Author Note; Unofficial sequel to an earlier A-Team story called 'An Umbrella in Spite of The Thunder'. It isn't necessary to read that first, but this story does follow on immediately after that one in terms of continuity. This is a slash story, so if that isn't your cup of tea, you probably aren't going to want to read any further. References to WALL.E pop up in this, but again, it's not necessary to have seen it. (Although I highly recommend it :-))
Requested by Ectofralamazoo, who first introduced the plot bunny for this sequel, and who needs to be noted not only for their part in the creation of this fic, but also for having an amazingly cool pen-name ;-) Hope you like this.
"Didn't I say I wasn't ready for a romance?
Didn't we promise would only be friends?
And so we danced though it was only a slow dance
I started breaking my promises right there and then.
Now that you're here it's not the same situation.
Suddenly I don't remember the rules any-more."
This Night, Billy Joel
""There's a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend,"
A Fine, Fine Line
It was going to come out sooner or later. They both knew that, recognised that it was one of the most important parts of being together- telling the family, before it came out some other,more awkward, way. Because honestly , in a close knit group such as theirs, it was quite hard to keep any sort of secret. They didn't ever need to. When you trusted someone so implicitly, had allowed them to lead you into situations where even your own life was forfeit, but followed anyway because you knew they'd go to hell and back to get you out safely, you didn't need secrets. There had , admittedly, been the whole I'm-in-love-with-my-best-friend arcanum between Face and Murdock, but that was long put to rest with open admissions. Now came the harder part; the part where they had to tell Hannibal and BA that the two of them- making up half the team- were together. Which would be interesting to explain, considering Face was involved. Face, who- if the last nine years hadn't been a figment of a collective imagination- slept with women, and who had a generally bad track record where love was concerned. Throw in Murdock, who wasn't the most stable man regardless of his free-hearted and jubilant nature, and of course, it could be assumed that with their union might come some issues with the other members of the group.
Curiously, neither Face or Murdock had to actually say something about it when it came down to actually dragging the subject out into the open. Which was something of an excessive relief for Face. After the initial happiness after admitting his affections to the pilot, hard reality had hit him and he'd been worrying about how this whole thing would go down. What Hannibal would say, how BA would react. And if he was worrying, that meant that Murdock would be worrying over it twice as much, and a couple of times now he'd had to quietly deal with Murdock's contained freak-out's over the matter, calming him down with whispered words and tender kisses. The worry the pilot showed openly when they were together was the same intensity as the concerns Face was labouring around in his mind. He'd gone through how he'd do it in his head, from the 'just-coming-out-with-it' tactic ("Hannibal? BA? I'm in love with Murdock. And sleeping with him") to the 'gradual-admission' method of play ("Hannibal? BA? You know how me and Murdock have been friends for years? Well, turns out that, well...me and Murdock are really good friends. As in really good friends. More than just friends actually. So, erm, we're kind of together. In most senses of the word. That ok?")
The day of judgement occurred three weeks after they'd initially decided to admit to their feelings. Three weeks of not rushing anything, three weeks of re-learning everything they already knew, just in a new light. Three weeks to steel themselves for what was going to have to come. Despite the undercurrent of worry, Face wasn't able to regret at all what he was doing. There were some things that... just were, just made sense, and this was one of them. He could not regret something which felt so natural in his eyes.
It had been film night that night. Again. It was something that had seemed to have become a fixture, a little bit of regular domesticity amid the chaos and constant upheaval that their lifestyle provided. A time where they could all just sit down and have a moment of peace together- although this was usually dependant on the jobs they were on and the accommodations they found themselves in. They had all set up an unspoken rota, and each time they found time to settle down, relatively secure in the knowledge that the Feds wouldn't come bursting down the door, they put on a different person's film choice. It was a time to relax, and none of them had to say how much the few hours at peace meant to them all. The quiet eye as the storm of reality raged on outside them, filled with thoughts of danger and constant vigilance and the usual violence and enemies which came with the existence of being military criminals. Those quiet times were a bubble of well-deserved peace and it usually found Hannibal sitting in a chair to the side smoking his cigar, Face and Murdock on the sofa having popcorn fights,with BA drawing up another chair on the other side to "be away from those crazy fools". It wasn't much, but it was enough.
Tonight it was Murdock's turn. And it came as a surprise to no-one that he chose an animated film. Over time it had become easy to tell who had chosen whatever film was playing, according to each's preferred genre ; whether it was Hannibal's love of Hitchcockian thrillers and hard-core science-fiction , BA's action films and kung fu flicks, Face's comedy's (and as it turned out, period drama's; something which Hannibal had found hilarious when it was revealed, despite the fact he had tried to excuse his giggles as coughing. Face had sniffed indignantly and it had taken much cajoling before he had deigned to put Pride and Prejudice back into the DVD player) and Murdock's eclectic love of cartoons, superheroes and anything remotely escapist.
Face should have known it would be WALL.E , tonight of all nights.
The pilot had slot the DVD into the player without showing anyone what it was, and it wasn't until they'd sat through the upcoming film trailers that they'd reached the cheerfully animated menu. BA had let out a groan.
"Cartoons," he had complained, his brow furrowing "Why did it have t' be one of yo' fool cartoons?"
Hannibal was smiling around his cigar, his corner of the room achieving a greying atmosphere of fuggy smoke.
"Let him put it on, BA" he reasoned with the sergeant "I wouldn't mind seeing it and it's only an hour and a half" He neglected to say that he and BA actually had already seen the film out of curiosity, but BA didn't mention it, perhaps considering that his image might be damaged by the knowledge that he'd watched a children's film by his own free will.
"Yeah, Bosco" Murdock interjected, a zany grin on his face, sensing an opportunity to playfully irritate the sergeant. "Shorter than that film you made us all watch. Over two hours of people shooting at each other. 'Was enough to send us all to sleep"
"That was a classic!" BA couldn't help but bite back.
"Classically bad, maybe"
"How bout I class your head as bad? Wit' my fists"
"Boys" Hannibal quietened them both down as the film started. It wasn't as though he had much need to stop the two bickering; it was just another part of the normality that had built up over the years they'd been a unit- Murdock winding BA up while BA threatened to kill him in a number of imaginative ways. There was rarely any really malice in their words, and as yet Hannibal had never witnessed BA actually hurting Murdock, lifting him up by the shirt or grabbing his neck usually the closest the two ever got to actual blows. Still, Hannibal secretly quite liked this film, and wanted to be able to sit through at least twenty minutes without any bickering or popcorn fights.
All things considering, it went well. They even got to the half an hour mark before any form of food-throwing made itself known; mostly because for a while, Murdock was content just to watch the film, making robot noises and curled up next to Face in a way that Hannibal could almost call non-platonic. But he refrained from commenting and was just content to take another drag of his cigar. Face- who seemed to have his arm around Murdock's waist- turned around, complaining to the Colonel about the fumes that were beginning to permeate through the small room, something about passive smoking and lung damage. Hannibal cheerily ignored him, and blew out a smoke ring, just to be spiteful.
BA had started to pretend to snore, feigning sleep, and Murdock had indignantly began to throw popcorn at him over this slur against his movie, the ammunition hitting the big man's torso in a scattered rain of microwavable popped grains ,before Bosco sneakily opened one eye- still snoring, slanting a look to monitor Murdock's movements. When the next flying piece hit him upon the forehead-Murdock's aim obviously having improved- BA wasted no time in grabbing the pillow that he was lying on against his chair and throwing it straight at Murdock's head. Needless to say, Murdock's sudden ducking movement to try to avoid the shot jostled the bowl of popcorn considerably. Much of the contents didn't survive the motion and ended up distributed across the sofa and floor. By the time BA had stopped laughing and Murdock had sufficiently recovered- having launched immediately into a pretend death scene speech worthy of Shakespeare- most of the 'corn was no longer in the bowl, and Face had had to sweep quite a number off his lap, internally groaning at the mess, knowing he'd have to help tidy it up later. The pilot however, had taken advantage of this, upending the plastic bowl of the rest of it's contents- back onto Face's lap, starting up another small war between the two- before jamming it atop his head, declaring himself a warrior of Gondor.
It took a while for them all to tune back into the film, having missed most of it in the battle that had just taken place, and by the time Hannibal did turn back in, he had quite forgotten what was happening. Murdock however, smiled lightly as he saw where they were at in the film, pulling the bowl off his head and dusting off the pieces that had stuck to his hair. The robot that resembled a cylindrical Apple Mac , (Hannibal thought that was EVE) and the other yellow one, the eponymous WALL.E were talking. The colonel obscurely recalled this bit from the last time he'd watched this and observed as on screen , WALL.E took the plant- the one that Hannibal remembered was apparently very important, the one that EVE was created specifically to find- and held it out weakly to the female robot.
And then, placidly and subtly, so subtle that in the dark of the room it was barely noticeable, as EVE looked at the plant intently, Face's hand slot into Murdock's, the motion resembling the slotting together of two naturally conjoined pieces. And as the female robot tossed the plant away, deciding what was more important to her and turning back to look at WALL.E, Murdock angled his neck to look at Face.
"Directive" The female robot repeated the word just as the pilot whispered it, so quietly that Hannibal barely caught it, the pilot's greeny blue eyes intently focused on Face just as EVE's eyes ( or whatever you could call them) were focused on WALL.E. Directive. Charge. Commitment. Raison d'etre, Hannibal thought as he watched the two. 'Reason to be'. The phrase seemed fitting somehow.
Face smiled at Murdock, a content happiness in his eyes, and Hannibal turned away, wanting to give them privacy. The four of them watched the rest of the film in a companionable silence, Murdock only rarely interjecting with robot noises, his hand not moving from the cradle of Face's fingers. It wasn't until the melodic tone of Phil Collins began singing the credits and BA had exited the room to find some more drinks for them all, fulfilling his usual bad-ass quota by playfully proclaiming that his IQ had dropped just by watching the movie, that the Colonel looked over to see that Murdock had fallen asleep, his body curled up against Face's. He looked so peaceful that none of them would have wanted to disturb him, the lines on his face lax and barely noticeable, his animated limbs curiously still. Face obviously was in no mind to wake him either , and there was an expression on his face as he looked at the sleeping figure that stuck in Hannibal's mind; like he was in possession of the most beautiful thing in the world. A look that verified without any shadow of a doubt something that Hannibal had already had figured out for a long long time.
Face flicked his head around to frown at the Colonel in confusion, the question having come from nowhere, before the realisation of what Hannibal meant hit him slowly, with the strength behind it of a heavy-weight boxer. It was a feeling curiously akin to being punched by a glove covered in cotton wool; a softness in the Colonel's voice designed to camouflage the suddenness of his words and their connotations. A medley of expressions glanced across the conman's face, oscillating between perturbation and defiance, before he sighed heavily. Face had known it would come out at some point, whether he was the instigator of the conversation or not, and he knew Hannibal's penchant for being several steps in front of everyone else. He probably had guessed it even before Face had. Hannibal was like that.
"Three weeks" he admitted honestly and Hannibal nodded, like he had known it already. Which of course he had.
Face waited for it. The talk. About DADT, about what they were doing being wrong in some way. He wouldn't have been surprised if that was what was spoken. He'd always thought of Hannibal as being a man tolerant to other people, considerate of their own lives and choices , regardless of who he was talking to. In Iraq, Hannibal had treated every soldier the same, regardless of their race or religion, just so long as they did their duty and watched each other's back. But people got funny when DADT got brought up. Didn't want to mention it, pretended it wasn't there. Face had seen more than one soldier receive an administrative discharge over who he was, and the reaction in HQ between those who had known him was always something Face hadn't liked to witness. There was rarely violence- MP's did have some use there- so the louder angrier ones had grumbled among themselves ("Always knew there was summat dodgy about him... Not quite right, you know? Fucking faggots, always goin' where they ain't wanted."), while friends kept quiet and drank among themselves, not wanting to stick up and defend their comrade in case a real fight broke out and they were a recipient of the pent up violence. The issue brought out the worst in people and Face had always stayed clear of it whenever it had happened.
Face wouldn't know what to do if that was Hannibal's reaction, although he could imagine the supposition of his mind's creation. It would be a quiet anger, a look of betrayal, the worst kind of acknowledgement of disapproval he could give Face. He had known Hannibal longer than the others, longer than BA or even Murdock, and if that was the response given to him by his oldest friend... He didn't want to think about it.
The talk never came.
"You love him?"
The question blind-sided him, made him blink and wonder if he'd heard correctly, but that was to be expected. The light in Hannibal's eyes reflected the significance of that question. He looked sincere. There was no dark light expressing some malevolence, nothing to indicate anger. He just seemed to want to know that Face was serious. That he wouldn't just leave Murdock like he did so many other women, that the team wouldn't be messed up because of this. That was what he was worried about. The basics; that Face- with his track record of romances- would screw Murdock and leave him, and that Murdock- the sensitive damaged soul he was- would break down because of it.
Face's answer was already upon his lips with barely a question upon his mind.
"Yes" So many meanings in that one word. Yes, I love him. Yes, I'll never leave him. Yes, I'll never hurt him.
Yes, this was for real.
Hannibal nodded again. He knew. Most possibly he had always known. Sly bastard, Face thought admiringly, and the colonel just smirked back at the look of fading shock on his lieutenant's face . No anger. No disappointment. Nothing.
Just a smile. Like it was the most natural moment in the world.
"That's that then," Hannibal announced, moving to get up, then looking over at Face curiously, noticing his XO still looking at him "Why, were you expecting a bit more?"
"Sort of," Now the moment had passed, Face felt slightly embarrassed about doubting Hannibal so much. The man had been his friend for over ten years; he should have recognised that he wouldn't cast him out because of the news. He felt guilty , looking back over the less-than-flattering views of Hannibal's reaction in his mind's eye. All had portrayed awkwardness and anger with the precise and detailed strokes of an artist's brush, but the reality was gentler, painted in less harsh colours. Hannibal knew, and he didn't care. "I thought you'd be more..." he shrugged wryly, passing a soft gaze upon Murdock's sleeping features before turning back to Hannibal "I don't know what I thought."
Hannibal sat up, stretching his cramped muscles. "Oh he of so little faith" He smirked "Don't you know me by now kid?"
"I just... I thought that it'd be an issue. That me and Murdock being... well you know... together would be a problem"
"It would have been a bit of a shock" Hannibal agreed "But you see, kid, you two have been so transparent around each other that we all saw it coming a mile off. Wasn't much to be surprised about if you'd have come out and said it"
"BA knows then two, huh?" Face enquired, feeling a little bit stupid that he couldn't have worked this all out a bit sooner. It would have saved a whole lot of worrying.
Hannibal gave a curious little grin, an image that went hand in hand with fatherly smiles and hair ruffling. "You may be a good actor, Face, but when it came to Murdock it was like watching an amateur. We all had it figured out by the end of the first act"
Face grinned, a weight seemingly having lifted off his shoulders. "I get it." He gave a small resigned sigh, the smile never faltering " Three steps ahead of the plan as per usual"
Hannibal rose up off his chair , with the intent of going to the kitchenette to make himself a coffee.
"When am I ever not?" And with that comment and a lingering smile, he left Face with Murdock, with the conman wondering how the hell he'd managed to miss the fact that Hannibal was the crafty old fox he'd always suspected him to be. It seemed so obvious now that Hannibal would have known, not to mention BA's cryptic comments around the two of them. Face had been cast as the fool for a while now without even knowing it.
He shook his head , a fond expression on his face as he considered Hannibal's reaction, and ran his fingers softly through Murdock's hair, leaning down to press a kiss upon his sleeping partners forehead. The two of them still part of their little family. He never should have doubted it.
He smiled again , just watching Murdock sleep, an air of peace in his heart. Maybe he didn't mind having been the fool this time.