General Russell Morrison smiled when Colonel 'Hannibal' Smith strolled into the command tent, cigar already lit and smouldering. He shook his head fondly at the wide grin and casual salute.
"General, sir," Hannibal greeted him and sat when the man gestured to a chair.
His Alpha Unit's - or A-Team, as the boys liked to be known, last mission was a resounding success, which pleased the seasoned general no end. In and out, with no casualties, and no political backwash. The 'package' was procured quickly and efficiently, and Morrison cracked open his new bottle of scotch and grabbed two glasses to toast probably his most valuable military asset at his disposal.
He poured Hannibal and himself a couple of fingers of the amber liquor each. "Another mission done to perfection," he grinned.
Hannibal laughed and touched his glass with the general's. "And to many more."
"So, where are your boys?" Morrison asked, his eyes shining with mirth.
"Well earned R&R," Hannibal shrugged with a smile. His team definitely needed a break, so he'd sent them off with base passes and told them not to come back for two days. Morrison nodded, and then pulled out a manila file.
"Thought you boys would like this next mission, kind of a milk run," he said opening the papers. "How many missions is that now?"
"Next one numbers eighty," the colonel said. Hannibal remembered each and every one of the last seventy-nine missions, in detail.
"Eighty?" Morrison whistled. Of all his teams on the base, now and even in the last 8 years, Hannibal's A-Team was the only one to have reached this impressive total. Colonel Jennings' team a close second with sixty-one successful missions tucked neatly under his beret.
Hannibal picked up the mission details and scanned them. He frowned. "Ramadi?"
"Small village 18 miles north of Ramadi," Morrison corrected. Ramadi, about 110kms west of Baghdad, was notoriously known for its 'troubles'... and the term 'milk run' didn't quite fit there. "An informant supposedly has some information on the location of those missing FGM-148 Javelin's."
The FGM-148 Javelin was a United States-made man-portable anti-tank guided missile, with lock-on before launch and automatic self-guidance capabilities. In other words, a real bad-ass piece of hard ware, and eight of them had gone missing four months previously, presumed intercepted en route to the US base in Balad. The army still didn't know if the disappearance was pure luck, or an inside job. Intelligence pointed to the latter. Hannibal raised his eyebrows and looked at Morrison, interest piqued.
"We'd liked those babies back, Hannibal," the general said quietly, milk run or not, the mission was still serious. "Get in, get the info, get out. Simple."
"The informant reliable?" Hannibal asked, knocking back his whiskey. Morrison blew out a breath and slowly shrugged... when was anything reliable? Hannibal blinked and chuckled.
"Shit, Hannibal, in this God forsaken place, I wouldn't even trust the ground I walk on! Seriously though, keep this under the radar..."
"Okay, then." Shaking his head, Hannibal drew deeply on his cigar, the smoke curling around his lungs like an old friend. He picked up the papers again, cocked his head and scanned the map, his mind already formulating a plan. "Easy. We'll be back before you know it."
The General refilled their glasses and nodded. "Just make sure Peck doesn't blow my budget again with his hair-brained scams. Better still, don't even tell me about his scams, I don't wanna know!" Morrison grinned about the team's supply officer – now with the 'respectable' reputation of a conman – and his talents.
The men chuckled at that and spent the next couple of hours laughing over some of Face's more crazy scams. And later, with a final hand shake, Hannibal left with the mission details and a quick salute to work on his plan before his team came back.
Raucous laughter and the screech of jeep tyres announced the return of his team, and Hannibal looked up from his notes. Corporal BA Baracus had Captain HM Murdock's head in a lock under his huge muscled arm, the smaller man complaining and shouting indignantly at him. A half eaten raw carrot was clamped between BA's teeth and the Ranger was crunching loudly.
"Have a good time, boys?" Hannibal chuckled. BA dropped the captain and automatically stood to attention, carrot falling with a soft thud. Murdock snickered from the floor.
"Yes, sir," BA answered, sneering at the man at his feet. Murdock stood, dusted himself off and carefully lifted the half eaten vegetable.
"Alas poor carrot, I knew you so well," Murdock sighed and shot BA a reproachful look.
BA growled. "Shut up, crazy fool!"
"But, BA, you killed him! You ...bit him in half!"
Hannibal snickered quietly at the latest eccentricity of his pilot and watched as BA grabbed the carrot and shoved it in his mouth, the leafy end sticking out comically. Murdock stared horrified.
"Rest in pieces," BA smirked around his full mouth. "Sucker."
Murdock pulled out a piece of celery. "Don't worry Pete, we won't let him get you, too," he cooed at it. BA's face was a picture.
"Pete?" Hannibal just had to ask.
Spinning around, Murdock grinned at him and thrust the green stick up. "Sergeant Pete, meet Colonel Hannibal Smith..." He nodded thoughtfully at the celery and grinned. "Yep, you can call him bossman, too! The Sarge here is heading up an undercover task force to liberate all vegetables on base, boss," he said, his voice low and conspiring. Hannibal's brow's raised and he bit back an amused grin. Liberating vegetables? Murdock's narrowed eyes widened though, when he spied the notes on the table and immediately forgot about the celery stick called Pete. "Oooo, another mission? Do I get to fly?"
"No, you do not, fool," BA interjected with a huff. No way was he getting into anything with Murdock at the controls! "No helicopters, no planes, nothin'!"
"Now, now, boys," Hannibal soothed. "Yes, it's a mission, and no, unfortunately, no flying."
BA grinned at Murdock's pout.
"No fair, boss, I was lookin' forward to my next death-defying-"
"No death-defyling nothin', fool. You crazy!" BA interrupted.
Hannibal sighed and sat back in his chair. He swore sometimes his boys had the mentality of 5 year olds! "Where's Face?"
The question stopped the squabbling and Murdock clamped both hands over his mouth, celery poking out to the side. BA rolled his eyes.
"Face got himself a date las' night, man. Fool didn' come back," BA explained.
"BA! You told!" Murdock gasped shocked.
"Hey, what you talkin' 'bout? Ain't no secret!"
Checking his watch, Hannibal pursed his lips. "Well, kid'd better be back soon, or-"
"Or what?" Lieutenant Templeton 'Faceman' Peck beamed as he strolled in the door, not a hair out of place.
"Nothin', kid," the colonel said with a small chuckle.
Murdock smiled and sidled up to the conman tapping Pete against his lips. "So, Facey, was she good?"
"A gentleman never tells," Face grinned, blue eyes smiling. "Buuuut..." He carried on with a knowing look. Oh yeah, she was good. He saw the celery. "New friend?"
Murdock grinned and nodded. Face chuckled.
"Okay, boys, glad you all had a good rest," Hannibal said and blinked at Face when he yawned.
"Sorry, boss." Face poured himself a large coffee.
"That's the big 8-0, bossman," Murdock chimed in.
"Yes, it is, so we make this one count. Morrison tells me it's a milk run," he explained and unrolled his plans on the table. The team stood and looked at it.
"Ramadi?" Face frowned, his thoughts very much the same as Hannibal's back in Morrison's tent.
"Not quite. Small village north of there." Hannibal handed his team copies of the mission details and his plan.
"That's quite a plan, boss," Face mused as he looked over the notes.
"Fuckin' mad, Hannibal," BA murmured.
"It's 'cause you're on the jazz, ain't it, bossman?" Murdock grinned. Hannibal took a drag from his cigar and winked.
"Simple, low profile intel retrieval mission, in and out. We're going in as Catholic missionaries. Face, I need appropriate outfits for us all, prayer books, food parcels etc. BA, we need a school bus, well equipped with a secure lock box for weapons, preferably hidden, oh and..." He looked at BA's head. The big man ran a hand over it.
"Ah hell no, boss, ain't shavin' my mohawk!" he huffed.
"Okay, big guy," Hannibal laughed. He turned to Face. "Need hats, too."
Face shook his head but wrote it down anyway.
"Catholics? In a Muslim country?" Murdock blinked. He shook his head and looked at his celery, "Bossman's definitely on the jazz, Pete."
"We leave at 0200. Hit the road past Ramadi before dawn and get to the village just after sun up. The informant should meet us by the local store," he pointed to the map, "here. We'll park the bus over here," moving the little model bus across the table, he stopped at the edge of the village. "BA, you'll wait in the bus, Face and I will do the meet, and Murdock will shadow us."
"Is the informant legit, bossman?" Murdock asked, showing the plan to Pete. "I mean, I know we all wanna get them javelin's back, but..."
"As far as we know." Hannibal looked at his team seriously. "We can't let this one slide, boys, if the information is on the level, it could prove invaluable in the retrieval of those FGM's."
Face leaned forward, elbows on the table, and perused their plan. "What about getting back? The road past Ramadi at that time'll be heavily patrolled. An' snipers won't know we're US army," he said referring to the numerous US snipers that were in and around Ramadi, and the reason they couldn't fly in undercover and complete the mission.
Hannibal moved the little bus across the map a different route, and Face grinned and nodded.
"Good plan, boss," he saluted. "Crazy shit bad ass, but good."
"Meet back here at 2100 tonight. Let's get cracking," Hannibal clapped his hands together and watched as BA and Murdock scurried out of the tent.
"You okay, Face?" he asked when the man didn't move.
Nodding, Face looked thoughtfully at his commanding officer. "Just, you know... mission number eighty. May be a milk run, but could still fuck up."
"True, but think of the bright side..."
"There's a bright side?"
"Sure, think of it as a road trip," Hannibal grinned and Face laughed and shook his head.
Gathering all they needed for the mission was simple for them, they were well practiced in the art of supply and need, and what they needed, they supplied themselves with.
Hannibal's plan was crazy, but it was sound, and missionaries, even Catholic ones, were least likely to be targeted by insurgents than anything else he could come up with. They were driving there in the school bus – and Hannibal didn't even want to know where Face scammed that from, which was rigged with hidden artillery, just in case. A simple plan for a simple milk run mission.
The team met up at 2100 and settled any loose ends before retiring to bed. They were ready.
"I ain't eatin' that shit, Murdock," BA growled again when the pilot waved the falafel under his nose. "It stinks!"
"Aw, BA, many chickpeas gave their lives for this tasty food, least y'can do is eat it," Murdock grinned. "I know it ain't my curry you like so much, but-"
"Murdock," BA scowled and snatched the falafel. The pilot blinked and smiled.
" S'good, BA, got it from K-Mart," he encouraged. Hannibal laughed at the nickname Murdock had given the village... the store stocked falafel ...and US army supply's.
"I told ya, I ain't eatin' this, give it to Face," BA said stubbornly. "He likes it!"
A chuckle came from the front of the bus. "No thank you, Murdock, last time I ate falafel, I had the shits for a week!"
Murdock cocked his head and headed towards Face. "Really? Must be the spices," he mused thoughtfully.
"I don't think so. If I can eat your special marinated concoctions..." He tapered off, stomach tightening at the thought of Murdock's weird and crazy recipes. The anti-freeze marinade had to be the wackiest.
Sighing, Murdock sat down and looked at the falafel in his hands.
"You okay?" Hannibal said, cigar smoke wafting.
"Poor chickpeas," he said and shook his head. "To be all smushed up and made into falafel..."
The colonel chuckled as his pilot started to murmur to his stick of celery, promising the vegetable it'd never end up as 'yucky smush'. He checked his watch before continuing keeping an eye on their progress.
"Fuck!" Face hissed a little later when he saw a road block, a number of armed insurgents patrolling it from what he could see. He leaned back a little from the steering wheel of the bus he was driving. "Guys, get up here."
"Shit," Hannibal frowned. "Slow down, Face."
BA and Murdock automatically moved towards their weapons and waited.
The mission up to this point had gone perfectly. They'd driven to the village with no problems and got the intel they wanted, which was worth the drive in the hot Iraqi sun, and left equally as easy.
They'd made it 24 miles.
"Hannibal, I don't like this... we're sitting ducks out here," Face whispered as he scanned the immediate area. There were a few rickety shanty shacks, a few piles of old tyres, and the rebel's ancient battered vehicle... too many places for an opportunistic ambush. And any decent cover was at least a mile away. Face considered a fast getaway around the block, but the verges beside the road were too steep. The bus would tip. Shit.
The road block was manned by at least eleven rebels, armed and ugly, and probably really bad tempered, too, and the team sighed grimly. What was supposed to be a simple mission was about to become anything but.
"Weapons armed, bossman," Murdock hissed, nodding. "What're we gonna do?"
Pulling in a deep breath and then letting it out, Hannibal pursed his lips and looked at the road ahead. "Try and reason with them."
Face stared at Hannibal incredulously. "Reason?"
"We're men of the cloth, Face, we have to try," Hannibal shrugged. "But, the first sign of trouble..."
"Gotcha, bossman. Go with God," Murdock, wide eyed, said. BA nodded looking tight lipped and on edge.
"Pull up slowly, but keep the engine running," Hannibal said and Face slowed down.
One of the rebels barked out something and Hannibal closed his eyes. Get out with your hands on your heads. Not really what he wanted to hear. He plastered a pleasant smile on his face, picked up a prayer book and slowly stepped off the bus.
"God be with you, my son," he said. The rebel blinked and aimed his rifle at him.
Hands on your head now, bastard!
Watching what was happening, Murdock gripped his gun tightly and BA laid a careful hand on his arm.
You! Bastards on the bus! Get out here, now!
"My son, we don't speak your language," Hannibal lied. They did speak it, very well in fact. The man, however, growled in frustration and called over to his fellow rebel.
"You American spies," the dark skinned man hissed, thickly accented. "Get off bus, now!"
Hannibal raised his hand in a peaceful gesture. "My son, you have no need-"
"Shutting up, now, American bastard!" the man shouted. He shot his rifle into the air. "Off bus! Now!"
Face raised his hands in surrender and stepped behind Hannibal, slowly followed by Murdock and BA, who had re-secured their weapons.
"What is the meaning of this? We are men of the cloth, missionaries, come to bring help to those who need it, spreading the good word of God," Hannibal tried to sooth. "We have food for your families..." To the rebels, the four men certainly looked the part, dressed in black suits, with white dog collars and black hats. The sun caught the silver cross each of them wore around their necks as they moved.
A bearded rebel stepped forward and plucked the stick of celery from Murdock's jacket pocket and laughed, muttering something to his comrades. Murdock pursed his lips tightly shut. Pete wasn't Allah, he wasn't even Muslim.
All four men stood silently as the rebel faction poked fun at them and tried various scare tactics. It wasn't until BA's hat was ripped off his head that the situation suddenly turned deadly.
"I know you!" the English speaking rebel spat pointing to BA's mohawk. "You kill my brother!"
"Shit," Face murmured under his breath and swallowed hard. It was very possible, they'd killed a good many insurgents in the years they'd been fighting in Iraq.
Hannibal stepped forward. "That isn't true, this is Father Baracus, he's-"
A swift strike to his mouth with the butt of a gun silenced Hannibal in an instant. His head flew back and he staggered. Face steadied him. Murdock, eyes wide, inched closer to the bus. There were weapons on that bus. They needed those weapons!
"Shut fuck up, American bastard spies!" the rebel screamed at him.
"We're not spies," Face insisted. "We're missionaries! We're of no use to you!"
The man munching the celery eyed Murdock and fired a bullet into the sand by his feet.
Where're you going, little priest?
Murdock blinked and shook his head. "I d-don't understand," he said quietly and looked at the bus. The rebel narrowed his eyes and barked out an order. Immediately two men barraged onto the vehicle and started tearing the insides apart. They were searched too, but, fortunately, the men had removed anything that might get them instantly killed.
"Hannibal," Face whispered urgently. They were going to find the weapons on the bus instead.
The colonel glanced about him, seeing rifles trained on them, itchy trigger fingers of desperate war torn men. He shook his head – no drastic moves, boys. His team frowned but stood still.
They were fucked.
The pile of weapons in the middle of the sandy road looked impressive. US military M16's, and infinitely better than the battered antique rifles the rebels had.
"You no spies? You lie," the 'lead' rebel scoffed, picked up a gun and looked it over. He threw his own down and claimed his new one. "Men of God? They no carry guns."
"Depends on who you preach to," Face muttered.
Another order was barked out and the team quickly tensed. They were going to be tied up and dragged off to who knows where, probably executed...
Hannibal eyed their weapons and knew they needed to move immediately, if they were going to survive this. He quickly darted a meaningful look to each of his boys – it's now or never...
In a flurry of gun fire, dust and screams, the A-Team dived for their guns, shooting them at anything that moved. The rebels, no match for US army Ranger's, ran for cover.
Hannibal surveyed the area, three bad guys taken out, where the fuck was the rest?
"Two o clock," Face whispered close to Hannibal from where they crouched by the bus, his eyes trained on the slight movement to their left. The Lt aimed his gun and fired.
Returning fire had Hannibal and Face ducking for cover behind a barely ample mound of tyres. BA and Murdock retaliated from their positions a few feet away.
"Shit," Face hissed when the noise died down. He grabbed his left shoulder and winced, blood oozing through his fingers.
"Fuck, lemme look," Hannibal grimaced. He pried away Face's bloodied fingers. A bullet had nicked his arm. "Flesh wound. You'll live," he nodded and ripped a strip of cloth from his shirt and tied it tightly around the wound.
"Ow, easy for you t'say," Face yelped. "Fuckin' hurts!"
"Oh, stop whining and find me those other slimy fuckers," Hannibal grinned. He glanced at BA and an anxiously staring Murdock and gave them a thumbs up, Face was okay.
Murdock smiled tightly and hand signalled that he and BA had taken out another two rebels. That left five.
"I'm gonna crawl back over to the bus, boss," Face suggested. "I'll have a better vantage point from under the front axle."
Hannibal nodded and readied himself for cover fire. From his position behind the battered pile of tyres, he watched as his XO quickly slithered behind the front wheels of the bus.
"You are surrounded, American pigs!" The heavily accented threat fell on deaf ears. Five rebels against four highly trained US Army Rangers? No contest, really.
"Drop weapons an' show selves!"
"No can do, sorry," Hannibal shouted back nonchalantly. His trained ears picked out another rebel, and with one shot the man fell dead.
BA motioned to the boss that the remaining targets were better spotted from his position, and Hannibal stealthily changed locations.
"Hey, bossman, where's Face?" Murdock asked, his eyes never moving from the danger.
"Under the bus."
"Wha' that fool doin' under there?" BA frowned. He couldn't see his fellow team mate and that agitated him. "Crazy fool's gonna get 'imself fuckin' killed."
"Bossman, we can't sit here all day 'n' wait 'em out," Murdock muttered softly. "Face ain't got that kinda time under there."
"I know, kid." Hannibal leaned up and let his eyes scan for movement. The sun captured the battered metal barrel of a rifle, and Hannibal watched as the rebel was taken out, perfectly aimed from Face's position. It was like a fucking carnival game!
A hail of gunfire at the bus startled the men and they watched in horror as the tyres were shot out, Face's muffled yell as the vehicle collapsed on him spurring them into action. Hannibal and Murdock fired a volley and managed to fatally wound another man, the one that had eaten Pete as it happened, and BA charged towards and knocked another onto his ass, snapping his neck like a twig after a brief knife fight.
"BA, you're bleedin," Murdock hissed as he moved in next to him, eyes darting everywhere, weapon at the ready, covering his friend.
"Ain't got time to bleed," the man grunted back and picked up his M16, quickly ushering the pilot to the side of a shanty. His arm stung and throbbed, but he paid no attention to it. They'd killed two more.
That left one – the 'leader'. And where the fuck was Face?
Hannibal motioned his team to go wide, be careful and be on alert. BA and Murdock moved slowly.
"Stop or he die!"
The shrill words halted the team in their tracks. Hannibal crouched and carefully aimed his weapon as the rebel pushed Face into view, his gun poking viciously into the Ranger's back.
"Would someone kill this motherfucker," Face ground out through gritted teeth. He was really pissed. The rebel shoved him again and Face yelped.
Blood from a bruised gash in his hairline ran freely down Face's cheek, dripping steadily from his chin, and Hannibal noticed his right forearm was badly injured, too, probably from the collapsing bus, and the blood left a macabre trail in the sand.
"Facey, you okay, man?" Murdock asked, gun levelled carefully at him.
"Fucking guns down, or he die, bastards!" the rebel growled, jabbing his rifle cruelly into Face again.
"Oh, just peachy, Murdock," Face forcibly grinned. "Do me a favour an' kill this fucker."
The rebel moved and suddenly the barrel of the M16 was at the Lieutenants neck, and a rusty knife at his back. "You see, bastards? I kill him! Guns down!" he ordered.
BA glanced at Murdock and they both slowly lowered their weapons, knowing that Hannibal was still waiting for his clear kill shot.
"Motherfucker," Face hissed, his head awkwardly forced up with the gun barrel under his neck.
"You American bastards! You all die, I kill you," the man behind Face shouted, and he thrust the knife forward, the rusty blade shredding the flesh of Face's side until the tip sliced right through his body. Face threw his head back and screamed, knocking the rebel off balance, and Hannibal took his shot.
Both Face and the rebel fell to the sand.
"Faceman!" Murdock shouted and ran to the downed man, on his knees beside him before Face realised he was on the ground. "Aw Jesus Christ, Hannibal, he's bleedin' bad!"
"Shit, kid," Hannibal said urgently as he knelt next to Murdock. "Hang in there." The colonel gently rolled Face and grimaced at the pool of blood beneath his left side, the sticky knife lying there. He shoved it angrily away and clamped his hands over the gushing wound.
Face bit back a strangled cry at the movement, trying to slow his rapid breathing. "H-how bad?" he gasped. BA leaned over and Face saw the look. "Tha' bad, huh."
"S'okay, Facey, you ain't gonna die," Murdock said tightly, his fingers squeezing just a little too hard around Face's. The Ranger blinked trying to clear his vision and saw the wreck of the bus. "Bus... Fuck argghh!"
"Sorry, kid," Hannibal murmured, but swallowed hard and pressed down again. Face screwed his eyes tightly shut.
"Look at me. Faceman, look at me," Murdock said and moved a finger from side to side in front of Face's eyes. Hannibal watched and pursed his lips when the pain filled blue eyes crossed and lost focus for a second. Shit. He eyed the head injury, fortunately now stopped bleeding, and blew out a breath. Concussion, too.
"BA, get the med kit off the bus," Hannibal ordered. "Murdock, help me get him in the shade." Between them, they gently lifted and half carried Face to the shady side of their bus and laid him down. Face moaned softly and his breath hitched in pain. Hannibal knelt beside Face and placed his bloodied fingers on his neck, silently counting heart beats. He looked up at Murdock and saw him fidgeting anxiously, clenching and unclenching his hands, and placed a hand over one fist. Murdock blinked at him, frightened worry clouding his eyes. He knew all too well that infection spread real fast in the desert. They all did.
"He'll be okay," Hannibal said softly and looked at his lieutenant trying to control his pain and frowned hard. That knife was rusty, they had to clean the wound, God only knew what nasty shit Face's body was fighting now... They had to get the fuck out of there!
"Go get outta them clothes, get your DCU's on, Murdock," he said quickly, referring to their desert gear hidden within the seats of the bus.
As Murdock scurried off, Face tried to sit up, swaying dangerously when his word tilted. He cried out as pain lanced through his side and fell back again
"Jesus, kid, lay still, will ya," Hannibal admonished and helped his XO settle again, grimacing when a fresh rush of blood washed through his fingers covering the wound. "What the hell d'ya think you're doin'?"
"G-gotta get back... intel... com-complete mission," Face stuttered between gasps. "I-I'm okay... gimme a minute."
Hannibal shook his head as Face's eye's closed tightly. Damn bravado! He looked up at the bus and blew out a breath. The fucking thing was totalled, as was the rebel's vehicle, and they had to get Face back to base, and fast.
A plan was already formulating in Hannibal's head.
"Here, boss," BA said and put the kit on the ground. Hannibal immediately pulled out two field dressings and gently pressed them to Face's side.
"Just breathe through it, man," BA urged as he uncapped a syringe and looked at the colonel.
"Give it him," Hannibal nodded and watched as BA swabbed an arm, slide the needle home and pushed the morphine into Face's muscle.
"Boss, his finger's broken," BA said quietly. "Sucker needs settin'."
Hannibal winced but nodded. "Okay, hold him still, keep the dressings in place," he said handing the task over to Murdock, now in DCU's.
Face suddenly giggled and Murdock blinked and smiled. "You give 'im the good stuff?" he asked.
"Nothin' but the best, eh, kid," Hannibal winked. Face did one slow blink and sighed. "Face, I'm gonna have to reset your finger. Can you hear me?"
"Hmmm?" Oh boy, was he out of it.
"On three then?" Hannibal gently held the broken and deformed finger. "Face, count with me... One..."
"T- FUCK! OW!" Face yelped when Hannibal moved the bones back into alignment with one swift pull.
"Face... Kid, you okay?"
"Wha' the fuck happen'd t'three?" the man slurred. Hannibal, busy with wrapping and splinting the finger and injured arm, just smiled.
Murdock and BA, now in DCU's also, grinned down at their team mate and Face blinked up at them, squinting against the bright sun. "Man, you guys got tall," he smiled dopily.
"Shit, Faceman, I want me some o' them drugs!" Murdock snickered and took the antiseptic wipe that Hannibal held out and gently cleaned the blood off his friend's face.
"Yeah, man, you got the good stuff," the pilot nodded, wiping gently around the small gash and bruised skin.
Face closed his eyes, his world floating. Was he drunk? Geez, must've had a lot to be this wasted, he idly mused. He never even felt Murdock carefully pinch together the edges of the wound and secure them with small butterfly bandages.
Now the morphine had taken effect, Hannibal carefully removed the dressings from Face's side and sliced through his black shirt. When he saw the extent of the injury his brows knitted, and he drew his mouth in a tight line. The deadly serrated knife had torn Face's flesh on the way in, all the way through the side of his body, and ripped out leaving a gaping ragged bloody hole. Hannibal looked up at Murdock, who was cradling the lieutenant's head in his lap.
"How's he doin'?"
"He's good, boss," Murdock said and looked down when Face giggled softly again.
"Okay, hold him. Even with the morphine, this is gonna hurt," Hannibal said gravely. "BA, hand me the antiseptic." He leaned over and looked into Face's unfocused, drug addled gaze. "Face? You still with us?"
"Hmmm, wi' y'all the way, boss, bu' need t'get off. Feel dizzy," the man slurred as his eyes opened and closed heavily.
Hannibal gently patted his cheek. "Hey, kid, c'mon, need you back with me a minute."
"Ow, whaddya hit me for? I'm here, I'm here..." He tried to bat Hannibal's hand away but missed. The colonel sighed.
"Okay, I'm gonna clean this wound, try an' keep still."
"Ooookay, bu' s'hard when the f'ckin' world keeps spinnin'" Face mumbled. "Think... had toomuch t'drink, bosss."
Murdock tightened his grip and nodded worriedly. "Jus' get it done, boss."
Face's body contorted and jerked as he tried to get away from the liquid fire being poured over his side. A strangled cry muffled into Murdock's pants had the pilot looking at Hannibal anxiously, but he held on, feeling decidedly nauseous as a sickly mixture of blood and the pale yellow coloured antiseptic seeped into the sand under Face.
"Okay, kid, nearly done," Hannibal said and applied two fresh field dressings. BA helped the colonel wrap them tightly around the trembling torso.
When they'd finished, Face lay shaking and sweating, tight lines of pain etched around his eyes and mouth. Murdock sat stroking back the damp wavy hair, murmuring nonsense to the panting man, trying to calm him. Hannibal quickly wiped his hands and placed a couple of fingers against Face's neck again, counting the rapid beats. He frowned, mentally willing them to slow down.
It took a moment, but Face finally settled and he opened his eyes and smiled weakly. "C'nwe go h'me, now?"
With gentle pat and a soft smile, Hannibal nodded. "Sure thing, kid."
Their situation hadn't changed, they still had to get back to base and complete the mission. Now, with an injured man, it was a little more complicated, but Hannibal only looked at that as a challenge. He quickly changed into his DCU's and rechecked the perimeter with BA.
"Okay, both vehicles are non-salvageable." They all knew that, BA had checked. "So, we borrow the helicopter from our friends in Ramadi."
A grin appeared on Murdock's face.
"Aw hell, Hannibal," BA grumbled. Face giggled softly again and the big guy rolled his eyes.
"Murdock and I will double time it the power station just outside the city," Hannibal carried on. "We know that it's manned by US troops, and they have-"
"A Little Bird," Murdock chimed in. "I know 'cause Cap'n Tucker... y'know, that cute lil' blond that Face dated last year, well, she lemme fly it to Amarah for dog food."
"Dog food? You crazy, fool," BA chuckled.
"Anyway, bossman, it's a sweet ride," the pilot finished with a grin and Hannibal nodded. He knew that Murdock liked to keep tabs on his favourite aircraft. Base reports had been rather vague about the power station, but if Murdock said it was there, then that was good enough.
"Okay then. We'll get the Bird and come pick you up..." He looked beyond their position and pointed to a small rocky area in the near distance. "Over there. You an' Face take cover there, this area is compromised." He smiled tightly. "Simple."
Hannibal looked at Face and his smile faded. They had no time left. "Get the supplies," he said quickly, and BA and Murdock nodded, hurrying off at speed. A sheen of sweat flushed over Face's skin and Hannibal placed his hand against the man's forehead. "Shit." Face stirred and leaned into the cool palm.
"Sorry, boss," Face breathed softly.
"For what, kid?" Hannibal asked. Washed out blue eyes found his and Hannibal gently stroked the hot cheek.
Shaking his head, Hannibal smiled. "No, you didn't, kid."
An imperceptible nod and a defeated shaky sigh made Hannibal frown. He cupped the man's face and looked at him hard.
"Face, listen to me," Hannibal said, his voice quiet but firm. Face blinked slowly. "Shit happens. You know this. We deal and move on. You didn't screw up, a fuckin' bus fell on you."
With a small smile, Face chuckled softly. "Yeah... 'member that," he nodded. Hannibal tenderly patted his cheek.
"That's my boy. Now, you hang in there, you hear? Me an' Murdock'll be back before you know it. I just need you to hang on." He leaned forward and placed his lips against the hot forehead in a barely disguised chaste kiss. "Promise me, kid."
Face swallowed. "Promise," he murmured softly.
Both BA and Murdock frowned in concern when they saw Hannibal and Face, the boss' hands gently holding the man's pale sweaty face.
"Boss?" Murdock asked.
"We gotta move," the colonel said and stood up. "Face's starting a fever, and in this heat..." he didn't need to finish.
BA gently helped the LT to his feet and held on as the man swayed. He hooked his good arm around his shoulder. "Faceman, you good?"
"Hmmmmm, g'd," was the slurred reply.
Murdock peered worriedly into the pale pain filled blue eyes. "He ain't looking that good, boss," he said softly.
"I know, kid. C'mon, let's go borrow us a Bird. BA, get Face over to that rocky outcrop and take cover. We'll be back soon," Hannibal said and handed the big guy his weapon and a bag of supplies. BA hoisted the bag over his other shoulder and nodded determinedly. The rocky outcrop was a good mile away, but he'd make it, even if he had to carry Face.
Hannibal and Murdock steadily jogged the distance to the power station, situated just outside the main city of Ramadi. They crouched behind the ruined walls of a long since demolished house and surveyed the land. The bridge over the Euphrates was patrolled heavily, as was the compound of the station. They could see the Bird on a helipad on the roof.
"That's her," Murdock whispered, a wild look of crazy glee in his eyes. "Beautiful, ain't she, boss?"
"She sure is, kid," Hannibal nodded. He sat with his back to the wall. "Okay, here's the plan..."
For the third time, BA lurched to the right when Face's legs gave out again. He carefully lowered his charge to the ground and uncapped a water bottle.
"C'mon, Faceman, ain't much further," he encouraged as he sat the man against his chest and tipped water into his mouth. Face swallowed a little, letting the rest dribble down his chin.
His whole body hurt, and God, was he hot.
"Drink some more, man, c'mon," BA urged, but Face turned his head.
"No... 's good, thank'sss. How far?"
BA looked up. "Couple hundred yards," he roughly calculated and recapped the water. Face closed his eyes, lifting a hand to shield the bright sun from his face. He noticed the grubby white bandages around his arm and fingers and blinked. Oh yeah, he remembered with a groan.
"Okay, man, lessgo," BA grunted as he hefted Face back up, and they resumed their haphazard pace to the rocky cover.
Making a simple grenade from the old shotgun shells they'd found in the rebels vehicle was simple, and Hannibal grinned. They'd managed to make three, it'd have to do.
The plan was to create a diversion at the bridge, drawing the attention away from the side of the power station where the Bird was.
In theory, it was sound, in reality it was chaos!
"Wooo hoo hoo! Fuck, bossman, that grenade blasted the shit outta that garbage bin!" Murdock laughed when the one he threw landed in it. Hannibal threw his with an almighty swing, and they were off, diversion in place. As predicted, all eyes were on the bridge, and Hannibal and Murdock slipped unnoticed inside the compound and up the metal stairs to the roof of the power station.
Stealthily, the pilot climbed into the Bird and readied it, Hannibal keeping watch. He gave the colonel a quick nod, the craft was good, and as Murdock flicked the switch to start the rotors, Hannibal dived aboard, firing his weapon at the feet of the US soldiers they were 'borrowing' from.
"Get us outta here, Murdock," he shouted over the loud roar of the helicopter, and as Murdock lifted off the roof, the colonel dropped the last grenade, creating cover for their getaway.
"Woooohooo! Man, that was fuckin' Awesome!" Murdock cried maniacally. "They're still firin' at us, too!"
Hannibal looked out and saw a soldier load a rocket launcher. "Rocket launcher on your six!"
"Oooooboy, hold on, boss! I'll show ya what this baby can do!" Detection alarms rang in the cockpit as the rocket was launched and Murdock manoeuvred to miss it. Hannibal yelled as the Bird was suddenly in a vertical climb, and his stomach rolled. "C'mon, baby! Wooooo!"
The crazy pilot then pitched the Bird forward and dropped, the rocket exploding in the space they'd just vacated, and the little helicopter rocked and lurched violently. Murdock quickly straightened up and they were flying free. Hannibal opened his eyes and grinned at his pilot.
"I love it when a plan comes together!"
Face moaned when BA lowered him in the shaded rocky outcrop. The coolness felt blissful against his hot sticky skin, and he sighed.
"Hey, man, you okay?" BA said, his concerned eyes raking over the battered body of his friend.
"Mmmm," Face managed with a slight nod.
The mile trek across the hot Iraqi desert had taken its toll on the injured man, and BA was worried. Blood had seeped through the bandages at his waist, and he was deathly pale, despite the fever that had developed. BA checked his watch and looked in the direction of Ramadi.
"Where's Hann'bal?" Face asked softly. BA frowned.
"He's gettin' us a way outta here wi' Murdock," he answered. Uncapping the water, he gently urged Face to drink.
"You don' like t'fly," Face said, a confused look drawing his brows together. BA cupped the overly warm cheek in a dusty palm and looked into Face's fever bright eyes.
"Now, dontcha go tellin' tha' crazy fool, but, jus' this once, man... I'll fly."
Face blinked slowly at the deep concern in the dark eyes. His eyes tracked to the dirty bandage around BA's arm. "Y'okay, BA?"
"Yeah, man," he patted the clammy cheek gently. "S'all good." BA watched as Face sighed and closed his eyes. He looked towards Ramadi again and frowned. Where were they?
Hannibal scanned the horizon for the rocky outcrop and grinned when he saw BA cautiously wave at them. There were no insurgents around, but Murdock had armed the Little Birds weapons anyway. He landed close to the area and Hannibal jumped out and sprinted towards his team, ducking under the whirring rotor blades.
"How's he doin', BA?" he said and crouched down beside Face. He felt for a pulse.
"Not so good, boss. Los' consciousness 'bout five minutes ago," BA said as he stuffed the water bottle and medical kit into his kit bag.
Hannibal checked the wound and grimaced. "Okay, ride's waitin'. Let's go." And he and BA gently lifted Face between them and quickly made their way to the helicopter.
Murdock stared at BA open mouthed when he silently climbed into the Bird and fastened the door tight. BA looked up and frowned.
"Oh... Nuthin'," Murdock blinked.
"Come on, boys, let's go home," Hannibal said, a touch of weariness in his voice.
A medical team was waiting for them when the Little Bird landed, and they swiftly loaded Face onto a stretcher and whisked him off to the field hospital, with BA and Murdock dogging their heels. Hannibal reported to General Morrison after letting the airfield crew know that "those fella's in Ramadi might want this back" in answer to their queries of where the helicopter had come from.
Morrison blew out a relieved breath when he saw Hannibal walk into the command tent. "Colonel," he stood and greeted him. He waited for Hannibal to tell him the details when a look of worry and fatigue filled the normally bright alert eyes.
Sighing heavily, Hannibal slumped into a chair and ran a hand over his face. "Was a bad one, Russ," he said quietly.
Russ sat down.
"Face is in the hospital." He shook his head and frowned. "We were ambushed on the way back, he was cut pretty bad."
A glass of whiskey appeared in front of Hannibal.
"Mission success," he toasted numbly. Morrison nodded. "Co-ordinates and intel on the whereabouts of the javelins, and details of a plot to move them in two days. Sound intel, should be easy to intercept them."
"We'll give that one to Jennings' team," Morrison said quietly. "Well done, Hannibal, and thank you."
Hannibal gulped down his whiskey. "Anytime, Russ." He leaned over and jotted down the details on a piece of paper while they were still fresh in his mind. "Co-ordinates of the camp where the javelins are right now, and the times, dates, etc of the move. Face can verify the intel if..." He paused and looked away. When. He'd meant to say when.
"Hannibal, take some time," Morrison said and took the pen from Hannibal's hand. He could see the man, usually so alert and energetic, now tired and to-the-bone-weary. "Go see how Peck is, I'll deal with this now." He folded the paper and pocketed it.
Hannibal stood. "Thanks, Russ."
Morrison watched him leave. Maybe it was time to let his guys go home. They were starting to withdraw from Iraq, anyway.
BA and Murdock were standing anxiously outside the doors to the hospital facility when Hannibal found them. A clean bandage neatly fixed around BA's arm told him they'd already been medically cleared.
"Hannibal, this crazy fool drivin' me..."
"Crazy?" Murdock finished for him with a smirk. BA glared at him.
"How's Face," Hannibal asked. The smirk turned into concern.
"Dunno, bossman, no one'll come out an' tell us," Murdock frowned hard at the doors. The colonel looked at his boys.
"Go eat an' get cleaned up," he suggested, hand on the door. "I'll see if I can find out what's going on."
"C'mon, fool, ain't nothin' we can do. Besides, I thought I saw a crate full o' vegetables by the mess," BA said conspiratorially. Murdock stopped still and looked horrified. Hannibal winked at BA and nodded at the convenient distraction as he slipped through the doors, listening to his pilot's hasty plans to save the vegetables from mass 'vegecide'!
"Sir, if you'd like to take cubicle eighteen, please?" a nurse said as Hannibal walked down the row of beds. He couldn't see Face. Looking up, he saw the number eighteen fastened onto the bed at the far end and headed for it.
He was fine, but he needed to find out about Face.
"Colonel Smith?" a doctor asked. He nodded and stood. He didn't recognise her. The young doctor gave him a quick once over with her eyes and frowned in confusion. "You injured in any way, sir?"
"No," Hannibal said. "I need to find out about my man, a Lieutenant Peck."
Doctor Parker, Hannibal read on her ID, pursed her lips and irritatingly scribbled something down in a chart. "Sir, I'm sure you're aware of protocol-"
"I'll handle Colonel Smith, Parker," an authoritative voice boomed over hers, and Hannibal blinked.
"Yes, sir," said the young doctor before turning to leave.
"Sorry 'bout that, Hannibal," Doctor Craig Harrow smiled. He handed Hannibal a plastic cup of warm coffee.
"Thanks, doc," Hannibal mumbled around the rim of the cup.
"These new recruits... so wet behind the ears," Harrow sighed. The doctor had been stationed in Iraq nearly as long as Hannibal had, and was very well versed on the colonel's idiosyncrasies, including his need to know about his team.
"How is he?" Hannibal asked.
"Face is in surgery," Harrow said. Hannibal's head shot up, shock evident in his eyes. "That wound is pretty nasty... whatever was used left some nasty shit behind. Sepsis, Hannibal. It's serious."
"It was fuckin' rusty," Hannibal mumbled and sighed heavily, images of the dirty serrated knife slicing into Face's flesh flashing in his mind. He dragged his fingers through his grimy hair and rubbed at his face. If only he'd cleaned the wound out more thoroughly.
"He'll be on antibiotics for a good few days and I'm gonna recommend medical stand down for at least two weeks, but I know Face too well. So, as soon as he's awake and alert, he's your responsibility. But the IV's stay. That's non-negotiable."
Hannibal nodded. From previous experience with his XO and hospitals, Face never stayed in bed, more than once exacerbating his injuries trying to escape. The man was incorrigible!
But Hannibal could relate. He was no better.
"Will do, doc."
A slightly built nurse approached them and Doctor Harrow stood. They exchanged quiet words and the nurse left. "Surgery went fine. You can go see him, Hannibal."
It was quiet in the curtained off area where Face was, apart from the rhythmic beat of a heart monitor. Hannibal listened to the steady bleeps and let his eyes take in the form in the bed.
Face was hooked up to various IVs and machines, a stark white bandage over his left shoulder, his right arm and his fingers, and a small white square taped to the side of his stomach. He knew there'd be a bigger one taped to his back. The sheet was waist high, and Hannibal could see an expanse of skin, flushed and damp with fever.
"Hey, kid," he said softly and smoothed the sweaty bangs back, carefully avoiding the bruised cut there. Face swallowed with a grimace when his sore throat grated.
"Need... t'get outta... here," he slurred his voice husky and raw, and tried to move. Hannibal gently held him still.
"Sure, but... let's get that fever down, first, huh?" he smiled, pleased to see his boy trying to escape already.
"'Kay. Throat... hurts. Surgery?"
"Yeah, just a little one. You're gonna be fine, kid," Hannibal assured him and watched as Face nodded, closed his eyes and drifted off again. He dragged a hard plastic chair over and made himself comfortable, planning on keeping a quiet vigil until Face woke up again.
A whoop and a string of curses greeted Hannibal's ears as he approached the door to his XO's room, a far cry from the despondent silence and extreme concern a few days before when Face took a turn for the worse.
Murdock had been beside himself with worry, so much so that even BA had taken to saving all the vegetables on base, just to try and get a smile on the pilots face. Hannibal hid his fear well, but inside he was dying... just like he thought Face was.
At the lowest point, his fever topped 105F and triggered a series of seizures so severe, that after a battery of tests, and no satisfactory results, and ineffective treatments, the CMO eventually pulled out Face's DNR – just in case.
Hannibal didn't even know that Face had a Do Not Resuscitate order in place. When Doctor Harrow told him, his world imploded and his heart froze. He remembered grabbing the paper and trying to read it, but his eyes wouldn't focus... he didn't want to believe...
Standing at the door, Hannibal drew in a deep breath and calmed himself. His Lieutenant was alive, was going to be just fine... Another cheer and curse made him blink and he stepped away, he had to clear his head.
The events of the last few days were still too raw.
"What do you mean, no heroic measures?" Hannibal hissed. He crumpled the DNR in his fist and shook it at the doctor.
Doctor Harrow looked hard at the colonel. "Face's choice, Hannibal."
Murdock and BA stepped forward when Hannibal's face twisted and his fists rose, but the man just huffed out an exasperated growl and read the DNR again. It was dated three years ago. A cold shiver ran down Hannibal's spine. Sosa. Fuck. Career military, and with a level of ambition that had no room for burdens.
Hannibal had seen that before. Soldiers injured and maimed in the line of duty, and then dumped by their career military significant others.
He knew Face had fallen for the woman hard, harder than he'd ever fallen for anyone before, and the manipulative bitch had talked him into a DNR... He viciously ripped the paper up.
"That doesn't make any difference, Hannibal," the doc said quietly, regretfully. "I have to abide by my patient's wishes."
"Fuck. That!" Hannibal hissed lowly, teeth clenched. He looked at his XO in the bed, deathly pale, rapidly breathing like he was fighting for air, silent alarms flashing on the machines... He blew out a shaky anger filled breath.
"Face wants to live, doc," Murdock said quietly, tears filling his eyes. "Please, don't let 'im die."
Harrow sadly shook his head. Damn ethics. "I'm sorry. We've done everything we can."
"Fuck!" BA growled and punched his fist into the door, splintering it.
"Look, he's a strong kid-"
"Bullshit, he's dying!" Hannibal waved his hands in desperation, turning quickly when a shrill alarm filled the room. "Fuck! Doc, please!"
The bed rattled as the seizure took hold of Face. Doctor Harrow moved forward and started shouting orders to the nurses that flew in.
"Two minutes," a nurse called.
Harrow plunged a syringe full of medication into Face's IV. "C'mon, kid, fight it. Stay with us."
Hannibal stared helplessly at Face, silently praying that he'd pull through. His body jerked and shook, soft keening noises ripped out of his throat.
"Pleasepleaseplease," Murdock quietly chanted, wringing his cap tightly, his eyes over flowing with stood stoically, eyes wide, brain locked in shock. They'd all seen death before... of course they had, but this was different. This was one of their own. This was Face.
"Time?" Harrow's voice was a little quieter.
"Four minutes," the same nurse said, a quick desperate look in her eyes.
Harrow looked up at Hannibal. "Please," the colonel said, and the doctor finally nodded.
"Get the crash cart in here," he ordered.
Face flat-lined twice before he stabilised and his condition finally started to improve. He fought hard to recover, and in true Face fashion, by the third day he was trying to escape.
"Hey, Hannibal," Doctor Harrow said when he spotted the man standing deep in thought by the door of Face's room. "You okay?"
"Yeah," he replied and stuck out his hand. Harrow took it and they shook. "I never thanked you."
"You're welcome," Harrow smiled. "You were right, actually."
Hannibal looked at him confused. "I was?"
"Yeah. I had a word with Face about his DNR, and he told me he'd been meaning to rescind it, but never got around to it..."
Rolling his eyes and sighing in despair, Hannibal stood speechless. He was gonna have serious words with Face! Harrow saw the look.
"I think Face knows you and he are gonna be talking about this," he grinned.
"Oh, you can count on that," Hannibal promised. Another exchange of curses drifted through the door. Both Hannibal and the doc exchanged amused glances. "How is he, really?"
"Well, remembering we nearly lost him, twice, he's doing damned well," Harrow smiled. "The infection is under control, and as you can hear, he's ready to get outta here."
"You mean, 'get him outta here, please, Hannibal'?" the colonel grinned, wincing when a loud 'fuck' assaulted their ears.
Harrow laughed. "That's what I mean, yeah!"
"Who brought in the Xbox?"
"It was either that, or strap him to the bed. The man is incorrigible!"
"Okay, we'll be outta your hair this afternoon." Hannibal shook hands with Harrow again and strolled into Face's room.
"I done smote you! You will fear the wrath of The Murdock Machine!"
"Not unless I kick your sorry ass first," Face laughed, fingers working fast on the Xbox control. Hannibal looked at the TV screen and blinked. What was that? Halo? Gears of Duty? Call of War? He didn't have a clue!
"Awww shit, man, y'all gone an' killed me, again!" Murdock whined as the screen splashed red.
Face laughed again, his bright white smile a welcomed sight.
"Hey, bossman," Murdock said. "Wanna play?"
"Oh, no, you play," Hannibal backed off slightly. Computer shoot 'em ups were out of his league. Computers were out of his league! He turned to the man in the bed instead, and looked closely at him. Face was looking a lot better. He had colour in his cheeks, despite the slight bruising spreading from his forehead, and a spark of life back in his eyes. He still held himself stiffly, tell tale sign that the knife wound was still sore. The man could use a little fattening up too, but Hannibal was confidant Murdock would see to that.
"Woooohoo! Gotcha, Facey!" Murdock yelled in triumph and Face threw down his control, wincing as his side pulled painfully.
"Yeah, you did, Murdock. You did good," he smiled indulgently. Murdock preened and did a small victory lap around the TV stand, hopping over the console wires. Hannibal laughed at his 'kids'.
"You here to spring me?" Face asked already pulling back the covers. The colonel rolled his eyes.
"Geez, Face, anyone'd think you wanted to get outta here," he joked. The look on his XO's face made him chuckle.
"Well, ye-ah," Face deadpanned. "C'mon, Hannibal, I'm goin' stir-crazy in here..."
"It's a good feelin', ain't it?" Murdock snickered from the base of the bed. He held up the ends of the Xbox cables, placed them on his temples and mocked having shock therapy. Both Face and Hannibal blinked at him before laughing at the man jerking comically on the floor.
"Doc says you're released into my care, kid," Hannibal said with a nod. He placed his hand over Face's when the man started to disconnect the IV. "Ah ah ah... those stay."
"You're kiddin'," the man almost whined.
"Sorry, no. Medical stand down for two weeks-"
"One," Face interrupted. Hannibal ignored him.
"Two weeks, and the IV's stay put for the next few days."
Face slumped back with a pout.
"What? You're gettin' outta here, kid," Hannibal said, his hands spread wide. "What's with the pout?"
"I'm not poutin'," Face mumbled.
"Oh, you're definitely poutin', Facey, like a lil' kid," Murdock grinned. He pulled out a red and green striped woolly mitten and stuck it on his hand in a weird version of a pouting puppet. "Yep, jus' like that."
Hannibal cocked his head. "New friend, Murdock?"
"Yep, Stripy. He's Billy's best friend. I'm jus' lookin' after 'im for a bit," Murdock smiled.
"Billy?" Hannibal mouthed at Face. Face mouthed "his dog" back.
"What happened to the vegetables?" Hannibal asked out loud. Face chuckled.
"They were liberated," the pilot shrugged pulling silly faces at his mitten.
"You mean you bombarded Pike's quarter's with them," Face corrected.
"Pike? As in Black Forest?" Hannibal blinked. He despised the slime-ball. "Do I wanna know?"
"Wasn' my fault! They all decided to end it... Like Lemming's! So sad," Murdock said and shook his head.
"Word around the base is that Pike's temporary quarters were destroyed by an assortment of classified unidentified flying objects," Face said softly, his eyes shining with amusement.
Hannibal laughed hard at that. "Oh God! That's priceless! Always knew Pike was a dick."
"Right, all packed up," Murdock announced, the Xbox neatly packed away. "You ready to get outta here, Facey?"
Face grinned and nodded. "Yep, sure am."
"Alrighty then, I'll get your quarters squared away, an' take these," he said and picked up the Xbox and a bag with an assortment of get well goodies from Face's friends. Once he'd gone, Hannibal stopped Face from getting up.
"What?" he frowned.
"Face, I need to talk to you about... your DNR," Hannibal said quietly as he sat down on the bed.
"Oh, that." Face lowered his eyes. "Harrow told me what you did, boss... Thank you." He looked up again. "Thank you."
Shaking his head at the memories, Hannibal's eyes closed. "Face, you should've told me... We... I nearly lost you, over a stupid mistake."
Face sighed and looked at his hands. "She said she couldn't live with the burden if I was ever seriously injured, an' I... I just... I loved her. I think in the end, it didn't even matter, she an' I were..." He shrugged, unable to finish.
"Forget about her, Face," Hannibal said softly. "She has her life already mapped. She knows what she wants, and it ain't you, kid. I'm sorry."
The words, even though Face knew were true, still stung. She thought Face was a player, and when he turned serious, she walked away, bleeding love in her wake.
"Forget about her, she's not worth it," Hannibal said again. This time Face nodded. "C'mon, kid, let's get you outta here."
"I'm tellin' you, Face, sit there and don't move," Hannibal insisted pointing to a canvas camping chair. Face scowled at his CO, carefully rearranged the sarong he was wearing, and gingerly lowered himself down. The IVs were still in situ, much to Face's dismay... he so wanted to do something, anything. He was bored. He wanted to train, he wanted to go flirt with the cute new recruits, he wanted a damn beer!
Murdock had dragged a child's paddling pool next to the chair and filled it with water. Hannibal looked at the pool and then at Face, who just grinned widely. He decided he didn't want to know where his XO got it from.
"Hey look, Facey, gotcha your very own beach," Murdock chuckled as he scooped sand into the water. BA looked up from his motorcycle and rolled his eyes. Face lifted his legs and sighed blissfully as the cool water soothed the hot feet, smiling in surprise when a can of beer appeared in front of his face.
"Just the one, kid," Hannibal winked. Over the last couple of days, his XO had improved tremendously. It was amazing the difference friends made in a full recovery. Harrow was satisfied and the IVs were due to come out sooner than he'd expected. Hannibal checked the tubes were okay before checking his watch. "Oops, Asif and his posse are due back soon, said I'd say hello," he said and looked at Murdock. "Save me a steak!"
"Ten four, mon colonel!" Murdock snapped a salute. "Tell Asif hi for us, bossman!"
Face nursed his one beer for an hour while he soaked up the hot Iraqi sun, his eyes closed behind the little eye shields, and his head covered in a dirty cream and black kaffiyeh. The drugs in his system left him pleasantly buzzed, and he was feeling no pain.
Murdock, complete with 'Kiss The Cook' apron and Hawaiian shirt, was charring meat behind him and face sighed at the weird domesticity of it all.
"Face, you want napalmed or nuked?" Murdock asked wanting to know how he wanted his steak.
"Ooooh, nu-ked. Nu-ked," Face enthused. He heard Murdock with the shotgun shell and waited for the bang, and smiled when it sounded. God, he loved it when Murdock cooked!
"Murdock," BA chimed in. "Burn the hell outta it... like it was damned!"
Great idea! "Burn the whole place down, buddy!" Face added, wincing as the loud rotors of a helicopter interrupted the sounds of cooking.
"You want secret sauce?" Murdock asked, totally oblivious of the world around him. He uncapped a bottle and sampled it.
"No! No nononononono... Not that antifreeze," Face shuddered slightly. BA saw the involuntary reaction and looked at the pilot.
"Your secret's out!" the big man announced. "You're crazy! Ev'rybody knows!"
Face smiled. "No one can do an antifreeze marinade like you can, Murdock," he said. "But I gotta little Bell's palsy last time I ate that."
"It's only partial paralysis," Murdock defended, and sprinkled a little 'secret sauce' on the steaks anyway. "C'mon, take it like a man."
"Yeah... I don't think you want me in the field partially paralysed, bud," Face shook his head. Murdock just shrugged. Movement to his left caught his eye and he frowned when he saw Charisa Sosa approach them.
"Visitor's," he sing-songed and BA looked up, a sneer tightening his mouth.
Captain Charisa Sosa, in civilian attire and aviation sunglasses, stood in front of Face and smiled.
"Yeah," she said as Face took off his eye shields and looked surprised at her. He laughed.
"Wow, I'm a little taken 'back, I'm not gonna lie," he said as she smiled at him again.
"Lieutenant," she addressed. Face misunderstood and blinked.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm supposed to call you lieutenant, now?" he asked casually.
"No, you're supposed to call me captain," she corrected with a hint of conceit. If Face picked up on it though, he didn't show it.
"Captain, captain," he grinned instead.
"That's right," Sosa nodded.
"Captain Charisa, look at you," Face said. "Wow, so, guess you said no to the kids, no to the family, just no ladder you can't climb, huh."
Sosa sat down and looked at Face, took in his appearance but it didn't move her. In fact, it just reaffirmed her decision to end it with him... made her relieved, in fact. "No, honey, I just said no to you," she said meanly.
Face looked at her and blinked, all the hurt inside still blessedly numbed by the drugs. He shook himself and peeled off the kaffiyeh, placing the scarf on the steel drum masquerading as a makeshift table next to him.
"This is crazy. Three years! We haven't seen each other for three years and this is what we're gonna talk about?"
Sosa pursed her lips. "What would you like to discuss?" she asked his, her patience wearing thin.
Face schooled his features. "Did you take my Steely Dan CD?"
Wow, that wasn't what she expected. "I'm not even gonna respond to that," she said flatly. Face ignored her, memories of good times seeping into his subconscious.
"We listened to it, like, nine times in a row," he laughed softly. "And we were drinking that crappy cabernet, d'ya remember that?" He leaned forward, smiling. Sosa picked up a can and took a sip of beer. "Oh an' we were doin' something else... what were we doin'... d'ya remember what it was we were doing? It was in the bedroom... You don't remember?" Face looked at Sosa, waiting for her answer.
When it came, it splintered his heart.
"The only thing I remember is leaving. Which is my fondest memory of you," she said indifferently, smiling coldly.
BA and Murdock, who had been silently watching the exchange, looked at each other in disgust. After what Sosa did to Face, walking out on him, and even worse, the whole DNR thing, they really didn't like the woman.
Flipping another steak, Murdock leaned back as the gunpowder ignited and blew. It made Sosa jump, which gave Murdock a secret thrill. He watched Face lean back and rub tiredly at his eyes, and was in front of the man in seconds.
"Hey, man, you okay?" the soft words barely reached Sosa's ears, but she watched as the pilot checked the IV and gently nudge his team mate.
"What happened?" she asked. Murdock pinned her with a glare. "Hey, I'm only asking."
"He's fine," the pilot said curtly. Sosa blew out a breath and raised her brows. She watched as the two men exchanged muted words before Murdock stood. "What d'ya want, capt'n?" he asked.
She looked at Face, who just blinked at her, and caught BA watching from where he was sat. She had never felt so scrutinised. But, she had a job to do, so she ignored both Murdock and BA and leaned closer to Face.
"Listen, there're some rumours about some top secret plates being smuggled out of the city by Islam Royalists," she said, all business. Face tipped his head back and drained his beer. "Do you know anything about this? Seriously, if you're gonna make a play for these plates, I'm waving you off right now... because it's my responsibility and it's my ass. I'm serious. Face..."
Face looked at his feet and lifted them from the pool, watching the drops of water glisten in the sun. Top secret plates? What was she talking about? "Hmm mmm?"
Sosa looked exasperated. "I will court martial you," she threatened. That got Face's attention.
"Hey! Get the memo. Tell your beloved Colonel Smith, and stay the hell outta Baghdad," she ordered. Murdock sat by Face with his guitar as the LT squinted at Sosa as she stood, having not really heard much of what she'd said, nor cared either.
"Y'know you never came back. Thought you were gonna come back," Face said to her.
"Well, this is me coming back," Sosa answered sarcastically.
Strumming, Murdock watched as the Captain walked off, her entourage in tow. He started singing an old Calandrelli song, which he and Face often sang together, especially after a few beers.
Face heard the song and looked away from Sosa and started to sing, too. "El Diablo, está niña..." They sung louder until Murdock finished with a flourish and Face crushed his can and flung it into the pool.
"Doesn't Diablo mean devil?" Murdock asked.
"Hey, watcha doin'?" He put the guitar down and jumped up when Face ripped out his IV and walked off, stumbling a couple of times before he regained his composure. "Face!"
"Where's tha' fool goin'?" BA growled as he wiped his oily hands on a rag.
"I dunno, but I'm gonna get 'im back," Murdock nodded. "Watch the steaks!"
Hannibal frowned when he approached the area where his team were supposed to be. "Where's Face?" he asked. BA looked up at him and growled. "What happened?"
"Fuckin' bitch Sosa," he said venomously. Hannibal cursed under his breath and looked around. He saw the IV tubing and the bloody needles.
"Shit. Where is he?" the colonel asked.
"Murdock's gone after 'im," BA answered just as the pilot returned, without Face.
Both BA and Hannibal looked at him. He shrugged. "You know how he is, bossman, if he don't wanna be found, he ain't gonna be," Murdock sighed. "I looked everywhere. He's gone t'ground good."
Hannibal mumbled something about awkward five year olds and went in the direction Murdock had come from, shouting back, "Get Harrow, tell 'im Face's done a runner. I'll find 'im."
Murdock looked at BA. "That fuckin' bitch, man," the big guy hissed. Murdock nodded.
It took Hannibal twenty minutes, but he found Face, sitting on a crate of potatoes behind the enlisted recruits mess tent, can of beer in his hand.
"Face?" he said softly. The man tilted his head back and looked over. "You alright?"
"Yeah, sorry," Face apologised. Hannibal pulled on his arm and inspected the bloody mess from the IV.
"Harrow's gonna go nuts when he sees this," Hannibal softly scolded as he gently wrapped his handkerchief around it. He sat by his XO and patted his knee. "I heard what happened."
"Sorry, kid," he offered. "If I'd've known..."
" S'okay," Face half smiled. "Just wasn't prepared, you know?"
Hannibal nodded. In Face's state, a visit from Sosa was the last thing he needed. He watched as Face tipped the can and drained it, crushing it in his hand.
"How many is that?" he asked cautiously. Face sighed and frowned.
"I'm not a kid, Hannibal," he hissed irritated.
"No, but you are on medication," Hannibal reasoned. On medication and supposedly in his care!
"Yeah, well, I think I'm done, now," Face said and leaned back, closing his eyes. Hannibal noticed the grimace he'd tried to hide and frowned.
"You've still half a bag of antibiotics to go yet, Face."
The man defiantly shook his head. "No, I'm done."
"For God's sake, kid," Hannibal growled. "You nearly died! In fact you did die – twice! C'mon, humour an old man, finish the course."
Face turned his head, squinted his eyes open and looked at his CO. Hannibal almost looked ...desperate. Face blinked, realised how hard the colonel must've taken what had happened to him, and instantly felt like a real jackass. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, stood up and held a hand out.
"You're right," he said with a nod. "I'm sorry."
Hannibal grinned and hopped off the crates. "Good choice, kid," he said and fell into line beside his XO and they made their way back to Murdock and BA.
"Truthfully, how're you feeling, Face?" Hannibal asked as they walked. Face cocked his head at him.
"Truthfully?" The colonel nodded. "Well, the stitches in my side itch like hell, and I'm currently fucked off with the world in general," Face answered.
"So, you're feeling fit for duty, then?"
Face warily eyed his colonel, wondering why he'd had a change of heart. It was only the day before that the man was adamant that Face have at least another week's medical stand-down. A sly grin appeared. "We're goin' after the plates, aren't we?" he said quietly.
Hannibal blinked in surprise. "How... Did Sosa say something?"
"Told me to stay outta Baghdad," Face said. "Said they were being smuggled outta the city, and to stay away from them, it was her ass... or something like that. Wasn't really all that with it." He grinned widely. "We are, we're goin' after them."
"Yeah, kid, so I need you ready. I need you for this, Face, I need you fit and healthy," Hannibal said seriously, his eyes searching Face's. He needed his XO if his team was to pull this off and get the plates for Morrison, but not at the expense of Face's health.
"I'm okay, boss, I'm ready for this," Face smiled. "Oh God, you have no idea how ready I am for this!"
Hannibal chuckled. "I think I do, kid," he decided and patted Face's back.
Harrow was waiting for them when Face and Hannibal arrived still chuckling at some funny joke.
"Well, Lieutenant Peck, nice to see you up an' around," the doc smiled, a touch of exasperation in his voice. Boy, did he have his work cut out for him as a doctor when one Lt Templeton Peck was his patient!
Face had the good grace to look contrite and smiled apologetically at him.
"Where'd'ya find 'im?" Murdock said both relieved and annoyed. The pilot had been driving BA and the doc crazy during their absence. Hannibal started to answer when Face draped his arm around his friend and squeezed.
"I'm sorry, buddy, didn't mean t'worry ya," Face said, his smile big and pleading. Hannibal chuckled as Murdock melted and immediately forgave him. Geez, he was good!
Harrow motioned for Face to sit down, and he quickly reattached the IV, hooking it up to what they hoped was the last bag of antibiotics. Face sighed as he watched the fluid drip.
"Now, leave it until it's finished," Harrow admonished. "I mean it, Face."
"You got it, doc," Face said. Harrow narrowed his eyes at the man for a second before finally nodding, deciding to believe him.
"Don't worry, doc, Facey ain't goin' anywhere," Murdock promised, eyebrows stubbornly rising at the LT. "Ain't that right, Face?"
"Yes, sir, captain, sir," Face saluted with a grin.
Hannibal smothered a laugh, and watched the captain smile indulgently at his friend and hand him a steak, well charred and nuked. He thanked Harrow as the doctor gathered his supplies and headed back to medical.
24 hours and a well devised plan later, the A Team was going over the fine points in a hidden hut, well away from Black Forest and Sosa.
Face was listing their supplies, but couldn't get his ex-girlfriend out of his head. "I'm telling you, there's a reason she came back," he said looking across the plans at Hannibal.
"Face, I told you... forget about her. She's not worth it," the colonel sighed, his hand on his hip. This was not the time.
"The level of ambition on this woman... Trust me," Face carried on. He was like a dog with a bone!
BA, oblivious to their side tracked conversation, interrupted. "I ain't stepping foot in any type of airplane, Hannibal," he pointed out. Murdock looked at him and cocked his head. "No gliders, paper planes, ultralights..."
"Are you ever gonna let me live that down?" Murdock asked. Seriously, wasn't it time, already?
"No!" BA said. Face grinned at Hannibal.
"Mexico was a looong time ago, and I saved your life," the pilot pointed out with a shrug.
"How 'bout thankin' me for not whuppin' your ass at the hospital?" BA rebuked. "I was an Airborne Ranger 'til I met you!"
"And you chickened out just like *bok-bok*," Murdock clucked, both men on a roll now.
"Just a thank you woulda been nice."
"And one helicopter ride wit' you screws it up. Airborne Ranger," BA stated, ignoring Murdock's affirmed 'uh huh'. "Fear of flying. Like a punk," he finished.
Hannibal, now able to get a word in, reassured the man. "BA, for the last time, nobody leaves the truck once we take it over. Okay?"
Face smiled and looked down, he'd read his copy of the plan... what Hannibal said was technically true, but he wasn't going to say anything else.
The rest of the evening was spent fine tuning their roles, and by midnight, the team was enjoying a bottle of Blue by a campfire with General Morrison.
The plan to retrieve the plates was a go.