AN: Ahhhh! Sorry it's been so long. But look, the next chapter! (There will be more I promise.)
The chapter title is based off the song title by Stealers Wheel.
Take It on the Run
"Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see that it makes no sense at all,
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor,
'Cause I don't think that I can take anymore
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you,"
Chapter 9: Stuck in the Middle with You
It takes a lot of pushing (respectful pushing) and nearly begging (she will not, nor will she ever beg) to convince Director Macready that she can still contribute to the case. She isn't leading it. No, that ship has long sailed, even though she can't be held at fault for the fuckwits who managed to let the A-Team escape. Of course she can't.
But her public display of affection with one of the fugitives being led away in chains isn't exactly a secret.
So actually, formerly Lieutenant Charissa Sosa, now re-promoted, doesn't have any contribution to the re-capture, because US Marshals are handling it. Typical.
She can't contact Face at all, even if she wanted to (she does). The only thing she can do, realistically, is go on about her duties until he finds a way to get a message through to her. If he even needs to.
If he needs help, he'll find a way, she rationalizes. He always does…
If he doesn't…if he doesn't, she just hopes he's not getting himself shot at.
Which, realistically, he probably is.
"No, you brought it?"
"Oh, I brought it."
"How did those fit in your duffel bag?"
"Have you seen this thing? I could fit a baby elephant in here."
"Well, I dunno about that—"
"Just plug in the damn thing already."
Murdock and Laura turn at the sound of Face's voice.
"They brought our stuff from the apartment to our grandparents," Laura says, holding up a black and green console. "I found my Xbox!"
Face raises a brow.
"What are the toy guitars for?"
"Rockband!" Murdock cheers, and holds up the game too close to the conman's face. He pushes it away, though a smile of amusement tugs at his lips.
"Isn't that…kinda loud?" he asks. They were currently in some no name motel off the side of the highway, maybe twenty miles across the border of Arkansas. There are only two beds per room, so Face and Murdock are sharing, as well as Hannibal and B.A. Laura was happy to have her own room.
"We'll put the volume on low," Laura dismisses as she starts plugging in cords to an archaic TV. She had to wipe several layers of dust off the screen before she could even turn it on.
"And I'm sure Hannibal will love to see you guys playing video games when he gets back," Face mutters. Hannibal went with B.A. half an hour before to the nearest hardware store for some tools they'll need in the future to patch up the car.
"He told us to relax," Murdock says with a grin, "so that's what we're doin'."
Twenty minutes later and brother and sister were locked in a battle to the death, both set on Expert getting through "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Ӧyster Cult. While Murdock stands on his bed, closest to the door and strumming madly, Laura's feet are planted on the carpeted floor.
Face sits on his bed cleaning the guns Harry gave them. The man kept them immaculate, but it's something methodical Face likes to do. There's something about it that helps alleviate his stress.
"Ya know, Hannibal said we should be teaching you how to use one of these," Face says, holding up one of the guns for Laura to see.
"I know enough," she jokes. "I was a great shot when we were kids, remember, H.M.?"
"I'll have to call your bluff on that, Louanne, seeing as you wouldn't know the first thing about shootin'," Murdock says. "As much as Gramps tried to teach you, you were always a lost cause. The dog would run inside as soon as he saw you heading toward the yard with a pistol—"
"Hey, I nicked the tree that one time!"
"After shootin' the shit out of a bird's nest! Poor things were wailin' and squawkin'—"
"You promised never to remind me about that!"
"You started it," he sasses. Laura rolls her eyes the best she can while getting through the guitar solo.
"Oh, very mature."
"Shut up and save me already, I'm on red!"
"And whose fault is that, Butterfingers?"
"That'll be damn funny when your pillow is filled with peanut butter tonight."
"Don't you dare waste my peanut butter!"
"You know I will—ah, fuck, I didn't see that triple blue."
Laura cackles maniacally as her pinky finger presses down on the orange button and her other hand wiggles the Whammy Bar. "I am serving you nice and steamaaay…"
Murdock whimpers as his drums go on red again.
"Like chicken cutlets and Gran-Mama's cornbread," she adds, and tilts the guitar upward, saving Murdock for the third time.
"You don't get one more 'gain. If you don't last for the next two minutes so I can finish the song, I'm gunna get out the ping pong paddle in my duffel."
"Oh please, madam, do not use the Accursed Paddle! How it stings," Murdock mocks in a British accent. Inwardly he laughs at how Laura's Texan origins come out when she's hyped up.
"I wouldn't test her, man," Face interjects, absently rubbing his arm. "She wields that thing like a fucking baseball bat. Left a red mark on my arm for hours."
"Next time, don't steal my Captain Crunch," Laura says sagely before letting the last chord ring out. She then relaxes and pumps two fists in the air, whooping in triumph.
Laura looks at Murdock's side of the small and somewhat flickering TV screen.
She and Face laugh at Murdock's misfortune as he pouts at them. There's a knock on the door, and Murdock peaks through the peep hole before opening it to B.A.
"Delivery," the larger man says, holding two large Wendy's bags.
"B.A., they're makin' fun of me!"
"Bout time," the sergeant says with a smirk. He doesn't bother sparing the pilot a glance as he drops off the food on the nearest nightstand and heads out the same way he came in.
"I'll be outside workin' on that thing you call a car."
Laura smirks and takes off the guitar, laying it off to the side by the console. Murdock sets down the second guitar and dramatically jumps off from his bed to the floor.
"No one loves me. I must retire to wallow in my sorrows, of which there are many…"
"Nah, come here," Laura says, and raises herself on the tips of her toes to hook her arm around her brother's neck and pull him down, mussing his hair with her other hand.
"Nooo, not the hair! It's thinning enough already," he protests and grabs her around her middle. Face watches in amusement as Murdock starts tickling his sister's sensitive sides. She immediately starts giggling uncontrollably, in a way he hasn't seen her do since they did tequila shots in her and Murdock's apartment.
She recoils from Murdock, but his grip on her is too strong to break away from. Eventually she ends up sliding to the floor, Murdock following close behind mercilessly.
"Faaaace…help meeee!" Laura pleads, and to Face she looks pretty helpless wiggling on the ground and trying in vain to push away her brother's fingers.
"I don't know," he crosses his arms. "What would you give me?"
She gives him a withering look while Murdock just cackles evilly.
"You can borrow my iPod!"
That's a shock. She barely lets anyone touch her iPod, let alone use it…
"Eh, got anything else?"
"I'll make you brownies…when we stay at a place…with an oven!"
That catches his attention.
"The good kind?"
"YES!" she cries pitifully through peals of laughter. "The goddamn slutty brownies!"
"Wait, what now?" Murdock pauses from his assault.
"Deal," Face says, and he tackles his friend to the ground.
It isn't until Hannibal comes in, having heard the noise from his room next door, that the ruckus comes to an abrupt halt and ends with Hannibal slapping Face upside the head.
The indignant protest that would've followed is swallowed up.
"We're being hunted and you're playing fucking video games? The last thing we need is people hearing a racket!" Hannibal nearly hisses. He's seething and Murdock feels guilt swirling in the pit of his stomach while Face is staring firmly at the ground. Sitting on the couch beside Murdock, Laura stares down at her hands folded limply in her lap.
They all know if the former colonel wasn't worried about the paper-thin walls, the whole room would be vibrating with his anger, something that none of them often witness due to how controlled Hannibal is, both as a commanding officer and as a man.
Even B.A. feels guilty when the four come into his and Hannibal's shared motel room. He hadn't even bothered to stop their antics. He guesses he didn't want to; seeing them loose, and seeing Laura smile genuinely, hasn't happened since before the Team was dishonorably discharged.
"We need to make some decisions," Hannibal says, sitting on the edge of his bed. "My contact in New York can get us some new identification. Driver's licenses, social security, everything."
"Out of the goodness of his heart?" Face asks dryly. Hannibal gives him a silencing look.
"He owes me."
"But this is big," Murdock points out.
The truth of this settles in the room as the other four stare up at their leader, who's a little more hunched than usual, his stubbled face drawn and tired. Laura sees the fatigue in his eyes that drift to the old, carpeted floor; eyes that have seen blood, have seen dark, terrible things that she has only seen in the eyes of others like him—men and women she's treated and helped return to mental safety.
"I promised I'd take care of something for him," he admits.
"This the contact in New York you were talkin' about?" B.A. asks.
"So," Face says after a moment, "we're going to New York."
Laura watches Hannibal intently. The almost imperceptible sigh, the invisible weight on his tense shoulders, the way his eyes are suddenly sharp, and sweep across each member of his team before landing on Face.
She knows the decision he's made before he says anything.
"Whoa, whoa, wh—"
"What the hell you sayin'?"
"Boss," Murdock interjects. "You're not seriously sayin' we split up?"
"How much longer do you think we can hide like this before the government finds us?" Hannibal asks. "Three is conspicuous enough. Five?"
He shakes his head.
"What, you're saying it's only a matter of time?" Face raises his voice. "We're a team. You're the one who said we don't split up unless it's a last resort—"
"What do you think this is? A vacation?" Hannibal says, his volume rising to match Face's as the two stand. "We've bought ourselves a couple weeks at most. It'll be easier to disappear—"
"And what, get normal jobs? Buy a house with a white picket fence?"
"If we split up," Murdock says, temporarily cutting through Face's tirade and earning Hannibal's attention. "They divide us, like how they jailed us. They find one, they're more likely to get all of us."
"We're a team. If we can't have each other's back…" B.A. trails, "it ain't worth it."
For a moment, Laura sees something she never thought she'd see on Hannibal's face. Uncertainty. She understands how he's torn—ensuring the safety of his team is, and will always be, his priority.
She feels like an outsider, but that doesn't stop her from trying when she sees pain, not just in her brother's eyes.
"I get it. I actually do, Hannibal," she says, "But if you go it alone, who protects you?"
His eyes meet hers, and she feels like they're peeling back skin and looking inside. Then it softens, and she gets the feeling (and it wouldn't be the first time) he knows something she doesn't. And his lips twitch slightly, like he wants to smile.
"This won't be easy," he says, even though he doesn't need to.
"Easier than flying a tank, I reckon," Murdock offers, making Laura sigh. Face grins at the memory while B.A. shakes his head.
Hannibal rubs the back of his neck.
"Let's just get our shit together."