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This page last viewed: 2017-11-20 and has been viewed 3642 times
Warnings: Some language
Disclaimer: The A-Team characters belong to Stephen J. Cannell.
Archive: Yes, please with comment card
Summary: B.A. and Face find themselves in a discussion about what B.A. thinks of the conman.
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B.A. Baracus put the van in gear and pulled out of the parking lot, tires squealing. Face grabbed the dashboard to steady himself.
The big man was the picture of concentration -- eyebrows drawn together in a deep frown, his massive body rigid. Yep, Face thought with a sigh; he was in deep shit when they rejoined the rest of the Team. That thought cast a black shadow over his already gray mood. B.A. had reported briefly to Hannibal Smith after he and Face got away from the warehouse; Face hadn't heard the entire conversation, but enough to figure the Colonel knew how the scam had gone down.
B.A. took the next freeway entrance they came to. The van rolled along for several miles until Face couldn't stand the tension anymore; he took a deep breath and broke the silence. "So is Hannibal pissed?"
He didn't think he was going to get an answer, but finally B.A. growled, "What d'you think?"
Face unbuttoned his silk dress shirt, not bothering to answer the Sergeant. Anything he said wouldn't be the right thing anyway. He began peeling off the wire B.A. and Hannibal had taped to his chest; they'd done a good job of securing the damn thing, and he winced as he pulled up the adhesive tape.
The scam had worked -- by the skin of his teeth, and that was a little too close for Peck's comfort. It hadn't gone as smoothly as planned, but that was nothing new for the A-Team. Improvisation was a survival skill they knew all too well. So Face had improvised on the spot and taken a calculated risk. He now had the evidence the Team needed for their client, but he'd almost paid the ultimate price getting it.
The two team members sped down the freeway, saying nothing further to each other. Face refastened his shirt and settled back to watch the cityscape pass by as B.A. switched lanes, all of his attention fiercely on his driving.
It startled Face when B.A. barked out, "Almost got yo' fool self killed in there."
Face could hear the disapproval clearly in Baracus' voice. He expected this from Hannibal, but the vehemence in B.A.'s accusation frankly surprised him. He'd always had the feeling he stayed just the other side of B.A.'s approval; he accepted it, didn't mind it too much. But it was largely unspoken, conveyed in looks and body language. It was seldom vocal; that just wasn't B.A.'s style. "Things turned out okay. We got the evidence," he reminded the other man, hating that he sounded so defensive.
"An' that's s'posed to make it all right."
Where was he going with this? Face shook his head. They got caught in tight spots all the time; why was this one any different? "It works for me." The conman tried a smile, but it faltered when B.A. only looked across at him in that way he had.
Nobody, in Templeton Peck's experience with people, could come close to B.A. Baracus for conveying so much displeasure in a single glance. Face had never quite gotten used to it, not in over 15 years. Murdock usually got the Looks. They didn't even faze him, anymore. He gleefully agitated B.A. to the black man's limits -- and beyond. Somewhere along the line it had become a game between them, although Face would be the first to admit, he didn't always know when things were serious or just play with B.A. and Murdock. They seemed to know, so Face supposed it didn't really matter whether he did.
Moments like this showed Face how much Murdock served as a buffer between the two of them -- the gruff and very physical mechanic and the smooth-talking conman. Face had never been able to work his magic with the Sergeant. Murdock on the other hand would've turned B.A.'s words right around, taking the sting out of them and changing the mood in the van. And here Face thought he was supposed to be the con artist on the Team. Peck grimaced and shifted uncomfortably in his seat, the atmosphere getting to him more than he wanted to admit. He actually preferred enduring one of Hannibal's lectures; at least you knew where you stood with the Colonel, with no guessing games.
He'd probably have that honor soon enough. Hannibal Smith would no doubt give him an earful. It wouldn't be because the plan went awry. God knew, the Colonel would've long since blown an artery if that were the case, the way his plans usually went. No, Hannibal would dress him down for his choice to disobey orders in the warehouse. B.A. was Face's only backup on this one. Good backup to have, but in this case the Sergeant was sitting in the van, outside the warehouse.
B.A. had only half the story, from what he'd heard over the wire taped to the Lieutenant's chest. But he hadn't been inside with Face to see what was going down. He hadn't been surrounded by the four most notorious mobsters on the West Coast; hadn't been in such close quarters when suspicions reared up and accusations flew. He hadn't seen the real reason Face jumped the gun on the scam.
It was supposed to be a straightforward con: meet with mobsters in their warehouse and walk out with the evidence the Team's client needed. Face already had their confidence, thanks to the careful groundwork he'd laid. The mobsters' goons were heavily armed and a bit on the nervous side for Peck's liking, but if he was in and out of there fast enough, there shouldn't have been a problem. "Just don't give them time to think about it," Hannibal had advised cheerfully when he announced his plan.
'Just don't give them time, right,' Face thought with a sigh and settled back in the passenger seat, dejected. 'No problem, Colonel.'
To be fair, it hadn't looked like there would be a problem. Hannibal's orders were clear: get the evidence, and get out. If he couldn't get the evidence, then just get out. "Now this won't be our only shot at it, Face," the Colonel had added, his voice turning serious. "If things start to go south, come away from there and we at least have the lay of the land. Understood?"
Face had no problem whatsoever with the Colonel's logic÷ unless you counted even trying the scam in the first place, he thought wryly. He must've been insane to walk into the middle of a mob deal on the verge of going sour. The Team expected things to collapse as soon as the crime partners discovered each other's double-crossing tendencies. But that discovery wasn't supposed to be made for at least another day and a half. Plenty of time to obtain what their client needed and wrap up the case. For added insurance, Hannibal and Murdock were across town 'entertaining' the person who Hannibal believed planned to tip off the mobsters. With that person occupied and Face running the scam, what could go wrong?
'Famous last words, Faceman,' Peck thought. There was no way they could've known the tip-off person was working all four angles -- nor that in the few minutes Face was set to be in the warehouse with the four crime heads, all hell was going to break loose. What were the odds? Personally, Face thought he'd made the best choice he could under the circumstances.
Yet B.A. pulled an attitude the minute they took off in the van. Accused him of nearly getting himself killed, like he was delighted with the extra challenge. It was too much. "You know, it wasn't like I could say 'Oh, excuse me, could we meet like this again -- perhaps tomorrow?' Trust me when I say it wasn't practical. When everything started to unravel, it was the end of the scam."
His defense fell on deaf ears. When he'd gotten in the van, he would've been happy with a quiet drive. Now the other man's silence irked him. Face exhaled loudly. "Okay, look, I know I agreed to back out if it looked like things weren't going too well in there÷ but I didn't have a whole lot of options at the time, all right?"
This earned him another of B.A.'s Looks.
"Yeah, well, I'd like to see one of you guys run that scam." Face nodded as he talked, warming to the conversation he was holding by himself. "Then we'd see how easy you think it is to gain the trust of four crime bosses."
Still no response.
"In fact, then you'd think twice before you said, 'Oh we'll just get Face to take care of that; he'll scam us a truck, a boat, a plane.'"
"Ah don't want no planes, Faceman!" B.A. jabbed an angry finger at him for emphasis.
"It's an example, B.A. Don't you get the point?"
"Yeah. Ah git the point that you don't know how to control your mouth. You knew what you was s'posed to say, if it came down to it."
"The plan disintegrated. Don't you hear what I've been telling you? What I was supposed to say no longer applied. It would've meant all my prep work down the drain, and us still with no evidence for the client. Where would that've left us?"
"Then we woulda figured somethin' else to get the job done."
"We? You mean me. It was my scam, B.A. I'm the one who set it all up. Who's the con artist in this group, huh?"
"Some con artist. Won't be worth anythin' to us if you wind up dead," B.A. muttered.
"Great. Thanks for the vote of confidence."
"Hannibal also tol' you what not to do," B.A. rumbled angrily, undaunted by Face's sarcasm. "He tol' you not to push your luck, but you did it anyway."
"Well Hannibal wasn't there! And you know something? Neither were you! Sure, you heard everything, but you weren't in there to know what the hell was really going on!"
Silence followed. Face sat back, surprised at his own outburst. He very seldom lost his cool like that, seldom let the smooth tone slip from his voice.
"I did the best I could," he finally said. The quiet words seemed swallowed up in the sound of the van's motor.
"Maybe you did, but you still almost got yourself killed," the big man repeated his earlier accusation, but all the anger had drained from it. B.A. shook his head, his eyes seeing more than the freeway before them. "I got in there, man, an' you was this close to gettin' blown away. That's stupid, Faceman, takin' a chance like that when it wasn't necessary, an' none of us in there to back you up. I jus' don't like it!"
"You disapprove of something I did. Big surprise there."
B.A. narrowed his eyes, giving the Look a more threatening dimension. "What d'you mean by that?"
"Nothing," Face sighed. "Just drop it, okay?"
"No, man, you tell me what's eatin' you -- an' it ain't what went down in that warehouse, neither."
If he hadn't felt so deflated by events at the warehouse and the thought of Hannibal being disappointed in him, then the reminder of B.A.'s opinion of him÷ Face could've brushed it all off. Instead the words tumbled out before he could stop himself.
"Okay, you're right. It's not just that. You know, it's bad enough when I screw up. I don't need to be reminded of all the things I fail at, trust me. But I also don't need you passing judgment when I'm just trying to do my job."
"The only judgment I got is tellin' you ya shoulda done what we all agreed."
"See what I mean? If it's not your way, or Hannibal's way, then you don't like it."
Baracus fumed for a minute before growling, "I don't like what almost gits any of us killed. You got a problem with that?"
"I just have a problem with people judging me unfairly."
B.A. curled his upper lip and looked at Face like he thought he couldn't have heard right. "What're you tryin' to say, man?"
"You heard me." Face thought it was laughable how his words came out so tentative, but B.A. definitely wasn't laughing.
"How have I ever done somethin' like that?"
"The way you always do! The way you always have, B.A. You never have to say a word; it comes across loud and clear."
"You better start makin' sense, Faceman," the Sergeant warned.
"Oh come on, B.A., admit it. I've never exactly fit your moral standards, have I? It's no big secret that you disapprove of everything about me."
The van swerved over two lanes of traffic and came to a screeching halt in the emergency breakdown lane. Templeton Peck braced himself to be put out to walk, if not punched and then put out to walk.
B.A. turned in his seat, thunderous. "What ever gave ya that idea?!"
"Look, you were the one telling me what I did wrong back there. It's never what I did right, is it?"
"What!? You gettin' to be as big a fool as that crazyman." He leveled a thick finger at Peck. "I said I disapproved of what you did, not of you. Don't you know the difference?"
Face looked away, hating to be put on the spot like this. How many times had Hannibal said it? A man is the sum of his actions÷ or variations on that theme. So what did that make out of Templeton Peck?
"You don't, do you?"
The surprise he heard in B.A.'s voice broke through his thoughts. He scrambled for an out, asking pointedly, "B.A., why don't we get going before a cop pulls over to see what our problem is?"
Baracus made no move to go anywhere. His dark eyes pierced Face to the soul. "'S that really what you think?"
'Don't do this, B.A., come on,' Face pleaded silently. But he could see B.A. wasn't going to give up, so he avoided the question with a different truth. "It doesn't really matter what I think."
B.A. shook his head. "How can you say that, man? Much as we been through as a Team÷ You wanta know what I think 'a you?" he demanded.
"I want to get back to the others before Hannibal really blows a gasket," Face said lightly, hoping to change the subject.
"I'm gonna tell ya." The angry words rolled right over the con man's lighter tone.
'Great.' Face mentally braced himself. 'Let him get it out of his system. He's pissed. Get used to it, 'cause Hannibal's right behind him.'
Baracus hesitated a moment, his eyes studying a gauge on the dashboard. The thunder was gone when he spoke. "I'm not so good with words, like you are, but÷ I think you must be pretty smart to come up with all those scams, an' know what works on people. An' with numbers 'n money÷ you're jus' good at what you do."
Face stared, wondering if he'd heard right. But B.A. Baracus never said anything he didn't mean. Face cleared his throat. The Sergeant's words had made him light-headed with astonishment, but he had to say it -- otherwise he was as phony as any of his aliases. "I might be good with words, B.A., but not with the truth. What I do is lie and steal. Not exactly something to be proud of."
"You provide for the rest of us. We do what we have t' do, man. All of us." The big shoulders shrugged. "Besides, none of us set out t' live this way. Don't have much choice."
"No, we don't," Face heard himself answer.
"An' I'll tell you somethin' else, an' you better listen," B.A. continued. The fire was back in his voice. "You're as good a man as any I know -- better than most. You hear me?" He leveled his finger at Face once again. "But you gotta know when to stick with the plan, or you'll get yo'self in big trouble. An' I'm not gonna stand by an' let that happen."
Peck swallowed. "Okay. Thanks." The word seemed woefully inadequate, but he didn't know what else to say.
"Fifteen years, man," B.A. mused.
"Yeah." Face knew exactly where the other man was heading with his thoughts. "And we're still learning things about one another."
Dark eyes held his and Baracus nodded. Sunlight caught the gold of his earrings. "We all right with this?" he demanded.
"Yeah, we're all right."
"Good." B.A. shifted gears and pulled the van smoothly back into traffic.
Face sat back in his seat, still dazed.
"Hannibal, I can explain," Face started as soon as he stepped out of the van. He figured it was better to speak up and endure the coming lecture. He still didn't look forward to it, but at that moment he felt a lot better about things than he had in a long time.
"Explain what, Face?" Smith asked as he and Murdock walked up to the van.
B.A. threw Face one of his Looks as he came around the front of the van.
"Er--" Face stopped, confused. "Well, during the scam at the warehouse÷."
"Good work, Lieutenant." Hannibal clapped him on the back. "B.A. reported that you got the evidence our client needs. Looks like we're ready to wrap this one up."
Face slowly smiled. He shot a grateful glance at B.A.
Baracus returned the glance and gave an almost imperceptible nod. "Yeah," he confirmed. "This one's over. Now let's git goin' -- I'm hungry!"
None of them wasted any time getting into the van following that roar.
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