That was it. Game over.
Sentenced to 10 years in separate prisons and dishonorably discharged. All because the only man that could prove their mission was authorized, was now lying in little bits at an army base in Iraq.
Face felt betrayed.
Hannibal tried to tell him that the mission wasn't over, that he still had a plan, but Face didn't know if he could believe the Colonel this time. They were being separated, sent to different corners of the country, and Murdock was being shipped to the other side of the Atlantic.
It hurt Face's heart to see the look in his partner's eyes. The moment they took the ranks from his shoulders, the devastated look of a captain, a pilot, a ranger, who would never again touch the skies. But it shattered him when the MP's went to escort Murdock to the Germany bound plane.
Murdock tried to be civil, telling them not to grab at him, but the two burly officers ignored him and Face snapped, yelling at them not to touch the Captain. If B.A. hadn't held him back with another officer he probably would have made his own punishment worse. It wasn't fair.
He had promised Murdock. Promised him he would never go back to a place like that again. Not after the last time.
*Two Years Earlier*
Face leaned against the door frame of their make-shift home and sighed at what lay before him. Murdock had been asleep no more than thirty minutes but Face had been worried all day.
It had been six years since Mexico. The mission that had brought them all together and the fiasco that had brought the con-man the one person he would never be able to live without. Although he was unaware of it at the time, a little more preoccupied by the fact that said man had just lit his arm on fire.
However, after a few months and one hair raising, death defying experience involving a case of C-4, a canister of nitroglycerin, and a rubber chicken, Face began to see what the pilot meant to him. It took almost six years for the con-man to own up to his growing feelings, after having escaped yet another of Hannibal's famous 'may-have-gone-awry-but-ended-up-exactly-how-I-planned' plans.
The assignment had left Face with a few broken bones, but Murdock was in critical condition for almost a week, and out of the sheer fear of realizing what he could have lost, he confronted the pilot about them. As it would turn out, the Captain felt the same way and within minutes of the confessional exchange, the Lieutenant found himself with a lap full of enthusiastic, albeit injured, ranger.
"How's he doing?"
Face was startled from his memories by the sudden intrusion, Hannibal resting a hand on his shoulder and peering at the bed.
"He's doing alright."
The Colonel, stoic as always, pulled a face.
Although they had each others backs, and kept one another grounded, Murdock had his set backs and relapses. Four months ago had been one of those times.
The assignment Morrison had sent them on was routine, but somewhere along the way, something had triggered Murdock's psyche and when they had touched down back at HQ, he took off into the tents. Face had found him three days later, being escorted back into camp, wide eyed and exhausted after having spent the last seventy-two hours out in the desert. They had been together for two months.
Morrison decided it would be in the teams best interest, and Murdock's safety, if the pilot was sent to a V.A. Hospital for evaluation. Face had fought the decision but was ultimately over ruled by Hannibal siding with the General. It had been the longest four months of Face's life.
The pilot had been returned to base that morning, and even though he looked the same Face could see that something was different about him. So when Murdock reached the team and looked at his boyfriend, Face wasn't surprised to see the clouded look in the Captains eyes.
They made a simple night of it. Face cooked, which was good but when you live with someone like Murdock, whose culinary technique, however unorthodox, was completely unmatched, everything was just 'good'. B.A. struck up a card game while Hannibal worked on his latest scheme and Face lingered in the corner watching Murdock with worried eyes.
The game continued until about nine, then Murdock laid his cards on the table and left for bed. Being the kind of guy to stay up until the wee hours of the morning with boundless energy, the men shared weary glances as the Captain exited the tent. There had been no antics that night, no operatic one man karaoke or, in Face's case, 'not-so-subtle' hints on what would go on later that evening. The man seemed somewhat 'normal', and that worried them more than anything.
Hannibal patted the Lieutenant's shoulder with a grim smile and sighed.
"He'll bounce back, kid. He always does."
As Hannibal left, Face walked into the 'room' and sat on the side of the cot. He and Murdock shared a sleeping quarters, so none of the soldiers ever questioned the two stumbling into the same tent at 2 a.m. (or stumbling out in various states of undress and debauched looks the next morning). However they rarely slept in their own beds that were set across the tent from one another.
"Murdock? Come on, I know you didn't fall asleep that fast buddy."
The shoulder under his palm shifted, but he remained silent. Face maneuvered himself around to stretch out on the cot next to his boyfriend, wrapping his arms around Murdock's waist and buried his face in the mans shoulder.
"James, please talk to me."
That got his attention. Face never called him that, not unless he really needed Murdock to listen. Most people, with the exception of superior officers, had no idea what Murdock's first name was. Everyone just assumed that 'H.M.' was his initials.
Face felt the body he was wrapped around shift and he leaned away so Murdock could turn. Slowly the pilot repositioned himself, tucking his head under Face's chin and returning the hold.
"No. No hiding." Face said pulling back and releasing one arm to tilt Murdock's chin up.
His eyes were still glazed over but not as much as they had been earlier. Even as Face held on he could tell the man was thinner than before. Murdock was always wiry, it was one of the many things Face loved about him, but whenever he came back from one of these 'evaluations' it was obvious that he had dropped quite a bit.
"Oh babe. What did they do to you?"
Murdock opened his mouth to speak but closed it again and shook his head.
"I don't remember. The drugs make everything too fuzzy. I can't focus and I start to drift. I hate that place, Facey."
He looked up and Face's heart broke. The tears tracked down the Captain's cheeks, but he quickly hid his shame, burrowing into the other mans chest and refusing to look up again.
"Please, don't make me go back."
Face tightened his grip on the shaking form beside him and kissed the top of his head. He was more than aware of the tests they would run on Murdock when he was sent away. One drunken night, the team had been sitting around a fire when the pilot began to ramble off all the fucked up happenings in Mexico. Drug therapies, positive and negative reinforcement, even going as far as electroshock. It had hurt all of them to hear what kinds of things Murdock had gone through in that hell, but Face took the information to heart.
They all had messed up pasts. Hannibal had spent most of his adult life in the army, B.A. was feared as a child, even Face himself had demons he tried to keep buried, but the Captain couldn't hide from his past. It was always right behind him, playing with his mind and tossing him into that dark place at the worst moments. The doctors tried using treatments to pull out the memories and resolve them, but all they did was make Murdock crawl further back in his head.
Face stroked Murdock's hair and shushed him quietly, and he slowly calmed down.
"It's okay, Murdock. It's over now, you're home."
He leaned back and lifted the head from his chest, wiping away the last of the tears before leaning in an brushing his lips against the others. It wasn't like the usual kisses they shared, exploding with passion and desperation. It was light and sweet, just enough to bring Murdock back from the edge.
They fell asleep in each others arms, and slept late into the next day. Face woke up alone and panicked briefly before the tell tale blast of gun powder hitting flame and the smell of steak wafted into the tent. His man was back and standing by a grill, probably wearing his ridiculous 'kiss the cook' apron with 'Percy' the cow puppet pot holder, humming merrily as he cooked lunch for the team.
Although the two never spoke it aloud, Face thought about the events of last night and what he had said before they drifted off. He smiled to himself before rolling out of bed, putting on a clean shirt and heading out into the encampment. The words were as close as they would get to 'I love you' for now, but the meaning within them was more than enough for Murdock.
"You never have to go back there again. I promise."
Two years he had kept his promise. He had become attuned to the signs, and snuck the two of them off into a secluded tent or out of base to help Murdock come back down. It was hard, and sometimes ended with Face coming back a little bruised, but he would do anything to keep his promise to the pilot.
Now he was breaking that promise, albeit against his will, and it was breaking his heart.
The board knew that putting them all on the same plane would just be asking for trouble, so four separate aircrafts were waiting for them after they collected their belongings (as if they would be allowed to keep them).
From across the tarmac, Face could see Murdock struggling to stay calm and begged his escort to let him talk to the man before they took off.
As he approached, the guards stepped back and allowed them to speak. These were men that they had served with, they understood that only a member of the unit could get the now former Captain to focus.
"Hey, look at me. Murdock, James, look at me." the con-man pleaded, taking Murdock's face in his hands and holding his gaze. "I'll get you out. I know, I promised you would never have to go back, but I swear I'll get you out as soon as I can."
Murdock nodded numbly and then that light came back into his eyes. He gave his trademark manic grin and turned to the officers who held his bag. It was funny to see him give one of those grins when he was in dress uniform. It didn't quite fit together but was still somehow perfect.
The soldier handed something to Murdock before he turned back to Face and placed the object in his hands.
"Now Facey, if you're going to promise me anything, I need a little assurance."
Face looked down at the worn material of Murdock's red baseball cap.
"I want you to hold on to it, for safe keeping. I know I ain't getting any of my stuff back, but I want that."
"It is your favorite hat." Face said sadly, clutching the cap and looking at Murdock.
"Yeah it is, and I trust you to bring it back to me. They're not going to let me give it to boss man, he'll find a way to break out with it, and Mexico may have been a long time ago, but I think Bosco might still be mad."
He giggled at his own joke, and Face wished he could bottle that sound and hold onto it.
"But I trust you. I've always trusted you and that ain't about to change because of a promise that we both knew you'd never be able to keep."
The two smiled sadly at each other before nodding to their escort that they were ready.
"Take care of my hat Faceman, and behave yourself while I'm away. I'll know if you didn't."
Leaning in close, Murdock placed a quick, unnoticed kiss to Face's tanned cheek and whispered to him. The guards took up Murdock's arms and turned him toward the plane headed off to Mannheim, Face watching as they faded out of sight.
*Six Months Later*
Getting B.A. had been difficult compared to stealing the Hum-V. Who the hell leave the keys in the ignition of a military vehicle? Hannibal had sent the package containing the movie and glasses to Murdock before he even broke Face out, to ensure their arrival in time for the escape.
As they approached the hospital, he unbuckled and readied himself to open the door. They crashed through the wall and after a moment of silence the patients cheered, Face lifting himself up to stand on the side rail.
"Oh Captain! Your Chariot Awaits!"
Murdock jumped out of the fray and opened the door, shouting back in a british accent about being told how the movie ends. They closed the doors, after Face taunted Charisa a bit, pulled back from the building and headed for the runway. Shots were fired rapidly as they rolled through the compound.
"YOU SHOULD SEE THESE BULLETS IN 3-D! IT'S LIKE WE'RE ACTUALLY BEING SHOT AT!"
Face's heart leapt at the cheer in Murdock's voice. The team was back together and he didn't have to worry about what was happening to his partner while they were so far apart. He did however, grab the back of his boyfriend's robe and pulled him back from the window. He would ask about the candy epaulet and medals later.
"Aww, Facey. Why would you…"
He barely got out the words he did before Face cupped the back of his head. Six months was a long time, and he had missed the pilot so much.
Murdock was ecstatic to feel Face's hands through his hair and the soft lips against his own. As the tongue tried to dart down his throat, Murdock pulled back, pushed a strand of hair out of Face's too blue eyes and smiled.
"You were bad while I was away, weren't you?"
Face smirked and thought back to the Captain from Pensacola. She was pretty but looking back on it now, all he could remember was that and her eyes were the same shade of green-blue as Murdock's.
Before the former Lieutenant could respond, they stopped along side the lift gate of the C-130 they would be making their escape in.
Hannibal made his way up the ramp and, in a very deliberate way, got the pilots and crew to leave the plane, while Face and Murdock all but dragged B.A. out of the truck. Of course Murdock had to mess with Bosco a bit, asking about keys as they entered the cargo hold along side a tank.
Face grabbed onto Murdock's sleeve as they walked through to the cockpit and pulled him off to the side.
"I believe this, belongs to you." Face said happily, taking Murdock's hand and placing the folded baseball cap in his up turned palm.
All the months that they had been separated, Face had not once let the hat out of his sight. When he was in his 'cell' (which thanks to his powers of persuasion became more like a four star hotel suite), the cap sat balanced on one of the corner posts of his bed. When he wasn't it was folded and put in his pocket.
Even when Hannibal broke him out, he had it tucked away with him. Although he was still pissed at the Colonel for having broken him out, being only a week away from his parole hearing, he was happy the cap had been in the tanning booth. How was he supposed to explain to the man that they had to break back into the prison he had just gotten out of, simply to get a baseball hat?
The pilot grinned dumbly at the red fabric and looked up, only to be met by another spine tingling kiss. Face pushed the long red robe down Murdock's arms, and ran his hands along the bared skin as his love lifted them to wrap around Face's neck. It lasted only a minute before Hannibal called out to them that they had to move out now. He had timed the break out perfectly to allow them a moment, but any longer than that and it could shut everything down.
Face pulled back first and rested his forehead against Murdock's. The words Murdock had left him with six months ago came flooding back into his head and echoed about.
"I love you, Temp. I trust you, and I love you."
"I love you too, you crazy bastard." he returned before pulling away completely, taking back the cap, and placing it back where it belonged.