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Title: The Gift of Angels
Disclaimer: The A-Team characters belong to Stephen J. Cannell and Universal.
Warning: Character death; lots of angst; some violence; mild swearing; suicidal thoughts.
Comments: Please. [Special thanks to Fingers and to everyone who acted as a sounding board in identifying problems with the earlier drafts. Your comments have been invaluable.]
Summary: An angel shows BA a glimpse of the team in 2001. Will he be able to help his friends in the future? Can he change the past?
“Face and Murdock will lay the explosives on the upper wall. BA, you’ll keep cover on the ground and I . . .”
BA drowned out most of the rest of Hannibal’s words. It was hot in the van and the sergeant already knew the plan by heart. Looking out the window, the big man saw the kids running around in the park, enjoying the spring warmth that the beautiful May day had brought.
He was tired of this. Mission after mission. Years of being dragged around on Stockwell’s leash. They had been promised pardons, but it was now 1991. May 21, 1991, to be exact, and BA was sick of being a government puppet.
“BA?” Hannibal’s voice penetrated BA’s thoughts. “Do you have that?”
BA sighed. “Yeah, Hannibal, I got it.”
The colonel stared at the bigger man with a look of barely contained annoyance.
“Aww, Hannibal,” Face interjected from the back seat. “Give BA a break. We’ve been over this plan a dozen times. We got it already.”
‘Yeah, we got it,’ BA thought. Even Face had stopped pointing out the possible ways things could go wrong. After the sixth time pointing out that Hannibal was not leaving a lot of room for the team to get away from the explosives, the lieutenant had given up.
Actually, BA conceded, the plan was not too bad. By comparison, a lot of Hannibal’s plans were far worse. Every member of the team carried scars from more than 20 years of Hannibal Smith plans.
But aside from the time issue that Face had already pointed out, BA did not see a lot of flaws in this plan. Like all Stockwell missions, this one – to bring down a paramilitary unit operating in Northern Michigan – was dangerous, but BA figured it would work out just fine. After all, Hannibal’s plans did not always work according to the plan. They just worked.
Murdock chattered in the back of the van, running through his part for the fourth time in the past hour. Face reassured the pilot that everything would work fine. The two men would plant the explosives in the storage warehouse according to BA’s diagram. Then the explosion would knock the large crates holding the militia’s machinery off their stacks, destroying most of the equipment in the process. It would be a crippling blow and the resulting investigation into the explosion would reveal the group’s illegal activities. By that time, the A-Team would be long gone.
“It’ll be a piece of cake, Murdock.” Hannibal’s voice seemed distant as if it were coming through a tunnel a long way off.
BA yawned. They had about three hours before they had to move into position. Boy, it was warm in the van and he really wanted to outside. It would be nice to take a nap on the soft grass, listening to the sounds of children laughing and playing. That would be nice, he thought. BA felt his eyes begin to droop. He should stay awake. Listen to Hannibal talk about the plan. But a nap . . . would be nice . . . Nice . . .
BA jolted awake at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. “What?!?” His head spun around as he checked out the van and wondered where Hannibal, Face and Murdock had gone. Then his eyes focused on the other occupant in the vehicle.
“Who the hell are you?” BA growled.
The man – a slightly built, middle-aged white man – smiled nervously and shifted in the passenger seat. He had a thin, narrow face, accented by a slightly oversized nose and horn-rimmed glasses. His hair was closely cropped, brown with a few smatterings of gray.
“Whatcha doin’ in my ride, fool?” BA curled his lip in his most threatening manner.
“Umm . . . Mr. Baracus, please, there’s no need for anger,” he replied, raising both hands in front of him. BA noticed that he was wearing a tweed coat, the kind Face made fun of because it looked so cheap. The lieutenant derisively called them “academic uniforms,” because coats like that were about all a teacher or professor could afford.
“Ya’d better start talkin’ or I’m gonna pound ya,” BA announced as he raised a fist for emphasis.
“Okay, okay. You may have a little trouble believing this, but I’m . . .” The man paused.
The man sighed. “I’m an angel.”
BA had had enough. “Where’s Murdock? This must be one of his crazy fool ideas of a joke. Don’t have no time for this. We’ve got a mission.”
“No, really Mr. Baracus. This is no joke. I really am an angel.”
“I don’t know who ya are, but you’re gonna hurt if ya don’t get out of my ride now,” BA threatened.
The man shook his head as a small smile played across his lips. “Fine. You made your point. I’ll go outside.” And then he stepped through the passenger door.
Without opening it.
BA’s jaw dropped and he blinked frantically a few times in disbelief. Leaping across the van, he reached for the handle and rolled down the window. Leaning his head outside, he called out.
The man had walked about five feet toward the back of the van, but stopped. As BA watched, he disappeared.
“I see you now are bit more willing to listen.” The man’s voice came from directly behind BA, who, in surprise, jerked his head up and banged it against the window frame.
Grabbing the back of his head in pain, BA fell back into the passenger seat. Turning to his left, he saw that the man – the angel – had taken the driver’s seat.
“This is a bad dream . . . I’m gonna wake up in a minute and Murdock’s gonna be jibber-jabbering about invisible dogs or talking bugs,” BA muttered.
“No, Mr. Baracus. This is not a dream,” the man quietly corrected. “Actually, this is the future.”
“Say what?” BA did nothing to hide the disbelief in his voice.
The man shrugged. “I know it’s hard to believe, but this is the future. Look around you.”
BA glanced out the window. He definitely was not in Michigan anymore. All the cars on the street had California license plates and most were models he did not recognize. Sure he recognized some of the symbols. The Mercedes in the driveway of the house the van was parked in front of was pretty obvious, but he had never seen a Mercedes truck before. Actually, the term truck was a bit loose. It looked like more of a combination truck and van.
The neighborhood also was not familiar. If he were to hazard a guess, he would say he was probably in the San Fernando Valley. Some of the rambling ranch houses looked like the type of homes that BA had seen in Encino and Sherman Oaks. He looked around and checked the position of some of the hills visible to what he detected was the southwest. Seeing that the hills were in the proper general location, he decided his guess was probably accurate.
“So, if this is the future, what year is it?” he asked.
The angel answered. “It’s the year 2001. Ten years to the day.”
BA pondered that. “Why?”
“Why are you here?” the angel asked. In response to BA’s nod, the angel continued, “You’re here because there are some things you need to see.”
The man grinned, showing slightly crooked teeth. “That would be telling.”
BA was about to ask another question when he heard the sound of voices approaching outside.
“Look, honey. It’s the van!” The woman’s voice sounded excited. It also sounded familiar.
“Gee, I thought he’d retire that to a museum somewhere.” That voice was completely recognizable. Murdock. Yet, there was a slightly different quality about it.
‘He’s older.’ Of course, that was the answer. The angel had said ten years had passed. Then BA realized what Murdock had said.
“Retire?” BA hissed. “I’ll retire that fool.”
“Umm . . . actually, the team is retired,” the angel said. “In fact, none of the team members has seen one another for a long time. This is a reunion of sorts.”
That made no sense. The team was like a family. He, Murdock and Face were like brothers. There was no way they would have let a lot of time pass without seeing one another. Unless . . .
Suddenly, BA had a very bad feeling.
“You’re starting to get the picture,” the angel commented.
BA was puzzled. “So I’m here to see things and change things in the past?”
The angel’s eyes bore into him. Even through the glasses, the angel’s penetrating stare made the hair on BA’s neck stand on end.
“I will not instruct you on what you can do with what you learn. You are here to see and observe.”
“Is this like that corny Christmas movie where you and I watch everythin’ goin’ on and talk ‘bout it, but to them I’m not really here?”
“Oh, no,” the angel answered. “To them, you are here exactly as you are in 2001.”
BA nodded. He was about to ask how he should cover up the things he might not know about the last ten years, but he dropped the thought when the back door of the van opened.
“HA!” Murdock announced as he peaked his head inside. He obviously did not see BA in the passenger seat. “Just like I remember it.” He turned around at spoke to someone outside. “Amy, you got to see this. It’s exactly the same.”
‘Amy.’ BA suddenly connected the woman’s voice with Amy Allen. He watched her come near and spotted the wedding ring on her hand.
“Good for you, fool. Always thought ya two were made for each other,” BA said.
Murdock glanced about in surprise at the voice and then grinned broadly. “Thanks, BA. I always thought so too.”
BA was about to leap into the back of the van and begin quizzing the pilot on everything that had happened in the past ten years, but the sound of voices – young voices – interrupted the sergeant.
“Wow!!!” came a boy’s voice.
“Neato!” That was from another boy.
“Is this really the van, pop?” The question came from the first boy, who climbed inside. He was a towheaded kid that BA guessed was probably five. Just then the other boy leaped in and BA did a double take. Literally. Twins.
‘Oh god, two little Murdocks,’ BA thought. ‘The world ain’t safe.’
“Yes, Justin. This is the van. I’ve told you all about it. BA’s pride and joy.”
BA glanced down to see the boys looking up at him. They both had ear-to-ear grins. The big sergeant loved kids and was about to speak when another voice piped up.
“Lemme see,” said a small voice
As BA peered around the passenger seat and watched Murdock carefully lift a small girl. She was perhaps three. She had the same brown hair as her mother and her father’s deep brown eyes.
She walked carefully across the inside of the van and noticed BA in the front.
“Who are you?” she asked. She pointed to one of BA’s ornaments and added, “What’s that?”
“I’m BA Baracus, little lady. This is mah van. And ‘that’ is an 18-karat gold Jewish star.”
She nodded and turned to the angel. “Who are you?”
BA wondered why the angel did not appear surprised that the girl had seen him. Instead, the angel smiled at the girl softly. “I’m Walter. I’m an angel.”
“Okay,” she nodded as if it was the most normal statement in the world.
“Jenny, who are you talking to?” Murdock asked from the back where he was busily corralling the two boys who were rifling through some of the storage compartments.
“I’m talking to BA and the angel,” the girl answered truthfully.
“That’s nice, honey,” Murdock replied. He began to come forward, but Amy called out from outside.
“Come on. H.M. Kids. Aunt Rina and Uncle Templeton are waiting.”
The kids leaped out of the van, with BA close behind. He wondered if “Rina” was the model that the team had saved from that gangster. BA had never met her, because he was away visiting his mama during that mission, but he remembered how devastated Face had been afterward. It was probably the only time BA had seen Face really serious about a woman.
He was caught in his thoughts when Murdock spoke. The pilot studied the perfectly groomed lawn and the brilliant rose bushes in full flower, but he had a somber expression on his face. “Guess old Faceman can still keep up appearances,” Murdock said sadly. He shook his head slowly and walked toward the door.
BA started to ask what Murdock meant, but he felt a hand on his arm. He spun around to see the angel standing next to him.
“What’s that all about?” BA demanded. “What’s the fool mean?”
The angel grew quiet for a moment. “All in good time, Mr. Baracus. You will understand.”
“And why could the little girl see you?”
The angel smiled at that question. “Children can see angels. Didn’t you know that? People just forget how when they grow up.”
“So adults can’t see angels?”
“Well, there are some special exceptions, at certain times.” The angel plainly intended to explain why BA could see the angel. “But mostly adults don’t ‘see’ angels. They hear them, though. You know how you sometimes hear a voice of someone you know in the back of your head? That’s an angel talking.”
BA thought for a moment. “So, like when I hear my mama’s voice . . .” BA grew silent as he remembered how his mother had passed while he was working for Stockwell.
The angel smiled softly. “Exactly. She’s often with you, looking over you, but you only sometimes hear her voice. That’s because she’s talking to you.”
It made as much sense as anything else, BA thought. Maybe that was why he often talked back to “Mama” when he heard her voice.
“Let me show you,” the angel said. He immediately disappeared from where he was standing and reappeared next to Murdock. The angel raised an index finger and told everyone to stop.
The family came to a complete halt.
“Now, Mr. Murdock, you don’t really intend, after all this time, to show up at your friend’s house wearing a baseball cap, do you?”
Murdock’s lips turned down in a slight frown. He then removed his cap and slid it into his pocket. BA had to laugh. Getting Murdock to take off his hat was always a major challenge. BA remembered how Face had once nearly throttled the pilot when he insisted on wearing a cap with a tuxedo.
“And your children, Mr. and Mrs. Murdock. How could you even think of presenting them with dirty faces and runny noses?” the angel scolded.
Amy immediately pulled some tissues out of her purse and passed a few to Murdock. Then both parents began wiping the children’s faces.
After this had gone on longer than necessary, BA finally spoke up. “Okay, I get the point.”
The angel gave an embarrassed smile. “Sorry, I’m a bit of a neat freak.”
‘You and Face both,’ BA thought as he walked up beside the angel. They then followed the now-moving Murdock brood toward the front door. Before they reached it, though, BA remembered another question he wanted to ask. “You said your name was Walter?”
The angel laughed. “Actually, it’s Walter Sikorsky.” He hesitated. “I know. It’s not exactly a name you would expect for an angel. It doesn’t have the ring of Gabriel or Azrael. Actually, when I was alive, I taught junior high school English.”
‘Score two points for Faceman on the jacket,’ BA thought.
Before BA could ask any more questions, the front door swung open to reveal a beautiful, blond woman. Her appearance confirmed BA’s earlier suspicions. This had to be the model.
“H.M.! Amy!” the blond woman announced cheerfully. “You look so wonderful.”
She stepped forward, wrapping her arms around Amy, just as two more young children, a girl and boy, raced out the front door. BA had no doubt in his mind about the children’s father. Their dirty blond hair and bright blue eyes tagged them as the Faceman’s.
“Richard, Stacy,” Rina called. “Stop right there.” The blond children froze, but they looked excitedly at the faces of Murdock’s brown-haired clan.
“You may not remember your Uncle Murdock and Aunt Amy,” Rina said. “The last time you saw them, you were just babies.”
Murdock, who was standing immediately in front of BA, looked down and muttered, “Four years ago,” before Rina continued.
“And these are your ‘cousins,’” Rina announced as she motioned to the three brown-haired kids. Then Rina smiled at the little girl, “Why this little beauty must be Jennifer.”
“No,” the little girl yelled back. “I’m ‘Bad Attitude’.”
Rina cocked an eyebrow and looked at the parents quizzically. Murdock shrugged. “It’s just a nickname.”
“Oh yeah, right,” Amy cut in, her voice laced with sarcasm. Turning to Rina, Amy explained, “He wanted to put it on her birth certificate.”
Rina laughed. “I’m glad you talked him out of it.” Turning back to the children, she cocked an eyebrow at one of the twins, “You must be. . . uh . . . Jason?”
“No,” he cried gleefully at the thought of tricking her. “I’m Justin. That’s Jason.”
Rina smiled back, flashing a row of perfect teeth. “Of course.” Then she turned to her own children. “Justin, these are my children, Richard and Stacy Peck.” The two blond children beamed and flashed their own smiles. Stacy, who BA guessed was about the same age as Murdock’s twins, exposed a couple of missing teeth.
“Come on in,” Stacy said in a bossy tone. “I’ll show you my doll collection.”
“Dolls,” complained Jason in disgust. “Pop, do we have to?”
Murdock laughed and gave his son a light shove in the back. “You go inside with Stacy and Richard. Let them show you around.”
As the kids rushed inside, with Amy close behind and instructing them not to touch anything, Rina looked in Murdock’s and BA’s direction.
“You too. You can come inside,” she said.
Murdock hesitated and dug his hands deep into the pockets of his light blue jacket. BA suddenly realized how strange it was to see the pilot wearing something other than the leather jacket.
“How is he, Rina?” Murdock asked quietly.
The smile left her face immediately and BA realized that it probably had been for show all along. In a sober voice, she answered, “Some days are better than others.” She looked out at the flowers in front of the house. “You know Templeton. He has his peaks and valleys. This week’s been pretty bad.”
Murdock nodded as if he understood. “He blames himself. Even ten years later, he thinks he’s responsible.” Murdock looked around. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Things just didn’t go according to plan.”
Rina leaned forward and grasped Murdock’s arm. “I know that, H.M., and intuitively, I think he knows it. It’s probably just the anniversary of it all. It’s got him remembering.”
“I know how he feels,” Murdock answered. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. I felt guilty too, but at least I got to see the best shrinks the Veterans’ Administration had to offer.”
She laughed at the joke and pulled him inside. “Hey, it’s not all bad. We’ve got a wonderful family. A wonderful house. You should see him when things are good. Templeton’s a really great husband and father.”
“I know that,” Murdock acknowledged and BA could detect the pilot’s guilt at not seeing Face for so long.
How could they have let four years pass without seeing each other? How could BA have done that? BA suddenly noticed that he felt guilty too. He was about to apologize when he saw Murdock stop short and feel around in his jacket pocket.
“I almost forgot,” the pilot said. “We brought you a copy of Amy’s article from the magazine.”
As he stepped into the house, Murdock pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it. Over Murdock’s shoulder, BA caught the heading. “The End Of A Dream Team.” Underneath that it said in large type, “Ten Years Ago, Death Struck at the Heart of the Legendary A-Team.” From his vantage point, BA could not read any of the actual article, but he saw a bunch of pictures. A picture of the team after a mission. A picture of the team in uniform from Vietnam. A picture of Hannibal.
BA suddenly understood. The breath rushed out of him as if he had been punched in the gut.
This was a memorial. They were gathering for the anniversary of Hannibal’s death.
‘Something must have happened on that mission to take out the militia group,’ BA realized. He looked up at Walter to see the angel looking back sympathetically.
“Is that why I’m here?” BA stepped back from the door and asked quietly, low enough so Murdock and Rina could not hear. “So I can stop Hannibal from dying?”
Walter said nothing as he entered the house. BA followed.
The house was not what BA expected. After years of seeing Face scam palatial apartments, BA thought this house seemed too down to earth for the lieutenant. Instead of being filled with marble and crystal, the sunken living room held oversized sofas with pillows and a small piano in one corner. A bunch of vases with fresh-cut roses filled the room. The back of the room had French doors that opened onto a beautiful patio. BA could see a swimming pool out back.
That was the only word to describe it. It did not seem at all like the fancy type of place he would have expected Face to choose. Instead, it seemed like a place that Hannibal or BA would have selected to raise a family.
“Let me get Templeton,” Rina said. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
BA saw that Murdock was also studying the room. The pilot murmured, “He would have loved this place.”
Knowing that Murdock was thinking about the colonel, BA agreed. “Yeah. It’s just right.”
Rina came hurrying back a moment later. BA and Murdock looked at her, immediately seeing the tears that threatened to flow.
“What’s wrong?” Murdock asked anxiously as he grabbed her arms.
“Templeton . . . He won’t come out . . . You’ve got to talk to him.”
Murdock nodded and began to head in the direction from which she had come. He had only taken one step, though, when a barrage of shouting erupted from the opposite direction.
“YOU’RE CHEATING!!!” BA recognized that the allegation came from one of Murdock’s boys.
“YOU TAKE THAT BACK!” That, undoubtedly, was Stacy.
There was a flurry of name calling and then the unmistakable sounds of hands slapping. Murdock and Rina both groaned, but BA chuckled. He had seen plenty of this at the children’s centers he had run. In five minutes, the kids would be acting like best friends – at least five minutes after their parents intervened.
“Go take care of your kids,” he instructed. “Lemme talk ta Face.”
They both nodded and Murdock muttered, “Good idea. We’ll take care of the kids.” The pilot and Rina headed towards the sounds of the screaming and crying children while BA marched slowly down the hall in the opposite direction. As he walked, he discovered that Walter had joined him.
“What’s goin’ on with Face, Walter?”
The angel gave no real answer, “You’ll understand soon enough.”
BA spun around, grabbed the collar of the tweed jacket and lifted Walter off the floor. “I’m getting sick of this. Ya bring me here for a reason, but ya won’t tell me. I ask questions and ya talk in riddles. Tell me what’s goin’ on.”
“I’m not allowed to answer those questions. It’s part of the rules. But I assure you, Mr. Baracus, when this is all over, you will understand.”
Shaking his head in frustration, BA glanced about the various rooms he passed and finally found an open door that led to a short hallway into what he figured to be the master bedroom. At the end of the little hallway, he saw only darkness. BA knocked on the door to alert Face, and, without waiting for an answer, entered.
The master bedroom was dark. Though there were doors or windows to the backyard, the blinds were pulled down tightly.
“Face?” BA called. “You there?”
“I hear you. Figured you’d show up,” came the reply, soft and brittle. BA looked in the direction of the voice and made out a figure seated at a small desk.
“Hey, ya know me,” BA said. “I couldn’t miss up the chance ta see those kids.”
As he moved into the room, the sergeant’s eyes adjusted to the darkness. Face’s back was to the door, but BA could see the slumped shoulders and the hair out of place. This did not look like the Faceman.
“What’s wrong, Face?” BA asked.
“What’s wrong?” the younger man snorted in reply. “You really have to ask?”
“Yeah, man. What’s wrong with ya?”
“That day,” Face answered with a heavy swallow. “All I can think about is that day. It’s all I think about.”
Face raised his hands to the sides of his head as if in agony.
“Why won’t it stop? Why do I have to keep seeing and hearing it all over?”
“Whatcha see and hear, Face?” BA asked, hoping that if Face talked, BA might get a better understanding of what had happened.
Face let out a sick laugh. “The explosives going off early. The shooting. Everything going to hell all at once.” He groaned as if in pain. “God . . . There’s the grenade . . . Stop . . . No . . . Don’t do it . . . I’m not worth it . . .”
The blond man’s head sunk forward, still cradled in his hands. “Why, BA? Why?”
BA immediately pictured what had happened. The bad guys must have had Face dead to rights, but Hannibal had absorbed the impact of a grenade. BA shook his head ruefully. Hannibal Smith, the heroic leader to the end.
There was a long pause. The sergeant moved forward and placed a hand on Face’s shoulder, but the younger man paid it no mind.
“I should have died,” Face said. “It should have been me.”
“Hey. It could have been any one of us in there, Face. Ya know how things were. We all knew it could happen.”
Face nodded. He raised his head from his hands and stared straight at the wall. “Do you blame me?”
“Course not, Faceman.”
“I blame me,” Face said matter-of-factly as he pulled away from BA’s touch. The lieutenant reached forward and flicked on a desk lamp. Then Face reached for something along the side of the desk. After a moment in which BA could not see what the other man was doing, Face slowly pushed back the chair, rose at a funny angle and turned awkwardly. Then BA realized why.
Face stood grasping short crutches that hooked around his elbows. Swallowing heavily, BA looked down his friend’s body and saw that both of Face’s legs were encased in heavy braces that ran from the thigh to the ankle. To move, Face leaned his body forward at a sharp incline, balancing all of his weight on the crutches. Shifting from side to side, Face awkwardly staggered forward as his legs trailed behind, splayed and useless.
“Ohmigod, Faceman, what happened to ya?” BA breathed. Then he cupped his hand over his mouth, realizing that the question might give him away. BA in 2001 would have known the story.
Face, though, was so trapped in whatever thoughts were tormenting him that he did not notice the slip. In a flat tone, the lieutenant answered, “My legs were crushed. Docs did the best they could, but they were beyond repair.”
BA watched as Face shuffled across the room until he reached the far wall, which housed a set of built-in drawers. Then he stopped and BA heard a drawer open. In the dim light from the lamp, BA saw the lieutenant lift out a small box and place it on a ledge above the drawers. When Face opened the box, BA thought he saw a glint of metal.
“I should have died,” Face said.
‘Oh no,’ BA thought as he moved closer.
“I take this out once in a while,” Face continued as he lifted the gun out of the box. “Sometimes I just wonder what it would be like to have it over. No more blame. No more guilt.”
In horror, BA watched as Face raised the gun and placed the barrel in front of his mouth.
“GODDAMN IT, FACEMAN!” BA yelled. “I won’t let ya do this!”
Face froze as BA continued to yell.
“You ain’t ta blame! No one’s ta blame!” Lowering his voice, the larger man continued. “Things like that just happen. Ya can’t be responsible for the past, Faceman. Do ya understand me?”
“That sounds funny. I don’t ever remember you swearing,” was the only thing that Face said, as if he had only heard part of what BA had said.
“Well, I’m gonna keep swearing if it gets rid a this fool notion of killin’ yourself. Damn it, Face, look around. You’ve got a gorgeous wife and two great kids. It’s everythin’ ya always wanted.”
Face stood completely still, the gun placed precariously close to his head. His index finger idly ran along the trigger.
Frustrated, BA turned to reason. “Think of what you’d be givin’ up. I’d give anythin’ to have your life. I probably don’t even have kids now, and you’d be leavin’ two of them behind. GODDAMN IT! Ya can’t do this.”
Face started sobbing and BA saw the gun waver. “I don’t deserve this. I should have died.”
“NO!” BA screamed. “It don’t work that way, lieutenant. Maybe ya got lucky, but that don’t change nothin’. Ya gotta take what life gives ya for as long as it does. Someone smiled on ya, Faceman. Maybe not everythin’ turned out perfect, but you’re a lucky man. Don’t mess around with that.”
Face lowered the gun. For the first time, he looked directly in BA’s direction, but it seemed as if Face was looking right through the sergeant. Still, even in the dark, the trails of the tears streaming down the blond man’s face were visible.
“Face,” BA continued. “Ya gotta put it behind ya. Nobody blames you. Jumpin’ on that grenade was an act of love, man. It was a gift to you. Any of us woulda done that for anyone on the team. Ya know that. So stop thinkin’ ya gotta make up for somethin’ that ain’t your fault.”
Face’s eyes seemed to focus. “Do you mean that, BA?”
“Yeah, I mean every word.”
BA saw a glint of light appear in Face’s eyes. Then, something else appeared. BA saw signs of strength, hope and determination and his friend’s eyes and knew the crisis was over.
“You’re gonna be okay, Face.”
Face nodded and BA heard the sound of the gun hitting the floor. The room fell silent for a long time.
“Do me a favor, Faceman. Get rid of that gun.”
Face smiled for the first time. “I will. I won’t need it anymore.” He paused before he spoke again. “I miss the team.”
“Hey, Faceman, we’re all right here.”
Face shook his head. “No. The team’s gone. No matter how hard I tried to hold onto it, I couldn’t. Hell, I even kept the van . . . Couldn’t get rid of the van . . .”
Now BA was confused. What was Face talking about? Why would the Faceman have the van?
“Come on, Faceman. The team’s here. You’re here. I’m here. Murdock’s here. I even bet the colonel’s here. The team’s part of us.
It’s not the same. Not without . . .”
Both BA and Face spun toward the door at the sound of the voice that had interrupted Face. There, at the opening to the room, stood a man. He was slightly stooped and had more wrinkles, but the glint in his eye and the white hair were unmistakable.
Hannibal Smith stood in the room.
BA felt the world begin to spin and grow fuzzy. ‘Wait . . . That can’t be.’ His mind whirled and he wondered, ‘What’s goin’ on?’
“It’s time, Mr. Baracus.”
BA turned and realized that Walter stood next to him.
“Wait,” BA insisted. “Hannibal’s dead”
“No, Mr. Baracus,” Walter answered. “He never was.”
“I don’t understand, man. This don’t make sense. Hannibal’s dead. This can’t be right.”
Walter gave the sergeant a sad smile. “It is, Mr. Baracus. At least for now.”
BA suddenly understood.
BA jolted back to reality to find himself standing near the front window of a large room. The AK-47 weighed heavily in his hands.
‘The mission,’ he realized. It had started.
“Go, Murdock,” Face’s voice rang out above and behind the sergeant. BA looked up and saw Murdock run along the top of a row of stacked crates about twenty feet high. Looking further back along the wall, BA saw Face finish setting the last charge and turn to follow the pilot.
The sound of automatic fire caused BA to turn toward the front of the room. He looked out the window and saw Hannibal racing towards them, a pack of men in camouflage uniforms chasing close behind. BA watched as Hannibal ducked behind a jeep and began firing at the men. To provide cover, BA instinctively began firing from the warehouse. The militia members returned fire.
BA was still shooting when a loud explosion rocked the building. ‘One of the charges went off early.’ He remembered what Face had said in the future and wheeled around.
The force of the impact sent Face flying off of the row of crates he was running along. BA watched in horror as his friend sailed through the air and, about twenty feet away from BA’s position, slammed into a different row of boxes. With a loud thud, Face crashed to the ground.
“FACE!!! Look out!”
BA heard Murdock’s scream. Then the sergeant saw the reason.
Dazed from the explosion and the fall, Face had barely moved. Still lying flat on the ground, the lieutenant did not see the crates full of thousands of pounds of machinery teetering precariously overhead. BA watched Face shake his head to try to clear the cobwebs. The lieutenant put his palms to the floor in an effort to rise to his hands and knees.
It was too late. The top crate tilted into the gap between the rows and came loose, unbalancing the entire stack. Face looked up just in time to see the crates come thundering down.
Face’s screams reverberated through the entire building.
“NO!!!” Murdock yelled as he raced toward the injured lieutenant. BA followed close behind, forgetting completely about the fighting outside.
They had no trouble finding Face amidst the crates. His torso and head were free, but his legs were trapped under one of the heavy crates. Murdock scrambled around, trying to find a way to get Face loose. The entire time, Face continued to scream in agony.
“We’ll get ya out, Faceman. You’re gonna be okay,” BA assured, but he knew it was a lie. His mind flashed to the future. To Murdock and Amy. To Rina. To the laughing, beautiful children.
To Face struggling to survive these horrible injuries and his own guilt.
To a team that had all but abandoned one another.
“Damn it,” BA screamed silently. In frustration, he began to rail against the unfairness of this all. Why had the angel shown him the future if it was just going to happen all over again? BA was supposed to change things. He was supposed to prevent this from happening. If Face were free, they could escape. Then . . .
Then BA remembered something else. Face had mentioned a grenade.
BA spun around and everything seemed to slow to a crawl. There was no more shooting, so BA knew Hannibal must have gained the upper hand. But just inside the front door, BA saw a man in uniform. In slow motion, the man raised his hand and tossed a small device. It landed next to BA and rolled towards the boxes where Murdock was furiously trying to free Face.
Face too had grown silent. His screams had ceased and BA knew Face had seen the grenade too. The lieutenant immediately started issuing orders. “Get the hell out of here, Murdock. You too, BA.”
“I won’t leave you,” Murdock cried back and BA knew that Murdock understood what was happening.
“Goddamn it, Murdock, there’s nothing you can do for me. My legs are broken. Get out,” Face screamed back.
As BA watched, the entire room came to a standstill. Murdock crouched like a statue next to a crate he was trying in vain to move. Face’s frozen expression showed so much. There was the obvious agony, but also the brave front he was trying to put on as he convinced the others to leave him to die. And behind it all, BA could see the fear of dying that the conman was desperately trying to hide.
“Do you understand now, Mr. Baracus?” Walter’s voice surrounded him.
The angel had not shown BA the future so he could change the past. He had received a gift, the chance to see how his decision today would affect the lives of his friends in the future.
Maybe the future BA had seen was not perfect, but what part of life was ever perfect?
It was enough for BA that his friends would live. They would fall in love. They would have families and bring beautiful children into the world. And, when they needed BA’s guidance, he would be there too. He would give Face the strength he needed to survive. Maybe BA could even stop the team from falling apart, keep the guys from drifting apart. BA would be their guardian angel, the voice they heard in the back of their heads.
The sergeant gave one last glance at his friends before he called out to them. “Faceman, don’t blame yourself. This ain’t your fault.” BA stopped as he remembered something else from the future and then he added, “And fool, don’t name your daughter ‘Bad Attitude.’ Don’t even think about it.”
BA smiled as he thought about the gift he had received and the gift he was about to give. Then he turned away and dove toward the grenade.
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