Author's Note: Just a little background... I enjoyed the movie very much; it was fun and entertaining, and spurned a few story ideas, haha. I love the original, but the movie was enjoyable. Anyway, it's my first time writing for this, so...I hope I've done the characters justice. It's meant to be an 'extended scene' of sorts. Happy reading! :D

It was almost like the stupid cups were mocking him.

Things usually became difficult once he actually started to work it all out, take all the pieces and put them together. But this time around, for whatever reason, he found himself wrestling with an unpleasant bout of self-doubt. To make matters worse, several outcomes hung on the thread of his plan- the lives of his squad being the most worrisome out of all the rest. On top of the self-doubt, there was a gut-churning worry, an ache in his chest at the thought of all this responsibility falling squarely on his shoulders.

And so the bright red plastic cups- eternal symbols of frat boy beer-swilling fun- were mocking him.

He'd felt completely confident about everything before Hannibal had actually told him it was possible, spinning the cups and the little silver ping pong balls like he wasn't playing with their lives but simply acting out another con. A knot had formed in his stomach, an unpleasant reminder of what was yet to come.

Face heaved a sigh, dropping his head into his arms. The unfinished map lay before him, battle plans for what was quite possibly the defining moment of his life. He still had 72 hours to get a grip, much to his relief.

With another sigh, he scanned the map again, one hand grabbing at a fistful of his hair. Frustrated, his thoughts no longer leading him to a satisfying conclusion, he swung out with his arm and swiped the cups from the table. They tumbled to the floor with strange twangs and rolled out of sight. Face leaned back in his seat and rubbed the rough stubble that covered his cheeks, growling in mounting exasperation.

He sat there and brooded until he heard the familiar shuffling of Converse sneakers on the cement floor. The following whistle confirmed the fact Murdock had entered the area, presumably looking for something. The tune to the Andy Griffith Show echoed around them as he walked. Face smirked, turning in his seat as the pilot appeared behind him, still whistling. Murdock paused to grin at him.

"Hey there. How goes the good fight?"

Face felt the smile fade from his lips. "Ah, y'know…I'm gettin' there."

Murdock nodded, continuing his trek across the room.

"This one should be a beauty when you're done, buddy boy, there's no doubt about that."

Face turned back to the map, trying to ignore another wave of that crippling uncertainty. Murdock continued whistling the Andy Griffith theme, rummaging for something in one of the nearby crates, kicking his legs slightly as he leaned forward to grab something.

"Hey, Murdock…"

"Yeah?" The pilot's voice was muffled as he continued his search.

Face muttered a curse and shook his head. "Forget it."

He could tell his squad plenty of things, but an anxiety attack was not one of them. Being prepared-being sure of things- that was his job. They still needed to believe that.

But Murdock knew something was up; he had a bizarre 'radar' for that kind of thing. He could spot liars or cheaters a mile away, especially if said liars or cheaters were fellow Rangers (which was also the reason why Face couldn't beat him at a single card game). The pilot walked closer, but not before his foot crushed one of the plastic cups. He picked it up from the floor and frowned curiously at it.

"You havin' some problems, Face?"

"…It's nothing I can't handle. Honest."

He could tell right away Murdock saw through the fake smile, the one he'd trained himself to use for just such an occasion. Face watched him fiddle with the cup, spinning it around in the air as he stood there.

"You've got writer's block or something. You never get writer's block."

Face laughed in spite of himself. Murdock circled around him and sat in the chair to his left, setting the crinkled cup aside. His eyes were wide and inquiring, like a child's. The fact he was wearing his well-worn baseball cap backwards only added to this fact.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

Face heaved a sigh. There was no point in lying, especially to someone who already knew he was.

"Okay. This…this plan is really difficult. It has so many parts to it…" he trailed off, shaking his head. "I've never actually done anything like this before."

"Uh-huh." Murdock nodded thoughtfully, rolling a ping pong ball on the table between his palms. "So you're scared."

"I'm not scared. I'm just…concerned."

Murdock smirked. "You can be both, Face. You're only human, y'know."

He spun the ball as he spoke. Face raised his eyebrows as he processed those words.

"That actually makes sense."

Murdock spread his arms in a shrug. "I have my moments."

He leaned forward over the table again and tossed the ball into the crinkled cup. Face had never seen him look so calm and collected. Murdock crossed his arms on the table and sighed.

"Think about what I've got to lose if this goes bad. The most out of all of us, right? But I'm not worried- and you shouldn't be either." The pilot paused to smile. "Because I know it's gonna work."

Face could only stare back at him. For as long as he'd known Murdock, nothing he'd said had ever sounded so serious. He was waiting for him to suddenly fall into cackles at the gravity of what he'd said and dismiss the whole thing, but he didn't.

Murdock really did have the most to lose, if he thought about it. Face could handle prison, but he still preferred to be outside the barbed wire fence. But the fact that his friend would be stuck with a bunch of nutjobs the rest of his life, talked down to like a child, did not sit well with him at all. Murdock was family as far as he was concerned; the whole team was.

And who the hell was he to risk losing the only family he had?

He'd finally found his incentive. Face grinned, reaching out to grab his friend's shoulder.

"Thanks," he said, "But…you're crazy."

Murdock smiled knowingly. "Not that crazy."

Face shook his head and hit him on the shoulder. Murdock looked at him a moment and jumped to his feet, tapping out a quick rhythm on the table before bumping his fist against Face's arm.

"You're welcome," he said.

Face nodded, turning back to his map yet again. It didn't seem as mind-bendingly frustrating as it once had; in fact, it was manageable. He listened to Murdock's footsteps shuffle back toward the crates and smirked as he finished rummaging through them.

"Well," he declared, "Better get these fireworks up to the Colonel so you're little plan can have some pizzazz."

Face was sure Murdock was doing his best to make "Jazz Hands" despite all the boxes. He turned to watch him leave, not surprised to see he'd crammed as many brightly-colored packages as he could into his arms.

"Have fun with that, Murdock."

The pilot flashed him a childish grin. "You bet I will."

He headed for the exit, struggling under the cumbersome burden of all the boxes, but stopped halfway there, as if remembering something.

"Oh, Face-"


"If it makes you feel any better…I'm the same way before every single flight."

He had to raise his eyebrows at that. "Really?"

"Oh yeah, sure." Murdock fumbled with the boxes, jiggling them to get a better grip, unknowingly spilling a whole group of sparklers as he did so. "I just…Just know you aren't alone, all right?"

Face did know; it had just taken him too long to realize it. He would have said something like that but Murdock was close to dropping everything all over the floor.

"All right," Face laughed, "I know it. Now get the hell out of here with that stuff- you're making me nervous."

Murdock laughed his normal staccato laugh and turned to leave. Face watched him stumble out of sight, a trail of unlit smoke bombs bouncing along at his heels. He turned back to the blueprints. To his relief, all of the doubt and the worry and the ache in his chest were gone. All he could feel was the usual sense of smug satisfaction at the fact he'd outsmarted the enemy once again.

A loud crashing sound interrupted his thoughts, followed by a high-pitched shout of 'Dammit!'

Face snorted into laughter, hearing Murdock muttering to himself as he strived to pick up the boxes. A sharp cracking sound signaled he'd stepped on one of them. Face shook his head, biting back a grin. He spun the crinkled cup with the tip of his finger and set back to work.

They said you couldn't choose your family- but he had no problem living with the one he had.