Disclaimer: I do not own nor did I create any of the A-team characters (main or support) nor do I own or create any of the episodes. That credit is due to Stephen J. Cannell and his associates.
Spoiler Alert: This piece does reveal plot points of the Season 2 episode 2: Recipe for Heavy Bread.
Authors Notes: This piece is set after the conclusion of Recipe for Heavy Bread and explores what might have happened after the Team had to come face to face with two monsters from their time in Vietnam. As I've done before I left the female character unnamed to allow the reader to identify her as they choose. This is a stand alone piece.
The Terrors in Memories.
The sun had just risen over the bay. With it came the warm embrace of the new day. She watched Hannibal lean back into his deck chair trying to release the raw tension from his shoulders while broodingly drinking his black coffee. B. A. was leaning against the house near the sliding door. The newborn sunlight reflecting off his gold rings as he wrestled two metal parts together. His struggle to do so revealed that his mind really wasn't on the task.
Last night had been a long one.
About a week ago the Team had rescued their dear friend Lin Duk Coo from Gen. Chow and the gangster Tom Anderson. Seeing Lin and repaying him for all he had done for them in Nam had caused many old memories to explode. They all agree that without Lin's acts of mercy they would not have survived the prison camp. Chow was a brutal bastard who never allowed his prisoners a second of peace or humanity. That was any prisoner, except for Lt Thomas Angel now known as Anderson. That traitorous worm had it easy in the camp because he gave up all his secrets and made sure to report to their captors everything the other prisoners did or might know. He took extra special glee in ratting out Face and Murdock. Often downright lying to the VC about them.
She was truly awed by how humanely the guys had treated Chow and Anderson when they captured the monsters. The guys simply captured them and left them for the proper authorities and our justice system. Revenge was never part of the plan - only the rescue of Lin. Yes she had been awed by their self control but she had not been surprised. The guys were the personification of honor. Not that any of them would ever believe that description.
Well after the mission the team had stayed a little unsettled to say the least. Since Face had scammed this beach house prior to the mission and would have it for at least another month, they decided everyone would crash and recuperate there. An added benefit was that it was located in an isolated and very private cove. Clearly the team needed to stick together after this job so everyone headed to the house for some R&R. Heck, B. A. never even put in his standard growl about getting Murdock back to the VA.
She was given the master bedroom. B. A. and Hannibal took the front room while Murdock and Face got the back room. She knew the guys were all having trouble sleeping. She could hear them moving around at night and talking to each other. She had heard their unconscious rambling while they dreamed until one of the others would wake the dreamer and sooth him. Come morning no one would mention anything.
But last night had clearly surpassed all the previous ones and could not be denied this morning. Hannibal's ashen face was proof of that. She wanted to speak up now but was undecided about how to do so. Her reverie was broken as Murdock stumbled out onto the deck and dropped into a chair. He was unshaven and pale. His eyes were completely bloodshot. Hannibal looked up as B. A. joined the table.
Hannibal spoke up, " How is he?"
With a heavy sigh Murdock replied, "Finally legitimately sleeping, Colonel. I think it may be his first real sleep in over a week". B. A. shook his head sadly. She spoke up then. Haltingly but with resolve, "Guys. Don't you all think it's time I know a little bit more? I mean anything you can stand to share. Just so I can be a little more prepared. I mean I want to be able to help but how can I if I'm completely in the dark?"
B. A. looked at her, his teddy bear brown eyes revealing all the hurt and compassion he usually tried so hard to hide. Murdock reached over and held her hand reassuringly,"You did just fine last night sweetie". Hannibal assessed her with tired yet all seeing steel blue eyes. He sighed and said, "ok".
He began, "Clearly Face went through hell last night. I know you know we all get nightmare memories every now and then. You've never mentioned it before out of respect and, because you were hesitant to intrude". She smiled at his astute observation. Hannibal continued, "Murdock and Face usually get 'em the worst." A quick glance at Murdock confirmed this sad fact. "Last night the horror show in his mind really grabbed hold of Face and wouldn't let go. Last night's nightmare went into a full on flashback. I'm so glad you were there this time. That's what finally snapped him out of it. I'm sure seeing that slime ball Angel and butcher Chow is what triggered it."
Hannibal paused here. To collect his emotions and plan what he wanted to or was willing to tell her. She patiently waited. Murdock attempted to rise to check on Face. B. A. stopped him by saying, "Sit and rest crazy man. I'll check in on Faceman. My turn." She saw the flash of pain in his eyes as he said it. He was gone only a few minutes. When he came back out he had a tray loaded with coffee cups, muffins, and a glass of milk for himself. He reported that Face was still sound asleep and looking peaceful.
By this point Hannibal had gathered his thoughts and was able to continue the tale. "You know we endured a living hell in that camp. Only reasons we made it through was Lin's contraband food and medicine and the fact that we had each other. I don't really have to give you details. You're smart and I know you've done research and read the articles and books and such. But I will tell you this. Face nearly died thanks to Angel. The sleeze hated Face. Totally jealous of the Kid and his skills and that he had us to rely on. Angel used to take pleasure in seeing Face picked for sessions in the interrogation room. If he couldn't set up Face then he'd burn Murdock. He knew that was just as torturous on Face. Anyhow. One time that scum really fried our Lieutenant. After one of Angel's reports, Chow had Face dragged from our cell before daybreak and he wasn't given back to us until well after dark." The Colonel's eyes misted over, Murdock had silent tears openly sliding down his cheeks. B. A. was unconsciously destroying the napkin in his hands. She stayed still, waiting for Hannibal to continue. "I really thought the VC had brought the Kid back to us dead. They flung him into the cell like a roadside carcass. Murdock got to him first and told us he was still breathing. He had blood seeping from everywhere. I had never seen anything like it up to then nor since. We did our best to clean and treat him. When he could finally speak all he said was that 'they never even asked me one single question. They just wanted to hurt me.' It took him weeks to get well - as well as one can get as a POW.
Anyway. Face has never in all the years since talked about that day. But seeing those bastards again must have forced the memories to resurface. Hence the live horror show last night."
She went into her own mental replay of last night.
She had been jolted awake by someone screaming. It was Face. She heard Murdock speak soothingly at first and then she heard him call for Hannibal. Hannibal and B. A. had gone running into Face's room. She went too because everyone sounded so frantic. Murdock was trying to hold Face still. Face was kicking his legs and screaming at invisible enemies. He was telling them to leave him alone and to go rot in Hell. Suddenly Face broke free from Murdock and bolted into the corner of the room. He hit the floor and curled up into the fetal position - a last defense posture. Sobs were wrenching his body. Hannibal gently approached him patting his leg trying to bring him out of his horror. Face looked at him. His blue eyes blinded by the memory and he begged, "Why don't you just kill me already. Just kill me so this will stop". No matter how many times Hannibal reassured him that he was safe, Face just couldn't hear him.
B. A. tried next. He lovingly said, "Faceman. You're safe little brother. You're with us in America. We are all here safe and healthy." But it wasn't working. Face in his frenzied state jumped up, pushed B. A. aside, and made a run for the door. He yelled something about if they wouldn't kill him then he'd do it himself. Hannibal hollered for someone to grab Face before he could get to a weapon.
Because she had been standing in the doorway of the room she was able to get to Face first. She latched on to him by hugging him around the neck. This forced him to make eye contact with her. The terror she saw in his eyes was such a contrast to the mischief and hopefulness that usually swam in those blue pools. She gently got Face to kneel on the floor by doing so herself. He was trembling like a newborn colt but they never broke eye contact. "Face, honey. It's me. Come on sweetie look at me. We are in California. At the beach. You promised to try to teach me to surf this week. Come on Face. Look at me. Come back to me." The other guys held back ready to pounce if needed but trusting her connection with Face.
Face's eyes had started to focus on her a bit. He ran a timid hand over her hair. "That's right, Face. You're safe. No one here is going to hurt you. The team is here too, safe and sound. Come on sweetie keep looking at me. You're safe I promise you." He had blinked and shaken his head then. "Home, safe?" he had asked. "Yes, honey, home and safe" she had replied. He looked at her then with clearing eyes and sighed' "Thank God", and then he started to cry. He cried so hard his entire body shook but still that was an improvement over the terrified trembling he was doing moments before.
He had cried in her lap until he had no tears left. Then B. A had gently and easily picked him up and put him back on his bed. Face had looked up and asked, " B. A. Is that you ?" " Yes. Little brother it's me. Hannibal and the Crazy Fool are here too. We're all here safe and sound. Gonna put ya in bed so you can sleep now." Don't leave me alone Face had pleaded. Murdock placed a cool cloth on his sweat covered brow and promised he would not go anywhere. Hannibal then covered Face up with a blanket, just as a father would tuck in his little boy at night. He told Face to lie back and sleep. Utterly exhausted Face collapsed on his cool pillow and drifted into sleep. Murdock perched on a chair next to the bed keeping a close watch over Face.
Hannibal had then come over to her and helped her up from the floor. She had lost all track of how long she had been on the floor with Face clinging to her. From behind her. B. A. handed her a wet cloth so she could wipe her own face. She hadn't realized that she had been crying right along with Face.
Hannibal lead her back to her room. He placed a fatherly kiss on her head and said. " Thank you, doll. You did great. Now please get some rest. He'll be okay now."
"Hannibal? Would he really have hurt himself? I heard what he was saying when he ran into me."
"I'm not sure," admitted the Colonel,"Thanks to you we didn't have to find out."
She went back to bed but she didn't really sleep.
So here they were sitting in the California sunshine trying to shed the misery of last night. Again she privately marveled at the strength of these men. She felt truly privileged to call them friends and humbled that they called her friend. She knew how devastated she felt watching Face suffer last night and being unable to stop his pain. They not only watched his torment they had lived through it with him the first time. Hannibal's mantra of "we all go out together or not at all" suddenly took on an even deeper meaning. It wasn't just a rally call. It was a promise. No an oath among brothers.
They heard a shuffling in the house, Murdock leapt up and ran in. Quickly they heard the pilot's voice greeting Face. Murdock sounded a bit timid at first but then a jovial note crept in. They heard the men approaching the deck. B. A. leaned back and dragged a fifth chair over to the table thereby setting up a space for Face. The door slid open and a clearly relieved Murdock wiggled back to his seat.
She had never seen Face looking so disheveled. His hair was uncombed. He was still wearing his pj's but the shirt was unbuttoned and looked as if it had been hastily thrown on. She speculated that Murdock had flung it on Face so he wouldn't catch a chill outside. His blue eyes were even more bloodshot than Murdock's and exposed how exhausted he was. He offered a weak vulnerable smile to his friends. Hannibal passed a muffin and cup of coffee to him. Face began to protest but Hannibal's determined glance stopped him. Face began to peel apart the muffin and sip the coffee.
Hannibal broke the silence. "So how you feeling this morning Lieutenant?"
"Like I danced under a steamroller, Colonel," came Face's shockingly honest reply. That alone proved how much of a toll the night's agony had taken on him. "I'm sorry I put you guys through all that last night. Somehow I actually remember parts of it". Face fought hard to suppress a shudder. "I'm sorry I couldn't get control of it. The memories just took an iron grip on me"
Hannibal placed a reassuring hand on Face's arm. "There is nothing to be sorry about, Kid. We've all been there. We stick together and cover each other's back." B. A. got up to head to the kitchen. He patted Face's head and said, " Ya. No sweat little brother. We take care of our own. Now I'm gonna make a real breakfast and you're gonna eat it. Ya need a good meal."
Faceman rubbed his hand over his eyes and chin thereby realizing he needed a shave. He looked at Hannibal and asked if the Colonel had a razor he could use. Hannibal said sure and to come with him to get it. The two men walked into the house like father and son.
This left Murdock and her at the table.
As soon as Face and Hannibal entered the Colonel's room, Hannibal shut the door. Face sat down on the edge of the nearest bed. Hannibal looked at him, "Okay Kid what do you need to ask me? I know for a fact you have you're own shaver in the bathroom. I saw you set it up the other day." Face sighed and asked his leader, "How bad did I get last night and how much did she see?"
Hannibal answered truthfully, "You got the worst I've ever seen you. I was downright afraid you were going to hurt yourself. You were threatening to. Nothing we did was reaching you."
Face winced. Then he repeated, "How much did she see?"
Hannibal looked at Face and said, "All of it. And I thank God she did because she was the only one who got through to you."
Murdock turned to her after the guys had left. She gave him a weak smile which inspired him to give her a hug. A hug she didn't realize she needed so badly until he gave it.
"God, Murdock. You guys are so incredible. Everything you all have gone through and you're still out in the world being heroes. I admire you all so much." She gushed.
He gave her a shy smile and said, "Hey you were the hero last night, Darlin'. Thank you for coming in. I don't even want to think about what might have happened if you hadn't been there."
"Oh come on, Murdock, you guys would have handled it."
"Maybe so, but not as gently as you were able to. We couldn't reach him last night. I was real scared I thought we were going have to have B. A. slug him or have Hannibal inject him with some night night juice. The only one he heard was you."
"I'm sure you guys would have calmed him down. Maybe my voice was just different so it cut in. Probably because my voice had no existence in his memory and couldn't be part of the flashback."
"Ya. Ya. Maybe that's it," Murdock replied cryptically.
About twenty minutes passed and then B. A. summoned everyone to the kitchen with a stern "Food's ready". She and Murdock came in from the deck. Hannibal and Face came from the bedrooms. Face had showered and shaved. His hair was combed but still damp. He dressed very casually in jeans and an untucked t-shirt.
Everyone sat down and B. A. served up pancakes, bacon, and eggs. Everyone dug in not wanting to disappoint the chef. As they started to eat they realized they where in fact hungry.
After a while Face pushed his plate away and sighed. "Thanks B. A. I needed that more than I knew."
"Mama always says that a good meal can heal the soul, man,"replied the Sergeant. Everyone nodded their agreement.
Murdock volunteered to clean the dishes when everyone was finished. Face stayed to help too. Everybody else got ready to go down to the beach. The two best friends worked in a silent and effective tandem. Face finally spoke up.
"Hey Murdock, thanks for last night. I didn't hurt you when I was thrashing around did I?"
"Nah of course you didn't Facey. And you don't have to thank me. You've done the same for me often enough."
"I feel so beat up. I never wanted to revisit those memories again."
"Was it about the time they took you for the entire day?" Murdock prodded gently.
"Yes" Face quietly answered.
"Yeah I thought so from what you were screaming. Hey whatever you need you know I'm here buddy".
"Thanks. Hey let's join everyone down at the surf. I have a sudden need for bright sunshine and wide open space."
"Well let's go muchacho! I want to try out my new Woody Woodpecker flippers any way."
She was sitting on a sand chair watching B. A. and Hannibal toss a frisbee back and forth. She spotted Murdock and Face making their way down from the house. Their progress was often hindered by Murdock's searches among the brush to retrieve wind blown treasures. His joy was infectious when he discovered a lost beach ball. Clearly a game of kickball would be on the agenda. Face was carrying a surf board.
When they got down to the shore Murdock ran off to pester B. A. and Hannibal with the beach ball. Face came over to her.
"Hi there'" he said a bit hesitantly. She smiled back at him, "Hi back at ya," she teased.
Face flashed his trademark grin, briefly, and pointed toward the surfboard. "Seems I remember promising to teach you to surf. You still up for it?" He seemed so shy while he asked. Of course she quickly agreed.
They strolled down to the surf and waded out about waist deep. Face held the board still while she climbed up. He instructed her to just sit on it for now just to get a feel for the water. He gently rested his arms on the board and looked up at her. His blue eyes had regained their vibrancy but were still shadowed. He cleared his throat. "
"Um thank you for last night. I can remember some of it and Hannibal told me the rest."
She placed a reassuring hand on his arms. "No need to mention it. I'm just glad I was helpful in some way."
"I'm so sorry you had to see me like that."
"Face, look at me. Don't apologize. Don't you ever be ashamed of the dreams. Your nightmares just show how strong you are. You carry those horrors in your mind yet you're still a wonderful guy out in the world protecting others."
"I just wish you didn't have to see them grab me like that. I don't ever want you to be frightened of me"
She gently grasped his chin and made him look at her. "Face, you could never ever frighten me. I'd be more worried if you didn't have nightmares. You wouldn't be a man worth knowing if you weren't haunted by the memories of that hell. Only men of honor are haunted".
Face held her gaze. His eyes turning as deep blue as the sea water around them. He seemed a bit awed by her words. "Thanks" was all the usually silver tongued Lieutenant could come up with.
Biting her lip she hesitantly asked, "Face? Why was it my voice that broke through? I mean the guys were all there trying. Ready to rip out their own hearts to help you. Why me when your best friends couldn't get in?"
"I'm not sure really. I could hear them but my mind wouldn't let go. Some voice in my head kept saying it wasn't safe for them. That they'd get hurt too. Then I felt you holding me and I heard you say my name. And that voice couldn't attach to you. So I knew I could go to you. Does that make any sense?"
The rest of the guys had been watching their conversation. They stayed out of earshot to respect their privacy but they could interpret the gist of the conversation. They watched her stretch out belly flat on the board. And saw Face finally relax as he stretched into a back float near her. The sense that Faceman was over the worst of it settled into each of them.
Murdock looked at Hannibal and said, "You of course realize why it was her voice that reached him last night?"
"Yes,Captain, I sure do."
"Funniest part is that neither one if those fools realizes it themselves," added B. A.
"Oh just give 'em time boys give 'em some time," grinned Hannibal as he lit his cigar.