Disclaimer: I do not own The A-Team, their property (yes, I mean the van), their friends or their enemies. If you recognise something, it's probably not mine.
Face flexes his hand, shaking out the cramp that's building in his muscles. He resights the rifle and peers down its length, focusing on his target so intently everything else fades into obscurity. He ignores the dampness of the ground soaking into his worn fatigues, concentrating only on the tableau presenting itself in the clearing below.
His finger tightens on the trigger, not enough to take the shot but enough to convince himself and his team that he's prepared to follow through. It's a long time since he's killed someone but he's always known the capacity is still there, hidden in the recess of his personality. No one walked away from Vietnam unscathed.
As his periphery vision fades to nothing, trusting his team to protect him, to keep him safe while he carries out his mission, his mind wanders back to another time, another place. The chill in the autumn air is the only reminder he's fighting a different war now. But the object? That's the same as it was all those years ago. Then he was a boy, fighting a man's war. Now he's a man, fighting a boy's war.
He hears a twig snap behind him but he doesn't turn.
"Getting careless, Colonel," he mutters. "I could've killed you, y'know?"
"No you wouldn't." Hannibal's confident reply floats through the still air and Face smiles inwardly. Of course the man's right. He wouldn't have shot him, anymore than he would shoot the man slipping through the undergrowth on the edge of the clearing.
"Situation?" the Colonel demands.
"Same as," he reports. "We've been here over an hour now, Colonel. When are we going to make our move?"
He can feel Hannibal shrug as the silence draws out between them. Eventually John Smith drops to his haunches next to Face's shoulder and sighs.
"As soon as we know he's still alive, Lieutenant, as soon as we know."
There's not a lot to say to that and Face settles back down to wait for however long it takes.
In the end it doesn't take very long at all. He spots movement in the trees to the north of the clearing about fifteen minutes later. Hannibal is by his side quicker than many men half his age would have made it.
"Face?" he queries, scanning the area.
"Two of them in the trees, three o'clock, another two over to the left, eleven o'clock."
"Just where he's meant to be." Face smiles grimly as he watches the sergeant sliding silently through the undergrowth. He almost feels sorry for their adversaries but then he remembers why they're here and any sympathy dissipates instantly.
"Relax, Kid," Smith says, and Face realises his finger has tightened on the trigger and that he's stopped breathing.
Down below them the trees are rustling and there's clearly no effort being made to conceal the presence of the four men they've come for. In a flurry of movement all four break through the cover of the woodland at the same time, rifles of their own sweeping the area. Face watches BA, fascinated as always by his ability to fade into the background in an instant.
"Now, Colonel?" he asks, as the man nearest him raises a radio to his mouth, communicating with someone still hidden, maybe miles from here.
"Nearly, Kid, nearly."
Then a voice rings out, cruel and cold. It's a voice that demands attention and obedience.
"Colonel Smith. I know you're here so why don't you show yourself?"
Face has the man in his sights, the crosshair resting square on his forehead. He can take him out without even thinking about it. He waits though.
Hannibal pats him on the shoulder and steps away from him. Face knows he's on the jazz but he can't help feeling nervous. It happens every time. There's always the possibility that this is the one that goes wrong but this time there's more at stake than just running the bad guys out of town. This time there's Murdock to consider.
Hannibal Smith strides confidently through the woodland towards the clearing, sure in the knowledge that his team will keep him safe. There are four men that they can see but they all know there are at least two more somewhere close. He doesn't try to hide his approach and as he takes the last couple of steps he takes a cigar out of his pocket, biting the top off as he locks eyes with the leader of the group already in the clearing.
"Where's my man?" he asks, direct and to the point.
"He's around," the reply comes. "Where's my money?"
"It's around," Hannibal echoes, lighting his cigar and giving the impression of being in no rush. He turns on the spot, slowly, taking in everyone's position, his team and theirs. BA is exactly where he wants him and Hannibal is sure nobody other than himself and Face even knows he's there. The man is a veritable chameleon, a talent honed to perfection on the streets of Chicago and jungles of Vietnam.
"It seems we have a problem," he drawls as he eventually turns back to the man in charge. "You have something I want and I have something you want but neither of us seem to have it here.
"You can have your man as soon as I see my money," the reply comes.
"You can have your money as soon as I see my man," Hannibal echoes once again but this time there's steel in his eyes and his voice is hard. He takes a step forward, gratified to see it's induced a step back from his opponent. "Don't think this is going to end well for you. I have men ready to take you down the second I tell them. Don't be fooled into thinking you can fight us because believe me, we've seen and done things you could only imagine in your worst nightmares. So I'll ask you one more time: where is my man?"
BA peers round the trunk of the tree he's using for cover. He can see the change in Hannibal's posture and just knows the corner is about to be turned. There's a distinct lack of Murdock and that worries him more than anyone will ever know.
He looks back to where Face is concealed and only his years of experience allow him to pick out a slight indent in the shrub where the lieutenant is positioned. BA knows between them they could end this now in less than a minute but that would mean bloodshed and, despite appearances, he tends to a more passive approach these days. He's seen enough death and destruction to last him a lifetime. If it comes to though, he can and will wreak havoc.
Movement in the trees catches his attention and he can see that Hannibal has also seen it. The Colonel is still standing straight and BA can see his muscles are coiled and ready to spring. He knows Face will have seen all of this too.
Suddenly Murdock falls through the trees into the clearing, landing on his knees, head down so BA can't see his face. He can see the bound hands though that the pilot has on the ground to balance himself and BA's blood is boiling now. He's beginning to think bloodshed is now inevitable because no-one, no-one, hurts his fool and expects to get away with it.
There are two more men behind Murdock and they're making quite a show of holding two pistols on the man at their feet. BA can't hear any voices from where he is but he can see Hannibal's mouth moving and he watches the man's hands for any signal, one they agreed earlier, one from another time, or an improvised one with the unspoken knowledge BA and Face would just understand instinctually.
It feels like forever but is probably only a matter of minutes and then Hannibal's moving backwards, not taking his eyes off the leader and not relaxing his stance. BA doesn't know what's been said but he readies himself regardless, knowing that Face is doing the same somewhere up above him.
And then there it is – that one tiny movement of Hannibal's hand, a miniscule flick of one gloved hand. BA surges to his feet, erupting from the tree line, gun held steady as he charges into the clearing. He takes a grim satisfaction in the look of surprised shock on the faces of Murdock's two captors, only surpassed by the look on their leader's face as Face fires off a warning shot, the ground at his feet exploding in a whirlwind of mud and grass.
Things happen very quickly from thereon in. BA's focus is on Murdock, still on his knees, head still down, no reaction or movement of any kind. BA is gratified when one of their guns flies out the man's hand, one of Face's bullets grazing his wrist. The man spins round, knocked off balance by the impact. BA is on his companion in seconds.
He can hear the fight around him, he knows Hannibal is taking care of business with the leader – the sound of fists on flesh is all too familiar, and he's content that Face's gunmanship is dealing with the remaining members of the gang. He doesn't think Face has inflicted any mortal wounds but he doesn't really care.
He grips the only gun still in play, the one threatening his pilot, in one large hand while the other curls into a fist and smashes into the nose of the holder. The resulting crunch and cry of pain is satisfying beyond belief and as the gun falls to the ground, he follows the punch by interlocking his hands and hammering down on the man's head. He falls to the ground, senseless and no longer a threat to anyone.
The fight is short and sweet. BA can hear Hannibal laughing grimly and Face crashing through the undergrowth to join them.
But Murdock still hasn't moved.
Things are a little fuzzy round the edges but things often are for Murdock. He can feel the ground beneath his knees, the sharp stones digging in to his flesh, and where his hands are keeping him balanced he can feel the dampness of the earth beneath. He wonders if this would be a good time to open his eyes. But there's safety in not knowing what's out there. After all, he thinks, it could be the woods in Colorado, which he vaguely remembers, or it could be the jungles of Vietnam. He can't go back to Vietnam so he keeps his eyes shut just in case.
There are noises around him, some he recognises, some he thinks he should recognise and others he just can't place. He can hear gunfire and that's when he decides to find his safe place, his happy place. He used to go there a lot, back in the day. It's warm and soft and Billy is there, always playing with his tail wagging. When he's there he never wants to leave.
The noises around him fade away until there's nothing but silence and Billy. He wants to get up, to run around with his dog, find a stick and play catch till the end of the day but something is stopping him. So he runs around in his mind instead and slowly a smile finds its way on to his face.
Then there's a hand on his shoulder and he's ripped away from his safe place in a matter of seconds. His body tenses, ready for the next assault. Then there are voices he knows. He thinks that may be Face and BA, Colonel Smith in the background. Maybe he is still in Vietnam he thinks and he shrinks back from the touch ever so slightly just in case.
"Murdock?" The voice is soft, softer than it should be and Murdock's confused. BA is a big, gruff man. Why is he using that tone with him? He only does that when someone's dying. Maybe he's dying? Maybe he should ask someone.
He opens his mouth to ask but nothing but a croak comes out and for some reason he finds that hysterically funny. His mirth manifests itself as a shuddering exhalation, more of a huff than a laugh but it courses through his body and before he can control it his shoulders are shaking and he feels the hand gripping him tighten.
Then there's a hand on his face, leather on skin, and he lifts his head and tries really hard to open his eyes.
"Report, Captain." Hannibal's voice is gently forceful and Murdock squints up into the face connected to the hand. He frowns as he tries to remember where he is.
"Um…" he replies, sways on his knees and passes out.