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This page last viewed: 2017-07-22 and has been viewed 2990 times
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Warnings: Small amount of bad language.
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After BA dragged Face out of the kitchen Hannibal stormed outside. Murdock let him go and decided to wait for a few minutes. It would be useless to try to talk to Hannibal when he was this angry; he needed some time to calm down. So Murdock went to the icebox and found himself an orange Popsicle, ate it slowly. When it was done he took out another one, cherry this time. This seemed like at least a two Popsicle problem. Of course if it had been Face he was going to talk to it might have been three or even four. Face could sulk to Olympic standard, even in the teeth of a relentless "cheering up" assault from Murdock.
Once both Popsicles were gone Murdock went out into the yard and moved away from the house, paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. He saw a dark shape in the basketball court and a small flare of light, quickly extinguished. When he moved closer he could see the glow of Hannibal's cigar. That was a good sign; he was trying to calm himself down with a smoke. He pushed open the gate into the court and strolled over to the colonel.
"Hey, Hannibal," he said, neutrally.
"Murdock." Hannibal said, around the cigar. Murdock couldn't see his face in the darkness. There was silence for a while. Murdock didn't push, if Hannibal wanted to talk he would. Eventually he did.
"Do you think Face is right?" Damn, the last thing Murdock wanted was to take sides on this. If he stuck up for Face then Hannibal would feel ganged up on. But if he didn't stick up for Face Hannibal would probably ask him why he wasn't!
"About some stuff maybe," he said, cautiously.
"About me not being in command any more? About us not being 'The A-Team' any more, that we're just 'Stockwell's men'?" Murdock grimaced. He'd grown to hate that phrase, even though he'd been the first person to say it. 'Maybe we're Stockwell's men'. It had been a bit of a joke, but it wasn't so funny any more.
"We're your men, Colonel." That had to be said. It had to be.
"You think Face still is?"
"Of course!" Murdock said, almost too quickly.
"Maybe that’s the problem."
"Colonel?" He was using Hannibal's rank very deliberately. Hannibal took the cigar out of his mouth.
"He's still my lieutenant, after twenty goddam years. If things had been different, if we'd had normal careers, he could have been a colonel himself by now." He put the cigar in his mouth again, but then took it out again without inhaling. "I should have been spending that time teaching him to be a colonel, instead I've spent it keeping him a lieutenant. Oh, he's the best damn lieutenant I ever met, but he could have been more." This time when he put the cigar in his mouth he took a long pull at it and then blew out the smoke in a fast stream.
"I've held him back."
Murdock shook his head.
"You haven't had much choice, Hannibal, things happened the way they happened, you said it yourself in there, you have to accept the way things are and suck it up and get on with it. If things had been different yeah, but they're not different. 'We are here and it is now', there's no escaping that." Hannibal was silent for a while, processing this. When he spoke again it was very quietly and Murdock had to step a little closer to hear him.
"It was never meant to go on this long. When we broke out, I figured a couple of years, we'll find evidence to clear ourselves, or it'll turn up once all the records from the war are straightened out. Then a couple of years became five. Then five was ten, then fifteen."
"Again, not your choice," Murdock reminded him.
"Wasn't it? Maybe not. And maybe I was enjoying it so damn much, enjoying the jazz, that I forgot what it was doing to Face and BA, how much of their lives it was burning."
"Would staying in jail for those fifteen years, waiting for some new evidence to miraculously turn up, have been better?" Hannibal didn't answer. Eventually Murdock went on. "You think Face resents you?"
"It wouldn't be surprising if he did."
"It's Stockwell he hates, Hannibal, not you."
"Yeah, Stockwell." Hannibal said sourly.
"Do you really think he'll get you the pardons?" Murdock asked, trying not to make it sound critical, he didn't want to sound as if he was saying 'are you dumb enough to believe that?'
"Honestly, Murdock?" Hannibal looked at him and for a moment his eyes were visible as the moon managed to poke feeble light through the clouds. "I'm not certain. On balance I think yes, he will. But I'm not one hundred percent sure."
"How long will you give him?" Because there would be a limit now, Murdock realised, Hannibal wouldn't let it drift this time, until it was five years, longer even.
"Two years. After that… I won't let him string us along forever. I won't watch Frankie's youth disappearing in front of his eyes. I won't watch that happen again." The last part was said very quietly.
"Yeah, Frankie," Murdock said thoughtfully. "I know you like him, Hannibal, I do too. And he put his ass on the line for you all, and ended up trapped here because of that. But Face is right that he doesn't belong here."
"I know. I don't want him stuck in this life forever. And if this goes on too long he will be. And he'll get better at it, but it will always be something that was forced on him. We just have to take care of him till this is over, try to get him out the other side of it intact." Murdock nodded. Knew Hannibal didn't just mean physically, he didn't want to see Frankie change, to be warped by some of the horrors the rest of them had seen in combat. At least they'd had the training to try to deal with it. Frankie was getting 'on the job' training. He'd been lucky so far, but just one piece of bad luck and everything would change. If he got shot, or tortured, or if he had to kill…
Murdock shuddered a little, wrapped his arms around himself as a cold breeze blew through the court.
"You wanna go inside?" Hannibal asked.
They walked back to the house in silence, Murdock opened the kitchen door and Face and BA turned to watch them enter. BA was over by the stove, putting some frozen pizzas into the oven. Face was sitting on a high stool, slid off it and stood as Hannibal and Murdock came in. Murdock feared he was still in a snit and would march out of the room, but was relieved to see him step forward and extend his hand to the colonel.
"Hannibal. I… I said some things I shouldn't have." 'Some things', Murdock noted. Not everything, just 'some'. Hannibal took Face's hand with no hesitation, shook it.
"Forget it, Face, we're all jumpy right now." Murdock could have rolled his eyes at their remarkable ability to avoid expressing their feelings. And people said he was the one who needed therapy. They disengaged their hands and went to help BA with the meal.
"Hey, fool," BA said. "Pick up your darn trash." He pointed at the Popsicle sticks and wrappers on the worktop.
"Sorry, big guy." Murdock said, coming over to him, added quietly. "Face okay?"
"For now." BA said. "Hannibal?"
"For now." Murdock echoed. He went to put the sticks in the trash can, pausing only for a brief Popsicle stick drum solo on the lid.
"Knock it off, crazy fool." BA said. "Go get Frankie, see if he wants to eat."
"You got it." Murdock wandered off towards Frankie's room. He thought he could hear the distant sound of a phone ringing as he knocked at the door, guessed Frankie must have his TV on.
"Sir?" Abel Six answered the phone in the surveillance control booth.
"All quiet now sir, they're making dinner."
"Good, send the tapes for transcription, don't call me again tonight unless it's an emergency."
"Yes, sir, goodnight, sir." The line went dead. "'Oh, and goodnight to you too, agent'," Able Six muttered, sarcastically. "'Thanks for all your hard work, thanks for staying up all damn night spying on people's personal conversations', you bastard." He put the phone down. Somewhere a tape recorder whirred.
~~ End ~~
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