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            A Hint Of Doubt

       By Maestro

 

Rating: PG. Contains death of MAJOR (i.e. A-Team) character. If you don't want to hear about one of the Fantastic Four (Five?) biting the dust, or references to homosexual relationships then DO NOT read this story.

Comments? Sure, why the hell not. Just be nice, okay? This is my first ever A-Team story.

Summary: This is basically an alternative ending to the events at the start of series five, when the A-Team is put on trial for the murder of Colonel Morrison.

Warning: Contains spoilers for beginning of series five (including Frankie and Stockwell). Mild swearing. Slash m/m but only kissing and feelings. Brief reference to suicide. Also contains tiny spoiler for "There's Always A Catch".

 

* * * * *

 

"This is Kate Sharpe reporting live from outside the courthouse where the infamous A-Team are on trial for the murder of Colonel Morrison. Friends and enemies alike have turned up to watch this dramatic story unfold. The latest shocking development in the trial is the news that Captain Curtis, a key witness, was found dead in the early hours of this morning. The captain was the only witness to the murder of Colonel Morrison, who, it was revealed yesterday, was an informant for the Vietcong. The trial continues…"

            Doctor Richter switched off the television in his office. Although his involvement with the A-Team was limited, he could not help but consider himself a friend. He was deeply concerned, not only for them, but for his patient H.M. Murdock, who he believed was their secret fourth member. If the A-Team were convicted it could damage Murdock's mental health irreparably. He was not surprised, therefore, when the captain burst into his office clutching a newspaper.

            "Ah, Murdock. Our next session is not actually until three, but my door is always open." His gaze flickered to the dent the handle of the door had made in the wall. "Literally, it appears."

            His wry smile vanished when he caught sight of Murdock's expression. The usual lopsided grin was gone, and the young pilot's face was full of determination. Murdock held up the paper and showed Richter the headline – "KEY WITNESS IN A-TEAM TRIAL MURDERED."

            "I don't really have time for jokes, doc." Murdock threw himself into the chair in front of Richter's desk. "I need your help. My friends are in trouble."

            The captain let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes. Doctor Richter realised that this was going to be one of those rare times when Murdock was actually honest with him, instead of speaking from his fantasy world.

            "They're gonna call me to testify, doc. I wanna go, but I need them to take me seriously." Murdock opened his eyes and stared at the doctor. "I need you to declare me sane."

            Before Richter could reply Murdock jumped up and started babbling, gesturing violently. "I'll pass any of those damn psych tests. I'll look at inkblots until my eyes go blue. I know we haven't always seen eye-to-eye treatment wise, but I need you to help me." He started fiddling with his hat, a sure sign that he was nervous.

            "I understand that your friends are very important to you, but are you sure this is what you want to do? Are you even sure you can do it?" Richter searched for some hint of doubt in Murdock's eyes. Murdock sat down again. Boy, here goes…

            "When I came here, to the VA, I know I had some serious problems. Those camps messed me up real good, and you guys helped me find terra firma again. But, now…I'm okay. I only stay here for protection, for secrecy." Murdock smiled. "Plus that canteen food's fantastic. I mean, oatmeal and macaroni cheese on the same day? Better than the Ritz!"

            Richter smiled back.

            "The truth is, doc…I got over those demons a long time ago. I'm a-okay." Murdock made a Boy Scout salute. "Honest."

            The doctor knew that this was a remarkable breakthrough, and probably the closest to the real Murdock he was ever going to get. He wished he could switch on his tape recorder, or at least make some notes, but he knew that this would only make Murdock more jittery than he already was. "What exactly do you hope to achieve? The court will still listen to your testimony whether you are declared sane or not."

            Time for the big lies. Murdock looked into the doctor's trusting face. Jeez, how does Face do this? I feel like such a heel. "I know. It's just…now Curtis is dead, I'm all they've got. I need to make sure nobody can poke holes in what I say. Besides," Murdock leaned forward and lowered his voice to a whisper, "if things don't go as planned I might need to give them a little…outside help." The young pilot winked slowly and emphatically.

            Doctor Richter shook his head. He could probably be arrested for aiding a prison break. I could probably be arrested just for listening about a prison break. Nevertheless, if Murdock really was sane, he knew it would be wrong to keep him in the hospital.

            "Okay, Murdock. I'll give you a few tests and sign the papers. But, remember, you can always come back if you need to."

            Murdock jumped up and shook the doctor's hand violently. "Thanks doc. You have no idea what this means to me. I promise I'll send you an extra big box of cookies come Christmas." He grinned like a maniac.

 

* * * * *

"How's the plan coming, Colonel?" Hannibal looked over at the lieutenant's face. He looked worried. Well, obviously. There's something about facing a firing squad that makes people a little anxious. He tried to give Face a winning smile.

"C'mon Face. When have I ever not had a plan?" There was a snort from B.A. The big guy was lying on his bed, nervously fiddling with his jewellery.

"Remember that time we went up against Garber? And he called in Decker? You didn't have a plan then." Face smiled back.

"Yeah. We had ta rely on dat crazy foo'."

"Exactly." Hannibal took a long draw on his cigar; a little tricky with the handcuffs he was wearing. "It was brilliant then, and it's brilliant now. All we do is wait for Murdock to testify. When they don't get anything out of him, their case will fall apart."

B.A. snorted again. Face shook his head. "I suppose it's better than a classic half-pincer movement." Face replied. The colonel just laughed.

 

* * * * *

            Frankie was half asleep when he heard someone trying to pick the lock on the door. It had been a tough week – first Stockwell and his blackmail schemes, then the A-Team's arrest. He'd had Abels crawling all over him for days and he'd finally had enough. He grabbed the pistol from his bedside stand and stood quietly behind the door. When it opened slowly, he pointed the gun roughly where he thought the intruder's head would appear.

            "Freeze scumbag! You sure picked the wrong place to rob." Frankie cocked the gun and turned on the light so he could see the burglar better.

            "Gee Frankie, is this how you treat all your houseguests?" the familiar Texan drawl retorted. Frankie breathed a sigh of relief and put the gun in his waistband. He let Murdock in, locking the door behind him.

            "Haven't you ever heard of knocking? I could have shot you!" The pilot pulled the gun out of his waistband and examined it critically.

            "With this? It's not even real!"

            " The pilot pulled the gun out of his waistband and examined it critically.

            "With this? It's not even real!"

            "Yeah, but I could've made your jacket real damp." Murdock solemnly squirted Frankie's shirt. "Oh yeah, deadly," he said, handing back the water pistol. Frankie noticed the battered suitcase he was carrying.

            "Planning on staying long?" he asked, taking the suitcase and putting it on the couch. "How'd you find me anyway? I never gave you my address."

            Murdock thought back to the conversation he'd had earlier. "I suggest you stay with Mr Santana. He should be able to accommodate you for the evening."

            "A friend." Frankie gave him a curious look. Murdock turned round quickly. "Look, its not important. I need to stay somewhere 'til I testify tomorrow. Can I…I mean…"

            Frankie agreed readily. He still felt guilty about helping to set up the A-Team, even if Murdock didn't mention it. He even let him have the only bed.

 

* * * * *

            "Wakey wakey my dear boy." A mock British accent intruded into Frankie's dreams. "The early bird catches the worm, old chap."

            Frankie opened his eyes very slowly, and was met with the sight of Murdock's face, upside down, grinning into his. He looked at his watch.

            "Ah, Murdock, it's 7am."

            "I know. I tried to wake you earlier, but you kept curling into a ball and whimpering. You really should see somebody about that, y'know."

            "It's not even daylight yet!" Frankie whined. Murdock came into view again.

            "Aw, don't be such a baby. Get up." He pulled out Frankie's water pistol. "Don't make me shoot you."

 

* * * * *

            Murdock and Frankie stood outside the courtroom. The pilot seemed reluctant to go in. Frankie put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

            "Hey, it's okay. Just go in, tell the truth, and everything'll be fine." Murdock laughed. Sure, everything'll be just fine.

            "Frankie, you know Stockwell's still keeping tabs on you. He's got your place crawling with Abels."

            The tanned Puerto Rican grinned. "I know. Price of fame, I guess." He ran a hand through his hair. "They go through the apartment every time I step out. Not very neatly, either."

            Murdock took off his trademark blue cap and started playing with it again. Relax, just be casual. It's the only way to keep them safe. He looked at Frankie searchingly, and took a deep breath before taking off his leather jacket.

            "Hey, you want me to cool you down?" Frankie asked, revealing the water pistol in a shoulder holster. Murdock smiled and handed Frankie his jacket.

            "I need you to look after this for me," he said, trying to sound casual.

            "Hey, Murdock, you can wear jackets in a military court y'know." Frankie joked. He suddenly looked worried. "You can, right? Otherwise this shoulder holster's gonna be mighty hard to explain."

            Murdock laughed and nodded. "Yeah, you can wear a jacket. I just…don't want to." He screwed up his baseball cap again. "And…if something happens, I need you to give it to Hannibal."

            Real smooth, idiot.

            Frankie shook his head and started to protest. Murdock cut him off. "Look, I'm crazy, not stupid. I know what happened to Curtis could happen to me. The court could even detain me, or something." He grinned. "Maybe I'll get abducted by aliens, hell, I don't know. I just…promise me that if I don't leave the courtroom today you'll make sure that Hannibal gets my jacket."

            And its contents, Murdock added silently.

            Murdock's sudden serious outburst had made Frankie nervous. Although he didn't know the Texan that well, he had become used to his surreal, funny side. He wasn't used to a sane Murdock. He looked deep into the pilot's eyes, and nodded.

            "I promise. No problemo." Murdock nodded in agreement and put his cap back on. He suddenly became jokey again, and put his arm round Frankie's shoulders as he led him into the courtroom.

 

* * * * *

            "Are you Captain H.M. Murdock, United States Army?" the prosecutor asked.

            "Yes sir."

            "Could you tell the court where you currently reside?"

            "Well, up until yesterday I was a patient at the VA Psychiatric Hospital in Los Angeles."

Hannibal blinked, and did a mental double take. That was unexpected.

"Up until yesterday?" The prosecutor also seemed confused.

"Yes sir. I was declared officially sane yesterday afternoon, and spent the evening at a friend's apartment. I have no permanent address at present."

Hannibal looked over his shoulder into the crowd, and caught Frankie's eye. Frankie nodded to say it was true, and then shrugged. I just assumed he'd escaped again. Hannibal and Face exchanged baffled looks.

"You mean to say that you went from insane to sane in one day?"

"No sir. For the past few years I have been pretending to be insane for my own protection. I would also like to point out that my poor mental health when I left 'Nam was largely due to guilt."

Face was shocked. He had always suspected that a large part of Murdock's insanity had been make-believe, but to admit it in a court of law? What the hell is going on? All Murdock had to do was spout some nonsense, and the court would throw his testimony out. Why was he saying all this?

"Guilt, captain?"

"Yes sir. Over the murder of Colonel Morrison."

With these words the court descended into chaos. The three defendants jumped to their feet and started shouting at Murdock – why was he doing this? why was he lying to a military court? The judge banged his gavel and called for order. The MPs around them edged nearer, and their lawyer stood up.

"If you don't sit down, gentlemen, you will do your case some harm! Let him finish. Please." B.A. and Face looked to Hannibal, who nodded after a pause. They all sat down, and turned to Murdock. He had his head in his hands, and was hunched over. He was obviously distraught by his friends' responses.

In the crowd, Frankie was also upset. He didn't know the A-Team very well, but he didn't believe Murdock was capable of murder. This must be what he meant by, "if I don't come back."

"Captain. Are you able to continue?"

Murdock sat up slowly. He nodded, and started to play with his hat again. It's for the best. Come on. You can do this.

"Good. Now captain, would you explain what you meant by your last statement."

"I…I confess. I murdered Colonel Morrison."

B.A. hit the desk so hard it left a dent. Face shook his head violently. Hannibal gave no obvious signs of anger, but those who knew him could tell by the way he suddenly sat completely straight in his chair that he was just as shocked as his two friends.

"I…see. Why would you do this?"

" I went through a pretty rough patch towards the end of 'Nam. My girl back home broke it off, and I…blamed the war. I didn't tell anyone really, but I got angry, y'know? I started drinking more, and I got pissed off with the whole damn Army.

"Morrison knew how I felt. One night, he and I got drunk in the Officers' Club. He kept asking me how I felt – about the war, about my country. I was pretty far gone. I said a bunch of stuff I didn't really mean."

"Could you elaborate?"

"I, uh, said some stuff about how I thought the war was being run badly. I think I might have sounded pretty anti-American."

"What was Colonel Morrison's reaction?"

"He was pleased. He kept buying me drinks and telling me how much he agreed. Eventually he invited me back to his quarters – said he had some decent alcohol."

"What happened next?"

Murdock was so nervous by this point that he had screwed his hat into a ball. He took a deep breath.

"He, uh, asked me if I wanted to become an informant for the VC." Murdock was dimly aware of his friends' reactions on his left, but he ploughed on.

"What was your reaction?"

"I was shocked! I mean, I was pretty drunk, but… Look, you gotta understand about 'Nam. It was hell, and there wasn't a single person there who enjoyed it. I hated the war, but I love my country. Besides, one of the reasons I hated it so much was because of all the men that died. I wasn't gonna help the VC take out more guys."

"What did you say to Morrison?"

"I told him I was up for it." More shouts. "I thought…maybe I could get some evidence or something, stop him from informing the VC. If I'd said no he would have just shot me or something."

"I see. What did the colonel ask you to do?"

"He told me that he was planning to set up my unit. He was gonna send them to rob a Vietnamese bank and then deny giving the order. Said that if the greatest unit in 'Nam were caught in the act it'd destroy morale.

"He wanted me to drop the guys off and then radio him and some Vietnamese guy on a special frequency. I agreed."

"Did you try to tell anyone, or warn the A-Team?"

"Morrison was watching me too closely. I didn't get a moment to myself. I tried to warn the guys on the way to Hanoi, but by that time I had a reputation for being a little crazy. They didn't believe me."

Face searched his memory. Had Murdock tried to warn them? He couldn't remember.

"What did you do after you dropped off the A-Team for their final mission?"

"I didn't radio anyone. I…I'd failed when I tried to tell my friends – I couldn't stop the mission from happening. So I decided to do the next best thing.

"I flew back to base. We were under artillery attack at the time so it was a little tricky, but nothing I couldn't handle. I knew I'd never get a better opportunity."

"For what?"

"To kill the traitorous bastard that had set up my friends."

By this time the A-Team were too shocked to say anything. B.A. and Hannibal were boiling with silent rage; Face could hardly focus on what Murdock was saying.

"Go on, please."

"I went into his office with my gun drawn. I thought he was alone but I guess Curtis must have been there too. Morrison was surprised to see me – I hadn't radioed him.

"I told him exactly what I thought of him – he was a traitor. I cursed him for sending my unit into a trap."

Face looked up and saw Murdock. His features were twisted with rage, and he was staring into the distance, like he was experiencing the events that had happened that night. He looks like he's telling the truth. Could he really have killed Morrison?

Murdock no longer had any trouble finding the words to express himself. He was clutching his cap so tightly that his knuckles were white.

"I put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He died quietly, and no one heard to gunshot over the noise of the attack. I picked up the guys like nothing had happened, and when we returned the base was nothing but debris. There was no evidence left to show what I'd done."

"You have kept this a secret for many years. Why are you confessing now?"

"After years of therapy I came to terms with what I did. Morrison had a family, and I…I deserve punishment. I kept what I did a secret because I didn't want to go to jail, but now my unit's in trouble. They shouldn't have to suffer for what I did. They're innocent."

"Thank you Captain Murdock. No further questions."

There was a complete hush in the courtroom. No one made a sound, not Murdock, not the A-Team, not the dozens of journalists assembled. The judge cleared his throat.

"In light of this new evidence the court will take a one hour recess. Captain Murdock will be taken into custody. He should be kept away from the defendants for his personal safety." The judge eyed the dent in the table where B.A. had hit it. He banged his gavel.

 

* * * * *

Doctor Richter was glued to his television set. He felt like such a fool. Murdock didn't murder that man, I'm sure of it. He tricked me into declaring him sane so he could sacrifice himself for his friends. However, Murdock had passed all the tests. There was no way Richter could commit him again without proof, which he know Murdock wouldn't give him. He was powerless.

Frankie sat in his apartment in silence. He had opened Murdock's suitcase, thinking he could maybe bring him some things.

It was empty.

The pilot had planned this for a long time. Frankie's mind was reeling. He didn't believe Murdock had killed that colonel, but he couldn't prove it. Besides, he hadn't been there, had never experienced war except in the movies. Who knows, perhaps it's something that happened all the time? He had tried to visit Johnny in prison to give him Murdock's jacket, but was told that the prisoners were not allowed any visitors until after the trial. He felt kind of bad that he couldn't fulfil his promise, but he had done all he could.

The A-Team sat in silence.

B.A.'s temper had calmed. He no longer felt angry, just confused. He was still struggling with the idea that Morrison could have been a VC informant. As for Murdock, B.A. knew he was normally an honest man. Foo' wears his heart on his sleeve. Murdock had killed men in the war, they all had. But this was different. B.A. didn't know what to believe.

Hannibal thought of Murdock as his son. He had thought he knew everything that happened to them in the war. He would have told me. Surely he would have told me. All he could think of was the anger in Murdock's face when he spoke of Morrison's betrayal. That had been true, he knew that. But was Murdock a murderer?

Face couldn't concentrate on anything. Normally his mind was very ordered – he kept all of his thoughts very separate and clear. But now all his feelings were jumbled together. This must be what it's like to be crazy. I can't focus…can't think clearly…He was the conman; the expert on lies. Yet he couldn't tell if Murdock was lying or not. Damnit! He would have told me! We share everything! Face felt a mixture of emotions – betrayal, anger, confusion, love. At times one would become stronger than the others, and he would find it difficult to maintain his composed mask. Murdock, I need you…

In his cell, Murdock was shaking. He couldn't help it – he was warm and safe, he didn't feel sick. He just couldn't stop shaking. Impending death tends to do that to you, muchacho. Just be thankful you got through the trial intact. He kept replaying his friends' reactions to his confession. He saw B.A.'s anger, Face's disbelief, Hannibal's tense silence, over and over again.

Damnit, why can't I stop shaking? His silent visitor offered him a cigarette to calm him down. It didn't help. Nothing seemed to.

"Relax, captain. Everything is going according to plan."

 

* * * * *

            "This is Kate Sharpe, reporting from outside the courthouse on Day 5 of the A-Team trial. After Captain Murdock's dramatic confession, he has been cross-examined, but his story is watertight. It looks like the A-Team has been innocent all these years. Today, Judge Wells will pass sentence on the A-Team, and their former pilot, Captain H.M. Murdock."

 

* * * * *

            Murdock looked around the courtroom. Most of the faces were strangers – journalists, soldiers. Some of them he recognised. He couldn't bring himself to look at their faces, but he felt their eyes upon him and heard their whispered comments. There was Frankie, still clutching his jacket. There was Tawnia, still as lovely as ever. He half-recognised a group of people sitting together who he thought might be ex-clients. Hell, even Decker had a seat, somewhere in the back.

            "Order!" Judge Wells shouted, banging his gavel. The courtroom quietened down, not that the defendants had been making any noise. Murdock was on a separate table from Face, Hannibal and B.A., for his own safety. They were staring at him silently.

            He still couldn't stop shaking.

            "The time has come to pronounce sentence. Colonel John Smith, Lieutenant Templeton Peck, Sergeant Bosco Baracus, stand please."

            His friends stood, never taking their eyes off him.

            "For the crime of murder you have been found…" Murdock crossed his fingers and toes for good luck. "…not guilty." A cheer went up. Murdock heard a stream of swearing, which he guessed came from Decker.

            For the crime of theft, mainly from the Bank of Hanoi, due to extenuating circumstances and the testimony of Captain Murdock, you have been found…not guilty."

            Murdock thought the guys would have reacted somehow – cheer, sigh, smile, anything. Instead they sat down silently, still staring at him.

            "Captain H.M. Murdock, please stand." He tried to project an image of calm, of peace. But his body betrayed him. The shaking was now so severe it was making the chains round his arms and legs jingle.

            "You have been found guilty of the crime of murder. As you have now been declared sane, the penalty is death. You will be executed by firing squad at 1400 on June 21st."

            Today was the 19th. He had two days.

            Two days.

            Murdock didn't hear the shouts of his friends or of the crowd. He was shaking so hard he had to be helped out of the courtroom and into the prison transport. He didn't hear or see anything. All he could think about was "two days". He used to spend time frivolously – playing computer games, in sessions with Doc Richter, hanging out with Face.

            Now two days was all he had left. Almost.

 

* * * * *

            General Stockwell was casually reviewing some files when the two Abels who guarded his door were thrown through it. He pressed the intercom button on his desk. "Carla, cancel my four o'clock."

            Hannibal followed the agents, revolver drawn and pointed at him.

            "Ah, Smith. I do have a phone, you know. Next time it might be simpler to call and arrange an appointment."

            "I don't have time for this, Stockwell. You know why I'm here."

            "Captain Murdock, yes. Tragic really. A senseless waste."

            Hannibal fired the gun through the roof of the plane and then pointed it back at Stockwell. "If you say something like that again, I won't hesitate to kill you."

            For a moment, Stockwell was afraid. Even though he had plenty of security measures to defend him – bulletproof glass, sleeping gas – he realised that if Hannibal decided to kill him, he wouldn't rest until one of them were dead. And if I killed Smith, that would ruin everything…

            "What can I do for you, Colonel?"

            "I don't think Murdock really did kill Colonel Morrison – or if he did, he wasn't thinking clearly. I want you to save him."

            "You want me to…what? Send my agents to attack a military base? Change the verdict of the court?"

            "I just want you to save Murdock."

            Stockwell smiled. "Without meaning to sound unhelpful, I cannot. Captain Murdock has confessed to murder. There is nothing I can do. Unless you can suggest something..?"

            Hannibal suddenly felt foolish. He had just burst into Stockwell's plane without really stopping to consider what he could do. Did you expect him to just surrender? Stockwell saw the hint of doubt in Colonel Smith's eyes and smiled. Hannibal's hand tightened around the gun.

            "Give me a plane and some weapons. We'll break him out ourselves."

            "Gladly. However, the Army have already considered that possibility. They have insisted that you are present under armed guard at the execution, so you will not be able to mount a rescue operation."

            Hannibal cursed Stockwell under his breath. Of course, with all his military contacts, he would know the details of Murdock's execution. He couldn't think of another way to save Murdock.

            "I would like to help you colonel, but my hands are tied." Stockwell's expression became deadly serious. "I suggest you leave before I have you thrown out."

            Hannibal fired the gun. The bullet narrowly missed Stockwell and hit the wall behind him. "Goodbye, General. I hope I never have to speak to you again." With this, Hannibal disappeared, leaving Stockwell mildly shaken. He realised that all his security systems had been shut off. Colonel Smith could have killed him with no problem at all.

 

* * * * *

            It took Hannibal another precious hour to drive to the army base where Murdock was being held. Face and B.A. were already there.

            "They say we can only see him one at a time." Face told him as he arrived.

            "Yeah, they're increasing security at the execution too. We'll be under armed guard."

            Face shook his head. "This is crazy. Murdock doesn't deserve to die. He confessed – doesn't he get leniency?"

            "They've been looking after us for years, and then they discover we're innocent. That makes them look incompetent. The Army has decided to vent their frustration on Murdock. He doesn't deserve it, he's just convenient."

            B.A. slammed his fist into the wall. "Crazy foo' don't deserve this."

            "Stockwell was no help either. He can't give us any men or resources. The Army has thought this through very carefully." Hannibal felt like punching the wall too.

            "Look, Hannibal, why don't you go and talk to him first. Maybe you two can come up with a plan." Hannibal knew how desperately Face wanted to talk to Murdock. Letting the colonel go first was a big sacrifice for him. Looks like I raised you good, kid. Hannibal looked across to B.A., who nodded too.

 

* * * * *

            Murdock was told he had to be in handcuffs while he spoke to his friends. The guards also told him that if any of the A-Team threatened him or used violence in any way, all he had to do was call for help. From the sneer on the guard's face Murdock doubted help would arrive very promptly. The soldiers on base treated him like scum.

            Now Murdock was chained up and still shaking, waiting to see one of his greatest friends. If he truly is your friend muchacho, then why are you shaking like a leaf?

            He heard footsteps coming down the corridor – Hannibal and an escort. He desperately wanted to stop shaking; wanted Hannibal to respect him. The door opened and Hannibal shut it quietly behind him. The only sound in the room was the rattle of Murdock's chains as he stood there shaking.

            Hannibal looked awful. The anger in his eyes was something Murdock had only seen once or twice, and then only in extreme situations. Like, say, when he found out one of his men was a cold-blooded murderer? Hannibal walked over to him, fists clenching and unclenching. Murdock fully expected the colonel to beat the crap out of him.

            Hannibal was shocked by how awful his captain looked. He had obviously not had much sleep, and there were a couple of new bruises on Murdock's face that he was willing to bet were put there by one of the guards. He looked pale, and he was shaking so hard he found it difficult to stand up. Hannibal was overcome with a wave of anger – for Stockwell, for the Army, for 'Nam. He hadn't seen Murdock look this bad since the camps. When they left Hannibal had vowed that he would never let any of his team get that badly hurt again. He had broken that promise, and it drove him crazy.

            He put his arms around Murdock and made calming noises. They stood there in an embrace for a few minutes, until Murdock had stopped shaking. When they pulled away they were both close to tears. Hannibal held a finger up to his lips and adjusted his watch slightly. He used it to sweep the room for bugs while Murdock sat down and composed himself.

            Hannibal found a couple of microphones, and incredibly, one on Murdock. He ground them into dust.

            "We're getting you out of this place Murdock. Don't worry." Murdock's eyes were wide with fear. Escape? That would ruin everything!

            "No, Colonel."

            "I don't want to hear it, captain. You're not going to die." Hannibal remembered how reluctant Murdock had been to leave the VC camp. He had seemed dependant on it. Now he wouldn't leave this prison.

            "Colonel, I won't go. I killed a man and I have to pay for it." These words stopped Hannibal short. He had thought the confession in the court had been a lie – a show put on to save them. Now they were alone, no one was listening, and he was still saying he was guilty.

            "You didn't really kill Morrison." There was a hint of doubt.

            Murdock closed his eyes. This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you, muchacho.

            "Yeah, I did. I'm sorry, but I can't go on lying. I don't want you to rescue me."

            "Okay. So you killed Morrison. But you had a good reason, Murdock. You're sorry. You shouldn't have to die."

            Murdock took a deep breath. He looked up at the man who was like a father to him, the man who he would die for. The man I have to hurt.

            "Hannibal. I swear to you if you bust me out of here you better watch me like a hawk. The first chance I get I'll turn myself in. If I can't do that I'll shoot myself." Hannibal looked like he'd been punched in the stomach. Murdock could see the pain in his eyes.

            "I can't live with this any more. I want to take the punishment they've given me. Please, just leave me be." Murdock turned away but Hannibal grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around.

            "You'd really kill yourself if we busted you out?"

            Murdock calmed his mind and looked deep into Hannibal's eyes.

            "Absolutely."

 

* * * * *

            Face and B.A. were sitting silently in the mock waiting room the guards had rigged up. They were both trying to compose themselves for the jailbreak they knew could come at any moment.

            Face heard footsteps approaching. Loud footsteps. Hannibal must be mad about something. They both stood up, ready to spring into action, but their colonel just swept by them and sat down heavily. His face was as angry as Murdock's had been when he was talking about Morrison.

            "He's not coming." Hannibal said quietly. B.A. and Face couldn't believe it. Face collapsed into a chair. If he's not coming, that means…

            "What's wrong? You ain't got no plan?"

            Hannibal fixed B.A. with a cold stare. "No, B.A. He doesn't want to leave."

            "Is it like the camp in 'Nam? Maybe we should make him leave, for his own good." Face knew he was clutching at straws – how was it possible to become dependant on a place you'd only been in for a day?

            "No, this is different. He says he wants to fulfil justice for what he did to Morrison. I can't talk him out of it." Hannibal drew a hand across his face. He suddenly looked very tired. The young conman realised that the colonel had had no sleep at all recently – they were all worried sick. For Hannibal this must be like losing one of his children. Face knew how much control meant to the colonel – in this situation he could do nothing, and it was killing him.

            "Uh, B.A., why don't you go in next? See if you can knock some sense into Murdock." B.A.'s eyes flickered between the two men – he understood they needed some time to talk privately. The big man nodded and left, accompanied by his escort.

            "Hannibal, you need to rest. You can't go on like this." Face crossed to sit in the seat next to him and put his hand on the older man's shoulder. Hannibal let out a deep, shuddering breath.

            "Murdock said if we rescued him he'd kill himself."

            "What? Why?"

            "A bizarre form of justice, I guess." Hannibal shook his head. "Something's happened to him, Face. I can't reach him anymore. When did he become so…so stubborn?"

            Face knew well how stubborn Murdock could be when he wanted. He figured it had something to do with the army. Murdock had always found it comforting being told what to do, where to go. It was why he spent so much time at the VA. But when this got too oppressive he escaped to see his friends, usually Face. Then he did what he wanted to. You had to be careful with Murdock when he was like that. He was liable to jump off a cliff just because you told him not to.

            If Murdock didn't want to be rescued, he wouldn't be. Face thought the pilot might really kill himself, if only to make a point that he always did what he said he would.

            Face and Hannibal sat reminiscing until they heard B.A. returning. He was walking slowly, carefully, arms outstretched as if he were carrying something.

            Something they couldn't see.

            Face sat bolt upright. Oh God…

            Billy.

            There were tears in B.A.'s eyes as he sat down slowly, still with the invisible thing on his lap.

            "Tried ta talk to da foo'. Ain't changin' his mind." B.A. said quietly.

            "B.A., what-" Hannibal started to say but B.A. interrupted.

            "Murdock said, he gonna die. Said he wanted me ta have somethin'. Gave me Billy." B.A. started absentmindedly stroking the air above his lap. Hannibal moved to sit next to him, and they sat there stroking Murdock's invisible dog and talking quietly.

            Face almost ran down the corridor to Murdock's room, forcing his escort to march double time. He had believed for some reason that his friend would find a way to escape. If he had given Billy away, he must really not be coming back.

            Face burst into the room and shut the door behind him quickly. It took him a while to adjust to the darkness. Murdock had drawn the shutters closed so that the sunlight only came in through a few lines. He had his cap pulled down so Face couldn't see his expression.

            Face ran up to him. Even in the semi-darkness he could tell his friend had been crying. Murdock tried to wipe away the tears but the manacles meant his hands couldn't move higher than his chest. Quickly Face pulled out his lockpicks and unlocked the chains on his hands and feet.

            Murdock moved away to perch on the small table that, apart from a couple of chairs, was the only piece of furniture in the small room. He wiped his tears on his sleeves. Goddamnit. First shaking, now crying. Why don't you just put on a dress, you wimp? Murdock knew that out of all the meetings he had had today, this one was going to be the worst.

            "You're staying." Face said. He realised his friend was now sitting next to him on the table. The closeness made him shiver again.

            "Yeah, well, you know how it is Faceguy. It's not like I had anything big planned next week anyway."

            "Murdock, you really think this is the time to joke?"

            "I don't have any time left, muchacho. If I don't use my jokes now I'll have to save 'em for St. Peter." Murdock stood up and went back over to the window. The feeling of his friend's leg pressed against his had made him feel emotional again. He wanted to look strong.

            "You didn't kill Morrison." Face said quietly. "I'm an expert on lying, and that's what you were doing." Face came and stood opposite him again. "Don't get me wrong, it was a great performance. You even have Hannibal fooled."

            Murdock looked into Face's blue eyes. Because of the light, they were the only part of him he could see clearly. He didn't mind.

            "You couldn't keep a secret from me for that long. I know everything about you."

            Murdock laughed. Couldn't keep a secret? Shows how much you know, sweetheart… He couldn't stop laughing. Face had to thump him on the back to prevent him from choking.

            "Damnit Murdock! You're going to die tomorrow and all you can do is crack jokes and laugh at me! This is probably the last time I'm ever gonna get to speak to you and you can't even be serious!" Face was so outraged he went to leave, but Murdock grabbed his hand and pulled him back.

            They were now standing face to face. Murdock realised that he was still holding his friend's hand, and dropped it quickly. Nice moves, Why not just tattoo "I love you" on your forehead? It'd be just as obvious. Murdock tried to be calm. This was a moment he'd been waiting for as long as he could remember. He wanted to get it right. He realised Face was waiting for him to say something.

            "Well?" Those blue eyes were now blazing. "What's so funny?"

            "I…I did kill Colonel Morrison." Face started to interrupt but Murdock stopped him. "That's why I don't want you to rescue me. But I was laughing because…because I have kept something from you. For as long as I've known you. And it's big."

            Face was genuinely worried now. Not only about what the secret could be, but also that he could be wrong. That Murdock could have killed Morrison.

            "What is it? You can tell me anything, you know."

            Murdock was twisting his hat again. "Well, uh…I don't really know how to say this…I, uh…" Face was beginning to get impatient.

            "How about if I just show you? I don't have your way with words."

            Face rolled his eyes. "Sure. Whatever." He expected Murdock to show him a scar or something. He was utterly unprepared for what happened next.

            Murdock grabbed him behind the head with his free hand and planted a kiss on Face's lips. Face had no idea what was happening. All he could think of was that the kiss was so childlike. It felt like a first kiss; like an embarrassed boy just touching lips with his first girlfriend. It wasn't gentle, or caressing, or sexual, like most of the other kisses he'd had. What was scarier than that was that it aroused him more than any other kiss had.

            It only lasted a minute and then the pilot let go and jammed his hat back on. Face realised his arms were still crossed – he hadn't moved a muscle.

            "Uh, Face? Facey?" Murdock clicked his fingers in front of his friend. Great! One kiss and he's comatose. Still, at least he hasn't hit me yet…

            "Well." Face said finally. He was finding it hard to stand up, and reached out for support. Unfortunately, the only support was Murdock. Ah, crap. Face's knees finally gave out and he collapsed against his friend. The pilot was unprepared for this, and they ended up on the floor, Face on top of Murdock.

            Face could feel his friend's heartbeat through his army fatigues. As he looked up at Murdock, he saw his eyes were screwed shut.

            He's going to die tomorrow. He took a big risk telling you this. Will it really hurt you that much to give him one moment of happiness before he goes? Face licked his lips nervously. Besides, you did kinda like it…

            Quickly, before he could reconsider, Face pulled off his friend's hat. Murdock's brown eyes opened wide in surprise as Face kissed him properly.

            First, he tried to pretend it was Candy, his latest conquest. But images of Murdock kept intruding. He tried telling himself that he was only doing it out of pity, but the butterflies that had suddenly nested in his stomach told him otherwise.

            Eventually they stopped. He realised he was straddling Murdock and quickly stood up. He felt faint. He needed to sit down. I must be ill. A simple kiss couldn't do this to me. At least, it never has before…

            "Uh, okaaay…" he heard come from somewhere on the floor. He looked over the back of the chair, and saw Murdock frozen in the position he had left him in, much like Face had been after Murdock had first kissed him.

            "So, either I'm dreaming, or I'm already dead. Either way it's not looking good for our courageous hero…" Face couldn't help but laugh before it hit him. This man will die tomorrow.

            "Oh, Murdock…" Face tried to help his friend up but he was feeling too weak, and only managed to get him into a chair. He pulled the other chair across and sat opposite him.

            "Murdock, this is possibly the worst timing ever. You're gonna die." Murdock had to agree. He looked at the pain in his friend's eyes and thought it might have been better if he'd taken his secret to the grave. "I'm so sorry, Face. This is all my fault."

            "We can still break you out y'know. Hell, after this you'd be stupid not to." For the first time since he'd left the VA Murdock felt his resolve waver. Against his will he found himself wondering what life would be like with Face.

            No. You've come too far. This is the only way. But it was too late. He knew after Face's kiss he'd already decided to break out. He was just about to tell Face when his friend tried to comfort him.

            "Look, even if you did kill Morrison, I don't care. I…I think I'm…in love with you." That "even if" hit Murdock with physical force. Well, you got your wish, muchacho. They all believe you're a murderer. He knew that there was no way he and Face could have a relationship if Face thought he was a killer. He had to stay.

            "Put the chains back on." Face looked up at Murdock with shock. He had thought his revelation would tip the balance, but if anything Murdock seemed more determined than ever. He was about to argue when he saw the familiar stubborn light in his eyes.

            "Promise me you won't try to rescue me." Murdock said as Face put on the leg irons.

            "Sure." Face replied, standing up. He was about to put on the handcuffs when his friend put his hand on his cheek. The physical contact sent fire down his spine, and Face was suddenly aware of how aroused he was.

            "This isn't just another one of your scams, Facey. I need this to mean something." Face looked deep into the pilot's brown eyes.

            "I promise." He said with feeling, and cemented it with another kiss. When they pulled away, Face clicked the handcuffs back in place. He felt like he had issued the death sentence himself.

            He picked up Murdock's cap, and put it on his head at a jaunty angle. Murdock smiled weakly. They heard the heavy footsteps of the guards coming down the corridor, and Murdock knew their time together was short.

            "Look, Face, there's something else. I need you to call Frankie Santana. Hannibal should know the number."

            "Why?"

            "He's got something. Something I want you to have." Murdock quickly kissed Face as the guards opened the door. Face suddenly realised they were both filthy from the dusty floor. The guards were sniggering.

            Do they know? Face braced himself for a fight.

            "Ya didn't rough him up too badly did ya? The doc has to check his corpse tomorrow," one of the guards said.

            He sighed with relief mentally, and dusted his hands off like they'd been fighting. "I meant everything I said, Murdock," he said in the most venomous tone he could manage. Murdock smiled ever so slightly, and pretended to groan with pain. As Face left, he took one last look over his shoulder, at the man who he would never kiss again.

 

* * * * *

            That night Hannibal called Frankie, who told him about the jacket. He promised to bring it round to the base first thing in the morning.

            Face's dusty clothes had not gone unnoticed when he returned, and now they were back in their quarters on base he decided to ask him about his conversation with their captain.

            "What did Murdock say?" Face looked up from his diary. He had written in it every night religiously for as long as Hannibal had known him. Once he and Murdock had sneaked a look at it while Face was asleep. They found it was written entirely in code, except for dates and the names of people. Hannibal had thought at the time that the diary was like Face – all his thoughts and emotions were hidden. You had to work hard to find out what he really thought about anything. As Hannibal looked into his lieutenant's familiar composed mask, he realised that after Murdock's death this code would become much harder, if not impossible, to crack.

            "Oh, he made me promise not to rescue him. I tried to knock some sense into him but it didn't work. You know Murdock." Or you think you do.

            Hannibal nodded and let Face get back to his writing. He was sure there was something the kid wasn't telling him, but he knew that if he pushed him he'd never get any answers. Better to let him tell me when he's ready.

 

* * * * *

            True to his word, Frankie turned up on base at 0800 hours. His shoulder holster and gun were a little hard to explain, but after Frankie shot them a few times, the guards let him in, laughing.

            The team were all a little wary of him. He now realised that Murdock had only been friendly because he needed him for something. These guys thought of him as a traitor.

            "Frankie, good to see you." Johnny was the only one who greeted him with any warmth. The other two merely grunted in his general direction. Face was lost in thought, staring out the window, and B.A. appeared to have gone insane. He was talking and petting a patch of air next to him. Johnny noticed him staring. "He's looking after Murdock's dog, Billy. He's invisible."

            Frankie shrugged. "Figures."

            They sat down on the bed, and he pulled Murdock's leather jacket out of the bag he'd been carrying.

            "Face, go through it. See if there's anything for us." Hannibal threw the jacket over to him, waking the young conman from his dreams.

            "You got here alright? No trouble from Stockwell?"

            "Nah. The only trouble I had was having to get up so early. I haven't got up at 7am since-" He broke off suddenly.

            "Frankie?" Johnny put a hand on his shoulder.

            "Sorry, I, uh…I haven't got up that early for quite a while." Johnny nodded, apparently satisfied. Frankie guessed they were too shook up by Murdock's execution to notice anything suspicious. "You know, the guards at the gate already searched the jacket. They didn't find anything."

            "Hopefully Murdock considered that possibility. Well, Face? What've you got?" Face gestured at the pile of junk in front of him. There were dog biscuits for Billy, masks, cloth, bits of string, stones, a catapult, shopping lists, notes written on chocolate bar wrappers – "Buy more golf balls!" "Tell Face to get new WW tape" – and some other things that Face was trying not to touch, in case they were toxic.

            "Just junk. That's what he left us." Face shook his head.

            "No, there's gotta be something else. He was real insistent." Face waved the jacket to show Frankie it was empty.

            It crackled.

            "Was that paper?" Hannibal asked.

            After examining the lining, they found that part of it was attached with Velcro and came away. Inside the lining, they found four envelopes fastened with elastic. One was marked simply "The A-Team". The others were marked with the names of Face, Hannibal and B.A. All had "NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL THE DAY OF MY EXECUTION" written on them. Hannibal opened the one to all of them and read it aloud.

            "To Hannibal, Face, B.A. and Frankie."

            "Hey, he says I'm on the team!" Frankie exclaimed. B.A. growled.

            "I'm writing this at 2am on the day before I testify. If all goes according to plan, I will be shot on the day you guys read this. I'm sure you're all convinced I murdered Colonel Morrison. Sorry to disappoint you guys, but I'm innocent."

            "What?!" yelled Face and B.A. simultaneously. B.A. began punching the wall again.

            "He looked me right in the eyes and lied to me? After everything that happened?" Face was distraught. He felt all at once betrayed and guilty. Hannibal continued.

            "I'm sorry I had to lie, but I needed to be sure you wouldn't rescue me. This was the only way it could be done; the only way I could save you. I can do the math – three expert commandoes against one pilot. The needs of the many…etc etc. You guys need to live, and I'm glad I'm the one who could give you that.

            "Good luck in the future.

            "Murdock."

            Frankie asked if he could take the letter outside while they all opened their individual ones, and Hannibal agreed. For a couple of minutes they just sat there, waiting to see who opened theirs first. Then B.A. broke the silence.

            "I don't think I can do this, Hannibal. We gotta go watch him die inna hour."

            "Murdock wanted us to read them before the execution. They must be important." Hannibal ripped his open, and the others followed suit.

 

* * * * *

            "Hannibal,

            "I'm scared. I'm scared I'll never get to tell you how much I admire you. How much you mean to me. You're like a father to me, and I will have to spend the last few days of my life lying to you. I hope I haven't disappointed you – I always wanted you to be proud of me.

            "So this is the end. After all these years of me making dumb remarks, and you just trying not to get my ass shot off and it comes down to this. An execution in a base somewhere no one has ever heard of. Hardly a blaze of glory, huh? You kept me alive for years – even in the camps. I'm glad to return the favour.

            "I wanted to leave you something to remember me by, but what do you give to the man who has everything? All I could think of was my wings, cause you kept me flying in 'Nam. Kept all of us going.

            "In all those old movies the prisoner gets a last request. My last request is for you to keep going, to keep looking after the guys like you always have. If you do half as good as you always have, I'll know they're safe. They're gonna need you.

            "Oh yeah, and could you swing by the VA and apologise to Doc Richter? If I know him, he's gonna be beating himself up over letting me go, when really I kinda tricked him.

            "Adios, muchacho. I love you."

* * * * *

            B.A.'s letter was just a typed list of instructions for Billy – walk him three times a day, only feed him yellow food. At the end of all this Murdock had handwritten a short note.

            "I know you're not one for saying goodbye. And you already know how much you mean to me. I'll miss you big guy. I love you."

 

* * * * *

            "Face. Templeton. My love.

            "Je t'aime. Ich liebe dich. You should know how I feel about you by now. I love you.

            "The problem with writing these letters days in advance is that I have no idea how you will react. Whether it's good or bad, though, I'll know I tried. If you don't love me, then at least we won't have any of those awkward moments, eh?

            "I need you to know how special you are. You have a tendency to put yourself down, and you gotta realise how great you are. After all, you made a guy like me fall in love with you.

            "Finally, I want you to have my jacket. Keep it safe for when I return. I can't tell you how, but I know I'm coming back. I'll need that jacket when I come home.

            "I love you, Face. I want to show you that someday."

 

* * * * *

            At the bottom of these letters was a signature in Murdock's handwriting. It was his full name.

            "That's what H.M. stands for? No wonder he kept it a secret." Hannibal said with a smile. He carefully pinned Murdock's badge onto the collar of his jacket, where the pilot could see it that afternoon.

            B.A. was silent. He ad returned to petting Billy, although now he was trying to list all the yellow foods he could think of. So far he only had bananas.

            Face was silently crying, the tears rolling down his cheeks. Very carefully, he put on Murdock's jacket, and pulled the zipper up to the top. If he closed his eyes, it was almost like he was in Murdock's arms. He could smell his aftershave, feel his heartbeat…

            I'm coming back.

            Hannibal realised what must have happened between the two of them when he saw Face smelling Murdock's jacket, and crying over it. The young captain had told him about his feelings a long time ago, and he was only sorry they hadn't found each other sooner. But this meant the execution was going to be even harder than he had imagined.

 

* * * * *

            The three of them sat there, quietly thinking over old times. They didn't realise how much time had passed until Frankie came in and told them it was 1400 hours. The time of Murdock's execution.

            They were led out to the square by an armed guard, close enough so that they could see what was happening, but not so close that they could interfere in any way.

            Murdock was led out, under guard, in shackles. Frankie turned away already. The young pilot was still wearing his blue cap. Why have they let him keep it? How does he do it? Face wondered. And they call me the conman. Murdock looked up at his friends. He saw Hannibal was wearing his wings, Face his jacket, and B.A. was carrying Billy. Thank God they found the letters. At least I can leave with a clear conscience.

            The young man was put in front of a wooden post, where the bullet would lodge after it had killed him. A sergeant came and tried to tie a blindfold around Murdock's eyes as the base commander read the charges against him in a bored tone.

            "Uh, excuse me? Muchacho?" The commander droned on for a couple more seconds before he realised the prisoner was addressing him.

            "Is it really necessary to have a blindfold? Cause I, uh, don't do so well in the dark. Something to do with my fragile psyche, I guess."

            "You refuse a blindfold?"

            "I'm afraid of the dark." Hannibal and Face shared a quiet smile. They both knew Murdock had no trouble with darkness, and was just trying to downplay his own bravery.

            "Very well. No blindfold." Murdock breathed a sigh of relief. I just wanna see their faces one last time – the last thing I remember before I go…

            The disgruntled soldier then tried to remove Murdock's cap. Big mistake, thought Face.

            "Uh, colonel? Seeing as how I ain't got no blindfold, can I die with my hat on?"

            "I'm sorry?"

            "Me and my hat go back a long way. Can I keep it on?"

            "Oh, uh, of course. Leave the hat, sergeant." The soldier stormed off, thoroughly annoyed.

            "Just like Murdock to put on a show before he goes," whispered Face.

READY!

Face wasn't worried. He knew Murdock would escape somehow. Probably a helicopter would come zooming over that ridge, there. Or a presidential pardon would be rushed in at the last minute. After all, he'd promised, hadn't he? And Murdock

AIM!

always did what he said he would. Sure, he was cutting it fine, but he had to escape. He had to. He promised.

Face realised Murdock was staring at him. I'm sorry, the pilot mouthed.

FIRE!                                                   "NO!"

            Face saw Murdock's body jolt with the shock of the bullet. Saw the blood on his fatigues. Saw him stumble and fall as he died.

            "NO!" He looked around to see who was screaming and realised it was him. He was dimly aware of Hannibal trying to calm him down, but knew it wouldn't work. He broke away, through the armed guard, and ran to his lover's side. Face grabbed Murdock's hand, sobbing and babbling.

            "I love you Murdock I love you stay with me don't go I love you need you you said you were coming back please please oh god oh god oh god."

            He felt a slight squeeze in Murdock's hand. Was he imagining it? Was Murdock alive? His eyes were closed and his body was limp, but surely it was possible?

            Suddenly he was lifted up. B.A. was carrying him away, away from the man he loved, the man who WAS NOT DEAD.

            "He's alive! Put me down!" Face screamed. He was dimly aware that he was losing it. He saw the doctors check Murdock's pulse and breathing and shake their heads.

            He had imagined it. Murdock was dead.

            And everything went black.

 

* * * * *

            Hannibal couldn't watch Murdock's death. He was surprised at how calm Face was, his eyes fixed on Murdock's. He heard the gunshot like he had fired it himself, like he was the bullet. But worse than that was Face's reaction.

            The kid started screaming. Hannibal tried to calm him down but his eyes wouldn't focus on him. Face broke free and ran to the body.

            The body. The corpse. Face shouldn't have to see this. He was babbling, holding Murdock's corp…holding Murdock close to his chest. He heard the stream of words – he thought Murdock was coming back? What the hell was in that letter?

            Hannibal motioned to B.A. to go and get him. As the big guy easily picked him up, Face went nuts, kicking and scratching violently. He screamed something about Murdock being alive.

            Is it possible?

            He saw the doctors' reactions, and knew he had lost Murdock forever. Face saw too. Hannibal watched another man collapse, another limp body, as Face fainted.

            Failed.

 

* * * * *

            Stockwell gestured for the two doctors to leave the warehouse. They had been paid well, they would not talk.

            The body bag on the stretcher sat up. There was the sound of muffled screaming as whoever was inside realised what it was they were inside of. Stockwell rolled his eyes, and gestured for Carla to unzip the bag. She revealed a young man in blood soaked fatigues with an oxygen mask strapped to his face. He ripped it off and looked around.

            "Do you always raise the dead in a crummy warehouse?" he asked, with a Texan drawl.

            "You were not dead, Captain Murdock. Merely unconscious. We discussed this, remember?" Murdock crawled out of the body bag and stood up, swaying slightly.

            "Tomayto, tomarto." He grinned inanely. "Everything go to plan?"

            "The blood bag burst, and the pill you swallowed had the desired effect. To everyone present, it was as if you died." Stockwell smiled. "Your friends' reactions were a little more…extreme…than we had anticipated, but otherwise, yes."

            Murdock was trying not to think about the A-Team, about what he'd done to them, to Face. "Remember our deal, right? A couple of missions, a presidential pardon, and then I go off to the wild blue yonder. Right? I can go back soon."

            Stockwell performed a mock bow. "Whatever you say, captain."

 

* * * * *

Two weeks later…

            Face was relaxing with a cup of coffee in his new apartment. Since they were free, he could now have the place he always wanted, a place he would never have to leave. It was decorated tastefully and modestly, although there were a few odd choices.

            A pinball machine. A complete set of "Woody Woodpecker" videos and Spiderman comics. Posters of planes and scenes from old movies. A child's basketball hoop on the wall.

            Face wanted Murdock to feel at home when he got back.

            The young man pulled up the zipper on his leather jacket. He knew B.A. thought it was crazy to have all of Murdock's stuff, and to wear his jacket all the time, but coming from a man who took an invisible dog for a walk three times a day this was practically a compliment.

            Since they had been found not guilty, they were all still trying to find their feet. They never spoke about what had happened at Murdock's execution, although they often met to reminisce over old times.

            B.A. was busy with his daycare centre. Hannibal had gone south to Bad Rock to see an old flame. Face was just spending time in his new apartment. He never had to work again after the fund the Army had set up, so he spent his days playing pinball and watching TV. He had no idea what he wanted to do yet.

            He knew Hannibal and B.A. were worried about him. They though he was going a little crazy. But then, so was Murdock, and I love him. What's wrong with crazy, anyhow?

            Once, he and Hannibal had got drunk in Face's new apartment, and Hannibal had asked him why he thought Murdock was coming back. Face showed him the letter, but Hannibal had wanted more. Recently, so had Face.

            He had never found more proof, until now. Face read the headline one last time, savouring it with obvious delight before dialling Hannibal's number.

            "A-TEAM BODY DISAPPEARS."

            Everything's ready, Murdock.

            Come home.

 

 

The End

 


A Hint Of Doubt by Maestro

 

 


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