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The Colonel's Boy
Summary: Colonel Smith is looking for a new Supply Officer but even the Lieutenant who he picks is unsure that Hannibal has made the best choice!
Warnings/Content: Contains male/male relationship non consensual, not graphic but the intent is certainly there, also some full-bodied soldier type language.
Author’s Notes: One off story (unless of course, somebody wants some more) that just came to me on a long journey and demanded to be written
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.
THE COLONEL’S BOY
“O! I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”
Othello, 2. 2
Templeton Peck signed with irritation and threw his legs over the side of his bed carefully avoiding the damp patch that still stained the sheet following his earlier activities. He should shower – he felt dirty and tainted but he knew from bitter experience that simple water would never be enough to clean away his shame. A sharp pain shot through him but he ignored it as he had learnt to do. His body was in a constant state of hurt following the abuse he was regularly subjected to but dwelling on it did him no good, so he set his concentration elsewhere.
It was hot, suffocatingly so and the buzz from insects who seemed to be having one hell of a party just outside his room conspired to make sleeping too difficult.
“Shit!” Peck whispered as he rubbed at his eyes and giving up the battle, stretched for the packet of cigarettes beside his bed. “Who are you trying to kid?” he muttered as he lit the smoke and groaning, staggered on weak legs to the door of his quarters. The sound of the insect party was magnified as he opened the door, but he bit back the second curse that threatened to escape him.
It wasn’t the heat or the insects; they were there every night and Peck normally had no difficulty in sleeping. It was the conversation with Colonel Smith he had had that afternoon and more specifically the proposition Smith had given him. That was what stopped Peck from finding the release of sleep as he played the Colonel’s words around his head endlessly.
He closed his eyes and pictured the scene……………….
“I haven’t asked you here to talk about my cigar supply, Lieutenant, although I am grateful for your efforts, of course.” Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith regarded the soldier who stood uncomfortably coiled at attention before him.
So young! Hannibal thought as he fiddled with the wrapping of his latest cigar, never taking his eyes off the man. And yet the kid was no different from hundreds of other ambitious, smart junior officers in this army, all eager to climb selfishly over the man beside them, all attuned and so desperate for triumph that they did not care what they did to succeed. All of them drunk and seduced by the mere dregs of power they had already tasted, desperate for more.
“How old are you, soldier?” Smith asked.
“Twenty four, Sir!” The response came back without the hint of delay, barked in true Marine fashion.
Hannibal shook his head slowly. “Lieutenant, you’re off duty, I’m off duty, we’re in the Officer’s Club, let’s be a little less formal, OK?”
There was a visible gulp as those blue eyes moved from the spot on the wall they had been regarding, down to focus on the superior officer before them. “Yes… Sir.”
Hannibal smiled at the slightly uneasy hint to the voice. “Take a seat, soldier.” He indicated the chair across the table from him and watched as the Lieutenant sat down somewhat stiffly. The kid was holding his curiosity in, Smith could tell. The wily Colonel had a good idea of the thoughts whirring in his mind; he wanted to ask what this was all about, no doubt he suspected, his mind having been running over all the possibilities since Smith had invited him to this meeting in Potter’s office the day before. Smith could guess what he thought this was all about, but the kid was wisely keeping quiet, waiting for more information. Smith noted the glint of expectation in the eyes and the lick of the lips in anticipation, just once and then the kid forced himself to relax. The Colonel saw the veil come down over those intelligent eyes, and the bland expression that followed it. Ever played poker, kid? Smith wanted to ask but he thought better of it, knew the answer already – of course he had. Smith knew his type; was sure that Peck had experienced every sin in the book and excelled at most – poker was old hat for sure.
“How’s the shoulder?” Smith asked.
The Lieutenant shrugged. “OK,” he replied guardedly.
“You’ll be back to combat soon, then?”
Smith noted the lick of the lips again and a nervous hand moving up to fiddle with the pristine tie at his neck. “That’s up to Colonel Potter, Sir.”
“Indeed it is.” Smith popped the cigar into his mouth and moved his hand to his jacket to find his lighter. Immediately a Zippo appeared in front of him, flame flashing, matching the accommodating smile on the Lieutenant behind it. He was a cool customer this kid, knew all the right moves. Smirking, Smith bent in acceptance, lit his cigar and sat back taking a long draw. Enjoying the scene as the blond lieutenant sat in front of him, drawn tight with expectation but not allowing his impatience to show in any aspect of his being save for the fidgeting of his hands – from tie to hair to table and back again.
Finally Smith smiled. “Drink, Lieutenant?”
Peck cleared his throat nervously. “A beer, Sir,” he ventured almost shyly.
Smith smiled. “Get yourself one and me another Jack Daniels.” He pushed his empty glass across the table. “Put it on my tab.”
Smith watched with interest as the kid moved to the bar. Noted the confident sureness in his walk, the immaculate cut of his uniform, the brilliant shine of his boots – oh yes, Peck appeared the complete soldier; young and handsome, he had obviously worked hard on his appearance; you wouldn’t catch this one out at a surprise inspection. And yet Smith watched the reactions of the other officers in the bar – the knowing looks, the almost visible shrinking away and the dismissive shaking of a few heads. His fellow officers looked at the young Lieutenant and looked away, not impressed. Even Lucky, the bald barman known for his easy going personality regarded Peck with a look of distrust and something more, Smith hesitated to name it but it sure could be interpreted as disgust.
Peck ignored all of the reactions as if he did not see them, seemingly impervious as he smiled blandly at the barman and ordered, his eyes moving to rest appreciatively on a table occupied by three nurses further into the room.
The Colonel sat back into his seat again, his eyes flashing at the scene and missing nothing, while his mind analysed the facts. It was worse than he had thought – there was a distinct atmosphere of hostility centred on the young Lieutenant. Gossip on a base like this spread like wildfire and it would appear that everyone knew the kid’s secret. That in itself was not a shock – Colonel Potter had a reputation that was never openly discussed but was common knowledge and Peck fit the requirements perfectly – blond, slim, young and good looking. Smith recalled his earlier thought as he recognized that the kid was no where near as angelic as his looks suggested.
The Colonel let out a long sigh. He was a career soldier; he knew the way of the world, had seen such sordid little arrangements before, even sat on the sidelines and watched as potentially accomplished army careers were destroyed and lives shattered. Power corrupts; though it was a cliché it was true, Smith knew from painful experience and determined he would not watch impotently again. Something about this kid…………..
Peck turned, drinks in hand, his perfect features chiselled in concentration as he ignored all those questionable looks being shot his way, Smith was hit anew by the beauty of this boy. A knot of intense lust slithered deep down in his guts like a treacherous serpent coiling to attack. Smith smothered it down easily but nevertheless its very existence caused him to re-evaluate his current actions.
What the hell was he doing here? Stepping on Potter’s turf for no apparent reason except the fact that he could not stand the lecherous old bastard! There was something about this kid!
But what was is exactly? Sure he came in nice packaging but there were hundreds of others just as good looking, just as willing….. so why had the Colonel come here, what was it that drew him to this boy like a moth to the flame?
“Sir,” Peck hesitatingly passed the whiskey to the Colonel and perched uncomfortably on the edge of his chair once more. He placed his beer on the table in front of him but never made a move to drink any. Those wonderfully expressive blue eyes looked up expectantly.
Smith took a long draw on his cigar. “You’re not twenty four,” he finally said, challengingly.
Peck’s mouth quirked into a slightly uneven smile. “It’s what my file says, Sir,” he replied confidently although his eyes moved away from Smith’s intense stare.
“I know,” revealed the Colonel. “I’ve read it.”
Peck allowed his eyebrows to rise a little. “And why would you want to do that, Sir?”
Smith’s smile was wide. “Professional interest,” he disclosed. “I’ve lost my Supply Officer.”
Peck nodded. “I was sorry to hear about Lieutenant Crispin, Sir.” The smile became more mysterious. “I thought he would make the grade.”
Smith snorted, not willing to be drawn into a conversation about the failings of his recently transferred away second in command and finding himself irritated by the knowing glint in Peck’s eye.
Seemingly unperturbed the Lieutenant continued. “So what can I help you with, Sir?” As he spoke his hand reached out and long, slender, girlish fingers began to caress the previously untouched beer bottle in front of him.
Smith felt his mouth go dry as an intense longing swept through him. Feelings long ago extinguished and consigned to the very depths of the Colonel’s memory rushed forwards. Jesus; this kid was dangerous! He wondered if Potter had any idea about the viper he clutched to his breast! With a shudder, Smith surmised that Potter was so blinded by his own lust he would never recognise the vitality and verve of the venom in his Lieutenant.
Peck was eying him expectantly but the Colonel was too wise and experienced to surrender his control of the situation, however pushy this youngster proved to be. So he simply smiled and continued his smoke. “Drink your beer, Lieutenant,” he said chummily. “I don’t want anything from you, just a friendly chat.”
“A friendly chat?” Peck could not disguise the disappointment in his voice. “I thought…….”
“What did you think?” Smith effortlessly moved on to the attack, leaning forward a little in his seat. The kid may be cocky but he wasn’t as good at masking his emotion as he should be. Kid needed to work on that if he was going to fulfil his promise.
Peck smiled again. “I thought I could help you with something,” he responded meekly. Then with more force and his eyes already drifting towards the door, he continued, “I don’t mean to sound rude, Sir and I’m grateful that you should take an interest in me but if you have nothing to … em…… offer me, I really must be going. I’m a busy man.”
“Scams to run, deals to make…..” Hannibal’s smile was wide, his eyes twinkling with mischief as he prepared to deliver the telling blow. “Commanding Officers to screw, eh, Colonel’s boy?”
Peck’s smile froze on his face and he let out a nervous almost feral growl. Smith eyed him, picking up the minute changes of expression as the emotion ran across the young soldier’s features – disbelief, guilt, anger… Yeah, kid definitely had to work on his control – he was revealing too much. Smith saw it all and the final cockiness that triumphed as Peck stood up, chair scraping across the wooden floor. “If that’s all you’ve got to…”
“Sit down, Lieutenant!” Smith’s voice was biting with authority, causing Peck’s head to jerk up. “You’re making a show of yourself and you really don’t want to do that, do you?”
Peck hesitated. Tongue running over luscious lips again and Smith could almost hear the argument that raged in his head. Finally with a disgruntled snort, the blond slumped back down in the chair.
“That’s better,” Smith said. “I knew you’d see it my way, kid,” he smiled.
Peck’s face was flushed with indignant anger. “I don’t see…” he began again.
Smith raised his hand as he cut across him. “You’ve got a smart mouth, Lieutenant. It’s gonna get you in trouble unless you learn to control it. Now shut up and listen!”
“But I. …”
“That’s an order, Lieutenant!” Peck fidgeted in his chair and his hand went up to run nervously through his hair – which was too long, Hannibal noted, but that was usual for one of Potter’s boys – the old pervert liked them that way. To his credit Peck managed to control his tongue and said nothing else but his eyes clearly revealed his discomfort.
Smith took a last draw on his cigar, then slowly and with great purpose stubbed it out. He raised his eyes to stare at the youngster before him. “You ever think about the future, kid?”
Peck gulped, shook his head as if he didn’t trust his voice to speak. His earlier confidence had drained away and he looked like a chastised school boy.
The Colonel chuckled appreciatively – even that look was cute on this kid. “No, I don’t expect you do,” he said. “You’re young and hungry and eager – what do you care about tomorrow, next week, next year? I never did either but there comes a time when it is important. When you suddenly realise that what you are, how you conduct yourself is important cos when you’re gone it’s all you’ll leave behind. Your reputation, kid, it’s valuable.” He looked around the bar. “There’re a lot of guys here that have been tempted just like you but they have chosen to rise above it, because there is a better way. Do you know what they think about you? Do you feel their eyes burning into your back?”
“I don’t give a damn about them, what they think!” Peck spat. He was beginning to shake.
Smith was shocked but not surprised by the sheer vitriol in Peck’s voice. “I’m sure you don’t but maybe its time you started to care, Templeton. Maybe that’s what you can do for me.”
Peck ignored the intimacy of the Colonel addressing him by his first name. “You think I have a choice on this?” His eyes were painfully wide with the hint of moisture. The controlled and restrained officer of minutes before was, Peck was fighting to retain even a trace of his earlier composure.
“You always have a choice, Lieutenant,” Smith responded impassively, ignoring the wave of sympathy that splashed through him.
“That’s easy for you to say, Colonel!” Again the tone of his voice was acidic.
“I wasn’t always a Colonel, kid. Not so long ago I was in the same place you are.”
Peck sighed, ran his hands through his hair. “But of course you did not succumb; you overcame, whereas my feeble attempts are destined to fail because I lack moral fibre. You looked up my records. You must have seen it. I was born to be a whore! Spare me, Colonel – I’ve heard this all before, many times!”
“What I read in your file up until a few months ago at least, was very complementary – you’re a good soldier and that, coupled with what I have learnt about you in the dealings I have had, tells me you have potential. I’ve been in Nam for a long time, nobody sources cigars like you! It’s a talent, kid!”
“And that’s it! That’s my potential – a goddamn tobacconist?” Peck shook his head in disgust.
Smith waited for a heart beat before continuing, “Oh I’m sure you could screw your way as far as you want – Potter only picks boys with talent as well as looks, he’s real particular, I know - but you said earlier that you have no choice. Well kid, I’m offering you that choice.”
“Me? Why?” Despite himself Peck was leaning forward, his breaths coming in short, sharp noisy gasps.
“You got potential.”
“Think about it.” Hannibal kept his voice firm, his eyes never leaving the petulant soul in front of him.
“Think about what?”
“Potter or me.”
“Potter or you! In what way Colonel? Do you want to screw me? Do you want me to be Colonel Smith’s boy?” Peck’s voice was unrestrained and gaining in volume as his eyes flashed wildly. “Has Colonel Potter told you how willing, how responsive I am? Has he described in graphic detail, no doubt, the good time I could give you? What a pretty, skilled, insatiable little whore I am?”
“I am talking about you returning to combat, being the soldier you were trained to be, putting your obvious talent and aptitude where it belongs best. You can be part of my Team.” The Colonel’s expression was unreadable, his voice firm and guarded; a complete contrast to that of the younger man before him.
“Part of your Team!” Peck snorted with no humour, his anger evident in the way his whole body seemed to shudder. “I don’t believe you Colonel. I met your Team, they know me, remember. I’ve seen it in their eyes, I’ve seen the way they look at me, like something they wiped off their boots - they know what I am. They will never accept me. Never!”
“My Team will accept what I tell them to accept, Lieutenant but if you want that as an excuse then have it.” Smith allowed no emotion into his voice although he could not help but be moved by the simmering fury of the man before him. It, more than anything else, made him believe he had made the correct decision, however deep he hid it, Peck was obviously affected by his current circumstances. Now Smith knew he had to press home his point. “Slink back to Potter, be what he wants you to be; do that but you will have to find a way to live with the hunger that burns deep inside of you – it won’t be satisfied by what you have here. If all you wanted was to be someone’s bitch you could have stayed in LA and lived a pampered, worthless existence. The need that drove you to enlist way too young, that brought you here, that pushed you through boot camp, that turned you into a half good soldier, that drove you to your Green Beret; it will never be satiated by Potter or any man like him. You’re better than that and I can take the anger that burns in you and temper it, mould it into something you can be proud of. I can give you a reason to get up in the morning. I can ensure that you dare look at yourself in the mirror but most of all I can make it so that when you walk in a place like this, other men, your fellow officers, look at you with respect and even envy. You wouldn’t have to hide behind your anger anymore or feel the heat of their revulsion burning into your back.”
Peck snorted but fixed the Colonel with his questioning stare. “What about girls?” he asked.
Peck nodded. “Have you tried trying to chat up some skirt when you’re the Colonel’s boy? Man is it hard work!”
Smith chuckled wryly. “You can have all the girls you want, Peck, although obviously you’ll have to sweet talk them yourself.”
“No fear,” Peck breathed, casting a longing glance over his shoulder to where the nurses still sat. His hand shot out and he took a long gulp of the warmed beer.
“Do I have an answer, Lieutenant?”
“What, you think I’m easy or something?” Peck’s smile was simply stunning as he relaxed. “I have to think about this.”
“What’s to think about?”
“Apart from the fact that I’ll be giving up a relatively safe desk job and its creature comforts to haul my ass through the stinking jungle chasing Charley!” Peck spat prickily once more, shaking his head slowly.
“You’re a soldier, Peck, although you don’t want to believe it, you were born to haul your ass through the stinking jungle chasing Charley! And I can help you with that!”
Peck snorted ruefully. “I’m sure you can Sir, only I’m not sure I want your help.” He stood up again, more slowly this time, more controlled. “I’ll get back to you, Colonel.”
Smith rolled his eyes. “Don’t take your time, Lieutenant. My offer won’t stay on the table forever.”
Peck nodded slowly. “Appreciate it, Sir. I’ll be in touch. Thanks for the beer.”
The Colonel stared at the barely touched bottle. “You’re welcome, kid.”
“I’ll have your cigars by the end of the week.”
“I want your answer before then.”
Peck nodded again.
“You need to work on your control, kid. You aren’t gonna scam shit if you lose your poise as quickly as just now.”
Peck hesitated, gulped down the sharp retort that had threatened to spill out and then snapped off a flawless salute, turned on his heel and left the OC, ignoring, as always, the antagonistically curious stares that followed his progress out of the bar.
Smith leant back into the chair and drew in a deep breath.
In the hot night Peck remembered his conversation of earlier in the day. ‘Work on his control,’ Smith had said. Colonel wasn’t wrong for sure. He needed to keep it together, control his anger at the powerlessness of his situation and channel it into something useful. Control was something that Colonel Potter did not request for him – far from it. He snorted humourlessly.
The thought of the Colonel brought springing into his mind the memory of the shock he had felt the first time Colonel Potter had forced him down on to his knees. It wasn’t that he was new to such activity, hell you didn’t grow up the way he had, being swept from one Catholic orphanage to another, without at least a little knowledge of illicit carnal delights. If it wasn’t the Fathers forcing the fear of God into you, it was the older kids ensuring that your physical body was at more risk than your eternal soul, at least for the time you were within their sights. And Peck had experienced more than most – being born with an attractive visage was as much a curse as a blessing. For though he learnt quickly that flashing his brilliant smile could bring him most things he wanted, it also brought along unwanted attention. So being forced to his knees in Potter’s office as the Colonel fiddled with his zipper was by no means a new experience; it was, however, a shock. Peck had been in the army for over eighteen months by that point and had naively hoped he had left such smutty situations a long way behind. He should have known of course that anywhere you had a critical mass of men you were going to find some who had to exert their power over their brothers in whatever deviant way they saw fit. If it happened in the Catholic Church for all its professed virtue, of course it would be apparent in the aggressiveness that characterised the armed forces.
Up until that point the army had been good for Peck, surprisingly so for someone who had enlisted very much on the rebound. He had enthusiastically thrown himself into his training, passing everything with flying colours as he had in his school career before. For someone who had never considered the military as a career, he was surprised that he not only had an aptitude, he also enjoyed soldiering. He was posted to Nha Trang enthused, inspired and with a deep desire to succeed. He completed a couple of missions, earned himself praise from his Colonel and proved himself to be a useful and adept Second Lieutenant.
Yeah, Nam was bad of course, and in the jungle it was terrifying but Peck had coped with it. He had started a little sideline in supplying things, nothing much but it had brought him more contacts and he had hoped to increase his business, he had always been able to accumulate stuff – he figured it came with the smile.
And then it had all fallen apart – out on a mission he had taken a glancing shot to his shoulder – nothing dangerous or too painful but it had meant he had been assigned to desk duties in Da Nang. Peck had been frustrated and annoyed at his enforced transfer but he figured he could do with the R and R and use the time to pursue other activities including working on his growing procurement business. What he had not realised was that his posting brought him under the direct command of Colonel Potter – ‘under’ being the operative word!
The shocking demand for the first personal service during his very first meeting with the man, was quickly followed by more and then more physical and intimate requirements from his new Colonel which though making him feel completely violated, Peck succumbed to, of course. How could he not? Potter was his commanding officer; he made it quite clear that Peck’s future career rested on his performance and his complete obedience – it was worse than anything the young man had suffered in the orphanages. He was completely powerless. And as if the physical abuse was not hard enough to endure what Potter’s attentions brought with them was far worse.
Colonel Potter and his appetites were evidently well known to everyone in the camp. Peck found that his newfound friends and contacts drifted away as quickly as they arrived. The few that remained disappeared when it became evident that Peck could not now deliver all he had promised. His time was taken up by his commanding officer and Potter was not discreet about anything; the word soon got around that Peck was his boy.
Peck noticed it immediately of course, conversations stopped when he walked into the mess. There was sniggering and muttering and people moved away from him. Pieces of his kit disappeared mysteriously and his bed in the barracks was regularly trashed, constantly stinking of urine or worse. Potter reacted by giving Peck his own room which only served to alienate the other men more. The anonymous beatings started then. As trained Special Forces Peck could look after himself but not when he was set upon by ten men, or hauled out of the showers or the john, his arms tied painfully behind his back as the punches and kicks rained down on the Colonel’s boy.
Peck took it all stoically, what else could he do? Who could he appeal to? He had asked twice for a transfer back to combat duties but the first time the MO had declared him still unfit and the second Potter had thrashed him with a horse crop until he was unconscious, spitting viciously at him, admonishing him for his lack of gratitude. Peck had not asked again. Instead he had learned to live with the shame and the embarrassment and the pain, all the time suppressing the rage within him that constantly screamed of how he needed to get away, that he was losing his edge, his reputation. That he would never be able to survive.
And now he had the opportunity. By rights he should have been begging Colonel Smith to take him and he was a little surprised by his own cautious reaction in the OC. But if this situation had taught him anything it was not to jump into further trouble in an effort to escape what he had proved he could endure.
As he stood in the shimmering heat of the Asian night, smoking his cigarette slowly he forced himself to consider that he may not be able to suffer what Smith was offering him. It was a hurtful but not altogether unrealistic suspicion.
Peck knew all about the Colonel’s boys – their reputation preceded them in the same way that Peck’s did him but that was where the similarities ceased. For Smith’s boys were described by the very best of words, words that never now appeared in a sentence that included Peck’s name. Jesus; they were even called the A Team! Ultimate top dogs! Elite soldiers, every last one of them. They would never stomach someone like Peck joining them.
The blond Lieutenant sighed, threw down his finished smoke and immediately wished for another one but stopped himself from going back into his room. He shivered although the night was far from chill, the heat still throbbing intensely in the air as Peck conjured up images of the members of the A Team he had already come across.
Sergeant BA Baracus – just the thought of the massively muscled, bad tempered black man who preferred to talk with his fists rather than his mouth had Peck shuddering again. He had met Baracus a few days before he got injured. The big guy had wanted a new part for some wrecked jeep he was tinkering with in the machine shop. Peck had agreed to deliver but for various reasons, chiefly his injury and then Potter, had been enable to fulfil the order. He had already used Baracus’ money to fund another enterprise which too had gone belly up. Not surprisingly Peck had been keeping away from the big man as much as possible. The thought of being his team mate, of being respected as his superior officer made Peck’s mouth go dry. He knew Baracus was more likely to rip him limb from limb rather than follow his orders.
Then there was Ray Brenner. Peck figured Smith would be planning to promote the gently spoken man to First Lieutenant now Crispin was gone, so that Peck could fit below him in the command structure. Brenner himself seemed like a nice guy but he was so straight; the safe pair of hands that made the best type of deputy; nothing startling or inspiring but simply solid. Brenner was a big buddy of Baracus, and when forced to chose between his friend or the new upstart lieutenant renowned for screwing his way to the top – Peck knew who he would chose.
Smith’s Team always seemed to use the same pilot for most missions; tall, lanky, a kid not much older than Peck who talked with a Texan drawl. Peck recalled he had spent a night with him in the OC just after he had arrived in Da Nang. God, what was his name? He seemed OK and word on the wire was he was a shit hot pilot who had pulled his guys out of hot spots they had no business in surviving. Of course Peck had blown any friendship before it had truly started by hitting on the pretty blonde nurse that apparently the pilot had been working on for weeks. The pilot – shit what was his name? Mc-something, Scottish definitely – had stared at Peck as he left the OC arm in arm with the nurse his wide eyes dulled by betrayal. They had never spoken to each other since and now Peck couldn’t even remember his name – only the hurt in his eye. He certainly couldn’t expect any friendship there!
And then there was Colonel Smith – courageous, daring unorthodox. He seemed to get off on pissing off his superior officers – Colonel Potter hated him, regularly going in to loud and long cursing sessions about the infernal man. But Peck had liked what he had seen and heard and he made a point of using what little spare time he had to source good quality cigars for the Colonel with the twinkling blue eyes. Man got results, had carved out an excellent team and they were obviously the most important things in his world – how good must that make his soldiers feel? But Hannibal? Why
Hannibal? Something about miracles and the Alps and elephants, if Peck remembered his history correctly. Well, why, if the man liked elephants was he suddenly turning his attention to the dirtiest rat in the whole damn camp?
Peck snorted, squeezing his hands into fists of ineffective rage. Why did the Colonel have to come now? Why couldn’t he have come calling before? Why not when Peck had been newly presented with his Green Beret, when he was confident and carefree and clean? As sure of himself as any other soldier. Not now. Now Potter’s stinking carcass had squeezed out his belief and his obnoxious bodily fluids had drowned all of Peck’s hope. He could have done it then, he could have been part of the A Team but not now. Now he was a different being. He was soiled, damaged goods and no one should touch him.
He blinked his eyes, sniffing back his emotion. Control – yep, he needed to work on it. Surely it was better to walk away now without trying. Surely it was better to accept what he was rather than be proved ultimately undeserving of a place with the elite. Maybe Smith had only asked on a dare. Maybe they were all having a big laugh at the reaction they had caused in Potter’s boy. Knowing he would never dare to reach out and take what they offered.
Peck scrubbed nervously at his face, wiping his hand across his eyes. He should give up, just walk away back into Potter’s suffocating embrace, forget that he had ever had the chance to be a real soldier.
This time he couldn’t quell the urge and slipped back into his quarters to return seconds later with his cigarettes. He sat on the step, lit another, and tasted the smoky relief. It wasn’t in his nature. He couldn’t walk away – that wasn’t what he did. His childhood had shown him he was missing out on many things but it had also taught him that if he worked hard enough he could still attain those things he craved. Deep beneath the cynical conman he had become he still clung to the childish hope that he could make his dreams come true, he could find a place where he belonged.
As he closed his eyes a vision from his childhood slipped unbidden into his mind. He saw the freckled pale face, framed with unruly curls of ginger that belonged to Frederick Thomas, a boy Peck had shared a room with for a short period of time at Angel Guardians Orphanage. He was known to everyone as Red Fred for it was not only his hair that was red in hue, young Freddy’s politics were slightly to the left of Karl Marx! Just how he had managed to garner such extreme views Peck never did find out but Thomas was clever enough to keep his most intensely un-American ideas quiet for most of the time.
Peck remembered fondly the lectures he had been forced to listen to about revolutions and Lenin and how the people should be given the power to decide their own fates. Peck had mostly got very bored but had picked up by osmosis as much communist doctrine as he needed to make a valid judgement – it was all bullshit! But one adventure he had shared with Freddy had taken him to an important moment in his life.
They had sneaked out of the Orphanage and made their way across town to Hollywood Boulevard on Oscar night, two world weary thirteen year olds, who nevertheless could not stop their eyes widening with the sheer enormity of the event. Freddy had bitched and grumbled about the excesses of the middle classes and how it would all change, come the revolution. Peck had gone along simply to ogle the starlets in their low cut dresses but what he had uncovered that night was something much more than eye strain.
He realised that a lot of what Freddy had said was true. It wasn’t fair that he should have been born a way from such luxury. It wasn’t right that he was pushed from one orphanage to another, wearing clothes handed down from older boys, desperately searching for something that these glamorous people seemed to have acquired with ease. He had made a decision that night – one day he would have what they had. It would take time and hard work but the star-struck boy knew he should be welcomed into this glittering world and if he tried hard enough he would get to be.
From that point he had started feeding his interest in such a world – the drinks they imbibed, the places they visited, the words they used and the clothes they wore. After that one night Templeton Peck had been inspired, he changed and focused on a concerted attempt to get to where he wanted to be. And that attempt had only faltered when Lesley Bectall had so inexplicably called off their engagement and disappeared. Reeling Peck had lied about his age and enlisted immediately but he had still managed to cling resolutely to his dream that he could find a place in the world of the wealthy and famous.
Young Freddy Thomas never really understood how he had contributed to the horrifying change in his friend. He could not contemplate that Peck having been exposed to such gratuitous exuberance as Oscar night, had not come to the same conclusion as he; that revolution was the only answer. He did know the day that Peck entered their bedroom wearing a brand new fifty dollar suit the handsome blond had somehow acquired, that he had lost his convert big time. Soon afterward Freddy moved orphanages leaving Peck with the promise that he would make it to Moscow within a year and Peck should look for him at the head of the invading Russian army! Peck had never missed the ginger haired kid, quickly diverting his attention from vaguely listening to inane revolutionary speeches to taking long walks around the orphanage garden pond with any pretty girl he could talk into accompanying him.
Pulled back to the present Peck wondered what Freddy would say now if he could see his one time friend enlisted in the American army and sent to Vietnam to kill communists. Maybe Freddy would maintain that the situation he found himself in with Potter was fair punishment for such inexcusable capitalist scumbag behaviour!
Peck blew out a lungful of smoke in an amused snort. “Guess you could be right too, Freddy!” he muttered. “Maybe we always get what we deserve and I deserve to end up as some old Colonel’s boy!”
He stood up stiffly then, ignoring the pain that flashed through him and flicked his cigarette butt carefully into the bushes before him, hoping that at least one of those goddamn squealing insects would be scorched where it fell. He looked up; the sky was beginning to brighten in the east, shards of violent red reaching outwards from below the horizon.
He stretched and yawned. He should really get some sleep but still the arguments raged around his head. “What the hell,” he muttered softly. He turned back towards his room and slowly moved inside as he finished his musing. “Well if I’m gonna learn about control and be a Colonel’s boy, better make sure I pick the right Colonel!”
“Don’t you want to change the colour of your lieutenant’s bar, kid?”
“Sure, but what about Brenner, I thought…..” Peck hesitated, his handsome features pulled out of shape as he consciously stopped his mouth from talking.
Hannibal smiled brightly, pushing his advantage with relish. “What did you think?”
Peck licked his lips, nervous and unwilling to reveal his thoughts, he finally muttered, “That you’d give the promotion to him, make him first lieutenant, XO.”
“We’re not here to discuss Ray; we’re here to discuss you.”
“Yes?” The intensity of the twinkle in the Colonel’s eye seemed to strengthen with every word.
Peck had the sudden feeling that every single muscle in his body must move immediately. Taking a deep breath he forced them all to remain motionlessly erect at attention. He felt uncomfortably vulnerable before those icy blue eyes that seemed to skewer him, but knew he must keep his control now and yet inexplicably he heard his voice answering the Colonel. “They’ll never follow me, they hate me. I couldn’t…”
Dammit! He forced himself again to stop talking, to stop revealing, and left his words hanging pathetically on the air.
Smith picked up his discomfort instantly. “You’re having a real problem finishing your sentences, kid!” he chortled.
Peck felt an intense desire to swipe that annoyingly, patronising smirk from the Colonel’s face. He choked back the want, instead concentrating on forcing his lungs to fill with air, and willing himself to feel the calmness the oxygen brought as it spread out through his body.
Smith’s eyes beamed in appreciation but he said nothing and the silence cut the air between the two men. Again Peck’s body screamed for movement but again he smothered the need as the Colonel eyed him, waiting, simply waiting.
Finally Peck could stand it no longer. “Permission to speak, Colonel,” he growled.
Smith nodded, his grin even more assured than before. “Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
“Colonel, I don’t understand. I … If this is all some cruel joke, then just tell me now.”
“A joke, Lieutenant?” Smith’s eyebrows arched. “Do you hear anybody laughing?”
“Then why do you think this is a joke?”
“Because… because I don’t understand what you see in me.” Peck hesitated as the Colonel’s brows went even higher but when it became evident that Smith would say no more, he continued. “I think maybe you’re amusing yourself, passing the time with me like a cat playing with a mouse.”
Smith snorted and sat back in his chair. “You don’t know me very well, kid, but believe me that’s not my style. I never ‘play’ with my men – a good game of cat and mouse with my enemy makes the blood rush around the body a little faster sure, maybe I tease the big brass a little too, but never with the men under my command.”
“Then why am I here?”
“You tell me, Lieutenant.”
Peck grunted in frustration but kept his voice steady as he responded. “You invited me to join your Team, Sir.”
Smith nodded and very deliberately took a cigar from his top pocket, bit of the end and lit it, his eyes never leaving the soldier before him. Finally he said, “I have been in this army for a long time, Lieutenant, been in this war for too damn long. The whole thing has dragged on, and I’ve watched as the number of well-educated and experienced career soldiers on the front lines has dropped sharply as casualties and combat rotation take their toll. There are no more bright young men signing up cos they know what’s waiting for them here and so the talent pool for new officers is shallow, too shallow. The new officers I see here are just kids, barely in their 20s, often raw and without experience, young, unemployed college dropouts, they get rushed through officer training and we then expect them to lead our army into battle, to inspire our troops.” Smith shook his head sadly. “I’m what they call ‘a lifer’ and I know it doesn’t work that way. Have you heard of My Lai, Lieutenant?”
“You will soon and so will the rest of the world. You send kids to do a man’s work and you end up with situations like My Lai.”
Peck gulped. “What happened?” he asked.
The Colonel let out a long sigh. “It’s not a pretty story and once it gets outs to the world, it’s gonna make our job here so much more difficult. My Lai was a village in the South Vietnamese district of Son My, a heavily mined area where the VC was deeply entrenched. In March last year the men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, entered the village. Numerous members of Charlie Company had been maimed or killed in the surrounding area and those guys were mighty pissed. They were on a search and destroy mission but my source tells me it soon degenerated into the massacre of over 300 apparently unarmed civilians including women, children, and the elderly. The soldier who told me, an old friend from Korea, spoke of several old men being bayoneted, praying women and children shot in the back of the head, and at least one girl was raped and then killed.”
“No,” Peck let out his breath in a slow haunted whisper. “How could that happen?” But in the back of his head a quote he had heard somewhere he couldn’t remember flickered annoyingly. ‘To kill my monster, I must become him.’
The Colonel ran his hands across his eyes as if just the telling had brought the weight of guilt from the story down on him. “It’s not easy leading men to war, Lieutenant. It takes more than just the ability to graduate from Officer's Candidate School. There has to be something more - the ability to make your men reach for glory in the most hellish of circumstances is an elusive quality lacking in so many of the young Officers I see rotating through here every day. So they fail and we fail them.”
“Begging your pardon, Sir, but what does this have to do with me?” Peck asked softly, forcing away the thoughts in his head, concentrating only on himself.
Smith smiled but his eyes remained veiled by tiredness. “As I told you before I’ve been looking a goddamn long time for a new executive officer. I think maybe I’ve found him.”
“Me?” Peck’s voice was incredulous. “You said yourself that I was never twenty four – I’m barely in my 20s, I’m raw and got little experience, I was a college dropout and I got rushed through officer training… seems to me I fit the profile of your incapable officer class very well. And not only that I have the added transgression of screwing my CO or rather letting him screw me. Surely there’s no one whose fitness for leadership in the field of battle is more questionable than me. Just ask your men, I pissed them off enough for them to see that someone with my emotional and intellectual deficiencies should never be issuing orders especially to a Team like them.”
Smith’s smile brightened. “What do you think about the war, Lieutenant?”
“What?” Peck didn’t like to be wrong-footed but he was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the changes in direction of the conversation and the accompanying thoughts it was bringing him were making him most uncomfortable.
“This war – you think we’re gonna win?”
Peck licked his lips, his eyes narrowing as he stared at the elusive man in front of him, trying to ascertain exactly what the Colonel was after. Smith just smiled enigmatically. “You want the official version or….” He began but the Colonel cut him off.
“I want to know what you’ve learnt in your time here, Lieutenant. I want you to show me that you can see things tactically; the bigger picture; that you have some of that elusive quality I talked about earlier – the vision to lead good, no exceptional, men.”
Peck shook his head. “God,” he muttered. “Why couldn’t I have met you ten weeks ago? Before Potter …. before I let him…?” He drew in a deep trembling breath and blinked away the moisture that threatened to swamp his eyes.
Smith nodded in recognition. “All things happen for a purpose, Lieutenant. So tell me what you see.”
Peck gulped. He searched the Colonel’s face again, desperate for some hint of the answers he was expecting but the wily soldier’s features remained completely unreadable. How to reply? What to divulge? Smith was waiting but still the younger man hesitated, fearful that he was about to blow his chance but knowing he had to say something – did he play it safe, tow the party line or did he take the risk? From what the Colonel had already said, he suspected that the old soldier saw that everything was not as good as the powers that be would like them to maintain, still was that all a trap to lull him into a false sense of security, so he would reveal his true feelings? And when he did, would he been thrown into the brig for disloyalty, treason even? He finally decided honesty was the best policy. He ventured, “I think … I think that the top brass have forgotten the basic lessons of war-fighting that you have to understand your enemy.”
Smith cocked his head slightly. “Go on,” he prompted, revealing nothing of his own thoughts.
Peck licked his lips. Should he go for it or should he play it cool? Dammit; this man had obviously seen something in him that made him stand out from the rest, something that had brought him to this moment. Peck saw that there was no point in playing safe; he had to play it to the hilt, give it his all, for once reveal the true self behind the mask. He cleared his throat, his heart beating rapidly and the sweat springing to his brow. “The VC follow the strategic and tactical doctrine of Sun Tzu, written two and a half thousand years ago but just as effective today: enemy attacks, Charlie retreats; enemy digs in, he harasses; enemy exhausted, he attacks; enemy retreats, he pursues. But us we ignore it. For this whole goddamn war we have fought the same battles on the same terrain using the same obsolete tactics and Charlie has used his same strategy. We are looking for a great battle and a great victory that’ll placate the people at home but it is never going to happen. Charlie isn’t going to make that mistake.”
“You sound like a text book, kid,” Smith snorted. “But go on.”
Warming to his topic as his apprehension dwindled, Peck took a deep breath and continued. “Instead what I see is we are screwing it up big time; front line unit leaders are shifted every few months – there are very few Teams as stable as yours Sir, and most division and corps commanders are totally out of touch with what is actually going on in country. The mistakes that we made in 1965 we are repeating again and again. But the grunts know, the men, the ones who are there where the fighting is thickest, the valiant men with the rifle squads, platoons and companies well understand Charlie’s game. How he darts in, makes us bleed and then runs away. How he’s making the War a bloody, protracted affair that frustrates our leaders and wears down the American people. There is nothing worse than suffering in an Asian shit hole when the country we are fighting for doesn’t even want us to be here. Fighting at home as well as fighting here.”
Peck stopped then, desperately trying to read the emotionless facade that the Colonel’s face had become. Had he gone too far? His heart froze when the man finally spoke. “And how have you come by such an unpatriotic impression of the war, Lieutenant?”
Shit! He had blown it big time! But rather than admit defeat, Peck decided to carry on with his thoughts, as he suddenly realised they had been festering angrily inside him for a long time and it felt so good to air his views. He had blown it now anyway so why worry about the consequences?
“I don’t think it’s unpatriotic – I’m still here aren’t I?” he said. “It’s the way I see it – all the time I’ve been here, virtually no senior commanders have spent any time with the GIs to learn the true nature of the war. Instead they live in royal comfort, complete with white-coated servants and sparkling China-set tables, safely away from the killing fields – I‘ve seen it. When a battle does rage, they whirl above it in helicopters making decisions that may have worked in another war, but don't make sense now, not to the men on the ground!” He shook his head. “Is there any wonder that our field officers lack the knowledge or the stature to inspire the men – just look at the example we are set!”
“So you’re better off out of it, Lieutenant, safely away from the killing fields servicing Colonel Potter?” Smith’s voice was as emotionless as his face.
Peck glanced away, noticed it had gone dark outside and that the office in which he stood was suddenly gloomy but that only accentuated the gleam in the Colonel’s eyes.
“No Sir. That’s not what I wanted. I asked twice to go back to combat duties. Colonel Potter wouldn’t let me. You see I am different from those college dropouts you mentioned earlier in one way; I wasn’t drafted, I enlisted. I had no idea what it was like before I got here, I admit it but now that I’m here, I aim to do the best I can. I don’t regret being here. It’s not about the war, it’s about the men here – it’s a simple fact of survival.”
“Potter was a mistake,” Peck admitted and then he allowed his smile to lighten the sober atmosphere of the room for the first time since this audience had begun. “But all things happen for a purpose, Sir!” he grinned impishly.
The power of the smile brightened the room and caused the Colonel to sit forward. His voice was strangely unbalanced as he said. “Do you still want to be part of my Team, Lieutenant?”
“More than anything in the world, Sir but…..”
“I wasn’t joking about screwing with your men. I don’t see how…”
The Colonel stood up. “Not my problem, Lieutenant. I’ve seen enough just now to give you the chance you want. Let’s just say how you deal with the Team will be the next step in developing your leadership skills.” His eyes were beaming again. “I have every confidence that you will talk them round to your way of thinking. Dismissed!”
Peck hesitated. “But I….”
Smith sat down, his eyes moved to the paperwork on his desk. He did not look up. “I said dismissed, Lieutenant!”
Peck turned to leave. As he reached the door Smith’s voice came again. “Oh and get your hair cut now, what goes for Colonel Potter is not acceptable in my Team – you’re a real soldier now, so you better look
Self consciously Peck ran his hand through his hair as he exited the Colonel’s office. With his other he searched in his fatigues pocket for his cigarettes. He had just managed to find them and lit one when a voice echoed across the square towards him.
“Sucker! Hey sucker!”
Peck took a long draw on his cigarette as the massive man mountain loomed out of the gloom striding towards him. Peck gulped and cast a vain glance to either side to see if there was anywhere he could run but Baracus was closing the distance between them with a speed that belied his bulk.
Colonel Smith believed he could talk his way out of this and the Colonel knew Baracus better than him but Peck wasn’t so sure, especially when the growling assailant got close enough for the Lieutenant to see the violent twist of his dark features.
Trying hard to keep his voice even and warm, Peck lifted his hands in a placating motion, forcing himself to step forward, discarding his cigarette. “Baracus!” he began. “About your stuff, I can explain…….”
The big brute hit him with a hand at his throat and another to his gut, and then just kept going, like a massive irresistible tidal wave picking up at piece of beach debris and sweeping it up the shoreline. Peck was forced backwards until the back of his head hit the solid wall of Smith’s office with a deep thud. Pain from his neck, his belly and his head exploded through the rest of Peck’s body. He blinked trying to see past the stars to the horrifyingly contorted face beyond.
“Where’s my money, sucker?” Baracus demanded, banging Peck’s head on the wall in time to his words.
Peck’s hands went up to ineffectually try to remove Baracus’ massive fists from his neck but it was useless. He tried to speak but his voice was as insignificant as his hands and all the time his lungs were screaming for air as a dark, throbbing blackness threatened at the edge of his consciousness.
“We had a deal!” Baracus continued to spit into Peck’s rapidly paling face.
“I….” Peck still tried to articulate but even he couldn’t hear his own voice – it was just a pathetic groan, as his head banged on the wall once more.
struggled as well as he could but his vision was tinged with scarlet
acquiescing to black and he knew that he did not have much time. Baracus’ hands
pressed tightly around his throat. He was vaguely aware of a strange gurgling
that must have been coming from his own throat and his head was
Deep inside Peck desperately tried to fight but every part of his body seemed to scream in defeat as his heart itself lost strength. The thought that ‘it should not end like this’ occurred to him when suddenly the grip on Peck’s neck loosened and unsupported he fell forward to his knees on the floor, gagging violently, he began to choke as his lungs commenced their action again. He knelt in the dust breathing deeply, retching violently and his body racked with cramping pains as the oxygen flowed around it once more.
Finally he felt strong enough to lift his head but he still had to wait long seconds until his watery eyes managed to focus on the scene in front of him. When they did he saw that Smith and Brenner plus a whole load of other men were holding the still fuming Baracus off of him.
Baracus was still shouting but the Colonel was talking to him softly and the big man’s fury seemed to be dissipating. Peck rubbed his neck gingerly as Smith let go of Baracus and moved to stand above the Lieutenant.
“You got a week, Lieutenant,” the Colonel said as he reached down to offer his hand. Tentatively Peck took it and was pulled to his feet. He stood, his body shivering with shock, as Smith continued. “I trust you’ll be able to deliver?”
Drawing in a deep but weary breath Peck nodded. “Thank you Colonel,” his voice was strained and raw.
snorted unsympathetically. “Can’t have my cigar supply in jeopardy or the
walls of my office for that matter but believe me kid, BA is not a patient
man. You better come through this time – he doesn’t give second
“So what can I give you for a pair, Cathy?” Peck smiled his most flirtatious best.
Nurse Cathy Ryan shook her head slowly. “I’ve heard some things about you, Lieutenant, but I can’t believe that even you would do this!”
“Call me Tem, and it’s not what you think, Cathy, honestly. I need them for a friend.”
She rolled her eyes suggestively and let out one of the naughtiest giggles Peck had ever heard. “That’s what they all say, sweet heart!” she laughed.
“You look to have the most incredibly soft hair,” Peck said in full flirt mode, reaching out slowly. “May I?”
“Keep going sweet talker,” Cathy licked her lips and moved a little closer to the gorgeous young man in front of her. Sure she knew his reputation with Colonel Potter but she also knew she was never likely to get such an opportunity again and she had seen enough pain and suffering in this godforsaken war to know she had to seize a little fun when it presented itself to her, especially when it came so beautifully wrapped! That didn’t mean, however, that she was going to give in easily. She enjoyed the chase as much as the catch and so she giggled and tilted her head slightly as Peck stroked her hair, regarding the blond Lieutenant with a shrewd but growing excitement tingling within her.
“Jeez,” he whispered. “I knew it would be so soft.” He moved closer too so that they were almost touching. “So do we have a deal?” he asked.
She smiled again and then bobbed forward to kiss him on the lips. He moved his arms down her back to gently envelope her in his warm embrace as his mouth opened and he accepted and then deepened the kiss.
“Tem,” she hissed as he gently lowered her backwards so she was lying over her desk. “Not here!”
He moved down and began to undo the buttons of her uniform shirt. “Here’s fine,” he whispered between sloppy kisses as he bent forwards to run his tongue along her neck and down, his hands reaching behind her to undo the catch of her bra with well practised ease. She let out a gasp as the cooler air hit her liberated breasts and then threw back her head, her hands thrust deep into his hair as he suckled her nipples.
His hands were everywhere, softly caressing, gently massaging and Cathy felt her grasp on reality slipping as he began to play her body with adept skill. She no longer cared where they were, she didn’t even know, logical thought flew from her mind like a bird gliding on a soft summer breeze, as pure passion took over.
Peck had always been a talented and caring lover. He guessed it was something to do with the fact that his first sexual experiences had been rough and ready with him always been on the receiving end and he did not want to subject anyone, particularly someone he cared enough about to be intimate with, to such experiences. He was attentive and considerate and he was never so absorbed by his own completion that he roared off selfishly; he waited and took the girl with him, ensuring she found her pleasure before he sought his own. It had always seemed the natural way to behave and though he never wanted any commitment from his partner once the act was completed, well not since Leslie any way, at the moments of its enactment, he cared enough that his lover was his only consideration. He had never received any complaints – except maybe the obvious one that his fiancée had run away from him without a proper explanation. Still he figured that the sex was not the reason Leslie Bectall had left him. In truth he wasn’t quite sure what the reason was and he had decided long ago that he would probably never know; even eighteen months later the pain was almost too much for him to bear and so he had left it behind him, exiting the memory like a butterfly leaving its chrysalis.
Cathy now was writhing and groaning beneath him as he gently thrust into the warm wetness of her achingly receptive body. They were kissing again, tongues entwined and dancing and then he felt her stiffen beneath him as her body began to spasm uncontrollably. Peck could feel his own orgasm begin to roll from somewhere deep inside, upwards and out. He clung to her and together they rode the powerful wave of their passion.
“Oh Tem,” she whispered softly. “Thank you!” Then she began to giggle infectiously.
He pulled himself up onto his arms as the aftershocks still trembled through him. “What’s so funny?” he asked, wondering if he should be offended or pleased.
She reached up and ran her hand down the side of his jaw, laughing wildly.
“What?” he asked again.
She took a deep breath, trying to compose herself but the giggle still glinted in her eyes. “It’s just I can’t believe I’ve been fucked by a man more beautiful than I am for a pair of pantyhose in the middle of the goddamn jungle!”
He rolled his eyes and smirked. “I guess it is quite bizarre,” he conceded.
“Not quite what I had in mind when I joined up!” she agreed.
“Really?” He eased himself off her and helped her to sit up. “It was exactly what I had in mind! Me; I’m only here to make money and get laid!” he said with a mischievous smile.
She began to re-button her blouse after clipping her bra back in place. She giggled again. “They should put that on recruitment posters,” she said. She reached across and gently stroked his cheek. “On second thoughts, maybe they should just put you on the posters, Tem!”
“Naw,” Peck had the good grace to look humble. “I think I’d just put people off – give the wrong impression, I usually do!”
Cathy had finished dressing and moved across to look in the mirror on the far wall. She quickly re-arranged her hair back into a ponytail and dabbed disapprovingly at her face. “God I look like I just got laid!” she muttered.
Peck moved to stand behind her. “You look great, Cathy,” he smiled. “And you did!”
“Too right I did! Now I guess I better pay up.” She moved back to the desk pulled out the bottom left hand drawer and deposited a pair of cellophane wrapped pantyhose into Peck’s hand.
Just as she did so the office door opened and Major Polly Parrot entered, her face set in the ugly scowl that was her normal expression. “What’s going on here, Captain?” she demanded of Cathy.
Cathy felt herself blush. “Nothing, ma’am,” she replied.
The Major’s withering glance fell on Peck who was endeavouring to slink to the door while hiding the pantyhose up his sleeve. “What are you doing here, Lieutenant?”
Peck favoured her with his very best smile and was gratified to see an answering glint in the mighty Major’s eye – maybe she wasn’t such a dragon after all, or maybe the famed Peck charm even worked on fire-breathing reptiles too!
“I just came to check my medical file has been updated Ma’am,” he said. Thankful that he had set up the scene earlier before he started to flirt outrageously with Cathy. She took his cue like a true professional and played her part by grasping the file from where it had been discarded on the desk, surreptitiously wiping away with her elbow some semen that had landed on it sometime during their zeal, and adopted a thoroughly professional tone as she thumbed through it.
“Yes, it’s correct Lieutenant Peck, you are cleared for combat!”
Peck backed toward the door as he executed a perfect salute. “Thank you, Captain.” He turned, “Major!”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Cathy responded, her eyes twinkling. “Pleased to be of service.”
“Goodbye, Lieutenant,” Major Parrot said in a knowing tone. “And next time you come sniffing around my nurses please do it when you are off duty!”
“This a joke?” Baracus growled.
“You got balls, Peck, I’ll give you that,” Ray Brennan muttered softly as behind him someone giggled tensely.
Baracus slowly pulled himself up from his bunk. “I ain’t laughing,” he grumbled climbing to his feet menacingly.
“It’s no joke, Sergeant.” Peck stepped back a little as the mountain advanced on him again. He felt a twinge in his neck where those big hands had tried to crush his windpipe earlier that day. He forced his mouth to keep talking, knowing that if he stopped, his brain would have to take on board the concept that he had done the wrong thing; walking boldly into the A Team’s hootch, slamming down his kit bag and asking which one was his cot. Maybe that was slightly risky but to follow it up by presenting Baracus with a pair of pantyhose in front of everyone else just had to be a gross misjudgement. Better to keep talking and stop thinking – trust in his mouth, so he did. “We had a deal, Baracus. I took your money and I didn’t supply the goods. I know I screwed up but I want you to know I’ll make it right. Take that as just a gift in the meantime.”
Baracus glared at him. “A gift!” he spat. “You as crazy as that fool pilot!” He stepped forward.
“Easy, BA,” Brennan said mildly but he stood up and moved closer to be able to intervene if necessary as the atmosphere in the hootch tensed perceptively.
Every fibre in Peck’s body was screaming for him to run but he fought against the fear, forced his feet to remain rooted to the spot. He knew how important it was for his future with this Team for him to stand his ground, even though Baracus incensed was one of the most frightening sights he had ever seen.
“You dissing me, Peck?” Baracus hissed, his anger simmering but not yet boiling over.
“No way, Sergeant,” Peck replied. “You gave me a list of parts you needed for the jeep, right?” The big man nodded warily. “On it was a fan belt. I just got the next best thing, to tide you over, so to speak, until I can source the real thing.” He stopped, the confidence suddenly draining from his face. “Oh my god!” he breathed out as if the idea had just come to him. “You didn’t think I was giving you pantyhose to … you know … to wear!” He hit his head with the palm of his hand. “Jesus am I stupid or what? I never thought…” He shook his head, seemingly lost for words.
Baracus’ eyes had narrowed and he was staring at the man in front of him with disbelief but his anger seemed to be cooling.
Peck continued. “I am so sorry, Sergeant. Man I mean am I dumb? I guess I deserve the beating you were gonna give me, right?” He let out a tight, almost terrified giggle.
Baracus snorted, looked around at the rest of the Team who were all wide-eyed and entranced by the scene. He glanced down at the pantyhose scrunched in his big fist and then he shook his head. He let out a high pitched incongruous chuckle. “Man gave me pantyhose!” he muttered in disbelief. “Me – he gave me pantyhose for ma fan belt!”
Brennan started to laugh too and suddenly the whole hootch descended into near hysterical laughter. Peck silently let out the breath he had been holding throughout the escapade. He looked Baracus in the eye. “I’ll get you your stuff, I promise,” he said.
The big man wiped a tear from his eye with the back of his hand. “You will,” he agreed. “Or you still gonna feel my fist!”
Later Peck slipped out of the hootch for a cigarette. He felt the presence behind him and turned to see Brennan regarding him with a sceptical look on his face.
He offered the other Lieutenant the packet and then lit the cigarette that Brennan took.
“You’re real clever, Peck, going into the A Team’s home and giving BA Baracus a pair of pantyhose – they’ll write songs about this day,” Brennan said, his voice was ironic but not unkind. He sniffed dismissively, “But it’s gonna take more than a pair of pantyhose to win them over.”
Peck blew out a lungful of air. “It’s a start,” he said.
Brennan nodded. “It is but only that. BA – he’s a good man. You play straight with him and he’ll protect you to the end but you try and con him and….”
“I understand. I don’t aim to con anybody, not on my Team anyway. I been out of circulation for a while but I’m back now and I can help.”
Brennan nodded again. “But BA he ain’t the worst. There are others in this Team much more dangerous. You need to watch your back. Hannibal needs a good XO - he deserves the best!”
Peck shuffled nervously. “I’m not perfect. I admit that I made some mistakes but I really want to succeed at this. Can I call you Ray?” Brennan nodded so Peck continued. “I didn’t want the job; I thought he’d give it to you. I never would have…”
Brennan raised a hand. “Don’t lie to me, Peck. You’re different to me - I can smell the ambition rolling off you. I just wanted you to know I take things as I see ‘em. You and me we got no history, I got no reason not to trust you, let’s keep it that way.” He threw down the cigarette butt and scrunched it purposefully into the red dirt.
Peck nodded. “Appreciate it, Ray,” he said softly and sincerely. “Thanks.”
Brennan shrugged. “Hannibal has his reasons and I ain’t gonna second guess him – he usually gets things right. I just hope he’s right about you!” With that he moved back into the hootch, whistling softly to himself.
Peck sighed as he ran his hand through his still too long hair – man he really didn’t want to get it cut! “You and me both, Ray,” he muttered. “You and me both!”
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