(Or, Five Kisses That Don't Count and One That Definitely Does)
Red loves Face. Really, she does. Loves him as if they'd shared the same parents, and would take a bullet for him without even blinking.
Right now, however, if he'd been standing in front of her, she'd probably knock those pretty pearly whites he's so proud of clean out of his head. As it happens, Hannibal might just do it himself when this is over.
He'd told them both a thousand times that this job was going to be delicate, that they had to stick to the plan, and then as usual Face had gotten distracted by a pretty girl – who also happened to be the target's wife, because Face doesn't do anything by halves, including screw up.
So now she's in some dingy garage in the middle-of-nowhere Mexico listening as her superior officer is beaten savagely in another room. She's normally proud to be so proficient in Spanish, but right now she's wondering if it would be better if she'd hadn't been able to understand what, exactly, Tuco's thugs are planning to do with them.
Hannibal has a plan to get out of this, because he always does, but he's not always the best at sharing crucial details so she's got no idea what she's supposed to be doing other than struggling fruitlessly to free her arms from where they are cuffed together and suspended above her head. She keeps a dozen hairpins in her braid for exactly this scenario, but they're a bit hard to reach since she's dangling about a foot off the floor with no way to leverage herself. Not to mention this position is murder on her shoulders – she's actually pretty sure one of them is dislocated, but she'll deal with that later.
A quick glance around the room reveals nothing but shelves of various auto parts, likely from stolen cars, and a table and chairs to her immediate left, the surface of the former littered with tools and the disassembled remains of her sidearm.
In the next room, the sounds of fists meeting flesh have stopped, as, mercifully, have Hannibal's grunts of pain, but she can hear them talking about shooting him and she's highly aware that this is most likely about to end poorly.
With a sigh and a mental promise to slap the handsome right off of Face's stupid face, she jerks her legs and grits her teeth against the pain in her shoulders as her body starts to swing to the side. She does it again and again, praying that the rattling of the chains goes unnoticed by Tuco's men in the next room.
Apparently it does, because they're still talking about shooting Hannibal with his own gun, which she's pretty sure isn't going to work, probably. She manages to hook her ankles around the back of one of the chairs and barely holds in her cry of victory – she'll have to move fast. Carefully, using all the upper body strength she has left and ignoring the agony in her shoulders, she drags it back, miraculously managing to maneuver it in front of her without knocking it over.
In the next room, someone says something about a firing pin, but she's too busy trying to catch the toes of her boots on the edge of the seat to bring it under her to hear the full sentence. Her legs almost give out beneath her, but she manages to keep them steady, and she sighs in relief when she finally gets her footing on the seat of the chair. She keeps the wrist of her left arm, the one she suspects is dislocated, braced against the top of her head while her other hand searches frantically through her hair for a bobby pin.
She gets it free of her braid just in time to hear the purr of an engine as the men leave and the fierce snarling of dogs in the next room, and with a frustrated curse she presses the pin into the cuffs. The angle is weird and her hand is unsteady, but after a few tense seconds the first cuff clicks open – she mentally thanks the previously-detestable Face for the lock picking lessons – and she begins work on the next one.
The dogs have stopped snarling and she can't hear any noises of distress from Hannibal, which is a good sign, but he might be hurt and she has to get free, has to help him –
There's another tiny click and the final cuff snaps open, and in the next instant she's off the chair and heading towards the door so fast she actually plows into the colonel, who has somehow managed to get free all on his own.
"Oh good, you're alive," she says, successfully hiding how concerned she'd been, and his eyes twinkle with amusement. He's got a few red welts on his face that will fade into bruises, but he's still puffing on that ever-present cigar of his so he can't be in too much pain.
"Good to see you too, Red. Come on, we have to get to Face," he replies, turning towards the door as a pair of whimpering pitbulls, cuffed together at their collars, trot by, struggling to free themselves.
"Yeah, so I can kill him," she mutters, trailing after him and hissing in pain when she carefully tries to move her left arm. Yeah, it's definitely dislocated.
His attention is back on her in a moment, in tune as he always is with the condition of his men, and her face heats as she feels him scan her for injury.
"Dangling from the ceiling is nowhere near as fun as it looks," she quips in an attempt to keep him from worrying, but it fails spectacularly.
"Which arm?" he asks, moving closer, and she grits her teeth in anticipation.
"Left," she replies, expecting him to count down before snapping the joint back into place. But this is Hannibal and he does nothing of the sort, instead bracing his hands against her shoulder and popping it back into position as soon as the word leaves her mouth.
An embarrassing shriek of pain bursts from her throat before she can stop it, but he doesn't seem to notice as he scans her for further injury. His expression darkens ever so slightly at the bruises on her face and wrists, but she won't allow him to coddle her, not like this. She didn't get to be a lieutenant and an Army Ranger by being weak, and she's not about to start now.
"Thanks," she says, before quickly picking up the pieces of her sidearm and reassembling them with practiced speed. She slides it back into her holster before nodding at the colonel, and the pair of them race into the desert to save her idiotic friend.
Bosco "BA" Baracus is a giant of a man, with a rough, mean look about him that had worried her at first. But his van is nice, and his dedication to his old position despite being burned by it is nicer, so she patches up the wound Hannibal had caused as best she can until they can make it to the army hospital a few miles away.
The rescue had been sloppy and half-cocked, something she knows irritates Hannibal to no end, which is why Face is currently being read the riot act as he tries to defend his actions. He's trying to play it off like it was about rescuing Tuco's wife and not Tuco himself, which would have been super noble if they all hadn't known it was bogus.
"Come on, Red, back me up here," her friend tries, and without even looking away from her bandaging she reaches back and smacks him upside the head.
"Dislocated my friggin' shoulder for you, man," she mutters as Hannibal laughs, "you're lucky I didn't light you on fire myself. In fact, I still might."
Her task finished, she retreats to the back of the truck where Face's newest beau is mercifully quiet, and listens as her friend and BA get acquainted. The former corporal is quite obviously a good man, underneath the rough exterior, and she likes him at once. She can tell Hannibal does too – she recognized that gleam in his eye when they'd been swapping stories on the way to rescue Face.
It's the same gleam that roped her into this madness to begin with – she rather suspects she'll have a new teammate before this fiasco ends.
She ends up getting more than one, actually, or so she realizes when she rounds a corner in the hospital hallway to see Face shouting at the top of his lungs at BA, who is holding another man in a lab coat by the throat.
"Hannibal!" she yells, because he's the one who thought enlisting someone called "Bad Attitude" was a good idea, and races forward, wedging herself between the two struggling men. The position is a vulnerable one, but despite the fact that she can hold her own as well as any man in combat and has largely been accepted as "one of the guys", she has yet to meet a man in the US military who hasn't faltered at the thought of physically confronting her just because she's female. BA is no exception, yelling something about stitches and lightning but immediately backing away from his victim, who's actually laughing.
The man is handsome in an unkempt way, she supposes, with wild hair and wilder eyes and a smile that seems like it wants to leap off his face – it takes her less than a second to understand that, whoever this man is, he's absolutely, unquestionably insane.
"You got a death wish, man?" she asks above the noise, mostly just to gauge how he'd react, and he doesn't really respond other than to wink at her.
And then Hannibal is there and the yelling finally stops, and she finds out the grinning "doctor" is, as she suspected, not actually a doctor but a pilot-turned-mental-patient called Murdock. And apparently he's the one who's supposed to fly them out of here.
Face and BA protest, of course, and she feels like she probably should too, but she knows Hannibal and knows that he's not about to be swayed. And she trusts him, and if he really believes this psycho is going to be able to get them to safety, then it's good enough for her.
There's a moment, just a brief, tiny flash, when Hannibal tells Murdock he's been reinstated that something about the pilot seems to brighten, to relax; his wild eyes suddenly burn, with desperation or excitement or something else, she isn't sure, only that it makes her heart break for him, just a little bit.
Having him fly them out of here might be worth a shot, she thinks, if it can put that kind of look on his face.
Even if she is fairly certain one of them will most likely die in the process.
She turns out to be wrong, to her surprise, though there had been a close call with BA there at the end – she's pretty sure Murdock didn't mean for the former corporal to go flying out of the helicopter, but he doesn't seem that apologetic about it, either.
It hardly matters though because Tuco is finally dead, and after being tied up by his thugs and witnessing what he almost did to Face, she's pretty satisfied with the fact that he's no longer in the land of the living.
Face has jokingly called her "Mama Bear" on more than one occasion, and she figures the name fits fairly well. If his chopper hadn't been blown out of the sky, she'd have found another way to make sure he bit the dust, regulations be damned.
Her stomach is still churning when they land at the base in Los Angeles, and BA is muttering "never again" over and over, and Face and Hannibal are still celebrating his brilliant plan and how well it all worked out, but all she can do is take in their newest arrival.
He's grinning like a fool and taunting BA like he's been doing it for years, jumping up and down like a toddler on speed. His accent switches from Southern, then to Irish, then to South African, and finally to something oddly operatic as he talks about all the stunts he wants to do next time and all the ways he wants to cut it closer, and she finally interrupts him just as he starts theorizing about involving C4 and parachutes.
"Captain Murdock," she says, slowing her pace to lag behind the rest of her boys, who don't seem to notice.
The pilot stops and looks over at her, a bright smile on his lips that makes something dangerously like affection twist in her chest. "Yes Ma'am?" he says, tipping that ratty cap of his.
That's probably the moment, the moment, but she won't realize that until much later. "You're one hell of a pilot. Thank you," she says.
His smile shifts then, and she isn't sure how, exactly, doesn't know him well enough to identify the way varying emotions rest on his face, but she realizes then that she'd like to be able to, eventually. She can tell that it's similar to how he'd looked in the hospital, at least, when Hannibal told him he was being reinstated and his eyes had gleamed like someone had handed him a winning lottery ticket.
"Anytime, Ma'am," he replies with a mocking bow, actually removing his cap and sweeping it in front of him like some sort of gentleman. The mental imagery makes her want to smile.
He looks up at her, brow furrowed in confusion for the first time in the wild hour that she's known him.
"The name's Red, Red Wayne. You don't have to call me ma'am. I'm a Ranger, just like you – and you outrank me, anyway."
"How'd you get a name like that?" he asks, straightening up and walking alongside her as they resume their pace towards the building ahead. He's constantly fidgeting, she notices, drumming his fingers or twisting his shirt or adjusting his hat. She wonders if it's a side-effect of his mental condition or if he simply has too much energy in his system – she'd bet it's probably a little bit of both.
She gives him a look and gestures to the hair that's trying its very hardest to spring free from the braid she's had it in for the last two days, the color of which is reminiscent of fire engines and overripe tomatoes. She's had the nickname ever since she was a little girl and is heartily grateful for it, because her real name is atrocious – though not, she concedes, as atrocious as Face's.
He seems to consider this, then, to her immense surprise, takes her left hand and kisses the back of it rather gallantly before she can react. "Captain Howlin' Mad Murdock, at your service, Lady Red."
For a moment, she's frozen. She's broken noses, jaws, fingers, wrists, and kneecaps belonging to those who have made advances that she very clearly conveyed were unwelcome, but she senses no ill-intent here – he seems to be entirely innocent of what he's doing, as though this sort of behavior is perfectly normal.
Well, she thinks with something like a resigned sigh, maybe for him it is.
And punching him would feel a little like kicking a puppy, anyway. He's a Ranger and she's seen the way he flies so she knows he can more than hold his own, and he's very likely lethal in combat, but there's something about him that makes it hard for her to muster up any sort of indignation at all. He's not harmless, perhaps, but he's not a threat, either.
"Just Red, not lady, you dolt. And that can't be your real name."
His eyes twinkle at her as they once more resume their walk into the building. "Maybe not, but it fits better, so that's the one I use."
She understands that better than he knows, but feels the need to tease him anyway. "I'll get it out of you somehow."
"Ya sure? Lots of people have tried before, ya know, with no success."
She cocks an eyebrow at the challenge in his tone, then grins at him. She likes him, she decides, a whole awful lot, and is suddenly very glad Face screwed up so badly after all. Every team should have a psycho on their side, and there's no reason why he can't be theirs.
"We'll just see, Howlin' Mad."
And together they enter the base, smiling like a pair of idiots, and Red supposes that's where it all begins.
A/N: Yay for the five and one trope of a super-obscure fandom with a super-obscure love interest! Sharlto Copley is life, ya'll, and Murdock is a precious lil cinnamon roll. This is gonna be like six chapters, maybe with an epilogue, idk. Since a couple of people said they liked what I did with Midnight in the Garden but wished it had been broken up into distinct bits, this is for you. Hope you enjoy!
Also, as a brief aside, yes I know that during the time this movie was set, women in the US military weren't technically permitted to serve in combat roles like the one Red has. But this is Hannibal we're talking about, and if he can reinstate a certified lunatic and someone who was dishonorably discharged on a whim, then he can pull a few strings to get Red on his team. The A-Team seems to operate by their own set of rules; that is to say, none whatsoever.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I only own Red Wayne, everything else belongs to the creators of The A-Team. The title is taken from one of the best OneRepublic songs of all time, and all of you should go listen to it right this moment.
Hope you enjoy, review, favorite, follow, all that jazz.