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Point of View

Point of View
by Ldot

 

Disclaimer: Stephen J. Cannell owns the characters from A-Team. I am
not making any money on this work.

Summary: Face questions whether he can continue to meet Hannibal's high
standards.

Rated PG because it has some swearing in it.

Revised September 23, 2000

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

Even as I grasped at the tree branches on either side of the steep
trail, I knew I was not going to be able to stop my fall.

Rain had been falling almost constantly for the past four days.
Sometimes it was a hard, driving downpour and we had to fight to keep our camp
from flooding. Sometimes it lightened to a mist that would seep through
our supposedly waterproof clothes and enter our bones. I'd never felt
so cold in all my life.

The combination of mud and wet leaves made the trails around the
campsite treacherous and slippery. I was climbing down the trail towards our
camp as fast as I could. In my haste , my foot had stepped on a patch
of mud that was just dying to go for a ride down the hill. Naturally, my
foot decided to go with it.

Thump. I landed flat on my back. Whack. My head hit a lump of rock
lurking below the mud. Distracted by the stars before my eyes, I didn't
notice the rest of my short slide down  the trail.

The stars cleared, leaving me lying in the mud with rain gently
pattering on my face. I realized then just how good it felt to lie down. Five
days ago, Hannibal announced we were going on a week long training
exercise. We hadn't had any work for a while and he felt it was time to
hone our skills. After a day of packing and travelling, we set up a camp
in a remote wooded area in the hills. Our fearless leader then began to
drill us in as many grueling exercises as he could think up, and
Hannibal has never lacked imagination!

Normally, I'm pretty good on these exercises. In a weird sort of way, I
kind of like them because they present a challenge without danger. I've
always liked challenges. It's the danger thing I don't like. This time,
though, I wasn't enjoying it at all. For some reason, I was really
struggling. The worst part was the fatigue. I  felt tired constantly. So
tired that, after four days, I was grateful for any excuse to lie down
even with cold mud seeping into my clothes. I was even debating whether I
should take the opportunity for a quick catnap to shake off the growing
headache when a tall, gangly figure came back up the trail.

Murdock was wearing the khaki army surplus clothing that Hannibal
insisted we wear for this session. Without his trademark blue baseball cap,
beat up brown leather flying jacket, and black and white high top
sneakers, Murdock looked very different, very military. This time he also
looked exasperated.

"C'mon, Faceman! Stop dilly-dallying! You know we're already
behind...."

He stopped abruptly as he saw me lying in the mud. His expression
immediately changed to concern. I tried to flash him a smile and make some
quip about lying down on the job, but for some reason my mouth wouldn't
co-operate.

"Face! Face, are you okay?"

He reached my side and knelt down carefully. I could feel his hands
moving gently over my arms and legs searching for damage. Once more, I
tried to tell him I was okay, but I only managed to open my mouth. He
turned his attention to my head. As he supported my neck, he reached under
my head and encountered the spot where my head had kissed the rock. At
last, my tongue woke up and responded.

"Ouch!"

"I was beginning to think you'd lost your tongue," he grinned at me.
Relief brightened his face considerably. "What happened?"

"I fell," I replied somewhat indistinctly. My tongue was still not
responding properly..

"And here I thought you'd decided to try sliding down the trail on your
butt," he joked as he helped me to a sitting position. "Are you hurt
anywhere?" I shook my head gently, not wanting to aggravate the headache
that had appeared with Murdock's ministrations. "Well, let's get you
back to camp so Hannibal can take a look at you."

Hannibal. Oh shit.

I knew how disappointed he was with my less than stellar performance
during the past four days. I could feel his irritation radiating my way
in almost palpable waves. For the past two days, I've been doing my
damnedest to stay out of his way and avoid the "you're endangering the team
with you lax attitude and poor performance" speech.

Great. Just great. I just knew this latest escapade was not going to
endear me to him. I just knew I was going to get double night watch duty
- just when I most desperately craved sleep! I cursed myself for my
clumsiness and groaned involuntarily.

Murdock's brown eyes opened in alarm. He made as if to lay me down
again.

"I'm okay, I'm okay," I said hastily. Fortunately, my tongue had
returned to normal. Murdock paused, but his forehead was still wrinkled in
concern. "Honest, Murdock. I was just groaning at my own stupidity." He
didn't look entirely convinced, but instead of pushing me down, he
helped me get to my feet.

Together we continued down the trail, although I admit he did a lot
more of the work than I wished.. In the end, we did make it to the bottom
without further mishap. Then the trail was much easier and we moved
more quickly. As we neared the camp, I found myself slowing down,
formulating various scenarios and approaches I could take to explain my fall
without adding further fuel to Hannibal's ire.

Murdock, the ever-astute, noticed my reluctance and diagnosed it
correctly. With a knowing smile, he turned to me and said, "It's okay,
muchacho. BA also took a header down the trail."

Surprised, I stared at Murdock. Despite his bulk, BA is normally the
most sure-footed of the team. That's just another surprising feature of
an all around unique individual. He's not very tall, but he's built like
a truck - solid, square, unmovable. He has a penchant for many gold
chains, rings, earrings, and eccentric haircuts (the current one resembles
the Mohawk style favoured by punk-rockers). Many people find him very
intimidating The almost constant scowl on his chocolate-coloured face
may have something to do with it. Oh yeah, it's true, "BA" does stand for
"bad attitude."

If BA had fallen, then that means my own slip wouldn't seem so bad.
Cheered by this, I gave Murdock what I believed was my first real smile of
the day. He smiled back. I put my arm around his shoulders and he put
his around my waist. I wasn't feeling that dizzy, but I knew this
position would make me look more pathetic. Appearances are everything.

As Murdock helped me into camp, Hannibal was standing beside the
campfire, looking at his watch and smoking a cigar. The cigar was jutting out
of his mouth in a particularly aggressive angle. BA was sitting across
the fire from him, sporting a new, white bandage on his left elbow. He
looked up and gave me a sympathetic look before returning his scowl to
the fire.

Hannibal turned away from the fire to look at me while Murdock urged me
forward. I couldn't read Hannibal's face because the shadows hid it,
but I recognized irritation in his body language. Inwardly, I cringed and
thought, "Oh no, here we go."

I put on one of my best pathetic puppy-dog looks and said, "I'm really
sorry, Colonel. My foot just slipped and ..." I let my voice trail off
as I put my free hand to my head and winced.

By this time, Murdock and I had reached the fire. As I finished, I sat
down carefully on a campstool. I was starting to feel the overwhelming
fatigue again. If I was going to get a lecture, I'd rather be sitting.

I looked up at Hannibal. From this angle, the light fell on his face
and I could see his features twitch with different emotions: irritation,
concern, amusement. I knew that he would not buy my pathetic pose, he
never has. I also knew that he gets a kick out of being able to see
through my cons when he's seen so many people fall for them. I was gambling
that the amusement and possibly the concern would win the war of
emotions..

From the other side of the fire, BA growled, "Don't be sorry, Faceman.
It's Hannibal's fault for sending us down the damn fool path in the
rain. He's lucky no-one broke their damn fool neck." Obviously, BA's pride
had been hurt in the fall, and he was going to make Hannibal pay for
it. As Hannibal rolled his eyes,  I leaned forward to hide my smile.

Abruptly, Hannibal crouched down and put his hands on my shoulders.
Startled, I looked directly into his eyes. He has the most incredibly blue
eyes, I have ever seen. They sit in a square-jawed, handsome face,
which is topped by silver hair cut in a short, military style. Colonel John
"Hannibal" Smith had always been a career soldier. Even our past twelve
years on the run could not destroy the military bearing and commanding
presence of this man. Despite being more than a decade older than I am,
he is easily a much stronger man. In fact, I clearly remember the day
he challenged BA to a boxing match and won! Mind you, he couldn't move
for nearly a week afterwards, but then again, neither could BA.

"Did you hit your head?" he asked. I nodded my head carefully, wincing
involuntarily this time.

He grasped my chin firmly and turned it slightly so he could look at my
pupils. He tested their reaction to light while he asked his next
question, "Did you lose consciousness?"

"No. I'm fine. I just have a headache." I replied carefully.

Murdock piped up, "He couldn't move or speak when I found him."

I scowled at him. Now, that Hannibal wasn't mad anymore, I wanted
everyone to forget the whole embarrassing incident. They wouldn't do that if
they thought I was really hurt. "I was a bit stunned for a while, but
I'm fine now. I just ..."

Too late. Hannibal gave me that assessing look. Damn. I dredged up a
broad, reassuring smile and started to stand up. Hannibal reached out,
grabbed the front of my jacked, and pulled me down on the stool. He
wasn't buying it. Double damn.

All of a sudden, I found myself at a loss for what to do next. I
desperately did not want another confrontation with Hannibal, but I was just
too cold and weary to figure out how to avoid it. I could feel the
smile fade from my face, but I didn't have anything else with which to
replace it. My mask was slipping and I felt naked. I turned away from my
friends so I could regain my composure.

I could feel Hannibal's grip on my jacket front loosen and then his
hand was on my shoulder, gently squeezing it.

"Hey, Kid, what's wrong?" His voice was equally gentle.

I couldn't look at him. I still felt too exposed. I just needed another
minute to restore my self-control, but, oh man, I was so tired.

My time ran out as his other hand gripped my chin and forced me to look
at him. His face held nothing but worry and compassion. "Talk to me,
Face. Tell me what's wrong."

I hate it when he does this. I can take on drug lords, biker gangs,
marriage-minded widows, and motherly nuns without losing control. But as
soon as Hannibal gives me that compassionate look, I turn to jelly and
I'm terrified I'll do something excruciatingly embarrassing like
bursting into tears.

This time, I nearly lost it. I felt the heat rush up to my face and the
prickle behind my eyes. I knew I had to respond somehow so that he
would stop looking at me that way. Desperately, I said the first thing that
came to mind.

"I'm just so tired and cold," I blurted out. Then, I was furious at
myself. How could I have been so stupid! Hannibal hates wimps. He's
generally very proud of us and our ability to perform well in all kinds of
poor conditions. A bit of rain and some brisk exercise is a pretty poor
excuse for my failure to perform. I began to feel that maybe Hannibal
was right and I was in bad condition. Maybe I was endangering the team. I
sagged, looked downward, and tried to figure out what to do next.

Unexpectedly, he let go of my chin and held his palm to my forehead.
Startled, I pulled away. He stood up and announced, "Murdock, BA, let's
break up the camp. Face is sick."

Nodding in assent, the other two started the tasks involved in packing
up the camp. Hannibal turned back to me and said, "Get changed into
some dry clothes and then go wait in the van." Then he marched off to help
pack up the van.

I don't know quite how I felt. Part of me was astonished that I could
be sick and not know it. In hindsight it was an obvious explanation for
my chills and fatigue.  The rest of me was a turmoil of relief that I
had a legitimate excuse for feeling so bad, thankfulness that I could
just go and curl up in the van, and anxiety that somehow I had failed the
team.
 

Obediently, I changed my clothes and sat in the van. Initially, the
relief and thankfulness outweighed the anxiety, but then the feeling of
failure began to eat at me. I was pretty miserable when an hour later,
the campsite was dismantled and all our equipment was packed in the van.

BA got in the driver's seat as usual with Hannibal beside him. Murdock
jumped into the back of the van with me. Then we headed for home. It
was very quiet with everyone feeling a bit subdued after what was
basically a washout exercise. The three junior members of the outfit were all
a little uncertain about our leader's mood.

Personally, I was also starting to feel the full effect of the flue. I
wondered if I had just been denying all the symptoms for the flu or if
my fall and subsequent wallow in the mud and rain had aggravated them.
All I knew was that I was feeling much worse than I had been that
morning. I closed my eyes and hoped the journey would end soon.

Beside me, Murdock twitched and fidgeted and started to talk to his
invisible dog, Billy. This is always a sure sign that Murdock is upset. I
opened my eyes and looked at him. His long thin face looked very solemn
beneath the thinning brown hair that whisped about his head like some
demented halo. He twisted his baseball cap in his long-fingered hands as
he whispered to Billy who was apparently sitting between our two seats.
Just as I was about to say something to him, he came to a decision with
Billy.

He leaned forward and cleared his throat, attracting Hannibal's
attention. Hannibal turned in his seat to look at the pilot.

"Umm, Colonel, me and Billy want to know if this means we gotta go back
to the VA," he asked in a hesitant voice. Captain HM Murdock is a
certifiable nut. He lives in the psychiatric wing of the Veteran's
Administration Hospital. He's mostly harmless in his insanity. We break him out
of the hospital whenever we can because he's a surprisingly reliable
team member and he's still one of the best pilots I have ever seen. There
are days, though, when it is very clear that Murdock is not entirely
normal. At that moment, despite being the tallest member of the team, he
looked much smaller and terribly fragile.

Hannibal sucked on his unlit cigar as he looked at Murdock. Finally, he
asked, "Do you want to go back, Captain?"  Murdock shook his head.

"Well then, I guess you're staying with us. Besides, no-one else will
go with me to Captain Bellybusters to get hamburgers."

Murdock's face lit up like a beacon. If there's one thing that makes
Murdock happy, it's going to Captain Bellybusters and singing the jingles
to the poor guy dressed up as Captain Bellybuster. Hannibal broke into
a wide grin at Murdock's delight. I smiled, too, relieved that the
tension in the vehicle had been broken. Even BA refrained from making
disparaging remarks about the hamburger chain. He pulled into the first one
we came to without prompting.

A short while later, we were on our way to Hannibal's apartment with a
bag of hamburgers, fries, and soft drinks. Murdock was playing with the
Captain Bellybuster Toy-of-the-week. It was something pink and plastic.
I felt too unwell to go through the no-doubt-complicated task of
finding out what it was and what it was supposed to do. Sometimes it's just
better not to ask.

Finally, we arrived at Hannibal's place. While the others unpacked, I
climbed the stairs to the apartment. It was a plain two-storey complex.
A balcony circumnavigated the second floor and all the apartments had a
door leading onto the balcony. Hannibal's was on the end. I opened the
door without even waiting for him to come up the stairs with the key.
Fortunately, I can pick a lock in my sleep. Once inside, I headed
straight for the shower. I stayed in just long enough the wash the mud off,
then I staggered out of the bathroom in search of a bed, or a couch, or
any horizontal surface that wasn't covered in camping equipment. I
vaguely remember someone talking to me and then leading me by the arm to an
actual bed.

When I woke up, I saw a pair of big, brown eyes staring at me.

"Gee, Face, you sure are cute when you sleep," Murdock commented
thoughtfully. He was lying beside me on the bed dressed in his usual night
attire of T-shirt and shorts.

I had slept so soundly that I hadn't even been aware that he had been
there. It didn't surprise me, though. In general, I don't like to sleep
alone. I had spent most of my life sleeping in dormitories or barracks.
The sound of other people sleeping makes me feel not so alone in the
world. Even though I have never told anyone that, somehow the guys never
object when I contrive to make sure at least one of them is in the same
room as me during our missions. Usually, it's Murdock, who just loves
to cuddle up to anyone. He can be like a great, big teddy bear.

Not knowing exactly how one is supposed to respond to such a statement
from one's best friend, I just blinked my eyes.  I wondered what time
it was. It couldn't be too late or Murdock would have given up on me in
favour of the early morning cartoons. It couldn't be too early or else
he would still be asleep. Just as I was beginning to look for a clock,
he answered the question for me.

"Do you wanna watch Woody Woodpecker with me?" he asked eagerly.

Ah, it had to be 6:30am. Woody Woodpecker time. That meant we had
already missed Bugs Bunny, thank goodness. Bugs is great, but not at 6am.
Come to think of it, Woody is not so hot at 6:30am, but I couldn't say
no. It would upset him, and I had already caused enough grief already.

"Sure, Woody would be great," I rasped. My throat was just killing me.
Great. It wasn't 24 hour flu, after all. Just terrific. A sick Team
member is a definite liability. The last time someone was sick, it was BA
and we had a terrible time trying to shake Decker. We took off for the
countryside to find a safe place. Unfortunately, we had to stop every
hour so the poor guy could throw up. And every time we did, someone
would spot us and report it to the Military Police. It was awful. It took
us a week to find somewhere safe and BA lost about twenty pounds in the
process.

I guess my lack of mellifluous voice must have tipped off Murdock that
all was still not right with the Faceman. He looked at me carefully and
felt my forehead. I pushed his hand away and growled out a request for
coffee. He hesitated for just a minute before scampering from the room.

For the first time, I looked around to figure out where I was. I was
very surprised to see it was Hannibal's own room. That meant that the
great man himself must either be in the spare room or sleeping on the
couch. Either way, it had to be an inconvenience. Rats, rats, rats. Just
when I was just trying to get on his good side. I wondered how on earth I
had gotten here? I can remember sleeping here only once before and that
was when I had had a concussion and Hannibal wanted to keep his eye on
me. But this time, it was Murdock who was watching me. I hoped that
didn't mean that Hannibal was still mad at me.

I groaned in frustration at yet another unresolved issue with the man
for whom I would go to hell and rolled over on my stomach. A hand rested
on my back and a second hand felt my forehead.

"Murdock, I'm okay. Really. I'm just not awake, yet."

"It feels to me like you still have a fever, Lieutenant, and that means
you're not okay. It's bed rest and chicken soup for you," Hannibal's
voice answered me. I groaned again and buried my face in my arms. There
are times when I feel the world is conspiring against me and that was
one of them. Hannibal patted my back and said in a soothing manner,
"C'mon, Face, cheer up. At least it means you're off the hook for Woody
Woodpecker. I'll tell Murdock."

I know I always give the impression of someone who loves nothing more
than to live the life of ease, but in actual fact, I really hate
inaction. I like to be always doing something, even if it is planning the next
scam. Enforced bed rest and Hannibal's diabolically awful chicken soup
were starting to make BA's terrible flu ordeal look much more
appealing.

With one more final shoulder squeeze, my fearless leader left me. I
contemplated my choices: I could lie there and count the ceiling tiles; I
could try reading any one of the many books on military history piled
on top of the bedside tables; I could fret about how much of a burden
I've become; or I could sleep. I picked option number four and closed my
eyes.

I felt I couldn't breathe. Everyone was shouting at me to stop being
such a wimp and get up. Furious faces accused me of letting everyone
down. Hannibal, Murdock, BA, Father Magill, Sister Maria, Ray Brenner,
Leslie Becktal, Sister Benedicta, ...

"Wake up, man. You're dreaming." I snapped my eyes open and saw a still
scowling face staring at me. But this time, it wasn't a furious face.
It was BA's usual expression. Some part of my brain found it very ironic
that I was actually relieved to see a scowl after the horrible dream I
had just had.

I reached up a trembling hand and rubbed my face.

"Thanks, BA," I whispered. He grunted and then sat down on the bed
beside me and reached for a mug of something that was on the bedside table.

I was curled up into a tight ball in the middle of the bed with all the
covers piled on top of me. I was still freezing cold. I think that's
when I realized for the first time that I was completely naked. Now, my
nudity did not bother me in the sense that I was embarrassed to be
unclothed in front of my friends. You don't go through what we've gone
through during and after Vietnam and not know exactly what we all look like
without clothes on. What bothered me was that I was so cold. I really
wanted a pair of warm, flannel pajamas like I use to have at the
orphanage.

"BA, are there any warm flannel pajamas around?" I whispered again.
Whispering seemed to hurt less.

"Flannel? Face, you crazy fool. This is California. You don't need no
flannel pajamas. " BA, that refugee from chilly Chicago, did not
understand how Californians could ever require sweaters and jackets. I guess
flannel pajamas also belonged in the same category.

He handed me the mug, "Here, drink this."

Sighing, I sat up and draped as many covers as I could on top of me
before reaching for the mug. I had assumed it was coffee, which would have
been very welcome. As I brought it to my lips, I saw that it was
chicken soup.

"Chicken soup? Yuck! I hate Hannibal's chicken soup," I growled in what
I knew was a sulky manner. I just couldn't help myself. I felt
miserable enough as it was without being subjected to more. Guiltily I glanced
at the door to make sure that Hannibal hadn't heard. Fortunately, this
time, he wasn't there hanging around ready to misinterpret my every
move.

"Well, it ain't Hannibal's chicken soup. It's my Mama's. She gave me
the recipe. Now, drink it." The last command was delivered in such a way
that I had no option but to obey. Naturally, I did. Oh, it was good. I
sighed in pleasure and I told him so.

BA smiled. It's always an amazing sight to see BA smiling. His whole
face changes and he looks almost lovable. He nodded and said, "I told
Hannibal I'm tired of his crappy soup." I laughed a raspy laugh, which
brought BA's scowl back. "Man, you sound bad."

"If you keep giving me that soup, I'll be better a whole lot faster." I
whispered. BA nearly smiled again.

He took the mug back off me and set it on the bedside table. Then he
turned to look at me really hard. I started to get worried again. What
had I done this time?

"What's bothering you, Face? That didn't sound like no 'Nam dream."

I opened my eyes wide in assumed innocence and said, "What do you
mean?"

He lightly punched my arm. Even a light punch from BA can leave a
bruise so naturally I protested.

"Quiet, you fool!" he hissed at me, "You deserve that for trying to
pull that innocent shit with me. Who do you think your fooling? Talk to me
or I talk to Hannibal."

I sat up straight at that threat. He narrowed his eyes at me and then
nodded.

"So that's it. You're afraid Hannibal's sore at you for screwing up the
training."

Sometimes, BA's astuteness amazes me. I don't know how he guessed so
quickly. All I could do was nod in agreement.

"Hey man, don't sweat it. If anything, it was our fault. We shoulda
known something was up. You just weren't yourself. Usually these things
are a breeze for you."

"The point is, BA, that I screwed up. It could've put you guys in
danger if it had been a mission." Finally, my biggest fear was out in the
open.

"BA, could I have a word with Face." Hannibal's voice came from the
doorway. In the wrong place again! I buried my head in my hands and wished
for a fairy godmother to turn me into a pumpkin. BA patted my shoulder
before he left. I felt the bed give under Hannibal's weight as he
seated himself.

"Face," he began and then paused, "Face, I don't know what else to say
but sorry. I'm sorry that I am such a poor leader that I don't even
notice when one of my best men is sick." He paused again, and I looked at
him. "Most of all I'm sorry that you felt you had to keep going instead
of telling me that you were too tired."

I was flabbergasted. Hannibal was apologizing to me? I was the one who
should be apologizing! I put out my hand and gripped his arm. I wanted
him to stop. It wasn't right for him to do this.

"No, no, no. It was my fault. I screwed up." I croaked.

He gave me a disbelieving look. "Listen to yourself, Face. You're sick.
You were sick for four days. How can that be your fault?"

 "It is," I insisted, "I could have put you all in danger."

"No, Face, I knew something was wrong, but I didn't question it. I've
been kicking myself ever since you cracked your head and I knew you were
sick. I wouldn't blame you at all if you were mad."

I shook my head.

"Oh for Pete's sake! You two are so stubborn," Murdock exclaimed.
"Worse than a coupla donkeys. Look, here's how it is. Face, you shoulda told
Hannibal that you were having a problem. Hannibal, you shoulda stopped
to wonder why Face wasn't doing too well on any of the exercises.
There, now you're both to blame. Are you happy, now?"

Murdock stood in the doorway arms akimbo. It is very difficult to look
stern and commanding when you are dressed in shorts, T-shirt, baseball
cap, and obscene apron with a pink Captain Bellybuster toy hanging
around your neck.

In my much-weakened state, I couldn't stop myself from falling
backwards and howling with laughter. Hannibal also flopped over on his side and
laughed. The offended look on Murdock's face only added to our mirth.
It was a long time before either Hannibal or I could speak. It was even
longer before Murdock completely forgave us.

On the other hand, Hannibal and I had managed to reach a new kind of
understanding. Sometimes, there's more than one point of view, and
sometimes both can be right.
 


Point of View by Ldot

 

 


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