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by Dusty Tyree
Summary: What would happen to a F/HM relationship if the Team weren't on the run any more.
Warnings: SLASH! Contains non-graphic love scenes between two men. Under 18's or persons who don't like this sort of story should not read any further. A few swear words, mention of violence. Lots of angst.
Disclaimer: The A-Team belongs to Stephen J Cannell and Universal Television. No copyright infringement intended. Any characters you haven't heard of before, are copyrighted to me.
Comments: Would be appreciated - as this story is different to my usual pairing of F/H - or List.
Author's Notes: The planes mentioned are the Beech Duchess; Piper Cub, and Cessna.
Thanks: Thanks to Pam for reading it through and catching the glitches I missed. Also Tee for her comments.
Copyright: (c) Dusty Tyree August 2001
Templeton Peck, nicknamed Face, former First Lieutenant in the elite Special Forces, smiled to himself as he pushed the elevator button which would take him up to his fourth floor apartment.
He had just left a meeting with his commander, John Hannibal Smith, and he grinned again as he recalled Smith’s summing up of their latest potential client. “A real Putz.” Smith didn’t suffer fools gladly, and Face didn’t think they would be taking this particular case.
The proposed client had brought most of his troubles on himself by his greed and unsympathetic nature, and both Smith and Peck wished his wife the best of luck. She had up and run from the guy, taking half of his money with her. She, at least, had been honest enough to just take her share, and they had no intention of trying to find her.
“Well, you win some, you lose some,” said Face to his reflection in the elevator mirror.
It was a change from their last case when Smith had definitely been on the Jazz, and although Face had pointed out several flaws in Hannibal’s plan, he had gone along with it, knowing that somehow, everything would work out to their advantage.
It was Smith’s sheer exuberance and supreme confidence, together with his uncanny ability to see and plan ahead that carried the other three members of the Team with him. The Colonel had never yet failed them, even though things got very hairy on occasions. No, thought Face, make that every occasion.
Although the Team were no longer wanted criminals, and could go their separate ways, they’d made a joint decision to stay together, doing what they did best. Helping the underdog. So whenever a person came to them with troubles that the Police couldn’t deal with, the Team were still there to help.
Peck’s personal life had also changed in recent weeks: for one thing, Murdock had been released from the V.A. and was presently living with Peck. No, more than that, they were living together, as a couple.
Face still wasn’t quite sure how this had transpired, he was still a little bemused by the fact that one of the first things Murdock had done upon leaving the VA was declare his undying love for his long time friend - couldn’t live without Face any longer.
When Face had smilingly pointed out that he had done okay up until now, the pilot had fixed him with an earnest, brown-eyed stare and said everything had changed once he’d been released. He could now tell Face that the affection he’d always felt for him had turned to love on the physical plane - in other words he wanted Face, sexually.
Peck, for once, had been dumb-struck, not having really thought about a pairing with Murdock. He wasn’t repulsed by the idea, in fact, in some of his secret fantasies, he’d wondered what it would be like to have Murdock, or Hannibal, for a lover.
He’d dismissed the idea as just that - fantasy. He couldn’t believe that such a macho man as Hannibal would think of him in that way, and Murdock, with his many personas and changes of mood, had never given any serious indication that he would either.
There had been times, of course, when Murdock had got very close, invading his personal space, so to speak, but nothing had ever come of it, and as Face was quite comfortable with his women friends, and the closeness of the Team as a whole, he’d never seriously considered a relationship with either of his friends.
When Murdock had persisted, however, Face had been drawn closer and closer to the pilot. Light, little touches had advanced to caressing, familiar hugs to warm embraces, and then Murdock had kissed him.
Face had been more than a little surprised to discover that he liked the pilot’s kisses. At first hesitantly, than more eagerly, he’d responded, until they’d been forced to draw back enough to breathe.
“Wow, Facie, you sure know how to kiss. I think there’s steam coming out of my ears.” Murdock declared, enveloping his smaller friend in a bear hug.
Before Face could assure him that his ears were intact, the pilot had captured his mouth again, while his hands began to roam over Face’s back, sliding down to cup firm buttocks.
Face gasped, and pushed against Murdock’s chest, “Murdock, please, just a minute.”
Things were happening a little too fast for him.
“Why?” whispered the pilot. “I want you, Face, want to make love to you.”
Face felt strangely flustered. It wasn’t the first time someone had said those words to him, usually it was a woman; he had, however, often been propositioned by men, offers he’d always declined, but this was a lot different.
“I’m not sure about this Murdock. Give me time to get used to the idea.” he protested, a trifle nervously.
Murdock had drawn back to the full stretch of his arms, still enclosing Face within their circle.
“You’re not totally against the idea, then?” he asked with a grin.
“No... no..” Face declared hastily, then paused. “I don’t think so,” he added honestly.
“Okay Muchacho,” said Murdock, planting a kiss on the handsome nose just below his. “You think about it, then let me know.”
He grinned as Face wriggled a little uncomfortably. “I won’t let you forget,” he said.
“I won’t forget Murdock,” promised Face. “I just need a little time to get over the shock.”
“Shock?” Murdock’s brow creased in a small frown. “You’re shocked that I want you, physically?”
Face shrugged slightly. “In a way. I know you love me like a brother, as I do you...” He flushed when Murdock gave him a very lascivious look.
“Brotherly love ain’t what I had in mind muchacho.” Then more soberly he added. “If you don’t want me that way...” he hesitated, then sighed, “that’s okay, just please, don’t let it spoil what we already have. I’d hate that. Okay?”
“I’d hate that too, Murdock,” murmured Face, as he stepped away from the pilot, and Murdock let him go.
That had been eight weeks ago, and for the last five of those weeks, Face and Murdock had become lovers in every sense of the word.
From his first reluctant acceptance of the pilot’s avowal of love, the younger man had begun to actively enjoy the sexual activity between them, had kept up with Murdock’s more boisterous foreplay and was learning to relax enough to overcome the last great obstacle which lay between them. Try as he might, Face could not prevent himself from
tensing up when Murdock wanted to have full sex with him. He just couldn’t prevent the mental blocks from being raised; couldn’t hand himself over, even to his best friend and now lover, without an inner struggle.
It wasn’t as though Face was afraid of the actual act of sex, well, not too much; he knew Murdock would never force him into anything he wasn’t ready for; no, he was wary of giving up control.
Throughout his childhood and adolescence, and especially in the army, when events had been way beyond his ability to control, it had now become essential to Face to retain command of his own life whenever possible. Sure, he followed Hannibal’s orders, but that was because he wanted to follow them, he knew he would do anything for his friends and team-mates, even at the risk of his own life.
This situation, however, was very different. It wasn’t just the physical surrender he was anxious about, he would be giving up part of his inner self, giving his lover power over every part of his body and soul, and he wasn’t ready to do that.
Murdock had been eager for Face to take him, be the one ‘on top’, but Face felt that this was unfair, if he wouldn’t allow Murdock to do the same.
At the bottom of his inner turmoil was the age-old thought: What happens afterwards? Will he... will we still be as close? He could almost smile as this thought was very close to the ‘Will he respect me in the morning’ cliche, but he was afraid things might change, and not for the better.
Gradually, however, he was learning to relax, go that little bit further; allowing Murdock to fondle him more intimately. Then, just over a month ago, Murdock had been pleasantly surprised when Face hadn’t tensed up and halted his exploring fingers as they’d caressed between the full round globes of his buttocks. The younger man had sighed and allowed the pilot to insert one well-lubricated finger into the hot damp opening there, then another, until, they were both writhing in uncontrolled passion, which led to the inevitable conclusion of Murdock taking possession of his friend’s handsome form, filling him to the full length of his manhood, and bringing them both to an explosive climax.
After their breathing had slowed, an ecstatic Murdock had kissed his lover deeply, and muttered. “Oh Facey, my love. Now I know what I’ve been missing all these years... you are spectacular.”
Face had blushed, and the pilot laughed as he noticed the rosy hue spread well down past his chest. “I bet your buns are blushing too,” he murmured wickedly.
“Murdock,” Face mock-punched him and the pilot fell back with a theatrical shout, before grabbing the smaller man, rolling him over onto his back and kissing him soundly.
“You have great buns, Facial One, in fact...” The taller man drew back an inch or two, and ran a hand down the lieutenant’s body from chest to thigh... “I’ve never seen a man so beautifully put together, as you are.”
Face gazed up into the warm brown eyes. “Thank you, that’s nice to know...”
It sounded lame, even to his ears, but he didn’t know what to say.
His good looks were both a blessing and a curse. They helped him in everyday situations. He usually only had to smile to get whatever he needed, for the Team, or for himself. These same good looks, however, made him a target for every jealous type who imagined the handsome blond was trying to steal their girl/wife/daughter.
If they only knew, Face grimaced. After all the years on the run, he couldn’t seem to settle down. Sure, he’d dated a lot of women, he liked their company and they certainly seemed to enjoy his, but anything permanent was impractical doing the dangerous job he did, and the bottom line was that he hadn’t, as yet, met the woman he’d give up everything for.
Those same looks which so many admired, also made him a target for every bad guy who wanted to show off their power... they usually picked on Face because he was smaller than his friends, and looked delicate in comparison to the other three. The bad guys usually found out the error of their ways, when the slight blond fought back, giving as good as he got. He hadn’t been an officer in the Special Forces without learning to take care of himself. He was no pushover, and this seemed to madden them still further. Face still had bruises from the last encounter, when he’d been used as a punching bag by a man trying to force the Colonel to hand over incriminating papers the Team had stolen from his safe, papers that would send him and his colleagues to jail for many years.
So any mention of his male beauty was something of a double-edged sword for Peck. He had been born handsome, and although he was glad he wasn’t ugly with warts and bad teeth, he sometimes wished he was less of a target.
Murdock looked at him seriously. “You don’t like me saying that, do you?”
“No, it’s not that, Murdock...” Face tightened his grasp round the pilot’s shoulders. “It’s great that you like how I look... but you know... it might be nice, once in a while, to have someone praise my intellect, my photographic memory... my computer and management skills... ” he broke off with a smile, trying not to make it sound too serious.
Murdock smiled and hugged him. “I’m sorry Facey. We all know you’re intelligent and have a great many other attributes, including a soft compassionate heart, that you get all embarrassed about... see...” he stroked Face’s cheek with one finger as the lieutenant crimsoned at the compliment, “but you can’t blame me for admiring the physical side of you too...especially when I’m this close, huh?” He put his head on one side, and let his hand drift across Face’s midriff.
Face smiled, wriggling slightly as the pilot’s long fingers tickled his bare skin. “No suppose not... I’m being stupid.”
“No... not stupid, but you’re incredibly sexy when you’re being serious...” and Murdock bent his head and kissed his lover hard and deep.
That had been five wonderful weeks ago to the day and as Face walked down the hall towards his door, his mind was on the dinner he and Murdock were planning for tonight, sort of a celebration.
The only fly in his personal ointment was the fact that he knew Hannibal disapproved of his two junior officers having a love affair, not by anything the Colonel had said, more of what he hadn’t said. Smith’s lips had tightened when Murdock and Face had told him they were together. Although they both promised it would not effect their performance for the Team, they could both see the Colonel wasn’t convinced, but had decided to hold his tongue for the moment.
As he let himself into the apartment, he heard voices coming form the lounge and frowned. He’d just left Hannibal and BA, so who could Murdock be talking too.
He went towards the sound of voices and saw that the visitor was a man he knew slightly. It was Kevin something or other, from the Flying Club.
Now that Murdock was judged sane, and could go where he pleased, he spent a lot of
his free time at the local airfield, where he could indulge his love of flying and ‘planes.
Murdock was walking around the sun-filled lounge, waving his hands as he described some manoeuvre he’d made. He stopped when he saw his partner, and smiled. “Hi there, Face. You’re early. Anything wrong?”
Face shrugged. “No, not really, Hannibal didn’t take the case.” He didn’t want to elaborate, as he didn’t know how much, if anything, the other man in the room knew about them. They weren’t fugitives any longer, but he still hadn’t lost the sense of caution that had been such a large part of his life for over ten years on the run.
Murdock picked up on his concern and hastened to make introductions. “Face, this is Kevin Webster... Kevin this is my friend, Templeton Peck.”
Face held out his hand. “Mr Webster. I think we’ve met briefly, at the airfield?”
“Yes, that’s right, Mr. Peck. It was at the Open Day last week”
The two men shook hands, eyes appraising each other.
Peck saw a man, probably a few years younger than himself. He was the same height as Murdock, with broad shoulders and deep chest. He had grey eyes and his hair was a mass of red curls. He was undoubtedly good looking, with a smooth, unlined face, good teeth and a nice smile, but underneath the surface charm, the lieutenant could see it was also the face of a spoiled child who had always got his own way.
A bit bland, was Face’s uncharitable, but accurate, assessment, maybe a few years down the road, would make an improvement.
Webster’s grey eyes had swept Peck from the top of his fair head to his expensively shod feet, noting with inner chagrin that here was a man who could challenge him both in the looks and sophistication stakes, and win hands down. The green, lightweight summer suit Peck was wearing was cut to perfection showing off the other man’s trim figure to great advantage; emphasising the deceptive breadth of his shoulders, his narrow waist and slim hips; it also brought out the changing colours of his incredible sea-green eyes. He may have been smaller in height than the two pilots, but Webster had the sneaking suspicion that in a crowded room, it would be Peck who stood out.
There was a short silence while the two men looked at each other, Webster’s eyes faintly challenging as he looked at the handsome man in front of him, then at Murdock.
The pilot jumped hurriedly into the breach. “Kevin brought over the photographs we took at the Open Day, Facey.” He gestured to an envelope lying on the coffee table.
“Oh, I see. That was kind of you,” he turned a brilliant smile on the visitor, who swallowed nervously, knowing his unspoken challenge had been recognised - and accepted.
“Not really. The Committee wanted to thank Murdock for taking part.” He turned to the pilot, “That display you put on was great.” He paused as Murdock beamed at him. “We raised quite a bit of money for the Club Funds, so I thought I’d say thank you by inviting you out to Dinner - and you, of course, Mr. Peck,” he added hastily, “we were grateful for all your help too.”
“Well...” Face began, “we already have a dinner...”
“That would be nice..” Murdock said at the same instant, then halted when he realised what Face had started to say.
He put a hand to his mouth. “Oh Boy. I’m sorry Face, I forgot.” He turned to a slightly bewildered Webster. “We already have plans for this evening.” he explained.
“Well, that’s okay. We can make it another evening when you’re free,” Webster said, but his disappointment was evident.
Face was silent, leaving it up to Murdock to decide whether he wanted to go, not consciously realising that it was a test of Murdock’s commitment to their relationship.
After a quick glance at his lover’s impassive face, Murdock nodded his head. “Another evening would be fine. Thanks.”
“Well, I’d better get out of your hair. I’ll give you a call HM?”
Murdock nodded. “Yeah...” then knowing that Face still hadn’t lost the caution of earlier days when personal information might get back to the authorities, added, “We have an unlisted number, but I’ll see you at the Club. I’ll be taking the plane up on Thursday.”
“Right then, we’ll leave it like that.”
Face shook hands cordially with the visitor and watched as Murdock walked him to the door. He was vaguely unsettled, and couldn’t put his finger on why. Webster seemed nice enough on the surface, but Face knew he hadn’t been mistaken about the challenge in the younger man’s slate-grey eyes. Why the challenge? Was Webster interested in Murdock? He had the distinct impression that he and Kevin were not going to be friends.
Just then, the pilot returned, and came straight over to Face and put his arms round him. “That’s better.” He nuzzled the fair hair and kissed him on the mouth.
Feeling the tension in the slim form in his arms, Murdock frowned. “What’s up Face? Everything okay with Hannibal and BA?”
“Yes, they’re fine,” Face shrugged, and gracefully extracted himself from Murdock’s arms.
“Well, what’s the matter?” The tall man frowned. “Oh,” he slapped his forehead. “You’re mad ‘cos I forgot about the dinner date... I’m sorry.”
“No,” said Face too quickly, then sighed, he had promised himself to be more open about his feelings. “Well, yes, a little. I thought it was going to be something rather special to celebrate - y’know...” He flushed slightly as he remembered that wonderful milestone in their relationship, then added. “Guess, it doesn’t have the same meaning to you as to me.” He waved a hand.. “Let’s forget it.” He started to loosen his tie. “I’m going to have a shower. The table is booked for 8.30, that’s if you still want to go.”
Murdock saw the downcast expression and knew he’d hurt Face by his lapse of memory. He hadn’t forgotten how special the date was, he’d just got carried away talking to another pilot, and momentarily forgotten the dinner date in his delight at being asked out by his new friend. It was nice making new friends, but, he reminded himself, he shouldn’t forget his old ones, or how special this particular old friend was. Feeling all sorts of a louse, he put out a hand and halted the smaller man. Placing his hands on the broad shoulders, he turned the blond towards him. “It does mean the same to me Face. I remember how special that day was, the first time you ever gave yourself to me. Of course I want to have dinner with you. I’m so sorry. I just got talking about flying... and you know how I love flying...”
Face nodded. “I know. One pilot to another.”
It helped to know that Murdock hadn’t forgotten either the date or the significance of it.
“Forgive me, huh?” The pilot put on his most mournful expression. “Pretty please, with sugar on top...”
Face had to grin. “Okay, you’re forgiven.”
“Great.” In relieved delight, Murdock swung Face up and over his shoulder, carrying him towards the bathroom, ignoring the yell of surprise from his captive.
They almost didn’t make it to the restaurant, having had too much fun in the shower. Determined to demonstrate his remorse to Face beyond a shadow of doubt, Murdock had stripped his protesting lover naked, then shed his own clothes before waltzing them both into the shower cubicle.
Their love making had been quick, but satisfying, the pilot still high on adrenaline, grinding their hips together until they’d both climaxed, the warm water washing away the evidence of their passion.
The dinner had been excellent and when they’d finally got home, both were drunk on good wine and high spirits, the shadow that had touched them driven back into the night.
A few days later, Murdock ran into the lounge shouting excitedly. He grabbed Face by the hands pulling him out of his chair and waltzing him around the room.
“What’s up?” asked Face, then blushed as Murdock pushed his belly against his and made his partner aware of how excited he was. “Besides you,” he added.
Murdock laughed again, feeling Face quiver as he thrust himself harder against the other man’s firm pelvis.
“I’ve got a job, Facey...at the airfield.”
“Oh?” A blond eyebrow was raised in question.
“Yeah...some of the pilots want to know more about flying in combat conditions, y’know, those guys who were never in the Air Force.” He bent Face backwards, over his hip and leant over him... ”and they want ME to teach them. How about that, Facey?”
Face clutched at his lover’s broad shoulders, wondering if the faint feeling of unease that went through him was due to his upside-down position, or something more.
“That’s great Murdock,” he managed to say warmly. “Congratulations.”
Murdock beamed down at him, then kissed him passionately on the mouth. “Let’s go to bed,” he suggested.
“It’s a bit early,” Face started to say, then grinned as the pilot whispered lecherously.
“Not for what I want to do with you... any time’s a good time for making love to you.”
“Can’t argue with that, lover,” Peck smiled, and was whisked off to the bedroom, where Murdock demonstrated just how excited he was at the thought of having a regular job flying made him feel.
“Flying and sex... they go together with you, don’t they Murdock?” Face stated drowsily as he lay listening to the racing beat of his lover’s heart begin to slow at last.
Murdock stretched his long body against the hot skin of his partner. “Yes, guess they do. Two things I love the most...” he nuzzled the damp blond hair. “But you’re my best, more favourite thing Facey. I love you, even more than flying I think.”
Face sat up in mock outrage “Only think? I must be slipping.”
Murdock laughed and pulled him down to lie on his chest. “Never that, Templeton my love. You are incredible as always. And just think, a few short weeks ago, you didn’t know you could do things like this...” he ran his hand down Face’s back, and between the firm cheeks of his buttocks, revelling in the feel of the hot dampness he’d just left.
Face wriggled, though he wasn’t trying to escape. His lover was right, he could now actively encourage Murdock’s most intimate caresses, although, occasionally, the pilot could still make him blush.
“Not again surely,” he whispered.
Murdock squeezed a handful of damp flesh. “Not even I can do that again for..oh at least an hour,” he joked.
“Well, in that case,” Face raised himself to kiss Murdock on the mouth, “I’ll go take a shower.”
He tried to roll off his lover’s muscular form, but was pinned down with arms crossing his back. “Not yet,” whispered Murdock into his throat. “Just lie here with me for a minute.”
Face settled back without a word. Sometimes Murdock just wanted to hold him, and that was fine with him.
Later that day, they arranged to meet with Hannibal and BA to tell them the news.
The Colonel clapped the pilot on the back, “That’s great Murdock. Best of luck to you.”
“It’s not jets, or anything that fast, Colonel, but I think we’ll manage.” Murdock grinned the sort of grin that had earned him his madcap reputation in ‘Nam.
B.A. grunted, “Don’t act the fool while you’re up there in the clouds,” then he smiled and punched Murdock lightly on the arm, “you got responsibilities down here now, so be careful.” He nodded towards Face, who was talking quietly to Hannibal.
Murdock looked at BA in amazement, sometimes his big friend surprised him with his intuitive grasp of emotional matters.
He nodded. “I know, BA, I’ll be careful.”
The sergeant nodded. Both Smith and himself were pleased that their Captain had found a job he was eminently suited for, and doing what he loved best.
“Yes Murdock,” Smith turned from his conversation with Peck.
“The Team will still be my first concern, you know that?”
“Sure Murdock. Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
On that positive note, they all went out to celebrate the Captain’s new appointment.
Once started on his new job, Murdock spent a lot of time at the airfield. At first, Face went with him nearly every day, helping out in the office, where he reorganised the Club Secretary’s somewhat haphazard records and filing system, and got it running smoothly. When Murdock didn’t have a student, Face often went up with him, his lover teaching him the rudiments of piloting the plane. Murdock had never really had a good opportunity to give Face flying lessons when they’d been on the run, too many other factors to think of, but now, both men could relax enough to enjoy the experience. They both enjoyed being up in the sky, no one to interrupt their privacy, and they’d even made love in the cramped cockpit, both giggling like school kids as they tried to avoid the controls.
As the days raced into weeks, however, Face stopped going so often. Murdock, besides teaching the other pilots air combat, was also getting more and more paying clients wanting lessons, and Face was left to kick his heels on the ground, which he found irksome. Not that the Flying Club personnel didn’t talk to him, or make him feel unwelcome, indeed most of them were extremely pleasant to him. Try as he might to get interested, however, Face just didn’t speak the same language as the rest of the pilots and he got bored just sitting around, with nothing to occupy his hands, or his fertile brain. He needed something to occupy his mind in between acquiring items for the Team when they were on a job, and he eventually found it. Helping local businessmen with their audits and accounting, Face found his skill in finance and computers a valuable asset.
A month sped past, with Face and Murdock doing their separate jobs, each in it’s own way, challenging and exciting, and they were both enjoying life tremendously.
It was particularly enjoyable when they both got home in the evening, to be able to share each other’s experiences over the dinner table, and especially in the quiet aftermath of their nightly lovemaking. Everything was perfect.
Late one afternoon, Murdock rang Face to say that he’d developed engine trouble and had had to put down at another airfield, but that he’d be back in a couple of days when he’d got it fixed.
“Oh, that’s too bad. Shall I get BA and drive down to pick you up?”
“No, that’s okay Facey. It’s a bit far and the mechanic here can probably have it fixed before you get here anyway. I’ll let you know.”
“Right... take care Murdock... I’ll miss you.”
“Me too, Face... see you soon.”
When Murdock returned two days later, he was full of energy as usual and very attentive to his lover. Life regained its normal pattern of work and play, until the Team became involved with another job in San Diego. They didn’t need a pilot, and as Murdock had commitments for lessons, it was agreed that he stay behind.
The job seemed fairly simple. Stop an extortion racket, get the money returned to the shop owners, come home. They’d done the same sort of thing many times. This time it turned sour on them. There was a gun battle, short and sharp, which left two of the extortion gang with leg injuries, Face with a wounded shoulder, Smith with a bullet graze across his left temple and BA with a torn calf ligament. None of them life threatening, but painful none the less. Their injuries were treated at the local hospital, but Smith wanted them home as quickly as possible, they were too vulnerable to old enemies off their home ground. As it was impossible for BA to drive, he decided to ring Murdock to ask for an air lift, a plane would get them home a lot sooner.
He tried the apartment but got no answer. Then he rang the airfield to find out that Captain Murdock was out with a student, but would get the message on his return.
Smith’s temper, shortened by worry over Face, who had the most serious of their injuries, blew up. “You’ve got a radio I presume?”
“Well of course we have, this is an airfield,” came back the sarcastic response.
“Well then, I suggest you get off your fat backside, radio Captain Murdock and tell him to pick Colonel Smith and his team up pronto. He knows where.”
The Colonel’s voice was cold and hard, and even the civilian on the other end recognised it’s command power.
“Well ..er...I don’t know whether...”
“I do. Get him on the radio NOW!”
“Yes sir.” was the subdued reply.
Smith held on to the phone, his knuckles cracking with tension. That’s all they needed, their pilot off on a pleasure jaunt when he was wanted.
He could hear murmurs as whoever had answered the phone passed on the message.
“Hello Colonel, sir?”
“Captain Murdock says he’ll be with you as soon as he can. He just has to land his student, refuel and be on his way.”
Smith slammed the phone back and rubbed a weary hand over his brow, hissing in pain as he touched the raw place on his brow where a bullet had almost finished his career for good.
“It’s always the little ones you don’t expect that get you,” he mused thoughtfully, then went to check on his two men.
In a side room, he found BA sprawled in a well-worn armchair, his injured leg on another, snoring gently. Face was lying on the narrow hospital bed, eyes closed, but the restless movement of his fingers told the Colonel he wasn’t resting.
Leaning over the bed, Smith stroked his fingers lightly over the broad forehead, feeling the slight heat of an abating fever.
Blue-green eyes shot open, glared wildly for a moment, then recognising his commander, Face relaxed.
“How you feeling, kid?”
“Better than I did a few hours ago,” the lieutenant smiled faintly. “How are you?” he asked frowning as he noticed the large red and purple contusion on the colonel’s brow.
“Oh, I’m okay,” Smith shrugged.
“Hm.. I doubt that. That’s one helluva bruise you’ve got there Hannibal. Bullet or club?”
“Bullet, but it just glanced off...” he grinned wryly. “Good job I’ve got a thick skull.”
“True,” grinned Face, then asked. “B.A.?”
Smith moved slightly so that Face could see the sergeant sleeping in the armchair.
“He’s fine. Got a torn ligament in his right leg, but otherwise fine and dandy.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Face relaxed a little, some of the tension easing from his body.
There was silence for a moment as Smith pulled up another chair and sat down beside the bed. “I’ve phoned Murdock, he’s coming to pick us up.”
Face smiled. “Great. I don’t want to spend the next few days here in this hospital. I bet the food’s terrible.”
Smith grinned wearily. “But the nurses are pretty.” Then he frowned. “Sorry Face...”
“That’s okay Hannibal. I still appreciate a pretty girl y’know.”
Peck paused, shifting uneasily as he tried to get comfortable. “Can I ask you something, Hannibal?”
“Why don’t you like me and Murdock being together?”
Smith frowned. He didn’t know what to say. The truth: that he was jealous of the pilot’s good fortune in having Face as his lover. The Colonel had always loved Face from the first moment he’d seen him. In the army he’d squashed those feelings, thinking it was just loneliness; they were all far from home, but over the years it had grown from fondness into a much deeper feeling. He’d never thought he’d stood a chance with Face, not having heard, or seen anything that might indicate that his young lieutenant might have feelings for another man. It had therefore come as quite a shock when Murdock and Face had told him that they were an item, and he’d cursed his lack of courage in mentioning his own feelings for Face. Now it was too late.
“Is it because you don’t like the idea of two men being together?” Face’s quiet question brought Smith’s rambling thoughts back to the present.
“No, kid. Its not that.” He paused, trying for middle ground. “I’m just worried that you - or Murdock - might get hurt if it doesn’t work out.” He ran a hand over his bristly chin. “I wouldn’t like to see you hurt,” he added softly.
Face tried to sit up, and Smith got up from his chair to help him. Plumping the pillows, he made a back rest for his lieutenant, who’s pallor had increased with even this slight exertion.
“I guess that’s a risk any two people take when they make a commitment,” Face said quietly. It was one of the things he’d agonised over before starting the relationship with Murdock.
It wouldn’t be a risk with me, Tem. I’d never leave you... thought Smith longingly. Aloud he said. “That’s true.”
“You’re not mad at me for asking, are you Hannibal?” Peck’s sea-green eyes lifted anxiously to the sapphire blue ones above him. “I just had to know what you thought - whether you hated me.”
Smith smiled, even though his heart was aching. “’Course I’m not mad at you, Face. Just a little surprised is all.” He straightened the covers, giving his hands something to do besides touch the younger man. “And I could never hate you. Too many years together for something as negative as hate.”
Face searched his face carefully, then relaxed. “I’m so glad, Hannibal. I don’t think I could stand it, if you didn’t want me around.”
“No fear of that,” declared his commander. “Now shut up, and get some rest. You look terrible.”
“Gee thanks,” snorted Face softly, but his heart was at ease. His colonel didn’t hate him, and all was right with his world.
Very late that night, a worried Murdock ran into Reception and asked for his team mates. Smith had left a message at the airstrip to say where they were. He was directed to a side ward and bracing himself, he quietly entered the room.
His eyes went straight to his lover, sleeping on the bed.
Smith was half sitting in a chair beside him, also asleep, his head and shoulders resting on the mattress beside his lieutenant, one hand resting on Face’s forearm.
BA was still in the armchair, but his eyes opened when he heard the pilot enter.
“Hi Big Guy? How are they?” He whispered, gesturing towards the bed.
“Not too bad,” replied BA, just as softly. “Face has a bullet wound in the left shoulder, Hannibal got creased by a bullet, but they’ll be fine.”
“Thank goodness. I was worried when I got the message.” Murdock blew out his cheeks in relief. He went towards the bed, leaning over the unoccupied side and looked at Face. His lover looked very fragile, his colour almost as white as the sheets. He wore a thin hospital surgical gown, his left shoulder and upper arm swathed in bandages. Placing a gentle hand on the fair head, Murdock kissed him gently on the lips, then looked over at his Colonel.
Smith looked the worse for wear too. From what Murdock could see of his face, it was badly bruised and the angry red welt of the bullet graze looked hot and painful.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t with you guys,” he said softly.
“What for? If you’d been with us, you mighta got shot too, then we’d have nobody to take us home,” BA half sighed. “I think we’re all ready to go home, Murdock.”
“You gonna fly with me, BA?” Murdock was surprised.
“Have to... can’t drive with this leg,” the sergeant indicated his bandaged leg.
“Oh B.A. I’m sorry, didn’t know you’d been shot too...”
“Wasn’t. Fell off a wall,” declared Baracus sourly, not wishing to remember that indignity.
“Anyway, what took you so long?” he asked, trying to get his leg into a more comfortable position on the armchair. “We’ve been waiting ages.”
Murdock flushed. “I’m sorry BA, I was giving a flying lesson, and by the time I got the student back, refuelled and got up here...” he shrugged. “I came as fast as I could.”
Baracus grunted. “Yeah, okay.” He paused giving the other man a shrewd look. “You must’ve changed since the old days Murdock, there was a time you would’ve just dumped the student and flown straight here.”
Murdock flushed a bright red. “Guess I’m finally growing up,” he said slowly, not looking as though he enjoyed the idea.
BA shrugged. “Okay. As long as you’re here now.”
Their conversation, although low had wakened Smith, who stirred fitfully, his hand reaching out to check the man in the bed. Finding him asleep, he straightened slowly in the chair and stretched, his eyes falling on the extra person in the room.
“Hello, Murdock, you got here then.”
“Hannibal, I’m sorry I was out, but I didn’t know...”
“Course you didn’t Captain. We didn’t know it was gonna go south either. Just one of those things.” Smith’s eyes were steady, but there was something there that puzzled the pilot. “Maybe we should talk, set up a special routine when we’re doing a job.”
“Okay Hannibal. That might be best.” He glanced at his still sleeping lover, worry and regret in his eyes. “Is Face okay?”
“He will be. We just want to get home.”
“Well, the plane is refuelled and ready to go the minute you say the word, but,” he paused, looking at Face. “Is he well enough to travel?”
“I think so. He’s lost a lot of blood, but the bullet went straight through, no complications.”
“Thank God for that,” sighed Murdock.
At that moment, Face sighed and opened his eyes. Murdock immediately leaned over him. “Hi there sleepyhead...”
“Murdock.” Face’s eyes lit up. “I’m so pleased to see you.”
“Me too, babe... me too...” Murdock bent and kissed his forehead. “You feel well enough to go home?”
“Oh yes. I want to sleep in my own bed, with my own clothes.” He grimaced down at the hospital gown. “This is scratchy...”
Murdock laughed aloud. “That’s my Facey... now I know you’re gonna be okay.”
Smith smiled, and added. “Okay Lieutenant, let’s get out of here...”
It wasn’t quite that simple. By the time the doctor had checked on Face’s condition, and given his reluctant permission for him to leave, it was well into the early hours. Meanwhile, Murdock found some clean clothes for them all, and ordered a taxi to take them to the airfield. By the time they arrived at the airstrip, it was almost dawn and light enough for takeoff.
After they were settled back at the apartment, Murdock stayed home for the next ten days, looking after Face as he slowly recuperated from the bullet wound.
BA’s leg injury healed enough for him to return to San Diego and retrieve his beloved van and Smith dropped by every day to check on his lieutenant, which made Murdock uncomfortable.
The Colonel didn’t say a word out of place, but his blue eyes studied the pilot every time he came through the door... as though he’s looking right through me ... thought Murdock with an inward shiver. If he’d ever doubted Smith’s ability to scare the living daylights out of new recruits and senior officers alike, it was suddenly reinforced by this cold, blue-eyed stare. It had rarely been seen since ‘Nam, and then usually when some slime ball had taken advantage of his trust and landed them all in the deepest crap.
Murdock didn’t know what Smith was thinking, but he was glad he hadn’t done anything to upset his commander; at least not directly. His little secret didn’t really concern Smith, or the Team as a whole, it was personal and he would work it out before anyone got hurt..
Face seemed oblivious of the undercurrents going on around him. He’d had a rough time over the past few days. Since they’d got home, he’d developed another fever due to the entry bullet wound becoming infected, and given his friends some anxious moments, but was now starting to improve. His appetite was better, both wounds were healing cleanly and the sparkle was back in his smile.
Once he was sure his lover was on the mend, Murdock resumed his work as Chief Instructor at the airfield.
When Murdock went back to work, Smith stayed longer on his daily visits, to keep his lieutenant company; talking, playing cards, or just reading when Face had fallen asleep.
One day when Smith arrived for his usual visit, he found Face dressed casually, but elegantly, in a blue silk shirt, white pants, shoes and socks, with a matching jacket lying across the back of a chair.
“I need to get out of this apartment Hannibal... being cooped up is driving me nuts,” he said in answer to Smith’s raised eyebrow.
He’d enjoyed Smith’s visits, they’d kept him from climbing the walls, and his commander was always good company, but he wanted to see something other than the inside of his apartment, no matter how much he liked it.
Smith was agreeable. “Okay. Where do you want to go?” he asked, picking up the Corvette keys, which were lying on the coffee table. He didn’t often get the chance to drive; either BA picked him up in the van, or he used cabs.
“Hey, Hannibal I want to drive.”
“With one arm?” asked Smith, looking pointedly at the still bandaged shoulder, visible through the open neck of the blue shirt.
“I can drive,” protested Face, reaching for the keys.
“But you don’t have to. I’m volunteering to be your chauffeur until that shoulder is healed.” said Smith drawing himself up to attention.
Face laughed and gave in gracefully. “Okay, Colonel, you win.” He knew it was for the best. After Murdock had left, it had taken him most of the morning just to get himself dressed.
“Right Lieutenant. You got anywhere particular in mind?”
Face shrugged, then winced as the movement pulled at his healing shoulder. “Don’t really mind. We could drive along the coast, have a meal, then pick Murdock up at the airfield.” He paused as a shadow crossed Smith’s brilliant blue gaze. “If that’s okay with you,” he added nervously.
“That’s fine with me,” Smith said firmly, then paused. “Didn’t he take the station wagon today?” He knew sometimes one of the other pilots picked Murdock up at the apartment.
“Yes, but I guess he could leave it there,” Face looked doubtful now. “If he wants...”
“Never mind. We can still watch the aeroplanes, even if he’s flying. Come on, let’s move it Lieutenant.” He picked up Face’s light summer jacket and spread it carefully around the younger man’s shoulders, before leading the way to the door.
Shaking his head in wonderment at all this attention, Face followed his commander.
They spent an extremely pleasant day, one they would both remember on future days which weren’t so perfect.
Hannibal drove them out of the city along the coast road and followed it for miles before stopping at a small hotel run by friends of the Team. There they had a sumptuous meal, most of which even Face ate, before starting the drive back to LA.
At the airfield, finding the Visitors’ Car Park full, Hannibal pulled up close to the hanger which housed the Club’s planes, switched off the engine, but made no attempt to leave the car. Face paused as he started to get out of the passenger seat, “Aren’t you coming?”
“No. I’ll wait here. You go find Murdock.” Smith’s expression was unreadable.
“Yes.” He flashed a quick grin at his younger companion. “All that good food is making me lazy.”
Face snorted inelegantly as he got out of the car. “You? Lazy? Impossible!”
He started to walk away, then came back to the driver’s side. “I just wanted to thank you for staying with me Hannibal, and for today. I’ve really enjoyed myself.”
Smith smiled and patted the hand resting on the door. “So have I, kid, so have I.”
Peck nodded, then walked slowly away toward the hanger.
Smith watched the slim figure walk away, wanting to call him back and tell him of his deep feelings, then ruthlessly crushed the words back. He wouldn’t chance causing Face any more pain.
To take his mind off thoughts of his second-in-command, Smith looked about, noticing that there were a lot of cars parked in and around the hangers, and decided that some sort of carnival was going on. Funny, Murdock never mentioned it, he thought idly.
Face walked into the hanger, and saw the plane Murdock used for lessons was parked beside two others, so continued on toward the rear where the Flying Club’s small office was situated. This was where the clerical side was taken care of, bookings, schedules, etc. and was where Face had helped out when Murdock first joined.
It was very quiet inside the huge building, despite the bustle and noise outside.
Lifting his voice he called “Hey Murdock, you in here?”
The silence was broken by a scuffling and then Murdock’s head popped up from the cockpit of a larger twin-engined craft, parked towards the back of the hanger.
“Hey Facey... what are you doing here?”
“Coming to fetch you,” Face grinned up at him.
“I see. You should’ve let me know you were coming, I still have one more lesson to do.” The pilot flushed, and started to get out of the plane.
“Oh!” Face shrugged. “How long will that take? Shall I wait?”
By this time Murdock, looking a trifle dishevelled, had joined his lover on the ground and slung an arm across his shoulders, being careful not to lean on him. “About another hour. There is a Flying Display later on, I was going to watch that.”
Face raised an eyebrow. “A Display? Why didn’t you tell me, I could’ve come down earlier to watch.”
“Well I didn’t think you’d be up to it. You’ve been pretty ill y’know.”
“I know, but I was going stir-crazy in the apartment. Hannibal took me for a drive this afternoon, and I thought we’d stop and give you a ride home.”
“Hannibal’s here?” Murdock looked startled.
“Yes, he’s in the ‘vette.”
Face frowned, knowing the pilot so well, his instincts were telling him that not everything was as it seemed.
“What’s with you and Hannibal? Have you had a falling out?”
“No, of course not. It’s just...” Murdock paused, rubbing a hand across his brow. “He seems to be watching me the whole time.”
“I don’t understand,” Face frowned. “Why should he be watching you more than usual. He watches over us all, that’s why he’s such a great commander.”
The lanky pilot shrugged. “Don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m more around than I used to be, maybe I’m paranoid.”
Face gave him a grave look. “You’re not round, Murdock, you’re tall and angular, and you used to be paranoid. Now you’re just crazy sane, like the rest of us.”
He laughed aloud, and Murdock felt his heart stir at the joyous sound. It was a while since Face had anything to laugh about.
He joined in, hugging the smaller man to his side, and walked them out of the hanger into the sunlight.
Finding the car empty of it’s present chauffeur, they looked round for Hannibal and found him coming towards them from the other side of the hanger.
He was smoking a cigar, and it may have been the smoke getting into his eyes, that made them gleam with an oddly cold light.
It sent shivers down Murdock’s spine, and he glanced quickly over the Colonel’s shoulder, but no-one else was in sight.
“Hey, Hannibal,” greeted Face. “Murdock has another lesson and will be about another hour. Do you want to stay?”
“Not really. I have to meet someone,” said Smith.
“Oh?” A frown furrowed Peck’s brow. “You didn’t say anything earlier.”
“It wasn’t that important Face. But if you want to stay and watch, I’ll take the ‘vette and Murdock can give you a lift home. I know he’ll take good care of you.” He looked meaningfully at the pilot and Murdock flushed.
“Of course I will.” His tone was verging on the belligerent.
“That’s good.” Smith said.
“Oh - kay...” murmured Face, he didn’t understand the tension vibrating between his two friends, and there was an anxious expression in his sea-green eyes as he asked, “I’ll see you later Colonel?” It was more of a plea than a question.
“Sure, kid. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He turned and got into the Corvette. Switching on, he gave them a wave and roared off towards the gate.
The two men watched the white car disappear then turned to look at one another.
Murdock forced a smile. “Want to sit in the grandstand Face?”
“Grandstand?” Face was bewildered.
“Well, it’s more like a couple of benches on stilts,” smiled the pilot.
“Oh!” Face looked down at his white pants, then shrugged. “Okay,” he said simply, “if that’s the best spot.”
Murdock glanced down at his partner’s immaculate clothes and shook his head, “Perhaps not,” he grinned.
“Oh, it’ll be okay,” said Face, determined to make the best of it. “Show me...”
Murdock smiled a little sadly. “I’ve got a better idea, you can watch in comfort from the Control Room. They’ve got proper chairs there, and it will be more comfortable for you.”
Face hugged the pilot’s arm to his good side, touched by the other’s concern. “Thanks, HM.”
Thirty-five minutes later, Face shifted a trifle uneasily in his seat. The Control Room staff had done their best to make him comfortable, for besides being familiar with Peck from his earlier visits, Murdock obviously had quite a following with the members and pilots of the Flying Club. A polite young pilot with the name Chopper emblazoned on his shirt, had provided him with a soft cushion for his injured shoulder and one to sit on, but it was still just an ordinary office chair with hard wooden arms.
He’d watched his partner take up a young lady for her second lesson and listened to the Control Room staff as they went about their business.
The Flying Display was due to start soon, and Face hoped he could last out the time until Murdock was ready to go home. He was feeling very tired, and thought he might just have overdone it for his first day out.
Behind him a door opened and a boisterous voice shouted out a greeting to the other controllers.
“Hey has Murdock landed yet?”
“Not yet,” said Chopper, looking out of the window.
“I saw that good looking blond guy arrive, bet that makes our Kevin jealous...”
There was a fallout of sound as everyone in the Control Room turned to look at the man, who looked round in bewilderment. “What’d I say? I was just saying....”
“Hey Hank, did you see that little Piper Cub... almost took the top off the tree...”
Hank opened his mouth, automatically looking to where Chopper was pointing, and it was then he caught sight of a smooth blond head, to one side of the big window.
“Oh shit,” he muttered.
Face’s mind was whirling. What did the man mean? Trying not to let his uneasiness show, he turned his head and looked searchingly at the big man named Hank.
“Why should Kevin be jealous?” he asked softly.
“Well, I mean...” Hank stuttered, then rallying, he shrugged. “I mean... until Murdock brought you here, Kevin was the best looking guy in the Club... he tends to get jealous of anyone better looking... that’s all..”
Face nodded, silently applauding the man for his quick thinking. “Oh, I see. Thanks for the compliment, if it was a compliment,” he said quietly.
Hank nodded, “Yeah, it was,” he said, grinning uncomfortably.
Then turning to the Control Room as a whole, he informed them. “I just came in to tell you guys that the Display will go ahead on time.”
There was a faint cheer from the ranks, and the tension eased in the Control Room.
As normal chatter returned, Face eased his arm uncomfortably and wondered when he could safely leave without causing any more comment. He wouldn’t normally care what anyone thought, but in this strange new world of ‘normality’ he felt a bit out of his depth, and he didn’t want the Flying Club members to think he was a weakling.
He wanted to go home, lie down and shut out the noise of the planes, the hot sun coming in through the open window, and have Murdock hold him and tell him that everything was okay.
Face shook his head, don’t be such a wimp, he thought furiously. He was a grown man for goodness sake, he could handle this, like he’d handled all the other stuff that had happened in his eventful life.
Getting to his feet, he swayed slightly, the day’s events catching up with his weakened state.
Chopper was beside him in an instant. “Are you okay Mr. Peck?”
Face gave him a slight smile, too tired to lie. “Not really. I think I’ve overdone it today. It’s my first day out since...” he gestured to his shoulder, wondering what explanation, if any, Murdock had given his colleagues.
Chopper nodded sympathetically. “Yes, the Captain told us about the shooting, and how ill you’ve been.” At Peck’s raised eyebrow he added, “we already know you’re Lt Peck of the A Team. Hell,” he grinned, “we’re proud of the fact that OUR Flying Club has two of the A-Team as members.”
“Oh,” said Face faintly. “I see.”
“You, and the rest of the Team, do a great job helping people Mr Peck, I’d be happy to help you at any time.”
“Thank you,” said Face, hearing the sincerity in the younger man’s voice. “I wonder if you could get me a taxi, I think I really need to go home. Tell Murdock I’ll catch the Display another time.”
“I’ll tell him.” the young man paused then offered diffidently. “I have my car here, I’ll drive you.”
“Oh no, that isn’t necessary, really...” protested Face.
“I’m going off shift in ten minutes anyway, Mr. Peck... it will be my pleasure.”
Face looked at the open, freckled features of his new friend and nodded gratefully.
“Then, I accept,” he said, holding out his hand.
It was taken warmly, and firmly shaken. “I’ll just get my gear, be with you in a second.”
“Okay,” said Face, leaning against the back of his chair.
It was only a few more minutes before Chopper was back, but in that time, Face felt his knees shake with the effort of staying upright. Staying here had definitely been a bad idea.
Chopper took one look at his pain-filled eyes and took his good arm, leading him gently from the room, amongst a chorus of farewells from the other pilots and Controllers, who had mixed feelings about him leaving. On the one hand, they wanted to be able to help the injured man enjoy his day out, on the other, they were glad they wouldn’t have to mind what they said in his presence, or have to side-track big mouthed pilots like Hank.
Face lay back in the passenger seat of the small sports car and closed his eyes against the sun, grateful for the fresh air and anticipating being home soon.
When they got to the apartment block, Chopper parked outside the front of the building and took charge. Face was relieved as he was escorted into the elevator, along the corridor, until they reached the front door.
“May I have your key, sir?”
Face fumbled in his pants pocket and finally produced the key, and moments later he was sitting in his own lounge.
“Oh that feels good,!” he murmured as he sank into the soft cushions of his favourite armchair.
“Can I help you with anything else, Mr. Peck?”
“Please, my friends call me Face, or Tem.”
“Thank you. Well, can I help you Mr.. er Face? How about a cup of coffee?”
Face hesitated, he really wanted to lie down, but the youngster was so eager to help, and he had gone out of his way to drive him home. He nodded. “That would be nice, kitchen’s over there,” he waved a hand, indicating the way.
As the young man returned with a tray containing a coffee pot and two glass mugs, Face asked. “You live at home... Chopper is it?” At the youngster’s embarrassed nod, Face chuckled. “It’s okay, try working with Templeton Arthur Peck for a name...”
“I think it sounds great, really elegant. It sorta suits you, if you don’t mind me saying so.”
Face looked surprised, then smiled. “Thanks, I’ve got used to it.” He gestured to the chair opposite to his own. “Well, sit down Chopper, tell me how you got your name.”
The freckled face coloured, and he bent forward pouring out the coffee. “I always wanted to fly helicopters, y’know the big ones that Captain Murdock used to fly in Vietnam...”
Face closed his eyes, nodding, not wanting to remember those days...
“Well, anyway...I got the chance to try an old reconditioned one this guy had - and I took it up, chopped the roof off the barn and crashed it into a pig pen...”
Face’s eyes flew open. “Oh hell, I bet the owner wasn’t pleased.”
Chopper shook his head, a grin spreading over his freckled face, making him look even younger. “No.” He paused then added “the pigs weren’t too happy either...”
Face lay back and roared with laughter, hearing the chuckles as his new friend joined in.
A few minutes later, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, Face sat up. “Y’know Chopper, that’s the first good belly laugh I’ve had in ages. You’re a tonic son, a real tonic.”
“Pleased to be of service, Mr.. er I mean... Face...” was the delighted response.
They spent a pleasant half hour chatting casually about flying and when Chopper asked shyly about the A-Team, Face told him of some of the jobs that he felt he could talk about, until a bout of vertigo swept through him, and he started to feel sick.
Chopper may have been young, but he was observant and saw that his host was getting paler by the minute. “I think I’d better get going and let you get some rest. My mother will be wondering where I am soon.”
“Oh I’m sorry, you should’ve said something...” began Face, but was interrupted by the younger man’s uplifted hand.
“No, don’t say that. I’ve had a really great afternoon. Thank you.”
As Chopper stood up, and looked round the tastefully furnished room, he added. “Are you sure I can’t get you anything else?”
“No, thanks. Murdock should be home soon. All I want to do is lie down, the room is beginning to move,” said an exhausted lieutenant.
“Here I’ll help you.”
Face felt himself being helped to his stumbling feet and guided towards the bedroom. Another few minutes and he was lying on top of the counterpane, and felt gentle hands remove his shoes and socks, then a light blanket was thrown over his lower body.
“Thank you,” he mumbled and that was the last coherent thought he remembered for some time.
Chopper stood in the lounge and debated whether he should go home, or stay with the
injured lieutenant. He was worried, Peck seemed to be really ill. He decided to phone his mother, tell her he’d be late, then wait until Murdock got home.
Ten minutes later, he stole through to the bedroom to check on Peck, and found him hot and restless. Wondering what to do for the best, the youngster went through to the bathroom. Wringing out a small towel in cold water, he returned to the bedside and gently wiped the feverish man’s hot forehead and throat, finishing off by smoothing the cool material down his arms and wrists.
Hoping that his actions had helped, he sat down on a nearby chair to keep watch until Murdock returned.
Another fifteen minutes passed and Chopper was biting his thumb nervously. Growing ever more worried, he decided to ring the Flying Club and see how long Murdock was going to be. He didn’t want to leave the lieutenant, who shouldn’t really be on his own when he was so sick.
At the airfield, Murdock had finished his lesson and landed the plane. After receiving the young lady’s thanks, he walked quickly to the Control Room. The person he wanted to see there was conspicuous by his absence.
“Where’s Face?” he asked the two men at present in the room.
One of them wouldn’t meet his eye, but after a short silence the other, older man spoke up. “He was feeling poorly, so Chopper took him home.”
“Poorly? Did something happen. He have a fall or something?” asked Murdock anxiously.
“Not exactly.” The man turned to look at him. “Hank came in and opened his big mouth.”
“Oh, I see.”
“I don’t think you do, Captain. Hank managed to turn what he said into something passable, but we shouldn’t have to watch what we say in front of your friends. You have to make up your mind. In or out. But I think the Lieutenant deserves better treatment than he’s been getting recently.” He fixed a hard stare on the tall pilot., “And you know exactly what I mean.”
Murdock flushed, realising that most, if not the whole Flying Club knew his personal business. He opened his mouth to retaliate, then acknowledging he’d just been given the truth, nodded and walked out.
He walked straight into Kevin Webster. “Hiya HM. I think your friend had to go home.” He grinned conspiratorially “Wow, that was a close shave. Thought he might suspect.”
Murdock looked long and hard at the younger man. He was certainly nice looking, fun to be with, and had other talents that made him blush just thinking about them.
But did he love him, like he did Tem? The answer wasn’t long in coming. No, he didn’t. So why was he putting his relationship with Face in jeopardy for a few stolen moments. More than a few, his inner voice honestly told him.
“I can’t stay now, Kevin. Face is ill, I have to go home.”
Kevin actually pouted. When he’d first done that, it had captivated the pilot, now he found it irritating. “Why? He should be better by now, are you sure he’s not... what did you call it - scamming you?”
Murdock let out an impatient breath. “Have you ever been shot Kevin? Had a bullet tear through your flesh and bone, see the blood spurting from a hole in your body?”
The smile left Webster’s face, and he turned a sickly green.
“No, I thought not. So don’t you dare try and tell me that Face is scamming. He was hurt, badly. And I shouldn’t have left him to come here.”
“Well, you were enjoying our little session in the cockpit when he interrupted... you weren’t worried about him then.”
“Yeah. Well, I should’ve been.”
He was walking to his station wagon while they were talking and Kevin had to lengthen his stride to keep up.
“Will I see you tomorrow, HM?” His voice was quiet now, he knew he’d overstepped the mark. “For the lessons, at least.”
“Maybe. I’ll have to see how Face is,” Murdock said abruptly and gunned the engine, tyres squealing as he left in a great hurry
An hour later, Murdock arrived at the apartment. He was flushed and very anxious.
Chopper, who was just returning to the bedroom with a glass of water in his hand, was startled when the door was flung open and his hero ran into the lounge.
“Where is he?”
“Bedroom,” said Chopper.. .then found he was alone.
Murdock sat beside the bed, holding Face’s hand, stroking his brow gently as he calmed him. The lieutenant’s face was flushed, his hair damp with sweat.
“Face, can you hear me?”
Face turned his head slightly, eyes still closed.
“Oh Facey, what am I doing to you?” Murdock put his head down on the side of the bed. “I don’t want to hurt you... don’t want to lose you...”
Face didn’t hear him, lost again in a twilight world of heat and pain.
A timid knock at the door made Murdock start and turn round.
Chopper stood in the doorway.
The pilot got up and came towards him. “What?” he asked brusquely.
“I’m going home now, Captain Murdock. Just wanted to know if I could do anything for Face - or you, before I go?”
“Face?” A dark brown eyebrow rose questioningly.
Chopper’s freckled face reddened. “Mr. Peck... he said to call him Face.”
Murdock relaxed a fraction. “Yes, of course. You’ve been helping him today. Thanks for bringing him home.”
“It was no big deal.”
Murdock nodded. “Thanks anyway.”
Chopper glanced towards the bed, “Is he going to be okay?”
Murdock sighed. “Yes, I think so. Hopefully, he’s just over-tired and he’ll be better after a good sleep.”
Following the youngster back into the lounge, Murdock cleared his throat. There was something he needed to know. “Chopper, can I ask you...” He hesitated. “What did Hank say?”
Chopper’s honest eyes dropped to study the carpet, undecided how much to say, then told it as it had happened. “Hank didn’t see Mr. Peck sitting beside the window, and he made some crack about seeing ‘the blond guy’ outside and that Kevin would be jealous.”
“Oh SHIT!” Murdock covered his eyes.
“He covered up very well, though...” Chopper hurriedly added. “Said that Kevin was just jealous of anyone better looking than he was.”
Murdock dropped his hand, and laughed grimly, no humour in the sound. “Face wouldn’t believe that.”
“He seemed too, thanked Hank for the compliment.”
Murdock sighed, “Now I know he didn’t believe it.” He paused. “Was it just after this that he felt ill?”
“No, not right away. I think the sun was too hot through the glass,” said the young man.
Oh Facey, you hung on so as not to give yourself away. Hiding your feelings - as usual...
“Thanks Chopper. Thanks for helping my friend. If you want, I’ll give you some extra lessons on aerial combat.”
Chopper’s eyes lit up, then he flushed. “There’s no need for that Captain. I enjoyed helping Mr Peck.”
“Face,” smiled Murdock, extending a hand.
Chopper grinned in delight. “Yes, I enjoyed helping Face.”
As Chopper went towards the door, he hesitated, fiddling with his car keys. “Forgive me for asking Captain, but is it true that you and Mr.. Face, are.. .well er... together?”
“Yes,” was the simple reply. “I thought everyone at the Club knew that.”
“Well I did, sort of. But then Kevin says that you and he are... ” Murdock closed his eyes, as the youngster stuttered “..so I’m confused. If you have someone as great as Face... why?”
“That son, is the riddle of the universe, and I haven’t got an answer,” said Murdock and guided the young man to the door.
Murdock went straight back to the bedroom to check on his lover, his friend, and sighed with relief when he found him a bit cooler, and sleeping more naturally.
For a horrible moment he thought he was going to have to call a doctor - or Hannibal. He shivered slightly, Smith was the last person he wanted to see, as he recalled their confrontation back at the airfield.
After he’d seen Face settled in the Control Room, Murdock had made his way back to the hanger and been startled to see the white Corvette parked just out of sight round the corner of the large building. Smith was sitting in the driver’s seat, smoking a cigar, obviously waiting for him.
“Hannibal? What happened? You change your mind, gonna watch...”
His voice had tailed off as Smith got, almost lazily out of the car, but this didn’t reassure the pilot. Hannibal was at his most dangerous when he seemed laid back and cool.
He’d faced up to his silver-haired commander with an outward confidence that he knew was paper thin, and waited for the older man to speak.
Without preamble, Smith said softly. “I saw that redhead in the back of the hanger, putting himself to rights. He was listening to you tell Face lies, and sniggering.”
He stepped right up to the tall man, pushing him back against the side of the car. “Listen up good, Murdock. You get yourself sorted out with that guy. Because if you hurt Face, any more than you have already, I’ll make you wish you’d never been born,” he stepped back and added, “or back in the VA at the very least. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes sir. As crystal,” said Murdock between his teeth, torn between rage, remorse and the barest hint of fear. There was no point in trying to deny anything, Smith had obviously put two and two together and came up with the right answer.
Smith had got back into the ‘vette and driven away and Murdock had pulled himself together enough to give his student her flying lesson, but his mind was far from calm, it was in turmoil.
He really needed to get himself sorted out. He didn’t think Smith would hurt him physically, he wasn’t afraid of that, but losing his commander’s respect and worse still, Face finding out... that was another matter entirely.
A week later, Face had got rid of the bandages, and was feeling much like his normal self. He hadn’t mentioned anything to Murdock about the day of the Flying Display, nor had he been back to the airfield. Murdock hoped that Face might think it was a bad dream - it certainly had been for him.
Murdock hadn’t been back to the Flying Club either. He’d stayed with Face, either in the apartment, or taken him out driving, for meals, even shopping, without quibble or question. When Face had laughingly suggested that he take a break, that he was being spoilt rotten, the pilot had kissed him tenderly on the mouth and informed the surprised lieutenant, that he wanted to spoil him. “I almost lost you Facey, I’m just trying to make you realise how much I love you.”
Face had stared back at him, wonder in his eyes, then kissed him back, obviously touched by the words.
Colonel Smith still continued his daily visits, much to Face’s pleasure and Murdock’s chagrin. In one way he wanted his colonel to see he was trying to make amends, on the other he was angry at what he thought was interference. He couldn’t say anything to his lover about it, because Face enjoyed Hannibal’s visits, and certainly Smith didn’t indicate by word, or action that anything had been said between himself and the pilot.
Things might have gone on like this for the foreseeable future, until another job came up for the Team. It was in Mexico, and meant the Team would be away from LA for a couple of weeks, or maybe more.
Murdock insisted that he was going with them, whether they needed a pilot or not, and none of his three friends objected. He’d asked for the loan of a plane from the Club, and had been given the one he wanted without any trouble. Knowing it was for the A-Team was all the owners had wanted to know.
“Like old times, huh?” smiled Face, linking arms with Murdock and Hannibal, as they walked across the tarmac, the sun glinting off the lenses of their RayBans.
Murdock grinned down at the slighter man. “Yeah, except that we didn’t have to drug, or brain BA with a two by four.”
Incredible as it seemed, the big sergeant had agreed to fly, although Face still kept his usual sedative on hand - just in case.
“Just as well,” Smith gave a mock groan and clutched his back. “I’m getting too old to tote that much weight around.”
“You’ll never be too old, Hannibal - for anything,” Face said with a grin, then laughingly ducked the swift slap aimed at his backside, and ran on ahead to store some of the luggage on board the twin-engined Beech Duchess. He was happy, he had all his friends around him, and they were going to help some poor Joe Public out of another mess.
Behind him, Smith’s grin faded as he looked after the slim figure clad in an expensively cut, green safari suit. Only Face could make such an ordinary outfit look like a million dollars.
“He looks a lot better, doesn’t he, Colonel?”
Murdock’s quiet voice broke into Smith’s thoughts.
He glanced sideways at the pilot, then nodded. “A lot better - so do you.”
“I feel better,” said Murdock. “Carrying less baggage,” he said, and Smith nodded his understanding.
“I’m glad to hear it,” he said simply.
Things weren’t quite back to normal between himself and Murdock, but he was aware that the pilot was trying to make amends, and even though it dashed his own hopes, he loved Face far too much to wish him anything but happiness.
The flight into Mexico was event-free and they were soon driving into Mexico City to meet with their client. Petro Vargas was a young man whose small freight line had run into trouble from one of the larger, less scrupulous companies.
His small fleet of four vans had been vandalised, drivers threatened or beaten up, and now the last straw had been a fire at the depot which had almost destroyed his vans, and his home.
Vargas was a friend of Amy’s reporter friend, whom they’d rescued years back, and so it had taken very little persuasion for Hannibal to take the case.
Hannibal’s plan was to stake out and watch the rival company with the grand name of .....and find out what he could before deciding a course of action.
As per their usual routine, the Team took it in shifts to watch the offices of the rival company. Hannibal and Face had the first one, Murdock and BA the second, while Petro and his brother, volunteered to take a turn, so giving the team members a longer rest in between watches.
It had been agreed when Face and Murdock had told Hannibal of their decision to live together, that when on a Team job, they would each have one of the others as a partner when on watch. That way, there would be no distractions... the two younger officers had seen the sense of this and had agreed without question, which had gone a long way to ease Hannibal’s mind on that point.
So shifts agreed, they settled down to what they all agreed was probably the most boring of jobs.
Three days later, while he and BA were resting back at Vargas’ depot, Murdock received a telephone call from the airstrip where they’d left the plane, asking him to come down - some trouble about the ownership of the plane.
Frowning, he told BA where he was going, and would catch up with him later.
BA grunted, already tired and wanting to watch a football game on the small TV set.
When Murdock got to the small private airstrip, he was stunned to see a tall, redheaded man leaning against the counter in the Reception Office, waiting for him.
“Kevin. What the hell are you doing here?”
“Well, that’s not a very nice greeting, HM. Aren’t you just a little bit glad to see me?”
Webster ran his tongue over his teeth and gave the older man a very sensual smile.
Murdock gestured him outside into the open air, out of range of listening ears. “No, I’m not. Didn’t you get my letter? I told you it’s over. I’m with Face and I’m going to stay with him, because I love him.”
“But you told me you loved me too,” said Webster, his temper running on a short leash.
“At the time, I thought I did,” Murdock tried to explain. “Look, Kevin. I’m sorry, but you have to understand. What I felt for you, was real. I enjoyed your company, the flights we had...”
“The sex,” whispered Webster with a sultry smile.
...He’s trying to seduce me - again... thought Murdock.
“Yes, damn you, that too. If I hadn’t fallen in love with Face before I even met you, we might have had something... but I’m not going to hurt him...”
“You’re staying with him out of guilt,” snapped the redhead.
“No, oh no, Kevin, “ Murdock shook his dark head. “I’m staying with him because I love him - even more than I love flying...”
Webster shook his head in denial. “No, you don’t. Nothing is as good as flying. Not sex, not love... but..” he added wickedly. “Sex while we’re flying - now that’s about as good as it gets.”
Despite himself, Murdock couldn’t help the rush of sheer lust when Kevin reminded him of that day, spent flying above the clouds - their hands and bodies entwined. Even now, he could feel the sheer ecstasy of that day - the first day he’d lied to Face about having engine trouble.
Then as the sound of a plane taking off brought him down to earth, he also remembered how he and Face had also made love in the clouds; how tenderly Face made love to him; how he could have the same kind of thrill when he and his blond partner were joined together in passion and love.
“Yes, I know what you mean Kevin, and that day was special... but...” he added, holding up a hand as the younger man moved closer to him. “I get that same thrill when I’m with Face - I don’t even have to be in a plane.”
Webster’s shoulders slumped, angry and wanting revenge. He still had a couple of cards to play.
“Okay, I guess your blond bombshell wins - for now. One other thing I came down here for is the plane. We need it.”
“What? Why? Jimmy told me I could have it as long as we wanted.”
“Jimmy didn’t know we were gonna need it by the end of this week. So if you haven’t sorted out whatever this job is by then. I’ll come back and take her home.”
Murdock looked at him, anger sparking in his eyes. “You really are a ruthless bastard aren’t you?”
Webster shrugged. “I want you Murdock, I can be as ruthless as necessary, because I know you still feel that something we shared.”
Murdock raised a hand, “I really don’t want to hear any more Kev, just go home. I’ll ring you when I get back.”
“You do that, or I might just have to make a phone call....”
Webster’s voice choked off as Murdock grabbed him by the front of his jacket, shoving him hard against the wall. “Don’t even think about that. You say anything, anything at all to Face, and not only will I beat the crap out of you, I’ll resign from the Club, and leave you with all those disappointed people who come down just to see the A-Team pilot fly... got it!”
“Yeah...” was the choked reply.
“Good,” Murdock released him and stepped back. He was literally shaking with the emotions surging through him.
How had he got himself into this mess? By letting your balls rule your head... that’s why...
Becoming aware that people were staring at them from the window of the Reception Office, he walked away, and after a minute, Webster followed, rubbing his throat.
Murdock got back to the Vargas depot, still fuming inwardly at Webster’s attempt to blackmail him. He would have to see the redheaded pilot again, try and make him understand just how much he loved Face and to make sure he understood that it was over - had to be over between them.
The only trouble with that scheme was - that Murdock still had feelings for Kevin. It was different to the way he felt about Face, but he did get a sexual high out of being with the younger pilot; they shared the same passion for anything to do with flying, and he also got a thrill out of having sex in unusual places - like the cockpit of a very small plane in flight or on the floor of the office. All the same, he may enjoy these sexual encounters, but it wasn’t love, the way he loved Face.
He shook his head, he had to get this sorted out or he would be back in the VA. When he’d first been released, all he could think of was at last he would be able to see Face every day... even tell him about his feelings. He’d been ecstatic when Face had returned those feelings, and Murdock had thought he was in heaven. Not even Smith’s silent disapproval, or BA’s reluctant acceptance had dampened his happiness. When he’d found the Flying Club, his cup of happiness had really run over. Having met some of the other pilots, he’d been flattered by their attention, they’d actually wanted his advice, wanted him to join their exclusive Club, and he’d discovered he could exist outside of the Team and the VA. It had been a stimulating and exciting discovery.
He couldn’t really recall when he and Kevin had started their sexual encounters; they’d been thrown together on more than one occasion, and the redhead was quite persistent in making his intentions clear.
Murdock sighed, he hadn’t put up much of a fight, hadn’t even thought he was betraying his lover and friend at first. It was just a bit of a fling, nothing too serious, nothing that detracted from his love of his long-time friend and partner. He was just experiencing life on the outside, or that’s what he’d deluded himself into believing.
Now, it had grown altogether much too serious; he was on the verge of losing the two most important things in his life; Face’s love and respect, and the close friendship of the other Team members.
By the time he got back to the Depot, Murdock was more confused than ever. Luckily, neither Hannibal nor Face had returned from their shift, so no-one asked any awkward questions.
Fate seemed to be playing into his hands, for two days later, he had to fly back to LA - BA needed some specialist monitoring equipment - and it was quicker to fly back and get it from his usual sources, than it was for Face to find and scam it in Mexico.
So while BA went to collect the equipment in his van, Murdock took the plane back to the Flying Club to have it checked over, one of the engines had been misfiring on the last leg of the journey, and he’d had a hard time convincing BA that they weren’t immediately going to crash.
He was partly relieved, when he found out that Kevin wasn’t at the airfield; the day before he’d taken a plane down to San Diego and wouldn’t be back until later that night.
Murdock didn’t know whether to be glad, or sorry. He had wanted to set things straight between them, make sure that Kevin wouldn’t do anything stupid, like talking to Face about their affair.
Unfortunately for Murdock, fixing the engine trouble turned out to be a longer job than he’d anticipated, and he was told by the Club’s mechanic, that the plane would be out of commission for a couple of days.
“Damn! Is there anything else I can borrow? I have to get back to the rest of the Team with that equipment.”
Charlie shook his head, “That’s not for me to say Capt. We’re pretty well booked up for the next week.”
Murdock thanked him absently and went to find Jimmy.
Jimmy Cooksen was one of the founder members of the Flying Club and he’d become very fond of Murdock, not least because when it had become known that the pilot of the A Team was an Instructor at the Club, the bookings - and profits - had shown a steep rise. He was also fond of Murdock on a personal basis, and would go out of his way to help him.
This time, he threw up his hands in dismay. “I’m sorry Murdock. Everything is booked solid. I can’t loan you a plane for love nor money, not for the time you want it.”
Murdock ran a hand through his hair. “Well, have you one that I can take just for the day, so that I can fly BA and his equipment back to Mexico, and bring the plane straight back...”
Jimmy pulled a thick file of bookings across and checked it. “That might be possible, there’s a Cessna I can let you have tonight and tomorrow, but I have to have it back by Friday.”
“That should be okay,” Murdock blew a relieved breath and went to phone BA, and then Hannibal.
Smith wasn’t pleased about the news, but there was little he could do about it.
So it was arranged. BA turned up at the airfield three hours later and they loaded the small plane. He didn’t want to get aboard, still shaken from the flight from Mexico, but Murdock gave him a sedative - without telling him - and managed, with Chopper and Charlie’s help, to get his friend aboard and strapped in. There would be hell to pay when BA woke up, but hopefully by then Hannibal would be there to take over.
The flight was uneventful and BA snored the whole way, much to Murdock’s relief.
Face was waiting for him at the airfield they’d used before, leaving Hannibal to watch the enemy.
Face’s greeting was warm and Murdock felt a great tenderness as he swung the smaller man round by the waist, kissing him soundly before setting him back on his feet. Face was laughing, his eyes gleaming with affection. “I missed you,” he whispered, squeezing the pilot’s arm.
“Oh I missed you too, Facey...” he grinned, “especially when I had to give BA that knockout potion.”
Face punched him on the arm, but he was smiling, reading the sincerity beneath the teasing.
It took a few hours before they managed to transfer the equipment and a morose sergeant back to the Vargas place, where Hannibal was still on guard.
“Do you have to go straight back?” asked Face softly, as he and Murdock went to relieve Hannibal.
“Yeah, ‘fraid so Muchacho. If I don’t, they might not be so accommodating over loaning us a plane in the future.”
Face could see the sense of that, but was obviously disappointed. “Oh well, I’ll see you in a couple of days, huh?”
“Yep. The Duchess should be fixed by then and I’ll bring her down.”
“Oh Hi Colonel!” Smith had approached them and acknowledged Murdock’s greeting.
“Any trouble with BA?” he asked.
“Well, let’s just say, he’s got a headache from the pills, and I don’t think he liked the flight to LA,” the pilot grinned.
“Was it serious - the engine trouble, I mean?” asked Smith.
Murdock shrugged. “Bad enough I suppose. Charlie wouldn’t let me take her up without giving the old Duchess a thorough going over.” He paused. “He’s good with plane engines - like BA with his precious van.”
“Right, can’t be helped then.” Smith sighed running a hand through his short hair.
“I’m sorry to leave you short-handed Hannibal. But it really wasn’t anything I could prevent.”
“I know Murdock. Just when things go wrong they go in bunches...”
“If Charlie can get the engine fixed soon, I’ll be back in a couple of days...”
“Okay. Better get some food and rest if you’re going straight back today.”
“Okay.” Murdock’s eyes gleamed as he thought of a ‘rest’ with his lover.
“I mean a proper rest Murdock,” came back Smith’s voice as he walked away. “Can’t have you falling asleep, thousands of feet in the air.”
“Spoilsport,” Face put out his tongue at his commander’s retreating back, and Murdock dissolved into giggles. It was a while since he’d seen Face so relaxed.
Murdock got the Cessna back in time to suit Jimmy’s timetable and went back to the apartment for some much needed sleep. Despite Hannibal’s orders to rest, he and Face had managed to spend some time together... enough to put a smile on the pilot’s face all the way back to LA, and he was, not to put too finer point on it, exhausted. He’d discovered that Face had been learning new ways to arouse and satisfy his lover, than even Murdock’s fertile mind could imagine. Must be feeling better, was his smiling thought as he’d slipped into sleep, with his blond bundle of perfection clutched tightly in his arms.
Too tired to do more than take off his outdoor clothes, Murdock dropped straight off to sleep, only to be awakened by the doorbell less than four hours later.
“Who the hell is that?” he muttered, putting his head under the pillow, determined to ignore it. The bell, however, kept ringing, and thinking it might be important, maybe news of the job, he stumbled, still half asleep and clad only in his shorts, to the door and cracked it open.
“Hello HM. I missed you.”
Murdock’s eyes shot open as he recognised Kevin Webster’s voice.
“What are you doing here?”
“Visiting,” was the reply as the tall man pushed his way past the stunned pilot.
“You shouldn’t be here,” hissed Murdock “I told you....”
“Yes, I know what you said, H.M. but I know you didn’t really mean me to stay away for good.”
Murdock groaned and closed the door, running a hand through his thinning hair as he tried to get his brain functioning.
“Were you asleep?” came the innocent question.
“Oh no, course not. I’ve only been up for days,” exaggerated Murdock, “I don’t need sleep,” he added as he slumped down in an armchair, leaving his visitor to roam round the apartment.
“I’ve always liked this place, ever since that first day I came here. Remember?”
“Yes, I remember. You almost caused an argument even then,” Murdock said quietly.
“Oh come on Murdock,” Kevin came to stand over the seated man. “You know you’re glad to see me, why not give me a proper welcome..”
Murdock sighed. “Kevin, I’m too tired even to argue. Just shut up and go home. I’m going back to bed and when I’m more awake, I’ll call you.. you can let yourself out...”
With that, Murdock heaved himself out of the chair and headed, eyes closed, towards the bedroom.
Some time later he woke up to find a warm body snuggled next to his, an arm thrown around his chest.
Smiling, he turned to nuzzle at his lover’s neck, one hand patting the smooth blond hair.... only it wasn’t smooth, nor, when his eyes shot open, was it blond. It was red, and it was curly.
Murdock sat bolt upright to find Kevin lying beside him as naked as he was himself, his eyes open and smiling at him.
“What...? where...? What are you doing?” he almost squeaked, so great was the shock.
“I’m waiting for you to wake up properly and make love to me... it’s no fun when you’re asleep...” and the younger man actually giggled as he ran a hand down Murdock’s flank and nipped his right buttock.
Murdock jumped. “Stop that... and get out of this bed...”
“Okay.. .where do you want me then?”
“Nowhere... I meant get out, get dressed and... ohh...” Murdock was exasperated, but couldn’t help responding as the exploring hand teased and stroked his genitals.
“That’s nice isn’t it? Long time since we’ve been this close, my Captain,” Kevin breathed, brushing Murdock’s lips with his own.
The pilot was lost, as his body responded to the demands being made upon it. No doubt about it, Murdock thought hazily as the younger pilot’s mouth travelled down the centre of his body, the redhead was very experienced at this seduction, almost... almost... as good... as good as... FACE!
Murdock groaned as he tried to stop, tried to think, tried to... then every logical thought was swept away in the raging tide of lust, as he climaxed and heard the younger man cry out too.
Half an hour later, they were lying side by side on the bed, Murdock’s eyes wet with tears of remorse and self hatred.
Webster was silent, he’d got what he wanted, but he didn’t like Murdock’s reaction; he felt hatred for the blond lieutenant who had such a hold on this man he wanted. Murdock was his hero as well as his lover... why couldn’t the brown-eyed pilot love him and forget about Peck.
He got up, went to the bathroom and hastily dressed.
When he went back to the bedroom, Murdock was sitting up, head in his hands. He didn’t look up as Kevin stopped beside the bed.
“I’ll see you later Murdock,” then Webster left the apartment, slamming the door behind him as he lost control over his fiery temper.
As bad luck would have it, the Duchess wasn’t ready the next day, or the next, and Murdock had to cool his heels waiting for Charlie to finish his painstaking repairs.
He’d phoned Mexico to inform Hannibal of the delay, and sounded so miserable that the Colonel had squashed the immediate suspicion which had sprung to mind.
“Okay Captain, can’t be helped. Guess not everyone can make something out of nothing - like BA can.”
“Or the rest of us...” replied Murdock softly, wishing with all his might that he was with his Team, and that the muddle his life was in, just a nightmare.
Having nothing better to do, he hung around the airfield, but avoided Kevin whenever he could, only staying in a room with him when there were other people around. He could tell that the redhead was bewildered and hurt, but he couldn’t help it. He knew his willpower was non-existent when the younger pilot switched on his sexual charms, and as Webster wouldn’t take no for an answer, he had to resort to childish tricks to stay out of his way.
He only went back to the apartment to sleep, and made a point of not answering the door bell, when it rang, which it had for the last two nights.
This night, the third he’d spent alone, he had just got the door opened when a tall figure materialised out of nowhere behind him and pushed past into the apartment.
“Kevin, for crying out loud. I’ve had enough of your tricks. Just go home. Please..”
“Can’t go home, without a loving kiss from my favourite pilot.” Putting his arms around Murdock, he kissed him passionately on the mouth.
Before he knew it, Murdock had been pushed backwards into the lounge, and through into the bedroom. His clothes were ruthlessly removed and he found himself flat on his back on the bed, an equally naked redhead sitting astride his thighs.
“Tell me again that you don’t love me,” was breathed sexily into his ear.
“This turns you on doesn’t it,” gasped Murdock as his groin was blatantly fondled. “Gives you some kick, knowing that I can’t resist you...”
“That’s for sure,” laughed Kevin, as the shaft he held blossomed in his hand.
“Oh man, I should throw you right out on your ear...”
The rest of his thoughts, were, as usual, submerged under the rising tide of desire as he succumbed to the younger man’s expert manipulations.
Exhausted finally, they fell asleep, side by side...
It was after dawn when they awoke and Murdock yawned in protest at the sun shining through the window into his eyes.
He had just turned to look at his bed-mate when he tensed. Someone was at the door of the apartment.
Burglar? Naw, not quiet enough. It was like someone coming into their own home....
Murdock’s desperate cry wakened the sleeping man beside him. “What...?”
“Get up, get out... hide...”
“What’re you talking about... hide why.?”
The answer was coming through the front door. An eager voice calling “Hey Murdock, you home?”
“Shit!” Kevin was out of the bed and looking frantically for his pants... they were on the floor in the lounge.
Face opened the front door, smiling in anticipation of surprising his lover. The job was at stalemate; neither side gaining an advantage, but the vandalism and attacks on the workers had stopped, and Hannibal was debating whether to call it a day, draw back and see what happened. Feeling bored, Face had asked if he could go back to LA for a few days, and Hannibal had agreed.
Face stopped when he reached the lounge, something wasn’t quite right. Something out of place... but what?
His eyes settled on a pair of pants lying on the lounge floor. He sighed as he bent to pick them up, obviously Murdock had been too tired to even get undressed properly, his clothes were usually all over the place.
Carrying the pants, he went towards their bedroom. “Hey come on, wake up Sleepyhead....”
He stopped dead in the doorway, his widening eyes refusing to believe what he saw.
A naked Murdock, sitting on the edge of the bed, caught halfway between sitting and standing, and an equally nude, redheaded man halfway across the floor.
Face stared, first at his friend and lover, then at the other man, his face draining of all colour. He felt as though he’d been kicked in the heart by a very large mule. He looked again at Murdock, all the life, colour and laughter leaving his eyes, to be replaced by a look of shocked anguish, and utter disbelief, which faded into bleak acceptance; then all expression disappeared, leaving his eyes blank.
Murdock had been distraught enough when he realised that it was Face coming into the bedroom, but he was even more horrified as he saw the light from those incredible, sea-green eyes fade, and saw... actually saw Templeton’s inner defences being rebuilt, brick by brick.
“NO! FACIE!” he screamed, but it was too late.
The wall was up and when Face turned on his heel and walked out of the bedroom, his shields were up and in place, outward mask securely in place.
He was the Faceman, cool, calm and untouchable.
Murdock pulled on his discarded pants, desperate to reach Face before he left the apartment. He didn’t even glance at Webster, who was still standing rooted to the floor. The redhead had got what he wanted, but even in his wildest fantasies, he’d never really considered how much distress he would cause. It was a hollow victory, if he could still call it a victory.
Face was heading for the front door. He couldn’t stay here, but had no clear idea of exactly where he was heading. His return flight to Mexico wasn’t until the day after next, and he was too distraught to think of anything else at the moment; his mind was numb, his heart bursting with a sorrow too great to comprehend.
From what seemed a great distance, he heard a voice calling his name. He ignored it, he couldn’t speak to anyone right at that moment. He needed a quiet place, where he could hide in the dark and lick his wounds, away from anyone who might see him. His pain was too great to show to anyone. I have to get out... must get out of here... don't... can’t...
It wasn’t until a hand grasped his arm, swinging him to a halt, that he blinked awareness back into his soul, and turned to face the tall man in front of him.
“Face... talk to me. Please. I’m so sorry... Face!” Murdock paused, taking a breath, he was so scared of that look in his friend’s eyes, it was the look of a stranger.
Face pulled against the grip on his arm, eyes sliding past the pilot to where Webster was coming into the lounge clad in a shirt, socks and nothing else... he looked greatly embarrassed.
“Excuse me,” the redheaded pilot almost stuttered. “Can I have my pants?”
Murdock froze and glared over his shoulder at the man who’d so recently been in his bed. “What?” he hissed.
“My pants,” explained Webster, gesturing to Face.
Murdock glanced down to find a pair of pants in Face’s hand. It was the pair he’d picked up in the lounge thinking they were Murdock’s, and was still clutching in a convulsive, unknowing grip.
“Face, let go,” he urged his friend, tugging at the material in the other man’s hand.
Face dazedly looked down, then up at the half-clad man standing with his hand outstretched, and with a faint grimace of disgust, dropped the clothing on the floor.
Murdock picked them up and threw them towards Webster, who hurried back into the bedroom to make himself presentable.
“Face, can we talk about this. I don't know what’s been happening to me lately. All I do know is that I love you...”
Face just stared at him, then let his eyes drift downwards to the pilot’s bare chest, the pants half zipped, the belt hanging loose. He couldn’t speak for the grief choking him and just shook his head, heading again for the front door.
Murdock flushed crimson, yet still tried to halt Peck’s progress towards the door. He had a terrible feeling that if Face left, he’d never return. “Please Tem... let me at least try and explain.”
Peck didn’t reply. He wouldn’t give the other man the satisfaction of lashing out physically at him, even though one part of him wanted to pound out his fury into the nearest person and scream his agony to the world.
At that moment, Webster came out of the bedroom, dressed and carrying his jacket.
Face stopped trying to escape. He couldn’t leave yet... not while this bastard was in his home. He stared right at him, gaze cool and distant, too proud to allow any sign of weakness in front of this interloper, this cuckoo in his nest.
Kevin swallowed nervously. “I’ll be going...”
Wishing that he was anywhere but here, the younger man sidled round them and escaped through the front door. He’d rarely ever been around to see the consequences of his selfish actions, and he didn’t like the reality, not at all.
Hardly waiting for the door to close, Murdock turned back to his companion of many years, and put both his hands on the firm, broad shoulders under the blue silk shirt.
Face tensed. “Don’t!” The tone was low, but dangerous.
The pilot raised his hands peaceably and stood back a fraction.
“Face, I know what it looks like, and I know I’ve hurt you awful bad, but I didn’t set out for this to happen. Kevin’s just a friend, we had some laughs...” He broke off, then sighed. “I just wanted everything... even though I had everything with you.” He paused again. “I love you, Face.”
Face found this faintly ridiculous after what he’d just seen, but merely raised an eyebrow, not believing it for a second. He still didn’t speak, he just couldn’t find his tongue; he felt odd, very cold, and was beginning to shiver.
Shock...he thought tiredly. How odd, I’m in shock... He found this annoying. He didn’t want this person who’d been his best friend and lover, to think he was falling apart. He needed to get out of this place..
“You’re shivering Tem, are you cold?”
There was no answer, just a glance towards the door. ...out... must get out of here...can’t let go...
“Come and sit down, Let me get you a drink.”
Murdock was getting desperate for just one word, this was so unlike Face, who could flay an enemy’s hide with scathing words. He gestured to the chair, willing his friend to sit, not daring to touch him despite his screaming need to hold that slim form in his arms and beg forgiveness.
Face moved around him slowly and walked towards the door, picking up his bag from where he’d dropped it on entering the apartment.
“Face! Please, don’t go...” There was panic in Murdock’s voice, but Face didn’t hear him any more. All he could hear in his numbed mind, was the heavy thundering sound, as his hopes and dreams for a future with someone who loved him, crashed and burned into ashes.
When Face reached the sidewalk, the warm sunshine made mockery of the bleakness in his heart. He paused, he had no idea where he was going; the hard, tight ball of anguish was crushing him, disrupting his normally cool, well-balanced mind. Rubbing his forehead, he thought of various options. He could go to the Airport, try and get an earlier plane back to Mexico. He shuddered, he couldn’t face Hannibal and BA yet, not until he’d decided what to do.
Hannibal! Hannibal’s apartment would be empty, he’d go there. Hailing a passing cab, he gave the address and settled back in his seat, his dry eyes burning with the need to weep, but too proud and well disciplined to allow that luxury.
He wanted to close his eyes, but every time he did so, he saw Murdock in bed, with that redhead - saw them both naked - other obvious signs as to what they’d been doing.
He’d thought he and the pilot were going to be partners for life. Just shows how good a judge of character I am, Face thought with a grimace of self loathing. He shivered, he was cold, yet the cab was stifling hot.
Face had thought long and hard when Murdock had made those first overtures to him. He was fascinated, flattered and most of all thrilled to think he would have someone of his very own, his friend who knew him well; who had no illusions about the job he did, the one person who once he’d made a promise, usually kept it, come what may. He was, however, also wary of committing himself to a long standing relationship - because that was the only way it would work. Both of them committed, each to the other. Face knew his reputation of flirting with most pretty girls he’d met, wooing them, bedding them when they were willing to take a date further than just a coffee, would work against any declaration of commitment. Yet through all his affairs, he’d been searching for that special someone - he thought he’d found it once or twice; first Lesley who’d broken his young heart, then Rina, who’d loved him enough to let him go, knowing he couldn’t settle down with her and her son with the imminent risk of being arrested hanging over their heads. Not always his fault, circumstances of being on the run could certainly ruin a relationship faster than Decker’s ...You got 30 seconds, Smith...
Now though, the Team weren’t on the run, and after thinking things through dozens of times, Face felt he could take a chance, and settle down to a normal, well a fairly normal life, with the man who’d declared his undying love for him, a love he returned in full measure.
He could and would make this commitment and make it last. It was doubly ironic therefore that it had been the pilot playing fast and loose with someone else, who had split up their relationship. Not only split it, but torn it so far apart, Face was still reeling from the shock.
The cab came to a stop and the driver turned round. “Here ya go Mister...”
Face blinked, looking out and saw they were in front of Hannibal’s apartment building.
Shaking his head in an effort to clear it, he paid the driver and stood on the sidewalk.
It didn’t take him long to get past the Concierge and up to Smith’s small, two-bed roomed apartment. Picking the lock was child’s play to him and he was soon standing in the familiar hallway. He slowly went in to the lounge, and dropped his bag on the floor.
Flopping into Hannibal’s favourite armchair he sat and tried not to think of anything at all.
Murdock sat in the armchair, head in his hands, rocking back and forward, regret, anger and sorrow all vying for prominence.
What had he done? He’d hurt the most important person in his life; hurt him so damn much Face had rebuilt the wall that over the years Murdock had helped break down.
For what? A fling with a handsome stranger. Because in the scheme of things Kevin was a stranger, a man he’d known only months, instead of the many years he’d known Face. Yes, he’d been flattered, yes, he’d been intrigued; and although he hadn’t made the running, he’d still betrayed his best friend and lover for a passing fancy.
Webster was undoubtedly a very sexual person and made no bones about wanting Murdock and had gone out of his way to make sure the older pilot wanted him too. Tight leather pants, close fitting shirts, flamboyantly displaying himself, and Murdock had fallen for it each time. The redheaded younger man was so brazenly different from Face, even though they both exuded sex appeal.
Face’s appeal was much more subtle, he didn’t need trappings of any kind to look sexy, although Murdock loved to see him in the blue jeans that clung to every curve of hip and thigh. It was in every graceful movement he made, the way he walked, quick and sure, the turn of his head, the tiny curve that lifted his sensual lips into a smile; the way his sea-green eyes gleamed with teasing laughter through the thick curtain of lashes, even the way he ran a hand through his blond hair, used to inflame Murdock’s desire without the need for anything else.
When he thought over the past few weeks, the way he’d lied to Face about having engine trouble, staying with Kevin in that motel room, then coming back as though nothing had happened, he could barely refrain from screaming aloud. Other times too, in the air and on the ground, Kevin and himself... making out whenever they could. Even the day of the shooting, the ‘student’ he’d been supposedly teaching had been Kevin, although it had been the younger man who’d done the ‘teaching’. Murdock had been taught tricks he’d never thought possible, and had enjoyed his lessons. Yet, all that time he and Kevin had been fucking each other senseless, Face had been lying in agony from a bullet wound..
Murdock’s self loathing rose in waves, and he stood up abruptly, fleeing to the bathroom, where he vomited until there wasn’t anything left.
Sitting on the bathroom floor, he wearily wiped his mouth and wondered what he could do to redeem himself. He wanted Face back so badly, he ached.
The phone rang suddenly, making him jump, he decided he couldn’t be bothered to talk to anyone at the moment, unless... unless... could it be Face?
Getting unsteadily to his feet he hurried over and picked up the receiver... “Face?”
“No... it’s Hannibal.”
Oh shit! was Murdock’s instant reaction.
“What’s the matter?” came Smith’s sharp question.
“Nothing... just woke up... feel a bit woozy..” Murdock closed his eyes, fingers twisting the cord, willing his commander to believe him and let it go.
No such luck.
“Isn’t Face there yet?”
“No, he isn’t here...” Murdock managed to say.
“Wonder where he’s got too... his plane should’ve landed hours ago...” Smith mused aloud.
Murdock didn’t say anything, which in itself was enough to arouse suspicion.
“Murdock?” The question was sharp.
“I’m here, Colonel...”
“What’s going on? You sound a bit strange....”
Murdock laughed hollowly. “I’ve always been a bit strange,” he muttered.
“True,” said his commander, “but not this kind of strange...”
“Colonel I gotta go... call you later....” and Murdock did what he’d never done before, he hung up on his leader.
Smith stared at the phone in his hand in disbelief. Now he knew that something was very wrong. Making up his mind, he shouted for his sergeant.
“B.A. Can you hold the fort here, I’m going back to L.A.”
“Why, what’s up?” asked the big man as he came into the room.
“I don’t know... but something’s going on with Murdock. I want to know what. He says that Face isn’t there, and we know the kid was going to go straight home.”
Baracus looked at his leader thoughtfully, he knew that Smith had never really been happy about his two younger officers becoming an item...
“Trouble as in emotional trouble, or trouble with bad guys?”
“I wish I knew B.A. I wish I knew. But I have to find out. Do you think you can handle things this end?”
“Yes, sure, but Hannibal,” his words halted Smith as he started to move around packing up his few personal belongings. “If it isn’t the bad guys, do you think you should interfere. I mean they’re both full grown, they should be able to handle...” He broke off, unable to finish..
Smith was so worried, he didn’t even react to the implication.
“They should, I suppose B.A. But I’ve had the feeling for weeks now, that Murdock has a big dark secret that’s going to blow up... when that happens Face is going to need a friend.”
Baracus scowled. “You don’t think that crazy fool has been cheatin’ on Face?”
“Yes ‘fraid so. I warned him about it weeks ago and everything has seemed to be okay, until now.”
“If he’s hurt the Faceman I’ll break his balls for him...” Baracus grimaced, he didn’t think he could actually say things like that about one of his friends.
“You won’t have to, if I get my hands on him,” said Smith coldly.
“Tread careful Hannibal. I know you care about... ‘bout Face...” he broke off as Hannibal shot a glance at him. “Just be careful...”
Smith nodded. He checked round the room and was out of the door seconds later.
Baracus sighed and ran a hand over his spiky hair, there was trouble awaiting them all. For what affected one member of the Team always had a knock-on effect on the rest of them.
After Murdock cut the connection with Hannibal, he sat for long minutes, wondering what to do. He had to find Face, get him to listen while he tried to explain his somewhat erratic behaviour. It was all right saying he loved Face, he had to find some way of proving it, and the first way of doing that was to find him.
He started for the door, then glanced down, realising that he was still half dressed. Biting his lip in annoyance and remembered shame at Face seeing him like this with someone else, he made a beeline for the bathroom.
Fifteen minutes later, showered and dressed in clean shirt and pants, Murdock picked up his old jacket and left the apartment.
He had no clear idea of where to look. Socially, Face had spent most of his time with Murdock either here in the apartment, at the airfield, or with the other Team members. As upset as he knew Face was, he certainly wouldn’t be at any of the local businesses where he was a consultant... so where would he go?
If Hannibal or BA had been in the city, he would’ve tried one of them first, but they weren’t; he could try the Centre where BA worked part-time, he knew Face had made some friends there... but... Murdock sighed helplessly, realising for the first time, that he had no idea what Face did with his spare time, outside of their relationship.
Just goes to prove how attentive I’ve been, he thought, too full of the new job and new friends, to listen to the one person to whom he should’ve listened.
He went downstairs to the parking garage, to find the Corvette still in it’s usual place, so at least Face wasn’t driving around.
Getting into his own car, Murdock decided to drive around the streets, hoping to pick up a clue, or maybe even see Face on foot. If his fair-haired friend had caught a cab, he
was doomed to failure.
Two hours later, having scoured the streets and checked out various bars and hotels to see if anyone had seen a slim, blond-haired man, he had to admit defeat. Face could’ve checked in at any one of hundreds of places, or - he might’ve even caught a plane straight back to Mexico.
Damn! Why didn’t I think of that first?
Resting his head on the steering wheel, Murdock fought to hold back the panic attack beginning to sweep through him.
Regaining his composure with difficulty, he decided he’d better go home, maybe Face would have a change of heart and contact him there. It was the only other option he had.
In Smith’s apartment, Face stirred from the chair. He was very tired, his muscles aching from sitting in the same position for so long, his thoughts jumping again and again to the scene in his apartment, unable to forget the sight of Murdock and that...that,
Rising stiffly he went into the small kitchen, realising as he glanced at the wall clock that it was lunch time; the very thought of food making him feel queasy he started to make some coffee. As his hands automatically found the items needed, Face’s mind went over and over past events. He didn’t understand what had gone so wrong. Was it something he’d done? Or not done? Surely Murdock knew him well enough to tell him if he wasn’t happy.
Since that awful day at the Air Display, a day he remembered only vaguely as though through a veil, everything had been great. When they’d gone to Mexico, he’d been very happy. Spending time with his lover and his closest friends had been sheer bliss. Even the more boring aspects of the case had been made bearable with his friends nearby.
Had there been any signs of Murdock’s discontent? He wracked his brain trying to pinpoint a definite event, but couldn’t. He’d noticed the older man had seemed distracted at times, but Face wasn’t so naive as to expect every single moment to be perfect. He’d just given his lover some space and Murdock had soon come round to his own bouncy self again.
He’d gone over and over the scene in his apartment, trying to understand why his lover had betrayed him. What was wrong with him? Why, even when he made a commitment, and did his best to make it work, did he end up alone?
Hannibal was in luck. There was space on the plane leaving for L.A. in the next thirty minutes, and soon he was sitting in his seat waiting for the plane to take off.
His fingers drummed impatiently on the arm of the seat, he couldn’t help worrying about Face and what had happened to him, and what was wrong with Murdock? His Captain had sounded strange and most unlike himself on the phone.
As the engines of the jet roared to a crescendo, and the plane left the ground, Hannibal forced himself to relax. He would find his answers when he got to Los Angeles.
When he reached the City of the Angels late in the afternoon, Smith caught a taxi straight to Face and Murdock’s apartment. Dismissing the cab, he took the elevator up to the fourth floor and knocked on the door he knew so well.
There was no answer, not a sound. Yet with that instinct for survival that had seen him through two wars and countless months avoiding capture by the military, Smith knew there was someone on the other side of the door.
“Murdock? Open the door.”
Smith banged the wooden panels with his fist. “Open this door Murdock.”
Breathing hard and now really furious. Smith hammered on the door again making the hinges creak. “Open this damn door Murdock, or I’ll break the fucking thing down.”
A door along the corridor opened and an outraged, elderly man looked out. “Who is making all that racket? You, young man Stop making all that noise, or I’ll call the police.”
“Sorry sir,” Smith apologised, his innate good manners towards anyone older than himself helping him curb his desire to kick the door down regardless of the noise. “But I think my friend may be ill, he isn’t answering the door.”
“Well, maybe that’s because he’s gone out.”
Smith shook his head. “No, he hasn’t...” He turned back to the door. “Murdock open this door, before this nice gentleman calls the police. I’ll still be here when they arrive.”
The door was jerked open and Murdock tried to breeze past the Colonel, but Hannibal was ready for him, and pushed him back inside and closed the door with his foot.
“What the hell is the matter with you?” demanded an angry Colonel.
“What’s the matter with ME,” retorted Murdock through clenched teeth. “You’re the one making all the goddamn noise.”
“Why didn’t you answer the door, you knew it was me, or...” the blue eyes narrowed, “is it because you knew it was me?”
“Hannibal I haven’t time for all this. I have to go out.”
Smith took a longer look at his friend and colleague. The pilot’s eyes were red-rimmed, and kept darting around the room, looking anywhere but at his commander. Smith was suddenly even more concerned than he had been, he hadn’t seen the pilot this disturbed for a long time - not since he was in the V.A.
Although he wanted to shake the truth out of the dark-haired man, he forced himself to calm down.
“What’s the matter, Murdock? Why are you running away from me? Where’s Face?”
At the mention of his lover’s name, Murdock cringed away, and sank into the nearest chair, his hands over his face.
“Oh God... what’s the matter, where is he?” Smith was frantic with worry by now.
He crouched beside the chair, trying to pull the pilot’s hands down so he could see into
his eyes. “Murdock where is Face? Is he hurt?” Please God, don’t let him be hurt...
He shook the seated man “Tell me Murdock, what’s happened?”
“I don’t know where he is,” came the mumbled response. “That’s why I was going out, I have to find him, have to explain.”
“Explain? Explain what?” Smith didn’t really need the answer. From the state Murdock was in, and with Face missing from the home he loved, he knew something traumatic had occurred.
“What happened here, Murdock? Come on, you might as well tell me, I’ll find out eventually. Why are you in such a state?”
Murdock rocked back and forth, shaking his head. Since he’d returned from his fruitless search, he’d sat in the apartment, going over and over the scenario, seeing the blood drain from his lover’s handsome features leaving a stranger behind. A stranger he couldn’t reach, no matter how much he tried.
He’d been on the point of going out again, when Hannibal had come pounding on the door.
He’d frozen in shock, then stayed still, hoping the Colonel would leave. He should’ve known better. When Smith got an inkling of trouble, he was worse than any bulldog. He’d never let go until he’d discovered the truth.
Worn down by guilt, remorse and the need to find Face, Murdock blurted out the whole sorry mess, not looking at his leader, afraid to see the condemnation in the cold blue eyes.
Although Smith had suspected Murdock of cheating on Face, he hadn’t realised just how serious it was. He’d thought the pilot was having a late fling, after having been in the V.A. for so many years, which was why he’d kept his mouth shut, not wishing to make matters worse. It didn’t excuse cheating on the young man they both loved, but he could understand, in a strange sort of way, the pilot’s need to explore his new found freedom, which included his sexuality.
That was before he heard how long it had been going on, and what had transpired here in this very apartment.
“You sorry, stupid, bastard,” Smith’s voice was ice-cold. “How could you do that to Face? You know how much he loves you...”
“I know, I know... you don’t think I’ve called myself worse than that?” Murdock’s voice trembled in self disgust.
Smith shook his head, trying for a calmness he didn’t feel.. “Y’know Captain. I wasn’t sure what would happen when you and Face got together. I was worried. You haven’t had much experience in the outside world for many years, and Face...” he sighed. “Face is very vulnerable when people he cares about are involved.”
“You don’t have to tell me that....” began Murdock angrily.
“Obviously I do, or you wouldn’t have treated him like this.. .like... like someone you can experiment with, then discard when you’ve learned all that they can teach you.”
“No, no, it wasn’t like that. Honest to God, Hannibal, I really, really love Face.” Murdock was horror-stricken.
Smith didn’t look convinced. “I wish I could believe you Murdock. I thought you loved him, as much...” he broke off, running a hand through his hair, then added, “or at least cared enough to treat him better than this.”
Murdock looked up his brown eyes full of remorse. “I know I’ve hurt him Hannibal... God, I’ll never forget that look in his eyes. What can I do to get him back?”
Hannibal shook his head. “I don’t know whether you can get him back. Looks like Face has been hurt, quite badly. I don't know what to suggest...” he paused, his voice hardening to steel. “What I do know, is that I won’t stand around and let you, or anyone else, hurt him again.”
Murdock stared at him, jolted out of his own thoughts by the tone in Smith’s voice. There was more than just concern for one of his men there. Thinking back over the last few minutes, then over the last few weeks, the pilot began to realise that Smith’s anger seemed totally out of place for a mutual friend; he remembered the Colonel’s visits here, more than he would’ve thought usual, although the Team had always been a close-knit group. Then the pilot suddenly recalled the look in Smith’s eyes at the airfield, and on other occasions when their cool blue gaze had made him feel guilty. It had held concern, yes... but had there been more than a hint of jealousy?
“You love him, Hannibal, don’t you?” The last piece of puzzle clicked into place. “You’re in love with him yourself, that’s it.”
Smith flushed. “Of course I love him, I love you all... you’re my men - my Team.”
“No, no...” Murdock shook his head. “You’re IN love with Face.” He got to his feet. “Why didn’t I see that before. That’s why you won’t help me... why you’ve been giving me such a hard time.” His features contorted with rage. “I bet you’ve been giving him ideas about leaving.”
Smith paled and took a step towards Murdock, fists clenched. “Don’t you dare try and put the blame on me Captain. You’ve had your chance, more than one, if what I’ve heard is true. I haven’t said a word to Face... wish to God I had, it might’ve saved him walking in on you and your toy-boy.” His tone was scathing. “It’s not the first time you and your pilot friend have taken off for the weekend, supposedly getting in some flying hours, is it?”
Murdock glared at him, cheeks reddening with the answer he didn’t want to give.
“Yeah,” Smith nodded, “I thought so. I’m not stupid Murdock - you think I liked having to listen to Face explaining that you needed to fly; that he didn’t mind his plans being junked time and again just to keep you happy flying... that you’d come back refreshed and ready for another job?”
Smith shook his head. “He trusted you so much he never even considered that you were betraying him with someone you’ve known for four months.” His voice rose in sheer fury. “For God’s sake Murdock, you’ve known Face for fifteen years... what the hell were you thinking of?”
Murdock’s anger was abating under the relentless onslaught of Smith’s words. Hearing his actions set out so precisely, he could understand why the Colonel was so mad at him. And Face... Oh Facey, what have I done to you?
He slumped back into his chair, gaze dropping, unable to bear the scorn and fury in the older man’s bright blue eyes.
“I don’t know, Hannibal, I really don’t know. I wasn’t thinking at all, that’s been the problem.”
Smith took a deep breath, losing his temper wasn’t going to help find Face.
“Okay. Have you any idea of where he might have gone?”
Murdock shook his head. “No. I’ve been driving around, asking questions... no one who knows us both has seen him.. .or they’re not telling.. I’m not sure...” He raised dark eyes. “He could’ve gone back to Mexico, booked in at any hotel... he could be anywhere.”
“Well, if he’s gone back to Mexico, B.A. will tell me - otherwise...” Smith shrugged, for once at a loss. He stared down at Murdock’s bowed head, his anger still simmering, but the pilot’s distress was evident, and genuine. Smith sighed. “What a mess.”
Murdock couldn’t agree more. “What’m I gonna do?”
He didn’t really expect an answer, so wasn’t disappointed when his commander didn’t have an immediate solution.
“I don’t know, Murdock. You know as well as I do, if Face wants to disappear, we’ll have a helluva job finding him.”
Hannibal ran a hand through his hair, realising that he was tired, hot and sticky, the events of the past few hectic hours catching up on him. What he needed at the moment, besides his second-in-command walking through the door, was a hot shower, and time to think..
“I’m going home, Murdock. If Face contacts you, let me know.”
Murdock raised damp brown eyes. “Okay...” His voice was listless, then as Smith went
towards the door, he added “Colonel... you... you’ll let me know if you find Facey?”
“Sure,” Smith said, then hesitated, wanting to add something reassuring, then decided he didn’t have anything to say. Besides being still mad at Murdock’s behaviour, he couldn’t guess what Face would do in this very unusual situation.
Murdock watched the older man move wearily to the door, realising even in his grief that this had been hard on the Colonel.
Smith paused, head turning to look over his shoulder. “Yes?”
“I’m so very sorry....”
“I know, Captain,” he picked up his bag and continued towards the door, “but it’s a bit late for regrets.”
Murdock winced, even though he knew he deserved Smith’s censure, and watched the door close behind his commander.
Arriving at his apartment, Smith was feeling as low as he’d been for some time. The pent-up tension was making his head ache, and he was looking forward to a shower, a drink and a rest. Paying off the cabbie, he walked with less than his usual quick stride to the elevators and pressed the third-floor button.
Leaning against the mirrored wall of the elevator, Smith ran a hand through his hair, and closed his eyes. Oh Face... where are you?
The ping of the opening door brought him upright and he walked down the corridor, fumbling for his keys.
As Hannibal inserted the key into the lock, his hand froze, the door wasn’t locked. His senses kicking into swift gear, he dropped his bag, his hand automatically going for the gun habitually carried in the small of his back, then cursed silently when he remembered it wasn’t there. Airports frowned on passengers carrying guns and when they travelled on ordinary airlines, the Team left their hardware at home, or stashed in different places where they could get at it easily. Hannibal had been so worried, he’d failed to stop and collect his gun from the locker at the airport.
Someone was either in his rooms, or had been, and ever alert for old enemies, he cautiously eased the door open and stepped through into his hallway.
Moving quietly he checked the lounge through the crack in the door and stiffened in surprise and relief.
“Face!” he cried, hurrying into the room.
The fair haired figure sitting in his armchair jumped in alarm, surging to his feet, hands raised in automatic defence.
“Hannibal, you scared the daylights out of me,” he cried, dropping his fists.
“Scared YOU? Have you any idea how much you’ve scared me, today? I’ve been worried sick,” cried Smith advancing to his lieutenant, grabbing his arms.
Peck stared in amazement at the concern radiating from his commander’s powerful frame.
“Why? I mean...” Peck took a breath. Being forced out of his silent misery in such an abrupt manner took him a minute to adjust.
Hannibal shook him, then hugged him fiercely, relief, anger and sheer thankfulness all vying for control.
Face pulled away, eyes wide with astonishment. “Hannibal...?”
Smith stepped back, but still kept his hands on Peck’s forearms, unwilling to let go just yet. He was as surprised as Face by his behaviour. It just wasn’t like him to make such a display of his emotions.
“Sorry, kid,” he said more quietly. “I’ve just been so worried.”
Peck stared at him, then a thought struck him. “Why are you home? Is the job finished already?”
“Job?” Smith and all but forgotten about their recent case. “Er, no, not yet. B.A. is holding the fort till I get back.”
Smith released his grip. Why indeed?
He didn’t know how to broach the subject. He could see from the strain in the younger man’s face that the last few hours hadn’t been easy for him.
“Well, er... I thought you might need a friend,” he said lamely,.
Face raised an enquiring eyebrow, then suddenly knew what his commander was talking about. He grimaced and looked away. Oh great, he thought. Does the whole world know my business?
He turned away giving a shrug. “I’m okay,” he lied.
No, you’re not, sighed Smith inwardly, his heart aching for this man he’d watched grow from a cocky, but insecure, kid, into a man he was proud to call a friend.
The silence grew, becoming uncomfortable.
Peck fidgeted about the room, then paused by the window, running a hand through his hair in a gesture of helplessness. Smith’s arrival had diverted his mind from his misery for a little while, but now it was back in force, growing stronger with every breath, but he didn’t want to think about it, hoped that Hannibal wouldn’t ask....
Clearing his throat, he tried for a semblance of normality.
“Look Hannibal, I hope you don’t mind me being here without permission, I...I..” he shrugged, “I just needed a place to think and knew this place was empty. I’ll go find a ...”
He stopped as the older man walked over to him and grasped his arms, halting his pacing and his words.
“You know you are welcome here at any time, Tem, whether I’m here or not. Stay as long as you like.”
Peck glanced upwards through his fringe of hair, “Thanks, Colonel...”
Smith patted him on the arm, then walked towards the kitchen. “I could do with some coffee and some food, airline food is never satisfying...”
He kept talking as he refilled the percolator and rummaged in the freezer for some steak he knew was there.
Peck wasn’t really listening, he stood by the window looking out, but not seeing anything of the traffic snarl-ups, or the people hurrying about their own business. All he could see was the naked form of his lover, his ex-lover - sitting on the side of the bed, his guilty and horrified eyes gazing up at him; the equally nude form of the red-haired pilot standing frozen to the carpet. If it hadn’t been so personally tragic, Face would’ve been able to laugh at the look of sheer embarrassed surprise on Webster’s red face.
He’d never felt less like laughing. Webster had destroyed his peace of mind and his ability to trust - especially his ability to trust those closest to him. He’d even driven him from his own home; the apartment he’d chosen with such care. All that was spoiled now....
Face clenched his fists, teeth gritting together. He wanted to smash something - very hard.
Smith stood in the doorway between the rooms, watching his lieutenant with worried eyes. He wanted to help so badly, but didn’t know how
Clearing his throat, he asked. “You want a steak, Face?”
“I asked if you wanted something to eat?”
Smith came further into the room. “Face?”
No reply, the younger man lost in his own misery once again.
Hannibal touched his arm, then had to jump back, as Face swung round, fists tight, ready to lash out.
“Easy, Lieutenant.. take it easy. I want to help.”
Peck shook his head, “Can’t...” he whispered hoarsely, gulping against the emotion welling up in his throat. Good Lord, he was going to break down and cry...
Not here, not now... not in front of his commander.
He turned, his body stiff with tension, then started for the door. He had to get away.
His way was blocked by Smith’s larger frame. “Where you going?” the older man asked softly.
“Why don’t you stay here, Tem?”
“No,” an explosive sound, “Need some fresh air...”
“No you don’t You need someone to look after you... listen... just listen...” Smith’s voice was soothing, persuasive, as though gentling an untamed creature which wanted to run into the dark forest. “I won’t ask questions... just don’t go outside, please.”
He didn’t want a repetition of the last few hours when he didn’t know where his second was, or what was happening to him.
Face again tried to get past, and Smith grasped his arm, halting him and the younger man gave an inarticulate cry and swung round, pushing Smith backwards.
Stumbling back, the Colonel held on tightly to his lieutenant and they wrestled briefly before Smith managed to contain the smaller figure by pinning his arms to his sides.
“Okay Tem... okay... let’s calm down.”
“Let me go, Colonel,” Peck’s voice was strung tighter than a bowstring. “You can’t keep me here...”
“True! But I don’t intend to let you wander the streets the mood you’re in,” retorted Smith.
“Mood?” Peck snorted harshly. “I’m not in a ‘mood’ Colonel. I just need some air... to... to think...” His voice gave out with his strength and he stopped struggling, standing quietly in the circle of Smith’s longer arms.
“You can think here,” reasoned Smith, cautiously releasing his grip. “I won’t ask questions, but I’ll be here if you need a listener. Okay?”
The blond head nodded, and Smith stepped back.
Face turned away, grateful for the length of the hair falling over his brow, which prevented Smith from seeing the tears brimming his lashes. He refused to allow them to fall, but they clogged his throat making speech impossible for the moment.
“Why don’t you go and lie down, you must be tired,” suggested Smith.
The weary man nodded again and made his way to the guest bedroom; falling fully clothed onto the bed he flung an arm over his eyes and tried to relax.
Three and a half hours later he was calmer; no nearer a solution, but determined to pull himself together. Picking a fight with his commander wasn’t a good idea, and wouldn’t achieve anything except perhaps make Smith angry with him, and he didn’t want that to happen. Rolling over onto his side, he found Smith standing beside the bed, a cup of steaming coffee in his hand.
“Heard you stir, thought you might need a cup of coffee,” he smiled.
“Thanks....” Peck’s voice was hoarse with the emotion he’d refused to let go.
Sitting up, he took the cup and gratefully sipped the hot sweet contents. He grimaced at the sugar content, but drank it anyway.
Smith started to leave the room, then paused. “Feel any better?” he asked.
“Nope,” Face said.
“Want a shower?”
Face glanced up. “Yes, thanks...”
He swung his legs off the bed and stood up.
Smith waved a hand towards the wardrobes, “Help yourself to towels, and anything else you need.”
Face nodded his thanks and started to take off his shoes as Smith left the bedroom, taking the empty cup with him.
When Face emerged from the bathroom, clad in fresh clothes from his own bag, his hair still damp and combed straight back from his brow, he found Hannibal sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee beside him, cigar in mouth, reading the evening paper. The scene was so normal and, although it was starting to get dark outside, reminded him painfully of the mornings he and Murdock had sat together....
Angrily Face pushed the memory aside but couldn’t help feeling a pang of regret that he wasn’t sharing the domestic scene with someone he loved and who loved him.
Glancing up, Hannibal smiled and indicated the coffee pot. “It’s still hot,” he said.
Face poured himself a cup and sat down opposite his colonel.
Smith made himself look back to his paper, not that the printed words made any sense to him, he just wanted to give the kid a breathing space. He’d debated calling Murdock to let him know that Face was here, but decided against it until he knew what his second wanted to do. His first priority was his lieutenant’s feelings - not the captain’s.
Picking up his cup, the Colonel glanced over at his companion. “Made any decisions yet?” he asked warily.
Looking up, Face shook his head, swirling the coffee round in his cup. Then making up his mind, he asked: “You spoke to Murdock, I take it?”
“Yes,” admitted Smith. “I called from Mexico to see if you’d got home okay...he sounded so strange I decided to come back and see what was wrong...”
Face nodded, “Oh, I see... that’s the way it happened.”
There was another silence, but it was more comfortable than unfriendly.
Finally Smith said. “I’m so sorry you got hurt, Tem.”
Peck glanced up, then shrugged. “Inevitable really. I let my guard down and trusted that he was telling the truth when he said.... when he said...he...”
He couldn’t say the words ‘loved me...’ Far too painful a memory....
Emotion again clawing at his defences, he shook his head and shrugged again...
“I wanted to kick his ass,” said Smith, his anger clear in his tone, “still do...”
Face looked up, a cold gleam in his own eyes. “Me too... and not just him..”
Smith nodded. “Never did like that Webster fella...”
“Me neither...” retorted Face, then gave a faint grin at the way he and his commander’s thoughts ran in synchronisation, it had been that way ever since they’d first met.
“Want me to hold your coat?” asked Smith cheerfully.
Face shook his head. “Not worth the trouble, Colonel, they’re welcome to each other.”
He paused, surprise in his voice. “Y’know, I really think I mean that.”
Smith sighed. “Maybe, at the moment you do...but what about tomorrow? And the day after that? Will you still feel the same?”
“Don’t know Hannibal. But I can’t spend the rest of my life moping in your apartment.”
“Suppose not, I’ll have to charge you rent.”
Face actually grinned at that remark, and they shared a chuckle of amusement.
“Seriously though, Hannibal...”
“Seriously though, Templeton,” said Smith. “You can stay here for as long as you want. I’d like to help in any way I can.”
“Thanks. It’ll save me trying to find somewhere in a hurry.” he sighed. “Not that that’s ever been a problem, but nowadays... well, it’s been a while since I had to scam a place...”
“Do you miss the old days, Face?”
Peck thought for a moment, then said slowly. “In some ways, yes I do.” He glanced over at his leader. “Not that I miss the cold days on watch, getting soaked and beat up... or having to move every few days when Decker got too close...but everything seemed a lot simpler and easier back then.”
“Before you and Murdock huh?” said Smith softly.
Peck flushed, then gave a small nod.
“What do you want to do about him, Tem? I said I’d let him know when I found you...” He raised a hand as Face rose off his seat, as though to flee... ”It’s okay, I haven’t told him you’re here, wanted to see what YOU wanted to do first.”
Face flopped down again. “I’m not ready to see him yet Hannibal...”
“Okay, I won’t tell him where you are.” Smith leant across the table and touched Face’s hand gently. “I’m on your side, remember that.”
Face nodded, and the Colonel didn’t mention the pilot again.
They spent the rest of the evening talking over strategies for when they returned to Mexico, although Smith couldn’t help but wonder how much of the information Face would retain next day. Ordinarily, his second-in-command could remember every word of a briefing, but the situation wasn’t exactly ordinary.
Although Face did his best to appear his normal alert self, and managed to a certain extent, it was obvious to the Colonel that his lieutenant was still suffering from shock at the way his life had been so abruptly turned upside-down.
Hannibal was longing to help Face, wanted the younger man to talk things through, wanted to reach out and comfort him, wanted....
Smith sighed inwardly and put a brake on his own emotions.
Around 10 PM, Face gave up trying to act as though this was an ordinary evening visit between friends and, pleading tiredness, went to his room. Despite Smith’s tact and silent support, Face was unable to keep up the pretence of normality any longer.
“Goodnight Face,” the Colonel said softly, and was rewarded by a faint smile and a murmured, “Night, Colonel,” as the younger man moved slowly to the room he would be using from now on.
Taking the coffee tray into the kitchen, Smith paused and eyed the telephone. He needed to check-in with B.A., and should really let Murdock know that Face wasn’t roaming the streets, or in any danger. He’d promised the pilot after all, but he’d also promised Face not to tell Murdock where he was.
Sighing in frustration at his inability to keep both promises, Hannibal decided to compromise. He’d let Murdock know that he’d talked with Face, but not where he was staying.
Before he could change his mind, he lifted the receiver carefully and dialled the familiar number.
Before it had rung twice, Murdock’s breathless voice answered. “Yes?”
“Murdock, it’s me.”
Had the situation not been so serious, Smith would’ve smiled at the disappointment in the pilot’s voice.
“Face is okay, Murdock.”
There was a loud sigh, “Oh thank God. Where is he? Can I talk to him?”
“Hold on Captain,” Smith interrupted the excited words. “I’ve talked with him. He’s okay, but can’t speak to you yet.”
“Oh, I see,” the despondency came over the wire loud and clear, and Smith felt sorry for his pilot, but couldn’t betray Face’s trust, that would be a further betrayal.
“Get some rest, Captain,” he ordered softly, knowing that it would be useless.
“Sure, thanks Colonel.”
Murdock started to put the phone down, then spoke again. “Hannibal?”
“Tell him I’m sorry...”
“I’ll tell him,” promised Smith and heard the other receiver go down.
Rubbing his forehead where a headache was starting to make itself felt, Hannibal hung up. Waiting a few minutes to settle his mind, he phoned B.A. and got his report, and answered the sergeant’s tentative questions about their team mates.
BA was relieved to hear that Face was with Hannibal, but very angry at the reason.
“What’d you want me to do, Hannibal?”
“Stay there B.A. I’ll be coming back as soon as I can. I’m beginning to wish we hadn’t taken this job.”
“You couldn’t know...no-one could,” answered Baracus matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, I know...but I don’t want to leave Face on his own, it’s too dangerous when he’s so distracted. I’m hoping he’ll come back to Mexico with me....at least we can both keep on eye on him.”
Baracus agreed. “Yeah, that would be best...”
He waited but when Smith didn’t volunteer any further information he added softly. “Goodnight Hannibal, I’ll wait to hear from you.”
None of the Team slept much that night.
BA was upset, and angry, that he wasn’t with his friends, and although he knew he couldn’t do much to help even if he was in LA, he fretted anyway.
Murdock, after wandering around the apartment until his legs ached, lay in his bed, his cold, empty, bed and wondered again how he could’ve been so stupid as to throw away the best thing that had ever happened to him. He still couldn’t get his mind around recent events. The word IF kept returning: If Kevin hadn’t been so persistent that night; If Face hadn’t decided to come home that same morning; If the job in Mexico hadn’t turned up; If he’d never succumbed to the redheaded pilot’s blatant advances - and worst IF of all, if he hadn’t been so weak-willed and had sent Kevin away - and meant it - he wouldn’t be alone now, worrying whether Face would ever talk to him again, let alone forgive him.
Hannibal had got ready for bed, but wasn’t actually lying down. He sat with his back propped against the wooden headboard, the smoke from his cigar drifting lazily into the semi-darkness of his room, his agile mind working, trying to find a solution to help the younger man next door. He hated feeling so helpless, especially where any of his Team was concerned, but...he sighed out loud. He was an idiot for trying to hide his feelings all these years, he might’ve stood a chance at a relationship with Face if he’d had the nerve to approach his lieutenant years ago...
He drew on his cigar, drawing the aromatic smoke deep into his lungs, memories surfacing readily; the times he and Face had worked together; scamming their way into a criminal’s organisation, in perfect sync every step of the way. Tem knew without words what his commander wanted him to do and anticipated every move, that’s why he’d been such a valuable asset in the jungles of ‘Nam, when spoken orders, or words of any kind could be very dangerous. Smith couldn’t have wished for anyone better then Peck, as his second-in-command. It was just such a pity that Peck’s ability to read Smith’s mind in a combat situation didn’t extend to reading it on a more personal level.
Still, thought Hannibal with a rueful grin, the kid might’ve run a mile if he had read some of his Colonel’s more lurid fantasies about him.
Face lay staring up at the ceiling, questions racing through his mind. Why? Why? Why? He knew he was going to have to find out before the question drove him mad. There must be a reason for this situation to have developed. When he cast his mind back, he realised that there had been a few occasions when he’d had doubts about Murdock... and it was usually after something to do with the Flying Club; that time he’d had engine trouble... had it really been necessary to stay away for a couple of days? Those long hours the pilot had spent at the airfield, or away on trips - coming home tired but with a sort of manic gaiety, sweeping Face up into his arms wanting to spoil him and make passionate love; had there been a hint of desperation? Of guilt?
God! Face struck the mattress in pent-up anger, How had he been so blind?
Where his friends and other people he knew were concerned, his instincts were usually spot on; he knew when they were hurting, hiding something, or lying. Why hadn’t he picked up on this before?
Because you were in love, that’s why, his inner voice answered him bitterly. After fifteen years he thought he’d known everything about Murdock. He knew the pilot had secrets from his past, hell they all did, but the tall pilot had been amazingly convincing when he’d declared his love for Peck - his undying love - a forever love.
Guess forever isn’t as long as I expected, thought Face.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt such a sense of utter abandonment. Rolling over onto his stomach, he buried his head in the pillows as he lost the battle to contain the tears of bitter regret which had been threatening all day.
The next morning Smith was up at dawn, making coffee in the kitchen. He yawned, feeling tired, although he’d had managed a couple of hours sleep, it wasn’t enough for him to feel rested. He’d paused outside of Face’s door, listening for any sound that might indicate he was awake, but had heard nothing and resisted the urge to open the door. Face might not appreciate his concern.
Waiting for the coffee to perk, he tied the belt of the dark blue robe he was wearing over pyjama bottoms and leaned against the breakfast counter, wondering what this new day would bring.
He would have to go back to Mexico, it was unfair to expect BA to cope by himself, and the Team had never yet let a client down, but his heart wasn’t in it. His heart was next door, in the spare bedroom...
He was surprised when he heard the sound of the shower and a few minutes later Face walked into the kitchen, rubbing at his hair with a towel. His eyes looked tired, dark circles marking his lack of sleep, but in Hannibal’s view, the slim figure dressed casually in dark blue jeans and blue and white striped shirt, looked great.
“Coffee?” Smith managed to ask casually, turning to get another cup from the cupboard.
“Yeah, thanks,” Face’s voice sounded husky.
He sat down at the counter, slinging the towel around his shoulders and gratefully accepted the steaming liquid Hannibal handed to him.
Hannibal sat down opposite and joined him in sipping the fragrant brew.
“Get any sleep at all?” asked Smith at last.
The blond head shook a negative.
“Decided anything?” was his next question.
Face shifted uncomfortably. He didn’t really want to talk, but he had come to a decision somewhere around 4 am.
“Sort of,” he said at last. Glancing across at his commander he was reassured by the steady blue eyes, which held only warmth and support. Not a sign of the pity that Face was dreading.
“I’m going to get some of my things from the apartment, then we’d better finish off that job in Mexico.”
“Oh, right,” Smith was surprised; he’d intended to give Face more time before broaching the subject of the Mexico job. “You sure?” he had to ask.
Face nodded. “Can’t delay any longer. Vargas needs help, B.A's on his own, and my personal problems will have to wait.”
Smith nodded, reading between the lines, his lieutenant didn’t want to think beyond today.
“Want me to come with you?” he asked, knowing the answer before Face shook his head.
“No thanks, Hannibal. This is one thing I need to do by myself.”
“Okay,” No argument, just acceptance and Face let out an inward sigh of relief.
He had no idea of what he was going to say, or do, when or if, he saw Murdock, and he’d rather not have a witness in case he made a fool of himself... well more of a fool than he had been already, he thought bitterly.
Two hours later, Face was beginning to wonder whether this was a good idea after all. He and Hannibal had talked about the logistics of returning to Mexico over cups of coffee and the one slice of toast he’d managed to force down just to please Hannibal.
Now as he stood outside his own front door he had the urge to turn right round and leave. On the other hand he had to find some answers, and also needed some fresh clothes; when he’d originally packed to go south of the border, he hadn’t envisaged staying there for so long.
Half hoping the apartment would be empty, he unlocked the door and went inside.
The first thing to hit him was the darkness; none of the shades were open. Surely the pilot would be up by now...
Another thought struck him. Oh God, what if Murdock had a visitor. He couldn’t cope with seeing Webster again. Half turning to flee the apartment, Face halted as a hoarse voice came from the direction of the lounge.
“Tem? is that you?”
“Murdock?” Face’s eyes, adjusting to the dimness saw the tall figure of the pilot rise from a slumped position in an armchair.
“Oh Tem.” There was a rustle of movement, then Murdock came running forward, hands outstretched. “I couldn’t believe it at first, thought I was seeing things...”
Face stepped back out of reach. “Yes, it’s me. I’ve come to get some of my things.”
“Get your things?” Murdock was stunned.
“Yes. I need some clothes...” Face’s tone was flat and cool; determined to keep control of the situation.
“Oh!” Murdock’s voice was desperate as he continued. “Can we please talk, Face. I have to try and make you understand. I love YOU, only you.”
“Very hard to believe, Murdock.”
“It’s true...it’s true...”
Face shook his head and went towards the bedroom. “Excuse me, I need to get a change of clothes.”
Murdock grabbed his arm. “No, please, listen to me...”
“Take your hands off me,” Face warned in a low voice.
Murdock dropped his hands, but followed the smaller man through into the bedroom.
“You have to believe me... I love you.”
“Obviously,” Face glanced at the bed, his voice rivalling the Arctic for coolness.
Murdock flushed, remembering that agonising scene and the horror he’d felt as he’d watched all the colour and life drain from Tem’s features.
“I do love you, Face...I always have. I meant every word I said to you when we first got together.”
“I thought so too,” Face said in a low voice, a flicker of pain crossing his pale features, then the mask was back.
He went to his wardrobes and pulled out a large suitcase, then started to pack it with clothes taken from various places in the room, always conscious of Murdock hovering just behind him; it made him nervous.
Murdock watched in growing horror as his friend methodically packed the suitcase, every movement neat and precise. It was a far different scene to the one when they’d packed together to leave for Mexico, such a short while in time, but a lifetime ago of regret. That day, Murdock had just dumped a change of clothes into his bag, and sat down to watch as Face placed every item of his clothing neatly into the case, then as he turned away to collect more shirts, the pilot had sneaked the last few items out again, giggling at the look on his lover’s face when he turned to see the empty space. Pretending to be furious Face had retaliated by opening Murdock’s bag and throwing his clothes across the room, and a friendly wrestling match had ensued, which ended, like a lot of their mock fights, on the bed.
Murdock blinked back to the present as he realised that Face had finished his packing.
Closing the case, Face made a move back into the lounge, but Murdock was in front of him, blocking his way.
“What do you want Murdock?” he cried, the terrible pain he was feeling breaking through his control for a second.
“I want you to listen and believe me,” was the low-voiced reply.
Face dropped the suitcase and turned towards his erstwhile lover.
“Believe what?” he demanded. “That this was all some game. Let’s see if I can seduce Face week? ...Get him to fall in love with me... that right? You wanted to play games?”
Murdock was shocked. “Oh God! No... no, I love you Face... telling you my feelings - that was no game... I’ve loved you for years and years...”
“That so?” Face raised an eyebrow. “Then when you got me, you decided it wasn’t enough... one down, the rest of the world to go...”
Murdock was appalled. “It wasn’t like that at all. Everything was just so perfect, I didn’t think I could ever look at anyone else but you...” He paused, swallowing hard, “Then Kevin... he made it plain that he fancied me - it was very flattering Face, after all those years in the VA with just...” he broke off.
“With only me and the guys.. .yeah VERY flattering.”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” the pilot ran a hand through his hair, making it stand up on end. At any other time, Face would’ve smiled and smoothed it back down, now he just stared. “I didn’t need anyone else except you and the guys... not in the VA... but everything was so different on the outside....”
“You love this... this... Kevin?” Face asked, barely able to say the name.
“Then why, Murdock? Why did ...?” Peck’s voice broke, and he stopped, biting his lip.
“I.. I... “Murdock hung his head, “I don’t know why Face. I liked him, he’s fun to be with..”
“And I’m not, is that it?” Face didn’t think he could hurt more, but that stung.
“No, that’s not it. You’re twisting my words, I’m confused.” Murdock waved an irritated hand, he was beginning to get angry, although he knew he had no earthly excuse. It was his guilt, trying to make things right for him. “I just feel... felt so comfortable around him, more than anyone else I’ve met outside the VA... he knows how to fly... I just liked being with him...”
“Well, now you can be, without having to lie about it.” Face paused then added. “Y’know Murdock, it’s rather ironic. No-one will ever believe it was you,” he gave a short bitter laugh. “They’ll say it had to be my fault, my screwing around, that broke us up...”
“Broke us up. Oh no, Face... please.. .don’t say that...”
Face wasn’t listening “You can stay here till you find your own place, I’ll find somewhere else for now.”
Murdock grabbed him by the arm. “What’d you mean Face?” he cried desperately. “Where are you going? This is your apartment...”
“Let go,” Face shook him off, a dangerous glint in his eyes.
“Okay, okay,” the taller man backed off, and repeated miserably, “it’s your apartment.”
“It was our apartment Murdock, I couldn’t stay here now, not for anything.”
With that, Face picked up the suitcase and walked towards the door. He was halted again this time by Murdock’s cry... ”Face, please...don’t leave...” The dishevelled man’s eyes were bright with tears, his hands held out in appeal. “Give me another chance, I’ll try and make it up to you, I promise.”
Face turned and looked straight at him. His heart was breaking too, but he couldn’t do anything else but leave, he’d been hurt too badly.
He shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry Murdock, right now that just isn’t possible.” He paused, voice choked with anguish, as he added. “You can’t understand what seeing you in bed with someone else did to me... something died - in here,” he touched his chest. “I can’t go through that again. I’d never be able to trust you.”
Murdock dropped his hands to his sides. “Oh Facey... I’ve really, well and truly, lost you now, haven’t I?”
Face didn’t reply, but the answer was in his eyes, those expressive sea-green eyes that were shuttered against anything that Murdock could say or do.
As he reached for the door handle he said... ”We’re going back to Mexico to finish up that job. Hannibal will probably be in touch...”
Murdock nodded dumbly, not really taking in the meaning of the words, he was far too upset to think logically. All he could hear was ‘something died - in here... can’t trust you...’
Before Murdock could move or cry out his distress, Face was through the door and gone...
Eight months later:
The sun was shining out of a clear blue sky, the morning fog had disappeared and the city was sweltering under another heat wave.
Murdock adjusted his dark glasses and stretched out his feet, feeling at peace with himself and his surroundings.
He was waiting for his friend to collect him.
The grounds of the VA were busy with patients and visitors, talking advantage of the sunshine, some sitting in the shade, others lying in the sun, getting a tan.
“Hey Captain!” A familiar voice called to him, and Murdock turned around, smiling up at the tall figure of his Colonel.
“Howdy Colonel, right on time.”
“Habit,” smiled Smith, sitting down on the bench beside Murdock, the ever-present cigar held in one hand.
“Well, today’s the day huh?”
“Yep,” the pilot grinned. “I’m finally outta here.” He paused. “What did Dr Richter say to you?”
Smith shrugged. “That you were ready to come out into the world again, that you were okay.”
Murdock laughed a little sadly. “He means I’ve grown up a little. Took me a long time, Hannibal.”
“I know,” Smith patted his arm briefly.
“Have you....” Murdock took a deep breath. “Have you heard from him lately?”
A shadow of pain crossed the older man’s face and he shook his head. “Not for about three months. He was in South America...” he shrugged. “Since then nothing.”
“Did he..does he ever mention what happened...between us, I mean?” Murdock asked timidly, taking off his sunglasses, folding and refolding them nervously.
Hannibal shook his head. “Not really, his phone calls are never very long, but he does ask after us all... not just BA and me,” Smith reminded him.
“I’m glad about that,” the younger man murmured.
“As for anything else, I didn’t like to ask him, he was very hurt, y’know Murdock.”
The pilot sighed. “Oh yes, I know that all too well. I’ll never really forgive myself for treating him so badly.” He paused, a flash of remembered agony showing in his dark eyes. “I hope that one day he’ll be able to forgive me.”
He glanced across at Smith, then replaced his sunglasses.
Smith nodded. He didn’t try and promise that everything would work out, because he didn’t know, and the time for half-truths and false reassurances were long past.
There was silence for a few minutes while the two men watched a couple of the younger visitors playing ball in the sun, then Murdock spoke again.
“Hannibal, did I ever tell you how very sorry I am - about breaking up the Team?”
“Yes, you did.” Smith smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “And you didn’t break up the Team, Murdock. We still take cases, BA and me... just that you haven’t been well enough to take part.”
“Yes, but I’m the one who drove Face away...”
Smith raised a hand saying more sharply than he intended. “Let’s not go through that again Murdock. It’s taken you eight months to get your head on straight, let’s just keep it that way, huh?”
The pilot nodded, closing his eyes behind his sunglasses. Yes, a long eight months, every day filled with remorse and sense of loss.
He couldn’t remember much about the earlier days after Face had walked out of the apartment. He’d kept on hoping that Peck would change his mind and come back to him, but as the days lengthened into weeks, that hope had faded
Although he hadn’t had a breakdown as such, he had been suffering from depression, and after Smith and BA found him in a drunken stupor after they’d returned from Mexico, he’d agreed to go back to the VA where his old doctor was able to help him come to terms with his recent behaviour.
Richter believed Murdock hadn’t been ready for the responsibility of a long-time commitment in the outside world, where the pressures were a great deal harder then in the fairly cloistered confines of the VA. He told Murdock that he should’ve given himself time to just live in the community, without being tied down to a long-term commitment, especially one where emotions ran higher than normal. That was the moment when the pilot had turned angrily on the psychiatrist and told him that it hadn’t been a question of being tied down. It had been his own idea; he’d wanted to live with Face, he loved him with all his heart and mind... it was Murdock who’d screwed things up, not Face.
Richter had been secretly delighted when Murdock had said this, it was the first sign that the pilot was on the mend, and lessened the time he would have to spend in hospital, voluntarily though it was.
The psychiatrist had also been surprised - and pleased - when Smith and Baracus had come to visit the pilot. He’d been uneasy at first, knowing from his patient that he and Smith had not been on the best of terms, but, after an awkward beginning, the three men had become easier with each other as the months had passed. Not quite to where they’d been when the psychiatrist first met them, but better than a few months ago.
There was one man missing from the group, and everyone felt his absence deeply.
Richter had enquired whether the Lieutenant would be coming to visit, intending to try and get them all to talk about their feelings - but one look at the amount of pain in Smith’s sky-blue eyes, and he’d dropped the subject.
It was the usually uncommunicative sergeant who’d supplied the answer.
Baracus had gruffly stated that they didn’t know where the youngest Team member was at any given time. He wrote, or contacted Smith and himself, from time to time, but wasn’t in LA.
Richter felt sorry for them all, he liked and admired the Team from their first meeting, and could remember the time when the blond lieutenant’s mere presence had cheered both his patient - and himself.
Now, as the psychiatrist looked down from his office window and saw the two men sitting comfortably side by side on the bench, he hoped the future would be more kind to them than their past. The pilot seemed more in control, less haphazard in his thinking, and although he would always mourn what he’d lost, Richter felt confident that one of his favourite patients would survive and prosper in the outside world.
The future was also the topic of conversation on the bench.
“Have you given any thought as to what sort of work you’ll be doing?” asked Smith, puffing at his cigar. “Between Team jobs, of course,” he added with a grin.
His companion shrugged. “Not really. I’ve got money in the bank,” a shadow crossed his face as he remembered who had opened that account for him, “so I’m okay for a while.”
“Do you want to go back to teaching air combat?”
Murdock sat up straight and looked at his commander. “I don’t know Hannibal, I really don’t. I haven’t been back to the Club since...since...”
“Okay Murdock,” Smith’s hand on his arm was reassuring. “I was just wondering what you'd be doing with yourself, that’s all.”
Murdock slumped back. “I’ll probably give it another whirl - at some time. I don’t think I could give up flying altogether, and I liked teaching.”
Smith nodded his understanding and changed the subject. “Well,” he said getting to his feet. “We’d better get going, BA will be waiting with the van. You got all your stuff?”
Murdock nodded, rising to stand beside Smith. “Yes, it’s in Reception...just gotta pick it up.”
“What about Richter? You said your goodbyes?”
“Yes,” Murdock said, then struck a dramatic pose, “He told me never to darken his doorstep again,” then he chuckled and added, “ well, not as a patient at any rate.”
Smith laughed. “Always thought that guy was okay.”
“Oh, he is, Hannibal. He is...”
They went to get the pilot’s belongings and walked to the Car Park where the black van with the red stripe was very noticeable.
A few minutes later they were on their way to Murdock’s new apartment. It was a simple two-bedroomed flat on the third floor of a new block, a few miles from Westwood. The pilot had chosen it himself and Smith and Baracus had helped him furnish it when they knew he was leaving the VA.
After getting Murdock settled in, they sat around eating pizza and talking on whatever subject cropped up, and it was quite late when Smith and Baracus said their ‘Goodnights’ and left, having been assured by Murdock that he would be able to manage perfectly well on his own.
It was just after midnight when Baracus pulled up outside Smith’s own block, and switched off the engine.
“Murdock seems fine,” he said, stretching his cramped muscles.
“Yeah, I think he’ll be okay,” said Smith, but his thoughts were far away.
“And you...are you okay Hannibal?” BA asked softly, knowing from the look on his commander’s face that he was thinking about their missing lieutenant.
“Yes, BA, I’m okay, just wondering...”
“I know, wondering where Face is...” BA paused, then said more cheerfully. “He’ll be in touch like normal Hannibal, he’ll be back.”
“I wish I could believe that BA...it’s been so long since I spoke to him.” Smith sighed, and clamped down on his thoughts.
After they’d helped Vargas get back on his feet, with the criminally minded competitor behind bars, they’d been getting ready to return to LA, when Face had calmly said he wasn’t going back.
Hannibal could still remember the shock of that statement. Although Face had worked at his usual efficient best, he’d been unusually silent and was, to his friends’ discerning eyes, suffering inwardly from the abrupt end to his dream of a happy home life with someone he loved. He hadn’t been sleeping, that was obvious from the dark circles under his eyes; and he never smiled.
Smith had been hoping that when they got back home and Face had time to settle down, things would go on as before; with the Team pulling together. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, as he didn’t think that Face and Murdock would be able to work together, but he’d been confident he could get round that particular problem. Now he wasn’t going to get the chance.
“Not go home?” he’d asked, a void opening under his heart. “Where will you go?”
Face had shrugged. “Don’t know yet...” he looked pleadingly at his commander. “Please Hannibal, don’t try and persuade me to stay. I can’t go back to LA yet. I need time to work out what I want... and where I want to be.”
“But Face...Tem...I... “ Smith had paused, on the verge of telling his second of his deep feelings for him, then clamped down hard on his emotions; he’d had plenty of practise doing that over the years.
“Okay...if that’s what you want...” His agreement was reluctant, but he knew that Face didn’t have the emotional stamina just then for any argument. He had his reward in the look of gratitude in Peck’s green eyes.
“Thank you, Colonel.” He’d held out his hand, and Smith had taken it, then pulled him into a bear hug, his whole body yearning to have the right to keep him there, safe from harm.
Baracus had done the same, gruffly telling the younger man. “You remember to stay in touch.. .don’t want nothin’ happening to you on your own out there...”
Face’s laugh had been almost a sob. “I’m a big boy, now, BA...I’ll manage.” “See that you do, Lieutenant,” ordered Smith, then grasped his hand again. “I’ll miss you, kid,” he’d said softly.
“I’ll keep in touch Hannibal, let you know where I am, and find out how you’re all doing.”
That had been the last they’d seen of their lieutenant.
Smith and Baracus had returned to LA and Peck had disappeared further south.
Face had kept his promise, he’d phoned when near a phone, and sent letters occasionally, telling them of his whereabouts, but nothing about how he was feeling, or whether he was well.
His last phone call had been three months ago, then nothing since.
Smith was quietly worrying himself to death.
Hannibal sighed, and patted Baracus on the shoulder. “I’ll be okay, BA, you go and get some sleep. We have that client to see tomorrow afternoon...”
“Right,” Baracus restarted the engine and waited as Smith climbed out of the van, his safari jacket slung over one shoulder.
Slamming the door shut, Smith saluted him with a small smile, and BA watched as the silver-haired figure disappeared into the building.
Shaking his head in frustration at his inability to help his friend of many years, Baracus drove off.
Smith fumbled for his key and unlocked the door, switching on the light before he realised he wasn’t alone.
Dropping his jacket to the floor, his hand went for the gun holstered in the small of his back, then paused as a sense of déjá vu swept through him.
No, he couldn’t be that lucky.
Walking silently to the lounge door, he peered through the crack. No one there...
Pushing the door slowly open, he entered the lounge and listened intently; there it was again, a faint sound from the bedroom.
As he reached for the door, it opened and a figure exited, literally running into Smith.
“God!” The figure jumped backwards as Smith did the same, and they stared at each other in stunned amazement.
“Hell, Hannibal, we’ve gotta stop meeting like this...” The familiar voice was full of laughter.
“Yep, like a bad penny, I’m back.”
“Tem!” Smith’s immobility lasted for all of three seconds, then his grin almost meeting around his head, he grabbed the younger man, lifting him off his feet into a fierce bear-hug.
“It’s great to see you. Why didn’t you let me know you were coming? Where’ve you been? Are you okay?”
Face was breathless from the intensity of that embrace and when he could speak, he replied:
“You too... decided to surprise you... all over the world... and yes, I’m fine...”
Smith laughed and released his grasp, setting his friend back onto his bare feet, only realising then that Peck was half dressed.
He stepped back and examined his lieutenant intently.
Face looked wonderful.
He was clad only in a pair of cut-down denim jeans, his bare limbs looking longer in the brief shorts.
The exposed skin held a deeper bronze hue than before, and he looked thin, but fit. He’d obviously just had a shower, his skin had that freshly scrubbed glow, and his hair was damp. It was a lot longer than usual, curling round his shoulders and had been bleached almost white in places, obviously from being in a very hot climate.
Realising that he was staring, Hannibal drew back, a faint flush colouring his face, as he felt his body react strongly to the nearness of the person he’d loved for many years.
“Come on, tell me what’s been happening to you. I’ve been worried about you,” He paused then added softly, “I’ve missed you.”
The words were simple, but the wealth of meaning was obvious, and Face stared at him in surprise. Then his eyes softened to the colour of a warm, sunny ocean and he put his hand on Smith’s. “I missed you too, Hannibal...”
After all the months of wandering, all the soul-searching, wondering where he belonged - he was home.
The End (for now)
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