A/N: Just a little random one-shot for your reading pleasure. No pairings.
Summary: Face might be the conman in their little group of four, but really they're all liars to some extent.
The Great Pretenders
If you ask anyone who's the conman in their little group, people'll always say Templeton Peck. He goes by the name of 'Face' for gods sake, a nickname based on his ability to be anybody he chooses, and his real name is the one given to him by the priests and nuns at the orphanage, not by his parents. He doesn't know the name his mother held for him if she held any, only knows the title he was given by a sister who'd read it once in a book and had quite liked the sound. His paper-trail is a winding maze of false monikers and fake lives, dancing the borders of the truth as he takes on his new roles as easily as slipping into a new suit. Accessories help the process, dolling up the changes with casual clothes instead of his usual shirts and smart trousers, a different accent to disguise his own, a foreign language tumbling from his tongue, but it's when the game is raw that he most loves to play. His voice pitched higher or lower, sultry or serious, and tighter and tighter his spinning web ensnares those caught. Him in the centre, pulling the strings of the con with a disarming smile and a light in his eyes like he's never grown up out of playing 'Let's Pretend'. It's his talent, his gift. Superpower , Murdock jokingly calls it sometimes, and Face just laughs at that. He likes the idea, and wonders whether Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent despite their superior alternate lives could chat up women as well as he can, needing merely some time, maybe a drink for the lady and a smile that sweeps them off their feet. As for its use in the military, his ability to charm his way out of anything, to dress in persona's that fit comfortably every time, has also saved his life, the lives of his team, and has helped complete missions that before were going to hell in a hand-basket.
Faceman Peck had a reputation at HQ for being able to lie and scam his way out of anything life threw at him, and to the most extent , it was true. In Iraq, he was the go-to man,like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Prison, the guy who could blag you cigarettes or porn magazines or pirate copies of new release films, anything for grunts or pilots alike. He didn't question, just nodded and stashed it away like a post-it note of memory in his mind, turning a blind eye to whatever was asked for just as long as he got something out of it. Money was worth as much as sand in the deserts they camped in, so he got repaid by other means, better shower times, a blind eye turned when he brought a female lieutenant back to his tent, that sorta thing. Services cost after all, and Face wasn't a charity.
On the run , it's a little different. He's not getting paid this time; he's just doing it so they survive, and his payment consists of another day free from prison, another day out of the clutches of the FBI and Lynch. The payment sometimes doesn't seem worth it, worth the long hours and the jobs and the expenses to keep hidden, but most days it does. When Hannibal grins with the ever-present cigar held in his teeth and calls him 'kid' and says how much he missed smoking when he was inside. When BA whistles as he cleans his van, and runs his hand back through his Mohawk, his 'jazz' returned from its temporary flight during those long six moths. When Murdock has less nightmares then he used to the longer he's away from Germany and those closed up white walls where he couldn't see the sky, the pills and therapy sessions forgotten as he rambles about goblins or whatever has taken his flight of fancy that day. Face sees all this and recognises that none of them want to ever go back to those six months; six months separated, six months imprisoned, not even Face. And even though he's not in the army any more, has no real official obligation to anyone, he has a family in his friends and through the medium of Hannibal's batshit-insane plans, he still lies, cheats and scams as easy as breathing, revelling in the game again, despite the deadly consequences if he screws up.
He's not the only one who does what he does, when he thinks about it one day. Oh, he can scam and con things out of anything that breathes, his specialist skill despite technically being the team's XO and sharpshooter; in the same way that Hannibal's the colonel with the crazy schemes, but doubles as their friend when they need it most, like Bosco's the mechanical expert as well as resident bad-ass, like Murdock's a spinning bundle of unexpected usefulness in his languages and cooking ability that no-one would guess from his plain title of 'pilot'. They've all got their talents, but Face knows he correct in the belief that all of them, to an extent, do what he does. They all lie. Not maliciously or vindictively, but they all do, with or without realising. Even to themselves.
Hannibal lies when a plan's gone to shit. When one of these cases they take on moves in an unexpected U-Turn that even the Colonel's meticulous planning couldn't have predicted. Yet when Face or one of the others ask , he tells them with a solid tone that they'll be ok, that there's a plan in everything and that he's got everything under control. They've gotten out of worse, but one day, there's always the fear that one of them will deal the wrong hand against Lady Luck, that Hannibal'll miss something vital or BA'll pick the wrong fight with the wrong guy, that Murdock's aerial stunts might just not work one day , Face's tricks wont be good enough. They can all see the concern in his eyes, the plastic truth of what he's said. It's never worry, never outright, but the thought, the possibility of them not getting out of this one with grinning cheers of relief on the lips of three of them, the crazy half-serious howl from one, must weigh on Hannibal. They can see it, and although they can hide from the world and the FBI, they can't hide from each other.
No-one ever calls him up on it however, and often Face finds himself agreeing with the words spoken simply because there's nothing else he can do but hope that Hannibal might not be lying after all. And afterwards, when the storm has raged past them and miraculously spared them from damage, Face catches his CO's eye and they don't have to speak to know that Hannibal had no god-damn clue how it was going to turn out back there.
Another time is when they talk about the future. It's not a popular topic usually, considering their futures blew and burned along with the money in that truck. But while they're talking about this, Hannibal often interjects when the mood gets too dour and tells them that one day, they wont be hunted any more. That one day they'll be free men, with restored ranks, who'll be able to go shopping at Wal-Mart without looking over their shoulders, who'll be able to sign forms with their own names and unique signatures- from Hannibal's printed letters to Bosco's surprisingly delicate script- without having to remember which identity they're going by at the moment.
Hannibal's definitely lying there, even trying hard to convince himself. They all know that they can't clear their names, not without Morrison. But they all buy into the dream temporally with half-believed hopes, BA talking about the family he sees as his future that he now might never have now, the loving wife and 2.5 children in a house with a white picket fence in a good neighbourhood, while Murdock imagines simply that he has his own room, not provided by the army or the VA service, his own room with his own bed with four walls he can decorate however he wants without the orderlies preventing him. And although it'll never happen, Face mentions the future he had wanted, imaging that it could be true, that BA could have his loving family and kids, that he'll see Murdock one day in a room all of his very own, with posters and hand-marks of different coloured paint on the wall that will be any colour other than white.
There isn't any other option.
BA's worse than Face at times. He's a con-artist in his own right, born and bred from the influence of his neighbourhood, acting tough simply because he had to . And whereas Face slips on and off his persona's like clothes, BA wears his all the time; the image of a hard threatening man with intimidation in his eyes, words of violence voiced in his grumbling tone. It's an act, and they all know it. The muscles and hardness he portrays with the sincerity of a Thespian acting out Hamlet, yet the lines are scripted, learned from habit sculpted over years of practice. Bosco tells Murdock he's going to hurt him with all sorts of pain when they've drugged him yet again, but they've all see the fear and trepidation in his eyes when he's flying and conscious, hidden under the layers of the tough-guy-bullshit that he likes to pull. Face has known Bosco long enough to know it's all a cover, has seen the real BA, the gruff man disappearing when an honest smile peeks through to reveal the true man they all knew was there underneath. They see the real him when he's around kids and his eyes soften and smile. They see it when he's cheering and grinning along with the rest of them when Hannibal's latest plan has inexplicably come together. And- while he threatens Murdock with fates worse than death- Face has seen how the big guy is the first to react when someone starts on the pilot for being a bit different, retributive bruises delivered swiftly by an extremely pissed off black man if they dare lay a hand Murdock, despite how the pilot will always try and pass it off as nothing if they do. After BA's let his fists do the talking on Murdock's behalf and they've all returned back to whatever base Hannibal's procured for them tonight, usually a backwater motel that doesn't ask too many questions about four dog-tired men with money in cash and barely any luggage, there is a gentle light in Bosco's eyes that he can't quite hide from a quietly watching Face as he tucks the sleeping pilot's blankets further around him to keep out the cold. For all his seeming anger, BA's a sensitive soul, and to the three who know him best, no amount of lying can hide it for long.
And Murdock. Crazy loyal Murdock. Even Face can't see through his pretences at times, whether the pilot really is as mad as everyone makes out, or whether there's just more to it than that. Howlin' Mad Murdock is one of the cleverest people Face had ever met, languages spoken as easily as callous curses, references and snatches of songs and quotes from films tripping off the tongue at a million miles an hour. He isn't stupid, and he knows how to cover things up, how to brush them under the carpet so he can try to pretend they aren't there. The pilot's a man who hides the depth of what's really wrong behind wacky gestures and sock-puppet shows, who jokes about Billy even when there's a small glimpse of fear in his eyes , like he's afraid to look in the corner of the room at the phantasm only he is able to see . Like Face, Murdock's a hundred different people, the roles slotted inside his head for quick access or just made up on the spot in a flash of inspiration, the roles of Dread Pirates and ninjas and upper-crust Victorian gentlemen slipped on and off so fast Face can't tell how Murdock keeps up with the changes. It must be Pandemonium in Murdock's head, his thoughts running to keep up with the songs and the jokes and the pretend games, and sometimes Face wonders whether Murdock knows how lost he can get in the fictional lives of other people, the persona's he wears like a second skin , if he even knows how to follow the string back down the tunnels of darkness and back to who the pilot really is underneath.
Just because they all put up barriers of falsities to the world however, doesn't make the truths they share any less valuable. If anything, it strengthens it, and when something else is revealed about them to the others, like the petals of flowers being pulled back to show the delicate colour underneath, they all know how serious it is, respect it as such. When Hannibal looks at them all, and tells them with steady grey eyes that he wont let them down like Morrison, that he'll never let them down like Morrison, there's a violent honesty in his expression, like he's daring them to try and doubt him. When BA tells Face he'll always have his back, Face always believes him, can tell by the look in the big man's eyes that he means every word he's spoken as though it's the gospel of some obscure religion with the congregation of four followers. When Murdock has one of his moments, loses the string he's holding in a whirl of madness that threatens to drown him, towing the line between control and chaos as he shouts and quakes and cries his way into the oblivion that is offered, Face is always there to hold him back, to keep him grounded. One thing Face never lied about was when he told Murdock afterwards that he'd never let him get lost in that choking darkness, that he'll never leave him behind or alone. And the pilot only has to turn and look in his eyes to tell that Face isn't joking, that he'll never be joking. That none of them will ever leave another behind, simply because it'd be like losing a limb, an irreplaceable part of them that they could never fill.
Because even though they can all lie to themselves, they can't lie to each other.
They've been through too much for that.