The night in the desert was amazing. It was cold but calm and the sky was so different from the sky in the US. Here you could really see the stars, even count them one by one if you wanted to. Face often indulged in a little observation before going to bed, it was relaxing and he loved to be alone for a while. Nobody thought it was strange.
Many soldiers, many miles far from home and their family in a hostile country, did it in fact: some prayed for their families, some smoked and some just wanted to be alone. If during the day it was impossible to have a moment for himself, because of things to do and orders barked to be obeyed in no time, during the night it seemed life was easier and slower.
The first time Face came out of the team's tent in the middle of the night, both Hannibal and BA had been worried sick after not finding him in the base mess, where they supposed he was drinking with other young soldiers, nor in another couple of places where they knew the youngest soldiers used to gather together. Not entirely convinced that starting an official search for him was the right move – it was 4 a.m. and both men were a little apprehensive about the youngest member of their team and his safety and well being – Hannibal and BA decided to come back to the tent.
Half an hour later Face showed up. BA repressed the urge to shake the kid out of his skin and shout at him an angry 'What the hell you think you're doing going out without telling anyone?' because Face wasn't a kid anymore and he was capable of taking care of himself. The Colonel was on alert too but did nothing except chewing on his cigar nervously.
But it was clear Face had some explanation to give the two men. The young LT quietly declared he had been out to breathe some fresh air, that it was something he was used to doing since he was a teenager in the US. No need to worry, then, he said. BA asked him if he was worried about something and if he needed to talk but the kid just smiled at him. 'I'm fine, Bosco. Really I am. I just like to have some time alone sometimes and the night here is so quiet and the sky so black,' Face explained.
Both BA and Hannibal felt relieved at the kid's words. They knew perfectly well the sensation Face was talking about. So Hannibal simply asked the younger man to please tell him where he was going if he decided to go out on his own in the middle of the night again, in case they needed him.
'Did I do something wrong, Colonel?' Face asked then, afraid to have broken one of Hannibal's rules. But the Colonel reassured him that this was not the case, he just liked to know where his men were. And suggested that the three of them go to bed.
Some weeks later, Face was out of the tent in the middle of the night again. Both BA and Hannibal knew they didn't have to worry about it but this was the night before Face's first real mission with the Team. And obviously the kid went out not because he wanted to watch the stars. He had been nervous all day, at the briefing, and then while checking the equipment he had been obsessed that everything was perfect and functioning. He almost didn't eat his meal at the mess.
Hannibal knew it was a normal reaction, yet he wanted desperately to reassure the young man, to find him and to take him into his arms and rock him like a child, whispering kind words in his ears until the kid would melt into his embrace. And kiss him. But this was just a fantasy, the Colonel knew it. Maybe he was in love with the kid but it was one thing to accept it and another thing to declare it to him.
Plus, there was BA. The Colonel wasn't sure about the big guy's reaction.
So it happened that Face received two visits that night.
He was sat on the roof of the mess building, back to the wall, looking at the sky but clearly not seeing it. The night was beautiful, a giant full moon shining on the kid's lonely figure. BA was the first to arrive.
The roof covering creaked under the big guy's weight. Face turned to look at him and smiled shyly.
"I thought you were not going to come, Bosco," he stated quietly.
The big man nodded, coming to sit beside the younger man. "Yeah. I thought about leaving you alone but I hoped that you would enjoy some company."
"Sure, BA. Isn't it a beautiful night?" Face asked casually.
"It surely is, kid. But I know Hannibal will not be pleased to know we're here tonight…" the big guy answered.
"Then I won't tell him," was Face's calm reply.
BA sighed. It was obvious something was eating the kid, the trouble was to convince him to talk about it. Seeing that Face wasn't going to tell him, he asked him directly, "Are you worried about the mission?"
The Lt didn't answer at first but continued to stare at the moon, then turned to look at him with shining eyes. He was crying. He noticed the Corporal's reaction at that and sighed in frustration.
"It's just that I'm nervous BA, ok? No need for you to worry about it. I'm fine!" Face whispered in a ghost of his usual brilliant tone.
Not daring to come closer to the kid, in order not to make him run away, BA simply nodded.
"Is there anything I can do? You know, it's a quite common reaction. It's your first real mission tomorrow…"
Seeing that Face wasn't refusing him, the Corporal went on. "I recall my first mission with the Colonel. I spent the whole night before it awake, afraid… or should I better say frightened to death?" he laughed "that I would have been late if I fell asleep. And you want to know one thing? When we came back and the mission was a success I was so tense that I cried in the shower. I stayed there for twenty-five minutes, surely the longest shower I took in the army base. Despite the fact that it was not exactly allowed, the Colonel didn't say anything about it. I guess he knew how nervous I was. He never said a word about it."
Face turned to look at him, looking a little more relaxed.
"Where were you?" he asked.
Usually, the Corporal wasn't too inclined to talk about himself but tonight he made an exception and told Face about the mission, about his fears and the Colonel's plan in detail and how he and Murdock thought it was crazy. It worked, though. As usual, with Hannibal's plans. They both laughed at the idea.
"I guess some things never change, uh?" Face asked then, suddenly serious. "Thanks for staying with me tonight, Bosco."
"Don't say it, brother. You know I will always be here for you, Face!"
Face blushed slightly at BA's words.
"So, are you coming, kid? Time to go to sleep now," the Corporal asked then.
"I think I will watch the stars for a little while, not long I promise," the Lt answered.
The big guy nodded his agreement and left. Face felt so relieved, still he had the feeling his night encounters weren't finished. In fact, fifteen minutes later, he felt a presence beside him. The Colonel had climbed the metallic stairs to the roof silently, but the scent of fine tobacco betrayed him.
"I was sure I would find you here," Hannibal stated in his low rich voice.
Face shivered. "I needed a quiet place to stay," he explained.
For some minutes, both men sat in silence watching the stars and the moon. Then, Hannibal lit his cigar. He puffed a small blue cloud of smoke into the cold air.
"What do you think about the mission?" he asked.
"Me? What I think about it? Honestly?" the Lt laughed softly. He hadn't expected the older man to ask him his opinion.
"Nah! I know what you're going to say about it…" the Colonel replied, laughing himself too.
For a long moment both men sat in silence, the echo of their laughs suspended in the air, both men thinking that now would be the perfect moment to succumb to their passion and unite their bodies in a breathless kiss. Being so close to each other was painful and beautiful at the same time. Eventually a lone bird sang and broke the silence and interrupted the magic moment.
Slipping unconsciously into 'Colonel's mode', Hannibal released Face's hand, the hand he had taken into his own ones. Oh how sweet that touch had been. The kid hadn't refused him and that had given the older man hope that maybe, in the future, they could be something more together.
But for now, Hannibal was concerned about the present. Because he had been there, he knew how the kid was feeling. He was trying to find the right words to say to his boy but Face interrupted his musings.
"Hannibal, tell me about your first mission," he asked.
And the Colonel complied. Gladly. It took him a good time though and then Face asked him questions, would it always be like this? What if he failed? What if someone was hurt? What if he, Hannibal, was hurt? The Colonel answered each question calmly, trying not to shock the kid but at the same time making him understand how important he was for them all. A good sniper like Face was the spearhead of the team.
"All you have to do is go out there, take position on top of the building we decided and cover us with your rifle in case someone decides to attack us from the square. Do your job to the best of your abilities. Everything will be OK," Hannibal stated finally.
Face shrugged his shoulders. "I hope you're right. I know I did it a million times, but it was never real… I mean, I was shooting at cardboard targets…" he whispered.
Seeing the kid so open to him and so scared was heartbreaking. But Hannibal was his commanding officer and a good commanding officer knew when it was time to back off.
Calling him by his rank, he made Face look him in the eyes and then ordered him to come back to the tent with him and go to bed. The younger man complied without uttering a word.
Once inside the tent, before Face stripped off his combats, Hannibal reassured him once again.
"Try to get some sleep now. And as for tomorrow, don't panic. Whatever happens, keep a cool head and think rationally, follow the orders and everything will be fine. Do we have a deal, Face?" the Colonel asked.
The Lt took a deep breath and put on his best smile. "Sure. Piece of cake, boss!" he answered.
Bosco almost choked at the last comment, but he was pretending to be sleeping and couldn't laugh aloud. He was glad the Colonel had gone to his little brother and had taken him inside, back with him. The Colonel had always had a way with the kid.
Hannibal slapped Face lightly on the cheek. "Smartass!" he commented, but he was really relieved to have helped him. "Now get your butt on the cot. I want you fresh and concentrated on the mission, tomorrow," he added.
"Yes, sir." Face half responded and half yawned in reply.
He didn't think it was possible but he fell asleep the second he lay down.