Some people in the world tended to use a phrase or a word so often that it would become, for lack of a better word, a catchphrase. Those phrases could tell you a lot about a person, for example Lieutenant Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith liked to say ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’ It was a very interesting phrase for someone who planned entire operations but in a way it showed Hannibal’s relief and joy that his team were quick and intelligent enough to not only deduce exactly what Hannibal needed for his plan to work but found a way to make the little details fall into place. Or luck. Had it not been for their extremely successful track record, Stockwell very well might have assumed it was all luck. It was the exact opposite of Stockwell and his phrase of ‘do it my way’. Stockwell didn’t trust others, didn’t leave anything to chance. He liked the know everything, to manipulate all the odds and ensure everything went exactly as he planned for it. Yet just this once, with the A-Team sitting in his safe house under his thumb, he thought about taking Hannibal’s phrase for himself.
The A-Team was one of the greatest military assets any agency could get a hold of. Hannibal was known for his out of the box and bizarre planning that usually worked out despite having every reason in the world not to. Of course the main reason they were so successful was because of the highly selective and tight-knit team Hannibal had built. Templeton ‘Face’ Peck had an uncanny ability to get anything from anywhere in record time. Not that those items would be any good without Basco Albert ‘B.A.’ Baracus who could build anything with scraps. Stockwell almost admired their ingenuity. Frankie ‘Dishpan’ Santana would make a fine addition to the team with his special effects skills. Unfortunately, he would never make a perfect replacement for the fourth team member but it couldn’t be helped. Stockwell realized he would probably have to give them a few softballs for their first few times out, let them figure out how to work as a team.
The biggest thorn in Stockwell’s side, one he hoped he could have avoided, was H.M. Murdock. Murdock was an absolute genius and very well informed. He was also one of the most loyal men Stockwell ever had the pleasure, or in some cases displeasure, of meeting. Many people looked at the former captain, saw his goofy grin and his happy go lucky attitude as he watched cartoons and played with toys and made the assumption that he was too childlike to make any real threat. Unfortunately for them Murdock was one of the most dangerous people in the A-Team. Being the only member of the team never wanted by any form of law enforcement and not known by the public made him a fantastic secret weapon. Combine his anonymity with his intelligence and his absolute feral demeanor when his friends were in danger, and you had the perfect teammate for this line of work. That was why Stockwell’s entire plan of recruiting the A-Team hinged on Murdock’s ability to rescue them. It was also part of why Stockwell couldn’t allow Murdock around now. Murdock was too paranoid; he would never trust Stockwell and would always see him as a threat to his team. Stockwell knew Murdock would be keeping a close eye on him and if he did even one thing that Murdock interpreted as a threat to his team, Stockwell would likely end up with a bullet in the back of his head. Murdock already tried once after all. No, it was best to leave Murdock in Los Angeles.
At least that was what Stockwell thought, up until the moment Carla informed him that Murdock was currently standing at the front door! Stockwell couldn’t help but feel annoyed that Murdock didn’t do as he wanted him to. It was another reason he couldn’t allow Murdock around the team. Murdock wasn’t like the others. He didn’t need Stockwell for a pardon, he could literally walk away at any point and have a normal life. Not only that but he wasn’t easy to manipulate when he got a little too uppity. If Hannibal started acting out of line, Stockwell just needed to throw something at him with adrenaline and he’d be ‘on the jazz’ so to speak. If B.A. started asking questions, he was easily distracted by a few stray comments that would get his blood boiling, and all Face and Frankie needed was someone with a pretty smile and long shapely legs to walk across their paths.
Stockwell’s annoyance only grew as he watched and listened to the others interactions. He decided not to even wonder how Murdock got the address of his secret base since no one but Stockwell had it until a few minutes ago. Murdock had an uncanny ability of knowing where his people were, even if they didn’t communicate their new locations to him. He even found Stockwell’s secret plane! Then when Stockwell told him that he wasn’t welcome in the house, Murdock surprised him by revealing that he didn’t follow them there like Stockwell first assumed, he actually beat them there! He already had an apartment and a job, and he didn’t just get them either since he was already on the clock! Murdock also couldn’t help but rub salt in the wound by informing Stockwell that not only did he get through Stockwell’s state of the art security without a problem but he also brought an entire pack of dogs, almost thirty of them, into the house without anyone knowing they were there!
It took nearly an hour for them to get all the dogs rounded up and in Murdock’s van again. Murdock was standing by the back door, hands in his pockets and a huge grin on his face. Face, B.A., and Frankie were sweaty and exhausted, having done the brunt of the work, and all looked mildly annoyed but also happy to have Murdock there. Face and B.A. made sense, since Murdock had been a constant figure in their lives for the last decade and a half. Frankie was a bit of a surprise but he had also spent a good amount of time with Murdock during the trial and Murdock just had a way of rubbing off on people. Hannibal on the other hand was giving Stockwell a smug grin. He knew that Murdock would come! Stockwell had said before that Hannibal was one of the few men he ever met to made so few mistakes in his life, so it wasn’t a surprise to realize that Hannibal was also the only other person than Stockwell who knew just what Murdock was capable of.
“Well muchachos, I gotta get these cute little doggies over to the pound, but I tell you what. There’s this amazing little restaurant just up the street with the best take-out I’ve ever had. So why don’t I stop on the way back and pick us up dinner?” Murdock suggested, and Stockwell could have sworn the pilot threw him a smug smirk, just rubbing in how much he had already integrated himself into the community. Stockwell knew they needed to talk, to establish boundaries because he couldn’t let Murdock spend too much time with the team. Stockwell wasn’t a fool, he knew Murdock was here to stay. He couldn’t tell Murdock any of this in front of the team though.
“Sure Murdock, that sounds great.” Face said, the fondness he felt for his teammate easy to read all over his face.
“Excuse me Captain,” started Stockwell, causing the others to give him alarmed looks. “I do believe the airport is on the way to the pound. Would you mind dropping me off along the way?” he asked. Face and Frankie both opened their mouths, about to argue with him or protest but instead Murdock just grinned.
“Sure thing General.” He agreed.
“Murdock…” Face started.
“No, you don’t have to tell me Face I know your favorite foods!” Murdock ‘assured’ him. Face, B.A., and Hannibal all exchanged looks and Frankie looked even more confused at being left out. Murdock just climbed into the drivers seat of the van. Stockwell took that as his cue to get in and made his way to the passenger door, pointedly ignoring the looks that the other four were giving him that promised he would die a slow and painful death if he even harmed Murdock’s feelings. He settled into the seat and waited but Murdock didn’t make any move to start the van. He looked over at the pilot to see Murdock giving him a stern look, his eyes darting between Stockwell and the seat belt. With a sigh, Stockwell put the seat belt on and Murdock grinned again before driving off.
The dogs were surprisingly well behaved, being mostly quiet in the back as opposed to the loud ruckus they made when Murdock set them loose in the house. Stockwell let Murdock drive for a bit before he decided to engage the man in conversation. “I must admit Captain, I’m surprised to see you here.” He said. Murdock actually let out a barked laugh at that.
“Oh General, you know it’s unprofessional to lie.” He scolded. Stockwell felt his annoyance only deepen. “You knew I was going to show up the moment you got the board of directors at the V.A. Hospital to discharge me.” Murdock said. Stockwell ground his teeth together.
“Very well, I’ll admit that I suspected you would come. I just hoped I had more time before you made an appearance.” Stockwell admitted. After all Murdock would have broken himself out on his own eventually. Murdock adjusted his hold on the steering wheel. “I won’t insult either of our intelligence by asking how you managed to find this place because I know you won’t give me a straight answer. I also am not going to forbid you from coming to visit your friends. You already proved you can get past my security and I don’t want them to waste time on the look out for whatever stunt you’ll pull next and miss any real threats.” Stockwell continued. Murdock didn’t even glance at him.
“Wise choice General.” Murdock praised after a moment. Stockwell felt like Murdock was patronizing him and he didn't like the way Murdock called him 'General'. When Murdock said that to Hannibal, there was a level of respect and trust attached to the title, but the way Murdock said his former rank was almost like an insult. “I don’t know what you think keeping me away from my unit will accomplish General, but I’m here to stay. And if anything happens to any of them, and I mean any of them, it’ll be me that you will have to answer to.” Murdock’s voice had taken on a cold tone and Stockwell knew he was making a promise, not a threat. It was also strange to him just how fast Murdock was accepting Frankie into the group. Murdock never was known for making new friends. He bonded with Hannibal's rag-tag group and Stockwell never saw any indication that Murdock was every so connected to any other team.
“I understand Captain. As you and I already established on my plane, we want the same thing. The A-Team, alive and well. And together.” Stockwell said. Murdock just gave a nod before slamming on the breaks. The dogs in the back let out noises of protest and Stockwell couldn’t help put throw out a hand to brace himself in surprise. The van came to a complete stop and Murdock continued to look out the windshield.
“Now that we settled that General, get out of my van.” He said. Stockwell almost sputtered in surprise. The whole purpose of this drive was for him to lay down the law with Murdock. Instead Murdock wrenched control from him, said what he wanted to say, and was now tossing Stockwell out!
“Now Captain, you wouldn’t leave a man stranded on the side of the road would you?” he asked. Murdock chuckled again.
“Oh please, I know you’ve had a car following us this whole time. You’ll be out there for maybe two minutes.” He said, his voice still hard. Stockwell couldn’t help but be impressed by Murdock all over again.
“I am curious. Why do all this? You have never once been wanted by the police but you still associate yourself with the A-Team. You could have walked away at any time in the last fifteen years but here you are, throwing your lot in with them.” He said. Murdock was quiet for a minute, gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles were turning white. Then he actually turned and looked at Stockwell for the first time since they left the house.
“You’ve never been a part of a unit like this general, so you wouldn’t understand. These guys are my family, my unit, and the only people I have. They are my boys and no one, not even you, will take them away from me.” Stockwell nodded to show he understood. “Now, goodbye General, I have a job to do. My boys are hungry.” Murdock actually smirked at that, and Stockwell got out of the van.
He barley got the door closed before Murdock was driving away. As he watched the van disappear down the road, Stockwell realized he was very wrong about a few things. Murdock wasn’t as unpredictable or uncontrollable as he thought. The man would do anything and everything to protect the A-Team. This could work out rather well. Murdock needed to work in order to have a place to live. It limited his contact with the others, he wouldn’t be in the house all the time like they would. Murdock was still the one he would have to watch out for. He would question Stockwell on everything, push back every chance he got and if Stockwell ever gave an order that contradicted with something involving a member of the team’s health or safety he knew Murdock would blow him off. Stockwell started to wonder if Murdock really was crazy. When the man confronted him in his plane, he started to suspect that it was an act but no sane man would willingly choose this life over a peaceful one. This was going to be interesting.
Hearing his car pull up, Stockwell turned from the vanishing van. “Able three, make sure you keep tabs on Captain Murdock. I want to know where he is at all times. After all, I think we’re going to need to know where he is for missions rather quickly.” He ordered.
“Yes General.” The agent agreed.