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Beginning of a Plan - Swirly Stars

About Beginning of a Plan

Previous Entry Beginning of a Plan Dec. 3rd, 2010 @ 05:09 pm Next Entry
Title: Beginning of a Plan
Fandom: A-Team
Rating: PG-13, for mild swearing and violence
Word Count: 11,226
Summary: Hannibal and Face are good. Add Murdock and B.A. and they're the best. What happens after Mexico and their first mission.
Author's Note: Written for the A-Team Big Bang. And anything military I more or less made up based off what I've seen in movies or read in books, so it has the potential to be all kinds of not right. Characters aren't mine, blah blah blah, copyright stuff and here we go.

Artwork courtesy of radoka found here

“Colonel Smith, what you’re suggesting is unheard of.”

Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith grinned.

“At what point have I ever done anything you have heard of?” he asked.

Most of the generals in the room sighed as each one recalled at least one point in their career where they had to file paperwork regarding Colonel Smith. It had just gotten worse when he had decided to make a Lieutenant Templeton Peck a part of his team. With the new addition to his team, Hannibal had been able to execute grander schemes with three times the destruction and ten times the paperwork. Now he wanted to add two more Rangers with questionable records to his ranks.

“Point taken, Colonel. However,” one general interjected before any of the other upper brass could reply. “A four man alpha unit is unpractical. The whole point is for each member to have a specialty contributing to the team as a whole.”

Reaching into his pocket by habit, Hannibal frowned a bit when nothing was there.

“I completely agree with you, General Morrison,” Hannibal replied. “And my team would be doing exactly that.”

“This is going to be great,” Morrison quipped dryly.

Ignoring the sarcasm, Hannibal smirked and straightened his posture.

“So glad you asked about that,” he explained. “You see, every position in a typical alpha unit is filled just as well with my team. Language and communication is easily covered between Lieutenant Peck and Captain Murdock, and any technical expertise can be handled by Sergeant Baracus. Logistics and-“

Morrison held up his hand.

“We get it, you’re good, and those men out there are good,” Morrison agreed. “However, this is pushing it.”

The smirk on Hannibal’s face grew larger.

“And yet?” he asked.

All the generals were reluctant, sharing uneasy and resigned glances with each other before they silently nominated Morrison to continue to be their speaker.

“And yet, based on your previous track record, we’re willing to try this out,” Morrison cautiously explained.

Hannibal broke out into a full blown grin and was about to reassure the generals they were making the right decision when he was suddenly interrupted.

“Soft and fluffy?! I’ll show you soft and fluffy when I beat you so hard you’re insides turn soft and fluffy!”

“Omigosh, save me!”

“What the hell is it with you and touching me?! Stop molesting me!”

All the generals turned their attention to the closed door in some vain attempt to see what was going on right outside in the hallway. There was a collective flinch when a loud crash echoed through the walls. Hannibal remained silent, but a small grin tugged at the corner of his lips as more crashing noises were heard along with more yelling.

“Dammit, both of you stop that! You’re going to break everything!”

“Why are we yelling?!”

“I’m yelling at you, fool!”

“Well, stop yelling at me!”

“Both of you stop yelling!”

Suddenly, there was loud slap followed by a jarring silence. The generals looked towards Hannibal who signaled for them to wait a minute. Sure enough, the yelling started up again.

“Did you just bitch slap me?!”

Hannibal cocked an eyebrow at the supremely indignant tone of voice. There was another loud slap followed by a gasp.

“What was that for?!”

“Turnabout’s fair play!”

“Why are you two fools slapping each other?! It ain’t manly!”

Morrison covered his face with a hand and rubbed tiredly at his eyes as the sound of two loud slaps filtered into the room.

“I’m gonna kill both of you! And I ain’t gonna be slapping you either!”

The sound of chairs ramming against the wall and the shouts of soldiers attempting to control the situation played in the background as Morrison motioned vaguely towards the door.

“Are you sure about this, Colonel?” he asked.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Hannibal challenged.

“Because your men are right outside this door having a slap fight with each other,” Morrison stated incredulously.

His look of incredulous annoyance filled Hannibal with a warm, fuzzy feeling; the kind that preludes the plan.

“You let me worry about how they solve their differences, and I guarantee you all we will be the best,” he promised.

Despite their reservations regarding the veracity of such a statement, the military tribunal was willing to give Hannibal the benefit of the doubt.

“We will be discussing the terms of this arrangement later, Colonel,” Morrison warned. “But for now, get your team before one of them loses an eye from all their fun. You are dismissed.”

Hannibal saluted the generals and turned on his heel. Upon opening the door, Hannibal paused to asses the situation. B.A. was trying to pull Face and Murdock off each other, but receiving stray smacks to his face for his efforts. Random personnel stood around, staring in wonder as two Rangers attempted to slap each other into oblivion.

“Gentlemen,” Hannibal greeted.

All three ceased what they were doing and each saluted him as best they could. Face and Murdock were grinning while B.A. actually had the decency to look abashed at the behavior.

“We have things to discuss later,” Hannibal said. “Meet me in my office at 1800 hours. Corporal, you come with me.”

Looking over at Face and Murdock, who were still poised to resume their slap fight, Hannibal nodded his head with an indulgent grin.

“As you were gentlemen.”

“Sir,” they responded in unison.

And they immediately resumed trying to slap each other. B.A. shot them a withering glare, but they ignored him.

“Leave them to it, Corporal. They’re just trying to bug you,” Hannibal gently ordered. “Follow me.”

B.A. tossed Face and Murdock one last annoyed glare before trailing after Hannibal. As he walked down the hall, he looked over his shoulder and now saw the two of them whispering to each other conspiratorially. Hannibal patted B.A on the shoulder.

“I’ve talked with the brass,” Hannibal explained. “They’re willing to re-open your case that got you discharged.”

Bristling at the memories it brought with it, B.A. balled his hands into fists. He thought he had dealt with it. There was nothing he could have done. His superiors were looking for a scapegoat, and they picked him. B.A. knew he had an abrasive personality, and it rarely sat well his commanding officers. However, it was a good enough excuse to make an example out of him. They faulted him for going against orders and hitting a superior officer, but B.A. knew he had been in the right. Everybody else saw it, but nobody could, or would, say anything.

“For now, you’re on probation until the paperwork gets pushed through,” Hannibal continued. “But, it’s still going to take several weeks.”

At least it was only weeks. The point that mattered was that he was going to be reinstated. B.A. could not help but grin, and in his excitement, he gave Hannibal a friendly punch in the arm. Hannibal briefly lost his balance as he teetered to the side from the force. Cringing in dismay, B.A. began apologizing profusely, but was surprised when Hannibal righted himself with a laugh.

“No problem, Corporal,” Hannibal said, waving off B.A.’s concern. “Good to hear you’re excited. The new gets even better, though I ask you try tapping me next time.”

Bowing his head in relief, B.A. took a deep breath and waited for Hannibal to finish.

“Now to me, several weeks is too slow,” Hannibal revealed. “I’ve got a way to push it through even faster. Expect to be reinstated in the next few days.”

B.A. stared wide-eyed at Hannibal. Bureaucracy was a mess of paperwork, politics, and regulations. Military bureaucracy was in many ways worse. B.A. would have been surprised if it had taken less than a month for everything to be sorted out and signed. To say it would be done within the week, now that was unheard of.

Hannibal chuckled at the obvious disbelief and awe.

“Congratulations, Corporal. By the end of the week, you’ll officially be in my unit. Does that work for you?”

“Thank you, sir,” B.A. answered, coming to a halt and saluting with all his pride.

Hannibal responded with his own salute

“Welcome back to the military.”

B.A. was about to gush about how awesome Hannibal was when he was suddenly tackled from behind, something latching around his neck. Stumbling forward a step, B.A. immediately righted himself and reached behind him. He grabbed the first bit of material he could find and attempted to toss whatever was attached to him. Unfortunately, Murdock had a tight grip and wound up wrapping himself around B.A. even tighter.

“Congratulations, you big mudsucker!”

Murdock shouted in glee as B.A. struggled to peel him off his back. He looked to Hannibal for assistance, but instead of helping, he was standing off to the side watching in curious amusement. Face came up beside him with a lazy grin.

“I would apologize for letting the captain do this,” Face explained. “But this is just too damn funny.”

Both Hannibal and Face grinned as they watched Murdock attempt to snuggle against B.A. Despite his dark complexion, it was easy to see B.A. flush in anger and embarrassment.

“Get off me, fool,” B.A. demanded. “I ain’t your security blanket. In fact, I still owe you for destroying my van!”

At that, Murdock suddenly let go and held his hands up in surrender.

“I told you,” he said. “That was a handicap zone.”

“And that means you drop an air conditioning unit on top of it?” B.A. growled.

He made a move to grab Murdock, but was just a little bit too slow. Murdock skipped out of arms length and shoved Face in front him.

“Don’t get me involved,” Face pleaded. “I had nothing to do with destroying your van. Totally his fault.”

Pointing at Murdock, Face had to quickly retract his hand when Murdock attempted to bite it. Face flicked him on the nose.

“No, bad Murdock,” he scolded.

“You sure you don’t belong in the psych ward?” B.A. asked as he looked Face up and down questioningly.

“That is the question of the century now, isn’t it?” Face replied. “I think it depends on who you ask. Oh, and speaking of asking, I’ve got those papers you wanted, Hannibal.”

Nodding his head in approval, Hannibal motioned for Face to follow him.

“Captain, Corporal,” he said. “You two are free to do as you please until later.”

“Yes, sir, Colonel,” Murdock said as Face shoved him towards B.A.

“You two play nice now,” Face instructed with a smug grin.

Hannibal and Face did not wait to see what happened, though they did hear B.A. grumbling about having to play with a full grown man.

“Was it okay to leave them alone?” Face asked, still hearing shouting and laughter.

“We’ll find out, won’t we?” Hannibal answered.

Rolling his eyes at Hannibal’s usual approach for just about anything, Face obediently followed by Hannibal’s side. They walked across the base in casual silence, occasionally acknowledging the passing personnel. The heat of the day was beginning to fade, and a cool dry breeze fluttered over the base. Hannibal and Face appreciated the change in weather. While Mexico had been hot and dry night and day, Fort Huachuca actually had fluctuating weather. In the distance, grass ran along the base of mountains where air was cooled before reaching the base. It made the summer in Arizona far more bearable.

They passed by a series of buildings housing the Army’s Intelligence Division. Hannibal explained how they were still gathering intelligence on General Tuco’s illegal operations in Mexico. So far, drug running was labeled the immediate threat, though that was certainly not the full extent of it. The DEA was pushing to eliminate all the major players in this drug ring. Face had briefly read through the compiled file on the drug ring, and he knew there were only two players left. One had already disappeared off the radar, Intelligence assuming he crossed into another country. The only one they had left was still in Mexico, but he was far less public than Tuco had ever been. It had taken time and money, but eventually, the DEA figured out who it needed to eliminate, and the only thing left was to determine where the target was located and when to send Hannibal in to get him.

Face hated waiting for the government to tell him what to do. It tended to get him into trouble. Hannibal was far more patient and willing to wait something out if it would benefit him to do so. Of course, there was only so much waiting Hannibal was capable of doing before going stir crazy and coming up with a plan. Ever since Hannibal and his team returned from their mission, Hannibal had become agitated. The brass was keeping the mission quiet while they created a plan. Hannibal did not like it when others came up with a plan without him, especially when that plan directly involved his men. His team was going to be going in, taking the risk, so he thought he should at least get a say in everything. With any luck, their plan would require Hannibal to make his own plan. However, Hannibal and Face had enough experience with outside agencies to know they would have no such luck

“Hey, Boss?” Face asked. “Are we going to have enough time? I mean, we just met these guys and we’re already going on another mission. Don’t get me wrong, I like them, probably more than I should, but I don’t have a shit clue how we’re going to work together.”

“You’re thinking too much, Face. You always worry when you think too much,” Hannibal answered.

Frowning thoughtfully, Face ran a hand through his hair and followed Hannibal into his temporary office.

“So now I’m thinking too much? Funny, I’m told I don’t actually think enough,” he argued, flopping gracelessly into an extra chair. “Is there some kind of mythical middle ground I’m missing here?”

Hannibal walked passed him, ruffling Face’s hair along the way.

“You’re doing fine, kid,” Hannibal chuckled. “Everything turned out fine, and everything will keep turning out fine.”

Sighing and reclining in the seat, Face shrugged half-heartedly.

“If you say so, Boss.”

Taking his own seat behind his desk, Hannibal began opening and closing his drawers rummaging around for a cigar.

“Speaking of which, you should have told me about Tuco’s wife,” Hannibal mumbled distractedly.

Face reached into his pocket and pulled out an extra cigar. He offered it to Hannibal, who took it with a smile.

“What have I told you about speaking up for yourself?” Hannibal asked as he chewed off an end, looking around for some place to spit it. “I didn’t know about his wife, and when I don’t know, I can’t plan for it.”

Grabbing a pencil holder, Face grabbed the perfectly sharpened pencils out of it and held it out for Hannibal.

“Sorry, Hannibal,” Face said. “I just wanted to get her out of there.”

Spitting the chunk of cigar into the holder, Hannibal grinned when Face just calmly set the pencils back in and acted like nothing happened.

“I know, kiddo,” Hannibal assured him. “Have you heard anything about her?”

Perking up considerably, Face tossed Hannibal a silver lighter and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk.

“She made it back to her family’s place,” Face said. “The Mexican government isn’t going to pursue her as an accomplice.”

Flicking the lighter open, Hannibal lit up his cigar and slowly inhaled, savoring the taste.

“Good to hear,” he replied. “Now, I’ve got a shit load of paperwork to do.”

Hannibal and Face eyed the stack of folders stacked in neat little towers. Reaching over and sliding a stack towards him, Face opened the folder and leafed through the pages.

“Want me to separate by importance and signature?” Face asked. “Or should I just sign it for you?”

A knowing smirk was all the answer Face needed.

“Yes, sir.”

The paperwork was that necessary evil. Hannibal hated being stuck behind a desk pushing papers, but he did understand that his superiors wanted to know why this or that blew up, or how he managed to make an impossible mission come together. While he could easily justify his actions, it was quite another feat to convey it in a way that pleased the military bureaucracy. Sometimes, Hannibal mused that it would be easier if he toned down his actions. Then, he would not have twice the paperwork as everybody else.

“Is it detailed enough if I just put, ‘the chopper ride was awesome,’?” Face suddenly asked with an impish grin.

“Switch out ‘awesome’ with something else,” Hannibal responded. “I don’t say, ‘awesome.’”

Face laughed and jotted something down on the paper before tilting the page of paper to the left. There was a slight shift in his grip on the pen, and then he signed the specified line. The signature looked exactly like the one Hannibal just signed. Stuffing it back into the folder, Face set off to the side and grabbed the next one. His eyes flicked across the page at a rapid rate, and soon, he was down to the last few. Hannibal was still trying to get halfway through his own stack. Dropping his pen in annoyance, he watched as Face read through the documents, added whatever needed to be added, and signed with a flawless forgery.

“Slowing down there, old man?” Face asked, still engrossed in his current paperwork. “Maybe you should just type up your report and leave this stuff to me…that is, if you know how to work the computer. They are pretty advanced after all.”

Shoving his stack of paperwork towards Face with a fond huff, Hannibal slowly blew out the smoke from his cigar as he turned on the computer on his desk.

“Smartass brat,” Hannibal mumbled.

The smoke slowly drifted upwards, swirling lazily in the air. Face complained about the smell and threatened to lecture Hannibal about every single health hazard associated with smoking unless he opened the windows. Hannibal had heard the lecture before, and he still thought nothing of it. However, Face could be extremely annoying when he wanted something to go his way. He stood up and opened the window. Many times, it was simply easier to just give in to him.

In the long run, Hannibal supposed it was a small price to pay if it meant somebody was willing to fill out his paperwork, and probably do it better than he could himself. And when it came to papers and filing, Face excelled at it. He was a fast reader, and more importantly, he processed and remembered what he read even faster. Despite popular opinion, Face occasionally enjoyed the mundane tasks of everyday life. It was a chance to put his mind to good use, and it kept the brass out of their business. There could be no complaints when nothing was out of place.

By the time Face was finishing his last folder, and Hannibal was attempting to proofread his report, there was a rhythmic banging on the office door.

“Enter,” Hannibal commanded.

The door swung open, letting Murdock waltz in with B.A. right behind him. They both saluted when they approached Hannibal’s desk. He gave them a half-hearted nod, leaving them somewhat confused as to what that was supposed to mean. Face kept reading but patted the chair next to him.

“Have a seat guys,” Face said.

Sharing a glance over Face’s bowed head, Murdock shrugged and plopped himself onto the couch pushed up against the wall. Rolling his eyes at his antics, B.A. settled himself into the chair next to Face.

They waited silently for either Hannibal or Face to acknowledge them again. At least, B.A. waited silently. Murdock decided to fill the silence with his own music. Nobody could figure out what he was singing.

“Hold on a moment,” Hannibal mumbled to himself. He pounded a few keys on his keyboard angrily before suddenly grinning. “There. Now they can’t complain.”

Pushing back in chair, Hannibal rubbed the cricks out of the back of his neck. Face continued to ignore them, but flinched when Hannibal clapped his hands together. Face looked up with a petulant frown. Hannibal bit back his laughter and held his hands up in apology. When Face finished signing the final paper, the others were watching him with varying degrees of amusement. A slight flush colored his cheeks as he tossed the folder on top of the others.

“What? I wanted to get it done and that’s easiest without any interruptions,” Face defended.

“So, do you always sign for the Colonel,” Murdock asked.

Rolling his shoulders and groaning at the pop, Face nodded his head.

“About eighty percent of his paperwork is done by me,” Face answered. “It’s just easier that way.”

“Isn’t that cheating?” B.A. pressed, more curious then concerned.

Face locked his hands behind his head and smiled.

“It is if you get caught.”

“Be careful, gentlemen,” Hannibal warned with a grin. “That is the lieutenant’s life philosophy.”

Murdock bounced in his seat.

“See? I knew I liked you,” he said to Face.

“Good to know it’s not just because I’m flammable,” said Face.

They shared an easy grin having settled their flaming dispute the day that they landed on base. Since then, Face and Murdock quickly became the Terrible Two. Face never had anybody who was quite as willing to just go with anything he said or did on nothing but the principle of friendship. Not to mention, Murdock turned out to be clever in his own right, and he offered his own insight without infringing on Face’s intelligence. Other than Hannibal, nobody had ever accepted Face for who he was in the matter of a day. They were always trying to change him, make him into a better soldier or a better man. Face wanted to be whoever he wanted to be, and Murdock supported that sentiment to the fullest.

Murdock was often changing personalities and voices, but he was always there, underneath it all. Nobody could quite figure out whether or not he was insane. However, regardless of his mental state, nobody could also deny he was a genius in the air. Hannibal called it a spark of genius, the only difference between him and others being Murdock who was not afraid to exercise said genius.

“But that does make a good first impression,” Murdock replied.

“Debatable, depending on your definition of ‘good.’” Face said. “And why aren’t those papers here yet? I was told they would be arriving this afternoon.”

“What papers?” B.A. asked.

He should have known better than to ask. During the last few days on base, B.A. came to realize that none of the others on Hannibal’s team made sense; Hannibal included. But while Hannibal and Face tended to be vague, Murdock just said whatever came to mind. And B.A. had no clue what was going on in Murdock’s mind. He had wondered more than once if Murdock even knew. It was not normal, and certainly not anything close to protocol, but B.A. found he enjoyed the freedom he was given on Hannibal’s team. With casual observance of rank, and the fact that they were competent, despite their annoying habit of remaining vague, it was easier for B.A. to fall in line. Authority figures never set well with him, mainly because he knew he was smarter, faster, and stronger than all of them. But now, he finally met people he could respect.

“The papers I wanted,” Face answered.

Rolling his eyes at the characteristic answer, B.A. was about to demand specifics when the there was another knock on the door.

“Enter,” Hannibal commanded.

The receptionist at the front of the offices strolled in with a plain folder tucked under her arm. Face turned around to look at her and what she was carrying.

“I have some paperwork here for a Lieutenant Templeton Peck,” she said.

“Ah, now these are the papers,” Face explained, accepting the folder from the receptionist. “Thanks. Remind me to take you to dinner sometime. I owe you for this.”

“I’ll hold you to that, Lieutenant,” she replied.

Flashing her a brilliant smile, Face winked as the receptionist left the room. When the door shut, Murdock let out a low whistle.

“We haven’t been at this base for long and you already know people?” Murdock asked.

“It’s not who you know,” Face said as he flipped open the folder. “It’s how you know them.”

Hannibal watched Face skim over the pages, his focus solely on the task at hand. Nodding his head and mumbling to himself, Face pulled out the papers and laid them out on the desk. B.A leaned forward so he could see.

“Those are the papers for my reinstatement,” B.A. gawked. “How did you get them so quickly?”

Face did not answer him; only shot him a quick grin.

“Hey, Hannibal, you still have that paper I gave you?”

Swiveling his chair, Hannibal reached in between a row of books and pulled out a sheet of paper. It was covered in a plethora of signatures. Murdock joined B.A. so as to get a better look at what was happening.

“Okay, let’s see here. Corporal Bosco ‘B.A.’ Baracus is cleared…” Face read aloud. “Right. Sign here, B.A.”

Grabbing the offered pen, B.A. quickly signed where Face indicated. As Face turned the paper away from him, B.A. noticed that a couple of crucial signatures were missing. Blanching at the sudden realization, B.A. shook his head.

“You are not going to forge a general’s signature,” he said.

Murdock pinched his arm.

“Hey, you don’t want everybody to hear, do you?”

Still shaking his head, B.A. turned to Hannibal.

“It’s one thing for him to sign off for you,” B.A. explained, attempting to show Hannibal reason. “But it’s a whole other damn thing to sign off for any superior officer, especially my previous commanding officer’s signature!”

“Don’t worry, B.A.” Hannibal coaxed. “Face is good at this. See? He’s already finished with his signature.”

Before B.A. could ask Hannibal if he was deliberately missing his point, Face waved a pen under his nose.

“And now, I need you to sign here, and here, and initial here,” Face instructed. “It it’s any consolation, I looked over your case, and you definitely got screwed. And really, it’s not like it’s a fake or anything. These are official forms. I’m just expediting the process a little. And look, General Morrison already signed it. I didn’t forge that one.”

Face pointed proudly at the signature while sharing a fist bump with Murdock. While he was still unsure about the morality about forging officer’s signatures, B.A. could not help but get caught up in the others’ excitement and throw caution to the wayside.

Despite his trepidation, B.A. did not hesitate to finish signing. Slamming the pen on the desk, B.A. leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms. The others enjoyed the grin splitting B.A.’s face. Face clapped him on the shoulder as he stood up, sliding the paperwork back in its folder and setting it on top of the other finished paperwork.

“Congratulations,” Face said. “By tomorrow morning, you will officially be Corporal Baracus once again.”

He saluted B.A. with a satisfied grin. Murdock cheered and jumped up and down in front of him. Even Hannibal was standing now and offering his congratulations. The only person not moving was B.A. He was too busy sitting frozen to his spot. Ever so slowly, he stood up and looked around at each of the others. Seeing their support, B.A. stood straighter than he ever had before and saluted.

“How the hell is it going to get processed by tomorrow?” he asked, breaking the respectful moment into a relaxed air.

“Well, we all decided you are awesome, and awesome people belong on our team of awesome,” Face explained, motioning to himself, Hannibal, and Murdock. “Plus, based off your services rendered and the undue stress from the bullshit that was your commanding officers, you have every right to have it back tomorrow.”

Murdock eagerly leaned forward into B.A.’s personal space.

“Hannibal and Face totally found a way to keep everybody from opening your case again after your reinstatement,” Murdock chattered. “If people question it, they’d have to then answer why they signed for it in the first place. Besides, didn’t you see Double Jeopardy? The case was decided and it can’t be brought up again.”

B.A. laughed and pumped his fist in the air. His mother had always told him to do what was right and everything would be as it should. B.A. decided she could not be any more right.

“Oh, hell yeah,” he exclaimed. “I won’t let you down, Colonel.”

“I don’t doubt it for a minute,” Hannibal said.

As they were all talking animatedly, the phone suddenly rang. They quieted down just enough for Hannibal to answer.

“Colonel Smith,” Hannibal greeted. He remained silent as he listened, the others gradually quieting at his serious expression. “Yes sir…Yes, sir, I can be there in five.”

“Something up, Boss?” Face asked.

Waving off his concern, Hannibal hung up the phone.

“It’s nothing, Face,” he said. “General Morrison just wants to talk. It’ll be fine. Relax a little.”

Fighting back the small frown, Face tilted his head and grinned.

“I don’t suppose that means we can get drunk off our asses, does it?”

Hannibal appreciated the effort Face was making to hide his worry.

“Do what you want,” Hannibal offered as he opened the door. “But just make sure you can be up by 0500 hours.”

Everybody groaned, causing Hannibal to grin on his way out of the office. Murdock and B.A. had already been introduced to Hannibal’s crash course in shaping up the unit. Face told them not to complain. They only had to do it once so far. Face had to do it regularly for the past three years. It never got easier. But, he did assure them it built solidarity. The more they did it, the more they would be united in their mutual dread that they would have to do it again. They were already commiserating on what will be awaiting them.

But however much Face hated that Hannibal was pushing their exercises for every day, he did understand why. Listening to Murdock and B.A. complain, Face got the distinct impression they understood how important it was for them to be able to work together as a team. Their conversation gradually shifted as to why they were still at Fort Huachuca. It turned out, Murdock had been asking around, in his off kilter round about way. Face corroborated what he heard with what he learned from Hannibal.

“And they’re sending us out, even though we just joined?” B.A. asked.

Face shrugged, reluctant to share his suspicions. Instead, he settled for a simple, placating answer.

“They trust that Hannibal knows what he’s doing, and if he says he can do, then he will find a way to do it.”

Neither B.A. nor Murdock was totally convinced with that answer, but they did not press him. It made sense, and they would be hard press to deny the veracity of such a statement. But, while Murdock was willing to take the answer at face value, he wanted to make sure Face was aware he was not as convincing as he could be.

“Good way to answer without answering,” Murdock commented.

“I’ve had lots of practice,” Face shot back.

At least he was not denying it. B.A. shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he watched Face and Murdock stare each other down from across the room. At first, B.A. thought he would be the one with the issues of getting along with everybody. But right now, he knew it was either Face or Murdock. The problem was, he did not know which one it was. While their approaches to life were different, they both had the uncanny ability to integrate themselves wherever they were. Face, with his good looks and smooth talking made everybody want to be around him. And with a crazily outgoing personality, Murdock could make anybody smile and made everything seem like a party. When they were put together, nobody was safe from their charm and energy. B.A. found that they were the most annoying pair of people to walk the planet. However, B.A. noticed sporadic bouts of tension between them. But as soon as he noticed it, the two of them would be back to joking with each other and teasing B.A.

Face and Murdock stared at each other silently a few moments before Face just barely nodded and broke eye contact.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Face admitted, slumping in his seat. “But judging from experience, this could all end very badly. From what I can tell, the brass is testing us. Murdock just got signed out of a psych ward and B.A. just got reinstated. Now they’re going to take down a drug cartel in what, two or three days? They’re angling for our failure, and believe me, if we don’t live up to their expectation, they’ll sideline Hannibal behind a desk and then throw us wherever they want.”

Murdock stared thoughtfully at the ceiling before suddenly jumping up from his seat and grinning.

“Well, the obvious answer is to not fail!”

Face stared at him blankly, chin resting in his hand while B.A. had an excellent expression conveying his confusion. Murdock stared back at them, grin still plastered to his face.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Face asked.

“Because I thought of it first,” Murdock answered.

“That doesn’t make any sense, fool,” B.A. grumped.

The corners of his mouth twitched upward until he was finally laughing. Despite himself, B.A. found himself laughing alongside Face. Shaking his head, Face tipped his head backward and rested it against the back of the chair.

“Oh, man…you are something else, Captain,” Face mused. “You’re right. Got to keep thinking positive.”

Nodding his head in finality, Murdock jumped onto the couch, feet resting on one end and his head on the other. All the tension in the room slowly bled out until they were all lazily reclining in the office, not feeling quite up to doing anything productive; at least, productive in B.A.’s terms. Face and Murdock were currently attempting to figure out the lyrics to a song B.A. had never heard of. They scolded him for not having at least heard the song; and that once he let them figure out the lyrics, they would go out and do something “productive.”

Right in the middle of a particularly odd set of words, there was a loud knock on the door. Face cleared his throat and did his best Hannibal imitation.

“Enter.”

He barely finished saying the single word before snorting and failing to contain his amusement. Murdock and B.A. applauded his efforts.

“You’re not Colonel Smith.”

Looking over his shoulder at the visitor, Face’s mirth faltered. His smile shifted into an unaffected smirk.

“What an astute observation, Blakely,” Face commented in an overly serious tone.

“Tell me where the Colonel is, Peck” Blakely demanded.

Face shrugged as he turned away from him.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

“’I don’t know, sir,’” Blakely corrected with the air of somebody who clearly thought themselves above the rest.

Sharing a quick glance with Murdock and B.A. out of the corner of his eye, Face checked the window’s reflection and assumed a confused expression.

“Wait, what don’t you know?” Face asked. “How can you not know? I mean, I know why I don’t know, but you should know why I don’t know and if you don’t know why you don’t know, then I don’t know how to help you. Know what I mean?”

Blakely stared at Face blankly, trying to catch up with the conversation. B.A. covered his mouth with his hand to hide the smile that was quickly becoming a chuckle. Shooting a venomous glare at B.A., Blakely marched forward until he was standing right behind Face’ chair. Face made no move to acknowledge he was even present.

“Hey, Murdock, you know what he’s going on about?” Face asked.

“Nope, I’m as confused as you are, amigo,” Murdock returned, still reclining on the couch. “You got any thoughts, big guy?”

“How the hell should I know what you crazy fools are talking about?” B.A. grumbled.

Finally having enough of a run around, Blakely grabbed Face’s shoulder and abruptly forced him to stand up and face him. B.A. and Murdock immediately jumped from their seats.

“I’m a captain now, Peck,” Blakely informed him. “So you better show a little respect.”

Arching an eyebrow, Face smirked in disbelief.

“Or you’ll what? Come on, Blakely, you know me. There isn’t a superior officer I haven’t disrespected. You’re going to have to do a lot better than that.”

Letting go of Face’s shirt, Blakely shoved him away and took a few steps back.

“How about insubordination?” he challenged.

“It ain’t insubordination if he answered you, fool,” B.A. growled.

Murdock placed his hands on his hips and wagged a finger in Blakely’s face.

“He told you he didn’t know,” Murdock explained in an exaggeratedly slow tone. “At least try to keep up.”

Nostrils flaring in barely suppressed rage, Blakely took multiple deep breaths before straightening his uniform with jerky tugs.

“I see you’ve already bonded with the two freak shows here,” Blakely observed. He appraised Murdock and B.A. with disdain. “An incompetent pilot and a disgraced Ranger. Yeah, Peck, they’ll fit right in with Smith’s sorry excuse for a team.”

Lunging for Blakely, B.A. slammed right into Face who had to dig in to the carpeting to keep from being run over by him. At the same time, Face also held his hand out, shouting for Murdock to stay put.

“Both of you stand down,” Face ordered. “Now.”

B.A. reluctantly backed up a few steps while Murdock skulking back to the couch. They already disliked Blakely within the two minutes they have shared with him. With a smug grin, Blakely crossed his arms and stared down his nose at Face.

“The day just keeps getting better,” Face mumbled, trying his hardest to keep everybody calm, including himself. He wanted nothing more than to tear a chunk out of Blakely for disrespecting him, his teammates, and most importantly, disrespecting Hannibal. They did not deserve this. “You are always such a bastard.”

“Well that isn’t really true, is it, Peck?” Blakely corrected. “I actually know who my parents are.”

Face stiffened at his words, but otherwise, gave no indication that he cared. Blakely’s smug grin faltered when his words did not have his intended effect, though Murdock and B.A. noticed the straining muscles along Face’s jaw as he clenched his teeth. They both took a menacing step forward, stopping only because Face shook his head, his attention still fixated on Blakely.

“And I’m sure they’re proud of you,” Face replied, sincerity obviously not present. “I’ve answered your question, now get out, Captain.”

The word was distasteful on his tongue, and it took every bit of effort not to spit in Blakely’s face.

“You can’t order me around,” Blakely said, sticking his finger into Face’s chest.

Seeing the way B.A. and Murdock had reacted to Blakely’s words when they were insulted, Face felt a surge of anger. When they reacted to Blakely’s words when he was insulted, Face suddenly felt very calm. Grabbing the offending finger jabbing into his chest, Face twisted as hard as he could short of breaking the bone. On instinct, Blakely immediately swung his other arm, but Face had the quicker reflexes. Catching the fist aimed for his head, Face spun Blakely around so that he was pinning one arm against Blakely’s throat and the other against the small of his back. Face tilted his head forward so he could talk directly into Blakely’s ear.

“You and me? We’ve always had our problems, but you keep it between us, because if you don’t, we’re going to have some problems,” Face threatened. When Blakely jerked against him, Face just tightened his grip, eliciting a grunt of pain from Blakely. “Say anything like that again about my team, and I promise you this. I. Will. Break. You.”

Murdock and B.A. watched the exchange in awe. They recognized the sharp glint in his eyes and knew he would follow through with his vow. Neither of them made a move to stop him.

“There a problem here, gentlemen?”

Everybody looked up at the doorway. Hannibal stood in the center, arms crossed.

“No problem here, Colonel,” Face said casually. “You don’t have a problem, do you?”

Blakely violently shook his head, his face a bright red. Face smirked against his head.

“Didn’t think so.”

Face released Blakely, doing nothing to prevent him from falling forward from the sudden lack of support. He stumbled forward sputtering, but immediately straightened as best he could in front of Hannibal.

“Colonel Decker requests to meet with you,” Blakely recited.

Holding a hand up to silence him, Hannibal stepped into the room and to the side.

“I know. I already spoke with him,” he explained. “Thank you, Captain. You are dismissed.”

Swallowing the last remnants of his pride, Blakely saluted and marched out of the room as fast as he possibly could. Hannibal shut the door behind him and walked to his desk. Face, Murdock, and B.A. waited silently for him to be seated before facing him.

“Good to see it didn’t come to a fist fight,” Hannibal finally said.

“Oh, you know me,” Face replied. “I’m the paradigm of good behavior.”

Instead of scolding Face, Hannibal started laughing.

“Then God help us all,” he said. “But seriously now, how did it come to that?”

Before Murdock or B.A. could jump in to defend Face’s actions, Face shrugged. He measured the knowing expression on Hannibal’s face and grinned in disbelief.

“You were listening, weren’t you?” Face accused. “Well then, I think you know the answer.”

B.A. and Murdock stared at Hannibal who motioned for them to remain silent so he could explain.

“I wanted to see how you three could handle yourselves,” Hannibal explained. “And you did well. I don’t want you to ever believe a word when anybody questions your status as a Ranger. I picked you, and I don’t make mistakes when it comes to the men I choose to serve with me.”

From anybody else, Hannibal’s little speech would have been nothing but empty, placating words. But the way he spoke with total conviction and absolute confidence made them words to live by. It inspired them to keep going forward even when the entire world doubted them. Face, Murdock, and B.A. swelled with pride and renewed confidence. Hannibal could almost see the change his words brought about in each of them. He smiled and leaned back in his chair.

“Now, how in the world did Blakely get in that position when I entered?” Hannibal asked.

Face grinned unabashedly.

“He poked me.”

Bemused by the explanation, Murdock immediately skipped over to his desk and began recounting the entire incident. He played out each part, gesturing wildly as he became increasingly excited by the story. B.A. interjected every so often to keep Murdock on track, but he also could not help but butt in and share the story telling. Then, every once in a while, Face would add to the story by grabbing Murdock in a hold similar to Blakely and rapidly explaining how much fun it was. By the time the two of them finished, Hannibal still had no idea what happened. Face summarized it for him.

“In other words, we are awesome.”

Initial doubts of their ability to work together were banished from Hannibal’s mind as he smiled in contentment. His plan was coming together flawlessly.
 

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