe.Then practicality won out; she needed to know why he was here.
She stepped over and tapped him on his cheek. "Face, wake up."
He awoke instantly. Rolling over, he sat up, glancing at the bedside clock as he did so. "Flight delays?" he asked, as if no time at all had passed.
Cautiously, Amy answered, "Yes. What the hell are you doing here? I heard you'd gotten caught by the military. The wire said you'd all been shot dead!"
"Tsk, tsk. Never believe everything you read, you know that. Besides, not even a five-star general can keep us for long," Face demurred. "We always find a way out. Why don't you sit down? Your feet must be killing you. Let me give you a rubdown."
They were, and for a moment, Amy hesitated. There were no good reasons for Face to be here, and a thousand reasons for her to not let him stay. Abruptly, she was aware he was wearing nothing but a pair of faded jeans that hugged his ass and the muscular length of his legs, and that he had a very nicely defined chest. The air seemed impossibly electrified as Face waited for her to respond. Nothing in his expression betrayed that he was looking at her as anything other than an old friend, and yet…her gut instinct told her he was hiding something.
"So is this your long-overdue apology for being out of touch, or did something else happen, Face?" she asked.
He looked at her and rose off the bed. Stepping forward, he held her close for several minutes before tilting her head upward. He leaned in for a kiss, then whispered, "Something else," before kissing her.
She'd tried her level best to forget the night in the hotel. It had been an interlude, nothing more.
Now, however, she was presented with the full force of his attraction for her. It was as if he suddenly realized he'd been given a second chance. For a long, pleasurable moment, Amy lost herself in kissing Face, lost herself in the familiarity of his mouth, his tongue, his body pressed against hers. He'd always aroused her, and she'd had to teach herself that he meant nothing in his passion: he was simply skilled at it, and they weren't lovers, but something deeper than friends. Hard-won lessons had her stepping back when they came up for air, and she stared at him, dazed.
"Templeton?" she asked shakily. She was too tired to lie; too exhausted to pretend she didn't want him and had never wanted him. Memories of how they'd last lain together heated her blood even more.
He looked at her. With a start, Amy realized he was trembling, as if his own control was on a fine string. "Don't ask me why I'm here," he said. "It's a long, ridiculous, and completely irrelevant story in which I got shot and someone — no one you know — went to jail. I…I just need you. Please, just let me love you tonight."
A thousand hesitations tumbled through her brain. For a long, wordless moment, Amy debated the wisdom of voicing any one of them. The memory of a night in Oklahoma flashed through her brain: the laps she'd punished herself with in an over-chlorinated pool for wanting a man she couldn't have, the next day when he'd finally shown her what loving him could be. Here he was, offering himself, and she was hesitating because, even after all these years, she wouldn't do anything to destroy the team.
"Does Hannibal know where you are?" she asked.
Face chuckled humorlessly. "He dropped me off. We talked it over…me with you is not a problem. Not tonight anyway. I missed you, Amy. Did you miss me?"
She smiled, then stepped closer. Tomorrow was soon enough for regrets. She kissed Face slowly, telling him in actions the words she'd wanted to say for years.
As if that had been all the permission he'd needed, he kissed her more passionately, deepening the kiss. His hands rose to unbutton the blouse she'd worn, pushing the fabric aside and undoing her bra, all without losing contact with her lips, with the ease of a man who'd had lots of practice at such a trick. She helped him along, breaking the kiss long enough to remove her bra the rest of the way.
Face looked at her as if he'd never seen her before, and she knew he hadn't, not in this way. "You're so beautiful, Amy," he said quietly.
She laughed softly. "You've seen me naked before; why compliment me now?"
He smiled. "Because I should have, back then. You've only grown more beautiful, Amy." Then he bent his head down and kissed and licked the curve of her neck, across her collarbone, then down between the valley of her breasts before he brushed his tongue across her right nipple, then started suckling on it. She shuddered at the touch and reached for him. He caught her hands in his and brought them to focus on the zipper of the skirt she'd worn.
Understanding his unspoken command, she unzipped her skirt and let it fall, leaving her clad in pantyhose. He skimmed a hand over her mound, causing her to catch her breath, then his hand slid across her belly, then moved it upward to focus on her left nipple, rolling it between his fingers until it was as taut as its counterpart. He then moved his mouth to her left breast.
Amy had never considered her breasts to be erogenous zones before, but Face was making her reconsider that idea. When he was finished with the nipples, he licked underneath each breast, tasting her there. No one had ever done that to her, and she trembled with new-found knowledge that such a caress ranked as one of the most erotic things she'd ever experienced.
Carefully, Face backed her onto the bed, then pushed her onto it. He took a moment to strip her of her pantyhose, leaving her naked. He then proceeded to taste and lick his way back up her legs, exploring her ankles, her calves, the backs of her knees, the breadth of her thighs, until he was in between her legs.
Gently, he pushed her legs apart, then licked her inner folds, causing her to moan. Every cell in her body was on fire; he'd made sure of it, and this intimate touch was almost more than she could stand. He licked her again, paused to allow her to thrust instinctively upward, then braced an arm across her hips and began to lick and taste her with more intent. Her breath caught in her throat; she'd forgotten how good he was at this, forgotten just how much he seemed to enjoy it. Now, he was showing her again.
She gasped his name as she let her head fall back against the pillow, arching up into his mouth, against his tongue. Time and again, he sent her soaring, leaving her to shudder through orgasms until she was cross-eyed with pleasure. Dazed, she lay on the bed. Face kissed her, letting her taste herself on him, letting her know just how wet she'd gotten, then said, "Be right back."
She closed her eyes. She didn't care where he went as long it wasn't far. She heard him rustling in his jeans, then the distinctive sound of a condom being unwrapped. He came back to her, and slid over her body and into her. He didn't slide all the way into her, mindful of his size and girth. She breathed unsteadily, startled, and opened her eyes. He was braced above her, his hands on either side of her head, and his face was flushed with desire. His eyes glittered with need.
"Oh, God," she said shakily as passion pounded the blood through her heart, chest, and head, making her giddy. "I'd forgotten."
"Miss me?" he asked her with a wicked smile.
She half-laughed. "Yes, damn it." She breathed in deep, then pulled him into her using her internal muscles.
His eyes widened. "Amy," he said, startled. "God."
Now it was her turn to smile wickedly. His hard length electrified her, and she suddenly wanted him as she'd never wanted anyone. She set the pace, thrusting up against him, and abandoned herself to the whirl of sensation. She was on fire for him, and he for her. She could feel the heat of his body course down the entire length of hers.
Abruptly, he rolled her over so that she was on top, somehow managing not to break the connection between them. Startled, she gasped as he grasped her hips, bringing her down on him. She could feel him so deep inside. For a heartbeat, she sat, panting, her chest heaving, unable to do anything more than to feel. He let her adjust to this new position, then thrust up into her. She took the hint, and soon they found the tempo that sent them into higher levels of ecstasy. In their passion, Amy found the confirmation she'd been looking for — confirmation that he'd missed her, that he wanted her, that what happened so long ago didn't just belong to the past. It seemed incredible to think that he was here, now, loving her like this, but if this was a dream, she didn't think she could fantasize passion like this. She couldn't get enough of the way he felt against her, inside her, the way he entrapped them in the heart of desire until all she knew was the need for release. She shuddered to climax, calling his name.
His own passion spent, he somehow managed not to collapse onto her. He stayed within her a moment, then carefully withdrew. He staggered to the bathroom where he disposed of the condom, then returned to the bed to cuddle her close.
Exhausted, Amy soon fell asleep.
Morning dawned, and Amy woke abruptly to find Face watching her. She'd curled up against him in sleep, and she rolled over so she wasn't looking at him over her shoulder. He kissed her gently, as if he couldn't quite believe his luck, and said, "Morning. Sleep well?"
"Yes, very." She could feel the twinge between her legs that said she'd had sex, but it was a welcome ache. "You?"
"Never better. Do you have to go work?"
Just then, the alarm buzzed. Amy reached over Face's shoulder to turn it off; he obliged by sinking lower into the bed so she wasn't hitting his shoulder. "Much as I don't want to, yes."
"Call in sick. Spend the day with me. Please."
Amy didn't think twice. Something told her that when it was all over, Face was going to walk out of her life again, and she wanted to treasure every moment. "For you, anything," she promised recklessly.
She called in sick, blaming her flight in, and proceeded to spend the day with Face. He helped her take a shower, then proceeded to seduce her in the shower. He stopped only because he didn't have a condom, but she assured him it was okay, she was on the Pill, and he proceeded to prove to her that having a shower equipped with grab bars was a good thing. The hot water was nearly gone by the time they finally emerged.
He treated her to brunch at a finer-class restaurant than she would have normally gone. She was not surprised when he was greeted by name or when he chatted companionably with the hostess as they were escorted to a reserved table near the windows. What did surprise her was that a deep red rose lay across her place setting, its color a vivid contrast to the crisp white linen tablecloth.
Assisted by the hostess, Amy sat down. Her napkin was placed in her lap, then the hostess left. Picking up the rose, she inhaled its scent, then set it aside. Amy then eyed Face. "Just how long have you been planning this?" she asked him.
"Does it matter?" he asked her with a smile. "You're worth it."
"Only in that it makes me wonder even more why I haven't heard from you in five years."
He studied her a moment. "Out of the last five years, how many weeks have you spent in LA?"
She started to calculate, then stopped as a thought struck her. "You don't really care about the amount, do you? What you're really trying to say is that you've been busy with the team, and anytime you did call me, you got my answering machine."
Face nodded. "I wasn't sure if the military stopped considering you to be a possible tie to us until a month ago, so I stopped leaving messages."
"They've had me under suspicion all this time?"
He shrugged. "You kept showing up wherever we were, as far as they were concerned. Too many suspicious coincidences."
Amy sighed, not entirely surprised by his assessment. "That might explain why my bags keep getting searched every time I enter the country. As if I could hide any of you in my suitcase?"
He chuckled. "So how's the job going? I try to keep up with your stories, but I'll admit it's been a bit hit or miss — we were in Virginia for a while. I really liked your series on being an American expatriate in Paris."
"That was fun," she agreed. She was not surprised to find that Face had tried to keep up with her work. "I'm going to ask my editor if he'll let me do a piece on healthcare in America; I'm a little tired of living out of a suitcase. After seeing what it's like to go to a doctor in Hong Kong, I'm really interested in seeing what the truth is here."
"You had to see a doctor in Hong Kong?"
Amy waved off his concern. "No, but my translator did. He brought me along."
Soon, the conversation wandered to other topics. Face caught her up on the team, who were apparently off doing other things without him, and some of the clients they'd had. After some coaching, Face admitted that the team was trading some missions for something they wanted, but refused to admit to her what, precisely, they were doing or for what. She tried to get him to say, but he demurred and changed the subject. Some of her anger over the team's deception of their deaths faded as she realized the weight of the decision wasn't lightly carried. Whatever they were trading for, whatever they were currently doing, had to be something enormous if Face refused to even discuss it.
They had an enjoyable debate over current politics and world events. She'd
forgotten how he could talk about nearly anything with ease, how comfortable
she was with his company, and how much she'd missed him.
For a few hours, Amy felt like she was the center of his universe, and nearly forgot that she was with a man who was on the run. Face treated the day as if it was one long date: brunch was followed by a walk around the zoo, followed by a light dinner at a hole-in-the-wall Caribbean restaurant Amy had heard of but had yet to patronize. He was courteous, flirtatious, charming, and appeared to be completely focused on her. If he had any other worries, he glossed over them, until she understood that, in his own way, he was taking a vacation day from his life.
He drove them to her apartment, flirting with and touching her the entire time it wasn't necessary to shift gears in her convertible. By the time they reached the door of her home, she was convinced she'd never wanted anyone half as much as she wanted Face.
They stumbled through the door, impatient with need. As soon as the door was closed, Face threw the deadbolt and turned to her. For a moment, neither said a thing.
With courage she didn't feel, Amy lifted her head and smiled. "Care to take a dare?" she asked.
"Oh, what's that?" Face asked as he walked towards where
she stood nervously, having dropped her purse on the coffee table. He had a
nearly feral look to him, as if his desire for her had stripped him bare of
all the masks he wore. For a breathless moment, Amy was tempted to run, feeling
a bit like a deer trapped in a forest. She held her ground, if only to prove
to herself she could. No one had ever looked at her like that, and the idea
alone heated her blood, making it harder to think clearly.
"I dare you to race me to the bedroom." Not waiting for his reply, and giving in her need to flee, she ran towards the back of the apartment.
He caught her just as she reached the bed, kissing her as he did so. Laughing, she returned his kiss, then lost her laughter as he proceeded to show her in action what he didn't dare put into words.
That night, Face made love to her for the last time. Amy's heart shattered with every touch, and she was crying as he kissed her tears away and wrote his name on her soul. In the morning, he was gone. Lingering humidity in the bathroom left a clue that he'd showered before leaving. He left no note this time, nothing to explain his behavior, and in a way, Amy wasn't entirely surprised.
With a resigned sigh, Amy decided to file the whole thing as one random evening. Telling herself that for twenty-four hours, she was exactly who Face needed, helped ease the heartache. It didn't stop her from wondering just where he'd gone.
"Amy?" Tawnia asked, walking up to the other woman who stared out the window at the still-green front yard. Amy sat on the window seat, her head cradled in her arms, which were resting on her raised knees.
"Something wrong? You've been quiet since you got here, and don't give me that bull about being tired from your flight. You woke up from a four-hour nap two hours ago."
Amy turned to face her longtime friend, sat up and gave her a half-smile. "Aside from the fact it feels weird being someplace warm for the holidays, and this is the first time in two years we've managed to get together? By the way, I love your house."
Tawnia smiled. "Aside from that, Miss-I-Fly-So-Damned-Much-I'm-Starting-To-Know-the-Flight-Crews."
Amy shrugged. "Just wondering if the guys in the team are celebrating Christmas."
Tawnia studied her a moment before she sat down next to her. "You know, there's something I've been wondering a while. When I hear you talk about them, especially Face — you get really, really freaking happy. When I met the guys, Hannibal told me that the team had a hard and fast rule about fraternization on the team. You never mentioned a rule like that to me, and the way you light up when Face is mentioned…well. Makes me think you might be responsible for that rule."
Amy's expression shifted. Whatever emotion Amy was really feeling had been slammed shut behind a veneer of mild interest. If Tawnia hadn't been friends with Amy for the last nine years, she'd have nearly believed it. In that moment, Tawnia truly believed that her friend had spent eighteen months learning how to bluff from Face and the others. Somehow, it had never been so clear before.
"Why, did you have the hots for someone?" Amy asked with almost sincere curiosity.
"Yes, but — you'd have to be dead not to want Face. They sent him to seduce me, did you know that?"
Amy's expression didn't change. She still sat, poised in an apparently contemplative pose. "I heard," she said briefly. "Hell of a kisser, isn't he?"
Tawnia stared at her. "I didn't let him — wait, you knew?" she said, incredulous. "You knew how he kissed and you didn't at least tell me about it?"
A smile graced Amy's lips and was gone instantly. "What did you expect me to say, Tawnia? 'By the way, Face is a great kisser, but unless you're me, he means little by it?' You'd have asked me what I meant and pressed for details I wasn't willing to give then. At the time, I pretty much figured being with Face was just a one-night stand; I didn't dare put a whole lot of significance behind it."
Tawnia stared at her, shocked. "You actually slept with him before this year? I thought — you made it sound — well, it sounded like when I talked you in February, that it was the first time ever."
Amy gave her an odd look. "It wasn't. Would it have made a difference to know that?"
"Well, yeah," Tawnia shot back. "No wonder they all kept asking me what, exactly, you'd told me about them. Hannibal, especially, didn't believe me. I always wondered if he knew something about you that I didn't. How could you have kept that detail from me? I thought we were friends."
Amy met her gaze coolly. "I thought I gave you enough information that you'd be able to help them. The rest was between Face and me. I thought I could trust you not to lead them straight to Decker, but you did anyway, didn't you?"
Tawnia flushed. "I thought I had a good plan."
"You were supposed to help them, damn it!" Amy's poise broke, and she gestured angrily. "Not the goddamned military police! I know you double-crossed Decker, but did you think how it was going to look to the team when you presented yourself as my friend, then led Decker right to them?" Amy glared at her reproachfully.
"No," Tawnia admitted. "Damn it, Amy, all you said was that Face was a conman, Murdock was a crazy pilot, BA was a gruff mechanic, and Hannibal was a master of disguise and the leader. You told you me to be on guard for Face, but good God, Amy, you said nothing about how Face could kiss, let alone that you'd kissed him!"
"And if I had, would you have been tempted to find out anyway?" Amy asked dryly.
Tawnia had the grace to blush. "Maybe," she hedged.
Amy rolled her eyes. "I thought you'd get the idea when I told you sometimes they pretended I was Face's girlfriend."
"Pretending is one thing — pretending means you don't actually kiss." Tawnia's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, God, I can just hear Face telling you now that you had to kiss him if it was to be believable. Did you kiss anyone else on the team?"
Amy's eyes gleamed. "Murdock's a great kisser. And Hannibal — older men, you know, have so much experience. BA made me laugh too much; we never could pull off a scam like that."
For a moment, Tawnia nearly believed her. "You didn't," she decided finally. "You didn't, because once they knew Face wanted you, they would have left you alone."
"Not even on a bet?" Amy baited her.
Tawnia found herself eying her old friend suspiciously. "No. Come on, Amy, you're totally pulling my leg."
Amy merely raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, you are!" Tawnia insisted. "Come on, give."
Amy held her ground for a moment, then started chuckling. "I had you," she said gleefully.
Tawnia shook her head. "You have spent entirely too much time with those guys. Next thing I know you'll be telling me you've given up chasing news stories to go back to helping them."
"And is that such a bad thing?" Amy countered. "Didn't you enjoy helping them?"
"Yes, but it's something in my past. I've moved on with Brian. But you, Amy, from everything you told me, everything I heard from them while I was with them, everything I figured out — you loved it. You were on the jazz just as much as Hannibal was."
Tawnia paused as a thought occurred to her. "How the hell did you find out what happened when I met the team the first time?" she asked. "I thought you stopped communicating with them after you went to Jakarta." She eyed Amy cautiously. "They all said they hadn't heard from you."
"And you believed them?" Amy snorted. "Guess that proves I thought you had better deductive skills than that. Hannibal got a hold of me. He wanted me to know; wanted to confirm you were actually my friend, to be honest. I was pretty shocked. He said something about how you never knew how a person was going to be until you put them under fire."
The steady weight of Amy's eyes up on her made Tawnia uncomfortable. Her next words only made that feeling worse.
"That's part of the reason they kept treating you like a kid sister, tagging along for the ride. The other part is that you just never struck them as being as committed to helping them as I'd been. I'm sorry that you felt like you didn't have the whole story, but I figured they'd run you through a gauntlet anyway, regardless of what I said or didn't say. Are you angry about that?"
Tawnia held her gaze, annoyed at the transparency of her feelings. "Maybe," she allowed. "Maybe I just got tired of hearing how good you were at something, and I was still stuck on how the hell I could justify my abandoning my job for however long a job took. Maybe I just got tired of Face asking me if I'd heard from you." She paused as she became aware she was being unreasonably catty towards someone who'd been her friend for years. "I'm sorry, Amy. I just… I wouldn't trade my experience with the team for the world — I met Brian because of it — but, God, Amy, you'd do it all over again, wouldn't you? You'd sit there in that damned van and scheme and plan right along with them."
Amy met Tawnia's accusing look with a calm expression. "How is that so bad?" she asked.
"I just…" Tawnia wrung her hands together, at a loss for words. Finally, she asked, "How can you stand knowing that Face is out there seducing some other girl in the name of some mission the team has? Even if that's the line he uses, and all it is, is a line?"
Amy chuckled richly. "He's not a man you can tie down by being jealous, so it's a waste of time. Hell, he's not a man you can tie down, period. If you're very lucky, you might just be who he needs for a while."
"And that's enough for you?"
"I'm not you, Tawnia," Amy said sharply, glaring at her. "Stop trying to put my life through your own lens, and for God's sake, don't sit here and try to tell me Face isn't good enough for me. I've met so-called professional men who had far worse manners and rougher intentions."
"That's not what I—" Tawnia began, but stopped at Amy's look of disbelief. "All right, but — do you love him?"
"Yes," Amy admitted candidly.
"And does he know this?"
Amy shot her an amused look, appearing to be far more comfortable with the situation than Tawnia could ever hope to be if their positions were different. "No, but I don't see a reason to. Loving him isn't going to change the fact that his first priority is to the team. I know that, he knows I know that, and if we get together occasionally, fine. The rest of the time?" Amy shrugged. "Leaves us both free to concentrate on doing what we love."
Tawnia studied her a moment. Amy met her gaze calmly. "You were pretty torn up when he left without a reason in February," Tawnia noted.
Amy half-shrugged, not denying it. "I had a lot of questions he didn't answer by showing up. I was so caught up in seeing him; I let him be in charge of what happened. It's very easy to get swept up when Face wants you to not think about what you're doing. I tried to get him to tell me, but he was more intent on making sure we both forgot reality for a while. Not that I'm complaining, mind you — it was the most incredible day in my life. But I could tell he was worried about something."
Amy fretted about that a moment. Then she smiled wickedly. "Did I tell you that I got a visit from some very scary MP's the day after I talked to you?"
"No!" Tawnia said, incredulous. "What, did they think you were hiding Face? Wait a minute — did you know already that they hadn't been executed like the wire stories said?"
Amy nodded. "I suspected; the fact I couldn't find record of the burials anywhere made me wonder. That whole execution thing was just to hide the fact that the military caught them. Face and Hannibal went AWOL just so Face could see me. If I had to guess, I'd say Hannibal went along as a spotter, in case the military trailed them. I can only surmise that Hannibal got wind of the MP's, and made Face leave."
Tawnia inhaled sharply, shocked. "How the hell did they get caught? I thought — all those years—" she sputtered.
"I know, me too, but does it matter?" Amy countered. "Once they realized I was onto something, the MP's clammed up, but I did some research after I saw their service patches. Turns out they're with a unit that's protecting a supposed think tank in Virginia. The few hints Face dropped when we were out made me think the team worked out some kind of deal."
Tawnia sighed. "Damn. Now I really hope they're going to be all right. Somehow, it was easier to believe that after that stupid farce of a trial, they'd just escaped again, you know?"
Not waiting for a reply, Tawnia continued speaking. "So if Face was to walk up right now and tell you he's a free man, he doesn't have to worry about the military or the team anymore, would you go with him, anywhere he wanted?"
Steadily, Amy replied, "Yes, because I trust he has a plan, and if he doesn't, well, we'll just wing it together."
"Not because you love him."
Amy's lips curved into a smile. "Like I told Hannibal once when he asked me why I was willing to help the team, it's a reason, but it's not the only reason. Think of it this way: he's smart, talented, ambitious, successful, dedicated, and caring. If he was anyone else, wouldn't you think he'd be worth getting to know?"
"That's the problem, Amy. I know him; I know he's quite willing to use you to achieve his goals. He certainly didn't hesitate to use me."
"What's the problem if I'm willing to do it?" Amy countered. "I knew walking into that situation I was trading my skills for a spot on the team and maybe help out my career. I just didn't know the extent of the trade, or what else they'd teach me. I may have started out as a client, but by the end, I was right in the middle of it just like they were, loving being on the jazz and loving what we did."
Tawnia knew she was losing the argument. "Amy — Face is a fugitive from the law. What kind of relationship are you going to have if you're only able to see each other whenever he can steal the time and when he doesn't think he'll get caught?"
Amy's smile widened, and now that amusement was reflected in her eyes. "The kind that means a hell of lot more to me than if I saw him every week. How is that any different from a long-distance relationship? I wasn't looking to fall in love with him and I certainly am not living the kind of life where I'm home long enough to have any sort of normal relationship."
Amy shook her head. "I know you don't understand it, and maybe you don't approve of it, but this works for me. Maybe in a few years I'll decide I need to pin him down, figure out where the hell this is all going, but for now…" Amy shrugged. "Now, being friends and sometime lovers with him works. I was heartbroken when he left me this last time, but I got to thinking about the way we're both living our lives, and I'm okay now."
She reached over and hugged Tawnia. "Whatever happens, I'll be fine, don't worry about me. Come on, let's go check on that ham that smells so delicious."
Tawnia studied her a moment, not quite believing her. Finally, she sighed and accepted Amy's words. "All right," she conceded, and led the way to the kitchen.
The view from the cliff was breathtaking. Face stood as far out on the point as he dared, drinking in the view. The rest of the team was somewhere in the small but well-furnished house behind him. The rented house on the northern California coast was a kind of reward, a quiet celebration for finally getting what they'd worked for and been promised all those years before. The pardons had come at a cost; in exchange for years of covert operations, back pay, promotions, and other terms of a generous settlement, they were forbidden to speak of it to anyone not involved with the team. All of them were aware they'd paid in blood; Frankie had nearly died in their last government-sanctioned mission.
Hannibal watched Face for a while. Despite the view or the chance to unwind, Face didn't look relaxed. Hannibal knew Face was aware he was there; it was now a matter of how long it would take before Face acknowledged him. Hannibal took the moment to study his lieutenant; he had a good idea what was bothering him, but wanted to be sure.
"I thought you were going to play pool," Face spoke finally, turning to face Hannibal as he stepped away from the edge. Face stopped his forward progress an arm's length away from where Hannibal stood.
Hannibal shrugged and puffed on his now-half-finished cigar. "I did, and then BA and Murdock decided to head down to town and get groceries."
He paused and studied the man who'd been his second-in-command for so long. It wasn't like Face to be so quiet, so contemplative, not unless he was planning for a mission. Though Face had given his all to the missions he'd been assigned, Hannibal had known Face had come back from seeing Amy somehow changed.
"Something on your mind?" Hannibal asked.
Face chuckled dryly. "Had a million plans on what I'd do once we were free, but after eighteen years…" He shook his head. "None of them appeal to me."
Hannibal laughed softly. "I'm not surprised. So what are you going to do?"
Face grinned. "Live off my investments and see if I can't make more."
"And where does Amy fit into this?"
To his credit, Face didn't look surprised at the question. He sighed and offered a smile. "I could tell you I have no idea why you'd ask me that."
Hannibal chuckled. "And I could tell you I noticed the number of women you haven't been seeing."
Face rolled his eyes. "Like any of us have been able to spend time with any women the last year? Come on, Hannibal, you know we've been busy."
Hannibal shook his head. "Busy or not, you always found time to be with someone, even if you had to sneak around to do it, so don't try that excuse with me. And you made a hell of an effort to be with Amy last year. You surprised the hell out of me when you decided to sneak off and see her; if I hadn't seen you leave the compound, I'm not even sure if you'd have told me where you were going."
The conman looked at his commander. "You surprised me by coming along," Face admitted. "I thought you were against the idea of me being with Amy."
Hannibal shrugged. "Like I told you then, you needed someone to watch your back, and you couldn't do that while you were busy with her, else she'd notice you were on your guard. Girl's sharp like that. Besides…I was more worried about the two of you getting each other distracted when we were on a mission together."
"We wouldn't have," Face assured him. "That's one of the things I love about her: she gets so focused when it's time to go do something for the team."
"Sure of that, still? Been a few years since she's run with us," Hannibal pointed out reasonably.
"Call her up, ask her," Face invited.
"I'm more interested in knowing when you'd get back to her and tell her what's going on. Whatever she feels about you, I know she'd be delighted for us to know we got our pardons."
Face sighed again. "I don't know, Hannibal. I checked with her editor; she finally got her wish: she's assigned to the Paris bureau."
Hannibal eyed him skeptically. He'd watched his friend overcome simpler hurdles than this, and the challenge involved in pulling off last year's interlude had required a far greater effort. What Amy meant to Face, Hannibal wasn't sure, but he knew one thing: no other woman had intrigued Face for so long and so deeply.
"They sell tickets to planes, y'know," Hannibal observed. "Why, you probably won't have any problems with your visa application, either…under your real name."
Face looked at him. "I'm not ready yet," he admitted finally.
"Don't wait too long," Hannibal advised him. "Girl's been waiting long enough already."
Face knew he was right. Making those sorts of plans felt like he was making a commitment, the kind of commitment he'd gotten used to running from as far and as fast as he could. He told himself he needed time to think about it, but later that evening, he found himself calling Amy.
When he got an automated message saying that her number was disconnected, he tried calling information, only to find out that her number was unlisted. He tried the number for the Paris bureau of the LA Courier, only to be stonewalled by a receptionist who refused to give out employee phone numbers, citing corporate policy. He swore, not seeing BA walk into the kitchen, where the main phone was.
"Problem?" BA asked, setting a bag of groceries down on the counter.
"Oh, it's nothing," Face demurred. "Say, you wouldn't happen to know Amy's new number, would you?"
BA stared at him. "She ain't my girlfriend, why would I have her number?"
Face held up his hands. "Maybe because you needed for the phone in the van, I don't know, I was just asking."
BA shook his head. "World's coming to an end," he muttered, reaching into the refrigerator to put away a gallon of milk. "Never thought I'd see a lovesick Faceman."
"I'm not lovesick," Face argued.
BA calmly put away a carton of eggs, a block of cheese, and a slab of steak before shutting the refrigerator door. He looked up and down at his friend before pronouncing judgment. "Uh huh," he said disbelievingly. "Hey, Murdock!"
Half-afraid BA was going to involve Murdock in teasing him, Face started to object. "Leave him out of this, okay?"
BA grinned. "Hey, crazy man, what's Amy's new number?"
"Tawnia hasn't given it to me," came the reply. "I can give you Tawnia's new number. Why?"
"Face is trying to get a hold of Amy."
"Oh, well, then." Murdock promptly rattled off the number as BA grabbed a sheet of paper and wrote it down.
"You might try this one," BA suggested gruffly, thrusting the paper at Face before walking out of the kitchen.
Face stared at the number as he reminded himself that Murdock had a talent for knowing random pieces of information. With a deep exhale, Face picked up the phone again and started dialing.
"Good evening," Tawnia said.
"Evening, Tawnia, it's Face. How are you and your husband?"
Surprise flooded her voice. "We're well, thanks. I'm pregnant with twins, can you believe it?"
"Congratulations," Face said honestly. "When are you due?"
"Four months." Some of the joy leached from her voice as she said briskly, "But since you never call to be social, unlike some people on your team, what can I do for you?"
"Now wait a minute, Tawnia, if I didn't think your husband would have a problem with me calling—"
Tawnia snorted. "When you're reduced to using lame excuses, Face, you must be desperate. So what is it? Hopefully nothing involved blowing up stuff, running away from police, and aiding the downtrodden? I can't help you with any of that."
Affronted at the suggestion, Face retorted, "I wouldn't put you in that line of fire."
"You used to," Tawnia responded wryly. "How am I to know you wouldn't now?"
Face rolled his eyes and tried to rein in his annoyance. He'd forgotten just how quickly she could annoy him. "I wouldn't," he insisted. "You're pregnant, and besides, that's not what I called you for."
"Oh?" Interest laced her voice.
"Would you happen to know Amy's new number?"
"So you can endanger her life in new and bizarre ways? Maybe break her heart again?" Tawnia asked dryly.
"Tawnia, I just need her number, not an inquisition," Face said impatiently, ignoring the twinge at the accusation he'd hurt Amy. "Now, unless you want me to arrange a delivery of a case of pickled artichokes—"
A slight gagging sound met his words, confirming that even pregnant, Tawnia hated pickled artichokes. She'd gotten drenched in them one day while helping the team. Clearing her throat, Tawnia argued valiantly, "You wouldn't."
"Got the number for a gourmet food distributor right here," Face lied. "Pickled artichokes in basil lemon olive oil, delivery next day air—"
The phone clattered to the table. Face waited patiently. It was several minutes before it was picked up again, this time by Tawnia's husband, Brian.
"What the hell did you do to my wife?" Brian demanded.
"Oh, hello, Brian, it's Face, how are you?" Face said in his most charming voice. "Sorry about Tawnia. We were just remembering old times. You wouldn't happen to know Amy's phone number, would you?"
"Oh, is that why you called?" Brian sounded amused. "She's in Paris. Hang on, it's posted here somewhere."
Face heard papers rattling in the background before Brian said, "Oh, here it is. Geez, it's a long number. Ready for it?"
Face grabbed a pen and used the same piece of paper BA had handed him. "Go for it."
Brian gave him the number, then asked, "You're not planning on involving my wife in anything, are you?"
"No, of course not," Face assured him. "Congratulations on the kids, by the way. I'll let you go so you can take care of Tawnia. Thanks for the number."
"You're welcome." Brian disconnected the call.
Face stared at the number as he tried to figure out the time zone difference. He glanced at his watch, seeing that it was nearly one in the afternoon. New York was four hours ahead, which meant that Paris had to be later than that. It took him a minute longer to figure out it was late evening there. Swallowing his nervousness, he took the chance and dialed the number.
"Bonjour?" Amy greeted.
"Bonjour, ma bella Amy. How are you?" The ache he hadn't realized he'd been feeling eased at the sound of her voice.
"Face! Oh my God, it's been too long." Surprise colored her voice. "Is something wrong?"
"No," he told her, not yet ready to share the news about their pardons. It was too new still, and some superstition had him holding back. "I just was wondering how you were — it's been a while since we talked."
She chuckled. "What, there's no one falling at your feet?" she teased him.
"No one like you," he answered, meaning it.
She laughed again. "Uh huh, sure. I keep telling you're a little late with the flattery, Face, but you don't listen." She didn't sound upset, more amused.
"Ah, but you are beautiful, Amy Amanda Allen, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."
She chuckled again. "As if I'd kick you out of my bed for eating crackers. Well," she paused, "maybe Oreos if you didn't share. There's something about licking the cream out that…. Well." She giggled. "I don't think I have to tell you."
Amy's words stirred his blood as he remembered just how she'd gone down on him in the shower the last time they'd been together, and he inhaled sharply. "If I'd known that, darling, I would have bought some."
"You were more interested in other things," she said easily, and he could almost see her shrug.
It struck him then that she was content with the way their relationship stood, that she'd forgiven him for leaving so abruptly, with no explanation. Some tension he hadn't known he'd been feeling eased at that realization. Some part of him marveled at the fact she wasn't pushing for more, then he remembered that she, too, had constraints on her availability.
"I was beginning to wonder if I'd hear from you," she informed him. "You didn't leave me a number."
"Sorry, Amy, I was in a bit of a rush. How's the weather in Paris?"
"Getting humid and sticky," she said. "Where are you calling from?"
"A house overlooking the Pacific Ocean," he said, long habit making him evasive. "How long are you in Paris?"
"Another week. I got promoted again, and they're sending me to manage the South American Regional Office in Brazil. it's only for the summer, but it might turn permanent." She sounded thrilled.
"Oh, Amy, that's great! Will you be coming back to the States before you go?"
"No, I'm flying straight there from here." She paused, as if realizing he'd wanted to see her. More gently, she said, "Sorry. I know it's been a while since we were together. Is the military keeping you guys busy?"
Somehow, it didn't surprise Face to discover Amy knew who the team had been working for. "Now where did you hear that vicious rumor?"
Amy chuckled. "Oh, here and there," she told him lightly. "You know I have my sources. Come on, Face, you know after you showed up I'd go researching, especially since the MP's showed up the day after you left, looking for you. Speaking of research, was there something I could help you with from here?"
Realizing he couldn't get what he really wanted, he settled for what he could have. "Tell me about Paris."
"Planning a romantic getaway?" she teased him.
"Maybe," he evaded. "Maybe I just want to hear how you see it. I haven't been there in years."
"You've been to Paris? No, wait, I remember you told me. The thrice-divorced Mrs. Sophia Whittinger. Had a teeny little flat on the Seine, and you escaped her proposal of marriage by faking an allergic reaction to her Pomeranian." Amusement laced Amy's voice. "You know, when you told me about that, I had a hard time imagining just how tiny a flat on the Seine could be."
"Now you know," Face said with a chuckle, and turned the focus of the conversation back to the things Amy had experienced while in Paris.
It was a good half hour before they concluded the phone call. When Face hung up the phone, he found Hannibal standing in the kitchen with him.
"Feel better, Lieutenant?" Hannibal asked.
"Maybe," Face hedged, but he couldn't quite conceal the satisfaction that filled him.
Hannibal just grinned and went to fill his mug with coffee.
The pink slips came two weeks before Thanksgiving. After seventy-six years of publication, the LA Courier was folding. Its assets were being auctioned to pay off its creditors. Rumor held that the CFO had gambled away the paper's net worth. All Amy knew for sure was that the job she loved which had sent her around the world so many times was gone.
For three and a half weeks, she diligently sent out her resume. She could hear crickets conducting a symphony to fill the silence for all the response she got. Apparently, no one wanted to hire her for the kind of position she wanted, not to mention it was the wrong time of year to hire anyone; budgets were tight all over this time of year. She took up residence in a studio apartment, grateful that she'd been in the habit of socking away money for a rainy day.
Christmas brought letters of rejection, a notice that her building was slated to be converted to a condominium, and $50 courtesy of a scratch-and-win lottery ticket.
New Year's Eve, Amy was curled up with a self-help career guide and a bottle of the cheapest white wine she could find. She'd been tempted to go lose herself at some bar somewhere, but after considering the risk factors, namely, she might run into someone who wanted to hire her, she decided to drink alone. It wasn't like she was going to have to report into work the following morning or even the next day. Her lease was up in a month; she had to figure out what to do with her life, and soon.
Tonight, however, she was indulging in a pity party. Her best friend was off in Central America, her chances of getting employed were looking pretty slim, and the man she'd loved for years hadn't called in three months. Knowing her luck, he would probably call her in Paris, thinking she was still there. Worse still, her phone line had been accidentally disconnected by the phone company and wouldn't be repaired until after the holiday.
She missed Face more than she was willing to admit aloud. She'd tried, very hard, to not dream of a happily-ever-after with him, but when she was alone and lonely like this, she wanted very much to hold him and be held by him and not let go. She'd already tried the last number he'd given her, only to discover it now belonged to someone else.
She also missed being with the team. She'd thrown herself into her career, finding a different kind of thrill in chasing after stories, but it wasn't the same. Nothing in her life since compared to the rush of adrenaline or the sense of personal satisfaction she'd felt when she'd helped the team.
Amy was more than halfway through the bottle when the doorbell rang. Unsteadily, she rose to her feet and stumbled to the door. She'd long ago learned she could hold her liquor and not be sick, but three glasses of wine were enough to cause her brain to be fuzzy.
"Who is it?" she called automatically. She ignored the peephole; whoever had installed it had installed it at a height comfortable for someone a good three inches taller than her.
For a moment, she froze. She'd just been thinking about them, and here was BA. What the hell would he be here for? She hesitated; she was clad only in a bathrobe and her battered bunny slippers, and she hadn't been expecting any company. Plus, the alcohol in her system was causing her brain to operate a bit slower than usual.
She thought about not letting him in. What if he needed to hide? she suddenly thought in alarm. He didn't sound stressed, but it was hard to tell from a single word.
It took her a minute to fumble through unhooking the chain, unlocking the deadbolt, and turning the door knob. For some reason, she couldn't quite make her fingers work.
BA stood there, dressed in a very nice tuxedo. His usual assortment of gold jewelry had been tamed down to a single gold earring and a heavy cross on a thick chain, though he wore his usual assortment of rings.
"Hi," Amy said unsteadily. "Happy New Year? You know me? Whoops, sorry, that didn't come out right."
"Yes. Pack your bags. You're coming with me."
Amy blinked. She didn't drink much, and this much alcohol was causing her brain to operate much slower than usual. She picked her words carefully. "Do I have a choice? I might be a bit drunk, but I don't take orders." She ruined her defiant stance by hiccupping. "Excuse me."
BA scowled and then spoke into a walkie-talkie. "I told you she's not going."
"You never ask nicely, BA," Hannibal's voice said over the radio.
"She's drunk, Hannibal," BA replied. "It's nine PM and she's already drunk."
There was a pause. "Wait there, Sergeant."
Deciding she needed more to drink, if only to shore up a sudden case of nerves, Amy wandered back into the living room and poured herself another glass. "Want a drink?" she asked BA.
"No." BA walked into the apartment, but left the door cracked open. He took the glass from Amy and poured it down the sink. For good measure, he poured the rest of the bottle down the sink as well. "You don't need that."
"Hey!" Amy protested as Hannibal walked in the door. He, like BA, was dressed in a tuxedo.
"Having a party without us, Ms. Allen?" Hannibal asked.
Having the A-Team walk back into her life dressed like they were going to spend the night on the town would have been a quite a surprise had she been sober. Drunk, the experience was starting to feel more than a bit surreal, and Amy tried desperately to corral her addled brain. It wasn't working.
"I got pink-slipped," Amy said earnestly, hating the feeling that she was already three steps behind in the conversation. She had to stifle the urge to giggle nervously; the way Hannibal was looking at her, this was no laughing matter. "Nobody's hiring."
He grinned. "I know. We tried calling you, but you weren't answering your phone. That's why we're here." At that moment, Face walked in, trailed by Murdock. Face was wearing a tuxedo as well as Murdock. Murdock carried a garment bag on his arm.
"Aren't you afraid someone's going to catch you?" Amy asked as remembered tidbits of information filtered through her wine-soaked head.
Hannibal's grin widened. "Not tonight," he told her.
Amy stared at him, abruptly unable to comprehend the meaning of his words. She knew there was always more that Hannibal wasn't telling her, but she couldn't quite grasp what he'd just said long enough to figure out what he hadn't said. "Um. I was going to ask something else. Why I can't I think?"
"Lieutenant, mind helping jog her memory a bit more?"
Face shot Hannibal a telling look.
"Don't tell us you weren't looking forward to kissing her," Hannibal remarked pointedly.
"Not like this," Face shot back, but closed the distance between him and Amy anyway.
In full view of his teammates, Face kissed her. She leaned into him, unable to stop herself from responding. He gently set her back against the kitchen counter, ignoring her whimper of protest.
"I like the way you kiss. Oh, God, I didn't mean to say that aloud." She stared at him, wide-eyed, as her mind went utterly blank, unable to cope with the fact that the entire team was here, and that Face had kissed her in front of all of them. "Um. I'm here, You're who again?"
Ignoring her question, Face sighed. "She's drunk, Hannibal. You can't ask her when she's like this; she'll hate us all in the morning. She barely remembers who we are."
"I know you!" Amy protested automatically. "Just…just give me a minute."
"Now, Amy, how you forget us?" Murdock interjected.
"Girl doesn't drink," BA said shortly. "All that alcohol numbs the brain. You know that."
"Yes, but —" Murdock halted his argument at BA's glare.
"You can't ask her now, Hannibal, it's not fair," BA declared.
Hannibal only grinned wider. "Best time to ask, in my opinion. More honest that way, I say."
Face opened his mouth to argue, but Hannibal held up a hand to forestall it. "No, Lieutenant, as much as I'm sure you'd prefer it, I'm not making up her mind for her. We came all this way, might as well follow through and give her the chance to answer yes or no."
Amy looked at all of them in turn. Some part of her brain recognized how handsome they all were, dressed in such finery. She felt absolutely frumpy in comparison. In a moment of self-pity, Amy wondered what in the world they needed her for; she certainly wasn't dressed to go anywhere fancy, and her ability to think straight was impaired. Still, if they were here, that meant she was needed, and pretty or not, she could help.
She summoned her best facsimile of coherence, not realizing she was leaning heavily against the kitchen counter for support. "Ask me what?"
Face looked at Hannibal for confirmation.
"We have three and a half hours before midnight; if we're lucky, she'll be sober by then," Hannibal told him. "If we're not, then we go to plan B. Either way, we need her, Lieutenant. If we could do this with one of us in drag, we would be."
Face sighed. "Let me just state for the record this was not my idea, Colonel."
Hannibal grinned. "Duly noted."
Face then schooled his features into a smile and faced Amy. "Well, Amy, there's the matter of we're missing a date, and we need some help with one last mission before we go back to trying to live in the real world. You, my darling, fit the bill, provided, of course, you get dressed."
"Dressed? In what?" Amy asked blankly.
With relish, Murdock unzipped the garment bag and revealed a very simple midnight blue sheath accented by glitter spaghetti straps. "One very lovely evening gown for the lady," he announced, affecting an upper-crust accent.
As drunk as she was, Amy knew instinctively she was being offered an once-in-a-lifetime choice. "Okay," she said, not quite sure what else she was agreeing to do, but willing to act like she knew.
Hannibal smiled, as if her acceptance had been a foregone conclusion. "Good. Face — help her get dressed. Murdock — pack her bag. BA — check to see if there's anything here you can see she might need — medications, vitamins, her purse, passport, that sort of thing."
Amy heard the instructions, and decided to simply let her mind coast. It was too much effort to think, and she allowed herself to be guided towards the back of the apartment and stripped naked. If she'd been sober, it would have occurred to her that she was allowing herself to be nude in front of the entire team. Once it was figured out that the bathroom was too small to fit two people, Face moved the decorative screen she used as a divider between the living and dining rooms to sit before the bed. He then proceeded to shield Amy's body as much as possible, aware that Murdock was packing a small suitcase. The rest of the team studiously ignored the scene in the corner of the studio nominally designated as the bedroom.
Carefully, Face sat her down onto the bed and helped her into pantyhose. She leaned against his shoulder, inhaling the unique scent that was his, enjoying the way he felt. She'd missed him so much, it was like a dream that he was here. She wanted to kiss him and touch him, forgetting in her drunkenness that he wasn't there to have sex with her. He deftly avoided most of her attempts, but inhaled sharply when he propped her up against him to pull the pantyhose up over her hips and she groped him.
"Amy, darling, now stop that," he chided her.
She blinked owlishly at him. "Why not?"
"Not right now, darling. We have to get you into this dress."
"I'm supposed to be dressed?" She knew she sounded childish, but heaven help her, she couldn't seem to make her brain operate on an adult level.
She gave his answer considerable thought. He used the time to unzip the dress and drape it over his arm, readying it for putting it on her.
"Okay. Are we going somewhere?"
"Yes," Face said with amused exasperation. "Put your arms up above your head for me, please?"
She looked at him, not quite understanding the direction.
Face sighed. "You are so drunk, Amy Amanda Allen," he observed, humor and affection lacing his voice, "and tomorrow, you'll probably be embarrassed — no, mortified — we all saw you this way." Juggling the dress, he put her arms up. The way the dress was constructed did not encourage the wearing of a bra due to the large, open back.
Something in the way he said her name caused her brain to finally connect who he was. "Face? Oh, God. What are you doing here?" She put her arms down and crossed them over her bare breasts, suddenly embarrassed.
He sighed again. "Helping you get dressed. Now put your arms back up."
She eyed him quizzically and put her right hand on the back of her head, forgetting that it exposed one breast in the process. "But I don't wan' get dressed. Can we just party here?"
"Having problems, Lieutenant?" Hannibal called from across the room.
"Other than the obvious fact of her being just drunk enough to not quite be able to follow directions? Nothing, Colonel. I'll have her dressed her in a few minutes," Face called back.
"Just checking," Hannibal replied. "We have to be at the party in half an hour, which means you have ten minutes to get her dressed."
"Yes, Colonel," Face acknowledged, his crisp tone at odds with the way he rolled his eyes at the reminder.
Face looked at Amy. "If I kiss you again, will you promise to do what I say?"
She stared at him, her eyes huge. "Okay. But only if you promise to kiss me again."
Face leaned in to kiss her again. She sighed into the kiss, closing her eyes. He eased her arms above her head, then stepped back. "I promise to kiss you again if you keep your arms like that until I tell you to put them down."
Quickly, Face eased the dress on over her head.
It clung to her body like a second skin. He spent a moment zipping up the nearly invisible side zipper, and then helped her into a pair of high heels BA had found near the front door.
They took her dancing at an exclusive club for their even more exclusive New Year's Eve party. By the time the clock struck midnight, Amy was sober enough to realize they'd given her an incredible gift. The night felt like something out of a fairy tale — as if, for once, the universe was giving the team a reprieve, and they were all just friends out on the town. It took her longer to realize that she was being used as a foil and that Hannibal and Face took turns dancing with her before disappearing at seemingly random intervals to join up with whatever Murdock and BA were doing.
At midnight, Face kissed her on the dance floor, eliciting hoots and hollers from the crowd, and good-natured teasing from his teammates. Then Hannibal cut in, saying he wanted to dance with her.
"So," he said as he expertly led her across the floor, "care to join us in our merry parade one last time? You know, it's so much more fun now the MP's aren't chasing us."
"You're asking?" She couldn't believe her ears.
He flashed a quick grin. "Beats blackmail. Besides, do you have anything better to do?"
"And what do you get out of it?" Her eyes narrowed as she remembered a snippet of conversation with Tawnia. "Considering I heard you started enforcing a rule about fraternization between the team members."
Hannibal's smile never faded. "Well, for you, Amy, I seem to be making a lot of exceptions," he admitted. "Then again, you're a woman who isn't afraid to dive in and learn something new, no matter if it's nothing she's ever done before. We had an associate who never learned that lesson — always wanted to show off what he could do. While it helped, it also got him arrested and nearly killed. Besides, I really could use you on this job; our client is a little wary of four men, and you'll help with that." He grinned. "Even more than you have tonight, that is. And finally — I like you, Amy Amanda Allen, and I was wrong about you."
"Well." Amy considered the idea. She knew she wasn't entirely sober yet, but she knew just as well she had no better offers. She'd never closely examined her reasons for wanting to be a part of the team; she wasn't about to start now. "I was beginning to miss the jazz."
Delighted, Hannibal sent her into a twirl before pulling her back in and giving her the assignment he'd been waiting all night to give.
Dawn was breaking when the team brought Amy home nearly a week later, flush with the success of the team's plan, which had been to scope out one of the city's movers and shakers, plant surveillance equipment, and obtain some evidence that the guy was in the business of smuggling stolen art. In the team's usual style, they'd not only obtained the evidence, but had put the guy out of business and in jail.
Expecting just to be dropped off, Amy was surprised when Face climbed out of the van after her, carrying a duffel bag. He pulled the side door shut, then waved goodbye to the rest of the team.
"Not going with them?" Amy asked.
Face smiled. "Not unless you plan on kicking me out of the rest of your life, in which case, I'll just borrow a phone and be out of here in no time flat."
Amy's lips curved. Now that the rush of being on the jazz was fading, she was exhausted. Yet, looking at Face now, all she could do was let the glow in her heart recharge her batteries. She could only marvel at her attraction to him even as she recognized how strong it had become over time. All week, the need to be his lover had taken a backseat to accomplishing the team's mission. All week, she'd ached for him, and had caught him looking at her sometimes as if he couldn't quite believe she was there, which had only intensified the ache. She couldn't imagine telling him to leave. Still, she wasn't sure if he could stay, no matter what he told her.
"Planning on sticking around a while? Aren't you afraid the military's going to catch up with you?" she asked worriedly.
His smile grew wide. "Well, that's the best part: they aren't going to chase us anymore. We earned our pardons. Details very hush-hush, can't talk about it to the press, can't talk about it to anyone not on the team, but way I figure it, you qualify as a member of the team, so…" His eyes gleamed with mischief.
Amy stared at him, not quite sure she could believe what she heard. "You're free?" she asked, shocked.
"Well, I would never sell myself that cheap, but—"
She grabbed him and kissed him, shutting him up. He responded by deepening the kiss until she started to sag against him. Then he picked her up.
"Put me down! Face, put me down!" she demanded, squirming.
"Not until I'm ready," he told her firmly. "Come on, darling, we did this in Vegas once. Don't make me trip, now."
He steadied his grip on her and started up the stairs of her building. Not wanting to cause him to fall, she gave up her resistance and helped open the door.
"Thank you," he said gratefully as he maneuvered them through the door, kicking it shut behind them.
He paused as he carried her towards the elevator and inclined his head. "Would you please—"
Shaking her head, Amy pushed the up button for the elevator. "You are a silly, silly man sometimes, you know that?"
Face grinned as the elevator pinged and the doors opened. "Are you complaining?" he asked her seriously as he stepped inside, still carrying her.
She chuckled. "No."
Setting her back on her feet, he kissed her again, laying siege to her mouth until her floor, the fourth, arrived. He swept her up again as she laughed helplessly, not quite able to believe he was doing it even as she fell deeper in love with him for it. He set her down in front of her apartment and unlocked the door using her key, which he produced from one of his pockets.
She looked at him as he swung the door open. "Going to carry me over the threshold?" she asked wryly.
He met her gaze with a grin. "No, I think I'll save that for another day, when you're not expecting it." With an exaggerated flourish, he gestured for her to enter. "After you, Miss Allen."
Chuckling, she stepped inside as he followed her in, shutting the door and locking it. The sound of the deadbolt sliding in place made her humor flee. They were alone. He dropped his bag by the door, and then turned to face her. She could see the desire for her in his eyes, in the way he stepped towards her, in the smile he gave. He was as honest and open with her as he rarely was with anyone else, and the sheer weight of that gift gave her pause, made her pull a bit into herself.
He stopped just short of kissing distance. "Something wrong?" he asked, all trace of amusement gone from his voice.
"Just…" she closed her eyes, feeling the exhaustion fill her body. She forced her eyes to open and faced the man she'd never been able to refuse. He tangled her heart in ways she couldn't begin to explain. "I can't believe you're here."
Face studied her carefully. His expression gave nothing away as he asked, "Is that a bad thing?"
"No, only that being with you and the other guys like that made me remember why I hated leaving the first time." She chuckled wryly. "There's something I've been wondering, though."
"Why me, Templeton? Of all the women you could have, why me?"
He stepped closer and took her hands in his. He met her gaze with his own. "I thought, once, that if I had you, I could get you out of my head."
She nodded as if she'd expected that statement. "I wondered about that."
He chuckled dryly. "I was wrong. Every time I talked to you, even before that night in Oklahoma, I kept marveling at the way you stuck by your word: that whatever we needed, you'd find a way to get it. The more I got to know you, the way you took Murdock's insanity or BA's gruffness or Hannibal's plans or whatever role I played in stride, the more I found myself thinking about you. Other women…I know where I stand. I know what role they want me to play. It's a game to them; it's a game to me. You…you don't play that game. You changed the rules on me, darling."
"You refused to play, then became someone I'd trust to guard my back," he said simply. "Then you acted like we'd just been friends who happened to have sex."
Amy smiled. "What else was I supposed to do, Face?" she asked gently. "Act like I'd never been in love before? Or like I didn't know you'd made a career out of not committing to anyone or anything? If even Hannibal couldn't get you to show up when he ordered you to without you trying to figure out a way to delay your arrival, what chance did I have to ask you to give more of yourself to me? I might have only been twenty-five when we met, but I knew if I told you then I loved you, you'd run screaming in the opposite direction."
Face went still and let go of her hands. He swallowed hard. In disbelief, he asked, "You loved me then?"
Steadily, meeting his gaze without flinching, she answered, "Yes."
He closed his eyes briefly and shuddered, as if remembering how he'd treated her then and regretting it. "And now?"
Amy drew herself up straighter. She'd waited for years, forgiven him for things she'd find unforgivable in other people, and she wasn't about to lose now. Not when it felt like she had a shot at something far more real than a phone call or one night in her life every few years.
"If I said yes, would you stay because you wanted to, not because you think I need you to?"
Face didn't answer right away. She'd been more afraid if he'd answered quickly. Amy waited patiently, aware that she was getting more tired by the minute, but equally aware they had to have this conversation.
"Yes," he answered finally. "It's taken me a long time to figure out how to be here with you. I want the chance to figure out how to stay with you." He offered her a rueful grin. "Besides, if I don't try, I'll never hear the end of it from the guys."
"Oh, so it's just for the sake of team harmony, huh?" she teased him.
Face grinned. "We could call it that, if you like," he suggested.
"Well, let it be known I've always been a team player," she countered with a smile, then turned serious.
She took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. Then she remarked, "It's going to be crazy, you know, and I haven't lived with anyone in a long time."
He heard the agreement in her words, and smiled. "We'll figure it out together."
She smiled and reached out to touch his arm. "I'm tired. Want to hold me while I sleep, and we'll talk about everything else later?"
He stared at her, assessing her condition. Slowly, he nodded. "I can do that," he told her, closing the distance. He picked her up again and carried her over to her bed, where he proceeded to divest first her, then him of all clothing. Slipping the covers over them, he pulled her into his arms. She slid into sleep, content.
Face watched her for a moment, marveling at her. He knew the road ahead of them wasn't going to be easy; nothing worth doing ever was. He wasn't sure he was ready to make declarations of love yet, but he knew already Amy had taken a place in his heart. It had always been enough to know she wanted him in her life, regardless of what role he played in it, regardless of the distance and the things left unsaid.
For now, Face could work with that. Plans formulated in his mind as he contemplated just how. He smiled, telling himself he had the rest of their lives to execute those plans, and then let himself slide into sleep.