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"Empty Chair"

"Empty Chair"
by Closetfan


Rated: G
Summary: This is a response to the Drunken Ramblings Challenge posted on the A-Team Storyboard.
Warnings: None (!)

Disclaimer:  I don't own the A-Team concept, or intend to infringe on any copyrights.  I'm not in it for the money, which is good, 'cause there isn't any.  I do it for the jazz!!


***

Heat and humidity pressed around the three men sitting at a small table in an otherwise unoccupied mess tent. Face's voice sounded almost muffled by the thick air as he counted, loose and loud.

"One. Two. Three!"

Shot glasses of whiskey were raised and emptied.

"Geez, Face!" Murdock grimaced. "I thought this stuff was bad when we started drinkin' it, and I gotta say it ain't gettin' any better. Where'd you get this? Out of a radiator?"

BA giggled. The sergeant rarely drank, so despite his size he was already feeling more of the effects of the whiskey than the other two were.

"Fine." Face pulled a mock pout, which was difficult to do with a cigar clamped between his teeth. "Next time, you be in charge of getting decent booze on short notice."

"Hey, I got the cigars." Murdock tipped his back, balancing it on the back two legs, and blew a smoke ring into the still air.

"Which are equally crappy," Face said, tapping ashes onto the floor.


"True," Murdock grinned. "Didn't wanna outshine the liquor."

Face snickered, and picked up the two-thirds empty bottle. "Again?"

"Absolutely."
Murdock tilted forward, his chair legs landing loudly on the floor as Face refilled the glasses. "Your turn to call it, BA."

The large sergeant picked up his glass. "One, two…" He downed his drink, as the other two sat there with their shot glasses raised.  Then, pounding his now empty shot glass onto the table, he giggled as his friends' jaws dropped.

"You cheated!" Murdock squeaked.

"You rushed the count!" Face pointed accusingly at BA, eyes wide with disbelief.

"Sorry, fellas." BA reached out and relieved the other two men of their glasses. One in each hand, he called out "Three!" and drank them both down, one after the other. He sat back with a self-satisfied grin, happily puffing on his own cigar.

 

When they recovered from their shock, Face and Murdock began to laugh. Within moments, they found themselves nearly incapacitated as they stomped and howled. BA joined in, and for a time, the three were a drunken commotion of laughter.

After a few minutes, Murdock sat up, wiping tears from his eyes. "Penalty shot!" he announced loudly, pounding his fist on the table.

"Me or you two?" BA asked, still gasping with laughter. "I dunno if I can do another…"

"We better catch up then," Face said, pouring two shots and handing a glass to Murdock. "Captain?"

"
Thank you, LT," Murdock saluted, his enthusiastic flourishes nearly causing him to lose his balance and fall from the chair.

BA laughed as the other men downed the shots. "One more to catch up," he reminded them, pouring two more drinks.

"Why, BA! Are you trying to get us drunk?" Face asked, batting his lashes.

"If you're tryin' to have your way with us, big guy," Murdock said, pulling himself up with dignity, "you'll find we ain't that easy." He drank his whiskey quickly, and grimaced.

"We do have our standards," Face agreed, swallowing his drink, hissing at the afterburn.

"Yep," Murdock agreed. "An' you, BA, don't meet `em. You got too mucha some equipment, and not enough of the other." He grinned and waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"Aww, man!" BA swatted at the pilot. "Git away.  Tha's nasty!" 

 

Murdock merely grinned and let the cigar bob up and down in his mouth.

 

"You too skinny for me, anyway."

"
I ain't skinny," the pilot responded amiably. "I have delicate bones."

"Delicate my ass," BA snickered. "That ain't what those Marines said las' time we got leave."

Face grinned fondly as he remembered their last barroom brawl. "Yeah, we kicked some ass that night."

"We weren't so drunk that time," Murdock said. "Tonight I don't think I could even whip -- " he stopped himself short of the name he was about to say. The other two at the table fell still
as well. The three sat in silence for a moment, staring into their empty glasses.

Murdock picked up the bottle and poured three shots, then raised his glass to the empty chair across from him.

"To Steve," he said, downing his drink and placing his shot glass, upside down, on the table. "We'll miss ya, Runt."

"Steve," BA and Face murmured in unison, draining their glasses.


Hannibal pulled back further into the shadows, watching his men. They hadn't seen him enter the mess tent a few minutes ago, and this was not a time when he felt he should intrude.

The team had taken losses before, plenty of times. After a while, it almost got to be something you expected.  It was a pleasant surprise if everyone made it back from a mission in one piece. 

 

But Corporal Steve Jenson, who Murdock had dubbed the runt of the litter, had been a special case to these three. He was a good kid, and something about him had made these older, more experienced men take him under their wings.  Face had taught him some of the finer points of a good scam.  BA, having failing miserably – through no fault of his own – at teaching Runt how to throw a punch, had been showing him how to take one.  And Murdock had taught Runt not to take himself so seriously.


This morning, when the unit had been split up during a mission, Runt had been tapped to be the radioman for the other half of the squad. BA had been calling the pick up coordinates to him when the rocket hit.

 

There were a lot of casualties.  Runt hadn't made it.

And now, as they sometimes did when the loss hit them too close to home, Murdock, Face, and BA held their own "empty chair" ceremony.

The empty chair was usually joined, eventually, by an empty bottle.  Sometimes more than one.



The three men rose unsteadily from the table to stagger back to their quarters. "It's still early," Face said. "I think I can get another bottle a’ this whiskey."

"Why?" Murdock asked, throwing his arms around his friends' shoulders. "You got some paint needs strippin'?"

BA's voice floated back through the darkness. "Naw, man. We gonna let the cigar smoke do that."


A small smile flew across Hannibal's face as he listened to their laughter escape into the night. He lit a cigar of his own and headed for his tent. They'd be all right, and he had paperwork
to finish.

***

fini


Empty Chair by Closetfan

 

 


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