Christmas Scenes from a Mall

A/N: This story was largely inspired by the Christmas Shopping episode of "The Jack Benny Program", and reuses some dialogue from the episode. All standard disclaimers apply, don't own, don't sue. Hope you enjoy and Merry Christmas.

Two days until Christmas. All the smart people already had their shopping done. That just left every nutjob in the country who didn't possess the brains God gave a gnat, who for some reason liked the adrenaline rush of pushing between 500 people trying to grab items last minute and beating each other up for the privilege of getting the last of something 20% off. That was the snake pit Colonel Roderick Decker was about to march into, but he would gladly do it, because when he walked out of that department store, it was going to be with the A-Team in custody.

An anonymous tip had come in to his office at the Federal building that morning that the A-Team was hiding out in the mall and Hannibal Smith was going to be working as the store Santa. Compared to his usual menagerie of disguises, this was a step down where originality and makeup were concerned, still it was a brilliant disguise. At this time of the year there were 5,000 guys walking around dressed in Santa suits, what was one more? Smith could blend right in and nobody would be the wiser. Except Decker was the wiser, and he was going to finally catch the A-Team after many chases, attempts, and bitter failures.

Crane had suggested they bring backup since a crowded mall might work just as well to give the A-Team a way to escape as it would Decker a way to corner them. But the colonel decided with all the chaos that could ensue, a convoy of MPs would only slow him down, and that the two of them would have better odds of catching the A-Team off guard. One thing about it, the A-Team would never see them coming, the store was so packed the only place to park was clear at the end of the lot, just as well since they could pass between other cars and almost blend in with the gaggle of shoppers entering and exiting the store.

"So we know Smith's the store Santa, but where are the other three supposed to be, Colonel?" Crane asked as they neared the automatic sliding doors.

"If the store carries an extra large Santa suit, Baracus might not be far off from Smith. Peck will be easy, check any department with a female clerk."

"And Captain Murdock?" Crane asked.

It had never been proven that Murdock was still working with the A-Team, but knowing and proving were two different things. Decker knew as sure as he was alive that Murdock was the one that still flew them out of every mission they went on.

"Check the fountain," Decker said, "knowing him he probably decided to go swimming."

As soon as the two men stepped into the store, it was pandemonium. People as far as the eye could see in every department pushing and shoving, and a line at gift wrap that was backed up all the way to the food court.

"So where is Smith supposed to be?" Crane asked again.

Decker looked around and tried to make heads or tails of where they were. A woman walked past and he flagged her. "Excuse me, Miss."

"You'll have to take a number like everybody else," she said automatically.

"No," he replied, "Where is the store's Santa Claus?"

The woman turned and got a good look at Decker and asked him, "Ain't you a little big to be sitting on his knee?"

"Ma-dam," he growled at her, trying to maintain his composure.

The women turned and pointed towards the back of the store. "You won't be able to miss him."

No, but getting there would be another matter altogether. Making their way past the hoards of crazed shoppers they passed by the men's clothing section, the jewelry department, and were just about to pass by ladies garments when something caught Decker's eye and he turned. There was Amy Allen with her back to Decker, holding up clothes in front of a mirror.

"You think she's working with them again?" Captain Crane asked.

"I'd stake my pension on it," Decker said, and marched over to her, and barked, "Miss Allen!"

Amy turned around and with an innocent expression on her face, asked, "Do I know you?"

"You know damn well who I am," Decker said.

"Oh, right," she looked him up and down and said, "You're the model I requested." With that, Amy took the corset she'd been holding up in front of the mirror and instead held it up to Decker. "Yes, that should do."

"I am not amused, Miss Allen."

"That's why you can't get a woman," Amy responded nonchalantly without missing a beat, "Women like guys with a sense of humor." As if by magic she produced a set of garters and asked, "Would you care to try these on so I can see how they fit?"

"Where-is-Smith?" Decker demanded to know.

"Who?" Amy asked innocently.

"Don't play dumb with me," he warned her.

"Who's playing?" she returned.

"Where is the A-Team?"

"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about," Amy said as she returned her attention to the mirror.

Just as Decker was about to respond, something caught the corner of his eye. He turned and saw the store Santa Claus, except this clearly wasn't Smith. The Santa Claus was tall and built big, and when he turned around Decker was able to see he was black. It made sense, Baracus always had a soft spot for kids, and with Santa Clauses of every size and color running around the city, he must've thought it was an easy way to disguise himself. He was wrong. The Santa Claus turned around again and Decker took a couple bounding steps, and just before he could grab the large black man, he tripped over something and slammed into the Santa's back.

"What the hell?"

Before Decker's brain could comprehend that Baracus wasn't known for swearing, the next thing he was aware of was being bodily hauled over the Santa Claus's head, and thrown down into the mall's fountain, making a killer splash. Emerging from the water and coughing up a mouthful of it, Decker looked at the man who had just flung him, and he pulled down his white beard. It was definitely not Baracus. He didn't know who it was, but it wasn't Baracus.

"What the hell's your problem, man?" the store Santa inquired.

"Sorry, sir," Crane came to his colonel's aid, albeit too late to actually save face, "We thought you were someone else."

The Santa grunted something under his breath, replaced his beard, and stormed off. Decker pulled himself out of the fountain and proceeded to shake like a wet dog, water flew and coins jingled out of his pant legs and hit the floor. He looked around and saw some of the shoppers had stopped what they were doing and were watching him instead.

"What are you people looking at?" he demanded to know.

Without an actual word aside from a few under the breath grumbles, the shoppers went about their business. Decker picked up his hat and proceeded to slowly drip dry.

"All due respect, Colonel," Crane said, "I'm starting to think that this anonymous tip was just a crank."

"All due respect, Captain," Decker replied mockingly, "I don't give a damn what you think. If the A-Team is here, we're going to catch them."

"All due respect, Colonel," Crane replied without missing a beat, "I don't think there's a hand dryer in the men's room large enough to accommodate you. I'll get a change of clothes sent down for you but in the meantime I don't think it'd be a good idea running around looking for Smith. You will definitely make your presence known right now."

Decker glanced down at the massive puddle forming on the floor and he had to admit that his captain had a point. As much as he hated it, he would wait until he could get into some dry clothes to continue searching the store. He sat down on the edge of the fountain and waited for Crane to return, and for the time being watched the shoppers rushing every which way, looking like a pack of brain dead water buffalo. If people could ever stop and realize how stupid they looked rushing around a mall trying to find presents for people, some of whom they didn't even like…

The colonel's attention was taken off of the thought in his head and instead focused on the sound ringing in his ears, somebody was laughing, a strange, high pitched howling laugh. Decker spun around and saw a very tall and lanky man in an elf costume passing through. Decker got to his feet, grabbed the man and ripped the stocking cap off of his head, and once again found himself with egg on his face. He would've sworn anything that he was right, but alas the elf was not the suspected fourth member of the A-Team, Captain H.M. Murdock.

"What the hell's your problem, bud?" the guy asked as he took his cap back and headed off in another direction.

He was starting to wonder the same thing himself. Decker sat down again and thought about what Crane had said. They got false leads on the A-Team all the time, but it was his job to take them all seriously and check them out, some were genuine, and in those cases, somehow or other, the A-Team always managed to get away. Those days were numbered. One of these days the call was going to be real, and he was going to catch them. He would see Hannibal Smith behind bars if it was the last thing he did.

"Smith! Smith!"

Decker turned around again. A guy with pitch black hair and glasses, dressed in a cheap three piece suit who appeared to work in the store was scurrying along looking for someone.

"Smith who?" Decker demanded to know as he stood up again.

The man looked at him oddly and inquired, "Who are you?"

"Never mind who I am," Decker replied, "Are you looking for John Smith?"

"Who?" the man blinked and responded, "No, I'm looking for Charlie Smith, our elevator operator." He took in Decker's water logged appearance and asked, "May I help you with something?"

"No thanks," Decker answered as he sat back down. If he didn't know any better, he would swear he was starting to lose his mind.

Maybe it shouldn't come as any surprise. The whole situation just seemed a little too familiar, and Decker knew why, he still remembered the comments exchanged between he and Smith several months back when he tracked them down at a sporting goods store.

"Freeze, Smith!"

"I'm sorry, our store Santa Claus went home for the day. You'll have to come back tomorrow if you want to tell him what you want for Christmas."

"My Christmas present is you, Smith."

"You have expensive taste."

And somehow they had gotten away again, every time so far they had managed to get away. It was never any secret that Decker did not think too highly of the man previously in his position, Colonel Lynch, the man chased the A-Team for ten years and never caught them, only managed to make himself and the entire rest of the U.S. Army look like a bunch of incompetent jackasses. Decker had been after them for six months, and it was his greatest fear, if he didn't start making some headway and catch them soon, he'd wind up just as much a laughing stock as Lynch did. Something somewhere had to give, he had to catch them, it was impossible that they could keep escaping him at every turn. Right now they were just running on dumb luck, and luck always ran out, and so would theirs.

Decker was drawn out of his thoughts as he heard Amy's voice from somewhere nearby, he turned and saw her walking alongside a man whose face was concealed by several gift wrapped packages, and she laughed at something he said. From the chest down Decker was able to tell that the man was dressed in a very expensive suit, with very expensive shoes to match. Peck, without a doubt. He strode right up to them and knocked the dozen or so brightly wrapped boxes out of the man's arms. Wrong again.

"What the hell's your problem, man?" the guy asked him. It was in fact, a man that Amy worked with at the Courier, the man who had first introduced her to the story of the A-Team.

"Never mind him, Zack," Amy said, "This is Colonel Decker, who's been assigned to try and catch the A-Team. He replaced the last one, Colonel Lynch."

"Huh," her coworker responded, "The army sure wastes a lot of time and manpower, to say nothing of our taxes, chasing a bunch of ghosts, and it looks like it's finally making you go screwy too just like Lynch."

The two of them recollected the packages Decker had knocked on the floor and walked away from the colonel, who was left standing there looking like an idiot yet again.

Crane returned shortly after with a dry set of Decker's clothes, and after changing into them he was starting to feel somewhat normal again. But he still felt like he was losing his mind. He wasn't ready to admit defeat but he could admit to himself at least that things were starting to look bad. Usually by now he'd already tracked Smith and his men down and had them cornered, but he hadn't been able to catch sight of any of them. Maybe Crane was right, maybe the anonymous tip had just been a crank caller. Still, he couldn't shake the feeling that he was close. But thinking it over again, Smith disguised as a store Santa was too obvious, so Decker decided to check around the rest of the store to see if anything developed.

Going back the way he'd come, Decker passed by the jewelry section again, and somebody called to him. He turned around and saw an older, white haired, heavier built woman working the counter.

"Pardon me, sir," she said in a deeper voice than he'd expected, something along a smoker's voice, "Can I show you anything?"

Even more obvious. It couldn't be…and yet…Decker was tempted to reach across and grab the old woman's hair to see if it came off, but he decided against it. He decided to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was in fact a woman.

"No thank you," he replied, trying to remain civil.

"Oh come now," she insisted, "It's Christmas, surely you must have something in mind for the girl in your life."

"No-thank-you," Decker repeated more firmly, "And I do not have a woman in my life."

"Isn't that a shame, such a nice young man," the woman said, "still, we have a large selection. Would you like to look at some wristwatches?"

Oh what the hell? She had a job to do. He'd entertain her.

"Okay, sure," he said.

"Oh wonderful," she said, "Would you like to see some for a man, woman, or dog?"

Decker did a double take, "Dog?"

"Well this is Beverly Hills," she replied.

Of course.

"I don't know any dogs," he returned, still trying to remain civil.

"Well we have a handsome new model that would suit you nicely," the woman crouched down behind the counter and came back up with a display tray full of wrist watches and took out one with a large face with a crystal lid and a large gold chain wristband. Very expensive looking.

"It's very nice, ma'am," Decker unenthusiastically commented.

"Yes, it's valued at $250, and the crystal lid is shatterproof," the woman said as she took a small hammer out from behind the counter and told him, "go ahead, try it."

"No thank you, I couldn't," Decker shook his head.

"Oh go on, see for yourself," she said with a sparkle in her eye and a very proud smile. The kind of face it was hard for anybody to say no to, even a hardened army colonel.

"Alright," Decker conceded. He picked up the hammer and struck the watch, and the crystal went flying everywhere.

The same man Decker had seen running around looking for the elevator operator came running up and demanded to know, "What's going on here?"

Quick as a flash, the woman pointed an accusing finger at Decker and answered, "This man just broke a $250 watch."

"What?" the man turned towards Decker, who was so dumbfounded by what had happened, his only course of response was to return a pointing finger to the lady and explaining, "She told me to."

"She told you to?" the manager repeated, "Good Lord, man, don't you have a mind of your own?"

Decker never liked looking like an idiot, and in the last few months he had accumulated a lot of practice in that field. His benefit of the doubt was gone and he reached over and grabbed a handful of the woman's hair, determined to see the wig come clean off. Instead the hair remained both firmly held in his hand and firmly attached to the old woman's head as she screamed her lungs out.

The next thing Decker was aware of was two or three burly security guards coming up and grabbing him and rushing him to the exit and dropping him next to the trash cans. As they went back in, Crane came out, and with every ounce of professionalism, met the colonel with a stone face and an unreadable manner and simply asked, "Now, Colonel?"

"Alright, I give up," Decker responded, "This whole trip was nothing but a wild goose chase."

"Just as well, Colonel," Crane told him, "After that last stunt, I don't think they're going to let you back in there. Shall we call it a day?"

Decker checked his watch, his watch, the one he'd already had on when they went into the store, and saw the late hour it was becoming.

"Yeah, alright," he conceded, "I guess for some people every day is April Fool's Day."

"Have to admit it would be rather genius," Crane said as they headed to the car, "Who would ever think of looking for the A-Team in a department store two days before Christmas?"

"Such a nice young man," Murdock said as he finished shedding the old lady makeup and latex that made him resemble a white haired woman, as well as the body padding that made him look a couple sizes larger.

"Well," Face said as he finished switching out of his disguise of the department manager, "This has certainly been one of Hannibal's more elaborate plans."

"And it worked," B.A. added as he stepped out from behind one of the store's Christmas trees, where he'd been standing for the past hour to keep an eye on Decker and Crane once they entered the store. It was the only place that he could reasonably stand around without drawing attention to himself, Murdock had been less than subtle in pointing out the sergeant could stick out like a drunk at church revival.

Face turned to the woman behind him and said with a sincere smile, "Thanks for helping us out, Amy, that really sealed the deal."

"You know I could never pass up an opportunity to help make Decker look like a jackass," the young reporter replied, "now if you'll excuse me, I need to catch up with Zack before he suspects something's really up."

"And I have to go find Christie," Face said.

"The underwear lady?" Murdock asked.

"She is not," Face replied, "She is a sales clerk for women's undergarments."

"That's just a fancy way of saying underwear lady," Murdock returned with a devilish smirk.

"Anyway," Face disregarded the pilot's statement, "she said she'd meet me once she was on her break, we have a date tonight."

"Oh brother," B.A. snorted, then told Murdock, "Come on, fool, let's get out of here."

"You go on, I got some Christmas shopping to do, I got to find something for the Colonel," Murdock told him.

"How bout a straightjacket?" B.A. commented.

"Well I know where to get one," Murdock actually seemed to consider it. But instead he walked around through the different departments and came to one sales counter full of miscellaneous odds and ends for men ranging from wallets to tools to cigarette lighters.

"Well sir," the man behind the counter said, "What can I do for you?"

The pilot answered, "Well I'm looking for a present for my boss."

"Your boss, eh?" the man replied, "Well what kind of man is your boss, is he the athletic type?"

Murdock thought on that for a minute and tried to picture Hannibal in the short shorts the guys running around during the Olympics usually wore, and shook his head, "No."

"Is he the intellectual type?" the clerk asked.

Murdock thought about Hannibal stomping around the film lot in his 7 foot tall rubber monster suit, and shook his head again, "No."

"How about the executive type?"

Murdock chewed on that one for a few seconds before promptly shaking his head again, "No."

The clerk tried again. "Perhaps he's the outdoors type?"

Murdock thought back to their previous getaways to get away from it all, it all largely being Decker. Who caught the fish for dinner? He and Face did. Who pitched the tents? They did. Who gathered the wood for the fire to cook the fish over? They did.

"Well…mmmm" Murdock thought about it, then finally concluded, "No."

The clerk had another suggestion. "Maybe he's the playboy type."

"Oh no-no-no-no," Murdock replied with a definite shake of his head and small laugh.

The clerk looked to be at a loss. "I'm afraid that doesn't leave much."

"That's him," Murdock concluded.

Murdock found himself ogling over the wallets on the counter and found a nice, brand new, black leather one, that would suit Hannibal perfectly. He bought it and requested it be gift wrapped, but first he had some conditions.

"Before you put the wrapping paper on it, put it in a cigar box. Then put the cigar box inside of a shoe box."

"May I ask what for?" the clerk asked.

"That way he won't be able to guess what he's getting," Murdock answered.

"Of course," the clerk said with a forced smile, "Why didn't I think of that? Though if I might make a suggestion, there's something brand new that's guaranteed to leave him guessing."

"Yeah? What is it?" Murdock asked.

"Bubble wrap," the man answered somehow in a deadpan tone.

Murdock's eyes lit up. "I love it!"

"You wrap a wallet in bubble wrap and then wrap it for Christmas, nobody will ever be able to guess what it is," the sales clerk assured him. It was obvious that during the busy shopping season, he'd seen his fair share of screwball customers and was starting to make his own comebacks to some of their nuttier demands.

Murdock got his package wrapped and went to find Face, on the way he passed by the store Santa, another one, who had a long line of kids waiting to see him. One kid got off his lap, and the Santa got up and addressed all the kids.

"I'm glad you're all here because I have a special surprise for you," he told them, and gestured off to the left, "I brought a friend for you to see."

The kids all started shrieking excitedly and Murdock had to stand on his toes to see over the head of one of the parents in front of him. In stepped the Aquamaniac, looking left, looking right, and waving to all the kids with one claw, then the other. Some of the parents had handheld cameras and snapped pictures of their kids with the giant rubber monster who crouched down to pose with some of the kids and lifted others up in his scaly arms. Murdock smiled as he kept on walking and tried to find the lieutenant.

Murdock pulled the brim of his baseball cap low as he approached the women's lingerie section. He got a weird feeling just looking at the mannequins wearing the stuff for sale. He kept his eyes close to the floor, he'd be able to recognize Face by his shoes, anybody that paid attention to details could figure that one out.

"Hi, Face," he addressed a shiny black pair of men's Gucci loafers.

"Where've you been, Murdock?" Face asked.

"Getting a present for the Colonel, watchu you getting him?" Murdock asked as he felt it was safe to look up now, and met the lieutenant's eyes.

"I've already got it," Face answered, "I'm figuring after the holidays we could all use a break so I got Hannibal a ticket to Bora Bora complete with a hotel room reserved for 4 days and 3 nights."

"Bora Bora?" Murdock asked, "We're spending Christmas in the tropics?"

"Not us, Murdock, just Hannibal," Face told him, "I figure if we go our own ways after the holiday, that'll make sure we don't get caught up in any surprise 'piece of cake' missions until we've all had a chance to recuperate. B.A.'s going to Indiana to see his mom, they've worked out a way she can sneak across the state line and the MPs will never notice she's gone, so they're going to visit at a relative's over in Muncie."

"And you' gonna be off with the underwear lady?" Murdock asked.

"Will you stop—no, Christie's going home to see her family in Nevada after tomorrow, so I got us a penthouse apartment to hail in the New Year at," Face told him, "it's all set up."

"Now that sounds like a piece of cake," Murdock said, "so how long do you think it'll be before we can get out of here?"

Face looked back to see Hannibal with the kids and he told the pilot, "I think Hannibal should be wrapping up his photo session in about an hour. What a genius idea, a PR stunt with the Aquamaniac without the PR."

"That's the only way to keep a secret in Hollywood," Murdock said, "ol' Decker thought he was going to be busting Santa Claus."

Hannibal finished picking his teeth and put the toothpick on his plate. "That was a good dinner."

He, Murdock and B.A. were seated at a table in a nearly empty restaurant. Face and his date, Christie, were seated at another table and engaging in a conversation that, based on the young woman's high pitched giggles, must've been quite lively. Christie was a bubbly, perky, tanned 25-year-old with long dark hair, whom Face had been seeing for two weeks, and had just introduced her to the rest of the Team that night at dinner.

"Well, B.A.," Hannibal said, "what time do you leave to see your mother?"

B.A. checked the big fat watch on his wrist and said, "I figure if I leave first thing in the morning I can get there in plenty o' time."

"I should hope so," Hannibal replied, "As many trips as we've made back and forth across the country, we should know every single shortcut there is by now."

"Hannibal, can we go home now?" Murdock asked.

"Well we could but," Hannibal looked over to the other table, "I think Face is going to be a while."

Over at the other table, Christie grabbed her purse and told Face, "I'm gonna go powder my nose, Templeton, then I'll be right back."

Face turned back in his chair and looked to the curtains which covered the entrance to the corridor leading to the restrooms, and he looked up. Right over the threshold leading to the main dining area was a large, decorative sprig of mistletoe, and he got an idea. He got up from the table, went over and stood beside the curtain, and waited for Christie to return. He loved this time of year, it was the easiest holiday to get a kiss from a beautiful lady on, even easier than Valentine's Day, even easier than St. Patrick's Day when everybody was drunk out of their minds and kissed anything that moved.

There was a rustle of movement in the curtains and Face got ready.

"Darling!" he exclaimed, and grabbed Christie and kissed her.

Only to Face's absolute horror, it wasn't Christie, it was Decker. The looks on both of their faces when Face pulled back were nothing short of hilarious. Just as Decker opened his mouth, Face acted on blind instinct and clocked him, knocking him out cold.

"That's our cue," Hannibal said as they got up from the table, "Let's get lost."

The four of them sprinted out of the restaurant and got to the van and took off before anybody could catch up with them. Once they were safely a good distance from the restaurant, Face started making a disgusted and hilarious assortment of noises as well as faces.

"Ugh! My lips touched Decker's lips! I need disinfectant, I need Listerine," and he started spitting.

"Well this is another fine mess we got into," Murdock complained.

"What was Decker doing at the restaurant?" B.A. wanted to know.

"And how'd he get in?" Hannibal asked, "Nobody saw him come in, he must've sneaked in the back way, but why?"

"Somebody must've tipped him off that we were there," Face said.

"Well, Face," Murdock leaned back in his seat, "so much for your date with the underwear lady."

"Colonel Decker?" the voice sounded foreign and distant, then it came again and it sounded closer and more distinct. Decker opened his eyes and saw Crane standing over him.

"What happened?"

"That's what I was wondering," Crane told him. He'd been waiting out in the alley behind the restaurant, and when nobody came out he decided to investigate, and that's when he'd found the colonel unconscious on the floor. The few customers that had been there all had the same story, nobody saw anything, nobody knew anything, and after a quick glance around the room, he'd believe it. None of them struck him as the brightest bulbs in the box.

Decker rolled on his side and saw a pair of tanned feet in black high heels and looked up. Christie stood with her arms folded to her chest and she tapped her foot.

"And who are you?" Decker asked.

"I'm the one that called you about the A-Team," she said, "where were you?"

Decker's eyes rolled around in his head as he tried to process this information. Crane helped him to his feet, and Decker said to the woman, "Oh-ho, so you're the prank caller who sent us on a wild goose chase at the department store today."

"What are you talking about?" Christie asked, "I just called you 15 minutes ago, I never called this morning."

"Well some woman did with an anonymous tip that Hannibal Smith was going to be undercover as a store Santa. That your idea of a good laugh, miss?"

"What are you talking about? They were there," Christie said.

"Sure, sure," Decker replied cynically.

"They were, I've been dating Peck for 2 weeks trying to get information out of him, he brought all of them in with him today, and they were here tonight, he formally introduced me to all of them, that's why I called you from the pay phone in the back," Christie told him.

"And I came in and somebody clocked me," Decker said.

"I don't know anything about that," she said, "I was in the restroom waiting for you to come in and bust them."

"Yeah, sure, and I'm the tooth fairy," Decker said as he grabbed the woman and pinned her arms behind her back, "Incase you didn't know it, lady, prank calls are against the law."

"Hey! Stop! What're you doing?"

"Placing you under arrest."

"You can't do that," Christie told him, "You're not a cop."

"Fine, then consider it citizen's arrest," Decker replied.

"You're not a citizen either," she said as she tried to kick him.

"Then pick a third option, either way you're coming with us," Decker told her as he manhandled her towards the door.

"And to all a good night," Crane murmured under his breath as he followed the colonel out.

"So you actually figured that Christie was a plant for Decker?" Hannibal asked Face that night as they sat around his apartment drinking a batch of eggnog he'd made from his family's secret recipe. B.A. had called it a night and gone home so he could get a head start out first thing in the morning to see his mother.

"What can I say?" Face asked, "You watch enough James Bond movies, you start to figure out when a pretty woman comes right onto you, something might be cooking."

"It took you till just now to figure that out?" Murdock asked as he dunked a cookie in his nog.

"In hindsight, there were clues," Face told them, "she was always subtly trying to find out about my past, my friends, my family, all that stuff, all the stuff that most women wait more than the first date to start asking about."

"Add to the fact that's a lot of thinking for the kind of girls you usually go for," Murdock added, "For them to believe your cons, they can't be too big on the brain power."

"Murdock that's a horrible thing to say," Hannibal scolded him, and added, "even if it is true."

"Alright, you guys made your point, I am vain, happy?" Face asked.

"I am," Murdock said, "you'll just love the present I got you, it's you, it's a mirror."

"Ugggh," Face groaned as he sank back in his chair.

"Still, what're the odds? We have Amy call in an anonymous tip just to yank Decker's chain, and 5 hours later, Christie does the same thing to actually catch us," Hannibal commented.

"Might actually be a Christmas miracle that we managed to escape unscathed," Murdock noted.

"Could be," Hannibal agreed.

"Oh well," Face shrugged, "maybe I can find a new date to spend New Year's with."

"Hey!" Murdock reached over and slapped his shoulder.

"Oh I don't know, Face," Hannibal said, "I think you and Decker might make a cute couple."

The colonel and the captain had a good long laugh at that, all the while Face got a rosy hue in his cheeks as he glared back and forth at one and then the other.

"As long as I live," Murdock said over his gut busting laughs, "I will never forget that look on y'all's faces."

"That's not funny!" Face responded.

"You should've seen it from our side," Hannibal said over a snorting chuckle.

They continued to have a good laugh about it for a couple more minutes before finally winding down.

"Well, I can't guarantee what we'll be doing on the big day," Hannibal told them, "so I think an early Merry Christmas is in order just to make sure it's not missed. Merry Christmas, guys."

"Merry Christmas, Colonel," Murdock raised his mug.

Face gave a small nod and raised his mug as well, "Merry Christmas."

"And God help us, everyone," Murdock added.

"Close enough," Hannibal said.