"Who's your favourite Looney Toons character?"
Face blinked. Not just because his eyeballs needed automatic moistening, as they often did, but because he must have misheard that question and maybe blinking would trigger a reboot of his faculties and he'd understand what had really been said. His newly-refreshed eyes flicked up from the stain on the floor they'd been staring at because it kind of looked like a woman's silhouette and sure, she was only a 7 out of 10 at best but he'd been sitting outside the General's office for over half an hour now and even a 7 was some kind of distraction.
Oh. In light of the new information that looking up had provided, it was highly possible that Face hadn't misheard after all.
Captain... Murtaugh? Murdoch? beamed down at him, still wearing that alarmingly misleading doctor's coat and looking for all the world like someone who hadn't just broken out of a mental institution, nearly killed everyone in a cross-country helicopter chase and SET FACE ON FIRE. His grin was innocuous and his eyes, while slightly unfocused, were bright. Face kind of hated him.
"What." The blond didn't even try to sound polite. He was bored, sitting out here waiting for Hannibal to explain everything to the General, but he'd rather the company of his anthropomorphised coffee stains than this lunatic.
Captain Batshit (it was childish and rude but Face couldn't remember his name and fuck it, it wasn't a lie, the guy was fucking insane) seemed to mishear Face's response as, "Come and sit down next to me and put your arm on my armrest and smell weird and keep talking to me," because that's what he did.
Plopping himself into the chair next to Face, Captain Batshit's smile didn't waver. "Your favourite Looney Toons character," he repeated, like that would make it less non-sequitorial. "We already know each other's names, ranks, and basic vital stats. I thought we should get onto the important stuff. I tried talking to BA but they'd sedated him and the nurses said to come back later."
BA? Oh, right, Baracus. Christ, he was damn lucky that all he'd needed was sedating. Face's arm still ached from the effort of hauling the larger man back into the helicopter. And now this pilot was acting like nothing had happened and they should all play Getting To Know You games like the first day of kindergarten? Fuck that. Crazy or not, that didn't mean this guy could get away with being an assho- Wait. What?
"Vital stats?" Face knew he wasn't focusing on the crux of the issue, but he was tired, pissed off, and coming down from an adrenaline high. His priorities were allowed to be a bit off.
The other man nodded enthusiastically. Even his nodding was annoying. "Well, I could be off by a few pounds but you're six one, lean, pretty much all muscle, I'd say you'd be about 180, 182, and since your fitness level's pretty obvious it's easy to work out your resting heart rate, blood pressure, all that fun stuff. I am a doctor after all."
Face wasn't going to ask. He wouldn't even know if the guy was bullshitting anyway, and Captain Batshit knew it. Fucking weirdo. Like it was so hard to pick someone's height. Face just wanted this guy to go away. "Yeah, you're a genius."
Batshit's smile didn't falter. "Well, I can't guess everything, which is why I ask again: Favourite Looney Toons character."
If it would make him go away... "Donald Duck," Face picked at random.
Batshit shook his head, like Face had failed some kind of weird crazy person test. "I'm disappointed in you, Faceman."
Oh good. Nicknames. A nickname for his nickname. "Why are we talking about cartoon characters?"
"Well now that we're gonna be a team, we should get to know each other." Jesus, it really was like the first day of school. "Favourite cartoon characters, pulp or no pulp, eggs runny or hard, summer versus winter, you know. All the important stuff."
"Why should that make a difference?" Face knew he was being rude, but this guy had nearly killed them all. It was Hannibal's call, not his, but he did not want to work with this guy. "We're going to be doing a job. What does it matter if you know what I like for breakfast?"
"Teammates, Faceman." Batshit's smile seemed to falter, just a little, but his tone was bright as ever. "We ain't gonna be sharing an office cubicle. We gotta have each other's backs, fight alongside through thick and thin, brothers in arms, sisters in legs."
"The whole package, Faceman!" The grin was back in full force, and a little manic now. "Okay, you don't like cartoons, fair enough – I don't agree and I'm disappointed, but fair enough. You ask me something. What do you want to know?"
Biting his tongue from asking, "Why won't you leave?" only out of respect for, if not complete trust in, Hannibal's choice to have this guy on the team, Face said, "I don't know. Why did you join the Army?"
But the other man shook his head. "Nope, sorry, your question does not fulfil our requirements, please select another. Come on, Faceman, you're not boring. Don't be boring. Ask something you couldn't read out of my file. Favourite day of the week, shoes or socks first, almonds or cashews, first kiss – come on, be creative!"
"Shoes or socks first?" Face couldn't help it.
Batshit nodded, something not wholly insane in his expression. "You can do it the non-traditional way, but it's trickier." One side of his mouth twitched.
Face realised Batshit had just made a joke. Okay. "Same with boxers and pants, right?"
The other man's smile was much less annoying this time, for some reason. "Exactly! I knew you'd get it. Plus you just answered the "boxers or briefs" question." He gestured to Face. "So come on, don't be shy, ask me something."
He could cut the guy down, say something really blunt and get him to leave, but Face found he didn't have the heart to do that right now. He was still pissed off and didn't trust this guy, but god dammit. He seemed so harmless, sitting there grinning and making stupid jokes. It would pass the time, anyway. Face tried to think of something that fit the bizarre line of questioning so far. "Who's your favourite superhero?"
It was childish and completely stupid, but it seemed to be the right question. Batshit slapped Face on the arm happily. "There you go! I knew you could do it. Green Lantern. Easy. Yours?"
Face tried to remember anything about comic books that he might have learned, ever. He hadn't realised this was a Q&A rally. "Um... Batman?"
Batshit shrugged. "Okay. Generic, way too broody if you ask me, but that's your prerogative. My turn. Cherry pie or pumpkin?"
"Cherry." Face answered without thinking.
"Um." Great, now Face had to think about it. "I guess I never had a really good pumpkin pie."
The Captain's mouth fell open. "Never had a good- Lieutenant Faceman, that is a travesty. How did America allow this to happen, in this day and age? I can't imagine Thanksgiving dinners without Grandma Murdock's famous pumpkin pie a la real dairy farm mode with cream made fresh from the cow."
Trying not to think about that too much – Face LIKED being able to compartmentalise and pretend that the milk in his coffee come from the carton and nowhere else – the blond shrugged awkwardly. Dammit, this was stupid. It wasn't like he was ashamed. It just wasn't something that normal people made him talk about five minutes after meeting him. Why was he talking to this guy, again? "I didn't- I mean, I grew up in foster care, so I guess I never really had the whole home-cooked roast dinner thing."
Murdock (at least now Face knew his name) didn't miss a beat. "Didn't your foster families know how to cook? I mean, one of them had to have tried at least."
Face was taken aback. He's been expecting the usual responses: "Oh that's so sad! What happened to your parents? Did you go to a normal school? Were your foster parents alright?" All the standard shit where people pussy-footed around their assumptions that his mother must have been some kind of delinquent drug addict forced to give him up, and his foster parents must have been distant or abusive. He had stock responses for that. He'd never had someone ask about the pumpkin pie in his life.
"Uh, well, one lady, Mrs Cullen, tried to do the pie thing at Christmas one time." Murdock nodded for him to continue. "But it was just one of those store-bought things with cream in a can. I never thought it was anything special." Face tried to reel himself back to the original question. "It's easier to get good cherry pie 'cause it's available all year, I guess."
"Well that is a tragedy on par with human suffrage and the premature cancellation of 'The Oblongs' and don't let anyone tell you different." Despite his dramatic, some would say offensive, comparisons, Murdock wasn't looking at him with pity. "I've got a mission now, I hope you don't mind. It's good, my therapists always say I need goals. While we're still in the States, before they put us on active duty, you and I are gonna find a good pumpkin pie and we're gonna eat it, I don't care if we have to fly to Texas to get my Grandma's recipe and make it ourselves. This is gonna happen."
That was very odd but Face saw no harm in agreeing to something that was clearly never going to happen. "Uh, okay, sure."
Murdock beamed. His cheeks must be sore by now. "We'll go pumpkinning! It's like antiquing but with pumpkins."
Face couldn't help a short laugh at that. "Yeah, okay. Pumpkinning." A thought occurred to him. "Hey, you said 'foster families'. How did you know I had more than one?"
"Well that's easy, Faceman. You said you were in foster CARE; that sounds like a bunch of families and not much stability to me." At Face's frown, the pilot hastened to add, "Not that it's any of my business. It's just how I took it. And what do I know; I'm crazy."
It wasn't said with any bitterness so Face judged that it was okay to reply with, "I thought crazy people didn't know they were crazy."
"Guess I'm not crazy then. Can you write a note to my docs? They seem to get real hung up on that point."
Face shook his head. He had no idea how to take this man. "Right, you were just there for a vacation."
"I swear, they told me it was a resort when I checked in. I should have noticed something fishy when the doors bolted from the outside but I thought, 'When in Mexico'."
This was getting kind of uncomfortable for Face. He didn't want to talk about the guy's mental history. Probably the less he knew the better, if Hannibal was serious about keeping these two new guys on the team. Face didn't really want to send anyone back to a place with locks on the outside, no matter how batshit they were. Dammit.
"That's meant to be my thing," Face said, rewinding the conversation to a more neutral point. Murdock cocked his head like a puppy. "Observing people, I mean. Figuring stuff out about them. It comes in handy."
"For conning people." Murdock's tone wasn't snide.
Face shrugged. "Yeah, I guess you could call it that. I prefer 'persuading', but yeah, basically. I don't know what Hannibal's told you?" Murdock's answering hand gesture was sweeping and vague. "I requisition stuff for us. Well, for the team now, I guess. It helps to figure out what someone wants so you can figure out how to get them to give you what YOU want."
"That's very logical of you." For some reason, Face didn't like Murdock's phrasing. "I promise to use my own powers of observation for purely recreational purposes. I can see a dynamic forming already: Hannibal, the brains and strategist. You, Faceman, the smooth-talking and looks, obviously. BA, the muscle and feisty temper we all secretly find endearing. And me, the transport, entertainment and all-around comic relief."
Face didn't touch the notion of finding Baracus' epic temper in any way "endearing". His ego prompted his response: "I'm obviously the looks?"
Murdock raised his eyebrows. "You don't think it's obvious?"
"Well, yeah." Face was nothing if not not modest. "I just mean..." What did he mean? That it was weird for a man to compliment another man's looks like that? It hadn't even been a compliment really, just a statement of fact. Face was good-looking. "Sure, I'll be the looks." Like that had even been a question.
"Good, I'm glad you agree. Now, truth or dare?"
Face stared, wondering if he'd missed something. "We weren't playing-"
"Oh, right, sorry." Murdock slapped his own forehead with his palm. "I get muddled sometimes but I'm back now. Whose turn was it to ask a question, yours or Betty White's?"
Face knew he was joking (probably/maybe) but the lapse still gave him pause. Mental patient, he reminded himself. Just because the guy could hold half a (bizarre) conversation and make a (stupid) joke, it didn't mean he wasn't crazy. Face had to remember not to hold their new pilot to normal standards or expect too much. He reminded himself that he was humouring the other man, out of necessity and boredom, not actually having a real discussion with an equal.
"No, wait," Murdock continued. "I remember now: Betty went to get coffee, so it's your turn."
How could a crazy person be so weirdly charming? "I hope she remembers to get mine without sugar this time," Face couldn't stop himself from replying.
"Oh I'm sure she will. You made such a fuss at the jamboree."
"Well you have to have good coffee at a jamboree." It wasn't banter, Face told himself. He was just conversing with the Captain on his level. "Okay, here's one. Who would you rather sleep with, Betty White now, or Bea Arthur back in the Golden Girls days?"
"Betty White, no question." Murdock answered with the certainty of one who'd given the matter extensive previous thought, which Face didn't want to analyse too much. "Betty'd be enough of a vixen enough to have some tricks up her sleeve, but you could still treat her like a lady afterwards."
Face didn't know what "afterwards" had to do with it, but before he could ask, Murdock said, "Here's one for you. Glenn Close dressed as a man like she was in 'Hook', or Jessica Alba but you've just learned that she doesn't wash her hands after going to the bathroom."
"Jessica Alba." Face also answered without hesitation. "Are you kidding? She's Jessica Alba. She can be as filthy as she wants, I don't care. I get to bone Jessica Alba."
"You have very unhygienic priorities."
"I have 'getting to screw Jessica Alba' priorities. Your turn. Helen Mirren, or-"
"Yes. Helen Mirren."
"I didn't even get to name someone else."
"You really have a thing for older women, don't you?"
"Helen Mirren is not an older woman. She is a legend. Danni Minogue or Daniel Day-Lewis."
"What? Who's Danni Minogue?"
"Kylie Minogue has a sister?"
"Yeah, but the family doesn't really like to talk about her."
"Um... Is Daniel Day-Lewis in character? I mean, he's not all 'My Left Foot', is he?"
"He's rugged and he's wearing a leather jacket."
"Um... Is Danni Minogue hot? What's her deal?"
"Her deal is she's Danni Minogue."
"You read a lot of bad magazines in that hospital, didn't you?"
"You have no idea."
"Okay. Daniel Day-Lewis, but I feel like you've backed me into a corner here. Don't judge me."
"I'd never judge you. He's a beautiful man."
"Alright then. Daniel Day-Lewis but he's got a bag over his head the whole time, or Paris Hilton?"
"You keep giving me ones that aren't even choices. Daniel, always."
"I'm learning some very strange things about you by doing this, Murdock."
"That's the idea! Okay, new one: Mango or watermelon?"
"Eeeeew, you'd have sex with a fruit! You're disgusting, Faceman."
"What? No, I didn't- That's wasn't- Oh you're an asshole."
And that is why, thirty-seven minutes later, Hannibal exited the General's office to hear his XO tell his new pilot:
"Okay, I'd do Steven Segal, but only if he kept the wig on and didn't try to talk to me after."
At the sound of Hannibal closing the office door rather more forcefully than necessary, the younger men looked up, looked at Hannibal, looked at each other, and dissolved into giggles. Actual giggles, like schoolchildren or teenaged girls.
Hannibal didn't want to know. They were getting along. That's good. That's all he cared about. He walked out of the lobby without a word. He could talk to them later. Right now, he didn't want to know.