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Murdock swallowed. He'd had it all planned out - a perfect scheme even the Colonel couldn't have improved on, and he'd kept it a secret, too, which was no small feat when you hung around with three very sharp-eyed, sharp-minded people.

He'd gotten the plane, and the wine; he'd gotten chocolate and a guitar.

Everything except an accurate weather report.

"Hey," Face said, and of course it was Face; of course it couldn't have been anyone else. Murdock storms off in a mood - better send Face after him, to figure out what's wrong and talk him down.

(It would've worked, too, because Murdock liked Face - a lot, and maybe a tiny bit more than the others, like, he'd have died for any one of them, no question, no hesitation, but when it came to Face, there were also pants feelings, and okay, that was a stupid way of putting it, like Murdock just liked Face extra because of his face or something, and that wasn't it at all.)

(It was just ... complicated.)

Face put a hand on his shoulder from behind. "You all right, buddy?"

Murdock said, "Fine," because you didn't tell the guy you'd been planning to ask to maybe consider doing the horizontal mambo with you that actually, you'd planned to sky-write I LOVE YOU FACE in all caps only to find out that oops, way too much cloud cover.

"Didn't look like you were fine back there," Face said. Perceptive, that was Face.

Murdock wasn't, not always. He knew he missed things sometimes, little things, and big things, and medium-sized things. As long as he was up in the air, it was all good, no muss, no fuss, no sir. Best damn pilot alive.

On the ground, it was a different story.

Thus, the Plan. Stick to your strengths, and all that. Silly, in a way: clouds had never bothered Murdock much before. They were just there, clouds. Nice bit of cover, if you wanted it. Excellent for some hide and seek, or other fun and games.

"So hey," Face said, and Murdock realized that he'd been quiet too long, being kind of rude, though Face was probably used to it by now, used to Murdock being a bit crazy - or a lot. "You want to talk about it?"

'I may be crazy, but I'm crazy for you, baby,' Murdock considered saying. He almost pictured himself doing it: a smooth turning around, arms going up and around Face, like in one of those movies. Swelling music, and Face staring up at him, all starry-eyed and ready for a big smacker.

"Anything wrong, you can tell me. You know that, right?" Face asked. "I mean it. I'm here for you, all right? Anything."

"Nah," Murdock said. "I'm fine, Face. But thanks. Much appreciated."

Face breathed in. Murdock still hadn't turned around. Bad idea, turning around: he'd see Face's expression, all worried and concerned and friendly. The sort of face you'd feel you could tell anything, even things you'd much rather say via sky-writing, with you high up in the sky, where you felt like you knew what you were doing.

"Can you at least look me in the eyes when you're lying to me?" Face asked.

Pretty sure I can't, Murdock thought. It really had been a brilliant plan.

"What, you can't talk to me anymore all of a sudden?" Face said. He was beginning to sound a little angry, which was fine: Murdock probably deserved Face being angry with him, but also a little hurt, which was not fine, not at all. "I thought we were friends." Face chuckled. "Stupid me, I even thought - "

The weather gods taking a big dump all over Murdock's plans, that was acceptable. Bosco still not being over his fear of flying - annoying, but eh, Murdock could live with it for another day, week, month or year. They'd get around to fixing it sooner or later. (Probably later. Bosco was stubborn.)

Face feeling hurt because of Murdock - that wasn't acceptable. Not cool. Not okay.

That meant Murdock had to turn around and try to fix this, right here, right now, with nothing to help him but his wits and the knowledge that if he screwed this up, it would be bad. Very bad.

"We are friends," Murdock said. "C'mon, Face. You know I love you like a - " 'brother' he'd been about to say, but yeah, not really. Murdock's feelings weren't really of the brotherly variety, he didn't think.

"Like a what, Murdock?" Face asked, and oh good, definitely more angry than hurt now. "Huh? Come on. Tell me."

"Nothing to tell," Murdock said, mostly to goad Face a bit more, see if he could piss Face off real good. Then, in a few hours, days, whatever, they could kiss and make up again, and it'd be all back to normal again. (So probably no actual kissing, but eh, what else was new?)

"That's how it is, huh? Is that how it is?" Face said. His face was a little red.

Murdock decided he was becoming a bit uncomfortable. This kind of confrontation - he'd wanted to make things easy. Simple. Sky-write a love confession in the air, and then come down and have Face figure out the rest and tell him what they were going to do next.

Face was good like that: a real planner. Not like Murdock, who'd spent weeks on one single plan that hadn't even come off the ground - literally.

Murdock stared down at his feet and mumbled, "Guess so," hoping that would do the trick. Face would leave and be angry for a bit, and probably play his Steely Dan CD very loudly, until Bosco'd yell at him to turn it down a bit, which Face wouldn't do, because Face only took those kind of orders from Hannibal.

And Murdock'd be listening to all of it, safe and secure in his own, lonely, empty-except-for-the-one-person-in-it bed, and he'd tell himself the status quo wasn't so bad, really, could've been much worse.

"You guess so?" Face exhaled, like he was counting to ten in his head really slowly, to calm himself down. "Hey. C'mon, Murdock. I'm worried about you. I'm not saying you have to talk to me, but I want to help. Let me help. Please."

Murdock squirmed. Mentally. Face was hella dangerous. Talk a guy into anything, could Face, which was very convenient when it came to the sort of missions where you needed someone to bust you out or get past a guard without arousing suspicion, but right here, right now, Murdock wished Face would've been a little less persuasive and a little more angry.

"Nothing to be done, honest," he said. "It was stupid. I don't want to talk about it."

"Well, good," Face said. "You don't want to talk, let's not talk. Up to you."

Murdock risked a glance at Face's expression. It was very sincere, like Face was meaning every word here. He probably did. "Up to me," Murdock said. "That's right. All up to me."

"I just said that," Face said. "Didn't I just say that?" There was something tugging at the corners of his mouth now - a grin, Murdock realized, an honest-to-thank-you-there-is-a-God grin.

Murdock could have kissed him, except that he couldn't, because he hadn't confessed his feelings yet, and you couldn't kiss a fellow if he didn't even know what you were doing it for. That'd be cheating.

"You did," Murdock said. "You did say that, Face." He felt light, happy. They were going to be fine. They were going to be just fine - and then maybe tomorrow there wouldn't be quite so many clouds, and he'd take out that plane after all, and then -

"I love you," Face said, like it was nothing. Like it wasn't hard at all. Like it wasn't the sort of thing you couldn't come out and say, unless you were in a plane, safe and high in the sky, where you knew you could do anything, even come down to earth and discover if the person you'd said it to felt the same.

Murdock said, "I know," probably because he'd seen Star Wars way too many times. "Wait, no, I mean, what?"

"I. Love. You. Murdock," Face said. "What, you want me to sky-write it or something? Because I would, except that I'm really not that good with planes."

"Ha! You're not that bad." Murdock swallowed. He felt ... floaty, he decided. Not like he was flying, but not quite like he was standing with both his feet on the ground either. Somewhere in between. "So uh, what happens next?"

Face shrugged. "I figure we could kiss. Or, you know, not. Your call."

Murdock realized his lips were a bit dry, so he licked them, and then he wondered - "Kissing sounds pretty good."

"All right then." Face grinned and then he winked, "Feels pretty great when a plan comes together, huh?" and Murdock would've said that it hadn't, not really, but then they were kissing already, and, well, who needed to talk anyway?


("You think those fools can work things out? Because I'm telling you, I need to spend another night lying awake, listening to damn Steely Dan ... ")

("They'll work it out," Hannibal said. "I have faith. Though things might still get a little loud, depending.")