A/N: The first half of this kicked around in my head for awhile last week...the second part came along much later. T for language and adult themes, I suppose. Can't remember if this made it into the story anywhere, but I'm imagining this scene taking place a couple years or so before the movie.
Disclaimer: I do not own The A-Team, etc...
"Hannibal…" Face's voice carried a tremor of uncertainty as he prompted the older man to speak. He exchanged a nervous glance with B.A. The colonel had been laying out the groundwork for their next mission in what Hannibal had deemed "The War Room," the large tent in which they discussed missions, hatched plans, and often dispensed with rank and other formalities, if not sobriety. Murdock had been yanked for a significant medical supply run that morning which involved a few choppers, a dozen Rangers, and several crates of antibiotics and first aid gear. The supply run teams had reported back about fifteen minutes ago and would still be winding down and debriefing at this point. Face silently willed the pilot to hurry along. He could use a little of Murdock's levity right now to help dispel whatever rain cloud had just let loose on Hannibal.
The storm had appeared in the form of a piece of paper, passed to the colonel by a messenger who promptly departed. Hannibal's sharp eyes had sped along the lines of text on the page before slowly lifting to stare into the middle distance. Then Face and B.A. had watched with growing alarm as the colonel sat down heavily in one of the rickety metal folding chairs that afforded no comfort to its occupant.
B.A. was still watching and waiting, but Face didn't do too well with heavy pauses. "Boss, what is it?" he questioned. A thousand dreadful possibilities presented themselves as silence persisted. Had an old friend of Hannibal's become another casualty of war? Or was it a loss of a civilian nature, something back home? Had the military or some portion of it suffered a horrible set back or catastrophe? Had they just received orders for a genuine suicide mission? Was the team, God forbid, getting split up? Hannibal still wouldn't even look at them. Face was about ready to scream.
"Hannibal, seriously, you're kinda freaking me out right now-"
Though silent, B.A. had apparently reached a similar limit and without further hesitation, walked up and pulled the paper from the colonel's hands. Face stood rooted to the spot, not encouraged by the fact that Hannibal continued to sit and stare as though he were looking through the wall of the tent. B.A.'s gaze fell upon the paper now.
"Oh, man," B.A. murmured, the words carrying a significant amount of emotional weight for all their simplicity. "Damn it all to hell and back." The paper crumpled in his clenched fingers.
"Somebody tell me-" Face was almost starting to think there'd been a second 9/11 when Hannibal spoke up at last.
"One of the choppers…didn't make it back." Each word seemed to draw another ounce of strength from the colonel's body. Face's eyes darted from one man to the other. B.A. wasn't looking at him now, either.
"What choppers?" His brain still hadn't caught up with Hannibal's words. It didn't want to.
"The supply run, Face. There were three choppers. Alpha chopper stalled and crashed on the return trip. Murdock…was assigned to the alpha chopper."
"But…" he shook his head. "No, they all came back, twenty minutes ago-"
"Not the alpha chopper. Not Murdock's chopper-"
"We heard them come back!" Face simultaneously wanted details and silence. His ears were full of white noise. Hannibal's eyes, which seemed ten years older than they had just five minutes ago, finally lifted to meet his gaze.
"Only two of them came back, Face. Alpha crashed, and there were no survivors. He…Murdock is-"
"Shut the fuck up!"
"Face!" B.A. interjected harshly, his voice rough, but Face barreled on, regardless, panic edging into his voice.
"We saw them!" Except they didn't. Not really. Just a glimpse of percussive steel through a plastic tent porthole. "Anyway, nobody's dead until we see a body! Isn't that what you've always told us, Hannibal? Isn't it?"
"The bodies have already been accounted for. They're being recovered as we speak. This is not a joke, kid." God, he sounded weary. "It's real. Do you hear me? Murdock is gone."
Face held Hannibal's gaze, still looking for a punch line. He found no reprieve. B.A. was like stone. Face's eyes finally shifted to the Hawaiian shirt hanging on the back of the empty chair next to the colonel's. It probably still had grill carbon smudges on it from yesterday's "Mystery Meat Fest," as the pilot had dubiously called it.
The tent suddenly felt too small for all the suffocating reality it was trying to contain. He turned and practically lunged for the door, threw the flap open, and almost collided…with Murdock.
Face visibly flinched, startled so badly that he backpedaled and nearly fell on his ass in the doorway. "Jesus…fucking Christ!"
B.A. shot up off his stool, and Hannibal wore the look a man who'd just been slapped in the face. Murdock was hatless and thoroughly disheveled; he was smudged with a generous amount of dirt and grime and a heavy expression, but he was very much alive.
"Um," the pilot ventured, worn out and growing supremely nervous beneath the intense stares of his teammates. "I'm back…"
Face looked like he'd forgotten how to breathe. "Murdock, we thought…I mean they told us…"
"We…we received a report that your bird had crashed and burned, Captain," Hannibal explained, his tone somber.
Murdock paled considerably and pushed a shaking hand through windblown hair. "Oh, Jesus…I-I traded choppers at the last minute. Beta had some quirks and I'd flown her before, so they switched me. Oh hell, Colonel, there's no way you guys would've known that, and I didn't even think about…I'm sorry…I'm so sorry…"
"Fool, if you apologize for bein' alive one more time I am gonna knock you into the next week." Hannibal finally managed a grin upon hearing B.A.'s declaration. Murdock laughed nervously, but his tentative smile didn't reach his eyes.
"Uh, ain't that gonna, y'know, break the space-time continuum or somethin'? Ok, Face, seriously, your um, face…it's gonna freeze like that. You're givin' me the willies."
"Only thing gettin' broken is your skull, crazy man," B.A. went on.
Any parry from Murdock was lost as Face practically attacked him with a bone-crushing hug. The pilot's smile became less forced and more genuine with the lieutenant's random act of affection. Face pulled back after a moment and turned to stand beside Murdock now, one arm draped over his friend's shoulders.
"We're not loaning you out for these crazy-ass side missions anymore," he announced, as if the decision were actually his.
"Because our missions are perfectly sane," Hannibal commented dryly.
"Yeah, well, those are our missions," Face countered, his momentum recovered.
"That's eloquent logic, kid."
"Anyway," Face said pointedly, shifting his attention back to Murdock, "you're gonna be like those books at the library that nobody's allowed to check out. The ones people use to look important stuff up."
"That's called 'reference' in Big Kid Land, Face," Hannibal continued to dig at the conman as he searched his pockets for a cigar. B.A. snickered.
"Reference, yeah, whatever."
Hannibal rolled his eyes.
"Man, when you ever been in a library?" B.A. threw in. "And your Playboy collection don't count." This drew a chuckle from Hannibal.
"Of course it doesn't, I don't circulate those." Murdock's grin broadened. "I did, however, date a librarian once. She was generous enough to give me a grand tour and free membership to the New York Library."
"A 'grand tour,' is that what they're calling it these days?" Hannibal questioned over the click of a cigar box opening.
B.A. looked mildly disgusted. "I bet the only thing you 'checked out' was your librarian's ass." The comment sent all four of them laughing. Face spoke up again a moment later as the ruckus waned.
"Tonight, we should definitely drink. A lot."
"Sounds good, kid." Hannibal's first instinct was to rib him about excessive drinking or the next mission coming up in a few days, but he abstained. Circumstance had been cruel to all of them today. It had taken lives and pulled the ultimate fake out, and if a little partying helped to ease the blow then Hannibal wasn't going to discourage it. In fact, he planned on being a willing participant. Murdock shed his BDU jacket as Face stuck the trademark red cap on the pilot's head, a couple liquor bottles now gripped in his other hand. B.A. hunted for glasses while Hannibal hunted for a lighter. A certain level of shakiness remained in Face's eyes that manifested itself in the form of unsteady hands when he poured their first drinks. Murdock's eyes carried similar troubles, and a subtle, uneasy stillness mellowed B.A.
The staccato whir of cards being shuffled and bridged meant Face was gearing them up for poker. "Drink if you lose, drink if you fold," he outlined the rules simply, getting nods of consent from the others. Face had soon declared Murdock the Party Guest of Honor as he dealt the cards, and while nothing could be proven, Hannibal was relatively certain he slipped the pilot some choice cards at least three times before the game was over.
Dawn or something close to it was finally beginning to peak through parts of their tent when Murdock, dulled by lack of sleep, a day full of stress, and alcohol; came to a delayed realization. "Wait, you guys thought I actually crashed a chopper? Me?"
The comment was so belated and otherwise random that the horror of the situation was temporarily defeated by humor. Tired, inebriated laughter rang through the tent and drew the glances of passersby. The four friends reveled in each other's company as their laughter worked desperately to counter the understanding of just how close they'd come to losing it.
Not long after Hannibal, B.A., and a very drunk Face assured him that the idea of him crashing any type of flying machine was absurd, the four of them decided to call it a night. Face, who was still toting an almost-empty bottle of JD, had to occasionally be steered back in the right direction by his fellows as they left the War Room. Murdock departed briefly to hit the showers, during which Face slurred the questions, "Where did Murdock go?" or "When's Murdock coming back?" no less than four times each. B.A. and Hannibal were extraordinarily patient with him, if only because of what had befallen earlier that day.
When Murdock rejoined them, towel drying his hair as he came in and feeling like his feet were made of lead, he found everyone in their bunks. Someone had switched on the small snake lamp wrapped around his cot frame so he could see his way to bed. Bone weary, Murdock tip-toed to it and lied down. In the cot to his right, Face looked like he had all but passed out; the conman's head was at the wrong end and the JD bottle was on the floor just below one outstretched arm. Beyond him, in the next cot, Hannibal lay with an arm over his eyes. To Murdock's left, B.A. was face-planted in his pillow.
Kicking his boots off, Murdock flipped the snake light off and let his head drop heavily onto his pillow. It took approximately 30 seconds for him to fall asleep.
Two hours later, he was startled awake, fragmented images of a helicopter engulfed in flame lingering unwanted in his mind. Slightly disoriented, Murdock wondered that anything short of heavy artillery was able to drag him out of his current level of exhaustion. Nothing seemed to be amiss. He was about to close his eyes again when he heard Face murmur something. It was totally unintelligible, but it didn't sound happy.
"What?" Murdock spoke into the relative darkness, propping himself on his elbows. "Was I snorin'?"
When Face didn't answer, Murdock angled the small lamp downwards so as not to light up the whole tent and flipped it on again. Face was actually still asleep and obviously dreaming about something distinctly unpleasant. Murdock frowned as he watched his friend take a couple rapid, uneven breaths and clutch tightly at the sheets.
"Face," the pilot spoke, trying to rouse him without scaring the crap out of him. He personally wasn't all that fond of being shaken out of sleep. "Hey. Face."
Face lurched himself awake, sat halfway up, and stared, hollow-eyed, at Murdock. Murdock stared back, uncertain about the man's level of consciousness.
"You awake, Faceguy?"
Face didn't answer. Instead, he blinked a couple times and dropped back to his pillow, out like a light half a moment later. Murdock sighed wearily and was about to flip his light off again when B.A.'s gruff voice broke the silence. "Whatchya doin', crazy man?"
"Nothin'. Face was dreamin'," he replied, shifting his gaze to the surly corporal. "Woke me up."
"L-T got blitzed," B.A. declared, drawing the word into two syllables. "I mean, he drank a shitload of alcohol."
"Seriously wasted," Murdock agreed, not quite able to laugh about it. His eyes landed back on Face. He noticed for the first time that the well-liquored lieutenant still wore just one of his shoes. Murdock leaned over and yanked it off his foot.
"Fool, he wouldn't even know which way was up right now, you think he cares about a shoe?" B.A. spoke. "You havin' an OCD moment, or what?"
Murdock shifted to face B.A. again. "Me? I'm surprised he even got to sleep like that. Have you seen the guy's locker? It's practically color-coded."
"Yeah, man, he got these fancy suits, and shoes, and all these little bottled toiletries…It's like a gay Hugh Hefner in there. Where the hell he gonna use all that shit out here?"
Murdock's face split into a high-wattage, eyebrows-raised grin.
"Did you just say 'toiletries?" the pilot teased, laughing.
B.A. grinned back at him, shaking his head. "You seen it yourself, you know I ain't lyin."
"Bosco, if I didn't know any better I'd say you had Playboy on the brain. Are you jonesin' or what?"
"Man, shut up," BA retorted through a sheepish grin, lashing out with a pillow-whack that Murdock just barely blocked. "Why don't we talk about your locker, huh? It's like Magnum P.I. meets Beetle Bailey." Murdock busted out laughing and covered his face with his pillow to muffle it. B.A. went on, his words broken up with his own laughter. "You-you got, like, Happy Meal toys or model planes or some shit, antifreeze, a dirty sock from 1995…a pigeon…"
"Oh yeah, well what about yours, Bad Attitude? A carburetor and seventeen shirts with the sleeves ripped off?" Murdock countered when he could speak again, and flexed one arm dramatically. "Maybe a cardboard stand-up of Gina Torres?" He ducked as B.A. swung his pillow at him again.
"I am gonna kick your ass, Murdock."
"Do you have any idea how many times you've watched Serenity since we've been out here?" the pilot replied. "Where did you even get a DVD player?"
"Fool, you just don't know a fine lookin' woman when you see one-"
An extra loud snore from Hannibal startled them both into a classic guilty-kid reaction. The two men struck a comical freeze-frame until they decided the colonel was still asleep.
"What do you think Hannibal's got in his locker?" Murdock asked B.A. in a hushed voice, grinning again. "I mean, besides about a hundred cigars."
"Dude's got a Man vs Wild thing goin' on," B.A. whispered back. "I bet he got an elephant gun up in there. I love it when a safari comes together!" Wheezing out a laugh, Murdock pressed his face back into his pillow.
"Gentlemen," Hannibal's voice reached them from the other side of the tent, heavy on the Boston Irish, and they were suddenly returning to guilty-kid mode. "I do not need to be sober to run you through. . ." A cricket chirped.
". . . drills?" Murdock supplied after a long pause, exchanging a confused and amused look with B.A. "I think there's a word missing there at the end, Boss, 'less you're really wantin' us dead by the sword."
The colonel's only response was a snore. Murdock giggled.
"Hannibal gonna run us through," B.A. spoke with false urgency, cracking the two of them up all over again. It was like sleepover delirium. "He's over there dreamin' 'bout bein a pirate," the corporal declared, over-pronouncing the R. Laughter finally trumped his ability to speak. Murdock was kicking his heels against his cot, face buried in his pillow again. It took them a full minute to push aside the mental images of a swashbuckling Hannibal Smith and get calmed down.
"Good God," Murdock said when he could talk again, worn out from laughing. It was a good, cleansing kind of worn out. "I needed that. Thanks, Bosco."
"No problem, crazy man. Now go back to sleep before Hannibal makes us walk the plank."
Murdock flipped the light back off, still grinning even as he drifted off to sleep.
Really wanted to write a scene where the rest of the team thought one of them was dead. Also wanted to try writing more than a few lines of B.A.'s voice. Hope it was enjoyable! Review if you get a chance, and thanks for reading!