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February Holiday Selection - short stories based on odd holidays

Author: Shadowwalker213

 

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: Some Language; the N word.

 

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Holiday: Bubble Gum Day - Feb 1

 

Note: The first time a military aerobatics unit ever performed the Missing Man Formation was in 1969 when the USAF Thunderbirds flew the maneuver to honor the men and women who were then POWs in Vietnam.

 

Title: Smile A Little Smile For Me

 

"What's that you're listening to, Captain?"

 

"Uh, they call it bubblegum music." Murdock ducked his head, felt his face grow warm. "I, uh, just liked the name of the group. The Flying Machine. Catchy, huh?"

 

His commander frowned. "Yeah. Well, c'mon. We're going to go over that new maneuver." The frown softened as Murdock didn't move from his seat. "You okay with this, Captain? I mean, it hasn't been that long..."

 

"I'll be okay, sir. I mean, this is really an honor. I know that. And I know this is a way to salute the guys..."

 

The commander crouched down, looking Murdock straight in the eye. "Murdock, you did an amazing job over there. It's one of the reasons you were accepted into the program. You've paid your dues. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Nobody could've gotten them all out. Nobody."

 

"My head knows that. I just have to convince the rest of me."

 

"Well, just think of the good you'll do, flying with us. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if you're the one taking my place next year. You're a natural, Captain."

 

"Yeah. That's what they tell me."

 

"Are you having second thoughts?"

 

Murdock cringed inside. He knew the commander couldn't fathom anyone not wanting to be a member of the Thunderbirds. That was every pilot's dream. And yet...

 

"No, sir. I'm proud to be on the team, sir."

 

"Good. Because if you aren't one hundred percent sure you want to be here, now's the time to tell me. We've only got four months left to train. If I need to find a replacement..."

 

Murdock stood abruptly. "I guess we better go over that maneuver now, right, sir?" He smiled and started walking toward the hangar.

 

A moment later the commander followed.

 

*****

 

"Want to tell me what happened, Captain?"

 

Murdock fidgeted, not able to look the commander in the face. He really didn't know what had happened. One minute he was flying along, perfectly situated, ready for the next maneuver, the pulling away from the group, leaving the gap for the "missing comrade".

 

The next minute he couldn't even see the rest of the squad. Or the base. Or anything that looked remotely familiar. It had taken forever to find his way back and land.

 

"I'm waiting, Captain."

 

"I, uh, I don't know, sir. I just..."

 

"You just lost it! The maneuver was perfect, and then you just kept going. It's just a damn good thing it was the end of the show! And this isn't the first time you've gone off in your own little world."

 

"I've never jeopardized..."

 

"No, it's never been while you're up there. Not until today. But everyone's noticed it." The commander, sighed, softened his voice. "It's been like this since Hamburger Hill. That's what's eating you, isn't it?"

 

"I know this is a big deal, Jack. I know what being on the T-Birds means. But...all those guys over there..."

 

"Murdock, the Air Force is not going to transfer you. You know that."

 

"I know. I know..."

 

*****

 

"So, Captain. All ready?"

 

Murdock spun around, nearly dropping his flight bag. "What are you doing here?"

 

"Come now, Murdock. Is that any way to treat someone who did you a favor?"

 

"Some favor, Cheney. I wanted a transfer."

 

"You got a transfer. Okay, so now you're Army green instead of Air Force blue, so big deal."

 

"I liked the Air Force!"

 

"Well, they didn't like you, Murdock. You were an embarrassment. A T-Bird pilot who didn't want the job? Major no-no, Captain. Making you disappear into Nam was the only way they'd go for it."

 

Murdock turned and stared out the window, ignoring Cheney, who waited a few more moments before stalking away. Murdock watched as the transport that would take him to Long Binh bellied up to the terminal.

 

It wouldn't be the Air Force, and he'd be flying choppers, not fighters.

 

But it was where he belonged.

 

The End

 

 

 

Holiday: Pay A Compliment Day - Feb 6

 

Title: Turn Around

 

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

 

He wandered to the window, looking out over the camp. Not that he could see much. A few tents, some grunts walking past. Dirt and dust.

 

He sighed and sat on the cot. He really done it this time. Everybody had fights, but not many got into it with officers. Didn't matter he was just a butter bar. An officer's an officer. Didn't matter he shouldn't'a said what he said. BA was supposed to take it and forget it. Like he was gonna do that. That's what almost got his daddy killed, just lettin things go, just takin it.

 

Not BA Baracus. No way.

 

So now he was on his way to another demotion. Probly worse. Court martial. Mama'd never get over that. Bad enough he had to tell her each time he lost a stripe. Well, it helped he always got 'em back again. Redeemed hisself.

 

Ain't no redeemin this, though.

 

He looked up - voices outside the hut. Now what? They already got his statement, not that it meant anything. All they had to do was open his record and anything he said was worthless. When he saw the LTC walk in, he knew it was gonna be bad. Another one looking for his first bird at BA's expense.

 

"Sergeant."

 

"Sir." He stood and saluted smartly, managing to glare at the MP at the same time.

 

"That's all, soldier. I'll call you when I'm done here."

 

"Sir..." The MP was startled. So was BA.

 

"It's okay, Lieutenant. I don't think the sergeant here has any reason to clobber me. Not yet, anyway."

 

Left alone, the two men looked each other over carefully. BA wasn't at all sure of this guy. He could swear there was a smile on his face. Well, he could take care of that in no short order. Who'd this guy think he was, anyway?

 

"Mind if I sit, Sergeant?"

 

BA shrugged, then dropped down on the cot. Didn't care if he had permission or not. This was his cell. The LTC waited a moment, chuckled and sat on the only chair.

 

"So, Sergeant Baracus. In a bit of trouble, I hear. Too bad. I've heard good things about you."

 

"What? I mean, beggin your pardon, sir, but..."

 

That chuckle again. "Let's just say I listen at different doors than most officers. And what I hear impresses me. Like you can strip and rebuild damn near any weapon faster than most people can pick it up. And you have quite some talent for engines. Of any kind. That true?"

 

"I do all right...sir."

 

"Hmm. Modesty, or not as good as your rep? So, why did you do it?"

 

"Sir?"

 

"Why did you knock that looie on his ass?"

 

BA shifted on the cot. Hadn't this guy read the report?

 

"I'm waiting, Sergeant."

 

"He, uh...he said somethin I didn't like."

 

"Like what?"

 

"I don't really wanna say...sir."

 

"Hmm. So he was right, it was unprovoked. Just a lousy attitude."

 

"No sir! I give him a chance to take it back."

 

"Take what back?"

 

BA stood, noting that the LTC hadn't even flinched. "He told me I was just like the rest, lazy and dumb."

 

"The rest?"

 

BA felt the anger rising just thinking about it. "Just like the rest of the niggers around here. Sir."

 

"Okay." The LTC nodded, as if satisfied. "Well, I think we can take care of things, Sergeant. I know this guy. Better than he thinks I do. But I want something in exchange."

 

BA scowled. That figured.

 

"I want your promise that if that term comes up again, or any other trouble, you let me know - before you land the SOB on his ass."

 

"What..."

 

"I don't let anyone talk to my men that way, Sergeant. But I want to be prepared with a good cover story before you end up in the brig again, understood?"

 

BA's jaw fell open. What was going on? He wasn't in this guy's unit.

 

"Okay, the paperwork and, uh, the other things will get straightened out this afternoon, so you'll have to cool your heels until then. My lieutenant will come and get you when it's done. Lieutenant Peck. Don't give him any trouble, either. Believe me, he's someone you want on your side. Especially if you need supplies."

 

"Uh, no, sir. No trouble."

 

"Oh, I'm Lt. Col. John Smith, by the way. Most of my men call me Hannibal." Smith stood, put his hand out and BA shook it automatically, still in shock at the turn of events.

 

Smith smiled and stepped to the door, whistling for the MP. Before stepping out, he turned back to BA.

 

"Remember, BA. I'm counting on you being as good, or better, than your reputation. Don't let me down."

 

"No, Sir!"

 

Long after Smith had gone, BA sat on the cot, staring at his hands. Colonel John Hannibal Smith. "The" Colonel Smith.

 

Man.

 

Mama was gonna be so proud of him.

 

And so was Hannibal. He'd make sure of that.

 

The End

 

 

 

Holiday: Satisfied Staying Single Day - Feb 11

 

Title: The Way It Should Be

 

As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will, he will be sure to repent. - Socrates

 

Hannibal folded the letter carefully before placing it back in his jacket pocket. Sighing, he pulled a cigar and lit it with a smoldering stick from the campfire. It was almost dawn; they would be moving out soon, heading for some little hamlet full of Cong. Supposedly. Never knew for sure. Not till they got where they were going. But that's why he and his team were there. To find out.

 

He looked over at the rest of the recon team. Face, double-checking everything, as usual. BA, double-checking Face. Ray, watching them both, grinning. The rest getting their gear together, talking softly. His men, all professionals, all damn good at what they did. He respected them; they respected him.

 

That's the way it should be.

 

He stood and felt the letter crinkle in his pocket. Sighed.

 

She should be sitting at home, waiting for him. Not waiting for him to come back from yet another war, yet another country, but to come home from a day at work. Waiting there with supper ready, three or four kids running around the house, a couple dogs...That's where she should be.

 

That's what she'd wanted.

 

"You okay, Colonel?"

 

"Huh? Oh, yeah, Face. Just a little wool-gathering." He looked toward the east. Not quite daylight yet. "You guys about ready?"

 

"Yeah, gear's all set. Just finish chow and clear up the camp, then we're good to go."

 

"Take your time. Intel was pretty iffy on this one."

 

Face nodded and moved back toward the others. He was a good kid. Full of shit, but when the job needed doing, he was solid. Hannibal knew he had to watch himself with that one, though. Can't have favorites. Didn't work. Not out here. Not anywhere, really.

 

He turned to check his own gear and felt the letter again.

 

She hadn't played favorites. She'd been honest, all the way. Maybe that's why he'd half-expected it. She wasn't cut out to be an Army wife. No woman wanted to see her man go off to Korea, of course. But she wanted that to be the end of it. Do his tour, get a nice stateside assignment, then get a job when his time was up.

 

That's what she'd wanted.

 

"Last cup, Hannibal." BA held the coffee pot and Hannibal picked up his cup, watching the last of the steaming liquid fill it up.

 

"Gonna be hot today." BA tossed the dregs on the ground and shook the pot as he walked away. "Least it ain't rainin yet..."

 

There was another one Hannibal counted on. No nonsense there. BA was all business. BA needed to prove his worth to Hannibal, and much as he wished BA would loosen up, he appreciated the man's total loyalty.

 

He sighed again and crouched down. His hand moved up to the pocket, back down again. The letter...

 

She'd written him at least twice a week while he was in Korea. And he'd written as often as he could. He always ended his letters the same way, knowing that her response would be the same as well. She wouldn't make any decisions while he was over there. They would talk when he came home. She wanted that decision to be made face-to-face. And he'd always agreed.

 

That's the way she wanted it.

 

The men had finished their breakfasts and were now cleaning up the camp. Hannibal stepped over to the campfire, started pushing dirt over the embers with his foot.

 

He'd come home on leave just after the cease fire. And they'd had their face-to-face talk. He'd warned her, and he knew how she'd react. He knew it, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity the Army was offering him. Three years at one of the most prestigious military colleges in France, working with the American attache...With the loud whispers about Vietnam, he couldn't say no.

 

But she could.

 

She wanted a normal family. A husband who came home from a normal job every night. And a normal home, not moving every time the Army wanted to send him somewhere new. She didn't care if he retired as a general or not.

 

That's not what she wanted.

 

So she married someone else. His rival. And Hannibal knew he'd pretty much turned her over to him on a silver platter. But she was happy, and he was glad she was. And as he'd worked to learn French and tackle the courses, he'd eventually realized that she'd made the right decision for both of them. Eventually accepted it...

 

"Ready, Colonel?"

 

"Ready, Ray. Let's move it."

 

He watched as his team moved out into the jungle. And just before he followed, he dropped the letter on the still hot ashes of the campfire, watching for just a moment as the paper caught the last heat and curled into black ash.

 

The letter from her widowed husband...

 

The End

 

 

 

Holiday: Shut-in Visitation Day - Feb 11

 

Title: Two Hands

 

...The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others. - Audrey Hepburn

 

"Face! Have you seen BA this morning?"

 

"He left real early, Hannibal. Just like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before..."

 

"Okay, okay, I get the picture. Know where he's been going? I checked with the guys in the motor pool and they said he hasn't shown up at all this week."

 

"No idea, Hannibal. Sorry."

 

Hannibal sighed and left the tent. He wasn't worried about BA, but it wasn't like him to just take off like that. He knew they could be called up at any time. But BA had been acting strangely since that last firefight. None of them had felt good about it afterwards, way too many casualties, but BA seemed to really take it hard.

 

Hannibal wandered up toward the mess test. There weren't too many people up yet, as the dawn was barely showing in the east, and most of the camp had been out on late patrols. He shook his head. The VC were getting way too heavy in this area, and he expected the brass to call for a pullback any day now. Two weeks ago this area was so important; now it was just another piece of jungle. He'd never figure it out.

 

He was about to step into the mess when he spotted his wayward sergeant moving toward the aid station. Hannibal frowned. BA was surrounded by a gaggle of nurses; had it been Face, he wouldn't have given it a second thought, but BA was usually bashful around the women.

 

Curiosity got the better of him and he turned to follow the little group. He didn't call to BA; somehow he got the feeling BA wouldn't like that. So, even when he reached the aid station, he waited a moment before stepping inside.

 

The tent, though large, was crowded with cots, equipment and personnel. Hannibal looked around and finally saw BA seated next to one of the cots. The man on it had both arms wrapped in heavy gauze, as well as a good share of his chest. BA was carefully feeding him breakfast, and though Hannibal couldn't hear him, he could see BA was talking as he worked. In fact, it looked like BA was actually joking with the man. Occasionally Hannibal could see both men grinning.

 

Hannibal stepped back and stood for a moment beside the tent, frowning. Then he smiled and pulled a cigar.

 

"Good morning, Sir." A corporal stopped and handed him the daily report.

 

Hannibal grinned back at him. "No, kid, it's a grand morning..."

 

The End

 

 

 

Holiday: White Shirt Day - Feb 11

 

Title: The Battle of the Running Bulls

 

Note: http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1982/3/1982_3_49.shtml

 

He trudged wearily down the street, carrying the heavy pail and trying to keep up with the brisk pace his older brother set. It was bitterly cold and the steam that had swirled from the pail as they left the house was now a mere mist. His mittened fingers were stiff from holding the narrow metal handle, and he could no longer feel his toes. He wished Mother had come with them this time, but she was helping Mrs. Wills with her sick baby. His brother was strong for a ten-year-old, but he felt safer when Mother was along.

 

As they came to the top of the hill, he could finally see the factory down below. The first thing he noticed was that no smoke came from the chimneys. The second thing he noticed were police cars surrounding the entrance. He'd never seen that many before. He looked up at his brother, who was glaring down at the scene.

 

"James?"

 

His brother looked down and smiled. "Don't worry, kiddo. Probably just the bulls pushing their weight around again. C'mon, Dad's waiting for his supper."

 

The two boys made their way down the street, the crowd growing larger as they proceeded. As they got closer to the plant, they could hear angry shouting up ahead. Even James slowed to a more cautious pace. Finally they were forced to stop entirely.

 

James pulled on a woman's sleeve. "Excuse me, ma'am. What's going on?"

 

The woman, holding a pail similar to the ones the boys had, looked down at him with hate in her eye.

 

"Sloan's had the heat shut off, and now they won't let us take food in!"

 

"But...my dad's in there!"

 

The woman smiled sadly. "All our men are in there, boy. Don't you worry, though. They aren't going to give up. They'll never give up! But you'd best head back up the hill, or go home. We don't need any children getting hurt."

 

The two boys moved back, reluctantly.

 

"James, what about Dad? We got his supper and..."

 

James shook his head sadly. "We can't, John. I want to help him, too, but Dad expects us to take care of Mother, too. If one of us got hurt...besides, she'll be hearing about all of this soon. We gotta go home, so she won't worry."

 

Reluctantly, John followed his brother to the top of the hill. There he stopped, a stubborn pout coming on his face.

 

"You go home, James. But I'm staying here. I won't go any closer, I promise. But I gotta make sure Dad's okay." His resolve melted a bit at the glare from his brother, but not enough. "Please, James. I swear I won't go any closer."

 

James knew that look. John may be younger, but no one except Dad could be more stubborn.

 

"Okay, but if there's any trouble, you get yourself home. I don't want Mother coming down here looking for you, and you know she would."

 

John nodded and turned back toward the plant. He found himself a spot with some older boys, who had a fire going in a round barrel. His backside was freezing, but his front was warm.

 

It would do.

 

The End

 

 

 

Holiday: Get A Different Name Day - Feb 13

 

Title: Suggestions

 

"I think Face needs a new name."

 

"What?"

 

"Yeah. I mean, Face is cool and all, but it just doesn't fit, y'know?"

 

"No, Murdock, I don't know."

 

"Neither do I." Hannibal turned in his seat, frowning at Murdock. "What do you mean, it doesn't fit?"

 

"Well, look. There's 'BA', Bad Attitude and all that. And there's 'Hannibal'. One of the greatest military leaders in history. And 'Howling Mad' has the perfect tone for a daring pilot, right? But what's 'Face'?"

 

"Master scam artist, maybe?" Face's voice had a bemused tone to it, but Hannibal thought there was something else, as well. And he didn't like the direction Murdock was going.

 

"Sounds good to me." Hannibal lit a cigar and stared at Murdock, hoping he'd take the hint.

 

He didn't.

 

"Yeah, but 'Face' sounds like a con man. I mean, everybody else's name sounds like a real soldier."

 

"Are you saying I'm not a real soldier, Murdock?"

 

Damn. Hannibal sighed. There was nothing subtle about that tone. "Murdock, what is all this?"

 

Murdock shot an apologetic look over at Face, who was having none of it. "It's just the name. See, there's this new guy, Reece, at the VA. And we got to talking about the team, and..."

 

"Talking in what way, Murdock?"

 

"This was about Nam, Colonel. Not now. I know better than that!"

 

"Okay, so what were you talking about?"

 

"Just about the stuff you did over there, you guys and Ray and the whole gang. And we were talking about the nicknames, and he said he didn't think 'Face' sounded right. And so I explained why Face is called 'Face', and he didn't seen why we needed a con man at all." He looked around. Hannibal was practically staring right through him; BA was glaring into the rearview mirror. Face was looking straight ahead. "He said it, I didn't! But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was the nickname that was off, not, well, Face."

 

"Well, I happen to think things are fine just the way the are. Okay, Murdock?"

 

Murdock opened his mouth, then thought better of it. He nodded unhappily, glancing over at Face, who was perusing the newspaper once more. Hannibal turned back around in his seat, satisfied the topic was over and done with. At least as far as Murdock was concerned.

 

Hannibal woke up with a start. A noise in the hall outside his motel room. He knew BA was on watch tonight, but old habits die hard. He got up quietly and pulled on a pair of pants, grabbing his sidearm as he reached for the door.

 

The hall was empty, but he saw the door at the end just closing. He moved quietly down the hall, not wanting to alert BA if it was just one of the night staff. The door swung silently open, and he found himself standing next to a large dumpster. He relaxed when he spotted Face's silhouette by the corner of the building. He strolled over, making just enough noise so Face would know he was coming.

 

"Hannibal."

 

"Face. Why doesn't it surprise me to find you up at..." he squinted at his watch, "three o'clock in the morning?"

 

"Just getting some fresh air. The room was kinda stuffy."

 

"Hmm. Fresh air by the dumpster, huh?" He shook his head. "Murdock got to you today."

 

"What? No, that was just...Murdock."

 

"So what would you have chosen?"

 

Face sighed, shaking his head. "Geez, Hannibal...I don't know. How about 'Rocky'?"

 

"Serious, Face."

 

"Look, Hannibal, I'm Face. That's all. Just...Face. I'm fine with that."

 

"You're not 'just Face'. Among other important things, you're my second in command. Do you understand what that means?"

 

"Yeah, Colonel, I read the manuals."

 

"Apparently not well enough. It means, Lieutenant, that I chose you. I chose you to take over for me when needed, to make the tough decisions when I'm not there, to question my decisions so I don't screw things up. I chose you because I can trust you to do things right. The fact that you are also a master con man was just a side benefit."

 

Face looked out over the parking lot. "Okay, Hannibal. Gotcha."

 

"Good. Now, I'm going back to bed, and I suggest you do the same." He turned and walked back past the dumpster. At the door, he turned and looked back at Face, who was still staring at the parking lot. "Goodnight...Rocky."

 

The End

 

 

 

Holiday: My Way Day/ Who Shall I Be Day- Feb 17

 

Title: Changes

 

The identity of one changes with how one perceives reality. - Vithu Jeyaloganathan

 

Stockwell straightened his tie and looked around the grounds. Not for the first time, he felt a bit of resentment when he thought of the men inside. Certainly they weren't there of their own accord, but neither were they in prison cells. This was practically luxury living, and considering what he was offering them in exchange for their services, it irritated him that they continued to push his patience to its limits.

 

The men had gotten back about an hour ago, and he knew they were still cleaning up and preparing for the debriefing. The latest mission had gone well. Not exactly the way he had wanted it to; probably not the way Smith had, either. But the end result was the same. He knew he was in for more jibes and anger. More complaining because there were things that had occurred that they hadn't expected, and they would blame him for not telling them everything.

 

He wished, at times, that he could be more forthcoming. Give them all the information he had at his disposal. There were times when that was possible; more often there were too many other factors to consider, too many other people involved at higher levels, governments that were shaky enough without certain information being bandied about.

 

He and Smith had, on occasion, been able to discuss some details, out of earshot of the others. Smith didn't like it. He trusted his men implicitly. Stockwell also trusted them, but he could not take the chance that one of them might be captured and made to talk. And they would be. With the United States government denying any part of these missions, each member of Smith's team was open to any and all methods of interrogation.

 

He stepped into the house and settled in the living room. He could hear them in the other part of the house, and knew they were well aware he had arrived. It was a game for them, to make him wait. Never too long, but long enough. He glanced over at Carla, who was coolly pulling out the portfolio for the next job. He sighed inwardly. That would, of course, provoke even more protests. It wouldn't matter that they needn't leave until the next night, or that they would only need to be gone a day, at most. He could have them guarding that potted plant in the corner and they would argue. That was the way they did things, now.

 

He watched as they moved into the room, one by one, casually acknowledging his presence. They all looked tired, relieved to be back. Or at least, finished with the mission. While Smith went over the details, they would talk among themselves, quietly, waiting until Stockwell gave his assessment. Then they would start giving their opinions of how things had been done badly, while Smith sat back and let them go.

 

Stockwell was really tired of it all. He needed them in his organization, but he knew they were reaching the point where they would no longer ask about, but demand, the pardons. He only hoped he would be able to fulfill his promise when that time came. Because, although he had the clout to do it, it would cost him, and he had to make sure the price wasn't too high.

 

An hour later, he and Carla were once again outside, ready to enter the limo and head back to their offices. Everything had gone just as he had expected, complaints and anger, and then he'd left the team going over the information for the next job.

 

As always, they were doing it 'his way'.

 

*****

 

Hannibal stood at the window, watching Stockwell's limo turn and disappear through the far gates. Stockwell, going home after handing over yet another suicide job.

 

Home. What a concept.

 

He turned and looked around the living room. Frankie was the only one left. He sat on the couch, leaning over as he fiddled with the television. That's how Frankie coped with everything if he couldn't sneak out with Face. Turn on, tune out.

 

Something like that, anyway.

 

Frankie glanced up at him, gave a half-hearted smile, and turned back to the television.

 

Hannibal sighed and headed out to the patio, where the rest of his men had gathered. BA was seated by the pool, staring at the ripples of the water. He was fiddling with one of Stockwell's cameras, tearing it down without even looking at it.

 

He didn't look at Hannibal, either.

 

Face and Murdock were standing by the barbecue. They had it lit, and Murdock appeared to be trying to get the flame at exactly the right height, turning it up, looking at it, and then turning it down again before examining it yet again. He finally had it where he wanted it, and only then looked over to Hannibal and smiled.

 

A forgiving smile, or so Hannibal hoped.

 

Face was, as usual, another matter. He'd been watching Murdock, but as soon as he'd had come out of the house, Hannibal had felt those eyes on him. Boring into him, half angry, half just frustrated. Of all of them, Face was the one who had always had the most trouble reconciling himself to Stockwell and their new way of life. The one who never, ever cut Hannibal any slack about it.

 

Hannibal sighed again and moved over to a chair at the far end of the patio. He wanted to be with his team, and yet he didn't, so this position, near and yet not too near, suited him for now. The last job had been hard, very hard, and he knew none of them were in any mood to be handed yet another this quickly. If they had been on their own, Hannibal would never had accepted a new client this soon. But that wasn't his call anymore. Instead, it had become part of his job to rally the troops and hope they could pull off yet another miracle.

 

Sometimes it seemed as though almost everything had changed. The only constant was when they were in the field, doing the job. Then everyone came together like always. Even Frankie was working as part of the team now. But then they came back here, and it all went south.

 

He would have to talk to them about the new job. Tomorrow. Tonight, he had to calm frayed tempers, soothe jangled nerves, answer unanswerable questions. Frankie would be all right. He was still in that hero-worship mode, would accept whatever bullshit Hannibal gave him.

 

Frankie was easy.

 

BA would listen to reason. Practical, that was BA's thing. The more jobs they took, the sooner they'd be free and he could see his family whenever he wanted. Practical, and sentimental. That was what BA needed to hear.

 

Murdock was almost as easy as Frankie, because Murdock was already free. He could go or stay as he chose. So far he'd chosen the team, and as long as Hannibal led the team, Murdock would do whatever Hannibal asked him to...

 

Maybe Murdock wasn't all that easy.

 

Hannibal could be whoever and whatever Frankie, BA or Murdock needed him to be. That hadn't changed.

 

He stole a look at Face, who was once again watching Murdock.

 

Hannibal would avoid Face until the very last. Another change. Back in Nam and out in LA, Face was the one Hannibal had turned to first. Always. Tomorrow, yeah. Tomorrow Face would be his XO once again, making sure the right questions were asked and answered before Hannibal got too carried away. And he would be okay then, once they were actually doing something.

 

But tonight Face was to be avoided until he couldn't be avoided any longer. Hannibal wasn't Face's hero any more, and he didn't believe Stockwell would ever hand over the pardons. Hannibal wasn't sure Face even accepted him as the real leader of the team any more. More as a go-between for Stockwell.

 

Hannibal looked at Face again, and this time Face was looking right back at him. That look. The one that said, "I don't know you any more."

 

And Hannibal felt the same damn way...

 

The End

 

 

 

Holiday: Spunky Old Broads Day - Feb 19

 

Title: Just Mo

 

Now I know the things I know, and I do the things I do; and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you! - Dorothy Parker

 

They stood together in the street, watching as the MP's tore out of town. The bikers were locked in the storage room of the hardware store, still cuffed and with an armed guard. Hank was taking no chances with them.

 

Hank didn't like taking chances.

 

"Well, Mo, that's that. The Feds will be here late tonight to get these jerks out of here, and then maybe the town can get back to normal."

 

"Yes, that's good, Hank."

 

Hank looked at her, noting the faraway tone to her voice. "You okay, Mo?"

 

"Yes, I'm fine, Hank." She smiled at him. "Just tired, I guess."

 

"Not too tired for dinner tonight, I hope. It'll be nice to just sit for a while, have someone else do the cooking. Maybe we can talk Lizzie into pulling out a bottle of that wine she's been hiding in the back room."

 

"Oh, sure, Hank. That'll be nice."

 

Nice wasn't exactly the word Hank was thinking of, but he let it go. "Okay, well, I'll drop over about six then. Best make sure those guys are still secured." He smiled and nodded before walking away, looking forward to a nice dinner with his girl.

 

Mo stood for a few more moments, looking at the dust now settling slowly at the end of the street. She wasn't worried about the colonel or the others; after seeing them in action, she had no doubt they'd leave the MPs far behind them.

 

Suddenly realizing she was still standing in the middle of the street, she turned abruptly and strode back to her house. She had to clean up, and get ready to go to dinner with Hank. The excitement was over now and, as Hank said, things would get back to normal.

 

She closed the door behind her and stopped, listening to the silence. She felt...dissatisfied. What was the matter with her? She'd come to Bad Rock to get away from the noise and the traffic and the dangers of big cities. She'd seen enough death and destruction in Nam; three months at County General in LA told her that. She'd leaped at the opportunity to take over this small town practice, where the worst injury was a kid's broken arm.

 

And then those bikers had shown up, and she hated the very sight of them. What right did they have to break her safe and peaceful existence? It was silly, but she took their presence as a personal insult. They were the very people she'd come here to get away from. She couldn't wait until the Feds came to take that scum they called their leader away.

 

And then Hannibal had shown up...

 

She dropped her clothes on the bathroom floor and stepped into the shower. She stayed for a long time, until the water turned lukewarm, thinking. Ridiculous, really. Sure, he was good-looking. And he could definitely kiss.

 

He was also a wanted criminal.

 

Toweling herself off, she looked over at her watch on the stand. Plenty of time before meeting Hank. The watch was his present to her last Christmas.

 

She pulled on her robe, shook out her hair and sighed, looking in the mirror. She wasn't exactly young any more, but she'd held together pretty well. At least she thought so.

 

Apparently so did Hannibal.

 

What was it they said? No fool like an old fool...

 

She moved into the bedroom and opened the closet, staring at the clothes that hung there. Nothing fancy. Nothing elegant. Bad Rock wasn't that kind of town. Nothing that called for 'dressy' clothes for a good hundred miles.

 

And nothing better looking than Hank for more than that.

 

God, Mo, get a hold of yourself. Hannibal Smith was an aberration. The chances that they would ever meet up again beyond thinking about. Here she was, mooning like a school girl over someone she'd known for all of seven or eight hours.

 

She glanced at the mirror one final time before stepping out the door. She'd dressed with extra care tonight, and put on the perfume she seldom wore. Even a bit more makeup than usual. If Bad Rock wanted to see elegant, well, this was as close as they'd ever come.

 

She watched Hank as he ate and talked, talked and ate. She barely touched her own supper. She looked around the cafe. She'd always liked it before, nice, homey. Yesterday she liked it. Tonight it looked dull, drab.

 

Hank looked dull, drab.

 

She realized he'd asked her something, and she made embarrassed excuses about being tired, and he paid the bill and walked her home. They kissed goodnight, like they always did, and she watched from the window as he strode back down the street.

 

She could hear him whistling.

 

His world was back the way it was supposed to be.

 

Hers would never be the same.

 

She wouldn't let it.

 

The End

 

 

 

Holiday: Tooth Fairy Day - Feb 28

 

Title: I Believe

 

Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. - G. K. Chesterton

 

"I gotta have a dollar."

 

"What?"

 

"A dollar. For Lisse."

 

"BA, we're out in the boondocks, in the middle of the night, no way of getting anywhere. So why would Lisse need a dollar?" Face was trying to concentrate on the map on the table, annoyed at the interruption.

 

" 'Cause she lost a tooth. Gotta have a dollar for the tooth fairy."

 

Face looked up at BA. "The tooth fairy? You're kidding, right?"

 

BA rolled his eyes. "She's six, man."

 

"Well, her mom can deal with that when we get her home. She won't know the difference."

 

"C'mon, Face. That's like sayin she wouldn't know if Santa didn't come on Christmas Eve."

 

"We'll be meeting Hannibal and Murdock in the morning. She'll be home by tomorrow night. Just tell her the fairy waited until she was home."

 

"It don't work that way."

 

"Will you listen to yourself? You sound like Murdock! Now will you leave it, please? I have to find a way out of this place. Can't be dragging her through the swamps, you know."

 

BA was obviously not happy, and he made sure Face was aware of it as he plopped down on the couch, glaring.

 

Face went back to his map, trying to concentrate once more on the terrain they would have to cross to get back to civilization. It wasn't as if they could just backtrack, go out they way they'd come in. No, as he'd mentioned to BA, they couldn't take a six-year-old through the swamp. That meant finding a more suitable route through the thickly wooded hills.

 

Why was it that kidnappers could never settle into a nice penthouse suite? Or a condo in the suburbs?

 

He swatted at a mosquito buzzing by his ear. He felt some satisfaction knowing that the three men tied up in the shed would be feeding those little beasts tonight and a good share of the day tomorrow. No way was he going to try and drag them along. The cops could come out and get them later. He took another swing at his own tormentor. Dammit. His clothes were still damp and cold and smelled like the rancid water they'd waded through. He was tired and wanted more than anything to just go to bed. But first he had to find them a way out for the morning.

 

BA continued to glare at him.

 

Face sighed and pulled out his wallet. "All I have is a five. Will that work?"

 

"Don't wanna put you out."

 

Face slammed the wallet on the table and stood, nearly knocking the chair over. BA's scowl turned to shock.

 

"Look, BA, you want to play tooth fairy, fine. Take the damn money, stick it under the pillow and then pat yourself on the back for a job well done, okay?"

 

BA stood and walked slowly over to the table. He looked at the wallet and the over at Face, who had turned to stare out the window.

 

"What's goin on, Face? You know this stuff is important for little kids." He watched Face's back for another moment, then sighed. "Okay, so you didn't do the tooth fairy. I unnerstand that. But you musta read fairy tales and stuff like that, right?"

 

"Sure, we did. All the neat stories about the good guys beating the bad guys, all living happily ever after."

 

"Yeah..." BA wasn't at all sure why Face was so upset. "So what's the big deal with the tooth fairy?"

 

Face's shoulders slumped and he rubbed his forehead. "Nothing, BA. Nothing. I'm just tired and I have a lot of work to do before we can get out of here. Just forget it." He looked up and smiled. "Take the five for Lisse. She gets the Beverly Hills Tooth Fairy this time."

 

BA looked at him for a long moment before smiling back. He took the five and headed into the bedroom where the little girl slept. Face went back to the table and sat, not looking at the map.

 

The tooth fairy. Hansel and Gretel. Santa Claus. The good guys always won. The bad guys always lost. The witches melted, the geniis were put back in their bottles, the wicked stepmothers vanished. The princess married the prince and they lived happily ever after.

 

All the little lies told to children. And they believed them. Hook, line and sinker. If you were good, if you said your prayers, everything would work out.

 

The tooth fairy. Santa Claus. God.

 

Fairy tales.

 

Nobody told kids the truth. No, fill their heads with crap and then step back, waiting for real life to slap them in the face. And then act surprised that the kid actually believed all that crap.

 

Even Father Magill.

 

He shook himself and looked at the map. Time to get back to work.

 

It was past noon the next day when they reached the small hamlet where Hannibal and Murdock were waiting. Face and BA had taken turns carrying Lisse through the woods, and both were exhausted. All Face wanted was a hot shower, a hot meal, and a soft bed. They got the hot meal, at least, but then had a four hour drive to the home of their client to deliver her daughter.

 

BA insisted on driving, so to help keep him awake, Hannibal grilled him on their trek and left Face to doze. The last thing he heard was Murdock telling Lisse all about Billy's latest trick, the little girl giggling delightedly.

 

He didn't wake up until he felt the van come to a stop. He opened his eyes, blearily taking in the large Colonial house, the front door flying open as their client came rushing out.

 

And then Lisse was standing beside him, blue eyes staring into blue eyes.

 

"Thank you, Mr. Face."

 

And then she was gone, smothered in her mother's embrace, the rest of the team standing around them, grinning and laughing.

 

Face leaned his head back, eyes closed.

 

"You did good, kid. The good guys won again!"

 

Hannibal's cigar smoke drifted in the open door of the van. Face opened his eyes, looked at his colonel.

 

Smiled softly.

 

"Yeah, we did, didn't we?"

 

 

The End

 


February Holiday Selection by Shadowwalker213

 

 


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