1. Murdock, BA, Hannibal and Himself
“So what is it with you two?” Murdock asked the blue-eyed wonder.
“Don’t know what you mean, Murdock.” Face was tiring. It had been a far more difficult few days than he would let on. Tuco had come much closer to plucking his last nerve than he would ever admit. Though grateful they hadn’t fallen out of the sky, despite that BA character’s flirtation with doing just that, he’d had enough. That was the craziest damned chopper ride he’d ever been on and still had him a little shaken. On top of that he was struggling to keep up with his CO and the other two men as they trudged across the nothingness of southern Texas. He wasn’t interested in getting into this conversation.
“Just seems a long way to come and a lot of effort to rescue someone who deliberately disobeyed orders,” Murdock noted with no inflection.
Face was astute at reading between the lines of virtually any statement, but Murdock had him stumped. What he was asking should have held a judgemental note. Yet neither the goofy pilot’s face or tone held anything of the sort. There didn’t seem to be any rancor or glibness. Only a man making conversation, not caring where it may lead. And certainly not attempting to lead it to a predetermined conclusion.
Yeah, Hannibal outdid himself this time. He admitted that. The boss had gone to new lengths to save Face from his own recklessness.
However, if their story is ever told it’s not likely he and Hannibal will be depicted as having a thing for each other. That would just be pure fiction. And, that’s the way Face wanted it. Didn’t matter if in the night he sometimes, okay frequently, thought otherwise. Hannibal sure as hell didn’t want that kind of relationship with him. So it was best to not want that from his Colonel. And if he kept saying it to himself the lie would become truth.
“We’ve been together a long time. We...” He was cut off by the pilot who had changed subjects in his head, dropping the previous.
“That sign says this is Marfa, Texas. Imagine being here in 1955. Imagine all the fancy people you’d see.” There was a far away look in Murdock’s expression. Face got the impression the Captain had somehow transported himself back in time, but didn’t have a clue what the significance of 1955 was.
“I’ll bite. Why 1955?”
“Why Faceman that’s when they filmed Giant right here in this town. Think about it. Seeing the likes of Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean sauntering up and down the street. Besides them there were folks like Chill Wills and Mercedes McCambridge, Jane Wyman. Then there were all the up and comers: Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Earl Holliman, Rod Taylor. Oh! And Carol Baker. I always loved Carol Baker. How about you, Facey?”
His enthusiasm would have been catchy if Face hadn’t been so wiped out. What was up with calling him “Facey” anyhow? Though he didn’t complain. Suppose he kinda liked it. “I’m not sure who she is.”
“Oh she was a beauty. She was Baby Doll. Ya know? Karl Malden’s wife. The one Eli Wallach was trying to seduce. She was in that movie The Carpetbaggers. She was George Peppard’s father’s young wife, the actress. You know him doncha? He was in Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn. She was a beauty too. I know you got eyes for the Colonel there, but you can appreciate a beautiful woman too, cancha?”
Before Face could object the pilot trotted up to the Colonel who was in the lead. “Hey Colonel. This is Marfa we’re walking into. Did you know this was the town where...” And he was off. Hannibal positively delighted him when he began quoting lines from Giant and reliving scenes from the last James Dean film.
Face still wanted to set the record straight about his feelings toward his CO. He didn’t need that bit of misinformation traveling around. As he watched Hannibal swing a long arm across the pilot’s shoulders, the way he did with Face, the young officer was washed with a feeling he hadn’t experienced since back in the orphanage with his best buddy Carl. He thought he could easily become friends with this goofus. He was definitely off kilter, but also very endearing.
“You okay there Face?”
Face hadn’t noticed when the former Corporal dropped in step beside him. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Sorry bro, but you don’t look so fine.”
Now how the hell had Hannibal heard that, being as far ahead as he was? But sure enough he had stopped long enough for the two men to catch up. With an index finger tipping his head up and a thumb grazing his stubbled chin Hannibal looked in his eyes. “First place we see to get you some shade we’ll stop. Okay Kid?”
“I’m alright.” But he couldn’t say it and look Hannibal in the eye. The boss always knew when he was lying.
That arm went around Face as he said, “Sure, Kid. Come on.”
There were signs. The guys all saw them. Face, however, stubbornly turned a blind eye. She was using him. She was pulling a scam the likes of which Face hadn’t ever considered. The handsome LT was a master of manipulation, but he never, not once toyed with someone’s heart to get what he wanted. Wouldn’t dream of it and refused to see it was so blatantly being done to him. She was using him for his connections. Not only his own, but also by way of association, Hannibal’s too.
Hannibal, Murdock and BA watched it unfold, hoping beyond hope when the devastation came, and they had no doubt it would come, that it wouldn’t be complete, that they would be able to put the pieces back together.
“It’s just not in the cards for me.”
“Aw Kid. I hate to see you like this. I happen to know there is someone who would give just about anything to be your partner in life. Who knows? Maybe they’re already here. Just waiting for you.”
Sitting on the stone steps leading to Hannibal’s backyard, Face watched an industrious ant carry a load that should have been impossible for it to manage.
“I can also tell you without question ... Sosa was never meant for you. You deserve someone who loves you completely for you, not who you know or what you can do for them. That is except to make them feel they have been granted a precious gift. One never ... ever ... to be taken for granted.”
Hannibal’s words begged questions. Unfortunately, in that moment Face made a tactical error. He didn’t look into his Colonel’s eyes. Had he done so, the answers would have been found there.
“Not likely, Boss. I wouldn’t even want someone waiting in the wings.” It was easier than to consider this whole mess with Charissa could have been avoided.
What could Hannibal do but take him at his word.
“What? No! No one thinks that.” Face wrapped an arm over the shoulders of his distressed friend. If there’s one thing he learned from Hannibal it was what comfort could be found in the touch, the half embrace. How many times had he leaned into his Colonel’s side seeking the solace offered there?
“I know I’m not like other people, Face. I never have been. I also know I’ve gotten a lot worse than when I was in high school, or when I first joined the Air Force. But I’ve seen things, Facey. I’ve seen some ugly things. Especially when I was loaned out to the spooks. It made everything worse. It made it... I can’t even describe it to you.”
“Murdock. Buddy. You don’t need to describe it to me. I don’t even want you to try. I know I could never understand it as well as someone who lived it. Like someone who survived it.”
The pilot looked out toward the desert. “Anyhow. It was nice of you to say nobody thinks I’m nothin’ but a running joke.”
Face couldn’t look him in the eye. Clenching his right hand into a fist he thought the skin would split across his knuckles as it had when he first injured himself. He had to take care.
But there was one thing he wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t walk away. He’d land another blow to the face of anyone else he heard throw shade over their team pilot. Just like earlier in the afternoon. That was when he laid out that piece of shit from Black Forest for making a spectacle of himself, doing an ‘impression’ of his off-balance and frequently struggling best friend.
He pulled Murdock in with both arms now, again reminded of his CO’s embrace. It was hot out here in the sandbox, but he knew first hand how transformative the warmth from another body could be. He pressed his head firmly to the side of Murdock’s and said, “No one talks about you like that.”
Murdock knew he was lying. Yet he took it for what it was, a dear friend being there when he needed one. Lying when it really mattered.
“Seriously Bosco?” Face looked all sorts of put out. “Why on Earth would you think we were trying to get you on a plane? It’s not like we don’t all know how you feel about flying. I mean please. Give us some credit.”
“What was in the milk, Face?”
Innocence washed over the former LT’s features. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
And the one time he absolutely didn't lie
“Can you hear me, Boss?”
The only response came in the form of one machine whirring, another beeping and still another gasping as it inflated the blood pressure cuff. He sucked in his lower lip as he gazed down on the man lying in the hospital bed.
Face brushed the errant strands of hair from Hannibal’s forehead then found he couldn’t fully take his hand away. Instead he again brushed the coarse sand-filled locks back, petting and smoothing. “I was so worried.” The stinging hit his eyes. There was no stopping it. The tears breached and he was sniffling.
“I prayed for them to find you.” Another pet. “I haven’t prayed in years.”
He stroked his fingers down Hannibal’s cheek. “I don’t know what I would do if I lost you.”
He wiped at his own cheeks, spreading the dampness. “I love you, John. I’ve loved you from almost the first time I set eyes on you.”
Sniff. “You were so tall and imposing. I was in awe. I couldn’t believe I’d been assigned to you.” Sniff. “Do you know you didn’t smile in front of me for two straight days? But when you did ... that was it. I was hopeless.”
Another pet as he took Hannibal’s hand in his own. “I tried to deny it. Tried to pretend what I was feeling wasn’t real. I’ve tried all these years.”
He had to look away. The truth was painful enough without having to focus. “I slept with a lot of tall, grey-haired men,” he grimly chuckled. “But none of them could give me what I need. I pretended Charrisa was the answer. What an ass.” He tried to blink away tears. “I’m so sorry I put you and the guys through that.”
When he again looked down Hannibal’s eyes were open, looking up to him. A wet smile spread across Temp’s face. “Hey Boss. Did I wake you? Yammering away like that?”
Hannibal slowly shook his head no. He pulled at Face’s hand. ”Come here.”
Obediently, Face leaned over his Colonel.
Hands still entwined, Hannibal pinch a bit of cloth urging the LT closer.
Face’s tears were back in full force. Leaning over the man he shook his head lightly. “You don’t have to Boss.”
Gentle and brief, it was something they both needed.
“Bet I have some terrible morning breath,” Hannibal ventured.
Face was crying, biting down on his lips, but he had to chuff at that. “Not any worse than mine.” He again petted Hannibal’s head before leaning down to press a kiss to his forehead.
Hannibal pulled downward on his hand, asking him to stay. With their foreheads pressed together he had to ask, “Did you mean what you said?”
From H/F group prompt fest
Indigo suggested: Five times that Face lied to someone on the team - including himself - and the one time he absolutely didn't.
Here’s a big thank you, Indigo, for putting this together.