WHATEVER BA WANTS
"So that's the engine?" asked the quiet voice behind him.
BA Baracus stifled a sigh as he looked upward from the hood of the van where he had been making minor repairs. He knew it had been too much to count on that his one-man audience would have kept his promise to just sit quietly and watch but, at least, there weren't any talking sock puppets or invisible dogs.
"Of course, it's an engine," BA growled. "What else would it be?"
"I know it's an engine," said H.M. Murdock wishing he hadn't promised to leave Billy, his invisible dog, and Sockie, his special friend, at his home in the VA Hospital, "but I've got a question about it."
"How does it work?"
"How does it work? What do you mean how does it work? You've been flying planes for all of these years and you don't know how an engine works."
"I know how an engine works, basically" explained Murdock. "But I don't know everything about engines and there are a few specific things that I want to know."
"Like what, fool?"
"Like," Murdock continued, "what's the difference between this engine and a race car's engine?"
"Why do you want to know about race car engines?" BA asked suspiciously. His eyes widened as the answer formed in his mind. He grabbed Murdock's shirt and pulled him up close. "You'd better not be messen' with my engine. No man touches my engine and no man races my van."
Murdock's eyes got large in panic as his hands wrapped around the massive wrist. "No, BA," he babbled as he fought the urge to struggle out of the iron grip. "I wasn't planning on touching your engine. Honest!"
Satisfied with the answer, BA released his hold. "So why are you askin' about racing engines?"
Murdock looked up into the sky for inspiration. "Say you know someone and that someone is real cool and you want them to like you and they like race cars and you want to be able to talk to them about race cars but you don't know anything about race cars."
"Woman trouble," thought BA as his attitude softened. "I wonder why he didn't talk to Face. He's the woman expert."
"Look," BA said, "it ain't goin' do you any good to be anything other than you are. She'll either like you or she won't."
"She?" answered Murdock confused. "This isn't about a girl."
"Oh," thought BA as he realized he might not know his friend as well as he thought.
"Guy trouble?" he asked.
"Yeah," replied Murdock miserably. "I really want him to like me but I think he thinks I'm boring."
"You, boring?" BA snorted as he thought back on the pilot's numerous escapades. "No one's ever going to think that. Not in a million years."
"I just want to be able to talk with him about something he likes."
"Anyway, it's just the same as with a woman. Either he'll like you or he won't"
"But Face an…"
"Face! Our Faceman?" BA asked interrupted. "Look Murdock, I'm almost positive Face ain't that way. 'Sides he don't know nothin' about race car engines, anyway"
Murdock paused for a moment as he thought over his friend's strange reaction. He realized what BA thought he meant, and his checks reddened in embarrassment.
"Not Face," Murdock answered as his voice dropped to a whisper, "and not like that. I want Mark to like me but not like that."
"Mark McCormick? Face's brother?" BA asked. He thought back to the day he had met the man. He couldn't say that he liked him the first time he saw him because the guy was lying in a bed ,unconscious, after the fool and Face had had kidnapped the him in an ill-advised rescue attempt. He had liked McCormick less, a few minutes later; when he nearly punched the man's light out for trying to steal his van. But, in the end, he decided that McCormick was a likable guy, particularly, after he discovered he was his Faces half-brother and a race car driver.
"Shh," Murdock instructed as he looked around to make sure no one had overheard them.
"You've been talking to McCormick. Hannibal isn't going to like that. He ordered Face not to be hanging out with him."
"He did nothing of the sort," Murdock hissed. "Our fearless leader merely suggested, albeit a little loudly, that Mark might be under surveillance by Lynch and Face should be careful if he was going to see him. It never was a direct order and we're always real careful when we get together."
BA thought back to the loud argument Hannibal and Face had over the conman's desire to maintain his relationship with his brother. The fool had been right. Hannibal had never made it a direct order and Face had never agreed to anything. But he, also, remembered that neither man had mentioned Murdock. "We? What do you mean we? Why are you hanging out with Face's brother?"
"Hannibal never said I couldn't," Murdock pointed out as if it was the simplest argument in the world. "Sometimes the three of us get together and have some fun. Mark's even taken me for a ride in his car a few times."
"The Coyote X! You got to ride in the Coyote X!" BA exclaimed. The sergeant licked his lips as he felt his heart beat faster in his chest. A long time ago he had read a car magazine which had hinted about the development of a new style of racing engine created by Johnny (AKA Flip) Johnson. There had been just enough information in the article to intrigue him about the Coyote X. But news about the experimental style of race car had all but disappeared from the trade magazines following the murder of Johnson.
Then McCormick had shown him a picture of him posing next to his pride and joy, the Coyote X. Ever since he had seen that photograph he felt a longing to run his hands over that unique design and delve into its inner most secrets. Some nights, he dreamt about taking it behind the garage and getting down and dirty. He considered approaching McCormick but Faceman was one of his best friends and there were unwritten rules about such things. But if Face had allowed Murdock access to McCormick surely it meant that he was free to make his own move. Then he'd be able to find out if the reality was as sweet as his fantasies.
"Earth to BA. Earth to BA. Can you hear me?"
"Huh? What?" BA said as he reluctantly let go of his dream.
"I said," Murdock repeated as if he was talking to a small child. "Are you okay? You all of a sudden got a big shit-eating grin on your face and a far-away look in your eye. What were you thinking of?"
"Nothin' and none of your business," BA said. He briefly wondered if he would be encroaching on Murdock's territory when he made his move on McCormick and his car but decided that all was fair when you are trying to get your heart's desire.
"So can you help me?" asked Murdock.
"Yeah, I can help you," said BA as a plan of attack formed in his mind, "but not now. I'm busy."
"Thanks, big guy," said Murdock as he got up and started back to the house, all the time unaware that he had a new rival for the attentions of a certain curly-haired parolee.
Thursday night and Templeton Peck (AKA Face) was in a good mood. The job the team was slated to begin promised to be lucrative without being too threatening to his personal well-being, it had been so long since their last run-in with Lynch that Hannibal was planning on sending him a 'Thinking of You' card, and tonight he was dressed in simple designer blue jeans and a silk t-shirt for a night of casual fun with his best buddy and brother who had finagled a free night from his keeper.
Face ruefully shook his head. He still didn't like the arrangement Mark had set up with Judge Hardcastle but his brother insisted that he was happy, secure, and not in too much danger from the various thugs and criminals that the judge was trying to send back to prison. He didn't care if it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black, he didn't like Mark being put into potentially lethal situations.
It had been so relatively quiet for so long that he wasn't overly worried when the doorbell rang at his latest scammed condo. Still he had Mark and Murdock stay hidden in the bedroom for possible back-up or to remain out of view in case certain silver-headed father figures were snooping about. He cautiously peeked through the curtain and was surprised to see his compatriot, BA Baracus, leaning on the doorbell.
"What is it?" Face asked worriedly as he opened the door. "Is something wrong?"
"Everythin' is fine," BA said as he easily pushed his way into the condo. "I'm looking for Murdock."
Face forcibly suppressed an urge to block entrance into his bedroom door. "What makes you think he's here?"
"Saw him come in earlier. Is he in the bedroom?" BA asked as he barreled his way to his destination.
Mark McCormick stood up and stepped away from Murdock as Baracus entered the room. Hardcastle had already explained, ad nauseum, that it was a violation of his parole to be associating with known felons particularly ones with outstanding warrants for their arrest even if one of them was his brother. The judge had told him that if he got caught he would immediately been thrown in jail without bail until his parole was officially revoked and then they would bring him up on his outstanding charges for auto theft from Cody Martin which would have him spending the rest of his life in solitary confinement even though Martin had been a cold-blooded killer who had stolen the car from its rightful owner. But, he reminded himself, Hardcastle hadn't specifically told him that he couldn't spend time with his brother.
Face entered the bedroom a hairsbreadth behind BA, his eyes darted around the room as he tried to assess the situation.
"BA," Murdock said as he stared at him with horrified eyes. "What are you doing here?"
McCormick flashed his best dimpled grin and hoped he could convince the big guy that he wasn't a threat to the team's security.
"Hi there," he said. "I don't know if you remember me, but I'm Mark McCormick."
BA replied in his best innocent voice. "Oh yeah, you're Templeton's brother. I didn't know you were going to be here today." He failed to fool anyone in the room.
"What are you doing here, BA?" Murdock repeated anxiously.
Baracus ignored his teammate's question as he fixed the parolee with a shark-like smile. "Hey, Mark. I want to apologize for threatening to hit you that last time. I just get a little crazy about my van. You probably know how that is. Did you drive your car over here tonight?"
"No," said Face as he stepped between the two. "You don't have to worry. We're more careful than that. Mark parks a couple of miles away and walks until he is sure no one is following him then I pick him up."
BA grunted, disappointed that the Coyote X was still so far away.
"BA," Murdock repeated again with gritted teeth as he grabbed the big man's shoulders. "What are you doing here?"
"You were askin' me to explain race cars. Well, I got the time now."
"Now!" Murdock said incredulously. He closed his eyes and wished for a black hole to open under his feet and suck him down to the middle of the Earth. He was embarrassed that Mark was now aware that he was a racing ignoramus and sick as he felt he would soon feel the full force of Face's wrath. He knew Face would never forgive him for telling BA about their meetings with McCormick particularly if it would lead to trouble with Hannibal.
"You know about racing?" Mark asked curiously.
"Sure do," BA answered. "There isn't anything about any motor that any man can teach me."
Face called forth all of his control as he suppressed his anger over the perceived threat to his relationship with Mark. Hannibal made it clear that he thought a relationship with McCormick was a safety risk. And while Hannibal might, begrudgingly, allow him to accept the risk for himself, their leader would be furious when he found out Murdock was now part of the equation. He had a pretty good idea what Hannibal would say when he found out but he didn't know if he could obey a direct order to stay away from his brother.
"Yeah, he's the best of the best," Face said as he grabbed BA's arm and attempted to guide him to the door. "But we're ready to go and he's ready to leave."
"Where are you guys goin'?" B.A. asked as he yanked his arm out of Face's grip.
"Miniature golfing." Murdock answered.
"Miniature golfing?" BA looked at Face skeptically.
"It's Murdock's turn to choose," Face explained.
"Yeah," Murdock said as attempted to help Face nudge Baracus to the door, "you know little balls, little clubs, and little course. I remember how much you said you hated it."
"I don't hate miniature golf," BA said as one mighty step took him back to the place he had been pushed from. "It's one of my favorite games. Mind if I tag along?"
Silence fell over the room like an iron curtain.
"No," McCormick said as he broke the silence. "The more the merrier. Now we have enough to break into teams."
"We can take my van. I'll even let you drive it, Mark," BA said. He hoped if he showed his willingness to give Mark access to his van would result in a tit-for-tat relationship with the young man.
"Thanks, big guy," said McCormick. "But Murdock is the one who knows where it is.
Murdock couldn't stop the evil grin which bloomed on his face as he held his hand out expectedly.
"On second thought," BA said as his fist closed around the keys and he thrust them deep into his pocket, "I'll drive and he can give directions."
Despite the fact he hated miniature golf, Face shooting him angry glares, and Murdock's no-hold bar attempts to get him to lose his cool, BA thought it had been a successful night. He enjoyed talking to McCormick who was one of those rare drivers who wasn't just interested in glory and fame; he understood and respected the car he drove.
On the ride back to Face's condo, BA thought back to the magical conversation they had over hot chocolate at the course's snack bar. As his eyes met Mark's from across the table and they started talking about the Coyote X, it was like everyone else in the room disappeared. He was sure he made a favorable impression with his tales of his mechanical skills. He hoped soon be able to talk Mark into letting him take things to the next level.
"Tonight was a lot of fun," McCormick said as he climbed out of the van.
"Yeah, it was great," BA agreed. "We'll have to do it again soon. Real soon."
"Okay. Hey Tem, can you give me a ride to my car."
BA considered offering his services so he could have some alone time and he could get even friendlier with the owner of the Coyote X but the look in Faceman's eyes told him that it was beyond time to back off.
"Sure, Mark," Face said as he snagged a nervous Murdock by the arm. "Then I can drop HM off."
"That's okay, Facie," Murdock said as he tried to pull away. "I can have BA drop me off."
"Nonsense," said Face in a voice which did not open the matter for further discussion. "It'll give us a chance to talk. And I do want to talk to you."
BA ignored Murdock's silent plea for help as he said his goodbyes. "I'll see you guys tomorrow when we meet up with Hannibal." He gave McCormick one last friendly smile and added "I hope to see you real soon, Mark."
Uh, sure," McCormick said as his eyes darted nervously towards his brother.
Emboldened by the response, B.A. went home and dreamt of cold steel and hot engines.
Hannibal was thankful that it had been an easy job without any real complications. In action, his team had acted flawlessly but now that the job was over, it was obvious that they were not in synch. There was tension in the van and the number of furtive glances being bandied about had given him a headache.
Murdock, uncharacteristically quiet, wavered between quiet glances of apology toward Face and heated scowls at the back of BA's head as if he couldn't trust himself to speak. BA, characteristically quiet, snuck guilty peeks at the two men in the back as if he was trying to get the nerve to speak but didn't know the words. And Face who stared fixedly out of the vehicle window, with an air of aggression around him, as if he planned to snap off the head of the first person who spoke to him.
"This little dysfunctional family is more dysfunctional than normal," thought Hannibal.
As soon as the van stopped, Hannibal stepped out and turned to look at his men. "Gentlemen," he said as he noted Face tense up, "I don't know what's going on between you, three, but I expect you to have it cleared up before we meet up again. Understand?"
The lack of a verbal response as the members of the team eyed each other and innumerable emotions flashed through their eyes was not inspiring.
"Understand!" Hannibal repeated with more authority in his voice. He accepted the reluctant nods as acquiescence as he returned to his car and let the children handle their own battles.
BA looked down at his feet. The euphoric feeling he had after his meeting with McCormick, the previous night, had dimmed as felt the anger directed toward him by his team mates. He knew he had let his lust control his actions and he had crossed the line. He wanted to say something but didn't know how to start.
"You didn't tell him," Face said. It wasn't quite a question and not quite an accusation.
"Tell who what?" BA asked confused.
"Don't pretend," said Face with quiet anger. "Hannibal had you come over to spy on Mark and us. Why didn't you tell him?"
"Hannibal didn't send me."
Face looked at him with disbelief. "Hannibal doesn't like the fact that I'm seeing Mark. I'm sure he'll like it less when he finds out Murdock is too."
"I don't care what Hannibal thinks," BA said as his eyes darted unconsciously around the area to ensure the colonel didn't hear that comment. "I was there for me."
BA sighed as he pulled out a folded paper from his pocket and handed it over to Face. The conman unfolded the paper while Murdock looked over his shoulder. It was an old magazine photo of McCormick standing in front of his red racing car, The Coyote X. They looked up at Baracus questioningly.
"Ever since I saw it, I couldn't get it out of my mind," explained BA. "I know he's your brother and I hoped the feeling would go away but it just kept getting stronger. Then we saw that car chase on the news."
Face and Murdock nodded mutely as they thought back to a high speed car chase they had seen on television where McCormick had ran down some high ranking members of a drug gang. The news helicopter had filmed the car as its driver had made a particularly dangerous maneuver and jumped a deep chasm to gain a few precious moments in his race to stop the alleged killers. Face thought his heart had stopped as he watched the car crash back to the ground.
"It got worse when I saw that," BA continued. "I just wanted to run over there, grab it in my arms, take it somewhere safe, and give it the care and love it needs."
Face felt his mouth drop open and as he stared shocked at this unexpectant confession.
"And I know it was wrong because we're talking about your brother," BA said as he looked up at his friend with pleading eyes. "But have you ever wanted something so bad that you can't think about anything else. It's like an obsession. I didn't think I'd have a chance but when I found out about Murdock. I thought I you wouldn't mind if I made a try."
Face felt his nails dig into his palm as his hands formed into fists.
Unaware of the effect of his words, BA continued to speak. "If you could just help me and put in a few good words. I'll do good by him. I'm not just going to tinker about and leave it. I want to get my hands on it and make it purr. I promise I'll be careful and not hurt it. I don't know what else to say except that I want it. I want it, bad."
Face stepped forward as he prepared to take a swing at the sergeant until he felt another person's hand on his shoulder.
"Careful, muchacho," Murdock said quietly. "He's saying it. Not him."
As Face reviewed the BA's confession, he realized that Murdock was right and wondered what they had been talking about. "What are you saying, BA?"
"I want you to put in a few good words for me so McCormick will let me work on his car," BA said pleadingly.
"The Coyote?" Face asked confused.
"Yeah, I want to get inside of it and see what makes it tick. I always thought a car like that would be out of my league. I might never get another shot at a car like that. I know he's your brother and it's asking a lot but if you could just talk with him."
"I thought…" Face started until he felt a soft whack on the back of his head.
"Face," Murdock said with beseeching eyes, "BA is asking for our help."
"If you could help me, I'd owe you one," BA said.
"You won't tell Hannibal," Face asked.
"Hannibal don't have nothin' to do with this. If you two want to see McCormick that's your business. If you help me or you don't, I'm not going to be telling Hannibal anything."
"Promise. Whatever happens?"
"I swear," BA answered. "He's your family and family is sacred."
Baracus watched the unspoken argument between his two friends as Murdock's glee fought to overcome Face's reluctance.
"Come one, Facie," Murdock entreated. "He's asking for it."
Face's mouth quirked into a grin. "He is, isn't he?" He turned toward the sergeant and gave him a nod. "Okay, BA. We're getting together with Mark this weekend and we'll be your wingmen."
"Excellent," exclaimed Murdock as he clasped his hands together like a mad scientist whose creation had come to life. "Now we have to make plans."
"Plans?" asked BA, "What kind of plans?"
"The Coyote X is a classy car, big guy," explained Face. "You can't treat it like a hundred dollar junkyard you pick up off of the street corner. You got to work for her."
"First off there's your clothes," explained Face as Murdock nodded his head in agreement. "Before I bring my Corvette in to be fixed, I check out the shop and the guy I meet with is always well-dressed and well groomed."
"Yeah, BA, when's the last time you had a manicure?" asked Murdock.
"A manicure!" shouted BA, "why do I need a manicure? I just want to get under her hood."
"If a man can't take of himself and his grooming, how can you trust him with your engine?" said Face reasonably. "It's the little things that lets you know you can trust someone and you have to trust someone before you'll let them fiddle with your motor."
"Maybe a gift," added Murdock.
"A gift?" asked BA.
"Yeah. The first time you met him, you did threaten him. A gift might be a way to get on his good side. Maybe flowers?"
"I ain't getting flowers for no guy," stated BA.
"He likes candy," Face put in as if trying to be helpful.
"You want me to get him a box of chocolates?" B.A. asked skeptically.
Murdock put his arms around the sergeant's shoulders. "We're just saying that we can put a good word in for you but it's not going to be that easy. You're going to have to work on it. Let him know you're serious and that he can trust you with his chassis."
BA nodded in agreement, a chance to work on the Coyote X was more than worth a little preparation on his part. As he waved goodbye to his friends, he started fine tuning his plan of attack; some new clothes might help his case as would a gift. But no flowers or candy. He contemplated the perfect gift to give a racer/ex-con/crime fighter. As they watched their friend leave, deep in thought, Face's and Murdock's mouths broke out in mischievous smiles.
For Baracus, the time until Thursday evening passed with both slowly and quickly. The minutes he waited and dreamed of dismantling and reassembling the Coyote X crawled by however it seemed like a blink of the eye between the time he agreed to this scheme and the time he was walking up to Face's condo trying to remember what he wanted to say to gain McCormick's favor.
His mind whirled with all of the advice Face and Murdock had given him over the past days. Despite Face's urging, he decided to dress in new slacks and a collared shirt instead of a jacket and tie. But they felt as uncomfortable as his freshly manicured nails.
The fact that he was pretty sure he liked McCormick made things more complicated; it brought a personal entanglement to a problem he had hoped to keep casual. He couldn't remember the last time he had been so nervous as he knocked on the door.
Face's smile and his eyes sparkled as he greeted BA. His smile wavered as he looked over the sergeant's attire. "Where's your jacket and tie?"
"I didn't…" BA faltered as he felt a stab of self-consciousness.
"Can't be helped now," Murdock said as he jostled past Face and hustled BA into the condo. "Mark will be here any minute and we need to get you into position."
"Position?" BA asked as he was propelled forward.
Face reached out and halted the procession as he sniffed the air suspiciously. "What's that smell?" he asked.
"Phew!" Murdock said as he squeezed his nose shut and stared at BA. "What did you step in?"
What?" BA protested anxiously as he sniffed himself. "I don't smell nothin'."
"You can never smell yourself," Murdock explained as he turned towards Face. "What can we do for him? Mark won't even let him sit in his car smelling like this."
Face pondered the problem for a moment then snapped his fingers. "I got just the thing. Cologne."
"Cologne!" exclaimed BA.
Murdock shook his head as he tried to wave the stench away from his face. "It'll have to be pretty strong to cover that smell."
Face disappeared into his bedroom and appeared a moment later with a large bottle of light brown liquid. "Here," he said as he handed it off to BA. "Put this on. It may smell a little strong at first but it'll cover whatever it is you stepped in."
"I don't know," BA said as he smelled the pungent aroma. "It smells like flowers."
"It's called Spring Forest," Face stated in an affronted voice, "and it's the one of the most popular men's colognes on the market today."
"I think it smells woodsy," Murdock insisted. "Now come on, Mark's going to be here any minute and you smell like you've been cleaning up after Billy."
BA splashed the cologne on his hands then rubbed onto his neck and face. He started to cough as the scent assaulted his nose and throat. He breathed through his mouth until the odor dissipated around him.
"Remember," Face said as he got BA seated at the card table. "confident and friendly. Look him right in the eye, smile and keep smiling. Let's see you smile."
"Not like you're thinking of where to dump his body, big guy," Murdock chastened. "Smile like you like him. Just keep thinking of getting a chance to manhandle his car."
BA tried again. Murdock made a strange sound from the back of his throat which changed into a discrete cough as Face beamed approvingly at his friend's attempt to be friendly.
They all heard the knock on the front door. Face went forward to answer it while Murdock sat on the chair on BA's left side. Before he left the room, Face turned toward BA and gave him the thumbs up gesture for luck. BA wished he felt lucky as he waited for the man that he hoped could give him the answer he longed for.
A minute later, Face ushered McCormick into the room. "Look who stopped by to join the poker game," he said as he gestured toward BA.
McCormick's eyes scanned the room. He sensed a trap. Temp and Murdock looked just a shade too happy and Baracus, who they barely spoke a kind word to the week before, sat at the table like an honored guest. The way everyone was smiling at him made him feel like a vestal virgin about to be sacrificed into a volcano. He decided to play along and act naturally until he could figure out what they had planned for him. "BA, right?" McCormick asked.
That's right," BA said pleased that he had been remembered. He kicked out the chair on his right side and patted it with his hand. "Sit down and let's play some cards," he said with a sickeningly sweet yet predatory smile.
"Okay," Mark said nervously. He knew no one at the table was acting right, especially BA. He figured the big guy wanted something but he didn't know what the man could want from him.
"Don't worry," Murdock said helpfully as he sensed Mark's nervousness, "he don't bite. Well, not hard."
"You know," Face said conspiratorially as he took his seat, "BA hasn't done anything but talk about you all week. He was real anxious to meet you again."
"Real anxious to see you again," Murdock agreed with a nod of his head.
"Really," said McCormick as he looked into BA smile which took on a more than friendly meaning.
"Well, you got so much in common," Face continued.
""Oh," McCormick said as he waited for them to elaborate.
BA fidgeted under the gaze of three sets of eyes. He felt the blush burn in his neck and start to rise upward. "I like cars," he mumbled.
"What's that?" Murdock nearly shouted as he cupped his hand to his ear.
"I said I like cars," BA repeated in a louder voice.
"What a coincidence!" Murdock said as he slapped the table with the palm of his hand. "Mark, here, drives cars."
"I, ah, think everyone knows that," Mark pointed out.
"You know," Face said as he put one arm around Mark's shoulder and changed the subject, "you wouldn't know it to look at him but BA is real good with his hands."
"Real good," Murdock said with a wink. "You might not believe it looking at his size but he's real gentle too."
"Yeah," Face agreed. "There have been a lot of people who have really enjoyed his gentle touch."
"That's because he's experienced," Murdock chipped in. "Real experienced. Tell Mark how experienced you are," Murdock said encouragingly.
"Well," BA said modestly, "no one's ever complained."
"Um, that's nice," Mark said as he eyed the distance to the door in case he had to make a hasty retreat. "How about we start the game?"
"Good idea," said Face. I got some beer in the frige, can you bring it in?"
"Sure, Said Mark as he quickly headed for the kitchen, grateful for a chance to think about what everyone was saying and not saying, without all of the eyes watching him.
As McCormick left the room, Face leaned over and whispered to BA, "I think it's going well. You should go in there and make your move."
"You sure," BA answered skeptically. He had sensed McCormick's anxiety.
"Yeah, did you bring the gift?"
"Right here," BA said as he patted the small wrapped box in his pants pocket.
"Remember, faint heart never the fair maiden won," Murdock said followed by a soft grunt as Face elbowed him in the stomach.
"He means be confident," Face explained.
"Fools," BA muttered as entered the kitchen. He saw that McCormick had already pulled the beer from the refrigerator as well as a bowl of dip. He just watched the young man move for a minute as he tried to come up with the right words to say. McCormick tensed as he realized he wasn't alone in the room. He turned wearily and eyed the sergeant who was blocking the only exit.
"Can I get you something," McCormick asked.
BA knew the moment was right to ask the big question but the words got turned around in his head. His fixed smile began to falter as he floundered. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small crumbled package, that Murdock had wrapped in bright paper, and thrust it into McCormick's hands. "Here I got you this," he mumbled.
Mark gaped at the package. "What is it?" he asked.
"I got you some spark plugs," BA explained. Face thought I should get you some candy but I got this instead." He started to say more but stopped. The oppressive silence filled the room as both men waited for the other to make the next move.
"Mr. Baracus," Mark began.
"BA," Baracus corrected. "I want you to call me BA. I want us to be friends."
"BA," McCormick began again. "I don't want you to take this the wrong way but are you making a pass at me?"
"What?" BA exclaimed disbelievingly.
"Because if you are," McCormick continued, "I want you to know that I'm really flattered but I'm…"
"What makes you think I'm making a pass at you?" BA demanded as he stepped forward as fury shone deep in his eyes.
"Well, uh," Mark hemmed as he stepped back, "the gift, your obviously new clothes, your perfume, what you and the guys have been saying."
"I ain't wearing any perfume," BA thundered. "I'm wearing expensive cologne."
"It's lily of the valley."
"Lily of the valley," BA shouted as he stopped his advance. He stopped. He mentally reviewed all of the 'help' and 'advice' he had been getting from his friends. He paled then turned pink as his large fists began to open and close on their own accord. The pink from embarrassment turned red with anger as he pivoted around. "You two are gonna die," he shouted as he stormed out of the kitchen as McCormick followed from behind.
Face and Murdock scrambled up from their seat on the couch where they had listened in on a monitor to the conversation in the kitchen. They ran in opposite directions unsure which one BA would go after first.
Face was the unlucky one as BA made a bee-line for the glib tongued conman. BA grabbed him by the collar and held him up until his toes just barely scrapped across the floor. He pulled back his free hand into a fist.
"You made me look like a fool, fool!" he yelled. "Now you're gonna die!"
"Now, now, BA," Face entreated as he unsuccessfully tried to break free. "You don't want to hit me. I'm the beloved brother of the man whose car's body you want so bad."
"Yeah," shouted Murdock from his hiding place behind McCormick, "If you kill us, you'll never get a chance to make his engine purr."
"What are you guys talking about?" McCormick asked as he tried to loosen Murdock grip from his back.
"Don't worry," Murdock assured him as he determinedly stayed behind him as a shield against BA's wrath, "the big guy is just having a lust problem."
BA felt as if the heat from his blush could ignite his clothes into flames. He let go of Face and turned towards McCormick. "It's your car," he explained with a shout. "We're talking about your car."
"You want to date my car," Mark asked confused.
"No!" said BA, "I want to fix it."
"My car's broken? What happened to my car?"
"Don't worry, Mark," Face said soothingly as he straightened his clothes. "BA's just asking if he can take your car somewhere private and get to know her better."
"You know," Murdock added as he patted Mark's shoulder, "if I had a sister and she was a car, I'd trust BA with her."
"But, but, it's my car," Mark stuttered as he tried to explain what they were asking of him.
"I know that," BA said understandingly. "She's special and I'll treat her right. You can be right there. I won't go any farther than you want."
Face tried unsuccessfully to choke out the giggle that rose in the back of his throat. "Don't worry; he'll pull out if you think he's going too far."
Murdock released his laugh unfettered. "Yeah, you wouldn't want an accident and have that oil spurting all over the place."
Mark joined into the laughter. "But to be on the safe side, I'd better have you wear a rubber." He paused for a moment than added, "glove."
BA wanted to be mortified but the high school humor and laughter was infectious. The night dissolved into card, cold beer, locker room humor, and cumulated with a cheating contest between Face and McCormick as both professed their innocence to the other. A good time was had by all.
It was a couple of days later, deep inside the state park, at an unused camp ground that McCormick brought the Coyote X.
While Face and Murdock grilled steaks, BA took McCormick and the Coyote X to a secluded spot. After some initial trepidation, BA convinced McCormick to raise the hood. Mark was nervous but BA's gentle administrations relaxed him and he was able to enjoy himself as he watched BA work his magic. He was impressed with the man's intimate knowledge of engines and BA admitted that Mark had showed a few new tricks of his own.
Afterwards the four of them enjoyed a picnic lunch and a short game of three-on-one football which BA won when he turned the game from touch to tackle.
The next afternoon, as they drove to meet their new client, Hannibal was pleased that his team had worked out whatever problems they had previously. They were content and in synch. Face chatted iambically with the sock on Murdock's left hand which appeared to be making googly eyes at him.
"A normal conversation for the back of the van," Hannibal thought.
The biggest change, Hannibal noted, was with his sergeant, BA. While he failed to participate in the strange conversation between man and sock, he hadn't threatened to rip it from Murdock's hand and stuff it down his throat. Hannibal observed BA as the sergeant hummed a pleasant tune and, occasionally, flashed a smile as if he had brought up a recent very pleasant memory.
AS they left the van, Hannibal snagged Face by the arm to see if he could shed any light on what had changed BA's usual dour mood.
"Someone looks happy today," he said as he gestured towards BA who had his arm around Murdock's shoulder.
"Yeah," agreed Face.
"Looks like someone got lucky this weekend," Hannibal guessed.
"Was it something I said?" Hannibal wondered as Face nearly fell to the ground in laughter.