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About Face

About Face

Author: Clairon

 

Rating: NC-17

Type: Slash/Angst/Adventure

Pairing: Face/Murdock…. Almost!

Summary: Lots of fics written on how Face joined the Team, this is my variation on the theme.

Warnings/Content: Contains male/male SLASH plus torture and non consensual.  Also some full-bodied soldier type language.

Disclaimer: I do not own the A-Team characters and am making no profit from this story, which is a work of fan fiction only.

Thanks: To Athelas my writing partner, who although this isn't her chosen subject took the time to turn my 'bloody bollocks' to 'goddamn bullshit' – thanks Mrs Bean, I owe you yet another one!!!!  Also to Mike McGrath who had the courage not only to live through the sort of torture I thankfully only write about, but also the strength to share his experiences with the rest of the world.  And lastly to Dirk for the inspiration…………………

 

 

ABOUT FACE

 

 

INTRODUCTION: As You Were

 

"Yeah, Hannibal it's all quiet here."  Murdock's voice drawled lazily into the radio.  "OK," he continued.  "See you later!"

 

"How much longer?" Face whined from the seat next to the pilot.

 

"Hannibal says give it another five hours!"

 

"Five hours!" Face screwed his features in despair. "But it's going dark – no one is going to turn up now!"

 

Murdock sighed.  "You know who's the boss – Hannibal says five hours so five hours it is!"

 

Face groaned.

 

Resolutely cheerful Murdock said, "Besides look at the sunset.  Man it's so cool here!  I feel like we're on a date!"

 

They were sitting in Face's Corvette pulled into a road side stop looking out across the Pacific Ocean as into it dipped the red golden sun sending out streaks of all colours across the sky.  Below them teetering on the rocks was the beach house they were supposed to be watching.  Having spent most of the day here and seeing absolutely no action both men were feeling rather bored.

 

Face groaned and banged his hand on the steering wheel in frustration but Murdock's comment had set him thinking.  He sat silently for a while but his features were squeezed into a puzzled expression.  Finally he asked, "Do you regret it, Murdock?"

 

Murdock had been gazing out at the horizon but he turned to regard his companion.  "Regret what?"

 

"In the shower, in Nam?"

 

"Wow!  You right back there?"  Murdock noted the flush on Face's cheeks, a number of off the cuff responses flashed through his head but he bit them back.  Face deserved better he knew, so he answered truthfully.  "Biggest regret of my life!"

 

Face's head jerked around and his eyes were wide as they met Murdock's.  "Really?" he said, his voice oddly uncontrolled.

 

Murdock held the questioning stare.  "Yes, really," he responded truthfully.

 

Face nodded slowly, opened his mouth to respond, closed it again and then looked back to the sunset.  Suddenly the beauty that was around him fell away as did the years and he was lost in the memory……

 

*****************************************************

 

PART ONE:  Attention

 

Damn! The thought thundered around his head once more as it had rolled for the whole of the night.  How could he have been so stupid? He was tight, too strung out, his adrenaline pumping too fast for too long; it would do him no good.  He had to get control.

 

He let out a long breath, forcing himself to relax, pushing his head into the hard, smelly mattress on which he lay.  He glanced around the dimly lit cell, and out through the bars into the hallway beyond.  It was all empty.  He sighed with relief, running his hand through his hair.  He could not give in to the fear; no one could know how close to the edge he was.  He had to get a grip; he could not allow this lapse to be followed by another, one which could bring him even more damage.

 

He lay completely still on the bed, feeling the blood run through his veins, slowing it so his heartbeat returned to normal.  It took him some time but he had learned long ago that if he concentrated very hard, gave his whole attention to it, then he could control his own bodily responses completely.

 

He signed as the calmness flowed over him.  He felt better, felt as if he was no longer careering forward into oblivion.  He allowed himself a brief smile at his success.  He had to think, had to find a way to turn this disaster into something positive, something from which he could benefit and not allow the fearful chaos to take him – he had been there before and only just survived.  Now he feared if he lost his control he would never find himself again.

 

He sat up, ran his hand through his blonde hair, neatening it as best he could.  It was too long he knew but he'd hated the buzz cut he endured in training and since he arrived in Nam no one seemed to care.

 

Stiffly he walked towards the bars, touched the nearest one, wishing it was cold but the metal, like the rest of this goddamn country, seemed to sweat in the humid heat.  God it was hot.  He came from California and there it was hot but bright and shining not this intense soul sapping dingy wetness that seemed to suck the life out of everything.

 

Get a grip, he counselled himself.  Since when had the weather bothered him?  He was above such things and he had to think, think his way through this.

 

His mind went back to the previous night and his frustration clenched in his stomach like fists.  He had been so very close to pulling it off and that was what hurt the most.  He had almost done it; played Finlay, the big idiot sergeant, expertly, fleeced him good, set up the fight to cover himself as he planted the dope and then made his getaway, leaving the sergeant to take the fall, minus his pay of course!

 

He snorted but the taste of success had proved too elusive and now all he had was the bitterness of failure on his tongue.  Standing perfectly still he replayed the episode analysing it minutely.  It was so clear now.  He had miscalculated badly when he decided to alter his plan on the spur of the moment and involve the Special Forces guys in the fight.  Damn, but he had introduced an element he couldn't control – hadn't he learnt anything from the past?  He thought they would have made the fight in the bar last longer but instead the marines had fought like a team, their Colonel assessing the situation and getting it under control in seconds.  Got to admit he had been impressed.  Yeah, dead impressed when the mountain of a black sergeant had ground his head into the sawdust with that huge boot and held him there until the MPs turned up; held him there with the hash still on him, just waiting for the heat to find it, ticking in his pocket; his own personal time bomb.

 

As he thought on it, his hand went to the side of his face.  He grimaced as he touched the bruise there – damn, didn't want the imprint of that big sucker's size 12s to remind him of his failure.  Didn't want it ruining his good looks either – never underestimate the power of a pretty face.  He had shamelessly used his often enough to know the wisdom in that statement.  For the millionth time he glanced around the cell for a mirror but he already knew there was none.

 

He took a deep breath and forced away the dark finger of panic that had stealthily returned to hover expectantly at the edge of his consciousness.  He had to forget what he could not influence, had to make do with using what he could; adapt it, change it so he could benefit.  He moved and sat back on his cot.  Think man, think!

 

The sound of heavy boots on the wooden walkway outside brought him back to reality, then the squeak of the door opening.  He refused to move but remained sitting nonchalantly on the bed, his whole being focused on what was about to come through the door although no one would ever guess from his demeanour.

 

"Attention!"

 

Before he knew it he had snapped into position beside the bed.  Heals together and in line at a forty five degree angle, legs straight without locking the knees, body erect with hips level, chest lifted and arched, shoulders square and even, arms straight and without stiffness along his side with the back of his hands pointing outward, fingers curled, thumbs touching the first joint of his index fingers, thumbs straight along the seam of his trouser leg, head erect, chin drawn in and looking to the front.

 

Damn!  He hated that reaction but it had been trained into him so well his body responded before his mind could gain control!  The cell door was opened and he found himself eye to eye with a slightly familiar grey haired Colonel who was smirking at him coldly.

 

"Don't you just hate it when that happens?" the Colonel beamed.  He felt himself shudder as steely, blue eyes seemed to penetrate right through him.  How the hell did this Colonel know what he hated?  He gulped suddenly feeling vulnerable but forcing his eyes to look straight ahead and his body remain rigid.

 

"Rest easy, soldier," the Colonel's voice was not unkind as he moved around him.  "Leave us," he said over his shoulder to the guards who had accompanied him.  They exchanged glances, their reticence obvious.  The Colonel turned back to them giving them the benefit of the full force of his stare.  They left immediately with no further argument.

 

"Lieutenant Peck," the Colonel stated.

 

"Sir!" He replied, snapping back to attention.

 

The Colonel smirked but said nothing as he moved around the room.  Finally he stopped and Peck could feel those eyes turn back to him.  He fought to repress the cold shiver that ran along his spine.  "Nice place you got here," the Colonel moved to sit on the bed.  "Mattress has seen better days though!" he murmured.

 

Peck remained motionless while inside all his instincts screamed that there was danger here.  Who the hell was this guy?  And what was he doing here?

 

Again as if reading his thoughts the Colonel asked.  "Do you know who I am, Lieutenant?"

 

"No Sir!"  Forced into a corner, Peck knew he had no alternative but to play the soldier and make himself wait until he had more information.  He hated being wrong-footed to such an extent though.

 

The Colonel chuckled.  "You don't remember me then?"

 

Peck continued to stare fixedly at the far wall.  "No, Sir!"

 

The squeak of the springs told him the Colonel had stood up but he was aware of nothing else until he felt the warm tickle of breath at the back of his neck.  This time Peck could not control the shudder and the Colonel chuckled again.  "That's a shame," he said, his voice still soft.  "I would have expected someone like you to remember me."  He snorted and moved back to stand in front.  He fiddled in his top pocket and triumphantly placed the cigar he found there in his mouth but made no attempt to light it.  He chewed it instead as he regarded the soldier in front of him once more.  "You got a lot to learn, kid," he said with a fondness in his voice that Peck found disconcerting.

 

The Colonel then fumbled in another pocket and produced a lighter.  He proceeded to light his cigar and puffed away happily for a few minutes seemingly oblivious to all else.  Peck fought the urge to shuffle his feet impatiently, as he told himself he could wait as long as it took.  This guy was obviously off his head and got his kicks coming into the brig to taunt the poor unfortunates he found there.  Well he would have to do a lot better to get a reaction from Templeton Peck!

 

Taking a deep breath the Colonel continued as if there had been no pause.  "You're in a deal of trouble, Lieutenant.  Have you thought how you're gonna con your way out of this one?"

 

"Con, Sir?"  Peck let his eyes go innocently wide as he actually looked at the superior officer for the first time.

 

"That's what you do isn't it?"  The Colonel smiled around his cigar.  "Or should I more accurately say that's what you're good at?"  His tone was suddenly challenging and Peck realised why the man was faintly familiar.  This was the Special Forces Colonel from the night before, the guy who had restored order in a matter of seconds with his Team.  The guy who Peck had brashly involved in the fight without really thinking through the consequences.

 

The realisation hit him hard, his eyes flashed to meet those of the other man and he gulped fighting for control.

 

The Colonel smiled that knowing smile which Peck found he was beginning to hate.  "Remember me now?" he asked.

 

"Yes, Sir!"  Pecked barked out the response to cover the uncertainty that assailed him.

 

"Well, are you at least going to offer me an explanation as to why you dragged me and my Team into a stupid, unimportant fight?  We don't like to have our free time interrupted for anyone."

 

Peck made the transformation from rigid soldier to smooth conman in one easy breath.  He raised his hands in a placating gesture, smiled his widest most ingratiating smile, took a step towards his prey as his mind whirled through which patter would work best in the circumstances.  It was a truly impressive performance and the Colonel smiled in appreciation for an instant before shattering the spell.  "Attention!" he snapped.

 

Peck was back in position before he even realised what the Colonel had said, his face flushing with frustration at the way he could be manipulated so easily.  The Colonel let out a long guffaw and shook his head slowly.  "You're good, kid," he admitted.  "And given the right training you could be great."

 

Peck snorted.  "Who the hell are you?"  he snarled.

 

"That's 'Who the hell are you, Sir?' soldier!" the Colonel smirked.  "And I am Colonel John Smith, my friends call me Hannibal but 'Sir' will do just fine from you."

 

"What do you want, Sir?"  Peck asked biting back his anger.

 

Smith's grin widened in amusement.  "Guards!" he called, turning back to regard the simmering soldier barely managing to stand to attention.  The guards entered.  "I'm done here," Smith continued.  "You can lock him up again but don't throw away the key, not yet.  I might be back tomorrow."  The blue eyes sought out the younger man's questioningly stare.  "Would you like that lieutenant?"

 

The cell door clanged shut and the guard rammed home the key.  "Go to hell," Peck spat and hesitated before finishing, "Sir!"

 

The Colonel laughed.  "But I'm enjoying your company too much for that, Peck!  I can see we are going to be great friends!"

 

*****************************************************

 

That night Hannibal sat in the Team's hooch and chortled as he remembered the look of barely restrained fury on Peck's face as he had left the brig.

 

"What's so funny, Hannibal?"  B A Baracus snorted.

 

The Colonel took a long draw on his cigar and smiled, his eyes beaming as brightly as the smouldering cigar.  "Nothing's funny, B A," he responded.  "Just think I may have found our new Supplies Officer.  That's the plan anyway!"

 

Three pairs of eyes jerked up to meeting his.  "Who?" Baracus suspiciously voiced the query that was on everyone's lips.

 

Hannibal chuckled.  "Young kid I met."

 

"What's he like?" Ray asked.

 

"Face like an angel but…."

 

"No!"  Murdock let out a howl of terror.  "Why is there always a 'but' with you Colonel?"

 

"When you bringing him in?" Baracus asked, scowling at the pilot.

 

Hannibal shrugged.  "Slight logistical problem," he admitted.

 

"He's in the brig isn't he, Colonel?"  Murdock howled again.  "Why can't we have somebody who's normal for once?"

 

The Colonel just smiled wider.  "Just normal won't do for this team and you know it Murdock.  Gotta be the best!"

 

"Gotta have too much baggage!" B A snorted.

 

"Worked for you guys, didn't it?" Hannibal rolled his eyes.

 

"Oh lord," Murdock breathed.  "This one is gonna be trouble I can feel it.  So much baggage gonna need a luggage trolley!!!!"

 

*****************************************************

 

"Damn right you need a good supply officer if they're the best cigars you can get!" 

 

Colonel Smith smiled as he sat back on his chair.  "Best form of defence is offence – I like that kid!" he beamed.  "What's wrong with my cigars anyway?"

 

Peck stared at him.  "They stink," he said.  "Must taste worse.  What are they made of pigshit?  Reckon a Colonel like you should have only the best!"

 

Smith laughed.  "My thoughts entirely but unfortunately in times of war even I have to compromise."

 

"If you get me out of here I'll get you Havanas!" Peck leaned forwards and reached across the table to lightly run his fingers along the back of Smith's hand.  "No compromises," he promised.  "I would give you my best, all of it."

 

Smith stared at the other man's hand seemingly momentarily flummoxed by what the lieutenant was offering.  They were sitting across from each other at the rickety old table in Peck's cell.  It was the day following Smith's first visit and Peck had spent a sleepless night reviewing the events of the day and planning on how to turn the Special Forces Colonel's interest to his advantage.

 

The lieutenant knew he was in a dangerous predicament and he was pragmatic enough to grasp salvation in whatever form it arrived.  He believed now he understood what Smith wanted and if that was what it took than Peck had no scruples about offering himself to the Colonel.  He had bartered away his principles along time ago and what he had lost in integrity he believed he could more than make up for in talent and experience.   If Smith could get him out of this mess, Peck was more than willing to show his appreciation in anyway he could.

 

The smile had gone from Smith's face when his eyes finally came up to meet Peck's.  His eyes were cold and his voice was deadly as he said, "You are not propositioning me, are you Lieutenant?  You're already on a list of charges as long as your arm, are you really adding another infinitely more serious one to the list?  You know what they do to queers in this army don't you?"

 

Peck's face lost its colour as he quickly withdrew his hand.  He giggled nervously.  "Propositioning you, Colonel?  You misunderstand me.  I thought we were talking about cigars!"

 

Smith's eyes burned into him and Peck had to fight to stop from cringing before the intensity of that stare.  Inside he was panicked, how could he have read it so wrong?  He prided himself on being able to read men, to know instinctively what they wanted and to be able to deliver it.  If he couldn't do that what value was he to anyone?  But right from the start this Colonel seemed to know what he was thinking and know how to wrong-foot him.  Couldn't let him see now how rattled he was, had to keep up the cool façade.  Couldn't come across as anything but ultra-confident even if deep inside he was scared shitless.  Had to find out what this Smith wanted.  Had to find out and quickly – couldn't afford any more mistakes, the stakes were too high this time.  Breathe deep, slow the heart and use your head.

 

The Colonel was still watching him seemingly engrossed in his performance.  Peck had the awful sensation that Smith really could hear every thought that was skidding through his head.  Don't let him get to you.  He knows nothing except what you show him so reveal nothing.  Peck forced himself to smile wide and bravely.

 

Smith smiled back infuriatingly bland as he puffed on that damned weed.  "I've been reading your file, kid," he began innocently enough.  "Doesn't really add up, does it?"

 

Peck gulped.  "In what way, Sir?" he asked mildly.

 

Smith shrugged.  "Dates, service periods, even your age – all looks suspicious to me.  And then there's the Special Forces training."

 

Peck slowly lifted the glass of water to his lips that he had requested at the outset.  God, it was suddenly too hot in this damn cell!  He took a long sip.  He smiled.  "Special Forces training, Sir?"

 

The Colonel's eyes had narrowed.  "Your assessment scores are just too good; even better than mine!"

 

Peck gulped and then forced out a carefree laugh.  "What can I say," he said modestly.  "I am damn good!"

 

Smith leaned back again and sighed.  "At some things maybe," he acknowledged.  "But soldiering isn't one of them!"

 

"What are you saying?"  Peck stood up in a flourish knocking over his chair, the picture of indignant innocence.  "That I faked my scores?  Come on Colonel, you know that's not possible."

 

"I know anything's possible, Lieutenant.  But if you are such a good soldier how come you've been in Nam eight months now and you've only managed two missions out?"

 

Peck stood stock still, the colour once again draining from his face.  What to say?  Who was this guy and how could he see right through him into his deepest, darkest secrets? It just wasn't fair and how the hell was he supposed to fight it?  He sat down roughly trying to find a strategy – did he deny it all or did he explain just enough to get himself by?  Even in such extreme pressure the thought that he should disclose everything to the curious Colonel never entered his mind.

 

He glanced up but rather than see Smith's eyes coldly judging him, he was shocked to see sympathy there.  "You want to tell me now what the fight in the bar was about the other night, kid?"

 

Not allowing the sudden change of subject to throw him off balance Peck let his eyes drop to the floor as his shoulders slumped a little and he sniffed loudly.  "I don't want to talk about it," he mumbled.

 

Hannibal reached out a strong hand and reassuringly squeezed Peck's shoulder.  "I watched you set it up," Smith continued.  "You're a smooth operator, kid.  But it didn't quite turn out how it was planned, did it?"

 

Peck lifted his head, eyes bright but moist, he sniffed again.  "Changed the plan, involved you guys at the last minute."  He smiled ruefully and shook his head.  "Big mistake."

 

"Plan's got to be flexible," Smith ventured.

 

"Got to be aware of all the possibilities too," Peck sighed.  "Your guys were just too good, I didn't get chance to plant the stuff.  Then that big ape of yours blocked my escape with his boot on my face."  He shook his head again.  "Sloppy, very sloppy!"

 

"Why did you want to plant the stuff on that Sergeant anyway?" Hannibal asked.

 

"What are you, my priest?" Peck retorted but his tone was tired rather than defiant.  He began to rub his hand nervously on his thigh before continuing in a voice suddenly small and meek.  "I wanted to get my own back on Finlay."

 

"Why?"

 

Peck snorted, running his hand through his hair he moved away to the cell bars.  The Colonel remained silent, content just to watch and wait.  The lieutenant let out a strangled sob and leaned back on to the stout metal bars.  His eyes were bright but his voice dull as he finally said.  "Because he used me."

 

"Used you?" Smith repeated.  "In what way?"

 

"In what way do you think?" Suddenly all meekness was gone.  Peck stepped forward in a rush of unrestrained anger, his voice metallic and bitter.  He stopped leaning on the table in front of Smith, breathing heavily and eyes flashing wildly, nostrils flaring, thrusting his face towards the Colonel, demandingly. 

 

Smith still motionless regarded him.  "Are you telling me this Sergeant Finlay raped you?"

 

It was stunningly quiet in the cell.  Peck seemed to hover uncertainly and then his head dropped to the table, the anger gone as quickly as it had flared.  He shuddered violently.  "Yes," he replied firmly, raising his tear filled eyes to stare at the Colonel.

 

Smith let out a long breath.  "Why didn't you report it?" he said emotionlessly.

 

"You think they'd believe me?"  Peck's pathetic demeanour turned suddenly incredulous.  "I've got form, you said it yourself."

 

"So you fleece him of his money and then plant enough dope on him to get him sent away for a deal of time?  Like I said, you are some operator, kid."

 

Peck shrugged.  "I learned how to look after myself," he said with a hint of pride in his voice.  "I had to."

 

****************************************************

 

"Colonel."  Murdock sauntered up to where Hannibal was sitting smoking outside the hooch.

 

The older man squinted up at the pilot.  "Mission OK?" he asked.

 

Murdock shrugged.  "It's done," he drawled, digging in his pocket for a cigarette.  "That's all there is to say."  He sat down beside the Colonel and sighed.  They sat quietly for a while both enjoying their smokes.

 

"Still no Supplies Officer?"  Murdock asked finally.

 

"'Fraid not, Captain," Hannibal answered.

 

"Too bad, I dropped by to get a look at him.  You find that grunt sergeant you were looking for when I left?"  Murdock blew a perfect smoke ring.

 

"Finlay?  Yeah I found him."

 

Murdock nodded expectantly but the Colonel stood up, brushed himself down, simply smiled enigmatically and moved away.

 

******************************************************

 

"Attention!"

 

Peck found himself standing, straining before Colonel Smith once more.  The guards were dismissed, Peck expected to be allowed to rest easy but instead the Colonel leaned against the bars and lit his cigar, glaring at the lieutenant.  It went on for long minutes until Peck began to feel most uncomfortable.  Deciding to do something he cleared his throat.  "Sir, permission…."

 

"Shut up!" the Colonel snapped.  He pulled himself up to his full height and moved menacingly forward.  "You must think you're real clever, Peck!"

 

"Sir?"

 

"Don't play innocent with me.  You are one devious little shit, aren't you?"  Smith was only inches away; his body radiating barely controlled fury.  "Have you ever done anything in your whole life that you did not benefit from?"

 

Peck sighed softly.  He knew what the Colonel was driving at instantly.  He had dreaded it would come to this but he believed he was fighting for his life, his future at least, here.  "You talked to Finlay," he whispered.

 

"Yes I did and I don't have to repeat what he told me, do I?"

 

Peck gulped.  "No, Sir," he replied.

 

Smith snorted in disgust.  "Nice guy Sergeant Douglas Finlay, told me all about his wife and kids – five of 'em all under ten, misses them so much.  Needs to send his pay check home just to keep food on the table.  Comes from the Bible belt you know.  He explained to me how he built a church in his back yard.  I have to say he's not a very good judge of character though but then if he was he wouldn't have fallen under your spell, would he, Peck?"

 

"I don't know what you mean, Sir!"

 

 "You were setting him up.  You knew that the MPs were closing in on your little dope smuggling scam so you were going to plant the stuff on poor old Finlay and let him take the fall for you, weren't you?"

 

Peck licked his lips nervously but decided to remain silent as the Colonel continued.  "And you know what really made my blood boil, kid?  Douglas still talks about you as if you're his best friend.  He's actually mortified that you're in prison, doesn't understand about the fight but is sure you did it all to protect him.  How gut wrenching is that?"

 

"It's not what it seems, Colonel," Peck began.  "At least let me explain why I did it.  I had to, you see……" As he spoke he turned towards the older man, his eyes pleading.

 

"Attention!" Smith's voice was icily controlled and the lieutenant snapped back into position.  "I don't want to hear it.  What you did to him was bad enough but then to try to tell me that Finlay was using you!" He shook his head.  "Are there no depths to which you won't sink?"

 

"I …."

 

"Shut up!  I've had enough of your performances.  Quite frankly I think I'll let you rot in here.  I'm not going out on a limb for anyone who lies so blatantly to me." 

 

Smith stormed out of the cell.  Peck stood to attention for a few more seconds and then he allowed his muscles to relax.  He sniffed, running his hand through his hair indifferently and chewing his lip.  Slowly he returned to his bed and sat down thoughtfully. 

 

He had been rejected all his life, he had learned to accept it and yet that made the searing pain of it no easier to bear.

 

*****************************************************

 

"Murdock!"

 

"Yes, Colonel?" The pilot looked up from the comic book he had been avidly devouring.

 

"A word, please."

 

Murdock carefully folded down the corner of his page and placed the comic delicately on the chair he had been sitting on, before following his Colonel out of the hooch.

 

"I need to ask your help, Captain," Hannibal began.

 

"Anything, Sir!"

 

"Our new Supplies Officer will be arriving soon."

 

"He will? Oh gee!" Murdock let out a howl of delight.

 

Hannibal smiled.  "He's a little raw around the edges."

 

"Is he a newbie?"

 

Hannibal shook his head.  "No, he's been here a while but I want you to watch over him."

 

"Me, Colonel?  Why I'd be honoured but why not Ray or BA?  After all I'm not really even part of your Team."

 

The Colonel threw a friendly arm around the pilot's shoulder.  "You are part of my Team, Captain and you always will be.  You have the qualities that I need, that our Supplies Officer needs although he doesn't know it yet and you will be good for him, I know.  BA and Ray can be a little bristly and we're gonna need a hell of a lot of smooth with this one."

 

"Uh-huh," Murdock nodded.  "All that baggage?  I'll be your 'smooth dude' on this one, Colonel.  You can rely on me."

 

"I know, Murdock, I know!"

 

****************************************************

 

PART TWO: Fall In

 

Peck fastidiously smoothed down the crease in his trousers one more time.  He still longed for a mirror but the guards had just laughed at his request.  Still he could tell by touch that the bruise on his face had faded.  He knew he must look good – he always did in his dress uniform and it made him feel so much more comfortable than those stinking fatigues he had been wearing since his arrest.

 

He let out a long sigh as he glanced around his cell one last time wondering if he would be coming back to it again.  His brief seemed to think he would be on his way home by this time tomorrow.  He had been shocked at that and last night as he sat on his bed contemplating it, he had realised that he would be sad to leave, after all it wasn't as if he had anything to go home to.

 

He had spent the whole night thinking over what had happened to him during the past few months and had slowly come to see that his time here had been the best in his life.  Sure he hated the weather, the red dust and the noise but there had been so much opportunity for him here.  He felt suddenly cheated that he was going to miss out on exploiting the rest; so many scams, so many eager, naïve people to fleece, all in one place.  No matter where he ended up he was never going to get this again.  And with the recognition came the accompanying thought that he had blown it big time.  How the hell could he think himself talented if he couldn't even keep himself clean enough to exploit this treasure?

 

Court marshalled, dishonourable discharge maybe even time in a military prison in the States that was where he was headed and all because of his lack of control when it really mattered.  He thought he had overcome it, found strategies to avoid it, set in motion careful plans to keep it hidden but in the end it had come back to haunt him. 

 

Smith had seen it in him.  With a bitter sigh, Peck thought back to the Colonel's words, 'How come you've only managed two missions out?'

 

How indeed?  By lying, cheating, and faking orders, of course.  He had even dislocated his own shoulder one day to avoid a mission.  He had been in the brig for minor indiscretions more times than he had lifted his gun in anger – hell, he wasn't even sure he remembered how to fire it!  All the time telling himself that he was doing the right thing, that he was too intelligent to die in this godforsaken wasteland in a war that he didn't care about, for a country that could go to hell!  Who was he trying to kid? 

 

The first time out in the jungle had been a painful revelation of his inadequacy.  While Smith was correct in saying that he had faked his training scores, truth was that Peck hadn't been bad in training, he just lacked the motivation to try hard at it.  It was a constant theme through his life – just do the bare necessities and if you can cheat so you don't even have to do that, then all the better.  But out there, beyond that wire, was so terrifying for Peck that it petrified him, his whole being shut down literally.  Control was something he had to have and out there with the Gooks laughing at him, skirting through the jungle, watching him, killing him; he had no control. 

 

He had survived that first time simply by throwing himself into a foxhole and lying there, frozen completely by sheer terror.  All thought, all power lost until one of the others had picked him up on the way out and literally thrown him into the Huey.  He had sat in the chopper, shivering frenziedly, face flushed, eyes wild and all his squad pointedly ignoring the stink of piss that emanated from him.

 

God, the memory of it even now sent him rigid with embarrassment. 

 

The second time out had been worse because he had felt it coming; known that the fear was so deep he had no hope of tamping it down enough to be able to function.  All the strategies and plans he had conceived the night before to overcome it were useless, trying to breathe steadily, trying to still his trembling heart; but even as he did so finding himself falling to the ground and whimpering softly.  Again he had escaped only because some green soldier, unaware of the piece of crap he was risking his life for, had the selfless foresight to help him to the chopper.

 

It was after that that Peck promised himself he would never go the other side of the wire again.  He knew his commanding officer suspected, but by using all of his scamming skill he had managed to keep well enough out of his way to avoid the confrontation that was coming.  Still even as he admitted his weakness he had acknowledged that his inability to control himself where it really mattered could only have one final conclusion; eventually he would be caught, his luck would run out.  Someone would find the time and the inclination to draw him to account and when that happened he would have no defence.   Although the obvious reason for his current predicament was the fight in the bar and the drugs subsequently found on his person, Peck knew his military record was not going to save him now, in fact if anybody dug into it, as Colonel Smith clearly had, they would see that in itself was a ground for further punishment.  His forthcoming court marshal was as predictable as clap in a whorehouse.  And he was going to miss out on all the lucrative action at the base because of it.

 

Peck groaned as the door to the cell block opened.  Nervously he fidgeted with his tie.  Maybe it was for the best he had no mirror, right now he knew he couldn't stomach the sight of the cowardly face that would stare back at him.

 

The guards entered.  "What no wisecracks today?" one asked as he cuffed Peck's hands together.  "Would have thought you'd have been full of them."

 

"That's enough, boys!"  Colonel Smith's arrogant voice preceded him into the room.  His cigar poked nonchalantly from his mouth as he waved a piece of paper in front of him.  "Change of plan," he said eyebrows raised.  "Take the kid's cuffs off."

 

"What?" The guards asked bemused.  One took hold of the paper and screwed his eyes to focus on the orders it contained.  "Well, I'll be damned!" he muttered.

 

Smith's smile got wider as he moved through the cell door.  "You ready?"

 

Peck stared at him, mouth wide in shocked surprise.  It took long seconds before he managed to recover enough to say "For what?" and even then his voice was high pitched from astonishment.

 

"Been with General Hollard all morning," Smith beamed.  "Took some time but I finally persuaded him that this army had invested too much in you kid, to send you home to a prison.  No sir, makes much more sense to keep you here, where I can make you into a real soldier, where you can get that selfish ass of yours doing a bit of good!"

 

"But the charges?" Peck stuttered.

 

"Oh, I think we know you were guilty on all counts, Lieutenant.  Didn't need to bother wasting the big brass' time on even listening to them."

 

Peck stared at him incredulously trying to grasp what was being said.  "You mean I'm free?" he whispered as the cuffs were removed.

 

Smith's smile froze.  "Oh no, kid," his voice was cold and firm.  "You lost your liberty the day you signed on the dotted line and gave your soul to Uncle Sam."  His face brightened and he threw a fatherly arm around Peck's shoulders.  "But you're staying put, for now."

 

Peck gulped.  He may not have expected this last minute reprieve but he sure as hell could use it to his advantage!  "I don't know how to thank you," he grinned disarmingly.  "Whatever you want I'll get you.  I ……"

 

Smith raised a hand to silence him.  "You seem to be labouring under a misapprehension here, kid.  Two things I have to get you to understand."  Disentangling himself he turned to face Peck all trace of friendliness gone as he stabbed his finger painfully into the younger man's chest.  "First this is not a good thing for you.  I'll give you two days, three at the most, before you are begging me to send you home or back to your court marshal at the very least.  And second, there is no point in you opening your mouth if all you are going to spout is utter bullshit!"

 

It was the Colonel's turn to be surprised for although Peck stepped back from the accusing finger, his eyes met Smith's in challenge, he gave his most stunning smile and said, "Guess I'm gonna have to keep quiet for a while then, Sir!"

 

Recovering Smith matched the smile.  "Where I'm taking you Peck, you won't have the energy to even think any wise-ass comments let alone say them!  Now General Hollard informs me the camp needs some new latrines dug.  Get back into your fatigues and get moving, soldier!"

 

Peck's smile faded.  "Latrines!" he breathed with a gulp.  "But I'm an Officer, I don't ….."

 

Smith shook his head slowly.  "Wrong.  Hollard has given you to me, Peck, for as long as I want.  You're nothing except what I tell you to be.  You do whatever I tell you and you do it now!"

 

Peck hesitated but then with a sigh of acceptance, muttering about slavery being abolished centuries before, he turned towards his neatly folded fatigues on the bed behind him.  Smith silently waited until Peck stood before him dressed in his old uniform at attention once more.

 

The Colonel ran an appraising eye around the lieutenant.  "Think it's about time we got you into shape, Lieutenant," he said.  "Strikes me sitting on you ass in here not to mention mooning about this base for months has stolen that Special Forces finesse from your physique.  Don't worry I'll get you back up to those scores you got in training!"

 

Peck raised his eyes to see the Colonel's twinkling maliciously at him.  "Would it help at this point to inform you I have a weakness in my shoulder, Sir?" he asked.  "The MD has signed me off all physical activities!"

 

"Only to give me more ammo to aim at you, kid!" Smith chuckled.  He bent in closer.  "And between you and me I think I've already got more than enough."

 

Peck let out a resigned groan.  "Thought so," he muttered.

 

"Now let's go Lieutenant – latrines wait for no man!  About Face! Double time, quick march!"  Smith's smile was so broad it covered the whole of his face.  He lit his cigar, took a long pull and then laughed.  "I love it when a plan comes together!"

 

************************************************

 

"Goddamn it, Murdock, you are going to have to talk to him!"  Ray started.

 

"Me?  Why?"

 

BA snorted impatiently.  "Because it's getting out of hand.  Can't hardly get to ma bed cos of all the stuff he's scammed!"

 

Ray nodded in agreement.  "I only mentioned yesterday I'd lost a sock by the time I got back from the shower there were twenty new pairs waiting for me!"

 

Murdock sighed and scratched his head.  There were standing under a tarpaulin cover as the monsoon rain beat an annoying tattoo outside.  Rivulets of water splashed on to the already saturated ground in front of them, the red dust had long since turned to a sucking, cloying mud.  The pilot searched for his cigarettes in his breast pocket and cursed when he saw how wet they were.  "Goddamn it – isn't anything dry in this country?"

 

"Cheer up, Murdock – rainy season's nearly over!"  Ray smirked as he took out his own packet, neatly wrapped in waterproof plastic.  Murdock smiled his gratitude; he placed the cigarette in his mouth and then leaned in closer, shielding it as Brennan lit it for him.   He took a long draw and then turned his attention back to the muddy, wet square in front of them.

 

It was empty – no fool would venture out in this kind of weather. Everyone was hunkered down in their hooches, playing cards, cleaning weapons, getting bored; just wishing for the rain to stop.  Murdock shivered, maybe not, because when the rain stopped the missions would start and the fear would return, clutching deep in your gut.  Rain was bad but no rain was bad too.  Murdock sighed; everything was bad in this place!

 

"He's better than he was though, eh?" The pilot ventured finally, remembering how during the first few weeks he had been with them Peck had hardly said a word.  He had just withdrawn into himself and save for the time Hannibal had forced him out, remained silent on his bunk.  At least now relations had thawed enough for the kid to actually be aware of the needs of his Team and to go out and try to satisfy them.

 

"Different ain't always better!" BA growled. 

 

"I'm working on it, BA," Murdock revealed.  "You gotta admit he's a class act on the scam though."

 

As he spoke two figures came into view through the murky rain.  One was holding a colourful umbrella to keep himself dry.  The other was dressed in full battle gear, pack on his back and rifle in hand.  As they got closer it became clear, though the protection of the incongruent brolly had not stopped the first figure from getting wet, the second was miserably saturated and covered from head to toe in the cloying mud.

 

As the three men watched the second figure suddenly lost balance and slipped ending up sprawled face down in the mud.  The first figure leaned over him and although the words were lost in the thrum of the rain it was obvious from the tautness of his stance that he was screaming at the unfortunate beneath him.

 

Slowly the mud figure climbed to his knees.  Then using his rifle as a crutch managed to pull himself back on to his feet, where he stood swaying slightly as his companion balled him out.

 

"Colonel is pushing him hard," observed Ray.

 

"Needs to," replied BA.  "Still reckon he ain't up to this.  Man's got a pretty face and a smartass mouth – when did that ever make you a soldier?"

 

"He's up to it, BA," Murdock said, his eyes never leaving the two figures as they moved towards them again.  "He's stronger than he looks."

 

Baracus snorted.  "Ain't saying nothing!"

 

"Afternoon, gentlemen!"  Hannibal smiled, sucking on a particularly sorry looking cigar as he stopped before the members of his Team.  "Enjoying the entertainment?  Attention!"  The last was thrown over his shoulder to an exhausted and filthy Peck who had looked about to collapse into a muddy heap.  The order had the desired effect and he clicked into position.

 

"It's mighty wet, Colonel," Murdock ventured.  "Maybe you should call it a day."

 

Hannibal's eyes gleamed under his sodden hair.  "Nonsense, Captain!  Little bit of rain cleanses the soul!  Got a light?"  He proffered the cigar.

 

"Think it's passed that, Sir," Murdock said politely.  "Only good enough for a decent burial now!"

 

Hannibal guffawed.  "You could be right."  He looked sadly down at his never-to-be smoke.  "Damn I hate wasting such good Havanas!"  He was reminded then of the pathetic figure standing, shivering behind him.  "Still now I got such a good supply it's not so bad."  He shook his head slightly still amazed by the fact that only two hours after he had released Peck from the brig, and when Smith knew the lieutenant had been digging latrines, a beautiful wooden box of high quality Cuban cigars had somehow found its way on to his desk.  Kid was a genius, he had to admit!

 

But genius or no, that was not going to get him out of his training.  "Pack off, Lieutenant!" He ordered.  "Down on the floor.  Fifty push-ups.  Count 'em for me!"

 

Peck let out a weary sigh.  "But Colonel I ….."

 

"Make that one hundred!" Smith cut across him sternly.

 

Peck hesitated, his handsome face creased into a horrified expression as the rain dripped off the edge of his helmet running down his face like tears.  His eyes flew wildly towards the men standing in front of him, seeking support but the three Team members knew better than to question their Colonel and they all refused to make eye contact.  Peck sniffed.

 

"I don't hear no counting, Lieutenant!" Smith pressed.

 

Peck let out a weak groan but after placing his rifle on the floor beside him began to unbuckle the massive pack on his back with fumbling fingers.  He dropped it to the floor, misjudging its weight in his weariness and almost fell over with it.  Murdock had to school himself not to step forward and help the guy who was obviously so close to the end of his endurance.

 

Peck wearily assumed the position and though his muscles screamed at him began his push-ups.  "One, two, three …."  His voice grated but Murdock noted his eyes flashed their anger.

 

Smith let him get to twenty before he growled.  "Start again!"

 

Peck stopped, the fire burning fiercely in his eyes as he looked up at the Colonel.  "What?"

 

Ray and BA exchanged knowing looks as they shook their heads.  Murdock drew in a tentative breath, his heart suddenly beating with fear for his budding friend.

 

"That's 'What Sir,' Peck!" Smith held the Lieutenant's challenging stare as he bent down in front of him.  "And it's 'One, Sir, two, Sir'.  Do you understand that now?"

 

"Yes…. Sir!" Peck did not even try to hide the hostility in his voice.

 

Smith shook his head.  "Peck, I've told you not to fight me.  I will win and the only person who suffers is you.  You're an intelligent boy, surely you can see that?"

 

Peck held the Colonel's gaze and gulped.  Slowly he bent his arms, muscles straining as he eased his body downwards and then pulled it back up.  "One, Sir," he hissed through gritted teeth.  "Two, Sir."

 

Hannibal held the aggressive stare and spoke as Peck continued to count.  "It's professional pride, see kid.  You conned your way to a green beret, now it's my duty to ensure that you are fit to wear it.  I have to do that for all the good men who earned the honour the correct way.  It's my job."

 

"Fifteen, Sir, sixteen, sir ……"

 

The Colonel stood up slowly.  He stood in silence but his eyes never left Peck as the younger man struggled to finish.

 

"One hundred, sir!" He finally groaned as his arms gave way and he fell to the ground breaking eye contact and oblivious now to the wet mud rushing up to claim him.

 

"Good job, Peck," Smith breathed.  "Now get your pack back on.  It's time for another run!"

 

The mucky, almost unidentifiable figure stretched out in the mud groaned desperately.  "Take me back to the brig," he gasped.  "Court marshal me – anything is better than this!"

 

Smith's smile was satisfaction.  It had taken longer than he had predicted to the kid in the brig.  In fact the first time Peck had pleaded to return to prison had been five days into the training but now it was becoming more frequent and Smith recognised it for what it was.  Although Peck would never admit it to anyone, especially himself, he was coming around to the Colonel's way of thinking.

 

"That's 'Take me back to the brig, Sir!' Peck!"  Hannibal could never resist rubbing it in.

 

The mud creature began to stir, climbing painfully to his feet and groaning as he automatically reached for his pack, shouldering its weight.

 

"Attention!"  Without missing a beat Peck assumed the position.  "Around the perimeter, double time.  Let's go soldier!"  Hannibal barked.  Murdock thought he heard another pitiful groan but it could have just been the sound of sodden movement as the two men turned and moved away.

 

BA shook his head.  "For someone who's supposed to be intelligent he sure seems to like mud."

 

Ray laughed.  "It's not too long ago that I could have said the same about you, mud sucker!"

 

The big black man bristled.  "At least I could see when I was beat," he pouted.  "Man's a fool!"

 

"He's no fool, BA," Murdock countered.

 

"Why he keep back-mouthing the Colonel then?  Why he keep refusing to call him Sir, when everybody knows he's the boss?" 

 

Murdock sighed.  "It's all about control, BA," he began.  "The kid don't like to think he's not in control, so he does crazy things to show he's still got the power."

 

"But he ain't!"

 

"We know that and the Colonel knows that," Murdock replied patiently.  "Now we just got to get the kid to understand it."  He chewed his lip thoughtfully before adding.  "And to realise that it really doesn't matter at all."

 

BA snorted and muttered.  "Fool," under his breath.

 

"That's where you and the Colonel come in, Murdock," Ray said.  "Me and BA, we just want a hooch we can get into, so we don't have to stand out here in the rain."

 

Murdock raised his hands in surrender.  "I hear you!!  I'm on it….."

 

***************************************************

 

PART THREE: Advance

 

"Get out the chopper, Lieutenant!"

 

"I can't, Sir!"  Just speaking was difficult; his muscles would not move to his command.

 

The Colonel leaned in closer so the power of his anger would not be lost under the ear splitting throb of the rotors.  "That's an order, Peck!" he screamed.  "Get out and find cover now!"

 

Peck gulped shaking his head stubbornly.  He had known this would happen, had tried to tell both the Colonel and Murdock the night before but had been unable to admit his weakness.  It was one thing to put his body through the physical bashing Smith had forced on him, in a way he had enjoyed that challenge, the fact that he had had to push himself, couldn't hide in his old lazy ways.  But this was different.  This was the other side of the wire.  This was out there!

 

He had begun to shiver even as they had walked to the chopper that morning.  He had felt the fear deep within, crystallising far down in his gut but slowly, oh so slowly beginning to shatter outwards to claim his body.  He had tried to explain again when he realised that Murdock was to be their pilot.  Tried to get him alone but Murdock was preoccupied with the checks, mind already flying the mission and then the Colonel had called him in.

 

He sat quietly, eyes down to the floor, hands grasping his gun so tightly that they were pale as porcelain below the dirt.  Across from him Ray and BA had muttered and beside him the Colonel had sung softly.  But as the flight had progressed and the fear enslaved him he had lost all perception of what was around him.  He couldn't fight it, didn't know how as all of his senses shut down until he sat motionless, his body rigid and brittle as ice. 

 

He had not even realised that the chopper had landed, was unaware that BA and Ray had already exited.  He only came back to a world coloured by the intensity of his panic when the Colonel grabbed him and tried to heave him out of the chopper forcibly.  Then the shaking took over so strongly that his teeth were chattering and his bowels lurched making him sure he would soil himself.

 

He looked up into the thunderous face of his commanding officer.  He wanted to do what the Colonel was asking but he just could not.  He closed his eyes unable to hold the questioning stare, waiting for the torrent of abuse that he knew would come, knew that he deserved!

 

But instead he felt the Colonel's strong hands push him back roughly into the seat.  Then the hands were gone.  The change in noise of the rotors that occurred some time later he barely heard and he never felt the lift as the chopper took off.  He sat where his Colonel had placed him, eyes tight shut both to keep out the world and to keep in the tears that threatened to escape from his heart. 

 

He had failed before but never had he felt this overwhelming despair.  He knew suddenly it came from the fact that he had never cared before who he let down in the past.  This time he just could not forget the look of complete betrayal he had seen in Colonel Smith's eyes and he knew he never would.

 

Miserable, petrified and so very much alone, he curled up in the back of the helicopter as his soul shrivelled.

 

*****************************************************

 

Peck slowly came around feeling the touch of a hand gently stroking his arm.

 

"Faceyman," the familiar voice purred.  "Come back to me, baby.  Gotta get you out of my chopper.  Gotta get you some place where you feel safe."

 

'Faceyman'.  Only one person called him that. 

 

Murdock had explained it all to him when they were alone one day.  When the Colonel had described him to the rest of the team he had said 'Face like an angel but….' And when Murdock had finally met him he had seen how well the description fit.  To the rest of the Team he was 'Peck' or simply 'Kid' since he hadn't earned the respect of a nickname that would come after they'd seen him in action the other side of the wire.  Peck had subdued the shiver that disclosure had brought him; he didn't like to think what names they would call him after they saw just what he was capable of beyond the wire!  But Murdock was determined to treat him differently and, as 'Face like an angel but" was a little long and sounded like a character from the Range Rider TV series, at which point Murdock had got slightly sidetracked discussing the merits of said programme, he had finally decided simply on 'Faceman' or some derivative thereof.

 

Peck had whined and moaned and generally appeared less than happy but Murdock had ignored him.  The name had stuck between the two of them and Peck had been happier and more touched by the intimacy of the moment than he cared to think about.

 

With a groan Peck opened his eyes.  It hurt.  In fact everything hurt and he realised his body was taunt, stretched, every muscle rigid as if it were about to break.

 

"Ease off, Faceyman," Murdock's voice came again.  "You gotta relax.  Let go of the gun."

 

He looked down to see his hands clutching at the rifle in front of him.  Rifle…. Gun …. Fight.  It all came rushing back to him then; the fright, the fear and the betrayal.  Smith's eyes.

 

"Oh shit," he breathed as he not only let go of the gun he forcibly pushed it away as if the thing was suddenly too hot to hold.

 

"That's good, kid," Murdock murmured.  "Now let's get you home."

 

Murdock was still here?  Murdock still wanted to help him even after he knew his shame?  That was strange!

 

He gulped, allowed the pilot's hands to gently lift him, prise him from the seat where his commanding officer had put him.  He found himself standing on shaky legs, walking, the world a blur that past him by until he found himself sitting on softness.  The heavy clothes that had stuck uncomfortably to his body with his own sweat were being removed and his boots.  He felt light as they moved again.

 

"Murdock?"  His voice was hoarse, weak, powerless.

 

"Right here, Facey.  Just gonna get you in the shower.  Get rid of the grime.  Careful here it's real slippery.  That's right, you're doing good, real good.  Now get ready, water's gonna be so cold…"

 

Peck grasped as the refreshing river rolled over his tired muscles.  He shivered and would have fallen but for Murdock's strong arms holding him up.  "Easy there.  Deep breaths.  Just relax kid."

 

Blinded and deafened by the water all Peck could sense was Murdock's presence.  Vague images of other times, some happy, some painful spent in such an embrace fluttered through his tortured mind.  His body knew how to react to this stimulus, knew how to escape the fear that haunted him.  It had done so many times before, was doing it now but his mind was different.  His mind could not escape the despairing fog that had engulfed it, could not think nor plan, knew nothing save the impending doom that would take him soon.  So he clung to Murdock with all the desperation of a lost soul, nuzzling into the other man's neck, searching blindly for a sanctuary his mind knew did not exist.

 

Murdock held Peck tightly, his own mind in turmoil.  He felt the kid's erection where it throbbed into his thigh.  He felt the urge to move to it.  Wasn't this living the dream he had been enjoying for weeks?  He'd wanted the kid the first time he'd set eyes on him, felt that telltale squirm in his belly as the angel had fixed him with those stunning blue eyes and beguiled him with that perfect smile – the man should come with a warning of the power of that weapon!  It had been lust pure and simple.  Murdock had done some digging, found out the kid's reputation and knew he would probably be up for it.  Oh, how part of the pilot wished he had acted on it there and then.  But he had hesitated, followed Hannibal's orders and decided to get to know the kid.  In doing so had sealed his own fate.  Wasn't just lust anymore, was something a whole lot more powerful and something truly terrifying.

 

So what to do now?  Act on his lust; squash the seedling that was their germinating friendship under foot?  Kid was ripe and ready, probably wouldn't even remember it in the morning.  And after today's little performance he was going to have a hell of a lot more to worry about than what the pilot did to him in the shower.

 

Murdock drew in a deep breath, looked at the angelic face below him, eyes tightly shut, wide red mouth slightly pouting, strong jaw…..

 

And that was just it wasn't it?  Kid was in deep trouble now; needed a friend more than ever, more than a cheap screw in a cold shower that was for sure.  He bent forwards, mouth aching to touch, his hand running up Peck's willing body, coming to rest on his cheek, stroking the soft skin there.  The kid sensed it too, wasn't he moving, adjusting his weight slightly, pursing his lips, waiting…..  Kid knew the score all right.  He may look like one but Peck certainly was no angel.  Murdock licked his own lips; the sense of potential rapture was so strong it was almost a living thing between them.

 

And that in the end was what stopped the pilot.  The sudden insight that if it could feel this good in this place at this time, how good would it feel in the proper place at the right time?  The thought hit him hard as a freight train, causing him to gulp back his passion, close his mouth, and stand up straight.

 

"Relax, Faceman," he breathed.  "It's gonna be all right."

 

And at his words Peck's eyes opened, wide not with pain or fear but with gratitude.  After an instant he nodded slightly, looked down, and hugged deep into the pilot's rangy body.  They stayed there for long minutes, each one revelling in the simple close contact of another being and then Murdock pulled the rope that stopped the water.  He grabbed a towel and wrapped Peck in it.  After he had rubbed himself dry he sat next to the lieutenant on the step.  The blonde head hung limply forwards, shoulders stooped and as he sat down Murdock heard the weak voice mutter, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

 

"Shush, Faceyman," he said, unsure what the kid was referring to.

 

Those eyes came up to his again, this time wide in desperation as they stared at him.  "I really blew it this time," he whispered.  "I should have told you all."  He looked down at his hands, squeezed them guiltily.  "Never could.  I'm not a soldier."

 

Unable to stop himself Murdock threw supportive arms around those contrite shoulders.  "Don't worry.  Colonel will sort it, he always does."

 

Peck groaned despondently, but his voice was stronger.  He seemed to be returning from the numb place he had been since the aborted mission.  "You didn't see his eyes, Murdock.  I let him down big."

 

"I saw them when he told me to bring you back here and look after you.  He may play the big heavy but that's only cos he has to; Hannibal cares about you.  We all do, is that so hard to accept?"

 

Peck gulped.  "Why would anyone care about me?" he asked.

 

The genuine puzzlement in the kid's tone caused Murdock's heart to go cold.  "Facey," he said softly.  "You gotta understand, the Colonel, he's a leader, he looks into men's hearts and he sees …. things!  I don't know cos I'm not him but I do know that in all the time I've known him he's never been wrong about any soldier."  He shook his head violently.  "No sir, he ain't never wrong."

 

"Always a first time," Peck mused.  "Disappointment I can deliver right on time!"

 

"Nope, not this time buddy, Colonel won't let you fail!"

 

Peck let out a long sigh of resignation.  "I appreciate your support, Murdock," he said.  "But even the Colonel can't make a soldier out of a snivelling piece of jello who pisses his pants every time he goes outside the wire.  It's not gonna happen."  He gently pulled away from the comfort and security of the embrace and stood up.  "Guess I better go pack my stuff."

 

"Face, at least wait until Hannibal gets back.  He'll have a plan!"  Murdock stood up, took a step towards the other man, his towel falling to the ground.

 

Peck smirked, his eyes going down Murdock's all too ready body.  "You're a beautiful man, HM," he said.  "I wouldn't have stopped you in the shower, you know."

 

Murdock nodded.  "I know.  Wasn't right not here, not now.  You mean more to me than that, Faceman."

 

Peck sighed, his smirk maturing to his fully fledged killer smile on full power.  "I don't like to be obliged to anyone but for you I'll make an exception.  Name your time and place, Murdoch, I owe you that much."

 

Murdock nodded again, biting his lip as emotion rushed through him.  "That's a promise I'll keep you to some day, Templeton Peck!"

 

Peck just smiled, shrugged his shoulders and left. The instant his smile was gone Murdock sensed the temperature drop by a good five degrees!

 

**********************************************

 

Murdock stood on the threshold of the Colonel's office waiting until his eyes adjusted to the meagre light coming from the desk lamp.  He saw Smith sitting behind the desk and cleared his throat.  The silver head lifted.

 

"Come in, Captain," Hannibal said.

 

"Colonel," Murdock lowered his head in respect.  "You look tired, Sir.  Isn't it time you got some sleep?"

 

Smith nodded.  "I'll sleep after we've got this taken care of.  He with you?"

 

Murdock nodded.  "Outside, like you ordered."

 

Hannibal leaned forwards and Murdock noted the whiskey and two glasses on the desk for the first time.  The Colonel poured the rich brown liquid slowly, careful not to spill a drop and then passed it to the pilot who accepted it silently.

 

Hannibal shook his head.  "It was going so well.  I thought he was beginning to respond, beginning to trust us.  Procurement is certainly not a problem, he's getting fitter, even his whining has got more positive.  So what the hell went wrong today?"

 

Murdock took a long slug of whiskey.  Felt its warmth burn all the way down to his stomach.  "It's like he's got to be an extreme," he began softly.  "Like to begin with he wouldn't talk to a soul, then suddenly he started scamming.  Then he went overboard the other way, BA and Ray made me talk to him to get him to stop!"  He paused, pursed his lips realising he was rambling but the point was important enough to make that he knew he should carry on.  "Reckon we've got to teach him what its like to be in the centre, away from the black and the white, in the whole lot of grey in the middle like the rest of us.  Until he sees that he's just gonna hover from one extreme to the other, angel to devil, good to bad, ultra confident to scared little kid."

 

Hannibal sighed and refilled both glasses.  "It's not his fault, Murdock.  I've read his file and it does seem like he's never had a chance, never seen a good example to learn from. He had to pick it up as he went along, you learn like that and you're gonna pick up bad habits.  The army should have cured him of his vices, should have pointed him in the right direction.  That it hasn't proves he's one stubborn kid.  And after today's escapade I just don't know.  I must admit I suspected something like it but I thought we could help him through it.  I have never seen anybody that bad."  He paused and then added in such a quiet voice that Murdock was unsure whether he was supposed to hear.  "Well maybe once."

 

Forcing away his curiosity at the Colonel's statement, Murdock focused on the case in point.  "There's something in him worth the trouble Colonel.  I know it and you do too.  It's hidden well deep but it's there."

 

Smith fixed him with his uncompromising stare.  "Are you sure that's not just your lust talking, Captain?"

 

Murdock flushed, suddenly feeling over warm in the confines of the office.  He knew the Colonel knew about him.  They had come to an understanding some time ago and it had never been mentioned again not until now. But it was a possibility they had to consider. He smiled tightly.  "No Sir!  He's a cute little thing and I don't say that I haven't been tempted but even if it is my excuse, it's not what you saw. And you chose him for the Team not me."  He took another swig of the scotch.  "It's like we just have to find a way to get what you saw out.  Maybe it's only a tiny weenie little spark now but we have to find a way to make it into a huge great flame."

 

"You really think?"  Smith took a cigar from the box on his desk.

 

Slowly Murdock leaned back, swirling the contents in his glass and watching the blend of colours reflected there.  "Extremes, Colonel," he repeated softly.  "Right now the kid's at the wrong end of the soldier scale but we both know, given the right effort he could finish up at the other end."

 

Smith sucked on his cigar for a while.  "We need to find the key.  Build on that."

 

They were silent for a while and Murdock remembered that Peck was waiting outside, trying desperately to look nonchalant while the little boy inside him must be screaming in consternation.  Visions of the kid flashed through his mind.  He remembered the killer smile but also the vulnerability in the shower, the glower of hatred as he stared out from a muddy face struggling to finish a training exercise and the grin of triumph as he presented the pilot only a couple of days ago with a special edition comic book supposedly only available back home.  Lord; that feeling of burning desire in his deepest being was back.  He had had him so close and been strong enough to push him away.  Now Murdock knew, no matter what he couldn't allow Hannibal to send Peck away.  They had to keep him here.  But how to do that?  Suddenly the beginnings of a plan formed in the pilot's mind.  "Didn't you say he wasn't a bad shot?" he said, his calmness belying the rush of hope that suddenly crashed through him.

 

Hannibal nodded.  "From what I can tell that's about the only thing he didn't fake on his training scores."

 

"Then we've got something to work on!"

 

The Colonel rolled his eyes and smiled. "I see where you're coming from and I like it Murdock, I like it!  Go bring him in."

 

"You want me to come back with him?"  Murdock asked.

 

"No," Hannibal shook his head.  "I reckon this little interview should just be between the two of us.  Kid's been through enough today.  Let's make it as painless as possible for all of us."

 

Murdock nodded with relief, slammed down the rest of his drink and turned to leave.

 

Minutes later Peck stood to attention before his commanding officer.  He could feel the apprehension deep in the pit of his belly but he breathed deeply, forcing it down, telling himself he didn't care.  Didn't care whether he stayed or went.  He would survive this; he would find a way to compensate.  Winning was not important, enduring that's what counted, just existing, so you could fight another day.

 

"Lieutenant Peck," Hannibal began.

 

"Sir!"

 

"I think we had a little problem today."

 

"Sir!"

 

"Captain Murdock and myself have been discussing how we might progress from here."

 

"Sir!"

 

"Stand easy."  Peck complied, the gulping of his throat the only sign of the emotion that was rushing through him.  "Murdock informs me you have been packing your things.  Why?"

 

Peck licked his lips, hesitated.  "I … I.."

 

"Spit it out soldier," Smith's voice was kind.

 

"As you know Sir, the truth is not always as important as it should be to me.  I'm not honest very often," Peck confessed, his words were measured and unusually pensive.  "But maybe I owe you that much at least."

 

Smith rolled his eyes.  "From you I would accept that as an honour, lieutenant."

 

Peck sighed, narrowing his eyes as he tried to ascertain whether the Colonel was being ironic with him or not.  Again he was frustrated to realise he could not read the Colonel's purpose.  Uncomfortable with the prospect, he nevertheless forced himself to continue.  "There is no place for cowards in the Special Forces."  He was fighting to keep the emotion from his voice.  "And especially not in your Team, Sir!"

 

"And that is what you are?"

 

"Yes Sir!"

 

Smith shook his head.  "What makes you think that, Peck?"

 

A look of real pain escaped and flashed across the lieutenant's face.  His eyes were wide pleading for a second and then he gulped again, took hold of himself.  Did he not deserve this?  Well he maybe could not control himself in a war but sure as hell he could in this situation.  Disciplinary interview with his commanding officer, he had been here before, many times.  Experience had shown him that he could endure this, may even thrive if he could just keep his cool and string along a line.  Be humble, play to the Colonel's vanity.  "I'm not a soldier, Sir, not like you.  I don't do Teams very well and I can't fight.  I can do all the other things you require of me but not those.  And after all they're the reasons we're all here."

 

"Would you agree with me that cowards don't have balls, lieutenant?"

 

Peck nodded.  "Yes, Sir!"

 

"I think it takes balls to have the nerve to change your grades in Special Forces training.  I don't think a coward would have the nerve to do that.  Or how about engineering a brawl in a crowded bar?"

 

"That's different, Sir."

 

"In what way, Lieutenant?"

 

Peck shrugged, looked away from Smith's gaze, trying to hold on to his composure.  "Does it really matter?  I didn't hack it.  Do we really have to dissect my failure, like some second grade biology lesson?" he snapped.

 

"Yes, it matters because we need to find a way to help you with your problem.  Everybody is scared the other side of the wire, only an imbecile wouldn't be.  I don't want imbeciles on my Team."

 

It suddenly dawned on Peck where this conversation was leading. "You're not sending me away?" he asked tentatively.

 

"Why the hell should I do that?"

 

"Because three times I've gone out there to be a soldier and three times I've crapped my pants.  Why will it be different on the fourth, the fifth or the hundredth and fifth?"

 

Smith shrugged.  "And running away is going to solve that particular problem?  I don't think so.  I've been a soldier for a long time and I know there is only one way to help you through this - we're gonna work on it, kid.  You're part of my Team – the best Team - and we don't give up on each other."

 

Peck shook his head.  "I don't understand.  I'm useless, why should you put your butt on the line for me?  I'm a liability.  It makes no sense."

 

"Let's just say you remind me of a kid I knew back in Korea in '52, all wise talk, tough acting but scared shitless too."

 

"And?"

 

"Turned into one of the best damn soldiers in this man's army."  The Colonel leaned back into his chair.

 

"And you think…. that I ….?"  Peck found himself suddenly lost for words, an unfamiliar feeling which he did not find particularly comfortable.

 

"Yeah I do." The Colonel's eyes were wide with honesty. "This isn't about what happened today outside the wire, well not entirely anyway.  I know that deep inside of you is a fighter, kid.  Maybe you just haven't found the right person to bring it out in a positive way; you've certainly used it to your own advantage in the past.  You lack commitment to anything but yourself, maybe that fault has come from the way the rest of the world has treated you, not from your own flaws.  You're had it rough kid, I know, but you've found ways to survive."  Smith paused for a long second, eyes spearing the younger man's.  "Do you know what your deepest fear is kid?"

 

Peck shook his head slowly, uneasy with the way this conversation was moving into uncharted territory and turning into a clinical analysis session of his inner thoughts and fears.  He tried not to think about them and he was mystified as to why Smith should be so interested.

 

But the Colonel carried on relentlessly.  "I think it's not that you think you're inadequate.  I think you fear that you may succeed at something, something that benefits the rest of the world not just yourself.  I think you're scared you may find you're not the failure you think you are but that you may actually have some value, some positive reason for being here.  I think it's the light inside you not the darkness that frightens you most; the possibility that you may find a place in my Team, a place where you are cherished, where you have worth.  Experience has shown you that you are going to be rejected, so you reject everything first.  Well I'm not going to send you away; I'm not going to reject you.  I'm gonna give you the chance to shine, lieutenant cos I think you have qualities that you don't even know you've got!"

 

Peck smiled ruefully.  "You are one goddamn, crazy son of a bitch!" he murmured.

 

"Crazy maybe, but you're not arguing with me!"  The Colonel was smiling again. "So are we gonna do this thing or not?  Teach you how to change your fear to something positive.  Teach you to shine.  Teach you about the jazz?  Are you going to commit to me and my Team?"

 

Peck held the older man's gaze and suddenly felt safe in the confidence he saw in those deep eyes, safer than he ever had in his life before.  No one had ever spoken to him in such a way.  No one had ever taken the time to see behind his façade before.  Peck felt suddenly and powerfully special.  "Yes Sir!" he snapped back to attention.

 

Smith beamed.  "Then tomorrow, as my Supplies Officer, I want you to go out and procure the best damn sniper rifle you can find."

 

Peck rolled his eyes.  "Why?"

 

Smith smirked fondly.  "That's 'Why Sir?' to you, Peck!  And instead of asking stupid questions just follow orders for once!"

 

Peck smiled.  "Yes, Sir!"

 

"Now get out and let me finish this damn paperwork so I can get some shut-eye."

 

 

TBC

 


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