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when the clouds catch fire

Chapter Text


“A buzzcut, okay Murdock?” Face said, arranging the towel to better cover his shoulders. “Just a simple, straightforward buzzcut.”

“Aw, Facey, can't I do you a mohawk like BA? They're all the rage now. It's the hairstyle that's sweeping the nation. I'd get one myself except I don't think my Captain Bellybuster hat would fit over it. Too much height.” He revved the clippers and beamed at Face with a mega-watt smile. “Come on Faceman, whaddya say?”

Face looked at Hannibal imploringly. Hannibal straightened from where he'd been leaning against the van and removed his cigar.

"Murdock, you can't give Face a mohawk because Wyatt didn't have a mohawk. If Face shows up at the biker hangout with a mohawk they'll get suspicious.”

Murdock sighed theatrically. “He's passing up a once in a lifetime opportunity. A mohawk could've been the best thing to ever happen to his hair and instead you're robbing it of its potential for greatness.”

“I'll live,” Face said, patting his arm.

“Nice and short, Captain,” Hannibal said, biting down on his cigar again. “Like it was back in 'Nam.”

Face readied himself as Murdock switched on the clippers. He waited...and waited.

“Ah, Murdock?”

“Ssshh. I'm saying a eulogy for your hair.”

BA scowled over where he was working on the motorbike. “Quit messing around fool and get on with it.”

Murdock's lips moved silently and then he crossed himself and opened his eyes. “Okay. I'm ready.”

BA shook his head in disapproval before turning back to the bike.

Face held himself still as the portable razor did its job, the gentle pressure of Murdock's warm hand moving his head this way and that, and he tried to quell his rising trepidation. It wasn't that he was nervous about Murdock cutting his hair; he knew Hannibal was watching and wouldn't let Murdock do anything crazy. Besides, when Murdock had first heard the plan, he'd been desperate to be the one to cut Face's hair, had been riffing on Sweeney Todd for days, and Face couldn't deny him that.

No, the trepidation was because he was wondering if, just this time, he was out of his depth.

The plan was for him to infiltrate a notorious biker gang that was tearing up this part of the coast, dealing in weapons and snatching up women. Women like Wyatt's sister. The team had been laying the groundwork for weeks, and all that was needed now was for him to step into the cover of Wyatt. He'd left off shaving for a few days and the stubble felt prickly and strange. The haircut would complete the picture.

A warm breeze started up. He closed his eyes and took an unsteady breath, inhaling the saltiness. 

“Oh no no no," he heard Murdock cry and he opened his eyes. The pilot had dropped down on all fours and was scavenging in the dust.

“What's up, Captain?” Hannibal said.

“The wind's blowing away all of Face's hair. I was gonna collect it and put it in a box, give it a nice little funeral.”

Face exchanged glances with Hannibal. He knew this was Murdock's way of showing that he cared about Face, that he too was feeling anxious about what was going to happen.

“Murdock, I mean it,” came BA's voice behind him.

“Relax, Murdock,” Face said, “you only need a couple of strands to represent the whole. It's synecdoche.”

“Exactly,” said Hannibal, smiling. “Synecdoche.”

“You fools are all crazy,” BA muttered.


When Murdock was finally done with the clippers he whipped the towel off Face as if performing the reveal of a magic trick.


Face stood up, brushing himself down as he did so. Hannibal came over and looked at him appraisingly.

“Nice job, Murdock. You could be a professional hairdresser.”

“Nah, I'm not cut out to be a hair murderer. My soul's too sensitive.”

Face took the jacket from Hannibal. It was Wyatt's jacket, the leather soft and worn and smelling faintly of smoke. He put it on, along with the sunglasses. 

“Well? How do I look?”

Hannibal nodded approvingly. Murdock was shaking his head though.

“I don't know, Face. You look mean. Real mean.”

“That's the idea,” Hannibal said.

“Face,” barked BA, “get over here.”

He left Murdock gathering up the tufts of hair and went over to where BA was doing up the bike.

“Say, BA, that's a real nice bike. Where'd you get it?”

“My cousin,” BA said, “and he wants it back, so you better take real good care of it.”

“Sure BA, Scout's honour.” He held up his left hand.

BA frowned at him. “You ain't no Boy Scout. You ever ride one of these things?”

He shrugged. “My buddy had a BMW back when we were kids. He let me ride it sometimes.”

“Look sucker, riding a Harley's a world away from those toy bikes. It's heavy and the exhaust pipe's lower to the ground. So watch out when you're turning 'cause it'll flip the bike something nasty if you catch it.” 

The next couple of hours Face forgot about his apprehension as BA gave him the low-down on the Harley. When he was finally allowed to take it for a spin he found his muscles hurting in places he never even knew he had muscles, but it was a good hurt, and it worked off some of the adrenaline.

After the test drive he parked the bike up and switched off the engine. “Thanks BA.”

BA was cleaning his hands with a rag, and as he approached Face his expression was uncharacteristically thoughtful. 

“What?” said Face.

“Look man," BA said in a low voice, "if things start to go bad, just call. We'll come get you, okay?”

Face pasted on a smile. “Why, BA, I didn't know you cared.”

“I'm serious man,” BA said, still worrying the rag. “I know how these things can go. I've had some run-ins with gangs in my time. Don't do nothing stupid.”

He felt a chill run down him. He wanted to make some breezy comeback but something in BA's face stopped him.

“What about Suzi?" he said, looking down. "I'm her only chance - "

"You can't be thinking like that, man. If it starts heating up and you need extracting then Hannibal will think up some other plan.”

“Face,” Hannibal called then.

“Speak of the devil,” Face said lightly.

“Remember man,” BA said, stepping back.

He was grateful for BA's protectiveness, but he knew no matter what happened that he had to see this job through. He kept hearing Wyatt's voice in his head, the way he'd said, “She's the only family I got”, the desperation. It stirred up something in him and he knew he wouldn't be able to put it to rest until they found her.

“All set, Lieutenant?” Hannibal said, clapping him on the shoulder.

“If I say no, will it make any difference?”

Hannibal laughed. “You'll do fine, kid. Now let's get you bugged and wired.”