1. "I know a great-"
B.A. didn't wait for Murdock to finish before dragging him out of the driver's seat and growling, "Nobody drives my van but me. Especially not the fool who pancaked her."
"Come on, B.A.." Murdock was in the passenger seat before he could lock the doors. "That was months ago. Don't you think it's time to forgive and forget?"
"No," he said, and backed out the garage for the first test drive.
The first thing B.A. did after he got back from almost dying in that crazy fool's helicopter was get the number for the guy at the hospital in Mexico from Hannibal, and call him to put the fear of B.A. Baracus in him if anything happened to his van.
He made Murdock pay the international call charges.
"You should stick around for a while, son," Hannibal had told him. And when he followed that up with, "I could use a man like you on my team," B.A. didn't bother pointing out that the Rangers weren't the type to let a man with a dishonorable discharge re-enlist. Still, he did stick around, and found a garage that would let him work on his girl in peace for a reasonable price.
He wasn't exactly surprised when Murdock showed up -- he couldn't see any reason why Hannibal wouldn't tell Murdock the same thing he'd told B.A., besides that Murdock was crazy, but Hannibal hadn't seemed too bothered by that -- or pleased. But trying to get rid of the man was like trying to get rid of a puppy. When it turned out that Murdock could follow directions and was handy with a toolbox, crazy antics aside, B.A.'s attempts to throw him out slowly faded.
While he would never, ever admit it out loud, Murdock taping screwdrivers to his hat, and running head first toward one of the guys who was wiping his hands on a red rag was kind of funny. And the way B.A. sometimes caught him patting the van's hood, or running a hand along her side and whispering that they'd get her fixed up in no time, well. Maybe Murdock wasn't too bad to have around.
"-which is why alligators-"
"Get out," B.A. interrupted, putting the van in park at the curb in front of the garage and getting out to open the hood. One of the lines was loose, but he could tighten that out here, and then spend some quality time with her on the road. Without Murdock.
"-now, crocodiles, there's a-"
"What're you jabberin' about?" he asked when he felt Murdock standing behind him and peering over his shoulder at the engine.
"I'm hurt, B.A.. Weren't you listening?"
"You're gonna be real hurt if you don't go get me an allen wrench." He reached in to tug the air supply line. Might need to replace that after all.
"Can't." Murdock sounded sulky about it. "I'm not allowed in there if you're not there since I tried to make a sonic screwdriver. Which isn't fair; I almost had it working when Stan started making a fuss about me borrowing that solenoid."
Somehow, B.A. was not surprised. "It's not borrowin' if you weld it to a pipe without askin'." He straightened up and brushed past Murdock -- the man needed to learn the meaning of "personal space" -- on his way in.
The wrench wasn't where he'd left it, something he could probably thank Murdock for. After a few minutes of digging through the toolbox and moving scraps of hose off the workbench to look there, he felt Murdock come up behind him again.
"If I finished that sonic screwdriver, you wouldn't need to look for a wrench to fix anything," he said, like it was B.A.'s fault he couldn't make some crazy thing.
"If you put everythin' back where it went, I wouldn't need to look for the wrench either."
"Don't blame me, I always put it back where I can find it."
B.A. turned around to tell him that he should find it then, and happened to glance out the door. It took him a second to register that his girl wasn't out there.
"Where's my van?" he asked very slowly.
Murdock cocked his head at him. That was not the look of a man who knew the answer to the question. "Outside, where you left it. You feeling all right?"
He didn't answer. Some punks. Had stolen his van. Some punks had stolen his girl the first day he got to drive her in months. If anything happened to her...
"I'm gonna-" he started to mutter.
"Whoa, easy there big fella," Murdock said, taking a step back. He'd take a lot of steps back if he knew what was good for him; this wouldn't have happened if he hadn't knocked the A/C off the hospital with that damn helicopter.
"If anything happens to my van-" he stabbed a finger at Murdock with one hand, and reached into his pocket for the keys with the other "-you better take a one-way trip to-"
"Aw, don't worry B.A., I just moved it around the corner," Murdock said, dangling the keys in front of his face at the same time he realized that they weren't in his pocket anymore, and grinning, like it was funny.
"Don't get upset, now. It was just a jo-" When he growled, Murdock mouth snapped shut and he took another step back. He put the keys gently on the tool chest next to him, saying, "I'm just gonna leave these here now."
...Hannibal probably wouldn't mind whatever he did to Murdock, long as he was still breathing at the end.
2. "Rise and shine, sleeping beauty!"
B.A. woke to a voice and a popping sound that had him reaching for his weapon before he connected Murdock's cheerful voice and the smell of gun smoke with gunpowder cooking. His head was fuzzy. He was strapped into the seat of a small plane. Murdock was standing in the doorway, well out of arms' reach.
The last thing he remembered was telling Hannibal he wasn't getting on no plane for real this time.
"I'mma kill you," he muttered, jerking the strap off and lurching upright, his head still a little fuzzy.
"But I made you dinner," Murdock said, all big eyed and innocent voiced, and B.A. wasn't falling for that bullshit.
"I'mma kill you after I eat," he amended, because whatever Murdock had going outside smelled good.
Once outside, B.A. turned in a slow circle to take in the surroundings. They were in a small clearing, but judging by the tops of trees dangling like broken toothpicks and the smoke coming from the left engine, this wasn't a planned landing. Hannibal and Face weren't anywhere to be seen, probably smart enough to clear out before he woke up.
When he turned around, Murdock was standing there, holding out a plate of grilled meat. "What happened?" he demanded, but took the plate anyway. No sense letting good food go to waste.
"Everything started whirlin' and twirlin' every which way and one of the little hamsters that runs the-"
"Never mind," B.A. interrupted. "You tell me when I'm done eatin', and there better be none of that crazy talk again." He took another bite and looked around. The only thing in the clearing besides them and the plane was the makeshift campfire Murdock had been using. Besides the sound of the fire that was dying down, it was dead silent.
He narrowed his eyes and looked back to Murdock. "Where'd you get a steak in the middle of the woods?"
Murdock pointed past the nose of the plane. "There's a road a mile that way. Some poor deer got hit by a car -- people shouldn't drive so reck-" B.A. had frozen mid-chew, and something in his face made Murdock hurry on. "But don't worry, big guy, I didn't use any of the run over bits, so it's fine. Besides, all the little flies buzzing around told me it was still good eatin'."
B.A. spat out what was in his mouth and dropped the plate as he lunged forward and lifted Murdock by the front of his shirt. "You fed me what?"
Murdock squawked and grabbed his arm. "Okay! There's a cabin back there, and I traded the guy that lives there for it. Hannibal and Face are waiting with him for- erk!"
He dropped Murdock, who stumbled back, rubbing his throat. "What would you have that a guy livin' in the middle of the woods would want?"
Something that would have been unease on any other man, but could be anything on someone as crazy as Murdock, flitted across his face before he said, "You weren't too attached to that Gandhi book-" He broke off and backed away when B.A. growled and took a step forward. "But it doesn't seem as bad after the roadkill, right? Bosco? Right? If you kill me I can't make coconut curry tapenade anymore-"
3. They'd been on the road maybe an hour (maybe ten minutes -- they both felt the same a lot of the time) before Murdock ran out of things to do and no one would play I Spy anymore. Up front, the boss had a map open and was plotting out the best exit routes from the town they were headed to. Face was hanging over the back of the seat and pointing out possible routes that Hannibal missed.
Face may have been good at scamming the fur off a polar bear, and his plans usually mostly worked, but he still wasn't great at the getaway part of the job. Murdock supposed it was a good thing he was practicing now instead of while they were in the middle of actually trying to get away.
When Murdock opened his mouth -- what they needed was a good car song to make this drive go by faster -- Bosco caught his eye in the rear-view mirror before he could even get a full breath.
"Don't you be startin' any of that singin'," he said. "It'll take you days to reach Poston on foot."
Sometimes, Bosco was no fun. "You'd come back once you realized that your life wasn't complete without me by your side."
"You're more like a thorn in my side that I want out."
"Boys," Hannibal said, and they both subsided.
Murdock could feel his skin itching, like it wanted to crawl right off his body and go find something fun to do. After trying to name all the rocks they were passing and giving up, he felt in his pockets and pulled out a remote control. When he flipped it on and the little light flashed, he could see an answering flash from under the front passenger seat, where he'd stashed the robot crocodile he'd swiped from Hannibal's studio. It looked just like the real thing, if the real thing was a foot long and smelled faintly of oil after it had been in the sun too long.
"Crikey! A salt water crocodile nest," he whispered in his best Australian accent. "These beautiful creatures lay their eggs in mounds of vegetation on the shore. The mama crocs-"
"Who're you whisperin' to back there?" Bosco snapped, inconsiderately interrupting the narration.
"The audience," he said, which was fairly obvious, he thought.
"Dang crazy fool," Bosco muttered. "He didn't start doin' this until he was workin' for you Hannibal."
"He's not doing anything, right Murdock?" Hannibal always had his back.
"Right, bossman!" He eased one of the joysticks forward a little, and winced when a thump came from underneath the seat as the baby croc ran into post. Bosco didn't seem to notice the sound, but he picked up the narration again to cover any more mishaps. "The mother protects the babies from other predators that want to have a tasty crocodile dinner, but eventually, they have to say goodbye to their mum and go off on their own."
The little robot trundled out from its hiding spot and into the space between the two front seats. He managed to get it right up by Bosco's legs -- and he was pretty proud of himself for only running it into the bottom of the seat once -- before Bosco glanced down to see what was making that noise and, wow, he did not know the big guy could shout like that.
Going off the road and having to help get the van unstuck from the sand wasn't fun, especially not with Bosco yelling in his ear the whole time, but it was worth it.
4. On the short list of things Murdock hated (which started with "the VA hospital" and ended with "handcuffs"), "any of Hannibal's plans that involve getting shot" fell somewhere in the middle. There was always a moment of shock where he forgot that this was planned and he had on a vest and that pain wasn't a bullet going into him (didn't feel anything like a real bullet wound, anyway, but that never mattered in those few seconds). The bruises would have been cool, if they didn't come with it hurting to breathe a little for days afterward.
After the impact, he lay on the floor, staring up at the ceiling and blinking while he waited for the wind to knock back into him. He was going to have a knot on the back of his head from cracking it against the floor, and he could feel some of his marbles rolling loose in his head. A concussion and a contusion, two for the price of one, get 'em while they last.
As he got his breath back, he realized Bosco was shouting from where he was tied to a chair next to where Murdock fell, and, wow, how had he not heard that? Bosco sounded furious.
"If he dies you better hope I never find you. You'll be wishin' I killed you now."
Murdock let his head fall to the side a little so he could see Bosco, who was straining his arms like he'd be able to break the handcuff chain through sheer force of will alone. While that would be impressive, it hadn't happened in all the years they'd been a team, and Murdock doubted that it was gonna happen now.
"I'd be more worried about surviving yourself if I don't get my plane," the guy who'd shot him said, like he was winning here. He clearly didn't know Bosco, because even when he was only pretending to be angry, he was a mean mudsucker. Murdock had experience with that.
"Murdock," Bosco said, focusing on him instead of responding, which was good because no one should be rewarded for cartoon villainy like that. "Murdock, don't you die. Just hold on a little bit, we'll get you outta here."
He sounded almost desperate near the end, which was good and all, since he was supposed to be pretending Murdock was really bleeding out, but it was kind of over the top, and Bosco wasn't supposed to be the dramatic one. That was his job. The guy who shot him turned his back on Bosco as his cell rang, which really, maybe not the best idea in the world, even if he was tied up. But Bosco was still looking down at him and talking fiercely.
"I swear, I'll let you put on music while I'm drivin' and you can pretend to be whoever you want and I won't say a thing, if you don't die."
Murdock really hoped that this wasn't what Bosco would say if he was really dying. He was pretty sure you couldn't force a person to live by being angry at them. Or promising them ridiculous things that even a crazy person like him knew would never really happen. Bosco was lucky the guy didn't know them, otherwise he'd see right through the act. Face needed to show him how to do this better, because this was overkill and the guy was going to get suspicious and shoot Murdock for real if he didn't tone it-
He never did tell B.A. about this part of the plan like he was supposed to, did he?
Oops. His bad. He looked up at him and winked, and when that didn't seem to actually help, he mouthed, "I'm fine."
"Don't be tellin' me you're fine, fool. You're not fine."
Okay, that didn't exactly go as planned, and now B.A. was even more worked up. When he realized that it was fake blood soaking Murdock's shirt, a massive bruise and a cracked rib were going to be the least of his problems.
The guy was getting more and more agitated, and pacing up and down the room. Murdock really, really hoped that Hannibal almost had him convinced that it would be easier for him to just give himself up, since he'd shot one of his hostages. He felt kind of bad about forgetting to tell B.A. the plan changed, and the guy kept looking at him, so he couldn't do anything to make him believe that he was okay. This wasn't fun anymore, now that he knew the worry and fear on his face was real.
It took one more length of the room (and one more impossible promise from B.A. -- did he really expect Murdock to believe that he'd stop calling him names? Did he really think Murdock wanted him to stop calling him names? He knew it was just his way of saying he cared; why would he want that to stop?) before the guy said "Okay, okay, I'm coming out" and started unlocking the door.
Murdock waited until he was all the way out the door and he could hear Face taking the gun from him before sitting up. The rest of the fake blood gushed out of the packet when he did, soaking the front of his shirt even more.
"Am I dead? Is this heaven?" Softening Bosco up with a little joking around right now was probably a good idea. He turned to look at him and widened his eyes. "Oh no, they mixed up and sent me downstairs! That's the curse of bureaucracy, I tell ya. This isn't where I'm supposed to be at all, and it'll take forever to get sorted out."
He pushed himself to his feet -- he could already feel the bruise on his chest when he moved -- and turned back to face Bosco, who hadn't said anything since he started talking, and oh, he was not happy.
"Before I let you go," Murdock said, "I want you to know that I really was gonna tell you that we changed the plan while you were getting the truck. And you'd miss me if I was dead, you said so yourself, so you can't kill me."
B.A. growled and said, "You gonna wish you were dead."
He really, really did not look happy, and Murdock was kind of miffed at that because he thought he was dead a few minutes ago. He should be glad he was okay, not threatening to hurt him a lot. And looking like he was really going to do it if Murdock got any closer.
"You know," he said as he backed out of the room, "I think I'll let Face untie you. I think I left the oven on, wish I could stay and chat, but I gotta go."
He'd give Bosco a while to calm down to a less homicidal level without him around. It wouldn't take that long, maybe a couple days. Or weeks. He hoped.
5. The road to Thermalito was long and boring. They were stuck in the middle of traffic, and had been for the past -- B.A. checked the clock -- half hour. He was beginning to think that maybe leaving later to avoid the worst of traffic out of L.A. wasn't a good idea if it meant hitting Sacramento at rush hour.
"You're right, B.A.," Murdock said from the back. "We should have left L.A. earlier."
He twisted around in the driver's seat to glare at Murdock. "Stop that, you crazy fool."
"I can't help it!" Murdock gripped the sides of his head, his eyes screwed shut. "There's all these voices, and they won't quiet down. Like being at little kid's party at a skating rink, except all in my head." He opened his eyes and looked up at Hannibal. "Yes please, Colonel, aspirin would be great."
Hannibal grinned, and pulled the first aid kit out of the glove compartment. "Just what I was about to ask."
As Hannibal handed a little packet of aspirin back to him, Face leaned across and patted Murdock's knee. "Latent telepathy manifesting's tough, huh."
"Don't you two go encouragin' him," B.A. growled. He wouldn't stop if the two of them kept playing along, and if B.A. had to deal with him pretending to be able to read minds until they got back to L.A., he'd end up as crazy as him. Luckily (for Murdock), a horn blaring behind them covered whatever he replied to Face with. B.A. turned his attention back to the road and gave the guy the finger out the window before starting to crawl forward again.
B.A. thought that he would be free of having to listen to Murdock pretending to know what all the people in town were thinking when they walked through the construction site, no one else around but the four of them, with Hannibal talking out the plan. Murdock couldn't elbow him in the ribs and point at someone while whispering made up junk about what they were thinking, since there was no one around.
He was wrong.
Hannibal had been quiet for a few minutes, staring up at the crane by the edge of the makeshift parking lot as he puffed on a cigar, when Murdock said, "No, I don't think that next part of the plan will work."
"You don't know what he was gonna say," B.A. said, "so shut your trap."
But Hannibal turned around and said, "You're absolutely right, Murdock. I don't know what I was thinking."
"Neither did he," B.A. muttered, ignoring the wounded look that Murdock shot him. He could pretend to be hurt all he wanted, it wasn't going to make B.A. play along.
Hannibal ignored him and continued, "Instead you'll be in the crane when they park under it, and once they're in the building, B.A., you'll hook their car so he can pull it up and follow them in. Then Face-"
"Uh, bossman," Murdock interrupted, "Face wants to know what I'm supposed to be doing after I got their car up there."
That didn't even make sense. But before B.A. could tell him to shut up again -- 400th time's the charm -- Face grinned and said, "Took the words right out of my mouth, buddy."
Murdock grinned back, and B.A. was going to kill them all.
"I'm gettin' sick of your foolin' around," he said, pointing a finger at Murdock and glaring.
He ignored Face's muttered, "Getting?"
"If you can read minds, then what am I thinkin' about right now?" he continued and, because there was no possible way Murdock would guess this, he pictured Murdock pinned against a wall, his legs up around B.A.'s waist as he-
"That's not safe for work, and we are working," Murdock said primly. And then added, in a thoughtful voice, "Plus, I don't think I can bend like that."
B.A. stared for a moment, as Face snorted like he was trying not to laugh and Hannibal chuckled. "That's not- I wasn't-" he stammered. It was one thing to think about the last thing he jacked off to so that he could prove that Murdock couldn't read minds. Even though it didn't need proving because it was ridiculous. But him even guessing it was something that involved getting off- "No, that's not what I was thinkin'. I'm not playin' this game with you."
"Aw, Bosco, don't be like that," Murdock said, slinging an arm around his shoulders. "It's a many-splendored th-"
B.A. shrugged Murdock's arm off his shoulders, and took a long step away. "Don't touch me. I don't want to catch your crazy."
Because, if he was -- even for a moment -- considering that maybe Murdock really could read minds and that that wasn't just a coincidence and him fucking with him, then he really was going just as crazy.
That would have been it, except now that Murdock knew how to rattle B.A., it was like he had a new toy. Every time he caught B.A. looking at him, he winked, or told him he couldn't concentrate with B.A. thinking that, or something that was eerily accurate about what B.A. had been very carefully not thinking about. The idle "what if" that was always in the back of B.A.'s mind when Murdock bent over, or lifted something heavy, or took off that damn jacket he always had on suddenly didn't seem so innocuous.
All he could do was try to not think about anything because -- and not that he didn't know that Murdock was full of shit -- that reassured him that Murdock was just fucking with him.
"Hand me the-" when B.A. looked up from the air cannon, Murdock was already holding out the nail gun he had been about to ask for.
"Your nail gun, sir," he said gravely.
B.A. grunted and took it. They almost always ended up working together when Hannibal needed something built for his plan, for a loose definition of "working" that included whatever Murdock felt like doing to entertain them both when he decided they needed entertaining. It was perfectly reasonable for him to be able to guess what B.A. was going to need, and not creepy at all.
"Do you want to know what you're thinking right now?" Murdock asked.
"I don't need you to tell me what's goin' on in my head." He punctuated the sentence with the bang of the nail gun securing the air compressor to the board.
"Are you sure?"
When B.A. looked over at him to tell him that yes, he was sure, and stop foolin' around, they had work to do, Murdock was wetting his lips. He found himself watching the motion of his tongue, instead of saying anything. Which Murdock, as usual, took for silent approval.
"You're wondering what else I can do with my tongue."
B.A.'s focus snapped away from Murdock's lips, and he narrowed his eyes. "I'm wonderin' what you would do without a tongue."
Murdock stared at him for a second, licking his lips again, and B.A. refused to let his eyes be drawn back down. Then he said, "I'm gonna go see if Face needs any help."
As B.A. watched him go, he started to wonder if maybe this had started because he hadn't been as subtle as he thought he was about wanting to fuck his friend, and this was that crazy fool's way of saying that he wasn't opposed to the idea. Things with Murdock were never straightforward, and this wouldn't have been the craziest thing he'd done instead of just outright saying something. And it made a twisted sort of sense.
Hannibal's plans never went right, even if everything turned out fine in the end, so when B.A. ended up laying low behind the dumpster with Murdock while they waited for Hannibal to signal that the extra guy they hadn't expected was in place, he wasn't exactly surprised.
"Why, Bosco," Murdock put his hand to his chest and fluttered his eyelashes, "I didn't know you-"
"Oh for-" B.A. muttered and grabbed the front of Murdock's shirt to pull him closer to kiss him so he'd knock it off.
After a moment -- a far too long moment -- he realized that Murdock wasn't kissing him back. Or doing much other than standing frozen. He let go and jerked back, and hoped that it wasn't obvious that his heart was gonna pound its way out his chest, out of pure horror at how incredibly wrong he'd been.
Murdock was still just standing there, his mouth slightly open, staring at him. This was not how he expected this to go, at all, no matter when he thought about it. He scrambled for a way to salvage the situation before Murdock got over the shock and moved on to the "what the hell was that" part.
"If you could really read my mind, you shoulda seen that comin'," he said. If he was lucky, Murdock would take it to mean he had just been fucking with him back.
Murdock shook his head a little. "That wasn't-" he started say, still looking kind of frozen in place. But before he could finish, Hannibal's signal came, and they were both springing out from behind the dumpster to go in opposite directions to trap the extra guy.
Between rounding up everyone that had been in on the harassment for the cops and getting back to L.A., B.A. managed to never be alone with Murdock. His plan, once they were home, was to avoid Murdock as much as possible until the next time Hannibal called them together to check out a new client. By then, maybe neither of them would remember what an idiot he was.
Unfortunately, Murdock had other ideas about what to do, like showing up at the youth center every day when B.A. usually would have been about to head back to his apartment. Sneaking out the back got old real fast, and by the time Murdock decided that showing up at his apartment door and knocking until he let him in would be a better plan, he figured it was about time to get it over with.
When he opened the door, Murdock's entire face lit up, and he felt a little bad about working so hard to avoid him for the past few days.
"B.A.! I didn't think I was gonna see you again!" He sounded just as happy as he looked, like he'd actually been worried about that.
He stepped aside so Murdock could come in, saying, "Hannibal said we'd be meetin' a new client on Monday."
For the first time since this started, Murdock looked uncertain. He stood just inside the door, his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, but, that's not- Bosco- I mean-"
"You gonna finish any of those sentences?" B.A. asked when he broke off in the middle of trying to say something for a third time.
"I'm trying," Murdock said, looking angry and frustrated and tense. He huffed out a breath and stepped forward until he was all way up in B.A.'s personal space. Then he kissed him -- it wasn't much more than a quick press of lips -- and stepped back.
"You weren't just-" Murdock started, still looking kind of uncertain.
And B.A. could read minds too, in this case. "No," he interrupted, which was apparently the magic word to make Murdock relax and start grinning again. He could feel himself grinning right back.
"Good, because-" Murdock started, but the last thing B.A. wanted to do was talk. And now there were so many different ways he could try making Murdock shut up. So he started at the top of the list.
Turned out kissing worked pretty good.