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The Jazz Made Me Do It
Author: Carl from Covina
Summary: Murdock's half-sister is in love with another team member. Don't want to give away too much-but plenty of romance, dangerous escapes, and the usual bad guys.
Disclaimer: Don't own them (only in my dreams), yadda, yadda, so forth, and so forth. If you sue, all you will get is the computer I'm typing this on.
Comment: Please, comments welcome.
Warning: A little violence, a little language, non-graphic f/m consensual sex; I think that's all, not much to warn to about.
The phone in the country duplex lit up as it rang four times before the answering machine picked up. "You've reached the home of . . ." a young women's voice began but was cut off by the playful ranting of an older man.
"Don't tell'em you're name, M. P. The aliens will find you."
She finished with a sigh " . . . the home of M. P. Murdock and the temporary abode of insanity for H. M. Murdock. Leave your message . . ." She was cut off again by the sounds of objects crashing in the background. In a whisper-shout, she said, "Stop chasing Billy and come here." Then she finished her message. "Please leave your message after the song." At that, a male operatic voice boomed out in musical syllables the recognizable bars of Flight of the Valkyries.
The caller giggled and then cleared her throat before beginning her message. "This is Karen Mason at St. Anne's Hospital. I'm calling for Marie Murdock . . ."
Marie Murdock jiggled her key in the lock of her duplex home. Someday I'll have a house, she thought to herself, no white picket fence though, that isn't his style. She dreamily threw her keys down and proceeded to check her messages. She pressed play and ambled off to the washroom to shrug out of her pilot's uniform.
There were three or four hang-ups. Always solicitors or wrong numbers, never anything important, of course not anything from him. I'm just another "kid" to him. She snapped out of her moment of depression when she caught " . . .St. Anne's hospital." She tore off back to the living room to hear the rest of the message. "Mr. H. M. Murdock requested we call you. He has been in an accident . . ." Oh my God! I knew it would happen sooner or later. "You are his emergency contact. If you need to contact me, my number is 555 . . ."
Marie never heard Ms. Mason's number as she raced to find some jeans and a T-shirt to throw on. With shoelaces flying from untied shoes, she grabbed her bomber jacket and almost skidded into her tan Datsun with one arm in the black leather jacket. "Go, stupid car!" She jammed the stuck gear in place and the car sped off. She replayed the phone message over and over in her head. H. M. requested she call. That means he's alive or was when she called. He's okay. He has to be, he's my big brother and big brothers take care of little sisters always, right?
The fifteen minutes to the hospital felt like an hour. She took the first spot she saw and dashed off, barely stopping to lock the car. As if anyone would want this hunk of junk. Her legs felt hollow, like they would give out before she got in the hospital. Her heart was beating in her ears so hard she could barely hear anything around her. She remembered the other sleeve of her jacket and pushed her arm through.
She finally reached the information desk. "H. M. Murdock's room, please. I'm his sister." The gray-haired lady picked up her reading glasses and looked back up at Marie.
"Murdock, did you say?"
"Yes, H. M. Murdock. I'm Marie Murdock, his sister." She was beginning to grow impatient.
The frail old woman turned to her computer. "Murdock, Murdock," she murmured to herself. She slowly typed in the last name. Geez, woman, let's go! He could be dying as we speak! Marie nervously began shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
"What's his first name, ma'am?"
"It will be listed under H. M." she almost screamed. What was with hospital volunteers! The woman leaned in closer to the screen and ran her finger down the list of names.
"He's in the E. R., honey. You'll have to talk to them. Through those doors . . ." She was off in the direction the volunteer had pointed.
After four steps, she tripped herself up on her shoelaces and did a nosedive into the plush maroon carpet. She could feel the carpet burns stinging and thought that the one on her chin had to be beautiful. She huffed in exasperation and started to pull herself up on her knees. She was so engrossed in finding the Captain that she didn't notice the MP in the hallway until he was at her side helping her up.
She could feel the blood drain from her face and prayed the young man didn't notice. "Thank you," she stammered. What is going on?! MPs here? My brother is here. OH MY GOD! The others! What was I thinking? Please let them be alive and not in custody!
"You're welcome," he replied in a soft, warm voice. Breaking from her stereotype of an MP, he reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. "You okay?"
She thought she actually saw concern behind his gold-flecked eyes. "Just feel a little stupid, that's all." She smiled shyly. Got to go! Come on, girl! She forced herself to remain and see if she could pull anything out of him. "Military in the hospital? A security risk I should know about?"
"Well, ma'am," he grinned broadly, "between you and me, we've apprehended the A-Team."
"You did? How amazing! Are they here?" She glanced around. Please tell me something! She moved closer to the MP and smiled a little sweeter.
"I've told you too much already." He shook his head and began looking around to see if anyone had caught him spilling the beans.
She decided on a front-door approach. "My brother is H. M. Murdock and he is here. He has been harassed by these men before. I want to know if I should be concerned for his safety here at this hospital."
He looked quite taken aback. "Oh, no, ma'am. They are here but heavily guarded . . ." As if that matters, she thought. " . . . and so is Capt. Murdock. It might be best if you spoke about this harassment with the Colonel in charge, Col. Decker. Would you consider?" He raised his dark eyebrows slightly.
Now what have I gotten into? "Um, no, the A-Team has done enough to be put away for a while. I want all of this behind my brother for the rest of his life." She tried to sound stern but she could hear her voice faltering. She knew the MP would say something to Decker and prayed she could cover her, or, H. M.'s tracks. "I'm on my way to see H. M. now. Thank you for helping me." She weakly smiled and dashed off again, shoelaces still dangling.
By now she was so irritated and impatient that all cordiality flew out the window. "H. M. Murdock's room! I'm his sister!" She practically yelled. The shocked nurse pointed down a white sterile hall.
"Eight, he's . . . he's in eight," she stuttered. Marie didn't have to look for room numbers. The guards were a definite tip-off. She pushed by them, shoving about three I. D.'s in one's hands, declaring once again who she was.
Once inside his room, the flurry that was her body finally calmed. The Captain lay still in the hospital bed. He had a bandage taped across part of his forehead. His face was blackened by what looked like dark powder. So were his hands. Explosion, no doubt, she thought. Well, he looks quite alive to me. Except for the occasional beep of the only machine in the room, all was quiet.
She slowly stepped forward, her nerves beginning to calm. She suddenly became aware of her heavy breathing in the silent room. She eased herself into the chair beside his bed. The chair let out a whoosh of air that sounded much like Darth Vader's breathing. He stirred a little but didn't wake. She tucked her feet under her Indian-style and leaned in towards the bed. She took his hand in hers, her thumb caressing the top of his hand.
"H. M.?" She could barely hear herself. Yeah, like that's gonna wake him. She cleared her throat and began again. "H. M.? Wake up." He stirred an opened his eyes.
"M. P.," he whispered, "You came."
"Of course, I did. Did you really think I wouldn't? Are you crazy? Never mind." She smiled and shook her head.
He smiled back and shifted so he could see her. "M. P.! You're a mess! You okay?" Her dark blonde hair was beginning to come out of her ponytail. Her t-shirt was hanging, untucked, below her jacket. She had a little strawberry starting to form on her chin. He could see that the shoelaces on her red canvas shoes were untied. She wore those shoes about like Hannibal wore his khaki safari jacket. "Your shoes are untied," he said in his best motherly voice.
She glanced down at her feet. "Yeah, I think I might need to tie 'em. Took a nose dive in front of an MP after I tripped on 'em." She finally tied her shoes and tucked her feet back under her.
"I suppose that's how you got that strawberry on your chin," he deduced. "So . . .you crashed and burned at the feet of an MP?"
"Yeah, I'll tell you about it if you'll tell me what's going on," she demanded.
"Ticky, ticky, ticky, aren't we?" he clucked at her.
"No 'we,' you are the 'we' and I'm the 'me.'"
"Yeah, there's always been more than one person running around up there in my head." He rolled his eyes acting like he could see in his head. "Seriously . . .'
She cut him off with a laugh, "That's the first time I heard that word come out of your mouth."
"Okay, M. P., I need you to call Amy and let her know not to come here, too much of a risk." She tried not to let her grimace show through at the mention of Amy's name. She glanced around for a phone. "I would have called her and you, but they don't have phones in E. R. rooms."
"Yeah, I'll go call. I'll be back ASAP." She squeezed his hand and got up from the chair. The MPs stepped back as came through the door.
Amy, Amy, Amy, she mocked the name in her head, rolling her eyes. Marie had been the only feminine presence in the A-Team's life until her. She took up more and more of her brother's time. Marie hadn't been on a mission with them since Amy came along. Yeah, I am jealous, so what? I have every right to be. She had liked Amy in the beginning. Amy had acted like an older sister to her, even though there was only about a five year difference, but as she became more and more involved with the team, Marie was being pushed out inch by inch.
"LA Courier. Amy Allen."
"Amy, it's Marie."
"Marie! Everything okay?" Amy sounded kind of surprised. Marie rarely called her anymore.
"Amy, have you heard anything from the A-Team today?"
"No, I've been in conference all day until a few minutes ago. What's wrong?" Amy could sense something in Marie's voice."
"I'm at the hospital with H. M. now. Something must have gone wrong out at the winery today. He seems to be okay, but he insisted I call you first before he tells me anything."
"What does he want?" Amy was flustered that she had been out the loop all day. She would have been there in a heartbeat if she had known anything.
"He asks that you not come to the hospital. I don't know why, something about too much of a risk. There are MPs all over the place. I, uh, talked with one earlier and the team is here, but they're all guarded, which you and I both know won't make a difference if Hannibal has plan for what ever is going on. I'll call you when I have more details. Give me about an hour. Don't come just yet, please."
"Murdock knows me too well. Tell him I promise I won't be there unless you don't call me. Also, tell him I'm thinking about him. See ya!"
"Bye." Amy was so tempted not to heed anything that Marie said. I could go undercover. No, if Murdock asked that I don't, then maybe I had better not. She was so irritated that she didn't know what was going on.
Marie made her way back to the Captain's room. His eyes were closed and he seemed so peaceful. "H. M., I'm back." He opened his eyes. "Did I wake you?"
"No, Chiquita banana, just resting my eyes. There's nothing to do in here. I wish they'd move me to another room where I could at least watch Woody Woodpecker."
"I talked to Amy and she reluctantly promised she wouldn't come. She says she's thinking about you. Now tell me what happened."
"Let's just say that an explosion backfired out at the winery and Decker caught us."
"And you're okay?" She tucked her feet under her as she sat down in the Darth Vader chair again.
"Yeah, knocked my noggin good, and I'm sore all over. They're gonna send me back to the V. A. in the morning if I check out fine."
"No, they're not! You're coming with me. I'll go make the calls now. You're not going back until I'm satisfied that you're gonna be fine."
"Whoa, Chiquita, I'm the big brother, not the little brother."
"Well, life's tough. I'm gonna call Dr. Richter right now." She stood quickly and began to walk away. Suddenly, she did an about-face. "What about the rest of team?" How could I have forgotten to ask about them?
"I don't know how they are. Face and B. A. were with me and Hannibal was keeping look-out. Will you find something out for me?" For you? She thought. For me too.
Marie fought with the front desk, Richter, and the VA until they had all given in to her stubbornness. She had asked for information from everyone she saw on the rest of the team but all they said that they weren't at liberty to comment. As she argued one last time with another nurse in the E. R., defiantly leaning over the desk at the woman, she saw "Templeton Peck" and "Bosco Baracus" scribbled under room numbers. That's a beginning. Three down and one more to go.
She returned to Murdock's room. He was sitting up now, talking to a tongue depressor he had found. He was trying to talk to the wooden stick with it pressed against his tongue. Whatever he was saying to it was completely unintelligible. "Hi! I have everything arranged for you to come home with me. I know Templeton and B. A. are in rooms here somewhere, but I know nothing of John."
At Hannibal's name, someone stepped through the door.
"John? Col. John Smith, Ms. Murdock?" The voice was very gruff. Before Marie turned to see who the man was, Murdock let out a yelp.
"Weee! Col. Decker! Did you come to visit me? It's been three months since our last date. I've missed you, honey."
Col. Decker? She had never seen the man in person before, let alone been face to face with him. She braced herself as she turned to face his cold blue eyes.
"No, Captain. I want to speak with your sister. Ms. Murdock, you were speaking of Col. Smith?"
"No, sir. I am not on a first name basis with my brother's kidnappers." She tried to coldly stare back at Decker.
Kidnappers? Murdock thought to himself. Then it hit him. Good cover-up, that'll save my butt, but add another notch to growing list of crimes the A-Team has "committed."
"So, he was kidnapped and has been harassed in the past?"
"Col. Decker, this is no concern of yours. H. M. and I have been discussing the situation, and, as his legal guardian, I am not pressing charges against these men. I do believe that their first offense is enough to stand in court and that harassment and kidnapping are only minute charges compared to what awaits them. I do not want my brother to have anything else to do with them. I trust that you will not let them get away again so that they cannot harm nor harass H. M. ever again."
Decker's face hardened throughout her tirade. His eyes squinted in anger. "Marie Murdock, do not make an enemy out of me." He quietly said, betraying the look on his face. "I already have suspicions about Amy Allen. Don't make me raise the same suspicions about you."
She laughed to herself. "Suspice" all you want about Amy. I don't give a rip. "Col., I want the best for my brother, no matter what the military thinks." She glanced back at Murdock, who was sitting up on the bed wild-eyed. She threw up her hands. "Now you have him riled up. Please leave this room and leave us alone."
Decker seethed. Oh, what he wouldn't have done to catch her in something she said. He would haul her in with Allen and Murdock without blinking if they had anything to do with the A-Team. "If you choose. I am leaving for the base now. Call me if you change your mind. Captain. Ms. Murdock." He nodded at each of them in turn and left the room.
Marie exhaled in a sigh of relief. Wow, what a rush! She shook herself and turned to H. M.
"Whew, the Jazz is something else, ain't it, girl?" She weakly smiled at him. "Where did you come up with all that, banana-nana?"
She shook her head. "I . . . I don't know. It just happened when I met the MP that I almost nose-dived into." She then told him all about when she got her chin strawberry.
"I'm going to find the others. Maybe we need to ask for 'Jacey's,' help especially since Col. Decker's not here." She deviously grinned.
Dr. Jacey Kay Baracus was an alias she and Face had fabricated on a mission once when they needed information from a hospital when they had to take B. A. there. She pretended to be B. A.'s stepsister when there was a problem getting in to see him. She still had the fake I. D. somewhere. How she missed running scams with Face on jobs, always something simple. They never took her when they thought she might be placed in jeopardy. There were only a few occasions that she actually was given a gun and fewer still that she actually fired one on their jobs.
She went back out to her car and dug through a mound of papers in the back until she found the I. D. She put on some make-up and brushed her hair out of the ponytail. She even still had the doctor's lab coat she had used, hanging in the back of her car with a suit, a stolen military uniform, and a few changes of clothes. She hoped she was convincing enough in a lab coat and blue jeans.
Instead of taking the right turn into the hall Murdock was on, she took a left. Two rooms down, she found Face's room and, of course, the MPs. BA was only three rooms over. She ignored the MPs and took Face's chart off the wall. She had enough time to glance over it before the MP took it from her hands. Templeton was in about the same predicament as Murdock. Plans were to keep him for tonight only before a transfer tomorrow. He had a few more lacerations and a broken rib, but he was movable.
"I don't believe you are an authorized doctor for Lt. Peck."
"I do believe that I am," she glared back with all the strength she could muster. She moved where she could see through the windowpane in the door. Face had looked up trying to see what all the commotion was about. He could see Marie wildly gesturing at the MPs outside his room. She caught his eye and winked at him. He smiled and winked back. She returned to gesturing at them and stomped off. "Just wait, you'll get the authorization you need."
The MPs in front of BA's room had seen and heard all the commotion. She stepped up to them, nostrils flaring. She shoved her I. D. at them and declared, "I guess I'm not authorized to see Sgt. Baracus either, I am?"
"No, ma'am, you're not," one nonchalantly replied.
"I don't think you want me to go through that all over again, do you? I suggest you let me see my stepbrother." She raised her eyebrows in indignation at the MP.
"Stepbrother? I suppose one of us could go in with you," he softened and quietly spoke those words.
"Thank you," she politely said. The one she had been talking to walked in with her. "BA?"
The large man roused himself. His eyes widened in shock from seeing her. She pointed at the name on her coat where the MP couldn't see her. "Lil' sis!" He smiled. A rare moment, she knew. "Face? Murdock? Hannibal?"
"H. M. is fine. They let me see him. I couldn't get in to see Templeton." She winked to indicate that he was okay. "What about you?" She stayed back away from the bed so as not to cause any more problems and raise any more suspicions.
"I'm fine. Got some powder burns, mah head hurtz, got some bruised ribs."
"In other words, you're fine, " she nodded her head forward, mocking him.
"Yeah, lil' mama. Do ya know . . ." She cut him off with a headshake and the look of "I can't say anything." He nodded back in understanding and she turned to go.
She headed left when she came to end of the corridor. John, John, where are you? She found herself in front of the administration offices. Her stomach began to growl. She then realized she hadn't had any supper. She glanced down at her watch. She had to call Amy in less than fifteen minutes. She turned to find a phone when she heard a familiar voice call, "Jacey! Jacey Baracus!"
Hannibal had just folded the letter when he saw Marie through the large glass partitions of one of the administration offices. He was being held there by five MP's until Decker came back with a secure transport this time. He saw the lab coat and knew she had pulled out the old scam she and Face had run in San Diego. He yelled out her alias, so as not to give her away. He saw her come in his direction and begin talking to the MPs. Quickly, he interjected, "Can't I at least see my fiancée one last time before they cart me away?" The MPs had a startled look on their faces.
He was okay! That's all that mattered. Wait a minute. Fiancée? I wish. Behind her back, she quickly switched her grandmother's engagement ring from her right hand to her left. "See," she proudly held out her hand and waltzed into the room. "John," she looked at with him such sadness and concern in her face. Most of that was true and she hoped the MPs would buy everything. She reached to hug him but stopped when she saw the handcuffs around his wrists.
"Um, guys?" He held his hands up toward the MPs. "Do you think I could at least hug her? Come on, guys. I promise I won't do anything." He gave them one of his innocent grins. They looked at each other for confirmation and one came forward to unlock the cuffs.
As the MP stepped away, Hannibal and Marie embraced. She looked up into his eyes, those beautiful, one-of-kind crystal blue eyes, and almost lost herself in them. "John," she started, but he laid a finger over her lips to stop her.
He loved the way she called him by his first name. It brought him back to the real world. It made him realize that they were real human beings and not just mercenaries or hands for hire. They all had dreams and they couldn't afford to let them die and she was a reminder to that. He didn't think he'd ever get her to call any of them by their nicknames, except BA and his threat took care of that. She'd always smile and nod in understanding but not agreement. She could be extremely stubborn, but she was such a good kid, too good of a kid to be mixed up with them.
He leaned down close to her ear. His lips brushed her skin as he whispered "My men?" Shivers coursed through her body. Goosebumps rose all over her skin, even her legs went all fuzzy. She tiptoed to get closer so the MPs couldn't hear their conversation.
"H. M.'s coming with me early in the morning. Templeton and BA are cut up a little, a few bruised and broken ribs, slight concussions. Easily movable, even on their own. H. M.'s being moved to a regular room one floor up, but BA and Templeton stay in the E. R. Transfer's going down tomorrow at six a.m. Oh, and, by the way, Col. Decker thinks y'all kidnapped H. M., courtesy of me." She took a breath and deeply inhaled his aftershave and the distinct smell of his cigars. The butterflies rose in her stomach.
"Nice, kid." She inwardly groaned at that pet name. "Keep playing along. I'm gonna give you my plan." He straightened up and slipped the letter from his jacket pocket. He had persuaded them to let him have some paper and pen to pass the time. He had used it to write down his plan to pass on to Marie, which he knew she would come by for Murdock. He coyly tried to slip her the piece of paper, but the guards caught them. One strode over and jerked the paper from her hand. He unfolded the letter and read the first few lines. Marie's stomach knotted.
"Aw, a love letter, guys. Should I read it?"
Hannibal jerked the letter from his hands and tucked it into her lab coat. He shoved a finger in the shorter man's chest and icily stared him down. "Listen, jack, if I want to pass notes in class, that's my business because I'm the teacher." He shoved the man back a step. "Now give me and my student a little private time." The MP glowered back at him but stepped away back to his post at the door.
Hannibal removed his black leather glove off his right hand. He caressed her cheek with his ungloved hand, his fingers grazed her hair at the temple. He pulled her close with his other arm around her waist. She gulped and reminded herself to BREATHE. "Marie, I love you." He spoke loud enough for the MPs to hear. "We may never marry now, but I will have the pleasure of this before I'm locked away." He bent his head down and captured her lips in a kiss. His hand cradled the back of her head. This was no stage kiss, by any means. She sank against his body as her legs turned to jello. Her hands trailed from his back to grasp his jacket lapels as she hung on for dear life. The kiss was so passionate yet so innocent. He finally pulled his soft lips away and gently kissed her cheek. He whispered, "Go, now," and ran his hand to the tips of a lock of her hair. She stared into his eyes, which she thought had turned a stormy blue, a look that wasn't there when they first embraced.
"M. P.? Chica? Hey! Wake up!" Murdock was snapping his fingers in Marie's face. She looked up at him startled. How. . .how did I get back to H. M.'s room? "You okay, chica?"
"Yeah . . .I . . .I, um . . .ran into John." She dropped her hand into her lab coat pocket. The letter! "He gave me this. It's the plan." She pulled out the letter and proceeded to read it. Murdock kept impatiently asking her what it said and she reminded him over and over to let her finish it first.
Hannibal's neat cursive handwriting began under the hospital's letterhead.
I want you to know how much I love you in case we never return after the trial. I fear the worst of what could happen in the court-martial. I never tell you enough that I love you and I love you with my whole being. I deeply regret everything I have ever done to hurt you. I will miss you with all that I have and I all that am, which will be nothing without you.
I'm sorry for all I've had to do to cover-up our mistake of getting caught. Here's the plan. Isn't there always one? I have to be out tonight. We'll worry about the team once I'm out. There is a restroom to the left of this room. At 2200, I'll convince them to let me go. I'm going through the vent in the ceiling. Get Amy. Get in, loosen the vent, and leave BA's mini-toolkit in the vent. The van is parked two lots over from the winery. Don't bring it to the hospital. After you get everything taken care of, stay low. Meet me with Amy at 0100 at your duplex.
Marie pushed aside all her emotions as they threatened to well up. She wanted nothing more to curl up in a blanket with hot chocolate and dream of Hannibal's kiss. Either that or deck Amy a good one. She handed Murdock the letter and watched as he read it. She was so amused by the looks on his face as he read the first paragraph. He looked at her wide-eyed with confusion but continued reading. He handed it back with a sheepish look on his face.
"Well, muchacha, you need anything? I wanna help. Pleez, pleez, pleez, with sugar on top and Billy." He begged.
"What exactly can you do from there?" she pointed at the bed. "I've got it all under control. Besides, I don't want Billy." He sat back against his pillows with a terrible dejected look. "I'll be back later. Do you want me to pick you up a Bellybuster Burger?"
"Oh, pleez, pleez, pleez, with sugar on top and . . .my used gum collection."
"Um, keep the gum."
The sun was setting as Amy and Marie met at the van. Marie ran over Hannibal's plan with Amy plus her own plan where Hannibal left things very vague. Amy agreed that it would work, probably the first one that might actually work without a hitch. Amy pilfered through the back of the van for BA's tools and for the items for just the right "look."
"Marie, check this out!"
"Just a second," Marie called as she crawled out of the front of the van from checking under the seats for the toolkit. "Yeah?" Amy straightened up from leaning in the back doors and turned to Marie. "Oh, my god! That is great. It'll so work! No hitch this time."
Amy stood before Marie wearing Hannibal's fake nose, set on her face perfectly. The longer Marie looked at her, the funnier the nose looked to her. She doubled over in laughter. Amy giggled herself. Just when Marie would finally stop laughing, Amy would bust up again in giggles and both we lying against the van out of breath holding their sides. Marie thought to herself, Maybe it's not so bad that she's with the team. I really miss these times with her. "Try this," Marie said dabbing a little more powder around the edges of the latex. "Oo, let's see what we can find for me." Amy and Marie worked on, more played like sixteen-year-olds than worked on, their disguises until they felt they were perfect. With "borrowed" uniforms and tools in tow, the girls headed for the hospital hyped up on the Jazz.
"Look like you know what you're doing," Amy whispered to Marie as they walked in the front entrance. They walked past the volunteer receptionist and Amy nodded at her as they continued by. "Which way?"
"Just follow me." Marie and Amy wound their way through the corridors. Since it was well into the evening, there was little activity. A few nurses and orderlies noticed them but continued on their way. Once they were near the administration offices, no one was in sight. They walked by the office the guards were posted at. Marie glanced to see Hannibal lounged out in a chair, smoking his cigar.
Amy waved at the MPs as they walked by when she saw the curious looks on their faces. "The 80s? Women's lib? Get with the picture." She smiled snidely.
The girls taped a bright orange sign to the door that read "Closed: Repairmen at Work." They had laughed when making the sign—repairmen. Once inside, they set to work quickly even though the task was small. They set up the small ladder they had carried in. Because Amy was a slight bit taller, she climbed the ladder and began to work on loosening the screws in the vent. Marie handed Amy the kit and she tucked it securely inside the vent. After she replaced the cover, they both stood back and admired what they hoped was a job well done.
"Do we leave the ladder?" Marie asked crossing her arms and leaning against the wall.
"I'm not sure. I think the MPs would notice if we left without it." They paused. "The vent's over a sink. Hannibal's tall enough to reach it if he stands on the sink . . . let's take the ladder." The girls gathered all they had brought and headed out taking the sign with them. Amy grinned broadly at the MPs when they came back by.
Once outside the hospital, the girls streaked off in Amy's car laughing as they left. "Man, am I glad I'm a woman! Did you see how disgusting that place was?" Marie shivered at the thought.
Hannibal slowly puffed his last cigar, savoring its taste knowing it would be a while before he could get another one from Face. On a particularly long draw, he noticed two women walk by with a ladder. He didn't recognize their faces but their body frames gave them away. Nice, girls, nice, he smiled to himself. I do believe I taught them well. Sometimes I don't know where I'd be without them. What am I talking about? I don't need a woman's help, well, except for that time Amy . . .well, and Marie helped . . .Okay, maybe they are a little needed . . .
Both of them had as much experience as a new private in boot camp in the Army when they'd first met the A-Team. Hannibal remembered the first time Murdock had introduced them to Marie, all of them surprised to learn that one of them had family other than BA's mother. Murdock had recounted how she had shown up at VA late one night in the middle of a thunderstorm. She had just turned sixteen and had a made a cross-country trek to find him. He was the last of her family.
She had come in search of Murdock for that reason. Her stepfather had confessed her mother's secret that her mother had taken to the grave when Marie was thirteen. She found out that fateful night that the father her mother had carefully hidden from her had an older son, H. M. Murdock. She had been an only child until the summer day her stepfather died. With no connections left to anyone in South Georgia, she packed up all she had left, bought a road map, and set out on her search with what little information her stepfather had given her.
Hannibal had to admit that he was annoyed with her at first. She claimed she could make it on her own, but she was such a naïve teenager. It was irritating to watch out for the team and for her. Face found her a respectable high school and scammed her a decent apartment that Murdock helped pay for with his share of the team's earnings. Face had even secured her a good job that would work with school and her eccentric brother. Oh, how he had been so annoyed, but it had slowly worn off. He had tried not to act so proud when she came running up to him after school with her junior history paper on the Vietnam War that he'd helped her to write. "Col. Smith, sir, look, I got an A-. And look what Mr. Miller wrote. 'Fine work. Stick with hard facts—re:A-Team. Such personal detail though. Do you know someone who served in Vietnam?' Do I know someone who served?" She had sarcastically drawn out that last sentence. Or how proud he had been of her as they stood at the back of the gym incognito to watch her graduate from high school and another time in a classy auditorium as a degree was conferred upon her. He was never an emotional touchy-feely kind of guy, but she had tugged at his heart so hard when he found her alone at her own high school graduation party on her bed caressing a picture of the only parents she had known. He could see the silent tears sliding down her cheeks and he scooped her up into his arms and onto his lap as she let out her years of grief.
She had become a strong woman that had a master's degree behind her and a pilot's license to go with it. She was no longer that little girl with her history paper or the one whose head he had cradled to his chest that one time. She had a strong will and a stubborn attitude and knew had to use it. The woman he had kissed was definitely not the same one that had shown up on the VA doorstep soaking wet.
His thoughts were interrupted as he heard the girls start down the corridor. Marie never even glanced his direction as they walked past the large glass windows. She had her hair pulled back up again. She never wore her hair down, not even to church. He thought about how soft it had been to his touch and how she had looked so much older and more mature. He had never meant to kiss her and he wasn't sure he could blame it on the Jazz either. It definitely wasn't part of his plan, but when did everything go perfectly according to plan, just as long as it came together. It had just seemed . . .right at the moment. He couldn't say he regretted it either. Well, now is not the time to think about this. I've got some serious getting out of here to do.
Marie returned home after delivering Murdock's late night Bellybuster burger snack to find Amy searching the news for any information she could find on Hannibal's escape. "He did get out, didn't he?" Amy inquired as Marie shrugged off her jacket.
"Yeah, I think."
"You think?" Amy raised her eyebrows and wriggled her nose up.
I am not in the mood for you. "Yeah, I think so. The MPs were buzzing around everywhere, so he got in the vent. Everything eventually died down, so I just assume that it went fine," she snapped back.
"Sorry 'bout that. It's just that . . .well, I was worried we didn't get the job done for Hannibal."
"It's okay. I'm just so uptight. It's been a long day and it's only going to get longer. I'm going to take a hot shower and then make some hot chocolate. Want some too?"
"Sure, I'll make it while you're in the shower," Amy offered, standing up and heading towards the kitchenette.
Marie let the hot water stream down her tired body, hoping the steam would clear her mind. Nothing was helping drag her mind away from him. He'd be there soon, or so she hoped. She wondered what he was doing at that moment.
Hannibal crouched in a nook he had managed to wedge himself into on the roof. His twinkling eyes smiled as he silently watched the MPs stalk across the roof in search of the escaped man. It had been easy enough getting into the vent, kind of. It's definitely time to take another "vacation" for training, he groaned to himself. He tried to get as comfortable as possible to wait out the military's search. They had been pretty stupid to lock him in a room with the map of the hospital's vent systems, but when had the military really thought things through when it came to the A-Team.
When Hannibal was positive the coast was clear, he stealthily made his way across the roof and down the fire escapes. Once he was ground level at the back of the hospital, he stayed in the shadows of the trees lining the sidewalk before creeping into the park behind the hospital. No one would have had a clue that someone was there sneaking his way through the benches and fountains.
He still hadn't let his mind relax, even when he made it safely to the van. He felt underneath the back bumper for the extra key. Yep, there it is, he grinned, thanks for talking me into that one BA. He climbed into the driver's seat of the van and started digging in the glove box. I really thought I left a cigar in here. He then dug under the passenger's seat in hope of finding one. His hands latched hold of the hidden cigar box. So, that's where Face keeps them, he mused. After lighting one up, he cranked the van and headed to Marie's watching carefully to make sure no one was following him.
After stashing the van, Hannibal crept up to the little patio and sliding glass doors. They were unlocked as he quietly pushed one open. We're going to have to talk about this, he thought as he shook his head. Carefully checking his surroundings, nothing seemed out of place and all looked safe. He found Amy laying asleep on the couch, the remote control still in her hand and the television on CNN. Marie was curled up in the recliner wrapped in an Atlanta Falcons blanket with her half full hot chocolate mug precariously balanced on her thigh. He carefully took the mug from her fingers and set it down on the countertop in the kitchenette. He turned on a couple of lamps and switched off the television
"Wake up, girlies!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. In surprise, Amy accidentally rolled off the couch and halfway under the coffee table. Marie jumped up to stand on top of the recliner, waving the lamp from the end table at him. "Ladies, rise and shine. It's one in the morning."
"No, it's not!" Amy snapped from under the table.
Hannibal leaned down to get on her level. Amy peered back. "Excuse me, Miss Allen?"
An alarm clock sounded from Marie's bedroom upstairs. "Now, it's five 'til one." Amy replied pulling herself up out of the floor.
"Close enough," he said rolling his eyes and shrugging his shoulders. "Let's go, ladies. People to see and things to do."
Marie replaced the lamp and stumbled upstairs to turn off the alarm. She paused in the bathroom to splash water on her face and tuck a stray hair back in her braid. Hannibal was always on time, on the dot, and he had caught them sleeping. They both thought they could pull it off before he arrived. God, I feel like such a dork! Doesn't matter now, she shrugged and started back down the stairs.
By the time Marie returned, Hannibal had pulled out a yellow legal pad from inside her desk. Does he ever ask? Does he really need to? She sighed to herself. Amy was sitting by him on the couch as he raptly drew on the legal pad. Marie stood behind the couch watching him over his shoulder. When he had finished, Marie leaned over the couch and asked "So . . .that's the plan?"
"Yeah, kid, check this out . . ." Hannibal was no doubt in full-blown soldier-mode as he detailed the plan. Even with the serious look on his face, he eyes smiled with the Jazz. Marie and Amy hung on his every word, proud of the fact that he was treating them like they were actually part of the team. "Ready?" He looked individually at both of the women flanking him on the couch. They both nodded in response. "Huddle, huddle," he motioned them to lean in. "Alright . . .break!" He snickered that lovable Hannibal snicker. They both gave him the "evil eye" as they rose to get started on the plan.
Marie looked at her watch again for what seemed like the hundredth time. It was almost 5 a.m. and then Show Time! She was so nervous that she ran every possible thing that could go wrong through her mind. She couldn't understand why Hannibal had to cut things so close—Decker would be there within the hour. She glanced back up at Murdock who was still sleeping soundly. "Trade ya places?" She nervously spoke as she lifted herself from the Darth Vader chair to take her place in the game that was about to begin. She smiled at the MPs as she stepped out he door. "Going to get myself a lil' coffee and see if I can wake myself up. Can I get you two anything?" They murmured a "no, thank you" and waved her on.
Hannibal casually watched Marie as she circled the front lobby. She waved at the receptionist once and then picked up a nearby paper. She settled in a chair and feigned interest in the Want Ads. She peered around the paper at the old man sipping coffee in the chair farthest from the receptionist and then winked at him. Hannibal winked back. Marie ignored Amy as she came in the front door in her repairman guise, lugging BA's toolbox. His eyes followed her as she crossed the lobby and disappeared into the Emergency Ward.
Hannibal mentally counted the seconds before standing up and tossing his coffee cup away. He sauntered off down the hall as Marie shuffled through some magazines on the table in front of her. Meanwhile, Amy was rummaging through a supply closet nicely placed and strategically chosen near Face's and BA's rooms. Amy and the MPs appeared to be ignoring each other's presence. "Come on, Hannibal," she murmured under her breath.
As if on cue, Hannibal stepped around the corner. He removed his disguise with relish, devilishly grinning the entire time. "Decker puppies, you're mothers wear army boots. Catch me if you can!" Hannibal disappeared the way he came. Two of the MPs tore off after him while two remained behind. Amy tried to act the part of the scared civilian. One of the soldiers suggested she clear out.
Marie heard Hannibal coming quite a bit before he made it to where she was. As he streaked by her in the lobby turning over chairs, she stood up between him and the MPs, working on the same "scared" part as Amy. In her "surprise," she "accidentally" turned over the coffee table sending magazines flying. She tried to apologize as the soldiers stumbled around her and then slipped on the magazines like they were banana peels. At least she had bought Hannibal some time.
In all the commotion, Marie slipped from the lobby. She came up on Amy as the other two MPs were convincing Amy to leave. Marie ran up to one, grabbing his shirtsleeve and tugging him towards the other hall. "That Col. Smith, I saw him run by that way." She pointed in the opposite direction of the lobby. Without a thought, the two MPs made like lightning down the hallway.
Marie stepped behind the supply closet door out of the view of the hall's security camera making it look as if she had followed the MPs. Amy followed her and shrugged out of a jacket handing to Marie. Amy pulled out a set of BA's bolt cutters out of the toolbox and headed to Face's room. Before the door closed behind her, Marie was heading around the closet door in Face's jacket, obviously way too large for her, and wearing sunglasses and Murdock's cap with her braid tucked up in it. She hoped this fooled anybody who might review the morning's security tape. She entered BA's room with another set of bolt cutters. She couldn't believe that BA had about four sets of bolt cutters, of all things.
Both BA and Face knew exactly what was going down when the first MPs abandoned their guard. Both were itching with excitement and couldn't wait to be moving. They hadn't given up hope, but they had both been getting a little worried. Face knew nothing of the other team members' conditions, but he knew that if something were terribly wrong, Marie or Amy would have gotten in to see him. BA was worried about his van, but more importantly, he was concerned about the Colonel. He was relieved to hear the Hannibal shouting insults at the MPs.
Face greeted Amy with a chipper "hello" for 5 in the morning. She rolled her eyes and started straining on the cutters to cut the shackle on his wrist in half. "Hannibal's plan?"
"Yeah, Marie's getting BA. We're going out the fire escape. Marie and I know where we're going. Stay with us. Colonel's orders," Amy rattled off. She tossed the cutters on the bed when she was done. "Take care of the other one." She began rifling through the only drawers in the room. "Where are your clothes?"
"Uh, well, I don't know." Face glanced around the room.
"The only things in here are medical supplies," Amy gestured toward the cabinets, "and there's nowhere else in this room to put them." She turned toward Face putting her hands on her hips, her lips turning up in a smirk.
When Face came to the same realization, an annoyed moan escaped his lips. "Aw, no. Amy . . .I can't . . .this ain't gonna work . . .tell Hannibal I said 'no' because I'm staying here."
"Face, get real. At least you have on underwear, right?"
Face cocked his head as if to say "I wish." Amy put the back of her hand to her mouth to hold the belly laugh back that was slowly welling up. It was absolutely no use. Amy chortled, "Well, it's not the first time you've been caught this early in the morning without you skivvies. Here, here's a pair of those hospital house shoes." She tossed the ugly cloth-like things in his direction. "Seriously, let me see if I can find you anything else to, um, help cover you up." Amy headed for the door when she heard Hannibal's exasperated voice on her walkie-talkie.
"M. P., Triple A, this is Goldilocks, come in."
Marie hadn't been fairing to well with BA either. He checked every nook and cranny in the room, growling at Marie and muttering Hannibal's name under his breath. "Come on, BA. H. M. will never find out, promise. Face probably has the same problem too. BA, please." BA stopped searching.
"Faceman in nothin' but a hospital gown," BA pondered the thought rubbing his beard with his hand. He chuckled. "Could be intrestin.' 'Kay."
"M. P., Triple A, this is Goldilocks, come in." Marie started digging in her jacket to find the walkie-talkie.
"Goldilocks, Triple A here." Marie heard Amy answer.
"This is M. P., Goldilocks."
Hannibal yelled, "Decker's here! Go, go, go!"
Marie and BA headed out the door to hear Amy yelling at Face. "I don't care what you can see. Let's go! NOW!" Face shyly stepped around the corner of the door holding the back of his hospital gown and wearing those god-awful slippers. Face and BA stared awkwardly at each other, both clutching the back of their gowns. Stories to tell, they both thought. BA snickered at Face.
"Shut up," Face whined. BA laughed harder. "I'll tell Murdock," he threatened even though it sounded more like a whiny complaint. BA's laugh turned into a deep growl.
Amy stepped between the two. "Boys, in case you've forgotten, DECKER'S HERE!" Both men motioned for the ladies to lead the way. "God, I promise we won't look. It's not like every woman in town hasn't seen what Face is got. Come on, Marie." The ladies began down the corridor toward the fire escape. Face motioned BA to go next.
BA growled, "You first."
"No, BA, you first."
"Ah said, you go first."
"BA, pleeeez, don't do this to me," Face wailed. With that, BA pushed Face in front of him down the corridor. Face whimpered non-stop until they were outside at the tree-lined sidewalk.
"Take care, guys, I gotta go," Marie encouraged, patting B. A. on his back and squeezing Face's arm. She handed Face his jacket. "Maybe this will, uh, help you out." She headed back toward one of the least busy hospital entrances as the trio started through the park. She glanced back just in time to catch a flash of Face's white butt as a breeze blew up his gown. She blushed and then thanked God it wasn't BA that she had the "privilege" of glimpsing.
"Hannnniballll, can we just go!" Face had taken up whining again once they were back inside the van. He was trying to shout above Hannibal's uncontrollable cackling.
"Face, you . . .really," Hannibal tried to catch his breath while wiping the tears from his eyes, "streaked . . ." another fit of laughing, "streaked through the park." Hannibal busted out in convulsions of laughter again. He was really trying to quit but Amy wasn't helping any, rolling with uncontrollable laughter on the bench seat in the back.
Face pulled his jacket tighter around himself trying to cover up as much of the gown as he could. "BA was there, streaking too," Face sarcastically smiled.
BA slowly turned around in his seat. "Ah did NOT streak thru no park, Hannibal. You both best shut up NOW!" Amy quickly sat up quickly putting both hands over her mouth.
The Colonel smiled, "Come on, BA. We love you, big guy, and we love all of you that we've never seen." Hannibal snickered again, teetering on hysterics again. BA growled back. Hannibal glanced at Amy and Face sitting behind him. He let another snicker escape. BA jerked his head around, squinting his eyes at Hannibal. Hannibal practically leapt from his seat to the one Murdock usually occupied, barely escaping BA's wrath.
Hannibal leaned back in the seat and allowed his muscles to relax. It had been a long week and he hadn't had more than a couple hours of sleep every night. He was running dangerously low. The morning's run-in with Decker hadn't helped either. Just when he thought he had given them just enough time to get out with the whole underwear scandal unbeknownst to him and he had grown bored of the cat and mouse chase, Decker had shown up. He really didn't think Decker would have come that early, but Decker's hunch about Hannibal's rescue was right on the money, almost. If he had been there two minutes earlier, they wouldn't have been so successful. Yet, Decker had been on time to have his unfortunate run-in with Hannibal. Hannibal had turned a corner in an effort to lure the MPs farther away from his team when he collided with Decker, which left Decker splayed out in the floor.
"Smith," Decker growled and reached for the pistol at his side. Hannibal kicked it out of his grip.
"Too many innocent people here. This is a hospital. Oh, wait, you wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"
"You'll eat those words, Smith," Decker seethed through his teeth, starting to rise.
"No, I won't, but you'll eat this." At that Hannibal sent Decker sprawling with a right cross to the mouth. Hannibal continued his sprint down the hall mumbling something about a Decker sandwich. He sank lower in his chair and sighed, Yep, I'm having about as much fun with Decker as I did with Lynch.
Marie had convinced Hannibal to let the team stay with her while they took time off to get back on their feet. Besides, he thought, It'll be nice to have a woman around the house, even if it's her house and not ours. After a few stops for the necessary clothing, both immediate and future needs, and the necessary large amount of food, the team invaded Marie's home. Face collapsed in Murdock's king-size bed, digging so far under the blankets that it made him impossible to find. It had taken quite a bit of convincing on Hannibal's part to actually make B. A. believe that Marie said he could have her bed. With a little furniture arranging in the living room, Hannibal was fast asleep on the daybed.
Persistence was a common trait between the Murdock siblings. Murdock's physician didn't have a moment of peace from the time he set foot in the hospital until he agreed to see Murdock so he could be released. Marie was in a hurry to get out of there. Her first appointment was in a couple of hours. Her boss, Rhett Jackson, had readily agreed to let her wait to come in late for her appointments only. She yawned as she checked her appointment book one more time waiting for Murdock to get ready. She only had a few clients dropping by for basic lessons, all back to back. Marie was the office manager for Rhett's private airstrip. Being a small strip, the office didn't take up as much time as her giving lessons. She and two other pilots offered their services to Rhett. Thank God it's Friday and it's going to be a short day. Besides, I have a house full of men, what a girl's dream. She smiled to herself.
Marie and Murdock arrived home to find Hannibal's revolver pushed against her temple as she opened the door. "Sorry 'bout that, kid, can't be too careful," he said, clicking the safety in place.
"Am I gonna come home to that everyday while you're here?"
"Just don't come home when I'm asleep," he shrugged. "Murdock, what are you doing?"
In her shock, Marie had jabbed Murdock in the stomach. He was bent over picking up the ton of tongue depressors that she had knocked out of his jacket. She turned to see him gathering them up. "H. M.!"
"Sarah Beth said I could have them," he looked at them pleadingly. "Now, look, I may be touched in the head, but I wouldn't just take them. Besides," he caressed the doorframe, "wood is our friend."
Hannibal sighed and plopped back down on the daybed. "Murdock's newest fixation," he muttered pulling the pillow over his head.
"It's not a fixation, Colonel. It's my appreciation to the roof over my head, the oxygen-giving trees, it's just like the Golf ball Liberation Army, except it's like the National Guard." Murdock finished picking up the last of the tongue depressors and shut the front door. He proceeded to drop them all on her small dining table. "I'm going to my room, see if I can find my stash of Popsicle sticks."
Murdock occupied the guest room when he visited with Marie—often. It very much resembled his room at the VA. Favorite posters and retired T-shirts adorned the walls. Souvenir knick-knacks lay on the dressers. A small TV sat atop the bureau. The biggest difference between the two rooms was the absence of the arcade games, not to mention that the Atari and all its accompanying games, stayed in the living room. Marie had admitted on a couple of occasions that she thoroughly enjoyed Pac-man. Murdock was just happy to have another person who wanted to play Atari with him.
"Marie, go home. I'll finish the paperwork. I know how important your brother is to you," Rhett Jackson drawled in his southern accent. Unbeknownst to the two of them, they had lived in small towns less than ten minutes apart and never knew each other's families. Rhett had flown the A-Team on one of their missions when Murdock was down with an inner ear infection. After the war, Rhett headed west to start his own business and somehow the two southern Georgians ended up working together. Marie had been working on her pilot's license at Rhett's strip when he had mentioned that he was looking for office help with his expanding business. Marie had readily agreed. Eventually she was hired on as the office manager. Rhett and Marie had become fast friends. They had dated a few times but Marie never took them serious. A particular Colonel held her heart. "If you need me to come rescue ya tomorra' night, ya know, get ya outta the house, if ya feel cooped up, gimme a call."
"Thanks, Rhett," Marie always could see Clark Gable sweeping Vivien Leigh off her feet every time she said Rhett's name. He didn't resemble Clark Gable's dark, foreboding looks though. No, he was more of a younger Jan-Michael Vincent. "I appreciate it, but H. M. and I have plans. He'll have to go back soon. I'm sorry."
"No, don't be. I understan.' See ya Mundee mornin.''
"Bright and early." She could listen to him talk all day. She loved his accent. Somewhere along the way, she had lost most of hers. It seemed to peep out when she was angry or excited.
"It's me! I'm coming in! Don't shoot!" Marie yelled as she jiggled her keys in the lock. She opened the door to find Hannibal, BA, and Face playing Atari. That was absolutely the last thing she imagined the three of them doing—and doing it together. They seemed to be oblivious to her. There would be no reason to waste her breath to ask them how they're feeling today. "Where's H. M.?" Face pointed behind his shoulder without taking his eyes off the TV screen. She looked up to see him building a tower on her table out of his tongue depressors and Popsicle sticks. She decided to join him in the kitchen. "Whacha doin'?" He mumbled something unintelligible around the tongue depressor in his mouth. "Sure, honey." She patted him on top of the head and headed for the refrigerator.
"I made you lunch. Give me a second." Hannibal bounded over the couch and into the kitchen. "I saved you a sandwich. Here, let me get it. Have a seat."
"John . . .you didn't have to."
"Have a seat." He pointed to the table where Murdock was still engrossed in his wooden sticks.
"Did H. M. eat?" Murdock muttered something else again and winked. She reached across the table and jerked the stick out of his mouth. "Say that again."
"I will not stop in my mission to build the highest tribute to the wood goddess of California." He picked up another stick and shoved it into his mouth indignantly.
Hannibal put a plate with a sandwich and potato ships in front of her. "Pepsi good?"
"Yeah. Did you not make him eat?"
"No, did you want me to hold him down and hurt him? He's had a ton of Popsicles and fudge sticks. He'll be okay."
"Okay is something he'll never be," she mumbled as she took a bite of the sandwich.
BA growled from the living room, "It's your turn! Get in heah!" Hannibal ruffled her ponytail and then bounded back into the other room and leaped over the couch. She didn't think she had ever seen him like that. He always acted so mature, sophisticated, and arrogant. Now, it seemed that Murdock had rubbed off on him. It was the same for the other two.
The rest of Friday and all of Saturday were spent babying her three "invalids." She really enjoyed taking care of them. Not only was it a change of pace, but she was spending time with the guys, something that was so rare now. Besides, she may not have Hannibal in her home the way she wanted, but he was there nonetheless. During the two weeks they stayed, he was always helping her out. She would come home to him having made supper for all of them and a clean house. She even found her laundry done one day. When she thanked him, he muttered something about needing a full load to finish his laundry. To begin with, she just thought he was being nice, kind of a payback for letting them stay with her. But maybe it's something else . . . she thought.
Sunday found BA and her fighting over the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons game. The two of them were fighting about as bad as Murdock and BA. Hannibal sighed to himself, trying to read a book he had picked from her bookcase, Thank God football season doesn't last all year and that Atlanta and Chicago only play once. Football season was ugly between the two of them. They'd fight over which game they would watch. Channels were zapped back and forth. Arguments were made over calls. Victory dances were dangerous to be around. Yes, BA does victory dances, if one can call it a dance. Amy had come over for the game but found herself with Face watching from a distance. Murdock was still working on his goddess tribute. They had to clear space for him in his room to work because it was getting so big it couldn't stay on the table.
B. A. was a good loser, which Hannibal had his suspicions it was only because his ribs were still hurting pretty bad. After the game, they made an attempt to straighten the place up. Amy stayed through dinner and the movie Face and Murdock had picked out. After the movie, Amy made her excuses to leave. She stopped in the kitchen where Marie was working on the dishes. "Thanks for the evening. You and BA are a riot. I wish I could get them to treat me like one of the guys."
Marie turned around from the dishes. "They already do that. What are you talking about?" She dried her hands off and came to stand by Amy leaning up against the bar.
"It's nothing, never mind."
"No go ahead. What's on your mind?"
"They treat you differently, like you're one of them."
"We've known each other for almost ten years."
"I know, I know, but you and BA have this relationship over football. Face talks about his girls in front of you. He won't do that with me. Hannibal isn't so, well, mean to you. They seem to watch their language more around me."
"Amy, don't worry. How long have you know them? Year, year and a half? It took me a lot longer to be accepted than a year and half. Hannibal hated me when we first met. I was a sixteen-year-old brat to all of them except H. M."
"Yeah, Murdock's different. You and Murdock have a special relationship. You both are so in tune to each other. The two of you can disappear into conversation for hours."
"He's my brother, we're both pilots, we love a lot of the same things. It's kind of understood."
"Yeah, but . . ." Amy chewed on her bottom lip. She glanced behind them to see if anyone was within earshot.
"Don't worry. Give it time." Marie felt prideful at Amy's jealousy, but she caught herself. She knew she shouldn't act this way for the team's sake and really her own. She vowed she would make an attempt to change her attitude towards Amy.
"I'll try." Amy sighed. Marie squeezed Amy's hand in reassurance.
"It's getting late and I've got to get these boys in bed. Both of us have to be at work early in the morning. Go home, get some rest, and don't worry." Marie proceeded to walk Amy out.
After everyone but Hannibal and Marie were settled, Marie returned to cleaning up in the kitchen and Hannibal was making the beds in the living room. Marie was occupying the couch while BA had her bed and Face and Murdock shared Murdock's. "Marie?" Hannibal called to her from the kitchen.
"Yeah?" she answered putting away a plate.
"Would you prefer that some of us stay with Amy?"
Amy, Amy, Amy, she cocked her head back and forth mocking her name. She caught herself with a reminder that she was going to put it all aside. "Um . . .I don't know. I really like all of you staying here," she replied.
" 'Kay," he said settling down on the daybed. Marie headed off to shower. BA was oblivious to the world as she passed her room. Murdock and Face were having a lively conversation about the cartoon they were watching. When she was done, she stepped in to say 'goodnight.' They were still going on about why Donald Duck had to wear swimming trunks when he went swimming but didn't wear anything else but his blue sailor's top any other time. The repairman sign that Amy had given Murdock as a joke caught her eye. He had already hung it on the wall above his bed. She laughed to herself, left them to their discussion on Donald Duck, and headed towards her makeshift bed. She began braiding her hair as she descended the steps.
"Leave it down," Hannibal quietly said as she reached the last step.
"I'm sorry, what?" She asked in mid-braid.
"Why don't you leave your hair down? I . . .I like it down. It makes you look . . .well, more mature, prettier."
"You think?" He shook his head 'yes' and motioned for her to come sit beside him on the bed. Her stomach took on that familiar feeling when she was alone with him. She felt light-headed. He was so sexy in his red-flannel boxers and white undershirt. You can do it. Big breaths. She settled beside him. "Yeah?"
"Marie, I want to ask you something." She nodded. "Is there a problem between you and Amy?" She raised her eyebrows in query. "I saw you reaction when I asked you about us staying with Amy. I thought that there was some tension between the two of you for a while now. Am I right?" Marie looked away, her face turning red.
"She's taken y'all away from me, little by little." She didn't look back at him as she spoke. "You never take me with you anymore. You always take her. H. M. visits less because he's always with her. I just have a bad case of jealousy. I'll get over it."
"Marie, do you really think all that?" He pulled her chin around so he could look in her eyes. She nodded. "That's not the way it is for the most part. She's a good friend to Murdock. He needs friends outside of us, and Amy's good for him. Don't begrudge him that friendship."
"I'm sorry. I'll try to be more understanding. It's hard, he's my only family."
"No, he's not. We are too, me, Face, BA."
"John, it's not that easy. You can't stay here forever. You can only run so long. What do I do then? I'll be without family, except H. M."
"Do you not have faith in us? We'll keep running and we'll keep escaping. Look how far we've come. Someone will find a way to get us out of this eventually. Understand?" She nodded 'yes' again and he pulled her into his arms, resting his chin on her head. "We are family, we love you, and you don't need to worry about us ever. In response to the comment that we never take you with us anymore, well . . ." he paused and began playing with her long hair. "I didn't want your name dragged into our mess too."
"But it's okay for Amy?"
"Amy lives for the thrill of the chase. It's a risk she's willing to take. It's her own choice."
"And I can't make my own choices?" She stiffened in his embrace.
"That's not what I'm saying. I feel I can stop you from making a huge mistake. The team agrees . . ."
"You've all discussed this?" She cut him off and started to turn in his embrace to look at him but it felt so good with her back lying against his broad chest.
"Well, yeah, everyone agrees. We don't want to see you hurt, ever, and we definitely don't want to see you behind bars just because you're associated with us. You might not think so, but I do care." He rubbed her arms gently. He started to bring up their kiss at the hospital but changed his mind. He wanted to kiss her now, but he was afraid of what might happen. Me, Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, afraid? Yeah, I am, I wouldn't do anything to hurt her and I'm afraid I might. "Let's go to bed. If I'm not up when you leave for work, wake me." He let go of her and helped her off the day bed. "Good night, kid."
"Good night." She turned off the lamp and snuggled under the blanket on the couch. She wasn't able to go to sleep, not after their conversation. She was mortified that she had confessed that she was upset over Amy, but what she haggled with the most in her mind was her love for John. She thought hard about why she loved him. He's twice my age, but why should age matter? She couldn't answer why she loved him, just that she did. It wasn't lust, although she was definitely sexually attracted to him. She drifted away to their kiss at the hospital. "Marie, I love you," she remembered his words. Then it hit her like a ton of bricks. He called out to her using Jacey's name, but when he said that he loved her, he used her name. She sat bolt right up on the couch. He said my name! Not kid, Marie.
"You okay, kid?" Hannibal asked when he heard sit up so quickly. "Bad dream?"
Kid? No, I'm just fooling myself. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"Want to talk about it?"
"No, it wasn't all that bad. I'll be okay." She settled back down to wrestle with her thoughts.
Hannibal wasn't fairing well with sleep either. He was wrestling with his own thoughts about her. Jeez, she's half my age. I can be her father. What kind of relationship could we really have? The only resolution he came to before finally succumbing to sleep was that he would have to talk to Face.
The two weeks zipped by for Marie. The team decided to find another place to call "home" so that Decker wouldn't link Marie to them. They knew it wasn't safe to stay in one spot for too long anyway. She hugged them goodbye and watched them drive down the street. She turned to her empty house and sighed. There was plenty to be done before going back to work after the weekend. There had been another victory dance, unfortunately not by her, and there was popcorn from end of the living room to the other. She went about cleaning up, thinking about the Colonel. She had decided that he might just care for her and she was walking on air.
They dropped Murdock off at the VA. He loved staying with Marie but he had missed his room. The rest of the team decided to stay at Face's scammed apartment for the night. Hannibal had been unusually quiet and Face had picked up on it. "A penny for your thoughts, Colonel?" Face asked him as he sat on the balcony, staring out over the ocean.
"Have a seat, Face." Face pulled up the patio chair next to Hannibal's. "I think I'm in love."
"Who's the lucky girl? Maggie?"
"Marie Marie, you know."
"Yeah, that'd be the one," he sighed, resting his head on his hand, his elbow propped on the patio chair.
"But, she's Murdock's kid sister. She's half your age. She's . . ."
"She's all grown up now, Face." He glanced over at Face who seemed flabbergasted.
"I kissed her."
"You what?" Face ran his fingers through his hair nervously.
"Wait, I kissed her when we were trying to get out of the hospital. We were conning the MPs so that I could get her a note to help me get out of there. We were 'engaged'" he made the quote marks in the air with his fingers. "I kissed her before she left. It just happened. I blamed it on the Jazz then, but I don't think I can do that now." A pause. "I told her I love her too."
"Hannibal, that's deep."
"That was an accident too. She was pulling a scam but I called her by her real name."
"That was just a mistake."
"Face, I don't make mistakes, not like that." Hannibal shifted his gaze from where he had been staring at the ocean to look sarcastically at Face.
"Did you mean it?" Face licked his lips.
"I don't know." Hannibal returned to perusing the coastline.
"You better not hurt her. She's like a sister to me too."
"I wouldn't dare. That's why I'm wrestling with it now." He reached into his back pocket and dug out his wallet. He pulled a picture out and handed it to Face.
"Is this Marie's mother? How did you get this?" Face's brow furrowed.
"No, it's not her mother. It's Anna, my wife."
"Excuse me? Come again?" Face almost dropped
"I'm sorry I've never talked about her. We were married a few months before I was sent over for Vietnam. She died in a car wreck shortly after I left. I really thought I had put her behind me. But Marie's a lot like her. They've got a lot of the same mannerisms, the same spunk, they look a lot a like, hold themselves the same way . . ."
"You don't think they're . . ."
"Oh, no, trust me. I checked it out when Marie first came here." There was a long pause between the two men. Both were in deep thought. Then Hannibal continued. "What if I'm making her into Anna? What if I just see my dead wife in her? Maybe it's just because I haven't made love to woman in so long."
"You mean, you and Maggie never . . .There's this girl--Mitzy . . ."
Hannibal cut him off. "No, with Maggie it was just sex, no love. I don't think there was ever really anything between me and Maggie . . .Maybe I should just go and see Maggie. Thanks for the talk, Face, it really helped." Hannibal stood up and headed back into the apartment. Face shrugged, I didn't do much talking, if you ask me. Face relaxed in the patio chair and gazed at the view. What I wouldn't do for a steady woman in his life. . . If anyone deserves a good woman like her, it's Hannibal. Past women in his life ran through his mind. Hannibal's words came to him again. Love, not sex, he had said. Hannibal's intentions were right but was this the right time or were they even right for each other? Face's brow wrinkled in puzzlement. He sighed and returned to his "current" favorite chair.
The first phone call came about ten minutes after the team had left. "Hello?"
"Marie Murdock?" A deep voice asked.
"Ms. Murdock, we know the A-Team just left your house."
Marie's stomach feel into her feet. "Pardon me? I'm not sure what you're talking about."
"Don't play stupid with me, girl!" The voice yelled at her. "You better watch yourself. It would be a shame if something happened to you, especially in Smith's case."
Marie was feeling queasy. "You have the wrong person. I have no connection with the A-Team."
"Look, woman. We saw the heart-to-heart talk you had with the Colonel, oh, let's see, two Sundays ago. You really love him, don't you?"
"What do you want?"
"I knew that would bring you around." Then the line went dead. Marie replaced the receiver. She fished around in the end table drawer and drew out her .22 caliber. She loaded and placed it on the table if necessary. She did the same thing to the .38 caliber in her bedroom, clicking the safety off. She pulled the curtains and blinds to in every room. She knew she should call Hannibal but they were still not doing well. I can prove to them I can take care of myself.
She carried the smaller pistol to work with her in the morning. She was feeling pretty confident about her day until she got another call. The caller basically said the same things again and hung up when she demanded to know what they wanted. "Rhett, I'm not feeling well. Do you mind if I go home early? I can finish this tomorrow."
"Sure," he put an arm around her. "Anythang I can do, take ya home?"
"No, I'll manage." She was getting worried. If they call again, then I'll let the team know.
Several days went by without another call. She confidently walked out of her house that morning to head for work. She stopped and checked the mail. Bills, bills, junk mail, oooo, I may have already won a million dollars, what's this? There was a white envelope without a return address. A letter was inside addressed to her but it wasn't signed. "Be careful. Two pistols won't take care of what we have in store for you or your Colonel." She was really worried now and decided to call Hannibal after work.
She went straight in and began paperwork. Rhett came back and twirled her ponytail. "Mornin," dumpling."
"Mornin," she mumbled.
He stopped when she didn't tease him as she usually did by greeting him with a "Cap'n Butler" and a snide comment from "Gone with the Wind." He noticed she was a little pale. "Are ya sure ya're okay?"
"Mmm-hmm," she started to look up at him but caught sight of the white envelope addressed to her in a pile of mail. She picked up the envelope and stood up. "I just need some fresh air." She went outside to read the letter.
"Ms. Murdock, your boys screwed us over and now we're taking them out. Don't believe us? Be at Jackson's airstrip tomorrow at six p. m. to find out how serious we are. Watch yourself and you had better be there."
She immediately went back in and called the last number she had for Face. No answer. She tried to van. "Frankie's furters? What can I do for you?"
"John, I think I've got a problem," she squeaked out.
"Marie, are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I think I'm bein' stalked and somethun' bad is goin' to happ'n tommorra." He could hear her southern accent picking up in her voice. He knew she was pretty upset.
"Let's meet after you get off, the usual. Act like nothing's wrong. See you then."
"Bye." Act like nothin's wrong, yeah, rii-iight? She tried to make it throughout the day. She double-checked everything on the Cessna and the ultra light she flew that day. She jumped every time someone spoke to her. Rhett had decided he needed to talk to her but she rushed out at the end of the day before he could stop her.
Marie parked the Datsun a block away from Wong's Greaseria. She fished around in the back seat for some sunglasses and her pink floppy sun hat. She slid out of the car and slipped on a dark trench coat. She quickly headed to the café and quietly slipped in. Amy was already there, dressed very similarly, sitting at the usual table, booth 4. Amy glanced at her and then continued perusing the menu. Marie picked up the laminated menu and acted as if she was reading too. She was about to inform the waitress that they had more on the way and would wait to order when the team came in the front door. They joined the two ladies and made their orders—four coffees, one hot chocolate, and one milk.
Hannibal lit his cigar and then asked "So, Marie, tell us what's goin' on?"
She fumbled in her coat pocket for the letters. "I never thought I would be on this end—asking y'all for help, but . . ." She smoothed out the papers and handed them to Hannibal. "I got these Thursday but I also got a phone call Sunday night and Monday evening." She explained the phone calls, leaving out the information exchanged about the Colonel. After reading them, Hannibal passed the letters on to the others.
"Amy?" Amy didn't answer. She seemed to be in her own world, staring at Marie's letters. Hannibal tried again, louder. "Amy?"
She jumped. "What?" She looked up at Hannibal.
"Zjou o'kay, mademoiselle?" Murdock asked, in a French accent, chewing on a toothpick.
"I . . .guys, he sent me letters and called too, just said some things a little different." She confessed, her lip quivering. She fished in her purse and produced two letters that were similar to the other ones.
"Like what?" Face asked.
"He knew that Face came over and that I went to see Murdock. He threatened me and then threatened the team. He would always hang up before he would tell me what he wanted from you guys. Wants me at Jackson's at six, too."
Hannibal read over them and handed them on to Face. He chewed his cigar in thought. "Amy, did those guys we bust up make bail?"
"Yeah, they did. You think it's them?"
"Has to be, definitely not Decker's style." Everyone turned to the Colonel, waiting for his command. He smiled around his cigar.
"Zee Colonel has zee plan, uhn-hauh-hauh!!" Murdock sang.
"It's simple enough," Hannibal smiled.
"When is it ever simple?" Face whined.
"Oh, you'll like it, Face, you'll like it a lot. You get to stay home tomorrow night with our two lovely ladies."
"Okay, Hannibal, really, is it that bad?" Face scowled at him.
"No, that's what I want. Marie and Amy will carry on their day as usual. Amy will come to Jackson's. We slip them out and, Face, you will protect our women, just in case."
"Your women?" Amy huffed.
"You know you like the idea," Face seductively smiled. Amy rolled her eyes while the Colonel continued on.
"Face will keep an eye on Amy all day tomorrow. The other three of us will stay at Jackson's, crouching in wait. Then we'll take'em down," Hannibal chuckled.
"Ya think da three of us can take'em, Hannibal?" B. A. asked.
"Easy, with no explosions this time."
"But, zat's ze fun part!"
"Shut up, foo'! There ain't nothin' fun 'bout bruised ribs."
"Marie, Amy, do you want one of us to stay with you tonight?" Hannibal asked.
"No, I can take of myself," Amy answered haughtily. Marie only shook her head. She wanted more than anything to ask Hannibal to stay with her but couldn't bring herself to say so. Hannibal waited to hear her say 'yes' and was disappointed when she didn't.
They all scooted out of the booth to leave. B. A., Murdock, and Hannibal headed up the sidewalk, but not before Hannibal whispered to Face to take up surveillance on Amy's apartment for the night. "I'll send Murdock later. B. A. and I'll watch Marie's." Face, Amy, and Marie headed down the street. Amy broke off, waved goodbye, and headed to her car. Face and Marie quietly walked on.
"Templeton, do you have a minute?"
"Yeah, what's on your mind, sweetie?" He answered without a thought.
"I want your advice on something." Two people in one week asking for my advice? The Colonel's gonna end up out of the counseling business.
"If it's on the subject of 'lu-uv,' you've come to right man."
"There's this guy that I've loved, let's say, from afar for quite a while now. I really want to tell in hopes that we could have a relationship together, but I'm not sure he cares for me more than a kid, um, I mean, friend. If I tell him, it could ruin the entire relationship that we already have. I don't know if I want to risk that, but I don't know if I can keep living if I don't try. Any thoughts?"
They had arrived at her car. Face leaned up against the door. He took the floppy hat off her head causing her braid to fall down her back. She took off the sunglasses and absentmindedly began fiddling with her hair. "It's easier to talk to you that way. Tell me about him."
"Well . . .he's a bit older than me. Very handsome, very sophisticated, very sexy. He's smart and stubborn. He can be arrogant at times. He's a veteran and very much still the military type . . ." she trailed off, afraid she might say too much.
Face gestured at her with the sunhat. "Newsflash, Rhett already likes you. I don't think there'd be a problem. You just need . . ."
"No, Templeton, it ain't Rhett . . ." Face's brow furrowed. She took a deep breath and dove in. "It's John."
She could only nod. "That's wrong, ain't it?" She flopped against the car door beside him.
"No, no." He put his arm around her trying to soothe her. "Love is never wrong." His thoughts drifted to Leslie.
"Go ahead, tell me there's no hope, that I should forget about him, marry Rhett, and have lots of babies." She threw her hands up in gesture of surrender.
"Don't say things like that. There is hope. I've seen how the Colonel acts around you. I would say things are looking up. I think you might need to tell him. There's always Maggie Sullivan and she's a force to be reckoned with in his life." Face chose his words as wisely as possible, not sure of what he should or could reveal about his "conversation" with the Colonel.
"When an' how?"
"That's not something I can tell you, but I do know the time'll feel right, but just wait 'til we bag these guys . . .again."
"Templeton, promise me, promise me, you won't say anything. Let me do it in my time," she begged, grasping the front of his black leather jacket.
"I promise," he smiled.
"An' I know you'll keep it because you're a man of your word." She smoothed out his jacket and began searching through her pockets for her keys.
The plot thickens. . . Face smiled to himself, excited about the news he was safeguarding but frustrated because he couldn't tell anyone.
"Cap'n Butler" took the news rather well and did his best to conduct business as normal—anything to keep Marie and their friends safe, especially Marie. He could tell she was very tense all day. He wanted to help but knew things were better off letting them handle this. Actual combat and strategics were not his forte. He stood aside and watched as B. A., Murdock, and Hannibal searched the premises and everything else that could possibly be searched. They all turned up nothing.
Murdock took the blueberry Popsicle out of his mouth long enough to ask, "Now what, Colonel?"
"Now we wait," he grinned, raising his eyebrows.
"As long as I've got my supply of Popsicle sticks, we can wait all day. Want a lick, B. A.?" Murdock stuck his Popsicle in B. A.'s face.
"Foo,' get that outta mah face! If you don't quit eatin' dos pop-sicles, you gonna turn blue all over." B. A. pushed Murdock's arm away frowning at him.
"Life as a Smurf would very interestin', don't you think, Colonel? You get to sing that really cool song—La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la," Murdock boomed out the theme to the Smurfs.
"I'll squash you like a Smurf, if you don't shut up!" B. A. snipped.
"Alright, men, be on your guard," Hannibal commanded, walking away with that annoying Smurf song in his head.
Every hour on the hour, Face reported but had nothing to report. He was bored out of his mind. He'd rather be on the inside lying to someone than staring at an office building all day. He called in as he and Amy left the Courier. Amy pulled in the parking lot with a half hour to spare. Face carefully tucked his Corvette away on a back road shielded by a grove of trees behind the airstrip and carefully slinked up to the back of the building. The team and the ladies gathered together.
"Face, you know what to do and how to do it." Hannibal motioned with his cigar at Face.
"Take care of our special ladies." Murdock tweaked Marie's ear and ruffled Amy's hair. "Or I'll have to lick you to death," Murdock slurped his blueberry Popsicle loudly showing his blue tongue, "and turn you into a Smurf."
"Smurf dis, crazy man," B. A. gruffed, waving his fist at Murdock. Murdock popped the frozen stick in his mouth and leaned back in his seat.
"Guys," Hannibal began calling them down. "This involves two people who are very close to us. We've got to be on top of things." Yeah, he thought to himself, you, too, Colonel. Think about Marie and Maggie tomorrow. He turned to look at Amy and Marie. "Ladies, one of you will head out back to the Corvette. The other will follow after ten seconds. Face will be ten seconds after that. Stay low. Face, tell them exactly where you parked. Marie, take my gun, just in case."
"No, thanks, I've got my own." She pulled her .22 out from her waistband underneath her bomber jacket. "That thing is annoying to work with back there all day."
"Don't ask, Hannibal," Amy piped in. "I've got mine too. Don't go anywhere without it anymore."
Hannibal proudly smiled. "That's my girls. Ready?" Everyone nodded. "Who's my first volunteer?"
"Alright, Marie, let's go."
After detailed directions from Face, she dashed from the back door to a nearby bush. She slowly wound her way, bush, tree, bush, bush, hill, tree, car. If the team hadn't been the target this time, she might have enjoyed "the jazz." Amy was close behind with Face right on her tail. Without many words, they headed to Face's apartment.
Each team member, including Rhett, took position at assigned windows. Automatic weapons itched in their grips. Minds were focused and eyes were peeled for the first sign of movement, daring anything to blink an eye. The only sound was Murdock's slurp on his blue Popsicle.
The atmosphere at the apartment was much more relaxed. Amy and Marie had long since learned not to worry too much about the team while they were in the field. They had made popcorn while Face went about securing the place. For a Friday, nothing much was on television. Marie quit flipping channels to stop on a detective show. "See, this guy is what John will end up doing when all this mess with the government is straightened out. He is just like Thomas Banacek—a smart-mouthed, arrogant ladies man."
Amy studied the character on the screen. "No kidding, that job is so him. Don't answer to anybody but himself and, technically, legally still doing what he's doing now, sorta."
Face came back into the living room. "Aww, nooo. I am sick of Banacek. Hannibal has watched that everyday this week! Is there anything else on?" He exasperatedly headed back out of the room.
"You heard what John said about you?" Marie asked, handing Amy the zapper.
"He said it about us, meaning you." She began channel surfing again.
"If he didn't mean it about you, he wouldn't have said it. He called you 'special' and one of his girls."
"Yeah, I guess so." Amy stopped on Banacek, deciding nothing else was on.
Face came back in. "Jeez, guys, something else has got to be on. Can you two handle yourselves for a moment? I'm going to step out just a minute," Face pointed towards the bathroom.
"Sure, don't let the sewer monster get you."
"Ha, ha, Marie." Face disappeared down the hall. In some ways, she is just like her brother.
The two continued on their comparison of the Colonel and the sexy, mysterious Banacek. After a few moments, Amy heard footsteps in the kitchen. Without turning around she called, "Face, bring me some more Pepsi since you survived the sewer monster, will ya?" There was no response.
Out of the corner of her eye, Marie caught a large figure that couldn't possibly be Face. "Amyyyy!" She yelled as the large man pinned Amy down, holding a white cloth over her mouth and nose. Marie felt fabric flit around her cheek as another set of strong arms tried to close around her. She took in a deep breath right before the cloth was pressed to her face. She jammed her elbow as her hard as possible into the figure behind her. The cloth dropped to the floor and the grip on her loosened. She started to make a break for Amy's gun on the coffee table. Her attacker laid a blow across her shoulders. She dropped to table, her forehead crashing through the glass top. She lay there trying to compose herself. Her head and back almost unbearably hurt. She could smell traces of the chloroform on her face making her feel lightheaded. The man pulled her up by her shirt, thinking he had knocked her out. When she could get her footing, she laid into his groin with her foot. As she turned to find the gun again, Amy's attacker aimed a punch at her cheek. Everything went fuzzy and she could feel herself falling. She tried to prepare herself for the fall but never remembered hitting the floor.
"Colonel, it's been an hour. I don't think they're coming." Murdock relaxed and leaned up against the wall. "Besides, it's been forty-five minutes since my last Smurf stick. I really need another."
"You're right. I don't think they're coming either. Let's check in with Face." Hannibal propped the machine gun on his shoulder and tried to call Face in over the radio. No good, so he headed for the phone. He dialed and waited, one ring, two rings . . . "Face isn't answering the phone either." He chewed on his cigar in thought. "Murdock, you come with me. Rhett, B. A., stay here just in case."
Hannibal and Murdock took the van and arrived at Face's apartment in half time. Hannibal never allowed himself to think about the repercussions of a plan gone wrong—only what he would have to do to "adapt" the plan. He tried to continue this line of thought. No one answered the door. Both men drew their guns as Murdock turned the doorknob. "It's open, Colonel," he whispered. At Hannibal's nod, they burst into the room. Hannibal surveyed the room. Popcorn and shattered glass were scattered everywhere and the TV was still on Banacek. He would have thought it ironic if his mind wasn't focused on the present situation.
"Marie? Amy? Face?" Hannibal and Murdock began searching the place. The Colonel found a perfect circle cut in the balcony doors. Scaled the balcony and then used a glass cutter to unlock the door. The Lieutenant is in more trouble than he can get out of without a really good explanation.
"Hannibal, I've found Face." He headed towards Murdock's voice. He found the Captain bent over Face's body.
"Murdock, get some cold water." Hannibal checked his Lieutenant over to survey the extent of his injuries. Took him out with a blow to the head. Murdock was back. He doused Face with a large glass of water. "I didn't say drown him, Murdock." Face began spluttering. "Face? Face, you okay?"
"Amy, Marie, are they okay?" Face asked trying to sit up but his head swam forcing him to lean back against the wall.
"You can start by telling us that." Hannibal snapped.
"If I knew, I wouldn't be asking." Face spat back.
"They're not here and it doesn't look good either." Hannibal related to Face what he had found in the apartment. "Now, tell me, Lieutenant, why are they missing?"
"I was . . .indisposed at the moment. I heard Marie scream and when I headed out the door, I guess, the sewer monster got me."
"Excuse me?" Hannibal queried.
"You know, the sewer monster, Colonel? Lives in your bathroom pipelines. That thing is extremely vicious. Got me once too." Murdock announced as if it was a badge of honor.
Marie opened her eyes to a dim room. She was lying on her stomach. She started to push herself up on her forearms but decided against it when her upper body protested and began to hurt. Her head throbbed and her vision swam. She rubbed her eyes and peered out into the dark. Light was coming in from the door that was barely cracked open. The walls were made of a large gray brick. The concrete floor was cool against her bare arms. Basement, maybe, she couldn't decide. Need to move, gotta get outta here. She started testing her limbs. She was about to sit up when she heard footsteps and voices echoing down the hall. The voices stopped at her door and she quickly lied back down in the position she woke up in.
"That Allen chick's fine?" A deep voice asked.
"Yeah, she's awake, moving, and a spitfire. Left Kurt and a couple of men with her at the warehouse." Another voice responded.
"Heard you had more trouble from that crazy pilot's kid sister?" Voice One asked.
"Yeah, kid laid into him real well. It was a sight, should have seen it." A third voice joined the conversation.
"Going to check on her now," Voice Two. The door cracked open but the man stopped when another voice called down the hall. "Williams, some info came over their radio you might want to know."
"What is it? Something other than their Colonel calling in again?" Williams, the owner of Voice One, asked.
"They found the women missing and the Lieutenant beaned over the head. They're heading back to Jackson's. Sounded real concerned about the Murdock girl. Did you mess her up real bad?"
Marie closed her eyes as the man came into the room. He rolled her over and turned her head from side to side. She hoped he didn't she her flinch in the light from the hall. "Naw," the man bending over her called. "Just some bumps and bruises. She's still out, probably will be for a while longer. She won't be anything to worry about." He stood up and left, leaving the door cracked.
"That Colonel said something like that, too. Said they had to find her quick because she can't handle herself in something like this." Marie tried to fight down the anger that threatened to overwhelm her. I love him about as much as I hate him. He can piss me off so much. Nothing left to do but prove him wrong.
"They'll come for her first," Voice Three joined in again.
"I've got it under control. They don't know where either of the women are. After we let them worry about the girls, we'll radio them, drop a few hints and split'em up. Easy pickin's." Williams replied. "Right now, they're so confused as to why we left Peck there, they'll take any clues they can get their hands on. Such fun."
Marie hung on ever word as the voices trailed down the hall. She was still in the dark as to who had her and Amy but she knew she had to find the team, not out of spite, but to warn them. She stumbled for a few steps, the pounding in her head trying to control her. She peeked around the door. The stupid idiots actually left me alone. She stepped outside the room. Across from her was another room furnished like a den. On a table she caught sight of Face's key ring. Hopefully, my ticket out of here. She pocketed the Corvette's keys and decided to take the other two sets sitting beside them. Or maybe these. We'll just see. She turned to go but saw Amy's handgun on an end table. She tucked it in her jeans waistband and headed back out into the hall.
All was still quiet. There has to be a way out the way they went. The hall ended into another forming a T. To her left was a set of stairs and to her right was a window shoulder high at ground level. She figured the window would probably be safer. Outside were a black sedan and a dark maroon van beside the building at the far end at quite a distance. The Corvette was sandwiched between them. No one was around and the window was open. So far, too easy. She was almost through the window as the man who had attacked her opened the door to the stairs. "I don't care, tie her up anyhow," Williams voice called behind him.
"Boss, she's going out the window!" Her attacker drew a pistol and fired, but the glass shattered where she was already through. Go, go, go, her mind yelled but her head and shoulders screamed otherwise. She was almost there when a bullet whizzed by her and hit the van. Another one flew by. She dug for the Corvette keys as she approached the sedan. The keys kit the pavement as a searing heat flooded her upper left arm. She stumbled to her knees and rolled across the pavement ending up at the Corvette's back wheels.
"Stop firing, we've got her." I'm pissed off now, no, you don't! She dove for the keys. She was luckily shielded between the sedan and van as she started the Corvette. He left arm was completely useless. One step at a time, I guess. Let's see what happens. She fired a bullet into a front tire on the sedan and van. Apparently they changed their minds about firing because another bullet whizzed by her shoulder as she peeled out of the parking lot. Face will be ill, no, pissed about the bullet hole in his windshield. She tired to pull her arm closer to her body so the blood wouldn't drip onto the car's interior. She wasn't in the mood to hear him whine.
"Men, any ideas?" Hannibal asked his three men. Somehow, he had persuaded Rhett to go home and let them use the airstrip as a kind of base. They didn't need another civilian at risk. All three shrugged. "They didn't take Face when they had the opportunity and they've only made threats against Amy and Marie." Face handed the Colonel a cigar. Maybe this'll help, I hope. "Murdock, don't worry." You, too, Colonel, but it wouldn't be so bad if they weren't innocent civilians caught up in this.
Four heads jerked up as they heard the Corvette streak into the parking lot. Four mouths dropped open as they recognized Marie climbing from the car. They were speechless. "Can't handle myself?" She asked and collapsed into Hannibal's arms. He picked her up and held her against his chest.
"Open the door, let's get inside!" Hannibal ordered. He gently laid her on the floor. "First aid kit, somebody!" The bullet had missed her shirt sleeve. Good, no cloth fragments. Nice and clean. Murdock began working on cleaning the wound. She had so much blood on her shirt that Hannibal began checking her whole body. This would be nice under any other circumstance. Her eye was beginning to swell shut from the knots on her cheek and her forehead. "Murdock, roll her on her side. Gently." It wasn't as worse as he thought. Just two set sets of long bruises across her shoulder blade. "Alright, roll her back. Careful!" He set to cleaning her busted forehead. She had cracked it just enough to bleed. He was eased to know that all the blood in her hair was just from that cut. "Murdock, how are we doin'?"
Murdock had held up well under the circumstances. He had been worried from the first moment Marie told them about the threats, but it was a mild worry. With the team around, nothing would happen to either of his two favorite ladies. Half of his concern was with him, but now it was replaced by a searing red anger. "Almost done." He replied securing the bandage. "Mess up your plan?"
"Wish I had one, 'cause, right now . . .I'm severely pissed off." Hannibal chewed his cigar in thought. "Won't have a plan either 'til we bring her 'round. God, I hate to do this. She's so much better out." Murdock scooted around her so he could rest her head in his lap. Hannibal patted her cheek. "Marie? Marie? Honey, can you hear me?"
"Yeah, yeah, I can," she mumbled, peeking out from under one eyelid.
"I need you to tell me everything from the beginning. It's real important, so try as best as you can, sweetie." Hannibal squeezed her hand. BA knelt by her and held a glass of water to her lips. She was coming off her Jazz high and beginning to hurt pretty badly. She related it all through clenched teeth. She had been attacked, kidnapped, and shot. The evening caved in on her. A few tears slid out of the corners of her eyes. She had cried once and only once in front of Hannibal and she wasn't going to now. "Let it go, baby, let it go. No one will think less of you." A few more tears were wiped away by Hannibal and her face scrunched up threatening a sob.
She took a deep breath and spoke, "No, I can handle myself and I can handle this." She tried to sit up but Hannibal pushed her back.
"Listen to me, Marie. Let that go for now. If there is still a problem when we get back, we'll talk. Right now, you've got to stay calm and rest so you won't get worse."
"That's right-e-o, M. P. I'll even give you one of my Popsicles, but I want the stick back. 'Kay?"
"Sure," she sighed.
"I'm sending you to Maggie's. I don't want you at a doctor's anywhere around here where they can get to you again." Hannibal scooped her up in his arms. She laid her head on his chest and reveled in the feel of his touch. Murdock jogged in front of them. He lowered the passenger's seat of the Corvette and Hannibal gently laid her down. He shrugged out of his jacket and tucked it around her. He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Don't worry, you'll be fine." Murdock grasped her ears on either side of her head and laid a big smacker on the top of her nose.
"Oops, sorry 'bout that," he joked, pretending to wipe slobber off her nose.
When they had brought Marie out, Face had been standing beside the Corvette, running his hand along the windshield. When Marie had finished her story, he felt he had to get out the room. Feelings of guilt had washed over him. It was my job to protect them and what did I do? Royally screwed up. Hannibal will have my hide for getting Marie hurt. He watched as Hannibal situated her in the car and thought he saw something behind the Colonel's eyes he had never seen—perhaps real love for another woman? A steady woman in his life is what he needed. Someone beside us guys all the time, but how realistic can that be?
"Face, I want you take her to Maggie's. They'll find her too easily here. Have Maggie check you out too, okay?"
"Colonel, I can't. . . I've failed her once already . . .no . . . I . . ."
"Here's a chance to redeem yourself, kid," Hannibal said, giving him a hearty slap on the back.
"Aw, great," Face mumbled and ran his fingers through his hair. With a stash of extra ammo and weapons, Face was off to Bad Rock.
"So, kemosabe, what now?" Murdock asked, doing his best imitation of Tonto.
"My main concern is getting Amy out. We'll deal with those slimeballs another time. Amy is now top priority. Let's stake out the winery warehouse. BA, bring the radio so we can stay in touch with their 'soggy bush.'"
Hannibal tossed the binoculars on the dash of the darkened van. "Four, five, maybe, can't tell, it's too dark."
"So . . .frontal assault with a half pincer movement, Colonel?" Murdock asked between slurps.
"No, it's more of a back porch, front door approach."
"Huh, what? Still has 'front door' in it. What did ya think, foo'?" BA glared. Murdock shrugged his shoulders.
"Here we go!" Hannibal picked up the radio. "Hey, Hot Lips, this is Hannibal Smith. Someone tells me you know where we can find some action."
There was a few seconds of static before Williams' voice came in over the radio. "Smith, I have something you want. I suggest you watch your mouth."
"Trying to watch your mouth is like trying to look in your ear. It's impossible."
"Smith," he growled through static.
"I have a proposal."
"You're in no position to make proposals."
"Wait 'til you hear it. We'll come to you, all four of us, unarmed. In exchange, you let Amy Allen go."
"Hannibal!" BA protested. Hannibal raised his hand and eyebrows in a "hold on a minute" gesture. Murdock flopped back in his seat.
"All four of you?" Williams asked chuckling.
"Yeah, but you have to let Allen go."
"How do you know she's not dead?"
"You wouldn't have anything to bargain with."
"Yeah, can't help it, it's my nature. We'll meet you at your store in thirty minutes." Hannibal clicked the radio off.
"I suppose we're not keeping our dinner date with Hot Lips, huh, Colonel?" Murdock asked, placing folded hands under his chin and batting his eyelashes.
"I hate to stand him up, but I have to wash my hair tonight and rearrange my sock drawer."
"You both crazy," BA muttered.
"Yeah, ain't it a beautiful thing, big guy?"
"Let's get Amy, guys."
Three dark figures slithered across the street and into the shadows of the warehouse. A side door was opened and the men slipped in. The warehouse appeared empty in the dim light. Weapons were drawn as they moved, back to back, across the cool grey floor.
Murdock sidled up to Hannibal. "Where's everyone?"
"Good question. Let's not question it now though. Amy has to be there." Hannibal motioned toward the office. The threesome floated to the office door. To Hannibal's surprise, it was unlocked. Amy sat huddled in a corner, bound and gagged. She looked up as the team came in, her light brown hair falling across her face.
"Amy!" Murdock rushed forward. He wrapped his arms around her and then pulled back to look at her face. She began mumbling through the gag. "Sorry, Chiquita." Murdock loosened the gag and untied the ropes.
"Where's Face? How about Marie? How are we getting out of here?"
"One thing at a time, chica. Are you alright?"
"Yeah, just tired and sore," she replied, stretching her arms and legs.
Hannibal turned from his position. "There's still no one. We need to . . ."
"What is it?" B. A. asked when he heard Hannibal trail off.
"Face's radio." Hannibal picked it up and tossed it to Amy. "They know we're here. I don't how but they know. That's why it's been too easy. We need to get out now. BA, see anything?"
"Can't see much. Nuthin' ah can tell."
"Amy, stay in the middle of us. We'll shield you."
"Hannibal, I may not have been trained in the special forces," she icily spoke the last words, "But I do know how to pull a trigger."
"Murdock." Murdock produced a .9 mm from inside his jacket. She slung the radio strap over her shoulder and carefully took the gun from his hands. "Satisfied? Let's go."
As Amy and Murdock stood, gunfire erupted in front of them sending the two large glass windows of the office crashing to the floor. Murdock pulled Amy down behind the steel desk in the middle of the small room. BA and Hannibal followed suit.
"Wait. Don't return fire," Hannibal mouthed. They stayed still until only the sounds of the shots reverberated in the now silent warehouse.
"Smith, you broke our deal," Williams' voice echoed off the tin walls.
"It hasn't been thirty minutes."
"Nor is Peck with you."
"Yeah, he had another date. He wanted me to tell you not to bother calling him either," Hannibal snickered.
"Hard to be on a date when you're with your best friend's sister at a Dr. Sullivan's office."
"Damn," Hannibal lowered his head. He looked around him trying to find a way out.
"What now, Hannibal?" BA asked with a worried look on his face.
"We get out of here," Hannibal whispered.
"No reply, Colonel? If you put down your weapons now and come out, I promise to let the ladies go."
"I'd rather run naked through a cactus patch during a tornado."
"Your choice. I'll give you and your men a moment to talk it over and then we're coming in."
Hannibal motioned for Amy to move closer to him. "Amy, want a chance to prove yourself?" Amy just rolled her eyes. "You're the only one small enough to fit through that window." Hannibal pointed to a little window on the outer wall of the office. "Go out that window. We'll cover you. The van is across the street behind the attorney's office. Bring it through that wall there. Aim between that window and that window." He gestured to exact point he deemed best to take out a wall. "Too far to the right, you hit us. Too far left and you're in the middle of Williams' men. You can do it?" Amy swallowed hard and then nodded.
"We're coming in Smith."
"Okay, Hot Lips!" Hannibal sang out. "Now!" he whispered. The team popped up from behind the desk and began firing. Amy shoved the chair against wall. Standing on the chair, the window was a little below shoulder high. She slid the window open and dove through head first. The pavement came rushing up to meet her. She tried to tuck and roll the way she had seen the team. Every bone in her body jarred.
"They make it look so easy." She raced across the street listening to the gunfire in the building. She found the van exactly where she was told. She strapped herself in and squealed out of the vacant lot. The sound of blood rushing in her ears blocked out all sounds. The whole scene felt so surreal, almost like an out-of-body experience. She closed her eyes and shielded her face with her arms as the van crashed through the wall.
"She's through!" Murdock shouted. The three of them dropped back down behind the desk. Williams and his men returned fire. They waited for another moment.
"She should almost be back. Ready?" BA and Murdock nodded in response. They sprang up again firing over their enemies' heads. Hannibal smiled as bodies went flying trying to escape the van's way. Murdock covered them as they fled to the van. "Nice, kid, nice," Hannibal grinned as he climbed into the passenger seat. "To Maggie's, BA." In the dark, they were gone before Williams could follow.
Maggie and Marie were oblivious to the four men who invaded her home. From the painkillers Maggie had given her, Marie dwelled in the land of the unconscious as Maggie diligently worked over her. She peeled the rubber gloves from her hands as she headed out to check on Face only to find him being held at gunpoint. "Sorry, Mo," Face apologized.
"Don't be, I understand," she replied, taking a seat beside him on her couch at the insistence of the gunmen. "Now what?" she whispered.
"I'm not gonna sit here and just wait," she protested.
Face glanced down at his Rolex. "It won't be long. The team'll be here soon." Maggie folded her arms and sat back against the sofa in a huff. She rose occasionally to check on Marie. Marie was fine but she was looking for a way to move around instead of staying put and making small talk with their captors.
Face showed no recognition of the sounds of the van pulling up outside the house, especially since no one else heard gravel crunch under tires. Face leaned over to Maggie, "The team's here, be ready for anything." As he sat back up, there was a knock at the door.
"Dr. Sullivan, Mo, it's me, Cooter, from the mill. Open up, ah hurt mahself at work." Maggie looked to the gunmen for permission to answer the door. The four dispersed across the room trying to act as casual as possible. Maggie headed for the door.
"Cooter, what did you do? Are you by yourself?"
"Yeah, it's just me," Hannibal replied, stepping through the door in one of his many disguises. He was holding a cloth to his head that was soaked with "blood." She began to escort him to her examination room. "Well, dat nu fangled machine we just got et mah shirt tail so I tried ta pull it out, ya know . . ." and the door closed behind them. Hannibal quickly shared his plan with her.
Moments later, Face heard banging and crashing in the room. Guys, now is not the time. For God's sake, Marie's in there. Face remained poised on the edge of his seat anyway, waiting for action. Maggie flung the door open. "He's having a seizure. I need two of you to hold him down. Now!" Two of the men strode over and Maggie pulled the door to behind them. There was a little more crashing and then all was quiet. Hannibal had slugged one so hard he went out with one punch. Maggie had clocked the other over the head with the butt of a rifle Hannibal had smuggled in.
Hannibal made use of what he could of medical tape to tie the two up. When he felt the time was right, he gave Maggie the go-ahead to start Phase II of the plan. She peeked her head out the sliding door and motioned for one of the men. "I think you might need to come in here." The two looked apprehensively at each other but one broke away anyhow. When he was within a few steps of the door, Maggie moved back and Hannibal stepped up to take her place. If one blinked, he or she would have missed the whole scene. Hannibal threw an uppercut into the man's chin causing him to stagger and drop his shotgun. Face kicked the six-shooter out of the other's hand while he was distracted. Maggie wasted no time in scurrying for the dropped shotgun, dragging it behind her as she dashed for the six-shooter. Before either man could retaliate, both found a weapon either in his back by Maggie or in the gut by Hannibal.
"Ahhhh," Hannibal sighed. "Felt so good, I think I need a cigar." Face tossed him one across the room and Maggie rolled her eyes. "Williams is about fifteen minutes behind us and we've used most of that already. Let's go!"
Face waited in the church steeple that BA had occupied the last time they had took out thugs in Bad Rock. BA stood ready on the sidewalk with an M-16 aimed at the four men tied together in a bundle sitting in front of the Sheriff's office. Hank and Jack waited anxiously in the office. Murdock hid around the corner a few buildings up. Maggie crouched in the shadows across the street. Hannibal stood, ready for action, a store down from the Sheriff. Amy was sandwiched between Murdock and Maggie, having squeezed herself between two stores set close together. When Williams came into tow, he would be completely surrounded.
The maroon van followed the black sedan, both with new tires, down the main road. Face meticulously calculated seconds, yards, and speed and then fired a bullet into the front tire of the sedan. The sedan slid sideways stopping inches away from the bound men. The van slammed on its brakes, slamming into the rear quarter panel of the sedan. As the dust settled, BA sniggered at the cringing men sitting in the dirt before him. If this had been another routine mission, he would really have been enjoying himself. Another sedan rounded the curve of the dirt road. Face waited for just the right moment. The car rear-ended the van. Williams slowly climbed out of the first sedan, watching his downfall materialize out of the woodwork.
"Tell your men to drop their weapons or BA plugs these four. Or better yet, I take you out myself. Try anything you like, but my sniper has strict orders to see you out of this world if you so much as move a muscle." Hannibal barked the orders with the cigar dangling from his lips. Williams gave the signal to his henchmen to drop their weapons. "I want all of you to get in a nice little pile surrounding these other slimeballs." No one moved. Hannibal pulled the hammer in place on his .45 revolver. Murdock, Maggie, and Amy did the same stepping closer to the vehicles. "MOVE, NOW." Each of them shuffled to stand around those already bound. "Now for a nice big group hug. Murdock," Hannibal called. Murdock ran circles around the men with a heavy rope pulling them together tighter and tighter.
"Hope you all put on your deodorant," Murdock giggled. Everyone else closed in around them.
"Hank, we leave them to you and Jack. They're all yours." Hannibal maniacally looked over the group. "You're lucky Hank's here to keep me off of you. Guys, let's go."
"Um, Hannibal," Face came running up to the Colonel, tapping him on the shoulder.
"You see that guy there in the blue shirt," Face pointed into the group.
"The one with the black goatee?"
"Yeah. Well, um, he's the one who put Marie through my coffee table."
"Really?" Hannibal's lit up.
"Yeah, and that one riiiiight there . . ."
"Yeah, that's the one, he's responsible for her shiner."
Hannibal's grin turned into a broad smile. "A little birdie tell you this?"
"Yes, and this little birdie gloated about it." Face raised his eyebrows antagonizing the Colonel.
"You're such a bad man, Face." Face smiled sheepishly and shrugged.
Murdock began dancing around the group. "You in trouble now! Be prepared to be offered up as a sacrifice to the wooden goddess. Hee, hee, hee," Murdock taunted.
Hannibal sauntered over to the first man in question. Four eyes stared at each other unflinching. "Son, didn't your momma teach you never to hit a woman?" Cold dark eyes glared back. "Well, then, never hit a woman." Hannibal landed one across his face and placed a jab in his stomach. "Especially if she's close to the A-Team." The group swayed as the man doubled over. Hannibal hooked his thumbs in his jeans pockets. Grinning, he sauntered over the second man. His gulp was fairly audible by all. "That felt so good. Don't it feel good to hit someone?"
"Sir?" Hannibal laughed turning to smile at BA. "I guess not. So, you think you learned your lesson?"
"Oh, yes, yes, sir."
"I don't know. BA, do you think this lesson needs reinforcement?" The man's brown mustache quivered.
"If you don't, ah will!"
Hannibal shrugged his shoulders. "Okay." The man sank to the ground causing the whole group to teeter and men piled upon each other, arms and legs sticking out everywhere.
"What a slobber knocker. Huh, Facey?" Murdock asked playfully jabbing at Face.
The team and Maggie left Hank and Jack to do what they do best. "Mo, can we crash at your place tonight?" Hannibal asked reclining in a rocker on her porch.
"You know you're welcome any time." She smiled at him.
"And we're more than grateful. By the way, thanks for your help with Marie. Everything's fine?"
"Yeah, should be no problems."
"You're the best, you know that?"
She blushed. She started to respond when Murdock burst through the door. "What are we doing, Colonel?"
"Staying here, Murdock. You and the guys go ahead and bed down. I'll wake you for watches just in case."
Murdock yawned and stretched. "It's not that late but we did save our damsels in distress and round up some bad guys. All in a good day's work. Night, Colonel. Oh, Billy says 'goodnight' too."
"Goodnight, Billy. Goodnight, Howlin' Mad. Rest well." Murdock entered the house calling Billy after him.
Maggie stood from the porch swing. "They'll invariably need help. Come see me before you go to sleep." She traced the outline of his ear with her finger and headed inside.
Hannibal didn't follow her. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back letting the chilly air clear his mind. He shivered a little from the cold and opted to go inside. A decision had to be made and it had to be made now. He rose to his feet and went straight to the room Maggie had settle Marie in. The door was ajar so he peeked in. She seemed to be sleeping soundly so he took a few steps in.
Marie knew it was Hannibal because she could smell him—that wonderful smell only he had. She really didn't want to talk to him, not at that moment anyway. She kept her eyes closed and didn't move. He stood there for a minute and then walked to the side of her bed. He lightly caressed her bruised cheek with the back of his hand and whispered, "I'm so sorry." Shivers coursed down her spine at his touch. Mistaking them for a chill, he pulled the blanket up higher over her shoulders. His scent lingered in the air long after he had gone.
He tentatively knocked at Maggie's door. "Mo?"
"Come in." She stood before him in a silk robe. She ran her hands over his chest and started to unbutton his shirt.
"Mo, we need to talk." He placed his hands over her stopping her halfway down his shirt.
"Talk," she said and pulled her hands away to untuck his shirt.
"Not this way. You see, there's someone else." Maggie's hands dropped from his bare chest. He cupped her face in his hands. "I know all this sound like garbage at this point but you are a special woman. You are not at fault at all." He searched her eyes for a just a glimpse of her thoughts. Neither realized they had left the door cracked open a bit until they heard a small rapping at the door and saw Marie's face peek around it.
"Maggie, I need . . ." Hannibal saw the look of shock on her face. She slowly stepped back. Her heart wriggled its way into her toes and any hope she ever had flitted off into oblivion. "I, uh, I . . .I didn't . . .um, mean to . . .to interrupt. I, uh, well, uh, never . . .never mind." Marie turned on her heels and was gone.
Hannibal reached out to her as she turned. "Marie, no, wait." But she never heard him even though he could hear her door slam.
"Your someone else?" Maggie asked.
"I. . .yeah, she's my someone else. I'm really sorry."
"Don't be. There are some things that can't be helped. Maybe you should go and talk to her." Maggie watched one hell of a lover walk out of her room. No, she never loved him but he was a warm body that filled her needs. Hank was too busy being Sheriff to notice that she had intimate needs. She was back to square one. I can always try Hank again, she sighed.
Hannibal was out the door buttoning his shirt as he went. He almost collided headfirst into Face. "Hannibal, is everything alright. . .ignore that question. I can see for myself. Do you want me to talk to her?"
Hannibal almost replied in the affirmative but paused. "Lieutenant, do you know something that I don't know?"
Face glanced down at the floor and shuffled his feet. "No."
Face nervously ran his fingers through his hair. "I promised I wouldn't say anything." How stupid could I be? I could lie to scam anything but couldn't lie about something as simple as this.
"That's alright. You've told me everything I need to now." Hannibal brushed by Face and continued on his way.
Face stopped him. "Hannibal, let me." Face knocked on her door and waited for her to reply. "Marie, I know you're awake. Please let me come in."
"I'm fine. Don't bother yourself with me," she called from the other side of the door.
"No, you're not and I'm coming in." Face did just as he said. He could see her form buried underneath blankets and pillow. He sat on the bed beside her. "Marie, come out, please."
"What do you want?" She asked, her voice muffled by a pillow.
"I want to check on you."
"I'm fine. You can leave."
"Marie," he sternly replied. She peeked her good eye our from under the covers. It was red and he deduced that she had been crying or at least attempting to hold it in. Hannibal may be my superior, but he will have to answer for this one. "Don't cry."
"I'm not," she sniffed. "My head is hurting really bad."
"NO, it really is. Maggie said to come get her if I needed anything. I just wanted something for my head. I didn't mean to interrupt."
"Whatever," she mocked, glaring at him through one eye. "Look, I don't feel like talking. If you're really concerned about me, just get me somethin' for my head and have everyone else leave me alone." Her eye disappeared underneath the blanket.
Face decided it was best to let it drop for now. The ball was in Hannibal's court now. He obtained a pain killer from Maggie and left it with a glass of water on the nightstand. He quietly closed the door behind him. He found Hannibal back on the porch again. "I suggest you straighten things out and soon."
"I was doin' that when everything went all wrong." Hannibal explained the whole situation to him. He tossed his hands up. "Wrong place, wrong time. Plan didn't come together."
"It still can. You're just taking a detour. When has any of your plans worked the exact way you've planned them?"
"Well, there was that one in Tarzana, no, that doesn't count, how about. . ." Hannibal sheepishly grinned shrugging his shoulders.
"Exactly. Sleep on it and fix it tomorrow."
Murdock's time in the "outside" world was up so Marie expected to wallow in misery alone for the weekend. Hannibal's comment seemed to be threatening that. "I can stay by myself. Look, BA, I'm starting to be able to see out of my other eye. Tell him I'll be fine."
"Look, mama, you know ah cain't stop 'im. 'Sides, ah thank you need someone there too."
"See," Hannibal grinned.
"No, thank you." She slid out of the van and headed up the sidewalk to her door.
"You gonna let 'er go alone?"
"Just wait. She'll be back." Hannibal slyly smiled. Marie was back like he said, pecking at his window. He rolled the window down and she held her hand out. "Want these?" He dangled her house keys above her head. If looks could kill, she thought. He motioned her away from his door. He headed up the walk, keys and a duffel bag in tow. She reluctantly followed.
Few words had transpired between them and Marie predicted fewer still. She was still tired and sleepy. She mumbled something about having the place to himself and promptly went to her room, shutting the door behind her. The next thing she remembered, he was knocking on her door, calling her name for supper.
Little was said over the meal. Hannibal couldn't believe that he was at a loss for words. He wanted to talk with her about the night before but didn't feel the time was right, or at least that was his excuse for not having a clue where to start. She finished her meal, expressed her gratitude, and excused herself from the table with a minimum of words. After an exasperatingly long bath and the inability to do anything with her hair because of her arm, she decided bed was the best place to be. After another dose of painkillers, she found herself in dreamland.
When Hannibal heard the soft click of her door, he laid his book aside. He was so frustrated with himself. Their relationship couldn't continue this way and definitely wouldn't end this way. He was bound and determined "to get his girl" tomorrow, if she would still have him. After the late night news, he resigned himself to bed.
Hannibal didn't sleep well, spending much of the night awake. So it was needless to say he was instantly at Marie's side when he heard her scream echo through the small home. He found her sitting up in bed, tears streaming down her cheeks, fumbling in the dark for the lamp that was on the same side as her wounded arm. He turned the light on for her. When she realized she was no longer in her dream and recognized Hannibal before her, she reached for him and he pulled her close. She clung as tightly to him as possible with one arm, clutching the back of his shirt in her fist. He held her until her heaving sobs calmed, stroking her hair and rocking her. "You want to tell me about it?"
She nodded against his chest, took a deep breath, and dove in. No turning back. "I watched you die and I couldn't do anything about it. It was so real that I didn't know I was dreaming 'til you came in here. They had you before a firing squad. You were taking Templeton's and BA's sentences to save their lives. But you hadn't done anything, none of them had. I was there, I don't know why I was there, but I was. I watched them shoot you. They wouldn't let me see you while you were in jail. You died before I could tell you . . .before I could tell you I love you." She pulled away from him. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. Go before I say somethin' else I don't need to."
Hannibal placed a finger on her lips. He knew in that instant that she wasn't a replacement for the woman he had lost before. She felt different to him in his arms, and then the realization came. "Shhh. It's okay. I love you too."
"No, John, I don't love you like I love Templeton or BA or H. M. It's different." He stopped her again.
"I know and I love you too."
"Don't play with my emotions. Do you really mean that?" She looked in his eyes and saw the same expression there as she had seen that day in the hospital. He pulled her back to him, taking her mouth in his. This time, she returned his kiss with fervor instead of shock. After losing him to Maggie, she had thought, she wasn't about to let him go this time. Please don't let this be a dream, she begged. Their passion continued in the kiss for what felt like forever. Neither wanted to break the moment, but both knew they couldn't remain lip locked forever. A sharp pain in her arm drew her back and she had to pull away.
"Does that answer your question?" He asked brushing a lock of hair away from her eye. She smiled with a sniff and began wiping her cheeks dry. Her hand trembled, more from the kiss than the dream, as she tried to untangle her legs from the sheets. He took her hands in his. He held her right hand to his right, palm against palm. He had such large hands against hers. She could only imagine what he could with those hands and that familiar feeling rose in her lower stomach. "Do you want me to stay 'til you at least get to sleep?"
"Please," she squeezed his hand. He settled her back in bed, curling up around her. He felt so good around her and she hoped there would be many more nights like these with him in her bed, maybe even after they . . . No, just sleep, technicalities later.
He breathed in her lavender scent of her hair, twirling a lock in his fingers. He slid his hand under her arm propped on pillows. He splayed his fingers across her stomach and pulled her closer to him. She was such a breath of fresh air and, for a brief moment since they had been on the run, he felt at peace as he drifted off to sleep. He hadn't had the intention of sleeping the rest of the night in her bed but he couldn't tear himself away from her.
She awoke to the wonderful smells and sounds of breakfast being made. She pulled her terry cloth robe on and situated her arm in the sling. She crept down the stairs and turned the corner into the kitchen to catch him in the middle of scrambling eggs and whistling. He has such cute bare feet. They smiled at each other like school kids.
Throughout the day, every time their eyes would meet, the school kid smiles would appear, usually followed by a brief kiss. That evening, one innocent kiss turned to more. She ran her fingers through his soft hair as their tongues explored new territory together. Her hands explored his strong chest, wishing they could do more. She gasped as she felt his warm hand cup her breast on the outside of her shirt. He stopped kissing her. "I'm sorry. Do you want me to stop?" She shook her head and pulled his mouth back down to hers. He nipped at her lips as his fingers teased her nipples. He trailed hot kisses down her neck. He teased her skin as he slowly unbuttoned her blouse. She tried to keep herself from hyperventilating at the sheer pleasure of his touch. She tried to keep in the little moans that were escaping from her lips but he was killing her with his hands and mouth on her bare chest.
Suddenly he pulled away. He cupped her face in his hands. She looked up into his eyes. They had turned from a clear blue to a deep, dusky blue full of passion. "I want you more than I've ever wanted a woman before. If I don't stop now. . ."
"You'll never know how much I want you but I can't. . .well, my arm is practically useless and I don't know if we should because, well. . ."
"Don't worry about your arm. Let this be all about you. You can make it up to me another time." He pulled into his arms and pressed his lips to hers. Twenty-some odd years of Methodist preaching flew out the window and she succumbed to her desires—that evening and every evening for the next week. She didn't think she had ever spent this much time in all her life naked or in her bed. He was more than a gentleman to her—no pushing, always fulfilling her needs, and thinking of her first.
Marie spent only half days at work since the majority of her appointments had to be reassigned to Dave or Jerry. She lost money in the deal but it didn't matter because she had Hannibal waiting at home for her. The guys at the strip teased her for being in such a good mood after her "accident" with Face's "coffee table." She never told them who he was but they all knew some guy had her heart. After the first phone call to Face, Face knew without having to ask or be told. Murdock and BA were left debating why Hannibal was in such high spirits. Amy was paranoid and a little on the scared side of what Hannibal had gotten himself into and what he might be dragging them into. Marie wanted to wait a little before telling Murdock herself and neither was ready for whatever comments BA might have. Aside from that, she didn't think she could be any happier.
That is until Hannibal told her they would be heading out to Montana for about a week to help out an elderly couple. I can make it a week without him, done it a thousand times before, well, that was before, well, you know. . . He thought his heart would break at the expression that crossed her face when he told her about the mission. She watched him dress as he explained everything to her. He didn't want to go but he knew he had to. The rest of the world couldn't stop because of his love interest. She wrapped herself in the sheet and followed him to the door for one last kiss. She almost lost the sheet in the doorway as she melted into his arms. The door shut behind her and she leaned against the door, sighing and hoping to never wake from this dream.
She spent her free time curled in a blanket by the window, sipping hot chocolate, and planning for his return. She decided on a special dinner for his first night back, assuming they got to the kitchen before the bedroom. She thought of just what she would do to him as soon as she no longer needed her sling. She tried not to act like a pubescent teenager but she still giggled at the thought of the two of them together.
Sadly, a few days later, her thoughts came to an abrupt halt when a knock sounded at her door. I hope he's back early, she giggled and bounded for the door. She almost tripped over feet as she backed away from the sight of Col. Decker on her door threshold. He pushed his way past her calling MPs behind him. He turned on his heels to face her as the men fanned out through her home. "It would be in your best interest to tell me where Smith is now. It'll be a lot easier on the both of you. Don't make me do this the hard way, Miss Murdock." He watched her dark gold eyes wildly dart around the room. He could see her trying to find the "right" words in her head. He knew he had her right where he wanted her.
Fight back, stupid. Don't stand there looking guilty. Stand up to him. You've done it once before. She closed her eyes to focus her mind. She glared at him as she spoke evenly and calmly. "You may be some colonel in the army and I may be a lowly civilian but that does NOT give you the right to barge into my home and threaten me. I've told you once but I'll tell you again. I have no dealings with the A-Team. Please leave me alone. Now, if you have no 'real' reason to be here, get out."
"Oh, I have reason enough." He shoved a paper in her face. "It's legal, so don't waste your time. I have men surrounding this house. So one more time, where is Col. Smith?"
"I don't know!" Which is the truth!!
"Search it, men!" As an afterthought, "And put everything back the way you found it." Well, he might have some sympathy, she pondered as everything in her home was searched. Won't find anything anywhere, I think. We aren't that careless, I hope. When they found nothing, Decker mumbled an apology and was gone as quick as he came.
She picked up the phone and started to dial the van's number. No, it could be tapped. Her nerves were so frayed that she needed to talk to Hannibal or Murdock. Or anyone at this moment! She'd even talk to Amy, but Amy was with the team. She glanced at her watch. Rhett was still at the airstrip. Maybe he would take her up in the air, which would at least make her feel a little bit better. She readied herself and headed down the drive. When she turned off her road, she caught the unmistakable green of a military car.
The sky can wait. She decided on a couple of hours of errands. They were behind her everywhere she went. Either they sucked at espionage or she had been taught by the best. She opted for a grocery store payphone to call the van. She could be a trap and the team could walk in unknowingly.
"Roadkill Café. You kill'em, we grill'em."
"H. M., is John there?"
"Sure, M. P., You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"I'm not convinced and I've got a lot of experience in that arena, but here he is anyway." Murdock passed the phone over to Hannibal who held a curious look on his face.
"Marie, it's me. You need something?"
"Um, pum'kin, sweetie, we've got a small problem . . ." She let it all gush forward, even her pent-up emotions.
"You didn't call on your phone, did you?"
"Let's see, um, no. I ain't that stupid."
"Sorry, I know. Everything's going to be alright. We'll work through it. We're going to be out here for another week. Can you fly by then?"
"Maybe, I can't tell yet, but it'll be soon."
"We need some time off anyhow and the country out here is quite lovely in winter. Listen carefully, this is what I want you to do for now." As Hannibal detailed part of a plan, BA was amazed at how the man could come up with so many plans so fast. He felt he was at the shallow end of the dream pool when it came to things like that. He didn't include his mechanical genius in his mental wanderings.
Marie hung up the payphone and walked away feeling so dejected. She began devising ways of making an attempt to pass the loneliness of the next two weeks. On the other end of the line, Hannibal wasn't feeling much better either. He held the receiver to his ear for a moment after the line went dead, as if to hold on to her just a little longer. He gently replaced the receiver, promising himself to sort this out later knowing any distraction in their work could cause anything to go immensely wrong.
"Turn here, BA." Hannibal pointed down a street with his cigar.
"Hannibal," BA growled. "Ah wuzn't born yesterday. This is da way to da airport." When are they gonna figger out dat ah don't fly? One of these days . . .
"I know. We're not flying. We're just going to pick something up."
Murdock stuck his head between the two front seats. "Did ya have Billy flown out for me?"
BA growled as Hannibal answered with a "You'll see."
BA parked the van and jumped out quickly just to make sure they weren't about to try something on him. Murdock began drooling over all the planes. All of sudden, he yelled "MmmmmPpppppppp!" Face ducked back into the van, digging for his M-16. BA was in his seat, starting the ignition. Face peeked around the van, trained eyes searching for the military. Hannibal calmly leaned up against the van, snickering around his cigar and watching Murdock twirl Marie in a hug. Two embarrassed figures hurried out of the vehicle to come stand by Hannibal in an attempt not to feel so bad. Amy would have thoroughly enjoyed this, Hannibal thought. Work, such a tedious thing to have to return to.
Hugs were passed around and conditions were asked about. Marie and Hannibal still hadn't said anything to the team about themselves. When Marie came to Hannibal, he knew he couldn't resist. He had missed her so much, missed her touch, missed the feel of skin on skin. He wrapped his arms around her and bent her backward in a kiss. When he pulled her back up, she whispered "wow" in his ear, giving it a little nibble.
Questions abounded after the catcalls and whistles. Hannibal waved them off with the excuse that she had to be tired and they should eat supper first. "Everything go as planned? Any trouble?" Hannibal queried on the way.
"Rhett was more than happy to fudge the records. He wants them corrected the minute I get back but that should leave y'all plenty of time to get out of her. If Col. Decker is really looking for me, he's on his way to somewhere in Oregon right now." She laughed then whispered in his ear. "No worries." Her breath against his ear sent chills down his spine. Supper is going to be difficult, he thought to himself.
Later that evening, BA ignored Hannibal as he excused himself "to see about some things in the van." Hannibal knew that BA recognized his lie the minute the words passed through his lips. BA never looked up from his new gadget and acknowledged his excuse with a grunt.
Marie answered her door in a sleek, deep blue negligee. He asked as he slipped his arms around her waist, "Do you have a clue what you do to me?"
"Why do you ask? You think I was gonna sleep in this?"
"I was hoping to be your gown," he devilishly grinned.
"Well, I guess this needs to come off then." She started to slip the straps off her shoulders but he stopped her.
"No, let me." He picked her up and carried her to the bed. He slowly undressed, teasing her with each article of clothing, down to his black silk boxers.
"Planning on sleeping in those? BA would appreciate them," she smiled, licking her lips.
"Let's say, I had another plan for tonight." He crawled across the bed on hands and knees, like a tiger on the prowl.
"Show me," she huskily whispered.
"Oh, I will."
"Mmmm," escaped her lips as he nuzzled the crook of her neck and began placing kisses everywhere there was bare skin. A knock at the door brought the two of the most annoyed looks in the course of history. She grabbed a robe while Hannibal hid in the bathroom.
"M. P., it's me!" Marie opened the door to find none other than the infamous Murdock. "You already in bed?"
"Yeah, kinda." No lie, kinda.
"Sorry, just wanted to show you what I just finished." He proudly bounced up and down hiding something behind his back.
"Let's see it." Murdock produced a Popsicle structure reminiscent of a sci-fi fighter pilot helmet. "Great job. Looks good."
"I'm thinkin' of makin' three more for the other guys and we can wear them when . . ."
"Right, H. M." She hated doing this to her own brother. "Look, honey, I'm real tired. If you don't mind . . ."
"Sure, sure, see you in the morning," he grinned, knowing otherwise, but he didn't mind. He was more than happy for them. The repercussions of their relationship never crossed his mind. He chucked her on the chin and turned to go. He placed the helmet on his head and began re-enacting a scene from Star Wars. She laughed to herself then quickly shut the door to return to the "situation" at hand. Hannibal met her across the room wrapping her in a kiss.
"My turn," she murmured into his chest and pushed him down on the bed. She explored every part of his body with her mouth, enjoying the sounds that she was eliciting from him. Being the control freak he was, he flipped her over and pinned her down. Time stood still for the both of them, reveling in what they had missed during the time apart. After their first week together, neither thought it could get any better but that night topped them all.
Exhausted, she lay in the crook of his arm listening to his quiet breathing. Her mind drifted to the reason why she was here—eluding Decker to see Hannibal. She knew this would never work. Decker knew about her. God only knows when he would give up staking her out. Holidays would now be non-existent. She knew from the beginning that they would never have a normal relationship, but Decker threw a monkey wrench in the middle of that. Decker would find the whole team just because of her. Murdock could be taken with them too. She couldn't bear knowing that the two greatest loves, BA and Face a close second, would be behind bars just because of her. BA, Face, and Hannibal were better off without her now. Could she make that sacrifice? Would Hannibal let her?
She hooked her leg over his and began drawing lazy circles across his chest and over his scars. At first she hated the sight of his scars because it hurt her to think about what he had been through. Soon she began to think of them as beauty marks. Not only did they add character, they showed what a beautiful man he was. He had survived Vietnam and refused to turn his back on his country. He didn't spend his time feeling sorry for himself but helping others who couldn't find justice anywhere else though he hadn't been dealt justice.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Hannibal's voice startled her.
"Just thinkin' about how wonderful you are and how much I love you."
"Sounded like more than that?"
"You could practically hear the wheels turning." He kissed the hair on top of her head adding emphasis. She sighed. "Decker?"
"You were thinking about Decker." She nodded and he pulled her closer. "Me, too."
"What are we gonna do?" Hannibal began listing places they could sneak to and ways to attempt to elude the MPs. "It's not gonna work."
"Yes, it will." Hannibal raised himself up to look at her.
"It's too much of a risk."
"I will risk anything to see you."
"Yes." He had thought this through over and over. One more day with her would be better than none. He didn't exactly know how but he would protect her from Decker. He finally had that someone in his life who could accept who he was and he wasn't going to let her go just because of Decker. She was fine with the fact that he was wanted and that he wouldn't always be home with her every night. Marriage, on paper at least, was out of the question. Everyone would have to be extremely careful when it came to her. He tried to ignore that little nagging thought in the back of his mind that said this wouldn't work, but he felt he had to take the chance.
"No, I won't let you endanger yourself, my brother, or the rest of the team. I think we should end this here and now.'
"I'm not walking away from you."
"Then I'll walk away from you." She slid out of the bed and dressed.
"No, don't you realize I love you?"
She hated turning the question on him but asked anyway. "Don't you realize I love you, too much to see you waste what life you do have just because of me?"
"Then, what's your suggestion? Come with us?" He laughed.
"If you care to know, I would come with y'all in a heartbeat. I could do all the flying making H. M. a fourth set of hands all the time. I know, I know, stupid idea. Since it's not an option, there's only one thing to do—we stop seein' each other."
"I've already said 'no.'" He sat up emphatically.
"I don't want to see you again."
"Is that all you know how to say?"
He almost answered 'no' again but
caught himself. "Are you giving up
"Giving up is not the term I would use. Since this isn't gonna be a mutual thing, yes, I'm endin' it." She started pacing.
He rose to dress. "I can't believe you're not trying."
"Don't you dare accuse me of not tryin.'"
"That's what I'm doing. Problem?" He waved a sock in the air.
"Yes, I love you, and I don't want to ever hurt you and that will happen if we stay together."
"Like you're not hurting me now?"
"Better this way than Col. Decker catchin' us in bed together or findin' the rest of the team 'cuz of me."
"Stop pacing. You're driving me crazy."
"Tough. Now leave." She stopped to face him as she said those words and then turned on her heels to begin pacing again.
He tied his shoes and walked to the door. "That's fine. I don't want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with me." Those words tore through her heart. They hurt worse than when she had found him "with" Maggie. He slammed the door and was gone. She collapsed on the bed and cried herself to sleep. Hannibal kept walking. He couldn't believe what he had said to her. Maybe it is for the best. . . but the ache in his chest screamed otherwise. He wanted to hit something—real bad, but he just kept walking and to nowhere in particular.
"Will you and Marie be joining us for breakfast?" Face asked after seeing Hannibal's rumpled clothes and red sleepy eyes, thinking he had just spent a long night of pleasure.
"No, Jackson called early this morning. He needed her back for something. She didn't really give me any details. Wake me up when you guys get back." Three pairs of eyes smiled at each other, oblivious to all that had transpired between the couple in the early hours of the morning. The hints about the truth began dropping on the return trip home.
Hannibal was extremely quiet and extremely irritable. Murdock quickly retreated from him at the third or fourth snap. Face wasn't going to let him bite Murdock's head off one more time. The poker cards flew across the van as Face yelled. "What the hell is wrong with you? What exactly has Murdock done to you?"
"He has a sister." Hannibal stared sullenly out the window.
"Isn't that a good thing?"
"No." He didn't move.
"And why, may I ask?" Face drawled sarcastically.
"No, you may not ask," Hannibal retorted back.
"You guys break up already?" Murdock interjected.
"Want to talk about?" Face gently placed a hand on the Colonel's arm. Hannibal pushing it was his only response. "I think you need to talk."
"I don't want to talk about it." Hannibal plopped his head against the van window in a dejected manner.
BA spoke up, threatening, "You're gonna haf to talk about it or else."
Hannibal whipped his head around. "I will not talk about it. . .ever. . .Don't ask me again . . .ever!" His blue eyes shot icy fire at the occupants of the van. They all knew he wasn't kidding either. It was a closed subject—to Hannibal but the others' minds were racing. They had never seen Hannibal happier, even before they knew the cause for his elation. Now they were seeing him at his worst. Nothing was right about that.
BA wanted to put his fist through something—Hannibal's face. The man was enjoying himself and, at the same time, he wasn't putting the team in danger, which was a rare moment indeed. Murdock had curled up in a ball in his seat. He thought about how hurt his sister was right now and then how hurt the father figure in his life was too. It was too much to think about. He let his mind go blank until he and Billy were racing across a green meadow playing a game of fetch. Face began gathering up the cards strewn across the van. He had been there from the "start" with the two of them and he was ill. He felt he had a right to know what happened but could tell from Hannibal's expression that that information would never be divulged. Too many years with his commander told him to let it drop. More prodding would only result in further removal of Hannibal from the situation. He hoped the whole team would be able to put this behind them. They had weathered through much more than a broken relationship before.
"I know what Stockwell said, but there are three people who need to know right now we're alive." Hannibal began unbuttoning the "blood-stained" fatigues. "BA, find a way to contact your mother. Murdock, call Marie. Face, try to find out where Amy is and let her know."
"What about Tawnia?" Face asked.
"If you want," Hannibal replied nonchalantly. It pained him to think of how devastated Marie probably was, not to mention Amy and Mrs. Baracus. He still couldn't return to Marie, more so than ever before, even though it had been a couple of years since he had slammed that door. He still wanted her and hoped this would be an avenue to get there, including receiving his precious freedom.
Hannibal was right about her mental condition. She was in such a state of shock she never even got out of bed. She numbly answered the phone when it rang. She though she was dreaming when she heard Murdock explaining that her "family" was still alive. She tried to process this information. It has to be real. This thought drove her over the next few days until the nightly news confirmed that the A-Team was indeed missing. Even though the relationship had been strained, the most important people in her life were safe.
Hannibal leaned back in the plane seat. He fingered the plastic driver's license. It was the first legal one he had had in years. I hope I'm not making a mistake. He started debating his choice. He never debated options. He took the one that came to mind, usually the only one, and ran with it, no looking back. Not this time for some reason. What if she took back up of with Rhett? What if they were real serious? Would Murdock not tell me these kinds of things? His mind was ablaze with doubts.
He was flying out to California to home the Government had purchased him in Covina as an apology along with a handsome sum that he could retire on and live quite well. Murdock and BA were on other planes destined for Texas and Illinois respectively. Face remained in Langley to tie up a few "loose ends." They would meet again in Langley in six weeks to receive their formal pardons in a presidential ceremony and finally decide what they wanted to do with their lives. But first on his agenda was to see Marie. He had tried to forget her but there was no woman, no gun, no mission that could get her out of his mind. He still loved her and had to know if she felt the same.
Butterflies rose in his stomach when he heard her voice from the other side of the door. "Just a minute, I'm coming." Who could that be? It's been a long day and I'm not in the mood, she though as she opened the door with a furrowed brow that quickly smoothed. He looked absolutely delicious in a dark suit with a deep blue shirt and a tie. "John! Um, wha. . .what are you doing here?" It had been more than a year since they had last since each other, much more than that since they had spoken privately.
"I can leave."
"No, come in." She pushed the door open and stepped aside. "Have a seat, take your coat and tie off."
"I'm meeting with someone in about thirty minutes. I can't stay long."
"Can I get you something to drink?"
"Don't trouble yourself."
"It's not a problem. I'm getting something for myself."
"Water will do." He replied settling in a chair.
She kept talking as she poured drinks. "Who are you meeting, if I may ask?"
"Yeah, funny, isn't it? We're discussing some career options. He's about to go out of the country for several weeks, so this evening was the only time we could meet."
"I would love to have been a fly on the wall when he heard about y'all's pardons."
"Me, too," he chuckled.
There was an awkward silence. Both of them started at once. "You first," he gestured towards her.
"So, how long are you in town?"
"Permanently, kind of." She raised her eyebrows in question. "I have a house here now but depending on what the team chooses, I may sell it and move."
"Maybe you could show it to me sometime?"
"Yeah, whenever. Maybe . . .Are you busy tomorrow night?"
"No, I don't think so."
"You want to have dinner? I'll take you to the house, show you my piece of land, maybe we can make. . .I don't know, lasagna, maybe."
He was appealing to the Garfield inside her. "Well, um, yeah, sure." She was so scared to become involved with him again. It had taken her years to push the pain aside and stop the tears from welling up at just the thought of him. He was a free man now and she was more than happy for him—for all of them. She was looking forward to seeing Face and BA more often. It had been too long since they had last been in L. A. Whatever the case, she didn't want to be hurt over Hannibal again and she couldn't believe she had agreed to dinner.
"I'll pick you up at seven?" He smiled, his heart pumping with excitement at her agreement.
"Yeah, I can be ready by then."
"Well, good," he said, rising from his chair. "I'm looking forward to it."
She took his glass from his hand and walked him to the door. "Tell Col. Decker I said 'hello.' He'll enjoy that."
"Surprising as it is, he's now General Decker."
"Wow! Doesn't have the same ring to it anymore though."
"Yeah, oh, well. . .I'll be going now." He stepped towards her and reached out an arm to hug her. He drew it back and then, on second thought, he gathered her into a hug. She hesitantly put her arms around him. He felt so good and she found herself sinking against him. He didn't want to let go but reluctantly pulled back.
"See you tomorrow."
"'Bye, enjoy your meeting." She gave a smile that slowly faded when he was out of sight. Maybe they could have a fresh start, take things slow this time. Unsurprisingly, these same thoughts surfaced in Hannibal's mind.
Small talk was made in the black Ferrari. Hannibal always loved fast sports cars, she had thought when she first saw the car. Conversation quickly changed to his home as he turned into the drive. The driveway followed a creek in a heavily wooded landscape. The drive came upon the back of the house, and the house faced a large open field. "How much of this is yours?" He pointed beyond the field to another wooded area.
"See where the woods open again?" That's where it stops. And over here," he pointed at a corner field close to the house, "I'm putting a stable if I keep the house." Horses were a love they both shared. The house was large with several bedrooms and baths. The kitchen was a dream come true. "What are you gonna do with all this room?"
"I figure I'll find a wife to help occupy space and, of course, all the guests that come by."
"No little ones?"
"All depends on the wife."
"Oh." She continued following him around the home. "It's an absolute lovely place."
"Thanks." They stood silent for a few minutes in the hallway.
"Dinner?" he asked and gestured to the kitchen.
"Now's a good time as any to get started."
The conversation eased more as they began cooking together. Murdock had kept each of them filled in over the years as to what the team was doing, but they asked each other questions about the little things Murdock had left out. Hannibal talked animatedly about their past missions and about all the things Murdock had gotten into and the many psychoses that passed during his time with Stockwell. They picked their words carefully and there was still tension in the air between them that was slowly easing up.
After dinner, they settled together on the swing on the porch that overlooked the field. They quietly watched the lightning bugs on their quest for mates. Hannibal broke the silence. "I'm sorry."
"For that night in Montana." He grasped her hand in his.
"If anyone needs to apologize, it's me."
"No, I'm the one that stormed out."
"Oh, okay, not like I was the one breaking us up."
"You had reason," he countered.
"You had reason too," she pleaded.
"I'll accept your apology if you'll accept mine," he bargained.
"Done," she answered placing her other hand over his. They sat for a few more minutes in silence. Then she began again. "You think maybe, we could try this again, you know, you and me?"
"Do you really want to?" He peered into her eyes.
"Yes, honestly, yes, I do." She placed a hand on his chest.
"Me, too," he cupped her face in his hand. She took his hand from her face and held it in both hands.
"But slower this time. We, uh, jumped right into things last time, and well. . ."
"I understand. You don't have to have a reason."
She patted his knee. "It's getting late. Let's clean up so I can head home. Have to be at work in the morning."
The both of them washed the dishes, savoring the feel of knowing they were back together again. She dried off her hands and leaned back against the bar. He didn't think he could take it anymore. He stepped forward and took the towel from her hands. He dropped behind her and then caressed her cheek with the same hand. He leaned in and softly kissed her. He stomach flip-flopped and her head felt light. She brought her hands up to his chest in a defensive manner. "We're taking things slow, remember?"
"Yeah, but I've missed the taste of your lips so much," he replied. She smiled and his blue eyes twinkled when he smiled back. "Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night, too?"
"Tomorrow? Tomorrow's Friday. . .Yeah, but I won't be in until after seven."
"There's this great restaurant about an hour and a half out of town. I know that's a long drive just for food but it's worth it."
Neither thought that time could pass slower than that evening. The drive was pleasant up the coast. The restaurant could have been all Face's doing. The table was isolated in a wing all its own. Candles adorned the room casting a romantic glow. A bouquet of roses waited in her chair with a card with her name on it. The whole scene was so beautiful. Everything they had tried so hard to push away came flooding back. They were falling more deeply in love than they had over three years ago.
Because of the late hour, Hannibal chose a quicker route down the interstate. Fifteen minutes on the highway found them at a standstill due to a wreck. They weren't going far and not for hours. "We'll be at my house a half hour or more before yours. Stay the night? You can use one of the guest rooms." She pondered the question for a moment then agreed.
They spent the next day enjoying each other's company—making meals together, running errands, watching a movie. Hannibal wondered if everything would still feel this good if they were married. Marriage . . .It had been on his mind since he received his pardon. It's not like they hadn't known each other forever. Maybe. Got to take it slow though.
They soaked in the view from the front porch as dusk set in. He held her against his chest, afraid that any minute he would wake up from this dream. A light breeze tickled their hair. "Smells like rain." Marie said, turning around in his arms to face him.
"Looks like a thunderstorm," he replied. He leaned up from resting against the railing to peer at the sky. It was taking on an orange tint. The clouds were darkened with a green hue. A light rumble of thunder sounded.
"I love thunderstorms." She replied. The tension of the coming storm, the smell of the approaching rain, and the relaxed resolve of the maelstrom. The wind began blowing harder and the first raindrops fell. They hurried inside as the wind blew the rain on the porch wetting them. They cuddled in the window watching the approaching storm. The rain drummed hard on the rooftop. "This is what H. M. would call a toad strangler."
They both laughed as thunder shook the house and the power cut off. Between lightning streaks, Hannibal lit candles.
"Do you like thunderstorms because they can be so romantic?"
"Maybe," she devilishly grinned. He leaned in and kissed her softly and then a little harder. Marie couldn't resist. She linked her arms around his neck and twined her fingers in his soft hair. After an especially long, breath-taking kiss he pulled away.
"I love you," he breathlessly whispered.
"I love you too." She gently pulled his head back down so their lips met again.
He wasn't sure he could wait any longer but mumbled between kisses, "Are you sure you want this?"
"Oh, I'm sure I'm sure," she responded and began placing little kisses on his neck. He picked her up and carried her into his bedroom. Soaking in the electricity of the storm and forgetting everything else in the world, they began to make love as if it was the first time. Their desire heightened as the storm grew in intensity. The climax of the thunderclaps coincided with their final fulfillment.
The last rumbling of the storm drifted away and they lay in each other's arms, feeling as if their lives were complete. "Taking things slow, huh?" she whispered in his ear.
"Yeah, um, slow, that wasn't slow enough for you?" he broadly grinned.
"Let's try it again," she smiled back seductively.
Excerpt from The New York Times:
"Also in attendance was their Vietnam pilot Captain H. M. Murdock. Accompanying Lieutenant Colonel Peck in the formal ceremony was his sister Ellen Bancroft. Major Baracus escorted his mother, Mrs. C. Baracus. Their commander, Colonel Smith, was accompanied by his wife, Marie Murdock Smith."
Amy smiled as she folded the paper and tucked it under her arm. She had never been happier to write an article. The highly renowned reporter continued on her way down the sidewalk to meet Face for lunch. . .and maybe more, she thought and grinned, he is a free man now.
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